Portuguese Inquisition and Revisionism

Due to my heritage and interest in Konkani Temples in Goa, and particularly our Kuldevata Ramnathi Devasthan I have been researching books on the Portuguese occupation in Goa. During the Portuguese Inquisition lasting more than 150 years (1560 – 1812), the Jesuits made a systematic attempt at wiping out the Konkani heritage in Goa. Konkanis were either tortured and killed, forced to convert, or give up their lands and migrate. In a desperate attempt at genocide, all Konkani temples in older Goa were ransacked, wealth stolen and destroyed. It was the men-of-the cloth, who spread the horrors of the Inquisition, and later Anglicans who put political pressure on the Portuguese forcing it to end the Inquisition.

I have tracked scores of such books from the 18th and 19th century which shed a grim light on the atrocities of the Portuguese, all in the name of their God. In the midst of an enormous amount of historical literature, there are always the revisionists, trying to cast a softer glow on the Portuguese Inquisition. This one by an ordained priest takes the cake.

A few lines from his work and my related comments.
An Historical Sketch of Goa, Rev. Denis L. Cottineau de Kloguen (DK)
Gazette Press, Madras (1831), Reprinted pp 44-45
Also available digitized from the Library at Harvard College, Cambridge, MA; Pg 69 – 70.

Original text in italics is contiguous in one paragraph; my comments are in regular text. In this paragraph, the Kloguen is trying to defend the Archbishop D Alexins de Menezes.

DK – … Some acts of violence by the Portuguese agents may have been committed, both before and after him, but they are not to be imputed to him.
AS – Really! Everyone else is to blame, but not the Archbishop who actually had more power in Goa than the political appointee?

DK – It is equally false, that, followed by the officers of the Inquisition, he went armed with fire and sword, to compel the inhabitants of Salsette to embrace the Christian religion. The Jesuits converted a great part of them by the usual and most laudable means;
AS – Reminded me of the recent controversial remarks by Pope Benedict 16th: (from the NY Times) “… in Brazil, … native populations had been “silently longing” for the Christian faith brought to South America by colonizers.” The Rev is probably alluding to such an “innate longing” for torture and death.

DK – but in order as they thought, the better to detach the remainder of the inhabitants from worship of idols, they destroyed all the temples and pagodas.
AS – Much to the embarrassment of the Jesuits, many forced converts continued to visit temples and kept to their traditional Hindu ways. The only way to prevent this was to destroy the temples. How many is “all”? How many temples were destroyed in Goa?

DK – This however, had the contrary effect; and the Pagans, exasperated at this circumstance, rose up in arms, murdered five jesuits, and several Portuguese.
AS – Did the Jesuits really expect anything else? Note the choice of the word “murdered” when associated with the Jesuits and the Portuguese. BTW, when “all temples and pagodas” were destroyed, how many of the locals were killed? Smoothly overlooked. And really, when armed men go in and destroy peoples temples, wouldn’t you expect an equally violent response?

DK – The Governor then felt himself obliged to use arms likewise to reduce the rebels; and of course did not after wards permit the temples to be rebuilt.
AS – “reduce the rebels” here is an euphemism for “massacring the population”! And since when did the locals become the “rebels” in their own lands? Don’t the ‘rebels’ have the right to defend their lands, home and temples?

DK – But in all this, the Archbishop had nothing to do, and what is certainly better proved, are the good works and the pious establishments of Goa, of which he is the founder.
AS – Looks like he is an ideal candidate for sainthood, no?

My Posts Related to the Ramnathi Devasthan and other Konkani Temples:

21 thoughts on “Portuguese Inquisition and Revisionism

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  1. The Inquisition in Goa was a particularly sordid chapter in the bloodstained history of the Catholic Church. This shameful piece of history should be taught to every Indian. My own ancestors, who were forcibly converted to Catholicism , fled to Mangalore to escape the Portugese savagery .

    It’s a wonder to me that India tolerates the presence of this barbaric religion and has not even demanded an apology from the Church.

    And yes, Xavier’s tomb and remains should be burnt.

    1. Thank you. Agree with including the atrocities of the Portuguese as required reading in schools.

      Considering what the Portuguese did to the local culture, people and temples, it might seem just to do the same to Xavier’s tomb and remains (When the Portuguese got their hands on the tooth of the Buddha as a relic, they fired it from a cannon into the sea), but I think we can rise above them and simply ship the tomb and remains to Portugual – at their cost. And include storage charges for a few centuries. Or better still, put it on ebay!


  2. The Three Voyages of Vasco de Gama, and His Viceroyalty:
    From the Lendas Da India of Gaspar CorrÍa

    “” But I had another reason, which made me less
    forward to enlarge his Majesty’s dominions by my
    discoveries. To say the truth, I had conceived a few
    scruples with relation to the distributive justice of
    princes upon those occasions. For instance, a crew
    of pirates are driven by a storm they know not
    whither ; at length a boy discovers land from the
    top-mast ; they go on shore to rob and plunder ; they
    see an harmless people, are entertained with kindness;
    they give the country a new name ; they take formal
    possession of it for the King : they set up a rotten
    plank or a stone for a memorial ; they murder two
    or three dozen of the natives, bring away a couple
    more by force for a sample, return home and get
    their pardon. Here commences a new dominion, ac-
    quired with a title by Divine right. Ships are sent
    with the first opportunity; the natives driven out or
    destroyed ; their princes tortured to discover their
    gold ; a free licence given to all acts of inhumanity
    and lust, the earth reeking with the blood of its in-
    habitants ; and this execrable crew of butchers em-
    ployed in so pious an expedition, is a modern colony,
    sent to convert and civilise an idolatrous and bar-
    barous people.”


    read the full book to know what transpired and how horrific it was .

