Between faith and heritage (part 2)

On the last day of January, in Salalah, Dhofar, on the parish grounds nearby the Indian and Pakistani schools, I witnessed the one-day great celebration of Saint Sebastian. St. Sebastian, brought up in Milan, Italy, was an officer in Diocletian’s imperial guard. He became a Christian and suffered martyrdom upon orders of the emperor. In Kerala the celebration is a eleven-day annual feast. More than 50% of the 80.000 of the Indians living in Dhofar originate from Kerala, in the south of India.

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Depending from which church you talk about, the story of how the statue came to India is different. In 1647 the statue of St. Sebastian was brought from Milan to the Arthunkel St. Andrew’s Basilica, the 7th Basilica in Kerala. In this basilica the feast of St. Sebastian is celebrated on a grand scale.

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St. Mary’s Forane Church was blessed on 15th August 835AD. Dedicated to St. Mary, this church is a renowned pilgrim church of St. Sebastian. Legend says that the statue of St. Sebastian installed here was brought to Kerala from Portugal. Started in the year 1647 the feast of St. Sebastian attracts thousands of devotees to the church.

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In Kerala, in the south of India, the feast of St. Sebastian is celebrated on a grand scale for eleven days in a year. The statue of St. Sebastian is taken out for public veneration during the festival days. The procession, as part of the festival is a confluence of spiritual exercises and spectacular events. The dazzling display of fireworks, the music of different band groups, beaded ornate umbrellas, different types of crosses made of gold, silver, bronze and wood etc. make the procession an event much admired by scores of people.

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In Salalah, Dhofar the feast of Saint Sebastian started with a mass with a lot of spiritual songs, followed by a procession. After providing food, a music festival took place.

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