It is well known that cows are sacred to Hindus, but knowing this didn’t really prepare me for some of the (to Western eyes) unusual sights we came across. Not only do cows wander freely on town and city streets as here, but also on the beach (photo 2). And the cows are very definitely in charge. Time and again we witnessed local drivers getting incredibly impatient with each other, hooting their horns and trying to squeeze through spaces that weren’t really viable. But if a cow was blocking their way they were much more tolerant and would wait uncomplainingly until said cow decided it was time to move on.
I have found several reasons cited for the Hindu reverence for cows. Some trace the cow's sacred status back to Lord Krishna, who is said to have appeared 5,000 years ago as a cowherd. He is sometimes referred to as Bala-gopala, that is "the child who protects the cows" and also as Govinda, meaning "one who brings satisfaction to the cows." Elsewhere Hindu scriptures talk about the cow as the "mother" of all civilization because its milk nurtures the people. Milk holds a central place in religious rituals and the divine bull, Nandhi, guards Hindu temples.
The reverence for cows manifests itself in several ways. In addition to the freedom they are granted to roam where they will, many people consider it good luck to give a cow a snack such as a bit of bread or fruit before breakfast. And conversely, a citizen can be sent to jail for killing or injuring a cow. Maybe that explains the patience of the drivers – they would not want to run one over!
These flowers have a special place in Hindu worship and culture. They are often strung into ornate and beautiful garlands which are used to decorate shrines or as offerings in the temples.
Various meanings have been attributed to the flower, and hence for its significance in worship. Some say its saffron/orange colour signifies renunciation, others that its sturdy stem symbolizes a trust in the divine and a will to overcome obstacles.
The use of marigolds in homes, whether to decorate a shrine or simply to garland a doorway, has another more practical benefit too, as the unpleasant odour helps to keep insects and other pests at bay. For me the sight of these beautiful golden flowers piled up in the markets and draped over statues and shrines will be one of the abiding memories of our visit to Goa.
The Sacred Grove located at Bambar in Satari Taluka is the abode of rare medical plants. This forbidden spot is a refuge for a unique forest community and it is classified as Myristica Swamp Forests having great ecological significance. The trees have unusal aerial roots which are analogous to pneumatophores or stilt roots of mangrove forests. The area of the grows is about 0.25 ha of undulating terrain and is situated 11 kms from the Goa - Karnataka border.
This grove is known to exist for the last 250 years and the reigning deity is the God ‘Nirankar’, who is worshipped by the people of three villages namely Maloli, Ustem and Nanode. Their deep rooted religious belief strengthened by the cult of nature worship, has ensured that the vegetation remained more or less untouched for the last 40 to 50 years.
People of these three villages used to assemble at the site during the years gone by to venerate the Lord “Nirankar” who is considered the ‘Rakhandar’ (Protector) of these villages. After the sacrifice, the ritual is performed and food is cooked, but only the male members eat the preparation. These customs and rituals have now been neglected due to the changing life style of the people and other pre-occupation for their material gains.
The natural vegetation of the area is of tropical hill forest dominated by evergreen broad leaved species. The floral composition of the grave shows the presence of the following plant species: Alstonia scholaris, Artocarpus hirsuta, Calamus thwaitesii, Calophyllum inophyllum, Combretum sp., Canarium strictum, Holigarna arnottiana, Holigarna grahamii, Hydnocarpus laurifolia, Lophopetalum wightianum, Machilus macrantha, Myristica malabarica, Piper nigrum, Stereospermum personatum, Osbeckia sp, Tetrameles nudiflora, etc. In addition, there are several species of algae, lichens, epiphytes and under growth plants which are yet to be identified.
One of the unique features of the trees in this habitat is the presence of numerous aerial roots in the shape of “U” arching over the mud. These roots resemble a knee when the leg is folded. The ecological significance of these peculiar knee roots is an adaptation or reaction to overcome environmental stress. Presumably this is two fold - one in which the plants overcome poor anchorage in a soft bed; and two ensuring root aeration when oxygen is not available in the soil. In either case it is analogous to the adaptations found in mangroves. The knee roots suggest the presence of an underground stream creating conditions similar to those of mangrove swamps.
How to reach
Bambar is located approximately 60 kms. from Panaji on te Valpoi-Nanode road and is easily accessible.
Whom to contact
1. Dy. Conservator of Forest
Research & Utilisation
Aquem, Margao-Goa Ph.: 0832 - 2750099
2. Dy. Conservator of Forest
North Goa Division
Ponda, Goa. Ph.: 0832 - 2312095
In many parts of India, it is the homecoming of King Rama of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile in the forest, after he defeated the evil Ravana. The people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Rama by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (deeva), thus its name: Deepavali. This word, in due course, became Diwali in Hindi. But, in South Indian languages, the word did not undergo any change, and hence the festival is called Deepavali in southern India. There are many different observances of the holiday across India.
