Zagor – A traditional folk drama of Gawdas
12 May 2009, Rajendra P. Kerkar
Gawdas are among the first settlers of Goa who are now included in the Scheduled Tribe communities. They had a rich folk culture but, many of the
folk art forms have already become extinct. However, there are some folk art forms which are still followed by them, which indicate their roots in the hoary past.
Ranmale, zagor and Kalo are some of their folk dramas. Zagor is a form of
traditional folk drama which is performed annually to get the blessings of the folk deity on the whole community. If the folk drama is not performed as per the tradition, the tribals feel that they will have to face the wrath of the deity. To avoid it, they perform the zagor without fail.
Earlier, the Gawda community had a simple culture with no system of reading and writing of their own. The zagor has gained currency among unlettered folk, who naturally never worry about the author or composer.
Nauxi, a small hamlet in Curca village panchayat, near Bambolim, has a settlement of  the Gawda community. Though Nauxi is very near to urban centres, the Gawdas residing here have maintained their linkages with folklore.
Pandurang Kankonkar, who is the Zalmi of Nauxi, is involved in various religious rituals essential before performing the zagor. Nauxi is blessed by a spring and a lake. On the day of zagor, the Zalmi lights a ghee lamp at the lake and the water of this lamp is then brought and kept inside the “sanctum sanctorum” of Zalmi’s house.
After invoking the god, at around 10 pm, all folk artists and villagers come to the “mand”, a sacred place, where they recite prayers and urge the folk deity and other gods to bestow blessings for a successful presentation of the folk drama.
The performance of zagor begins with the recitation of devotional songs like naman’ in which the folk artistes invoke different gods and goddesses. It is followed by the appearance of folk artistes, well-dressed and coming on the stage to the tunes of folk music.
In this community, the Nikhandar is a person who guards the village and appears by holding two swords. He stands on a bamboo tied to his legs. Parpati is an officer who collects village revenue. He holds a sword in one of his hands and a handkerchief in the another. Thoto is an artiste, who performs the role of a lame person. He ties a bamboo to one leg and dances by balancing his body.
Garasher or Turmati makes the audience laugh by cracking jokes. Male artists perform the role of women in zagor.
When performing the zagor, there is no fixed story based on mythology but,
day-to-day experiences and happenings are shared in the most interesting manner.
The zagor which starts at 10 pm continues for about ten hours. In the past, when there were no modern means of entertainment available, folk dramas like zagor used to entertain the villagers. The zagor deals with traditional village life aspects and is generally considered to be the precursor of modern drama (tiatr) in Goa.
“Through the zagor, we have maintained the spirit of communal harmony. In the past, along with us, members of the Christian community took part in dancing and singing of the drama,” says Shankar Hadkonkar, a resident of Nauxi.
In Nauxi, there is a holy Cross. One day before the zagor, in evening, the Hindu Gawda villagers along with their Christian brothers go to the holy cross and offer prayers by lighting candles. If wishes of the devotees are fulfilled, they take part in the zagor. Thus, the zagor is not only a form of entertainment, but it is associated with religious life of the community.
During the Portuguese rule many Gawdas were converted to Christianity. However, around 1928 Masurkar Swami gave them back entry into the Hindu fold. These Nav-Hindu Gawdas even after reconversion express their gratitude to Jesus Christ through folk songs of zagor.
The Gawda community, scattered in areas of Veling, Ghothan, Shirdon, Curti, Chimbel are always busy during the months of April-May, making the annual presentation of zagor on the mand.—A-traditional-folk-drama-of-Gawdas/articleshow/4511306.cms


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