Every year, the town of BORDI gets decorated culturally to celebrate ‘THE CHIKOO FESTIVAL’– a two-day rural festival organized by farmers in Bordi and local Chikoo growers. The initiative which was started in 2013 by REWF (Rural Entrepreneurship Welfare Foundation) still remains a major attraction.
This has boosted the rural economy by providing entrepreneurship opportunities in fields of tourism, art, culture, food and agriculture. A ground near Bordi beach is colorfully decorated with various shopping stalls with a wide range of exciting products, an area designated for cultural activities and workshops, entertainment activities, food courts, etc. It is an effort and commitment to preserve and promote local traditions.
In this blog, we take you down the memory lane when we took a trip to the north konkan coast of Bordi in February 2020, just a month before a lockdown was announced. My best friends – Sampada and Munjal had joined us as co-travellers and crafted some memorable experiences.
I was very curious what the festival would be like. I usually try to avoid tourist places with large gatherings. But the concept of experiential tourism and the name itself ‘Chikoo Festival’ allured me. And when you have best friends who share similar thoughts on travel, you simply cannot say no.
A last minute plan and we were in the first train that left Churchgate at 05:03 am and took about 2 hours 45 minutes to reach Dahanu. The air was a bit cooler as we got down looking for a shared auto to Gholvad from where Bordi is just two kilometers away which we reached by walking.
We reached Bordi well before time. A big and beautifully patterned rangoli welcomed us at the entrance. The Suruchi trees (Casuarina) were decorated with colorful cloth ribbons. The vendors were still setting up their stalls and a stage was being festooned with ribbons and flowers. A Warli painting was being made at the workshop area by two local men.
A banner displayed the schedule of the events to be held for two days. The schedule included traditional & classical dance shows, folk music, stand up performances, live music performances by emerging artists and much more.
Apart from the stage shows, there were various tours to choose from like visits to chikoo orchards, plant nurseries and winery tours. This really looked exciting. We decided our plan for the day and booked a paid tour to CHIKOO SAFARI & PLANT NURSERY and headed towards the Bordi beach to spend some time before the event began.
A serene coastline lined with casuarina and palm trees serenading the waves felt warm in the morning sunshine. The sea water had moved away from the shore and we walked up to the mangroves on the left tip of the beach’s crescent. Soaking in the sun and taking in the sea breeze, the fisherfolk men and women were digging for their catch in the swamps.
All of us spent this time in our own little ways. Munjal went for a quiet walk along the vast beach immersing himself in the quaint combination of solitude and sea. Steffe collected seashells and sat on a resting boat and watched the fisherfolk go about their business in the wet sand. I tried photographing water birds like sandpipers, plovers and gulls. And to all our astonishment, Sampada decided to go out in the swamp and join the women in digging the sand. Whoa! She did succeed in bringing back a mudskipper fish which she joyfully showed us and gave it back to the fisherwoman.
The gossip of the wind and sea was overshadowed by the cheers from the ground as a mix of teenage boys and girls marked the beginning of the festival with their dhol-tasha performance. They played their dhols (drums) in sync which was an amazing experience listening to their drum beats.
The crowd kept chipping in and the hosts were all set to welcome them. Our first batch of visitors were ready for the chikoo safari and eagerly waiting for the jeep to take them to the orchard.
A TOUR TO CHIKOO FARM & PLANT NURSERY – THE PHOTO STORY
As the jeep moved towards Gholvad, which is also known as the ‘Chikoo Bowl’ of Maharashtra, a line up of chikoo orchards with several old houses of Iranis made for a charming picture.
We reached FLORIAN FARM – a 25 acre chikoo orchard owned and cared for by Mr. Shahrukh Irani. The farm also had mango, litchee & mulberry trees. Mr. Irani guided us through his farm and provided very detailed and informative information about the traditional way of chikoo production – the process of planting, plucking, washing and storing.
We were given the traditional ‘bedni’ for plucking chikoos which all the participants, young and old, enjoyed doing.
After plucking the chikoos, we learned how to wash the chikoos. The chikoos are kept in the sack with water in it and two people hold the sack from two ends and sway left and right.
Below is the image of a fruit fly trap. These are used as baits to lessen the population density of fruit flies infesting the fruits. Atleast 10 of such traps are required in 1 acre of farm.
After we finished the walk in the farm, we were offered to drink freshly tapped Neera (palm nectar).
