Holy Week Celebrations in Goa

My mother blogs from Goa…

Due to the Portugese influence in Goa the Holy week is celebrated as a major festival by the many Christians in Goa alongwith their non Christian friends.We used to go to Goa for the Holy Week many years back when the kids were young. Now being able to stay in the Mitaroy Goa Hotel right in the heart of Panjim, my friend Martha encouraged me to celebrate the Holy week with my Goan friends.

Good Friday is celebrated with great reverence by the Goan Catholics.It takes place at the end of the 40 days of prayer and penance of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday. There are special masses and processions in almost every Church but the most spectacular is in the capital city of Panaji.This is celebrated in the square of the Mary Immaculate Conception a few minutes walk from the Mitaroy. Large crowds in formal clothes gather to celebrate the Holy Mass in Konkani(the native language) with the sermon describing the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Then the Holy Cross is uncovered for veneration and then renacting the path of Jesuus on Mount Cavalry the cross with an image of Jesus is carried in solemn procession by clergy dressed in special clothes.People walk along side the cross while the procession is watched by hundreds of Hindus and Christians standing in Fellowship along the way.In fact when I told my Hindu friend that I was going to Goa for the Holy Week he vividly remembered the large specatular procession on Good Friday which he had observed 10 years back!! Somber music accompanies the procession as it winds along the streets of Panjim winding up in the Church.

Although Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence to remember the solemn suffering and death of Jesus,one tradition always indulged in by our family is the buying of Hot Cross buns-special buns with dried fruits and a sugar cross on them.Those who had their feet washed at the Last Supper celebration on the previous day Holy Thursday would have already received theirs from the priest after the washing.

After praying silently on Holy Saturday Christians get ready for Easter to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.Pealing of bells signals the start of the midnight Easter vigil service,the huge crowds of families and friends ensuring the services are held outdors in the Mary Immaculate square, few minutes from the Mitaroy.

Easter Sunday is a time of indulgence with family and friends after the 40 days of Lent.Beautifully decorated Easter eggs and Easter bunnies are bought for children as gifts.

Goa is the best Easter holiday destination and where better to enjoy the celebrations than staying at the Mitaroy surrounded by Churches and Catholic homes all in celebratory moods.Adults and children are dressed in their new finery Street plays,songs,dances and colorful

carnivals enhance the mood.Some organise games for children and adults involving all the family and friends including treasure hunts to find the Easter eggs and bunnies.and exchange colorful Easer lanterns and even Holy Crosses as gifts.Lavish lunches and diinner parties fill the celebrations and some make or buy Easter cakes to share with one other.

As I tiredly find my way back to Bangalore I am glad I took up my friend’s suggestion and celebrated the Holy Week at the Mitaroy Goa, where surrounded by friends we do not miss our children who could not be with us and still recreate the fervour of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter as in the days of yore when as children we celebrated with our big families and friends…Till another Good Friday and Easter then…

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Goa Carnival to begin in less than a month

The famous Goa Carnival will begin in less than a month!

From a small state event, the Goa Carnival has now gained national importance with the Union Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi himself scheduled to inaugurate the five-day Goa carnival festivities to be held across Goa, beginning February 9.

As part of the Goa Carnival, parades would be held in the cities of Panaji, Mapusa, Margao and Vasco. The Goa Carnival is a festivity witnessed by thousands of locals and tourists, who stand on the side of the road as parades spearheaded by a float of King Momo (a mythological figure symbolising chaos and fun who rules the state for three days) pass them bye.

The Goa Carnival celebrations were brought to Goa by erstwhile Portuguese rulers but have now become an integral part of Goa’s festivity calendar. Most people choose to see the parade in the capital of Panjim or Panaji, since it is the most elaborate and fancy. The Goa Carnival celebrations are rounded off by a traditional black and red dance held at the famous Clube Nacional in Pajim.

A Goan Sea Food festival, starting on February 8 will also be held on the outskirts of Panaji as part of the run up for the carnival.

Are you planning to come to Goa for the Goa Carnival ? Why ? Why not ?

Goa churches to preserve historical artefacts

Slowly but surely, Goa is waking up to its rich Portuguese cultural heritage.

After years of lying in various Churches across Goa, Portuguese era artefacts will now be given a new lease of life by Archdiocese of Goa, which is even thinking of creating ‘museums in each of the churches’. Goa’s Catholic Church has decided that the Christian heritage artefacts need to be preserved by forming special heritage cells, that would be manned by experts.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao recently told a gathering near Panaji that every parish (village level community) must take care of the age-old articles lying in the churches. This heritage needs to be “protected, preserved and conserved” in the form of museum, he said. “If needed it should be restored so that it can be passed on to the next generation,” Ferrao said.

The Archbishop of Goa has said that the “absence of (heritage) professionals could be disastrous for the protection and restoration of these artefacts.” “The church is not primarily a custodian of art and architecture. The mission of the church is fundamentally spiritual. A mighty outpouring of human artistic creativity entire to the glory and worship of God has resulted in the Church becoming, defacto, the custodian of immense treasure of culture and artistic heritage,” he added.

After decades of trying to underplay its Portuguese roots, the Catholic Church in Goa seems to be finally waking up and acknowledging its history and heritage.

