One doesn’t need a reason or season to travel to Goa. The monsoons in Goa are a magical experience. Playful streams make their way to overflowing rivers, the trees dance to the tune of the winds, the fields carpet themselves in hundreds of shades of green, and the state comes alive with a plethora of vibrant festivals that celebrate rain in all its glory. This exuberant revelry is sure to convince you that monsoon may just be the best time to visit Goa!
Sao Joao Festival
Celebrated in the memory of St. John the Baptist, the festival of Sao Joao goes back nearly 150 years, when revellers from nearby villages would come up year after year in boats to the chapel of Sao Joao in Periera Vaddo, Siolim, to pay homage to the saint.
This vivacious festival commemorates a legend in which the unborn Saint John is said to have leapt in joy and excitement in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when visited by Mary, the mother of Jesus. The custom of people jumping into village wells is in imitation of John’s reaction of ecstasy.
The day begins with a procession of exuberant youngsters dancing to the rustic tunes of the ghumott and the kansallem (local Goan musical instruments), and going door-to-door in their villages collecting gifts, feni and fruits while the women busily prepare traditional delicacies like sannas, folle, patoleos and other lip smacking dishes.
Bright clothes are flaunted, along with fancy coronets (called copel) made of fresh and fragrant fruits, flowers and leaves.
Newlywed sons-in-law, along with their wives, visit the homes of their mothers-in-law, where the mothers gives their daughters dalis, baskets full of fruit (like jackfruits, mangoes and pineapples) to take home. The spirit of this tradition is reflected in the lyrics of a popular song: ‘Sasu-main ponos dhadla’, meaning, ‘the mother-in-law has sent jackfruit for me’.
If tipsy, flower-bedecked revellers jumping into rivers, ponds and wells pique your fancy and a carnival-like atmosphere is what you are looking for, the Sao Joao festival is perfect for you!
A festival celebrated very keenly by Goa’s fishing community, the Sangodd festival marks the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul. The celebration, which follows morning prayers, involves making a decorated floating platform by binding two boats or banana tree trunks together to support miniature models of churches and chapels.
The makeshift float, or sangodd, then makes seven rounds of the colourfully decked Cumbarjua canal, accompanied by raucous cheers and chants of ‘Viva St. Pedro’ and dances by festively attired fishermen.
The celebrations culminate at the chapel of St. Peter located downstream, and the day is rounded off with a cultural programme organised in the evening. The festival also celebrates the spirit of adventure with a number of competitions where young people exhibit their talents.
Boat festivals are organised as a part of the Sangodd festival; these are attended by revellers from all over Goa. Each sangodd is uniquely decorated and its members wear a kind of uniform to distinguish themselves from other groups.
The Siolim Traditional Boat Festival has been held regularly for more than a quarter of a century and gives visitors a fun peek into the rich and pulsating culture of Goa.
Savour Goa’s choicest jackfruits and the scrumptious dishes made from them at the Ponsachem Fest or the Jackfruit Festival at Socorro. Held on the same day as the Sao Joao festival, this celebration of the juicy jackfruit brings together locals and tourists alike, with both looking to taste traditional delicacies.
The Konkani word for jackfruit is the same as the Sanskrit panas. In Goa, two varieties can be found that differ in the nature of their flesh: the pulpy rasaal and the firmer, crisper kaapo.
In local folklore, a more generous fruit is hard to cite. The flesh is eaten as it is, or used as the main ingredient in several traditional preparations. The chewy saatth, prepared by grinding and flattening the pulp and then drying it in the sun, is much relished in Goa. The roasted seeds are a wholesome snack and jackfruit chips make for irresistible nibbles. To cap it all, the neighbourhood cows are ever grateful for the skins tossed their way.
The event features different types of raw and ripe jackfruits and their popular by-products like squashes, papads, sattam, and jacada. There are live demonstrations of cutting and deseeding the jackfruit, baking its seeds and preparation of traditional dishes.
These vibrant traditional festivals show why splashing your way through Goa during the rains can be sheer bliss. After all, there’s a lot more to this beautiful little state than just the sun, sand and surf and monsoon is just the perfect time to discover them.