Double Colonization and the Sancoale Question

Temples in Goa are not just religious sites. They are sites of practices of caste. Historians of upper caste have presented them as sites of resistance to conversion as well as colonization but have largely remained quite about them as sites of caste assertion. This is why for the sake of Goa and its rich past, we have to strive to understand their complexity and not merely reduce them as sites of larger Hindu identity. Therefore, we have to attune our intellectual acumen to the fact which is glaring in our eyes. Neither temple nor church is only a religious space. Many vital aspects of our life intersect at these religious sites. Hence, we have the challenge to be attentive to their political, social and even economic aspects. They are spaces that often generate caste identities and legitimate social hierarchies and relations. The political dimension of the temples in Goa become important for our study because of the controversy raised by some fringe Hindu outfits in Sancoale.

Scholars have identified temples as sites of resistance to the colonial state but they appear to have idealized the cultural life of the upper caste. Thus, indirectly these scholars have inadvertently asserted that temples are spaces of caste assertion for the upper caste. Therefore, the challenge is to scrutinize the foundational claims of the upper caste in relation to the lower castes that are being marginalized by temple practices in Goa. In fact, it seems that local folk deities were made to be born again as deities of the upper caste through theological engineering. Thus, at the time of important texts like Shayadri Khanda and Konkanakhyana in the 18th century, we can trace that folk deities were born again as deities of the upper castes. This new birth brought about through theological engineering of the upper caste who laid its claimed over Goa as promised virgin land constructed and given to them by Lord Parashurama also successfully transformed the gramdevtas into kuldevtas so that the exclusive claims of the upper caste are firmly established. The local deities do have their name but they were given a mythological/ theological history and were absorbed in the pantheon of the upper caste. This transfer seems to be made smooth as by that time Portuguese also successfully transformed ganvkaria’s into agricultural associations taking away socio-politico and religious rights of the ganvkars. Thus, through conversion Church took care of the religious side, colonizers took over the socio-economic and political life and the religious life of those who were not converted was brought under the controlled of the upper caste. Thus, the ganvkarias that were private republics who took care of all affairs within the village were reduced mere economic or agricultural associations.

We have seen how the temples were not mere sites of resistance to the colonial rule as has been told to us by reining history mostly written by the upper caste. They were also sites of caste assertion of power and control and the steady displacement of the lower castes and derailing of the power of ganvkaria. It appears that Portuguese and to a little extend, the upper caste put the last nail on ganvkaria and reduced them to agricultural associations who do not have any control over temples or the churches. The churches were administrated by the Fabricas ( administrative committees) and the temple by the Mahajans. Thus, by the 19th century Mahajan, became a legal term backed by the colonial law. All this prepared the way for the privatization of the temples in Goa.

This is why those who lay claims, the fringe outfits do not hold any water in Sancoale. Temples in Goa are complex institutions and over time became private institutions. Besides, the temple deity in the context of the controversy, soon after the conversion of Sancoale ganvkars and the villagers was established in Veling village and exists there even today. We, thus, cannot delink conversion, temple, ganvkaria, and the role of the colonizers and the upper caste from temple history in Goa. The converted ganvkars and the villagers established a Church which got destroyed due to an accident leaving only the front piece of the same in Sancoale. The Church and the villagers then raised the neigbouring chapel to a parish/ Church in order to save them expenditure of building a new church building. This is why we have the ruins of the old Church at the site of the controversy.

The reigning controversy in Sancoale, therefore, appears to be political and is raised by anti-social elements to disturb the communal harmony of the people of Goa. Just like in the good old days the upper caste transformed the gramdevtas of Goan villages into their Kuldevatas , it appears that these miscreant and hate mongers are out to transform a church into a temple. This is clear when they shamelessly claim that the present façade, which clearly belongs to the church architecture as the façade of the ancient temple that was destroyed by the Portuguese. While the history of Goa is not linear and cannot be simply appropriated and simplified into the narrative of the upper caste , we thankfully do have scholars sensitive to the same and are opening new vistas on the complexities of caste, colonization and domination of the power upper caste. This is why /we Goans have the challenge to resist being taken captive by cunning narratives of the upper caste but seek to understand how Goa is double colonized. First by the upper caste and then by the Portuguese who were also invited by the same caste. Portuguese are gone. Their colonization has ended. With love for peace and all Goans, we have the challenge to free Goa, Goans and Goan-ness from the first colonization that is still keeping us in chains. Goans everywhere have to unite. We have nothing to lose but only our chains. We do not have to hate the upper caste for our past. Not every one of them is responsible for our dark history. It is the historical contingencies that may have given us our present condition. This requires to see our past ethically. This will able us to create together a new emancipative conditions for all Goans.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao