Culture of Silvassa

Culture of Silvassa

Silvassa is a beautiful town located in the India union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The place got its name from the Portuguese word, “Silva” meaning wood. This is a famous tourist destination of Western India, with its spell bounding natural beauty, among which lie the tribal villages, winding small rivers, beautiful waterfalls and patches of tall green trees. The town is located on the northern bank of the Daman Ganga river, which is the main river of the union territory.

Silvassa originally was a small village with Warli and other tribes residing. During 18th century it came under the able Maratha rule. With the advent of British colonization, the Marathas made a friendly union with the Portuguese and gifted them 79 villages of Dadra and Nagar Haveli including Silvassa.  Silvassa was a small town until 19th Century, when it became the heart of Portuguese rule in 1885.

Tribal Cultures in Silvassa

Though under Portuguese rule, Silvassa had almost 75% tribal population. Till today there are few prominent tribes scattered across the territory which are namely, Warli (or Varli), Dhodia and Kokna. Few small tribal groups like Koli, Kathodi, Naika and Dubla are also present.

Warli / Varli Tribes

Varli are of non-Aryan origin and constitute of almost 62.94% of the total tribal population. They consider Sun and Moon as the eyes of the Almighty. They worship Naran Dev, Hirwa, Himai and Waghio as their main deities. One can find them worshipping stone carvings and images as deities. Varli are a backward tribe who still maintain their traditional outfits. Men wear loin cloth with a small waist coat and a turban while the women wear knee length one yard saree called Lugden. Varli women beautify themselves with silver and white metal ornaments. A musical instrument is commonly found among Varli rituals known as Ghangal, made from Gourd, Bamboo and Iron Strings.  

To make these tribes more educated, government aided non profit organisations like, Adivasi Yuva Seva Sangh was formed in 2011. This NGO helps inducting the Varli people into small cottage industrial programmes. “Warli Art Foundation” is taking care of the beautiful Warli paintings.

Culture of Silvassa
Warli Paintings: This is a famous Silvassa artwork, a kind of graphic vocabulary consisting of circles, triangles and squares drawn with a white pigment made of water, gum and rice paste. The tribals use chewed bamboo stick to draw these symbols. These painting dates back to 3000 BCE and were drawn by Varli tribes to celebrate wedding or any rituals. Nowadays tourists can find these artwork in the form of mementos to carry back home.


Dhodias are the most educated tribe of Silvassa. They are excellent in cultivation and contribute immensely to the economy growth of the place. They own farms which helps them in maintaining a proper livelihood. In general, one will find their men wearing white knee length dhoti with a shirt or waist coat, and women wearing dark blue knee length sarees with front anchal. During festivals or occasions these ladies dress up with colourful bead necklaces and metal ornaments like bangles and ankle kadas. Men wear white or coloured caps and ornaments like earrings and silver chains around their waist during festival season.

Many of the Dhodias follow Christianity due to missionary influence over the region. They primarily were Hindus, and enjoy all Hindu festivals like Diwali and Holi. Their main festival is “Kanseri Festival”, devoted to the Kanasari (Goddess of Food). They also celebrate “Divaso festival” and “Vagh Baras.” They paint themselves as tigers and cattle and race to celebrate, ending the day with a village meal get together.


These tribals are masters of paddy cultivation. Government has helped them to get educated, so that they can become industrial workers of the future. These tribals are easily recognizable by their forehead tattoos. The Kokna men wear knee length dhotis with shirt and turban, while the women wear knee length traditional sarees.

Tourists can enjoy “Kokna Tribal Dance,” where men and women dress in their traditional outfits and dance with the Tarpha or Pavri (wind instrument made of dried gourd). The Kokna dancers hold each other’s waist and dance in close formation.


These are primitive tribes and live in the forests of Silvassa. They collect wood and charcoal for their living. They are in general poor and wear minimal jewellery.

Current Cultural Upliftment with Industrialization

With the development of the entire union territory, Silvassa has also moved forward embracing new ideas, having industrial growth and generating employment to the locals. As Silvassa is a potential tourist place, the Indian government has come up with “nature and health tourism” over here. By these projects, the government has created exhibition arcades, concrete walking pavements, different water sports, river cruise and trekking facilities to attract more tourists. They have employed the tribal locals in these activities while educating them, so that they can move up the social ladder and just not remain any backward forest tribe.
Culture of Silvassa
Many private players are also helping for cultural upliftment of the territory. The Third International Industrial Expo of Silvassa was held in January 2013 by Softweb Information Technology Pvt. Ltd. in collaboration with many other big players, where companies across India came to participate. With this modernization the government has also built the “Silvassa Tribal Museum” depicting the heritage of different tribal culture of the union territory. Located in the heart of Silvassa town beside the main Tourist Office this museum tells us the history of Silvassa’s tribal movement. The museum displays photos of the tribal lifestyle, items of their daily household activities, musical instruments, handmade ornaments and agricultural and hunting equipments.

Silvassa along with the whole territory is growing with time to compete with the other parts of modern India, holding back the ancient tribal culture of their own.

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