ABSOLUTELY DIVINE: Divine Creations, Panjim, stocks a large collection of statues and other Catholic devotional articles.
ABSOLUTELY DIVINE: Divine Creations, Panjim, stocks a large collection of statues and other Catholic devotional articles. Photo: Evelyn Siqueira

Chronicling the ubiquitous altar in Goan Catholic homes

The niche with statues has always been found in Christian houses, but outlets selling religious items are a more recent trend in Goa

If there’s one feature that you’ll find in the average Goan Catholic home, it’s an altar – occupying a pride of place on a wall in the entrada (of a traditional house) or living room (of a modern dwelling).

A few objects are placed reverently atop the altar – irrespective of whether it is ornate wooden, and reflective of the style and workmanship of the era, or simple glass, devoid of ornamentation.

ABSOLUTELY DIVINE: Divine Creations, Panjim, stocks a large collection of statues and other Catholic devotional articles.
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You might wonder if these altars fulfil any purpose, or are, but, mere accents indicative of the religious inclinations of the occupants of the home.

To make a long story short, while a church gathers the parish community together in worship, an altar serves a similar role, albeit on a smaller level – the family unit.

This sacred space in the home is where all the family, young and old, assemble each day at prayer time. It is, in effect, a place to worship and to bond, akin to a family dinner table.

SACROSANCT: An altar is found in practically every Goan Catholic home.
SACROSANCT: An altar is found in practically every Goan Catholic home.Photo: Abigail Crasto

WHERE DO THE STATUES COME FROM?

Around the 1950s and 60s, a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a crucifix and a statuette of St Anthony were the all-important items seen on the altar, as were flowers and candles.

Fast forward to the 1990s, and these simple objects slowly began to give way to more decorative figurines in multiple designs and hues, which were more attractive and appealing to the eye than their retro counterparts.

This sacred space in the home is where all the family, young and old, assemble each day at prayer time.

These days, a handful of stores, scattered around Goa, deal exclusively in Catholic religious articles. But, that wasn’t always the case, and time was when shops such as these were few and far between.

“Back in the 1960s, a limited selection of religious items – a couple of scapulars, rosaries and statues – were sold at Emmanuel Printers, located at Station Road, Margao,” informs Chaplain of Stella Maris Chapel, Miramar, Fr Zeferino D’Souza.

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL: Colour-changing statues of Our Lady of Fatima, such as this small one, are a popular buy.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL: Colour-changing statues of Our Lady of Fatima, such as this small one, are a popular buy.Photo: Evelyn Siqueira

“In addition to that, in every village, on the novena and feast days, at least one stall would sell religious articles at the festive fair,” continues Fr Zeferino. And, the faithful would generally purchase their requirements of religious items from these stalls. 

Besides that, some shops or stalls would sell such items after Sunday mass. However, this practice eventually came to a full stop, he mentions.

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Back then, only a few items were available at these stalls, unlike the mind-boggling variety available today.

“During the Portuguese days (in Goa), religious articles comprised mainly rosaries, statues and medals, all of which came from Portugal and Italy. Medals – Miraculous Medal, Our Lady and of the saints – were often blessed and gifted to others or distributed during feast masses,” Fr Zeferino adds.

LIGHT ON: Lighthouse Gallery, in Margao, stocks quite a variety of religious articles, and so residents of the neighbourhood need not travel all the way to Panjim should they find themselves needing to purchase such items.
LIGHT ON: Lighthouse Gallery, in Margao, stocks quite a variety of religious articles, and so residents of the neighbourhood need not travel all the way to Panjim should they find themselves needing to purchase such items.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

What’s even more interesting is that hardly any family in Goa owned a Biblesomething  that’s hard to imagine in this day and age.

Bibles came to be sold in local stores much later. And, it is only when the New Testament (of the Bible) was translated into the local language, Konkani, sometime in the 1990s – largely due to the dogged efforts of the late Fr Vasco Rego – that Bibles saw a surge in popularity among the masses.

ABSOLUTELY DIVINE: Divine Creations, Panjim, stocks a large collection of statues and other Catholic devotional articles.
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Presently, the New Testament (which translates to Novo Korar in Konkani), Povitr Pustok (Konkani version of the Bible) or an English version of the Bible are an inseparable part of almost every Goan Catholic home, with both English and Konkani versions found in some households.

Far from being easy on the eye, the primary role of these sacred icons is that they are aids to prayer, enhancing one’s faith and spiritual disposition.

What’s even more interesting is that hardly any family in Goa owned a Biblesomething  that’s hard to imagine in this day and age.

FIND IT HERE

Given that Goa is home to numerous chapels and churches, quite a few of which are centuries-old, it might come as a surprise that shops selling Catholic religious articles are a fairly recent feature in state, being just a couple of decades old.

