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St. Francis Xavier who requested the Inquisition in 1545

The Goa Inquisition was the office of the Inquisition acting in the Indian state of Goa and the rest of the Portuguese empire in Asia. It was established in 1560, briefly suppressed from 1774–1778, and finally abolished in 1812.[1]

The Inquisition was established to punish relapsed New ChristiansJews and Muslims who converted to Catholicism, as well as their descendants – who were now suspected of practicing their ancestral religion in secret.[2]

In Goa, the Inquisition also turned its attention to Indian converts from Hinduism or Islam 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.[2]

While its ostensible aim was to preserve the Catholic faith, the Inquisition was used against Indian Catholics and Hindus as an instrument of social control, as well as a method of confiscating victims' property and enriching the Inquisitors.[3]

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.[2]

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.[2]

Template:Indian christianity


In the 15th century, the Portuguese explored the sea route to India and Pope Nicholas V enacted the Papal bull Romanus Pontifex. 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[4].

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.[5]

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.[5].

Many newly converted Indians were opportunistic Rice Christians, 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.[5]

The Portuguese initially resisted the introduction of the Inquisition, despite pressure from the "Catholic Monarchs", Ferdinand and Isabel, whose marriage united the Iberian kingdoms of Aragon and Castile 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.[6][7]

In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal married their eldest daughter, Isabel 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.[6][7]

The King largely paid lipservice 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[6][7]).

Under Spanish 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.[8]

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.[8]

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).[8]

The actual Inquisition was not installed in Portugal into 1531, ten years after Manuel I's death, during the reign of King João III.[9]

One of the most famous New Christians was professor Garcia de Orta, who emigrated in 1534 and was posthumously convicted of Judaism[8].


The first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, established themselves in the palace once occupied by Goa's Islamic sultan, forcing the Portuguese viceroy to relocate to a smaller residence.[10]

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.[10]

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.[10]

Seventy-one "autos da fe" were recorded. In the first few years alone, over 4000 people were arrested.[10]. 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.[11]

According to the Chronista de Tissuary (Chronicles of Tiswadi), the last auto da fe was held in Goa on February 7, 1773.[11]

Historical background

The 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[12]. Hindus were forced to assemble periodically in churches to listen to preaching or to refutation of their religion.[13]

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.[14]

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.[14]

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[15].

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[16] including to Muslim territory.[17]

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.[18]

Persecution of Hindus

According 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 (January 25), 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.[19]

Diago de Boarda, a priest and his advisor Vicar General, Miguel Vazz had made a 41 point plan for torturing Hindus. Under this plan Viceroy Antano 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 December 4, 1567 on rituals of Hindu marriages, sacred thread wearing and cremation.[19]

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 and Cuncolim were destroyed through army action.[19]

"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.[19]

An order was issued in June 1684 eliminating Konkani language and making it compulsory to speak 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.[19]

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.[20]

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 (Goan Inquisition)[20].

Persecution of Christians

Persecution of Goan Catholics

File:Vivian Ros.JPG

The Ros (Anointing) Ceremony of a Mangalorean Catholic bridegroom. This practise was banned by the Inquisition in 1736.[21]

The 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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24]


The Hindu custom of growing the sacred Tulsi plant in front of the house was outlawed by the Inquisition.

There were other far reaching changes that took place during the occupation by the Portuguese, these included the prohibition of traditional musical instruments and singing of celebratory verses, which were replaced by Western music.[25]

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.[24]

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 civilisation”.[26]

However, many Goan Catholics were tenaciously attached to some of their old Hindu customs.[22] 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.[22]

The fact that these Catholics who fled the Inquisition did not abandon their Christian faith testifies to the fact that they simply wanted to observe their traditional Hindu customs in conjunction with new found Catholic practices as well.[22]

These migrations laid the foundations for two distinct Konkani Catholic communities in Canara, i.e, the Karwari Catholics of North Canara and the Mangalorean Catholics of South Canara, respectively.


Persecution of Syrian Christians

In 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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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 Carnatica (Karnataka) interceded on his behalf, laid siege to St. Thome and demanded the release of the priest.[3]

Suppression of Konkani

In stark contrast to the earlier intense study of Konkani and it's cultivation of the earlier century undertaken by the Portuguese priests as a communication medium in their quest for converts, the Inquisition brought about xenophobic measures intended at isolating new converts from the non-Christian populations.[27]

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.[27]

The Maratha threat, compounded by their religious zeal led the Portuguese authorities to initiate a positive programme for the suppression of Konkani in Goa.[27] As a result, the ancient language of Konkani was suppressed and rendered unprivileged by the enforcement of Portuguese.[23].

Urged by the Fransiscans, the Portuguese viceroy forbade the use of Konkani on June 27, 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 it's violation would be imprisonment. The decree was confirmed by the king on March 17, 1687.[27]

However, according to the Inquisitor Antonio Amaral Coutinho's letter to the king in 1731, these draconian measures did not meet with success.

The first and the principal cause of this so lamentable a ruin (perdition of souls) is the non-observance of the law of His Most Serene Lord Dom Sebastião, of glorious memory, and of the Goan Councils, which forbids to the natives of the country to speak in their idiom, compelling them to speak only in the Portuguese language.


