acting in the India
n state of Goa
and the rest of the Portuguese empire
. It was established in 1560, briefly suppressed from 1774–1778, and finally abolished in 1812. The Goan Inquisition is considered a blot on the history of Roman Catholic Christianity in India both by Christians and non-Christians alike. Based on the records that survive, H. P. Salomon and I. S. D. Sassoon state that between the Inquisition's beginning in 1561 and its temporary abolition in 1774, some 16,202 persons were brought to trial by the Inquisition. Of this number, it is known that 57 were sentenced to death and executed in person; another 64 were burned in effigy. Others were subjected to lesser punishments or penanced, but the fate of many of the Inquisition's victims is unknown.
The Inquisition was established to punish relapsed New Christian
s—Jews and Muslim
s who converted to Catholicism
, as well as their descendants—who were now suspected of practicing their ancestral religion in secret.
In Goa, the Inquisition also turned its attention to Indian converts from Hinduism
who were thought to have returned to their original ways. In addition, the Inquisition prosecuted non-converts who broke prohibitions against the observance of Hindu
or Muslim rites or interfered with Portuguese attempts to convert non-Christians to Catholicism.
While its ostensible aim was to preserve the Catholic faith, the Inquisition was used against Indian Catholics and Hindus and also against Portuguese settlers from Europe (mostly New Christians and Jewish but also Old Christians) as an instrument of social control, as well as a method of confiscating victims' property and enriching the Inquisitors.
Most of the Goa Inquisition's records were destroyed
after its abolition in 1812, and it is thus impossible to know the exact number of the Inquisition's victims.
The Inquisition in PortugalThe Portuguese initially resisted the introduction of the Inquisition, despite pressure from the "Catholic Monarchs", Ferdinand and Isabella, whose marriage united the Iberian kingdoms of Aragon
into a unified Spain
in 1469, and who by 1492 had expelled, forced the conversion of, or killed all the Moors and Jews in Spain.
In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal
married their eldest daughter, Isabella of Aragon
(following her death he married her younger sister Maria), and the Spanish monarchs insisted that a clause be included in the marriage contract required his introduction of the Inquisition to Portugal, along with forcing the expulsion of conversion of all Jews (many of whom were refugees from Spain.
The King largely paid lip service to the clause for some years, as there was a relatively large and wealthy Jewish community well-integrated into Portuguese society as doctors, printers, financiers and artisans).
Under Spanish pressure through the commitment of marriage with Isabel of Aragon and Church pressure, he ordered that the Jews convert, but with the stipulation that the validity of their conversions would not be investigated for two decades.
That didn't stop there being a massacre of several hundred 'Conversos' or 'Marranos', as newly converted Jews were called, in Lisbon
in 1506, instigated by the preaching of two Spanish Dominicans, as a result of which many left Portugal for England, France, and Amsterdam.
However, it is estimated that there were some 20,000 Marrano still in Portugal a century later, mostly in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country (Tras-as-Montes through Beira Baixa).
The actual Inquisition was not installed in Portugal into 1531, ten years after Manuel I's death, during the reign of King João III.
One of the most famous New Christians was professor Garcia de Orta
, who emigrated to Goa in 1534 and was posthumously convicted of Judaism
Introduction of The Inquisition to IndiaIn the 15th century, the Portuguese explored the sea route to India and Pope Nicholas V
enacted the Papal bull
. This granted the patronage of the propagation of the Christian faith in Asia to the Portuguese and rewarded them with a trade monopoly for newly discovered areas.
After Vasco da Gama
arrived in India in 1498, the trade became prosperous, but the Portuguese were not interested in proselytization
. After four decades, the Catholic Church threatened to open Asia for all Catholics.
Now missionaries of the newly founded Society of Jesus
were sent to Goa and the Portuguese colonial government supported the mission with incentives for baptized Christians. They offered rice donations for the poor, good positions in the Portuguese colonies for the middle class and military support for local rulers.
