East Indians

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East Indians or East Indian Catholics
Regions with significant populations
Bombay (1960s) ~92,000[1]
East Indian Marathi[2]
Christianity (Roman Catholicism)
Related ethnic groups
Kuparis, Marathi Christians

East Indians or East Indian Catholics are an ethno-religious Indian Christian community adhering to the Catholic Church, based mainly in the city of Mumbai, and also parts of Palghar and Thane districts in the state of Maharashtra, India.[3][4]


Pre-Portuguese era[edit]

Although it is commonly thought that the origin of Christianity in North Konkan, originated with proselytising activities in the 16th Century, it may have actually been St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ, who preached in North Konkan much earlier. There is evidence of this in the writings of Kosmas Indicopleustes, of his having seen in Kalyana a flourishing Christian Community in the 6th Century and of Jordanus, of his having laboured among the Christians in Thana and Sopara in the 13th Century. The Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani, who was either Catalan or Occitan (southern French), started evangelising activities in Thana and Sapora was the first work of Rome in North Konkan. Sopara was an ancient port and an international trading center. The water once extended all the way to Bhayander creek thus making the whole area extending from Arnala to Bhayander an island – referred to as Salsette island. In the time of the Buddha, Sopara (ancient Shurparaka), was an important port and a gateway settlement. Perhaps this induced Ashoka to install his edicts there. Sopara is referred in the Old Testament as Ophir, the place from which King Solomon brought gold, Josephus identifies Ophir with Aurea Chersonesus, belonging to India. Septuagint translates Ophir as Sophia, which is Coptic for India. This refers to the ancient city of Soupara or Ouppara on the western coast of India.[5]

Contact with India dates as far back as the days of King Solomon.[citation needed] Pantaneus visited India about AD 180 and there he found a Gospel of Matthew written in the Hebrew language, left with the Christians there by St. Bartholomew. This is mentioned by Eusebius, and by Jerome in one of his letters. The finding of a Gospel of Matthew left with the Christians by Bartholomew is very strong evidence to the existence of a Christian community in India in the first century at the time of the visit of St. Bartholomew. It traces the history of the Church in India to the first century. In fact, it is an independent confirmation of the Indian church's ancient and apostolic origin. Most of The Indian Church's history was lost between the 9th and the 14th Century, as Persia went over to the Nestorianism in 800 AD. Since the provision of Church offices and all the apparatus of public worship, was looking to a foreign source; when this foreign aid was withdrawn. the Indian Christians were reduced to "nominal" Christians.[4]

Portuguese era[edit]

The whole policy of the Portuguese, who came to India in 1498, was to bring the Indian Christians under their concept of Roman Catholicism.[1]

The Brahmins and other high-class Hindus, who were prudently and ceremoniously converted by the Portuguese, were treated with honour and distinction.[1] In stark contrast, was the attitude of the Portuguese to those groups who were engaged in cultivation, fishing and other rural occupations handed down to them by their ancestors. These groups were given neither education, not proper instructions in the dogmas and doctrines of the church.[1] Among the converts the Portuguese made, it cannot be denied that a large number of them were descendants of the Christian Community founded by Apostle St. Bartholomew and these new converts were not strangers to the old Christians.[1] They were their own people with whom they had been living for centuries. However, the Portuguese welded them into one community.[1] Ever since then, this community has remained a separate entity, without becoming one with any of the other Christian communities. In certain instances, they were even referred to as "Portuguese Christians".[1]

The Franciscans spearheaded evangelisation efforts in the "Province of the North" (Província do Norte).[6] Between 1534–1552, Fr. António do Porto made over 10,000 converts, built 12 churches and founded a number of orphanages and monasteries. Prominent among these converts were two yogis from the Kanheri Caves who came to be called Paulo Raposo and Francisco de Santa Maria. In turn, they spread Christianity among their fellow monks converting many of them in the process.[6] Another famous convert during this time was the Brahmin astrologer Parashuram Joshi. He was a learned, austere and devout person and embraced Christianity on 8 September 1565, taking the name of Henrique da Cunha. Joshi's example was followed by 250 Hindus, including over fifty Brahmins.[6] In Salsette, Fr. Manuel Gomes converted over 6,000 Hindus in Bandra, earning the title of the Apostle of Salsette.[6]

