In many places in Goa, weaving was a prime occupation followed by the people known as the ‘mahars’.  Besides weaving baskets and other utility items from bamboo, they would be called to play at religious occasions. Although, not many from the community are involved in this craft today, you will find that the members still continue with the folk performances they were associated with. It is a tradition they feel duty bound to carry out.

The Bhonvaddo is a ritualistic folk dance which is usually held during the feast of the deity ‘Lairai’ in Shirgao.

The folk artistes begin encircling the temple. As they do so, they beat the ‘dhols’, a percussion instrument. Before they perform, these musicians prepare themselves by following a certain age old rituals.

Nonu Parwar: “When the Shirgao feast begins, we abstain and eat only vegetarian food for the whole month. The only exceptions may be the old, who can eat fish. This is how we observe the feast in Shirgao. In our village of Marodo, we have 60-70 “dhonds” (devotees of goddess Lairai) .

The mahars are proud of their folk heritage. The elders take it upon themselves to introduce and initiate the young into this tradition.

The ‘dhol’ is a vital instrument in the whole Bhonvaddo set-up. The size of the dhol which is made of wood, vary depending on occasion for which the dhol is played. The skin of a he-goat or bull usually is stretched over the head of the dhol. This is fastened around with the help of ropes. The stick which is used to beat on the drum is made from coconut leaf stem.

An interesting fact, according to Nonu Parwar is that the ground used for bhonvaddo, has to be sprinkled before the dance with the cows urine which is said to be holy.

One musician is positioned in the midst of the dancers, usually the younger of the lot . After beating the drums for a while, the dancers move in a circle, in such as way that two artistes face each other. They then change the movements by rotating clockwise and anti clockwise.

Each time, they change position; the rhythm of the music too changes. Slowly they circle around the temple. Since a lot of emphasis in the Bhonvaddo is laid on precision and co-ordination, a group of Bhonvaddo artistes must necessarily comprise of an even number. In most cases, it is six or eight.

It may look simple, but it requires a lot of practice and experience in order to perform the Bhonvaddo as the movements have to be synchronized to the dhol rhythm.

The Bhonvaddo folk artistes take pride in their status of  ‘temple musicians’. As the older musician aver, it is very difficult to match the skills of these young drummers.

Go back to Traditional Dances of Goa

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