Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Three Kings Feast – Grandiose Celebrations of Goa

One of the most popular and enthusiastically celebrated by people irrespective of their caste, creed and political affections, the Three Kings Feast is celebrated annually on the Epiphany or 6th of January in Goa especially in the Three Kings Church which is placed on the Cuelim Hill. The festival is devoted to the Three Kings or the Magi or the wise men from the east who came with their gifts to give it to the infant Jesus Christ. The feast is offered to the Lady of the Mount who is believed to be the protector of the people.   

The festival is celebrated to honor the three kings who followed a guiding star that announced the birth of the king-Jesus Christ over 2, 000 years ago. The three kings brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh for infant Jesus Christ; thus the festival is celebrated depicting the three king’s visit to the Lady of the Mount with huge processions and participations from all the people. 

The Legend: According to a legend, a stone on a closely hill is stamped with footprints of two babies and of a adult, together with a furrow carved out of a rock marking the spot where the Virgin Mary rested with the infant Christ while the horse quenched its thirst. All this happened before proceeding to the hill of the remedies where she chose to remain.   

Celebrations: Three boys aged in between 8 to 12 are selected from 3 villages namely Arossim, Cuelim and Cansualim to enact as three kings and visit the chapel. But nine day before the final day, large number of Hindu and Christian devotees visits the chapel and seek blessings.  

The Nossa Senhora dos Remedios chapel popularly known as the Church of the Three Kings founded by Fr Gonsalo Carvalho in 1599 is the main venue for this grandiose celebration; the chapel is allied to the St Thomas Church of Cansualim. The lady of mount is supposed to fulfill wishes of every devotee thus the processions of this festivity are carried out for a span of 9 days ending in the Epiphany or 6th January. 

Main Attractions:
On the day of the real celebrations, attired in Kings dress with a crown on their head they travel on horseback through varied paths and meet some distance away from the Chapel of Our lady of remedies (Nossa Senhora dos Remedios) which is placed atop the hill in Cuelim. Attired like a king they are followed by a huge procession of music and dances and are led by a boy beating a kettle drum, the three boys carries the gifts of the original Three Kings – gold, frankincense and myrrh and continue to the chapel together. All of them put their gifts in the feet of the Jesus statute.

Amazing fair is held all round the week with people singing, dancing, eating, drinking and cheering from sunrise till nightfall. Visitors can purchase brassware, copper, metal, clothes, furniture, toys, trinkets, glass bangles, sweet meats and spices of all sorts.  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gangasagar Mela, One of the Most Religious Pilgrimages of Hindus in India
Sagar is an Island located on the Muriganga River. This island is cut off from the mainland with this river. At present, the island is not linked with any road bridge and the visitors have to cross the distance with the help of ferry services that are available from the mainland. After reaching the island one has to travel some distance in order to reach the southernmost part of the island, where the holy shrine and the ashram of the renowned saint, Kapil Muni is placed. Gangasagar Beach holds vast and shallow water.

Gangasagar is a holy place where the sacred river Ganga meets the sea, Bay of Bengal. A dip in the place, where the Ganga River merges into the sea is regarded to have a religious significance, especially on the Makara Sankranti day when the sun makes a transition to Capricorn from Sagittarius. During this time, the town, Sagar holds huge fair, drawing visitors from all over India, which is one of its kinds. Many legends are associated with this fair, the most common one that the locals believe in is that the girls who take a holy dip during this time get good looking grooms and the boys will get pretty brides. After the ritual obligations are completed, they head to the nearby temple, Kapil Muni, to worship the deity as a mark of respect. Another legend that is associated with this mela is that before merging into the sea, Ganga River watered the human remains of King Sagar’s 6,000 sons, freeing their souls for eternity. The King’s sons were believed to have been burned by the rage of Kapil Muni, who got angry on getting disturbed during his meditation. The King’s sons had come to this place in search of their father’s Sacrificial Horse. The horse was stolen by Devraj Indra and tied it beside the hermitage of Kapil Muni. When they saw the saint at this place, they started blaming him for stealing the horse and thus, interrupting his meditation.

Time of Celebration
At Gangasagar, thousands of visitors take a holy dip annually during the time of Makar Sankranti, which generally falls on 14th or 15th of January. Gangasagar Mela or fair is arranged yearly but people from all over India come to this place throughout the year. There is a common believe among the Hindus that by taking a bath at this place will relief them from all curse and sins, thus, earning blessings from the God. The place is the ‘Punya Tirtha’ for Hindus.

How It Is Celebrated
GangaSagar Mela or fair is the second largest Mela after the Kumbh Mela in India.  Gangasagar Mela is one of the most popular Hindu pilgrimage centres in West Bengal. Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to this place to take a holy dip into the holy river of Ganga. A long fair is held from January to February annually. The fair is hoarded by large number of devotees on the Makar Sanskriti day. The popularity of this fair can be assumed with the involvement of more than million pilgrims, without any formal or informal invitation, endorsement and organizing authority.  Besides the general devotees, the fair also witnesses the attendance of Naga Sadhus.

Main Activities
The entire journey to this fair is tough, but this does not dishearten even the weakest. Large numbers of devotees hoard the beach night and day to occupy a space on the sandy beach. People move with the huge crowd along with the sounds of bells, blowing conch shells and chanting prayers. Several devotional songs can also be heard during this time. Huge number of stalls and shops are lined along the pathway, selling different varieties of vermillion, rudraksha, colorful beads, saffron clothes, conch shells and other religious items. The mela is not complete without the sight of Naga Sadhus, who sit naked in their little huts close to the temple, enjoying a chillum of ganja.

Almost every devotee takes their turn to take a dip on the auspicious day on the holy river, to purify their mind, body and soul from all the sins and receive the blessings of the God. A considerable number of marriages are also conducted on the beach on this day. As well as, many young girls get married to the sea on this day, as it is believed, that by doing so, they will never become widows, even if their men go through the roughest time in their life.

Every year, the fair is witnessed by millions of devotees in Sagar Island, which makes it quite tough for the pilgrims. Still they come to this place, to celebrate Makar Sanskriti with joy and devotion in their eyes.