'Diwali', also called Deepavali or festival of ligths, is the abstraction of the Sanskrit word Deepavali - 'Deep' means diya (small pots made from clay) or light and 'Avali', means a row - meaning a row of diyas or array of lamps. Thus placing small diyas, candles & lamps inside and around the home marks the festival of lights.
Diwali festival is celebrated after 20 days of Dussehra. The five days long festivity of Dipavali celebration begins on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashwin (October / November).
Ganesha Chaturthi or Ganesha Festival is a day on which Lord Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is believed to bestow his presence on earth for all his devotees.
It is also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi or Chavath ( चवथ ) in Konkani. It is celebrated as it is the birthday of Lord Ganesha.
The festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). Typically,
the day usually falls between 20 August and 15 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi . This festival is observed in the lunar month of bhadrapada shukla paksha chathurthi madhyahana vyapini purvaviddha.
if Chaturthi prevails on both days, the first day should be observed. Even if chaturthi prevails for complete duration of madhyahana on the second day, but if it prevails on previous day's madhyahana period even for one ghatika (24 minutes) the previous day should be observed.
Madhyahana is the 3rd / 5th part of the day (Sunrise-sunset).
Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, is widely worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.
While celebrated all over India, it is most elaborate in Maharashtra, Goa (Biggest festival for Konkani people all over the world) Gujarat,
You will see cows just about everywhere around Goa on the road on the beach or even wandering around Anjuna market. Cows lead a very charmed life in India. In Hindu religion they are considered a source of life and can never be killed.Its fair to say they get full right of way in Goa and in some villages the mild and gentle spirit is considered one of the family
Ganesh is my favourite Hindu God! The past week has been fireworks, more fireworks, and even more fireworks! Large idols of Ganesh are put in the local temples and after 3,5,7, 9 or eleven days the idols of Ganesh are celebrated in the streets, and carried down to local rivers or the sea for holy dips. Great fun!
A good place to meet real Goans (rather than other Indians who have simply moved to Goa during the tourist boom) is at the many churches. The langugae and people are amazing.
Try and catch a wedding as well.
Every February Goa has a 'Carnival' which runs over four days covering Panjim, Margao, Mapusa, and Vasco De Gama. Calangute has its own seperate Carnival, on the same weekend with a grand procession of floats in the afternoon, followed by a concert at the football pitch in the evening. Its really good fun, and there was a great atmosphere among the visitors and locals. Every bar was packed out...as was every rooftop! For more pics take a look at the seperate travelogue.
This typical white washed chapel is situated by the crossroads at Arpora. Like quite a few Goan chapels its only used for one festival each year. This one celebrates Epiphany, and is only open for about 8 days in total (January), and the festivities finish in a great firework display!
Diwali in Margao, Goa is celebrated not only with lights but also with huge floats of Hindu Gods as tall as 4 storey buildings. Plays are enacted with warriors dressed up in all their finery, fighting these huge towering structures with silver bows and arrows and fireworks exploding all around etc. The pageant is very nice to see with a carnival atmosphere!
The Goa government sponsors these floats - they give a certain sum of money to villages not only to make these floats but finally there are prizes for the best float! Many-a-time we wish our Mumbai government did something like this for us too instead of taking the tax payers money and lining their pockets !
Christians in India follow thier religion much more passionately and religiously than thier counterparts in the West. While churches might be empty in other parts of the globe on a Sunday, but the Sunday mass here is an occassion for all to get together.
The lenten fasts, celibacy, and rules of the Lord are followed to the T.
While the nightclubs and discotheques are swinging during the festive season in Goa, the local Goans are making merry themselves at traditional Christmas and New Year Balls organised in almost every town and village of Goa. Every village dance is a compulsory social event for the entire family to attend. So besides the teeny boppers and mum and dad, you may find even the odd grandma sitting in one corner and peering at young Romeos wanting to waltz along with sweet sixteen grand daughter.
Most of the events are strictly formal and the men are dressed to the nines in their best Tuxedos all the more comfortable since the temperature for once drops to 18 degrees. The belles of the ball are suitably attired with splashes of colour infused into their evening gowns sometimes aptly complimented with modern Indian fashions that combine with the more dare to bare off shouldered blouses and mini skirts.
I love this festival! Again its normally around March. Its a mad week of processions...and each Village seems to celebrate it on different days. Its really good fun...full of colour...but watch out for the paint bombs!
Goa has such a mix of people that there's a celebration somewhere virtually every day! Some are on set dates ( like Christmas ) and others move around according to the lunar cycle. All are fun...all worth getting involved in.