Cuncolim revolt of 1583- Villagers demand recognition from the government- The first resistance against foreign rule

armie / 6 yrs ago /

Five Portuguese-backed Jesuits priests and an equal number of laymen fell prey to the fury of the villagers of Cuncolim in South Goa in the former Portuguese colony in 1583. The villagers were fighting to protect their land and religion. The core of villagers from the warrior Khastriya caste raised the banner of protest against the desecration and also destruction of temples. The villagers who are known as Gaoncars - originally inhabitants of the place - were fed with the constant defiling of places of worship. The patience reached a flashpoint with death of the priests and the layman accompanying the Jesuits priests who were on a mission of conversion to the village. The villagers elders suffered at the hands of the Portuguese authorities who ruled Goa at that time. The leaders of chieftains of the Gaoncar clan were invited for talks at the Assolna fort situated on the banks of River Sal where the present day Assolna church stands and in an act of treachery sixteen of them were executed by the Portuguese authorities. One of them escaped from clutches jumped into the Assolna River and saw across to safety and fled to neigbouring Karwar in the present day Karwar in the Southern state of Karnataka. In the present day era Shantaram Laxman Naik hailing from the same village and belonging to the same clan wants the Indian government to recognize the revolt. Naik a member of the upper house of parliament has made the demand to government in one of the debate in parliament. "One of the first revolts of independence against any foreign rule had taken place in my village Cuncolim, in Goa. It has still not been recognized by the country. The villagers of Cuncolim are called 'Gaoncars' who had revolted against the Portuguese as early as in the year 1583, which had led to the killing of the Portuguese agents, who used to harass the 'Gaoncars' on one pretext or the other. This revolt of the 'Gaoncars' was much before the first officially recognized War of Independence, namely, the Revolt of 1857. The Cuncolim village has had a long tradition of hospitality, especially that of political exiles. I appeal to the government of India to constitute a committee of historians and other experts for the purpose of recognizing the first revolt of independence against any foreign rule in the country. A documentary also be produced on the subject, besides including the history in the textbooks. Naik's demand in the country capital has found echoes in the state where the Cuncolim Chieftain’s Memorial Committee President of the Committee Dr Verisimo Coutinho has again appealed to the Goa government to act fast and include the Cuncolim revolt of 1583 in the school history books. Dr Coutinho has urged the State government to respect the feelings of Cuncolcars and Goans and to put the history in right perspective by including the first revolt of 1583 in the school curriculum. “Cuncolkars fought a war against the Portuguese for Swaraj and Swadharma. This 1583 revolt is the first revolt against any foreign rule in India, '" he said. The Committee also welcomed the statement made by State Chief Minister, Digambar Kamat that the government would give due respect to Cuncolim history and accord due place in the school curriculum. The Cuncolim revolt has got yet another shot in the arm with the Portuguese language book written by late Adv Lingu R Davli “Historia de Cuncolim”, which has been now translated into English. Retired MES College Principal, Dr Harischandra Nagvenkar has translated the book into English. The grandson of Late Lingu Dalvi, Sunitbhaskar Dalvi and Chairman of late Adv Dattaram L Dalvi Memorial Trust, is the publisher of the translated book. The book gives a vivid account of the revolt of the brave people of Cuncolim against the Portuguese and provided valuable socio-economic information on Cuncolim and surrounding villages. The Five Jesuits priests have since been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

earlier articles by armstrong vaz on cuncolim history

Jhansi, a small city in the northern Indian Uttar Pradesh, is gearing up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of India's "first war of independence" next year. The 1857 war for independence from British rule has been well documented in history books.

Unlike other parts of India, however, Goa, a small state on the western coast, was ruled by the Portuguese from 1510 to 1961. British rule ended in 1947.

An uprising against the colonial Portuguese rulers launched by a small village -- Cuncolim -- some 48 kilometers from the state capital of Panjim in 1583 has gone largely unnoticed.

The Portuguese first conquered Goa in 1510 and Cuncolim was the first uprising that the Portuguese had to face in Goa apart from the organized armies and rulers who fought different wars with them over a period of time.

The villagers of Cuncolim, comprised mostly of Khastriyas (a warrior caste) who rendered services for different armies of different rulers, fought the war over forceful conversions and the destruction and defiling of their temples and places of worship.