Many newly converted Indians were opportunistic
s, who still practised their old religion. This was seen as a threat to the purity of Christian belief. St. Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal
, requested an Inquisition
to be installed in Goa.
BeginningThe first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, established themselves in the palace once occupied by Goa's Sultan
, forcing the Portuguese viceroy to relocate to a smaller residence.
The inquisitor's first act was to forbid any open practice of the Hindu faith on pain of death. Sephardic Jews living in Goa, many of whom had fled the Iberian Peninsula
to escape the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition
to begin with, were also persecuted.
The narrative of Da Fonseca describes the violence and brutality of the inquisition. The records speak of the necessity for hundreds of prison cells to accommodate fresh victims.
From 1560 to 1774, a total of 16,172 persons were tried and condemned or acquitted by the tribunals of the Inquisition. While it also included individuals of different nationalities, the overwhelming majority—nearly three fourths were natives, almost equally represented by Christians and non-Christians. Many of these were hauled up merely for crossing the border and cultivating lands there.
Seventy-one autos da fe were recorded. In the first few years alone, over 4000 people were arrested. In the first hundred years, the Inquisition burnt at stake 57 alive and 64 in effigy, 105 of them being men and 16 women. Others sentenced to various punishments totalled 4,046, out of whom 3,034 were men and 1,012 were women. According to the Chronista de Tissuary (Chronicles of Tiswadi
), the last auto da fe was held in Goa on 7 February 1773.
Historical backgroundThe Portuguese colonial administration enacted anti-Hindu
laws with the expressed intent to "humiliate Hindus" and encourage conversions to Christianity. Laws were passed banning Christians from keeping Hindus in their employ, and the public worship of Hindus was deemed unlawful. Hindus were forced to assemble periodically in churches to listen to preaching or to refutation of their religion.
The viceroy ordered that Hindu pandits and physicians be disallowed from entering the capital city on horseback or palanquins, the violation of which entailed a fine. Successive violations resulted in imprisonment.
Christian palaquin-bearers were forbidden from carrying Hindus as passengers. Christian agricultural laborers were forbidden to work in the lands owned by Hindus and Hindus forbidden to employ Christian laborers.
The Inquisition guaranteed "protection" to Hindus who converted to Christianity. Thus, they initiated a new wave of baptisms to Hindus who were motivated by social coercion into converting.
The adverse effects of the inquisition were tempered somewhat by the fact that Hindus were able to escape Portuguese hegemony
by migrating to other parts of the subcontinent including to Muslim
Ironically, the Inquisition also had an adverse unintended consequence, in that it was a compelling factor for the emigration of a large number of Portuguese
from the Portuguese colonies, who although Roman Catholic by faith, had now acculturated into Hindu culture. These people went on to seek their fortunes in the courts of different Indian kings, where their services were employed, usually as gunners or cavalrymen.
Persecution of HindusAccording to Indo-Portuguese historian Teotonio R. de Souza, grave abuse was practiced in Goa in the form of 'mass baptism' and what went before it. The practice was begun by the Jesuits and was later initiated by the Franciscans also. The Jesuits staged an annual mass baptism on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (25 January), and in order to secure as many neophytes as possible, a few days before the ceremony the Jesuits would go through the streets of the Hindu quarter in pairs, accompanied by their Negro slaves, whom they would urge to seize the Hindus. When the blacks caught up a fugitive, they would smear his lips with a piece of beef, making him an 'untouchable' among his people. Conversion to Christianity was then his only option.
The inquisition was set as a tribunal, headed by a judge, sent to Goa from Portugal and was assisted by two judicial henchmen. The judge was answerable to no one except to Lisbon and handed down punishments as he saw fit. The Inquisition Laws filled 230 pages and the palace where the Inquisition was conducted was known as the Big House and the Inquisition proceedings were always conducted behind closed shutters and closed doors.
