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 then abolished in 1812. The aim of this Inquisition was to establish Catholic faith and suppress Indian Catholics and Hindus by confiscating all their rights and properties. 

This Inquisition is regarded by all contemporary portrayals as the most violent and horrific inquisition ever executed by the Portuguese Catholic Church. The proceedings of the Inquisition always took place behind closed shutters and closed doors. The screams of agony of the men, women and children as culprits could be heard on 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, extremities were amputated carefully, a person could remain conscious even though the only thing that remained was his torso and head.

Diago de Boarda, a priest and his advisor Vicar General, Miguel Vazz made a 41-point plan for torturing Hindus.

According to the order, construction of Hindu temples was prohibited. For already constructed temples, no repair work would be carried out without the King’s permission. If this order was transgressed, such temples would be destroyed and the goods in them would be used to meet expenses of Holy deeds of the Church.

Under the issued Fatva, Hindus of Goa were prohibited from following rituals:

Prohibitions regarding religious rituals

  • The use of sacred Hindu books was prohibited.
  • Singing of religious songs was an offense that led to arrest.
  • There should be no fasting on Lunar Eclipse or Ekadashi day. Fasting allowed according to Christian principles only.
  • Men should not either in public or at home wear “Dhoti”, women should not wear “Choli”.
  • There is evidence to show that in 1640 the Jesuits had forbidden the Hindus to wear the sacred thread. The thread ceremony of young sons of the Hindus had to be performed outside the Portuguese territories.
  • No rituals should be performed on the 12th day after death, on moonless and full moon days.
  • Planting of Tulsi outside homes or in Brindavan is prohibited. Incase Tulsi plants are found to be growing, orders were given to uproot it and arrest the person.

Prohibitions regarding marriages

  • Gotraj ceremony of the family God must not be performed.
  • As marriages were forbidden in Portuguese territories, Hindus had to go to neighbouring territories for celebrating them. There was an armed guard appointed by the authorities who would prevent ‘Bottos’ (Hindu priests) of Hindu temples from entering the houses for performing sacrifices or other Hindu rites and ceremonies.
  • At the time of marriage, betel leaf packages (paan) must not be distributed either publicly or in private to the persons present.
  • The bride must not be accorded a ceremonial welcome. The bride and groom must not be made to sit under pandal to receive blessings and best wishes.
  • No instruments for Hindu songs to be played during marriages.
  • Haldi and Pithi should not be applied.

By 1540, all Hindu temples were destroyed, the murthis annihilated and their sites and building material was utilized to erect new Christian Churches & chapels.

Judicial use of “Torture” by the Inquisition

Torture was used by the Inquisition as an expedient to obtain a confession where the evidence against the accused was incomplete, defective or conflicting.

There were two kinds of tortures mainly,

  1. Torture of pol or tortures of pulleys where the victim would be suspended mid-air with weights on his feet; the weight would be increased till the victim could not bear it anymore and confessed.
  2. There was a water torture, torture of potro, where the victim was placed on a port or a kind of a slanted treadle where the head was placed lower than the body and an iron band around the throat kept the persons head immovable while tight chords cut deeply into his or her flesh. An iron prong forcibly kept the mouth open as water was poured into the person’s mouth and nose to strangle and suffocate the victim. This was repeated several times till the victim confessed.

You name it and it was there. Women were subjected to even worse tortures; you can imagine what they were like.

The Archbishop of Avera, Portuguese Archbishop had remarked in a speech that the Inquisitors went to the length of imprisoning in his jail, women who resisted their advances and after having satisfied their bestial instincts, ordering that they may be burnt at stakes as heretics. The worse torture, the final torture was of course burning them alive at public events called Auto da fe, meaning ‘trial by fire’.

These Auto da fe’s were held once a year or maybe once every two years, where people who had not confessed and people who were convicted of heretical crimes were actually burnt alive at stakes.

On September 22, 1570 an order was issued that:

“ The Hindus embracing Christianity will be exempted from land taxes for a period of 15 years and that nobody shall bear Hindu names and surnames. “

Such brutal were the horrors of the Portuguese Inquisition, yet nothing was ever done to stop this notoriety and escalating barbarity and it continued for 200 more years.

The entire history of the barbarism by the Portuguese has been erased and finds just a brief mention in the school textbooks while shamelessly glorifying the Portuguese. Catholics of Goa swear by the Portuguese and boast of their superiority till date. No wonder St. Francis Xavier is still worshipped and looked up as the savior of Goan soil by both Hindus and Catholics of Goa. Utter Shame!

Today, when I walk the roads of Goa, visit its temples and witness the rich Hindu culture of Goa, I can only deeply wonder how it could be possible for a state that went through such brutal atrocities to still be left with so much warmth, color and cultural abundance. Perhaps, it is rightly said so,

“This is the Parashuram Bhoomi– the Land of Shri Parashuram” and nothing can erase this identity of Goa.

Sources:- 1)

2) Goa Inquisition- Anant Priolkar

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