Crocs, Kingfishers and Croatians

cumbferryCUMBHARJUA nestles in the beautiful backwaters of Goa, about 20 km away from Panjim by road via the Banastarim bridge, which offers a scenic, water-dominated vista. But the village bounded by the Mandovi river can be approached faster via the northernmost road beyond the magnificent churches of Old Goa. Cumbharjua is 4 km from the Banastarim bridge, 20 km from Ponda and one-a-half km from its nearest neighbour Marcela. The rural village is definitely well connected with bus transport with nearly a dozen buses taking passengers to Panjim, Ponda and Margao.

Its unevenness escapes attention quite soon as the Croatia-connected Gaundalim is reached. Gaundaulim is the Catholic ward of the predominantly Hindu-populated village of the vast Ponda taluka, located at the centre of the State. Says Braz Silveira, a management consultant from the Gaundalim, who has set up business in Panjim, “It is said that all along the route from the river, once served by a country-craft, grew sweet scented flowers, which gave Gandhaulim (gandh for scent and halli for village) it special name.” He adds, “The Cumbharjua canal detaches Gaundalim from the village mainland, with a ferry helping the rustics cross it every half-an-hour. It’s not a man-made canal but during the monsoons when the river Mandovi unsuited for navigation, the iron-ore carrying barges sailing down from the eastern mines, use the river route to navigate to the Marmagoa Harbour via the river Zuari.”

cumbvillThe backward village is made up of Gaundalim, Surchebhat, Golvaddo, Talapvaddo, Khalapvaddo, Rambhuvanvaddo, Ganvantvaddo and Khadavaddo. It shares borders with Marcella, Banastarim, St Estevam and is enveloped by the Mandovi river and lush greenery. The Cumbharjua-Marcela bridge was built in 1967, before which a canoe was the sole mode of crossing the narrow river.

Delving into the religious background of the village, we are told that the two major temples of Shantadurga and Ravalnatha were shifted to the adjoining village of Marcela, to escape conversion. But the Rama-Sita temple continues till date at Rambhuvan vaddo, where the Ramnami is a cause for grand celebrations every year. The Ram-Sati temple at Ganvant is the oldest temple. Of course, there is a Hanuman Mandir at Rudra Bhat and Mahadeo temple at Golvaddo. The Shantadurga deity is originally from the Corlim village in Tiswadi. It was one of the only three centres where the celebration of the thread ceremony was permitted.

Cumbharjua’s major festival is the Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrated by every section of the Hindu population. During Chaturthi the village comes alive and even attracts handsome crowds from the neighbouring villages, to witness their famed sangodd. It is a rare spectacle in which at least 25 canoes participate. Carrying the idols of Ganapati on the country craft, the devotees take seven rounds of nearly 200 metres each. By that time it is dark enough, and the lamps glitter in the waters as the Ganesh idols and clay figurines are finally immersed. The locals can’t remember when the sangodd ritual originated but believe that it has been observed piously for more than a century.

cumhouse2The village appears to be thickly populated, being a home to nearly 10,000 folk. Of course, the houses are small, nondescript ones except for the majestic mansion of Inacio da Sa. Painted yellow several years ago, the palatial house looks totally rundown now and it is only occupied by the local electricity department’s office. On the other side of the narrow road, stands a small shrine belonging to the house. There are hardly any Catholic families on the Cumbharjua mainland and hence they have just a couple of small chapels but their parish church is of Sao Braz, built by the Croatian sailors, at Gaundalim, on the western bank of the river. The St. Francis Xavier chapel, affiliated to the S. Braz Parish, was founded by the Jesuits in 1655. It was renovated by the Major of the Regiment of Artillery, Ludovico Mourao Garces Palha, the Baron of Cumbarjua, in 1860.

Of course, the Dhume house (with seven wells) and those of Lawande, Kenkare and Vithallbhatt houses, which lie in ruins, comprised the major landmarks of the riverine village once upon a time.

