Lesser known Goan literature

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Sanjeev V Sardesai

In the first article related to the books that one can refer to understand the cultural aspects of Goa, we perused a few publications which are an enormous reference to know about the authentic topography of the rich heritage of the State of Goa.

The land of Portuguese India had the honour of establishing and starting the first printing press, though by default, at the Sao Paulo College in Old Goa in 1556 AD. Many Goans may not be aware that a 1498 AD, handwritten manuscript, credited to the Santa Casa de Misericordia is found in the Goan Archives and is considered as the oldest book in Goa. This book is extremely fragile and is out of bounds for the general public.

‘Khristapurana in Devnagri Script’ by Late Suresh G Amonkar

In the last article we came to know about the amazing ‘Khristapurana’ by Fr Thomas Stephens, SJ (1549–1619) published in Roman script, in 1616. This manuscript fascinated late Padma shri awardee Suresh Gundu Amonkar, who was an author and principal of New Goa High School, Mapusa that he took it upon himself to translate this handwritten manuscript from Roman to Devnagri script.

The book, released by the Directorate of Art & Culture is a massive 11,000 stanzas and 1070 pages of Devnagri script compilation, in Konkani language, with photos, details and references. Inspired after reading the ‘Khristapurana’, Late Amonkar also authored another book, which was released on the same date, titled ‘Goenche Sanvsarikaran’ (Globalisation of Goa).

These books are available at the bookshop of Central Library, Panaji.

‘Ethnography Of Goa, Daman & Diu’ by Maria Aurora Couto

Each land has an intangible heritage in the form of occupation techniques, styles of culinary preparation and unique recipes. So also, the equipments and ornamental appliqués are specific to a particular area.

The lifestyle, habits and cultures, as well as the mutual differences of these societal traditions, along with the cooking and storing utensils, the farming techniques and appliances, as well as designs bestow uniqueness to a particular land.

To understand the best of Goan intangible heritage, one must lay a hand on the book ‘Ethnography of Goa, Daman & Diu’ written in Portuguese by A B de Braganza Pereira as two-volumes in 1940, and translated in English by Padma shri awardee Maria Aurora Couto, who also has to her credit fascinating publications such as ‘Goa: A Daughter’s story’; ‘Filomena’s Journeys: A Portrait of a Marriage, a Family & a Culture’; and ‘Graham Greene: On the Frontier,

Politics and Religion in the Novels’.

It has 400 pages and 125 illustrations about the various aspects of Goan heritage. One can relate to the intangible heritage of this beautiful past of this land, ruled over by many various dynasties and rulers.

This book can give a deep insight into the heart of Goan culture as it covers the Goan geography, various societal strata, clothing with personal hygiene, music, agriculture, transport, housing, transport as well as social and spiritual life of the people. The pages and sketches on these pages, which cover all the above opens up a treasure of many features, unknown to the Goans, especially the new generation. To understand the finer and authentic Goan aspects, and also to convey the correct image of Goa, to the hordes of tourists that descend annually on Goa, we must peruse this book or get a copy online.

‘A India Portuguesa’ by Antonio Lopes Mendes

Many times Goans are unaware about the topography and architectural heritage of these beautiful lands, during the Portuguese rule. However, a small glimpse in the second half of the 19th century or the period after 1862 AD is offered in a set of two books titled as ‘A India Portuguesa’, which were compiled by the Portuguese gentleman Antonio Lopes Mendes and published around 1886 AD.

Mendes was a Portuguese agronomist and an explorer who travelled extensively, and leaning towards being a cartographer, his detailed illustrations of what he saw and observed, especially edifices in Portuguese Goa, literally carry us into a fairyland and disbelief. Being an agronomist, he had come primarily to these lands, in an expedition that left Portugal in 1862 AD, to study the agricultural and allied systems in Sattari and other hinterlands.

These set of two books are available for reference in the Central Library and for purchase at a discounted price at Broadway Book Shop, Panaji.

The edifices – churches, temples, important structures, etc – that were sketched by Antonio Lopes Mendes are non-existent today. If the same structure were not documented by him, it would be next to impossible, for a common man, to know that in one era, huge constructions existed at many places in Goa, in areas that are today flat grounds or woody patches.

None would believe that across River Mandovi, opposite Panaji, a huge structure existed in Betim, located towards the earlier A Tona Restaurant, called as ‘Cathecumens de Betim’.

As a well known writer and former librarian of Central library, Maria Lourdes de Bravo Da Costa Rodrigues mentions in her article in Navhind Times, that the ‘the idol of Nossa Senhora de Vitoria was shifted from the Cathecumens de Betim in 1781 AD, to the Chapel of Our Lady of Victory in the Palace of the Maquinezes at Panaji’.

There exists another beautifully carved wooden altar, in the sacristy behind the main altar of this Our Lady of Victory Chapel, which may possibly have been brought from the Cathecumens of Betim. Other than these artifacts no visible traces of this massive structure in Betim are seen, except in the sketch of Antonio Lopes Mendes.