The Times of India: A Jewish past annihilated over time

PANAJI: The British preserved the urban heritage of the Jews in Bombay, but their counterpart’s legacy in Old Goa including ruins of their settlement have disappeared without a trace, Ivar Fjeld, a Norwegian writer said.


The release of the book: “The Jewish Martyrs of Old Goa”.

The Times of India. Feb 1, 2014.

Hundreds of Jews were living in Old Goa and had contributed, at one stage, to the building of the former capital during the brief rule of Yusuf Adil Shah (1498-1510). Later, it became famous as one of the largest cities on par with London of that era, Fjeld stated. “The Muslim ruler who was tolerant to people of all religious groups had invited Jews to participate in the construction of the city,” Fjeld said.

He was speaking at a function to mark the release of two books, Bombay, exploring the Jewish urban heritage by Shaul Sapir and Jewish martyrs of Old Goa. Fjeld has authored the second book.

Tracing the history of Jewish presence in Goa, he said that the commander of the fleet under the Muslim ruler was a Jew named Gaspar da Gama. “There were two Jewish diamond merchants named Martins,” he said.

A street in Old Goa was called Rua dos Judeus or the street of the Jews. “There were synagogues in the city, as acknowledged by historian, Jose Nicolau da Fonseca in his book A historical and archaeological sketch of the city of Goa,” Fjeld said.

Fjeld said Jews were burnt at the stake during the inquisition, which lasted from 1560 to 1812. Heretics and Christians who practiced ancestral religion or Jewish rites were brutally tortured and killed, he said. Among those who were burnt included famous botanist, Garcia de Horta’s sister.

Another researcher, Pius Malekandathil, has referred to the cruel annihilation of 84 Jewish converts over a time span of 31 years from 1560 to 1591. But Fjeld said that not only Christians who refused to give up Judaism but even Hindus were victims of the crimes and that we should pray for forgiveness for the perpetrators.

Fjeld suggested that a Judeo Christian heritage of west coast of India trust to be formed soon should ask the Portuguese government to tender an apology for the crimes.

Fjeld clarified that he is not a historian, but his findings are based on content in other works. “The knowledge of this dark chapter in our history is hidden and needs to be uncovered,” Fjeld said.

Deputy head of mission of Israeli consulate general, Mumbai, Mathan Zamir, Ralphy Jhirad and members of the Jewish community in India attended the function.

Source: The Times of India

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Nahvind Times: The pilar that belongs to no one

In the midst of churches and cathedrals that stand sentinel in the church town of Old Goa, there is an old, long forgotten pillar not many know or care about. Here is the story of the Pelourinho Novo.


The ancient pillar have been hit several times, as it has been left not secured at an trafic island at Old Goa.

The Navhind Times June 28, 2016.

Though the beauty of our state is mesmerising, it is not the only crowning glory Goa has. Goa is rich with a visually appealing landscape and is even richer in term of historical value. The land of sea, sun and sand has an abundance of historical treasures in the form of traditions and monuments.
Its large number of monuments is attributed to the fact that it has a diverse and rich history. Rulers from various dynasties across the nation and across the globe have stepped on Goan soil and left their mark in various ways. The most evident being the many monuments and historically significant sights spread across our tiny state.


The pillar is likely to have been in use during the Inquisition at Goa.


From page 161.

Old Goa is a perfect example of the historical treasures Goa has. Among the many world heritage sites present at Old Goa, is a black basalt pillar called the Pelourinho Novo (new pillary), which is currently situated at a major junction on the Old Goa highway. But, unlike its other monumental counterparts, this pillar is not a protected monument; which means that neither the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) nor the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa have the official right over this monument. To understand this concept better, one must flip through the pages of history to when Goa was liberated.

Out of the hundreds of historically relevant sights and monuments, very few have made it to the list of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa. According to sources in the department, when Goa was liberated, two categories of monuments were drafted. The first category included all the monuments that have national significance. This category of monuments was handed over to the ASI for conservation and protection. The second category of monuments consisted of all the monuments that have significance to the state. The monuments in this category were given to the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology of the Government of Goa, for protection and conservation. The ASI handles 21 monuments in the state, out of which 14 are world heritage sites. The Directorate of Archives and Archaeology handles 51 monuments in the state, which are protected and are under their care.

