At the time of the Goa Inquisition, when Hindus, Muslims, Jews and others were tortured and killed en masse under Portuguese rule for two and a half centuries, several thousands of Hindus had to flee their land, taking their deities along, and move out to safer places like mainland Goa, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
This, as you can imagine, changed the cultural and linguistic landscape of Goa forcefully.
But, you know what? You can take the people out of Goa but not Goa out of its people.
A community today still traces most of its temples back to Goa. They believe their deities visit their forsaken land every year.
So, what do the believers do? They go see them there.
One such celebration is the Gulalotsav of Zambaulim, where the gramasths or the people of Mathagram, or Madgaon as it is now called, visit their Lord Damodar. He, too, puts everything else away and vacations with them for a week.
The week-long sabbatical for the lord, celebrated as the spring festival of Shigmo, ends in a splash of colour.
Lord Damodar, or Dambab as he is fondly called by his devotees, had a temple home originally in Mathagram, or Madgaon as it was called back then.
The commercial capital of Madgaon, as a result, has an undeclared holiday on the day of Gulal.
The five-century-old festival used to be put together by the Mahajans of the temple and the people belonging to Mathagram, who later formed the Mathagramastha Hindu Sabha.
The festival starts with haldune or the sprinkling of turmeric water with which the abhisheka has been performed or the deity has been bathed.
After the haldune, the holy pyre is lit, and a saffron flag is unfurled to declare the event open. On the night of the following Monday, Damodar sets out on his palki ride.
This year, the day of the palki ride is 1st April. Dambab will go out at around 9.30 pm the previous day and sit in the sabha mantapa and watch the cultural activities unfold.
Early in the morning, he will head to the Ramnath Temple for his annual greeting, acknowledging the fact that local deities made room for him. He will sit there until afternoon.
Then, around 3.15 pm, Damodar will first apply gulal to Ramnath, who will then return the favour. This declares the Gulalotsav open.
And then, a riot of colours ensues.
The suburb turns pink as gulal powder is splashed on the palki and everywhere else. The clouds of pink remain in the air over the area the whole time.
This celebration, intoxicated on a serving of the divine and expressed through colour and chants of Har Har Mahadev, is one to see and behold.
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