Goa has been blessed with inter-religious harmony with the various communities coexisting peacefully. With its busy festive calendar, August is an auspicious month for all religious communities.The blessings of Goa’s gods and goddesses have been sought for a good crop, to ward off evil or to start a new chapter in life. In the past, devotees travelled long distances to pray for protection against plagues and other pestilences.
Once such victory over a major disaster is celebrated every Nagpanchi in Vasco-da-Gama. The port town revives its old faith and gratitude to Lord Damodar who rescued their ancestors from the clutches of a dreaded disease. It’s unclear whether this was a plague or cholera.Popular lore dates the tradition to 1898 when the disease wreaked havoc across the town. Locals decided to pay obeisance at the Lord Damodar temple in Zambaulim. The long, arduous journey was made and the prasad brought back with a coconut placed in the home of a prominent businessman, Anant Joshi.
The coconut was installed on July 28, 1898. The place today in the hall of the residence has been turned into a small temple.The increasing faith in Lord Damodar by the locals led to the Saptah celebrations. A 24-hour non-stop bhajan is the highlight along with a week-long mela. The Maharudrap pooja on the day after Nagpanchmi welcomes about 30 to 40 Brahmins to perform the auspicious rituals.
The activities for the Saptah begin with fervour at 12.30 pm after Nagpanchami with the offering of a coconut to Lord Damodar by an elder of the Joshi family. The subsequent recitation of bhajans continues for 24 hours.At night a beautifully decorated tableaux (par) with mythological themes is brought in procession to the temple. The following day, the blessed coconut is paraded on the street along with dindi and chanting. The coconut is then dipped into the sea before the procession returns home.