Muslims were the major victims of the Spanish Inquisition in Goa. Zimler of course focuses on the couple of Jews. But his work is seminal in the sense that it highlights the plight of the Goans.
In Goa, the Portuguese Inquisition focuses its guns to South Asian converts from Hinduism or Islam who were thought to have reverted to their original ways. This mimicked the Morinos and Moriscoes in Spain and Portugal. The Goan Inquisition prosecuted and tortured non-converts who interfered with Portuguese attempts to convert non-Christians to Catholicism.
Goa was a Muslim kingdom and had given asylum to the Jews escaping Portugal and Spain. The first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, forced the Portuguese viceroy to relocate to a smaller residence. The inquisitor’s first targets were Hindus, Sephardic Jews and of course the Muslims. http://rupeenews.com/2009/08/19/the-muslim-sultanate-of-sindabur-goa-inquisition-eliminates-all-muslims/ Like many other parts of Asia, Muslim sailors and businessmen traded with Chandrapur on the Eastern shoreline of South Asia.
Over a period of time many in Sindbur converted to Islam. Sindubar, as it was known to the Arabs became a thriving metrpolis of commerce and cureny. The city Chandrapura owes its existance to its earlier association with the Arab Sindabur. Old Arab geographers, referred to Goa as Sindabur. The Turkish book MOHIT, a treatise on the seas of the Industan, written in AD 554 by Sidi Ali Kodupon, refers to GUVAH-SINDABUR, joining the names Guvah (Goa) and Sindabur (Chandrapur). The Delhi Sultanate took over Goa in 1312. However, they were forced to surrender it by 1370 to Harihara I of Vijayanagara.
The Vijayanagara monarchs ruled Goa for the next hundred years – till 1469. From them it passed on to the Bahmani sultans of Gulbarga. After the empire of the Bahmani sultans collapsed, the Adil Shahis of Bijapur took over. They made Velha Goa their ancillary capital. During this era, Muslim pilgrims from all over India embarked on their journey to Mecca from here. A permanent settlement was established by the Portuguese in 1510, in Velha Goa or Old Goa, when the Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque defeated the ruling Bijapur king, Yusuf Ali Adil Shah, on behalf of a local sovereign, Timayya.
One of the defences that the Portuguese built during their reign was the Fort Aguada in north Goa. It was a gruesome fight that terminated with the massacre of majority of the Muslims. To further spurn the Muslims, the Portuguese appointed a Hindu Governor. Henceforth, relations were established between the Vijayanagara and Portuguese empires strengthened and the Muslims came to be despised as a common adversary. Richard Zimler‘s novel, Guardian of the Dawn, documents the little-known Portuguese Inquisition in India, in 16th century Goa. He points out that, apart from their laws and religion, the Portuguese also imported and enforced their infamous methods of interrogation to subdue troublemakers. E T Whittington, writes as follows:“
As to the torture itself, it combined all that the ferocity of savages and the ingenuity of civilized man had till then invented. Besides the ordinary rack, thumb-screws, and leg crushers or Spanish boots, there were spiked wheels over which the victims were drawn with weights on their feet; boiling oil was poured over their legs, burning sulphur dropped on their bodies, and lighted candles held beneath their armpits.” Alexandre Herculano, a famous writer of the 19th century, mentioned in his “Fragment about the Inquisition”:“ …The terrors inflicted on pregnant women made them abort….Neither the beauty or decorousness of the flower of youth, nor the old age, so worthy of compassion in a woman, exempted the weaker sex from the brutal ferocity of the supposed defenders of the religion…. ” Herculano in his another book, History of the Origin and Establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal mentions that,“ …There were days when seven or eight were submitted to torture.
