Viva Sao Joao
Summer is gone and the rains come along and if that is a reason enough to jump around in the water, then the feast of st. John the baptist could be it. One of the famous christian feasts in the state, the feast of St.John the baptist is celebrated on the 24th of June by young men all over Goa jumping into well to retrieve gifts thrown in by villagers.
History has it that the bible speaks of john the baptist leaping for joy in his mothers, Elizabeth’s womb when she was visited by mary who had just conceived jesus. San joao or St. john the Baptist baptized jesus in the river jordan. The jump into the well is to signify the joy felt by john when he sensed the presence of jesus christ even while he was in his mother’s womb.
The traditions followed are so fascinating that one cannot help but participate in it. On this day, people of all ages jump into well, streams and ponds. This is done generally in the spirit after imbibing Goa’s famous liquor ‘feni’ and singing ‘viva sao joao’. Youngster’s procession is held where they go from door to door and collect liquor and fruits. They then offer their prayers and collectibles in a water body in their town. New brides and marriageable girls are blessed and they throw flowers, vegetables and seasonal fruits in the water to fullfil their wishes. Many other youths then jump into the water to collect them.
The highlight of the day is the ‘sangodd’, a decorated floating platform, on which people parade singing mandos and religiuos hymns. The sangodds are uniquely decorated and members of that sangodd wear a uniform dress to distinguish themselves from the groups. This is also a time to celebrate one’s spirit of adventure. So, on this day there are a number of competitions that youngsters participate in. some of the beings the siolim boat parade, prizes for headgears, décor and costumes. People wear headgears or crowns made up of tender coconut leaves or flowers known as ‘copel’ and lively music is played on the ghumot (goan musical percussion instrument) and kansallem (cymbals).
In the village of benaulim- south goa, which has the church of Saint John the Baptist, there is a 9 day novena before the feast day. On the feats day itself there are football matches, singing and dancing apart from the gastronomical delights of traditional goan food which includes sorpotel and sannas, feijoadas, sausage pullao among other foods and plenty of feni to go around and camaraderie to top it all off. People gather together to have fun and enjoy good company.
Sao joao, like any other goan festival has the captivating spirit and merriment, colour and tradition. It is celebrated with such pomp and gaeity. There is so much good energy travelling around with all the happiness and laughters. It is truly something hard to miss when you are around in Goa! And for youngsters who think all this is such a bore, there is always parties that they can attend!