On Monday, the Epiphany festival was celebrated in parts of India, such as Goa and Kerala. In Goa, the celebration is known by its Portuguese name ‘Festa dos Reis’, and in parts of Kerala by its Syriac name ‘Denha’.
Why is Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day celebrated?
Epiphany is among the three oldest and major festival days in Christianity, the two others being Christmas and Easter. It is celebrated on January 6 by a number of Christian sects, including Roman Catholics, and on January 19 by some Eastern Orthodox churches.
In the West, the duration between December 25 and January 6 is known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Epiphany is a feast day, or a day of commemoration, which in Christianity marks the visit of the Magi (meaning the Three Wise Men or Three Kings) to the Infant Jesus (Christ from his nativity until age 12).
According to Christian belief, the Magi — Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar (or Casper), the kings of Arabia, Persia, and India, respectively — followed a miraculous guiding star to Bethlehem, where they paid homage to the Infant Jesus. The three are said to have brought gifts for Jesus: gold by Melchior, myrrh by Balthasar, and incense by Gaspar. The visit is believed to signify Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people).
The day also commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
Celebrations in India
In Goa, the Magi or Three Kings are called ‘Reis Magos’ in Portuguese. The Reis Magos fort, and church, in Bardez, and the Three Kings Chapel in Cansaulim, get their name from the belief. Communities in Bardez, Chandor, Cansaulim, Arossim, and Cuelim are known to celebrate Epiphany.
Cansaulim, Arossim, and Cuelim together celebrate ‘Festa dos Reis’ at the Our Lady of Remedios chapel in an elaborate ceremony, in which three youths selected from local communities travel on horseback dressed in religious wear to the chapel, stopping at many points on the way to bless devotees.
In Kerala, at the St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral in Piravom, ‘Denha’ is an important annual celebration, in which a big congregation takes part. Three priests wearing ecclesiastical robes and holding golden crosses move with a procession for 5 km from the Peppathi Chapel to the Piravom church.
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