The Heritage of the East Indians of Bandra Bazar Road

The Heritage of the East Indians of Bandra Bazar Road

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East Indians

East Indians or East Indian Catholics are a Marathi-speaking, Roman Catholic ethnic group, based in and around the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in the state of Maharashtra.[2] These people are of the original Marathi ethnic group and had been evangelized by the Portuguese, while retaining much of their pre-Christian traditions.

Though it is commonly thought that the origin of Christianity in North Konkan, was due to the proselytizing activities of the Portuguese in the 16th Century, it was St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ, who preached in North Konkan. There are evidences of this by the writings of Kosmos Indicopleustes of his having seen in Kalyana a flourishing Christian Community in the 6th Century and of Jordanus, of his having labored among the Christians in Thana and Sopara in the 13th Century. The French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) started evangelizing activities in Thana and Sapora was the first work of Rome in North Konkan. Sopara was an ancient port and an international trading center. The water once extended all the way to Bhayander creek thus making the whole area extending from Arnala to Bhayander an island – referred to as Salsette island. In the time of the Buddha, Sopara (ancient Shurparaka), was an important port and a gateway settlement. Perhaps this induced Ashoka to install his edicts there. Sopara is referred in the Old Testament as Ophir, the place from which King Solomon brought gold, Josephus identifies Ophir with Aurea Chersonesus, belonging to India. Septuagint translates Ophir as Sophia, which is Coptic for India. This refers to the ancient city of Soupara or Ouppara on the western coast of India.[3]

It should then come as no surprise that contact with India dates as far back as the days of King Solomon. Pantaneus visited India about AD 180 and there he found a Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew language, left with the Christians there by St. Barthlomew. This is mentioned by Eusebius, and by Jerome in one of his letters. The finding of a Gospel of Matthew left with the Christians by Bartholomew is very strong evidence to the existence of a Christian community in India in the first century at the time of the visit of St. Bartholomew. It traces the history of the Church in India to the first century. In fact, it is an independent confirmation of the Indian church’s ancient and apostolic origin. Most history of The Indian Church was lost between the 9th and the 14th Century, as Persia went over to the Nestorianism in 800 AD. Since the provision of Church offices and all the apparatus of public worship, was looked to a foreign source; when this foreign aid was withdrawn. the Indian Christians were reduced to "nominal" Christians.[2]
[edit] Portuguese era
Main article: History of Bombay under Portuguese rule (1534-1661)

The whole policy of the Portuguese, who came to India in 1498, was to bring the Indian Christians under their concept of Roman Catholicism.[1]

The Prabhu Brahmins and other high-class Hindus who were prudently and ceremoniously converted were treated by the Portuguese with honor and distinction.[1]

In stark contrast, was the attitude of the Portuguese to those groups who were engaged in cultivation, fishing and other rural occupations handed down to them by their ancestors. These groups were given neither education, not proper instructions in the dogmas and doctrines of the church.[1]

Among the converts the Portuguese made, it cannot be denied that a large number of them were descendants of the Christian Community founded by Apostle St. Bartholomew. But these new converts were not strangers to the old Christians.[1]

They were their own people with whom they had been living for centuries. The Portuguese however welded them into one community.[1]

Ever since then, this community has remained a separate entity, without becoming one with any of the other Christian communities. In certain instances, they were even referred to as "Portuguese Christians".[1]

The Fransiscans spearheaded evangelization efforts in the "Province of the North".[4]

Between 1534-1552, Fr. Antonio do Porto made over 10,000 converts, built 12 churches and founded a number of orphanages and monasteries. Prominent among these converts were two monks from the Kanheri Caves who came to be called Paolo Rapozo and Fransisco de Santa Maria. They in turn spread Christianity among their fellow monks converting many of them in the process.[4]

Another famous convert during this time was the Brahmin astrologer Parashuram Joshi. He was a learned, austere and devout person and embraced Christianity on September 8, 1565, taking the name of Henry da Cunha. Joshi’s example was followed by 250 Hindus, including over fifty Brahmins.[4]

In Salsette, Fr. Manuel Gomes converted over 6,000 Hindus in Bandra, earning the title of the Apostle of Salsette.[4]

The number of converts in 1573 was 1,600. From 1548, the Jesuits in Bassein and Bandra converted many of the upper classes. For instance, the Bassein Cathedral registered the number of baptisms as being 9,400. At Thana, the Jesuit superior Gonsala Rodrigues baptised between 5,000 to 6,000, many of them orphans and young children of lower caste Hindus sold by their parents.[4]

By the end of the 16th century, the Roman Catholic population of the Portuguese province of the North consisted of around 10,000 to 15,000 people, centered mainly in and around Bassein.[5]

However, following the defeat of the Portuguese at the hands of the Marathas and the advent of Maratha rule, the Catholics were discriminated against by the state administration.[6]

In the aftermath of the fall of Bassein, many Catholics were heavily taxed by the Marathas who used the money to feed Brahmins and to conduct a massive re-conversion campaign aimed at bringing them back into the Hindu fold. Large numbers were re-converted in this manner.[6]

Most Portuguese priests were forced to leave and by treaty, only five churches (three in Bassein City, one in Bassein District and one in Salsette) were permitted to remain.[6]