The village has given birth to man of eminence and stature, but when one walks around the rustic surroundings for more information, the simple, friendly folk merely mention some popular names like those of Dr Shyam Bhandari (of Panjim’s Bhandari Clinic); Anant R S Dhume, Director Land Survey (B 1911); Dr Shreekrishna Bhalchandra Kenkre, Obstetrician & gynaecologist; Vasant Chodankar, Principal of Marine Institute (Britona). Sonu Naik was the biggest landlord.

Lying South of Jua (Sto Estevao island), the village owes nearly 70 per cent of the land to the Mangueshi temple. Of course, as the very name suggests, Cumbharjua (the island of potters) is known for pottery, though people along the banks of the Mandovi tributary generally thrive on fishing and by manufacturing coir products. Several among the villagers are blessed with prodigious talent, and Gangadhar Naik, Pondori Naik, Xanu Morya ani Shanu Rane are known for sculpting idols. A number of roasted gram-sellers from the village are found at the popular fairs during festivals all over Goa, particularly for the feast of St Francis Xavier at Old Goa. They reach right upto Fatorpa for the zatra.

Gaundalim or Sao Braz ward lies 5 kms east of Old Goa, on the banks of the Cumbharjua canal (connecting the river Mandovi with Zuari) and is situated opposite the island of Cumbharjua. All along the road, the ruins of the erstwhile Old Goa city covered with thick vegetation can be discerned. The village church situated on a small promontory is dedicated to St. Braz. It was built by the sailors on the pattern of a similar church back in Croatia.

cumgraveIn 1999, a Croatian delegation, led by their Ambassador in India, flew to Goa to have a look at the Sao Braz church. It was a nostalgic and feeling-filled visit that they paid to the eastern land where their ancestors were engaged in boat-building centuries ago. During her research in Goa, a Croatian came upon information that the Gaundaulim church was built by her countrymen. She delved into the subject further and eventually it materialised in the visit of the delegation.

They also believed that there was a big mansion of a rich Croation lady in the village but none could throw any light on it. They were filled with nostalgia to be in the land where some of their ancestors lived centuries ago and some of whom lie buried in the local cemetery.

cumadieuRoads, water taps, transport and other development crept into the villages only after Liberation. Anil Fadte, who runs the oldest shop in the village, says “The village has nearly 500 wells and hence hardly require the services of the tap. Our people prefer the Marcela market for shopping as one finds all sorts of local products brought for sale from the surrounding villages.” While talking of the totally absent industry, he says that the Zantyes had a large modern cashew factory here but now its shutters are down. An old woman, who dropped in to purchase a matchbox to light beedies, reminded him that “there is a factory making door-mats”.

Once upon a time, Cumbharjua was known as the habitat of the crocodiles. The creatures seem to be rather shy and docile, relaxing in the mangroves lining the river banks. The locals still have a Mangeam Puja (Crocodile Puja) when they feed live chicken to the crocs every year, in the belief that the ferocious looking creatures would not attack humans. In recent times, a number of colourful motor-boats constantly plough Cumbharjua’s waters with foreign tourists, who scour the clayey river banks with their binoculars to spot crocodiles. To shoot a photograph, one needs to be sufficiently alert because the muggers leap into the water the moment they detect the slightest sound.

The abundant mangroves are also harbour several species of splendid Goan birds sporting beautiful plummage, particularly the kingfishers. Birdwatching and spotting crocs has become a big business at the Cumbharjua river stretch. But the thorough experts at wildlife are young and dynamic Harvey de Souza and Neil Alvares of the Southern Birdwing, who bring groups of people on tours. It’s worth being on their river cruises because they keep you informed of Goa’s wildlife and every possible question on the topic. There are a couple of comfy house-boats too, some run by Joe Araujo of Santa Cruz, taking off from Gaundalim, to Bambolim beach to the Mormugao Harbour and back.

As far as the educational facilities are concerned, the Sharda Mandir High School, established in 1913, is now run by the government. The primary Marathi School collapsed a couple of years ago and no one has felt the need to restore it.

Many an architectural student visits Gaundalim to have look at the ancient, Croatian-built church on the hillock. It was quite an aristocratic residence once upon a time, says some of the villagers. A group of the European visitors posed for a photograph with the local youngsters on the parish priest’s bed during the reception extended to them by the locals. Others looked at the jackfruit on a nearby tree, and asked the name of the tropical fruit. The bed naturally crumbled with the weight but the photographer had already done his job by then.

