KONKAN AND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO MAHARASHTRA
The culture of Maharashtra is said to be the product of integration of the rich and diverse sub-regional customs, traditions and shared values and beliefs. One such region with so many distinctive geographical features, historical backgrounds and elite prospects inherited from ancient rulers, is the Konkan region. It is a narrow coastal strip that comprises of hilly slopes of Western Ghats, a legion of riverine islands and river valleys. The coast includes the western sea side areas of Maharashtra and Goa which then extends towards the Canara coast of Karnataka with beautiful and exotic beaches along the strip. The places in and around have their own mythological tales for why they exist and depict how this region withholds an assortment of arts, lore and customary patterns.
The word “Konkan” originates from Sanskrit, where ‘kona’ means corner and ‘kana ‘means piece; thus, translating to “piece of earth” or “corner of earth”.
The reason behind the name dates back to Sahyadrikhanda of Skanda purana, in which Lord Parashurama threw his axe into the sea, commanding the Sea god to withdraw himself up to the land where his axe landed. Hence, the recovered piece of land was called Saptah-konkana which gradually became Konkan. The primary ethnolinguistic group of this coastal region are the Konkanis. The formation of folk culture of Konkan has major credits going to the sub-regional community groups like Bhandari, Thakur and Koli among others. Konkani people and all other tribes majorly speak in Marathi language and Konkani, a dialect of Marathi, is spoken in some parts of South Konkan and Goa.
The culture and beliefs are majorly influenced by the ancient Naga tribe where one of the Naga lineages named Kunkan took over the place and ruled it for years. That could be the reason why the folklore and customs of few regions here are found to be distinctive. For example, the locals here believe in the existence of ghosts even today and are scared of long standing ghosts like Vetal, Jakin, etc., A folk drama called Dashavatari Khel woven around mythological episodes and evolving spontaneously is a unique feature of the regional culture here, which is definitely worth experiencing.
Konkanis worship mostly the folk deities like Kalika, Amba, Bhairava, Bhoothnath and others. People from all strata actively take part and attend the festivals of traditional deities. In the generation of modern celebrations, it is fabulous how these festivals of folk deities have retained their importance in the life of the common people. A Census report released in 1961, quoted that, out of 1629 festivals held in Konkan every year, a large proportion i.e., 1409 festivals were held in the rural areas. This itself talks about the impact and influence created by the age-old, traditional Konkani customs. The most peculiar aspect that tops the list while speaking of Konkani art forms is the Kaavi art.
It is a form of mural art found in certain temples and ancient houses in coastal parts of Maharashtra. The word kaav (in Devnagari script) refers to Indian red pigment, extracted from laterite soil, and is the only colour used in these Kaavi paintings. Aesthetically drawn and well dispatched reddish-brown murals against white solid backgrounds are the highlights of this art style. But as modernisation took over, this art form slowly disappeared and diluted in recent times.
The largest city in the Konkan coast is Mumbai which is a hotspot for tourists, hometown of Bollywood, and has stories, beliefs and lifestyle of its own kind which will make it irresistible for you from exploring everything about the city. And this coastal region as a whole also possesses overwhelming uniqueness for its stories, beliefs, festivals, and untainted customs and most importantly the essence it is adding to not just Maharashtra but also to all of the many magnificent cultures across the world.
Written by : Pranitha Poosa
Editor and Team Lead : Atul Sharma