The Goan game for all ages

With the advent of new age technologies, we prefer walking along the streets catching Pokémon, rather than getting our selves dirty while playing those age old fun games. These Goan traditional outdoor games have been buried below our busy lifestyle and preference for technology based games. Among the many that have been forgotten, a certain Goan traditional game continues be played with much fanfare.

How is the game played?

The coconut breaking competition has evolved from a recreational activity to a state level competition, where players from over the state compete to play this unique game. The game is played in pairs, where two players compete against each other. The players stand approximately 10 meters away from each other on an open field. Each player carries with him six coconuts, with the outer layer of husk removed. The first player rolls the peeled coconut on the ground, at a medium pace, towards the other player. The other player waits for the coconut to get close enough and with another coconut in his hand, he attempts to break the coconut rolling towards him. If he breaks the coconut, he wins that round, but if his own coconut breaks then his loses that round. The same routine is repeated with the other coconuts left. At the end of the lot, the player who has broken the maximum number of coconuts emerges as the winner.

In this manner players compete against each other and qualify for the finals, to eventually win the tournament.

The Beginnings

Although formal tournaments have begun roughly 45 years ago, the game was played long before.  “Our elders at that time would come together and play this game with a lot of enthusiasm. I was merely a young boy at that time, there was no formal event as such, it was only a recreational activity held during feats and festivals”, recollects 79 year old Sebastiao Gonsalves, a resident of Agassaim.

The game seems to date back centuries, even before the Portuguese arrived. The elders back in the day kept the tradition of their ancestors alive, and thus we can still witness a part of our Goan Heritage. The game would attract a large crowd from all corners of the state.

“As youth, we initiated the competition and we had people travelling from far and wide to take part and witness the event”, adds Gonsalves.

The Young Stars of Dugrem, an association in the ward of Dugrem at Agassaim has been organising the coconut breaking festival for over four decades. At the recent edition on August 10, the association organised the 46th edition of the event, which is a state level coconut breaking competition, making it one of the oldest coconut breaking competitions, to be organised in the state. Apart from the one competition in Agassaim, there were two other competitions organised at Verem and Cansaulim at that time.

“As young girls, we would get together and play various games in commemoration of feasts. This would include breaking a mud pot with a stick with a blind fold on, and similarly breaking a coconut with a stick. Time passed on and these games were somehow forgotten and now you can hardly see people playing these games” says 72 year old Annie Gracias.

Her words definitely leave us to ponder upon ways to keep the Goan heritage alive. Competitions such as these are one way to sustain these age old games, which would otherwise be forgotten between the pages of history.

Written by Svetlana Pereira