This renowned festival in Goa is carried out to honour the death of Saint Xavier, popularly known as 'Goencho Saib' (Lord of Goa) by locals. He was a tremendous Catholic missionary born in 1507 and came to India with the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa in 1543. His primary task was to preach the religion of Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus to the people of Goa, Spice Islands, Japan and China among other Asian countries. He died on 2nd December 1552, in the Sancian island, about 10 kilometres from the mainland of China.
As per popular legend, a group of Portuguese merchants performed his last rites and buried him in a coffin partly filled with unslaked lime. After few months, a Jesuit (member of the Society of Jesus) exhumed the body and was astonished to see that the corpse had not at all decomposed. It was further surprised when he cut a finger from the body and saw blood oozing out. Upon this discovery, Francis Xavier was conferred with the title of 'saint'.
The mortal remains of the saint were placed in a silver casket in the Church of Bom Jesus (Basilica de Bom Jesus). However, one hand was cut off from the body- pieces of which were distributed to various parts of the world under the supervision of the Pope. Until 1994, Saint Xavier's body would be brought out every ten years on the anniversary of his death. The corpse would be kept in a glass case with the feet exposed. People from all over India and world would visit the church to worship and catch a glimpse of the saint. After 1994, the body has not been brought for public display since the condition of the corpse had deteriorated significantly.
This religious festival of Goa is celebrated for nine days, starting on 3rd or 4th December. During the celebrations, hundreds of devotees from all over the state, the country as well as the world flock Goa to offer their prayers to St. Francis. Huge arrangements of food and drinks are made available to the public, and the park outside the church turns into a picnic spot, with everyone socialising and engaging in various fun activities. Church services begin as early as 4:00 AM and people mark their presence to honour this legendary soul.
One of the most popular festivals of Goa is the Three Kings Feast. Organized and enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike, this festival is celebrated in the village of Verem in North Goa and Cansaulim, Chandor in South Goa. This feast is dedicated to The Lady of Mount- Virgin Mother Mary with infant Jesus in her lap, who is believed to be the protector of people and is worshipped as the Goddess of fertility. The celebrations take place for nine days and are held in the century-old chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Remidos or Our Lady of Cures.
As per legend, a boulder on a nearby hill has two sets of footprint engraved- one of an adult and one of an infant. Also, a depression on a big rock is believed to be the spot where Mother Mary took some rest while the horse on which they travelled drank water. Later, they proceeded to the Hill of Remedies where they resided. Some historians also believe that the chapel where the festival takes place was once a site of a Hindu temple. Hence, this explains the active involvement of Hindus who seek Her blessings and offer their prayers.
The festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, organised by the Vangodds of the Gauncars (indigenous Goans). The idol of Virgin Mother Mary is decorated with flowers, gold jewellery, candles, garlands, incense sticks. The isolated hill on which the chapel is situated finds its significance for this one event throughout the year. A large number of people climb up the steep hill to recite the Rosary for the lady of the blue mantle and attend the mass music dance party are carried out for nine days till the events concluded on January 6 in the Epiphany.
The last day of the festival is perhaps the most important. Three boys aged between 8 to 12 from the three villages are chosen to represent The Three Kings. They ride on horsebacks - each on a separate, traditional path called Paz and meet at some distance away from the chapel of our lady of remedies on top of the hill at Cuelim. The boys are dressed as proper royalty in king's robe with jewellery, crowns and gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh. The kings together offer prayer to the lady of the mount and attend a High Mass at 12:00 PM on the hilltop, which is accompanied by sounds of choirs and footsteps in succession. A little boy beating a kettle drum lead the kings who are followed by happy crowd. The Three Kings then place the gifts infant of the Statue of baby Jesus. Music dance and songs accompany the whole ceremony. After the rituals, an elaborate fair is held on the entire hilltops. Fun rides, food, spices, clothes accessories, household items, toys and every other big and small item can be found here. The conclusion of this festival in Goa officially marks the end of Christmas for the state. The Feast of Three Kings is not only a momentous religious occasion but also serves as an excellent tourist attraction.
Goan Cashew Fenny is second only to the parties of Goa in popularity and a party in Goa can't be great without the Fenny cocktails. Cashew adds to a decent proportion of the economy of Goa and being a coastal region, coconut is also as significant to the culinary as Cashew is. To indulge in some interesting activities such as Cashew Stomping, Coconut Braking and tasting the most exotic Fenny Cocktails, it is a must to be present in the Goa Cashew & Coconut Festival. This Festival takes place every year in the month of May in Panjim. You'd hate to miss it.
Sao Joao Is one of the most prominent festivals of the Catholic community. Held at the beginning of the monsoon season, this feast honours Saint John the Baptist, the firebrand prophet who baptised Jesus in River Jordan. Like all other festivals in Goa, this festival is also a fun-filled and colourful experience. However, it is celebrated with more pomp and energy in the villages of North Goa.
