Goa is much loved for its pristine beaches, sea-side shacks and ‘susegado’(a relaxed attitude and enjoyment of life to the fullest ). It is the perfect destination for partying and music festivals. However, if you are the type of tourist who likes to take the road less travelled, you should consider discovering Goa like a local would. Trade spending all day in a resort for these 10 fun-filled experiences that will change the way you see this destination!
Goans celebrate Shigmo on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun, as a farewell to the winter season. It begins on the 9th moon day with ‘naman’, the shunning of non-vegetarian food and alcohol. From the 11th moon day to the 15th, the mood of the village is that of a fiesta – complete with colorful flags, beating drums, and flute music. People throw ‘gulal’ or color at each other on Rang Panchami day. To truly experience Goan Hindu ethnicity, watch the Shigmo Parade in Panaji, where people put up spectacular displays of scenes from Hindu mythology.
With the advent of the monsoon, Goan Catholics celebrate Sao Joao with much frolic. Villagers throw gifts into wells, and people of all ages jump in to retrieve them. This monsoon feast is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, a revolutionary prophet. The practice of jumping into wells is symbolic of St. John leaping joyfully upon hearing about the birth of Christ, when he was in his mother’s womb. People gather near streams in colorfully decorated boats and floats. In Siolim, you may look forward to action-packed boat races. The beat of the ‘ghumot’ and ‘kansallem’ fill the air. Wearing crowns made of seasonal flowers, the young and old dance to this music.
If you are a football fan, spend an evening watching a village football match. Goans take their football very seriously, and almost all boys have played for their village team at least once. What adds local flavor to these games is that the lack of a proper football ground does not stop people from playing. Matches are played in paddy fields, too, with goal posts made out of sticks. Watching a match here is an exciting experience, with cheering audiences, enthusiastic players and stalls selling street food.
The island of Divar is the center of festivities during Bonderam, which is celebrated on the fourth Saturday of August. The word Bonderam means 'flags' in Portuguese and these flags play a fascinating role in the merriment.
History narrates how frequent disputes between the Piedalda and Sao Mathias areas in Divar led the Portuguese to create boundaries using flags. As a form of revolt against the Portuguese, the dwellers in both areas knocked down these flags using stones.
You will see villagers today putting up ‘fotash’ fights as a parody of the past. A ‘fotash’ is a toy weapon fashioned out of bamboo sticks. Berries also serve as ammunition. At the Bonderam parade, different parts of the village also display floats.
Carol Singing before and during Christmas
December is a time when the spirit of Christmas brings every part of Goa alive. Residents decorate neighborhoods with lights and wreaths and prepare traditional sweets. They create nativity scenes and enact the birth of Jesus. Another thing to look forward to is carol singing in churches. Listen to the Konkani versions of all-time favorites such as Jingle Bells or Silent Night sung by local choirs. Groups of singers, one of whom is usually dressed up as Santa Claus, go around singing carols and collecting donations for the destitute.
Procession of Saints
If you happen to be in Goa before the season of Lent, you may be able to witness the Procession of Saints that takes place in St. Andrew’s Church, Velha. Goa is the only place to host this unique procession, apart from Rome. According to a tradition that started in the 17th century, statues of 31 saints are carried atop floats through narrow, winding streets. As each of these statues emerges, a priest tells the life story of the saint, and people reach forward to seek blessings. Families in Goa look forward to the Mass held on this day and the fair organized outside the church.
If you find visiting churches and knowing their histories fascinating Cleartrip offers several heritage tours of Goa. Click here to know more.
Theatre enthusiasts will be delighted to watch Tiatr, which survived the test of time because of popular support. Tiatr is a form of theatre indigenous to Goa that talks about social awareness. This popularity stems from the fact that the contemporary themes of these plays connect so well with the audience. One feature of Tiatr is the use of interspersed songs that are a scathing critique of society and the government. Despite touching upon issues such as inter-caste marriage and fading values, Tiatr is still considered, appropriate for family viewing. It is the cultural meeting point for performers of all sections of society. This art form helped to keep the Konkani language alive through the Portuguese rule.
To discover the cosmopolitan nature of Goa, visit the Santana Church in Talaulim when Touxeachem festivities are underway. Dedicated to St. Anne, this festival is celebrated every year on July 29. When translated from Konkani into English, Touxeachem Fest literally means The Cucumber Festival. It is believed that after 40 years of infertility, St. Anne was blessed with a child. To seek blessings from her, newly married couples as well as other believers offer cucumbers at her feet and later take them home to be eaten. A popular rhyme sung during this fest is “Senhora, tomai pepino, dai me menino”, meaning “Take this cucumber, and give me a child. So strong is the faith in St. Anne that it is not uncommon to find even Hindu devotees waiting in line to be blessed by her.
Goans revere not just the food they eat but also the crops that they grow. The word ‘konsa’ means sheaf of rice in Konkani. A feast is held in the Raia Church of Margao when it is time to harvest rice. Celebrations begin on a somber note, with the priest of the church using an ancient sickle to cut the first sheaf of the season. This sickle is believed to have been sent to Goa by the Pope during the Portuguese rule. The rice sheaves from these lush paddy fields are distributed among devotees, who take them home and cook them.
The Goa Carnival
Perhaps no other experience captures the spirit of Goa like the annual carnival does. Evening balls, huge parades, bands, floats, and people dressed up in costumes make for great photo-ops at the carnival. One of the attractions of this festivity is King Momo, who orders his subjects to party. The carnival has been a continuing tradition for three centuries. It is held 40 days before the season of Lent.
Goa provides a diverse range of experiences – for the religious, the historian, the artist, the party animal, and the photographer. If you haven’t soaked in the traditions of the local community, you have not truly experienced what Goa has to offer. Add these local activities to your travel checklist now!