Chandor (AsiaNews) – Last Saturday, a long procession that reproduced the arrival of the Magi, the three Wise Men from the East who came to see Jesus in his manger, wound its way along the streets of the village of Chandor on Goa Island as part of Epiphany celebrations. Once the prerogative of upper caste residents, this ancient tradition now sees the whole population involved, irrespective of any social distinctions, and this for the past 60 years. Its reputation is such that is has become a tourist attraction with outsiders coming to feast on its colour and pageantry.
The focal point of the event is the Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem. Three youngsters who stand in for the three Wise Men meet at the nearby hill of Our Lady of Mercy. Richly dressed in regal robes, wearing splendid crowns, they are accompanied by family and friends. As the three kings they descend on horseback towards the main church where mass is celebrated. The route they take is decorated with streamers, palm leaves and balloons with the smallest children lining the route shouting greetings to the Magi.
It is customary for the three young boys who play the Wise Men to come from three of Chandor’s hamlets—Kott, Cavorim and Gurdolim—whose residents helped build Chandor’s church in 1645. For the children’s families, having a son “crowned” is seen as a blessing.
On average, the entire Eucharistic function takes three hours, a length of time that doesn’t discourage tourists from coming.
According to noted Goa historian Olivinho Gomes, the feast was traditionally celebrated only by high-caste families. “It involved getting a horse, vestments of a ‘king” and providing a lavish buffet to the village people,” he said. “It was a costly affair only the higher caste could afford it”.
It is still expensive; for example, this year’s costs per ‘king’ were estimated at one lakh or 100,000 rupees (about US$ 2,250).
However, in 1946, the church was able to get everyone to agree to a single event irrespective of social differences.
For Fr Tony Salema, the local parish priest, since then the whole village tales part in Epiphany festivities.