If you couldn’t make it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Rio last month, or even Carnival in Goa, don’t worry! You still get one more chance to participate in some wild, festive, colourful, loud, and fun parades in March, when Goa celebrates Shigmo — often called the Hindu version of Carnival.
Starting on March 3, the masses will pour into the streets to sing traditional songs, perform and observe folk dances, eat local sweets (Goan jalebis, anyone?), vegetarian food, and, finally observe the flamboyant floats in a massive parade that travels through 15 villages and towns over the fortnight-long festival.
Heart Of It
Though it is traditionally a small village temple festival that lasts five days, Shigmo has now morphed into a two-week long extravaganza celebrated across the state. Prayers do happen, of course, but the festival is more public now and visitors from everywhere are encouraged to join in.
This year, the spring festival starts on Holi, which always falls on the first full moon of the last winter month, and culminates on the first new moon of the new year.
It’s a chance for the Konkani people to reconnect with their faith, traditions and folklore.On the first day of Shigmo, which is also called Shishirotsav, the village deity is bathed and adorned in saffron robes
Locals usually dress in saffron,too, though now the emphasis is more on wearing native garb, the more colourful the better.
More rural celebrations observe different rituals on the various nights. One tradition that is now dying out is the day of the dead, which involves praying to Lord Shiva, but also a practice called Gade, in the which an invocation is made with drumming and dancing, followed by a run to the crematorium from which bamboo poles and bones, skulls and broken earthen pots are retrieved.
Other aspects are much more peaceful, involving praying to the Tulsi plant, making a bonfire of mango wood, and applying gulal or powdered vermillion on one another, similar to how rang is applied on Holi in the rest of the country.
It’s Carnival with a religious twist, but even if you’re not there for the ceremonies, there’s a lot of culture to be explored.
Every day, wherever in Goa you may be, you’ll have the opportunity to see dancers perform folk dances that most people outside the coastal belt have never heard of. These include Fugdi, which is performed by the women, Talgadi, in which men perform with sticks as they are accompanied by drumming, and Ghode Modni, the warrior dance that literally means “to turn or move like a horse”.
Hand drums like the oblong Dhol and the funnel-shaped Taso are carried through the streets by percussionists. The streets are lined with vendors selling home-made vegetarian fare as well as cold drinks.
And then there are the parades. Troupes in elaborate costumes perform skits from the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Lavish floats showcase mythology and folk tales.
It’s a feast for your eyes, ears, tongue and your brain!
The festival happens all over rural Goa but also has specific celebrations in 15 towns and cities across the state. The list of venues and dates is below.
Parades start at 5pm so visitors are advised to get to the main streets at least an hour ahead of time to snag a good viewing spot.
When: March 3-17, 2018
Where: Various dates and locations as follows:
- 3rd March in Ponda (South Goa)
- 4th March in Margao (South Goa)
- 5th March in Vasco (South Goa)
- 6th March in Sanguem ( South Goa)
- 7th March in Sanquelim (North Goa)
- 8th March in Valpoi (North Goa)
- 9th March in Bicholim (North Goa)
- 10th March in Panjim (Central Goa)
- 11th March in Mapusa (North Goa)
- 12th March in Pernem (North Goa)
- 13th March in Canacona (South Goa)
- 14th March in Quepem (South Goa)
- 15th March in Curchorem (South Goa)
- 16th March in Cuncolim (South Goa)
- 17th March in Dharbandora (South Goa)