Kandarpada Gaothan

By Anurag

Today, the suburb of Dahisar is the northernmost outpost of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Albeit a frontier suburb of the richest municipal body in the country, the locality of Dahisar is home to one of the oldest continually inhabited societies in Mumbai. It is also home to one of the four major rivers of Mumbai, viz., the eponymous Dahisar River.

Early History

The oldest datable monument in Dahisar is the rock-cut caves of Mandapeshwar, which were excavated in the seventh and eighth centuries. The region then came under the rule of the Northern Shilaharas, who reigned from their capital, which was once located in what is now modern-day Thane. The Mahikavatichi Bakhar, which documents the history of Mumbai between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, mentions a village named Dahisapur under the Malad khapna administered by Gangadharrao. The two native settlements in Dahisar are the Dahisar and the Kandarpada gaothans, home to the native Koli, Agri and other communities.


The name Kandarpada might be derived from the abundant mangrove forests that once surrounded this locality. One of the Marathi words for mangrove is kandar, which may have given this gaothan, or village, its name. Rakesh Thakur is a media professional and a native of the Kandarpada gaothan, who is also an avid scholar of the local history and culture. He states that, as far as he is aware, the known history of Kandarpada is at least 300 years old. It is a gaothan home to the Agri and Christian Koli communities as well as members of the adivasi community. The traditional boundaries of the Kandarpada gaothan extend from Eksar in the south to Manori Creek in the west and the Dahisar River in the east and the north. It is traditionally divided into two sections: Varchi valli and Khalchi valli, with the present-day Laxman Mhatre Road dividing these two areas. Valli is the Aagri equivalent of the Marathi word aali, meaning lane. The Varchi valli, the settlement to the north of the main street, is home to the native Aagri and Christian Koli communities, while the Khalchi valli, the area to the south of the main street, houses the Indigenous Aagri community. The oldest families that constitute this urban gaothan are the Thakur, Mhatre, Bhoir and Patil. Traditionally, the soyrik, or marital alliance, in Kandarpada was done with families hailing from Eksar, Dahisar Gaon, Morva, Rai, Navghar and Murdha.

Farming was a major occupation in Kandarpada, and the settlement was once surrounded by paddy fields on all sides. Pranita Thakur, Rakesh Thakur’s wife, says that the rice variety indigenous to Kandarpada was locally known as ratya bhat or lal tandul, literally translating to red rice. It was a rice breed only found in the coastal areas and had a slightly salty taste when consumed. With the disappearance of farmlands from Mumbai, these local rice varieties have also vanished.

Image 1: Laxman Mhatre Road, which passes through Kandarpada gaothan

Religious Landscape

The gram devta of Kandarpada is Bhavdevi, whose temple sits on top of a hillock which oversees the entire locality. Thakur says that this basalt hillock was once a large hill, spanning all the way to the shores of Manori Creek, and the locals had to hike to reach the creek waters. However, with the arrival of the juggernaut of urban development, it has been reduced to its present-day size. A large basalt outcrop outside the Bhavdevi shrine, known locally as Dhondi is also worshipped as part of the sacred complex of the goddess. The annual jatra of Bhavdevi is organised on the day of Akshay Tritiya every year. The highlight of the jatra is the palkhi of Bhavdevi, where the image of the goddess is placed in a palanquin and paraded throughout the entire village.

Image 2: Entrance to the Bhavdevi Temple
Image 3: Bhavdevi Temple
Image 4: Dhondi or the sacred rock outcrop in front of Bhavdevi Temple

Bhavdevi is also considered the rakhandar, or guardian, of the settlement by the locals. An old fable describes Bhavdevi’s appearance. She is draped in a white sari and carries a stick with a set of ghungroos in one of her hands. She descends from her shrine at night and patrols every lane of Kandarpada to ensure peace and safety for the natives.

Image 5: View of Kandarpada from the Bhavdevi Temple

The local goddesses, including Bhavdevi and Jari Mari, are also traditionally worshipped as the remedial goddesses for measles. The patient is dressed in white and made to wear a silver ring with a ghungroo attached to it. They are then worshipped as the manifestation of the goddess and ceremonially taken to the Bhavdevi temple, where a pooja is performed in honour of the Devi, and the patient adorns the goddess's image with a garland of flowers.

Apparitions known as jira were also a part of the local spiritual domain. They would assume a human form, usually that of a friend or a close associate of their victim, and approach their victim’s house in the night. They would then call out to the victim in the voice of that friend or associate and ask them to join the jira on a fishing trip. Such tales of jira narrated by the elderly still form an important part of familial and communal conversations.

