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'Suragya Sar' (Garland of Suragi flowers)

by Jyotsna Kamat

Synopis  book on Konkani wedding songs sung by women over the centuries.

'Suranga' or 'Suragi' is an exotic flower of white and yellow combination. Tiny and beautiful, it has divine fragrance when fresh which attracts droves of bees. When dried, it does not loose its fragrance. The title refers to Konkani Culture. Though age old, and suffering several setbacks over centuries, it has not died. Now it is spreading throughout the world, wherever the Konkanis have migrated, like the Suragi fragrance of Konkan Coast.

The book i.e. the collection of Konkani Wedding songs, is called 'Suragyasar' (garland of suragi flowers) and woven in eight chapters. These songs called 'hovis' mostly two or three liners were very popular in Goud Saraswat (GSB) community spread in the states of  Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa and Kerala. There is modernization and curtailing of several rituals, quick marriages with hurried receptions have come into vogue. Gone are the days when a marriage lasted for eight days and the preparations took months and months of hard labor. But it is also true that the house where wedding was celebrated was a hub of endless/chores activities. Innumerable relatives and friends gathered and worked together. Women sang as they cooked savories or wore flowers. Many 'hovis' were composed extempore and exchanged. Some passed on from mouth to mouth to generations.

Hovis lasted on people's tongue. Like religion and religious practices, folktales and folk songs traveled with Konkanis, wherever they went and settled, though they were separated long by sea or land.

Finally when the State of Goa was formed, and Konkani became the state language, globalization has set in. English (specifically, American English) has become the global language. The craze for English has affected even growth of strong regional languages. Plight of Konkani is worse. Whatever was presented through oral tradition over ages disappeared within a decade. Konkani songs, lullabies, folk-tales have disappeared or dying fast. To preserve Konkani identity, serious attempts carried on for a millennium are to be collected. 'Suragya Sar' is such an attempt.

About 500 hovis are selected to represent different situations during a wedding. The history, nature and formation of the word 'Hovi' is attempted. It is very near to Marathi "Ovi", the traditional popular meter, in which most of the important devotional works are composed - like Jnaneshwari.

Contribution of women in composing hovis has been highlighted.

Some rituals peculiar to GSB community like worship of chudiyo, wadap (remembering ancient women who have pre deceased their husbands or committed Sati), Mantav dev (special prayers offered if sudden inauspicious events like birth or death occur just before marriage) are discussed. After all, Konkanis were practical in overcoming difficulties.

Various disciplines, samskars, mentioned by our ancient law givers are mentioned. According to a Manu, most important responsibility in a society is that of a householder. A house presupposes housewife and marriage. Hence the samskara of marriage is discussed in length.

Hovis sung during different rituals are given. Making fun of different members in both the bride's and bridegroom's party was very common. Witty and humorous hovis about various relatives, family priest, cook, host, mother, father, matrons or bluffs and family buffoons are inevitable members in marriage household. Such hovis are properly presented.

To avoid dry academic discussion, hovis composed extempore and the repartees received are woven and presented in a story in Konkani entitled 'Mantav Mandlo'. A wedding scene of 1970's is recreated.

The collection contains a good number of pictures which have relevance to wedding ceremony.

The manuscript is written both in Kannada and Devnagiri script with acceptable Konkani usage. It could be followed by Goan Konkanis also, along with those from Kerala.

This is an attempt to inform Konkani-lovers about our lost heritage.

Surgya Sar was released on February18th 2005 during the 2005 All India Konkani Conference held in Kumta.
The book can be ordered from:
Basti Prakashan, Tumbay,
Bantwal 574 170. India
Price: Rs.200 (apprx. US$5)

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