Hoary Gandaulim

Once the abode of the tribal Gaudas, this historical village also has Croatian links

By Alister Miranda

Its small, its quaint, its picturesque. Laid back Gandaulim lives in the shadow of ‘churchy’ Old Goa, which lies just three kilometres away. Entrenched along the Cumbarjua canal, Gaundale, as it is known in Konkani, is seeped in history. On the face of it, none would ever imagine that Gandaulim in the bygone days was a fortified village having a bustling, prosperous profile.

But, today, there is a kind of bated hush that hangs around in Gandaulim, or, Gaundalim as it is now known. A picture of serenity, the silence that envelopes it makes one reflective of its glorious past. Gloriously verdant at this time of the year, ‘birdy’ chirps are about all you’ll hear, unless momentarily adulterated by the distant hooting sound of the passing train or river crafts. Teak, cashew and mango trees fill up the countryside.

The village was originally inhabited by Gauddes – one of Goa’s tribal communities, from where the name Gandalela got derivated, which was later converted to Gandaulim.

But many believe that Gandaulim is actually the combination of Gandh (scent) and Hal’li (village), and that it meant ‘scented village’ (Gandhhalli). This interesting nomenclature etymology is attributed to the sweet scented flowers that lined either side of the ‘Rua das Flores’ (Road of Flowers) that originated on the Daugim-Gandaulim border, and after passing right through the village, culminated near the riverside. A stone bearing the ‘Rua das Flores’ inscription still lies around in confirmation of the scented flowery mantle that Gandaulim once wore.

Gandaulim is bounded to the north by the island of Sto Estevam (Jua); to the east by Cumbarjua and Marcela; to the south by Corlim and to the west by Old Goa. Prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, the Muslims had a very small fort which was known as Gondolechopar. The historian, Ricardo Michael Teles, writes that the Mohammaden rulers used to throw those who were condemned for capital punishment into the canal to be eaten up by crocodiles. The other version is that these rulers used to breed crocodiles so that the enemy would not swim across the canal or walk through from Cumbarjua during low tide. The fort of Gandaulim was part of Old Goa’s second line of defence, and, in fact, the second of its three doors was at the ferry point. The aesthetic arched entrance through the Gandaulim fort wall was up and standing until Goa’s Public Works Department (PWD) demolished it in December 1994 to widen the approach road to the Gandaulim-Cumbarjua ferry.

This defensive system was started by the viceroy, Dom Antao de Noronha (1564 – 1568), during king D Sebastiao’s 1565 – 1566 reign in Portugal. The second defensive door was reinforced by Dom Pedro Antonio de Noronha, Conde de Vila Verde, in 1698, as this was the most attacked door. The fort withstood the fierce attacks that the Mohammedans launched from Cumbarjua.

Gaudalim is almost cent per cent Catholic, save for the three Hindu houses. In the past, there were 12000 Christians. In 1884, the population dropped to 3475 and 604 houses, while in 1900 the population further dwindled to 96 homes and 511 souls. But these figures also included the Cumbarjua faithful. Today 585 Catholics, which constitute 90 families (Gaundalim – 64 and Cumbharjua – 26) make up the Sao Bras parish, informs the incumbent parish priest Fr Lourenco Mascarenhas.

villagevoice2Christianity’s entry into Gandaulim cannot be pinpointed, inspite of some relevant pointers. When the Portuguese were raising the fortification at Gandaulim in 1551, they found a sacrificial stone on which Christ’s image was carved. The stone was later sent to Lisbon. This, of course, is not enough proof that Christianity existed there before 1551. But, the fact, however, is that when the Jesuits took over the Christianisation of the Gandaulim village in 1558 – 59, the work of evangelisation started in full swing. The priests who participated actively were Fr Pero de Alcacoass sfx, Fr Francisco Rodrigues sj, Fr Melchior Dias sj and Fr Jorge Caldeira sj. About 772 Hindus from Banastarim and Gandaulim are said to have been baptised by 1559.

