While the echoes have not yet died of the Carnival celebrated March 5, Goa is braced for another week-long celebration of the carnival’s indigenous variant called Shigmo.
The festival of Shigmo, which is marked by the boisterous celebration of colour and music, kicked off Sunday.
Historians argue that the Shigmo festival, which is a Goan adaptation of the Holi, is the precursor of the carnival, which the Portuguese later westernized to bring it par with the European spring festival.
Both, the Carnival and the Shigmo share several common practices like float parades on which ‘Khells’ (plays) are depicted.
‘Khell was originally a Shigmo custom. It was enacted on the ground itself in the pre-Portuguese days. The Portugal-inspired carnival later started enacting these plays on float parades,’ said Tomazinho Cardozo, president of the Tiatr Academy of Goa (TAG).
‘The traditional Khell traces its origins to the classical Yakshagana dance of Karnataka. It is based on old Hindu tales and has a ‘Sutradhara’, the narrator, and a jester called a Kodangi,’ Cardozo said.
All these Shigmo customs were weaved into carnival festivities, he added.
Today, the Shigmo procession begins with brass bands reminiscent of the Maratha conquerers, followed by a series of Kunbi folk-dances performed by village women bedecked in gold and dressed in brightly coloured sarees.
Men march with tall, colourfully draped wooden poles to the beat of drums, others dancing with decorated umbrellas. Both the sexes parade in elaborate costumes in all the major towns across the state through the week.
The parade culminates in a procession of illuminated floats, atop which larger-than-life mechanical figures represent Hindu deities. Some even re-enact historic and mythological feats.
‘Shigmo shows that Goans were fun-loving people much before the arrival of the Portuguese,’ said Anil Naik, a historian.
According to him, the festival is also a cultural exhibition of Goa’s history.
Celebrated over nearly a week, Shigmo is being popularized by the Goa Tourism department, but does not quite make waves like its Catholic-rooted counterpart, the Carnival.
Tourism Minister Nilkant Halarnkar said: ‘Shigmo has grown bigger over the years. It is most secular celebration of the Holi festival in this country, where dance and theatre performances are enacted by all members of all religions.’