The multi-religious fabric of Goan society shines brightly,
imbibed with the spirit of "Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava" (Equal
Respect for All Religions). The major religions are Hinduism and
Christianity, together accounting for more than 95% of the population,
while Islam, Buddhism and other religions account for the rest. Unlike the
common perception, Goa is not a Christian majority state, but a Hindu
Coexistence Of Religious Harmony
The "Rome of the East" abounds with some of the world famous churches and temples are also the place where a "divine" co-existence prevails between people of various faiths. The Goan ethos has marvelously outlived the pangs of the infamous inquisition, when during the Portuguese reign conversions to Christianity were carried out. Irrespective of whether they are Catholic, Hindu or Muslim, many Goans prostrate in symbiotic reverence before the deities of faiths other than the one they profess.
In times of need, to obtain favour through divine intercession, Milagres Saibin (The Queen of Miracles), St Anthony, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour are some, the devotees unitedly rely upon. Catholic and Hindus converge in large numbers for the Fama of Menino Jesus (The Feast Of Infant Jesus) at Colva, prepare Sannas (sweet dish of rice) for The Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria (feast of candles), and repose their unshakable faith in St. Francis Xavier, the Goencho Saib", whose relics are kept in a silver casket at the Basilica of Bom Jesus .
The Religious Rituals
The other place of strong devotion is Tivim, where every Wednesday a huge congregation of Hindus and Catholics gather to pay devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. The novena is to be made for nine consecutive Wednesdays. The Sirgaonchi Zatra held deep in the mining belt at Sirigao, in the Bicholim Taluka, have few parallels. The large numbers amidst thousands of Dhonds (fire-walkers) is a sight to see. Fire - walking is a Hindu ritual for purity of the soul.
The Feast of Our Lady of Miracles gathers both Hindus and Catholics together at the church. The feast celebrated on the fifteenth day after Easter witness people of both these religions offering candles and oil to the statue of Milagres Saibin. It is said that oil offered at the church is carried to the Shirgao temple during the Zatra of the temple while candles offered at the temple are brought to the church on the feast day.
In Telaulim, is celebrated what is called as the "Touxeanchem Fest" (cucumber feast). Here the Church of St. Anne (Santanna), mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary is revered by the Hindus, as the legend goes that she is the re-incarnation of 'Santeri', the mother goddess of the Hindu scriptures. People from all faiths come with offerings to the deity for favours.
The Zagor is another event that highlights the union of the Christian and the Hindu faiths. The Gudem Zagor at Siolim, which is held a day following the feast of the patron saint of the village St Anthony, the religious celebration of the Catholics and the Hindus are mixed together. At Cuncolim, many Catholics participate in the Fatorpeanchi Zatra. The Shantadurga temple at Fatorpa is where many Catholics go for collecting Prasad (religious offering akin to the sacred host). The Sontreo festival at Cuncolim also draws wide crowds.
Another regular meeting place for the Catholics is the Damodar temple at Zambaulim in South Goa. Here a Zatra called "Zambaulim Gulal" is usually held in the month of March. Couples on getting married visit the Navdurga temple at Borim for the safe birth of a child. Catholics are also noted to give high donations to this temple.
Religion dwells in the hearts of Goans on shore, even when they are a thousand miles away from their hometown in wide-open oceans. To keep up to the traditions and beliefs in ones religion alive Goans have started to profess their worship in their own way. It is a tradition in Goan Catholic homes, where the statue of Our Lady is carried to houses in the neighbourhood. A 'Ladainha' (religious ceremony) is held followed by prayers and hymns and after the prayer the guests are treated with light snacks and some drink for men.