The remainder of the Christian population was left to the native clergy under a Vicar General at Kurla. When in 1757, the Antequil du Perron visited Salsette, he found a flourishing Catholic population with many churches rebuilt and an open practise of Christianity, but with European priests totally absent.[6]

Later on the advent of the British, there came a lot of change.[1]

In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Bombay estimated that there were 92,000 East Indians in Bombay out of which 76,000 were in suburban Bombay and 16,000 in urban Bombay.[1]
[edit] British and modern era
Main articles: History of Bombay under British rule and Bombay Presidency

On 11 May 1661, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in the possession of the British Empire, as part of Catherine’s dowry to Charles.[7] From the early days of the East India Company, there were no other Indian Christians in the North Konkan except the East Indian Catholics. Employments that were intended for the Christians, were the monopoly of the East Indians. With development, came in railways and steamship, a boon for the traveling public. And with that came a number of emigrants from Goa who were also known as Portuguese Christians. The British found it expedient to adopt a designation which would distinguish the Christians of North Konkan who were British subjects and the Goan and Mangalorean Catholics who were Portuguese subjects. Accordingly on the occasion of The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Christians of North Konkan, who were known as "Portuguese Christians" discarded that name and adopted the designation "East Indian”. By the adoption of the name "East Indian" they wanted to impress upon the British Government of Bombay that they were the earliest Roman Catholic Subjects of the British Crown in this part of India, in as much as Bombay, by its cession in 1661, was the first foothold the British acquired in India. As the children of the soil, they urged on the Government, that they were entitled to certain natural rights and privileges as against the emigrants.[2]
[edit] Culture
[edit] Architecture and Cuisine

The ordinary Koli house comprises a verandah (oli) used for repairing nets or the reception of visitors, a sitting-room (angan) used by the women for their household work, a kitchen, a central apartment, a bed-room, a gods’ room (devaghar), and a detached bath-room.[8]

The East Indian cuisine is a unique blend of Koli, Maharashtrian, and Portuguese cuisine.
[edit] Language and Literature

East Indian Catholics speak a particular dialect of Marathi, which they retained as their mother tongue despite the Portuguese influence. The Marathi language is central to the community’s identity. Murphy author of Trans. Bomb. Geog. Soc., 1836–38, Vol. I. mentions the dialect of Marathi spoken by the East Indians of Salsette, Mahim, Matunga and Mazagon, which enters very largely into the language spoken by the Kulbis, Kolis, Bhandaris, Palshes, Prabhus, Panchkalshis, Kuparis, Vadvals. This was probably Konkani.[9] Some of the East-Indian upper class families and in the Khatri ward of Thane speak Portuguese.[10] 110 Portuguese lexical items are found in Marathi.[11]
[edit] Traditions and Festivals

Although, they have preserved their pre-Christian Marathi culture and traditions, many Portuguese and influences have been absorbed. They still retain many of the practises of pre-Christian tradition.[12] East Indian ladies wear ornaments like the Mangalsutra, and Bindi.
[edit] Costumes and Ornaments

The traditional dress for the female is the lugra or kashta saree and for male is a khaki short pant and white banian. A Koli Christian bridegroom usually wears a dilapidated Portuguese Admiral’s uniform, which is specially preserved and lent out on such occasions.[8]

In the olden days, East Indian women wore a blouse and cotton lugra the hind pleats tucked into the waist at the back centre of the legs, while the girls do not make use of the upper portion of the sari covering the head and breast until they are married. This mode of wearing the sari is known as sakacch nesane as opposed to gol nesane the round or cylindrical mode of wear. The latter is popular among young girls and women.[13]

Formerly, women among the well-to-do used to wear for the head, like rnuda, rakhadi, kegada, phul, gulabache phul and chandrakora, for the neck, such as thushi, galasari, Putalyachi mal; and tika[disambiguation needed]; for the ears the bugadi, karaba; kudi, kapa and ghuma; for the nose, nath, phuli, moti.[14] Mangalsutras (wedding necklace), made of the black beads being stringed together in different patterns.[14]
[edit] Historical Society

There are five broad cultural groups of East Indians —- Kulbis, Samvedi Christians (commonly called Kuparis), Koli Christians, Wadvals, Salsette Christians and the urbanized section.[2]
[edit] Songs and Music
“ Galen sakhali sonyachi,

Yee pori konachi,
Whose daughter is this?

Galen sakhali sonyachi,

Yee pori konachi,
Whose daughter is this?

Yachi aais bhi teacher, Ani bapus bhi teacher,
Her mother is teacher, and father too is a teacher,

Yee pori konachi
Whose daughter is this?

Yachi aais bhi teacher, Ani bapus bhi teacher,
Her mother is teacher, and father too is a teacher,

Yee pori konachi
Whose daughter is this?

Prominent East Indians

Gonsalo Garcia: Roman Catholic saint from India
Joseph Baptista: Indian freedom activist
Michael Ferreira: amateur player of English billiards
Gavin Ferreira: Olympic hockey player
Luke Mendes – film maker[16]

Posted by firoze shakir photographerno1 on 2011-10-11 20:42:07

Tagged: , east indians , heritage , bandra bazar road grotto , novena

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