But sadly just like the many other monuments in Goa, the Pelourinho Novo does not feature in either one of these lists.
The pillar has a very debatable history. Although many regard it as the ‘Pillar of Inquisition’, the few accounts available of the inquisition in Goa do not mention anything about the pillar. So, it is still an uncertainty if the pillar had a link to the inquisition imposed in Goa.

The available accounts of the pillar’s history state it to be the centre of economic activity and social functioning. The pillar was said to be located elsewhere and was shifted later on due to congestion of the area. The original location of the pillar was called the Pelourinho Velho, now called the Gandhi circle. It was here where the ‘bazaar velho’ or the old market was located. During the day the bazaar was bustling with activities while at night it would be the area for selling stolen goods at nominal prices. This is why the place was also known as ‘Baratilha’ (a place where goods were being sold at very cheap cost).

The Pelourinho also functioned as a place for announcement of municipal decrees or who the next mayor would have been. Thus it was a centre for important activities and signified a symbol of state authority.

This pillar is referred to as ‘Hat Katro Khambo’ in Konkani, which roughly translates as a pillar where hands were cut. Sources say that the reason behind this name could have been because in the olden days, petty criminals were displayed and punished by cutting off one of their hands. It was used as an implement of civil justice – one landed up in the pillory for not paying one’s debts. The use of this pillar has not been mentioned in any of the accounts, yet it is said that the pillar may have been used during the inquisition.

Although the history and authority over the pillar may be debatable, the citizens of Old Goa regard it with a lot of importance and have tried to conserve its heritage. “The pillar is a part of our history and should be conserved by the concerned authority”, says MC, Shane Almeida, a resident of old Goa. The citizens of Old Goa opposed the shifting of the centuries old Pelourinho from the present site on the highway to Old Goa and suggested to construct a traffic island around it to conserve the structure.

The pillar is regarded with importance by the people of Old Goa and definitely needs a better system in place to look after its conservation. “The pillar should be preserved by the ASI or the Directorate of archives and Archaeology, since it holds a lot of historic relevance,” reckons history lecturer, Prajal Sakhardande.

Source: The Navhind Times

(End of Newspaper report).

The neglect of this heritage monument seems to have been supported by the local Roman Catholic Church, and the local political leaders, the local MLA and the sarpanch. All of them suggesting the pillar should be kept at a traffic island, at the bottom of a hilltop on the national highway.  Under are their statements recorded in a media-report in the Times of India, 4th of August 2008.


The traffic island is already badly damaged by trucks and busses. Now, its only a matter of time when this ancient pilar will be destroyed by a loaded truck that looses its brakes.



The Government of Goa and India must do more than this to protect its heritage monument.

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Jerusalem Post: 2008: The lost Jews of Goa

“On the ruins of an ancient church in the Old city of Goa, 400 miles south of Mumbai on the west cost of India, a carving of a double-headed eagle looks oddly out of place. Among its many intriguing details, the eagle is carrying what appears to be a Torah scroll”.


The full page of Jerusalem Post, Christian edition.

The Jerusalem Post, Christian Edition, July 2008.
By Mr. Ivar Fjeld.

The ruins are located on Rua dos Judeus, or The street of the jews.  In this city that before the inquisition was called “The Rome of the East”. Jewish scholars have not been able to agree what happened to a “notable settlement of Jews in Goa”, as one traveller once described it. In 1956, Walter Fisher, a recognized expert on the Jewish community in India, concluded that the history of Jews in Goa “remains still to be investigated. References to some individual Jews, it is true, indicate a connection between Goa and Jewish life even before the Portuguese conquest”.

Portuguese adventures first colonized the costal province of Goa in 1498, brining along their Catholic faith and in time its dreaded Inquisition. Indian and foreign scholars maintain that the Portuguese converted many Indians and Jews by force, and burned ancient Jewish settlement along the Malabar coast. Old Goa was at first speared, as the newcomers likely turned it into the hub of their expending Asian possessions.
Old Goa prospered as a key trading pot in the fiesta half of the 16th century, with the population brewing to rival the size of London of that day. Local Jewish merchants undoubtedly took part in the building this marvelous city. But in 1560 the Portuguese established an inquisition tribunal. Among the victims of this dark period were the Jews of Goa, who had built a synagogue in the Old city. The town was eventually destroyed, and by 1775 after more than 200 years of Inquisition, Old Goa had been reduced to a couple of thousand soils living in a pile of rubble.

