Monday, 3 November 2014

Goa Velha - The traditional procession of Christian Saints

Church of Goa Velha Wikimedia Commons
The state of Goa is an exotic place and has a lot of churches. Among the churches, St Andrews church comes alive annually  and attracts  lots of tourists, particularly Christians. Goa Velha, is known for the famous Procession of the Saints at St. Andrew's Church and has a rich history which began long before the arrival of the Portuguese.

Goa's saint procession. iamgoan.wordpress.com
Goa's saint procession. iamgoan.wordpress.com
The Chalukyas then had a new capital called Govapuri at the mouth of the Zuari River in 1054. When the Portuguese captured Goa in 1510, from the Bahmini Sultan, they kept Ela Goa as their capital.

Now a sleepy, but serene  village, Goa Velha, hosts the renowned Procession of the Saints on the first Monday of Easter week. This tradition began in the 17th century by the Franciscan Order and the purpose of this famous procession was not only to boost the moral values through teachings of Christ but also imbibe them. The Portuguese preachers were very particular about moral values and their impact on the culture and tradition of the society. An interesting fact is besides Rome,  Goa is the only other place in the entire globe where a religious  procession of saints is held for centuries.

By the 18th century, a total of 65 life-size richly decorated statues of saints, etc., were carried in specially designed and decorated palanquins by the Native Christians. Banned in 1835, by the then Portuguese Administration - the Marquis of Pombal and numerous statues were decimated. The festival started again just towards the end of the nineteenth century.or unknown reason,  the celebration resumed only towards the end of the 19th century.

On Sunday preceding - the Palm Sunday, a unique procession leaves the Church of Goa Velha and goes through the village streets. Prior to the sermon, devotees enter the Church and express their devotion to particular saints by kissing and touching the statues whilst deep in prayer.

An outdoor sermon follows and at sundown as each of the 26 statues comes out of the St. Andrew's Church, a priest speaking through a microphone narrates the life-story of each saint in local language - Konkani.

As the saints procession goes through the crowd, devotees receive the blessing of the saints and obtain purification for their confessed sins.

The life-size statues of 31 saints are kept for veneration for three days in the church after the procession.

The procession of the Saints draws thousands of people from neighboring villages around Goa Velha.
Goa's saint procession. iamgoan.wordpress.com
A time-honored tradition that continues even today.

BMikhail Esteves from Bangalore, India (SE Cathedral)