‚ÄčTHE SETTING:

THE SETTING

The villages of Verlem, Tudou and Salgini are part of the Village Panchayat Netravali in Sanguem taluka in South Goa. Also referred to as Netorlim or Neturlim, it is one of the largest panchayats in the State of Goa. Nestled in the lap of the Western Ghats, the area has excellent forest cover and is home to the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary. The village of Netravali has a few points of heritage importance especially the Budbudyachi Tali or the Bubble Pond, Datta Gumpha (Datta Temple), the Gopinath Temple. A drive uphill for 13kms brings one to the villages of Verlem, Tudou and Salgini which laze on the border of this Sanctuary and an altitude of around 550m above msl.

The villages, where the Aangan home-stays are hosted are strategically located on the hilltop while being overlooked by the larger mountains of the Sanhyadris. These mountains give rise to various streams and rivulets some entering the catchment of the Zuari River within the boundary of the State of Goa and some emptying into the Kali river basin in Karnataka. These streams also give rise to some beautiful waterfall and cascades such as the famous Savri and Mainapi Waterfall and some not so famous but equally captivating waterfalls like the Don nhaicho vozor, Pukkuna and Sonal. The road from Verlem village to Salgini turns into a spectacle of tiny cascades during the monsoons. The majestic mountain called the Ravon Dongor gives rise to the Savri waterfall and also provides drinking water to the entire village of Verlem through a rural drinking water scheme.

The mountain itself is unique in having huge grassland stretching to around 2kms on the top at an altitude of more than 800m above msl. This unique habitat supports a lot of herbivore population especially Gaurs and is considered by Botanists to be the starting point of the typical Shola forests in the Southern section of the Western Ghats. Always clouded by mist in the monsoons and post-monsoon season, a trip to the mountain top is a must during a visit to these villages.

COMMUNITY

The community of 620 within 134 households, is largely from the Velip tribe. The Velips are one of the Schedules Tribes in the State and are predominantly forest and hill dwellers. Though they practice the settled agricultural life-style they have not given up on their strong hunter-gatherer instinct. Their knowledge of the forests is unrivalled and a walk in the forest with the Velips is practically a crash course in natural history.

The Velip community has a strong tradition of ecological knowledge which has been transmitted from generation to generation. Though urban influences have touched them they still live a very sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. The tools that they use, the food that they eat and their daily life reflects the rich natural heritage that surrounds them and reflects in the form of various festivals, folk-songs and folk-dances.

The worship of the Spirit of the Forest, in the form of sacred groves or Deva Pann is a unique phenomenon and conservation tool practiced by these humble folk of the hills.

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