Viva Sao Joao Welcoming the Rains the Goan Way

What has become a yearly pilgrimage with my best friends, for me exploring a different part of Goa is a must, be it to the forts in the north or spice farms in the south; during each visit with amused yet indulgent looks they ask, “Which part of Goa are we exploring this time miss?” So for all my efforts it seemed like this time Tourism of Goa decided to indulge me a little by inviting me to a specially organised trip in June – to celebrate Sao Joao, welcoming the monsoons.

A local perspective to a quaint little festival is what my take way was while experiencing the adorable festival of Sao Joao. Held on 24th June the Feast of St. John the Baptist – Sao Joao is a thanksgiving for the arrival of the monsoon. Traditionally, to mark the event young men of the community jump into water bodies, mainly wells. Traditionally also, each well owner must supply feni (local alcoholic brew made of Cashews) to the swimmers. 

Another intriguing description of the festival as read on which I find to be a well curated photo diary about Goa says, “It is a day that commemorates the excitement felt by St. John, the unborn child while he was still in his mother’s womb. He is said to have jumped in his mother’s womb when visited by Mary, the mother of Jesus. That’s why this festival holds such importance for Goans and they celebrate it with all the gusto that the hearty Goans are known for.” Another site I discovered Goa Streets shares interesting stories about the festival.

Oh and those fancy kopels! Head gear made of the freshest flowers and fruits of the season, imagine a tiara stuffed with green leaves, bright flowers and plump fruits, and then some more! It was quite a fascinating Sight just to study each unique kopel adorning the crowns of the tipsy Goans as they sashayed across the streets singing Viva Sao Joao! Viva Sao Joao!

While the revelry at Campal grounds continued, we moved on for a ferry ride across the Mandovi river, enjoying a series of dance and games; an excuse to just let your hair down and party.   

Can a visit to Goa be complete without the food? No Indeed, I was too busy gorging on the food to get pictures to show you. Luckily I found the closest picture to the oh so yummy fish vindaloo, a traditional spicy Goan dish.

And while we waited for that mouth watering dish to arrive, my partner in crime Magali Vaz, who runs her own lifestyle channel Life etc. on the trip entertained this hungry soul with her antics. I met a sister from another world and a brilliant new friend.

For me its always the people that make visiting a destination a memorable experience. When a destination strives to show you something beyond the stereotype, it is a matter to appreciate. Beyond promoting just the cliche image of Goa: being a beach haven, they attempted to display facets about Goa that perhaps only the locals are familiar with. Yes you might know about the back waters in Goa but did you know about its many quaint little festivals like Chikal Kalo for example, a mud bath festival celebrated in Marcel in July; or about the Dudh Sagar Falls further south in Goa. It is fascinating watching the 300 meter high falls from a distance with a train passing right across!  There is so much more to Goa beyond the ‘beaches and booze’ image that it has created for itself over the years. I cannot begin to express how magical South Goa is in the monsoons! 

 Ah the monsoons, the reason for this trip organised by Tourism of Goa to celebrate the Sao Joao festival. Sangod festival in Panjim. even though it rained for just a while on the morning of the events, the rest of the day was disappointing as it did not rain much, a first in many years is what the locals said. Yet I have to give it to the Goan spirit, the revelry continued as we approached Siolim in North Goa for the colourful boat parade.
 This was quite a crowd puller with both locals and tourists stationed along the banks of the river waiting to watch the musical performances and the creatively decorated boats. 
Before your next visit to Goa check out Goa Streets and I find their local stories and photo essays make for interesting references and leads.
(This trip was organised by Tourism of Goa, the festivals and venues mentioned here are a part of the schedule. However, my memories and stories collected during the trip are all personally expressed and from the heart.)   
Viva Sao Joao Welcoming the Rains the Goan Way
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