Konnsachem Fest in Raia

The Konnsanchem Fest in the village of Raia has a unique way of linking our ancient past to our contemporary present. Raia being the first village to mass convert to Catholicism in the entire Salcete has a unique link with all other subsequent communities that will follow it in the taluka of Salcete. When we ponder on the depth, breadth and height of this unique tradition in Raia, we can find a breath of fresh life intertwined with our life today that connects us to our ancestors who tilled the land and worshiped the ancient mother goddess of the earth who has several names all over the world. Humanity experiences and experienced God’s caring hospitality through the fruits of its labour. This is why we have special traditions of offering the first fruits of our labour to God.

It is an exceptional coincidence that this distinctive offering of the sheaves of paddy or konnsa tie us back to the fact the people of Raia themselves were the first fruits of the labour of evangelization in Salcete. Besides, it intertwines us to the Biblical practise of offering the first fruits to God. It joins us with Christ Jesus at several levels, especially to the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the first fruit of his own labour of the cross and victory of resurrection. We cannot forget that this tradition of offering the sheaves of paddy unites us with the human tradition of sharing meals with the divine. To the Catholics, it links deeply with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, where we offer the fruits of our labour in the form of bread and wine.

It has echoes that unite us not just to the Christian tradition but to all human traditions that bond us to the Tellus Mater ( mother earth ) which was a special epiphany of the caring hospitality of the sacred. In Raia, as it had been rightly narrated by some, it attaches us to the special earth tradition of the cult of Roynn from where the name of the village itself is said to be derived. (Others also think that village derived its name from Rai or king). This tradition is united with the faith that sees God as both our Host and Guest, reminding us of the Sanskrit shloka that says Atithi Devo bhava taught in the Taittiriya Upanisad. We can witness this in a special way at the festivities of Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa where the Matoli becomes an offering of the first fruits to God.

This means this feast of our lady of snows crosses several borders of time, space, cultures, traditions and faiths. We cannot forget how our lady of Snow in Raia holds together also the church of Lady of Snows in Rachol which has the distinction of being the mother Church of all the Churches in Salcete. The embrace of this feast extends up to a Basilica of Maria Maggiore, Rome, sometimes invoked as our Lady of Snows, whose liturgical feast is celebrated on 5th August. The Church of Our Lady of Snow, in Raia was dedicated to our Lady of snow because the priests associated with the building of the Church had a special devotion to our Lady of Snow which itself takes us back to legend that is dated to some around 351 AD when a rich childless couple had prayed to Mother Mary for Child asking for a special sign of God’s favour that will confirm that their prayer was heard. It is said that this special favour was granted on 5th August at the height of Roman summer with the falling of snow.

We cannot forget that this feast of connects us to the faith tradition Goddess Kamakshi who appears to be peacefully shifted to the neighbouring village of Shiroda ( A look back at this event has no comfort of distance and is cloured by anxieties of today) after the village Ganvkars decided to convert to the Catholic faith under the leadership of Cortalo, (Ivo Desouza, The evangelization of Raia) who was a man of the great influence of that time. This is why some people of Raia were said to be sharing the sheaves of paddy with the temple of Kamakshi in Shiroda on the feast. This means that there are several threads that connects us to the many pasts and religious as well as cultural practices associated with the feast of Our Lady of Snows. Hence, the feast remains uniquely interreligious promoting harmony and peace in the village among people of all faith.

The ripples of these several traditions come to the shores of the feast when people unite to celebrate the feast. The unique event associated with it is the sacred cutting of the sheaves of paddy which are then blessed and offered to God in the Holy Eucharist and distributed back to the people. Like every other feast, the feast of our Lady of Snows unites all people, their friends and relatives. Like last year this year too the spirit of the people of Rai is not dampened by the global pandemic. Although the pandemic has brought several restrictions, still the people of Raia have shown great enthusiasm and are willing to celebrate the feast within the limits imposed by covid appropriate behaviour. While we can see that the feast of Raia unites several traditions, it is left to us to live the true spirit of love, peace and harmony and join each other to live our faith that actively cares for our earth and our neighbour.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao