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Christianity in Portuguese Goa

The Portuguese introduced Christianity to Goa. One of Vasco da Gama's goals in finding the sea route to India was to find new Christians. Upon landing at Calicut in 1498 he was surprised to find a thriving Christian community established by one of the Last Apostles of Jesus, St. Thomas. This however did not stop the Portuguese from promoting their own brand of European Christianity- Roman Catholicism.
The first missionaries sent to India after the discovery of the sea route were some Dominican Friars who came as chaplains of the Fleet on Albuquerque's ships. Soon a church dedicated to St. Catherine was set up after the conquest. The significance being the victorious conquest of Goa on St. Catherine's day, November 25th 1510.
The next group that was more successful in propagating Christianity was the Franciscans, who arrived in Goa in 1517. For the next quarter century they were active in conversions not only in Goa but also the bordering areas of India. Upon hearing of this success, Pope Paul II subsequently raised the status of Goa to an Episcopal. He appointed the First Bishop to take charge who unfortunately never made it to India as he died soon after appointment. The Pope then appointed the Episcopal authority to Dom Fr. Joao da Albuquerque, who took charge of the diocese in 1538.
The most successful group to arrive soon after were the Jesuits of the newly formed Society of Jesus. With the arrival of St. Francis Xavier S.J., one of its founders, the activity of the Jesuits went into overdrive. Goa became the base for Fr. Francis Xavier's voyages to the east. His preaching of the gospel took him to Macao, Japan, Philippines and at the doors of China. His untimely death on the desolate island of Sancian in the South China Sea put an end to his career but not his legend. The saga of the incorruptibility of his body eventually led to his canonization and sainthood in 1622 and his relics preserved for posterity at the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa.
The other Missionary and religious orders that settled in Goa include the Dominicans in 1572, The Theatines in 1640, Order of St. John in 1681 and the Carmelites in the 1700's. The only nunnery in Goa was the Monastery of St. Monica, established in 1606.

The era of religious repression

Alfonso de Albuquerque had not interfered with Hindu religious practices apart from forbidding the practice of Sati. He also did not destroy any temples during his reign. From 1540 onwards , under the influence of the counter reformation in Europe and with the arrival of the Inquisition to Goa, this liberal policy was reversed. A strict censorship of literature was soon imposed. New laws forbade the public profession of any other religion except the Catholic religion. Even the Syrian Christians who had been in India before the Portuguese were treated as heretics along with the Jews and Protestants. Hindus also came to be affected and they were accused of being disrespectful to Christianity. An edict by the Viceroy in 1576 required the destruction of all Hindu temples in Portuguese controlled Goa along with banning of ritual ablutions and the expulsions of non Christian priests, holy men and preachers. Hindus were forbidden to visit Temples in adjoining areas not controlled by the Portuguese and were compelled in some cases to attend Churches and listen to the Gospel. Social intercourse between Christians and non Christians was discouraged. Christian converts were favored in the appointments of Goans to public office and some positions were even reserved for these new converts.
The law on paper still laid down that the "Conversion to Christianity of people from other religions had to be by persuasion and not by force". This however was not practiced in reality. An exception to this law was made in 1559 when a decree ordered Hindu orphan children to be handed over to the College of Sao Paolo so that they could be baptized and educated as Christians by the College.
The converts usually took on the name of the priest or the College who or where they were baptized. After conversion, they were expected to make a clean break from their Hindu past. Not only were their names changed but also their food habits, social customs and even dress had to conform to the way of living of the European Christians. Several old Hindu practices were enhanced in their christianized versions. The place of honor given to the family deity was now given to the Oratorio. The flame burned before a crucifix and various Christian saints . The Tulsi plant in front of the house gave way to the Cross in front of Christian homes and Christian prayers now accompanied pre marriage ceremonies. In the village , the Novem ( harvest procession) was headed by a Christian priest instead of a Hindu one and he also performed the traditional blessing of the first sheaves of Paddy.
The Portuguese also implemented the compulsory learning of the Portuguese Language under the Viceroy, Count of Alvor ( 1681-1686). He compelled Goans to give up Konkani and this caused a significant number of people to flee Goa to neighboring India. The result of all these actions was that in 1707, there were 100,000 Christians to 3000 Hindus in Salcette and a similar ratio in other areas of the Old Conquests.
This repressive policy of the Portuguese continued until the mid 1700's and underwent a complete U turn due to one individual-The Marquis of Pombal.

Pombal and the Jesuit expulsion

Sebastian Jose de Carvalho, later to be the Marquis of Pombal was the Prime Minister to the King of Portugal, Dom Joseph I. He was appointed in 1750 and was propelled to power by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. He successfully masterminded the rebuilding of Lisbon and this made him very powerful and influential in the eyes of the King and the court. The assassination attempt on the King on September 8th 1758 gave him an opportunity to purge his enemies and did so with a vengeance. These included the ex-Duke Alvario, the Marcioness of Tavora and her husband and two sons and the Jesuit fathers. All the conspirators were executed. In 1761, Pombal issued an edict confiscating all Jesuit property to the crown and arrested and imprisoned all the Jesuits. A total of 53 Jesuit priests were executed as co-conspirators in the assassination plot. The Jesuit leader, Fr. Malagrida was hanged and others burned at the stake. All of the remaining Jesuits were expelled from Portugal.

The fallout of the Jesuit expulsion had its immediate ramifications on all aspects of life in Goa. The most important effect was felt on education. Replacing Jesuit teachers and professors was an arduous task. The greatest impact was however felt on the commercial front. The Jesuits had invested vast amount of their resources in every sphere of commercial activity in Portuguese Asia and were involved in shipping, building, trade and finance. They were the custodians of the crown funds, managers of Goa's Royal Hospital and responsible for the upkeep of the fortifications and minting of coins at some places. They also owned large tracts of land all over.
The most important other decision of Pombal that had far reaching effects and was welcomed by all was the suppression of the Inquisition in 1774. For more on the Goa Inquisition, please check out the Goa Inquisition page.

