Talaulim, well and truly, stands tall among the Goan villages

By Alister Miranda

Quietude is the welcoming hug one gets on entering Talaulim. Serenity is your constant companion as you scout around the scenic village. Bucolic at heart, its crescent shape is delineated by thickly forested hills on one side and the fertile fields and a rivulet on the other. The scanty populace it nurtures is dwarfed by its vastness and by that of its huge Church.

The towering church and the miniscule number of 500-odd Catholics don’t really add up, and one is left trying to figure out why and how the imposing edifice came into being. The past alone can give us a suitable reply. And it does.

The fact that Talaulim is seeped in history comes to the fore. And that the present tranquil atmosphere is only a faded shadow of its bustling heyday is also revealed.

It is on record that in 1577 some pious people bought a piece of land and offered it to Jesuit priest who was preaching the Gospel to the locals of Talaulim and neighbouring Gualim-Moula. As soon as a sizeable number of locals converted to Christianity, this priest began constructing a small chapel, but had not decided as to which saint it would be dedicated to .

It was then that a ganvkar Bartolomeu Marchona declared that he had met an old lady on the hill. He said that the old lady, wearing a hat and carrying a walking stick, told him that the chapel being built belonged to her and that she wanted to stay there. Coincidently, a Brahmin lady is also reported to have seen an old lady in her dream, who gave her name as Ana and who wanted a place to stay. It then dawned upon the priest that the old lady was none other than St Ana, the mother of Mary. The chapel was then dedicated to St Ana. It was extended by Msgr Francisco de Rego from 1681 – 1689 and the magnificent structure was completed by Fr Antonio Francisco da Cunha in 1695 at a time when more than 12000 Catholics (mostly Portuguese Fidalgos) lived around the Church. The very same year it was elevated to a church. As a reward, Marchona and his wife were given the honour of being buried inside the church.

talfcucumbersTalaulim’s Church of Sta Ana is one of the oldest and biggest and stands 110 feet tall, 147 feet long and 105 feet broad. On the main altar lies a statue of Sta Ana and next to her, on her right, is the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying the Infant Jesus. Above the Infant is seen the Holy Spirit and God the Father. On the left and right altars are the images of Our Lady of Bom Viagem and Our Lady of Loureto.

Intricate architecture can be noticed on its rounded roof. A tiled ceiling covers the roof which can be walked upon if approached via the staircase that leads to the belfry.

The feast of Sta Ana, known as the Cucumber Feast (touxeamchem fest or pepinchem fest) is wellknown throughout Goa since the 17th century. At that time bachelors wanting a bride would offer a spoon, spinsters aspiring for a groom offered a handful of uddid, and the newlyweds and childless couples offered cucumbers to Jesus’ grandmother. Offering of spoons and uddid has now stopped. When a couple is blessed with a child, some offering, either in cash or kind needs to be made, it is believed. The Touxeamchem Fest, which is celebrated on July 26 or the Sunday following it, is attended by both Catholics and Hindus in large numbers.

Besides the feast, nothing about the Church could add colour and cheer. The dilapidated state it has been lying in for years on end brings a tear to the eye. That such a majestic Church could one day crumble down only because of the utter neglect and unconcern of the authorities, both Church and government, ignites an angry spark within. Urgent repairs and expert renovation work is the need of the hour. But who is going to take the initiative? Of late, hopes that a foreign organization might undertake the Herculean task is eagerly anticipated.

Just for the record, the former Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) Deputy Superintending Archaeologist Muhammed KK, in a letter dated 9.12.91 and addressed to the Under Secretary (Ed), expressed `the inability of the ASI to protect the St Ana Church and many other monuments worthy of protection, due to the total apathy and indiffernce of the State government of Goa……..’

The Talaulim Catholics are looked after by the Curca parish vicar Fr Oscar Quadros and the Pilar priests. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Fr Quadros celebrates Mass, while on the rest of the week days, the Pilar priests. Tiswadi’s biggest church, which has a Confraria and Fabrica, doesn’t have a resident vicar since the day the aged Fr Thomas D’Aquino Lobo expired on October 18, 1979. Senior parishioners yearn for a resident priest, as they feel that the children and the youth are neglected.

The only consistency is that the church has a sacristan since March 1945. The sankistao, 68-year-old Joaquim Pereira, has been dedicatedly serving the parish for the past 55 years. Religiously tolling the church bell four times a day, Pereira, who lives right below the church, is one of Talaulim’s most respected citizen.

Gualim-Moula, formerly having a status equivalent of a separate parish, had its own church which was built by an Italian much after Sta Ana’s Church and dedicated to Our Lady of Loretto. After the Moula parish was denotified, the church was considered as a chapel and came under the purview of the Talaulim parish. However, what remains today is only a small chapel which houses the image of Our Lady of Loretto on the ruins of the church. Elderly villagers inform that Our Lady of Loretto’s image stubbornly stood its ground and just could not be lifted when some parishioners tried to shift it to Sta Ana’s Church.

The historic Quinta de Sta Rosalina also existed on the hill closer to Moula. It is said that St Francis Xavier regularly used the road behind Sta Ana’s church that connects Talaulim to Old Goa to deliver lectures to students studying there. Although not in good shape, the road is still used by the people of Talaulim, Siridao and Curca while going on foot to attend the novenas and feast of St Francis Xavier at Old Goa. The beautiful Quinta de Sta Rosalina is said to have been gifted to the King of Sundem by Bishop Dr Antonio da Purificacao in 1764.