Perhaps the first to open in post-Liberation Goa was the St Paul Book Centre (Pauline Book and Media Centre) in Fontainhas, Panjim, in 1964.

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While this little store stocked a limited number of items and reading material, its second branch, located in the heart of Panjim city, started in the year 2000, and is far bigger with a wide array of rosaries, medals, scapulars, statues, books, CDs, children’s books and more, that are sure to blow you away.

Although St Paul’s is the go-to for anything connected with Catholic religious material, it is by no means the only such outlet in Panjim.

“My father had been in the business (of selling religious items) for many years, but started a retail outlet only in 2016,” reveals Isabel Rodrigues who, along with her brother, runs Divine Creations, near Don Bosco School, in Panjim.

Over the years, a few enterprising individuals stepped in and set up shop in a couple of locations around Goa so as to enable the faithful, from far flung corners of the state, to gain easy access to religious material.

Decades ago, travelling distant miles all the way to Panjim was far from feasible given the state’s skeletal network of public transport.

During the Portuguese days (in Goa), religious articles comprised mainly rosaries, statues and medals, all of which came from Portugal and Italy.

Fr Zeferino D’Souza, Chaplain of Stella Maris Chapel, Miramar

While Mapusa is famed for its Friday market, religious articles are available on other days of the week, too. Residents of Mapusa, and its vicinity, will be familiar with Joseph & Co, conveniently positioned near the famous St Jerome Church. Set up in 1986, the store is a regular stop for the Goan diaspora, who visit their homeland on holidays.

“Many of my customers are Goans from the UK, Canada and the Middle East, who come down to Goa on vacation,” says the store’s owner, AV D’Souza.

Joseph & Co stocks a sizeable collection of literature and religious articles, not just from Goa, but Portugal, Italy and the Holy Land, as well.

Other notable stores worth checking out for their collection of Catholic articles are St. Peter’s Gallery (Calangute) and Lighthouse Gallery (Margao).

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WHAT YOU’LL FIND

These stores stock items to suit your tastes and your pocket, such as:

  • Bibles: Bibles are available in English (Good News, NRSV) and Konkani (Novo Korar, Povitr Pustok).

  • Crucifixes: Wooden, Jerusalem (olive wood), enamel, acrylic, gold plated and steel crucifixes in varying sizes.

  • Medals: Catholic sacramentals such as the Miraculous medal, St Benedict medal as well as medals of a few saints.

  • Statues: Statues – big and small – of saints (including St Anthony and St Michael), St Francis Xavier, St Joseph Vaz, OL of Fatima, OL of Lourdes, Infant Jesus, Divine Mercy, Risen Lord, Holy Family, OL of Grace etc.

  • Rosaries: Jerusalem rosaries continue to be highly popular, and are made of olive wood – a tree native to the Levant, and mentioned multiple times in the Bible.

UNDER ONE ROOF: Expats Goans regularly visit Joseph & Co, in Mapusa, to pick up their requirements of religious items, from crucifixes to statues and more.
UNDER ONE ROOF: Expats Goans regularly visit Joseph & Co, in Mapusa, to pick up their requirements of religious items, from crucifixes to statues and more.Photo: Evelyn Siqueira

Up until a few decades ago, glow-in-the-dark rosaries were all the rage in Goa.

These days, rosaries are available in an assortment of attractive colours, styles and beads such as AB beads, cat eye beads, rose petals, gold plated, silver, filigree and hand-knotted, to name a few.

Of late, rosaries from the Vatican, the seat of Catholicism, have been gaining popularity, too.

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One of the top selling items is the colour-changing statue of Our Lady of Fatima (Portugal). Available in varying sizes, its mantle bears a coating which changes colour depending on the air temperature.

Other popular buys include scapulars, prayer books, prayer cards, hymn books in English and Konkani, Catholic literature, devotional music CDs, illustrated children’s Bibles, and a gift set from the Holy Land.

These sanctities are sourced from Goa, India, China, Italy, Portugal and the Holy Land. Although imported, the prices won’t burn a hole in your pocket, and start at as little as Rs 5 for a medal, with rosaries costing upwards of Rs 15.

Statues are priced in the range of Rs 100 and above, while a small colour-changing figurine of OL of Fatima will set you back approximately Rs 750.

ABSOLUTELY DIVINE: Divine Creations, Panjim, stocks a large collection of statues and other Catholic devotional articles.
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FOR FURTHER DETAILS, CONTACT:

  • St Paul’s (Pauline Book & Media Centre), Panjim: 0832 2420361

  • Divine Creations, Panjim: +91 98191 19898

  • Joseph & Co, Mapusa: +91 75884 45175

  • St. Peter’s Gallery, Calangute: +91 94238 83190

  • Lighthouse Gallery, Margao: +91 80805 70801

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