Last year, when New Delhi-based photographer Shome Basu visited the Holy Spirit Church in Margao, Goa, on Good Friday, the temperature outside was a scorching 40 degrees Celsius. Inside the 339-year-old church, worshippers were crying. “People were wearing black costumes; there was this sombre look on their faces as they stood against the white walls in the church, which has Indian Baroque architecture," says Basu.

The church, originally built by the Portuguese in 1564, rebuilt in 1645 and consecrated in 1675, has a congregation of 3,000 Catholic families today.

Basu saw a man with chiselled features and long hair cleaning the statue of Jesus Christ on the cross, about to be taken for a re-enactment of the crucifixion. “That’s when I decided to photograph the entire process, as I learnt that this is something that happens only in this particular church in Goa, and has been happening since 1675," says Basu.

In an untitled series of black and white photographs, Basu has not only captured the crucifixion, but also the emotions of the followers, their grief, pitted against the landscape of the village and the church. “The idea was to show how people relate to the faith and God," he says. “The black and white only adds to the seriousness of the entire subject, and makes the pictures more real."

In one image, members of the congregation can be seen bowing in front of a crucified Jesus, while a statue of Mother Mary looks on from a distance. In another, people are standing in what seems like an endless queue for their turn to worship. There are images of people carrying the statues of Mother Mary and Jesus Christ out of the church for the crucifixion. There are also tight close-ups of people’s hands holding the cross, as well as shadowy portraits of people praying.

Shooting the close-ups was fraught with challenges. People were not very welcoming initially. “But later, as the enactment proceeded, they became hysterical, started crying, went into a trance, and stopped noticing my camera," says Basu. “But I was still cautious about photographing in a way so that I would not end up hurting anyone’s religious sentiments," he adds.

Basu has been documenting the lives of Christians in South Asia since 2012—and plans to continue doing so. These photographs, he says, will become part of his project, Christianity Inc.

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