Attention Fr. Victor Ferrao: Goa’s rich Hindu past can’t be brushed away – Anirban Ganguly

Anirban Ganguly“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.” –  Anirban Ganguly

Fr. Dr. Victor FerraoA ‘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 the Dharmasastras Bharat Ratna P.V. 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-religionists 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 Basilica of Bom Jesuswhatsoever to do with propagation of ‘Hindutva’, such an approach will hopefully enable Ferrao to issue a corrective.

One Jacinto Freire 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”.

Dr. Teotonio de SouzaReputed 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 and Their 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.”

Dr. Alfredo de MelloUruguay-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.”

Goa Inquisition: Man condemned to be burned at the stake.A.K. Priolkar, leading historian of the Goan Inquisition in his The Terrible Tribunal for the EastThe 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.”

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! – Niti Central, 24 July 2013

See also

Fr. Victor Ferrao: No Hindus in Goa before the arrival of the Portuguese – Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Rachol Seminary in Goa

 Fr. Dr. Victor FerraoIn BJP-ruled Goa, a leading Christian theologist from the influential Roman Catholic Church has claimed that ‘Hindus’ did not exist in region during the pre-Portuguese era.

Fr. Victor Ferrao, a dean at the state’s most renowned Rachol Roman Catholic seminary, which trains and grooms budding priests has also said in his research paper that the scores of temples demolished by the Portuguese colonists from 15th century onwards were not Hindu temples, but instead belonged to different “independent cults and religions which were often at war with each other”.

Ferrao in his paper presented at a recent seminar, “Challenge of being a Goan Christian”, held [in Panaji], said that by painting of pre-colonial Goa as Hindu territory, “there is a direct attempt to turn the historical facts about conversion against the Church and the Christians of today”.

The renowned Church academic in his research paper even goes a step further and attributes political motives to the “reductionist and distortionist” appropriation of Goa’s history by Hindu-logists.

A leading Christian theologist from the influential Roman Catholic Church has claimed that ‘Hindus’ did not exist in region during the pre-Portuguese era. 

“I have described these attempts as Hindu-ology. In fact even the word Hindu does not exist in the entire sixteenth century Indo-Portuguese historiography,” his paper titled ‘The Other Orientalism and the Challenge and Opportunities for the Church in Goa’ reads.

Chief Minister of Goa, Manohar ParrikarThe revelations in the research paper come at a time when the BJP has been trying to cosy up with the Church in Goa, which is the spiritual and religious beacon to nearly one-third of Goa’s population which is Catholic and a key vote bank.

In fact, tacit support of the Goa Church, although its spokesperson later categorically denied any truck with the BJP in the 2012 assembly polls, was one of the key reasons why the BJP swept the elections, apart from an unprecedented eight Catholic candidates which the party had fielded.

The Catholic swing towards the BJP ensured that the party romp home with a majority on its own, an unheard of electoral feat in Goa, where a hotch-potch of results is the norm.

However, the issue of Goa’s chequered religious past before the advent of the spices and Christian-seeking Portuguese has also been a matter of debate.

A large section of authors and historians have insisted that Goa has been described in ancient texts as a land reclaimed by Sage Parshurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, from the sea and that the state known for beaches, booze, nightlife, sex tourism and drugs now, was once called ‘Konkan Kashi’ or Benaras of the South.

A view which was endorsed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which during a conclave held here in 2000, released a six page brochure on the subject.

Francis Xavier“Goa, even four decades after liberation, is misguidedly projected as the Rome of the East, particularly in tourism – by government and non-government agencies. But Goa is the Kashi of the west coast India…. The Portuguese are not the makers but destroyers of Golden Goa,” the brochure read.

Ferrao, in his research paper, a copy of which is available with Firstpost, however insists that such obfuscation stemming from political motives, was one of the key reasons why Christians in Goa now have to “lay claim to their own history” in the pre-Portuguese era.

“It important to assert that we have not come from Hinduism of today, but the then fragmented cults that today have been steadily assimilated into Hinduism of today,” Ferrao said, quoting noted historian Romila Thapar to back his treatise.

Ferrao said that the claims of forced conversions and demolishing of temples during the early Portuguese era were essentially to be found only in “narratives of the post-colonial historiography mainly authored by the Hindu historians in our days”.

“Though the temples that were demolished were not Hindu, but one(s) that belonged to different cults that have united into Hinduism of today, the Hindu community is certainly carrying the pain of this false impression,” the paper reads.

The paper further says that both the Hindu religion and nationalism are a product of colonisation, adding that to reduce pre-Hindu religions, cults or sects and their unification under Hinduism in the 19th century amounted to an “epistemological” error.

P.P. ShirodkarSeveral other scholars, however, tend to disagree with Ferrao’s argument.

P. P. Shirodkar, who has authored several books on Goa’s history, says in research paper “Social  and Cultural Life in Goa during the 16th Century” says: “At the time of the fall of Goa in the hands of the Portuguese, its population, majority of whom were Hindus, followed by the Muslims mostly on military duty continued to live in villages with its agricultural communities”. He further says that villagers in Goa followed the Hindu law of inheritance.

In a book Goa and Portugal: Their Cultural Links edited by Charles J. Borges and Helmut Feldmann and published by the Xavier Centre of Historical Research (XCHR), Archana Kakodkar argues that Hindus “were a very self-conscious community”.

