A ‘leading’ Christian theologian of Goa, while referring to the Portuguese destruction of Hindu temples in the region from the 15th century onwards, had recently argued that these were not Hindu temples but places of worship that belonged to ‘independent cults and religions which were often at war with each other.’ He also argued that there were no Hindus in Goa before the Portuguese came and that this entire effort was a ‘reductionist and distortionist appropriation of Goa’s history by Hindulogists.’
Father Victor Ferrao’s ability to coin new terminologies is unparalleled and I am happy to henceforth call myself a Hindulogist at least that will give, to those of us who argue for the Hindus, some standing in the hallowed galleries of churchdom! However, the actual truth is that Ferrao, by distorting history, by resorting to, what the legendary historian of theDharmasastras Bharat Ratna PV Kane had once described as ‘suppression veri and suggestion falsi’, is trying to drive a wedge between the Goan Christian and Hindu of today.
Past civilisational and historical wrongs need reiteration as part of study of human evolution and behaviour, the habit of distorting or suppressing these for present benefits never yield real long-term dividends. Therefore, for Father Ferrao’s benefit, it would be useful to reiterate what his own co-religionist have written about the destruction of the Hindu way of life and worship in Goa. I have also been careful not to cite any ‘Hindu communal-nationalist historian’ but have referred from those who had nothing whatsoever to do with propagation of ‘Hindutva’, such an approach will hopefully enable Ferrao to issue a corrective.
One Jacinto Frere Andrade in his Life of Dom Joao Casho (1664) cites the decree of the king of Portugal, Joāo III who ruled from 1521-1557, to his Viceroy Joao de Castro, commanding him to discover idols and to demolish and break them up in pieces where they are found, proclaiming severe punishments against anyone who shall dare to work, cast, make in sculpture, engrave, paint or bring to a light any figure of an idol in metal, brass, wood, plaster or any other matter… and against who publicly or privately celebrate any of their sports, keep by them any heathenish frankincense or assist and hide the Brahmins, the sworn enemies of the Christian profession”. Joāo III directed de Castro to punish them severely “without admitting any appeal or dispensation in the least”.
Reputed historian of Goa and a Goan Christian himself Dr Teotonio R de Souza, founder of the Goa-based Xavier Centre of Historical Research in his The Portuguese in Asia andTheir Church Patronage, (1988) explicitly cites how Hindu temples were destroyed and idols annihilated. By 1540, says de Souza, all Hindu idols and temples were destroyed in Goa and building materials were in most cases utilised to erect new Christian churches and chapels”.
It did not stop at that, de Souza continues as saying, “Various viceregal and church council decrees banished the Hindu priests from the Portuguese territories” and the “public practice of Hindu rites, including marriage rites, was banned”. Temple properties were confiscated and de Souza says that the Portuguese Government of the day transferred to the church and religious orders the properties and other sources of revenues that had belonged to the Hindu temples that had been demolished”. Entire villages were taken over for being considered rebellious and handed over with all their revenues to the Jesuits’ for monitoring. De Souza also describes a “particularly grave abuse in Goa in the form of ‘mass baptism’, Hindus would be seized and their lips smeared with a ‘piece of beef’ forcing them to convert.
Uruguay-based Alfredo de Mello, a Goan born historian, in his Memoirs of Goa (2003) writes how in a span of 252 years, the inquisition held sway in Goa “with a power that Stalin and other tyrants would have liked to hold.” Referring to the dreaded Goan Inquisition de Mello calls it “the worst of the existing inquisitions in the Catholic orb of the five parts of the world”. De Mello also cites from the memoirs of Judges Magalhāes and Louisada (1859), who described what they witnessed, “…The inquisition, this tribunal of fire, thrown on the surface of the globe for the scourge of humanity, this horrible institution which will eternally cover with shame its authors, fixed its brutal domicile in the fertile plains of the Hindustan. On seeing the monster everyone fled and disappeared, Mughals, Arabs, Persians, Armenians and Jews. The Indians, i.e., Hindus even more tolerant and pacific, were astounded to see the God of Christianism more cruel than that of Mohammed, [and] deserted the territory of the Portuguese …In this fashion, the fields and cities became deserted as are today Diu and Goa”.
AK Priolkar, leading historian of the Goan inquisition in his The Terrible Tribunal for the East: The Goan Inquisition (1961) cites from primary sources a 41 point-plan of 1545 sent to the king of Portugal, found in the Archivo Nacional of Torre de Tombo, the Portuguese National Archives, for the suppression and conversion of the natives in Goa. The third point of the plan asks the king not to tolerate or allow idolatry which is ‘so great an offence against God’ and says that an ‘order should be promulgated in Goa to the effect that in the whole island there should not be any temple public or secret, contravention whereof should entail grave penalties…no Hindu festival should be publicly celebrated in the whole island; that Brahmin preachers from the mainland should not gather in the house of the Hindus; and that persons who are in charge of St. Paul’s should have the power to search the houses of the Brahmins and other Hindus, in case there exists a presumption or suspicion of the existence of idols there”.
Temples vandalised, Hindus under siege in Bengal
The truth is that Hindus had historically existed and thrived in the entire region of Goa, the truth is that they were gradually exterminated or exiled through a genocidal process known as the Inquisition and the truth is that for such a past treatment, the Hindus never sought to retaliate or seek redressal. The truth is also that in today’s Goa such past historical wrongs have not coloured the Hindus stand on the need for peaceful co-existence with the Christians.
Father Ferrao will hopefully revise his thesis and desist from dishing out distortions!