At Se Cathedral, shlokas reverberate with hymns

Old Goa: A small group of Hindus reciting ‘shlokas’ in Se Cathedral on Good Friday seem to have chosen the right occasion to profess the ideals of universal brotherhood, as the lesser known multicultural practice fits well with Goa’s rich ambience of communal harmony.

With devotees streaming in for the solemn commemoration of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion at this most popular of churches in the world heritage complex at Old Goa, the group of Hindu men and women assemble in the Cathedral’s quiet nook — the chapel of the Cross of the Miracles. The spacious cathedral has four chapels and was once considered the biggest church of Asia.

With only a few minutes for the service to begin, they prayerfully recite the ‘shlokas’ from the Narayana Upanishads.

“We believe that the creator of the universe is one and we are all divine brothers and sisters in this divine relation,” says a member of the Swadhyaya Parivar, a group of followers of Pandurang Shashtri Athavale.

Usually, the group, which has been conducting the ceremony on Good Friday for over a decade, later quietly leaves the church premises after the brief and simple ceremony.

However, on Friday, a group member Manu Dhulapkar read out a brief thought of Athavale’s appreciating Christ’s great sacrifice for mankind. “Jesus Christ by his supreme sacrifice tried to free mankind from sorrow,” the message read.

God dwells in every person, but there is a need for us to understand it, Athavale had said.
The prayers may be low key as compared to the church ceremony, but the clergy and some parishioners appreciate the group’s objective in seeking to strengthen communal harmony.

“On this occasion when Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for the whole of humankind, the people of different faith coming together to pray is very meaningful. Therefore, these Hindu brethren being with us in prayer only affirms that Christ belongs to everyone,” parish priest of Se Cathedral Fr Alfred Vaz says.

Athavale (October 19, 1920 – October 25, 2003), known as an activist philosopher and social revolutionary, among other things, founded the Swadhyaya Parivar in 1954.

The group, which is active around Old Goa, has its presence in other parts of India, too, especially in Mumbai, Vasai, Aurangabad and Gujarat. “(In Goa), our members also propagate these ideals in some other churches of Goa,” a group member said.

A few members remained behind to participate in the solemn services in the cathedral, popular as the Archbishop’s church. Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao led the Friday services, which were attended by local parishioners and others from outlying villages.

The Catholic community also feels that the unique tradition should act as a catalyst to wipe out communal tensions. “Praying may comparatively be an easy task, but if further attempts are not made to build the community irrespective of caste and creed, this may remain an exercise without yielding fruits,” Vaz said.

(Source; The Times of India)

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