The festive season of Christmas comes to an end with a very popular feast in Christendom, which is celebrated annually on January 6, called the ‘Epiphany.’ It is popularly known as ‘The Three Kings Feast’ in Goa, and it is celebrated in a unique way, wherein, there is a re-enactment of the biblical story of the three wise men, who came to visit to the new-born baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
The three wise men, ie kings Melchior, Gasper (Casper) and Balthazar, were scholars, astronomers and astrologists, who followed the star (which came to be known as the ‘Star of Bethlehem’) that guided them to the manager where Jesus was born. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the babe.
Re-enacting of this biblical event is done in a unique manner in the state, and especially in three three places -- Chandor, Cansaulim and Reis Magos -- where this feast is celebrated with traditional pomp and festivity.
CELEBRATIONS IN CANSAULIM
The most popular celebrations are held at the Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Our Lady of Cures) also known as the ‘Three Kings Chapel’, which is located on the Cuelim hillock, in South Goa. Three youngsters from Arrossim, Cansaulim and Cuelim are chosen to be the ‘kings’ during the festivities. Every year, children from different families, from these three villages, get the opportunity to play the role of a king.
The chosen youngsters are dressed like kings, wear ‘crowns’ and come riding on horseback on the feast day. All three ‘kings’ meet at ‘Rajache Bhaat’, which is the base of Cuelim hill. From there, they head up the steep hill, in a procession, which is a tedious journey. At the base of the hill, the crowns of the kings are removed and placed on the heads of the devotees as a blessing, and several rituals are also performed along the way. The journey culminates at the top of the hill, and it is followed by the feast mass.
People, here, also believe that it is not safe to be on this hill, after 6 pm, especially on the feast day, as they believe it is haunted. Several folklore and legends, passed from generation to generation, claim that there are eerier sightings or unusual experiences on this hill. According to one legend, three wealthy men once lived here, and fought to gain prominence and power among. One day, one of the nobles invited the other two for a meal, and poisoned them, and buried their bodies in the chapel premises. For this reason, the chapel gates are closed in the evenings. These are stories that surround this place. However, it is anyone’s guess how much of this is true or not.
What is certain is that the chapel provides a breathtaking view of the entire region and one should make it a point to visit this spot on the feast day, as it wears a totally different look, replete with a festive fair and lots of people. And if that isn’t possible, then visiting the chapel on other cdays, especially evenings, is great, too, since many people come to enjoy its scenic beauty.
CELEBRATIONS IN CHANDOR
The ancient capital of Goa, ‘Chandor’, formerly known as ‘Chandrapur’, is one of the quietest villages of Goa. Surrounded by mountains and greenery, this village comes to life during the feast of the Epiphany.
The feast is a grand occasion for the villagers, and they begin to clean or paint their homes a week prior to the same. The village is decked up and so is the church. The main Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem, or Nossa Senhora de Belem, was built in 1645, and is located at the entrance of the village. Three youngsters are chosen to be ‘king’ on the feast. They ride down on horseback from Our Lady of Piety Chapel to the main Church of Our Lady of Bethlehem, followed by a brass band and devotees. This is then followed by the celebration of the feast mass.
The villagers make it a point not to miss this feast. And, if any villager had arrived from outside Goa for their Christmas holiday, they end up extending their leave so as to include the feast day. Every house in Chandor celebrates the feast with a great traditional meal, dance and party.
CELEBRATIONS IN REIS MAGOS
While the celebration of the feast continues to be held in a traditional manner in South Goa, the village of Reis Magos, in Bardez, (where the iconic fort of Reis Magos is located) also celebrates this feast. The Church of Reis Magos was constructed in the year 1555, and gets its name from the three wise men. ‘Reis Magos’ translates to ‘Three Wise men’ in English.
The village is located on the River Mandovi. A flight of steps leads you the 16th century church, which has an impressive architecture, giving it a distinct and unique appearance.
On the occasion, buntings and other decorative items are put up all along the route leading to the church. Here, the kings come walking along with their gifts. They are accompanied by a procession which includes priests, parishioners and a brass bands as they walk towards the church.
These are the most popular places in Goa which celebrate the feast on January 6, while other churches celebrate the feast on the Sunday prior to January 6 or after. You will also find several homes preparing a lavish meal, or heading to the homes of the boys selected to play the Three Kings, so as to partake in the celebrations.