Colvale – Village with a view…

Fluffy white clouds flit across the azure Goan skies as the monsoon sign off. The paddyfields, snuggling in the fertile plains of Colvale, have already turned golden and await harvesting. As Divali arrives, it’s a period of contentment for the largely agrarian population of Colvale, a village ornamented by the riverine charm of the Chapora river.

Spanning the river is a rusty steel-bridge over which passes vehicular traffic bound for Pernem and Bombay. A little beyond the bridge, the river careens northwards and flows between the villages of Dargalim and Pirna. The view of the parallel stretch of palm-bedecked banks, framed against sand-filled countrycraft, is truly magical.

The emerald attire, riverine environs and strategic location must have convinced King Satespor, a descendant of King Porus (who challenged the might of Alexander, the Great), to build his palace in Colvale. Nothing remains of it today but some gold coins were said to have been found in this vicinity. Close by, in the Tanque ward, was the water reservoir for the king’s horses. Here resided the aristocrats and influential officials when the throbbing village of murdoxi (lady fish) and heady feni, was a socio-political hub of the Bardez taluka.

Anyway, Colvale always buzzed with activity, in between wars. According to Fr Gonsalo Rodrigues, who had been to the Court of Adil Shah, oxen caravans would arrive in Colvale from Balghat in the Western Ghats almost twice a week in 1561. Merchants would bring in wheat, sugar, coir rope, chicken and turban-cloth on horses, oxen and mules. From Goa, they would take copra, areca nuts, salt and dry fish. The trade proved crucial to Goa’s survival in the 18th and the 19th centuries, when foreign merchants began ignoring Goa, and the Marathas made living too hot along the borders. In the 17th century, when the Dutch blockaded the coastal routes, the Portuguese trade banked heavily on the Ghat routes for cloth and diamonds from the Deccan.

If the river separates Colvale from Arabo, the Forto Novo fortress separates it from Tivim on the East. Camurlim on the West is a virtual continuance of the undulating topography of the area, with caju plantations covering the hilltops and coconut groves skirting the paddyfields in the low lying portions. Sand is extracted in Colvale, even without the benefit of a beach. With a beach, it would get mixed up with beachfamed Colva (Salcette) more often than now. Of course, Colvale’s billowy topography and red, lateritic earth differs widely from the extensive plains of tawny-coloured soil in Salcette.

Like a sentinel, the strategically located village defended the borders of the Bardez taluka. The Portuguese, who took control of Bardez in 1543, built a fort in 1650 at Colvale for defense against the Bhosles of Sawantvadi, who ruled the Pernem taluka then. Shivaji, however, marched into Bardez via Tivim on November 20, 1667, and captured the Colvale fort. But due to more worrying battles elsewhere, the Marathas left Bardez hurriedly within three days, the place was left thoroughly ransacked though. He put the Franciscan parish priest to the sword because the latter was known to not only support the Portuguese secret service but to squeal on local links with the Muslims. In fact, when Adil Shah of Bijapur attacked Bardez in 1654, the invaders were cheered by many natives, including the first Goan Bishop Matheus de Castro Mahale from Divar.

With a cross in one hand and a sword in the other, the Franciscan missionaries defended the church and the land. The Church of St Francis of Assisi was built by the Franciscans with handsome donations from the locals and the Comunidades of Colvale and Camurlim. Built in 1591, the barrel-vaulted church stands on the Chapora embankment and commands a panoramic view. It used to look after the spiritual needs of the Catholics of Colvale as well as Camurlim, Revora and Nadora. The last three villages already have their own parish churches now.

TIn 1683, Sambhaji’s forces launched a pincer attack on Bardez and Salcette. They remained in Bardez just for 26 days plundered the place at will. The Colvale church was torched and its timber taken away by the Marathas. However, under the guidance of Fr Diogo da Cruz, the frames and timber was retrieved and the church repaired.

This the ding-dong battle went on until the Portuguese signed a peace treaty with the Marathas on September 18, 1740. When the Portuguese recaptured the Pernem taluka from the King of Bijapur in 1754, invasions halted. The Ranes would, however, infiltrate even in the 19th century, and on a couple of occasion they even robbed the church. Till today people have not forgotten the painful days. Though the Colvale fort has already kissed the dust, the ancestors of Wendell Rodrigues are still known as Fortikars.

The kolis (fishermen) of the congenial halli (habitat) fished in the Chapora river for livelihood. Even today man, woman and child can be seen angling along the river and the waterways of Colvale. Kolvaleche kalle khube, of course, are still a Goan delicacy. Traditional professions were also important for the village economy. Dr Teotonio de Souza, the former Jesuit researcher, tells us that local carpenters would produce more farming implements than furniture, and the kharvis would create fishing-ware like koblem, mag, kanttai, zau and ramponn when not labouring on the river.

Being in the thick of war and bloodshed for centuries, Colvalkars have spent sleepless nights. Life was difficult without peace to enjoy the natural beauty and resources. Hence migrations took place at different times for equally different reasons. Some left Colvale fearing wars, others because of conversions. Among these was the famous priest with political ambitions, Caetano Vitorino de Faria. Of course, his reasons were more peculiar because he had participated in the ‘Pinto’s Conspiracy of 1787’. The conspiracy failed, being busted by the Portuguese government, which was to be overthrown.

