Chikhal Kalo: An expression of joy

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Many Goan festivals are linked to the cycles of nature and it isn't surprising that the monsoon is an occasion to celebrate chikhal kalo, literally mud play.

The Chikhal Kalo is unique to the village of Marcel, in the taluka of Ponda. Celebrated on the twelfth day of the fourth month of Ashadh in the Hindu calendar, the festival is dedicated to Krishna in his childhood stage which is Balkrishna.

Goan Hindus dressed only in their lower body garments such as short vests and frolic in the muck (ChiKhal) by playing some traditional Goan games or some sporting games spontaneously. The whole scene takes place in front of the Devaki-Krishna temple in Marcel.

The festival of ChiKhal Kalo is believed to have been traditionally celebrated in Marcel as a portrayal of baby Lord Krishna who loved to play with his friends in Vrindavan and in Marcel it is celebrated as a sign of gratitude to Krishna.

The idol of Devaki-Krishna is believed to be originally hailing from the island of Chorao in Tiswadi taluka and was said to be taken to Marcel to evade the Portuguese wrath in the days of the erstwhile regime's rule in Goa.

ChiKhal Kalo is celebrated in village where everyone comes together sinking all their differences and celebrate ChiKhal Kalo by singing devotional songs and playing a variety of games. On the eleventh day of Ashadh, a saptak or non-stop performance of devotional songs is carried on in the temple of Devaki-Krishna. No sooner the saptak concludes, the villagers from Marcel come together at the temple and invoke the folk deity Dad Sakhal with sounds of the drums, cymbals and bells with chants of 'jai hari vithal" renting the air.

As soon as the chanting ends, the real fun begins. Everybody first applies oil on their bodies which is taken from a huge brass lamp standing in the temple hall and wearing only their lower garments, the young and the old enter the open ground in front of the temple to prance in the rain drenched muddy waters.

While the participants in the whole Chikhal Kalo indulge in a spontaneous frolic with games, devotional songs and chants being sung, devotees standing on the platform under the temple's peepal tree, throw a variety of sweets to those in the muck and the catching of puran polis, bananas and ladoos are a thrill of their own. So it is a free for all in the muck with a variety of games played in heavy rainfall, with friends and families applying wet mud and often pulling reluctant friends forcibly to playfully participate in the mud bath.

The whole celebration culminates when the youngsters among the revellers form a human pyramid and break the clay pot of butter tied to a branch of the peepal tree above. The whole celebration is a picture of great fun and shows the spirit of the youth and their energy levels to take part in the muck in great spirits while brushing aside their daily inhibitions and enjoy the moment.

Photos by Lynn Barreto Miranda / lynn.barretomiranda.com

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