The Times of India: Orta’s Old Goa garden

Panaji: Garcia da Orta, one of the most illustrious Jews to have lived in Goa in the 16th century is known for the city garden named after him, but few know about the one he laid in Old Goa.

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The Times of India, By Paul Fernandes. Jan 28th. 2017

The garden in Panaji was inaugurated in February 1878, and is perhaps the oldest garden in Goa. But it was renamed as Jardim Garcia de Orta only after Portugal became a republic in 1910 and long after he died.

It has helped kept alive the memory of the pioneer of tropical medicine and ethnobotany, among other things. But facets of Orta’s brilliant career as herbalist has dimmed with passage of time. In Old Goa, he was the chief physician at the Royal Hospital, close to Mandovi river front.

The medicinal garden he laid in Old Goa, was possibly near the hospital.

On Tuesday, an Israeli delegation were seen exploring a parking lot, about 400 metres west of St Francis of Assisi church in Old Goa, as it looks very possibly the site of Orta’s villa and garden.

“There are two possibilities. The house may have been located near the fountain behind the post office. Or the site could be near the parking lot,” says K K Muhammed, former regional director, ASI, Delhi.

The Israeli team tramping around the parking lot were not exactly hoping to find some signature of Jewish heritage at the archaeologically-rich site, but verify the location from a copy of the map.

“This map prepared by Joshua Benjamin, a Jew and former chief architect of the government of India in the late 19th century was given to me by Jewish researcher, Nissim Moses,” Ivar Fjeld, a Goa-based researcher said.

The Israeli team, Muhammed and Fjeld examined the map together, as it cited Orta’s residence on the northern side of the first junction to the world heritage site from Panaji.

“We know that Jews were coming to India since the 5th century. A Jewish community lived in Kochi and had their synagogue there. In Goa, we know there was a small community. These are the bits and pieces of evidence of Jewish heritage,” Gideon Avni, head, archaeology division, Israel antiquities authority said.

The team also visited Rua dos Judeus, a street located west of St Augustine’s complex, where a Jewish settlement is said to have existed.

An excavation at the site of the parking lot will prove crucial to identify the landmarks, says Fjeld.

Source: The Times of India

Posted in Media reports

Jews of Goa, mini-conference

Professor Gideon Avni held three lectures at a mini-conference at Hotel Vivanta by Taj in Panjim,  Monday 23rd of January 2017.

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Prof. Varun Sahni, Vice Chancellor Goa University (left) attended the mini-conference.

The mini-conference, a closed session, was attended by Prof. Varun Sahni, Vice Chancellor Goa University.  From the city of Calicut came K.K Muhammed, former Regional Director of Archaeological survey of India (ASI), North India. Also Kishor Ragubans from ASI, Museum of Archeology, Old Goa was present. Prof Avni also had the honor of having the well known modern artist of Goa, Mr. Suboth Kerkar, from the Museum of Goa (MOG) at Pilerne, as part of the audience.

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Gideon Avni at the venue at Hotel Vivanta in Panjim.

A total of 25 people accepted the invitation, including a handful of local Christian leaders.

The three lectures given by Professor Gideon Avni was:

“Between the Temple Mount and the Holy Sepulchre – The archaeology of Jerusalem.  Overview of the Jerusalem archaeology with emphasis on Christian and Jewish remain.

Jewish ritual baths. (Mikvehs). By Prof. Ronny Reich and Prof. Gideon Avni

“East West connections in antiquity – Asia and the Holy land , which will present some case studies of these long term connections”

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One of the lectures of Professor Avni.

The theme for the mini-conference was displayed on the info-boards of Hotel Vivanta.

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Mr. Ivar Fjeld released his newest book:

“The Golden Age of Goa”.
Ruled by descendants of Queen Esther
of the Bible. 1310-1510 A.D

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Ivar Fjeld released his second book on the history of Goa. The first was named “The Jewish martyrs of Old Goa”, released in 2014.

The latest book kan be orderd by sending an email to: ivarfjeld@yahoo.com

Posted in Conferences, Gideon Avni

Old Goa: Villa of Garcia de Orta

A map made by Mr. Joshua Benjamin, ex-Chief Architect of the Government of India, locates the villa of Dr. Garcia de Orta at a parking lot in Old Goa.