    It is pertinent even today lest you start respecting icons of barbarianism who have been anointed as saints today

  3. Was There ever An Pology From The Vatican at All over what the Portuguese did in Goa & Elsewhere

    1. Of course not! Actually, the office of the Inquisition is still present at the Vatican under a different name; and the current pope was heading that office before he became Pope. Interesting!

      Thank you for reading

  4. There is an interesting Novel which is written by Mr.Gopalakrishna Pai ,set in the backdrop of the infamous’’ Goan Inquistion’’. Our ancestors had no other option but to flee from Goa, when they saw that their Temples were being destroyed, their house and businesses were under threat from the savage army of the Portuguese.

    This novel ‘’Swapna Saraswatha’’ in Kannada outlines the story of one such group of families who left Goa, their final destination was Kochi/ Cochin( a prosperous trading city which they had only heard about) but on their way to Kochi many families settled down in Karnataka.

    Swapna Saraswatha brings out various sufferings and challenges faced by our ancestors, many of them never knew what poverty and hunger was, many of them were very rich businessemen, but lost every thing when
    they were forced to leave Goa, families were separated never to meet again in their lifetime, some of them even became mad due to the sad turn of events…

    Ultimately our ancestors over came all the challenges and settled down in various parts of Karnataka and Kerala and once again prospered. They rebuilt their lives, established Konkani settlements, founded temples and contributed to the Society which gave them shelter, respect and protection.

    This is a novel every one of us should own, read like purana and understand. Author Shri Gopalakrishna Pai has been to various archives and libraries, met many historians and scholars, read about 4000 books on the subject during his research work to know the historical, cultural, and social background which existed during that
    time. He made notes of about 2000 pages and collected innumerable photographs before commencing the writing of this novel which is about 475 pages in Kannada. The hard bound edition is priced at Rs. 325/-
    and overseas price is USD20. The publishers are M/S Bhagyalakshmi Prakashana , No. 87, 3rd Cross, 4th Block, Banashankari III Stage, III Phase, Bangalore 85 and their contact No. is 080-26695715 Mob: 94480

    This novel is a run away success and has sold out all the first edition copies. Currently efforts are on to translate this novel into English, Marati and Malayalam.

    Mr. Pai can be reached at bgpai58@gmail.com

    1. Ajith:
      Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

      Fascinating to note this book by Gopalakrishna Pai. Now I wish I had studied kannada. I will try and get a copy mailed to my home in Mumbai.

      Yes, there is a lot of this information available and I have been working on a draft of a book on the Goan inquisition for the last several years. I have another project which i taking up all my time. perhaps next year I will get a chance to finish up the Inquisition project.

      I hope he puts out the english edition first. Will also try and contact Mr Gopalakrishna Pai.

      Many thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    1. What do you suggest?
      Just stick our heads in the sand and forget the genocide ever occurred? Perhaps you can provide guidance on how best to move forward in a peaceful manner (and justice for all).

  5. Niraj – you are absolutely right.
    It was Xavier who petitioned the King of Portugal to impose the Inquisition in Goa (His letters to the king are available).
    Because of his ‘efficiency’ in converting hindus he was made a “saint.”
    BTW, the Inquisition was brutal for all the Hindus who resisted!

    And right again – we hindus don’t know the history and see us all praying in front of his body in Goa! He tried his darndest to destroy our faith and we in turn revere him?

    Thanks for your comment

  6. From what I had read, “Saint” Xavier, was also deeply involved in the persecution of Goan Hindus and he did get sainthood.
    Its a pity that very few people in Goa know about the truths of the Goan inquisition and whats worse is that fellow Konkani people worldwide do not care about this and dont even know why they ended up being scattered in karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala.
    It is sad that Goan Christians still use portugese in their language.

    1. Hi all Konkanis,

      I used to get very angry about all these atrocities which the Portuguese committed on our people. But the colonists have not spared anyone . The English, French, Dutch, Germans, Portuguese, Spanish have butchered millions. In the end, they got what they wanted. They have three new continents to themselves. Australia, North America, South America. They have created the biggest migration and transformation of continents on earth. Their bustling populations have created vibrant new nations and cultures. They have destroyed the Red Indians, Mayans. They have tapped on India and other African nations for two centuries of looting. The Africans have been dislodged as slaves. Last but not the least, they have brought thousands of new diseases to all humans who had no diseases. This is all in their nature. They are predators to the core and fighting is in their blood due to the large amounts of meat they consume.

      But let’s forget about it. (I don’t know why we should ‘forget about it.’ Quite the contrary. Write and talk more about it! ~ Arun Shanbhag) Konkani is just a language and culture. Cultures come and go. Sanskrit is no more. Civilizations will be destroyed. Let us come out of your rigid mindsets and see ourselves as creations of this universe. Nothing more. Our ancestors have written the Vedas which is nothing but practical quantum physics. Try to see what you are. The identity does not matter. We have to find out who we are individually. That’s all that we have. We are all alone and nobody can help us live our life.

      This message has no point. But hope I make something clear.


      1. Sanskrit is live and thriving; I am in the midst of a Sanskrit course. So, I do not agree with ALL that you have said, but thank you for sharing your thoughts and starting the debate!

      2. I liked the letter written by Shree Shenoy.

        No doubt we need to learn from history to the extent that such things (inquisitions) don’t get to repeat and we get to increase our vigilance and preparedness. However, we should not “live” in history nor lose sleep over it. That is, let us be inspired by our ancestors and move forward rather than allow ourselves to be dragged back by these things. Let us go ahead, practise and noursih the Vedas (as also Sanskrit) while also being vigilant.

        1. Absolutely, Vigilance is the key!
          and we should arm ourselves with the correct knowledge to prevent a raid on our people and faith.

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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