But the Cuncolim revolt may soon find its way into local history books if the assertions of Shantaram Naik, who is from the village, are reliable. A lawmaker who is a member of Rajya Sabha, the Upper House (India has two houses of parliament) has said the Cuncolim revolt will find its way into the school curriculum.

The revolt took shape as a popular rebellion against invading Portuguese who came to the village accompanied by Jesuits, an order of Roman Catholic priests, and destroyed temples and defiled Hindu religious places.

The villagers retaliated by organizing themselves. Five Jesuits lost their lives along with five laymen.

The five priests have since being canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as martyrs, but the laymen have not received such treatment. (See and for more information.)

The murdered priests were canonized because their bodies, despite being left in the well for a few days, did not emit any foul smell. Rather, they emitted "special aromas," which was the only factor in their canonization process.

A "martyrs' chapel" was erected, dedicated to the priests and layman killed in 1583. Another chapel, some 500 meters away, which is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa, was the site where the bodies of the murdered priests were dumped in a well.

The well still stands today inside the chapel and is opened for people to view once a year during the feast of St. Xavier, celebrated in the first week of December.

The Cuncolim villagers had to face the fury of the Portuguese for having killed the five priests and five laymen. The Portuguese destroyed orchards in the village and unleashed many atrocities on the local population. More trouble was in store for them.

The village chieftains were invited for talks at a fort in the neighboring village of Assolna, where the church of Assolna stands today. All but one was executed. The one who survived did so by escaping through a toilet hole to swim across the "River Sal" and fleeing to the neighboring Karwar district, which now forms part of the southern state of Karnataka.

As part of the memory of the murdered village chieftains, Cuncolim as recently as five years ago erected a "chieftains' memorial" thanks to the initiative of Vermissio Coutinho, who took the lead in the building of the memorial. The chieftains' memorial stands close to the martyrs' chapel.

The subsequent execution of the chieftains -- cold-blooded murder -- did not diminish the fighting and valorous qualities of the villagers. After the Khastriyas of Cuncolim failed to match the superior armed forces of the colonial rulers, who destroyed their orchards and unleashed other atrocities, the villagers continued the struggle through a non-cooperation movement of not paying taxes to the Portuguese.

Centuries later, Mahatma Gandhi would launch a similar movement of not paying taxes to British rulers.

The villages of Cuncolim, Velim, Assolna, Ambleim and Veroda refused to pay taxes on the produce generated from their fields and orchards. As a result, their lands were confiscated and entrusted to the Condado of the Marquis of Fronteira.

The villagers waged a strong struggle but it was through the efforts of the visionary Dr. Rogociano Rebello, a general medical practitioner who studied law, that they got their land back.

He took their case from the Goa law courts established by the Portuguese to the highest court in Portugal. Finally, it bore fruit.

A truce has been struck but the effect of opposing Portuguese rule has had long-lasting effects, even to this day.

The forceful conversion of the villagers forced those of Cuncolim to move their places of Worship to different places. One of the temples of the goddess Shri Shantadurga Cuncolikarian was moved to the neighboring village of Fatorpa some seven kilometers away.

The villagers rejoice once a year when the same goddess is brought in a ceremonial procession from Fatorpa to Cuncolim. The 12 colorful umbrellas accompanying the deity represent the 12 vangodds (clans) of the village.

Incidentally, this year's yearly zatra (one week festival) falls on Dec. 24. Residents from various part of Goa will come together during the festival to get the blessing of the deity.

The villagers, despite having to convert to Christianity, have confirmed their age-old Hindu customs and maintained their caste beliefs. They also have a 12 vangodd system running the church's affairs.

The Khastriyas (warrior caste) who claim to be the original residents of the village, called Gaunkars (original inhabitants), have carried the Hindu caste system into the Roman Catholic Church and are demanding that they have a hold over the running of the affairs of the Cuncolim church, a view which has not been taken lightly by church authorities.

The Gaunkars claim that the Cuncolim church was built by their forefathers and that they have the right to conduct the religious festivals of the Cuncolim church, compared to non-Gaunkars who belong to the lower caste. No Brahmin families are found in the village of Cuncolim.