“For historic reasons, Hindus in Portuguese India were a very self-conscious community. The impact of the Portuguese rule, destruction of Hindu temples and the subsequent policy of conversion further enhanced this awareness,” she says.

Paul Axelrod and Michelle A. Fuerch, scholars from Ripon College in Wisconsin write in Modern Asian Studies, a journal published by the Cambridge University Press in 1996 that there was a pronounced “Hindu resistance” to Portuguese colonial designs.

“The focus of this article will be on Hindu resistance to the policies that were applied by the colonial regime and its role in shaping of the regional culture: in face of over-whelming physical force, direct defiance revealed itself primarily in the religious life of Hindu Goa Shanta Durga Templeas archival records of the Portuguese rule and temple histories demonstrate,” the duo says in their research paper titled “Flight of Deities: Hindu Resistance in Portuguese Goa“.

Ferrao, however, claims that Christians living in Goa had forgotten their origins (that they were part of independent cults and religions) and “are wounded and continue to be victims of the aggression of their Hindu counterparts”.

Ferrao has also called for a therapeutic dialogue between the two communities living in Goa.

“There is an inevitable need of dialogue that can heal wounded memories in our society,” he said.

Christians account for nearly 30 per cent of Goa’s 15 lakh plus population. – FirstPost, 13 July 2013

Water Torture (Inquisition)

BJP invites blood-stained Pope to Goa for archcriminal Francis Xavier’s exposition in 2014 – Cithara Paul

Lady Journalist“‘St Francis is an icon for Goan Catholics. We would be proud to have the Pope in our land for the exposition. We are coordinating with the Church to make it happen,’ said a BJP leader belonging to the Catholic community, who has been assigned the task of dealing with the Church on the matter.” – Cithara Paul

Chief Minister of Goa Manohar ParrikarThe Church and the State are supposed to be natural opposites. However, the BJP’s opposition to Catholic evangelism has not stopped its government in Goa from joining hands with Catholics to lobby with the Vatican to get Pope Francis to make a “historic” visit to Goa in the upcoming election year.

If the Vatican says yes, the Pope will visit the BJP-ruled state in 2014 for the “exposition of Jesuit St Francis Xavier”, a priest who heralded Christianity in Goa in early 1500. Incidentally, he is said to have played a part in the brutal Inquisition of Goa [Xavier invited the Iquisition to Goa and is responsible for its horrific conduct there--Ed] in the 1560s, when Christianity was imposed using force and violence on the people. The Catholic Church arranges for its devotees to see the saint’s relics in a glass-topped silver casket once a decade, an event which is known as the “exposition”.

“We have earnestly requested his Holiness to visit the country for the exposition and have the active support of Goa’s ruling party in this endeavour. We hope that the Pope says yes,” said a priest with the Archdiocese of Goa who wishes to remain unnamed.

Pope Francis SJAccording to him, the BJP leadership has asked the Diocese to route the invitation through the Union Government as the state government, by itself, cannot invite the Pope as he happens to be a head of state. On its part, the saffron party is not keen on remembering the forced conversion issues associated with the evangelist. “St Francis is an icon for Goan Catholics. We would be proud to have the Pope in our land for the exposition. We are coordinating with the Church to make it happen,” said a BJP leader belonging to the Catholic community, who has been assigned the task of dealing with the church on the matter. “The visit may take place after the 2014 elections. However, the very fact that the Pope is visiting a BJP-ruled state will send good vibes to the minority Christian community,” he added. It will also work in favour of the BJP’s global image as the papal visit will hog international headlines.

When asked whether the Church is worried about the BJP extracting political mileage from the papal visit, the coordinating priest said that it has an open policy towards all political parties.

Francis Xavier SJIncidentally, this ‘openness’ between the Catholic Church and the BJP is not a standalone development, but part of a strategy to work in tandem. 

The BJP, it is learnt, has been consistently working on rebuilding its relationship with the Church and has even deputed a Kerala-based party sympathiser to arrange meetings with various   Christian leaders.

The party had a good rapport with the Church when it was in power at the Centre. However, the Church shifted its loyalty when the Sonia Gandhi-headed Congress party came to power. Now, the Church is again keen on reviving its equations with the BJP. “It has sensed that the Congress’ time is over and that the BJP’s chances are getting stronger,” said a Goa BJP leader.

This revived bonhomie was evident when the Church invited Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to visit Rev Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, the head of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, when he had visited Kerala to take part in the Sivagiri Mutt’s silver jubilee event amid high voltage protests by the Left parties. The Cardinal, who was part of the conclave that Francis Xavier's headelected Pope Francis, was said to be ‘keen’ on meeting Modi. The plan was that Modi would drive from the airport to the Church headquarters.

Though the meeting had to be cancelled in the last minute due to ‘other preoccupations’ of the Gujarat CM, the BJP has been holding one-on-one meetings with Church leaders. 

