February 4, 2023 1:32 pm


Goa - A Small State With Fusion Of Influences

Goa's culture is a blend of Portuguese and Indian traditions because of its colonial influence. The people and their way of life are often a reflection of the state's vivacity and joyous spirits.

Long Story

From being a part of the Vijayanagara Empire, the last Hindu kingdom of India to a Muslim Bahmani Sultanate and later a colony under the Portugal power, that patronised Christianity, Goa’s heritage has a fusion of all the influences from the empires that have ruled the state in the annals of history. 

Goa’s culture is a blend of Portuguese and Indian traditions because of its colonial influence. The people and their way of life are often a reflection of the state’s vivacity and joyous spirits. Goa is a popular destination for those looking to escape the grind of city life. Despite the religious differences, the Goan community generally embraces everyone. The state’s vibrant traditions are depicted in its folk performances, which include song and dance. People from several ethnic communities, each with its own language, live in Goa. Marathi and Konkani dialects are the most often used means of communication in the state. In addition to these, Hindi, English, and Portuguese are also spoken.

Goan cuisine combines elements of Portuguese, Hindu, and Islamic cuisines. This combination produces a wide range of rich and delicious entrees. With its array of finely cooked and seasoned dishes, seafood is a favourite among the populace. Coconut milk and vinegar are frequently used in cuisine. Indian curries often include spices from Europe. The Goans prefer rice and fish curry as their staple meal. Aesthetic handicrafts made from natural materials like seashells, clay, paper, bamboo, and brass are crafted by skilled artisans who often hone their technique. These are the main attraction among tourists. The majority of Goans work for businesses and organisations focused on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. The primary crop is paddy. One of the main drivers of the state’s economy is now tourism. As a result, a large number of Goans work in tourism sectors, such as tour guides, taxi drivers, independently owned tourism businesses, etc.

This state’s origins date between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. It was referred to as “Rewti Dweep ” during its ancient past. The Sumerians, Ashoka the Mauryan King, the Delhi Sultanate, and other notable rulers have left their footprints in the legacy of the land. The second part of the 15th century saw turmoil in the maritime city of Goa. It was formerly a part of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire until joining the Muslim Bahmani Sultanate after the conquest of 1472. A number of successor nations emerged from the Bhamani Sultanate just before the arrival of the Portuguese. Bijapur was the state that ruled Goa at the time. In 1510, a troop led by Afonso de Albuquerque seized control of the city from the local lords. Viceroy Albuquerque (1509–1515) benefited from Timmayya’s (also known as Timoja’s) help in learning crucial inside information about the enemy. Within three months, the Muslims battled back and took control of the town once more, but Albuquerque later returned with a massive fleet of troops and won back Goa. Thousands of civilians had perished in the fight. There is very little information in Indian sources about how these events were seen from the Indian perspective or how Goa’s population lived in later centuries.

Goa had already attained its pinnacle by the end of the 16th century and was known as the “Lisbon of the East” or “Golden Goa.” The Portuguese brought their religion with them to Goa. Initially, they were more tolerant of Hindus than Muslims because of their primary interest in business, their docks welcomed a variety of cargo, but mainly priceless spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, and ginger. After the infamous “Inquisition” arrived in Goa in 1540, Portugal’s tolerant attitude toward Hindus was inverted. St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits arrived in Goa in 1542, leaving a profound impact on Goa’s history and culture. The activities of the Jesuits flourished with the presence of St. Francis Xavier. He adopted Goa as his home base while travelling to the east. He travelled to Macao, Japan, the Philippines, and China’s borders to preach the faith. His career came to an unexpected end when he was found dead on the barren island of Sancian in the South China Sea, but his legend lived on.

For many centuries, Goa and the rest of the Konkan embraced Sanskrit as their official language. Konkani emerged a lot later. It was often thought that there was little to no Konkani literature existing prior to the arrival of Christian missionaries. Since then, this has been contested. The first book in Konkani is ascribed to Englishman Fr. Thomas Stephens, a pioneering missionary Jesuit scholar. His most famous work is the Hindu folklore-influenced “Krista Purana” or “The tale of Christ.” Later, he also created his other timeless work, “Doutrina Cristao,” a collection of Christian ideas written in Konkani. There is also evidence that the clergy supported the Portuguese and tried to eradicate Konkani in the seventeenth century as they believed that doing so would aid in the conversion of more people to Christianity. Despite this, just 5% of people, especially in the administrative and commercial sectors, spoke Portuguese in 1961. The dream of Konkani serving as the official language of a state didn’t come true until after independence.

