Goa is India’s favorite holiday destination. But this state which full of scenic natural beauty is also home to some unique traditions and festivals. These reflect the influences of various invaders and rulers over the centuries. One such fun-filled festival is the Sao Joao festival, celebrated during the monsoons to welcome the rains and also to pay reverence to St.John, on 24th June every year. In fact, St.John is called Sao Joao in Portuguese.
Legend has it when Mother Mary’s sister Elizabeth was told about Jesus’ birth, St.John, who was in the womb of Elizabeth, leaped with joy. On this day, people celebrate the day by jumping into wells, ponds, and rivers, symbolic of Elizabeth’s womb. Sao Joao is also symbolic of the renewal of life. John the Baptist would later baptize Jesus in the river Jordan.
1. Monsoon Mania: Since the festival is celebrated during monsoons, the water bodies are in full bloom. It makes the celebrations full of merriment. Later, they feast on sumptuous traditional food.
2. How to celebrate: On this day, the local youth drink and jump into wells, ponds, and rivers. People dance to folk music and exchange fruits and other delicious eatables with friends and family. The music is played using traditional Goan instruments such as Ghumot and Kansallem (cymbals).
3. Sangodd: It is an important part of the festival. It is a kind of a floating platform made by tying two boats or banana trunks. It is then ushered into nearby water bodies. The members of a particular Sangodd are dressed identically so as to distinguish themselves from the others.
4. Sao Joao in modern times: With the evolution of the tourism industry in Goa, Sao Joao has also come a long way. Many pool parties and private parties are organized to add to the merriment. Guests are presented with a crown or tiara made of flowers and leaves, known as ‘kopel’. Goa Tourism Development Corporation organizes a Sao Joao cruise from the Santa Monica Jetty (Panjim). Visit www.goa-tourism.com to know more about the timings and the activities organized.
5. Unique rituals: There is a church of St.John in the village of Benaulim in South Goa. There’s a period of Novena(devotional praying) for nine days. At the end of this period, a sumptuous feast is laid and people rejoice with one another. Many competitions such as boat racing, costumes, best-decorated boat etc.
This festival brings together people to pray for a good monsoon, as it is vital for a good harvest. Early or delayed monsoon can destroy the delicate cashew harvest, that Goa is famous for.
Like any other festival in Goa, Sao Joao celebrates the spirit of the people. It is full of music, dance, food, color, and merriment. So, if you happen to be in Goa during this time, this festival is not to be missed.
As the very popular Sao Joao song, composed by the late C.Alvarez goes, this festival is all about making merry.
Amim sogle zavoim vortata chodda tempan betle
Sao Joaochem fest mhun ami movoddea aile
Mateak him kopelam gallun udok navunk bhair sorlle
Aichea disa vodle ami noko fuim paule.
Sao Joao, Sao Joao
Gumta mure vatt amkam disona,
Aicho dis urbecho kon konnak hanssona
Chol re piere tum ilo ge re
Falleam khaim mevonam
Oslim festam vorsak kiteak don pautti ena