The fact that Modi was the chief guest at the National Consultation of the YMCA Building in Ahmedabad last month is also seen as a pointer to the increased amiability between the Church and the BJP. – The New Indian Express, 30 June 2013

Francis Xavier SJ

Archcriminal Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier’s rotted remains are exposed for veneration at Bom Jesus Cathedral, Old Goa, every ten years. Xavier was an advocate of forced conversion and temple breaking and the first to propagate anti-brahmin communalism. He invited the Portuguese Inquisition to Goa, considered the most brutal and ruthless of all Church inquisitions, though he didn’t live to see the burning auto-da-fés, in which tens of thousands of Hindus perished, in action. The Cathedral of Bom Jesus, where Xavier’s remains are stored, is built over the ruins of the Saptakotishwara Shiva Temple destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century.

See also

St. Francis Xavier: A pirate in priest’s clothing – Sita Ram Goel

Fr. Francis GonsalvesOn Dec. 3rd The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, India’s widely circulated honorary Catholic newspapers, published an article on St. Francis Xavier by Fr. Francis Gonsalves, principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. Vidyajyoti is a Jesuit theological school and Jesuits as Christian ideologues are known best for their casuistry  and sophistry in moral reasoning. Therefore it was not difficult for Fr. Francis to describe Francis Xavier in the article as having “blended a kaleidoscopic collage of virtues: intelligence, faithfulness, perseverance, joy, warmth, devotion, loyalty, courage, generosity, sportsmanship, and an incredible capacity to love and serve.” In fact Xavier was an arch criminal filled with an obsessive hatred of Hindus and their Brahmin priests — Brahmins had defeated him in debate at Thiruchendur and laughed at him when he claimed to be the representative a “One True God”. He introduced forced conversions into India, often targeting children, and was a self-described gleeful breaker of temples and Hindu images. If he was alive and active today, he would be brought before the the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity. Yet the Deccan ChronicleCatholic Church and Fr. Francis Gonsalves have the bare-faced audacity to hail this Spanish pirate in public as a saint. This tells us a lot about the values of Christianity and especially Indian Christianity which is known world-wide for its bigotry and religious intolerance. These values are best exemplified by the fact that the rotting corpse of the notorious temple-breaker, known as the Scourge of the Coromandal Coast, is kept in a shrine in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, a church that replaces the Saptakotishwar Shiva Temple of Old Goa destroyed by the Portuguese in the 1590s. Readers are encouraged to go to the links and comments below this article by Sita Ram Goel for more information concerning Francis Xavier and the establishment of the Inquisition in Goa which Xavier demanded that King John III of Portugal send, in a letter dated May 16, 1545.  — Editor

St. Francis Xavier SJSt. Francis Xavier: A pirate in priest’s clothing

Goa is sadly famous for its Inquisition, equally contrary to humanity and commerce. The Portuguese monks made us believe that the people worshipped the devil, and it is they who have served him.” – Voltaire

The European encounter between Hinduism and Christianity commenced with the coming of Christian missionaries to Malabar after Vasco da Gama found his way to Calicut in AD 1498. It took a serious turn in AD 1542 when Francis Xavier, a rapacious pirate dressed up as a priest, arrived on the scene. The proceedings have been preserved by the Christian participants. They make the most painful reading in the history of Christianity in India. Francis Xavier had come with the firm resolve of “uprooting paganism” from the soil of India and planting Christianity in its place. His sayings and doings have been documented in his numerous biographies and cited by every historian of the Portuguese episode in the history of India.

Francis Xavier was convinced that Hindus could not be credited with the intelligence to know what was good for them. They were completely under the spell of the Brahmanas who, in turn, were in league with evil spirits. The first priority in India, therefore, was to free the poor Hindus from the stranglehold of the Brahmanas and destroy the places where evil spirits were worshipped. A bounty for the Church was bound to follow in the form of mass conversions.[1]

Broken Ganapati image in GoaWe shall let a Christian historian speak about what the Portuguese did in their Indian domain. “At least from 1540 onwards,” writes Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza of the Dept. of History, Universidade Lusofona, Lisbon, “and in the island of Goa before that year, all the Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building materials were in most cases utilised to erect new Christian churches and chapels. Various viceregal and Church council decrees banished the Hindu priests from the Portuguese territories; the public practice of Hindu rites including marriage rites, was banned; the state took upon itself the task of bringing up the Hindu orphan children; the Hindus were denied certain employments, while the Christians were preferred; it was ensured that the Hindus would not harass those who became Christians, and on the contrary, the Hindus were obliged to assemble periodically in churches to listen to preaching or to the refutation of their religion.”[2]

Coming to the performance of the missionaries, he continues: “A particularly grave abuse was practised in Goa in the form of ‘mass baptism’ and what went before it. The practice was begun by the Jesuits and was later initiated by the Franciscans also. The Jesuits staged an annual mass baptism on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (25 January), and in order to secure as many neophytes as possible, a few days before the ceremony the Jesuits would go through the streets of the Hindu quarters in pairs, accompanied by their Negro slaves, whom they would urge to seize the Hindus. When the blacks caught up a fugitive, they would smear his lips with a piece of beef, making him an ‘untouchable’ among his people. Conversion to Christianity was then his only option.”[3]

Basilica of Bom Jesus: Built in 1594 after the destruction of a Shiva temple on the site.Finally, he comes to “Financing Church Growth” and concludes: “…the government transferred to the Church and religious orders the properties and other sources of revenue that had belonged to the Hindu temples that had been demolished or to the temple servants who had been converted or banished. Entire villages were taken over at times for being considered rebellious and handed over with all their revenues to the Jesuits. In the villages that had submitted themselves, at times en masse, to being converted, the religious orders promoted competition to build bigger and bigger churches and more chapels than their neighbouring villages. Such a competition, drawing funds and diverting labour, from other important welfare works of the village, was decisively bringing the village economy in Goa into bankruptcy.”[4]

