Quepem is one of Goa’s still green talukas. With hills and thick vegetation, dotting its landscape, Quepem makes you lose yourself in its embrace. This region is known for one of its original dance form: the Dhalo.

Dr. Pandurang Phaldesai: This festival is directly related to the fertility cult. The earth has the power to regeneration and this dance is a homage to the true potential of our land thus is “Dhalo utsav” It is performed by the women. It is a reflection of the regenerative ability of the earth.The “tulas”, a heap of mud, that is kept and worshipped, is a symbol of our (mother) earth. 

The dances are performed on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th or 11th nights but the final night is the most celebrated night where they sing different songs and enact small skits that are unique in characters.

The women stand in two rows, facing each other. Each row is called a ‘faanti’. The right arm of one woman holds the waist of the woman standing next to her, while the left hand is left free. As each row walk towards the other, their paths collide, at this juncture, the dancers bow down in a symbolic salutation to the earth goddess. The bowing down is called as ‘noman’.

Dr. Pandurang Phaldesai: Men cannot take part in this dance, with the exception of one man, who is allowed and is known as “bandhav”. In this group one is the ‘brother’, who is said to be “Ramba’s brother and only the brother has the right and authority to come to the ‘maand’ and grant blessings.

The Velips apart from engaging in agriculture are largely forest dwellers. Their habits, customs and lifestyles influence their Dhalo. Although similar to the Dhalo dance elsewhere, yet has its own subtle differences.

The dress of the Velips and Chirstians while dancing the Dhalo is similar. The Dhalo is a way of showing a heart filled with gratitude to Mother Earth, for the produce it gives which helps feed the people and their livestock.

After the wave of conversions swept Goa, many people converted to Christianity. However, one thing they did not give up was their folk practices and customs. They in fact held on to them even more strongly.

Dr. Pandurang Phaldesai: If we visualise Goa before the rule of the Portuguese, there was one religion and the same culture. We are fortunate to have communal harmony amongst us. We treat one another as brother, till today, despite having different religions. There are no cultural differences and we don’t have communal division, but live in harmony. We have a deep empathy to remain united, which we have maintained from our tradition.

Adv. John Fernandes: Dhalo is played by the gawda (community), who are generally Velips or Gaonkars. The culture we (Christians) inherited from our ancestors, isn’t that different from their. We play “dhalo” in October, but they play in December.

Before the Dhalo begins, the women place a brass lamp on a plank. The lamp is then lit. The ‘tulsi vrindaavan’, which we see when the Hindus dance the Dhalo, is notably absent.

The dance steps of the Christians are enthused with a lot of energy. These gestures have reference to their daily agricultural lives.

The difference in the Dhalo of the Hindus and Christians are limited to dress styles and community issues. The only common vestment between the Hindus and the Christian is the white cloth around the waist. The knee length red shaded sari is worn by all the dancers in the group of the Christian Dhalo. Decked with the locally available flowers ‘aboli’, the women perform the Dhalo. The gold ornaments they sport are markedly different from those worn by the Hindus.

Breaking the monotony in the Dhalo is the ‘Kanakhell’ and the ‘Moruli’, both acts which are basically playfull. These acts are known as ‘khell.

Monica Fernandes (women from the gawda community): We hold a staff this way, and place a stone beneath it. It is beat (up and down) like this, and the woman dance on the other end of the stick.

In the ‘Kanakhell’, the ‘kanak’ or stick is an important part of tribal life and is used by them for their daily work.

Adv. John Fernandes: ‘Kanno’ is used by the tribal people in their everyday life, be it whilst cleaning rice, building a house, or while making rice flakes. So whenever we did some activity, automatically a song was composed.

In the “Moruli”, the women stand in a circle holding hands, except for two women. One who acts as the peacock while the other as the peahen. The male uses all his wits to try and catch hold of the peahen.  Does the peacock catch his beloved? Well, wait and see.

After the peacock catches the female, the dance concludes.

Dr. Pandurang Phaldesai: The higher society or “high caste” does not participate in ‘dhalo’. It’s these women that work manually, that take part. This dance takes place in each year in every village where one finds the Hindu community.

The dances depict incidents that have taken place in their lives. Their songs talk of in-laws; marriages and a visual description of these events are shown. When the dancers sit on the ground, with outstretched hands, rotating them along, you know that the spices are being ground the traditional way on the stone mill.

The practice of going to the forest and killing an animal and offering it to the deity is also shown in these dances.

Manisha Naik (woman from the hindu community): In villages it so happens that an animal is killed from the jungle; which is like a respect to God.

They used to go in the jungle, kill any animal and bring it with happiness. It is a sign of blessing of God. Then cut it into pieces. Later on it is distributed in villages.

In the olden days ladies were not allowed to come out of their house, especially because they were scared of their husbands. So, in the fields ladies decided to do something where they could express themselves by the name of dhalo. Dhalo means standing in two lines and express our sorrows and happiness through its songs. The songs are related to God.

The concluding day of the dhalo performance is marked with special choreographed dance. A woman dressed as a man, with a turban on her head, goes around the dancers. This character depicted is known as "Pingli". As she does so, she carries a brass pot with coins in it, asking for alms. She jingles the coins as she dances. Cow dung is smeared on the dancing ground and an appeal is made to the deities to retire to their abodes.

The Dhalo is said to be a fertility ritual and a tradition that celebrates the strength of the female and Mother Nature. It is played exactly after harvest season when the paddy is brought home. Performing Dhalo is an act of gratitude to nature.

Go back to Traditional Dances of Goa

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