According to the historian, "the screams of agony of the victims (men, women, and children) could be heard in the streets, in the stillness of the night, as they were brutally interrogated, flogged, and slowly dismembered in front of their relatives.""Eyelids were sliced off and extremities were amputated carefully, a person could remain conscious even though the only thing that remained was his torso and head.
Fr. Diago de Boarda and his advisor Vicar General, Miguel Vaz had made a 41 point plan for torturing Hindus. Under this plan Viceroy António de Noronha issued in 1566, an order applicable to the entire area under Portuguese rule:
I hereby order that in any area owned by my master, the king, nobody should construct a Hindu temple and such temples already constructed should not be repaired without my permission. If this order is transgressed, such temples shall be, destroyed and the goods in them shall be used to meet expenses of holy deeds, as punishment of such transgression.
In 1567, the campaign of destroying temples in Bardez met with success. At the end of it 300 Hindu temples were destroyed. Enacting laws, prohibition was laid from 4 December 1567 on rituals of Hindu marriages, sacred thread wearing and cremation.
All the persons above 15 years of age were compelled to listen to Christian preaching, failing which they were punished. In 1583 Hindu temples at Assolna
were destroyed through army action.
"The fathers of the Church forbade the Hindus under terrible penalties the use of their own sacred books, and prevented them from all exercise of their religion. They destroyed their temples, and so harassed and interfered with the people that they abandoned the city in large numbers, refusing to remain any longer in a place where they had no liberty, and were liable to imprisonment, torture and death if they worshipped after their own fashion the gods of their fathers." wrote Filippo Sassetti
, who was in India from 1578 to 1588.
An order was issued in June 1684 eliminating the Konkani language
and making it compulsory to speak the Portuguese language
. The law provided for dealing toughly with anyone using the local language. Following that law all the symbols of non-Christian sects were destroyed and the books written in local languages were burnt.
The victims of such inhuman laws of the Inquiry Commission included a French traveller named Charles Delone. He was an eye witness to the atrocities, cruelty and reign of terror unleashed by priests. He published a book in 1687 describing the lot of helpless victims. While he was in jail, he had heard the cries of tortured people beaten with instruments having sharp teeth. All these details are noted in Delone's book, L'Inquisition de Goa (The Inquisition of Goa).
Persecution of Goan CatholicsThe main object of the Inquisition was the eradication of heresy. Consequently, the authorities of the Inquisition also dealt severely with the converted Catholics who observed their former Hindu customs, than with the Hindus and Muslims. They declared that observance of former customs after conversion was un-Christian and heretical.
Inquisitions were used by the Portuguese to prevent defection back to other faiths and had far reaching implications. In the laws and prohibitions of the inquisition in 1736, over 42 Hindu practices were prohibited, including the wearing of the Brahminical shendi (ponytail), wearing of caste thread, greeting people with Namaste, wearing sandals, removing of the slippers while entering the church and growing of the sacred basil or Tulsi
plant in front of the house, in order to ward off the evil eye
They were implemented through the eradication of indigenous cultural practices such as ceremonies, fasts, growing of the Tulsi plant in front of the house, flowers and leaves for ceremony or ornament and the exchange of betel and areca nuts for occasions such as marriage (Robinson, 2000). Methods such as repressive laws, demolition of temples and mosques, destruction of holy books, fines and the forcible conversion of orphans were used.
People were renamed when they converted and not permitted to use their original Hindu names. Alcohol was introduced and dietary habits changed dramatically so that foods that were once taboo, such as pork and beef, became part of the Goan diet.
Architecture changed with the Baroque style that was in vogue in Portugal becoming popular. Thus, many customs were suppressed and Goans became ‘Westernized’ to some degree as a Catholic elite who came to see themselves as a “cultivated branch of a global Portuguese civilization”.
