Held annually on the first Sunday and Monday after Christmas, Siolim’s Zagor Festival offers a glimpse into the peaceful coexistence of Goa’s diverse religious communities. Taking place on the Christian feast day of Nossa Senhora de Guia, the night-time festival blends both Hindu and Christian traditions, centring on a small Hindu shrine near the ferry dock, which is believed to house Zagoryo, the village deity.
The guardian of the village bunds (the dams that keep the river from the rice fields), Zagoryo is offered thanks during the festival by every Siolim family. Hindu families offer the deity oil, Christians bring candles, and everyone also offers up pohe (small cakes of pressed rice).
Beginning with a midnight candlelit procession, villagers file through the streets of Siolim bearing an effigy of Zagoryo, stopping at both roadside Hindu and Christian shrines for blessings along the way. Next comes a traditional dance drama, during which legends are re-enacted by members of two important Siolim families – the Catholic D’Souzas and Hindu Shirodkars – who’ve inherited the roles from their forebears.
At first light the next morning, Hindu and Christian blessings are chanted by village priests, and the deity is carried back to his shrine, amid a shower of further offerings. Huge crowds attend but if you’re in the area at the right time it’s an event not to be missed.