The dominant stance of the Khastriyas have seen many a struggle over the last 30 years and even led to church services being suspended for some months in the early 1980s.

Despite all this, the villagers of Cuncolim are braced for a new beginning.

Does conversion to a new religion change caste equations in India? Do social customs and traditions change with religious conversion? Or do Indians continue with their Hindu customs and traditions despite conversions?

These are some of the questions my foreign friends pose to me when the topic of religious conversions comes up. I say, Indians certainly do follow their Hindu customs and traditions despite conversions.

In fact, in the western Indian state of Goa, Christians continue to follow the age-old Hindu practices and traditions of their forefathers, who converted to Christianity in the 16th century, and take part in Hindu rituals and festivals.

Fathom this: Tony Fernandes' forefathers converted to Christianity in the 16th century but the 48-year-old Fernandes still carries on the practice of visiting the Hindu temples and seeking blessings from his village deity -- Shri Shantadurga Kunkoliarin. The practice is in conflict with the Catholic Church, which comes down heavily on idol worship and demands loyalty to only one god.

Fernandes is not alone. Hundreds of his fellow villagers, following the customs of their forefathers, regularly visit the Hindu temples to evoke the blessing of their village deity -- despite conversions.

But there is a broader spectrum to Fernandes and his fellow villagers' fling with Hindu beliefs.

Fernandes hails from a village that boasts a unique history. Tales of bravery and the valor of the people of Cuncolim, a small village in Goa, are recounted many times when the state experiences injustice.

The residents of Cuncolim tried to ward off Portuguese missionaries who were propagating forceful conversion to Christianity in 1583.

The efforts of the Portuguese to force mass conversion on the residents and to desecrate the temples resulted in the shifting of the village deity from Cuncolim to Fatorpa.

One of the traditions that the Christian converts from the village take part in together with their Hindu brothers is the festival of umbrellas (locally called Gulalustav -- festival of colors), also known as the Sontreo (umbrella) procession. It is a pompous occasion with great significance for the local residents.

The festival falls on Panchami day in the month of Phalguna on the Hindu calendar, which usually comes in the month of March. This day has an added meaning to the devotees, who commemorate the return of the deity from Fatorpa to Cuncolim in a festival spirit. The deity is brought back along the same route it was moved to Fatorpa.

Young men of the village brave the heat to complete the five-kilometer procession in the company of the deity. The procession consists mostly of men who wear traditional headgear and color their bodies with dye and whatnot. The procession begins at noon and reaches Cuncolim at around 3 p.m.

The colorful and ceremonious procession makes its way to Cuncolim to the beat of traditional music accompanied by 12 silken umbrellas, one of which is completely red in color.

Once in Cuncolim, young people dance with the umbrellas to music while devotees take Prasad blessings from the deity, which is doled out by Hindu priests. The umbrellas are propelled to a height of 10 meters (11 yards) by bamboo sticks.

The dancing ends around 5:30 p.m., when the deity is taken back to Fatorpa along a different route.

The 12 umbrellas represent the 12 clans or patrons of the temple at Cuncolim.

"The umbrellas are strong symbols of the common history and kinship of the villages, continued common devotion to a powerful goddess and the existence of a common Goan culture that has existed for centuries, wrote Paul Newman, in a paper titled "Konkani Mai Ascends the Throne." (Konkani is the official language of Goa.)

The traditional procession was forbidden by the Portuguese government at the request of then-patriarch Antonio Sebastiao Valent of the Roman Catholic Church. The ban was subsequently lifted in 1910 after the Portuguese republic was set up.


Cuncolim the village ot twelve - Umbrellas, Vangores, Bunds

You hate them. you rant at them and you call them by different names. Yet the spirit of Cuncolkar will never die. The spirit of fighting till the end. A basket full of dirty dozen or call by them by any name if you hate them but you cannot not brush them by just a stroke of pen.
History of Cuncolim caanot be erased in a few years and the twelve Rivulets or bands, twelve umbrellas of the sontreo festival and twelve vangodds of cuncolim are integral part of the Cuncolim history spanning centuries.

