Goa Festivals – An Integral Part Of The State’s Culture And Heritage

Owing to its wealthy past and multicultural population, festivals are a way of life in Goa. The state celebrates a great number of events & fests representing its interesting cultures and lifestyle. Most of Goa fests are woven around its cultures pertaining to Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions. Local dance and singing are the highlights of these fests. However, the state celebrates some events, which are exclusive to its cultures. Here’re some popular Goa festivals, which offer heaps of joys to visitors and the locals alike. The experience you get from each is like no other festivals around the world.


Goa Carnival: This grand celebration lasts for three days and nights in the month of February. The prime attractions of this carnival are high tone music band, street play on historic themes, songs, grand feast, mask dance, fancy dress competitions and many more.

During the carnival one can see colorful parade with music band throughout the city. People participate in this parade in their desired attire singing, dancing and cheering up with joy. Participants of this carnival involve in several merry making activities and in the evening they became a part of the party dedicated to delectable cuisine and a variety of drinks. Goa was once ruled by the Portuguese who introduced this festival to the culture of this place. Now it has become the identity of Goa which is known throughout the globe.

Panjim the capital town of Goa is the center of attraction of this feast because it is the official place from where the ‘King Momo’ an officially appointed festival ruler gets the party started with a Mardi Gras-inspired procession through the streets. It is the same place where this festivity concludes with the famous red and black dance by the Club Nacional.

Etymologically the term ‘carnival’ means to take away meat. So people stay away from meat during the 40-day period of ‘fasting of Lent’ that follows it. Some of the best known attractions of the carnival are convoy of decorated chariots followed by peoples in colorful costumes, dramas based on the story of King Momo, Red and black dances, colossal parades, bands, singing and dancing, masked revelers dressed in dazzling costumes and many more.

The multicolor essence of this carnival makes Goa the vibrant place to visit in the month of February. It is the time when one can feel the real vibrancy of this place. Though it is primarily a Christian festival yet it is celebrated by people of all religions and culture. During carnival the beauty of this nature laden place is exponentially increased by the various colours of man made decorations.

Goa carnival is one of the must attend Goa festivals if you happen to be planning to go for holidays in Goa!


Good Friday: Originally known as ‘God’s Friday’, this fest is a day dedicated to Jesus Christ – the son of God. It’s the symbolic of one Friday on which Jesus was crucified. It’s believed that on the following Sunday the Jesus get up from his grave. That day is now celebrated as Easter. Goan Catholics gather in churches on this day, and listen to mass and participate in the Way of the Cross. The priests tell the story of Jesus Christ and narrate his sufferings he took upon for the sake of humanity. The atmosphere outside churches becomes colorful where many travelers and locals gather in formal attires.


Makar Sankranti: The festival is also known as Sankranti or Makara Sankrant, and the day is dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun God).

Sankranti is the day when the sun enters into the zodiac Capricorn or Makara that showcase the arrival of spring season.

Makar Sankranti is also known as Khichadi or Til Sakranti in north India where the combination of rice and cereals are distributed among the poor.

The God of Sun (Lord Surya) is worshipped on the Sankranti and the day starts with bathing ritual at Sangam (confluence of Yamuna, Saraswati and Ganga) in Allahabad and on various river banks or bathing ghats on River Ganga. The Magh Mela and the Gangasagar Mela held on Makar Sankranti and thousand of devotees take a holy dip in Ganga & Ganga Sagar at various places. Taking a holy dip on the day is considered very auspicious that takes you to the path of Nirvana, Moksha (Salvation).


Christmas: One of the most colorful Goa festivals, Christmas turns entire state sparkling and colorful. Even before a week, the effect of Christmas can be seen on Goa. Markets get laden with lightening Christmas trees and various gift items. On the very day – 25th Dec, people switch into celebration mood. Gifts are exchanges, parties are organized and funs & frolics become the common affair in almost everywhere in the state. Churches are decorated with flowers and lights, and Christians gather in churches for prayers and celebration. Thousands of travelers from different parts of the country visit Goa to enjoy this amazing festive atmosphere.


