Inter-faith harmony on display from across borders at walking pilgrimage to Old Goa

Inter-faith harmony on display from across borders at walking pilgrimage to Old Goa

A group of Pilgrims from Belagavi reach the St Francis Xavier Church at Jamboti on Thursday evening en route Old Goa.

Photo Credits: Louis Rodrigues

Continuing their age-old tradition, a large number of pilgrims from Belagavi and the Southern Maharashtra region have commenced their walking pilgrimage to Old Goa.

While pilgrims from Gadhinglaj, Ajara, Kolhapur, Ichalkaranji, and neighbouring areas started their walking pilgrimage on November 29, those from Belagavi and Ajara began their sojourn on November 30. All these pilgrims will reach Old Goa on December 3 to seek the blessings of ‘Goencho Saib’ and offering their Angvonn at his feet.

Braving the hot sun and unseasonal rain showers, some pilgrims from Southern Maharashtra region reached Here village in Chandgad taluka.

Parish Priest of St Anthony’s Church, Gadhinglaj, and noted Jesuit Fr Joe Monteiro, who is also the nephew of late Jesuit Swami Prabhudhar, is heading a group of about 250 pilgrims from Southern Maharashtra.

It was Swami Prabhudhar who had started the pilgrimage to Old Goa from Ajara town in 1982 with only seven pilgrims. Over the years the number has now multiplied and during the pre-Covid period, the number had crossed 1,000 pilgrims. However, the number has now dwindled marginally.

Another group that has left from Belagavi and Khanapur has a large number of pilgrims of other faiths. Chanting hymns and receding Rosary and hymns devoted to St Francis Xavier, the pilgrims from Belagavi and Khanapur commenced their pilgrimage Friday morning.

About 700 of them will reach Old Goa on Sunday morning and will offer their prayers and petitions at the feet of their patron saint. A number of men and women belonging to other religions have been part of this pilgrimage.

“Over the years the pilgrimage has not only become popular, but has also become a symbol of inter-religious harmony. At Here village along with a minority of Catholics of Goa origin, it is the majority Hindu community that takes care of all our needs. Apart from providing warm water for the pilgrims to bathe, they also serve warm food with affection. This gesture has become an epitome of interreligious harmony,” Fr Monteiro said.

The Belagavi group will reach Old Goa after halts at Jamboti on Friday, followed by Chorla, and Sanquelim. At Chorla, this group resides at a Mandir and the Hindus of Chorla take care of their needs.

Over the years, Neil Monteiro from Sanquelim and Tony Thomas Fernandes from Vagator have been serving meals to these pilgrims, as a part of their Angvonn.

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