Portuguese Inquisition of Goa

Goa is a small state situated in West India. This region has become a tourist hub within India, for its attractive beaches and decorated Churches. It has one of the largest Christian populations within India. But history has a cruel tale to unfold that happened in Goa. The event referred to happened during the Portuguese colonization of Goa. It is popularly known as the Inquisition of Goa. Though Indian mainland was ruled by British, Goa was under the control of Portuguese. King Manuel I of Portugal had introduced Inquisition in Portugal in 1497.

St Francis Xavier

St Francis Xavier requested Inquisition of Goa


In 1498, Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese explorer landed in Goa and set up prosperous trade monopoly in the region. Soon, the Portuguese ousted the Sultan and started ruling the island. Society of Jesus was founded in Goa and many missionaries were sent to preach Catholicism. The mission set incentives for baptized Christians in the form of rice donations, good positions in Portuguese colonies for the converts and military for the local rulers. The converts were mainly opportunistic individuals who still continued practicing their old faith, Hinduism. In 1542, St. Francis Xavier arrived in Goa and he was disappointed with what he saw. In 1545 he wrote a letter to Pope John III requesting Inquisition to be installed in Goa.

Execution of Hindus in Goa

Hindus were executed for religious practices


Soon, the first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcao and Francisco Marques arrived in Goa and occupied the residence of Portuguese viceroy. The first act of inquisitors was to forbid the open practice of Hindu faith. Practice of Hindu faith was a punishable offence. There was a lot of violence and brutality in the following days. As per the records, Hindus were cast into prison cells for religious practices or for minor offences. Due to lack of cells, they were stacked in small cells creating unhygienic conditions. In the years 1560-1774 it is recorded that more than 16,000 people were tried and condemned by the Inquisition tribunals. Back then, there was a practice among the locals to cross over the borders and cultivate lands in Maharashtra (neighboring Indian state). 4,000 people were arrested for their trivial crimes among them 57 were burned at stake while 64 in effigy.

Tambdi Surla Temple in Goa

Tambdi Surla Temple in Goa that survived the Inquisition


There were laws passed by the Portuguese colonial administration that prohibited passing of border for employment and public worship of Hindu deities. Moreover, the Hindus were forced to assemble periodically in churches to listen to Christian teachings and contradiction of their religion. The viceroy also ordered that Hindus would not be allowed in the capital on palanquins or horseback. Violations of this law would call for imprisonment. On top of this, there were other laws that forbade the Christian palanquin bearers from carrying Hindu passengers. Christian laborers were forbidden from working in Hindu lands, and vice versa. Inquisitors also extended protection and help to the Hindus who would convert to Christianity. All these laws had an adverse effect on the population and there were mass emigrations to other parts of India.

In 1567, Portuguese colonial forces launched a campaign of destroying Hindu temples. It is estimated that no less than 300 Hindu temples were destroyed during this campaign. On December 4, 1567 rituals such as Hindu marriages, sacred thread wearing and cremations were prohibited. Any person over the age of 15 was compelled to listen to the Christian preaching, failing which they were severely punished. In 1684, the provincial language Konkani was suppressed and it was compulsory for everyone to speak Portuguese language. The Inquisition of Goa was finally ended in 1812 and normalcy to life returned.

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One thought on “Portuguese Inquisition of Goa

  1. Thank you for recounting some forgotten truths of history and educating us. We owe you a thanks of gratitude and revealing our past. A similar history has been written by Stephen Knapp in the book “Crimes Against India”. There are many Indian authors recounting the atrocities. It has been estimated that we have suffered through multiple holocausts. Thank you again.

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