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Kolkata Derozio statue.jpg
Regions with significant populations
Goa · Kerala · Daman and Diu · Tamil Nadu

Predominantly: English · Konkani · Portuguese Creoles

Minority: Malayalam · Tamil · Other Indian languages

Majority Roman Catholicism

Judaism · Hinduism
Related ethnic groups
Portuguese Burghers · Goan Catholics

Luso-Indians are Indian people who have mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry or people of Portuguese descent born or living in India. Most of them live in former Portuguese colonies in India such as Goa, Korlai, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Daman and Diu.[1][2]


Early History[edit]

Main article: Portuguese India
City of Calicut, India, c.1572 (from Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg's atlas Civitates orbis terrarum)

In the 16th Century, a thousand years after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Portuguese became the first European power to begin trading in the Indian Ocean.[3] They were in South India a few years before the Moghuls appeared in the North. In the early 16th century, they set up their trading posts (factories) throughout the coastal areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, with their capital in Goa in South West India on the Malabar Coast.

In 1498, the number of Europeans residents in the area is merely a few tens of thousands. By 1580, Goa was a sophisticated city with its own brand of Indo-Portuguese society. Early in the development of Portuguese society in India, the Portuguese Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque encouraged Portuguese soldiers to marry native women.

The Portuguese also shipped over many Orfas del Rei to Portuguese India, Goa in particular. Orfas del Rei literally translates to "Orphans of the King", and they were Portuguese girl orphans sent to overseas colonies to marry either Portuguese settlers or natives with high status.

Arrival of other Europeans[edit]

Portuguese and other European settlements in India.

The English, French and Dutch East India Companies (EIC's) became active in Far East trading in a meaningful way about a hundred and fifty years after the Portuguese. They too set up their posts throughout the Indian Ocean. By the middle of the 17th century there were several thousand Portuguese and Luso-Indians in India and a relatively small population of other Indo-Europeans. By the end of the 17th century, the East India Companies had established three major trading posts in India – Fort St. George (Chennai), Fort St William (Kolkata) and Bombay Island. In 1670, the Portuguese population in Madras numbered around 3000.

British Raj[edit]

In the 17th century, Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam and London were coming to Madras as settlers and traders.[4] One of the first Jews who came to Madras with special permission to reside and trade there was Jacques (Jaime) de Paiva (Pavia) who convinced the English authorities to permit Jews to settle in Madras and he was the one who organised the Jews into the semblance of a community. On a plot of land in the suburbs he established a Jewish cemetery. The East India Company used Portuguese Jews based in Madras in its diplomatic efforts to expand English trading.

By the mid-eighteenth century most Portuguese Jews had emigrated to London, leaving very few in Madras. The gravestones of the old Jewish cemetery were moved to the Central Park of Madras in 1934 with the gate of the cemetery on which is written "Beit ha-Haim" in Hebrew letters, the last vestige of Jewish presence in Madras in the seventeenth century.

Portuguese speaking communities in India[edit]


The Portuguese language is rapidly disappearing from Goa.[5] It is now spoken only by a small segment of the upper-class families and about 3 to 5 per cent of the people still speak it (estimated at 60,000 to 90,000 people). The last Newspaper in Portuguese ended the publications in 1980s (i.e. O Heraldo switched from Portuguese to English overnight in the mid eighties). However, the "Fundação do Oriente" and the Indo–Portuguese Friendship Society (Sociedade de Amizade Indo-Portuguesa) are still active. At Panaji many signs in Portuguese are still visible over shops, administrative buildings etc. There is a department of Portuguese at the Goa University.


In the Coromandel Coast, Luso-Indians were generally known as Topasses. They were Catholics and spoke Portuguese Creole. When England began to rule in India, they began to speak English in place of the Portuguese and also anglicised their names. They are, now, part of the Eurasian community. In Negapatam, in 1883, there were 20 families that spoke Creole Portuguese. There are currently about 2000 people who speak Creole Portuguese in Damão while in Diu the language is nearly extinct. About 900 monolingual people currently speak Creole Portuguese in Korlai. In Kochi, Luso-Indians now number about 2,000.

Luso-Indians outside India[edit]

During Portuguese rule in India, many Luso-Indian mestiços left India for other Portuguese colonies for purposes of trade. Some also became Roman Catholic missionaries in Macau, Indonesia and Japan. One such mestiço was Gonsalo Garcia, a Catholic saint who was martyred in Japan in 1597.[6] Other Luso-Indians went to Macau, then a Portuguese colony, where they intermarried into the local Macanese population. Goan mestiços are among the ancestors of many Macanese today. Still other Luso-Indians went to Portuguese Mozambique. Two important members of the Luso-Indian Mozambican community are Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, a leader of the Carnation Revolution against the Estado Novo in Portugal, and Orlando da Costa, a writer who was born in Mozambique and lived until the age of 18 in Goa.

The mestiço children of wealthy Portuguese men were often sent to Portugal to study. Sometimes they remained there and established families. Many Portuguese-born mestiços became prominent politicians, lawyers, writers or celebrities. Alfredo Nobre da Costa, who was briefly Prime Minister of Portugal in 1978, was of partial Goan descent on his father's side. Similarly, current Mayor of Lisbon António Costa is one-quarter Goan from his father, Orlando da Costa. Television presenter Catarina Furtado is also part Indian.

Following the 1961 Indian annexation of Goa, many ethnic Portuguese living in Goa, as well as Goan assimilados and mestiços or Luso-Indians fled Goa for Portugal, Brazil or Portuguese Africa.


See also[edit]