A palatial one-storeyed, ancient house with lovely motifs atop the windows, cumhouse1stands about 200 metres from the river. It was bestowed on to the then Captain of Ports by the Portuguese government. A family lives there now but they lack details of its past. A little beyond the house stood a beautiful arch, which opened on the placid river. However, when the ferry route was inaugurated by the Minister of Inland Water Transport, Subhash Shirodkar, on 16-9-1993, the ancient arch was pulled down to make way for the road leading to the ferry.

cumbrailThe Konkan Railway train now passes through the idyllic village, with a level crossing on the Old Goa-Gaundalim road and a small tunnel to the south of the crossing, enroute to the the Carambolim station, beside the famed wetlands. Search out the rustic Cumbharjua village on the Goa map, and book-mark it for a wonnderful tour, to discover the little-seen Goa’s charming interior.

Joel D’Souza



Tiswadi’s Crown – Jewel

This emerald island of Cumbarjua is every bit historic

By Alister Miranda

Islands never fail to fascinate and Cumbarjua is no different. In fact, the more one sifts through the pages of its history, the brighter glows its bewitching grandeur. Literally lying veiled under mantles gifted by various eras, it subtly challenges the inquisitive researcher to uncover its turbulent yet glorious past.

A 20-km eastward drive from Panjim through Ribandar, Old Goa, Corlim, Banastarim, Tivrem and Marcel brings you into Cumbarjua via its bridged entrance. But the 13-km journey through the cool confines of Gandaulim and ferry crossing is what throws up a kind of vintage charm. Merely a stone’s throw away from each other, the Gandaulim-Cumbarjua distance across the crocodile-inhabited canal is perhaps the shortest navigated route in riverine Goa. Crocodile sightings are a common feature along the Cumbarjua canal, but an absolute rarity in the rest of the State. The reason is that prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, the Muslims had a very small fort which was known as Gondolechopar on the Gandaulim side of the bank. Historian Ricardo Michael Teles writes that the Mohammadens used to throw those who were condemned for capital punishment into the canal to be eaten up by crocodiles. The other version states that the Mohammadens used to breed crocodiles so that the enemy would not swim across the canal or walk through from Cumbarjua during low tide. The now navigable canal was formerly a shallow flowing stream, which came to be known as Canal de Cumbarjua after it was deepened by manual dredging by the Portuguese. About 150 years ago, the canal was further developed and so commenced the plying of the popular river craft “Vapor”, which made a daily to-and-fro trip carrying passengers from Panjim to Sanvordem, near the railway station. One of the stops was at Cumbarjua. After Liberation, the canal was again deepened and barges carrying ore from and to the mines of Goa’s north-eastern hinterland commenced plying.

Although bounded on the east by Marcel, Gandaulim and Corlim on its west, Banastarim on the south and St Estevam on the north, except for the bridge connecting it to Marcel, Cumbarjua continues to breathe buoyantly through an aqua-lung.

The ancient presence of kumbhars (potters), obviously, explains its nomenclature, though none practising that trade exist anymore. But what still remains planted is its rusticity in the ever continuing agricultural activity, mainly kept alive by Cumbarjua’s hardworking Gawda community. Fishing is done in small measure.

In an area admeasuring 24,01,550 sq. mts, living in perfect harmony is a population of approximately 7144 Cumbarjuemkars; out of which 85 per cent are Hindus and the rest Catholics; all peacefully settled in Talapwada, Surchem Bhat (which got its name from the whispering palms near the river), Golwada, Takwada, Khadap Wada, Rambhuvan Wada, Mollo wada, Gavant and Thapan wada. According to historian Vinayak Narayan Shenvi Dhume, in1770, Cumbarjua was made up of 486 houses (400 Hindus + 86 Catholics). The Hindu families comprised Goud Saraswat caste of Smarth and Vaishnau, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters, Kunbis, Gaudas, potters, washermen, fishermen and cobblers. Of the 86 Catholic families, ten were those of washermen and five of potters. Muslims were a skeletal few.

