Culture of Goa: A Guide to Goan Tradition and Culture

A former Portuguese colony, Goa is also fondly known as the 'Rome of the East'. Inhabited and colonized by the Portuguese for almost 450 years, the culture of Goa is distinctly different from that of the rest of the nation. Here is a quick run-down of the rich and varied heritage of Goa.

History of Goa

Goa has a fascinating historical past which dates back further to the 3rd century BC. A prominent part of the Mauryan Empire, Goa was of prime importance because of its natural harbours and wide river base. Only in 1987 did Goa get the status of an independent state and the regional language Konkani was recognized as one of India's official languages.  
culture of goa, history of goa
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Goan Life and Culture

A small state on India's western coast, Goa has always benefitted as a trade centre because of its easily accessible ports. With a beautiful harmonization of the East and West, Goans have taken the best of both worlds. A civilization of warm, happy people, Goa sees a mix of different religions like Christians, Catholics, Muslims, and Hindus that live together in harmony. Following their age-old traditions and customs, Goan's celebrate all major festivals with fervour without bringing any religious barriers within the society.
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With a strong influence from the west, Goa has always had a more contemporary mindset. Their rich heritage culture has not been tarnished by the rapid industrialization that has become commonplace in the rest of India yet. Celebrating livelihood and religious festivals with scrumptious food and delightful music, the locals are humble, warm and fun-loving individuals.
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Food Culture of Goa

Food and drinks are an integral part of marking Goa's vibrant culture. Meals bring families together, and a staple is the combination of Goan fish curry and rice. Apart from this staple, Goa is also famous for its mixed bag of freshly caught seafood. Prawns, crabs, kingfish with their traditional spicy marination are a delectable delicacy for the locals. Another festive favourite for the Goans is their beef and pork roasts that are a must-try during Christmas which is best paired with Goa's famous brew Feni, made with fermented cashews. Other dishes like the Bebinca (a multi-layered sweet dish) and the Khatkhate are essentials when friends get together or during festivities. Read more about Goan Food here.
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What Do the Locals Do?

Unlike cosmopolitan cities in India, the locals of Goa live a beautiful and leisurely life, living each moment to the fullest. Reaping the benefits of its location, the most common occupation of locals is fishing. Owing to the fertile land and abundant water supply, often locals practice farming and grow common food items like cashew, coconuts, jackfruit and other grains. Apart from this, the next most sought-after businesses in Goa are locally-run shacks, guest houses, and tourist guide businesses. To sustain themselves in the offseason they practice the cultivation of local crops and grains.
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Handicrafts of Goa

In an area where tourism is the core economy booster, small handicrafts and souvenir jewellery are popular items found in the local markets. Skilled artisans reuse shells and coconut skins found on the beach to make stunning jewellery, frames, and showpieces for home decor. Apart from this, bamboo, brass, and silver are also widely sold in the form of jewellery and artefacts that attract tourists from across the globe.
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Dance and Music Culture of Goa

Goans have a particular fondness for performing arts. A beautiful blend of Indian and western dance forms, Goan dances include Fugdi, Dhalo, and the Kunbi that date back to the Portuguese era in Goa. The folk dances and music in the state are performed for both religious festivals and cheerful events.

Dekhni Dance

Performed while wearing a ghumat, this dance form is accompanied via a song that has western roots whereas the dance has an Indian origin. The Dekhni dance is performed by only the women of the community and is one of the best-known traditions of Goa.

Goff Tolgadi And Shigmo

These are a couple of dance forms that are very local to the Goan community and are usually performed during the months of Spring, as an offering and jubilation which the season brings to the peasants and their crops. The Goff consists of weaving braids with various tints of colours and is often performed by the people residing in the Canacona Taluka (province) of Goa. Source

The Shigmo is marked by traditional dances that are performed by wearing colourful dresses accompanied by beats of dhol, tasha or that of cymbals. Processions of floats on which we can see passionate actors enact performances conveying the history of Goa can be seen throughout the street of Goa.
culture of goa, goa dance
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Traditional Goan Attire

The traditional costume of the womenfolk in Goa comprises that of a 9-yard sari also referred to as the ‘Pano Bhaju’ and some jewellery to balance out the entire outfit. The fishermen do not have any particular attire but are usually seen adorning bright cotton shirts with half pants. The attire of the tribal people in Goa comprises of a loincloth known as ‘Kashti’, with a blanket draped around their shoulders. The women wear a traditional sari with a tied knot using their ‘Kunbi palloo’ and have a very distinctive dressing style.
 
The culture of Goa is among the most richest in all of India so let us know in the comments below which aspect of Goan culture you are most excited to experience!

This post was published by Sneha Virmani

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