Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Story Told by Goa's Religious Ruins

Old Goa: Church of St. Francis of Assisi in the front and behind it Sé Cathedral - Asia's largest church

During the Portuguese rule of Goa, the capital Velha Goa (Old Goa) rose to become one of the most populous, wealthy and grand cities in the world, filled with broad boulevards, luxurious mansions and great cathedrals. Eventually the city would be riddled with disease, largely torn down and abandoned, but during its golden age it grew - in a matter of few decades - larger than major European cities like London and Lisboa, and according to contemporary accounts it was a truly spectacular place to visit.

However, this amazing spurt of creation was accompanied by equal degrees of shameful destruction. The Portuguese rulers were highly intolerant of other religions and were not content in spreading catholicism through just means of persuasion. The existing religions were banned and all ancient Hindu Temples and Muslim Mosques were destroyed. That is, all except one: The small 13th century Tambdi Surla, is the only surviving pre-Portuguese stone temple. It was hidden in the jungle by devout Hindus and never discovered by the Europeans before we had reached more civilized times.

We visited both of these important sites, each rescued from the grip of the jungle. In Old Goa only the main religious buildings had been left standing in the middle of nowhere, but they are impressive enough to still give a small sense of wonder over the great city that once stood there. Tambdi Surla, by contrast, is just a small - but aesthetically pleasing - stone temple in a peaceful and remote spot, surrounded by jungle; it is a sombre testament to the fate of Hinduism (and Hindus) in Portuguese-ruled Goa. We visited the latter on a side trip from Dudhsagar.

Tambdi Surla:

Hindu temple Tambdi Surla in a jungle clearing, interior Goa

Tambdi Surla seen a bit closer - a simple but appealing building
Inner chamber of the temple

Old Goa:

The old city gate leading from the busy harbour into town

Basilica of Bom Jesus, final resting place of legendary Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier, who worked in Goa and achieved sainthood after his death. He was instrumental in bringing the oppressive Holy Inquisition to Goa as he considered the Portuguese in Goa to be insufficiently pious.

The body of Francis Xavier can be seen through glass windows in his casket. He worked for many years in Goa, but died in China in 1552 before being returned to Goa the year later

Last remains of the grand, pre-Portuguese Muslim palace of Adil Shah is this ruined doorway. It reminds me of a portal to another dimension. This palace was taken over by the Portuguese and some of the worst atrocities of the Goan Inquisition took place here.

1 comment:

artblog said...

I am happy to chance on ur blog. I am an artist n hav just published a book on Indian art. Coincidentally the question of colonization and destruction of local religions, culture by Portuguese n British I hav dealt with in the book Mona Lisa does not smile anymore. I hav also questioned the Western idea of superiority of'Renaissance' art of Europe in comparison with art of India. The 'Renaissance' was a sham and its roots were in slavery n colonization I have argued. Excerpts from book," “If I had to choose between an erudite Aristotle and an unknown 'soulless' black slave I would choose the latter. ..