Procession of Saints at Goa-Velha sees the rise of women pall-bearers

Kimberly Colaco St Andrew’s Church in Goa Velha witnessed a procession of 31 life-sized statues of the saints of the Franciscan order on Monday. And what set this year’s Procession of Saints apart from the earlier ones was the sheer amount of women pall-bearers present at the scene! Though traditionally, the role was always assigned to men, the church relaxed the rules three years back, and the ladies have been more than happy to step up to the job. “This is the third year in a row that women have taken the initiative of carrying the statues. The first year, we only saw one or two women, but now the numbers have doubled,” says Fr Emidio Pinto, parish priest of St Andrew’s Church, adding, “The women want to be a part of not just the veneration, but the actual procession. They want to carry the statues along the way.” ‘EXCITED TO BE A PALL-BEARER’ Being a pall-bearer isn’t exactly an easy feat. The statues of the saints are made out of wood, and weigh around 100-300kg, with the St Roque and St Filipe palanquins being the lightest. The procession takes around two hours to complete, and travels across 2km, covering the village, until the main road and back to the church. Siena Dias, from Goa Velha, talks about how excited she was to participate in the procession. “I very much wanted to carry a saint, though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to. I asked the priests, and they were very welcoming. The committee members suggested I carry the palanquin of St Filipe, which was very light in comparison to the others. I tried to convince the other ladies from my village to join me, but they were hesitant. However, I managed to get my friend to agree to come along with me.” Hazel Pereira, from Panaji, who has been a pall-bearer at the procession for the last three years, says, “The first time I did it, people weren’t aware or used to women as pall-bearers, so they kept staring at me, and I felt awkward. However, the locals were very helpful.” “It’s after I saw some women in the procession, that I decided to join the bandwagon,” says Carmelina Camilo, a resident from Goa Velha, who was excited to be a pall-bearer for the first time. ‘NOT MANY LOCAL MEN LEFT IN GOA-VELHA’ One of the reasons behind the relaxation of the rule was the migration that has left Goa Velha devoid of local men. “With so many Goans heading to the UK, very few locals are still living in Goa Velha. The numbers aren’t enough to carry out the procession. Since most of the young and energetic men head abroad, we women decided to take up the opportunity to carry the palanquins,” say Dumina Silva and Marina Peres, adding, “The priest announced in the church that they would welcome women, and we jumped at the chance.” “Back then, the local men were very possessive about their position as pall-bearers. One of the main criterias for it was that you had to be a local, but things have changed a lot. Since many locals from Goa Velha have been migrating overseas. We had to make sure that the procession carried on, and for that, we had to bend some rules. Now, we have started asking people from other villages to also carry the statues. However, we still make sure that pallbearers wear an okmus (the official red and white robes),” says Alfred, a parishioner from the church. ‘GOD CREATED WOMAN AND MAN AS EQUAL’ Fr Emidio says, “There are as many as five saints in the procession who are women, so why shouldn’t women be pall-bearers? God created woman and man as equal, so women should be given equal rights and opportunities too.” He adds, “Women are more devout as compared to men, and this is not the case just in Goa but all over the world. You will see more women participating in church activities than men.” “I have chosen to carry the saints that were lighter. Last year, I got a few bruises on my shoulder, but I didn’t mind it. This year, I carried a hand towel which I’ll fold and put on my shoulder for extra padding,” says Siena. Get latest news & live updates on the go on your pc with News App. Download The Times of India news app for your device. Read more Entertainment news in English and other languages. (The Times of India)

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