Saturday, December 3, 2022


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Mussoll is a folk-play-cum-dance played by the Kshatriyas among the Christians from the two hamlets of Chandor-Kott and Kouddi in Chandor village. Mussoll in Konkani, is an instrument used by women folk for pounding rice. It is a dance based on the legendry powers of the ancient Kshatriyas. This play must have been exhibited at the sabha-mandapa (assembly- hall) of the royal temple of Lord Chareshwar (moon god), with as many variations as circumstances of the time permitted. It is also called 'Musllam-Fell' or Khell. The dance is a war dance - a dance of a martial race or caste. 

From the wording of the song, the Mussoll dance commemorates the victory of King Harihara II, son of Bukka I of the Vijayanagar empire, over the Cholas at the ancient fort of Chandrapur around 1310AD. King Harihara is supposed to have claimed descent from the lunar race. Mussoll dance has a constituent symbol, i.e. a bear which is the symbol of Cholas.

Originally the dance was held on the full moon night in the month of Phalguna. Now it is held on the second night of the Christian carnival. The preparation for the dance-cum-play commence on the first day of the carnival (i.e. Sunday). One of the most senior Gaunkars (Kshatriya or Chaddho) is eligible to become the captor of the bear. Dressed in ancient native costumes consisting of a Dhoti, over which he wears a white shirt like garment, a jacket and a turban and anklets on the left foot, he carries a rope in his hand and a ghumatt (which is a local percussion instrument in Goa consisting of goat-skin taut over the mouth of an earthen pot, of which the other mouth is kept open) slung down his neck. Another Gaunkar dressed in a ragged black blanket, his face covered with a mask of a bear, a rope tied round his waist, the end of which is in the hands of the captor and carrying a branch of a mango or 'rumbodd' tree is taken prisoner by the captor, and exhibited to the Kshatriya households in the Kott area of Chandor. 

Next day at six o'clock in the morning, both the captor and the captive bear proceed to the main gate of the Fort near San Tiagos Chapel (St. James). They come from the gate, the captor beating the ghumatt and the bear growling out, to the entrance of the chapel. There the captive bear, deposits the branch of the tree to signify total surrender. From there, they go along from house to house of the Gaunkars, care being taken to arrive last at the house of the captor where he and the captive bear change into their normal vestments and disband from there. 

On the second day of the Carnival, at about 10 in the night, all Gaunkars assemble at the Sabha-mandapa of the temple of Lord Chandreshwar. A short Christian prayer is said and then the dance can begin at the Mandd which is a place, marked for communal festive functions. When they have finished dancing, the procession led by torch bearers and attendants proceeds to the Chapel of San Tiago near the main gate of the Fort, where they dance for a while. Then they go from house to house of every Gaunkar and after the last house has been visited, they return to the 'Mandd' and disband. At every dwelling, the lady of the house must welcome the dancers by bringing out a lamp. 

On the third day of the Carnival, at about ten in the morning, one Gaunkar dressed in the native costume and carrying a ghumatt and accompanied by a peasant woman who carries with her a basket of cow dung, a pot of water and a broom, takes the same route of the previous night, dance and sees that the barik rounnem (which is the central spot where the Mussoll was beaten hard into the ground during the dance) is levelled and cow dunged to signify the return of peace and to reassure prosperity and well being of the city inhabitants. A token coin is given to the sweeper-woman and another one to the Gaunkar as the households contribution to the Mandd fund. This fund serves to meet the incidental expenses of the dance performance and miscellaneous activities. 

The Mussoll or pounding pestle used in the dance is made of solid bamboo of about 6-7 feet in length with inserted hawk's bells and is carried only by those who will actually dance. The torches are made of coconut, sliced mid-way longitudinally dried like copra and treated with a mixture of mud and cow dung. These were held upright on a spike at the end of a long bamboo stick. A wick was inserted, which burns under the oil that oozes out of the dried Kernel of the coconut. Besides these, torches of wax or of dried coconut-tree leaves will be used.

The dance consist of a march and the beating of the barik rounnem. The march has a martial beat and has three different steps. First a combination of clockwise and anti-clockwise full turns. Second a serpentine forward movement done in half turns, left and right and third as a straight march on the ball of the feet. The starting step is always with the left foot, except that in the first step whilst the left side dancers are completing the full turn starting with the left foot. The right dancers do the same starting with the right foot in order to keep the movement either clockwise or anti-clockwise. 

The dance has only two beats : single beat and a triple time beat. The steps are basically a one-step and a three-step movement. But a combination of one-step, two steFp and three step movements each in clockwise and anti-clockwise turns is usually danced. The dance always starts with the left foot forward and in an anti-clockwise circular direction. The most enchanting is the twirl in which every alternate dancer leaves the ring or the barik rounnem and they form together an outer ring dancing in an opposite direction in three-step movements, while the dancers in the inner circle barik-rounnem do the three-step movement in full turns. Though the original song of the Mussoll dance is on an eastern melody, it is weighed down by western music with the Portuguese impact on it.