Faith is difficult to explain, but in Mapusa it was easy to see as thousands walked in file to pay obeisance to their Lord Bodgeshwar. Before God, the story line was, it does not matter whether one is Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
“The 31st birthday of Bodgeshwar was celebrated on January 23, 2024 and it is the 79th zatra,” explained Anand Bhaidkar chairman of the temple committee as he oversaw arrangements.
Bodgeshwar is known as the “Rakhandar” or protector by his devotees and that is why people from all walks of life and from all over come to seek blessings throughout the year.
“Whenever one is in trouble, wherever you are, just say: 'Lord Bodgeshwar I am in trouble, please help me', and you will feel his presence. I am talking through experience,” shares Aparna Parsekar, a strong devotee.
Around 10,000 devotees visit the temple during the 13-day zatra which culminates on February 4, 2024. “We expect between 1.30 to 1.50 lakh devotees,” said Bhaidkar.
The temple committee which oversees the zatra collects round Rs five lakh through the offerings of bananas which are recycled. “Flowers are also recycled amongst the devotees,” discloses Bhaidkar.
From afternoon, all devotees are provided free meals at the temple. “We normally cater to around 3,500 to 4,000 people daily,” confesses Bhaidkar as he is being kept informed of the donations of rice, vegetables and other ingredients by devotees.
“Eating in the presence of God has a special feeling to me. It is something that I cannot explain but it is a ritual I will keep till I am capable,” says Shalini, who is escorted by her family.
The annual turnover is more than Rs one crore but according to Bhaidkar, “around Rs 40 to 50 lakh is the expenditure incurred” to host the zatra. “Every department of the government is literally involved in the smooth conduct,” says Bhaidkar.
There is also the fair alongside. “I have been coming to this zatra for the last ten years selling dry fruits that I source from New Delhi. I have regular customers here. It is hot during the day but the feeling is special in the evening with so many nice people waiting for their turn to enter the temple,” says Zakira as she arranges her dry fruit packets.
“This year 1,400 stalls have been accommodated and many of the sellers spend their days in their stalls. They are provided all facilities,” says Bhaidkar.
The zatra is held on tenanted comunidade land in Mapusa and amongst the areas set for the giant wheel and other recreational games, families selling small toys have put up tents.
“We go from fair to fair. We have no place to call our home. My husband helps make the toys and the children and I sell them,” says a vendor, who is a mother of a toddler, as she squeezes water from his clothes.
As the glaring afternoon sun subsides and the evening makes itself felt, the line of devotees begins to grow longer. “The line will crawl into the pavement after a while and very soon children will be seen enjoying the game stalls,” says Shankar as he cajoles new visitors to purchase Prasad from him.
As the journey home begins, for many, faith takes a more human colour – the colours best understood after the blessings of Lord Bogdeshwar.