Abolianchem Fest Celebrates the Coconut Tree

Iris CF Gomes

The 9th of February 2019 saw a flurry of joyous activity at the Nirmala Institute of Education. It was time again to celebrate that vibrant flower that is endemic to Goa, the abolim, or firecracker flower, with the Abolianchem Fest. The concept of using the flower as a symbol was integrated into the Nirmala Institute’s own Project Goa, which highlights Goa’s socio-cultural features with a variety of  typical Goan music, games, songs, dances, food, art, craft, etc that existed before 1975.

The campus of the Nirmala Institute of Education was alive with the abolim abounding in great clusters in one section. Missing in action was Goemcho Festakar Marius Fernandes, the man who suggested the use of the symbolic abolim and has in recent times been a great promoter of Goan culture. His absence was sorely felt.

Project Goa was first developed on the basis of ex-English Methodology lecturer Ms Sharmila Veloso’s own English project. The goal of this project, which evolved into Project Goa, was to research Goa’s cultural facets that were in certitude what gave Goa its unique identity. The documentation of these different cultural attributes is meant to preserve them for future generations.

Dr Sr Rita Paes said in her speech, ‘When God was distributing land, everyone came and took land… And do you know when the Goan came? The Goan came last. And when he came, the Lord said, “Now what shall I give you? I don’t have any land left.” Then He said, ‘Alright, I’ll give you a bit of paradise.” So Goa is a paradise and it’s up to all young people to keep it as a paradise. Not to allow our land to be destroyed, not to allow our trees to be cut. And every time a tree is cut, we need to plant another tree. So this is an invitation to all of us, not just to have festivals, but to take responsibility for this beautiful land of ours. I hope all of us here will do our best to keep Goa beautiful like a pearl that is to be admired.’

This year’s theme for the Abolianchem Fest was the coconut tree, which is hailed as Kalpavriksha (wish fulfilling divine tree). The coconut tree, indeed, gives of itself completely where every part of it can be utilised as food (coconut flesh, water, milk, toddy, vinegar, jaggery, oil, etc) or a product of utility (brooms, ladles, screens, etc). The edible as well as other coconut tree products were on display at the festival. A stall displayed medicinal plants found in Goa, such as neem, which is useful in treating acne and skin problems; periwinkle, which is used to heal oral sores and sore throat; curry leaves, which aid digestion and can be used to lower blood pressure, and so on. Other stalls had abolim garlands and craftwork by students, traditional Goan kitchen items made of kiln-fired clay, and environmentally friendly products (by Dhairyansh Green).

Some of the main features of the Abolianchem Fest included the theme song composed by Dr Glenis Mendonca and the students of Nirmala Institute of Education, a performance by a brass band, a primary school fancy dress competition with children representing traditional Goan occupations, cantaram (songs), folk dances, a one act play, a music medley of Goan songs with the ghumot as an accompaniment, a medicinal plants demonstration, a traditional games demonstration and so on.

With the enforcement of traditional Goan values and culture through this festival, it is hoped that partakers of the festivities left with a sense of obligation towards upholding and handing over these values and unique culture to the generations to come.

Videos and photographs below.

More photographs at Flickr