Ghodde dance during Sao Joao in Siolim
Ghodde dance during Sao Joao in SiolimPhoto: Rohan Fernandes

‘Ghodde yeta re…’ A unique Sao Joao celebration in Goa

The Sao Joao 'Ghodde' dance is a unique feature of two wards of Siolim, North Goa

You may have heard about the tradition of people wearing fancy kopels and revellers jumping in wells during the Sao Joao celebrations in Siolim. But there is another tradition in the village that has been practiced for long but is not heard as much.

This unique tradition in two of the village wards involves people wearing coconut leaves and dancing like horses (called ghodde in Konkani) to mark the day. This tradition is probably seen in this part of Goa.

Ghodde dance during Sao Joao in Siolim
Timely rain livens up traditional Sao Joao celebration in Goa
Ghodde heading towards the chapel.
Ghodde heading towards the chapel. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Siolkars (people of Siolim) are known for their Sao Joao festival and the boat parade that brings revellers and people from across Goa to witness this colourful extravaganza, but as one moves interiors to the two wards -- Fernandes Waddo and Bamon Waddo -- a different dimension of the festival can be witnessed.

Villagers not just celebrate Sao Joao in a unique manner, but offer fruits and sweets as part of thanksgiving and blessings.

A night prior to Sao Joao, you will hear the villagers go around the village chanting and reciting 'Sao Joao Sangood, Kurpecho Duvor, Judevacho Gobor’ as they hit the pirddo (coconut frond) on the ground trying to depict that a fire is being put off. This is a pre-Sao Joao practice that is seen in other parts of Goa as well.

Getting set for the ghodde.
Getting set for the ghodde. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

The next day, the feast mass is celebrated at the Sao Joao Chapel which is located in Fernandes Waddo of Siolim. The ward members make it a point to be present at the feast mass without fail.

Later, in the evening at around 3.30 pm or 4.30pm, one can hear beats of traditional musical instruments while the ward members slowly begin to gather one-by-one at the chapel.

In the meanwhile, a singing troupe consisting of local singers sits around a fire place with their traditional musical instruments and start practicing their songs. And, on the other side, villagers gather to witness the happening.

"At this gathering, people bring trays of fruits and sweets as thanksgiving. Newlyweds, those who have got a job, those who have got a gift of a child, or any person who has built a new house, come with the sweets and fruits," says president of the Sao Joao Chapel Siolim, Anthony D'souza.

Sao Joao chapel at Siolim.
Sao Joao chapel at Siolim. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Once the villagers gather at the two chapels, the men of these two wards appear from either sides dancing like horses and gather in front of the chapel.

D'souza says that this is an old practice and they have been doing it every year at Sao Joao. "The ghodde are performed by men of the two wards."

The tip of the coconut palm are tied together and worn around the neck. It passes between the legs and the men coming dancing like horses.

Ghodde walking towards the chapel.
Ghodde walking towards the chapel. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

The members of the two wards who come along singing meet at the chapel, where prayers are recited, after which they head to the river in front of the chapel.

Filled with joy and excitement, the members hold hands and dance as they head to the river banks. Among these are both Hindus and Catholics, who rejoice in the celebration.

Revellers play the ghumot as they head to the river.
Revellers play the ghumot as they head to the river. Photo Rohan Fernandes

The coconut palms are then thrown into the river after which the men jump into the water. If someone is unable to jump, they simply throw the kopels into the river. It is a fascinating sight to see people greeting each other and distributing sweets and fruits.

After this people put kopels on the cross near the river. Later on they head to the main chapel and recite prayers and crown the cross with kopels.

On Sao Joao day, people put 'kopels' on the cross near the river as well as the cross near the main chapel.
On Sao Joao day, people put 'kopels' on the cross near the river as well as the cross near the main chapel.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

The ward members intend on taking this rich heritage forward and pass it down to their coming generations so that this unique tradition lives on forever.

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