ⓘ Cuncolim revolt. The Cuncolim revolt involved the massacre of Christian priests and civilians by Kshatriyas in Cuncolim, Goa on Monday, 25 July 1583, as a prote ..


ⓘ Cuncolim revolt

The Cuncolim revolt involved the massacre of Christian priests and civilians by Kshatriyas in Cuncolim, Goa on Monday, 25 July 1583, as a protest against attempts by the colonial Portuguese administration to demolish Hindu temples in the locality and forcibly convert the local population to Christianity.

Five Jesuit priests along with one European and 14 Indian Christians were killed in the incident. The Portuguese government retaliated by summarily executing most of the Gaonkar leaders without trial, and destroying the economic infrastructure of Cuncolim.

The incident was the first show of defiance against the Portuguese by the local population since the conquest of Goa in 1510.


1. Background

Following the conquest of Goa by Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510, missionaries of the newly founded Society of Jesus were sent from Portugal to Goa with the goal of fulfilling the papal bull Romanus Pontifex, which granted the patronage of the propagation of the Christian faith in Asia to the Portuguese. The Portuguese colonial government in Goa supported the mission with incentives for baptised Christians. They offered rice donations to the poor, good positions in the Portuguese colonies to the middle class and military support for local rulers.

A campaign was launched in Bardez in North Goa resulting in the destruction of 300 temples. Enacting laws, prohibition was laid from 4 December 1567 on Hindu rituals and which required all persons above 15 years of age to listen to Christian preaching, failing which they were severely punished. In 1583 many Hindu temples at Assolna and Cuncolim were destroyed through army action.

Cuncolim was inhabited by a devout Hindu population who were mostly members of the warrior Kshatriya caste. It was prosperous compared to neighbouring areas due to its fertile land, with abundant and fresh water from rivers descending from the hinterland of Goa. Surplus agricultural production had enabled this village to develop crafts of a very skilled order and it was known for its metal work. As Afonso de Albuquerque wrote in his letters back to Portugal, guns of good quality were manufactured in Cuncolim, which he found comparable to those made in Germany.

There were 12 vangodds Konkani: clans of ganvkars freeholders in Cuncolim. Their names, in order of precedence, were Mhal, Shetkar, Naik, Mangro, Shet, Tombdo, Porob, Sidakalo, Lokakalo, Bandekar, Rounom and Benklo. The Gauncars, who held common ownership of the village and paid all taxes, were also the founders and caretakers of the main village temple.

Cuncolim depended on a permanent bazaar at the end of more than one caravan route, connecting it with the mainland through the Ghats of Ashthagrahar province.

In keeping with the traditional fairs connected with temple and religious festivities, the bazaar economy of Cuncolim depended upon its temple and religious celebrations. Due to this, there was an angry reaction of the dominant Hindu class to the destruction of its temples by the Portuguese government and to the attempts of the Jesuits who sought to establish Christianity in Cuncolim and its satellite villages of Assolna, Veroda, Velim and Ambelim in 1583. The demolition of local temples implied deprivation of religious and cultural traditions that sustained an established social structure and its underlying economic base.

In protest, the ganvkars of Cuncolim refused to pay rent to the Portuguese authorities. They also refused to give up their practice of the Hindu religion, and continued to build temples, despite a banning order. They re-built their destroyed temples and conducted their rituals and festivals openly in defiance of Portuguese ordinances. As such, the Portuguese missionaries found it impossible to convert them.

The Portuguese chronicler Diogo do Couto described Cuncolim as "The leader of rebellions" and its people as "The worst of all villages of Salcete". Jesuit priest Valignani described Cuncolim as rigid and obstinate in its adherence to idolatory.

In 1583, five jesuit priests led by Fr. Rodolfo Acquaviva received orders from their superior to go to Salcette to destroy temples, construct churches and effect conversions. They chose Cuncolim to make their first survey of the situation, as they saw it as an ideal ground for constructing a church.


2. The Massacre

The five Jesuits met in Orlim Church on 15 July 1583, and thence proceeded to Cuncolim, accompanied by one European - Goncalo Rodrigues - and 14 native converts, with the objective of erecting a cross and selecting ground for building a church. Meanwhile, several villagers in Cuncolim, after holding a council, advanced in large numbers, armed with swords, lances, and other weapons, towards the spot where the Christians were.

