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East Indians celebrate traditional harvest festival

Oct. 6, 2013

Prem Moraes remembers heading to paddy fields in Santa Cruz, and watching his family cut the first stalks of the harvest in the presence of a priest. The green blades were then dis-tributed by the church to parishioners. The 'blessed' grains were kept in huge vats near the main entrances so that prosperity would remain in the houses.

Though the fields are long gone, many East Indians like Moraes get their paddy on the first Sunday of October on Agera, the traditional harvest festival day. "East Indian communities used to cultivate paddy when they had land. The celebrations were their way of saying thanks for the good harvest," says Walter Murzello, spokesperson of Mobai Gaothan Panchayat (MGP). When community members converted to Catholicism, the church became part of the celebrations. After the prayers and the procession, families feasted on pigling roast and khimat.

The festivities got tr-immed as fields started disappearing. "After coming back to India in 1994, I remember seeing stalks near the church altar but not many knew the meaning and significance of 'Agera', which means cultivation in Latin," says Gerald K. Misquitta, a community historian. Despite the change in lifestyle, many are waiting for their paddy consignment from places like Gorai. Royston Godinho, MGP's deputy sarpanch in Gorai, and his farmer friends are sponsoring free stalks as they want the tradition to be kept alive. "We can preserve our identity only by retaining our links to the village of Bombay," adds Moraes.

 Source: Times of India

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