Festival of the month: Sao Joao Festival, Goa

Image courtesy: ©Aleksandra Kulikova/500px

Goans are virtually unstoppable when it comes to celebration and revelry, colour and music. This is more than evident at its Sao Joao Feast celebrated with enthusiastic fervour on 24th June. The fun is addictive as you see local youth wearing crowns of leaves and fruits on their heads, holding bottles of drinks and swinging happily to the beats of traditional music. Then, one by one, as per tradition, they jump into wells accompanied with loud whoops of joy and shouts of ‘Viva Sao Joao’.

Why it is celebrated

For the uninitiated, Sao Joao is the feast of St John the Baptist. Goans will happily tell you stories about how the festival started – according to them, when Mother Mary broke the news that she was carrying Baby Jesus to her sister, the child in Elizabeth’s womb (who grew up to be St. John the Baptist) jumped with joy.

It is to mark this special moment – and share St John’s joy – that young men jump into wells, lakes and ponds shouting ‘Viva Sao Joao’ with the water body being reminiscent of Elizabeth’s womb. With time, this festival has also come to be regarded as a festival of fertility in which young mothers-to-be make offerings to God for a healthy child.

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Celebrations

Fun-filled functions mark the day with fruits being exchanged among relatives. The piece de resistance of the day is the procession of colourfully decorated floats – similar to what you see on the day of the Goa Carnival – that moves through the city accompanied with music and dancing. Each joyous moment is a shutterbug’s delight as locals turn out in lovely coronets, carefully stitched together with leaves, flowers and fresh fruits.

The procession heads towards the lake overlooking St. Anthony’s Church where stage performances are organised and thousands gather to watch pretty floats set afloat in the waters to the shouts of ‘Viva Sao Joao’. Festivities continue at the family dinner table with drinks, meat and seafood, and much joy and laughter.

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AUTHOR'S BIO: Life's come full circle for Purnima, who started out as a travel journalist. And now, after more than 20 years in mainstream journalism, she is once again packing her bags and putting on her travelling boots to pursue her first love.

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