During the same period, Christianity was spreading its tentacles to Bengal. Its patrons were the same as in Goa; so also its means and methods. “The conversion of the Bengalis into Christianity,” writes Dr. Sisir Kumar Das, “not only coincided with the activities of the Portuguese pirates in Bengal but the pirates took an active interest in it.”[5] The Augustinians and Jesuits manned the mission with bases at Chittagong in East Bengal and Bandel and Hooghly in West Bengal. Mission stations were established at many places in the interior. “It was the boast of the Hooghly Portuguese,” records Dr. P. Thomas, “that they made more Christians in a year by forcible conversions, of course, than all the missionaries in the East in ten.”[6]

Francis Xavier SJThe Portuguese captured the young prince of Bhushna, an estate in Dhaka District. He was converted by an Augustinian friar, Father D’Rozario and named Dom Antonio de Rozario. The prince, in turn, converted 20,000 Hindus in and around his estate. “The Jesuits came forward,” continues Dr. Das, “to help the neophytes to minister to the needs of the converts and this created bitterness between Augustinians and Jesuits…. In 1677, the Provincial at Goa deputed Father Anthony Magalheans, the Rector of the College at Agra, to visit and report on this problem. According to his report nearly 25,000, if not more, converts were there but they had hardly any knowledge of Christianity…. He also observed that many of them became Christians to get money. The Marsden Manuscripts now preserved in the British Museum containing letters of Jesuit Fathers, give evidence that Portuguese missionaries gave money to perspective converts to allure them.”[7]

The Rice Christian's CrossThe quality of the converts, though bewailed frequently by the missionaries, did not really perturb them. Frey Duarte Nunes, the prelate of Goa, had foreseen the situation as early as 1522. According to him, “even if the first generation of converts was attracted by rice or by any other way and could hardly be expected to become good Christians, yet their children would become so with intensive indoctrination, and each successive generation would be more firmly rooted.”[8]

It was a very difficult situation for Hinduism. But, by and large, Hindus chose to stay in the faith of their forefathers in spite of all trials and temptations. There was no mass movement towards the Church except the “mass baptisms” staged by the Jesuits. The mission was in a fix. The strategy of forced conversions recommended by Francis Xavier had failed. – History of Hindu-Christian Encounters: AD 304 to 1996, Voice of India, 1996

Brahmin panditEditor’s Addenda

Sayings of Francis Xavier

In his letters to the Jesuits in Rome, Xavier wrote: “There are in these parts among the pagans a class of men called Brahmins. They are as perverse and wicked a set as can anywhere be found, and to whom applies the Psalm which says: ‘From an unholy race, and wicked and crafty men, deliver me, Lord.’ If it were not for the Brahmins, we should have all the heathens embracing our faith.”

“Following the baptisms, the new Christians return to their homes and come back with their wives and families to be in their turn also prepared for baptism. After all have been baptised, I order that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken. I know not how to describe in words the joy I feel before the spectacle of pulling down and destroying the idols by the very people who formerly worshipped them.” Xavier did this after the Hindu raja of Quilon had given him a large grant to build churches!

Xavier’s letter demanding the Inquisition be sent to Goa

Francis Xavier sent this letter to the King John III of Portugal on May 16th, 1545: “The second necessity for the Christians is that your Majesty establish the Holy Inquisition, because there are many who live according to the Jewish law, and according to the Mahomedan sect, without any fear of God or shame of the world. And since there are many spread all over the fortresses, there is the need of the Holy Inquisition and of many preachers. Your Majesty should provide such necessary things for your loyal and faithful subjects in India.”  — Joseph Wicki, Documenta Indica, Vol. IV, Rome, 1956.

Waterboarding (Inquisition)The Inquisition in Goa

Historian Paul Roberts describes what went on in the Iquisition’s Goa court that had been housed in the Sultan’s old palace and had a huge plaster image of Christ overlooking the scene: “Children were flogged and slowly dismembered in front of their parents, whose eyelids had been sliced off to make sure they missed nothing. Extremities were amputated carefully, so that a person could remain conscious even when all that remained was a torso  and head. Male genitals were removed and burned in front of wives, breasts hacked off and vaginas penetrated by swords while husbands were forced to watch…. And it went on for two hundred years.” — Paul Williams Roberts, The Empire of the Soul: Some Journeys in India, New York, 1997.