The number of converts in 1573 was 1,600. From 1548, the Jesuits in Bassein (Baçaim) and Bandra converted many of the upper classes. For instance, the Bassein Cathedral registered the number of baptisms as being 9,400. At Thane (Tana), the Jesuit superior Gonçalo Rodrigues baptised between 5,000 and 6,000, many of them orphans and young children of lower caste Hindus sold by their parents.[6] By the end of the 16th century, the Roman Catholic population of the Portuguese province of the North consisted of around 10,000 to 15,000 people, centered mainly in and around Bassein.[7]

However, following the defeat of the Portuguese at the hands of the Marathas and the advent of Maratha rule, the Catholics were discriminated against by the state administration.[8] In the aftermath of the fall of Bassein, many Catholics were heavily taxed by the Marathas who used the money to feed Brahmins and to conduct a massive re-conversion campaign aimed at bringing them back into the Hindu fold. Large numbers were re-converted in this manner.[8] Most Portuguese priests were forced to leave and by treaty, only five churches (three in Bassein City, one in Bassein District and one in Salsette) were permitted to remain.[8] The remainder of the Christian population was left to the native clergy under a Vicar General at Kurla. When, in 1757, Antequil du Perron visited Salsette, he found a flourishing Catholic population with many churches rebuilt and an open practise of Christianity, but with European priests totally absent.[8]

Later on the advent of the British, there came a lot of change.[1] In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Bombay estimated that there were 92,000 East Indians in Bombay out of which 76,000 were in suburban Bombay and 16,000 in urban Bombay.[1]

British and modern era[edit]

On 11 May 1661, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza (Catarina de Bragança), daughter of King João IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in the possession of the British Empire, as they had pursued ever since their takeover of Surat, allegedly as part of Catherine's dowry to Charles. A weakened Portugal, no longer part of the Crown of Spain, had to oblige. Nevertheless, parts of current Mumbai, such as Bandra, besides Thane or Vasai remained Portuguese well into the first third of the 18th century.[9] From the early days of the East India Company, there were no other Indian Christians in the North Konkan except the East Indian Catholics. Employments that were intended for Christians, were the monopoly of the East Indians. With development, came in railways and steamship, a boon for the travelling public. And with that came a number of immigrants from Goa who were also known as Portuguese Christians. The British found it expedient to adopt a designation which would distinguish the Christians of North Konkan who were British subjects and the Goan, who were Portuguese subjects (Mangalorean Catholics were not Portuguese subjects at this point any more). Accordingly, on the occasion of The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Christians of North Konkan, who were known as "Portuguese Christians" discarded that name and adopted the designation "East Indian”. By the adoption of the name "East Indian" they wanted to impress upon the British Government of Bombay that they were the earliest Roman Catholic Subjects of the British Crown in this part of India, in as much as parts of Bombay, by its cession in 1661, were the first foothold the British acquired in India, after Surat. As the children of the soil, they urged on the Government, that they were entitled to certain natural rights and privileges as against the immigrants.[4]

The Bombay East Indian Association was established on 26 May 1887 to advance the education, employment, duties, rights and economic backwardness of the East Indians.

Dr. P. F Gomes was the first President in 1887. He was knighted by Pope Leo XIII in 19888. Mr. J. L. Britto was the first Secretary. The other great East Indian founding fathers were Mr. D. I. D'Monte, Mr. John Bocarro, Mr. Dominic F. Almeida, Mr. S. J. Abreo, Mr. P. A. Chaves, Mr. L. M. Valladares, Mr. Gabriel D' Aguair, Mr. John D'Mello and Dr. D. Cardoz.

Rev. D. G. Almeida donated Rs. 1,00,000 towards an Education Fund.

In September 2014, local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO)'s like Watchdog Foundation, Mobai Gaothan Panchayat, Bombay East India Association, Vakola Advanced Locality Management, Kalina Civic Forum and the Kolovery Welfare Association initiated the formation of a political organisation called the Maharashtra Swaraj Party (MSP).[10] The organisation is aimed at representing the East Indian community and the party will field five candidates from Mumbai's suburbs in the 13th Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections.[11][3]

Architecture and Cuisine[edit]

The ordinary Koli house comprises a verandah (oli) used for repairing nets or the reception of visitors, a sitting-room (angan) used by the women for their household work, a kitchen, a central apartment, a bed-room, a gods' room (devaghar), and a detached bath-room.[12] Some of the East-Indian upper-class families and in the Khatri ward of Thane speak Portuguese.[13] 110 Portuguese lexical items are found in Marathi.[14]

Traditions and festivals[edit]

Although they have preserved their pre-Christian Marathi culture and traditions, many Portuguese influences have been absorbed. They still retain many of the practices of pre-Christian tradition.[15][better source needed]

Costumes and ornaments[edit]