Twelve number with Cuncolkars. They have twelve umbrellas representing the twelve Vangores of Cuncolim, and then they have the twelve bunds of Cuncolim and the twelve Van gores comprising of the original inhabitants-Gaonkars of Cuncolim. Here are some interesting related facts.

The Shantadurga Temple The Gaonkars of Cuncolim secretly transferred the deity of Shri Shantadurga to Fatorpa in the face of forceful conversion by the Portuguese in Cuncolim. The present temple is housed at Fatorpa .The temple lies amidst the greenery of the surrounding hills and is known for a big annual zatra (fair) which falls in the month of Paus .(December-January) from Pancha mi to Dosam which in fact, sets the tone of all the zatras in Goa. Hindus and Catholics alike worship the deity, which represents the truly secular character and communal harmony Of Goa.

The Fatorpa temple is also know for the Shigmo Sontreo (Umbrellas) festival. During which, on panchami day (usually in March), the devotees commemorate the day of transfer of the deity to Cuncolim from its present location Fatorpa. The colourful procession wends its way through the same old route by which the deity was brought to Fatorpa. The deity of Shantadurga is brought in a procession from Fatorpa to Cuncolim, each year, on Panchami day in the month of Phalguna, the day on which the festival of Sontreos is held. The deity is ceremoniously taken to the original place where it was enshrined, to the accompaniment of traditional folk music and twelve silk umbrellas. The procession passes through the vaddos of Molanguinim, Biunsa, Voddy, Tolliebhatt, Markutt and Demani and from Molangini to Fatorpa

The twelve umbrellas represent the twelve vangores of Cuncolim. There is only one red umbrella. The procession banned by the Portuguese at the request of Patriarch Don Antonio Sebastiao Valente was re-established after the Portuguese Republic was set up in 1910.

The Twelve Vangores Mhal: Gaonkars of Dessai and Porob ward. Shetkaar: Coutin hos of Socrecotto Naik: Tavares, Almeida, Torcato of Murida and Baga, Dessai and Naik. Mangro: Souza’s of Biunsa and Dessai. Sobro: Martins of Dandora, Baga, Velim and Dessai. Tombddo: Dessais. Porob: Fernandes of Cuncolim and sokoillo-vaddo of Velim. Sidakali: Coutinho, Pereira and Paes of Milleavaddo, Saldanha, Viera, Mas-carenhas, Souza, and Miranda’s of Dandora. Lokakalli: Lourenco, Rebello, Gama, Tavares, Faria, Vaz, Fernandes. Bandekar: Aguiar, Almeida of Adibandh, Noronha, Dessai, Dias of Murida, Noronha of Maddicotto, and the component of third vangores of Assolna, residents of Gadwavaddo and Bandavaddo, Almeida, Sousa, Gracias, Martins, Melo and Saldanha. Rounno: Dias and Dessai Benklo: Dessai, Moraes and Coutinho and residents of Benkleavaddo.

cuncolim village continued

The ward of Veroda, has a separate church-St. Anthony’s Church (Verodkars, however earlier formed part of the Cuncolim parish till the elevation of the San Antonio Capela to a church in the early 1980s. The elevation of status from Chapel to Church was largely due to businessman Avertano Furtado of Holiday Inn Resort (Cavelos sim).Veroda also has six vangores or family groups. Fotto: includes Jacques, Moraes, Brito and Noronha. Naik, Nayak, Naique, Zolmi and Porobo.

These family groups consist are the original Gaonkars of Cuncolim and Veroda. Each year the feast of Our Lady of Health is celebrated by one of the twelve vangores of Cuncolim. The twelve vangores of Cuncolim irrespective of their present religious beliefs; continue to have a hand in the administrative affairs of the Temple at Shantadurga, Fatorpa.Twelve Bhands of Cun colim: In Cuncolim, Goa has an interesting irrigation system - Bara Bhand (twelve bunds) that are named Zogla bandh, Uskinibandh, Molle -bandh, Vedebandh, Sallebandh ,Folleabandh and Dothra bandh (on the Northern and Eastern sides). Chireabhandh, Oddabandh, Fontibandh, Dugalebandh, Pairabandh and Novobandh on Southern and Western side.The village has perhaps more rivulets than any other in Goa.

