Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘History’




‘Goa was better off in the hands of the Portuguese’ I’ve heard this rhetoric before, as have many of you who hail from Goa. People say this more as a reaction to the frustration they feel about the current situation in the State, but imagine my surprise when I saw a group on Facebook that thought the same thing!

This group describes itself as a group “for all goans who believe that goa woud be better off with portugal,and this was the flag of goa when it was under the portugese.” (The spelling mistakes aren’t mine). It’s a small group and most of the members are young people.


“Honestly?,” I thought, was Goa really better off in the hands of the Portuguese. At 451 years, Goa has witnessed the longest colonial rule in the world. “Do you speak Portuguese” is a common question asked to me by my friends in Bangalore and I say “no, in fact very few people in Goa speak or know Portuguese”. When you think of it, its surprising that after being ruled for  451 years the language has virtually disappeared, a mere 46 years after the departure of the Portuguese. In fact Goa has so deeply and completely integrated itself into India that few are bemused by the transition.

But was “Goa better off under the Portuguese”, I honestly don’t know. From the little that I’ve read and studied, when the Portuguese left Goa, Goa was pre-industrial, and that’s why the high level of migration to other parts of the world and India in search of jobs. Goa didn’t even have adequate educational institutions and people had to go to Mumbai, Belgaum, Dharwad to study. The economy was largely agrarian and depended heavily on mining. The infrastructure was old. Very little was manufactured locally and Goa depended much on the imports of food commodities first from India and then after the economic blockade from Portugal. Politically, there was little freedom or equality of participation. So what was better about Goa when it was under the Portuguese?

Picking my brains, for sometime now, I think the answer lies elsewhere.

  1. In the romantic versions we young people have constructed about the days of yore. Perhaps they are based on the stories told to us by our grandparents, or from the colourful tins our grandmothers retained of milk powders, biscuits and other commodities they bought.
  2. Perhaps it stems from the desire of most Goans to migrate abroad in search of greener pastures.
  3. Perhaps it stems from our ignorance of our recent past.
  4. Or perhaps it emanates from our fear that we are loosing our identity too fast, to the multi-cultural potpourri called India

The answer could be one or some or all of these. It could be more reasons than my limited knowledge has allowed me to note.

But if there is a feeling that Goa would have been better off under the Portuguese it must be recognized and addressed. This is not to slot people into right and wrong but to note from where this feeling stems.

Indian Army

I personally feel very ignorant about my history. Today, we are fortunate to still have some freedom fighters alive, even though very advanced in age, but I had few opportunities to hear them share their experience. Given that Goa did not have a particularly violent freedom struggle, though it definitely was a protracted one, but where is the documentation. Where is it being shared with the younger generation? Where is the opportunity for us to take pride in it?

I was not taught Goan history in school. In fact, a quick quiz would reveal that Goan students know more about Egyptian, Greek, English, American and Russian history that about Goa. Years later the Education Department did make an attempt to correct the situation, but the slim book was an addition to the history book, an after thought and studied briefly. I honestly don’t know if any serious thought went into the reasons for introducing Goan history. I can only hope that today it is taught in more details and introduced early in a student’s academic life.

But for us, people in their 30s and above, we are definitely trying to make our Portuguese passports, hankering after the rosy past. The lack of knowledge of our history, our culture and heritage is reflected in the way we treat and neglect it, and that’s why heritage conservationists have a huge battle on their hands. I guess they can with time convince the Government and even the builders lobby, but how do they teach the people of Goa to love what is theirs and see value in it.

Goa’s heritage needs protection

The other day breezing through the online papers of Goa I came across this report where in a well known lecturer and writer of Goan History Mr Prajal Sakhardande, expressed his concern about the deteriorating condition of heritage structures in Goa.

Corjuem Fort

Earlier this month I happened to be in Goa and was taking a friend around to some places, both well and little known, and I had this same feeling as we drove around. Most of the focus on protecting historical monuments is on Old Goa, and a few temples, but there are numerous small forts around, and smaller structures like crosses, temples, ruins of roads, ruins of tablets lying neglected in the forests of Goa, all of which need restoration and proper documentation, so that the people of Goa and abroad can appreciate them.

Thanks to the Portuguese, Goa is fortunate to have at least the last 400 years documented; there is tons of documentation that has tremendous scope for study, all lying neglected and forgotten, deteriorating beyond repair each day.

What makes me sad to the point of delusion, is that all this rich and varied heritage (and I use the word in the complete form) lies largely hidden, forgotten and neglected, and we, the younger generation are obvious to our rich culture.

I’m positive a quick quiz would reveal that the students of Goa know more of Greek, Roman, English and Egyptian history than about their own mother land, and when we are ignorant, we neglect, abuse and destroy.

A Fort in ruins

Sometimes I feel the foreigners who buy houses in Goa are more appreciative of the heritage they buy and do more to restore old Goan houses to their former glory even while we go about pulling down are old houses, which in fact are tiny architectural beauties, and replace them with concrete structures that have an astonishingly short life due to the high salinity in Goa.

I think what we need in Goa is a legislation. Something that will prevent the tearing down of old structures and encourage their protection. When it comes to restoration Goans face a hard time accessing expertise, what we need is for polytechnic and the ITIs to offer courses on masonry and other aspects of restoration. A course for architects on Goan architecture. A course for school children, they must study Goan history for at least 3 years.

Goan heritage has been Goa’s Unique Selling Proposition for tourism. Protected, restored and promoted, Goa can offer a living example of an era to the hordes of Indian tourist who come to Goa.

A canon launcher

There is much to be done to further protect places already protected. Just to take the example of the Old Goa churches, the structures are imposing and awe inspiring and that’s why they are a major tourist draw, but much can be done in terms of making their history known, there are few books available for sale at the place, why cant there be a large library where people can read or buy books about Goa and Old Goa there. The plaques need to be more frequent, so we give more information, perhaps the plaques could be in Hindi and English. Many of the places are disabled unfriendly; they need to be made accessible to the disabled and the elderly.

If you are Goan and reading this I’m sure you’ll agree and have a whole lot of suggestions of your own, but most important, we need to learn to love Goan heritage and culture, we need to spread this love to those who are ignorant of it. And the seeds for this love for Goa has to be sown in schools.

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