Mapusa in Goa’s Bardez taluka is famous the world over, not only for its weekly Friday Bazaar, but more importantly for its annual celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Miracles.
On the third Monday after Easter Sunday, is celebrated with great pomp the feast of Our Lady of Miracles at the Church of Saint Jerome. This feast is an ideal example of Goa’s religious tolerance, because Our Lady of Miracles is worshipped by both, the Catholics and Hindus of Goa.
While Catholics believe in the intercessory powers of Our Lady in eternal salvation, the Hindus consider Her (Milagres saibinn) as the incarnation of the Goddess Mirabai, who is the sister of Goddess Lahirai, whose zatra is celebrated with great pomp, and fervor at Sirigao, on the day of Vaishak Shudda Panchami, which falls very close to the feast of Our Lady.
According to the Goan folklore, Our Lady of Miracles of Mapusa is one of the seven sisters, who was converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese. Legend also tells us that another sister has been converted and is the patron of the chapel of Our Lady of Remedies at Cunchelim, Cansaulim, Mormugao taluka.
Our Lady of Miracles intercedes in favour of her devotees and is said to have done many miracles. This is the reason why she is known as Milagres (Miracles). Originally, she was called Nossa Senhora deTodos os Bens (Our Lady of all blessings).
Vows are made by those seeking favours from Our Lady. These include offering candles, oil, money, parts of the human body made of wax, or even sarees. Some may also vow to beg for alms, with a coconut shell in their hands on the feast day. The money collected is used to buy oil, candles or whatever vowed by the devotee- “Hanv borim zalim zalear, bhik magon Tuji angovnn farik kortelim” is the promise made. While paying homage to Our Lady, the Catholics offer wax candles and images of different parts of the body, and the Hindus pour oil on the statue.
The Church was built in 1954 by the villagers of Mapusa, Cunchelim and Khorlim and with other donations. It was rebuilt in 1674 and in 1719 was built the residence with one storey and a compartment to house the safe. In 1838, fire engulfed the building on the eve of the Miracles feast. This was caused by a candle which was kept burning on the main alter during the night.
The feast mass that year was celebrated in the newly built cemetery. The gaunkars of Mapusa, Khorlim and Cunchelim rose to the occasion and contributed through their Communidade to rebuild the Church. It was on this occasion that the decorated panel of the three alters, the pulpit and the big bell were purchased in public auction.
There are a few interesting traditions that are an integral part of this feast – the most important one being – ojem, i.e. gifts sent by the two sisters, that is Lahirai and Milagres, to each other, While Lahirai sends one kouso of oil, Milagres sends one basketful of flowers(mogrim). These gifts are sent on the day of the feast and the zatra respectively.
The other folk story says that the sisters visit each other on the day of the respective festival. Should the feast and zatra fall on the same day, they will not be able to visit each other, and will augur bad tidings. This story was probably, the outcome of the incident of 1838, when the Church was destroyed by the fire during the vespers night.
Two statues are kept for veneration on the occasion. One enclosed in a glass is kept for receiving oil bath, and the other for flowers, candles and other items. It is on the feast day and that of novidade, blessing of the new crop of paddy, that these statues are brought out from the sacristy, where they are kept during the year.
A big fair is put up during the celebrations. Quermessas with stalls for different games attract a big crowd during the days of the fair.
By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
Junior Herald, Herald, Sunday, April 30, 2006
Posted By : Miss. Maria Rodrigues, Goa on 30/04/2006