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Gideon Avni at det parkinglot. Together with Indan archaeolgoist K.K. Muhammed (left) and Kishor Ragubans from ASI, Museum of Archeology, Old Goa.

Dr. Shalva Weil of Hebrew University visited the office of the ASI, Goa Circle, 31st of January 2014. Dr. Weil requested for information related to the residence and medical gardens of Garcia da Orta.

There are several written records revealing the location of these estates. A map pinpoints the residence of the da Orta family, a map made available in a report from Jewish researcher Nissim Moses (Not dated PDF-file). The da Orta residence is located on the north side of the public road, at the entrance of the Church square in Old Goa. The
map is provided by Mr. Joshua Benjamin, ex-Chief Architect of the Government of India.

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An excavation can me made, based on this map, and other written sources.

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The likely location of the Villa of Dr. Orta is provided on this map.

In the book “Health and Hygiene in Colonial Goa, 1510-1961” Fatima da Silva Gracias writes about the medical garden of Garcia da Orta:

“Many of these plants were cultivated by Garcia da Orta in the gardens attached to his residences in Goa and Bombay. (page 224).

In wikipedia the residence of Gracia da Orta in Mumbai is explained to be a “manor” with “a large garden”.

Garcia da Orta worked at the Royal hospital:

Some valuable information is recorded in the book “Medicine, Trade and Empire, Garcia de Orta;s Colloguies on the simple and drugs of India (1563) in context”, edited by Professor Palmira Fontes da Costa, (Assistant Professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa).

“Of course, the India folk remedies and drugs supplied to stock such shipboard medical chest, even in the eighteenth century, followed closely the very same recommendations established by Garcia da Orta through his Colloguies and remedies proffered during his tenure as Chief physician of the Hospital Militar de Goa”. (Page 220)

The medical gardens of the Royal hospital:

“Portuguese-flagged vessels departed from Goa, bound for destinations throughout the Lusophone world. having stocked their pharmacy boxes (often at governmental; expense) with local medicines, usually supplied from the apothecary gardens and storerooms of the Royal Military hospital”. (Page 220).

“The origin of the Goa Military Hospital medical garden dates form the very earliest days of the colony: Crown directives created a framework for its administration in 1520. a decade after the
Portuguese took this key port and established Goa as their capital, the hub for operations in all of Asia. According to the hospital’s official the hub for operations in all of Asia. According to the hospital’s officialregulations, it was the head pharmacists duty to oversee the cultivation, harvest, during and conservation of the medical plants, that grew in conturnos (in contours of and, or along the perimeter) around the Hospital grounds. 29. (HAG, Livros dos Moncos do Reino, 646, f. 39)”.
(Page 222).

On 13th of July, 2015, Mr. Ivar Fjeld provided this information to the ASI, including the map, and requested for a new examination of the site.

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Posted in Gideon Avni

Madhav Tirtha, a possible mikveh

This is the only heritage site in Goa, who is linked to general Madhav Mantri: The Brahmanpuri Madhav Tirtha. It is a possible mikveh, used for ritual baths according to the faith of Judaism.

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Prof. Gideon Avni and Mr. Ivar Fjeld examine the site.

The Brahmanpuri Madhav Tirtha next to Ella Farm, Old Goa, is believed to have been established by General Mantri in the 14th century. In the Pre-Portuguese age of Goa.

This is the recordings found on a few goan websites:

” Brahmapuri was established in the 14th century and probably became a great seat of learning and religious power under the patronage of Vijayanagar kings. It is believed that Madhav Mantri  restored the temple and reinstalled the idol of Shri Gomanteshwar and constructed a ritual bathing tank at Brahmapuri.  This is the only monument to Madhav Mantri, the Vijayanagar General, who restored peace and prosperity after conquering Goa from the Bahamanis in the 14th century”.

The source for this information seems to be the book “Village Goa” by Olivinho Gomes.

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Indian archaeologists and the Times of India visited the site together with a team from Israel, 24th of January 2017.

During an 2015 examination of the site, it was revealed that the tank has no ancient connection to the local temple trust. A team of researchers came across local citizens of this area who believe that the tank has a connection to “an ancient Church”. A local Catholic priest do occasionally visit this site and perform religious rituals.

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There are many simularities between this tank-system and a Mikveh.

