Popular festivals in Goa have a legacy of environment conservation and communal harmony, according to Celina de Vieira Velho e Almeida, whose new book Feasts and Fests of Goa – The Flavour of a Unique Culture celebrates popular and relatively lesser known feasts and festivals celebrated in the coastal state.
Almeida's book focuses on 17 feasts and festivals celebrated in Goa, which include Shigmo, Sangodd, Handi festival, Zagor, etc.
"We have a festival at Surla in Bicholim where Muslims and Hindus together celebrate the Shigmo. Hindus step out of their temple and dance all the way to the nearby mosque. The imam of the local mosque then receives them, prays with them and together they celebrate this festival," Almeida said at an interactive session at MOG Sundays, an initiative of the Museum of Goa, Pilerne.
The Sangodd, Sao Joao and Shigmo festivals, she said, have been celebrating environment conservation through the ages.
She also elaborated on the lesser-known Handi festival in Curtorim, where people often flock to seek specific blessings. At the annual festival in Curtorim, every blessing or request sought is responded to by the ritualistic folding of a rib of a coconut leaf. The process is repeated after every other request.
"When their prayers have been answered the devotees return to Curtorim next year with gifts or money as offerings," she said. In the course of her lecture at the MOG Sundays session, Celina also provided an insight into the vibrancy and diversity that defines Goa's festive landscape by exploring the celebrations.
“Initially unaware of Goa's festivals, I eventually discovered their immense beauty. Recognising the importance of sharing this cultural treasure widely, I embarked on a journey of research and exploration. Delving into their historical significance, my book aims to foster a deep appreciation and affection for these festivals, inviting others to embrace and cherish them as I have," she also said.