Pombal's Legacy

It appears that Goa was Pombal's greatest beneficiary. Though the expulsion of the Jesuits was controversial, the suppression of the Inquisition was welcomed by all. There was however more. For more than half a century before his coming to power, local Goan priests were used by the clergy to do the low rung work. They were never promoted or appointed to higher positions. The Cathedral chapter, the Vicarships and the professorships in Goa were all filled by Europeans only. Pombal's historic decrees of 1761 and 1763 among others, called for opening up the the Clergy and various religious orders for all subjects irrespective of their being white or native in origin. As a result of this, the first Goan was appointed to the Cathedral chapter in 1762. Soon the Vicarships went to eligible locals. The Religious orders who had earlier refused to admit natives in their ranks a few years ago began accepting Goans. The local Theatines were the first to do so and soon all other religious orders followed suit.
The period from 1820s to 1920s are regarded as one of the best times for Goans with regards to religious and political freedom. Portugal was a monarchy until 1910 and was replaced by democracy and was declared a republic. Goans were given representation in the Portuguese parliament. All citizens, be they Hindus, Christians etc were guaranteed individual freedom and liberty under the civil code. All this changed in 1928 with the dictatorship under Dr. Antonio Salazar. His 'Acta Colonial" denied everything promised previously and Goans were back to square one.

Prelude to liberation-The early years

From the very beginning, since the conquest by Albuquerque in 1510, there were many unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the Portuguese. The earliest revolt took place in 1550 when the people of Assolna, Velim, Cuncolim, Ambelim and Veroda launched an attack on the colonialists but they failed in their attempt. Their properties were confiscated. Their leaders were arrested and executed.
Then came the well known and well organized plot, called the "Pinto Revolt" in 1787. The leaders of the plot were some prominent priests of Goa belonging to the "Pinto Family" who had the support of some military officers of Goan origin. A large number of arrests were made and criminal proceedings launched against its leaders. 47 members of the group were arrested and prosecuted as plotters including 17 priests.
On 14th January 1835, a Goan, Bernardo Peres de Silva, was appointed Perfect with the powers of Governor of Goa by the government of Queen Maria II of Portugal. He was born not far away from Old Goa and received his education at the Rachol seminary, the Goa Medical School and then Portugal. There he became politically active as a liberal and this eventually led to his appointment to Goa as the "Perfect or Governor", the first and the last native Goan to be so appointed. His appointment was not liked by his counter factions at Lisbon and he was compelled to relinquish his post soon after his arrival at Goa. After being in office for only 17 days, he was arrested by the military on February 1st 1835. A new Governor, the previous Viceroy Manuel de Portugal e Castro was appointed in his place. Bernardo Peres de Silva was deported to Bombay and the army took control of Goa during the interim period. In the counter-revolution that followed, a faction of the army loyal to him took control of Terekhol fort and invited him back .This eventually resulted in a showdown at Terekhol fort where his supporters lost in spite of British support. His supporters and troops loyal to him were massacred and he subsequently took refuge in India and never returned back to Goa.

The Ranes of Goa based in Sattari and Sanquelim have been well known for their attempts to dislodge the Portuguese from Goa. In all there were reportedly about fourteen rebellions out of which the most successful one was organized by Dipaji Rane in 1852. He carried on the fight against the Portuguese for three and half years and eventually the Portuguese government made peace with him. The Portuguese agreed to extend protection to village institutions, abandon repressive religious measures and grant general amnesty. Dipaji Rane was awarded a sword of honor and the honorary title of Captain. There was another unsuccessful revolt in 1895 by Dada Rane. The final revolt of the Ranes took place in 1912. There were two distinct groups fighting the cause, one led by Mourya Sawant from the north and the other by Jhil Sawant from the south. They were joined by Quistulo, who was a Christian toddy- tapper. The Portuguese government ordered their contingent of Negro troops all the way from Mozambique to assist them in quelling the revolt. They ultimately succeeded and the three leaders were taken. Quistulo was shot dead at Assonora in the house of his mistress who was bribed by the Portuguese to give away his whereabouts. Mourya Sawant was beheaded whilst asleep; and Jhil Sawant was caught, imprisoned and finally deported to the island of Principe in Portuguese West Africa, where he died in exile.
Alongside these rebellions was the attempt by some members of Goa's indigenous elite to participate in the colonial and national governments of Portugal. A western educated elite emerged in Goa who tried to reform their relationship with the Portuguese. As early as 1822 Goans were permitted to elect, on a franchise determined by property and religious affiliation, two representatives to the Portuguese parliament. In 1910 official discrimination against Hindus was repealed which in turn led to an outburst of intellectual, cultural and political life in Goa.
Unfortunately, in 1926 all of this activity ended in Goa, as well as in Portugal. This happened because in 1926 Portugal was taken over by right-wing Prime minister Dr. Antonio de Salazar who subsequently became a dictator. In 1933 Salazar's " Acta Colonial" rescinded the limited franchise earlier available to Goans. Many of Goa's educated elite, discouraged by this sudden and unexpected reversal, emigrated to Bombay. It was primarily in Bombay that nationalist movements arose to challenge Portuguese colonialism. The most influential Goan nationalist, Tristao de Braganza Cunha, established a relationship with the Indian National Congress. It was his expectation, as well as Nehru's, that once the British had left the subcontinent, Goa would almost immediately be abandoned by the Portuguese government.

Source: Goa