The traditional dress for the female is the lugra and for male is a khaki short pant and white banian. A Koli Christian bridegroom usually wears a dilapidated Portuguese Admiral's uniform, which is specially preserved and lent out on such occasions.[16] In the olden days, East Indian women wore a blouse and cotton lugra the hind pleats tucked into the waist at the back centre of the legs, while the girls do not make use of the upper portion of the sari covering the head and breast until they are married. This mode of wearing the sari is known as sakacch nesane as opposed to gol nesane the round or cylindrical mode of wear. The latter is popular among young girls and women.[17]

Formerly, women among the well-to-do used ornaments like rnuda, rakhadi, kegada, phul, gulabache phul and chandrakora, for the head, the thushi, galasari, Putalyachi mal and tika around the neck; bugadi, karaba; kudi, kapa and ghuma for the ears; and for the nose, nath, phuli, moti.[18] Mangalsutras (wedding necklace), made of the black beads being stringed together in different patterns.[18]

Historical society[edit]

Meet the East Indians of Mumbai

There are five broad cultural groups of East Indians—Kulbis, Samavedi Christians (commonly called Kuparis), Koli Christians, Wadvals, Salsette Christians, and the urbanized section.[4]


The feature film Tu Maza Jeev, which is in the East Indian language, was released on Maharashtra Day in 2009.[19]

Singing competition[edit]

Jacinto at east Indian singing competition kirol (Mumbai)

To keep their culture alive the East Indians organise singing competitions[20] in their own East Indian language. The ceremony is mostly conducted in evening on important occasions of that village.There are various association in-charged for each singing competitions For e.g. The United social welfare association (USWA)[21] of kurla organises the Kurla East Indian competition every year on the Eve of Phool dongri feast at Holy cross church grounds[22]

Notable East Indians[edit]

Gazetted Officers/Class 1 Officers/Group A Officers Authority for a gazetted officer to issue an official stamp comes from the President of India or the Governors of States. To that effect, they are de jure representatives and delegates of the Indian State and the President.The Gazette of India is published on the regular basis by the Directorate of Printing, Department of Publication, Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Baptista 1967, p. 27
  2. ^ James, V. (1965), "Marriage Customs of Christian Son Kolis" (PDF), Asian ethnology, 2, Nanzan, Japan: Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nanzan University, 24: 131–148 
  3. ^ a b Kumar, Raksha (2016-06-04), "The original East Indians", The Hindu, Mumbai (published 2013-08-02), retrieved 2017-08-19 
  4. ^ a b c d "East Indians: History" (PDF), East-Indians.com, retrieved 2017-08-19 (Article based on Baptista 1967) 
  5. ^ Thana District Gazetteer Part – I: Population:Christians-History Archived 10 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b c d e Machado 1999, p. 104
  7. ^ Machado 1999, p. 108
  8. ^ a b c d Machado 1999, p. 132
  9. ^ "Catherine of Bragança (1638–1705)". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  10. ^ "MSP announces candidate list for assembly elections". I am in DNA of India. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "East Indian party to field 5 candidates from suburbs", The Times of India, 2014-09-18, retrieved 2017-08-19 
  12. ^ Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island I, II & III 1997, Chapter III : Population : Languages
  13. ^ Thane Gazetteer: Population: Christians – Speech
  14. ^ Grover, Neelam; Mukerji, Anath Bandhu; Singh, Kashi N. (2004), Grover, Neelam; Singh, Kashi N., eds., Cultural geography, form and process: essays in honor of Prof. A.B. Mukerji, Concept Publishing Company, p. 275, ISBN 978-81-8069-074-7 
  15. ^ "The East Indian Community Original Inhabitants of Bombay, Salsette & Thana". 
  16. ^ Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island I, II & III 1997, Chapter III : Population : The Kolis
  17. ^ Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island I 1986, Chp. People: Dress
  18. ^ a b Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island I 1986, Chp. People: Ornaments
  19. ^ "First East Indian movie releases on Maharashtra Day". The Times of India. 4 May 2009. 
  20. ^ "WN - east indian singing competition uttan pali". wn.com. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "The East Indians of Kurla". geracao.in. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  22. ^ "Phool Dongri Feast - 10th May 2015 - Holy Cross Church". www.holycrosschurch.co.in. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  23. ^ Target Goa. "Two hats of James Ferreira couture and activism". targetgoa.com. Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Dog Eat Dog was an official selection at the Festival De Cannes 2007
  25. ^ Dhyan, Chand (1952). GOAL. Chennai, India: Sports & Pastime. p. 10. 


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