05 May 2024  |   06:04am IST

Flavours, colours & spirit of Goa in May

Sushila Sawant Mendes

The May flower or the Gulmohar tree dots the Goan skyline every May. It rises like an orange and red flame in the sky enchanting every onlooker and making the Goan landscape a picture frame of natural beauty. This May Goa will participate in the festival of democracy where voters hold the key to decide their future for the next five yaears. Goa was all about its coastline, its rivers, its fields, its forests, hills and plateaus–a kaleidoscope of natural beauty, imagery which relaxes the mind and soul. May in Goa is hot and humid and yet this is the month of summer holidays when the Goan diasapora both from inside and outside the country returns home to visit their roots in their ancestral house and revive their Goan village kinship. 

For every Goan his village is his heaven on earth, however far and wide he may roam. The sun always shines brighter in his/her village! 

May is also the month of mangoes, jackfruit, cashews and the hillside wild berries of kannddams and churnas. Roaming on hills to collect these berries and getting scratched with their thorns was fun! It is the season of cashew urack and niro. Cashew and coconut feni were stored for their medicinal use. It’s a popular belief that drinking urack in April-May develops immunity against the common cold. The diaspora remembers with nostalgia, trees of their childhood and return back to taste the fruits of their own trees, not knowing that trees also need care and fertilization. Old trees and old people need the love and care of those who inherit their riches or fruits.

In yesteryears, Goan families in the south would have their annual mudança in Colva or Betul and for those of the north Calangute was the chosen destination. Some families had a summer house to stay during May, when the different cousins would book their days of stay in May much in advance.

 My husband’s grandmother’s family still have their summer holiday home in Betul of which he has nostalgic childhood memories. The Bombay fashion statements would reverberate in Goa during the holiday season of May. The three quarter pants have today been replaced with hot pants.

 Having three sea baths a day for three days was considered therapeutic. The special cuisine included dry food which would not spill. Local rice was spiced with dry chutney, salted mango, cocum syrup drink, black tea and boll (sweetened bread).The fishermen never objected to people taking a  nap in the huts built by them to rest their boats. Those were the days when there was not a single hotel on Cavelossim beach and the whole beach with its coconut trees belonged to everybody.

In May begin the celebrations of the feast of the Holy Cross in most villages of Goa. Some on a very big scale with buffet dinners and others with a ladainha and sweets. 

On 1st May, festivities begin in Novo Vaddo, Sernabatim.  On 3rd May is the famous Baradi Cross feast and of the Milagrincho Khuris in Vanxim, a meeting point for all the relatives from Bombay or even Panjim who make it a point to come like their forefathers did before them. After this day all the local cross feasts are celebrated in almost every ward of each village. Even those who no longer stay in the village do not give up their right to celebrate the local cross feast.

 The feast of the Miraculous Fulam Khuris in Bambolim is held every year on the 3rd Sunday of May. This is just a microcosm of the local feast celebrations in Goa.

The Purumentache fest literally the, ‘Feast of provisions” is celebrated traditionally in Santacruz, Margao, Panjim and Sanguem and now it is also celebrated as an event in Panjim in the month of May. Today, the people of Santa Cruz celebrate the feast of the patron of their church, ‘Santa Cruz’ or the Holy Cross. As most farmers in this village have given up farming, this purumentachem fest is now held on a very small scale. The Church of Our Lady of Miracles, purumentache fest in Sanguem also serves as a market for the farmers of the villages of the hinterland of Quepem and Dharbandora as well.

The feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ also called Purumentachem Fest, is one of the important feasts of the Church of Immaculate Conception in Panjim. The farmers of Taleigao and the nearby villages found this as a nearby market for their vegetables, rice and fruits. In Margao, the feast of the Holy Spirit is held for the people of all the villages of Salcette to buy their monsoon provision. The status of Margao, today as the commercial capital of Goa, could be linked to the purumentache fest.

Available here are the culinary ingredients of everyday Goan cuisine like chillies, onions, tamarind, ragi, cashew nuts, kokum, chepnim tora, jackfruit chips, palm vinegar, coconut oil, parboiled rice, turmeric, pepper, jaggery and dried fish.

Terracotta eco-friendly vases as well as cooking pots are available besides furniture, household items and the traditional Goan channa, revddio and Khajem (Kadio bodio). The colour, smell, sounds and festivities are truly intoxicating, a moving picture of Goan sense and sensibilities! After this followed the annual ritual of platting the onions with dry grass and hanging them on a wooden bamboo in the kitchen. 

The red chillies were also put to dry in front of the house, so that they would last monsoon.

Every Goan prides the ownership of his coconut trees. May is the month when the dry coconuts are sun bathed and then taken to the mill to make coconut oil. Generations of Goans have used coconut oil in their cooking. However now this is replaced with Pomace olive oil among other oils. 

On the first day of the Marian month, on the 1st May, is a tradition held very year when a prospective bride dressed in bridal finery places a crown of white roses on the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, in the courtyard of the Mae de Deus chapel in Gaunsavaddo in Siolim. 

Akshaya Tritiya will be celebrated on 10th May this year in Madgaon. It is one of the most auspicious festivals for Hindus and the Jains. It commemorates the first Tirthankara of Jainism ending his one year asceticism by consuming sugarcane juice poured into his cupped hands. This day is considered auspicious to buy gold.                                                                                                                       

Tisreanchem (clams) fest is a fest celebrated by all communities on the second Sunday of May. This is a good symbol of the secular nature of Goans and celebrated in Bhattier, Dandadi and Forta Vaddo’s in Nerul. The villagers of Bamon Vaddo in Merces have been celebrating this feast for over 50 years in May. This celebration is also a homecoming for married women who attend the ladainha.

These flavours, colours and spirit brought everybody including the diaspora together at the grassroots level. Today we see hills getting flattened, the coastline dotted with concrete structures and more domestic tourists coming to Calangute or Candolim for party life. For the richer Goans the mudança has now shifted to Singapore and Europe. However Goa with all its festivities is a brand worth preserving! 

(Dr Sushila Sawant Mendes is a Professor in History and Goa Govt.’s Awardee for Excellence in Higher Education)


Iddhar Udhar