Shigmo – A Little Known Cultural Extravaganza Of Goa

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Traffic round-about decorated for Shigmotsav 2014
Traffic round-about decorated for Shigmotsav 2014

Shigmo is the Goan version of Holi, a springtime festival that is a farewell to winters. That in Goa’s case is also the tourist’s time and get indoors for upcoming summers and monsoons. Now what makes it special is that it is celebrated on the streets of various villages for good 14 days. Each day a few villages celebrate. The villagers dressed in all their finery come out, play loud music and dance. This year I got to see Shigmo up, close and personal as it happened two streets away from my home in Goa.

Drumming up the tempo for Shigmo festivities
Drumming up the tempo for Shigmo festivities

I reached the venue on time, which means I was actually before time. I saw the floats still being prepared by the group of young boys. Dancers were getting into their colorful dress, orange phetas were being bound around the head in a long queue and the accessories waited by the side of the road. This gave me an opportunity to talk to the participants who were all smiles and enthusiasm.

Mandal Floats.

Each float was by a local mandal that had a name. They said they have been doing this for many years. Every year they build a new float, they hire a tempo along with a long platform that it draws and then along with an electrician they design the float. Themes are mythology – primarily scenes from Ramayana & Mahabharata – some of them still but most of them animated. It is when you talk to these young men who design these floats all by themselves without any guidance that you appreciate the inherent creativity nurturing built-in in our cultural systems. These youngsters grow up watching these floats and they start creating them soon enough.

Shigmo Festival also known as Shigmotsav.

Ghodi or Horse dance performance during Shigmo
Ghodi or Horse dance performance during Shigmo

There were groups of men and women dancers. Women groups were in their traditional green Saris with an orange pheta on their heads. Male groups had 4-5 different variants.

Ghodi & Goff Dances.

There were dance groups who perform with a horse like props – a typical warrior dance with swords in their hands as if enacting the scenes of the war for their simple villagers. Then there were colorful dancers in stilts who obviously stood tall over the rest of the people and when they danced it was some color on the street. I found the Goff dance most interesting where women danced with long cloths tied on top of a horizontal bar and as they performed fast dance their clothes braided neatly into a rope like formation. After this, they untied it in pretty much the same fashion. It was fascinating to watch them braid and unbraid effortlessly.

Goff dance, clothes braided neatly into a rope like formation
Goff dance, clothes braided neatly into a rope like formation

Fancy Dress competition.

There were participants in various costumes like a fancy dress competition. It was a delight to see small kids dressed as Shivaji Maharaj and Hanuman. Bhishma with his bed of arrows drew the maximum attention and the artist obliged the cameras by lying down on this bed every now and then. Shirdi Sai Baba moving in a sitting pose was another creativity on display as was the Durga with her multiple arms on a lion and dragging the mahishasur with her weapon. There was an innocent young girl carrying the teakettle and glasses and wearing a cap that said – Stop child Labor. There were men dressed as women, there were farmers, villagers and there were politicians in these costumes.

Stop Child Labour message
Stop Child Labour message

Naman to begin Shigmo.

Festival began with Aarti that they call Naman, followed by a drummer’s performance that gave the energy base to the rest of the parade behind them. They were so high energy that you feel you are floating on the road. There was a bit of acrobatics that boys performed with huge cymbals. Drummers and live singers performed with each dance group and the energy with which they sang had to be felt. They did use the loudspeakers but I think even without that they would have packed enough punch.

Mythological Tableu at Shigmo
Mythological Tableu at Shigmo
Parade Road.

People of Goa lined up on both sides of the road as the dancers and floats passed by. A few photographers like me jumped around to click pictures. There was police but in a very unobtrusive way – there were no security checks. Simple barricades to let the performers have space but there was no restriction on mingling with the performers or shaking a leg with them. There were no food stalls anywhere that kept the place clean. The road was made pedestrian and without traffic, the roads look so much wider. All the performers were simply lovable for their craft and for their simplicity. The city streets and traffic islands are decorated with colorful flags and displays showcasing the festivity of the times. I almost felt it is the final dance before the city goes indoors for next 6 months.

Bhishma resting on arrows
Bhishma resting on arrows

I personally liked Shigmostav much better than the well promoted Goa Carnival, which was also good, but this was much richer, more authentic and far more colorful and energy filled. The only thing I am yet to figure out is the origin of the name Shigmo.

Festival is on till 30th Mar this year so you still have time to catch up with it.

Video of Shigmo.

Here is a short video clipping of the Shigmo.

 

Recommend you to read following Travel Blog on Goa Festivals and more.

  1. Celebrating Monsoons with Sao Joao.
  2. Faces of Viva Carnival, Panjim, Goa.
  3. Walk through backwaters of Moira village, Goa.
  4. Walk around Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa.
  5. Chorla Ghat – Drive through Goa Hinterlands.

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