The features of the Brahmanpuri Madhav Tirtha makes its possible that this is an ancient Jewish mikveh. This bath/pool/mikhve has seven steps into the water, and is a dual tank system. The highest elevated tank, seems to be the basin storage tank of the
water. There is an underground system of ancient water chanels, which brings fresh spring water from the hills.

The Cairo Geniza documents confirms the presence of Jewish merchants in “Sindabur”, belived to be the Gopakapattana basin. Brahmanpuri was for a brief period of time, the capital of an independent village republic of Goa. (1440 to 1465 A.D). It is likely that any Jewish community based in the Gopakapattana basin was shifted to Brahmanpuri, and a local synagogue established in this area, prior to the establishment of the Bahamni capital of Ela (City of Goa).

José Nicolau da Fonseca, in his book, “An historical and archeological sketch of the city of Goa”, page 155, claims there were synagogues in the city of Ela. There were also a Rua dos Judeus (The street of the Jews) in the city.

On March 19th 2015, in a letter to the ASI, Mr. Ivar Fjeld requested for a new examination of the site.

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Posted in Gideon Avni

Old Goa, a possible mikveh

Gideon Avni visited the St. Augustine complex, that might contain an ancient Mikveh.

jews-of-goa2Professor Gideon Avni inspect the site.

Professor Gideon Avni walks along two tanks, which the Arceological Surveny of India (ASI) opines are “Baptismal tanks”. But they could have been used by Jews for ritual baths, having the features of a Mikveh.

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The tanks at St. Augustine complex can be re-examined, to explore if they were ancient mikvehs

The concerned structure is in the Roman Catholic narrative of history presented as locateed next to a chapel. Built by the augustinian order from the year 1571 A.D. The construction of a Roman Catholic shrine started six years after this area was expropriated. The Portuguse Viceroy D. Antonio Noronha passed the order on 16th of December 1565 A.D. The colonial government in Goa expropriated the area, and gifted the land to the munks.

There is a documented Jewish connection to this site. The concerned structure is located along “Rua dos Judeus”, (the street of the Jews). This street went along the west side of the ruin, still used as a public road.  The existence of such a road makes it highly possible that there was a Jewish settlement in this area. No ASI examination has been done to research the possibility of a Jewish heritage linked to the St.Augustine complex, prior to 1571.AD.

José Nicolau da Fonseca, in his book, “An historical and archeological sketch of the city of Goa”, page 155, claims there were synagogues in the city of Ela. There were also a Rua dos Judeus (The street of the Jews) in the city.

ASI was visited by a Jewish researcher some decades ago, who claimed there is an underground, hidden synagogue in this area, from the age of the Inquisition of Goa. The Inquisition of Goa lasted 252 years from 1560 to 1812 A.D.  The Augustinians were gifted this land 11 years after the establishment of the Tribunal of the Inquisition of Goa. The order to expopriate the land was given hardly five years after the tribunal was established.

On 10th of February 2015, Mr. Ivar Fjeld presented a letter to the ASI, asking for a new examination of the complex. asi4

Posted in Gideon Avni

Gopakapattanam and Sindabur

The Cairo geniza documentary is a testimony of a prosperous Jewish trade with “Sindabur”, by many scholars believed to be the ancient port of Gopakapattanam in Goa. Could this port be the ancient Ophir of the Bible?

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Gideon Avni visits the remains of the port of Gopakapattanam. Left. Mrs. Sarah Beckerman.

On the 17th of July 2015,  National Institute of Oceanography (NiO) located in Goa, used the Times of India, and local media, to anounce that NiO would uncover the ancient seaport of Gopakapattanam. Up till the end of January 2017, no new reserach of this area has been conducted.

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The Times of India is giving good coverage to news items linked to the ancient heritage of Goa

This golden age of this port city was from around 1000A.D to 1250 A.D. The Jewish merchants left a testimony of peaceful relationships between traders of different faiths.
This age of free trade in the Indian Ocean was nevertheless challenged by the expansion of Islam.

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From the local Newspaper Goa Herald.

– Where is Ophir of the Bible?

