History of Goan Catholics

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History of Goan Catholics recounts the history of the Goan Catholic community of the Indian state of Goa from their conversion to Christianity to date.

Pre-Portuguese era[edit]

No concrete evidence has been found that Christianity prevailed in Goa before the Portuguese arrived, but it is believed that St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, brought and spread the Gospel in Konkan including Goa, just as St. Thomas had done in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in Southern India.[1]

Portuguese era[edit]

The Se Cathedral is a cathedral dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria, located in Old Goa

In the 15th century, the Portuguese explored the sea route to India and Pope Nicholas V enacted the Papal bull Romanus Pontifex. This bull granted the patronage of the propagation of the Christian faith in Asia to the Portuguese (see "Padroado") and rewarded them with a trade monopoly for newly discovered areas.[2] After Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut on the coast of Kerala in India in 1498, the trade became prosperous. In 1510, the Portuguese wrested Goa from the Sultan of Bijapur and finally established themselves in Goa.[3] By 1544, they conquered the districts of Bardez and Salcette in Goa.[4] The Portuguese however were not interested in proselytization. After four decades, the Catholic Church threatened to open Asia for all Catholics. In 1534, the Archdiocese of Goa was established. Soon missionaries of the newly founded Society of Jesus were sent to Goa, which lead to conversion of many locals to Christianity. They offered rice donations for the poor, good positions in the Portuguese colonies for the middle class and military support for local rulers. In 1542, Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of Jesus, arrived in Goa. He observed that the newly converted Christians were practicing their old customs and traditions.

The path of migration of Goan Catholics towards South Canara

Many of the newly converted Goan Catholic ancestors of the present Mangalorean Catholic community fled Goa because of the Goa Inquisition introduced by the Portuguese in 1560. King Sebastian of Portugal decreed that every trace of Indian customs be eradicated through the Inquisition. But many Christians of Goa were attached to some of their ancient Indian customs and refused to abandon them. Those who refused to comply with the rules laid down by the Inquisition were forced to leave Goa and to settle outside the Portuguese dominion.[5] About 7,000 of them (mostly Saraswat Brahmins) fled Goa. Most migrated to South Canara in what is called the "First Wave of Migration".[6]

According to Francis Buchanan, a Scottish physician, when he visited Canara in 1801. In his book, A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (1807), he stated that "80,000  Goan Christians came and settled[7] in South Canara at the invitation of the King of Bednore."[8] Later, this was identified as a probable mistake and should have read "8,000". However even this figure included the second emigration of Christians from Goa.[9]

The Sultan of Bijapur attacked Goa in 1571 and ended Portuguese influence in the region. The Bijapur sultans were especially known for their loathing of Christianity. Fearing persecution, many Catholics from Goa migrated to South Canara. This migration is referred as the "Second Wave of Migration".[6] The attacks of the Maratha Empire on Goa, during the mid 16th century, was also a cause of migration. In 1664, Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire, attacked Kudal, a town north of Goa, and began his campaign for Goa. After Shivaji's death on 3 April 1680, his son Sambhaji ascended to the throne.[6] The onslaught of Sambahji, along the northern territories of Goa drove nearly all the Christians from their homelands, and most of them migrated to South Canara. This migration is referred as the "Third Wave of Migration". From the Bardez district of Goa, Jesuit priests estimated that 12,000 Christians migrated to the South of Goa between 1710–1712. A Goa Government report of 1747 recorded that around 5,000 Christians fled to South Canara from the Bardez and Tiswadi districts of Goa during the invasion of the Marathas.[6] It was estimated that during the Maratha raids on Goa, about 60,000 Christians migrated to South Canara.[10] During the later years, the migration slowed because of the Maratha-Mughal wars, which kept Sambhaji busy, and some 10,000 Christians returned to Goa.[6]

Modern era[edit]

In 1787, inspired by the French Revolution, several Goan Catholic priests, unhappy with the process of promotion within the Church and other discriminatory practices of the Portuguese, organized the Pinto Revolt against the Portuguese. Though it was an unsuccessful revolt, it was the first open revolt against the Portuguese from within Goa. Britain gained control of Goa twice, the first time in 1797–1798 and the second time from 1802–1813. In 1843, the capital was moved to Panjim and by the mid 18th century the area under occupation by the Portuguese expanded to Goa's present day limits. By this time the Portuguese Empire started declining and further resistance to their occupation in Goa started gaining momentum. After the rest of India gained independence in 1947 Portugal refused to relinquish of Goa. On 18 December 1961, India moved in with troops and after hostilities that lasted 36 hours, forced the Portuguese administration to surrender. On 30 May 1987, Goa was elevated as India's 25th state.[11]

During the 1970s, coastal communication increased between Bombay and Goa, after introduction of ships by the London based trade firm Shepherd. These ships facilitated the entry of Goan Catholics to Bombay.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ayyappapanicker 1997, p. 263
  2. ^ Daus, Ronald (1983). Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus (in German). Wuppertal/Germany: Peter Hammer Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 3-87294-202-6.
  3. ^ Kerr 1812
  4. ^ George 1992, p. 205
  5. ^ Silva & Fuchs 1965, p. 4
  6. ^ a b c d e Prabhu, Alan Machado (1999). Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians. I.J.A. Publications. ISBN 978-81-86778-25-8. Contents taken from Sarasvati's Children article, written by Joe Lobo, the President of the Goan Catholic Association in Florida. This article has been borrowed mainly from Alan Machado's above book.
  7. ^ Buchanan 1988, p. 23
  8. ^ Buchanan 1988, p. 24
  9. ^ Silva & Fuchs 1965, p. 5
  10. ^ Kurzon 2003, p. 77
  11. ^ Dias 2007, pp. 2–3
  12. ^ Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture 1983, p. 113