Veshivarche Dev, or frontier deities, are an important aspect of the religious landscape of Kandarpada. Four frontier deities preside over the four directions of Kandarpada’s traditional boundaries. Chandoba guards the southern ves, or boundary, Biroba is the divine sentry charged with protecting the northwestern direction, the goddess Jari Mari sits near the Kandarpada Talav, and Bhairav is the guardian of the northern ves. The shrine of Bhairav was the most important for the natives and is locally known as Kolhapur. It was also the site of the old fishing harbour of Kandarpada.

For the annual jatra of Bhavdevi, the tradition in the olden days involved sacrificing a goat outside the temple in honour of the goddess. After the sacrifice, blood from the sacrifice was mixed with cooked rice and portions of this, referred to locally as khola, were offered to the Veshivarche Dev as part of their annual maan. This was followed by a communal feast for all the villagers outside the temple premises. However, with the advent of the modern era, the practice of ritual sacrifice has ceased to exist.

Most families in Kandarpada primarily worship three deities on a household level. Khandoba is the kul devta, or clan deity, for many families. Tulja Bhavani is the kula swamini, or clan goddess, and Ekvira is the aradhya devta, or personal goddess, of many families in the locality.

A chapel dedicated to Mother Mary is also an important element in the local religious life, and all members of the Kandarpada community pay their respects at the shrine.

Image 6: Image of Mother Mary in the local chapel

Fishing Practices

The Aagris of Kandarpada used to fish in the creek in Dahisar when it was still a pristine water body at the northern edge of Mumbai. The most preferred fishing technique by the locals was known as tara lepna. It consisted of erecting an upright net across the creek from one bank to the other. According to Thakur, tara lepna was an extremely labour-intensive fishing technique, requiring 40–50 people to set the net up across the creek. Once the net was in place, people waited for the tides to change. The ensuing water flow created by the high or low tide pushed the fish into the erected nets. The locals would then gather the trapped fish.

Other techniques utilised for fishing include the vana, or hand-held nets, which were used for fishing in the shallow waters near the shore, and bhokshi, which involved fishing by creating artificial bunds or embankments in the creek and keeping a netted outlet for the cultivated fish. The Kandarpada natives frequently used this technique for prawn fishing. Circular net cages with narrow openings known as phaga were used to fish crabs out of the creek waters, and a local fishing contraption known as busa was used for fishing nivtis, or mudskippers.

Prominent local catch consisted of shingala or catfish, shivlya or clams, kalve or oysters, boi or flathead grey mullets, nivtis or mudskippers, mori or baby sharks, vaam or eels, and chimbori or crabs. An interesting fish found in the local waters is the kilis, which resembles a large eel, and the locals believe that it is highly beneficial to soothe backaches. Yashoda Thakur, who is Rakesh Thakur’s mother, states that her father-in-law insisted on her cooking kilis as and when he suffered from backaches.

She also mentioned that when the catch was good enough, they would take it to the wholesale markets of Malad and Bhayandar, but otherwise, it would be sold in the local markets.


Holi or Shimga is the most important festival for the Kandarpada community. The celebrations extend for fourteen days and culminate with the Kombad Holi and the Mothi Holi. The wood of eranda (eucalyptus), amba (mango), jambul (jamun), and bhendi (Portia) trees are used for creating the bonfires and the main bonfire on the night of Mothi Holi uses mango and jamun wood. The Holi bonfire symbolises a savashin, or married woman, and the ceremonies involved in creating the bonfire are similar to those that involved in honouring a married woman, i.e., draping the Holi with a sari and offering Oti to her. The Holi in Kandarpada used to be traditionally organised at a location referred to locally as Holicha Maidan. However, over the years, the maidan has been lost to various development projects. The natives have nonetheless preserved the traditional spot of erecting the Holi bonfire, and at present, it is ensconced amidst a lane fork that passes through the gaothan. An interesting tradition in Kandarpada is keeping the burnt stock base from the previous Holi, preserved in situ until the next Holi. The old wood stock is then replaced by the new bonfire during the celebrations.

Image 7: Holi spot in Kandarpada with the previous year's bonfire stock in the centre

A native tradition of Holi involves inviting newly married couples, especially the javais, or sons-in-law of Kandarpada, and conducting the Holi pooja at the hands of the new couple. The javais place a towel on their shoulder, and a white cap on their head. They carry a sugarcane stick on their shoulders and a coconut in their hands and proceed toward the Holi bonfire accompanied by the tunes of the traditional brass band. The sugarcane and coconut are then burnt in the bonfire as offerings.

The community also ensures the participation of the bereaved families. The entire community visits the mourning households and formally invites and includes them in the wider public celebrations to help them move on from their sorrows and enjoy the festive spirit.

