GOA’s Traditions, Customs & Cuisine

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 aspect 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.

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 religions 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. Music is embedded in the soul of every Goan. Club, house, trance, western classic music, techno, jazz, blues, etc. are a few of the choices amongst the teens. Whilst the older generation enjoy rock and the traditional music some of which is

Mando: This music is usually sung to a dance and is usually sung in a chorus. Mando is the preferred style of music for a wedding party it is said to have evolved from ballroom dancing that was in vogue here during the nineteenth century. Ovi, usually sung during weddings by the womenfolk present there. This kind of folk music is sung during a ritual in which coconut milk is applied in small quantities on the bride and groom as a symbol of prosperity in terms of material wealth and family. The songs that are sung usually revolve around the theme of a happy life ahead with a bright future.

Suvari is a popular form of folk as well as traditional music that forms an integral part of festivals and religious occasions. Suvari is basically instrumental orchestra that involves a synchronized combination of different tunes set to stylized beats. The instruments are basically traditional in nature like Ghumat, Shamel, Cymbals, Harmonium, etc.


Casteism though existing is latent and can be seen prominently only during weddings. Amongst the most interesting of the traditional marriages is the Kunbi Marriage. The kunbi’s traditionally 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 (earthen 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”.


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 newly wed 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. 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. 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.


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. Children then, returned home from school latest by 1.45pm for lunch. They spent an hour or so either reading, playing or helping in the washing up. Tuitions or home studies started at around 3.00pm and went on till 4.30pm. By which time the restless children  would gulp down a cup of tea and a hearty bowl of evening  snack, be it  Alle Belle(pancakes with a filling of coconut and jaggery), Filoz(banana or coconut pancakes), Godshem(wheat, coconut and jaggery sweet), Moong(a porridge of jaggery and moong) or even Tizanha(ragi porridge). Jaggery was commonly used everyday as it was deemed to clear the lungs and keep the children healthy and robust.

Godde(marbles), Bhianim(with cashewnuts), Goinda – bhal(stump and bail), Logorio( 7 tiles), Utu-tu(Kabbadi), Pottio(stick and stone), Bouro(top), Mitt follio(Attya – Pattya), Payani Lobbio(hopscotch), Dorchenim(Lock and Key and catching cook), Lenco(ask it and basket), Langdi(hopping), Kho–Kho, Appa-Lipa(Hide and Seek), Ringanim(tennikot) are just a few of the games played outdoor by children during the evenings. The Angelus bells ringing would have all the kids scampering home for nice bowl of soup, a hot bath, the rosary and some family time.  A little bit of homework after dinner and the kids were off to bed latest by 9.30pm. The simple but healthy life, the good two hours of camaraderie and hard play was the very foundation for growth and development.

Games played were not just of the outdoor kind. Fathers sat with the lads and showed them how to make leaf whistles, whittle wood and make (cattis)catapults, use scrap bits of bottles and make kaleidoscopes, kites with newspaper and bamboo broomsticks and of course to make Grud( a typical homemade glue of wheat flour and water).Mothers sat with little girls teaching them embroidery, machine stitching, taught them the rudiments of baking cakes, making snacks, homemade pickles, jams and even mayonnaise. Little household chores were par for course. But despite all this come playtime and all the excitement of making new things was abandoned for a couple of hours of play.


Cycling was another encouraged bit of play as soon as the child was 7 years of age. By the time the child was ten the child was allowed to drive the cycle to school. With very few cars and motorists on the road in a community where everybody knew everybody, children were freely allowed to venture outside. Owning a cycle was a matter of pride and even more was allowing friends to take a ride on it for an exchanged favour. Summer saw families by the hordes either walking or motoring to the beach. Children met up and mothers had a chance to chat a little as little kids were busy playing in the sand. Fathers caught up with the latest news as they shared cigarettes. The whole community was so strong that a stranger was an extreme oddity. Children took turns on the slides and the seesaws. A game of ‘Kho kho’ or ‘Dog and the bone’ was also in progress on the beach by the teenage girls while the boys indulged in a little bit of beach football.

With the increase in traffic speeds and little care for the pedestrians, families today rarely stroll out window shopping or walk to a movie. The pace of development has encroached on the very life that was the cornerstone of every Goan. With increasing numbers of new constructions, migrants and eateries in the simplicity of life, children have lost a free childhood.

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