Santa Cruz, Goa
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Santa Cruz (Santa = holy and Cruz = Cross in Portuguese) is the largest village in Goa with a population of 21,000 people all from different religions and also from different parts of India. Geographically, it is situated in the North Goa district and it is bounded northwards with Panjim, the capital city of the state of Goa, its other neighbours being the Merces village is to its west, Bambolim to its south and Taleigao to its east, as shown in the map . This village is sub-divided into 11 wards, each of which has its own individuality within the village.
Santa Cruz Village Origins
The origins of Santa Cruz date back much before the first millennium (some theories even say a few millennia BC) and this is supported by highly documented historical records, written in different languages and by different people who lived in the village in different periods of time. In fact, its original name morphed over the years and these were Calapor (cir. 1042 AD), Kalapur (cir. 1042 AD) and Kalafura, names by which this illustrious village is known for even today. Over the years the village has grown in size and many new modern buildings have sprung up, making it an architectural mixture of new, modern buildings and old fashioned houses amongst these.
The Catholics celebrate the main village festival, the Holy Cross feast which falls on the Sunday between 2 and 8 May every year; also we have the Immaculate Conception feast which takes place on the 4th Sunday of every January. Both these feasts are preceded by a 'novena', special church services run for a period of 9 days in the local church. Then we have the yearly harvest festival which is held on the 24th of August, a popular festival full of pomp where the church priest blesses the new crop produced. The Hindus have their very own Palki festival. It is amazing how people of different religions do give importance to each other's festivals and exchange greetings, specially during the Hindu Diwalli ( festival of lights ) and Shigmo and Christmas and Easter. It is not unusual to see a Christmas tree in an Hindu house during Christmas and flashing lights in Catholic houses during Diwali! That is the spirit of this great village of sunny Goa.
Important monuments of Santa Cruz are the Santa Cruz church, St. Anthony chapel, the Shanta Durga temple and Almacho Khuris. Education is catered by the Santa Cruz Church HS, New English HS, the primary school and the Froebel School. Important architectural landmarks reminiscent of the Portuguese style are the Dempo House, the Pinto House, the Kenkre house and the magnificent Nachinolkar house. A characteristic of this style is the existence of large frontal balconies with 'moulded' seats either made up of stone or brickwork, where people could seat comfortably at the end of the day and chat away the events of the day with all family members. However, nowadays, majority of the buildings constructed are just high rise and 'box' type flats but these still have their modern balconies made up of concrete.
The government tries to help its poor and underprivileged residents by way of cheaper housing and welfare schemes. Self-employment is always encouraged but in reality it is rarely seen in action. The village subsides economically on paddy rice cultivation, cashew and coconut plantations, livestock and building construction. The village does not have any major industrial factories, although one of the foremost industrial family houses from Goa, the Dempos are from Santa Cruz. Many residents of Santa Cruz have migrated overseas but these are always in touch with the current developments of their ancestral land.
The village is famous for sports and culture too. Crown Club of Santa Cruz has excelled over the years both in football and volleyball as well as in athletics and body building competitions. Many players who have started as amateurs, have nowadays achieved a lot in their careers, thanks to the club's glory as well as the ever supporting public who will make sure they attend any match in large numbers. Music is also one of the best known cultural fortes of the village. In mando competitions (mando is a traditional love song sung during weddings in old days but today is respected as an important cultural heritage ) the village normally contributes with many groups in different categories.The late Maestro Jose Santana Cota was a genius in music and many of his students have prospered not only in India, but also overseas.
The original name of the Santa Cruz village is a very debatable topic and till today, no one knows for sure how its Calapor name was acquired. However, an interesting anecdote became very popular and for some, this is the 'official' acceptable explanation for this mystery:
Once, the villagers of Santa Cruz and Taleigao, a neighbouring village, entered into a dispute as regards to the exact boundary between both lands, the later accusing the former of encroaching into their territory. So both had agreed that they should consult an oracle on a certain day and get the solution to the problem. These days, one would sprinkle a mixture of cooked rice with the blood of a cock on the set lines between villages, amidst dancing and beating the 'gumot' (a bongo like instrument).
Prior to the event the villagers of Calapor went to the spot they wanted to mark as the boundary, and dug a hole there. Then they lowered a coffin with a live man in it and, after smartly placing back the earth fill over it, they had provided a vent pipe for the man to breathe. So when the moment arrived, both village leaders implored the oracle to answer their prayer. Bowing down in abeyance to Mother Earth, they waited patiently for the occult decision. A long silence prevailed. They kept repeating "To whom does this land belong?". And from the depths of the earth a faint voice replied: "Calapor! Calapor! Calapor!" to the joy and exultation of the Calaporkars. Sadly and frustrated, the Talaleigaokars accepted the verdict and went home. Everyone in Calapor made merry the whole night - and totally forgot the poor man inside the coffin! They returned the next day to the spot to dig up the coffin, only to find that the poor man had already died. In the coffin they found only crawling worms. As a symbol of self punishment, so the story goes, each man took a worm and placed it in his hip belt (this coined the term 'bendecho kiddo' or 'hip worm'). On that very spot, tradition says, stands 'Almacho Khuris' (Holy Cross) - the cross that has been marking the boundary after Christianity replaced traditional symbols.