Learning to make palm thatched roof using palm leaves.
We were also shown the art of bee-keeping and the method of extracting honey from it.
We left the chikoo farm with lots of learning and first hand information. Mr. Irani gifted dozens of chikoos to all the guests. It was a wonderful experience to be in this small world of chikoos which made us farmers for a day.
Our next visit was to a 3 acre plant nursery ‘TROPICAL FLORA’ managed by Mr. Niraj Patil who is a botanist with extensive knowledge about plants. Tropical Flora is a botanical garden & nursery having a collection of exotic fruits, flowers & bonsai.
Visiting the chikoo farm and plant nursery was a very refreshing and rewarding experience. The jeep dropped us back to the festival location. The crowd kept increasing as the day progressed. We rushed towards the food court and satiated our hunger. Also, chikoo byproducts like barfi, kulfis, chips etc. is definitely worth a try.
The second half of the day we spent watching various events and shows. The highlight of the show was the traditional ‘tarpa’ dance – a popular folk dance of the Warli tribes of Maharashtra. Tarpa is a trumpet like instrument played by a man while other men and women entwine their hands and move in a circle around the tarpa player never turning their backs to the tarpa.
After this we had a contemporary folk music show to attend at 6 pm. An Indie-Fusion band FOLK MASTI performing on their new album, ‘JADOO KI CHHADI’.
But before that, we had to look for a room for an overnight stay. So, we quicky set out on the streets of Bordi in search of a shelter.
Being a weekend, we did not find any hotel near the event location. And if we did, the rates were out of our budget. So, we walked out in the villages asking for a homestay but were politely denied. We even agreed to sleep out in the verandah but for the people of Bordi the concept of homestay was still new. Tired, again we came near the beach and gave in to the hoteliers demanding price.
Coming back to the music show of ‘Folk Masti’ – it was an exhilarating performance. A full entertainment for 2 hours. The vocalist Vipul Panchal along with his team entertained and engaged the audience with pure music. Their compositions convey a positive message to the society with frolicking beats. My personal favourite from the album Jadoo Ki Chhadi is ‘Kabir Vaani‘ – a perfect example of indie fusion.
I am sharing a link below to one of their live performance in the Chikoo festival (listen with headphone) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_JATF30dVk
So overall, the day was well spent at the Chikoo festival. We were very happy as we got to learn and meet new people. We did not rushed ourselves into tourism yet we witnessed so many things. The festival is a platform for different minds to come together and present their ideas through various art forms. In this way, we are inspired from each other positively and also learn to unlearn many things which I believe is also equally important.
We end our day one at Chikoo festival and went to our hotel to fall in a deep slumber only to rise up early for a chilly winter ride to ASAVALI DAM.
We had a booked an auto the other night to pick us up from the hotel at 5:30 am. The dam is around 6 km east of Bordi. The road to it passes through the villages. It felt very cold as the wind brought chills through the moving auto. Our eyes were still heavy wanting to sleep except for Munjal’s as he sat in front with the driver talking to him keeping us somewhat awake through their hazy conversations. But there was excitement of wanting to see a sunrise at a new place.
It was still dark as we reached the Asavali village. The auto left and will be back to pick us up at 11:00 am. The village was asleep. We waited for a ray of light to dispel the darkness.
The lake formed behind the 1,160-foot-long dam is too pretty a sight and perfect place to spend a time in peace and solitude. There are fields below the dam and villages of Warli tribes. It looked so beautiful to see the dam water emerge between the two mountains.
We sat in solitude with only the music of the gurgling lake and the rustling leaves to deepen the silence. So lovely was this loneliness.
The above photo was not planned. Once we reached the dam, and as the sun rose, everyone dispersed in different directions. As I came out of the jungle, I saw Steffe sitting quietly on a rock. This made for a perfect frame and immediately captured it without her knowing.
After having spent a peaceful time at the dam, we went down to explore the village. Some houses are still made of traditional huts. People mostly depend on agriculture for their livelihood. The village has a government run boarding school. There is a shop selling basic necessity items on the roadside where most of the villagers meet for a gossip time.
In the little time that we had, we managed to gather enough memories that made us content and happy. Our last minute plan to do this trip to Bordi was a successful one. The travel that we like to do and we will always do.
We strongly recommend you plan a trip to ‘CHIKOO FESTIVAL’. It is held every year in the month of February.
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