Sunday, December 4, 2022

The People

Caste Structure

In Goa, the Bamonn or the Brahmins belonged to the originally priestly class taking upon other occupations like agriculture, trade and commerce (merchants), gold smithy etc. The Chaddho or the Kshatriyas were the noblemen, warriors and related soldiery taking up commercial avocations also. The Vaishya-Vanis were engaged in trade and among them were the 'shetts' or goldsmiths pursuing the craft of gold and gold ornaments. The Sudir or the Sudras were the workers and agricultural labourers engaged in the servicing professions. The Gavddi or Kunnbi were the landless labourers, earlier dislodged by the above high castes and living in their own wards in the village. There were the Gauddo or Gaudde, probably the Vaishya counterparts in Goa of the neighbouring Karnataka's Gowda, as there is 'Gaud' found in the Canacona taluka of Goa on Karnataka's border.

The caste structure in Goa was somewhat like pre-eminence in the social hierarchy based on the nobility of blood, very much resembling the idea of family nobility in the rest of India. All the castes or rather sub-castes or jatis like Saraswats, Karades, Chitpavans, Padhyes etc. among the various segments of the population of Goa, particularly the goldsmiths and some merchants probably, as seen from the surnames of members of communes purportedly all- Brahmin, were lumped into the Christian caste of Bamonn or Brahmin. The various groups among the Kshatriyas or locally known as Chaddho were mainly the noble and warrior class. Some of them engaged in the trading profession, known as Chatim, which was an occupational appellation common to Brahmins also. The caste appellation of Chaddho gradually fell into disuse. Later among the Hindus of this caste in Goa who did not embrace Christianity began preferring the appellation of Maratha. The Marathas and Vanis were incorporated into the Christian caste of Chaddho .

Those of the Vaishya-Vani caste men who could not get themselves merged as Christian Bamonn or Chaddho, appear as Gauddo in place in Bardez Taluka of Goa, among Christians and those among the Hindu remnants of this caste in the present Canacona taluka etc. Gauddo caste among Christians is treated as one of the three high castes. It is believed that large number of Vaishya-Vanis emigrated to the adjoining district of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. Their descendants trace their origin to Goa and the flight of their ancestors at the time of the conversion fever. The Christian counterpart of the Hindu Vani is the Gauddo Christian caste. The goldsmiths call themselves 'Daivednya Brahmins' and are known in Goa as 'Shetti'. they were put into the Christian caste of Sudir or Sudras, which is a lower caste. They did not get into the caste deemed superior because they were known as 'Panchal' or the artisan group of castes. 

The aboriginal stock in Goa is known as the 'Gavddi', is a higher caste. The Christian convert of the Gavdi aboriginal was termed as Kunbi. The Kunbis are found in large number in the Salcete taluka than in any other taluka of Goa.

At the time of the conversions carried out by the Portuguese missionaries, there were untouchables like the 'Mahara' and Chambars, who were converted to Christianity. They are found in Chandor village. Chambars have later merged with the Sudras among Christians. Bamonn and Chaddho are the two advanced castes among the Hindus in Goa. They continued to attach their caste to the Christian names and surnames even after conversion. The first mass baptisms or conversions to Christianity were effected in the two prominent villages in the vicinity of the then city of Goa, Divar Island and Carambolim villages, the first of the Bamonn and the second of the Chaddho.

The majority of the total number of village communes converted to Christianity belonged to the two high castes. The priests in the Goan community should be recruited from the Bamonn and Chaddho. At some places the Christian name, is mentioned along with the old Hindu name while at others the Christian name is mentioned with the person's father name in the Hindu original or in case of the father being a Hindu. The surnames of Poi, Kamat or Vamotim, Desai Kudav, Naik, Prabhu or Porbu etc. are common to both the high castes of Bamonn and Chaddho. Christian Bahmonns and Chaddhos are the two leading rival classes among the Goan's.

The continued maintenance of the caste system among the Christians in Goa is attributed to the mass conversions of entire villages, as a result of which the religious complexion of the whole village was given a new coat of Christianity without affecting its age-old social structure which was rooted in caste foundations. The old usages and customs and age-old traditions, including superstitions of a varied order, especially the caste-system were transferred. The Portuguese, fearing the relapses of their coverts to Hinduism, destroyed all available material reminiscent of the old religion including literary works which are stated by historians to have been in Konkani, mainly religious or socio-religious in nature.