Coconut is used widely in Goa, but it’s only the tribals such as Gawdas who still weave mats out of coconut fronds. The Gawdas are a tribal community living in Cotigaon forest of south Goa. Devidas, the correspondent of this video belongs to the community.
As forest-dwellers, the Gawdas rely heavily on all forest produce such as coconut. They use coconut in their daily food as well use coconut oil as a cooking medium. They also use coconut in their religious ceremonies, besides making handicrafts out of coconut frond and fibre.
However, while they sustain themselves on the coconut, the Gawdas also help preserve the trees. They believe that the coconut tree is the ‘Kalpvriksha’ or the heavenly tree that grants any wish or desire formulated under it. So, cutting a live tree is considered as bad omen, almost a sin by the Gawdas. Besides, their preference of natural products like coconut leaf mats over plastic products keep the use of plastics at a minimum.
Devidas, who uses the coconut mat himself says this huge consumption and use in his community is greatly contributing to Goa’s agronomy.
He also feels that the by handmade products such as mats can also support the state’s booming tourism sector as well, if the govt and private vendors start retailing the products in their showrooms, and promote them in the market.
As of now, the mats are used for using in individual homes. But Devidas thinks the tribals, especially those who are losing their livelihood due to mining and implementation of the forest act, can be encouraged to take up coconut mat making as a method of self-employment.