However, many Goan Catholics
were tenaciously attached to some of their old Hindu customs. Those who refused to give up their ancient Hindu practices were declared apostates and heretics and condemned to death. Such circumstances forced many to leave Goa and settle in the neighboring kingdoms, of which a minority went to the Deccan and the vast majority went to Canara
Historian Severine Silva reasons that the fact that these Catholics who fled the Inquisition did not abandon their Christian faith was because they simply wanted to observe their traditional Hindu customs along with their new found Catholic practices.
These migrations laid the foundations for two distinct Konkani Catholic communities in Canara—the Karwari Catholics
of North Canara and the Mangalorean Catholics of South Canara
It is interesting and instructive, in this light, to view the rituals and practices of Mangalorean Catholics. These Catholics of South fled from Goa (mainly from its northern districts) in successive waves. A large number fled to escape the scrutiny of the inquistion. Among them the ritual substances banned by the inquistion such as betel leaves, areca nuts, rice and flowers, continue to be employed in domestic celebrations and the pattern of ritual practices appears much more resemble forms described in the Inquisitorial edict.
— A.P.L. D'Souza, Popular Christianity: A Case Study among the Catholics of Mangalore
Suppression of KonkaniIn stark contrast to the earlier intense study of the Konkani language
and its cultivation undertaken by the Portuguese priests as a communication medium in their quest for converts during the earlier century, the Inquisition brought about xenophobic measures intended at isolating new converts from the non-Christian populations. This suppression of Konkani was in face of the repeated Maratha onslaughts of the late 17th and earlier 18th centuries, which for the first time posed a serious threat to Goa, and by extension, the Portuguese presence in India itself. The Maratha
threat, compounded by their religious zeal, led the Portuguese authorities to initiate a positive programme for the suppression of Konkani in Goa. As a result, the ancient language of Konkani was suppressed and rendered unprivileged by the enforcement of Portuguese.
Urged by the Franciscan
s, the Portuguese viceroy forbade the use of Konkani on 27 June 1684 and further decreed that within three years, the local people in general would speak the Portuguese tongue
and use it in all their contacts and contracts made in Portuguese territories. The penalties for violation would be imprisonment. The decree was confirmed by the king on 17 March 1687. However, according to the Inquisitor António Amaral Coutinho's letter to the Portuguese monarch João V in 1731, these draconian measures did not meet with success. With the fall of the "Province of the North" (which included Bassein, Chaul
and Salsette) in 1739, the assault on Konkani gained new momentum. On 21 November 1745, Archbishop Lourenzo de Santa Maria decreed that in order to qualify for priesthood, the knowledge of, and the ability to speak only in Portuguese, not only for the pretendentes, but also for all the close relations, men as well as women, confirmed by rigorous examinations by reverend persons was an essential prerequisite. Furthermore, the Bamonns
were required to learn Portuguese within six months, failing which they would be denied the right to marriage. The Jesuits, who had historically been the greatest advocates of Konkani, were expelled in 1761. In 1812, the Archbishop decreed that children should be prohibited from speaking Konkani in schools and in 1847, this was extended to seminaries. In 1869, Konkani was completely banned in schools.
The result of this linguistic displacement was that Goans did not develop a literature in Konkani, nor could the language unite the population as several scripts (including Roman, Devanagari and Kannada) were used to write it. Konkani became the lingua de criados (language of the servants) as Hindu and Catholic elites turned to Marathi and Portuguese respectively. Ironically, Konkani is at present the ‘cement’ that binds all Goan Catholics across caste, religion and class and is affectionately termed Konkani Mai (Mother Konkani). The language only received official recognition in 1987, when on the February of that year, the Indian government recognized Konkani as the official language of Goa.
Persecution of Syrian ChristiansIn 1599 under Aleixo de Menezes
the Synod of Diamper
converted the Syriac
Saint Thomas Christians
(of the Eastern
faith) to the Roman Catholic Church
under the excuse that they allegedly practiced Nestorian heresy.
