Touxeachem Fest at Telaulim

Touxeachem Fest, which translates to ‘Cucumber Feast’, is celebrated with religious fervour and age old rituals at St Anne’s or Santana Church in Telaulim, near Goa Velha. Over many generations this picturesque village in Tiswadi has attracted thousands of devotees from across the state.

These devotees come to Telaulim for novenas that are held nine days prior to the feast of St Anne and Joaquim that is on July 26. The feast is celebrated on the last Sunday of July every year as Grandparent’s Day, but is celebrated as Touxeachem Fest in the Goan village of Telaulim. As Grandparent’s Day it is a day dedicated to Jesus’ grandparents Joaquim and St Ann. The feast is usually celebrated on the last Sunday of July though July 26 is the actual feast day.

At Telaulim, it is not just grandparents but devotees of all ages and walks of life who come to seek blessings of the old miraculous statue and relic of St Anne that is housed in the 435-year-old church. This festival is also popular with the newly-weds who throng the church in large numbers. The couples come here to seek the blessings of St Anne, who herself was blessed with a child – Mother Mary – after 40 years of barren life. According to tradition, childless couples offer cucumbers and utter a petition, ‘Senhora, tomai pepino, dai me menino’, which means ‘Lady, take this cucumber and give me a child’. Likewise, bachelors seeking a wife in marriage offer spoons and spinsters who seek a husband offer lentils like urad dal. Many newly wedded brides offer their ‘chuddo’ (bangles) to St Anne.

The cucumbers are blessed at the feet of St Anne and are taken home to be eaten. Grateful couples also line up with more cucumbers, to thank their deity for having blessed them with a child. The reason behind offering cucumbers is because it is available in plenty during this season.

As with most Goan festivals, the area surrounding the church is awash with vendors selling traditional sweets, grams, candles, and most importantly, thousands upon thousands of cucumbers. The festivities are often accompanied by a traditional band and of course High Mass which is said at the church.

Legend of St Anne’s or Santana Church
There is quite a legend that surrounds the dedication of this 435-year old shrine to the mother of Mary. This legend was first penned in Portuguese in 1710 by Fr. Francisco de Souza in his book 'Oriente Conquistado'. It says that in 1577, some devotees purchased the site which came to be known as ‘Quinta de Sant Ana’. This site was used by the students of the ‘Colegio de S Paulo’ to spend their leisure hours. The priest who was residing in the vicinity was entrusted to convert the villagers of Moula and Talaulim. So he decided to construct a small hermitage. However, he failed to consecrate the hermitage in honor of any known saint.

Then one day, a local named Bartalomeu Marchon said that he saw an old woman coming down the hill who claimed that the hermitage was her residence. Not knowing the lady’s name, the priest propagated this news throughout the village. On hearing about it, an old Brahmin lady, claimed that when she was seriously ill the same old lady appeared to her in her dreams, telling her to rise from the bed. The old Brahmin lady said that this lady called herself Anne and said that she wanted a house in the village. The old Brahmin lady claimed that this dream resulted in her miraculous recovery. As a direct result of all these incidents, the priest avowed that St Anne had to be revered in the village, and so the Church was consecrated to St Anne.

Story of St. Anne
St. Anne was married to St. Joachim and they were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story goes that although they lived a wealthy and devout life, they were childless at the age of 40. St. Joachim lamented his sterility in the temple and went into the countryside to seek the wisdom of God. St. Anne, meanwhile, saddened at the departure of her husband prayed that God grant her a child whose life she would then devote to the service of God.

A little after this, an angel appeared to both of them promising that they would conceive and that the child would be a wonderful child, greatly honoured. Sure enough, Anne conceived of a child who she named Mary. Joachim died when Mary was little more than a baby, and at the age of three, St. Anne left her in the temple in order to fulfil her vow of dedicating the child to the service of God.