According to a Viceroy’s decree issued in 1576 under Portuguese rule, all Hindu temples in Goa were to be destroyed. Ritual ablutions were also forbidden, and non-Christian priests, holy men, and preachers had to be evicted. Hindus were forced to attend churches and hear the gospel in some situations, and they were barred from visiting temples in surrounding regions that were not under Portuguese rule. Christian and non-Christian social interaction was discouraged. The appointment of Goans to public office was favoured for those who had recently converted to Christianity, and some positions were even set aside for them. On paper, the legislation also required that persons from other religions convert to Christianity “by persuasion and not by force”.

During a speech about the Goa inquisition, Shefali Vaidya comments on Portugal’s influence on the Hindu shrines as she says, “So today if you see in Goa, there is only one temple that still exists, which belongs to the pre-Portuguese era. That is the stone temple. That survived because it was hidden in a forest at the base of the Western Ghats, and it was difficult to get there.  All the other temples that you see today are built in the 16 or 17 century or later. Which is why you will see a distinct Indo-Portuguese architecture. You will see a dome on those temples, almost church-like interiors like huge halls and you walk inside and the garbhagriha (innermost sanctorum where the deity resides) is more open than you find in say traditional Indian temples, where you are supposed to walk inside and the garbhagriha is supposed to be this narrow small place, because that is supposed to represent the inner light, and hence why it is lit by just one lamp. So if you see the Goan temple garbhagrihas, you will see that the big garbhagrihas are kind of like the church altars. This was the result of the hybrid architectures. So everything has changed.”

The building and preservation of Hindu temples were both forbidden. Hindu marriages, ceremonies, rituals, and even cremations were restricted in nature. Both the cultivation of Tulsi plants in the courtyard and the wearing of the sacred thread were disallowed. Hindus of the upper caste were prohibited from using horses or palanquins. Hindu landlords could not hire Christian farmworkers. The Portuguese made every effort to persuade Indians to convert. All recent converts were required to take on Portuguese names and learn the language. Those who did not adhere to Christian doctrine were subject to harsh punishment under the prosecution. During Auto-da-fe, a large number of local people and converts were burned at the stake, and countless others were subjected to inquisitional torture in its prisons. No precise figure has ever been ascertained for the number of people that died at the hands of the cruel Goa inquisition.

The inquisition was imposed in Goa, where the native Hindu population was often the victim of persecution and was targeted by sadistic Christian missionaries. Life for them was akin to hell. Hindus were branded as “uncultured,” “savages,” and worshipers of “black idols resembling demons” by Christian missionaries, who were also forced to convert Hindus to Christianity. As a result, an inquisition office was established with the intention of discriminating against Hindus in every way possible. Even natives who were suspected of secretly following their old religions were interrogated by the inquisition office. A total of 16,172 natives were scrutinized and frequently tortured over a period of 214 years (1560–1774) for practising a faith other than Roman Catholicism. Hindu parents were often forced to witness their children being burned alive while being taken away unless they agreed to embrace Christianity. During the inquisition, such punishments were meted out to over 4,000 non-Christians. The missionaries enforced the Xenddi tax, which is similar to the Jaziya tax, incorporated by the Muslim conquerors, on the Hindu inhabitants. 

“So Charles Dellon has described that the palace of inquisition was a dreaded, imposing building, that contained about 200 prison cells, many of which were dark and windowless. According to Dellon, the 2 inquisitors had their living quarters as well as their chapel in the palace. All inquisitors were nominated by the King and confirmed by the Pope and received more respect than the Archbishop or even the Viceroy. Philippe Rene Vyke in his book published in 1903, says that the terrible acts of the inquisition has caused terror to be so deeply rooted in the memories of the people that nobody dared to name the Palace as the ‘house of the inquisition’, but gave it the mysterious name of Hodle Ghar” states Shefali Vaidya.

The embalmed remains of Francis Xavier are currently maintained in a silver casket inside the Bom Jesus Basilica and are displayed for the public once in every ten years. Ironically, the crowds of people that swarm to visit his body and seek blessings are utterly unaware of the horrific tragedies inflicted upon their ancestors hundreds of years ago.

When iron ore and manganese mining were fully established in the middle of the 20th century, Portugal made a final grab for Goan resources. However, none of this new wealth flowed to the common people. After ten years of diplomatic pressure from a now-free India, Goa was finally liberated by the Indian army in 1961 with little resistance. Portuguese rule, which had lasted longer than the majority of other colonial powers in the area, came to an end. Goa was legally integrated into the Indian Union in March 1962, and in 1987 it was one of the country’s smallest states. Major General K.P. Candeth, who served as the Military Governor of Goa after leading the Indian forces that liberated the territory quickly got to work tearing down the colonial-era administration and assimilating Goa into the Indian nation. 

The historical and political events that have moulded Goa’s culture and legacy over the years have significantly influenced the way people perceive the place. Goa is much more than just a popular tourist destination or a melting pot of many cultures. It is a place where we find untold tales with the power to make us rethink all the narratives of Goa that have been written down over time. 

(This is part of series of articles on Goa)

TIA Fellow
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