Although, Tiswadi, as the name suggests, was made up of 30 villages or wadis, Cumbarjua was no where mentioned in the list of its villages. In fact, the list ended with Gandaulim holding the 30th position. But today, ironically, the name‘Cumbarjua’ epitomises villages constituting the Cumbarjua constituency.

The inhabitants are looked after by an efficiently run seven-member Panchayat, presently headed by Arjun Naik. The village of Gandaulim, represented by Braz Silveira, is one of its revenue wards. The panchayat office functions efficiently with up to date data displayed prominently. The meticulous work of the clerk Suryakant Gawde, a local, is responsible for this, one is told.

All round development is visible, but the only hampering factor is the unplanned construction of dwellings on the land, which the locals believe still belongs to a Portuguese Landlord and not to the Mangueshi Devasthan in whose name the area stands mapped. Besides this problem haunting the panchayat since 1988, it is fighting a long drawn battle to reclaim around 20,000 sq mts of land which has been erroneously clubbed with the Corlim Panchayat, amounting to a huge loss of revenue since the disputed area lies in the precincts of the multi-national pharmaceutical giant Ciba.

Lying close enough to sniff a rat, Ciba is also accused of emitting the foul-smelling gas that the residents have to sniff mostly around midnight and in the wee hours of the morning.

One of Cumbarjua’s long standing needs is a bridge to close the gap between Gandaulim and Cumbarjua. “It will cut short the distance to Panjim by almost 8 – 9 km,” say the villagers, who foresee the ‘development’ of Cumbarjua, especially with the construction of the Amona bridge linking Tiswadi to the Bicholim taluka already begun. But the new bridge that is already on the drawing board, we are told, will not come up at the present ferry point mainly because the Cumbarjua side now stands congested with houses.

In recent times, some of Cumbarjua’s needs are taken care of by a reputed organisation. Thanks to the efforts of Silveira, the Rotary Club of Panjim continues to play a contributory role in the village. In 1998 four block toilets were built for the Sharda Vidhyalaya Government High School by the Rotary Club of Panaji which was followed up with Rs 3.25 lakh for the full-fledged new block which houses a fully equipped library with computers for the school. Another major social contribution is that of Dr Inacio de Sa, who donated an area of 9778 sq mts to the Panchayat for use of a community activity field. In the 1980’s, Dr de Sa, who now resides in Ribandar, generously sold developed plots for a song only to his village brethren, some as little as Rs 6 per sq mts.

Cumbarjua’s history dates back to the early 15th century AD. On the west was Gandaulim which marked the fortified border of the Portuguese-ruled Goa island (Tiswadi), and on the east was Marcel, which demarcated the end of the Bijapur’s Adil Khan’s empire. Sandwiched between the two warring powers, the island, which was considered as no man’s land was often used as a launching pad for attacks on each other by the two aggressors. Later, attempts were also made to capture it and it continued to bear the brunt and scars of these battles. On November 25, 1510, the Cumbarjua island was annexed by the Portuguese from the Muslim king Adil Khan.

After Cumbarjua was captured, the Portuguese began to develop it and the then Governor Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in 1545 handed it over to a Catholic priest Fr. George Dias Cabral, for three generations, with the condition that one-tenth of the produce were to be given to the government in the name of God annually.

In the 19th century, Cumbarjua was divided into four pieces and sold. Out of that sale, one piece was bought by the rich Shenvi Kenkre family. Another portion of the less populated was bought by one Peres. Later circumstances forced them to sell it. Shenvi Kenkre’s land was auctioned by the civil court for non-payment of a loan and thus it was forfeited to the Shree Mangueshi Devasthan, Priol. Peres’ property was sold to the Naique family. After the sale and change of ownership, the Mangueshi temple committee imposed heavy taxes on the residents of the island. This made people, who could not afford to pay the taxes, move to Gaudalim. The temple used to collect taxes from all houses, both Hindu as well as Catholic, but if one would pay a 20-year tax in advance it was considered as life-time tax.

Besides the Kenkres and the Peres’, PratapRao Sardessai, Shenvi Dhume, Bhandari, Prabhu Lawande, were the Hindu landlords and De Sa, Alvares and Sousa were the prominent Catholic landlords.

