Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa: Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity

Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa: Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity

Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa: Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity

Hindu-Catholic Encounters in Goa: Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity

Synopsis

The state of Goa on India's southwest coast was once the capital of the Portuguese-Catholic empire in Asia. When Vasco Da Gama arrived in India in 1498, he mistook Hindus for Christians, but Jesuit missionaries soon declared war on the alleged idolatry of the Hindus. Today, Hindus and Catholics assert their own religious identities, but Hindu village gods and Catholic patron saints attract worship from members of both religious communities. Through fresh readings of early Portuguese sources and long-term ethnographic fieldwork, this study traces the history of Hindu-Catholic syncretism in Goa and reveals the complex role of religion at the intersection of colonialism and modernity.

Excerpt

Goa is a special place. a narrow stretch of lowlands along the Arabian Sea on India’s western coast, it is the smallest of India’s states. Linguistically, it belongs to the Konkan, the Konkani-speaking region that reaches from Thane in Maharashtra in the north to Mangalore in Karnataka in the south. To the east, Goa and the Konkan are separated from the Deccan highlands of Karnataka by the mountain ridge of the western Ghats. Goa’s population comprises little more than 1.2 million people today of whom 65 percent are Hindus, 27 percent Christians, and 6 percent Muslims (Government of India 2011). Goa is thus thoroughly embedded into the Indian nation and yet stands out from its neighbors’ culture by what conspicuously looks like “European,” that is, Portuguese, features in its architecture, folklore, cuisine, and the everyday life of many of its people. the historical background for this particularity is Goa’s early and long-lasting colonial domination, which subdued the region for almost half a millennium, from 1510 to 1961, under Portuguese rule and Catholic hegemony. Along with Daman and Diu, the two other enduring Portuguese enclaves further north on India’s coast, Goa marks today the territory of the longest-held European colony on the South Asian subcontinent.

The export of tropical spices and exotic goods made Goa’s early-modern capital, Cidade de Goa, into a rich, cosmopolitan, and well-connected city that is glorified in the historical literature as Goa Dourada or “Golden Goa.” Its port became an important trading post in the mercantile network that connected China, Japan, the Moluccas, and India with Europe. in the mid-sixteenth century, Goa became the political and religious capital of the Estado da Índia, the Portuguese Asian empire and the Catholic archdiocese of Asia and Africa, which, by the end of the century, embraced Portuguese possessions from Cape Verde in the west to Mozambique in the south and Macao in the east. At the same time, mass conversion campaigns, conducted by missionaries of various Catholic orders and accompanied by the extensive destruction of temples and mosques, led to a massive exodus of Hindus and Muslims from Goa and a steady growth in the number of Catholics who eventually became the overwhelming majority. the adoption . . .

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