Touxeachem Fest at Telaulim
Touxeachem Fest, which translates to ‘Cucumber Feast’, is celebrated with religious fervour and age-old rituals at St Anne’s (Santana) Church in Telaulim, near Goa Velha. Over many generations, this picturesque village in Tiswadi has attracted thousands of devotees from across the state.
Grandparents Day is celebrated on July 26th all around the world in honour of Jesus’ grandparents, Joaquim and St Ann, but the feast is generally held on the final Sunday in July. Devotees travel to Telaulim to participate in novenas, which are celebrated nine days before the feast.
At Telaulim, it is not just grandparents, but devotees of all ages and walks of life who come to seek blessings from the old miraculous statue and relic of St Anne that is housed in the 435-year-old church. This festival is also popular with newly-weds who throng the church in large numbers. The couples come here to seek the blessings of St Anne, who herself was blessed with a child – Mother Mary – after 40 years of barren life. According to tradition, childless couples offer cucumbers and utter a petition, ‘Senhora, tomai pepino, dai me menino’, which means ‘Lady, take this cucumber and give me a child’. Likewise, bachelors seeking a wife for marriage offer spoons and spinsters who seek a husband offer lentils like urad dal. Many newly wedded brides offer their ‘chuddo’ (bangles) to St Anne.
Grateful couples also queue up with extra cucumbers to express their gratitude to their deity for blessing them with a child. The reason behind offering cucumbers is because it is available in plenty during this season.
As with most Goan festivals, the area surrounding the church is inundated with vendors selling traditional sweets, gram, candles, and, most importantly, hundreds upon thousands of cucumbers. The festivities are often accompanied by a traditional band and, of course, High Mass, which is said at the church.
Legend of St Anne’s or Santana Church
There is quite a legend that surrounds the dedication of this 435-year old shrine to the mother of Mary. Fr. Francisco de Souza wrote in 1710 in his book “Oriente Conquistado.” It says that in 1577, some devotees purchased the site, which came to be known as’ Quinta de Sant Ana’. This site was used by students of the ‘Colegio de S Paulo’ to spend their leisure hours. The priest who was residing in the vicinity was entrusted with conversion of the villagers of Moula and Talaulim. So he decided to construct a small hermitage. However, he failed to consecrate the hermitage in honor of any known saint.
Then, one day, a local called Bartalomeu Marchon claimed to have seen an elderly woman walking down the hill, claiming the hermitage as her home. The priest, who didn’t know the lady’s name, spread the news across the village. On hearing about it, an old Brahmin lady claimed that when she was seriously ill, the same old lady appeared to her in her dreams, telling her to rise from the bed. The old Brahmin lady said that this lady called herself Anne and said that she wanted a house in the village. This dream, according to the elderly Brahmin lady, resulted in her miraculous recovery. As a direct result of all these incidents, the priest vowed that St Anne had to be honoured in the village, and so the church was consecrated to St Anne.
Story of St. Anne
St. Anne was married to St. Joachim and the Blessed Virgin Mary was born to them. According to legend, despite living a rich and religious life, they were childless at the age of 40. St. Joachim travelled into the countryside to seek the wisdom of God after lamenting his sterility in the temple. St. Anne, meanwhile, saddened at the departure of her husband prayed that God grant her a child whose life she would then devote to the service of God.
A little after this, an angel appeared to both of them, promising that they would conceive and that the child would be a wonderful child, greatly honoured. Sure enough, Anne conceived a child who she named Mary. Joachim died when Mary was just a baby, and at the age of three, St. Anne left her in the temple in order to fulfill her vow of dedicating the child to the service of God.
Lynn Barreto Miranda / lynn.barretomiranda.com
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