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Tiswadi or Ilhas de Goa (Islands of Goa) is a taluka of North Goa district in the state of Goa, India. The word Tiswadi itself means thirty settlements. It refers to the thirty settlements in which the Goud Saraswat Brahmins settled when they migrated to Goa. It is geographically an Island with the Mandovi River forming its northern boundary. The taluka of Tiswadi includes the smaller islands of Chorao, Divar and Vanxim. The present capital of Goa, Panaji, lies on this island. Tiswadi is also where the city of Old Goa (Velha Goa), a World Heritage Site, was established.
Tiswadi with the rest of Goa was part of the Vijaynagara Kingdom of South India in the 14th century. In the 15th century the Adil shahi sultanate conquered Goa and it came under Muslim rule. Hindus were persecuted and temples were Hindu temples were destroyed. This included the famous temple of Ganesh on the Island of Divar which has been recently rebuilt. The Portuguese conquered Tiswadi under Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510. While this brought some relief, the aggressive Portuguese began forced conversions to Christianity in the 16th century. All the Hindu temples in Tiswadi were destroyed and Churches built. The populace was made to accept Christianity or leave the Island. There was a mass exodus of Konkani Hindus who left Goa for the safe havens of Ponda and the Canara, Malabar Coast Chandgad and Joida. The first Hindu temple to be rebuilt in Panaji was the Shree Mahalakshmi temple by the Mhamai Kamats who petitioned the Portuguese authorities for permission to build their place of worship.
The evangelization of Tiswadi was spearheaded by the Dominicans who were assigned 15 villages and the Jesuits who were assigned the remaining part along with the smaller islands of Chorao and Divar, by the Portuguese authorities.
In 1552, the island of Chorao had a population of 300 Christians out of 3,000 and by this time, also had a small church which was visited by a Jesuit from St. Paul's every Sunday. In 1557, a marriage ceremony among the Chaudaris (landlords) was defiled by the presence of a Christian in disguise. After two years, this fact became known to the affected party. This time the ceremony was repeated in secret, as by now such rites had been forbidden. The event was unfortunately discovered and the guilty arrested. A village elder among them knowing very well the futility of resistance, told the magistrate, "Take whoever you want. Make all the people Christians." By the end of 1559, over 1,200 had accepted baptism. The following year, the first bishop from the Jesuit order, Dom John Nugnes de Baretto set up residence in Chorao which eventually became a Noviciate.
Most of Chorao's population converted en masse to Roman Catholicism in mid 1560 as a result of an incident which occurred in neighboring Divar. In July of that year, twenty young men were intercepted, as they were headed for the mainland to illegally participate in a Ganesh puja. After spending a few days in prison, they decided to embrace Christianity. This culminated in a general baptism by August 15 and by November, the number of converts had crossed 1,500. In Chorao, the figure for the year reached 1,207 covering almost the entire population.
By January 1563, the Jesuit provincial claimed that Tiswadi had become completely Christian with a population of 70,000, the great majority of which had converted in the last six years, corresponding to the terms of Viceroys Francisco Barreto and Constantino of Braganza, whose two and a half year term saw between 25,000 to 30,000 conversions.
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- Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians, Alan Machado Prabhu, I.J.A. Publications, 1999, pp. 100 – 101