Hindu prayers reverberate in Goa cathedral on Good Friday

Recitals from ancient scriptures pay tribute to Jesus Christ on the day Catholics remember his death on the cross
Hindu prayers reverberate in Goa cathedral on Good Friday

Hindus pray from the ancient Narayana Upanishad text at Se Cathedral in Goa on Good Friday. (Photo by Bosco Eremita/ucanews.com)

Nine Hindus converged on the 17th century Se Cathedral in Old Goa and recited prayers from ancient Hindu scriptures to pay their respects to Jesus Christ on Good Friday, when Catholics commemorate his death on the cross.

The five women and four men sang verses from an ancient Narayana Upanishad text of Hindu scriptures acknowledging the superiority of God. The text stresses the unity of all gods and teachings as a way of attaining salvation.

The nine are members of the Swadhyay Parivar (self-study family) group that was founded in 1954 by Pandurang Sashtri Athavale (1920–2003), a social revolutionary and philosopher. The group has been associated with peace movements.

Inside the cathedral, they quietly paid obeisance to the suffering Christ, away from the attention of the Catholic faithful sitting in the pews.

Following the five-minute recital at the rear of the cathedral, a group member read out a brief message from the pulpit through the sound system a few minutes before the start of the pious ritual.

Besides identifying Good Friday as a day of gratitude, the message acknowledged the supreme sacrifice of Christ for mankind. It also highlighted the sacrifice Christ underwent to dispel the suffering of mankind, drawing a parallel with the beliefs and works of Athavale, who focused on the welfare of humankind.

"Jesus Christ by his supreme sacrifice tried to free mankind from sorrow," the message read.

A prominent member in Goa, who requested anonymity because of the group's policy of not seeking publicity, said the teachings of Athawale were based on the Hindu scripture of Bhagavad Gita (the song of the Lord).

"The recital of slokas is our way to give namskar [greetings] to Christ," he said, clarifying that they were not linked to any political party.

Edward Crasta, a parishioner of Old Goa, said the parishioners ought to welcome this gesture from the Hindus, especially when pro-Hindu groups are increasingly become fundamentalist "in the name of brotherhood."

Crasta said such groups should become vocal in times of anti-Christian violence orchestrated by Hindu groups. 

However, a group spokesman said its role is merely devotion.

"Our work is toward devotion to the almighty. There are other people who do the job of being vocal to general issues," he said.

"We believe that the creator of the universe is one and the same, and we are brothers and sisters. We hope to achieve divine brotherhood without conversion."

Parish priest Father Alfred Vaz also welcomed the gesture. On Good Friday, "it is very meaningful to have people of different faiths coming together to pray. The Hindu brethren being with us in prayer only affirms that Christ belongs to everyone," he said.

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