A sleepy island that is only accessible by a narrow footbridge from Nadora in Bardez, Raneache Juvem only has 27 houses, which makes for one of the smallest inhabited islands in Goa. During Ganesh Chaturthi, the islanders decorate their houses with elaborate ‘dekhavas’ replete with lights and sound effects. The best time to visit the island is from the third day of the festival to the fifth day. The first two days are the time when most of the islanders only visit each other to offer prayers to Lord Ganesha. On the third day, the decorations are completed for the visitors, who travel from far and wide. Their doors are wide open during the festival, and everyone is welcomed in to admire the tableaux, with warm smiles and customary greetings.
A tiny island on the Chapora River surrounded by Nadora, Revora and Pirna villages on the mainland, Juvem was ruled by the Rane family from Sattari taluka from 1609. Jaitobha Rane was the landlord then, and he held sway over all the surrounding villages including Sirsaim and Assonora. His descendants still live on the island and their Ganesh idol too has an interesting story. The idol is unique as it is handmade in the house itself and is of the same height every year. The Dumal family from Dhargal has for generations been moulding the idol in their courtyard.
“On the fifth day of the festival, starting from the Rane house, all the Ganesh idols are carried on a cart through the village. At the immersion point, we tie two canoes together like a ‘Sangodd’ and take the idols into the river around the island before visarjan. We also offer Shizori, which are cashew nuts offered in a banana leaf, like food for Lord Ganesha as he may feel hungry on the journey,” informs Vinod Agarwadekar, a resident of Ranechem Juvem.
Almost every house installs ‘chitras’ except those families which are mourning. Each of these ancestral homes houses multiple generations of a family, who have grown up contributing to the art scene on the island. Every generation has however improvised on the floats, adding their own personal touches to them.
Every house on the island has a wooden loft which gives them the freedom to create the detailed ‘dekhavas’. This tradition has been followed for hundreds of years.
Each house has a unique theme every year. This year, the dekhavas include mythological stories like Vasudev carrying Krishna as a newborn child in a basket as he crosses River Yamuna to save the baby’s life. He is accompanied by a hooded snake who protects the child from the rain. Another tableaux showcases Panduranga accompanying Janabai as she grinds jowar and another one shows Krishna beheading Kamsa.
Devanand Kalangutkar says, “Our Chitra is about Ravana’s son Meghnada offering a Yagna to win over any enemy in war and become invulnerable. However, his yagna is ruined by Maruti who pours water on the fire.”
With every home bustling with relatives and children playing with fireworks on the roadside, the scene on the island was a picture of gracious pandemonium