Colva – Golden Sands of Goa…
If a Goan is asked to name the most popular beach in Goa, the answer in all probability will be Colva. Unless the respondent is too parochial to say that it his is Majorda, Calangute, or Anjuna. The village of Colva derives its popularity from the powder-white sands of its wide beach. One just can’t imagine Colva without the beautiful beach.
Of course, over the years the village as developed in the sense that many hotels and buildings of every size have come up. What has lured all the hectic construction activity is the surge of tourism fuelled by government publicity about the pristine beauty of the Colva beach. Unfortunately, the beautiful beach itself has been at the receiving end. All the dirt, squalor and congestion that tourism has brought about accumulates here now. So we turn to another important aspect of the village which is more famous than the beach. The famous Fama of of Menino Jesuse (Child Jesus) Colva is an event of immense religious importance since the 17th century. And this auspicious event was launched by a Jesuit vicar Fr Bento Ferreira. The predominantly Catholic community celebrates it on the third Monday of October every year. It’s one of Goa’s most popular feasts with a very big fair after the feasts of St Francis Xavier in Old Goa, Our Lady of Milagres in Mapusa and Holy Spirit in Margao.
Says Lambert Mascarenhas, prominent journalist who edited Goa’s first English daily The Navhind Times and founded Goa’s first monthly Goa Today, “As time moves closer to the appointed third Monday of the month the mood of great excitement and preparation is so thick that it could be cut with a knife.” He goes on to picturise in inimitable prose how the preparations are done for the feast, “On the morn of the great day, a brass band strikes the evergreen Alvorada, the dawn in Portuguese, whose melodious strains are somewhat drowned by the shrill squealing of the poor and totally impious pigs, least interested in the people’s Christian commitment, and which are mercilessly carried to their slaughter.”
Colva has a population of nearly over 12,000 now as a result of burgeoning tourism. Both Catholic and Hindus share the event with equal fervour and festivity “underlining the creative structuring of religion and pleasure going hand in hand in equal measure.” When so much happens back home, Colvenkars spread all over the world are naturally caught in a nostalgic yearn and return to Colva to participate in the annual event.
Every one waits eagerly in a long and virtually unending queue for the umao (kissing) which goes on from eight in the morning till nine in the evening. On the fama day, the miraculous image is specially brought down from the left side altar of the church, for public veneration and kissing. One hardly gets a good look of the image before kissing as the priest hurriedly passes by touching the statue to the eager lips.
The miraculous image was found by Fr Bento Ferreira, sj, in the 17th century in a small pond. When he became the parish priest of the church of Nossa Senhora de Merces (Our Lady of Mercy) he installed it in the church and started the tradition of veneration. The reason why he did it is shrouded in a strange legend. When Fr Ferreira went to sleep one night, rays of light began radiating from the casket in which the image was stored. The bewildered priest immediately deemed it fit to remove the miraculous state there and then and place it on the altar.
News of the mystery and miracle fell on the ears of the simple villagers of Colva as well in its neighbourhood. The devotion would have stopped when Fr Ferreira moved to Rachol on transfer, faithfully taking along the image of Infant Jesus. But the villagers couldn’t stand the absence of Infant Jesus and so they took a delegation to Rachol to demand its return. Since Fr Ferreira would hear none of it, they were returning home dejectedly. However, on the way they spotted a gold ring which belonged to the finger of the image. They read a profound miracle in their find, and soon had a replica of the image done and the ring placed on its finger.
The parish priests of that time must have been not only strong headed but dynamic as well. Because another of the vicars, namely, Fr Pedro Berno was massacred in Cuncolim by the natives on 15 July 1583 along with Fr Rodolfo Aquaviva, rector of the College of Rachol, Fr Afonso Pacheco, vicar of March church, Fr Antonio Francisco vicar of Orlim church and Francisco Aranhas, a lay brother. The church declared them Martyrs of Cuncolim in defence of the Faith and beatified them in 1893.
The elders recalls nostalgically their happy yesterdays when Colva (up to the Liberation of Goa) was the exclusive preserve of the fishermen. While walking on the beach one marvels at silver carpets of bangdde (mackerals) can be seen spread on the powdery sands for drying. Of course, more non-Goans are seen working among the fisherfolk and that’s one reason why there is more dirt around the beach.
Going back to the old days, one is told that the rush of local vacationers would be only in the months of April and May. Affluent families from as far as Margao would come to Colva for their mudanca (change of air) at Colva. Today the western tourists are seen in colourful or skimpy beachwear and bikinis. But back in those days the rich Goan gents on vacationer, living a pucca westernised way of life, would be seen attired in suits, and their delicate women wore stockings. Those were the days when they would cart their own furniture, provisions, cookware and even firewood and live in the five or six cottages by the sea.
Rui Gomes Pereira writes in the book Temples and Deities of Goa that the four-ward village had seven Hindu temples. These were dedicated to Malkumi (Mahalakshmi) Balespor (Bhaleshwar), Narayna, Vetall, Bhairav, Ravalnath and Maculesper (Makuleshwar). While all were destroyed by the Portuguese, Ravalnath was transferred to Ponda. But statutes of this temple do not mention that the same deity hailed from Colva, although by the side of the mahajans of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin class exist those of the the surname Saunto Colvenkar and Shetkar Colvenkar. In 1050, there was a Naguesha Temple too. But there are neither Hindu temples nor many Hindu families in Colva.
The five-vangor Comunidade of Colva consisted of the Chardo class, and the gaunkars used the surnames Saunto, Gurou and Naik. Colva also seems to have claims over the comunidades of Sernabatim, Vanelim and Gandaulim.
Goa’s illustrious personalities generally hail from the villages. Colva to has her share of eminent persons among whom figure the late Prof Josephath Franz (Fernandes), performer, music teacher and composer, late Antonio Pedro Fernandes, Vice- Consul of Portugal in Bombay, Late Bernardino Mesquita, poet and wit, Late Adv Adelino Silva, Deputy Judge of the Salcete Comarca, Tomas Aquino Pereira, World Bank official, Joao Baptista Gonsalves, Goa’s former minister for Urban Development and Rev Fr Basilio Furtado, Portuguese writer.
Among the contemporary figures there is Lambert Mascarenhas, journalist and freedom fighter, who through the monthly magazine “Goa Today” founded a forum for Goans round the world to write and debate issues relevant to the community. Injustice bothers him much and till today he pours out his opinions in letters to Goan journals whenever he find anything amiss in society. Unfortunately, this trait of social consciousness is fast disappearing from the new Goan, who is caught in a different kind of social whirl and wedded to materialism in a large measure.