CRT Report of Kuskem by Pantaleao Fernandes
Kuskem is a tribal village, mostly lost to the world, tucked at the foothills of the mighty Sayadhris Mountains. From the capital city, one has to travel 93 kilometres. The first thirty three kms are boring due to the traffic snarls but from Margao the journey opens up, passing through just the two towns of Cuncolim and Canacona. After the latter town, it is greenery all over.
One has to enter gates guarded by the guards of the forest department as we now enter the protected wild life sanctuary of Cotigao. From here we proceed deeper and deeper into the lush Goan forests, barely populated by humans. Finally a green mountain, with coconut groves adoring its base is visible. A thick carpet of paddy fields adds the final touch to the place. A distant waterfall can also be seen if one visits the place in the monsoons.
After a refreshing black tea flavoured with lemon grass and some tribal cookies, we take a long walk in the village. We cross a narrow bridge across a stream gurgling with waters from the mountains. A pathway leads us to a temple complex of Malikarjun and Mahadev. While the Shiv Ling is revered in the Sanctum Santorum other stone icons including a Ganapati sculpture is worshipped inside the temple. A couple of wooden statues are also seen. A huge wooden column, intricately carved is also preserved in this temple. It formed part of the old temple and is the only architectural memento to have survived the ravages of time. The last Rane Revolt led by Jil Sawant took place in Kuskem in the year 1912. Jil Sawant was shot by the Portuguese soldiers when he hid in the Malikarjun temple.
The gunshots marks are still visible.
Another ancient temple of Paik Dev is located in the midst of the lush fields. A partly damaged stone sculpture of the deity is worshipped at the temple.
After a refreshing walk around the village, we head to the earthen floored courtyard of one of the tribal homes. We find an elderely woman busy at one of the tribal arts of weaving a mat out of palm fronds. The ribs of the frond are carefully removed and used to make strong and sturdy brooms. Both these items require lots of patience and practiced skill. The palm leaves are largely wasted in the coastal areas when such useful products can be churned out of them. Even the men don’t sit idle when home from field work. They bring out some cane and convert it into useful household products which are tough and durable
The village womenfolk now gather in the courtyard to demonstrate their cultural folksongs. Whenever they grind flour on the millstones, they geth together and make it as a community exercise. A few songs are sung to provide rhythm to the strenous physical work. It also removes the monytony of the work.
After that they gather and tell stories to their children and any one else who cares to listen. The stories they recite talk of kings and queens and village life.
All these activities work up a voracious appetite. The women break up and hurry into their kitchen to serve the food. It is prepared in earthen utensils and cooked using firewood.
That meal has to be settled and so a trek through the wild trees of the mountains works wonders. And if one happens to come here during the monsoons so much the better as a waterfall cascading down a high rock is a treat to the eyes. For the brave hearted, heading beneath the cascade acan provide an experience of a life time!
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