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History of Mangalorean Catholics

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Pre-migration eraEdit

All records of an early existence of Christians in South Canara were lost at the time of their deportation by Tippu Sultan in 1784. Hence, it is not known when exactly Christianity was introduced in South Canara, although it is possible that Syrian Christians settled in South Canara just as they did in Kerala, a state south of Canara.[2 1]The Italian traveler Marco Polo recorded that there were considerable trading activities between the Red Sea and the Canara coast in the 13th century. It can be surmised that foreign Christian merchants were visiting the coastal towns of South Canara during that period for commerce and possibly some Christian priests might have accompanied them for evangelistic work.[4 1] In April 1321, the French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) with four other friars landed at Thana.He then travelled to Bhatkal in North Canara, a port town on the coastal route from Thana to Quilon.Being the first bishop of India and the Quilon Diocese, he was entrusted the spiritual nourishment of Christian community in Mangalore and other parts of India by Pope John XXII. He established a missionary station at Bhatkal and converted many locals to Christianity. According to Historian Severine Silva, the author of History of Christianity in Canara (1961), no concrete evidence has yet been found that there were any permanent settlements of Christians in South Canara before the 16th century.[4 1]

It was only after the advent of the Portuguese in the region that Christianity began to be propagated. In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama landed on a group of islands in South Canara on his voyage from Portugal to India. He named them El Padron de Santa Maria, which later came to be known as St Mary's Islands. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral, a Portuguese explorer, arrived at Anjediva in North Canara with eight Franciscan missionaries. These missionaries under the leadership of Henrique Soares de Coimbra converted 22 or 23 natives to Christianity in the Mangalore region. During the early part of the 16th century, Krishnadevaraya (1509–1529), the ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire of Deccan, granted commercial privileges to the Portuguese on the Canara coast and there was complete freedom of worship, belief and propagation of religious tenets in the Vijaynagara Empire. In 1526, under the viceroyship of Lopo Vaz de Sampaio, the Portuguese took possession of Mangalore. The Portuguese Franciscans slowly started propagating Christianity in Mangalore[29] and by 1533, there were about 505 converted Christian families in South Canara. In 1534, Canara was placed under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of the Bishop of Goa, where the Portuguese had a strong presence. Missionaries soon arrived and gained converts. The number of local converts in South Canara started increasing. During the mid 16th century, conversions slowed down because of resistance from Abbakka Rani of Ullal, the Queen of the Bednore dynasty. By 1560, there were around 1,026 Christian converts in South Canara, two foreign priests to cater to the whole region, but no bishop.

Migration eraEdit

In 1510, the Portuguese wrested Goa from the Sultan of Bijapur and finally established themselves in Goa. By 1544, they conquered the districts of Bardez and Salcette in Goa.[31] In 1534, the Archdiocese of Goa was established. Soon missionaries of the newly founded Society of Jesus were sent to Goa, which lead to conversion of many locals to Roman Catholicism. In 1542, the Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Society of Jesus, arrived in Goa. He observed that the newly converted Christians were practicing their old customs and traditions. He requested John III of Portugal in 1545 to install an Inquisition in Goa. The Inquisition converted a sizeable population of Goa to Christianity.

Many of the Goan ancestors of the present Mangalorean Catholics fled Goa because of the Goa Inquisition introduced by the Portuguese in 1560. King Sebastian of Portugal decreed that every trace of Indian customs be eradicated through the Inquisition. But many Christians of Goa were attached to some of their ancient Indian customs, especially their traditional Hindu marriage costumes and refused to abandon them.[7] Those who refused to comply with the rules laid down by the Inquisition were forced to leave Goa and to settle outside the Portuguese dominion.[21] About 7,000 of them (mostly Goud Saraswat Brahmins) fled Goa. Most migrated to South Canara in what is called the "First Wave of Migration".