Still more interesting was Caetano’s son Fr Jose Custodio de Faria, who was born on 31-5-1756 and is known as the Founder of Scientific Hypnotism. Most of Abade Faria’s work was in Paris though he grew up in the Quinta do Abade in Tuar Vaddo. His father being a ghor-zanvuim lived at his wife’s house in Candolim. When the Faria marriage came unstuck, the husband became a priest and the wife a nun, and hence Abade Faria is called a priest’s son. Alexander Dumas fictionalised him in The Count of Monte Cristo. Another descendant, Dr Jose Nicolau de Fonseca, writer of the famous An Historical and Archaeological Survey of the City of Goa lived in the Quinta do Abade near the Refugium Peccatorum chapel. Until a couple of years ago, some ruins of the impressive house were still seen, but someone has already cleared away the stones. In fact, an American woman had came down to Goa sometime ago just to see the ruins of Abade Faria’s house on reading about it in one of my articles.

Buddhism must have existed here because Fr Heras, the Jesuit historian, makes a note of a first or second-century statue of Buddha found at the Muxir Ward of Colvale. Before conversion, Colvale was dotted with several temples dedicated to Hindu deities – Shantadurga (main deity), Shri Rama, Ravalnath, Bhairav, Ramanatha, Dadd, Gauthama and others. When all the temples were decimated, many Hindus fled to Dhargalim across the river with their umpteen idols. Today there are just two temples: the Ram mandir built about 60 years ago at Tari vaddo and the more recent Datta mandir at Chikalim. Though the landed gentry and village elite is generally Catholic, Hindus constitute the bulk of the 6000-plus population.

With the changing economic scenario after Liberation, traditional occupations have undergone several mutations from a caste-based superiority to a class-based one. While rice cultivation keeps Colvalkars busy in the rains, the summer takes them up the thickly wooded hills to pluck cajus. The caju season is an economically fruitful period, when the inebriating aroma of cashew feni and frisky ur’rak satiate the air. Of course, in between they have the coconut trees which are tapped for toddy to distill coconut feni. Today’s traditional occupations also include sand extraction and stone cutting.

Quite a few Colvalkars have inscribed their names in the village roll of honour. Many recall the efforts of the late Belarmino Lobo, literateur and educationist, which resulted into the establishment of the local St. Rita High School at Voizavaddo. The school was once shifted to the vast, 21-room Lima House on the main road. But being a haunted house the ghosts would frighten the children at all odd hours. The Jyotiba Phule High School was started at Raint about a decade ago.

Dr Nicolau Santana Alvares, consulting physician in Bardez, and Dr João Baptista Alvares, former Mayor of Bardez Municipality, rank among the illustrious physicians in the village. The late João Bapitsta de Mendonça was a co-founder of the premier medical institution “Asilo Hospital” at Mapuça. Rt Rev Bonaventure Patrick Paul, ofm dd, retired as the Bishop of Hyderabad in Pakistan. Those who studied at Don Bosco High School in Panjim or Lonavla, will always remember the lovable “Pe Lobo” (Fr Caetano Assis Lobo), because he was not only a good social studies teacher but the longest queue confessions was when he sat in the confessional. Pe Lobo also edited a highly readable Konkani periodical Aitarachem Vachop.The late prof Theophilus Aguiar, Chancellor’s gold medallist at Bombay University, was the principal of St Xavier’s College in Bombay. In the field of music, the late B Paul was a popular saxophonist.

Among the fair and lovely folk, standout model Audrey Casmiro was the toast of the catwalk in her heydays. Mataji Nirmala immersed herself in social work to help the needy, aged and sick. She heads the renowned institution Ishaprema Niketan with homes in Pune and Assagão.

When Goa Chief Minister PS Rane claims that “we have switched over from the agrarian revolution to industrial revolution,” one has to take it with a pinch of salt. Because one Binani Zinc factory doesn’t an industry make, at least in Colvale. It’s the river sand which generates more employment and revenue. Unfortunately, in the search for profits, the contractors are virtually digging the river bed. The labour employed is from other States, while Goan youngster hunt for white collar jobs or fly to the Gulf for greener pastures.

The village cannot progress and develop without kicking the local panchayat and the government into faster action. The temporary 180-metre steel bridge was erected in 1988, and despite being the weakest link on the National Highway 17A, it patiently bears the burden of continuous traffic. But the piers of the proposed 322-metre bridge refuse to straighten up, as if scared to face the fate of the Mandovi bridges. Near the bridge stands the house of Max Sequeira, an art connoisseur with an impressive collection of paintings. Max has grown old and even lost his eyesight while waiting for the Colvale bridge to come up.

There are several impediments to progress. Hence dynamic and talented people should break new paths. India’s top fashion designer Wendell Rodricks did it. Wendell turned his back on Mumbai, the fashion Mecca of India. He set up his studio in ancestral Colvale to handcraft clothes which are in demand at his high fashion salon in Panjim.

Writes adman Frank Simões, “My father too, heir to Colvale’s green hills and verdant valleys, abundant palms and serene river, was a true son of the village, though he made no claim to fame stronger than his love for the place and its people.” “There is a sense of apartness about our village,” Simões adds nostalgically. These persons with vision could work wonders to bring further glory to their native village.There are capable persons like RTO official Servo Fernandes and others, who could shoulder the task.
And Colvalkars abroad could pitch in their bit for the emancipation of the village of their roots. Goan summers then, will never run out of Mankurad ambé, ponnos, murdoxeo and unadulterated feni when Goa’s sons and daughters come home for their vacations.

Joel D’souza