Goa woke up on Friday to the rather spirited festival of Sao Joao, which involves young men jumping in village wells and ponds, now brimming with the arrival of the South West monsoon.
Traditionally, the festival saw groups going house to house in the ward, seeking a dip in the family well, and claiming a reward of seasonal jackfruit, pineapple and other fruit and a tot of feni, the local brew, from the lady of the house. Newly weds and new househoulds were specially chosen for the ceremony. The new son in law is enjoined to participate in the revellery to prove his mettle.
In times when wells were the only source of water, the tradition was both thanksgiving for monsoon rain, a full well and the bounty of nature. It is also wrapped up in Christian beliefs around the life and work of St John the Baptist, whose feast is celebrated on June 24. The Biblical story goes that the saint lept for joy on hearing the news of Christ’s impending birth, and later went on to baptise him in the river Jordan.
In some villages like Siolim and Candolim, cultural revivalists have organised riverside boat festivals, where canoes and boats are decorated and vie for prizes at the Sangod festival that has since been incorporated by Goa’s tourism department in its cultural calendar.
In the village of Sucorro in North Goa, local communities have tweaked the festival to organise a “Ponsachem Fest” or jackfruit festival, around this early monsoon fruit. The second edition of the festival by the village cultural association will see villagers presenting a variety of traditional delicacies made from the jackfruit, including jaqad (jam), sattam (jackfruit preserve), papads, pudde (sweet dumplings), squashes and boiled jackfruit seed. A brass band, traditional dances by farmers and fishermen, traditional games, are add-ons at the festival, organisers told the media.
The parish youth group in the village of Saligao has decided to create its own local festival, titled it “Vangodd” or togetherness. Organisers said the festival will celebrate Sao Joao, minus the alcohol. Villagers from several communities will join in to cook and eat a traditional fish curry rice lunch for a 1,000 people, present local dances, including dances by people from other states settled in the area. A pre-festival workshop to make koppels, the leaf and flower hat worn by Sao Joao revellers kickstarts the day-long festival.
Hotels have their own take. Pool parties, koppel contests, and rain dance events billed as “Sao Joao Shuffle” are the commercial end of the spectrum, popular with urban youth.