Vintage Photos of Goa’s Wildest Psychedelic Raves

Goa’s hippie era that kicked off in the 60s is the origin story for the full moon parties, drug fuelled raves and flea markets you see even today.

25 March 2021, 12:26pm

If there’s one thing the western Indian state of Goa has taught us over the last year, it’s that the rave never stops. Even when we’re in the midst of a literal pandemic. 

For most tourists, Goa is synonymous with being shitfaced for three days straight, losing money (and their cool) at tacky casinos, and taking that unoriginal cocktail-featuring boomerang at the beach. But there’s a reason why Goa raves on, no matter what the circumstances; it’s inked in the story of the state’s first few decades of independence. 

Disco Valley, a popular rave venue in Vagator, Goa in 1988. Photo courtesy Ray Castle / I Love Goa.

Before Goa became known for its commercial clubs and overcrowded beaches, it was a hippie haven that exuded an energy of inclusivity and freedom. As the counterculture hippie movement saw a steady growth amid the Cold War-torn Europe and America in the 60s, vagabonds from these countries began slowly making their way to South Asia, often by foot, attracted to the spiritual nature of the subcontinent. A certain “Eight Finger” Eddie—an American vagabond who’s also the inspiration behind a new-ish craft beer brand which is quite good, if we may add—stumbled upon the sleepy fishing towns of Goa in the 1960s.

Eight Finger Eddie performing at a rave in 1978. Photo by Sunny Schneider / I Love Goa.

In the 60's and 70's, local Goans and hippie tourists found a way to co-exist and cherish each other's cultures. Photo courtesy I Love Goa

Local fishermen and hippies on a boating trip on Chapora river in 1986. Photo courtesy I Love Goa.

The country’s smallest state, which was annexed by independent India in 1961, was formerly a Portuguese colony and had a European influence that was more welcoming to foreigners than many other parts of the country. So once word got out that a small state in India had an inclusive culture, sense of peace, golden sands, a relative lack of authority, and lotsss of drugs, hippies from around the world began streaming in. 

A photo titled "Bong Smokers" taken in Anjuna in 1997. Photo by Wendy Wood / I Love Goa.

While the first settlers in Goa came to Colva, a beach in the southern part of the state, it was the northern village of Anjuna that sprang into psychedelic action. Local legend has it that since Anjuna did not have a police station at the time, its pristine beach and quiet culture made it the breeding grounds of a booming psychedelic scene. Drugs like LSD and MDMA, which were legal in the U.S. until 1968 and 1985 respectively, were easy to procure out here. Many foreigners were also fascinated by charas— a derivative of cannabis made from the flower’s resin that was indigenous to India—which enjoyed a social and religious acceptance at the time, and was only outlawed in 1985.

Hash, LSD and other drugs were freely available in Goa, in part thanks to the lack of a police station in Anjuna. Photo courtesy Michael Palmierri / I Love Goa.

A Goan local named Joe “Banana” Almeida also set up a cafe in Anjuna, and helped incoming tourists familiarise themselves with the local scene, bridging the gap between Konkani-speaking Goans and visitors from the Western world. As more people poured into the state, it became the centre point of legendary all-night raves called Full Moon parties, as well as New Year’s Eve celebrations that would often last for a week. 

Full Moon Party at Anjuna beach in 1979. Photo by Gilbert Garcia / I Love Goa.

Party on top of Chapora Fort, Goa in 1988. Photo by Piers Ciappara / I Love Goa

Over the decades, Goa’s music scene also grew from guitar-strumming psychedelic rock, to becoming the first Indian state to have an electronic music scene. Locals say that the first electronic track ever played in Goa was a disco number by Kraftwerk, a German band that specialised in synth-pop, in 1970, after a visitor carried their songs to India’s shores on a tape.

An acoustic session party in Goa in the 1970s, before the scene was taken over by electronic music. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

A treehouse in Arambol, Goa in the 70s. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

After that, the state saw a steady shift into electronic music, though apparently, acid trippers were initially resistant to this change and preferred to stick with acoustic tunes in nature settings.

Photo by Michael Palmieri / I Love Goa.

By the mid-80s, the love and peace motives of the hippie movement began slowly fading away, as the scene gave way to psychedelic trance DJs like Laurent, Fred Disko and Goa Gil. And as we descended into the 90s, Goa’s psychedelic raves went from an underground scene to worldwide recognition. 

Goa Gil DJing in Anjuna, Goa in 1993. Photo courtesy I Love Goa.

Today, even the “underground” parties in Goa are heavily commercialised, often looked upon as crowded spaces filled with drugged-out revellers dancing amid trippy lights—sometimes even unsafe. But Goa’s psychedelic raves were always a search for inclusion, freedom and an ability to live life like it ends every full moon. To preserve this intangible feeling that Goa grew up with, a Facebook page called “I Love Goa” has collected pictures from some of the wildest moments of psychedelic-era Goa. 

Glimpses from a party that is coming down in Anjuna in 1991. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

Bamboo Forest Festival in Goa, a music festival held in 1993 and 1994. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

“Many of the people who were in these pictures of Goa in the 70s and 80s had lost contact with their friends, and were able to re-connect through my page” the anonymous admin of the Facebook page told VICE, explaining why they decided to collect moments from Goa’s psychedelic raves. 

Anjuna Flea Market in the 1970s. Photo by Jacques Lasry / I Love Goa.

A party at the Arambol beach in 1991. Photo courtesy I Love Goa.

“These pictures depict a story that details how back in the 70s and 80s, an era called the hippie era, people enjoyed themselves simply by dancing with their friends in the middle of nature, unlike today's generation where people just want to go to fancy restaurants.” 

Performers from a show called Rainbow Circus practice along with locals in 1991. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

Disco Valley in 1992. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

Full moon party in 1983. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

Flea market in Anjuna in the early 70s, where hash was openly sold. Photo courtesy of I Love Goa.

It was the liberty, love and peace that Goa offered which attracted foreign visitors. Photo by Jacques Lastry / I Love Goa.

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Music, Photography, vintage, rave, Psychedelic, hippie, goa, rave culture

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