The double-headed eagle and other markings of the church in Old Goa suggest they predate the Portuguese arrival and might be of Hittite origin. At many locations in Goa, the Catholic Church destroyed temples and built Churches on the same sites. In her book Faces of Goa, Karin Larsen writes that when the Portuguese captured Goa in 1510, “the majority of Turkish and Egyptian residents left Goa to escape the clutches of Albuquerque”.

The Jews who lived in Goa prior to this are believed to have roots back to the Sejuk Empire (1037-1309 CE), in todays Turkey, where such double headed eagles can be found in places like Lagash. They had likely come along as a part of the Muslim expansion eastward. When the Portuguese showed up, they deposed the Ottoman figure Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, who was the ruler of Goa.

The writer is the Goa representative for the Norway-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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The Navhind Times: São João feast deeply rooted in antisemitism

The feast of São João has its origin in the persecution of burning of Jews that took place during the Inquisition of Goa.


Local Goans carry and Orthodox Jew on their shoulder, to the place where they will burn “him”. Om 23rd of June.

The Navhind Times. June 25th, 2013:

During the fest of São João, we can see the joy of the people of Goa dancing in the monsoon rain. But few Goan’s are aware of the deeply rooted antisemitism that is exposed during this Catholic feast.

In Nahvind Times, on June 23rd, in the section of Buzz, Maria De Lourdes Bravo Da Costa Rodrigues gives the reader some valuable insight in the spiritual and theological foundations of São João. She writes:

“On the eve of the feast, June 23, youth make an effigy of Judeu, a Jew, from straw, and dress it up in a colourfull outfit. Later in the evening the effigy is burnt and firecrackers are burst”.


Few of these Goans are aware of the orign of this religious ritual.

During the Inquisition of Goa, Jews were sentenced by the religious tribunal, to be burnt at stake. Catarina de Orta, the sister of Garcia de Orta was arrested as a Jew and burned at the stake for Judaism in Goa in 1569 A.D. Sao.jpg

During the years from 1560 A.D to 1812 A.D an unknown number of Jews and Jewish converts to Catholicism, called “New Christians”, were burnt at stake in Old Goa.
There seems to be a need to request all Goan’s not to feast over these crimes against humanity, committed by the religious community of Old Goa. The Goa Government should rather set up an Inquisition Memorial in Goa, a site that can symboliz the need for forgiveness and reconciliation, acknowledging the need for an apology for the crimes committed in the past.

It is also my hope that I never again will see Goan youth burning an effigy of “Judeu”.
The claimed Biblical foundation of the feast of São João, is also another example of antisemitism.

Maria De Lourdes Bravo Da Costa Rodrigues writes:
It symbolizes that the Old Testament had passed away and the New Testament has been installed. Some of the youngsters beat the Judeu with a coconut stick (piddo), simultaneously shouting abuses and condemning him. The beating of Judeu probably symbolizes the animosity against the Jews, who objected to Christianity. The effigy could also represent Judas, Christ’s apostle, who betrayed him for a sum of thirty pieces of silver”.

If this Catholic writer is correct, and the Old Testament has passed away, so have the 10 commandments. Mankind is now free to lie, steal, work on the Sabbath, commit adulatory and dishonor their mothers and father.

If the Old Testament has passed away, so have the Psalms and all Prophecies. Not only Judaism and the Law of Moses. The Bible that Jesus was carrying in his hands, are no longer valid. The New Testament is written after Jesus resurrected, and ascended into Heaven. In the New Testament, Jesus the Messiah is quoted saying the the radical opposite of a possible abolishment of Judaism.

Matthew 5: 17-19
‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”.

All religious communities are free to think whatever they like about the Bible. But for a Christian, the Bible is the highest authority in all matters of faith. Keep also in mind that John The Baptist did not touch alcohol, unlike what we see in the various São João parties of Goa.

Luke 1:15
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.

