Goa's feasts and festivals: A celebration of communal harmony
By Casey Monteiro
The nucleus of Goa’s culture is its feasts and festivals which Goans celebrate with warmth and unity. Highlighting this aspect, so integral to Goan life, is Celina de Almeida in her book, Feasts and Fests of Goa, The Flavour of a Unique Culture.
Telling us why she decided to write about this ubiquitous facet of Goan lifestyle, she says, “I am a Goan. By birth, by heart, by soul, by mind and I have to know about my festivals and I want others to know about them, too. Some people in North Goa do not know about some of the festivals celebrated in South Goa and vice versa. So, the way I wanted to create awareness was to research, participate, take photographs, interview, write and publish.”
BEAUTY OF GOAN CELEBRATIONS
The feasts and festivals of Goa reflect the unity and communal harmony that has been in existence in Goa says Celina. She says, “We are a state with such a lot of communal harmony. We are a very peaceful people. We have been like this for centuries.”
Illustrating with examples from her book, she talks of the Shigmo at Surla Tar, where the Hindu and Muslim communities come together to celebrate. “This shows the communal harmony of Goa. We never fight, we help, we celebrate together. That’s what the book tells you.”
She further gives the example of festival of Cuncolim, Sontrio (Procession of umbrellas). “It's a festival of two communities – Hindus and Catholics,” she says.
Celina’s book gives readers a historical perspective. “I have presented the history, geography and scientific knowledge of the festival. I want people to know that this is part of us,” says Celina who hails from Panjim.
It took Celina more than four years to write this book. She tells us why, “I had to participate in the festival. Every time I could not make it, I had to skip it and go the following year.”
Celina, who has been in the teaching profession for over three decades, says that it was during COVID, when things came to a standstill, that’s when she began writing on this topic.
“I retired as headmistress of People's High School, Panjim. After that, I was invited to lecture Portuguese and I did so for 13 years before COVID, and then I stopped. I utilized the time during the pandemic to investigate and research about the festivals, visiting libraries and looking through archives,” narrates Celina, on how she worked on her debut book.
Celina who has previously contributed articles to magazines, says the challenge for her while researching was that she couldn't read Devanagari because she did her schooling in the Portuguese medium. But, she says she will engage a qualified person who can help her translate from Devanagari to English for her subsequent research.
Celina avers that one book is not sufficient to showcase Goa's feasts and festivals. “If God permits, I would like to write on more festivals because there are still so many of them to be researched and published. I’ve already got around five on my list.” And, the list grows.
Reiterating on a parting note, Celina says, “It’s my philosophy, that Goans whether they are in Goa or have migrated for whatever reasons, do not forget that we are a peaceful people and have a rich culture. We are a synthesis of various cultures passed onto us from generations and that we shouldn't lose it.”
Celina de Almeida's book Feasts and Fests of Goa, The Flavour Of A Unique Culture was launched at Fundacao Oriente, Fontainhas, Panjim on June 24, 2023.