The Christians who left Goa were skilled cultivators who abandoned their irrigated fields in Goa to achieve freedom. At the time of migration, Canara was ruled by the Bednore King Shivappa Naik (1540–60). He evinced great interest in the development of agriculture in his empire and welcomed these farmers to his fertile lands.[33] They were also recruited into the armies of the Bednore dynasty.[34] This was confirmed by Francis Buchanan, a Scottish physician, when he visited Canara in 1801. In his book, A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (1807), he stated that "The princes of the house of Ikeri had given great encouragement to the Christians, and had induced 80,000 of them to settle in Tuluva."[35][36] Later, this was identified as a probable mistake and should have read "8,000". However even this figure included the second emigration of Christians from Goa.[33] Under the provisional treaties between the Portuguese and the Bednore rulers, and the Paradox (Protectorate privileges) the Christians were allowed to build churches and help the growth of Christianity in South Canara.[34] The arrival of the English and the Dutch halted the activity of the Portuguese and gradually the Portuguese were unable to send the required number of missionaries to Mangalore.[6][37] In 1568, the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Mangalore (Our Lady of the Rosary of Mangalore) was erected by the Portuguese at Bolar in Mangalore. The Churches of Nossa Senhora de Mercês de Velala (Our Lady of Mercy of Ullal) and São Francisco de Assis Igreja (St. Francis of Assisi) at Farangipet were also erected by the Portuguese during the same time in South Canara. These three churches were highlighted by the Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle, who visited Mangalore in 1623.[38] The appointment of the Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore was felt to be the need of the hour. Shivappa Naik, the king of Bednore, pressurized that a native priest be chosen as the Vicar Apostolic. So, Father Andrew Gomez was appointed as the Vicar Apostolic but before the nomination papers could reach Mangalore, Father Gomez died. The Sultan of Bijapur attacked Goa in 1571 and ended Portuguese influence in the region. The Bijapur sultans were especially known for their loathing of Christianity. Fearing persecution, many Catholics from Goa migrated to South Canara. This migration is referred as the "Second Wave of Migration".[27] However the arrival of the British and the Dutch gave a blow to the activity of the Portuguese and gradually the Portuguese were unable to send the required number of missionaries to Mangalore. The appointment of the Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore was felt to be the need of the hour. Shivappa Naik, the king of Bednore, pressurized that a native priest be chosen as the Vicar Apostolic. So, Fr. Andrew Gomez was appointed as the Vicar Apostolic, but he died before the nomination papers could reach Mangalore.

At the recommendation of the Vicar General of Verapoly, Msgr Joseph Sebastiani, Pope Clement X appointed Thomas de Castro, a Goan Catholic Theatine priest, as the Vicar Apostolic of Canara on August 30, 1675 to remedy the sad state of the Canara Christians.[39] After his consecration, he came first to Calicut and then to Mangalore (1677–84) and in 1680 he built conflict with Rome for disregarding the Padroado and so did they did not cede the jurisdiction to Thomas de Castro. Instead, they appointed Fr. Joseph Vas, a Goan priest, as the Vicar Forane of Canara and he was asked not to submit to Bishop Castro unless he showed the letter of appointment. Fr. Joseph Vaz worked as a zealous missionary and he submitted to Bishop Castro.[37] The Milagres Church, one of the oldest churches in South Canara, was built in 1680 by Bishop Thomas De Castro, a Goan theatine priest who was appointed by Pope Clement X as the Vicar Apostolic of Canara.[6][40][41] The attacks of the Maratha Empire on Goa, during the mid 16th century, was also a cause of migration. In 1664, Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire, attacked Kudal, a town north of Goa, and began his campaign for Goa. After Shivaji's death on 3 April 1680, his son Sambhaji ascended to the throne.[27] The onslaught of Sambahji, along the northern territories of Goa drove nearly all the Christians from their homelands, and most of them migrated to South Canara. This migration is referred as the "Third Wave of Migration". From the Salcete district of Goa, according to one estimate, emigrations were around at the rate of 2,000 annually. From the Bardez district of Goa, Jesuit priests estimated that 12,000 Christians emigrated from Goa between 1710–1712, mot of them going southward. A Goa Government report of 1747 presently in the Panjim archives recorded that around 5,000 Christians fled from the Bardez and Tiswadi districts of Goa during the invasion of the Marathas.[42] It was estimated that during the Maratha raids on Goa, about 60,000 Christians migrated to South Canara.[43] During the later years, the migration slowed because of the Maratha-Mughal wars, which kept Sambhaji busy, and some 10,000 Christians returned to Goa.[27] According to Historian Alan Machado Prabhu, the author of Sarasvati's Children: A History of the Mangalorean Christians (1999), the Mangalorean Catholics numbered about 58,000 by 1765.[44]

