The Hindus are in a majority and they celebrate their festivals in a typical Goan manner. The festivals are all around the year, and quite a lot of them are actually, Jatras, means fairs related to a particular God or Goddess. The Jatra is a big occasion for which the temples and deities are decorated and worshipped by thousands of devotees and then the deity is taken around the village in a procession in a palanquin. In these Jatras, Hindus, Muslims and Christians all participate with equal devotion.
The main Hindu festivals are like those of any other part in the country like, Diwali, Holi, Ram Navami and Janmashtami. But as Goa shares the borders with Maharashtra or rather is considered to be an extension of Maharashtra’s coastline, and Konkani and Marathi people considered to be a part of the same genes, some of the Marathi festivals are equally popular here in Goa. The new year for Hindu Goans also begins with Gudhi Padava. A decorative pole, that is known as Gudhi is installed in front of the house and worshipped. Sweets are made and new ventures are started on this day.
The Jatra of Goddess Laraitakes place in early part of May, in a small village of Shirgaon in Mapusa. Thousands of devotees come here and religious rituals dedicated to the Goddess are performed throughout the day. After a holy bath the devotees walk all the way uphill to the temple as an act of penance, endurance, and worship of the Goddess. As midnight approaches, the devotees perform a frantic dance inside the temple which is all lit up for the occasion. The dancing takes place to the rhythm of drum beats, in a tight circle in front of Goddess Lairai. When one group sits the other enters and takes up the rhythm. At the stroke of midnight, a specially chosen person races from the temple to the wooden pile specially made and lights a massive bonfire with a blazing torch. The chanting and dancing then continues around the massive bonfire. By dawn the fire dies out and he coals start heating. The actual worship begins now with the devotees running through the hot coals carrying their sticks and shouting the name of Devi Lairai. The festivity ends in the early morning.
With the onset of the month of Shravan comes the Nagapanchami, a festival when the Goans worship the snakes. They worship the mud replica of the snake and ask the snakes to leave the ploughing lands. The festival comes just before the farmer is about to begin ploughing of land. The festival symbolizes compassion to animals, as the snakes are requested to go out of the land or even if any of the species is killed during the ploughing, they request to be forgiven.
Then come Raksha Bandhan and the Narali Pournima. It is the full moon day in August. On this day the sisters pray for their brothers well being and tie a sacred thread on the wrists of their brothers. The brothers in turn vow to take care of their sisters and present them with some gifts. Another typical Konkani festival is celebrated on the same day which Narali Pournima, when the fishermen offer coconuts to the sea god and ask his permission to venture out for fishing after the rigorous monsoons. Sweets made of coconut are prepared on this day and are enjoyed.
The month of Shravan brings festivities in the Hindu calendar. The next festival in Shravan is the Gokulashtami . The festival celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna in the mid night. People stay awake fasting for the night and day and celebrate the festival.
The port own of Vasco comes to life during the Vasco Saptah, means seven days. This is the biggest festival celebrated in Vasco which goes on for a week. According to a legend, once an epidemic broke in Vasco and the people turned to Lord Damodar. As they did not have the idol they placed a coconut and started praying. Immediately after the prayers started the epidemic died. Since then a week long celebration is held to worship Lord Damodar. People sing and dance and install a coconut to commemorate the event in the past. Cultural programmes are organized in the nights and vendors� stalls are put up in the lanes and by lanes of Vasco. The vendors come from all over India to sell everything from trinkets and toys to furniture and the latest in fashion giving the city an entire different look for the even days.
The end of Shravan marks the beginning of the preparations for the oncoming Ganesh Festival. The biggest festival celebrated amongst the Marathi and Konkani people. The Ganesh Chaturthi as it is known is called as Chovoth in Goa. The festival which actually is for ten or eleven days is cut short in Goa. Idols of Lord Ganesh with his parents, Parvati, which is drawn on paper and Lord Shiva, in the form of Coconut are brought home in big processions. Married women keep a fast and make sweet meats. Lavish meals are prepared and the air of festivity lingers. People go out to see the decorations and the idols put in pandals. On the last day immersion of the Lord Ganesh takes place again in huge processions.
Come October and the people celebrate Dasara on the tenth day. This day is celebrated as the day of win over the evil as on this day Ram killed Ravana and returned home. New clothes are worn and sweets are made. The young seek the blessings of the elders especially on this day and start new ventures.
Celebrated on the darkest night of the year, Diwalior Deepawali literally means a row of lights. During Diwali, the feast of lamps, every house is lit with little earthenware vessels containing oil and a lighted wick, and groups of men and women assemble along the river bank setting these little lanterns afloat on tiny rafts and watching with intense interest the frail craft, as they float down streams. The festivity is in honour of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu.
It also marks the day when Krishna killed Narakasura, a demon, and came back home. A bath in starlight, before sunrise is accepted as a bath in the holy Ganges, so purifying soul and body and auspicious way to begin the day. Such cleaning and focus on newness are symbolic of the casting off of the last year's sins and hope for a fresh new year.
Diwali is a four day festival, which includes Lakshmi Pujan, Narak Chaturdashi , Deepawali and Bhau Beej. All through these four days lamps are lit, sweet meats are prepared and enjoyed and crackers are burnt.
Every house is cleaned and illuminated for Diwali, to commemorate the return of Rama after 14 years in exile. Cultural programmes and night long fire works mark the occasion. In Goa, huge effigies of Narkasura are made and burnt at dawn. The night of Diwali is also be jeweled with millions of flickering candles and an explosion of fire works and fire crackers, so it is known as the Festival of Lights.
After Diwali it is directly time for Holi , the spring festival. On the day of Holi, people b urn huge bon fires symbolizing burning off the evil and the next day they play with coloured water and smear colours on each other. People from all religions, caste and class celebrate this festival in Goa with great enthusiasm. Other name for this festival in Goa is Shigmo.