These scenes were reserved for the inquisitors after dinner. It was a post-prandial entertainment. Many a time during those acts, the inquisitors compared notes in the appreciation of the beauty of the human form. While the unlucky damsel twisted in the intolerable pains of torture, or fainted in the intensity of the agony, one inquisitor applauded the angelic touches of her face, another the brightness of her eyes, another, the volluptuous contours of her breast, another the shape of her hands. In this conjuncture, men of blood transformed themselves into real artists !!” An article of Rajiv Srinivasan (Source: The Empire of the Soul, Paul William Roberts, Harper Collins, 1999 quoted in the Saint Business, Rajiv Srinivasan, Hindu Voice, in November 2003, page 4):“ Children were flogged and slowly dismembered (*tear or cut limb from limb) in front of their parents, whose (*parents”) eyelids had been sliced off (*so they couldn”t close their eyes) to make sure they missed nothing. Extremities (*the hands and feet) were amputated carefully, so that a person could remain conscious even when all that remained was a torso (*the trunk of the human body) and head.
Male genitals were removed and burned in front of wives, breasts hacked off and vaginas penetrated by swords while husbands were forced to watch… And it went on for two hundred years. Zimler applied the “Page 99 Test” to Guardian of the Dawn and reported the following: My novel, Guardian of the Dawn, takes place in the Portuguese colony of Goa during the early 17th century, and it is an historical mystery that explores the dangers of religious fundamentalism. The narrator, Tiago, is imprisoned as a secret Jew by the Inquisition, which the Church and Portuguese Crown imposed on Goa in order to punish any residents who deviated from Roman Catholicism.
On page 99, Tiago is being interrogated by the Grand Inquisitor, and he comes to realize that he can no longer trust any of his friends and family – that one of them must have informed on him. Even the other prisoner in his cell – Phanishwar, an Indian snake-dancer whom Tiago has grown to admire – may have been asked to befriend him in order to learn his secrets and destroy his resolve. And so it is that Tiago realizes that all his ties of love and family are gone, and that he can only count on himself if he is ever to avoid being burnt at the stake.
At this point, the Inquisitor promises to let him sign a confession and earn his freedom if he can answer a riddle: “I speak to you on my journey – and only to you – from my departure point to the very end. And though I always die in the same place, you can hear me speaking from my closed grave if you pay close attention. Who am I?” Zimler has won numerous awards for his work, including a 1994 US National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction and 1998 Herodotus Award for best historical novel. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon was picked as 1998 Book of the Year by British critics, while Hunting Midnight has been nominated for the 2005 IMPAC Literary Award. Together with Guardian of the Dawn, these novels comprise the ‘Sephardic Cycle’ — a group of interrelated but independent novels about different branches of a Portuguese Jewish family. Intrigued by his novel, as well as his reasons for writing it, Senior Features Editor Lindsay Pereira decided to ask him a few questions. You were born in New York and went on to study comparative religion.
Why the decision to write about the Portuguese inquisition in Goa — a whole other world? About 15 years ago, while doing research for my first novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, I discovered that the Portuguese exported the Inquisition to Goa in the sixteenth century, and that many Indian Hindus were tortured and burnt at the stake for continuing to practice their religion. Muslim Indians were generally murdered right away or made to flee Goan territory. I couldn’t use that information for my novel but decided, a few years later, to do more research into that time of fundamentalist religious persecution. I discovered that historians consider the Goa Inquisition the most merciless and cruel ever developed. It was a machinery of death. A large number of Hindus were first converted and then persecuted from 1560 all the way to 1812! Over that period of 252 years, any man, woman, or child living in Goa could be arrested and tortured for simply whispering a prayer or keeping a small idol at home. Many Hindus — and some former Jews, as well — languished in special Inquisitional prisons, some for four, five, or six years at a time. I was horrified to learn about this, of course. And I was shocked that my friends in Portugal knew nothing about it.
The Portuguese tend to think of Goa as the glorious capital of the spice trade, and they believe — erroneously — that people of different ethnic backgrounds lived there in tolerance and tranquillity. They know nothing about the terror that the Portuguese brought to India. They know nothing of how their fundamentalist religious leaders made so many suffer. What were you trying to do with this cycle of novels? Did you set out, initially, to merely inform your audience about that period in history? I always set out first to tell a good, captivating story. No reader is interested in a bland historical text. People want to enjoy a novel — and find beauty, mystery, cruelty, love, tenderness and poetry inside it. Within that story, I do try to recreate the world as it once was. In the case of Guardian of the Dawn, I want readers to feel as if they are living in Goa at that time. I want them to see the cobblestone streets of the city and the masts of ships in the harbour, to smell the coconut oil and spices in the air, to hear calls of flower-sellers in the marketplace.
