Along with the world, Goa’s Our Lady of Remedios Chapel too hosts the Three Kings every year, writes Sumeet Naik
In Goa the festivities seem to never end, every village having its own festive occasion once a year. Come January 6, not one but communities from three villages Cansaulim, Arossim and Cuelim gather to celebrate Festa dos Reis or Three Kings Day (The Epiphany) Feast.
Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after Christmas on 6th January (or 19th January for some Orthodox Church who have Christmas on 7th January) and is the time when Christians remember the Wise Men (also sometimes called the Three Kings) who visited Jesus. It also marks the end of Christmas season.
Getting three Kings ready
Situated on a hillock, Century old stone chapel Nossa Senhora dos Remedios or Our Lady of Remedios becomes the epicenter for ceremonies. The feast is mainly celebrated to worship and offer prayers to The Lady of Mount, the goddess of fertility and protector of the people.
“Preparations to this ceremony begin several months prior to the actual event. Final stage being the selection of three young boys for the role of the Three Kings,” says Gladys Dasilva, whose son Leon was one of the Kings way back in the Year 2000.
Interestingly, the Church has no say in the selection of the Three Kings, but it is the Comunidades (kind of Gram Panchayat controlled by the male descendants of those who claim to be the founders of the village). “Not everyone can claim their son to be one of the Kings, the child has to have his origin from the village to stake claim,” explains Gladys. She mentions that one has to register the boy’s name with the Comunidades and wait for the turn to be asked to be the King.
On the feast day, three boys in the age group seven to 12 enact the role of the three Kings. Travelling on horseback they cover miles of distance, each on a different path and converge some distance away from the Chapel of Our Lady of Remedies.
“Getting the boys ready is as good as a marriage ceremony, biggest challenge is to get a traditional crown made for the King,” says Gladys. According to her making the crown for Three Kings Feast is a dying art and very few have come forward in the recent past to get acquainted with it.
The band that accompanies each King comes to every child’s house as early as 5:30 am and the horses that they ride upon are brought in from Belgaum (town in neighboring state of Karnataka) and kept at the church premises.
“The father of the child has to go to the church and pick up lots to see who gets which horse, bring it home, feed and keep it ready for the procession”, Gladys informs.
Led by a little boy beating the drum along with the villagers joining in as and when they pass by, the Three Kings with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh arrive together at the Chapel to offer the Lady of Mount gifts and prayers.
On their way, travelling through the fields on three different traditional pathways the Kings take halts at places called ‘stations’ where the villagers wait eagerly to get crowned by the Kings. At the end of the feast they descend through one separate common way, to assemble at the Cansaulim church where Laudate is sung and three flags (Bonderam) are waved from right to left. As the Kings return back to their respective houses, the village rejoices.
Besides the Three King Feast, one more reason to visit this Chapel is the scenic beauty it offers from its hilltop. Lush green fields, the ocean and palm trees stretched almost 20 kms from Velsao to Colva makes it photogenic site.
Not haunted…but blessed!
It is often spoken that the Mount is a haunted place after dusk, souls appear with flares which many senior citizens from the village claim to have witnessed in the olden days. The crowds disperse immediately after the festivities are over, flags and buntings are removed and the Church resumes its original isolated character. Rubbishing this story as pigment of imagination, Fr. Jean da Cruz Fernandes of Cansaulim Church says, “During old days there was no electricity in the village, leave alone the hilltop. Many villagers used to burn dry palm leaves while venturing into the dense areas of the hill. Some villagers spotted that sight couple of times and spread the word saying the Mount is haunted.”
Insisting that spread of such misconceptions must stop immediately, Fr. Fernandes also laments upon those who claim that since no priest resides in the Church, it remains closed until the next annual round of feast. “Every first Thursday of the month Mass is held in the chapel, besides Nuptial mass is carried out for those couples or one of the two who has origins in the village,” says Fr. Fernandes, who feels it’s high time people change their false beliefs and rejoice in truth.