Society

Let There Be Flowers

Fulancho Khuris: The cross of the flowers, the locals’ best-kept secret

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Let There Be Flowers
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Our driver looks a trifle bemused when we ask him to take us to Fulancho Khuris in Bambolim. That isn’t where the tourists go. They go to the beaches, the casinos, the cafes. The more religiously inclined visit the iconic church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in capital Panjim’s main squ­are. Others place their petitions by the relics of St Francis Xavier at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa. But Fulancho Khuris? Aren’t there thousands of such crosses scattered across Goa? No wonder most tourists give the shrine a go-by as they leave Panjim for the still-pristine beaches of south Goa. Blink and you’d have missed the place too on the outskirts of Panjim, four km along the NH-17, on your way to Mangalore. But stop by, and you will be a soul transformed.

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The cross of the flowers. That’s how Fulancho Khuris translates from the Konkani. And it wears that meaning in the many garlands of orange and yellow marigold, offered either in appeal, or in gratitude. On the day we stop by for a visit, a Tuesday, it’s bustling with people. There is a riot of marigolds outside, as flower women beseech visitors with claims of the very best, and a steady stream of visitors inside, heads bowed before the cross, lighting candles. Behind, a Eucha­rist church rises up in expansive backdrop, a giant shadow, but which does not dim the aura of the Milan­grincho Khuris, the Miraculous Cross.

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Several cars stop by, on the way in a longer journey, their occupants offering a quick prayer. Others just slow down, fling a coin in cha­rity or offering. The cross, in fact, it is said, came up to safeguard travellers against accidents and roadside robberies. “Every driver in Goa knows about it,” says our own.

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Photo by William Rodrigues

“It is a relatively young and modern shrine as against the many in Goa with long histories,” says artist and curator Apurva Kulkarni of Fulancho Khuris. Journalist Alister Miranda describes it as “the jewel in Bambolim’s crown”. “Revered by people of all faiths, hardly anyone passes by without acknowledging its presence and seeking its blessings with a bow of the head, a flying kiss, a sharp loud honk or the sign of the cross...(it is) a shining illustration of Goa’s celebrated communal harmony,” he writes.

The origins of the cross crop up more in memory than in historical record. German anthropologist Alexander Henn, who is known for his research on religion in Goa, in his essay Crossroads of Religion: Shrines, Mobility and Urban Space in Goa, traces memories of this shrine going back to the 1940s when it was just a small white stone relic.

Its miraculous powers first came to light when one Santana Afonso of nearby Siridao village was cured of cancer after a visit to the cross. Till then it had been an unobtrusive, insignificant, almost invisible marker on Goa’s religious landscape. Afonso, in fact, is said to have given the cross its first canopy as a mark of his gratitude.

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Gradually, however, the legend and the legion around the cross grew. The officers and jawans of the military camp in Bambolim beautified it in the late 1960s. However, it was only in 1996 that a structure arose around the cross and a church and popular centre for the Eucharist faith was built and blessed.

Today, whether it is a job or house, marriage or a child, or health and happiness, it’s to Fulancho Khuris that people flock. The wishing culture is nothing unique to Goa’s Christian community, though Father Augustine D’Mello of the Church of Our Lady of Miracles in San­guem in south Goa is almost rhetorical when he asks, “Don’t you wish at any and every place of worship?” Property consultant and event manager Cecil Pinto is more forthcoming on Goa’s wish culture: how they organise the feast of St Law­rence in Sinquerim in north Goa for a good fishing season, and the feast of Our Lady of Rosary in Navelim in the south to bless expectant mothers. In capital Panaji, doctors submit their stethoscopes to be blessed at the Chapel of Our Lady of Victory at the Maquinez Palace, venue for the film festival in Goa. Fulancho Khuris, though, is different. “At other places people gather in thousands once a year but at Bambolim Cross the traffic of wishmakers is constant,” says Pinto.

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So it may not figure on the tourist radar, but Fulancho Khuris is a well-kept local secret. Or maybe not. Sachin Ten­dulkar is said to have stopped by before announcing his retirement. For the loc­als, though, Fulancho Khuris is part of a daily routine. “We don’t plan a visit to Fulancho Khuris,” affirms Pinto. “We pass by it every day, and just step in.” 

Local resident Cecilia Braganza tells us she has prayed here to help her family tide over a financially tough phase. “Since then, it has been my source of strength,” she says, “as though someone’s watching over me, will help me when I need it.”

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