The synod enforced severe restrictions on their faith and the practice of using Syriac/Aramaic. They were first made politically insignificant and their Metropolitanate status was discontinued by blocking bishops from the East.
There were assassination attempts against Archdeacon George, so as to subjugate the entire Church under Rome. Even the common prayer book was not spared. Every known item of literature was burnt and any priest professing independence was imprisoned. Some altars were pulled down to make way for altars conforming to Catholic criteria.
The St. Thomas Christians resentful over these acts later swore the Coonan Cross Oath
, severing relations with the Catholic Church, and later came to be known as Jacobites.
In addition, non-Portuguese Christian missionaries who were in competition with the inquisition were often persecuted, even though they were outside of the inquisition's sphere of influence.
When the local clergy became jealous of a French priest operating in Madras, they lured him to Goa, then had him arrested and sent to the inquisition. He was saved when the Hindu King of Carnatic (Karnataka
) interceded on his behalf, laid siege to St. Thome and demanded the release of the priest.
Persecution of Knanaya peopleDuring the Portuguese occupation, the Knanaya
people were discriminated against due to their Jewish roots. The Nasranis, lost their very defining ethnicity by marrying peoples of local tradition . The only Nasranis who managed to preserve some elements of their Jewish origin were the Knanaya people, because of their tradition of being endogamous
within their own community and therefore preserving their Jewish tradition. An Imperial Order was passed to confiscate and sell under public auction
the properties of those who celebrated Passover
. It was perhaps because of this Order that the Knanaites celebrate Passover in a very private manner without inviting any Christian friend to share the Holy Meal.
A few quotes on the Inquistion
- VoltaireVoltaireFrançois-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...
quotes about Goan Inquisition
Goa est malheureusement célèbre par son inquisition , également contraire à l'humanité et au commerce. Les moines portugais firent accroire que le peuple adorait le diable , et ce sont eux qui l'ont servi. (Goa is sadly famous for its inquisition, equally contrary to humanity and commerce. The Portuguese monks made us believe that the people worshiped the devil, and it is they who have served him.)
- Historian Alfredo de Mello describes the performers of Goan inquisition as,
nefarious, fiendish, lustful, corrupt religious orders which pounced on Goa for the purpose of destroying paganism (ie Hinduism) and introducing the true religion of Christ.
- Auto da feAuto Da FeAuto Da Fe were an Irish new wave musical group formed in Holland in 1980 by former Steeleye Span singer Gay Woods and Trevor Knight. The band's sound incorporated keyboards and electronics. Woods stated "It was the happiest musical time I ever had so far. I learned so much. I was ridding myself...
- Spanish InquisitionSpanish InquisitionThe Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...
- Portuguese InquisitionPortuguese InquisitionThe Portuguese Inquisition was formally established in Portugal in 1536 at the request of the King of Portugal, João III. Manuel I had asked for the installation of the Inquisition in 1515 to fulfill the commitment of marriage with Maria of Aragon, but it was only after his death that the Pope...
- History of GoaHistory of GoaGoa is a small state on the western coast of India. Though the smallest Indian state, Goa has played an influential role in Indian history. Goa was one of the major trade centers in India, thus it had always been attracting the influential dynasties, seafarers, merchants, traders, monks and...
- History of the Jews in India
- Christianity in IndiaChristianity in IndiaChristianity is India's third-largest religion, with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India's population. The works of scholars and Eastern Christian writings and 14th century Portuguese missionaries created an illusion to convert Indians that Christianity was introduced to...
- Christianity in GoaChristianity in GoaChristianity is the second largest religious grouping in Goa, India. According to the 2001 census, 27% of the population are Christian, while 66% are Hindu...
- Christianisation of Goa
- Moira, Goa#Mass haul of Moidekars by the Goa Inquisition (1664)
- Flight of the Deities: Hindu Resistance in Portuguese Goa Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2. (May, 1996), pp. 387–421.