The month of Shravan in Goa brings a symphony of raindrops, lush green landscapes, and a series of vibrant festivals that capture the essence of Goan culture. As the Konkan region transforms into a mesmerising green haven, the local communities immerse themselves in traditions, spirituality, and of course, an array of delectable vegetarian dishes that showcase the rich flavours of this coastal paradise.
This blog explores a lesser-known aspect of Goan culture – the shravan month and all the vegetarian delicacies it brings along with it. You will read about the popular local Goan festivals celebrated during Shravan, the food made during these times and some unique rituals that take place.
If you are one of those people looking for vegetarian food in Goa, this blog is for you!
Shravan in Goa
Shravan, considered one of the holiest months in the Hindu calendar, holds great significance in Goa. During this period, which usually falls between July and August, devotees embark on a spiritual journey, observing fasting, prayer, and self-reflection. This month is believed to be dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Every Monday (which is considered Shiva’s Day), devotees hold fasts. While abstaining from non-vegetarian food is expected, the essence of Shravan extends beyond dietary restrictions. It’s a time of seeking inner peace, engaging in acts of charity, and reconnecting with one’s faith.
This month, especially in Goa is associated with nature. During Shravan, the monsoon season in Goa is at its peak which allows nature to thrive. What’s interesting is that even today, fishing out in the sea is generally banned during this time, and it has nothing to do with Shravan. Apart from the sea conditions being unsafe for smaller trawlers, the months of June to December are considered breeding months for the fish. So while locals might go fishing in the rivers, this activity is paused on a larger scale. Talk about Goans’ synchronisation with the nature around them!
Some of the most important Goan monsoon festivals observed during Shravan are Rakhsabandhan, Nag Panchami, and Gokulashtami.
What do Goans eat during Shravan?
As practices and traditions vary across the state, so do the vegetarian dishes in Goa prepared during Shravan. Here are some popular vegetarian Goan preparations:
Patoleo is a Goan dessert that is only available during monsoon. The one ingredient that gives it all its aroma – the haldi (turmeric) leaf – is only available during monsoon. You might find it otherwise too, but it might not be as fresh or flavourful.
Patoleo is a dumpling made by stuffing rice batter with a coconut & palm jaggery mix and then steaming it in turmeric leaves. It’s made especially during Sao Joao, Nag Panchami and Ganesh Chathurthi (Chavath) and served as prasad. You cannot stop at one!
What was once a peasant dish, has now become a beloved festival favourite in Goa. Khatkhatem is a labour-intensive dish made from seasonal vegetables such as corn, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, beans and so on. This coconut-based gravy, flavoured with a local spice called teflan, is best eaten with hot rice or puri.
Goans love their dessert and the pais is a popular one made during Ganesh Chaturthi (Chavath). The Goan payas is a mix of milk, rice, sugar and dried fruits with some spices such as cardamom or cinnamon added for flavour.
The Goan Chanyacho Ros is a coconut-based gravy made using yellow peas and best enjoyed with puri or rice. It’s mainly prepared during festivals such as Chavath or Diwali.
Similar to Chanyacho Ros, the mooga gathi are made using sprouted moong instead of yellow peas. No Goan festival is complete without this aromatic preparation.
The Goan Saar is a lesser-known Goan curry. This tangy preparation is not the same as tomato soup and is made using coconut along with some tempering.
Taikilyachi/ Taikudyachi Bhaji
Taikilo or Taikhala, also known as Cassia Tora, is a green leafy vegetable found in Goa during the monsoon season. It’s generally considered a weed but locals use it to make chutneys, pakoras and a stir-fry.
Nirphanas, or bread fruit is another beloved fruit that can be harvested only during the monsoon season. Most Goans usually have a tree in their backyard, but you can also find it in the local markets. It is used to make a coconut-based gravy or shallow-fried in a spicy rava mix.
Polle is a delicate pancake made from soaked rice batter usually mixed with a fresh coconut paste. They have a soft texture and taste best with gravies such as chanyacho ros.
Sanna is similar to idli but made using a different technique. This unfilled rice dumpling tasted best with spicy gravies such as the Goan sorpotel. A rice and lentil batter is fermented using palm toddy or yeast to give you fluffy cakes!
If you hear the word poha, you’d obviously think of the spicy yellow breakfast you commonly find in India. But the Goans have taken their poha or fov preparations a step ahead. It can be made in coconut milk, in curd or just fried with jaggery and coconut. They also have the traditional batata fov i.e. yellow poha made with potatoes. These preparations are commonly made in Goa during Diwali and Chavath.
