Goa islanders tie knot within periphery

St Estevam (Goa): For St Estevam islanders, getting married within their village is not only a `sacrosanct` tradition that has to be followed, but has also been a way of life for over centuries.

Though modernisation has dented this tradition a bit, the villagers still prefer to get their daughters walk down the aisle within the village, owing mostly to historical reasons.

Situated just 30 km away from vibrant Panaji, the "isle of vegetables" as St Estevam is called in the local parlance, has been holding on to the unique legacy of getting their wards married within the village. However, vegetable cultivation is now on wane as youngsters in this Catholic-dominated settlement prefer jobs on ship to working in traditional agricultural sector.

Interestingly, St Estevam and its villagers are considered as the `richest in Goa` as every family has its male member employed on board of ship. However, the 4600-odd Catholic community here has kept the tradition alive.

"May be because this is an island that`s why people remained cut off from the outside world and hence they began this tradition," says Sebastian Rangel, a former employee of Mumbai Port Trust (MPT), now retired and back in the village.

Rangel himself entered into a wedlock with a girl from the village, way back in 70s. The picturesque island, known for its serenity and historical heritage, is locked with Mandovi river from its sides and was connected to the mainstream by construction of a bridge only in 80s.

Before that people used to travel here in canoes and later in motorised ferry boats. Priscilla Menezes from the village has her own take on the tradition. "The village is small so girls and boys tend to fall in love with each other during their schooling. Later they get married during their marriageable age," says Menezes, who runs a general store shop in the village.

"Majority of them are getting married within the village but now there are instances of girls getting wedded outside the island," Menezes said, citing a marriage she attended couple of days back wherein the village girl got married to a boy from Quepem village, 50 kms away from St Estevam.

"There are houses where more than one girl from same family is married. It`s always considered as safe to marry within the village as you know the character of the boy right from his childhood," she reasoned. This unique trend in the island has led to growing family relations.

Eva Ferrao, who was born and married in St Estevam, says, "It is not surprising to find relatives and, family ties connected in the length and breadth of St.Estevam".

Even the local Church has no objection to such weddings. "Church mind is open; they are welcome to get married within the village," said Fr Olav D`Souza, parish priest of St Stephen Church at St Estevam.

The name St Estevam is derived for the village from St Stephen, who is considered as the first martyr saint in Christianity. "People from this village have nurtured the tradition, historically. Socially, however, there are no reasons that can be found. But we presume that being an island people were trusting bridegroom within the village," Fr D`Souza said.