On the feast of St Peter, Goans leap into the sea

A boat ride, plunges into the sea, a procession, a litany and blessings, the residents of Kharewado in Vasco kept their date with tradition
SPRINKLING BLESSINGS: The priest blesses the boats and the sea at Kharewado.
SPRINKLING BLESSINGS: The priest blesses the boats and the sea at Kharewado. Photo: Kimberly Colaco

Fondly known as the Padri by the residents of Kharewado in Vasco, 75-year-old Jose Coutinho arrives early at the beach. Dressed in a simple attire of a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, he walks around the Kharewado beach to inspect if the boats are ready for the annual celebration of the feast of St Peter and St Paul.

“We have been celebrating the feast for years now, I don’t even know when it started but I remember watching my father take this initiative,” says the man bestowed with the title of Padri, though he is not one.

The month of June brings three feasts Goan catholic community holds close – the feasts of St Anthony, St. John the Baptist or São João and St Peter and St Paul.

SPRINKLING BLESSINGS: The priest blesses the boats and the sea at Kharewado.
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And as traditions go, these festivities are celebrated with great gusto by the locals. On June 29, the feast of St Peter and St Paul was celebrated following some unique traditions by the Vascokars.

A TRIP TO REMEMBER: The church priest walks onto the boat for the blessing of the sea.
A TRIP TO REMEMBER: The church priest walks onto the boat for the blessing of the sea. Photo: Kimberly Colaco

The boats Jose was checking was different than usual. They were decorated with colourful balloons and palm leaves for the feast. “None of the boats go out on fishing trips today, this includes the canoes. Instead, we spend the day praying and getting together,” he explains.

Jose rues how the tradition of singing hymns dedicated to St Peter and St Paul is slowly fading as the younger generations is refusing to learn them.

Talking about the festival he says, “We have a prayer at Kharewado Old Cross, which is the junction in Kharewado. The priest comes and blesses the people gathered there, after which we take a 300-metre procession along with the statue of St Peter and the priest says another prayer at the jetty.”

As the procession wends its way, locals from the area join in. “I’ve been married in this village for the last 25 years and I don’t miss this feast. It’s important for us fisherfolk since he is our patron saint,” says a regular village attendee.

THE PEOPLE'S PADRI: 75-year-old Jose Coutinho is fondly known as Padri even though he not a priest.
THE PEOPLE'S PADRI: 75-year-old Jose Coutinho is fondly known as Padri even though he not a priest. Photo: Kimberly Colaco

A young mother, who has brought her three-month-old baby for the litany adds, “I look after my husband’s fishing business and in a way I like to follow the traditions in the village.”

The procession then moves toward the boats anchored at the jetty. The priests enters the boat where a statue of St Peter is mounted on the beam and it moves out to the sea. It is followed by seven smaller decorated canoes and along the way there are prayers recited and the priest imparts his blessing on the sea.

SPRINKLING BLESSINGS: The priest blesses the boats and the sea at Kharewado.
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NO FISHING: None of the boats go out on fishing trips, including the canoes, during the feast.
NO FISHING: None of the boats go out on fishing trips, including the canoes, during the feast. Photo: Kimberly Colaco

As the boats go deep in the waters, Jose directs the captain to slow down the boat, which is on its way towards the harbour in Sada. After he recites a prayer, he instructs the people in the canoes to jump into the sea. This happens a few times as they move towards the Goa Shipyard docks and then back to the Kharewado jetty.

Jose Philip D'Souza, president of All Goa Fishing Boat Owners Association (AGFBOA) says, “This is our parampara (tradition), our grandfathers and fathers have followed it and now we follow it as well and know that our children will continue to do the same. The prayer and the blessing of the sea is done to help us have a better catch this year.”

SPRINKLING BLESSINGS: The priest blesses the boats and the sea at Kharewado.
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Just like the fishermen at Kharewado, St Peter too was a fisherman, and the locals adore him as their patron. Here is hoping that they get a bumper fish catch this year, and in the years to come.

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