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The religious oppression faced by Hindus under Portuguese colonial rule



Then in 1620, the Viceroy issued an edict that no Hindu could marry in the Portuguese territories. Hindus were forced to either cross the river and go to the main island in Adil Shah’s territories to marry. They couldn’t even cremate their dead. They had to cremate their dead in boats in the middle of the river, because they couldn’t cremate them on the island, simply because it was a Hindu rite and it was considered heretical. So the pain of Hindus during those days is reflected in the Konkani folk song. I don’t know how many of you have heard of this song, it is there in Bobby movie, “hau sahiba poltodi voita damu na lagnani koita…” Aao saheba poltodi voita, poltodi voita”, actually means ‘I want to cross the river’. That term “I want to cross the river” has a very sad meaning in Goa, because it means that I want to escape from the Portuguese territories, ‘I want to cross the river and I want to go to a safer place’. And that is why the person says “hau sahiba, poltodi voita damu la lagnani koita”. Damu is a metaphor for a Hindu. So I want to attend Damu’s marriage that is why I want to cross the river. I want to go to a safer place, “maka saiba vat kalna”. ‘I am stopped from going across. So dear boatman please take me there‘. And that person says “Ge, ge ge, ge re sahiba” and the boatman says, ‘I won’t’ because he is terrified of the Portuguese. So the whole song is about the person saying that I will give you my bangles, I will give you my nose ring, I will give you my paon ka paigan, I will give you all the gold I have, but please take me poltadi. I want to preserve my dharma. That is the meaning of this song. But now it has become a happy folk song. But there is a lot of pathos in it.

And in 1669 came the worst, scariest order of the King. The King issued an order that all orphans from Hindu families should be handed over to the Jesuit priests to be baptized, educated and indoctrinated by the Fathers of the Church. And this edict had specified that children whose both parents were dead, whose grandparents were also dead, only those children were supposed to be handed over to the Jesuit priest. First of all even that was not fair, but even that was also an edict. But in reality what was happening is, after the death of just one parent be it father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, whatever, children were simply being collected and handed over to the Jesuit priest and what they did? The first thing they did was they cut off the shikha the shendi of the child, and then the child couldn’t even go back, because in those days of orthodoxy, to cut that shendi, cut that shikha meant that family or neighbors or the community would not accept the child back. So the child had no option. Then they would feed the child something and then they would say now the child has eaten with a Christian. So he has become a Christian already, so abhi aap kuch nahin kar sakte. And then if a small child, a 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old child is baptized like that, whoever is related to that child, be that the mother, or the father or the grandparents, sometimes they would simply convert out of their own will simply because they loved the child.

You can’t tell a mother, your son has become a Christian. So now you just give it up. The mother will say ‘OK, I would rather be with my child’. So that is how they converted a lot of  people. Then they converted a lot of people giving enticements of property. So according to Hindu law, when a man died, his daughter wouldn’t inherit the money because she was given kanya dhan during her wedding. So what the Portuguese said that in case a Hindu person dies, his daughter, if she becomes a Christian or his widowed wife she becomes a Christian, she inherits the entire property. And if the wife and the daughter refuse to and if the son becomes a Christian he inherits the property and if there is no son and the nearest relative decides to become a Christian, then forget the children, he will inherit the property. So that is how embracing Christianity was made profitable.

Again if you are a slave of Hindu person, or a Muslim person, and slavery was practiced in those days in Goa, then you could become a Christian and then you would no longer be slaves. So obviously a lot of people embraced Christianity just to get out of slavery. So this was how Christianity was propagated. Then they said, they would simply put pieces of bread and pieces of beef in the common water supply of a community, like a community well, a community lake and whatever, and then people would drink that water and they would say that “OK now you have drunk the water which is, has beef in it. So you are no longer a Hindu anyway and your people will not accept you, so the only choice you have is to become Christian”.

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