Post-migration era and captivityEdit

From 1761 onwards, Hyder Ali, a distinguished soldier in the Mysore army, took de facto control of the throne of the Kingdom of Mysore through the Wodeyar dynasty. Hyder occupied Mangalore in 1763.[45] The Mangalorean Catholics numbered 80,000 in 1767.[46] In February 1768, the British captured Mangalore from Hyder.[45] Toward the end of 1768, Hyder along with his son Tipu Sultan defeated the British and recaptured Mangalore fort. After the conquest, Hyder was informed that the Mangalorean Catholics had helped the British in their conquest of Mangalore. Hyder believed that this behaviour of the Christians amounted to treachery against the sovereign.[47] The Christians helped General Mathews with a sum of Rs. 3,30,000/-.[48] He summoned the Portuguese priests to suggest the punishment for the Mangalorean Catholics for treachery. The priests suggested death penalty for the Christians, because it was the punishment to be awarded to the people who betray the sovereign. But Hyder exhibited a diplomatic stance and imprisoned the Christians who were condemned for treachery, rather than killing them.[49] Later, he opened negotiations with the Portuguese. As a result of the agreement, the suspicion against the clergy and the Christians was removed.[50] During Hyder's regime, the Mangalorean Catholic community continued to flourish.[51] After Hyder's death in the Second Anglo-Mysore War on 7 December 1782, the British captured the fort again. Hyder was succeeded by his son Tippu Sultan.[52] Tippu laid several assaults on the Mangalore fort till January 1784, which resulted in failures. The fort was finally delivered to Tippu when the British capitulated it on 30 January 1784.[53] Tippu received highly exaggerated reports about the role of the Mangalorean Catholics and their help to the British in the Second Anglo-Mysore War.[54] To minimize the threat from the British to his kingdom, Tippu decided to banish the Mangalorean Catholic community from his kingdom, and hold them captive at Seringapatam, the capital of his empire.[55]

The captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.[10] Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tippu gained control of Canara.[56] He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates,[57] and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.[6] The account of the number of captives differ ranging from 30000 to 80,000.[58] However the generally accepted figure is 60,000, as per Tippu's own records.[59] A few escaped, for instance, some hid under heaps of dried leaves. In Kirem a young Saldanha boy was hidden and brought up by a Bunt family. He and his progeny came to be known as the Shettys.[27] They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the dense jungles and gorges of the Western Ghat mountain ranges along two routes, one along theBantwal-Belthangadi-Kulshekar-Virajpet-Coorg-Mysore route,[18][60][61] and the other along the Gersoppa falls (Shimoga) route.[62] It was 200 miles (320 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks.[63] According to the Barkur Manuscrpt, written in Canarese by a Mangalorean Catholic fromBarkur after his return from Seringapatam, 20,000 of them (one-third) died on the march to Seringapatam due to hunger, disease and ill treatment by the soldiers.[64] At the camp at Jamalabad fort, Mangalorean Catholic leaders were thrown down from the fort.[61] All Christian churches in South Canara, except the Hospet Church at Hosabettu and Monte Mariano Church at Firangipet,[65] were razed to the ground and all land owned by the captured Christians was taken over by Tippu and distributed among his favorites.[66] After they were freed, all their belongings had disappeared and their deserted lands were cultivated by the Bunts.[67] After arriving at Seringapatam, the Christian captives were made to forcibly embrace Islam, were tortured or sentenced to death.[66] The young men who refused to embrace Islam were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears. They were seated on asses, paraded through the city, and thrown into the dungeons of Seringapatam.[68] Historian Praxy Fernandes, author of Storm over Seringapatam: the incredible story of Hyder Ali & Tippu Sultan, stated that 40,000 Christians were not kept manacled in the dungeons of Seringapatam.[69] Ludwig von Pastor, a German historian, author of The History of the Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages. Volume 39 emphasises saying "countless" Mangalorean Catholics were hanged with women clinging with their children around their necks, other trampled down or dragged by elephants.[70] The able-bodied young men were drafted into the army after being circumcised and converted to Islam.[71] The young women and girls were distributed as wives to Muslim officers and favourite's living there.[64] The future Christian progeny of these women were permanently lost, and their descendants are fully Islamic as of today and speak Konkani in a mixture of Urdu in parts of Mysore, Coorg and Seringapatam.[72][73] According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.[74] The persecutions continued till 1792, followed by a brief relaxation period from 1792–1797, and commenced again from 1797 onwards.[70]


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