Cortalim (“Kuttale”) in the Mormugao taluka nestles on the south bank of the Zuari about eight km east of Dabolim airport.
The village stands midway between Margao and Vasco-da-Gama and is linked to Agasaim and Panjim in the north by a bridge over the river Zuari where the four-car ferry plied people and materials across the waters for over half a century. The bridge, built at a cost of Rs. 5.5 crore looks down on a constant shuttle of motor barges and stands boldly astride the Zuari adding a new 800m dimension to the changing landscape of bougainvillea trailing hamlets.
Yet despite increasing accessibility Cortalim is a good village to live in; it has an air of gentle charm and quiet ordered life. The Zuari is a bountiful river and its many sheltered bays and inland waterways abound in seafood.
If you fancy water life, you can hire a villager with a canoe and go out into the river around Sancoale and scoop for cockles, fish for crabs, dive for mussels and the famous oyster shells “mendieo”. Many of the river’s soft shell clams are reputed to contain pearls.
Among the sixty villages in Salcete, Cortalim is an ancient village deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and folklore. It was formerly known by the name Kushastali, a Sanskrit word meaning a place where “holy grass” grew which the Hindus of old used for their ritual sacrifices. Today the Church ward known as Igorjevaddo is a pleasant spot with an image, which stays in your mind. Both Hindu and Christian history is carved into the face of its quiet hillside.
According to legend the Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, left Kailash and reached Kushastali, Goa, then a dense forest where wild beast used to roam. Here the Goddess saw a giant tiger, which terrified her. In utter distress she sought the help of Shiva, exclaiming: “Pahi Man Girisha” (Come to my rescue, Girisha). Shiva instantly appeared on the scene and killed the beast leaving behind his linga (phallic emblem). Years later the Shivalinga was found by a shepherd belonging to one Lomasharma, a Goud Saraswat Brahmin. The cult of Shiva then spread among the Brahmins and on the hill where the linga was found, the Brahmin worshippers of Lord Shiva built a temple, known as Manguesh.
In later traditions some orthodox Hindus also identify Kushastali with Dwarka, the birthplace of Lord Krishna who, along with other gods, plays a fundamental role in Hindu religious life. So the Manguesh temple in Cortalim became an important Hindu devotional shrine for pilgrimage and worship.
But, unfortunately, thirty years after Goa was captured the Portuguese in their crusading fury demolished this and other Hindu temples in Salcete. Luckily the temple priests who knew beforehand of the Portuguese plan to destroy their temple secretly removed their idol of Lord Shiva in time and fled to Priol, Ponda (not then under Portuguese occupation), where they built their present Shri Manguesh temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
After Salcete was finally occupied in 1543, Cortalim again assumed importance, this time in the history of Christianity as the first village in Salcete to have been initiated into Christianity in order that the “ruler and ruled” should share the same faith. Accordingly, the “province” of Salcete was allotted to the Jesuit missionaries and Bardez to the Franciscans for the propagation of the Gospel. So on 1 May 1553, on the day of the feast of the Apostles Philip and James, Fr. Pedro Mascarenhas, a missionary priest belonging to the Jesuit Orders, landed on our shores and after arranging an impromptu altar above the river bank, celebrated the first Holy Mass for the conversion of the people of Salcete. Later his first convert to Christianity was appropriately named Pedro Francisco Mascarenhas.
And now to commemorate the arrival of Christianity in Cortalim, there stands a chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a Cross (at Manxer), on whose pedestal the following inscription appears: “On this spot the first Mass was celebrated and the first Cross planted in Salcete 1 May, 1553”.
With the changing spirit of the times a new church was erected on the site of the demolished temple and a parish was established. The church was opened for public worship on 1 May 1566 and dedicated to Saints Philip and James .
In the early years of its history the Church played a significant role in the evangelization of Salcete. Over the years some structural alterations to the church building have been made. A new cemetery was built and recently a new grotto dedicated to our Lady of Fatima was erected at the side of the eastern wall of the vicarage facing the main stairway that leads to the church square.
Inside, the church’s High Altar, carved and gilded, is dedicated to the patron Saints, Philip and James. The feast of the patron saints does not appear to draw much fervor unlike the feast of Our Lady of Livramento which is celebrated annually in November with great devotion and appears to be the most religious festival of the year.
Successive generations in the village have produced men who had, in some years, enriched our lives by their faith and dedication to their cause. Men like Fr. Loriano Fernandes of Igorjevaddo, a philanthropist who bequeathed his house to the “Fabrica” of Cortalim. This gift helped to increase the much needed revenue and enabled the then vicar Fr. Eugenio Coutinho (Cortalim and Raia) to establish the first English teaching school in the village. Later with the assistance of the parishioners and a big donation from the Pontifical Work for Charities, Propagation of the Faith, Rome, he built a modern English High School of Our lady of Perpetual Succour.
