Leon Bent –
Agera (East Indian: आगेरा) is a thanksgiving harvest festival celebrated by the Roman Catholic community of Mumbai, mainly East Indians. This traditional harvest festival takes place at the beginning of October, when the grain is ready to be harvested, and lasts for five days.
This Agera Harvest festival is celebrated by the East Indian families of Mumbai, Vasai, Ghas, Nallasopara, Virar, Boisar and Dahanu (Mumbai and now Extended Mumbai). The festival began with the priest of each parish community, descending into the fields, to bless the newly harvested crop and give thanks to God, together with the farmers and villagers.
After coming together in prayer, the community celebrated with delicious food, song and dance.
The word Agera is derived from the Latin words “Ager” which means field or farm, and “Agricola” which means Farmer. Agera falls on the first Sunday in October. It is normally called the harvest festival where farmers cut their crop and offer the “first fruits” to God (Deut.26:1-14). By giving the “firstfruits” as an offering to God, the Israelites were acknowledging that all the harvest—in fact, everything they had—came from God and belonged to him.
The offering of “firstfruits” was also an expression of faith that something else – the harvest of the rest of the harvest – would come later. ‘First-Fruits’ is a religious offering of the first agricultural products of the harvest.
In the classical Greek, Roman and Hebrew religions, the “firstfruits” were given to priests as an offering to the deity. The symbolic meaning of the harvest in Scripture encompasses two main areas: God’s provision for us and God’s blessing for others (Ezekiel 44:30).
While we only celebrate harvest season once a year, we feel the spirit of harvest all the time. What is the harvest in the Church? It is a day when many churches show their solidarity with those who have no food and distribute the harvest donations they have collected to charities. The harvest festival is one of the oldest festivals still celebrated today, in some parts of the world, even in India. It is a day when rural churches in particular are very busy.
So what are “firstfruits” in the Bible? “Early yield” can be mentioned when pastors speak of “generosity”. “When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring to the priest a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest” (Leviticus 23:10).
The concept of “firstfruits” is rooted in ancient biblical times, when people lived in an agrarian society. Harvest time was important because the hard work, which farmers had poured into their crops all year, was beginning to pay off. They were literally ‘reaping what they had sown’.
God called his people to bring him the first produce—the ‘firstfruits’—of their harvest as an offering. It was to demonstrate the Israelites’ obedience and respect for God. It also showed that they trusted God to provide enough crops to feed their family.
At the time, there were many rules associated with performing the first “fruit sacrifices”. They had to be taken to the temple priests. No other crops could be harvested until the “first fruits” were presented. The Hebrew word for “firstfruits” is bikkurim, literally translated as “promise to come.” The Israelites saw these “firstfruits” as an investment in their future. God told them that if they brought their firstfruits to him, he would bless everything that followed.
Today, we no longer live in an agrarian society. Most people reading this article are probably not farmers. You probably don’t worry about harvest time, because you can’t give the first yield of your crops. But the idea of “firstfruits” is still relevant – it just takes on a new meaning for us.
“Honor the Lord with your riches – the ‘firstfruits’ of all your crops” (Proverbs 3:9).
We see the term “firstfruits” first mentioned in the book of Exodus, when Moses led God’s people out of captivity in Egypt (Exodus 1:1-13:16). God commanded the Israelites to “give the first of their crops” so they could understand the value of God’s blessings.
Throughout the first five books of the Bible, Moses brings up the idea thirteen times. This is because it was an essential concept for his people to understand. The “firstfruits” are mentioned throughout the Old Testament, and are even referred to in the books of the New Testament.
In the New Testament, the term “firstfruits” takes on a symbolic meaning. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul mentions Christ as the “first fruits” of those who have passed away. Jesus was God’s “firstfruits”—his only son and the best mankind had to offer. God gave Jesus, who was raised from the dead, for us, just as we sacrifice the best we have for him.
“The firstfruits are a religious offering of the first agricultural products of the harvest. In classical Greek, Roman and Hebrew religions, “firstfruits” were given to priests as an offering to the deity/God. In classical Athens, the “firstfruits” were called an “apache” offering (Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon). In fact, different cultures in India celebrate the harvest festival with color and festivity, in thanks to our Creator God for a glorious harvest of grain, especially rice.
Indeed, “Agera”, is an East Indian farmer’s traditional celebration of a “harvest of gold”, as opposed to “Thanksgiving”, the modern version – which is a feast for everyone in the Church. Catholic.
Agera, the feast of Thanksgiving, the feast of blessing the new corn produced in our fields, is one of the feasts most awaited by all East Indians. Once upon a time, this feast was celebrated with great pomp and splendor throughout the Archdiocese of Bombay. However, most of the fields have now disappeared into the concrete jungle that Mumbai has been transformed into, and with the fields we have lost the meaning and the joy of celebrating this holiday.
In the past, our parishes celebrated the Agera on different Sundays. However, in the post-modern era, the Archdiocese of Mumbai has designated the first Sunday in October as Thanksgiving Sunday. A common day in the liturgical calendar of the Church to celebrate this feast is understandable and acceptable. But AGERA’s renaming to THANKSGIVING has not gone down well with the East Indian community, who insist the party be called by its original name, AGERA. Only then will it regain its former glory. After all, Mumbai was once an East Indian farmer (landowners) and Koli a stronghold.