Among the prominent personalities recorded in history is Rama Custa Sinari, nicknamed ‘Godecar’, meaning: Man of Stature. He was a rich and powerful man who was permitted to ride a horse. So powerful was he that if he addressed a small note to the corridors of power in Portugal, he could overthrow the incumbent Viceroy. . He was known in high government circles as “Rama Portuguese”. But Rama was not conforming the situations of the times. He would terribly despise the lowly and interact only with the educated and intellectual. And this created an atmosphere of hostility. That’s why he was deceitfully assassinated. He was killed and thrown into the canal near Daujim. “One hope was finished, but his name was always written in golden letters in the history of Cumbarjua”, says Dr de Sa.

Purushottam Baban Shenvi Kenkre, who was born in 1812, was decorated by the Portuguese with the titles “Cavalhero de Orde Tonise Espado”, “Official de Ardhe de Cristo” and “Barao de Calapur” – the last of which was presented on June 26, 1873, a year before he expired. In 1859 he wrote a Portuguese book titled “Ensayu Pane Jericu”. He also gave a fitting rejoinder to the famous Portuguese writer Dr Vasco Salos’ writings against Hindus. His political importance was gauged when, in 1872, the King of Portugal Infanti do Agusto, on a visit to Goa, specially went to Calaphur to meet Purushottam. He was appointed by the Portuguese government to frame rules and regulations for Hindu temples in Goa and so the first law for Hindu temples came into being.

Once when Goa reeled under a drought, using whatever means Kenkre had at his command, he brought grains from other Portuguese colonies and put to ruin the selfish and wicked plans of shop keepers who had hoarded grain stocks in order to hike the rates and sell it in the black market. For this act, which helped the Portuguese save face, he was felicitated.

Ludovico Xavier Morao Garsej Palha was conferred the title “Barao de Cumbarjua” on November 21, 1865. He was a very popular person as he worked for the welfare of the people.

Tomas D’quino Garce Palha was a writer who was appointed by the Portuguese to write Konkani text books for primary schools following their softened stand towards the local language.

The other rich and politically influential family was that of Shenvi Dhume . During the regime of Srimant Peshwe of Pune and the Portuguese government in Goa, the Shenvi Dhume family members held high posts. They were originally from Cortalim in Salcete.

In 1751 the most powerful family in Cumbarjua was that of Vithoji Shenvi Dhume. He was a powerful trader, who with his relations with the Viceroy of Conde de Sandomil turned out to be a diplomat. The Viceroy knowing the noteworthy qualities of Vithoji, commissioned him to negotiate the Peace Treaty with the Marathas in the war of 1739. According to Dr Inacio de Sa, on account of this achievement, the Portuguese government nominated him for the post of Corretor dos Mercadores Balagateiros. This was given to his eldest son Panduranga, affectionately called ‘Poquea’, thereby giving him the right to be carried around in a palanquin with an umbrella over his head. He was exempted from paying taxes, ´Xendy’. Vithoji educated his other son Narayan for a diplomatic career. On May 4, 1779, Narayan negotiated in the court of the Peshawas in Pune the treaty that saw the Marathas give up the territory of Nagar Haveli to the Portuguese State of India. Vithoji’s other son Ramchandra on October 10, 1780, brought about a peace treaty between the powerful Hyder Ali Khan and the Portuguese. Also during the ancient times, the Mangueshi temple Bhandar (treasury) used to be in Dhume family’s custody.

Another family of high stature was that of the great warrior Lakhaba Nagoji Naique PratapRao Sardessai. Originally hailing from Nageushi, the landlord and his subsequent generations were held in high esteem by the Portuguese, whom the Sardessai’s helped in repulsing enemy attacks. The family was paid a hefty sum of Rs 1000 dezki as maintenance, informs 62-year-old Anand Nagoji Naique PratapRao Sardessai.