» Fr. Francis Gonsalves can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

References

  1. Francis Xavier was the pioneer of anti-Brahmanism which was adopted in due course as a major plank in the missionary propaganda by all Christian denominations. Lord Minto, Governor General of India from 1807 to 1812, submitted a Note to his superiors in London when the British Parliament was debating whether missionaries should be permitted in East India Company’s domain under the Charter of 1813. He enclosed with his Note some “propaganda material used by the missionaries” and, referring to one missionary tract in particular, wrote: “The remainder of this tract seems to aim principally at a general massacre of the Brahmanas” (M. D. David (ed.), Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, Bombay, 1988, p. 85). Anti-Brahmanism has become the dominant theme in the speeches and writings of Indian secularists of all sorts.
  2. M.D. David (ed.), op.cit., p. 17.
  3. Ibid., p. 19.
  4. Ibid., pp. 24-35. For a detailed account of Christian doings in Goa, see A.K. Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition, Bombay, 1961, Voice of India reprint, New Delhi, 1991 and 1996.
  5. Sisir Kumar Das, The Shadow of the Cross, New Delhi, 1974, p. 4.
  6. P. Thomas, Christians and Christianity in India and Pakistan, London, 1954, p. 114.
  7. Sisir Kumar Das, op. cit., p. 5.
  8. M. D. David (ed.), op. cit., p. 8.

See also 

Christian Dalits: Adopted but untouchable – T.C.G. Menon

Author Icon“The best way for dalit Christians is to return to their original religion of Hinduism and live as proud Hindus in their own right. We have overcome most of the discrepancies caused in our society by the Muslim invasions and British rule during the last sixty years. Since it is not the fault of Hinduism that dalits suffered discrimination in the past, it is time they studied and practiced Hinduism with an open mind.” – T.C.G. Menon

Christian missionary in IndiaIt is an irrefutable fact that Christian missionaries have been using all kinds of fraudulent means to convert the hapless dalits to Christianity, the purpose of which is to change the demography of India and bring it under foreign (read western) rule once again. Despite the tall claims of missionaries, Christianity has not redeemed some 20 million dalit Christians from social discrimination and untouchability. Infact, it has only added to their misery. Dalits were persuaded to accept faith in Jesus Christ in order to regain their purported ‘lost humanity’ and to be considered as ‘God’s children’. In reality, as Christians the dalits continue to live miserable lives in society and in the church.

The Church in India is a dalit Church, because 70% of India’s almost 25 million Christians are so-called dalits. Although they comprise the majority in all these Churches, their place and influence is minimal, even insignificant. Their presence is totally eclipsed by the power of the upper-caste Christians who are only 30% of the Christian population. This is all the more true in the case of the Catholic Church where such discrimination is strongly felt. Initially, they were converted to Christianity with false promises and given sufficient amounts of money and household materials for their worldly comfort. Once they came fully under the control of the Church, the authorities stopped all facilities and began asking them to contribute money and service every month, as much as 10% of their total income.

Christian GraveyardPractically every church takes up some sort of collection during the service. This is known as “tithing”. In the Catholic Church, tithes are taken during Masses that take place on Holy Days of Obligation (every Sunday and Catholic holiday such as Christmas and Easter). You may be unsure about where the money goes or why people give in the first place.

If a family fails to give the prescribed amount to the Church, no church service will be done for the dead in that family, and they will not get a place for burial at the time of death. In every church, separate burial grounds are maintained, one for rich people and one for the poor. Rich Christians reserve a place in the burial ground by giving money and construct a tomb there. For poor, the dead are buried in the same place where another body was buried. If there is no place, the old dead body is dug out and thrown in an unused well in the church compound. This being the situation, it is ridiculous that Christians preach that Christians would ascend to heaven in their entire bodies, if they believe only in Jesus. This is a hoax played on the gullible laity.

Jan HusThe present predicament of dalits in India is complex and confusing, and the way forward in the dalit struggle is by no means clear. However, there are a few eye-openers for Christian dalits which are that conversion to Christianity has not really enhanced their lives in any significant way, despite hopes and promises to the contrary. Most Christian dalits thus have a dual social and psychological identity, Christian as well as dalit, and have to live with the tensions built into that dual identity. A second trend is an increasing assertion of dalit identity as a positive thing, a source of pride rather than of shame.

In this, they rightly challenge pervasive cultural norms. An expression of this assertiveness is dalit theology; another is a harsh critique of missionary and Indian Church leaders who, in their efforts to “Indianise” the Church, equate “Indian” culture with Brahmanic instead of dalit culture. One reason why dalit Christians resist efforts to “Indianize” the theology and liturgy of the Church is because they are fed up with the Brahmanic culture to escape which they converted in the first place! There are persistent efforts to “raise the caste issue” and exorcise the demon of caste discrimination (which is “legion” and takes many forms) within the Churches themselves. Until this is done, the Churches cannot embody much “good news” for their own dalit members, let alone for other dalits.

Goa InquisitionSome Christian dalits are staunch advocates of the dalit strategies described above and work hard to implement them. But there is no clear evidence that any strategy or combination of strategies is predominant so far. It does appear, however, that over the past two decades Christian dalits are working closely with other dalits to achieve common aims and objectives. Yet “Dalit Solidarity” is an end difficult to achieve. This is because ‘Dalit Solidarity’ is an impractical goal so long as they are led by the Church for which dalits are only pawns in a political power game.

When we study the history of Christianity we find that Christian missionaries have no hesitation in dealing callously with people who oppose them. Millions of innocent women and children were killed most cruelly in Europe and Africa in the name of witch-hunting when they refused to convert. The witch-hunts waxed and waned for nearly three centuries, with great variations in time and space. The rate of witch hunting varied dramatically throughout Europe, ranging from a high of 26,000 deaths in Germany to a low of 4 in Ireland.

