Shikamo Festival: Remembering the Tribal Way of Life

“Imagine an encyclopedia written by your ancestors on your culture, myth and social mores. Imagine that once every year, these stories come out of the ancient pages and start singing and dancing in front of your eyes,” says IndiaUnheard Tribal correspondent Devidas from South Goa as he attempts to describe the oral tradition of his community’s history and knowledge. “A tribal festival is more than just colorful costumes and song and dance. It is an expression of our tradition. It is the passing over of knowledge from one generation to the other.” Devidas’ village celebrates tribal festival of ‘Shikamo’ every year for almost 2 weeks, ushering in the season of spring. For the duration of the revelry, the villages leave their homes on the plains and set up camp on their ancestral lands along the slopes of the hills. It is the place where the gods and goddesses of village and the spirit of their ancestors reside. “There is nothing religious about the rituals. None of the songs serenade and worship the gods,” says Devidas. “Instead, these songs celebrate life.” Traditional folk tunes are played on traditional instruments. The drum sets the pace and rhythm on which the songs and dances are played. “Each song describes a particular everyday scenario,” says Devidas. “One song teaches the right way in which to receive a visitor who comes knocking at your door. One is about the harvesting of fruits. Another describes the rules of courtship between men and women.” “For the two weeks of Shikamo, we celebrate every aspect, from birth to death, what once used to be ‘our way of life.’”

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