Migrations of Goans to South India – Due to Conversion and Inquisition Decrees?


05 Dec. 2021 | 6:06 AM HIST

Migrations of Goans to South India – Due to Conversion and Inquisition Decrees?

Visit B. Monteiro

The Goans have had a long history of emigration, even before the Portuguese landed in Goa. Goans themselves were immigrants, who came here from various parts of the then known world.

In this article, I would like to focus on the particular type of migrations Goan undertook to southern India, mainly Karnataka (Mangalore, Shimoga) and, in particular, Kerala. The reason behind this is that, in recent times, there have been concerted efforts on the part of certain elements which, with a well-known agenda, have repeatedly focused on conversion and the Inquisition as the main causes of migration from Goa. We constantly hear that “they all migrated because of the conversion and the Inquisition” and this is exaggerated by the media, thus creating a lot of misunderstanding in the minds of people and leading them to believe that the statement is not. nothing but true. The point is that the history of Goa was written primarily by members of the upper caste and when these people write the history of Goa it is primarily from the perspective of their caste.

I have been studying this question for a few years and have traveled extensively in Kerala and Karnataka to discover the real causes of Goan migrations to the south. If we look at history, we will find that over the centuries the west coast of India has had trade relations with Arabs, Jews, Chinese, etc. However, a special group of Goan traders, the Saraswat Brahmins (GSB) have been trading in Kerala since the early 13th century AD. At this point we find flourishing Goan Pais, Prabhus and Kinnis (Kennis) in Kerala. They couldn’t have done it because of the conversion and the Inquisition! The Goans have indeed moved to Kerala through several migrations since the 13th century and are now settled in nearly 200 villages in Kerala.

In his book, saraswats in Kerala history, n. Purushothama Mallaya writes that there was a huge migration from Goa to Kerala in 1294 – more than two centuries before the Portuguese arrived in India – when Allaudin Khilji conquered Deccan and Goa and temples and houses took over. been looted and looted. Simultaneously, according to the same Mallaya, fierce religious disputes took place between Goan Vaishnavites and Shaivites. These two factors contributed to this first massive migration of Goans to distant Cochin in Kerala. They settled in and around Koddungaloor harbor with the kunbis, slave laborers whom they took with them. In 1343, when the catastrophic floods of the Pamba and Peryar rivers destroyed the port city of Koddungaloor, totally changing its geography, resulting in the formation of the Vipeen Islands, many saraswats and kunbis settled on these islands.

The second mass migration to Kerala took place in 1522, twelve years after the Portuguese arrived in Goa. This migration deserved to be recorded in Cochin on a huge granite slab entitled “Milestones of Cochin” (see photo). The following words are engraved there: 1522 – arrival of the Konkanis from Goa. It must have been a heavy migration indeed, to deserve a mention on this emblematic slab. One might ask, “Why did they emigrate there at a time when the preaching of the gospel had not even started and there had not been a single conversion in Goa?” It should be noted that the decrees of the conversion and the inquisition appeared well 40 years after 1522. Why then are all of them silent on these colossal pre-Portuguese Goan migrations and the reasons which underlie them?

It cannot be denied that after 1562 there was also a huge migration from Goa (the third great migration) to southern India, mainly to Karwar, Udipi, Mangalore, etc. And especially towards Kerala. This came as a result of the application of the conversion and inquisition decrees. Nevertheless, we always hear the same refrain: “all the migrations took place because of the conversions and the Inquisition.

It is important to note that at the time of the proclamation of the decrees of conversion and of the inquisition, there were four distinct groups among the gsb: (1) those who, during the preaching of the gospel, voluntarily accepted the christianity; (2) those who adopted the new faith in view of the advantages they would gain from being associated with the Portuguese in administration, since they were the only educated class among the natives; (3) the rich and influential GSBs (we find them in every village) who remained in their own religion and no one got involved: they received Portuguese viceroys and governors in their own houses, some from among them being appointed ambassadors of the Portuguese king to various local kingdoms; (4) and, finally, the fourth group which said: “we do not want to convert, we are leaving”. They even had time to dispose of their properties / assets and migrate. This is the section of those who left Goa with their bonded laborers (kunbis), heading to Kerala and Karnataka. While a considerable number of this fourth section of GSB left Goa with the kunbis, an equal number of other classes of Hindus embraced Christianity, while the majority of Hindus remained Hindus on this land.

A question arises here: If the inquisition tribunal were so powerful and had the sole purpose of forcing the natives to convert to Christianity, as the aforementioned vested interests show, Goa would have been fully Christian territory. , without “believers” of other religions in the country. However, we know that at no time in Goa’s history has its Christian population become the majority. So much for the “destructive power” of the Inquisition in Goa!

Another aspect that is generally ignored is that, the Portuguese Goa of the time was only Tiswadi, Bardez and Salcete. I discovered that many migrants in Kerala are from Ponda taluka, which was not under the Portuguese.

Coming back to the phenomenon of migrations from Goa during the “pre-Portuguese” and early “Portuguese” centuries, the following factors stand out:

The Goans were experienced farmers, due to their unprecedented community farming system. They were invited by the rajas and maharajas of the subcontinent to their respective kingdoms, to help develop their own agricultural lands. In Kerala, they were entrusted with the large agricultural tracts of Tirumala temple in Kochi. The kunbis have reclaimed large areas for rice cultivation in the remote waters of Kerala, installing bunds and gates. Likewise, in Karnataka, they were entrusted with vast agricultural properties, which they exploited optimally by the sole use of their agricultural know-how.

The droughts, famines and epidemics that raged from time to time have had their own impact on migration.

The constant invasions of the Marathas which resulted in heavy taxes to be paid to the conquerors, in addition to the looting of the formidable Ranes of Satari, led many inhabitants of Bardez, belonging to the two religious communities, to flee towards Mangalore and the Ghats.

Many Goans, seeing their relationships flourish in other states, also migrated to Karnataka and Kerala, in search of better life prospects.

There were also professional migrants. The Goans were very good copper smelters and traders. In Cochin, there was a “Goan Street” near the present synagogue, where Goan traded in copper. In Calicut, there were 30 Catholic families from Calangute who made a living from the copper trade.

The proclamation of the language decree, which prohibited speaking or using Konkani even in religious services (although it was never performed), had some effect on Goa’s migration to the Ghats.

Let’s say that at this time, the fear and horror stories about the Inquisition played a big part in the psyche of people, at a time when the physical separation of talukas and villages by rivers and hills made communication hard. Today, simplistic means of communication are used extensively to spread the same (and even new) stories of fear and horror.

In conclusion, I would like to emphatically state that while the conversion and inquisition decrees have had their own impact on some of the south Goa migrations, they are not the only cause of such population displacements.


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