I want them to feel the cold shadow of the Inquisitional palace falling over their lives. In my cycle of novels, I have written about different branches and generations of the Zarco family, a single Portuguese-Jewish family. These novels are not sequels; they can be read in any order. But I’ve tried to create a parallel universe in which readers can find subtle connections between the different books and between the different generations. To me, this is very realistic because we all know, for instance, that there are subtle connections between what our great-grandparents did and what we are doing. The research involved in Guardian of the Dawn is obviously immense. Could you tell me a little about the kind of preparatory work you had to put in? To write the book, I tried to read everything I could about daily life on the west coast of India — more specifically, in and around Goa — at the end of the sixteenth century. The Internet has made that sort of research much easier than it used to be, and I was able to order books about everything from traditional medical practices — including recipes for specific ailments — to animals and plants indigenous to that region. When I write a novel, I want to get all the details right, so this is very important.
Of course, it was also vital for me to know as much as I could about Hinduism and Catholicism. As you mentioned, I studied Comparative Religion at university, so this was pretty easy. One of the main characters in the novel is a Jain, which is a religion I have always been curious about, so I read three or four books about Jainism as well. It was wonderful to be able to learn a bit about Jain belief and practice. Writing is always a great opportunity for me to keep learning. Tiago Zarco is a character you manage to strongly empathise with.
Where did he come from? Was there factual data on someone he was actually based upon? Yes, he’s someone I really like — and for whom I feel a strong empathy. He’s a good man who is changed by his suffering and who decides to take revenge on the people who have hurt him and his family. But I did not base him on a real person. I think, in a way, he was born of my previous two novels, because I tried to make him someone who could fit into the Zarco family and yet be fully developed as an individual. With Tiago, I tried to ask the question — how far can we bend our own moral code to fight evil? In other words, can we use deception and even violence to try to destroy a cruel system of fundamentalist religious fervour like the Inquisition? Re-examining the Inquisition seems apt, more so at a time like this when religious fanaticism is changing the world in ways unknown to us. What do you, as an author, believe we ought to take away from a study of it? I couldn’t agree with you more, and that is one of the reasons I wrote Guardian of the Dawn. Put simply, I think we all need to be alert to the intolerance in our societies and in ourselves.
We ought to maintain government and religion completely separate — such a separation is the only guarantee we have of freedom of expression. We ought to learn from the ancient Asian tradition, which is to respect the religious beliefs of others and not impose our own Gods on them. Did you visit Goa at any point? If not, what did you base your descriptions of the state upon? No, I decided not to go to Goa, because I didn’t want any imagesfrom modern Goa to infiltrate into the novel. I didn’t want to risk inadvertently putting something from today into it. So I based my descriptions on other areas of the world I’ve visited that have similar flora and fauna — Thailand, for instance. Also, I read all I could about the city so that my descriptions of the buildings, for instance, would be accurate. I then used my imagination, which is the most important thing for a writer. I now have a landscape in my head that is Goa — and the surrounding region — in 1600.
I don’t know how it developed. It’s almost magical. Portugal, today, is still a country deeply steeped in a Catholic tradition. Do you think people are aware of the Inquisition and what it meant back then? Would they look at this as a re-opening of old wounds? No, few people here know anything about the Inquisition. Many of them would rather not examine what their ancestors did, both in Portugal and its colonies. But others are very curious about what they didn’t learn in school about their own history. Yes, in a sense I am opening old wounds. But I think it’s important to do that. I think that we need to face the bad things we do — both individually and as a society. In general, the Portuguese have been very receptive to my books. Guardian of the Dawn has been a Number One bestseller here, for instance. A great many readers tell me I have opened a door to a part of their history they know nothing about. I’m proud of that. And I’m proud of having made it possible for Indians and Jews who were persecuted and imprisoned to ‘speak’ to modern readers through this novel.
