Every cross has a tale to tell and the Handi Khuris, or cross of the sluice gate, in Maina, Curtorim in Goa tells the story of the faith of local farmers and the belief of thousands of pilgrims who experience good energy.
Miracles are part of any devotion, and the more the belief in miracles professed, the greater the following. It is this that sees thousands of people from all over Goa and India join the devotion to the cross every year.
“For me, just the walk to the cross is an experience with God. What I go through is difficult to explain because it is my relationship with God. And, there are many times that I fail, and the trip down here to Maina reinforces my belief in my relationship,” says thirty-nine-year-old Avila Fernandes.
On the day of the feast, there will be thousands of Avilas. Some will just come in thanksgiving and others hoping for happiness.
As they join in prayer, the camaraderie amongst people of all religions and goodness will be the focal point.
“The feast was first celebrated on September 5, but it was in 1997 that we started celebrating on August 20. Initially, it was the forty farmers who used to prepare dishes of pork, beef, fish, pumpkin and a sweet dish called atol and serve it to whoever attended,” remembers sixty-seven-year-old Joao Manuel Fernandes.
“As time passed, people who returned to give thanks for their wishes being fulfilled, started offering food and soft drinks. From a few hundred from the village who would first come, we have lakhs attending the feast, and it keeps getting bigger,” thinks Joao.
“The number of people coming every year increases because word of miracles experienced by people coming here spreads fast. Whatever you wish at the cross, one gets,” is the belief of farmer Pascoal Sequeira.
“I was the eldest in a family of nine, and both my parents expired when I was twelve. I had to bring up my siblings. We all did it the hard way and that explains our happiness,” says Pascoal, whose smile shows signs of the reward of toil.
“I stopped growing paddy some seasons back as cattle used to come and eat what was sown. It was an expensive affair. But, I think, I am going to start growing paddy from next year,” he says.
To many, the walk from the main road to Handi Khuris is a walk with one’s belief on the road of faith. The narrow road, shaded by coconut trees and an expanse of green gives Rafael the “freedom to think good and forget the bad”.
“During my visits here I experience a sense of well-being never felt before. I feel like I am walking with God, and I think the people of this village are lucky,” admits Rafael, who hails from Curtorim.
The Handi Khuris, or the cross on the sluice gate, is not just about prayer but about sharing.
“We have people from all communities attending and bringing food to be shared by all. Only this time, we are not going to allow people to bring packed food because of fears of food poisoning,” discloses Joao.
Like many other places, the feast on August 19 in Maina will once again bear witness to Goa’s communal amity.