Shaiva versus Vaishnava in Portuguese Goa

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Among the many myths that pass for history in Goa, a popular one is about how Hindus were relentlessly oppressed under Portuguese colonial rule. Not only were temples broken, rituals banned, and conversion enforced, we are told, but Hindus were also humiliated and tortured (via the Inquisition), so much so that everyone had to either convert or flee the Old Conquests. Most Goan Hindus are brought up on stories of religious oppression, along with religious heroism, i.e. of Hindus who had to fight valiantly for their religion and their idols.



Dale Luis Menezes will make a presentation on “‘Azulejo’ tiles and the Islamicate in Goa”

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Exploring the Islamicate in Goa, Dale Luis Menezes will make a short presentation titled, “Azulejo tiles and the Islamicate in Goa” on September 4, 2017, at 7 pm, at 6 Assagao.


The presentation will focus on the azulejo tiles used in 17th century monuments in Goa. These tiles which were originally produced by the Persians, found their way to Western Europe through the Arabs. Initially Spain and later Portugal, adopted the art of making azulejo to so great an extent that it became indigenous to these two countries. The Augustinian buildings in Goa (Nossa Senhora de Graça [Our Lady of Grace] church, along with the convent of Santa Monica) located in Old Goa are the only religious buildings known to have used such tiles for ornamentation (c. 17th century and later). The complex political geographies in which the Portuguese Estado da Índia was located consisted of many forts, ports, as well as imperial formations such as those of the Mughals, Ottomans, Safavids and so on. Officials, missionaries, and traders from Goa would often travel within these realms. Hence, one can imagine a space that was connected with each other in dynamic ways, exchanging not just goods, but also cultural artifacts. The fact that such dynamics exchanges were taking place regularly should essentially make us seek the many ways in which cultural artifacts were exchanged. One such way of doing this is to deeply explore the ‘Islamicate’, which, as Marshall G. S. Hodgson and other historians subsequently have argued, is cultural and artistic practices inspired and related to Islam, but which is not necessarily religious in nature. Thus, one can easily expect to find Islamicate art right in the middle of a Catholic church or a Hindu temple. By formulating questions and theories about the origins of the azulejo tiles used in the Augustinian buildings, and the political conditions that may have led to their transport in Goa, this presentation seeks to open up Goan history to the Islamicate.


Cuncolim was not Goa’s First Rebellion against the Portuguese

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It’s that time of year again. The anniversary of the Cuncolim incident of 15 July 1583, with its regular demands to commemorate the gauncars who were put to death by the Estado da Índia for lynching 5 Jesuit missionaries and several native Christians, provides a great example of the prevailing amnesia about Goa’s past. The amnesia is at least partly deliberate, as can be seen from how the popular Cuncolim narrative has been woven to satisfy all the nationalist tropes possible. The Portuguese as relentless oppressors, Goa as a Hindu land, religious conversion as forced and violent, natives as Hindus alone who were united against the foreign Christians, elite Goans as martyrs for Hinduism, and no mention of caste or land relations at all. All of which makes this incident the first ‘War of Independence’ not only in Goa but also India. What better history can any nationalist ask for?



Is Camões Goan?

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camoensSome months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion on Goan literature in Portuguese. Central to that discussion was the question of defining a canon of Goan literature in Portuguese. For example, where would the history of such a literature begin from? Who could be considered Goan for the purposes of constructing such a history? In the course of these discussions, a question was half-jocularly posed: could Camões be considered Goan?



O Tiracol, O Goa: Thoughts Towards a ‘Quarta Corrente’

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Tiracol has the potential to be a watershed moment for Goa. But only if it is accompanied by a deeper reflection on the underlying streams of thought about Goa’s political status, and drawing of linkages.  Goa being currently a part of India, today we are no longer at that trisection thinking whether Goa be back under Portuguese rule, or be part of India, or separate from Portugal and India. So, can there be a fourth political location – a stream of thought that would do justice and be transformative for Goa?  As Goa witnesses its 70th Revolution Day, it is time for introspection.