Francisco Baretto became viceroy in Goa in 1555. After his retirement, the King of Portugal gave him the task of locating Ophir of King Solomon. Baretto set sail from Lisbon on April 16th 1569 with three ships and thousand men. The king had granted Baretto the title “Conqueror of the Mines”. The former viceroy sailed to Sofala in Mozambique, believed to be the Biblical Eldorado, from where the ships of King Solomon collected 14 metric tones of gold. This cargo was used as materials in the first temple of Jerusalem. Barreto and his team returned to Portugal empty handed.

Ophir is mentioned in the book of first kings in the Bible.

1 Kings 9:26-28.

King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of
the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea to serve in the fleet with brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon. Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.

(end of scriptures).

14. metric tones is a lot of gold. Today’s value of this cargo would be approximately 500 million USD, or 3500 cr. rupee. Such a high value trade took place 3.000 years ago. All this gold was shipped from somewhere in the Indian Ocean to ancient Israel.

Could the ancient port of Gopakapattanam be Ophir of the Bible?

Posted in Gideon Avni | Leave a comment

Panjim: 2014 Conference on Judeo-Christian heritage

2nd of February 2014, Israel’s deputy Consular General at Mumbai Mr. Matan Zamir opened a conference in Goa. With Dr. Shalva Weil from Hebrew University as the keynote speaker.

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160 delegates attended the conference at Hotel Vivanta by Taj at Panjim. Behind the event was a group of Evangelical Friends of Israel in Goa. The theme was: “The Judeo Christian Heritage of the West Coast of India”.

The speakers at the conference was:
Mr. Matan Zamir. Deputy Consular General of Israel at Mumbai.
Dr. Shalva Weil. Hebrew University. She gave a keynote on “Salvaging the Jews of Goa”.
Mr. Ivar Fjeld. Goa Representative of Norway-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Mrs. Deepa Thomas,  Operation Exodus.
Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, Head of Jewish community New Delhi.

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160 people attended this conference 2nd of February 2014.

You can watch the keynotes on video, by visiting the conference website.

Posted in Conferences

The Navhind Times: Revealing Goa’s Jewish heritage

Ivar Fjeld , Goa Representative of Norway India Chamber of Commerce and Industry will release his new book ” Jewish Martyrs of Old Goa” on January 31 at a function organized at Taj Vivanta, that will also witness the release of Shaul Sapir’s book “Bombay Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage. The Mumbai-born Shaul Sapir is a lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

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An almost full page feature in the Friday Buzz section of The Navhind Times.

The Navhind Times. By Anuradha Das, January 30th, 2014.

“My love for the Goans is what inspired me to investigate into the and write about an obscure part of their history, says Ivar Fjeld when asked why he has been investigating and writing about the Jewish settlements in Goa and the persecution they suffered at the hand of the Portuguese.

In fact, in all probability, there are several Goans keen to know why Ivar has written so many articles about the Jewish, Goan Inquisition connect and history. And now Ivar has gone a step further and published his research in the field there will be more questions, given as Ivar is in the state as a representative of the Norway India Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and not a researcher.

” I have been an investigate journalist” says Ivar. ” When i first came to Goa, I read the book: “An Historical and Archaeological Sketch of the City of Goa” by Jose Nicolau da Fonseca, which asked a lot on interesting questions. Some questions were left open, says Ivar by way of explaining the trigger behind his investigation into the history of pre-Portuguese Jews and Christians of Goa.

From his studies, Ivar claim that there were surely Ethiopian Jews in Goa, who hailed from a tribe that us today referred to as Beta Israel, and who were most likely brought over the Indian Ocean as slaves by pre-Portuguese time Muslim traders.

“Did you know that in the years the Portuguese and Spaniards expelled Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur has a Jewish Admiral, and that he permitted the Jews to build synagogues in ancient Ela in Old Goa”, questions Ivar. He also questions the reason behind the deliberate obliteration of this part of Goan history.

” Goans do not know that once in Goa, before the Portuguese descended on the lands, a thriving Jewish community existed. One that was invalid in trading, administration and military, says Ivar, who believes that when inquisition achieves related to persecution of Jewish and St. Thomas Christians when missing, a deliberate blank was introduced in peoples memories. Leading to the present day ignorance about the possible existence and subsequent destruction of a Jewish community in Goa.

