In the village of Goa, ex-Catholics celebrate the feast of Ganesh with devotion

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Sanjay Pereira is busy worshiping the idol of Lord Ganesh kept next to the statuette of Our Lady of Vailankanni in his residence and he is not alone in the fishing village of Cacra in Goa where Catholic heritage and Hindu rituals have coalesced over time. For Pereira, there is no difference between praying before Lord Ganesh and Our Lady of Velankanni, a form of the Virgin Mary revered by Catholics.

About 50 years ago, the people of Cacra, a fishing hamlet near Panaji, converted to Hinduism from Christianity, more than a decade after Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule.

Gradually, the villagers started changing their Catholic surnames to Hindu names, but the traditions they follow respect both religions.

“We don’t venture to fish for five days during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival and almost every house in our village has the idol of Lord Ganesh worshiped in their homes,” Periera said.

Ganesh Periera, who changed his surname to Fatarpekar, recalls his family started celebrating the Ganesh festival in 1971.

“We were converted back to Hinduism after which my father Augustine Pereira brought the idol of Lord Ganesh home during Ganesh Chaturthi,” recalls Fatarpekar, 51.

Fatarpekar was named Ganesh in memory of the year when his father started celebrating Ganesh festival. He said another house in his village started worshiping Lord Ganesh about five years after his father consecrated the idol of the Lord of Wisdom and Knowledge. “Now almost everyone worships Lord Ganesh in every village,” he said.

Cacra, with a population of 450, depends mainly on fishing for its survival.

The villagers built a temple dedicated to “Sateri Rawalnath” in 2010 which shares its wall with Holy Cross, where they pray before venturing into the sea with the traditional canoes.

Another resident, Datta Palkar, who is in his 60s, recalls how he changed his name from Jerome Jose Martins. “A lot of people have changed their first and last names,” he said. Goa-based researcher Sunil Palkar recalled that Hindu seer Vinayak Maharaj converted several tribes from villages like Cacra, Nauxim, Chimbel, Santa Cruz and Taleigao back to Hinduism after the coastal state was liberated from the Portuguese in 1961 .

“After embracing the Hindu religion again, people started observing ancient rituals,” Palkar said.

Ramrao Wagh, a professor at the University of Goa, said that several people were retrained in the late 1960s and 1970s called “Nav (neo) Hindus”. He said surnames like Pereira, Martin, Rosario, Souza, D’Mello, Cabral and Andrade are common in the villages of Cacra, Nauxim, Bambolim, Taleigao, St Cruz and other areas.

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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