As per the Christian scripture, when Mother Mary broke the news of expecting Jesus to her sister Elizabeth, St. John The Baptist leapt in his mother's (Elizabeth) womb, who was also pregnant. Since then, this festival is also celebrated as the Festival of Fertility. The well into which the youth jump is considered to be a representation of the womb while the leap signifies joy and happiness in Christ's birth.
Celebrated on June 24th, Sao Joao is one helluva festival which is as entertaining and pompous as the Carnival. It starts off as a Mass held at the church of St. John the Baptist in the village of Benaulim (north Goa). Then, the youth of Goa do something amazing- get drunk and jump into wells and streams, while singing 'Viva San Joao'. Men and especially young boys visit door to door to ask for fruits and liquor. Another highlight of the day is to watch people parade and singing Mandos on Sanggod - a floating platform in nearby streams made up of two boats or banana trees tied together. This occasion is especially significant for newlyweds and couples with a newborn. They visit the church with gifts, fruits and a bottle of ferns. This festival of Goa is enjoyed by old and young people alike, who sing and dance to the tunes of various musical instruments while getting fully drunk and jumping into wells and streams. Sao Joao is yet another treat to behold for locals and tourists alike.
Shigmo or Shishirotsava is a significant festival of the Hindu community in the state of Goa. Sigmo is a Konkani word derived from the Prakrit word Suggimaho and the Sanskrit word Sugrishmaka. This is a spring festival celebrated around March every year. However, since the dates are connected to the Hindu lunar calendar, its dates vary according to the Gregorian calendar. This festival has two variations: Dhakto Shigmo and Vhadlo Shigmo. Dhakto or small Shigmo concerns the farmers the labour class and rural people. Vhado or big Shigmo is celebrated on a much larger scale by people of every class and profession.
Welcoming the season of spring, this festival was initiated to honour the homecoming of warriors who left their homes and families to fight the invaders. It is said that a spirit, known as the Gade padap enter the dancers on the final day of the festival. The conclusion is marked by a collective bath taken, known as the Mand davarap.
The Shigmo festival of Goa is in every essence a Hindu version of a carnival and is a variation of the Holi festival. The celebrations see a mesmerising side of Goa like no other. The entire state is drenched in a sea of colours and parties on a massive scale. Shigmo typically displays folk dances, street plays and magnificently built floats that depict scenes from the local and Hindu mythology. People play a vast number of musical instrument like flutes, dhols, drums, trumpets, etc. Both music and folk dances form a part of the grand parade which begins at Ponda and proceeds to other places of Goa in the next few days. While Dhakto Shigmo is dedicated mainly to folk dances and songs, Vhadlo Sigmo is celebrated in the village temple. Both of these are celebrated in separate temples on separate dates around the same time period. The village God is first bathed and then dressed in a saffron robe on the first day of Shigmo. A feast is held, after offering food to the deity.
The celebrations are held for a fortnight, with each day dedicated to a different area. People place money in a plate carried by the performers, and in response, the performers sing a song - Tali to wish the wellbeing of the donor. The enactment of various mythological scenes and a variety of folk dances are an essential highlight of the festival. Every year thousands of tourists, as well as locals, come to be a part of this awe-striking amalgamation of plays, music, dance and lights.
Celebrated on the fourth Saturday in August, this festival takes place on the quite, little island called Divar (12 km from Panaji). During this time, this small island comes alive with people, music, dance and feasts. Interestingly, the Bonderam Festival has a unique story associated with its celebrations.
Many years ago, the villagers resisted against the Portuguese rule of demarcating areas by putting up flags, to mark areas that could not be taken up by people of nearby villages. The inhabitants had protested by knocking down all the flags. Since then, this festival began to be celebrated as a tribute to those protests and protestors.
Every small community or group of people celebrate this festival in Goa by creating colourful tableaux and embarking on massive parades throughout. Extensive feasting takes place and almost every household is decorated, thus presenting a scenic atmosphere. A very interesting activity during this festival is the mock fights that take place between rival groups, thus resembling the knocking down of flags. Toy weapons made of bamboos and wild berries are used as tools and missiles, respectively. The villagers engage in these cheerful and funny fights, after which they come together to eat, drink and party. The Bonderam is yet another attraction of Goa and its festivals.
Goa is home to a lot many festivals, apart from the names mentioned above. Religious festivals like Christmas, Diwali, EId-Ul- Fitr, Ganesh Chaturthi, etc. are also celebrated by the respective religions. Another famous attraction of Goa are the numerous music festivals which take place throughout the year. Visiting Goa during a festival is a remarkable experience that should not be missed.