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

Rachol Seminary in Goa

Fr. Victor FerraoTemples razed by the Portuguese colonialists were not technically “Hindu” temples but belonged to independent cults and religions that were later assimilated into Hinduism, a Christian theologist has proposed in an academic paper. – Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

In 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.

“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

Mayabhushan Nagvenkar is an author and Indo-Asian News Service journalist covering events in Goa. 

Water Torture (Inquisition)

14 Responses

  1. Off course, both the Christianity and Islam are not peace religions as they want to convert the people of other culture by sword, money, force and there is no mercy with their (Jesus and Allah) both are satans sent to this earth to destroy humanity and peace. These false religions and their terrorism will surely driven away from the whole planet and truth and peace will emerge in the future. Both are killers of animals and human kind. And they will not respect their land, no patriotism and even they don’t have real spirituality in their gods as the so called ‘prophet’ or ‘son of god’ -all are false which the religions and the doctrines started on utter stupidity and cheat and surely to destroy this planets life-these -Allahu, and jesus must be wiped out of this holy land forever.


  2. Vasco de Gama and his gang of priates/christians had on thing in common and that’s to implant among the natives of Goa a dreadful fear of death engineered by a self-styled christian ‘god’ namely Jehovah alias jesus. For that very reason one socalled ‘st’ [?]. Francis was commissioned who took the lead by burning alive in furnace thousands of poor Hindus. It was carried out by the orders given by the then Rome Pope who had heard about India’s wealth from earlier travellers and had taken great delight in putting these ‘Farrengies’ into a voyage to India. However their the prime motives was to loot, rape and plunder the wealth of India.
    Records and evidence have been unearthed recently which shows how Europe emerged as a rich nation by plundering mainly the wealth from India and elsewhere. Even native hindu cultures have been uprooted and many temples had been demolished where at the top chruches has been built. Hindus are naturally a peace-loving race of people and the chastity of their women was kept pure until the barbarians from the West began to molest them in public without a least remorse or shame. Unlike the women of the West who hold total freedom to share her bed with anyone whom she wishes the. indian brand has no peers to match on account of her chastity. She is not a whore but a goddess!


  3. To cling to caste is foolish in this period. Even Krishna 5000 yeas ago clearly emphasised division of labor as Kshatriya as an inclination and not as a birth. Thus we had warriors born of priests as in case of Dronacharya and rishis born of Kshatriyas as Vishwamitra. Identity as Sanatan Dharmi is key to restoring our contribution to world civilization waking up from being unconscious zombies.


  4. Undermining Jaathi is the most blunderous thing one can do. If Jaathis are completely destroyed we’ll be no different than Abrahamic cults. The caste related conflicts are very very minimal when you see it holistically. And even these are created by politically motivated entities. Castes are one of the most important social constructs of our society and we see it’s stronger than even religious identities. Even converted Hindus maintain their caste identity. I personally feel that though religious identity may unite people of India to create a mass vote bank, it’s actually weaker in the long run. It is Jaathi which adds diversity to Hinduism and to prevent Hindus from becoming Abrahamic preserving Jaathis is a must. It’s a pity urban India today is undermining Jaathi and this is what the alien forces want.


  5. Richard Zimler is an authoritative historical writer and should be read by every Indian.

    Sita Ram Goel has written some place that when Goa was finally made to join the Indian Union, the question in New Delhi and Lisbon was what to do with all the documents pertaining to the Inquisition.

    These documents were a minefield because they exposed the Inquisition’s heinous practices and because they contained the original land title deeds for the vast amounts of Hindu properties confiscated by the Church. If the original Hindu owners wished, the documents could be used to bring law suits and get Hindu properties back that had been wrongfully taken over by the Inquisition and Portuguese government.

    The court cases could go on for hundreds of years, passing from generation to generation! And the content of the cases would destroy the reputation of Portugal and the authority of the Catholic Church in Goa.

    So it was decided some place, in Lisbon, New Delhi or Rome, to destroy all the Inquisition’s records. And indeed the records have just disappeared. Nobody knows where they are or what happened to them or what they actually contained. A few may remain in Lisbon but it is said there is nothing of historical value left in Goa.

    Here is a work cut out for an investigative journalist who has initiative and knows Portuguese. To find even a little of the lost material and incorporate it into a book would be of great service to the record of the history of modern India.


  6. Whatever the Hindu identify was in the past, we have to take a different approach today. We have to understand that religion is all about personal identity rather than just spiritual worship. We also have to understand that with our worship we inform and establish our personal identity.

    Caste and jati are undermined, even negated, by modern urban life and do not have the same identity weight today as in the past. In my view religious identity replaces caste identity and is more useful in protecting the Hindu Samaj. A strong religious identity also reduces caste conflicts and unifies the Hindu community.

    Christian agents are very much aware of the power of religious identity and employ various means to undermine it–even as Fr. Victor is trying to do today. They wish to impose their own religious identity on the Hindu identity, so they argue there never has been a real and true Hindu identity. We must not let them do this.

    Goa is a odd case because its Christians are predominately Catholic. But there are 23,000 Christian denominations all quarrelling and disagreeing and sending each other to hell. These 23,000 Christian denominations are in fact all cults to use Fr. Victor’s loaded terminology.

    What will Goan Christians do when their Catholic identity is attacked and undermined by Baptist and Evangelical missionaries as has happened in South America?


  7. Next we will hear that, so-called Jesus Christ visited Goa. And Sonia Gandhi will make a documentary of his visit to Goa.


