Bhovvali Gaayi – A Konkani folk tale

Tale of the Honest Cow

contributed by Shri Ramesh Pai, Abu Dhabi

Payannur Ramesh Pai

Editor’s note: Shri Ramesh Pai, from Abu Dhabi, (photograph at left) brings to us yet another generous contribution – a Treasure of Konkani culture and literature,

recorded in 1992 at Kerala. This treasure is for all of us to hear, imbibe, and share with all our brethern. Radio Idli team thanks Ramesh maam for giving this opportunity to share this true cultural treasure. Here is what Ramesh-maam has for us:

The Story begins:

A cow, its calf and a Tiger – No, this is not the beginning of a puzzle. These are the characters in a Konkani folk tale which is popular across the west coast. The story is not only worth listening, but also worth learning.

It happened in a town called Karaamati (Or Teraavati, according to a different version). There lived a cow by name Ganga (See, how consciously has the anonymous author named the cow after the holy river) with a calf. Nearby was a forest, wherein lived a tiger. The cruel animal thrived on eating one cow each day. Everyday the cows would decide whose turn would be.

Hear the folk tale embedded in a rhythmic composition:

Bhovali_Gaayi sung by Aparna Pai at Kerala Konkani Academy, 1992 (check the audio commentary on the same by Adv. Uday Bhembre later in this article)

During 1992, when Kerala Konkani Academy conducted a Seminar on Konkani Folk Literature at Ernakulam, the song ‘Bhovvali Gaayi’ was sung by Ms. Aparna K. Pai. The audio clips are also available in the esnips folder ‘’. It will be interesting to listen an analysis of the same tale, as heard in Goa, from a prominent Konkani writer Adv. Uday Bhembre, which is also available in the same above link. He has nicely brought out the ethical and moral values of the folk song in sweetly chiseled words.


And the day arrived, when the turn of Ganga came. She gave a promise to the tiger that she would ready to be its prey for the day, but sought permission to come back after meeting the car and sisters for the last time. The tiger agreed.

And Ganga visited the manger for the last time. And she moved towards the forest area where the hungry tiger was waiting for the cow of the day. She wanted to see her calf for one more time, as she wanted to pour her love as much as possible. Ganga asks her sisters to take care of the calf during her absence. As soon as she reached home, Ganga hugged held the calf in her bosom, and told that no more milk will be available for the little one. The calf was innocent and anxious, and therefore asked what is the reason. Ganga explained that she is going to be eaten by the tiger and would not come back. The little calf offered to go in place of the mother, so that the tiger will have its food for the day, and mother can live on. But Ganga would not agree. She said that she is committed to the tiger for her turn on that day, and has to keep up the word. The little one insists to be eaten by the tiger in place of the mother cow. And Ganga again emphasizes on the promise made. Finally both the mother cow and calf together walk up to the tiger. As she was putting her steps on and on, her sisters, aunts and other relatives also followed her, to bid her farewell.

It was a touching moment. Tears rolled from the eyes of the cows. The tiger was looking on to the crowd of cows, the hugging scene and the dialogue that took place between the sister-cows. Even the tiger’s heart moved a bit and had a change of mind. It is said that the tiger decided not to eat the cows anymore, as the feeling of motherly love and care touched him closely. Tiger remarks that Ganga would be his sister, and the calf therefore becomes his niece. “Let us live together in peace” – the final statement of the tiger pulled the curtains down for the episode.

The above story has different versions, with variations and twists here and there, but the gist and spirit remains the same as intact. The cow bears an adjective in the story title as Bhovvuli ‘ which might have derived from Bholi’ (meaning innocent) or ˜Bhovvaali’ (meaning roaming/migrating/travelling).

Like many other stories, this also is a moral story with a lesson. The lesson of love, tolerance, Non-violence (Ahimsa). Love between mother and child. Affection among sisters and relatives. Non-violence that the cows followed. Ahimsa that the tiger observed upon change of heart. The virtue of keeping up a promise is also demonstrated here. Sacrificing spirit of the little calf to take over mother’s place at a deadly moment is worth noticing. And the mother’s willingness to forgo the world to protect and save her baby too.

People are singing the tale in the form of a folk song, with the available words recollected from earlier generations. I have also heard a Kannada poem, narrating the episode in a very soulful manner, incorporated in a Tenth Standard text book, way back in 1965. No doubt, this folk song is worth including in a Konkani text book too, at an appropriate level or grade.

Let us treasure this piece for the good of not only our generations to come, but also fort the entire mankind.


  1. The narration is awesome. Made me believe that konkani literature is still alive and I hope it flourishes in time to come 🙂

  2. Wow! that is some story. I hope many stories
    keep flowing from our konkani literature which
    we have heard in our childhood. It really brings
    back secured memories in the lap of my mother.

  3. A very nice and touching description. Keep this site interesting with such good stories and articles, i hope most of us love such stories, just as i do.

  4. Super! Enjoyed the story and the rendition! Thanks for sharing. The language was great, pure Konkani. Like to hear more like this.

  5. It is nice to listen to the medodious chaste konkani songs. I wish they are published in a CD form and also the lyrics are published alongside in at least kannada, malayalam, devanagari and english scripts so that younger generation spread across the world will be able to enjoy and pass it on their kids.

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