Perched on a small hillock stands the historic church of Sao Bras. Prior to 1541, there was a hermitage which was meant for the needs of the captain of the fort and the military personnel. The parochial Church of Sao Bras was built in 1563. It was built with funds from the government treasury while the Comunidade had the charge of conservation of the temple. With the extinction of the church of Santa Luzia, all the rich paraphernalia of that church were transferred to the church of Sao Bras. Thus the imposing wooden images of Santa Luzia and that of Our Lady of Health along with its confraternity and funds, vestments, the chalice, the tabernacle and the bell along with the property which serves as usufruct to the vicar came to the church of Sao Bras.

The church has three altars: the main one is dedicated to Sao Bras – patron against throat sickness; on both sides of Sao Bras are the images of Santa Luzia – patron against eye illnesses; and that of Santa Apolonia, patron against teeth ailment. The staff in the hand of Sao Bras is of pure silver and was offered by the Archbishop S Galdino. The side altars are dedicated to Our Lady of Health and Our Lady of Victory alongwith that of St Joseph.

The baptismal fonts bear sharp resemblance to the one existing in the Se Cathedral. In the baptistry there lies an imposing image of St John the Baptist, besides four big old paintings and a smaller one representing the birth of St Francis d’Assisi, wherein his parents are seen with the baby being worshipped by two angels with an inscription: Nascitur in praesepio Francisco.

There are also three paintings of Santa Cristina, Santa Suzana and Santa Margarida offered by Manuel Menezes of Cumbarjua. These are probably from some convent or church from Old Goa.

The feasts in the church are solemnized on February 2 – Our Lady Of Good Health , 3rd February – Sao Bras, December 8 – Our Lady of Victory and Santa Luzia – 13th December. There are also two bells with the following incriptions: S Braz M Soirozo Goa Ano de 1792 and S Luzia Ora Pro Nobis 1745 Feita Pelo Mes. Re Bu Dozo. Both bells had the images of Sao Bras and Santa Luzia respectively.

VillageVoice3There are six epitaphs in the church. However, the one which lies at the entrance in front of the main door of the church, is of an important personality in the Goan history. It pertains to Fr Leonardo Paes who wrote the famous refutation to a book written by Fr Antonio Joao de Frias under the title Pnomptuario das diffinicoes Indicas. Fr Paes died on March 11, 1722. The cemetery was completed in 1841 and has 110 graves.

A slight confusion has been created as to who built the Sao Bras church. Was it really the Portuguese or the Croatians who once lived in Gandaulim. Croatians? Now how do the people of Croatia come into the picture. It was the research carried out by a Croatian scholar, Zorayka Matisic, who while studying Sanskrit in India made this pleasantly startling revelation. It was Matisic, who was instrumental in motivating a high level 15-member delegation led by the Croatian Ambassador Zoran Andric to fly down to Gandaulim last year. They were ecstatic when they saw the petite Sao Bras church, as it is a much smaller replica of church of Svete Vlaho (Sao Braz) in Dubrovnic in their country. Sao Bras, or St Blaise, as he is known in Croatia, is their patron saint, and the glossy books they presented to the Sao Bras church state that ‘according to medieval tradition St Blaise saved the citizens of Dubrovnik (a fortified island in Croatia) during an attack by the Venetians in the 10th century.’ “The Croatians might have come to this village as merchants or brought to Goa by the Portuguese to build ships, as the people of Croatia were expert ship builders”, points out the dynamic Braz Silveira, who is Gandaulim’s lone representative in the seven-member Village Panchayat of Cumbarjua-Gaundalim.

Said the Croatian Ambassador, “We are proud of this visit keeping in mind that the church was built by our ancestors from Dubrovnic. Prof Mastic’s information prompted this visit led by the vice president of the Croatian parliament Vladimir Seks and the members of the television and press. The church is a replica of the thrice larger church in Dubrovnik and even the altar is similar.”

