The feast of St Peter and St Paul is one of the most important feasts of the Catholic Church, and is celebrated annually on June 29, being one of few immovable feasts.
St Peter and St Paul were loyal apostles of Jesus Christ. While the latter is known as the apostle of nations, the former was the first head of the Catholic Church, and the keeper of “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
Both are patron saints of Rome. St Peter – patron saint of netmakers, shipbuilders and fishermen – was himself a fisherman. In spite of the fact that he denied Jesus on three occasions, he was handpicked by Jesus to head His church, thus becoming the first pope.
The feast of Sts Peter and Paul is celebrated in Goa, too, and takes place five days after Sao Joao.
In Goa, St Peter is the patron of the fisherfolk community, and they celebrate the feast in a grand way, especially in the villages of Candolim, Siolim, Ribandar and Agassaim, to name a few.
As with all Catholic feasts in Goa, there is a high mass in the morning on the feast day. But, in Orda, in the village of Candolim, there is an interesting local tradition, wherein there is a colourful ‘festival of boats’, called Sangodd, in the afternoon.
Here, two to four boats are tied together, side by side, and a ‘stage’ is set across them. A cross is placed in a church-like structure in this sangodd.
Following prayers, local fishermen dance and sing on these decorated boats, while spectators watch, either, from boats or from the banks of the Sinquerim river. This floating stage then travels along the river and halt at specific locations, where they perform a concert, which is enjoyed by the onlookers.
In Ribandar, North Goa, the fishing community also celebrates the feast of St Peter. The sangodd is tied to the Ribandar-Chorao ferry wharf, where the priest blesses it before the feast mass. The sangodd bears a bamboo pole on which a picture of St Peter is fixed.
The celebrations begin with a procession of the statue of St Peter from Ajuda Church, Ribandar, to the ferry. There, the priest, the faithful and a brass band board the sangodd. The priest blesses the river and the poles used by the fishermen, after which, the sangodd travels along a fixed route in the water before returning to the starting point. The priest also blesses a small chapel, dedicated to St Peter, situated on the river bank.
Upon their return to the shore, the priest and the people head to the church and the feast mass then celebrated.
In the afternoon on the feast day, the fisherfolk walk along the river bank, singing folk songs as they go along. Later, that day, the sangodd is dismantled and the bamboo sticks used to tie the canoes are sold.
A traditional litany is held in the evening and that concludes the festive celebrations.
Apart from the sangodd, the other unique feature of this feast is the blessing of the river and the fishermen’s boats ahead of the upcoming fishing season.