It is my hope that all Goan’s will take a stand against the crimes of antisemitism that has been committed in past, and take a stand against antisemitism in the Goan society today. We should rather support the Jewish people and the state of Israel, than forgetting them or ignoring them.

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The Navhind Times: The Inquisition Bell

The “Bell of the Inquisition” called Goan’s to “acts of faith” when
Jews and “New Christians” were bunt in Old Goa. The same bell call
the parishioners for mass in the Panjim Church.


The bell that was used to call people for an “act of faith” during the Inquisition, is in daily use.

The Navhind Times, 7th of July 2013. By. Ivar Fjeld. 

The present day Goan’s are free from guilt of the crimes committed
during the Inquisition of Goa in the years 1560 A.D to 1812 A.D. But
few people are aware that the same bell that called the parishioners to
the “act of faith” in Old Goa, are still in use. Today, the “bell of the
Inquisition” calls for mass in the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate
Conception in Panaji.


The bell placed on top of Panjim Church.

The “Bell of the Inquisition” was first shifted from the ruins of St. Augustine complex, former Church of Our Lady of Grace in Old Goa, to the Lighthouse at Aguada. The vault of the St. Augustine complex collapsed in 1842 A.D, and gradually left as a ruin.

Between 1841 A.D and 1871 A.D the lighthouse housed the 2.225 kilo bell. Finally the bell was removed from Aguada, and placed on top
of the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Panaji. The sound of the large “Bell of the Inquisition”, heralded the
beginning of the “Auto da Fe”, or ‘the act of faith”.

A Frenchman, Charles Dellon, wrote an eyewitness account on the crimes committed by the religious tribunal in Old Goa. Dellon believed
in Jesus the Messiah, but was arrested, imprisoned, and put for trial. He recalls an act of faith in August 1676 A.D. Dellon heard the bell ringing, from the cathedral of the Dominican order, who were the persecutors,
or the inquisitors, during the Inquisition in Goa.

“The great bell of the Cathedral tolled a little before sun rise, as a signal to the multitude to assemble for the august solemnnity of the “Auto da Fe”, which is the triumph of the Holy Office, and we were Chapter -VIII, 51 than commanded to go forth one by one”.

In his book “Memoirs of Goa”, Alfredo DeMello also recall the ringing of the bell in Old Goa.

“Standing up all night, at last at 5.30 a.m. the sun rose, and the bell of the cathedral started tolling. This was the signal for the population of Goa to wake up, and come to witness the august ceremony of the “auto da fe”.

In his book “The Goa Inquisition”, A.K Priolkar gives us an account of Dr.Buchanans visit to Goa in 1808 A.D. Also Buchanan recalls the ringing of this bell.

“While we were conversing on the subject (the Inquisition sic), the great bell began to toll, the same which Dellon observes always tolls, before day light, on the morning of the “auto da fe”.

An unknown number of Jews, New Christians and others convicted as heretics, were burnt at stake in Old Goa. Dellon explains not only the living was executed during these acts of faith.

“It is necessary to mention that the jurisdiction of the Inquisition is not limited to the living, or to those who have died in prison, but processes are often instituted against person who have been dead many years before their accusations. When any important charge is preferred against a person deceased, his body is taken out of the tomb, and, in
convictions, consumed at the Act of Faith” His estates are seized, and those who have taken possession compelled to refund. I state nothing but what I have witness”…..His bones were (or perhaps those of some other person who had been buried in the same place) burnt. We know that Garcia da Orta was one of the victims. His grave was
reopened, and his remains put for trial. The bell rang, and his bones
were burned, convicted for the heresy of Judaism, the faith and religion
of the Jewish people.

Who came to Old Goa to participate in these acts?

Dellon writes: «The hall was flled by the Inhabitants of Goa, whose names were
entered in a list”. 52

«We were lead through the principal streets, and every where regarded by an immense crowd which came from all parts of India, and lined all the roads by which we passed. Notice having been given from the pulpit in the most distant parishes long before the Act of Faith was to be celebrated”.

Neither the Vatican, nor the state of Portugal, or the Government of Goa have issued an apology for the crimes committed when the bell of the inquisition rang. There seems to be a need for repentance. To both offcially express regret for the atrocities of the past, and put the religious items of the Inquisition from places of worship and into a museum or memorial.

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