“Fonseca’s book tickled the investigative journalist within me, and I set out in the search for truth”, says Ivar, who as part of his research presents proof of the possible existence of synagogues within the St. Augustine complex in Old Goa. A truth, he maintains, that must be further sought. “The Jews have already got an official apology for the injustice done towards them in Portugal, from where they were exiled in 1498. A.D. Portugal has also passed a law of return, permitting descendants of Jews to return to Portugal if they desire says Ivar stating that it is this deep interest in pre-Portuguese Goa, and the Judeo-Christian Heritage of the West Coast of India, that prompted him to contact scholars Nandkumar M. Kamat and Catholic Priest, Fr. Cosme for in-depth discussions.

“I have read books, studied research papers, examined the facts on the ground, and listened to local experts, says Ivar whose book also torches upon the existence of Thomas Christians in Goa, prior to the arrival of the Portuguese.

Ivar’s purpose behind documenting his research in the form of a book is to share his findings with the public, in particular local historians. It is important to know and understand the history of your forefathers. Here i would like to credit Fr. Cosme from Pilar, for being on of the few scholars who correctly claimed there were Thomas Christians present in Goa, 800 years before the Portuguese conquest of the Indian Ocean. It was not the Portuguese who brought Christianity to Goa, says Ivar, touching up on his second piece of research presented in his book. “I might not have all the answers. But it is a start”.

Hopefully, here on, a new interest in history will be triggered, one that will look beyond a colonial heritage towards a deeper past. And hopefully the full truth about a possible Jewish heritage will be revealed in totality. For surely when many Jews were burnt at stake in Old Goa during the inquisition period, there must have been some that converted. Besides, there is an indubitable duty we have as humans towards a people who were served great injustice.

Ivar conclude with a quote from the Bible: ” John 3:19″. “Light has come into the World, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil”.

Posted in Media reports

The Curca Spring: Letter to CM of Goa

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The present Defense Minister of India Manohar Parrikar visited the Curca Spring in 2002. As CM of Goa he promised to renovate the spring.

  • Honorable CM of Goa.
  • Shir Laxmikant Parsekar
  • cm.goa@nic.in

Neglect of Pre-Portuguese heritage site in Goa:

This has reference to the Israeli-Goan Roundtable on 30th of January 2014 at Kala Academy, with the honorable Deputy CM of Goa, Mr. Francis De Souza as the Guest of Honor. The Deputy CM addressed the gathering, proposing that Goa must learn from the state of Israel in how to develop heritage tourism.

Kindly examine the attached report, which highlights what appears to be a regrettable neglect of the Curca spring, a pre-Portuguese area heritage site in Goa.

Kindly also examine this interpretation of this heritage site, that might be a Jewish settlement in the Gopakapattana basin.

Kindly secure this heritage site with immediate effect, to prevent further damage to the concerned structures.

Goa, 13th of March 2015.

Sincerely yours.

Mr. Ivar Fjeld

Representative of Judeo-Christian Heritage of West Coast of India, Trust.

(end of letter).

Why is the Curca Spring an interesting site, linked to the life and legacy of the Jews of Goa?

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The map was given me by Jewish researcher Nissim Moses.

  • It located in an area where there are claims of Jewish structures and settlements.
  • Its abandoned.
  • No faith comunity claims this land.
  • No excavations have been done.
  • It has a panoramic view of the ancient port of “Sindabur”.
  • No one can explain who built it.

Download the Curca Spring report (PDF-file), sendt to the former CM of Goa, present Defence Minister of India, Shri Manohar Parrikar. curca-report

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This is how the Curca Spring looked a few decades ago.

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Article in Gomantak Times, 30th of August 2015.

Posted in Interesting sites

The Times of India: Siridao chapel possible synagogue

“Siridao chapel could have Jewish history: Historian”

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This structure display two totally different kind of layouts.

SIRIDAO: The quaint architecture of the Jesus of Nazareth chapel at Siridao has remained shrouded in obscurity, but a few are convinced the unusual dome-shaped structure holds a key to evidence of pre-Portuguese Christianity and a multicultural society in the area.

Perched on the edge of a hillock with a panoramic view of Zuari bay, the centuries-old chapel appears to be an extension of a smaller dome-shaped original.

A circular platform on the floor behind the altar and a few other features resemble the setup of a Jewish synagogue.

To read the full article: Source: The Times of India

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Most likely a Pre-Portuguse stucture, of possibly Jewish origin.

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Posted in Converted Synagogues