Not only should these Portuguese era artefacts be used to make the Goan Catholics proud of their heritage, they should also be used to start an intercultural and interfaith dialogue with other cultures and religions based on mutual respect and admiration. By better understanding their own and other cultures, Goa’s multicultural population will be better equipped to live in peace and harmony with one another.

Reminiscing about Goa

In the good old days, four annas could fetch a pao bhajji and tea, hardly any passenger would complain if a bus driver stopped for a shave and even the governor walked to Old Goa for St Francis Xavier’s feast.

Inflation was not a problem then. 1 anna (= 4 paisa) could buy a whole lot of food items and articles. One could have a bread and tea at an anna each and bhajji for two annas. Sugar cost 50 paise per pound (half kg) and jaggery and potatoes, about 3 annas a piece, per pound.

Though the cost of food items and other goods was low and often remained static for years, the people’s poor economic conditions constrained their purchasing power. Most people could not even afford to buy a bicycle and had to walk home after working in the main cities like Panjim. Very few families had cars and a few buses were introduced later in the same decade (1950s). On an average, there was just one or two buses on every route. The first caminhao would leave from Panaji at 7am to Agasaim, taking about an hour to reach its destination, without any regular stops. Any passenger could stop the bus anywhere. 

The network of tarred roads existed only between towns, especially Mapusa, Panaji, Margao and Vasco. Beyond Cuncolim, the national highway was a kutcha road. The village roads were mostly kutcha roads. In Panaji, the Dayanand Bandodkar road along the river front was fully tarred up to Dona Paula, as the governor traveled on it from Raj Bhavan to the old secretariat. MG road, 18th June road, Rua de Ourem and the Altinho road from the old Secretariat were tarred, but most other internal roads were kutcha roads.

The lack of basic infrastructure determined the people’s lifestyles and their night life. The main towns of Panaji, Mapusa, Margao and Vasco had government-supplied power. A pall of gloom and darkness would descend over almost all villages, and even suburban areas after sunset. Villagers used to light torches of coconut leaves and walk home in the dark. Even students were forced to study and do their homework only in daylight. 

Recreational activities were hard to come by. Football was perhaps the only sport given any importance. Cricket was played at the school-level and there were also some amateur teams. In villages, people played loggorio. For children, there were some strange pastimes. A hand-held contraption made of discarded reels of thread, fixed to a cross-shaped bamboo piece kept children busy. One of the reels at the top of the contraption served as a steering to push the wheels around.

The education scenario in the state was rather dismal as well. There were a few high schools in Panaji, Ponda, Mapusa, Margao, Vasco and among villages, Parra and Cuncolim. “The total students answering SSC exams was around 800 to 900, as against an average of 15,000 now and schools were affiliated to the Maharashtra board.

Amost all students, including some from Ribandar and St Cruz, walked to school barefoot. Students from Aldona and Britona availed the launch service. And most students used to go to Bombay for higher studies. 

Today life is very different in Goa. And this has made the Goans lazier. 

But in the old days, things were different. Given the difficulties that the Goans faced, the long distances they had to walk and the limited resources and amenities that they had to cope with; the concept of soscegado was a totally different one. 

IFFI Goa gets underway

Since my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay in Fontainhas is only a short drive away from the official venue, it is difficult not to get excited when the IFFI Goa finally gets underway!

The 43rd International Film Festival of India (popularly known as IFFI Goa) was inaugurated in Panaji, Goa, on Tuesday in a glittering ceremony that celebrated the 100 years of Indian cinema! 

Bollywood superstar and actor Akshay Kumar was the chief guest at this year’s IFFI Goa and he used the occasion to pay tribute to yesteryear superstar Rajesh Khanna and other film personalities who passed away recently, Mr Kumar asked everyone to observe a minute’s silence in their honour.

The famous Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the event while the opening film Life of Pi (seen in the photo above), directed by the Oscar winner Ang Lee, was screened to a packed house.

Speaking on the occasion, Goa chief minister and IFFI Goa organiser Mr. Manohar Parikkar said that “though eight years have passed since the IFFI awards we still have a lot to do in terms of making this festival an international event,”.

A century of Indian cinema is indeed something for all Indian movie buffs to be proud of. Thanks largely to its well known blockbusters but also its offbeat films such as the recent award winning movie ‘Road Movie” by Dev Benegal, Bollywood has managed to take the world by storm. Today, both Bollywood as well as it’s most famous son Shahrukh Khan have become household names from countries like Austria to Australia. 

However, as rightly mentioned by Goa chief minister and IFFI Goa organiser Mr Manohar Parrikar, even though IFFI Goa has been held for the past 8 years, there is still lots that needs to be done to further promote this event and make it a truly international event. Apart from making it easier for movie buffs to register and buy tickets, efforts need to be made to streamline and improve the organisation of the event. A leaf can be taken out of Germany’s book. Germany manages to hold events with millions of visitors (such as the Oktoberfest in Munich or the ITB Berlin Travel Fair) with typical German efficiency. This is surely something Goa can copy. 

But what truly makes the IFFI unique is the location itself. Goa is not only a beach destination but also boasts of great tangible and intangible heritage such as the World Heritage Site of Old Goa as well as the Heritage Conservation Zone of Fontainhas (that is also home to my Mitaroy Heritage Homestay). 

It is time that Goa highlights its rich cultural heritage and what better a stage than the IFFI Goa…