According to Anthony DSouza, writing in the Catholic Encyclopaedia, Gonçalo Rodrigues leveled his gun at the advancing crowd with a gun, but was stopped by Fr. Pacheco who said: "We are not here to fight." Then, he addressed the crowd in Konkani, their native language, he said "Do not be afraid". Following this, the villagers attacked the party. Father Rudolph received five cuts from a scimitar and a spear and was killed on the spot. According to DSouza, he died praying God to forgive the assailants. Next, the crowd turned on Fr. Berno who was horribly mutilated, and Fr. Pacheco who, wounded with a spear, fell on his knees extending his arms in the form of a cross. Fr. Anthony Francis was shot with arrows, and his head was split open with a sword.

Br. Aranha, wounded at the outset by a scimitar and a lance, fell down a deep declivity into the thick crop of a rice-field, where he lay until he was discovered. He was then carried to a Hindu idol, to which he was bidden to bow his head. Upon his refusal to do this, he was tied to a tree and was shot to death with arrows. The spot where this tree stood is marked with an octagonal monument surmounted by a cross, which was repaired by the Patriarch of Goa in 1885.

Along with the five priests, Gonçalo Rodrigues, a Portuguese, and fourteen native Christians were also killed. Of the latter, one was Dominic, a boy of Cuncolim, who was a student at Rachol Seminary, and had accompanied the priests on their expeditions to Cuncolim and pointed out to them the Hindu temples. He was killed by his own Hindu uncle for assisting the priests.

Alphonsus, an altar-boy of Fr. Pacheco had followed him closely, carrying his breviary. His hands were cut off on his refusal to part with the breviary and he was cut through his knee-joints to prevent his escape. He survived in this condition until the next day when he was found and killed. He was later buried in the church of the Holy Ghost at Margao in South Goa. Several of the victims, including Francis Rodrigues and Paul da Costa had earlier affirmed their desire to be martyred for the Church.


3. Portuguese retaliation and aftermath

Following the massacre, the captain-major in charge of the Portuguese Army garrison at the Assolna Fort was determined to avenge the deaths of the Jesuit priests. As retribution, the Portuguese army raided and destroyed orchards in the village and unleashed many atrocities on the local population.

The Kshatriya ganvkars of Cuncolim were then invited for talks at the Assolna fort situated on the banks of the River Sal where the present-day Assolna church stands and in an act of treachery, sixteen of them were summarily executed without trial by the Portuguese authorities. One of them escaped execution by jumping into the Assolna River through a toilet hole and fleeing to neighbouring Karwar in the present day state of Karnataka.

Following the execution of their leaders, the villages of Cuncolim, Velim, Assolna, Ambelim and Veroda refused to pay taxes on the produce generated from their fields and orchards to the Portuguese government. As a result, their lands were confiscated and entrusted to the Condado of the Marquis of Fronteira. Forcible conversions perpetrated by the Portuguese led the villagers of Cuncolim to move their places of worship. One of the temples of the goddess Shri Shantadurga Cuncolikarian was moved to the neighboring village of Fatorpa some seven kilometres away. Most of Cuncolims population was converted to Christianity, in the years following the massacre. The Church of Nossa Senhora de Saude was constructed by the Portuguese at the site of the massacre.

In 2003, a memorial to the slain chieftains was constructed in Cuncolim, initiative of Prof. Vermissio Coutinho, head of the Cuncolim Chieftains Memorial Trust. Prior to its construction, however, the memorial met with strong opposition from the local Catholic parish, on the grounds of its proximity to another memorial built 102 years ago in memory of the five slain Jesuit priests. They instead argued that the memorial should be built in Assolna, where the chieftains were massacred.