I think that’s important because I don’t want their suffering — and their heroism — to be forgotten. As an author — more specifically, an author devoted to history — you have a unique perspective on the past. As a journalist, how important is examining the past to you? As a journalist, it’s important, because I think we can change the world by exposing past injustices. By writing about atrocities, we can change policy and avoid future wars. We can get war criminals punished. We can help people win fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, so much journalism is superficial and stupid that there is little room left for important articles. Do you plan, in future, to base your work on other periods, or religious themes? Or do you plan to break away from the genre of historical fiction? I have written a new novel that has just come out in England called The Search for Sana, which is about two women — one Palestinian, one Israeli — who grew up in Haifa together in the 1950s. It’s about how their friendship is destroyed by political events that lead to tragedy for one of them.
I am now working on a novel set in Berlin in the 1930s, in which one of the main characters will be a member of the Zarco family. So this will bring the cycle up to the 20th century. Where I will go from there is anyone’s guess. ‘Goa Inquisition was most merciless and cruel’ September 14, 2005 In an interview with rediff India [ Images ] Abroad novelist Richard Zimler pointed out that the ‘Goa Inquisition was merciless, cruel’ Published in Britain by Constable & Robinson and in America and Canada [ Images ] by Dell in July 2005, this is an excerpt from Zimler’s novel, Guardian of the Dawn, set during the Inquisition in Goa [ Images ]. At this point in the novel, the narrator — a young boy named Tiago — is living with his Portuguese-Jewish father and younger sister, Sofia, just outside Goan territory. Tiago’s Indian mother has recently died and it is the beloved family cook, Nupi, who helps him overcome his grief. After the wet nurse left, our house suddenly became too large and cold for me.
All its comforting corners seemed to harden, and its doors seemed to be forever waiting for a visitor who would never come. For weeks at a time I trudged around from room to room thinking I was now an intruder. I even hated my bed, and the down pillows that had made a rocky coastline when I played at naval battles on my sheets, and the shady alcove on the north side of Papa’s library where I read my books when everywhere else was too hot. I got it into my head that I wanted a staircase and a second floor added to the house. I no longer remember why. Maybe I needed a new place to start over. One afternoon, after Papa refused to build a staircase for me once again, Nupi led me crying into her kitchen. When I explained what was wrong, she ordered me to sit.”What for?” I asked. “Will you ever just do what I say without making a fuss?” She’d made a batch of steaming dal for herself and spooned some with her old iron ladle onto a banana leaf for me, then gave herself a smaller portion.
She moved her ancient wooden stool up to the table we’d recently given a new coat of bright yellow paint and instructed me to do the same with the cane chair behind her broom. “You want me to eat with you?” I asked. She looked around, then peered over my shoulder. She even upturned her large cauldron, which had a wedge of black soap hiding underneath. “I don’t see anyone else here,” she said, “so you’re my only choice.” For the first time in our lives we ate together. A white hibiscus flower from our garden peeked over the rim of the cracked earthenware jar between us. “Flowers are good,” she announced to me when I touched it.
I came to learn that this was an essential postulate in her guidebook to life. “And your mother would want to know you’re eating well,” she added. As we ate our dal, Nupi kicked my bare foot now and again to make me look up, since I tended to get lost in thought of late. She told me I mustn’t leave over a single lentil or she’d report me to my father, which was an attempt at humour, since she was always saying Papa was too easy on me. When I didn’t smile, she gave me a serious look and said I was to eat with her in the kitchen whenever I was feeling bad. “You mean it?” I asked. “I never joke about food,” she replied, which was true enough. I sometimes think that Nupi’s simple offer that day saved my life, because I did eat with her — and often — over the coming years. And I have always associated the taste of her dal on that first occasion with the kind of love that never fails to act in time of need. Sofia told me much later that she did, too, and I would guess that Nupi invited my sister to eat with her on occasions I don’t even know about. I wish I had done something in return for our old cook that day — had collected a basket of the violet-coloured orchids we called cat’s whiskers for her shrine to Ganesha or simply hugged her. I didn’t yet realize that all she really prayed for — and what she most wanted in life — was that my sister and I would not die young.
