The one thing that can be found in abundance in the beautiful state of Goa is churches. From tiny chapels at village junctions to massive whitewashed churches made from stone and brick, these can be found in almost every part of the state. Each one is beautiful in its own way. It’s not really a surprise to see so many of these structures, however. With the Portuguese ruling Goa for over 450 years, citizens were bound to be converted to Christianity, which was what the foreigners practiced all those years ago. The pretty village of Raia was the first village in Salcete to have been Christianised when its populace was converted en masse to Christianity in 1560. It is also home to what is believed to be the first church built in Salcete known as Our Lady of Snows Church.
Raia is the first Christianized village in Salcete
Raia is located 7 km from Margao, 35 km from the capital, Panjim and around 27 km from the airport in Dabolim. The village is surrounded by Loutolim, Ambora, Rachol, and Maina/Curtorim on three sides and the river Zuari on the other. Coincidentally, the village of Shiroda lies just across the Zuari. There was talk, at one time, of building a bridge but the locals have opposed this modern construction, preferring to keep the village a peaceful and clean one. For as far as the eye can see, the village is filled with swaying coconut palms and beautiful green fields. Raia is far from the urban jungle and the locals want to keep it that way.
In 1560, Raia earned the distinction of being the first village to be Christianized in South Goa. This beautiful village is not far from South Goa’s commercial and cultural capital, Margao city. It also lies in close proximity to villages like Lotulim, Ambora, Rachol, and Maina. It’s a typical sleepy Goan village. A lot of old Goan families live here in their magnificent homes and most people know each other already.
Raia is also said to be significant as it was the original site of the temple of Goddess Kamakshi or Shantadurga. The idol in the temple was smuggled across the river to the village of Shiroda, when the Captain of Rachol, Diogo Rodrigues, had the temple destroyed. The responsibility of carrying the lamp across was given to a potter who has since then been given the principal right to burn the first lamp in Kamakshi temple at Shiroda.
Our Lady of Snows Church
Our Lady of Snows church was the first church built in Salcete in 1565 after the entire village population was Christianized. It is, therefore, also the oldest church in the area. The church is most famous for its ‘Konsachem Fest’ which is celebrated with great pomp after the sheaves (konsa) of rice harvest. In fact, The church has a sickle which is said to have been specially sent across Goa, by the Pope during Portuguese times.
The local parish priest cuts the first sheaves of the rice harvest from the nearby fields. He also gives blessings for a rich harvest for future seasons and the sheaves are then distributed among the devotees present. These are then used by the devotees to prepare some rice dish at home. Sheaves are also sent to the governor of Goa and the archbishop of Goa as a symbol of love, good wishes, and prosperity.
Villagers from all religions and walks of life attend this feast in large numbers. They then stay on to watch a football match that is organized at the nearby Raia grounds.
An evil road runs behind Our Lady of Snows Church
Of course, no Goan village is without a story about haunting and Raia definitely has one of its own. As already mentioned, Our Lady of Snows is thought to be the first church that was built in Salcete. But what a lot of people may not know is that behind the church, runs a road that is considered extremely evil. Locals say that the road is haunted and no matter what time of day, anyone venturing down it is liable to be possessed by evil spirits. Known as Igorchem Bandh, this narrow road is deceptively peaceful looking. However, no one ever walks on it between 2 and 3 pm as this is considered to be the time when evil spirits are most likely to get to them. Some locals claim to have heard disembodied footsteps and heavy breathing sounds. Others say that they have felt an evil presence in the air around them.
Information credit – https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/destination-of-the-week/kusvad-at-maes/