A temple chariot made of wood parked outside a Goan temple. I waited until the last of the group of canines made way before taking this picture. Behind the chariot, houses lined the narrow road on either side. Two roadside inns were open to public, and served tea and fresh pao-bhaji. A provision store lay across the road. There were not many people about the place when I went near the chariot for a closer look.
The chariot was being readied for the annual rath yatra in Chaitra Purnima (March-April) when the temple deity is taken in a procession through the village. The temple is decorated and stalls selling traditional sweets are set up in the space around the temple while flower sellers, usually old women, sit with their baskets of flowers on either side of the steps leading into the temple complex, holding flowers in outstretched hands, and entreating worshippers to buy them to offer to the deity. Many people do.
Families from all over the state of Goa, and beyond, whose ancestors hail from the village where the temple is located, travel long distances to partake of the festivities, and participate in the rituals. Each temple deity in Goa is family deity to people whose ancestors hail from the village, and also to those from nearby villages who’ve offered prayers at the temple and taken blessings on all auspicious occasions like marriages, thread ceremonies, and the like in their families.
In olden days when there were fewer instances of people migrating from their village of origin in search of jobs, celebrations drew the entire village to the temple. You can still see the devotion, and involvement, but as with all geographical communities, the new generation of people from families that’re longtime inhabitants of the village, migrated in search of livelihood and better prospects, weakening to some extent the continuity in participation that has existed over the years. But, many of them travel long distances in Chaitra Purnima when it is time for the chariot to be led out from its resting place to carry the deity in a procession around the village.
Then it is time for the breeze to carry the holy chants in its folds and deposit it in the air and the trees, and in the souls of villagers, renewing their ties with the land that bore them to the light of day.