Seeking constancy in a changing Goa

Identity, tradition and the Catholic feasts celebrated in June, connect the Goan of today with the practices of his ancestors
TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.
TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.Photo: Gomantak Times

Goa is transforming. You can see it happening across the state – from the silver sands along the Arabian Sea coast to the green foothills of the Sahaydri Mountains, from the fort of Tiracol to the border post of Polem – the land and its people are in a constant state of flux.

Yet, amidst this change, there remain some constants that somehow bring in a balance, perhaps even slowing the pace at which the state is altering, and these constants are traditions, which, besides other forms of expression, also come as feasts and festivals.

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.
Sights, sounds and celebrations in the month of June in Goa

It is raining in Goa, and it is also pouring feasts. It’s the month of the Goan Catholic feasts that have traditions deeply entwined.

There are three feasts in particular this month that I will refer to, starting today, June 13, with the feast of St Anthony of Padua, then on June 24 the feast of St John the Baptist, and on June 29 the feast of Sts Peter and Paul.

It is raining in Goa, and it is also pouring feasts. It’s the month of the Goan Catholic feasts that have traditions deeply entwined. Catholics in Goa have a particular devotion to this saint, he perhaps being the most venerated saint in Goa after St Francis Xavier.

All these feasts are community celebrations and certain villages in Goa come alive on these days.

The feast of St Anthony is associated with litanies, either at home, in chapels, at roadside crosses or wherever a statue of the saint has been placed for veneration. And, there are many of the last, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to come across litanies along the roadside as you drive home on the evening of June 13.

Catholics in Goa have a particular devotion to this saint, he perhaps being the most venerated saint in Goa after St Francis Xavier.

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.
Sights, sounds and flavours of Sao Joao festivities in Goa

The most popular of the three feasts is the second one, that of St John the Baptist or São João as it called. Goa may have closed a large number of its wells, and boasts of har ghar jal, which makes wells superfluous.

Yet, for the Goan Catholic, who wants to celebrate the feast of St John the Baptist, a well is very important as this is the day when young men – particularly the new sons-in-law of the village – plunge into wells that have been filled up with rainwater.

For the Goan Catholic, who wants to celebrate the feast of St John the Baptist, a well is very important as this is the day when young men – particularly the new sons-in-law of the village – plunge into wells that have been filled up with rainwater.

The tradition is to leap into the well, the modern practice is to dive into a swimming pool of a hotel or of a neighbourhood gated complex; but jump they do.

The festivities associated with the feast, have today become quite a tourism draw, and hotels advertise Sao Joao bashes will in advance, including in the repertoire rain dances for those not comfortable with splashing in the pool.

Although traditionally, the plunge in the well was undertaken by men, in recent times, women too take the leap.

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.
Here are few places where St Anthony is venerated in Goa

The last of the three feasts, that of Sts Peter and Paul on June 29, is more commonly celebrated in the coastal areas, and traditionally has a boat show associated with it, and also draws a big crowd to the banks of the river, where these take place.

In a changing Goa, the feasts turn important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.

The last of the three feasts, that of Sts Peter and Paul on June 29, is more commonly celebrated in the coastal areas, and traditionally has a boat show associated with it, and also draws a big crowd to the banks of the river, where these take place.

One would have imagined that it is only the older generations who are clinging to what they inherited from their ancestors, but here, in Goa, we have the youth looking at the past to perhaps understand the present they live in and even prepare for their future.

Is it that these traditions, provide them with an identity in a changing Goa whose demographics are being increased by migration, where a significant number of Goans are leaving the state, but the number of residents increases as a larger number arrives into the state?

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.
Celebrating the feast of St Peter in Goa with the unique 'sangodd'

If one surfs through social media sites and cursorily scrolls through posts of Goan groups abroad, then one comes across a number of posts advertising the São João and St Antonio festivities among Goan communities.

As Goans go Westward in search of the proverbial greener pastures, their ties to home and Goa are best manifested through celebrations of such feasts.

And in Goa, such feasts bring that balance in retaining an identity that is quickly being eroded.

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': In a changing Goa, feasts are important because of the traditions involved and the fact that the younger generations are keeping these alive.
Goan Catholic feasts in a nutshell

When you hear the violin playing and the measured chants of the litany at the neighbourhood cross on June 13, when you hear the shouts of 'Viva São João' on June 24, when you see the boat show on June 29, remember that these are not just religious feasts being celebrated, but traditions that a mutating Goa is holding on to, as they resonate with emotions that arise from deep within each Goan.

Remember that the Goan is not just sending prayers of supplication to a saint or a shout of joy at the merriment, but these are a feature that steady the life and times of the Goan in a land that is transmuting fast.

Your Gateway to Goa, India

The Gomantak Times app is the best way to stay informed on anything happening in Goa. From breaking news to the top 10 restaurants to visit, GT helps you navigate your time in Goa.

Download the Gomantak Times app on your Android or IOS device.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Goa News in English on Gomantak Times
www.gomantaktimes.com