Unfortunately due to deposits of silt and sand for over a century, they are not deep enough to irrigate a large portion of the village for the second crop. Small dams that are built annually in the month of October with mud, twigs and coconut stem hold or collect water in the streams that encircle the villages of Cuncolim & Veroda. The water collected is used for the production of Vangana(Khazana/saline) crop. The water reservoir "Novo Bandh" supplies water to the neighbouring villages of Assolna, Ambelim and Velim. The bandh is situated between two hills. The Portuguese rebuilt it around 1880 when the old one had collapsed. At that time the surrounding areas were flooded and cattle and goats, washed away. Although rebuilt about hundred years ago, it is still called Novo Bandh-new bund. Initially the local Panchayat maintained the reservoir. Each year an auction for opening and closing the tank known as "Vagzuem Tanki" was conducted. Unfortunately the Novo Bhand is not being maintained for the last eight years and several cracks have developed due to neglect.

The lake adjoining the Novo Bandh is also a sad state. The then Cuncolim MLA Manu Fernandes had proposed to develop the lake on the lines of the Mayem Lake. Unfortunately the proposal remained only on paper had a couple of visits by tourism officials! The now contaminated and almost dry Naya Bandh Lake can be viewed as one drives past the new Cuncolim Police Station on National Highway No. 17.

Martyrs of Cuncolim

Martyrs of Cuncolim
Catholic Encyclopedia on CD-ROM

On Monday, 25 July, 1583 (N.S.), the village of Cuncolim in the district of
Salcete, territory of Goa, India, was the scene of the martyrdom of five
religious of the Society of Jesus: Fathers Rudolph Acquaviva, Alphonsus Pacheco,
Peter Berno, and Anthony Francis, also Francis Aranha, lay brother.

Rudolph Acquaviva was born 2 October, 1550, at Atri in the Kingdom of Naples. He
was the fifth child of the Duke of Atri, and nephew of Claudius Acquaviva, the
fifth General of the Society of Jesus, while on his mother's side he was a
cousin of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Admitted into the Society of Jesus 2 April,
1568, he landed in Goa 13 September, 1578. Shortly after his arrival he was
selected for a very important mission to the court of the Great Mogul Akbar, who
had sent an embassy to Goa with a request that two learned missionaries might be
sent to Fatehpir-Sikri, his favourite residence near Agra. After spending three
years at the Mogul court, he returned to Goa, much to the regret of the whole
Court and especially of the emperor. On his return to Goa, he was appointed
superior of the Salcete mission, which post he held until his martyrdom.

Alphonsus Pacheco was born about 1551, of a noble family of New Castile, and
entered the Society on 8 September, 1567. In September, 1574, he arrived in Goa,
where he so distinguished himself by his rare prudence and virtue that in 1578
he was sent to Europe on important business. Returning to India in 1581, he was
made rector of Rachol. He accompanied two punitive expeditions of the Portuguese
to the village of Cuncolim, and was instrumental in destroying the pagodas

Peter Berno was born of humble parents in 1550 at Ascona, a Swiss village at the
foot of the Alps. After being ordained priest in Rome, he entered the Society of
Jesus in 1577, arrived in Goa in 1579, and was soon appointed to Salcete. He
accompanied the expeditions to Cuncolim, and assisted in destroying the pagan
temples, destroyed an ant-hill which was deemed very sacred, and killed a cow
which was also an object of pagan worship. He used to say constantly that no
fruit would be gathered from Cuncolim and the hamlets around it till they were
bathed in blood shed for the Faith. His superiors declared that he had converted
more pagans than all the other fathers put together.

Anthony Francis, born in 1553, was a poor student of Coimbra in Portugal. He
joined the Society in 1571, accompanied Father Pacheco to India in 1581, and was
shortly afterwards ordained priest in Goa. It is said that whenever he said
Mass, he prayed, at the Elevation, for the grace of martyrdom; and that on the
day before his death, when he was saying Mass at the church of Orlim, a miracle
prefigured the granting of this prayer.

Brother Francis Aranha was born of a wealthy and noble family of Braga in
Portugal, about 1551, and went to India with his uncle, the first Archbishop of
Goa, Dom Gaspar. There he joined the Society of Jesus, 1 November, 1571. Being a
skilled draughtsman and architect, he built several fine chapels in Goa.

