The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi or commonly mentioned as Chovoth in Goa, is at the very heart of Goan culture, tied in closely with local traditions and thus the approaching together of family. Diwali in Goa, however, is more fashionable for its lights and vibrant fireworks, sweets, and shopping festivals.
How is Diwali celebrated in Goa?
The Diwali tradition popular across India is of the victorious return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile, and thus the celebration of Goddess Laxmi – her birth from an ocean of milk, and her marriage to Lord Vishnu.
However, in Goa, it’s the victory of Lord Krishna over the evil Narakasura that’s celebrated. At every crossroad, near a temple or at a central square in each vaddo, one can find representations of Narakasura. If you are a tourist and reach Goa well before Diwali, you will be prompted to hitch in their creation, using old newspapers and dry hay from the world.
They are given horrifying-looking faces and display the creativity of kids from the locality. You’ll be wanting to remain your camera handy, for just before the break of dawn on Diwali, they go to be set ablaze to much cheering. Preceding this fiery festivity, each group will play music – from Bollywood hits and thus the newest contemporary music to even Goa trance. They go to bop and celebrate before re-enacting Lord Krishna’s destruction of Narakasura.
Clay and colour
Pontis, or tiny clay pots, are full of ghee or oil and lit at the wick, symbolizing the triumph of sunshine over darkness. Children on the brink of form akaashdivos or lanterns that are hung in their homes to welcome Goddess Laxmi who is believed to roam the planet that night. Intricate rangoli patterns adorn the thresholds of each home to encourage the goddess to enter.
Women in Goa wake early Diwali morning to rearrange a special mixture called utnem, made from sandalwood, scented oils and other fragrant ingredients, which are applied to the body before bathing. The family wears new clothes and together conducts the Laxmi Pujan, praying for prosperity and success of all.
Rice and spice
Everyone takes a bite of the bitter karit fruit before feasting on five different dishes made from beaten rice or fov. These include batata fov – a savoury dish with potato), doodhantle fov – a sweet dish with milk, buttermilk or curd fov, rosantle fov – made with coconut milk and kalayle fov – a savoury dish mixed by hand.
But this isn’t all. A visit to a neighborhood home during Diwali in Goa will leave your taste buds tingling in delight. You’ll feast on mangaane made from chana dal, sabudana, cashewnuts and coconut; ambadyanche sasav, a sweet-sour curry made with local hog plums; and white vatana usal, a spicy curry of dried peas.
Snacks are aplenty. There’s the ever-present churmure – a sweet-spicy sticky mixture of rice crispies or cornflakes, jaggery, grams, peanuts, chilli powder, ginger juice and sesame seeds; the crispy chakli, and thus the sweet shankarpale.
Many of these dishes and treats are missing from menus in restaurants across the state, so ask a neighbourhood to treat you for an authentic Diwali experience in Goa.
As you are taking within the cool evening from your private terrace, you will be distant from the noise of firecrackers, but will have one of the only views of the fireworks display in Goa. They go to ring within the Hindu New Year with the sky lit up during a myriad colours.
Also known as Karanji in Maharashtra, neureos is a delectable Goan sweet made during Diwali.
Best described as a crescent-shaped dumpling, it is made of refined flour and is filled with grated coconut, sugar, poppy seeds, cardamom, and almonds.
Beaten or flattened rice, known as Poha throughout India, locally known as Fov is the star of every traditional Diwali celebration in Goa. It is a strong reflection that rice is the staple food of Goa. It is usually prepared in all of five different ways.
Bataat Fov (with piquant potatoes)
Doodhatlye Fov (with milk)
Rosathle Fov (with cardamom-infused coconut milk)
Takatle Fov (with buttermilk)
Kalayile/thikshe Fov ( mix of coconut jaggery and spices)
These sweet spheres of bliss have their origins in ancient Indian medicine. 4BC legendary surgeon Sushruta, whose works are often regarded as the basis of Ayurveda, used to give Til ladoos to his patients as antiseptic treatment.
In Goan households, ladoos are made of rava (semolina), besan (gram flour), or pithya (whole wheat flour) and named accordingly. They are prepared with pure homemade ghee which gives them a distinctive flavour. They rank on most people’s top three Goan Diwali sweets.
This spiral-shaped, Indian snack is usually made of flour, flavoured with the powder of various seeds and spices, and fried in oil. The flour used is typically made of rice, Bengal gram, or black gram. The seeds used include coriander and cumin powders and sesame whole seeds. A dough of these ingredients is pressed through a mould into coiled, circular forms and deep-fried till light golden brown and crispy.
The chakli is also called Chakri in Goa and is a little different from the rest of India. Although it is a savoury snack in the rest of the country, in Goa, coconut and jaggery are added to the mix to make it a crunchy sweet delight.
A confluence of sweet and spicy, churmo is a crunchy snack. Traditionally in Goa, for Diwali, parents send their married daughters a basket of homemade sweets called “Waje” which include the sweet and mildly spicy churmo. A “Khajekar” or traditional sweet maker used to visit homes to prepare this sweet during Diwali in the past, now if it’s too troublesome to make sweets at home they are bought readymade.
Churmo is made of refined flour, jaggery, and nuts with chilli powder and spices and has an underlying flavour of ginger.
Delicate and light as angels wings, fenoryos are a hot favourite in Goan homes. A similar flaky buttery sweet snack is made in Karnataka and Maharashtra and is called Chirote.
Made of refined, wheat flour, rice flour, and ghee, these multilayer crispy disks are sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are an absolute delight to eat as they melt in the mouth in an explosion of sweet crunchiness.
What are the seven days of Diwali in Goa?
The end of Diwali festivities across India is marked by Vhodli Diwali or Tulsi Lagn – the marriage of the Holy Basil. It commemorates the wedding of the Goddess Tulsi, a manifestation of Goddess Laxmi, to Lord Vishnu. In Goa, however, it marks the start of the zatra and wedding season.
Temples across the state begin celebrations honouring their deities, a pilgrimage of sorts where families return home to their villages. Zatras are marked by processions of the deities on a special palanquin, prayers, many lights and sweets. These zatras will continue until the Shigmo festival in spring.
Diwali in Goa isn’t just a single-day affair. It’s a celebration that brings in light and festivities that continue through the months that follow.
When is Diwali celebrated in Goa?
Diwali in Goa will be celebrated on 4th November 2021. It usually takes place in the autumn months somewhere between October and November, the date each year is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar, coinciding with the darkest new moon night.