Ancient Makhar Traditions Are In Full Swing In Goa During Navratri

Ancient Makhar Traditions Are In Full Swing In Goa During Navratri

Goa commemorates festivals all year round. With the commencement of the Hindu religious month of Ashwin, celebrations of the powerful warrior Goddess Durga resound throughout the State

Nicole SuaresUpdated: Saturday, October 21, 2023, 09:08 PM IST
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Mhalsa Temple, Mardol |

Goa commemorates festivals all year round. With the commencement of the Hindu religious month of Ashwin, celebrations of the powerful warrior Goddess Durga resound throughout the State. In Goa, Durga takes the form of Sateri, Shantadurga, Mahamaya, Navadurga, Chamundeshwari, Kamakshi, Bhagwati, and Mauli.  Depiction of the goddess in a boat, rather than the more common lion or tiger riding version is common. Durga’s triumph over the demon Mahishasura is one of the popular beliefs.
The local Navratri tradition of Makharotsav continues in temples across the state. The rituals commence with the Ghatsthapana ceremony on the first day of the Navratri. Devotees worship a beautifully decorated pot filled with water and decked with garlands, and nine types of cereals are sowed around it. These seeds are watered for nine days, and after they sprout, they are distributed as Prasad to the devotees.

Mhalsa Temple, Mardol

Mhalsa Temple, Mardol |

Various incarnations of Durga like Shri Shantadurga, Kavlem, Shri Mahalaxmi Temple in Bandora, Navadurga in Borim, and others adorn the festive spirit of Navratri with Makharustav traditions. At nightfall, the serene October air is filled with the sounds of aartis and bhajans from the temple premises. Inside, a sea of devotees sit in front of the beautifully decorated makhar, a traditional, enormous wooden swing with the idol of Durga.

The makhar showcases the artistic abilities of the local artists. It is decorated with colored paper and adorned with images of the devi on the glass or wooden panels. The wooden frame is suspended from the ceiling with an iron chain to allow 360 degree movement. The idol is dressed up in ornate garments in festive colors, ornaments and is garlanded with flowers daily, each time on a different mount or with different adornments and companions. The makhar is swung during the aarti to the beats of dhol and jhaanjh.

Navadurga Temple, Borim

Navadurga Temple, Borim |

This makhar tradition is unique to Goa.  According to activist and writer Rajendra Kerkar, this tradition of the worship traces back to 500 AD. "Unmarried women sat on a swing and sang folk songs in Shravan as per old tradition. After marriage too, mothers continued with it. When women began to be worshipped as Mother Goddess, they felt it right to place the Goddess on a swing for the festival, decorated with seasonal flowers," says Akerkar

During Navratri, even Mangeshi, the form of Shiva, is put in the makhar and swayed to the tunes of ghumat, jhaanjh, and bells. The decor is different everyday using varied seasonal flowers and other natural resources.

Shantadurga Temple, Kavale

Shantadurga Temple, Kavale |

At the Navadurga temple in Borim, located at the foothills of Siddhanath Parvat, the evening rituals begin with reading religious discourses from the Puranas. This is followed by the singing of kirtans, reciting prayers, and dramatised storytelling. When it’s time for the makhar ceremony, as the lights go off, the only illumination is the focus light above the frame and the lighted lamp held by the bhat (the priest). During the aarti ceremony, the bhat moves lighted lamps of various sizes and platters in a circular motion in front of the moving makhar. The pace of the ceremony starts slow and gradually picks up tempo. Another bhat, positioned behind the makhar, manually swings the large wooden frame with his hands timed to the temple bell and beats of the traditional instruments such as the dhol and taso.

At Navadurga in Borim, the celebrations continue with full gusto during Navratri. Babu Devari, a third-generation bhat explains the makhar tradition at the temple. “The makhar made from the wood of the jackfruit tree could be more than 300 years old. We place a gold idol in the center. Jagdish Chari decorates the makhar as we used to do it earlier. The Goddess is placed on different mounts every day like elephant, lion, swan, eagle, lotus, tiger, cow, garud-manv, and peacock. We complete at least 105 turns of the makhar in one night. This year we started with the Mahaprasad in the afternoon.”

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