That the King of Sundem (Reis de Sundem – as known to the village folk) lived in a palace or castle on Talaulim’s hills is widely spoken in rural circles. We decided to personally check out their claims about a well, spring and palatial ruins lying on the mount .

Led by the tall, slight, yet hardy Joaquim, on an unusually misty morning we trudged up the hill in search of the ruins of Reis de Sundem’s palace. After a steep heavily forested uphill climb that left us, except Joaquim, almost breathless we were face to face with a huge well. Not less than eight metres in diameter; the deepness is now reduced to just a quarter of what it was, we are told. It is believed that besides providing drinking water the well was used to escape from the enemy. If the king or his men were hotly chased, they would fox their foes by daringly jumping into the well and disappearing through a window that lay just near the water level. While some villagers say that this mysterious outlet led to a tunnel that opened out somewhere near the Santa Monica convent in Old Goa, others state that the tunnel could lead one either to the palace or to the spring that today lies snuffed out nearly fifty metres below to the right side of the well. Seating arrangements, changing rooms, large wash-basins carved out of stone, are some of the tell-tale signs of ‘royal’ baths.

By now the mist had lifted and so also our hopes of finding the royal palace or castle. And find we did, as after battling stubborn vines and thorny foliage we were right in front of the ancient ruins. Amidst the ruins, in which some walls are half standing, we walked down the steps that lead to an underground dungeon-like area. History seemed to unfold in the wind-ruffled silence, but we weren’t sure whether the ruins were those of the King’s Palace or those of Quinta de Santa Rosalina. As we were about to walk down to the present from the past, but not before we had feasted on the borams (Indian jujubes) that carpeted the area, a King Cobra’s shed skin made sure we knew that the royal ruins are now his domain.

The last Portuguese Governor of Goa, Vasalo de Silva, was perhaps the only one holding office to have visited the site. The entire area is now owned by the Salgaocars, the villagers inform.

talvillagevoice2Talaulim, which is made up of three main wards (Portal Vaddo, Corpir Vaddo and Goalim-Moula) is fused with the Curca-Bambolim-Talaulim Panchayat. Sabina Rodrigues and Vivekanand S Volvoikar are the two incumbent panchas. Most of the 500-plus Hindus live in Goalim-Moula. The small centuries-old Shree Diteshwar Maharudra Prasanna temple, renovated in the 1980s, takes care of the Hindu religious activities. Mahashivratri, Vadh Dhivas and Dhallo are celebrated with great pomp and gaiety.

The Hindus that live near the church in Portal Vaddo were all formerly Christian Gawdas. A century ago they left Christianity and converted to Hinduism only because the Church did not allow them to give away their 12-year-old girls in marraige. They were all Fernandes’, but got themselves ‘christened’ as Vernekars. They, however, retained their Christian first names; and the last generation bearing names likes Domingo, Thomas, Bottal and Custodio passed away only a few years ago.

For market purchases, schooling and postal services, Talaulim leans on Goa Velha. There is only one government primary school situated in Goalim-Moula. The only other seat of learning was the Parochial Primary School, which Fr Cupertina Pereira ran till 1957. A Parochial Music School also existed, and there was a time when even three mistirs were brought all the way from Bardez to coach Talaulim’s musically inclined parishioners.

Public transport took a bow only in 1970. Before that, travelling to Goa’s capital city was invariably by foot via Merces or Bambolim.

Medical aid was unheard of in the village until Dr Cajetan Ignatius Fernandes began his practice recently. An expert of Alternative Medicine, Dr Fernandes claims to have successfully treated a number of diseases including Cancer.

Footballing talent abounds in the village and its St Ana Sports Club established in 1989, is presently figuring in the 3rd Division Football League. “We have the talent, but it has to be promoted. We play in front of the church as there is no football ground,” informs St Ana’s General Secretary Jerry de Mello. The sports club has also been in the forefront for pushing for the restoration of the church.

The histrionic side of the village folk is fully displayed at the annual Tiatr they stage in May on the occasion of the feasts of the Portal and Corpir Vaddo chapels.

The village, accessible via Merces-Curca, Goa Velha-Batim-Curca and Batim, lies, South of Panjim. Teak, jackfruit, mango – of the Mankurad and Fernand varieties, bamboo and tamarind trees dot the peaceful countryside. Cashew trees pack the forests. Agriculture and cashew farming are the main occupations. Bamboo was once a flourishing business, informs Shrikant Volvoikar. “Till 1952, sailboats carrying tiles would come and offload close to Goalim-Moula, and would carry back rice and bamboos,” says he. Today even a small canoe cannot make the journey from Siridao to Talaulim as the channel has been choked. The only income-generating water body is the regularly auctioned calandur and xevtte infested pond.

Talaulim, now more famed as Santana (the name drawn from Santa Ana), was a home to the rich and the regal who died or fled the village when Cholera struck fatally. The Catholics believe that the deadly punishment came following an insult to Christ’s image during Lent. The widespread Talaulikars too must surely have left around that time, never to return.

A prosperous Talaulim of yore may never be recreated, but the present will make sure the future doesn’t forget its brilliant past.