Alsande, also known as black-eyed beans, take centre stage in this aromatic curry. Slow-cooked in a rich blend of coconut, spices, and tamarind, Alsande Tonak is a testament to the mastery of balancing flavours that Goan cooks are known for.
Tender Tendli Tondak
This dish stars tendli (ivy gourd) in a fragrant coconut-based curry. The combination of tender tendli, roasted spices, and creamy coconut milk creates a symphony of flavours that is both comforting and memorable.
Chavath: Goa’s Harvest Festival
As the monsoon rain nurtures the earth, Goa celebrates Chavath, a harvest festival that signifies gratitude for nature’s bounty. This festival brings together communities to offer prayers and thanks for the year’s harvest. According to Goan folklore, the month of Bhadrapad (6th month in the Hindu calendar) was marked by heavy rain, bountiful harvests and lots of silt and clay. The locals used this to make idols of Ganesha, thanking him for their prosperity. They also worshipped Parvati – the mother of Lord Ganesha – whose name signifies the mother Earth and Shiva – the father of Lord Ganesha – whose name signified the mountains of the Western Ghats. All the natural flora that grew during this time was utilised for prayer and has now become an essential part of this practice.
According to locals, Chavath is generally used to refer to the entire season spent in preparation for Chathurthi and the festival itself. Goans bring home all kinds of fruits, leaves and vegetables to decorate Lord Ganesha’s home for the duration of the festival. This decoration is known as matoli and it usually includes mango leaves, jackfruit leaves, turmeric leaves, apples, bananas and so on.
A local anecdote
Soul Travelling spoke to Smita Kunde, a local Goan who was more than willing to share her insights about the celebration of Ganesh Chathurti in Goa:
“Our family’s deity, or Kuldev is Lord Ganpati. Such families aren’t allowed to get an idol of Lord Ganesha or submerge it. Instead, they pray to his photo. We change the photo every year.
An important celebration for the women in Goa is the puja of Hartalika i.e. Lord Ganesha’s mother. It’s also known as Gauri Puja. Women fast on that day and the married ones have a very interesting ritual to do. We smoothen whole coconuts, weave black beads into a thread – also known as pidduko – and tie it around the coconut. 5 threads on 5 coconuts which is then kept along with the photograph of Lord Ganesha. After the 5-day or 21-day Ganesh Chaturthi is over, we distribute these coconuts which are used to make sweet dishes.
The food served to Goddess Hartalika i.e. the Naivedya is always made without salt. It’s important that the women making this food have had a bath, aren’t in a noisy place and do not come in physical contact with anyone. While this was an age-old practice, it is not followed the same way anymore.
Fugdi is another important element during the Chavath season. In the traditional village homes, all the village women would gather a play fugdi in front of the Ganesha.
We would then eat the Naivedya of Vonn, Pais, Khatkhatem, a stir-fried bhaji, rice and saar. On the fourth day of Ganesh Chaturthi, we would make modaks and nevreo for prasad i.e. as a holy offering.”
Today’s kids are busy and they don’t make the effort to understand these traditions. Moreover, everything needed for the festival is readily available today. Even families today have become smaller. When I was a child, we’d have about 100 people at my house during Ganesh Chaturthi.”
The Evolution of Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa
Lord Ganesha’s worship in Goa marked the local farmer’s harmonious collaboration with nature. All the practices surrounding this festival would involve an element taken from Mother Earth. However, today, this has become more of a display where people use Plaster of Paris instead of clay to make idols and try to source flora that is not seasonal. However, Goans are slowly becoming eco-conscious and switching back to mud idols.
Conclusion: A Celebration of Culture and Cuisine
In the embrace of the monsoon rains, Goa’s monsoon festivities unfold with a blend of spiritual devotion, cultural richness, and culinary indulgence. From the soulful observance of fasting to the vitality of Ganesh Chaturthi after shravan, every aspect of this month highlights the deep-rooted traditions that define Goan identity. As we savour the unique flavours of vegetarian dishes that grace Goan tables, we partake in a journey that celebrates not only the bounties of nature but also the spirit of togetherness that makes Goa truly special. So, whether you’re a traveller seeking cultural immersion or a local cherishing your roots, Goa’s monsoon magic is an experience that leaves an indelible mark on the heart and the taste buds.