  8. Thankyou IS for this lengthy reminder of the Goa Inquisition and the Portuguese persecution of the Brahmins of Goa. As for the Marxists the less said the better !

    What does this fellow mean by ‘individual cults ‘ etc. ? Does he specify what these cults were before they were drawn into Hinduism proper ?

    This is the first time that I am hearing the word ‘Hinduology’. I hope that after the election when the BJP comes to power they will not delay as the Vajpayee government did regarding important issues like the Uniform Civil Code.


  9. If Goan Hindus were warring “cults and religions”, then what is Catholicism or Chritianity? Catholicism is the “cult of sin, death and cannibalism” and generally Christianity is the “cult of the cross”, cross being a symbol of abomination and utter disgrace. Ferrao’s paper doesn’t require a rebuttal, being such a ridiculous and foolish crap. He will probably end up using his paper in the toilet to make up for the time he spent on it. If the Goan Catholic church can only come up with Ferrao to mask their past crimes, it is in worse condition than it looks.



    An interview with Richard Zimler
    Goa Inquisition was most merciless and cruel

    Xavier was aware of the brutality of the Inquisition
    One of the darkest chapters in Indo-Portuguese history, ‘the Inquisition’ deserves far more comprehensive research to bring out the truth from an Indian perspective, says historian Teotonio R de Souza.

    In Goa, Hindu temples and idols were ordered to be destroyed. The inquisition was finally abolished in 1812.

    The book by Marco Lobo below


  11. IS – While I agree with most of your comments, I must emphasize that the Hindu identity was predominantly political one created for differentiating the Indian identities from the Christians and Muslims. Back in the past there is no record of people calling themselves as Hindus. Identity in India was predominantly based on Kula and Jaathi. The religious identity was based on their Gods. The only factor probably uniting us is our Gods all of which trace back to the Vedic periods. The Indian gods all have peculiar characteristics and are well connected to one another. Our puranas are the tools to connect these dots. As such the Hindu identity should only be used to defend ourselves against Abrahamic religions but not to portray ourselves as Abrahmic. This is a fundamental flaw of Hindutva ideology today. By expressing Hinduism in Abrahamic doctrines, we are doing grave injustice to it thereby killing the diversity of our culture.

    While Ferrao may be correct to say that pre-Christian era of Goa was a place of mixed cults, people like him fail to understand that they were all connected to one another and all of those cults groomed here thousands of years ago. As a matter of fact this diversity of cults is not just unique to Goa alone. It was the norm everywhere within the country. What you said about Brahmins of Goa is very true. There was a huge population of Brahmins in Goa before inquisition. Most of them were killed, some fled to other places and the rest converted.

    It’s high time that we should start sending strong signals to Abrahamic religions. While Christians and Muslims may be the sons of our soil (due to their antiquity), Christianity and Islam and other Abrahamic religions are always alien to this culture. It is from this angle this issue should be viewed.


  12. This is only the beginning. The Church’s evil machinations will come out one by one. By the time the BJP government realizes the consequences of its pandering to the Church, including its stupid act of officially inviting the Pope, it will be too late.


  13. The Goan Christian identity is in crisis and Fr. Victor has been employed by the Church to save it. He does this by pretending that there were no Hindus in Goa prior to the arrival of the Portuguese!

    His argument is silly and graceless. He even calls on an old Marxist historian to support his borrowed Marxist theory that there has never been such an entity as the Hindu religion. The Marxist mantra is: There is nothing Hindu in Hindustan and nothing Indian in India. According to them everything of value in Indian civilization came from outside, from some place beyond the pale of Sindh. Now Fr. Victor has copied it and added his bits and pieces.

    Goa was home to the most traditional and learned of Brahmin communities, the Saraswats. They worshipped classical Hindu dieties like Shiva, Durga, and Ganesha. When the temples of these Gods were destroyed by the Portuguese, the Saraswats moved them inland to Ponda and built new temples that looked like churches. This was to protect the deities from further depredations by the Portuguese. Many of the Saraswats migrated to Mangalore to escape the extraordinarily cruel and vindictive laws of the Portuguese.

    Francis Xavier, an advocate of forced conversions, had introduced the concept that Brahmins were the most wicked and treacherous of men, and the Saraswats were the first Brahmin community to feel the full weight of this evil message. See SRG’s monograph on Xavier here.

    Portuguese rule in Goa was so violent and cruel that Portugal’s European colonial allies didn’t want to know about it. Voltaire wrote about the Inquisition that Xavier had invited to Goa:

    “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.”

    If for the sake of argument we accept Fr. Victor’s contention that there were no Hindus in Goa when the Portuguese arrived, only various warring sects and cults, does this excuse the destruction of upwards of 20,000 temples by the Catholic Church and its secular arm the Portuguese?

    Fr. Victor is a casuist, an intellectual cheat. He should be laughed at, not honoured. Indeed, he should stay away from Indian history writing, return to his famous seminary and engage himself with the nuns and pretty altar boys. This is what Catholic priests do best today, not writing spurious histories of their conquered Hindu territories.

    All Goan Catholics are the children of Hindus who were forcefully converted to Christianity in the 16th and 17th centuries. If they have an identity problem today, then it can be easily solved by having them return to their original Hindu culture and religion.

    Here is a first hand account of the Goa Inquisition:

    An account of the Inquisition at Goa, in India (1819) by Gabriel Dellon, b. 1649 & Archibald Bower, 1686-1766.


  14. It is high time a genuine contradiction is written from the Hindus to bring out the truth. Nowadays, it has become a fashion to produce trash in the name of research, and undoubtedly Indian Christian preachers are leading the way shamelessly!


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