Dewali / Diwali: Symbolic of the victory of morality over spiritual darkness or Evils, Dewali is a fest of lightning. This popular Hindu fest is celebrated in October-November all through the state. Sweets and gifts are offered to friends and relatives, houses are decorated with lights and the night is celebrated with crackers and various games. People buy new cloths and enjoy this fest with faith and enthusiasm. Goddess Luxmi and Lord Ganesh are worshipped at every house on this day.


Raksha Bandhan: Raksha Bandhan is an age-old tradition of celebrating the eternal bond of love shared by brothers and sisters. With a simple and sober ceremony of tying Rakhi, the festival aims at rejuvenating the relationship between siblings. Every year sisters tie a beautifully decorated Rakhi around their brother’s wrist and pray for their brother’s well being. Brothers in turn promise to stand by their sister in all circumstances. Carried out with reverence since time immemorial Raksha Bandhan has become rooted in the psyche of all brothers and sisters in India.

How did Raksha Bandhan Originate?

The tradition of Raksha Bandhan is said to have begun in the Vedic times when once Lord Indra was facing reverses in a battle against demons. At this point, Lord Indra approached Guru Brihaspati who advised him to tie a thread powered by sacred mantras on his wrist. Indra’s wife Indrani followed the guru’s instructions. At the auspicious ‘Shravan Poornima’ or the Full Moon Day of the Hindu month of Shravan, she tied the sacred thread on Lord Indra’s wrist. It is said that the sacred thread empowered Indra to achieve victory against the demons.

Time for Celebrations

Raksha Bandhan is one of the most significant Hindu festivals and is celebrated with much euphoria in India. Excitement is palpable amongst brothers and sisters weeks before the festival. The occasion is especially looked forward to by brothers and sisters staying in different cities. For them it becomes a time for family re-union. While home visits are being planned, sisters’ begin their hunt for a perfect piece of Rakhi for their dearest bhaiya from the numerous Rakhi stalls that mushroom in the various nooks and corners of the city. There is also a tradition of sending Rakhi Gifts along with Rakhi. Traditional Rakhi Gifts for brother include sweets, dry fruits, and puja thali. In modern times, however, sisters indulge their brother with apparels, stylish accessories, perfumes or sci-fi electronic gadgets.

How is Raksha Bandhan ceremony performed?

On the auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan, sisters visit their brother or sometimes brothers are invited over by sisters for the celebrations. After performing Puja, sisters’ apply tilak on brother’s forehead and perform arti of him. She then ties a Rakhi on her brother’s wrist while praying for his long, healthy and happy life. Brothers’ express their gratitude to sister for her affection and vow to protect her from all hardships in life. Brother and sister share a sweet and enjoy a harmonious time with rest of the family. To pamper their sweets sisters, brothers present return gifts to them. This could be some cash or gifts like jewellery, apparel, cosmetics or household gifts.

Modern Day Celebrations of Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan has retained its glory and sacred aura in modern times too. Brothers and sisters wherever they may be make it a point to celebrate the occasion together. If a meeting is not possible Rakhi and gifts are sent through mail or through online gifting sites. And even today, the meaning of custom remains beautifully intact. Raksha Bandhan has been and always will be an occasion to cherish and strengthen the beautiful bond shared by brothers and sister.


The New Year Eve: Loads of locally brewed drinks, unlimited funs & enjoyments, rocking mid-night parties and full on dance, drinking and dining – New Year in Goa is a remarkable event. Thousands of travelers from across the world flock to Goa, and enjoy new-year celebration at scintillating Goa beaches. Night Clubs and discotheques are full with young crowds and hotels get occupied a month in advance and parties are everywhere on this tiny state on this very special eve. Market turns lively and vibrant with enchanting varieties of gifts and cards, streets and house are decorated with lightening and flowers, fun and pleasure is everywhere – this is how New Year is celebrated in Goa.