Cumbarjua was home to the first ever cashew nut factory in Asia started by an American lady ‘Hayugas’. Some other businesses that prospered in the vintage era were a textile weaving factory started in 1794, which lasted only three years. It was owned by Barrao de Cumbarjua in his building named “Casa de Administration”. The ruins still stand next to the St Francis Xavier chapel near the bridge. Also in ruin is Shantaram Zantye’s cashewnut factory, which at one time provided employment to many locals. A printing press by the name of “Kalapatru’, owned by Srinivas Loku Bhandari also did well in Cumbharjua, and its first edition of the monthly magazine in 1902 was called ‘Satsang’. Fishnet, choir and handloom also thrived side by side with agriculture and horticulture.

Another first for Cumbarjua was that it was the only village to have street lamps. “There were two contractors who were in charge. During my childhood kerosene lamps atop wooden pillars would illuminate this village,” recalls Vithal Hemu Phadte nostalgically.

On the education front, Cumbarjua soared above the rest of Tiswadi’s villages. Primary Marathi schools existed in the ‘Modi’ script in the 18th century –these schools were run in the verandahs of the well to do, who used to pay the teachers. Around 1910, the Portuguese started a free primary school. Then in 1913, the village people established the Sharda Vidhayalaya and it officially took off on December 4, 1914. It continued as a Marathi medium high school until 1982, after which and till date it is a government-owned English medium High school. Near the existing ferry point (Tarir) on October 31st 1910 was founded the Shri Shantadurga Vachan Mandir library. It was the first and biggest Marathi library, where well-known educationist and literateurs would come and lecture. But the famed library is today closed, it got swallowed into the sands of time. Both, the Marathi school and the library were run by an institution called Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, better known as Centu Promotar de Instrusao de Cumbarjuem which was founded on January 26, 1920.

Today, most of the highly educated, intellectual and rich families from Cumbarjua are spread all over Goa. One of the two primary schools we visited, the one in Ganvant, had a terrible shortcoming. It has toilets that do not function. Such negligence can perhaps only come from Goa’s education authorities. The toilets are ready, all fittings, including a water tank, are in place and all that needs to be done is to get the water running in the pipes, as the pipeline lies cheek by jowl to the school. If this isn’t utter disregard for little school children, what is?

In a particular era, Cumbarjua attracted the sick and infirm. The attraction was the well-known Vaidhya Dr Vaikhyaraj Vithal Babu Kamat Dhurbhatkar who dispensed ayurvedic medicines with rich knowledge of the ‘vedic xashtra’. He was so famous that even those who were educated in Western countries, specialists and even European medicos genuflected before him. He would successfully restore the health, sometimes within even two weeks, of critically ill patients who unsuccessfully had received allopathic treatment in Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.

Between 1816 and 1818 there was an epidemic in Goa. The accompanying fever was weird and caused innumerable deaths and created a state of chaos. During this time, he kept a huge utensil (dhonn) in his courtyard where he boiled and prepared an ayurvedic concoction and distributed it free of charge to the thousands who used to throng his house.

The religiosity of the Cumbarjuenkars never diminished in spite of the Jesuit strictures. They, somehow, managed to remain vibrant though they had to shift their deity Grama Devata (main Goddess of the island) Shree Shantadurga Kumbarjuenkarin to a safe abode in Marcel. Before 1540, the Devata was in Corlim in the Mangada ward where now stands Ciba factory. That time the Goddess was known as Shri Santeri.

The queen of Portugal passed an order on March 25, 1559, that all the Hindu gods will not exist on this island and also no idols should be kept in the houses; and if found they be destroyed and burnt. In fact, all things other than Christian were banned. And because of this order the Gramdevatta was transferred to Marcela in Ponda taluka in Adil Shah’s kingdom.

The Shree Shantadurga Kumbharjuenkarn’s palki travels around Cumbarjua for 15 days. The devi ‘resides’ in her former village for 15 days annually. This Utsav is held at Gudi Padva. Three Nataks are also staged on the occasion, and at times an orchestra is also invited to perform. When it goes back to Marcel on the last day a Gulal Utsav is held outside the temple in Marcel.