But that, of course, was a guarantee — and gift — that no one could give her. Voltaire quotes about Goan Inquisition “ Goa est malheureusement célèbre par son inquisition , également contraire à l’humanité et au commerce. Les moines portugais firent accroire que le peuple adorait le diable , et ce sont eux qui l’ont servi. (Goa is sadly famous for its inquisition, equally contrary to humanity and commerce. The Portuguese monks made us believe that the people worshiped the devil, and it is they who have served him) .” Historian Alfredo DeMello describes the performers of Goan inquisition as,“ nefarious, fiendish, lustful, corrupt religious orders which pounced on Goa for the purpose of destroying paganism (ie Hinduism) and introducing the true religion of Christ .” Richard Zimler, in his novel Guardian of the Dawn, which documents the little-known Portuguese Inquisition in Goa, tells why he decided to write about Goan Inquisiton, “ About 15 years ago, while doing research for my first novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, I discovered that the Portuguese exported the Inquisition to Goa in the sixteenth century, and that many Indian Hindus were tortured and burnt at the stake for continuing to practice their religion. Muslim Indians were generally murdered right away or made to flee Goan territory.
I couldn’t use that information for my novel but decided, a few years later, to domore research into that time of fundamentalist religious persecution. I discovered that historians consider the Goa Inquisition the most merciless and cruel ever developed. It was a machinery of death. A large number of Hindus were first converted and then persecuted from 1560 all the way to 1812! Over that period of 252 years, any man, woman, or child living in Goa could be arrested and tortured for simply whispering a prayer or keeping a small idol at home. Many Hindus — and some former Jews, as well — languished in special Inquisitional prisons, some for four, five, or six years at a time. I was horrified to learn about this, of course. And I was shocked that my friends in Portugal knew nothing about it. The Portuguese tend to think of Goa as the glorious capital of the spice trade, and they believe — erroneously — that people of different ethnic backgrounds lived there in tolerance and tranquillity.
They know nothing about the terror that the Portuguese brought to India. They know nothing of how their fundamentalist religious leaders made so many suffer The Goan inquisition is regarded by all contemporary portrayals as the most violent inquisition ever executed by the Portuguese Catholic Church. It lasted from 1560 to 1812. The inquisition was set as a tribunal, headed by a judge, sent to Goa from Portugal and was assisted by two judicial henchmen. The judge was answerable to no one except to Lisbon and handed down punishments as he saw fit. The Inquisition Laws filled 230 pages and the palace where the Inquisition was conducted was known as the Big House and the Inquisition proceedings were always conducted behind closed shutters and closed doors.
The screams of agony of the culprits (men, women, and children) could be heard in 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 and extremities were amputated carefully, a person could remain conscious even though the only thing that remained was his torso and a head. Prohibitions Regarding Marriages -The instruments for Hindu songs shall not be played. -While giving dowry the relatives of the bride and groom must not be invited. -At the time of marriage, betel leaf packages (pan) must not be distributed either publicly or in private to the persons present. -Flowers, or fried puris, betel nuts and leaves must not be sent to the heads of the houses of the bride or groom. -Gotraj ceremony of family God must not be performed. -On the day prior to a wedding, rice must not be husked, spices must not be pounded, grains must not be ground and other recipes for marriage feast must not be cooked. -Pandals and festoons must not be used. -Pithi should not be applied. -The bride must not be accorded ceremonial welcome. The bride and groom must not -be made to sit under pandal to convey blessings and best wishes to them.
Prohibitions Regarding Fasts, Post-death Rituals -The poor must not be fed or ceremonial meals must not be served for the peace of the souls of the dead. -There should be no fasting on ekadashi day. -Fasting can be done according to the Christian principles. -No rituals should be performed on the twelfth day after death, on moonless and full moon dates. -No fasting should be done during lunar eclipse. Dr. Trasta Breganka Kunha, a Catholic citizen of Goa writes, “Inspite of all the mutilations and concealment of history, it remains an undoubted fact that religious conversion of Goans is due to methods of force adopted by the Portuguese to establish their rule. As a result of this violence the character of our people was destroyed. The propagation of Christian sect in Goa came about not by religious preaching but through the methods of violence and pressure. If any evidence is needed for this fact, we can obtain it through law books, orders and reports of the local rulers of that time and also from the most dependable documents of the Christian sect