Martyrs of Cuncolim- continued

These five religious met in the church of Orlim on the 15 of July, 1583, and
thence proceeded to Cuncolim, accompanied by some Christians, with the object of
erecting a cross and selecting ground for building a church. Seeing an
opportunity of doing away with these enemies of their pagodas, the pagan
villagers, after holding a council, advanced in large numbers, armed with
swords, lances, and other weapons, towards the spot where the Christians were.
Gon�alo Rodrigues one of the party, levelled his gun, but Father Pacheco
stopped hirn, saying: "Come, come, Senhor Gon�alo, we are not here to fight."
Then, speaking to the crowd, he said in Konkani, their native language, "Do not
be afraid". The Pagans then fell upon them; Father Rudolph received five cuts
from a scimitar and a spear and died praying God to forgive them, and
pronouncing the Holy Name. Father Berno was next horribly mutilated, and Father
Pacheco, wounded with a spear, fell on his knees extending his arms in the form
of a cross, and praying God to forgive his murderers and send other missionaries
to them. Father Anthony Francis was pierced with arrows, and his head was split
open with a sword. Brother Aranha, wounded at the outset by a Scimitar and a
lance, fell down a deep declivity into the thick crop of a rice-field, where he
lay until he was discovered. He was then carried to the idol, to which he was
bidden to bow his head. Upon his refusal to do this, he was tied to a tree and,
like St. Sebastian was shot to death with arrows. The spot where this tree stood
is marked with an octagonal monument surmounted by a cross, which was repaired
by the Patriarch of Goa in 1885.

The bodies of the five martyrs were thrown into a well, water of which was
afterwards sought by people from all parts of Goa for its miraculous healing.
The bodies themselves, when found, after two and a half days, allowed no signs
of decomposition. They were solemnly buried in the church of Our Lady of the
Snows at Rachol, and remained there until 1597, when they were removed to the
college of St. Paul in Goa, and in 1862 to the cathedral of Old Goa. Some of
these relics have been sent to Europe at various times. All the bones of the
entire right arm of Blessed Rudolph were taken to Rome in 1600, and his left arm
was sent from Goa as a present to the Jesuit college at Naples. In accordance
with the request of the Pacheco family, an arm and leg of Blessed Alphonsus were
sent to Europe in 1609. The process of canonization began in 1600, but it was
only in 1741 that Benedict XIV declared the martyrdom proved. On the 16th of
April, 1893, the solemn beatification of the five martyrs was celebrated at St.
Peter's in Rome. It was celebrated in Goa in 1894, and the feast has ever since
then been kept with great solemnity at Cuncolim, even by the descendants of the
murderers. The Calendar of the Archdiocese of Goa has fixed 26 July as their
feast day.

martyrs of Cuncolim- continued last part

Along with the five religious were also killed Gon�alo Rodrigues, a
Portuguese, and fourteen native Christians. Of the latter, one was Dominic, a
boy of Cuncolim, who was a student at Rachol, and had accompanied the fathers on
their expeditions to Cuncolim and pointed out to them the pagan temples. His own
heathen uncle dispatched him. Alphonsus, an altar-boy of Father Pacheco had
followed him closely, carrying his breviary, which he would not part with. The
pagans therefore cut off his hands and cut through his knee-joints to prevent
his escape. In this condition he lived till the next day, when he was found and
killed. This boy, a native of either Margao or Verna, was buried in the church
of the Holy Spirit at Margao. Francis Rodrigues, who was also murdered, used to
say, when he was reproached by the fathers for slight faults, that he hoped to
atone for them by shedding his blood as a martyr. Paul da Costa, another of
those who died at the hands of the pagans, was an inhabitant of Rachol, and had
been distinguished by his desire of dying for the Faith. Speaking of these
fifteen courageous Christians, Father Goldie says:

For reasons which we have now no means of judging, the Cause of these companions
of the five Martyrs was not brought forward before the Archbishop of the time,
nor since then has any special cultus, or the interposition of God by miracle,
called the attention of the Church to them. But we may hope that their blood was
in the odour of sweetness before God.


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