Silvija Luks-Kaloggera, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia, added, “More important is the palace down here, also said to be built by Croatians 400 years ago. I am very proud that a high-power delegation has visited the place. What is worth noting is that scientific work is not completed because there are two theories: one says that it was built by Dubrovnic, and the other that the people from Dubrovnic, who arrived here in 1630, when Goa was occupied by the Portuguese, built or rebuilt the church. The design on the left side of the wall of the church proves that such architecture does not exist here. The people of Gandaulim and Cumbarjua celebrate the feast of St Bras exactly on the 3rd of February like the people in Dubrovnic.”

The plague that destroyed Old Goa had the people of Gandaulim, the Croatians included, fleeing for their life across the river to the islands of St Estevam and Cumbarjua. The village lay deserted for a long time. New settlers, mostly from Divar, trickled in and their descendants make up the present Gandaulim. Just 25 of them are Gaunkars of the Gandaulim Comm-unidade.

They now peacefully co-exist with each other, to the extent of mostly even marrying within the village. The religiosity that they exude, specially ever since Fr Mascarenhas took over since last month as resident parish priest, is impressive. Fr Anton Filipe Pais – former Episcopal Vicar of North Goa, handed over the baton to this young charismatic priest, but not before forming the Parish Pastoral Council and various liturgical committees. The parishioners are thankful for getting a resident priest, and as a mark of appreciation they have restored the ramshackle parish house. The other major restoration was perhaps last done to mark the fourth centenary of the church in 1963 under the watchful eyes of the late Fr Vitorbo Sequeira.

VillageVoice4Though Gandaulim has no wards as such, the village is divided into six vibhags (areas). This is mainly to foster brotherhood and enhance spiritual growth. Led by the untiring Fr Mascarenhas, the Gaundalekars are of late totally involved in various religious activities throughout the week. A kind of spiritual awakening has been brought about in Gandaulim. And news is fast spreading. So much so, that large number of faithful, even non-Catholics, from other villages come to Gandaulim to attend the intercessory services held between four and six pm every Wednesday; preceded by full-day adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confessions. The parish bulletin Amchem Xitall Fantem (Dawn) reflects the Catholicity of the village.

The Gaundalekars are endowed with the gift of patience, of which the powers-that-be obviously, have taken undue advantage. Their uncomplaining nature perhaps has deprived them of a school, a post office, a primary health centre, and, above all transport services. Unbelievable but true, there is a lone Kadamba bus that makes only one to-and-fro trip to Panjim and back, at 7 am and 1.30 pm respectively. The only other means, besides private transport, is to cross over by ferry to Cumbarjua (which thankfully makes trips every 15 minutes) and take a bus via Marcel to Panjim. The only school that has ever seen the light of day was the Parochial School that taught Portuguese. Gandaulim, also has been suffering with silence ever since the Ciba Ceigy plant took birth at Corlim. Wind-carried fumes from the factory at times have a choking effect on the residents. The elders blame the depletion of varied shell fish from the Cumbarjua canal to the waste let out by the pharmaceutical giant.

As if keeping watch over the village from near the ferry point is the over 400-year-old mansion that once housed the late Antonio Caetano de Sa, the last captain of the Gaudalim fort. Antonio’s 70-year-old great-grandson Jose Antonio Philomeno de Sa now lives in the dilapidated structure along with his family. “My father told me that once upon a time we were very rich, but an armed robbery reduced us to penury,” informs Jose, while quietly nurturing hopes that the Croatians will help in repairing his abode. But he, like any typical Gaundalekar, is not complaining either. Holding on to the memories of the past, he shuffles through the present, while looking expectantly at the future.

What tidings the future will bring to this ancient village cannot be foretold, but, as the exuberant Cosme D’Silva puts it, ‘Gandaulim will continue to be like a refreshing pleasure resort.’

Inputs from Percival Noronha, Dr Inacio D’Souza and Joel D’Souza