Buddha’s Tooth, Peter’s Bones and Jesuit Pope’s Hypocrisy

pic of Buddha from the RijksMuseum posted by Arun ShanbhagCirca 1560 CE
Portuguese forces based in Goa, India, raided the town of Jaffnapatam, Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). They looted the temples and pagodas and torched the town. One of the items they stole was a reliquary containing a tooth of Buddha – the Enlightened One.

The Buddhist community was distraught and the King of Pegu (present day Myannmar) sent an ambassaor to Goa and offered to pay an astronomical ransom of 300,000 – 400,000 cruzados for the return of the sacred relic. The Portuguese Viceroy of Goa, Constantino de Braganza was inclined to accept the ransom and return the tooth. He argued it would help with the States needs. Strenuous discussion between the political and religious groups, primarily the Jesuit priests took place in Goa during the spring of 1561. Continue reading “Buddha’s Tooth, Peter’s Bones and Jesuit Pope’s Hypocrisy”

Mahalakshmi Temple, Goa

Opening Pic: Maha Mandap (Great Hall) at the Mahalakshmi Temple, Goa

The Mahamandap (Great Hall) at the Mahalakshmi Temple in Bandivade, Goa provides a therapeutic escape from many of Goa busy attractions. It is a perfect place to sit undisturbed and commune with the divine. On this early morning, regular devotees went about their prayers silently and tourist laden buses had not yet arrived.

In front of the Deul (Konkani for Temple, also Devasthan), notice the Deepa Stamba (Light tower), a characteristic of Goa Konkani temples. Around the temple are guest rooms for traveling devotees at nominal costs.

photos of Mahalakshmi Temple in Goa by Arun Shanbhag
Deepa Stamba (Light Tower) in front and the Tulsi Vrindavan on the side

History of the Temple: Continue reading “Mahalakshmi Temple, Goa”

Sacred Places

pic of Dev Bara Karo at the Madgaon Train Station by Arun Shanbhag

It is sad that in India, places of worship are being targeted to achieve political ends, or vent frustrations. This is absolutely wrong! Temples, churches, mosques, and all other places of worship are sacred and should not be pawns in political movements. People should feel empowered to use objective fora to address grievances. Politicians! Make it happen and stop using these incidents to advance narrow political gains!

In an attempt to address the grievances, the Karnataka state government blames “the flow of foreign funds,” for conversion of Hindus into Christianity.
Continue reading “Sacred Places”

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:


Mee Mumbaikar

Lady Sweeper Gateway of India Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag
Portrait of a Mumbaikar: Sweeper at the Gateway of India

Reading the blogs, I notice a subtle tension between those who refer to themselves as Mumbaikars and Mumbaiites. When our city was called Bombay, we were all Bombayites. We are no longer Bombay.

In 1509, returning from a conquest in Dabul, the Portuguese first landed in the bay off Mumbai and massacred the local kolis (fisher folks); then in 1534, took control of nearby towns of Mahim, Thana and Bassein by treaty. They referred to the tiny island of Mumbai, as Bombaim – ilha da boa vida (Bombaim – island of the good life). Bombaim itself did not mean “island of the good life,” it was simply how the Portuguese said Mumbai. After more than a century during which they fired canons at the exquisite sculptures at Elephanta Caves, the Portuguese turned over the city to the British as dowry in 1661. The British called it Bombay. The British left in 1947 and in 1995, Mumbai got its name back. Colonial sympathizers need to just get on with the program.

But what do you call a resident of Mumbai? I have previously used Mumbaiite. It does not sound right. As the word rolled over my tongue, it seems to catch. A cultural misfit – an elitist “ite” grudgingly grafted onto a gritty “Mumbai.” So incongruous. I would have preferred Mumbaikar.

pic of Aamhi Marathi sign by Arun Shanbhag Mumbaikar has a certain resonance, characteristically Mumbai. In hindsight it’s so obvious – a perfect match of the indispensable Marathi bai and the enigmatically reserved 'do-er', kar.

The “-ite” ending on Mumbai seems elitist, particularly in this graft. A pseudo-phoren lingo, best vocalized with a western drawl and a flourish of the stylishly held cigarette. Walk down the streets of Mumbai today; can you see that paan wallah, fruit wallah, dabbah wallah or zhaddu wallah mouthing Mumbaiite? Guess not! Mumbaiite seems the exclusive domain of the Peddar Rd-stomping, Barista-sipping, crowd.

Yes, Mumbaiite is exclusive, in that it excludes the likes of Ramu, busing tables at the tea shop, or these laborers pulling Haath Gaadis, or these vendors selling street side vada paav and sandwiches. It excludes all those who make the city go, albeit in fits and starts! Excludes those police – men and women, picking up the 'pieces' after the 7/11 and 26/11 terrorist attacks. It excludes that fabled, but tired, Mumbai spirit.

Mumbaikar absolutely!
It is democratic, a social leveller, inviting everyone irrespective of which school you studied at – if at all, irrespective of your social class. Mumbai belongs equally to those who ride posh cars and flick cigarette butts out the window, as it does to the sweepers picking up the butts. Mumbaikar, invites you to this city of broad shoulders and a big heart.


A few of my favorite Mumbai Posts:

Mangeshi Devasthan, Goa

This follows a longer write-up on the Ramnathi Devasthān.

The Mangeshi Devasthān in Goa is a crown jewel of Konkani Temples. The an-iconic form of Shiva, the linga representing Mangesh, was originally in the ancient temple of Kushastali (Cortalim, Salcete Taluka). When the Portuguese destroyed the original temple in 1561, the linga was relocated across the Zuari River near other konkani temples. The current temple was constructed on land donated by a devotee in the mid- 1800’s and has been renovated several times.

Continue reading “Mangeshi Devasthan, Goa”

Rāmnāthi Devasthān, A Konkani Temple

Main entrance and Deepa Sthamba (light tower) at the Ramnathi Devasthan, Goa
Main entrance and Deepa Sthamba (light tower) at the Ramnathi Devasthan

The Shanteri Kamakshi Ramnath Devasthan (place of God, or Temple) in Ponda, Goa is our family's ancestral temple. Millenia ago, groups of Konkani families settled in extended family-based communities in Goa. Each community had their own spirits, which protected them from evil and satisfied their spiritual curiosity. The spirits and associated deities also received gratitude for agricultural and female fertility. With time, these spirits evolved into a full-blown God. Ramnath was the benevolent God of our community. His two spouses (Shanteri & Kamakshi) probably represented the heightened fertility required for survival in those days. And we have our own ferocious spirit – Betal, who is responsible for ‘taking care’ of evil. Continue reading “Rāmnāthi Devasthān, A Konkani Temple”

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