4.1. Biographies of the Jesuits killed in the murders Fr. Rodolfo Acquaviva

Rodolfo Acquaviva was born on 2 October 1550, at Atri in the Kingdom of Naples. He was the fifth child of the Duke of Atri, and nephew of Claudius Acquaviva, the fifth General of the Society of Jesus, while on his mothers side he was a cousin of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Admitted into the Society of Jesus on 2 April 1568, he landed in Goa on 13 September 1578. Shortly after his arrival he was selected for an important mission to the court of Mughal emperor Akbar, who had sent an embassy to Goa with a request that two learned missionaries might be sent to Fatehpur Sikri, the city near Agra which Akbar had constructed as a capital. After spending three years at the Mughal court, he returned to Goa, much to the regret of the whole Court and especially of the emperor. On his return to Goa, he was appointed superior of the Salcete mission, which post he held until his martyrdom. After hearing of Fr. Acquavivas death, Emperor Akbar is believed to have grieved; "Alas, father, my advice was good that you should not go, but you would not follow it."


4.2. Biographies of the Jesuits killed in the murders Fr. Alphonsus Pacheco

Alphonsus Pacheco was born about 1551, of a noble family of New Castile, and entered the Society on 8 September 1567. In September 1574, he arrived in Goa, where he so distinguished himself by his rare prudence and virtue that in 1578; he was sent to Europe on important business. Returning to India in 1581, he was made rector of Rachol Seminary. He accompanied two punitive expeditions of the Portuguese to the village of Cuncolim, and was instrumental in destroying the pagodas there.


4.3. Biographies of the Jesuits killed in the murders Fr. Peter Berno

Peter Berno or Berna was born of humble parents in 1550 at Ascona, a Swiss village at the foot of the Alps. After being ordained priest in Rome, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1577, arrived in Goa in 1579, and was soon appointed to Salcete. He accompanied the expeditions to Cuncolim, and assisted in destroying the Hindu temples, destroyed an ant-hill which was deemed very sacred, and killed a cow which was also an object of Hindu worship. He used to say constantly that no fruit would be gathered from Cuncolim and the hamlets around it till they were bathed in blood shed for the Faith. His superiors declared that he had converted more pagans than all the other fathers put together.


4.4. Biographies of the Jesuits killed in the murders Fr. Anthony Francis

Anthony Francis, born in 1553, was a poor student of Coimbra in Portugal. He joined the Society in 1571, accompanied Father Pacheco to India in 1581, and was shortly afterwards ordained priest in Goa. It is said that whenever he said Mass, he prayed, at the Elevation, for the grace of martyrdom; and that on the day before his death, when he was saying Mass at the church of Orlim, a miracle prefigured the granting of this prayer.


4.5. Biographies of the Jesuits killed in the murders Br. Francis Aranha

Brother Francis Aranha was born of a wealthy and noble family of Braga in Portugal, about 1551, and went to India with his uncle, the first Archbishop of Goa, Dom Gaspar. There he joined the Society of Jesus on 1 November 1571. Being a skilled draughtsman and architect, he built several fine chapels in Goa.


5. Beatification of the Priests

Following the massacre the bodies of the five martyrs were thrown into a well, water of which was afterwards sought by people from all parts of Goa for its miraculous healing. The well still stands today inside the St. Francis Xavier chapel situated at Maddicotto Cuncolim and is opened for people to view once a year on the feast day of St Xavier, celebrated in the first week of December.

The bodies themselves, when found, after two and a half days, allowed no signs of decomposition. They were solemnly buried in the church of Our Lady of the Snows at Rachol, and remained there until 1597, when they were removed to the Saint Pauls College, Goa, and in 1862 to the cathedral of Old Goa. Some of these relics have been sent to Europe at various times. All the bones of the entire right arm of Blessed Rudolph were taken to Rome in 1600, and his left arm was sent from Goa as a present to the Jesuit College at Naples.

In accordance with the request of the Pacheco family, an arm and leg of Blessed Alphonsus were sent to Europe in 1609. The process of canonisation began in 1600, but it was only in 1741 that Pope Benedict XIV declared the martyrdom proved. On the 16 April 1893, the five martyrs were beatified at St. Peters in Rome.

This beatification was celebrated in Goa in 1894, and the feast has ever since then been kept with great solemnity at Cuncolim, even by the descendants of those who participated in the murders. The Calendar of the Archdiocese of Goa has fixed 27 July as their feast day. The native Goans killed with the Jesuits were excluded from the list of the martyrs of the faith when the church beatified the missionaries. According to writer Delio de Mendonça, this was due to the then prevailing attitude among the missionaries that the local Catholics were by nature incapable of performing spiritual feats.

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