With my recent trip to Goa, I was fortunate to have experienced a unique festival – the Touxeachem Feast. “Touxeachem” means “Cucumber” in Konkani and hence, its popular name – the Cucumber Festival. This is an annual celebration held at Santana Church in the town of Talaulim, where childless couples visit St.Anne to request her for a child in exchange for a cucumber.
So strong is this belief, that you have tons of people – across different sects and religions, queuing up to make a wish. The entire fest was a cultural experience -showcasing the other side of Goa – the “Goa beyond beaches“. Before I share my experience, a bit of history behind this unique festival.
Legend behind the Touxeachem Feast
The legend behind this fest goes back to the Grandparents of Jesus Christ – St. Anne and St. Joachim. It is said that they were childless for almost 20 years. Despite being well-off and happily married, they had to face the ridicule of their town as they could not conceive a child. It reached a point where the priest of their temple refused to accept St.Joachim’s offerings – calling his childless state as a sign of “divine displeasure”. After many prayers, St.Joachim got a dream that he would be blessed with a child who would be in service of God. True enough, at the age of 40, St.Anne gave birth to Mary – a child who she left later in the temple, to serve God.
Over years, St. Anne’s is regarded as a patroness for childless couples, expecting mothers, grandchildren and grandparents. It is to her, that the Touxeachem feast is dedicated. Interestingly, the day on which it is celebrated – 31st July, is also, celebrated as the Grandparents day.
Rituals at the Touxeachem Feast
The Touxeachem feast is quite a secular affair – with people from different sects and religions attending it. As I understand, they visit primarily for one of these three reasons –
- To wish for a child
- To wish for a spouse
- To wish for a happy marriage.
Based on the wish, different offerings are made to St.Anne.
- Cucumber – for a child and happy marriage
- Bangles – For a Girl child
- Chuddo or the Newly weds’ Bangle set – For a Happy married Life
- Metal or Wooden Spoon – Offered by bachelors wishing to marry
- Lentils or Urad Dal – Offered by the Spinsters in search of a husband
The reason for this unusual choice of offering was quite a funny one. As I discovered, the Portuguese word for the offering and the wish rhymed with each other and hence, worked well as a prayer. 🙂 Choices based on a rhyme meter – interesting, huh?
The small prayer essentially goes as – Lady, Take this “Offering”, give me “x”. The words in quotes being the specific offering and wish that the devotees have. For example, with a cucumber they normally say “Senhora, tomai pepino, dai me menino“. This literally translates to “Lady, take this cucumber, give me a child“. The devotees lay their offering with flowers at the feet of St. Anne’s while reciting this prayer.
Having learnt about these unusual rituals, I was all set to experience this devotion and culture for myself.
Highlights of my experience
Touxeachem feast was a lovely excuse to discover a beautiful heritage church. I was a little torn about what I wanted to do first – explore the church or experience the feast. I guess, I gave into the latter and started with the feast. That however, does not mean that I did not explore the church. I did and will be sharing that with you in my next post. For now, let’s start with the huge queue that was in front of the church. Families with kids, carrying their offerings patiently awaited their turn while the cucumber and flower vendors sold their ware along the entrance.
When talking to the guide and a few people there, I gathered that the cucumbers sold there were the first harvest of the season. Given that, I thought that it was quite befitting that the first harvest was offered to the Lord.
Inside the Santana Church
Once you enter the church, you can see the devotees laying their offering at the feet of St.Anne. Most of them I found, offered cucumbers. Generally, two cucumbers were offered, one which was kept and the other returned back to the devotee.
Many of them did not just come for a wish, but had, returned with their family to Thank St. Anne’s for having fulfilled their earlier wish. It was quite heartening to see newly weds and parents with infants thanking the Lord for making them happy. It re-emphasized one aspect of life that we must practice everyday – “Thanking”.
The church itself, gave me a very positive vibe. Decorated for the festival, it was very calming to just stand and observe the serene atmosphere of the Mass that was going on.
The Procession of Touxeachem Feast
The mass ended with a slow procession of the church goers and its fraternity, where the priest carried a flag around the church premises. While a band played to kept the procession going, I kept an ear out for the musical rings of the church bells. I personally love listening to the sound of these bells – they always remind me of the movie “Sound of Music” and make the whole atmosphere magical.
The little fair of Touxeachem Feast
A special fair with stalls was set up in the church premises. Despite the pouring rains, you had people enjoying the special snacks & sweet, the little artifacts and the toy stalls. Such was the festive fervor that even the rains could not dampen it. I was tempted to buy these colorful balloons – only to let my rational side take over and abandon the desire. Sometimes I wonder, why I am so rational. 😉
While the feast continued, I moved on to explore the Santana church – a story that I will share in my next post. For now, I will leave you here to marvel at this festival of intense hope and devotion – with a faith that seems unshakable. For me, it was a lovely way to experience Goa beyond the beaches. Leaving you with a short video of the entire feast. Take a look and let me know of what you think of the Touxeachem Feast.
- Goa is well-connected with its own airport. It has a good connectivity by rail and road to the major cities of India.
- To reach Talaulim, you need to hire a cab or a vehicle. It is a 45-minute drive from Panjim.
- Keep an eye out for the festival on the official Goa Tourism site. It is generally, celebrated on 31st July every year.
- One can buy flowers and cucumbers at the Santana Church itself. The same is quite reasonably priced.
- Remember to tour the church after you are done with the festival. It is quite an experience.
- The festival takes place during the monsoon season. Though there were temporary shelters made for the queues to keep safe from the rain, it is always a good idea to gear up with an umbrella or a raincoat if you are headed here for the fest.
Here is a Pin for you as a reminder to visit this fest next year