St Estevam: Island of unique marriage tradition

RUPESH SAMANT (PTI), PANAJI | 11 May 2012 18:19 IST

For St Estevam islanders, getting married within their village is not only a 'sacrosanct' tradition that has to be followed, but has also been a way of life for over centuries.

Though modernisation has dented this tradition a bit, the villagers still prefer to get their daughters walk down the aisle within the village, owing mostly to historical reasons.

Situated just 30 km away from vibrant Panaji, the "isle of vegetables" as St Estevam is called in the local parlance, has been holding on to the unique legacy of getting their wards married within the village.

However, vegetable cultivation is now on wane as youngsters in this Catholic-dominated settlement prefer jobs on ship to working in traditional agricultural sector.

Interestingly, St Estevam and its villagers are considered as the 'richest in Goa' as every family has its male member employed on board of ship.

However, the 4600-odd Catholic community here has kept the tradition alive.

"May be because this is an island that's why people remained cut off from the outside world and hence they began this tradition," says Sebastian Rangel, a former employee of Mumbai Port Trust (MPT), now retired and back in the village.

Rangel himself entered into a wedlock with a girl from the village, way back in 70s.

The picturesque island, known for its serenity and historical heritage, is locked with Mandovi river from its sides and was connected to the mainstream by construction of a bridge only in 80s.

Before that people used to travel here in canoes and later in motorised ferry boats. Priscilla Menezes from the village has her own take on the tradition.

"The village is small so girls and boys tend to fall in love with each other during their schooling. Later they get married during their marriageable age," says Menezes, who runs a general store shop in the village. 

The local Church has no objection to such marriages.

“Church mind is open; they are welcome to get married within the village,” said Fr Olav D’Souza, parish priest of St Stephen Church at St Estevam.

The name St Estevam is derived for the village from St Stephen, who is the first martyr saint in Christianity.

“Socially, there are no reasons that can be found. But we presume that being an island people were trusting their spouses within the village,” he commented. 

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This trend of marriage is changing..and hope it is for the better..Yes the long tradition of vegetation has long gone. All you see is barren land with NO MORE vegetation. We used to have water ponds which were to be replaced by motor pumps and more mechanized farming/vegetation but the people just consider it a downtrodden all have jumped ships to the Gulf or on the ship.

I hope this tradition revives and once again it can again be called the GREEN ISLAND=ILHA VERDE.

- N. Das, Santo Estevam | 20 th July 2012 17:59


Ya Richest, but one of the most LAZIEST(Ashik) Villages in Goa. The village having a lot of educated minds But Guess what they work as abroad? Toilet Cleaners, Cooks, Waiters, Construction labourers!!!!!!!!. Today despite education available The village boys only want the above Posts and Drink. Even The Girls Prefer such boys to marry than Educated boys(which are few). No doubt few years back there were shippies who lost their Jobs Permanantly for Fooling about on ships. They only come home after a trip and Try to show off. Many of them are working Illegally in other countries after Jumping off ships.

- Real Zuvekar, St.Estevam Goa | 26 th May 2012 04:00


Jaret, although the zuemkars are known as benddekars. The natives call their island as Xakechem zuem. Which therefore is the Isle of vegetables.

- Nelson, Goa | 17 th May 2012 12:59


Good to read something from Rupesh, however, just one clarification.. is it 'isle of vegetables' or "bhendekaar" which in English is the vegetable Lady Finger.

The reason for the mentioned practice of trying to marry in the same place could be, as you know, most veggies grow better in the same old place, they have been grown over the years.........The outcome (quality) is good too.... as you will see with our Bhendekaars.

Almost all Goan villages have some funny 'nickname' dumped on them, like redde, hundir, irraad etc, but this is the only village in Goa where the residents takes pride in their nickname and are able to revel in its fun.


- jaret chandrapurkar, overseas/chandor | 11 th May 2012 18:46


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