24 hours non stop prayers mark my town’s unique festival
Image Courtesy here
My town, Vasco Da Gama in the state of Goa, India hosts one of the biggest festivals in Goa annually in terms of sheer number of attendees and the duration of the celebration.
This festival is conducted on a specific auspicious day, calculated as per the Hindu calendar and this year, the celebrations started on 28th July 2017 and concluded on 03rd August, 2017.
Now there is a story associated with this festival. Over a century ago, sometime in 1898, a very severe plague epidemic broke out in this tiny coastal town of south India. The plague ravaged through the town leaving many people dead.
At this juncture, the eminent families of local community went to the temple of Shri Damodar, an Avatar of Lord Shiva at a place known as Zambaulim, about 50 kms from Vasco Da Gama for seeking Lord’s blessings and to seek divine intervention to overcome the epidemic.
After the prayers, the eminent families received a consecrated coconut (called as Shreephal) from the temple priest as a symbolic gesture of Lord himself, which they bring and installed at Vasco Da Gama for worshipping. As the prayers continued with increased fervour, the devotion of the people bore fruit and the epidemic abates and the town gets rid of Plague.
A prominent local citizen donated a part of his property to install an idol of Lord Damodar ( an Avatar / incarnation of Lord Shiva) and thus started the annual festival of Vasco Saptah in honour of the Lord Damodar, the protector of Vasco Da Gama town. This year marked 118th year celebration of this festival in this tiny coastal town.
Saptah means Seven days or a week in Sanskrit. And Vasco Saptah is a festival that continues with all pomp and glory for a week.
The festival begins with prayers being offered first to the presiding deity and later, the previous year’s Shreephal (coconut) is taken out in a procession and immersed in the sea, The devotees then return to the temple and a new Shreephal (coconut) is anointed and devotional songs / prayers are sung nonstop for the next 24 hours.
Religious and cultural programs are held throughout the week. The whole town bears a festive look as the largest fair takes shape. The main road of the town is lined with hundreds of colourful makeshift stalls where vendors sell everything from toys to trinkets s to decorative items to food items. At night, beautifully decorated tableaux, with various Hindu mythological themes are brought in procession to the temple from various parts of the town by different groups of the community.**A video of Dindi Utsav ( Singing and dancing by devotees during the procession)**
This is a beautiful unique annual festival celebrated only in my small town of Vasco Da Gama, South India . But then it also marks the glorious Indian culture and heritage and also a time for joy and celebration.