A leap of faith,East-Indian way

Every year,newly-wed Christian couples jump into the wells at Irla in an unusual tradition.

Written by Alison Saldanha | Mumbai | Published: January 1, 2014 12:37 am

Every year on June 24,in the bustling East Indian village of Irla in Vile Parle (west),an unusual tradition is followed as a commemoration to St John the Baptist.

St John,or as the locals call him,Sao Jao,is recognised in the Bible as a preacher with a unique practice of baptism for forgiveness of sins. According to the Christian faith,St John is also the man who baptised Christ in the rivers of Jordan.

The East Indians of century-old Vile Parle gaothan,interpret this action a little further.

“The feast is a much-awaited time of the year. In addition to the religious ceremonies and the feast held in honour of Sao Jao,we have a tradition of jumping in the village’s wells. This practice is especially reserved for the newly-weds. After the big feast in their homes,they must dance in a parade around the neighbourhood to the live music of the East Indian bands,” said Cheryl D’Souza,a resident of Irla.

As the young couples move around the neighbourhood,they are drenched in a shower of water by residents of buildings and houses on the route,who use buckets and pipes to hose them down.

The parades end at the four village wells,and as a grand finale,the couples are thrown into the water bodies deliberately.

“Even if the person does not know how to swim,they have to jump in the well. A big tyre is tied as a floatation device or a swimming float is brought along,but all must jump. Along with the couples,other members of the community,and whoever wishes to,is welcome to jump in the well. If it is a rainy day,it is double the fun as the whole affair turns into a big rain dance party,” said D’Souza.

She added that the water body is considered to be the womb of Elizabeth,St John’s mother.

“It is said that young people jump in the ponds and wells to sense the ecstasy John felt when he was still in his mother’s womb. According to the Bible,Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy when her cousin,Mother Mary,who was pregnant with Jesus at the time,came to visit her,” D’Souza said.

alison.saldanha@expressindia.com

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