There were also notable men in the village who made their contribution in other walks of life. Dr. Herluino Carvalho of Nauta was a physician of repute and a fine orator. Florence da Cruz of Sotram was a budding Portuguese poet. He wrote a book of poems dedicated to his mother before he died in Mozambique where he migrated. Nicolino Colaco of Igorjevaddo was an ardent socialist and noted commentator on contemporary society. He held the first elected office of the village Sarpanch. He was ably assisted by the late Crisologo Coutinho who was a keen social worker. The late Jose Torcato Athaide was also well regarded as a sarpanch for his firm handling of village disputes. Florentino Colaco of Igorjevaddo was an educationalist who was held in great esteem by the people of Canacona where he taught. Also so was Biluart Miranda who taught three generations of our children. Yeshwant Kani was a man with a keen sense of business acumen; he revolutionised the small trading sector of the village. T.C(Juseao) Barreto, ex-Kenya, was an innovator. On his many holiday trips to Cortalim he took great interest in the welfare of the village and actively involved himself in reorganising the village cooperative society and establishing its roots as a growing concern in the face of stiff opposition.
The village has also shown a passion for music, “tiatr”, “zagor” and “kell” (folk plays). Mestre Lourencinho was a devoted man who gave a lifetime of service to the church and to the parochial school. He enjoyed the distinction of organising and conducting the first village band. Among his many bright boys, Miguel Rod was undoubtedly one of the most accomplished Konkani theatrical playwrights and composers of his time. He distinguished himself on stage as a singer and hundreds of his records were sold on the day they were released. And twenty eight years after his death some of his more memorable hits are still being played on AIR In a crowded lifetime of 33 years, he wrote and produced 32 tiatros, amongst them “Ghorchem Kestanv” which won him his greatest acclaim. Miguel Rod was also a charitable man who once generously contributed the proceeds of his tiatr towards the church restoration.
Cortalim is a compact, moderately sized village of some 14000 people. It is divided into 10 small wards. Among these wards, Thana is the principal “show street” of the village where the Panchayat shopping centre and fish bazaar are centrally placed.
Palmar Novo and Madda constitute a thriving area of minor industrial activity. A large part of this land including the ferry, was once owned by Fr. Quadros from Loutoulim, who later settled in Cortalim. He was a benevolent man who dedicated his life to improving the lot of the poor. He founded a school and built the pretty chapel at Palmar Novo of Our Lady of Piedade which has a unique rock hewn altar. He also successfully reclaimed big areas of the Zuari river and planted coconut palms along the shores where in recent years four blocks of warehouses and a number of jetties have been constructed. Today both Palmar Novo and Madda have the appearance of a “mini-dockyard” where mechanised boats, barges and the country craft vie with each other to load and unload their cargo.
Curpavaddo appears to have made good progress with an extended chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and a new school run by its resident chaplain Fr. Joaquim Fernandes. Next to it is Quelossium which had recently been separated from the parish and whose chapel of our Lady of the Infirm has been elected to the status of an independent Church.
At the south end of Igorjevaddo, a road runs over the hill and onto the outlying hamlet of Consua. It was formerly a part of the parish of Cortalim, but its chapel of Our Lady of Livra Febres has also been raised to the status of a separate parish Church.
There are many springs and wells situated in and around Cortalim but the one which is well known in Salcete is the celebrated spring of Kesarval. Many people frequent this tropical woodland spring during hot summer months to have a cool bath and drink from the clear spring water. Some folks still believe that the spring waters have magical curative properties.The village has a fairly mixed economy and some prosperity is generated through local employment. Two local merchants M/s Sardessai and Kamat Bros. both stock and supply traditional building materials. In addition, Sardessai has a barge construction workshop with facilities for marine surveying. M/s Empreiteiros Gerias also build and repair barges.
But by far the biggest employer in the village is the legendary V.M.Salgaocar. He has at Madda one of the most modern barge repair and construction workshops. He owns Industrial Oxygen and acetylene gas units and provides employment to over 200 people here. Today most people in the village a re becoming dependent on wages and those who cultivate their paddy fields are showing a better return for their labour.
The village people are now becoming rather more homogenous in their social habits; one seems to sense a kind of upward mobility mainly through education. Those lucky few who have managed to obtain lucrative employment for themselves in the Arabian Gulf are emerging as “mini-sheiks” – a force for the economic well-being of the community. Their petro-dollars are being turned into many of the lovely new houses which are sprouting not only in Cortalim but in many Goan villages.
Cortalim has a strong fun-loving Catholic majority with a liberal spread of social clubs and tavernas. The community coexists happily with the small but ambitious Hindu minority of shopkeepers and traders. There has been a dramatic growth in small scale enterprise in Cortalim although the village has been designated as a minor industrial area but its potential for development has not been fully exploited.
By and large the people in the village are more critically aware of their surroundings than any previous generations. Perhaps given good leadership at village level they can be made to discard their traditional mould of rural inertia and encouraged to bring about a meaningful change in their socio-economic situation.
Roll of Honour
By: Francis Sequeira