Wednesday, 13 April 2011

WALKING WITH THE THREE WISE MEN

Feasts and festivals have always been intrinsic to the Goan social life. They are celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. These festivities offer us a chance or an opportunity to break away from our monotonous and routine lifestyles.

The Epiphany of the Magi or more popularly known as the feast of the Three Kings is celebrated on the 6th of January every year.  The feast commemorates the successful journey of the Three Wise Men, who visited baby Jesus in Bethlehem from the East. No other villages in Goa celebrate this feast with as great a joy and enthusiasm as Cansaulim, Chandor and Reis Magos. It is here that history and tradition consolidate and create a spectacle to behold.

The feast celebrated in Cansaulim has all the royal trappings. The boys representing the Kings are selected from the three hamlets comprising Cansaulim, namely, Arossim, Cansaulim (proper) and Cuelim.                                                                                                                                                                                    The boys are selected by the Confraria or the church confraternity, with the assistance of the parish priest. The important criterion in the selection of the ‘King’ is that the boy must have received the Holy Communion and must necessarily belong to a ‘certain Christian caste’. The coronation is considered a blessing by the boy’s family, but nonetheless it is a costly affair that can only be afforded by the well-to-do families. “We had to arrange a horse from Belgaum,” says Mrs Sulana Santimano, a daughter of Cuelim, when she recalls her own son’s coronation two decades ago.  The family of the ‘King’ has to arrange for a horse, a crown, a long, imitation gold chain, royal vestments and a banquet for the fellow villagers.

On the day of the feast, the boys dress up in their royal vestments. Mounted later on horses and accompanied by relatives and umbrella-holding attendants, they trot their way to the foothills of the Cuelim hill, where they are joined by the other two ‘Kings’ coming from their respective villages. Each ‘King’ carries a gift as an offering to the new-born Christ: Gold (symbolizing kingship), frankincense (godhead) and myrrh (the suffering of Christ).

Along with other people, the Three Kings march atop the hill of Cuelim where the Chapel of Our Lady of Remedios is situated. Later, each ‘King’ places his crown at the altar of the chapel. The crown of the Cuelim ‘King’ is placed at the centre and that of Arossim and Cansaulim are placed on the left and right side of Cuelim respectively. The High-Mass is celebrated at 10:30 am, where the boys are specially blessed by the priest.

The masses of the Novenas always begin at the crack of dawn. Mrs. Santimano recollects her childhood days when she and her brother negotiated the rocky and steep climb to the chapel in the dark. “We would always follow those with a ‘chudd’, some kind of a crude torch made of coconut leaves’” she adds.

After the solemn Mass, the Three Kings and the people descend the hill and assemble at the Church of St. Thomas in Cansaulim. Later the ‘King’ is escorted back to his village by his relatives and fellow villagers to his house. Here, after a thanksgiving litany, the village people partake of a delicious banquet with music to make the celebrations complete.

The Three Kings traveled from afar to find the King of Kings. When shall we find Him?       

Photo courtesy: Mr. Ignatius and Mrs. Sulana Santimano whose son Osbert represented Cuelim as one of the Kings in 1985.      

(A Version of this article appeared on GOA PLUS, a weekly supplement of the Times of India and the Economic Times, dt: January 4-10, 2008)


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