64. MOCHEMAD, SHIRODA & REDI

We leave Vengurla for the last leg of our drive through Maharashtra. The end part of the journey through Maharashtra is through a familiar territory. I and my wife were born in Goa, just across the border, Colonial Portuguese subjects. Her parents were born in British India, mine in Portuguese Goa.

There are misconceptions about the region called ‘Konkan’. Generally, peoples’ understanding of Konkan is the coastal region starting somewhere near Ratnagiri. In fact, what starts with Ratnagiri district is the South Konkan which ends where the Canara coast starts. This implies that the Goa coast is a part of Konkan

Officially Konkan is divided in North and South. North Konkan means the districts of Thane (including the present Palghar), and Raigad in Maharashtra. The little place called Bombay or Mumbai is definitely a part of Konkan.

When you reach Ratnagiri, and assuming that you understand Marathi, you will find that your eardrums are being massaged by some strange but pleasing sounds. As you move southwards this noise becomes more perceptible and further down south becomes stranger to Marathi. Further down it becomes a full-fledged language. Welcome you to Konkani. This is not a language, it is a phenomenon, a culture in itself. With the handicap of this being my mother tongue, I am not allowed to praise it too much. Still I can claim that this is one of the most sweet, intelligent, variable, down-to-earth and, more importantly, irreverent of the languages. The four-letter words are common and are spoken with delicate nuances without hurting anyone’s testicles. The almighty God is on par with your bosom buddy as far as addressing Him is concerned. Women are not beyond the purview of profanity.

The problem with the language is the various forms that it assumes depending upon not only the places but also religious groups. The south Konkan version is generally referred to as Malvani, the one spoken in Goa (where it is the official language) has Portuguese influence in vocabulary, the one spoken in north Canara is called ‘Karwari’ (and also sometimes called Kukna) is influenced by Kannada, the Mangalorean Konkani (used primarily by the Mangalorean Christian community) is influenced by Tulu and would be unintelligible to the speakers of Malvani. The Muslims of Bhatkal speak Nawayath, supposed to be another version of Konkani heavily influenced by Arabic. I am sure I have missed out on many more versions. This chain extends up to the Kasaragod district of Kerala and even beyond.

Right now, we are driving out of Vengurla southwards and come across a road sign proclaiming the presence of an ancient civilization called Mochemad on the seaside.

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The Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra has a very popular institution called ‘Dashavatari Natak’  a theatre form in Malvani language. The episodes from the Dashavatars, the stories of the ten incarnations of Vishnu are enacted on the stage. This combination of the language and the ancient literature gives birth to a folk theatre with an inimitable charm and unmatched popularity. The most famous practitioners of this art form come from this village- all male including those enacting female characters.

Beautiful place. Unfortunately, the people are not very keen on the theatre form for which they are famous- Mochemadkars. Only two ‘companies’ still survive. Even they have to get the artists from outside the village.

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The bus above belongs to ‘Mama Mochemadkar’, the other one is called ‘Naik Mochemadkar’

I speak to a few people. They are considering developing the beach and attracting the tourists like Goa which is not far away. Not many are concerned about the ‘Dashavatari Natak’. This is not a threat to this theatre form. There are other places which are taking care of it. It is the ‘Mochemadkar Dashavataris’ who lend their name to this art, are on the decline.

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Here the boys are idling on the beach.

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And this is a type of grass growing on the hot sand on the beach.

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We return to the main road and proceed south towards Shiroda. After a while we cross the Mochemad river and reach Asoli. As you drive on the road which bisects a wetland, what strikes you is a field of million lotus flowers. This is about a square kilometer on either side of the road.

We stop. This wetland should definitely harbour a number of birds. We are proved right.The birdlife is varied in the water as well as the trees. we could see more than a dozen species within a short time.

The above are the Bronze-winged Jacana ( Top left), Golden Oriole (top right), Bronze-winged Jacana (immature, bottom right) and the Munia ( bottom left).

It rained last night and the paddies lying in the fileds got wet. The farmers have to dry them now, in the field and on the roadside.

We make a halt at a small hotel called Maiboli, away from the seashore at Shiroda.There are a number of beaches around Shiroda. We intend to visit one or two to-morrow. Right now at Maiboli it is time to look at a riot of butterflies. In front of the hotel is a small bush and you can see at least 6 species of butterflies hovering around in the early afternoon sun, mingling with honeybees.

Aravali beach at Shiroda is quite a large beach and here this early morning we witness a commercial activity which was of considerable importance to the coastal region of India before the motorboats began to be used for fishing.

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It is called Rampan or Rapan in Maharashtra and Goa. The term applies to this method of fishing and also to the net itself. It is a large size net cast near the seashore manually and pulled back to the shore again manually with the help of wooden poles. It is a laborious affair requiring the engagement of about 25 people at a time.

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The net is pulled in from two ends bringing to the shore catch of fresh fish.

This process will be clearer if seen in the video. For the first time on this blog we are posting one.

One restaurant in Malvan is named after this net but unlike the Rampan it is fully airconditioned.

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In the process of watching the Rampa, we have forgotten about the beach and it is time for us to move to Redi. This is the last palce we are visiting on Maharashtra coast. Redi has a fort called Yeshwantgad which is a sea fort.

We try to enter the fort throgh two different gates but fail to make much headway. There is nothing like maintenance here.

The beach nearby looks pretty. What you can see in the middle is a small islet called Ghangal. You can walk up there at low tide.

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Redi is port, a minor one and the southernmost in Maharashtra. The activity centres around transportation of mineral ores.  Redi has a number of temples.

The vilage perhaps nearest to Goa across the creek is called Kanyale. We drop the visit as it is getting dark. The last visit of the day is made to the ancestral home of my late Father-In-law. Here it is. I am with his nephew.

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With this we complete the Blue Drive in the state of Maharashtra. So far we have driven a coastline of 2300Kms in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. This is roughly one third of the total coastline of the country. We have driven 8390 Kms excluding the 1200 Kms journey to the starting point.

Text by Suryakiran Naik

Photographs by Suryakiran & Veena Naik

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