Goa Velha a beautiful village near Pilar, sprang to life yesterday, just like it does every year this day, as it was the day for the Christian tradition known as the "Procession of Saints" or better in Konkani, "Santachem Pursanv".
This event is part of the lenten season in Goa observed by catholics with consideration to the liturgical practices followed by the Church and which have come down through the centuries after having been introduced by the Portuguese in Goa.
The "Santachem pursanv" is an event which is held on the fifth Monday of Lent and draws people from the neighborhoods as well as from many pats of Goa and begins in the evening with mass in the compound of St Andrew's Church Goa Velha.
Before the mass is held, Catholics make their way inside the Church and kiss and venerate the statues kept inside while whispering their prayers and wishes as they touch the feet of the statues. Subsequently the mass begins at around 4 pm and just before the sun goes down, the life sized images of saints dressed in different vestments and mounted on tableaus are seen emerging from the Church to mark the beginning of the "Santachem pursanv".
There is a particular order followed as the tableaus are carried by four Confraria members dressed in distinguishable ceremonial robes which are known as the Opa_Murca. The first tableau consists of the Tau and the crossed Arms, which is the logo of the Franciscans and depicts one arm each of Jesus and one of St Francis of Assisi while the last tableau has St Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata on Mount Alverna.
After moving the statues out of the Church, the tableau pauses at the podium where a brief narration of the life of the saint is read out in konkani. The tableau bearers along with the people and the devotees then proceed along the traditional route with each of the thirty tableaus following the procession.
There is also a peculiar ritual followed by devotees during the procession. Devotees stand in queue and duck under each tableau in the belief that this act is capable of absolving them of sin and also grants them the blessings of the saints. The procession finally winds up with with each tableau being kept at a particular place inside the church square.
The priest then preaches his sermon and subsequently the images are carried back into the Church where they are kept for three days for veneration. This marks the beginning of a pompous fair with various food items, toys, clothes and other such articles occupying the outside area.
In the Olden days it was a tradition to travel on foot or by bullock carts to be a part of the "Santachem Pursanv" and the pilgrims used to find a place to rest anywhere in the village.