Khazans are an important part of the traditional aqua-agro integrated system prevalent in the tribal communities of Goa, that lived even before its Portuguese occupation. They are managed by local communities for equitable sharing of resources among fishers and farmers. However, with rapid urbanisation and development across Goa, these pieces of history are getting replaced by modern structures. So let's embark upon an educational tour of ancient Goan practices as we take a look at the importance and history of Khazans!
Mangrove trees provide natural embankment
A very important part of the ecology of Goa, is its low-lying areas located near the mangrove-fringed estuaries, that are reclaimed for agriculture. Known as Khazan lands, these areas are protected from the influx of saline water by an outer embankment of mangroves.
A part of this agricultural system is sluice gates (also referred to as Khazan Gates) that regulate water flow in agricultural fields, especially during high tides. These gates help in storing the excess amount in backwaters and other channels, so that it can be put to use later, during the low tide.
Cultural activities surrounding Khazans
Since its inception, Khazan system has been integrated with the cultural heritage of Goa as they are associated with folktales, songs and dances. For instance, the machni dance or crocodile dance which is performed by men wearing crocodile masks, is associated with the development of Khazans. Further, another related art form is zagor, which brings together myriad activities and is performed mostly by the fishing community, residing near the Khazan lands.
The Khazan systems are found mostly in the Zuari and Mandovi river basins so, next time you wish to take a stroll along the banks of these rivers, do explore the Khazan area. Also, don't forget to wear a mask and observe COVID-appropriate behaviour while you learn more about this age-old agricultural practice from the locals!