Goa Traditions, Customs & Cuisines

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Goa 365 days on holiday as it portrayed by the tourism department may be the only place in India or perhaps on the planet where even life takes it easy. The relaxed attitude and easy going lifestyle along with easily adaptable Goan traditions and customs makes Goa unique. Though laws prevailing in the state are stringent, people go easy on traditional practices. There is flexibility to the traditions and customs of Goa.

Traditionally Goa possesses a unique legacy of different cultures. Tradition and custom have affected almost every aspects of the Goan lifestyle. One can see the typical Portuguese culture in the architecture of a house or church. The rich cultural heritage of Goa is a stark contrast to the rest of India. Everyone is free follow the kind of lifestyle they want to, unlike the rest of India where tradition and conservatism is an inseparable part of one’s life.

Bhagwati Devi Procession

Religion, customs and tradition surprisingly do not form a division in the cohesiveness of the people of the state. People are free to practice the religion of their choice and they respect the existence of other religion too. At the same time, they move ahead with the world and are in sync with the latest trends and beliefs. The unique quality of Goa truly unique is that you won’t find people fighting or arguing over religious issues or dress codes.

Cateism though existing is latent and can be seen prominently only during weddings. Amongst the most interesting of the traditional held group marriages a couple of days before the Mell, the spring festival which is today merged with Carnival. Around 25 to 30 couples get married in a group ceremony. The entire village would resound with the ghumots (earthern drum) and dulpods. After the wedding reception is over (which is usually late in the night), the “vorr” or the bride’s marriage party and the bridegroom’s family see each other off at the “sheem” or border of the village traditionally called the “portonem”.

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Both parties draw an imaginary line across the road with the foot. One male representative from either family stands on each side of the line, and snaps a blade of grass in a mock tug of war. Each one throws a glass of feni on either side of the ‘sheem’ for the guardian spirits and have a “sangvonn” for the guardian spirits and ancestors seeking their protection for the newlywed couple and their families. The parties then vend their way home to the drumming of ghumots and dulpods and singing of ovios all the way, but not before the men have had their ‘one for the road’.

Gaiety and merrymaking mark the ceremonies of all Catholic Goans. Although a Goan Christian wedding may differ in some details to a western church wedding, it basically follows the edict of a catholic wedding. During the nuptials, the priest pronounces the couple man and wife, and they seal their vows with a kiss. Once the nuptials are through, the couple walks down the aisle, arm in arm, everyone then proceeds to the venue for the reception. Here, the wedding cake is cut, and a toast is raised to a long and happy married life of the newlyweds.

Cotti Fugdi - traditional Goan dance

Now the merrymaking and the dancing begin and drinks and food are served. The band plays till midnight and everyone joins in the dancing. As a grand finale, the bride and the groom are lifted up on chairs by friends, and are supposed to kiss each other. They are playfully separated time and again for some time, till they finally kiss at the end.

Though traditions and culture still influence the Goans, the urge to ape the west and the flashy weddings proliferate. This along with the time constraints now prevailing in Goa due to law, tend to escalate costs and the flavor is thus lost in shorter and shorter weddings leaving most Goans reminiscing.

Goan Cuisine on the other hand consists of seafood, coconut milk and rice. These are also the main ingredients of Goan delicacies. Use of Kokum is another distinct feature. Goan food cannot be considered complete without fish. It is similar to the Malvani cuisine. Fish curry rice is main food of all Goans.

Calangute Church Altars -- by Joel's Goa Pics

Goan cuisine is a blend of different influences the Goans had to endure during the centuries. The staple food in Goa is fish, both among the Hindus as well as the Catholics. On other fronts however, there is a vast difference in the foods of these two communities, the main reason being that the Christians also eat beef and pork which are taboo in most Hindu households.

While Hindu Goan food does not seem to have picked up any Portuguese influence, the Christian food has been influenced not only by the Portuguese, but also by its overseas settlements. However, it has not been a one-way transfer. An example is canjade galinha, which is a type of chicken broth with rice and chicken pieces, and is originally a Goan recipe. Another is arroz doce, which is a Portuguese adaptation of pais or kheer (sweetened rice) found in India.

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The cuisine of Goa is influenced by its Hindu origins, four hundred years of Portuguese colonialism, and modern techniques. The state is frequented by tourists visiting its beaches and historic sites, so Goan food today has an international aspect.

One of the most famous and popular drinks that Goa is actually synonymous with is the Feni. Also known as the Fenny, this Goan drink can get a person drunk in no time. This Indian liquor is of two types-Cashew Feni and Coconut Feni. While coconut Feni is made by fermenting the fruit of the Cashew tree, coconut Feni is made from the juice of toddy plants. The Goan Fenny is usually considered to be superior compared to all other types of Fenny. The Feni drink of Goa is a must try if you are visiting Goa anytime.

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