Goa is known for its vibrancy, people, and an age-old culture that is an infusion of Portuguese and Hindu influences. Even before the Portuguese had set foot on Goan land, the locals here were highly religious and very respectful of their faith and belief system. They have always celebrated each of their big and small festivals with great harmony, a sense of oneness, and love for all. It goes without saying that if you wish to experience the deepest cultural and traditional aspect of Goa or anywhere you are traveling in general then it would be best to plan your holiday during the festival season.
Check out these festivals in Goa and experience the western coast in complete delight and awe like never before.
List of 7 Most Famous Festivals of Goa
1. Goa Carnival
Let us start off by talking about one of the most colorful and vibrant celebrations to take place in Goa. The carnival in Goa is all about dancing, parades, the feast of food and drinks, music, singing along, and enjoying the festivals in outward displays of fun and frolic. The Goa carnival lasts for 3 days and 3 nights where every day is filled with a sense of nothing but pure celebration spirit and by the end of the 3rd day, the people welcome the month of February or Lent as known in the local language. The festival was introduced by the Portuguese colonial rule in Goa during the 18th century, these festivities are considered to be the time of the year when the legendary king Momo takes over the operations of this festival and event.
2. Ganesh Chaturthi
Ganesh Chaturthi is not only a Goan festival but is one of the most awaited festivals by the Hindus all over India. Also known as Chovoth locally in Goa, the festivities for Chaturthi in Goa traditionally goes on for several days with a minimum of just about 3 days. As a part of the ritual, the Hindus worship Gouri and Mahadev along with their son Ganesh. On the day of Chovoth, a clay idol of Lord Ganesha is welcomed into the house followed by a pooja that goes on till afternoon. On the 2nd day, the idol is worshipped in the evening before a procession is taken out to be immersed in a body of water like a river, sea, lake, or well.
The iconic festival of colors is a great way of grasping the importance of culture and traditions in India. This public holiday is marked with great food, dance, vibrant colors, and delicious sweets. Every state has its own set of rituals and traditions that makes this festival even more special. According to Goan traditions, this festival is also celebrated with drum beats, mythological enactments, various troop performances, colorful parades, and cultural dramas. Despite the long drawn Portuguese rules and influences, Holi celebrations are a spectacle in Goa and should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. The beaches in Goa turn into large open-air party spots with large thumping speakers, DJ performances, drinks, food, and of course colors!
Diwali, just like Holi, is one of the most awaited festivals in India. Diwali marks the transition of seasons from summer monsoon to winter. In Goa, large effigies of Narakasur or the demon are burnt as a symbol for the victory of good over evil. The burning of the effigies takes place during dawn and many people gather around these effigies and celebrate and chant when these effigies are burnt. Diwali is also called Narak Chaturdashi and on this day, early in the morning, an idol depicting the demon is made using paper and filled with dry grass, crackers, wastepaper, and more. The people gathered around to yell and shout insults and taunts once these symbolic demons are burnt and cremated.
Owing to its past of Portuguese colonization and the locals accepting their religion as their own has made Easter is the 2nd most widely celebrated festival in Goa. Currently, over 25% of the locals are Christians, Easter is celebrated with great pomp and show throughout Goa. The celebration for Easter kick starts a day before Good Friday where a massive feast takes place as an ode to Lord Jesus’s last supper. The church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the center stage for grand Easter celebrations and is attended by Christians from all over Goa as well as travelers looking to get a glimpse into the life and times of the local Goans.
6. Sao Joao
San Janv or São João is an annual catholic festival that is celebrated in a very quirky and unique manner in Goa. The catholic men of Goa swim and leap into wells, streams, and ponds. The festival takes place religiously on June 24th of every year. The feast of Sao Jao is a celebration of the birthday of St. John the Baptist. Although this festival is celebrated by catholic people everywhere, Goan Sao Jao stands out due to their tradition of leaping into water bodies. People also say a small prayer for good health before jumping in. Large and small groups of people go around their localities, singing and playing beats from traditional musical instruments like Kansallem, Mhadalem, and Ghumot.
Shigmo or Shigmotsav is a spring festival that is celebrated with great vigour by the locals of Goa. The Shigmo parade consists of traditional and local folk street dancers along with elaborate floats showcasing scenes from regional mythological and religious accounts. This iconic Goan festival can be best defined as a combination of carnival and Holi. Spread over a duration of a fortnight, this Hindu festival is hugely celebrated all over this small state. The large colorful festival ends with a huge procession of beautifully lit floats taken all around in places like Panaji, Madgaon, Vasco, and Ponda among others which marks the final day of the festival.
Other than these other festivals in Goa include the feast of St. Francis Xavier, Christmas, New Year’s eve, three kings feast, Grape Escapade, Vasco Saptah, and many more.