Secular JesusHindu dalits converted and are still converting because they do not know the history of Christianity. It is high time they enlighten themselves with facts. No upper caste Hindus could have committed the kind of atrocities that Christians have inflicted on ‘non-believers’ all over the world. In India, not only have they converted Hindus to Christianity with all kinds of false promises, they have spread surreptitious hate campaigns against Hinduism, so much so that the converted ones have started hating their natal religion.

This has vitiated family relationships and social mores. Yet Christians want Hindus to respect their Christian faith with no intentions of reciprocating. Dalits must realize that they are better off as Hindus, rather than feel lost by adopting an alien faith which is only a political religion.

Dalit ChristiansDuring British rule, Indian industry and agriculture collapsed and large numbers became jobless. Simultaneously, the requirement of labourers for leather work, butchering, or removal of rubbish, animal carcasses, and human excreta increased considerably. Naturally people had to do all kinds of jobs to earn a living, including jobs considered unhygienic. Some orthodox Brahmins and so-called upper castes practised untouchability, probably because of the unhygienic nature of the jobs some people engaged in.

In those days, orthodoxy was so prevalent among the priestly clan, Brahmins that were freedom fighters from these families were not allowed to dine with other family members and also not allowed to enter the temples. An example is my father who was arrested and put in jail for writing an article against British rule. But after Independence, all restrictions were lifted and he is considered a hero. Whenever anyone raises the subject of untouchability in Hindu society, we should counter by asking why foreigners used gloves while working and eat food with cutlery – they consider it unhygienic to eat with bare hands! Similarly some Hindus may have felt revulsion at some unhygienic people. Foreigners used this to divide Hindus and convert them to Christianity.

Chithira Thirunal Balarama VarmaDr. Ambedkar is blindly adored by many people. We have always seen pictures of Ambedkar in western attire. Why did he not ‘Indianise’ himself? Other Indian leaders always wore Indian attire. This shows that Ambedkar had a soft corner for the British and blindly believed what the British dished out on Hinduism. If he was concerned with the condition of dalits, why didn’t he pressurize the British to convert the service latrines to septic tank system?

The first movement for the entry of so-called low castes into temples was started by three freedom fighters in Kerala under the leadership of Gandhi. My father worked as a coordinator and sent day-to-day news to Gandhi.  The Maharaja of Travancore signed the historic Temple Entry Proclamation on November 12, 1936.*

Dr. Ambedkar’s name was not heard at that time. He and Nehru together adopted the Constitution that was the brain-child of the British, which has created a lot of problems for the common man of India. Our Independence was actually only a ‘transfer of power’. No major changes were made in our Constitution to suit Indians.

Sri Narayana GuruSri Krishna said in the Bhagvad Gita: “Those whose wisdom has been carried away by various desires, being prompted by their own nature, worship other deities adopting rules relating to each.” – Chapter 7, Verse 20.

But for Bhagwan Sri Krishna every devotee is noble: “Whatever celestial form a devotee (craving for some worldly object) chooses to worship with reverence, I stabilize the faith of that particular devotee in that form. The fruit gained by these people of small understanding, however is perishable.”

This prophecy has come true in the case of Christian dalits. Initially they got many benefits, but lost all benefits over a period of time and their condition has become worse than that of those who remained in Hinduism. All converts should read the Bhagvad Gita and return to Hinduism. Sri Narayana Guru, Sri Ayyankali, Guru Ravidas et al were good Hindu spiritual leaders, even though they were born in dalit families.

The best way for dalit Christians is to return to their original religion of Hinduism and live as proud Hindus in their own right. We have overcome most of the discrepancies caused in our society by the Muslim invasions and British rule during the last sixty years. Since it is not the fault of Hinduism that dalits suffered discrimination in the past, it is time they studied and practised Hinduism with an open mind.

I conclude with some common instances of discrimination in the Churches:

  • Construction of two chapels, one for non-dalits and one for dalits;
  • In some parishes liturgical services are conducted separately;
  • Separate seating arrangements within the same chapel. Dalits are usually seated at the two aisles. Even if there are benches or chairs, dalits are required to be seated on the floor;
  • Separate cemeteries and separate hearses to carry the dead (Hindus have common ghats for burning the dead for  all castes);
  • Separate queues to ‘receive the sacred body of Christ’. In some places, dalits are required to receive communion only after the non-dalits (almost every mandir provides free food / ‘Annadanam’ as ‘prasadam’ to devotees irrespective of caste; they sit together in rows and partake the food; there is no separate counter for dalits for booking different offerings to the deities);
  • Dalit boys are not allowed to be altar boys and lectors at the sacred liturgy (some north Indian temples allow any devotee to enter the sanctum sanctorum to pray or offer pujas; in south Indian temples only the head priest and his assistant are allowed to do so);
  • Dalits are not invited to participate in the washing of feet ceremony on Maundy Thursday;
  • For fear of claims to equal participation in the celebration of the feast of the parish patron saint, Parish Councils decide not to collect financial contribution from dalits;
  • The feast of the village patron saint is celebrated separately. – Vijayvaani, 17 Sept. 2012

» T.C.G. Menon is retired from the Railways and actively supports Hindu causes. He can be contacted at tcgmenon@hotmail.com

* The Temple Entry Proclamation issued by Maharaja Shri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and his Dewan Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer in 1936 abolished the ban on low-caste people or avarnas from entering Hindu Temples in the state of Travancore (now part of Kerala, India).[1]

The edict is as follows:

“Profoundly convinced of the truth and validity of our religion, believing that it is based on divine guidance and on all-comprehending toleration, knowing that in its practice it has throughout the centuries, adapted itself to the needs of changing times, solicitous that none of our Hindu subjects should, by reason of birth or caste or community, be denied the consolation and the solace of the Hindu faith, we have decided and hereby declare, ordain and command that, subject to such rules and conditions as may be laid down and imposed by us for preserving their proper atmosphere and maintaining their rituals and observances, there should henceforth be no restriction placed on any Hindu by birth or religion on entering or worshipping at temples controlled by us and our Government.”