Once the bonfire is lit, all the attendees are given sakhar phutane or sugar crystals. The tradition following this involves people filling their fists with sugar crystals and throwing them in the burning Holi bonfire. Fera Nrutya is a traditional folk dance performed on Holi night. It consists of performers dancing in a circular formation, with a dholki player at the centre.

Gauri Ganpati is another important festival for the locals, and the Gauri celebrations in Kandarpada are unique in terms of the festive imagery. The image of the Gauri, welcomed on the third day of the Ganpati, is fashioned out of a terda, or rose balsam plant, and a mukhavta, or mask of the goddess, is placed over this assemblage. Yashoda Thakur adds that in the olden days, the image of Gauri was placed adjoining the chools, or household stoves. An important local tradition for the goddess Gauri is to create fist imprints resembling feet with a rice flour slurry. These impression trace paths from the threshold of the house to the important locations within the house, such as the water storage, the granary and the stove. In doing so, they beseech the visiting goddess to bring prosperity to the household.

Dahi Handi is also celebrated with an equal amount of pomp by the natives of Kandarpada. The Krishna Janma on the night of Gokulashtami is celebrated by all the inhabitants at the Bhavdevi temple. The local Dahi Handi is traditionally broken before the noon hours, and pieces of the broken pot, known as khapars, are taken home by people and placed in their granaries as a mark of prosperity.

Baya Poojan is an important household celebration in Kandarpada. As mentioned previously, local goddesses are seen as the remedial deities for measles and other ailments. The Baya Poojan ceremony is performed for every child in Kandarpada to secure the goddesses’ blessings and prevent illnesses from befalling that child. For the ceremony, the child is dressed entirely in white with a garland around their neck. After doing a pooja of the child in front of the house, the child is taken in a merry procession towards the Jari Mari temple. The mama, or maternal uncle, holds a white cloth over their head throughout the procession and walks barefoot. Once the procession reaches the temple, another pooja is undertaken in honour of the goddess. After this, the mother of the child places footwear on her head and, with rice porridge in her mouth, begs for alms from five neighbouring houses. The alms that she receives are portions of rice. This is a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony for every child and is performed diligently and enthusiastically by all the households in Kandarpada.

An annual feast of Mother Mary, known as Maulichi Jatra, is organized at the local chapel. The image of Mary is placed in a palkhi and paraded through the gaothan. Local Christians and Hindus participate equally in this annual feast of their local Mauli.

Image 8: Jari Mari shrine in Kandarpada

Culinary Traditions

The majority of the foods unique to Kandarpada revolve around the marriage ceremony. Bhokache vade, or fried rice bread, and papdya, or rice fritters, are mandatory in any local wedding ceremony in the Aagri community. Bhokache vade is also offered to the gods during the wedding ceremony as the devacha maan or the gods' honour.

Chavli vanga batata, a curry made with black-eyed beans, brinjal, and potato, is another important culinary legacy which is made in all local weddings. The Haldi ceremony of the Aagri community is a function fabled for its carousel-like nature, and javla vanga, a gravy with shrimp and brinjal, is prepared on that day to be relished by young and old alike.

Numerous monsoon vegetables are also seasonally consumed in Kandarpada, which were traditionally procured from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park Forest in the vicinity by the adivasi families staying in the gaothan.

Mutton occupies an important position in the culinary traditions of the Aagris. Lagnacha mutton, which literally translates to wedding mutton, is a symbolic dish in Aagri weddings which attracts people from every section of society who want to relish this speciality. Other mutton specialities include mundi (goat head), paya (goat trotters) and vajri (goat tripe).

An integral part of any cuisine is the bread and the rotya, or rice flatbread, with dough kneaded using hot water, and prepared on clay griddles known as khapri are synonymous with the Aagri community. The rotyas are made on every special occasion to accompany the zesty curries and gravies that are essential parts of the Aagri cuisine.

The Dahisar River has changed a lot in the past few decades, shifting from a bucolic setting of fishing hamlets to an urban locality with numerous high rises. However, despite being engulfed by the citadels of modernity, the Kandarpada gaothan is still holding strong to its cultural roots and religious syncretism.


Karmarkar, Dipesh. "Understanding place names in ‘Mahikavati’s Bakhar’: A case of Mumbai-Thane region." Studies in Indian Place Names 31 (2012): 116–139.

Rakesh Mahendra Thakur, in discussion with the author, March, 2024.

Pranita Rakesh Thakur, in discussion with the author, March, 2024.

Yashoda Mahendra Thakur, in discussion with the author, March, 2024.

Mahendra Ratan Thakur, in discussion with the author, March, 2024.