Goans thronged wells, ponds and other water bodies to celebrate festival Sao Joao today. Finding its origin in the erstwhile Portuguese rule, the festival is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, who baptised Lord Jesus in the river of Jordan. Celebrations began across Goa since morning with youngsters wearing headgears made up of flowers and leaves, jumping into the wells and screaming ‘Viva Sao Joao’. The festival is celebrated annually on June 24 at the onset of monsoon by people cutting across religious lines, while tourists also join revellers with great zeal. Traditionally, a group of youth travel all over a place to take a plunge inside wells, ponds, streams, and then claim a reward of seasonal jack fruit, pineapple from relatives and friends.
Dominick Gonsalves, a resident of St Cruz locality near Panaji, said things have changed over the time but the spirit for the festival remains intact. “Now the wells are contaminated and unsafe but the enthusiasm remains the same,” said Gonsalves. Another Sao Joao enthusiast, Minguel Afonso, a sexagenarian, said, “Sao Joao brings back memories of my childhood, how we used to feast on the locally made sweets. There used to be some traditional games that we played. All that is now past.”
As a part of the festival, a procession of colourfully decorated boats is taken out in Siolim village in north Goa, which is also a major tourist attraction. The state tourism department has also launched special packages for travellers to visit Goa for Sao Joao.