Sao Joao Revelry
Viva Sao Joao!
June sets across Goa. The skies turn grey as the clouds empty themselves across the landscape. It is in this atmosphere that the village wells become the centres of much joy and celebration. It’s the fest of Sao Joao.
24 June is considered as the fest of St John the Baptist. Some old observances are linked to this festival . Among them, the new son-in-law is invited to the bride’s home to celebrate the feast, in another he is paraded around the village wearing a crown made from fresh flowers and wild berries. Traditionally this son-in-law then jumps into the closest well as part of the festivities.
Today both young and old join in the festivities of jumping into the well to the sounds of the ghumot and cansaim. They are offered sweets, fruits and feni. However, caution is advised if you’re a visitor and wish to join in the revelry. Jumping into wells is not for everyone.
C Alvares’ ‘Sao Joao’ popularised this festival with its catchy tunes. It’s still sung today at such events. The day before, an effigy of Judev is burnt to symbolise the passing of the Old Testament.
There are a few places in Goa that are the hotspots for Sao Joao celebrations. In Siolim, the epicenter of the festival, throngs flock to witness the unique float parade along the river in front of the church.
Locals get creative with their boats and deck them up in festive colours and themes related to nature. Entertainment programs run throughout the day to add to the celebratory atmosphere.
Baga celebrates a special sangodd in which two boats, tied together with bamboos, signify union of body and soul. A stage is set up and a small altar dedicated to St John is made on the boat. In the afternoon, the villagers gather near the cross and then the participants step on board and move on towards Arpora before returning home.