With the fall of the "Province of the North" (which included Bassein, Chaul and Salsette) in 1739, the assault on Konkani gained new momentum.[27]

On November 21, 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.[27]

Furthermore, the Bāmaṇs and Chardos were required to learn Portuguese within six months, failing which they would be denied the right to marriage.[27]

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.[27]

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.[23]

Konkani became the lingua de criados (language of the servants)[26] 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).[23]

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.[28]

A few quotes on the Inquistion

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 DeMello describes the performers of Goan inquisition as,[31]
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


  1. "'Goa Inquisition was most merciless and cruel'". Rediff. September 14, 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Salomon, H. P. and Sassoon, I. S. D., in Saraiva, Antonio Jose. The Marrano Factory. The Portuguese Inquisition and Its New Christians, 1536-1765 (Brill, 2001), pp. 345-7.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Benton, Lauren. Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900 (Cambridge, 2002), p. 122.
  4. Daus, Ronald (1983). Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus. Wuppertal/Germany: Peter Hammer Verlag. p. 33. ISBN 3-87294-202-6.(German)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Daus, Ronald (1983). Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus. Wuppertal/Germany: Peter Hammer Verlag. pp. 61–66. ISBN 3-87294-202-6.(German)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 A Traveller's History of Portugal, by Ian Robertson (p. 69),Windrush Press, Gloucestshire, Eng., in association with Cassell & Co., London, Eng. ©Ian Campbell Robertson, 2002</ref">(the first book ever printed in Portugal was a Hebrew Pentateuch, in 1497
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Daus, Ronald (1983). Die Erfindung des Kolonialismus. Wuppertal/Germany: Peter Hammer Verlag. pp. 81–82. ISBN 3-87294-202-6.(German)
  9. A Traveller's History of Portugal, by Ian Robertson (pp. 70),Windrush Press, Gloucestshire, Eng., in association with Cassell & Co., London, Eng. ©Ian Campbell Robertson, 2002
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Hunter, William W, The Imperial Gazetteer of India, Trubner & Co, 1886
  11. 11.0 11.1 Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians, Alan Machado Prabhu, I.J.A. Publications, 1999, p. 121
  12. Sakshena, R.N, Goa: Into the Mainstream (Abhinav Publications, 2003), p. 24
  13. M. D. David (ed.), Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, Bombay, 1988, p.17
  14. 14.0 14.1 Priolkar, A. K. The Goa Inquisition. (Bombay, 1961)
  15. Shirodhkar, P. P., Socio-Cultural life in Goa during the 16th century, p. 35
  16. Shirodhkar, P. P., Socio-Cultural life in Goa during the 16th century, p. 123
  17. The Cambridge history of seventeenth-century music, By Tim Carter, John Butt, pg. 105
  18. Dalrymple, William, White Mughals (2006), p. 14
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 The Goa Inquisition by Christian Historian Dr. T. R. de Souza
  20. 20.0 20.1 L'Inquisition de Goa: la relation de Charles Dellon (1687)
  21. Fátima da Silva Gracias, Kaleidoscope of women in Goa, 1510-1961, Concept Publishing Company, 1996 , ISBN 9788170225911, 62, M1 Google Print, p. 62.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 The Marriage Customs of the Christians in South Canara, India - pp. 4-5, Severine Silva and Stephen Fuchs, 1965, Asian Folklore Studies, Nanzan University (Japan
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Newman, Robert S. (1999), "The Struggle for a Goan Identity", in Dantas, N., The Transformation of Goa, Mapusa: Other India Press, pp. 17
  24. 24.0 24.1 Mascarenhas-Keyes, Stella (1979), Goans in London: portrait of a Catholic Asian community, Goan Association (U.K.)
  25. Robinson, Rowina (2003), Christians of India, SAGE,
  26. 26.0 26.1 Routledge, Paul (22 July 2000), "Consuming Goa, Tourist Site as Dispencible space", Economic and Political Weekly, 35, Economic and Political Weekly, p. 264
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 27.5 27.6 27.7 27.8 Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians, Alan Machado Prabhu, I.J.A. Publications, 1999, pp. 133-134
  28. Goa battles to preserve its identity - Times of India, May 16, 2010
  29. Oeuvres completes de Voltaire - Volume 4, Page 786
  30. Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, Volume 5, Part 2, Page 1066
  31. Memoirs of Goa by Alfredo DeMello

See also


  • Benton, Lauren. Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900 (Cambridge, 2002).
  • Hunter, William W. The Imperial Gazetteer of India (Trubner & Co, 1886).
  • Priolkar, A. K. The Goa Inquisition (Bombay, 1961).
  • Sakshena, R. N. Goa: Into the Mainstream (Abhinav Publications, 2003).
  • Saraiva, Antonio Jose. The Marrano Factory. The Portuguese Inquisition and Its New Christians, 1536-1765 (Brill, 2001).
  • Shirodhkar, P. P. Socio-Cultural life in Goa during the 16th century.

External links

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