On July 26, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St Anne, the mother of Mary and the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ. However, after the last synod, the feast is being celebrated on the Sunday after July 26.
Several churches and chapels across Goa are dedicated to St Anne, and you will find them in Parra, Ponda, Olaulim, Saligao, Aldona, Salvador do Mundo, Arpora, Raia etc. But, the most famous of them all is the Church of St Anne (Igreja de Santana or Igreja de Santa Ana) in Talaulim, Tiswadi.
The feast of St Anne is celebrated in a big way in Talaulim, attracting hundreds of people from all walks of life, many of who come to pray for the gift of a child.
Telaulim is a scenic village in the Tiswadi taluka of North Goa, and is in the vicinity of the villages of Goa Velha, Batim and Curca. In Goa, the biggest church in honour of St Anne was built in this idyllic village in 1577 by the Portuguese.
While the church had been declared a ‘national monument’ by the Portuguese government, post Liberation, the state had declared the church a protected monument until 1994, when the government denotified it. This huge church, built in the Indian Baroque style has been classified as a World Heritage structure.
In Goa, many festivals have unique customs and observations, which have been handed down through the ages. Some of these are based on the do ut des formula, wherein sacrifices were made to the divine in the hope of obtaining favours and blessings.
During the colonial era in Goa, the newly-converted Catholics didn’t abandon their former religion and continued some of those practices and followed Hindu gods, while simultaneously observing Catholic rites and prayers.
A typical example of one such tradition, which continues to this day, can be seen at St Anne’s Church, in Talaulim village on the feast day of St Anne.
Popularly known as Toucheanchem Fest (which translates to ‘Festival of Cucumbers’ in Konkani), both Catholics and Hindus throng to this church to venerate St Anne, who is believed to have miraculous powers.
On the feast day, devotees offer pepinos, urid, manilha, colher, agarbati, flowers, candles and coconuts, depending on why they want the saint to intercede for them.
Newlyweds and childless couples pray for the gift of a child, and offer a cucumber (pepino in Portuguese) if they want a son, or menino (meaning ‘little boy’ in Portuguese). Couples hoping for a daughter (filha in Portuguese) offer a small bangle (manilha in Portuguese) to St Anne.
There are also prayers for a spouse, and unmarried girls seeking a husband will make offerings of urid so that they will be blessed with a marid (husband). On the other hand, a bachelor will offer a spoon (culher in Portuguese) to get a life partner, or mulher (woman).
Some people believe that these observances are based on poetic rhymes or are ancient religious representations. Be that as it may, this tradition continues year after year only in the village of Talaulim, and is unheard of in Portugal or any of its African or Asian territories.
This year, the feast of St Anne in Talaulim, Tiswadi, better known locally as Toucheanchem Fest, will be celebrated on Sunday, July 31, 2022, with masses at 6 am, 7.15 am, 8.30 am & 4 pm. The high mass will be celebrated at 10 am.