Touxeachem Festival, Cucumber Festival Goa
Goa is dotted with several churches, and you can see that for yourself as you land at Dabolim airport. The white steeples popping out from the vast green spread of coconut tree tops makes a beautiful frame. You will find a church or chapel in almost every village and town of Goa and they have a unique story to tell. In this post I bring to you the Touxeachem (meaning cucumber in Konkini language) Fest which I witnessed during my recent visit to Goa.
Cucumber Festival as I Witnessed
Touxeachem Festival or the Cucumber Festival is celebrated at St. Anne’s Church located in Santana district of Old Goa. It is a state festival of Goa. The prayers and processions hadn’t started when we reached the church, meaning we were on time. We walked into a decked up bright and colorful atmosphere, all prepared for the festivities. The big ground right in front of the church was lined with stalls. The whole area was decorated and was teeming with vendors, devotees and some curious onlookers like me.
There was a separate queue of devotees to offer cucumbers which was almost 200 to 300m long. The church was filled to its brim with devotees and they were spilling out too. Good seating arrangements were made for them and there was continuous video display of proceedings inside. Prayers were chanted to the holy tune of hymns. After the holy mass got over there was a procession which started from the church went around the ground finally back into the church.
I saw some of the couples after offering cucumbers bringing their babies to the priests there for their blessings. We got access to interiors of the church and the priest spoke to us explaining us the significance of the festival and answered our questions. I have a couple of short videos here which will give a good idea of the happenings at the event. And yes we got to munch on cucumbers too. At the end of the day I felt it is the cucumber vendors who made the most out of the festival. Rains hardly seemed to dampen their spirits. ‘It is a good start of the season’ one of them told me.
History of St. Anne’s Church, Goa
The Church of St. Anne (picture by Naizal Dias, Google) was constructed by Monsignor Francisco de Rego in 17th century. It took more than 100 years to complete the construction spanning from 1577 to 1695. The completion was under Rev. Fr. Antonio Francisco da Cunha. In Baroque architecture style, the design of the facade and the interiors is an excellent example of Jesuit architecture in Goa. It is an overwhelming reminder of Portuguese India. The main altar was consecrated to St. Anne.
The Church of St Anne follows the Indian architecture amalgamated with Western traditions. Notice the 5×5 pilaster similar to the Indian tradition of a stambh in front of temples. They modified the proportions of the pilasters according to the native flavor.
#Legend1. It is believed by locals that during construction of the church, an elderly villager by the name of Bartholomeu Marchon, had a vision of an old lady donning a hat with a staff in hand walking down the neighboring hill and claiming that the Church under construction was her home, and that it was her intent to reside there.
#Legend2 Around the same time a Brahmin lady claimed that a similar old lady appeared in her dreams too and held her hand to raise her from her sick state. The old lady said her name was Anne and wanted a residence in the village.
Faith and Celebrations of Cucumber Festival
The actual date of cucumber festival, the Feast of St. Anne, is July 26th. It is celebrated on 26th if it is a Sunday, if not then on the Sunday following it. So this year it was celebrated on 31st July. This is one of those rare festivals of India where people participate irrespective of their religion. Hindus too come here to offer their prayers. I saw many Hindu families there waiting patiently for their turn to offer their prayers and cucumbers at Her feet!
The general faith is that childless couples offer their prayers here for a child and it is believed that their wishes are fulfilled sooner or later. St Anne, who herself was blessed with a child – Mother Mary – after forty years of barren life is worshiped here. Devotees offer cucumber at the feet of idol of St. Anne. Childless couples seek a child and so do the newly married couples. I also read that the cucumber is offered in the hope of a baby boy, while those who desire a girl child offer bangles. I did not see any bangles there though. Two cucumbers are offered, one is left at Her feet and the other is taken back after touching it to the statue.
It is not limited to couples alone. Unmarried men offer spoons and unmarried girls too make offerings usually of lentils like black gram (urad dal). When their wishes are fulfilled they return back the next year and offer cucumbers as gratitude and thanksgiving!
In Portuguese language the prayers are like this:
‘Senhora, tomai pepino, dai me menino’, (which means ‘lady, take this cucumber and give me a child’).
‘Senhora, tomai colher, dai me mulher‘ (Take this spoon, give me a wife).
‘Senhora, tomai urido, dai me marido‘ (Take this ‘lentil’, give me a husband).
(So, now you know the words for cucumber, spoon and lentils in Portuguese language, don’t you?!) But why cucumber? We were curious. It is just that cucumber is the season’s first harvest.
#trivia: The last Sunday of July is celebrated as grandparents’ day. (there is some connection there, St. Anne is Jesus’ grand mother)