Sri Krishna Jayanthi Festival: Sri Krishna Jayanthi Festival is the celebration of the birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, on earth. He is considered to be the Lord’s most glorious incarnation. Sri Krishna Jayanthi is one of the most important Hindu festivals of India. This festival is also known as Ashtami Rohini, Gokulashtami, Krishnashtami and Janmashtami in different parts of the country.

This festival occurs on the eight day of the dark half of the month Shravan of the Indian calendar. This occurs between August and September on the Christian calendar. It is celebrated all over the country. This year (2009) In the southern part of India, according to the calendars, Janmashtami is celebrated on 13th August.

Lord Krishna’s enchanting form with flute in hand is worshipped in myriads of homes in India. The women draw patterns of little children’s feet outside the house in Southern India to symbolize Little Krishna entering every room to bless it. Varieties of sweets are made during this occasion. Among them, laddus and payasam are the most common sweets.

The festival is observed by fasting on the previous day, which is broken only at midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Sanskrit hymns are recited in praise of Lord Krishna during this festival. At Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, the birth place of Lord Krishna, special spiritual gatherings are organised at this time. Pilgrims from all over India attend these festive gatherings.

The devotees of Lord Krishna celebrate this festival with great pomp and gaiety in Krishna temples. Some of the famous Krishna temples in South India are Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayur, Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi and ISKON temples.


Sao Joao: On 24th June, Sao Joao or the feast of St. John the Baptist is celebrated with great aplomb in Goa. Newly wedded men visit their in-law’s homes and mothers present their married daughters a basket of exotic fruits like pineapples, mangoes, and jackfruits. The festival also has a more exuberant side. The sons-in-laws along with village youths form a boisterous procession, which weaves it way to village ponds for a dip. Many of the youths wear leaves like crowns on their heads. Everyone gets high on the potent local wine, Feni and there is a lot of jolliness and boisterous merry making. During June, air tickets to Goa can also work out to be quite affordable. In fact, with Goa being easily accessible from Mumbai, one can choose from quite a few airlines operating cheap flights between the two destinations during June as well as other times of the year.


St. Francis Day: The Church of Bom Jesus in Goa serves as the final resting place of St. Francis, the revered champion of Christianity. Elaborate ceremonies are held every year on 3rd December to honour St. Francis. With Goa being the home of hundreds of native converted Christians as well as descendants of Portuguese settlers, St. Francis Day is a special occasion in the destination. Many travellers, visiting India during this time make it a point to pay their respects to the memory of St. Francis. The atmosphere at the church is festive and many visiting families also attend the special St. Francis day fair to buy trinkets and other souvenirs.


Food & Cultural Festival of Goa: Anyone, planning to take a flight to India and visiting Goa during the five day Food & Cultural Festival can look forward to some hearty feasting. The finesse of Goan cuisines, inspired by both Indian and Western influences is for all to see and taste. Some of the top hotels, restaurants, and even housewives and amateur cooking aficionados put up stalls. Although, there is no dearth of the varieties of cuisines, seafood assumes dominance over the other fares. In fact, this is one of the best times to sample Goa’s fresh lip smacking sea food. A lot of snacks, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and ice creams are served as well.


Others are Maha Shivaratri (worship of Lord Shiva), Holi or Shigmo (the Festival of Colours), Gudi Parva ( Hindu New Year), Ramnavami (Birthday of Lord Rama), Nagapanchami, Ganesh Chaturthi (worship of Ganesha, the God of omen), Dussera (the victory celebration of Lord Rama over Ravana, the King of Lanka), The Feast of Three Kings, Procession of All Saints, Feast of Our Lady of Miracles, Feast of Assumption of Our Lady, Novidades, Fama de Minino Jesus, Feast of St. Francis Xavier, and Feast of the Lady of Immaculate Conception.


Long story short, Goa festivals are known for the most striking celebrations that involve colourful processions, most spectacular feasts, loud music and dance, and vibrant culture…..you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy your vacation to Goa this year!

Visit information about festivals section to explore a full list of festivals happening around the world yearly!