Today, the Temple Entry proclamation day is considered as social reformation day by the Government of Kerala. – from Wikipedia for Temple Entry Proclamation

St. Thomas in India: True or False? – N.S. Rajaram

N.S. RajaramHere is the substance of the St. Thomas story: First, if he existed he was a twin brother of Jesus which is unacceptable because Jesus was the Only Son of God. Next, he could not have preached Christianity in 52 AD because Christianity and the New Testament came into existence only in the fourth century, after the Council of Nicaea called by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. The first Christians came to India with the Syrian merchant Thomas in 345 AD escaping persecution in Persia. Lastly, the Namboothari Brahmins settled in Kerala only after the fourth century AD, so could not have been converted by Apostle Thomas in 52 AD using the Bible from three centuries later. – Dr. N.S. Rajaram

St. ThomasAccording to Christian leaders in India, the Apostle Thomas came to India in 52 A.D., founded the Syrian Christian Church, and was killed by the fanatical Brahmins in 72 A.D. His followers built the St. Thomas Church near the site of his martyrdom. Historians however say this apostle, even if he existed, never came to India. The Christian community in South India was founded by a Syrian (or Armenian) merchant Thomas Cananeus in 345 AD. He led four hundred refugees who fled persecution in Persia and were given asylum by the Hindu authorities.

This story was too commonplace to attract converts. So Christian leaders identified the merchant Thomas with Apostle Thomas and created the dramatic story of the Apostle’s persecution and death at the hands of the “wicked” Brahmins of South India. This became current in the 16th century when the Portuguese gained control of the west coast of India and forced the Syrian Christians to follow the Catholic faith. The Portuguese also destroyed the Kapaleeswara Temple that originally stood on the site now occupied by the San Thome Cathedral on the beach.

Kapali TempleThe creation of this myth and the history is told in detail by the Canadian scholar Ishwar Sharan in his famous book The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. The purpose of the myth was to create a local martyr. Christianity depends heavily on the appeal of martyrs who are projected as victims like Jesus Christ. Then as now, Church leaders liked to pose as victims to generate sympathy and propaganda. But no matter how much they tried, the Hindus of India refused to supply the Portuguese with martyrs. So they were forced to create their own. So they turned the merchant Thomas into the Apostle Thomas killed by the Hindus.

In his foreword to Ishwar Sharan’s book, the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst wrote: “In Catholic universities in Europe, the myth of the apostle Thomas going to India is no longer taught as history, but in India it is still considered useful. Even many vocal ‘secularists’ who attack the Hindus for relying on myth in the Ayodhya affair, off-hand profess their belief in the Thomas myth. The important point is that Thomas can be upheld as a martyr and the Brahmins decried as fanatics.”

San Thome CathedralTargeting Brahmins to undermine Hinduism was a favorite tactic among missionaries. Elst gives the true picture: “In reality, the missionaries were very disgruntled that the damned Hindus refused to give them martyrs (whose blood is welcomed as ‘the seed of the faith’), so they had to invent one. Moreover, the church which they claim commemorates St. Thomas’ martyrdom at the hands of Hindu fanaticism, is in fact a monument of Hindu martyrdom at the hands of Christian fanaticism. It is a forcible replacement of two important Hindu temples (Jain and Shaiva) whose existence was insupportable to the Christian missionaries.”

Another motivation for the myth was to erase the unsavory record of the Catholic Church’s close association with the Portuguese pirates and even worse, the Goa Inquisition inspired by St. Xavier. But serious scholars including Christians have rejected this myth as we shall soon see.

Who was this Apostle Thomas and why was his name invoked? The main sources relating to Apostle Thomas are two Gnostic (non-Biblical) texts known as the Acts of Thomas and the Gospel of Thomas. According to them Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus. For this reason the Thomas myth is not accepted by the Vatican because of a doctrinal problem: Jesus as the Only Son of God cannot possibly have a twin brother. (Greek for Thomas is Didymus, which means twin brother.)

Christians in South India who identify themselves as St. Thomas Christians claim that their ancestors were blessed by Apostle Thomas in 52 A.D. who preached from the Bible. This has no historical basis as we shall see. In fact, there is no evidence that Thomas even existed. His “history” is full of contradictions as will become apparent.

Marco PoloAs just observed the Portuguese missionaries who came to India in the 16th century found that they could not do without a local martyr and created the myth of St. Thomas claiming that he was martyred in India. They gave no explanation as to how they discovered it more than 1500 years later. Marco Polo is supposed to have mentioned it but there is no authentic manuscript that can be attributed to him. Then there is the question of how he discovered it more than a thousand years later.

