For the many things that Mapusa is famous for, one of them is certainly the Milagres Feast which draws huge crowds to the city of Mapusa in North Goa. Mapusa's feast of Our lady of Miracles draws people from all religions and communities besides the Catholics from Goa. In Goa the tradition of devotion to mother Mary exists profoundly and people of other communities often make a point to attend the catholic feasts of our Lady.
For the Catholics who celebrate this feast, Mother Mary is the Milagres Saibinn while for the non-Christian Goans, Milagres Saibinn is "Tulzai Sateri Devi".
Prior to the feast , a nine day novena is observed and the feast is celebrated on the second Monday after Easter Sunday and is scheduled for the 27th April this year. Somehow it has a special connection to the Shirgao zatra that usually follows the feast.
At Shirgao, it is Goddess lahirai that is worshipped and according to tradition, Lahirai and Milagres Saibinn are considered sisters. According to a very prominent publication from Goa, Goan folklore traces the lady of Miracles of Mapusa to be one of seven sisters who was converted to the catholic religion by the Portuguese. Her other six sisters are apparently worshipped at different temples in the state of Goa. Ketko is known to be the only brother who is revered by the fishing community in Chopdem in Goa.
So come 27th may, the religious divide if there is any in Goa, simply dissolves while a flock of Goans make their way to Mapusa on Monday to seek the blessings of Milagres Saibinn.
While Catholics believe in the intercessory powers of Our Lady in eternal salvation, the Hindus consider her as the incarnation of Goddess Mirabai, sister of Goddess lahirai. During the feast, Catholics offer garlands of the firecracker flower or Ratan Abolim and candles or wax replicas of body parts while Hindus also do the same while also doing an Abhishek of the statue with coconut oil.
While the Mapusa Church is dedicated and named as the Church of St Jerome, it is more popularly known as Milagres Church as it is the most popular feast of the Mapusa parish and is therefore celebrated with much pomp and gaiety while also being considered as the feast for the traditional purchase of provisions and grinding stones as per the well known Goan tradition of "Purumentachem fest" just as is done in Margao for the feast of the Holy Spirit.
There is also the interesting traditional exchange between the two supposed sisters. While lahirai sends one 'colso' ( pot) of oil on the feast day, Milagres Saibin reciprocates by sending a basket of mogrim( fragrant flowers) on the zatra day.
Milagres saibinn is also considered as a deity who cures ailments and the sick come to her seeking her intervention.Meanwhile the temple of Shree Lairai Sateri at Shirgao which is located around 2 kms from Assonora on the Panaji-Valpoi Highway will come alive with its Sirigao or "firewalkers' zatra on April 29th.