The Founders of Village Communities

Who founded the Goan Village communities? The Portuguese historians did try to seek answers to the above question. Most of them failed to argue backed with substantial evidence. Joa de Barros, for instance, says that village communities in Goa were founded by poor people descending from the hills of the Kanaras. We can also find the same view being propounded by Fr. Francisco de Souza. It is clear that these Portuguese scholars considered collective land ownership as an error. They say that the poor people who came down the Kanara , having found a land without any owner took to the cultivation of those lands . It is when their population as well as prosperity grew that they organized their village life in the shape and structure that we have come to call Gankaria. The people gave their taxes to the panch who then in turn gave it to the ruler who offered them protection and justice. The first recorded reference to Gaunkars of a village communities is found 1054 AD where we find that the Gaunkars agree to pay tribute to Kadamba king Jaikeshi in return to his protection against the invasion of Muslim rulers of that time.

The village communities looked after the lands that were collectively owned by the Gounkars. There was no notion of private land ownership. Even if the king gave land grants to a particular individual or a family, it only meant that the particular person or family, he, she or they only had right over the share of the king’s revenue in that particular land. Thus, for instance, king Devraj mentioned a grant being given by him to two Brahmins: Gowind Swamin and Indra Swamin in the fourth century AD. It simply meant right over his share in the revenue of that land. All subsequent land grants were also gifts in the kings share of revenue. Sharing only in the quota of the king shows that all the rulers accepted the absolute ownership of the village communities over their lands. The village communities enjoyed complete autonomy over their lands and their produce. Besides, executive body (council/ Ganvponn) of the Gaunkaria operated as local tribunal dispensing justice to the people.

Given practically no notion of private ownership of land, it has been argued that land was always held under collective ownership. No one truly owned land. What one owned was the produce or the usefruct of the land. Part of thd produce or usefruct was given voluntarily to the King or rulers and was termed as koxivorad ( voluntary contribution). Hence, we have to say that following several indications, it appears that Goan village communities were founded by the protoautraloids whose descendants today are Kunnbi snd gauddi with their ghaddi and zolmi priestly classes. As time went by they lost their dominion to upper castes without totally giving up in some areas where their numbers were significant. In Salcete, for instance, it reported that the Goukaria of Dicarpale is the only village community that is exclusively in the hands of the Kunnbi/Gauda community. In nearby Davorlim, one can find an overwhelming majority of the kunnbi/Gauda vangods except one that belongs to Kshatriya/ Chardos This is why may be in our days advocate John Fernandes, from Ambaulim Quepem in raises an uncomfortable question about the link between their conversion to Christian faith and the loss of their collective lands. Although, he has written extensively on this issue we still need further study and analysis about it.

Abijeet Prabhudessai thinks that the ill of Gaukaria began with the agreement to give a voluntary contribution in return to the protection given by the rulers. He opines that with the growth of agricultural prosperity, surplus production led to several evils including capitalism which then led to the weakening of the village communities in Goa. Maybe we have to study what led to the privatisation of land during Portuguese rule. It might open a can of worms that we are not yet ready to handle. One thing that appears closer to the truth that the notion of private property is quite young in Goa. It appears to have arrived with colonialism. Here I cannot assert apodicticaly and more research needs to enlighten us.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao