It was 12 O’clock in Margao on Tuesday and the state commercial capital which is otherwise teeming with shoppers, wore a deserted look. The mathgramasthas (residents of Margao) had drowned the shutters of their establishments to keep their tryst with their patron deily Lord Damodar at Zamaulim. It is their ardent belief that Dambab as the Modgavkars revenrentially refer to Lord Damodar, plays Gulal with the Modgavkars on this auspicious day.
Around 25km away, three hours later, it’s a riot of colours amidst a sea of devotees at Zambaulim. Cries of Shree Ramnath Damodar Maharaj ki Jai! And Har Har Mahadev rend the air. The famous Zambaulecho Gulal had just got under way. Revellers dance in gay abandon as they fling fistfuls of gulal at the palkhi carrying the idol of Lord Damodar stationed in the courtyard of Shree Ramnath Devasthan. A wave of paranoid frenzy engulfs the crowd as people smear each other’s faces with gulal. Within seconds a cloud of red enveloped the landscape. A sense of devotion is thick in the air as Dambab’s rendezvous with the Modgavkaras turning into a celestial affair.
Pandurang Bhai Naik, the president of Mathagramastha Hindu Saba, which has been organizing the Gulalotsav for the last 100 years said “its history coupled with faith that bind the Modgavkars with Zambaulecho Gulal”.
History has it that the original temple of Lord Damodar was located in the area known as Madd in Margao, which is now referred to as Lingakaden and where the ancient temple tank still stands. During the time of the early conquests by the Portuguese in the 16th century, locals attempted to shift the Shivlinga to a safer place. They only managed to sever a part of it which they shifted to Zambaulim where the current temple of Shree Damodar stands.
“It’s in honour of Shree Ramnath and with a sense of gratitude to him for offering his place for Lord Damodar that Dambab’s palkhi comes calling to the temple of Shree Ramnath, the night preceding the Gulal. Suvari vadan (folk music) and cultural programmes are held here that night. The following day, at around 3.30pm gulal is sprinkled on Dambab and on his palkhi to mark the gulalotsav. People of all faiths converge at the feet of Dambab on this day. For the Modgavkars, it’s a day of rejoicing,” said Bhai.
Gulalotsav on Tuesday, marked the culmination of the week-long festivities which began with the nal’l (holy coconut) being brought from the house of late Purushottam Keni in Comba, Margao to Damodar temple, Zambaulim, in a grand procession on 12th March. Various religious and cultural events were held during the week in Zambaulim. Legend has it that while the part of Shivling was being shifted from Margao to Zambaulim, the deity took an overnight shelter at the ancestral house of the Kenis at Comba before proceeding to Zambaulim the next day. To mark the occasion, the practice of worshipping the nal’l at the Keni’s residence before taking it to Zambaulim, continues to this day.