The feasts of San Joao and St. Peter, Goa’s Monsoon festivals

Goa’s Monsoon Magic

MONSOON celebrations in Goa bother little whether it rains or not. The monsoon this year has been playing truant, affecting the cultivators adversely but the people living on Goa’s picturesque coast have not allowed the disturbing fact to dampen their spirits. They celebrated the monsoon feasts like those of St Anthony (June 13), Sao Joao (24) and Saints Peter and Paul (June 29) with traditional fervour and pomp

Siolim Boat Parade

feast1bFor the last two years, all roads lead to the North Goa village of Siolim where the Sao Joao festivity has acquired a totally new and attractive flavour. The annual aquatic event is witnessed by not only people from the surrounding villages but also those passing by vehicles over the busy bridge in front of St Anthony’s Church. Anything that happens in Siolim seems to merit media attention because the picturesque, vast village and her rich talents are quite out of the ordinary.

Without any government funding or sponsoring, the village has set up the rare boat parade and converted it into a cultural tradition within a period of half-a-dozen years. With nine colourfully painted, decorated boats participating in the spectacular event, the Sao Joao Boat Parade, comanised by the Vaddy Boys under the leadership of Joel Fernandes, was a resounding success this year. Prizes for headgear, costumes and décor being another tradition, the participants struggled to put up the most colourful water tableau on show.

Splashing colours, out-of-season mangoes and jackfruits hanging from the branches, beautiful mushrooms, birds and butterflies, painted faces and headgear to match…each boat had something unique to present. But as usual, the Johnson-n-Fenson family group from Badem-Assagao stole the limelight. Presenting, a biblical sequence from St John’s life, they enacted the beheading of St John as demanded by Princess Salome.

Pietros of Anjuna, with Konkani writer-novelist Bonaventure D’Pietro playing the saxophone, provided lovely Goa music suiting the ethnic outpouring. Pietros, in fact, are among the few dance bands in Goa, with a blowing instrument. Of course, the best piece they struck was C Alvares’ famed “Sao Joao, Sao Joao”.

Marcelino de Betim and mimicry artist Sheik Amir and others entertained the vast festive crowd with their Konkani songs. There were competitions galore for the participants as well as for the audience. And there were two chief guests-float king Francisco Martins and Benaulim MLA Churchill Alemao. VIPs like Alban Couto, Ervell Menezes and others were present amidst the cheering crowd, which occupied every vantage point, against the beautiful backdrop of St Anthony’s Church.

The colourful boat parade has already become a delightful tradition and draws an increasingly larger audience every passing year. The Sao Joao spirit, which was revived by daily cartoonist Alexyz, rockstar Remo Fernandes, Johni Rodrigues, Fermino, Alister Miranda and others, has now gathered tremendous momentum, which seems to be quite infectious judging by the fact that several resorts in Goa also celebrated Sao Joao festivities this year.

Celebrations at Fernandes vaddo

A short wfeast12alk down the palm-lined, green banks of the tributary of the Chapora river, another enthusiastic group had put up a beat show. It was at Fernandes Vaddo (the once popular Forna Vaddo), near the St John chapel, where The Syndicate band regaled an equally vast audience, perhaps for the very last time in Bardez, because the group’s about to split. The highlight here was, of course, veteran August Braganza (of Haystack). Strumming the guitar, August joined The Syndicate singing about the “tavern”, sweeping in a flood of memories of the cherished days when he and his band ruled the roost in Goa.

Jumping in the wells

feast22aWitnessing the real, traditional Sao Joao is still more exciting than the rather static two shows mentioned above. So we rode to Gaunsavaddo in Siolim, where the young revelers, watched by girls and women from the vaddo, chanted “Viva Sao Joao” and jumped in the well, with their flower-knit crowns.

The tray filled with “Ponnsache ghore” (jackfruit), “kopachem” (feni and sweet wine) was continuously passed around and nonagenarian Nemo struck the “madiem” with a rustic, ancient song, while one boy played the ghumot and another the “kansallem” (cymbals).

In most Goan villages, the jumping in the well has become a thing of the past. The people don’t like it that way anymore because the groups sometimes annoy the people by drenching them or by dirtying the well in which they jump. The Church, which had criticised the Carnival once, has also come out strongly against the tradition. This has dissuaded the revelers from indulging in more liquor than necessary as there have been stray, though very rare, incidents of drowning at Sao Joao celebrations. But at Gaunsavaddo, the celebrations were truly vibrant and enjoyable with virtually the entire vaddo present at the Sao Joao well.

Candolim Sangodd

feast11The people living along the banks of the tributary of the Sinquerim river at Orda in Candolim celebrated the feast of St Peter, the patron of fishermen, with the traditional “sangodd” on June 29. In the evening, popular Konkani singers like Jr Rod, Young Chico with son Anthony and daughter Buska, Albert, Andrew and a few local boys performed to a largish audience.

The Candolim “sangodd” was a platform made by tying together three boats, with a chapel for the background. The statue of St Peter was seen below the cross. With a brass band in attendance, the “sangodd” move gently along the river, stopping at nearly half-a-dozen points, where the people gathered to watch the aquatic event. Quaint is the aquatic platform, and it’s fun watching how the crowd walks along the pathways through the greenery as the performers finish one sequence and the boat proceeds to the next berth.

Joel D’Souza