The Goa Inquisition

Dr. T. R. de Souza

"At least from 1540 onwards, and in the island of Goa before that
year, all the Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all
the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building material
was in most cases utilized to erect new Christian Churches and
chapels. Various viceregal and Church council decrees banished the
Hindu priests from the Portuguese territories; the public practices of
Hindu rites including marriage rites, were banned; the state took upon
itself the task of bringing up Hindu orphan children; the Hindus were
denied certain employments, while the Christians were preferred; it
was ensured that the Hindus would not harass those who became
Christians, and on the contrary, the Hindus were obliged to assemble
periodically in Churches to listen to preaching or to the refutation
of their religion."

"A particularly grave abuse was practiced in Goa in the form of 'mass
baptism' and what went before it. The practice was begun by the
Jesuits and was alter initiated by the Franciscans also. The Jesuits
staged an annual mass baptism on the Feast of the Conversion of St.
Paul (January 25), and in order to secure as many neophytes as
possible, a few days before the ceremony the Jesuits would go through
the streets of the Hindu quarter in pairs, accompanied by their Negro
slaves, whom they would urge to seize the Hindus. When the blacks
caught up a fugitive, they would smear his lips with a piece of beef,
making him an 'untouchable' among his people. Conversion to
Christianity was then his only option."

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 victims (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 head.

Diago de Boarda, a priest and his advisor Vicar General, Miguel Vazz
had made a 41 point plan for torturing Hindus. Under this plan Viceroy
Antano de Noronha issued in 1566, an order applicable to the entire
area under Portuguese rule :

"I hereby order that in any area owned by my master, the king, nobody
should construct a Hindu temple and such temples already constructed
should not be repaired without my permission. If this order is
transgressed, such temples shall be, destroyed and the goods in them
shall be used to meet expenses of holy deeds, as punishment of such

In 1567 the campaign of destroying temples in Bardez met with success.
At the end of it 300 Hindu temples were destroyed. Enacting laws,
prohibition was laid from December 4, 1567 on rituals of Hindu
marriages, sacred thread wearing and cremation. All the persons above
15 years of age were compelled to listen to Christian preaching,
failing which they were punished.