Lizards out of reach, goats may salvage Goa's ghumat

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji, April 7 (IANS) Stringent wildlife laws are hammering long, legal nails into the coffin of one of Goa's very few indigenous musical instruments, the ghumat. Could goats be an alternative to the monitor lizard, whose tough treated skin is stretched taut across the mouth of the ghumat, which is actually a unqiuely designed clay-pot?
While monitor lizards, once hunted frequently across the state's forested hillsides, are now protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act and their hides are rare and very expensive contraband, taking the ghumat - Goa's answer to the dholak and the tabla - to the brink of extinction.
But help could be at hand.
"There is no point ruing about anything. We switched to goat skin after monitor lizard skins became rare," said Vinayak Akhadkar, 62, a leading ghumat player in Goa who has a troupe that plays at several competitions as well as Ganesh Chaturthi ceremonies, during which a 'ghumat arti' has a special significance.
According to Rohan Khaunte, an independent member of the Goa assembly, "we should accord it official recognition as a traditional state instrument and then find ways to salvage it or we will lose it forever".
Khuante had moved a private member's bill during the budget session of the Goa assembly last month to safeguard the fading thump of the ghumat.
What Goa's lawmakers agreed during the discussions to salvage the ghumat was that the instrument perhaps needed to adapt to survive in a world which was keen to value its wildlife, at least when it comes to public commitments.
Chief minister Manohar Parrikar summed it up in one line.
"You have to change with the times. We have to find out substitutes for monitor skin," he said.
Apart from goats, there could be other alternatives.
Vishnu Wagh, a versatile artiste and also a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator claims that synthetic material could also be developed to ensure that the legacy of the ghumat survives.
"It's a matter of getting the sound right. The pores and scales on the monitor lizard creates that special ghumat sound. Synthetic material could be developed to calibrate the same sound effect," he said.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at
--Indo-Asian News Service