The unquiet history of quiet villages

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Tensing Rodrigues

Not much is known about the Dominican priory at Santa Barbara, as descriptions or details of it are few in historical sources of the time. Fonseca makes only an incidental reference to it in his An Historical and Archeological Sketch of the City of Goa. [Fonseca, 1878: 330]

However an interesting reference to it is found in a book on African Christianity. Gundani writes of a certain African Miguel da Presentação: “Up to the time of his death in 1670 Miguel stayed in the Santa Barbara priory in Goa. He taught theology, and later became Vicar of Santa Barbara parish. In 1670 the master general of the Dominican Order, Thomas Rocaberti, awarded him the title of Master in Theology. … There is evidence that Fr Miguel was a victim of racism in Goa. To substantiate this point Mudenge writes: ‘It appears that in 1664 one Fr Miguel da Presentação, vicar of the parish of the convent of Santa Barbara, was a member of the group of rebel revolutionary priests who demanded far-reaching changes at the Convent of Santa Barbara, including the temporary closure of the Convent and dismissal of students.” [Gundani, 2005: Iberians and African Clergy in Southern Africa, in Kalu: African Christianity – An African Story, 181]

Murda village has a ward named Karminchem Bhat. Right now there exists in the ward a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel attached to a residential house. Fonseca writes of a ‘convent of the Carmelites in the village of Morombim’ to the north of ‘the Conventual house of Santa Barbara.’ [Fonseca, 1878: 330] The present chapel in Karminchem Bhat more or less fits this location; a few kilometers downstream from the bund across the lake, almost at the edge of the paddy fields. Previously there existed a bund/footpath connecting the Dom Bras ward of Santa Cruz to this chapel.

This Carmelite convent is significant for the motive behind its institution; and the motive is directly related to the ethnic composition of these villages of Ilhas (Tiswadi) that lay beyond the golden aura of the old capital of Goa; Taleigão, Durgavadi, Kalapur, Morombim and others were almost exclusively caddi villages. Dom Emmanuel of Santa Catharina, a barefooted Carmelite who was named Archbishop of Goa in 1780, erected a society of priests of the third order of the Carmelites, and built for them a convent and a church, near the church of Santa Barbara. As the convents of the Theatines, of St Cajetan and of St Philip Neri, received exclusively bramhan natives for training for priesthood, this Carmelite convent was consecrated entirely for the caddi. [Cottineau de Kloguen, 1831: An Historical Sketch of Goa, 78] This discriminatory evangelisation is confirmed by Filippe Nery Xavier, who writes: The churches in Ilhas were in charge of the Archbishop of Goa, and only these could be occupied by the native clerics, except those of Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Taleigão, Siridão and Curca, that belonged to the Dominicans, … [Xavier, 1907: Bosquejo Historico das Comunidades das Aldeas dos Concelhos das Ilhas, Salcete e Bardez, vol 1, 86]

But there is a little ambiguity about the location of this church and convent. Cottineau de Kloguen refers to it as ‘a church called Chimbel’; it is clear from context that he means ‘a church in Chimbel’. However he also adds ‘near the church of Santa Barbara’. Fonseca confirms this. But Gabriel de Saldanha is categorical that the convent was indeed in Chimbel. [Gabriel de Saldanha, 1898: História de Goa – Politica e Arqueólógica, vol. 2, 30] Santa Barbara and Chimbel are too far apart.

Next we move to three villages Bambolim, Siddon and Goa Velha that cluster along the northern bank of river Zuari, as it empties into the Indian Ocean. According to Bosquejo till about 1840 Bambolim was fairly forested and had many stone quarries. It had only two wards, one of Pires and the other of Soares; earlier it was supposed to have had thirteen. There appears to be some back ground to this reduction of wards; and why are wards named after family surnames? The answer to the question could be, as we have seen elsewhere, that most of the land in those wards was owned by those families. If so, could it be that the land in the remaining eleven wards too was acquired by these two families? We do find that such a process has taken place in many other villages.

Could this process have anything to do with the ethnic composition of the village? Bambolim gamvkari information does not help us to answer that question. According to both Gomes Pereira and Filippe Nery Xavier, Bambolim gamvkari had nine vangod of which only four had survived – those of Borges, Soares, Monteiro and Gonsalves. Usually a vangod gets extinguished when a family from that vangod is no longer found in the village. Village had both caddi and sudir gamvkar; but we have no clue as to which vangod/surname belongs to which community.

Siddon had four wards: Bairro da Igreja, Nazareth, Pale and Purdi. Siddon village did not have a gamvkari in recent times; at least there are no records to show that it had one. It could have had one at a very early date which got extinguished for some reason. Could it be because the village did not have much of paddy fields, and most of the inhabitants were fishers and toddy-tappers? Bosquejo makes a mention of a large plot named Morgado, owned by Antonio Matias Gomes from Panaji, which extended beyond Siddon to Curca and Goa Velha. [Xavier, 1907: Bosquejo Historico das Comunidades das Aldeas dos Concelhos das Ilhas, Salcete e Bardez, vol 2, 232] Morgado literally means the first born, which is the eldest son in the family; which family could it be? Bosquejo also says that the property was ceded to the Patriarch of Indies by the heirs of its original owner. Presently a good part of land in Siddon is owned by the Dempos; other landlords include the Velho, Mascarenhas and Waglo families, again not residing in the village. Could they be gamvkar of Siddoṇ who had left the village at some point of time – say the cholera epidemic that struck Siddon between 1790 and 1810? Or could the land have been acquired from the heirs of those who perished or fled during the epidemic?