AGERA – The Harvest Festival of the East Indian Community.
Oct. 12, 2016
The East Indian community, sons of the soil of Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Vasai celebrate this festival on the first Sunday of October. More recently, the Archdiocese of Bombay also celebrates this day as 'Thanksgiving Sunday' - a day when we thank God for the abundance of blessings received.
The Latin Dictionary tells us that “Agera” is derived from the word “Ager” meaning field or farm and “Agricola” which means farmer. The gaothans - enclaves which house the local East Indian community - enthusiastically celebrate this feast and are trying to preserve a culture and tradition that is rich and beautiful, but is in danger of being forgotten as the children of the community, in urban areas, embrace a different lifestyle.
According to tradition, the festival is flagged off by a procession, led by a priest, to the nearest paddy field where he blesses the paddy and cuts a few sheaves. Where there is no paddy field, the procession starts from the local Cross where sheaves of paddy are stacked for the celebration. The following pattern is common to all locations:
*The sheaves of paddy are then carried to the Church by ladies in traditional Lugra or men in traditional Surkhas, and placed on or near the altar.
*The procession is accompanied by an East Indian brass band or Vanzootar(local tribal band).
*The stacks of paddy may also be transported in bullock carts, tongas or reklas.
*After the Eucharistic celebration, the blessed paddy is distributed.
*Stalls selling East Indian food are set up outside the Church.
*The families take the blessed paddy home and affix it to their front door or place it on their altar.
*In their homes, the families prepare the afternoon meal according to the tradition handed down through the generations. A special thanksgiving prayer is recited over the meal.
*Before the meal the family serves homemade wine or Khimad, calling out “Sukhala”. It is an occasion for rejoicing!
*In the evening, the families visit their friends and relatives or join the village get- together.
(As reported by Gleason Barretto)
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