Forget Carnival, dive into Goa's Sao Joao revelry
In Goa, festivals and other seemingly sombre excuses for revelry are never really in short supply.
Between a summery carnival and a wintry Christmas, a slightly under-rated San Joao festival which gets underway Monday promises wild revelry on the lines of a pool-side MTV grind and a really, really wet carnival.
The feast of Catholic prophet Saint John the Baptist, which comes exactly six months before Christmas, also comes with a unique age-old practice of diving into numerous village wells and ponds.
So don't be surprised if you bump into men and women wearing clinging wet clothes or leafy wreathes like the Romans did, their breath reeking of Johnnie Walker or cashew feni, strolling around muddy Goan streets. And if they decide to shout "Viva re Sao Joao" and dive into every well, filled to the brim during the monsoons, along the road, do not call the police for help. Just join in.
It all comes as a part of the Sao Joao festival package. All they are doing is reliving a Biblical moment.
According to the Bible, when Mary was told she would conceive Jesus through an angelic apparition, she visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying John (who later became St John the Baptist). John, according to the Bible, leapt for joy within the womb on hearing Mary's greeting.
Over the years, however, Sao Joao has moved from the laterite-lined wells and village ponds to swimming pools in starred hotels.
Sean Faia, director of Faia Entertainment, has tried to tap the potential of this traditional fiesta, which has the makings to take on Goa's Carnival in terms of its fun and wild quotient.
"Sao Joao is a festivity filled with fun, revelry and a celebration of the monsoon. We were keen on creating an event with a great ambiance and reputed artists who offer party goers an exciting experience," says Faia, who held two such 'Sao Joao Grind' events on the trot.
A swimming pool to dive into, liquor sold cash-on-the-barrel at the bar and DJs and musicians to set the tempo replace the traditional motifs, like the quintessential well, social bonhomie and liquor sharing and amateur musicians and brass bands.
And while Sao Joao is still seeing its early days of commercial exploitation, sponsors are only just beginning to see the business-end of the bargain.
"Sourcing funding for the event can be very tough. It being the off-season, brands are reluctant to invest in events as they are keen to hold onto a larger chunk of the budgets for activities planned in the tourist season. It's not impossible, but it's definitely not easy," says Faia.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Posted on 23-06-2013)