The pre-Portuguese Mussoll dance which survived the infamous inquisition appears to be falling prey to modernisation with the number of youth participating in it is dwindling as they have moved out of Goa to seek greener pastures.
Every year, during carnival, this dance is performed at Cotta in Chandor on Monday while in teh neighbouring Cavorim it is on Tuesday. The dance is performed only by the male members of the Catholic chaddo (Kshatriya) community of the two revenue villages.
The dancers wear a dhoti, white shirt, waistcoat, turban, sash and anklets. Earlier, all participants would wear this traditional attire, but this year there were relatively few people adorning it. In Cotta, there were only 10 persons including two children wearing the attire while there were only 15 in Cavorim.
Earlier, a large group used to move around, but nowadays there are less people trudging the entire trek mainly because many of them are overseas. This year there were around 15 people who accompanied the dancers in Cotta while in Cavorim there were around 20 mostly women accompanying them.
The dance begins at Cotta with an invocation that is rendered by a descendant of the original gaunkar Nicolau Antao. However, he is the only person who knows it while the others present admitted not knowing it. Nicolau is a retired person and whether someone else will master the dramatic manner in which he does is a million dollar question. Such an invocation is not done at Cavorim.
In Cotta, it is learnt that some male members do not join the group for the whole performance, but only come out of their houses to perform it only at their homes and then return home leaving only the few who had gathered at the beginning to continue visiting other houses.
On the other hand at Cavorim, most people gather at the St. Anthony’s Chapel where the performance begins and as they visit individual households, some people drop out after dancing at their house as a result of which only a few remain till the end. This year while there were around 50 people at the beginning, there were only around 15 at the end, according to Menino Gomes, Cavorim Mussoll Committee secretary.
In fact some members of other caste look forward to this dance and specially keep awake to see their performance. However, Maria Menino Nunes, one such person who expressed disappointment with the very few people present this year.
On the other hand, others belonging to other communities resent the dance as according to them it is reviving the caste hegemony that prevailed some years back. In fact a couple of years ago, they had even complained against the dance on grounds of noise pollution.
What is significant to note is that the male members of this community, if they are in Goa, do make it a point to participate in it. However, as they are constrained to be away on that particular day, the numbers are dwindling.
The dance that originally started as a tribal dance of Shabar community, that hoodwinked the Portuguese by changing the lyrics to include Catholic saints in order to escape inquisition and continues till date, appears to be fading.