There is even a tomb that is supposed to contain his martyred remains in Mylapore in Chennai. But the problem is there are several such memorials spread across Persia, Acre (Israel) and a few other places dating to different times, all laying claim to be the place where Apostle Thomas was martyred and buried!

After examining all the evidence, the late Father Heras, former Director of the Historical Research Institute, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, said in 1953 that he was convinced that the tomb of St. Thomas was not in Mylapore. He had earlier said, quite emphatically in The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara, that the Portuguese account of their discovery of some relics was “a most barefaced imposture [with] all elements of a forgery.” Heras was himself a Jesuit father but also an eminent historian.

Henry HerasThis is not the end of the story, for while denying the myth because it challenges Jesus as the “Only Son of God” the Vatican wants to have it both ways. On September 27, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech at St. Peter’s in Rome in which he recalled an ancient tradition claiming that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia, then went on to Western India, from where Christianity also reached Southern India. Syrian Christians derive status within the caste system from the tradition that they are converted Namboothiris (Brahmins), who were allegedly evangelized by St. Thomas after he allegedly landed in Kerala in AD 52.

There are serious problems with this theory: the Namboothiris started settling in Kerala only from the fourth century onwards, which means they did not exist at the time the alleged St. Thomas allegedly came to Kerala. So we have a possibly non-existent apostle preaching in the first century from a text, the New Testament, dating to the fourth century, to a people, the Namboothiris who settled in the fourth century or later. In reality the Pope’s original statement at St. Peter’s, reflected the geography of the Acts of Thomas, i.e. Syria, Parthia (Persia / Iran) and Gandhara (Afghanistan / Northwest Pakistan) — all far removed from Kerala in the southernmost tip of India.

Bleeding CrossThis is not the end to the contradictions. If Thomas landed in Kerala in 52 AD, he could not have taught from the Christian Bible (New Testament) with its four gospels which came into existence only in the fourth century. In fact Christianity did not exist at the time because there was no Christian scripture! In addition, the famous St. Thomas Cross supposedly brought by him made its appearance in Kerala only in the fourth century, about the same time as the Namboothiri Brahmins. So it is quite possible that the highly ornate St. Thomas Cross [with Hindu motifs carved in it] was borrowed from the Namboothiris, having nothing to do with St. Thomas or even Christians. The Church borrowed its cross from the Egyptians and the oldest so-called St. Thomas Cross is a pagan Persian symbol.

Prof. Francis Xavier Clooney, SJAs if this were not confusing enough, Father Francis Clooney, a theologian with the Harvard Divinity School has stated that St Thomas had preached in Brazil, no matter that Brazil as we understand today was unknown in his time. According to Clooney, one Ruiz de Montoya, writing in Peru in the mid-seventeenth century, thought that since God would not have overlooked the Americas for fifteen hundred years, and since among the twelve apostles St. Thomas was known for his mission to the “most abject people in the world, blacks and Indians,” it was only reasonable to conclude that St. Thomas had preached throughout the Americas:

“He began in Brazil – either reaching it by natural means on Roman ships, which some maintain were in communication with America from the coast of Africa, or else, as may be thought closer to the truth, being transported there by God miraculously. He passed to Paraguay and from there to the Peruvians.”

St. Thomas Book CoverSo here is the substance of the St. Thomas story. First, if he existed he was a twin brother of Jesus which is unacceptable because Jesus was the Only Son of God (born to a virgin). Next, he could not have preached Christianity in 52 AD because Christianity and the New Testament came into existence only in the fourth century, after the Council of Nicaea called by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. The first Christians came to India with the Syrian merchant Thomas in 345 AD escaping persecution in Persia. This was probably because Roman and Persian empires were great rivals. The Namboothiri Brahmins settled in Kerala only after the fourth AD, so could not have been converted by Apostle Thomas in 52 AD using the Bible from three centuries later.

Finally, the myth was created by Portuguese missionaries in the sixteenth century with the help of pirates. They destroyed also the Kapaleeswara Temple and a Jain temple building the church known as San Thome Cathedral in 1504. It acquired its present status and recognition as a cathedral (grand church) under British patronage in 1893. It was also the Portuguese who converted the Syrian Christians to the Catholic faith.

So, all these contradictions have to be reconciled before the myth of St Thomas can be taken seriously. – Folks Magazine, 7 November 2009

» Editor’s Note: Historians do not agree about the date for the coming of Namboothiri Brahmins to Kerala. Marxist historians make their arrival as late as the sixth century AD. However with the identification of the Namboothiri priest Mezhathol Agnihothri (b. 342 AD), the date can be moved back to the fourth century. Namboothiri historians themselves do not give a date for the arrival of their community in Kerala from North India.

» Dr. N.S. Rajaram has referred to the second (1995) edition of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple for this article. The second edition is now out of print and not available on-line. However the third (2010) edition, which contains everything in the second edition, revised with corrected dates and many new references, is available on The Ishwar Sharan Archive.

See also

Francis Xavier SJ: The Man and His Mission – Sita Ram Goel

Francis Xavier SJ

Click image to read or download booklet

Francis Xavier SJ: The Man And His Mission

by Sita Ram Goel

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,141 other followers