Versova or Vesava Seafood Festival

Fish Shawarma or Momos? Starting today, Vesava Koli seafood festival has both

Written by Vaishnavi Birmole and Sakshi Bhosle

Mumbai, January 20: The three-day Vesava (Versova) Koli Seafood Festival starts from today till Sunday, after a gap of two years, and it already promises to be bigger than ever, if preparations on the Gharwadi Maidan at Church Road are any indication.

One of two annual diah festivals run by Kolis themselves (the other is at the orli Koliwada fishing village, it is the biggest, attracting between 25000 to 30,000 people each year from all over Mumbai. Special arrangements have to be made for the traffic police, given the large number of footfalls between 6 pm and midnight each evening.

Stalls set up

This is the 15th edition of the festival which began on a very small scale in 2006. It has grown steadily and is awaited eagerly both by the residents of Versova Village, as well as visitors to the festival, which offers a vast array of seafood in the signature Koli styles. In fact, entire families turn out together to take a stall and cook as well as serve customers, with the women dressed in their distinctive nine-yard saris and decked out in heavy gold, traditional jewelry.

Every year the festival is celebrated on the same dates. Thee organisers are five institutions, namely Vesava Koli Sahakari Sarvoday Society Ltd., Vesava Koli Machhimar Nakhawa Mandal Trawler, Vesava Machhimar Vividh Karyakari Sahakari Society Ltd., Vesava Machhimar Sahakari Society Ltd., and the Vesava Koli Jamat Public Religious and Charitable Trust. They work overtime to put the event together and raise funds. This year the budget for the event is around Rs. 25 lakhs, said accountant, Rupa Dombekar. The stalls are priced at between Rs 5,000 to Rs. 15,000 and it is expected that there will be more than 50.

Each year there is heavy demand for the stalls which are usually run in groups.  Ms. Dombekar said there were around 60 groups registered with them and every year the groups alternate.

There is always heavy duty entertainment and the centre of the grounds are occupied by a stage and chairs. “This year, as usual, we have received a very generous donation from Ajay Kaul of the Children’s Welfare Centre. He will be the chief guest this evening,” said Rajhans Lakde, treasurer of the Vesava Koli Seafood Festival. “As usual, there will be traditional entertainment like dances and songs. You Tube celebrity Payal Patil is expected this evening’, he added. Many Marathi artists will come our the next two days, the stipulation being only koli songs and dances will be allowed, since the festival is also supposed to showcase their culture.

Monika Foka

“Come and enjoy fresh, delicious and tasty seafood here”, said Monika Foka, one of the stall-holders since the beginning. A teacher who runs classes otherwise, she was busy with last minute arrangements for the stall where she will be show-casing her cooking skills.

On offer this year is a wide range of the usual koli delicacies, including Bamboo ka Bombil, but special mention was made of shawarma, momos, tandoori and frankies, all with fish as the main ingredient!

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