Five-day Shirgao zatra starts today


BICHOLIM: The countdown for the five-day Shirgao zatra has begun with the temple dedicated to goddess Lairai gaily decked up for the celebrations starting May 15. Devasthan members are busy readying the homkund (firewood arranged in a pyramid) where the main rituals will occur. A large number of dhonds (special devotees) have also begun arriving at the temple premises in preparation for their ritual walk on hot coals, which will occur late night on the first day of the zatra.

The walk will occur after the dhonds take their holy dip in the 'dhondhachi tali' (pond for dhonds). Late Tuesday night saw the dhonds partake of their public meal at the temple premises. The zatra is famous across Goa and neighbouring Karnataka and Maharashtra and is attended by thousands.

Since it is believed that the goddess is fond of mogriche kale (buds of the fragrant mogra) devotees tend to offer these flowers and vendors selling the rather uncommon white beauties abound near the temple. The five days of rituals and festivities are locally called kaulotsav.

In the village of Shirgaon in Goa‘s Bicholim taluka lies the old temple of Goddess Lairai, a form of the Mother Goddess. The annual jatra (festival) associated with this shrine features unusual customs & rituals drawn from the area’s tribal past. Lairai-devi and Milagres Saibinn (Virgin Mary) of nearby Mapusa are recognized as sisters by Goan Hindus and Catholics, an illustration of Goa‘s syncretic ethos.
In recent years, Shirgaon, alas, has been laid to waste by unchecked mining activity. To the environmental assassins on the loose in Goa, nothing is sacred. They have reduced this once-beautiful village to a dust bowl, destroyed its forest cover, and plotted to turn villager against villager.
If the photograph below does not betray the surrounding ugliness, it is only because I have framed the composition to exclude the devastation. In truth, the Lairai temple shot was taken from a vantage point located in the mine enveloping it.Temple of Goddess Lairai in Shirgaon, Goa<br>5D, 24-105L

Temple of Goddess Lairai in Shirgaon, Goa
5D, 24-105L
Aniconic representation of Goddess Lairai<br>5D, 24-105L
Aniconic representation of Goddess Lairai
5D, 24-105L

Devotees take a holy dip at Shirgao Zatra in Bicholim.

April 28, 2012