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Kunbis, the earliest settlers of Goa, are a sturdy tribal community mostly settled in Salcete Taluka, who though converted to Christianity, still retains the most ancient folk tradition of the land. The Kunbis are believed to be the oldest and the original tribe of Goa. The term Kunbi is derived from “kun” and “bi” meaning “people” and “seeds”, respectively. Fused together, the two terms mean "those who germinate more seeds from one seed". They are perceived as mild mannered and industrious people. They were initially Hindus but after the Portuguese forced them to convert, they fully turned into Christians. The Kunbis are very social people and perform various festivals. But they still maintain the culture or dance of non-Christian. It is the dance form which is performed in any of the special occasion.
The Kunbi dance is quite famous in Goa. Their songs and dance belonging to the pre-Portuguese era are uniquely social and not religious. The fast and elegant dance by a group of Kunbi women dancers, wearing traditional yet very simple dresses, lends a colourful touch to this ethnic art form. The mainly participants in this dance form is the Women. The movements and the body posture formed by women are very graceful and even attractive. They live together, clustered into several hamlets, known as 'kutumba', from the Sanskrit word 'kutumbakam' which means a family. Kunbis have a rich tradition of art and culture to which they attach particular importance.
There is a very common misconception that Kunbi is a part of Hindu religion. Just like Patel, Reddy, Jats etc. members of this community practice religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Buddhism Sikhism, Christianity etc. Kunibs are Marathas, but Marathas are not Kunbis. As per history one must remember that Shivaji created a Maratha state rather than a dynastic one. Although Marathas compromises major portion of Maratha armies, other castes were also brought in prominence like Kunbis, kolis etc
Kunibs are the great agricultural tribe of West India, corresponding to the kumars in the north and the Kapus in the Telugu Country. Kunbi are basically Patidar and have taken to all types of professions and many of them have achieved high regards in diverse fields, including agriculture, engineering, industrialization, sports, defense, domestic and international politics, medical professions, religious studies, astrology, theater and arts etc.
Farming is another timeless, traditional occupation of the Goan people. The work which involves days of hard labor in the fields is mostly preformed by the Kunbis. In the Old Conquests many of the Kunbis converted to the Catholic religion though they still adhere to most of their ancient customs and beliefs. The Kunbis are sub divided into 2 groups: the Gaunkars, who are believed to have descended from the original discoverers of stone Shiva-lingam. The Kunbis in the southern region of Goa speak Kannada (as in Agonda), but the vast majority speak Konkani in the Devnagiri script. They are known for their characteristic culture ‘simplicity’ and strict adherence to age old customs and usage.
Customs and practices
The form of marriage prevalent and universally so in Goa state is monogamy, a condition in which one man is married to one woman. Among the Christians, if the proposal was found to the liking of the grooms elders soirik korunk (arrange of alliance) or rather entering the preliminary talks concerning prospects of a marriage. If the girl finds acceptance in the eyes of visitors, a sweet meat or some article of value like a wrist watch or a dress piece or gold ornaments brought by the delegation, is gifted to the bride to be, signifying the acceptance of the proposal. For the Christians the church has prescribed a brief course or instruction to be taken by the prospective groom and bribe at the church or at the pastoral institute Pius-x at old Goa.
Among the sudras there was the practice of the groom to be to take away the kerchief and the soap kept for him, being a sign of acceptance of the proposal. Later a ring was sent for the engagement. Among the Hindus according to the custom, marriage within the same “gotra” is not permitted. If the gotra happens to be the same for both and it is still every ones wish that the concerned marriage should take place, then the marriage ceremony is gone through by a special ritual called Dattak Vidhan or adoption of the bride and her gotra changed. The engagement ceremony is called mudi the ring; it is the same for Hindus and Christians. The engagement ceremony among the Muslims is called mangani.
Bangle wearing ceremony
The bangle wearing ceremony that is held once in her life time for the bride to be is called the chuddo. The bangles symbolize married life for the bride, as they are broken only on her dead husband’s coffin. The chuddo among the upper castes consists of a set of seven glass bangles of a green colour on each wrist. Among the lower castes, the bangles are of the seven colors of rainbow. This ceremony is performed on the eve of marriage or a day or two day before. It is done at the house of the maternal uncle of the bribe. In the normal case these bangles are put on her by the bangle seller. Other relatives and those present at the ceremony are also given by him a pair or more of their choice free of cost. There are songs sung during this time which are typical and appropriate to the occasion. Offering of money is a token of blessing are put in a tray placed before the bangle seller. The money collected thus is taken by him over and above the payment that he gets for the work done. There are women who are expert in singing in parables and pointed image in the form of Zotis as well as throwing aside all taunts to them and other home people i.e. relatives.
The ‘saddo’ a variant of the saree in a special dress, usually flowery or plain red or pink won by the bride in the house at the day of the wedding after the official function is over. It is given by the maternal uncle to the bride among Hindus and Christians. Among Muslims no such practice is noticed.
In the northern part of Goa, there is a beautiful ceremony called the saddo. Saddo is the ceremonial cutting of the cloth, normally flowery red to be worn by the bride. A tiny image of child Jesus is placed on the floor mat where the tailor is sitting with the clothes, at their house and two tiny lengths wise pieces of the clothes are cut by him and placed there in the form of a cross.
To begin with there is the ‘nomon’ in which belessing of God almighty and especially of the virgin Mary, mother of Jesus are invoke in the form of Zot (a special song peculiar to the occasion sung by an expert song stress.) Then each relative from the nearest to begin with followed by others to accompaniment of reference to them made in beautiful metaphor in the form of Zotis, walks up to the spot where lies in Infant Jesus and lays his or her offerings of money from Rs.2 to Rs.10 before the image. Then a piece of betel nut and leaf with lime and some sweets are disturbed to the people present. The elder men are served with liquor, women and children with sweet red wine and soft drinks. The money collected on the occasion is taken by the tailor, apart from his wages. The tailor will later stitch the main wedding dress or gown in milky white colour and other necessary clothes for the bride and near relatives, brides maid etc. The bride’s gown, ornaments and trousseau are displayed in a special ceremony at which people are invited, and then they are sent to the groom’s place for display there.
Hair cutting ritual
On the day prior to the marriage, the groom is set on a ceremonial stool or chair at home and the barber formerly the family barber, cuts his hair in an appropriate cut. Songs are sung on the occasion and friends and relatives gather to witness it. The barber is paid a handsome remuneration in cash as well as given present in the form of coconut and a measure of rice and sweet meats. This ceremony is held prior to the bath with coconut pulp, juice or milk.