If you have ever gone to Goa and observed the locals carefully, you will come across Goan Catholics whose behavior, culture, attire, language and practices are a strange mix of Indian Hindus and Christians of the west.
They speak English, Konkani and Hindi. They dress in both navvari sarees and dresses. Some of their practices and behaviour are like Indians some like westerners, some like Hindus, some like Christians. Their names and Surnames are also a mix of Hindu and Portuguese first names and surnames with names like Rohan Verghese, Frieda Pinto, Patrick Prabhu Pinto, etc.
It gets you thinking about their ancestry and influences. Are they descendants of Portuguese people or are they converts? Well the answer is both. Some are descendants of Indians and Portuguese and some are converts. But most of them resemble rest of the Konkani people and don’t look like Caucasians or descendent of Caucasians. There is a reason to that too. We will come to it later.
The story goes as follows: Portuguese came to Indian to capture the trade between Asia and Europe and by-pass the silk route from China to Europe. Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut, on the southwestern coast of Indian in 1498. The Portuguese captured Goa in 1510 and made it their capital 20 years later. In 1544, the Pope struck a deal with the Portuguese. In exchange for a trade monopoly, Portuguese had to propagate Christian Faith in Asia.
Missionaries arrived in Goa to convert the Hindus to Christians. When the Portuguese converted the Hindus to Christians, the entire congregation was given the surname of the priest who officiated the conversion. This explains the Portuguese surnames and names like Frieda Pinto.
Now the Portuguese targeted the influential Brahmin community first. But some of the people still retained their Brahmin Surnames as their middle name. That is the names like Patrick Prabhu Pinto. In fact you can still come across matrimonial ads with a requirement like ‘Christian Brahmin’ only.
There were a few interracial marriages too between the Portuguese and Indian Goans. So not although all, but some of the Goan Catholics do have Portuguese ancestry. But since the number is less and there are more Indians than Caucasians in the line of descent, the Goan Catholics resemble Konkanis rather than Caucasians.
When the Hindus got converted to Christians, they did not give up on their practices. The Portuguese tried very hard to make them give up their Hindu practices and take up Christian practices. Till date the Goan catholics, display a mix of Hindu and Catholic practices. Same goes for their names, people choose both Hindu and Christian first names for their children as per their liking. That is why there are names like Rohan Verghese.
The Portuguese left Goa in 1961, fourteen years after independence of India. However all people born in Goa before 1961 and their children and grandchildren are entitled to Portuguese citizenship.
Thank you for reading and have a nice day J