Writes 95-year-old Vinayak Shenvi Dhume, that since 1540 all Hindu temples were destroyed from the Goa island, and in 1559 came the new order, the construction of a temple in Cumbarjua was considered impossible and so no attempts were made to build one. Though there is no temple of this goddess on the island, there is a temple of the sub-family (Saha Parivar) dedicated to Shri Ramaya Sati. This age-old temple still exists in the precints of a mud exterior, which resembles a humble dwelling of a house.

The temples that dot the countryside are Ram Mandir, Dattatray Mandir, Ramaisati Mandir, Mahadev Temple, Maruti Mandir, Thapneshwar Temple and Maruti Temple.

There was no Hindu crematorium on this island, as cremation was banned within Portuguese terrritories. Hence, they were forced to take the bodies across by canoe to the next empire in Marcel. Except people belonging to the Gawda and the Madval communities, all the rest are still cremated at Marcel.

The handful of Catholics have always been looked after by the Sao Braz parish of Gandaulim. The first chapel was built by the Jesuits and dedicated to St Francis Xavier in 1655. In 1782 it was demolished and a new Chapel was built by Portuguese Major Ludovico Xavier Morao Garcia de Palha using his own money. This chapel was blessed in July 21, 1860 and is maintained till today. A cross also still stands in front of the crumbling de Sa mansion. The Catholic dead are ferried across and interred in the Sao Braz cemetery. In the early days the devout used the canoe to attend religious services in Gandaulim. At low tide, on request, which was accompanied by a decent tip, the Kashti-clad boatmen used to physically carry them across the canal. Crossing over to Marcel also was by ferry.

A shining feature of Cumbarjua was honesty, which led to a highly successful barter system. “During my childhood I clearly remember the prevalent barter system. The villagers were mostly engaged in agriculture and horticulture. Provisions were never bought against a cash transaction, but rice and other produce given in exchange only at the time of harvest. Even the services of the Barber and Dhobi were paid for in kind,” recalls Chandrakant Vinayak Dhume. “Before, not every one had ornaments, only the well-to-do like the Kenkres, Dhumes, Ghodekars and Bhandaris had the Karan (a box containing ornaments). This Karan would be borrowed by the low class people, with no rent charged whatsoever, purely on trust and returned after use,” he adds.

Although that honesty among Cumbarjuekars is on the wane, the charm of this isle is very much intact and unspoilt. And a trip is all that it takes to breathe the historic air that hovers over Cumbarjua. If you are mobile, use the ferry and watch the clusters of baby swordfish or a crocodile making a rare appearance, or else, use the well-connected public transport system.

Yes, blessed with an impeccable spirit for maintaining traditions, together with the natural beauty and topographically unsinkable location, the Cumbarjua of today could be appropriately described as a Jewel in Tiswadi’s crown.

(Inputs by Vinayak Narayan Shenvi Dhume & Dr Inacio de Sa)


Mukund M Shet – Freedom Fighter

Shankar Naik – Landlord (Chairman & Founder of Vikas Seva Society Kumbarjua.)

Babazin D’Souza – Social Worker

Mahendra Gaonkar – Musician & Sports Organiser

Umakant Kenkre – Asst Commissioner of Customs

Dr Inacio Pio Jesus de Sa – Professor of Medicine Escola Medica Ciriugica de Goa. Mayor of Panjim.

Vishnu Dhume – Retd Director of Accounts

Vinayak Narayan Shenvi Dhume – Historian

Chandrakant Vinayak Dhume – Ex Chief Inspector of Factories and Boilers

B V Dhume – Chief architect of New Orleans State, USA. National Committee memberfor formulation of Building Code.

Dr Shyam Bhandari – Cardiologist

Dr Hedekar – Physician

Late Anant Dhume – Ex-Director of Land Survey

Dr Ramesh Dhume – Pathologist

Late Dr Govind Dhume – Freedom Fighter, General medical practitioner

Savio de Sa – Civil Engineer . Vigilance Officer – PWD

Dr Enid de Sa e Miranda – Psychiatrist.

Parvatibhai Sardessai – Marathi Poet

Lakhaha alias Anand Nagoji Naique Prataprao Sardessai – District Co-ordinator, Bank of Maharashtra

Sadashiv Nagoji Naique PratapRao Sardessai – CBI Public Prosecutor