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Shigmotsav, a traditional art and dance festival of Goa

Goa, on the West Coast of India is a tiny state, popular with the national and international  tourists for its pristine beaches and undulating Western Ghat Mountain ranges. 

Goa has a population of 1.82 million. Out of that, a minuscule percentage of tribal community stays in the forested areas near the Western Ghat Mountain ranges. They are Gauda, Kunbi and Velip communities and they celebrate the festival Shigmotsav with fervour and gaiety. 

These communities have many festivals that speak of their age-old culture and heritage, and the Shigmotsav is the grandest of them all. They have variations of this festival. One group organises ‘Danyavailo Shigmotsav’ (‘Dano’ is hills, a Shigmotsav that is celebrated in the hills), it is popular in villages of Awli, Badde, and Kuske of Cotigao Village Council. Cotigao itself is a forest reserve in South Goa.

Before the arrival of Summer (February/March), and after the Maha Shivaratri festival, these communities migrate to the hills, to the places that they left earlier for better livelihood options. Those places are filled with their traditional deities and motifs.

This Shigmotsav is a unifier, and a bearer of their traditional customs. Here, one person from every family participates and gathers as a group called ‘Mel’ - to move around in nearby villages, visiting every individual household to bless them with fortune and good health. The dynamism there, while they dance and sing is an inspiration, a living example of harmonious community living. When Whole India plays Holi (The Festival of Colors, in March), these tribal folks are organising “Maan Modne’, that is structuring the ‘Mel’. 

The women participation in Shigmotsav is drastically declining. The village elders in this video mentioned that women cannot play all the folk games. One special game they play, ‘Bhilo’ is to invoke the Rain Gods for a good monsoon, which is largely played by men. 

Along with the traditional dance and songs, they have various kinds of games such as ‘Rammed’, ‘Tonya Khel’, ‘Taalgadi’ and ‘Goof’ etc, and even these games have various formats.

This Shigmotsav is tied intricately with the tribal identity, if the new generation loses interest, people feel that they would lose a huge chunk of their cultural and artistic heritage 

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