By Glenis Maria D’souza

If you behave a little idiosyncratic in Goa, don’t be surprised if you are called a ‘Moidekar’. The legendary village of wise fools, Moira, is a cozy hamlet well located in the heart of Bardez, cuddled on either side by the Rio de Mapusa and its Uccasaim branch. It is typically an agrarian settlement with far stretched fields which once upon a time produced the famous ‘Moidechim Kellim’ (Moira Bananas).

moirabananaThe North Goan taluka of Bardez gets its name from the words “Bara des” or the twelve Brahmin dominated villages that once upon upheld the region. Along with Aldona, Anjuna, Assagao, Candolim, Nachinola, Olaulim, Pomburpa, Punola, Saligao, Sangolda and Serula, Moira too forms a noteworthy constituent of “Bara des”. Moira apparantly derives its name from “Moriya” or Mauryan settlement. This hypothesis of Moira’s etymology can be inferred from the Bandode copper plates of the Mauryan maharaja Anirjitavarman dating back to the 6th-7th century AD.

Prior to the Portuguese inquisition conducted in the form of “baptismo geral” (mass baptism), the inhabitants of Moira consisted of staunch and pious Brahmins. During this time, the God-fearing village embodied seven temples – those of Ravalnath, Santeri, Mahadeva, Rampurush, Vanti-purush, Satpurush and Dadd. It is said that the Portuguese destroyed these temples in one of their waves of religious persecution, the idols were taken to Mulgao in Bicholim.

Povoacao or “Gavant”,  as the Portuguese name suggests, was the principal of eight wards inhabited by the invaders after the inquisition. The other seven include Sataporio, Rai Santeri (Raint), Pirazona, Kallizor, Atafondem, Bambordem and Novo Portugal. While Sataporio and Rai Santeri are distorted versions of the deities of the temples, the wards like Kallizor and Atafondem seem to owe their names to some characteristics of their respective locale – the black water (Kalli – zor) of the rivulet in the first case, the hardness of the ground which requires the use of a special manual implement (the hat – fonddi), in the second.

Bambordem probably gets its name from the words “Bamon ordem” suggesting that this place has a population of 50% non-brahmin living alongside the Brahmins. Or else, the name could also suggest the presence of bamboo plantations in the largely forested ward. Pirazona, as a name could probably emerge due to the presence of a Mohammedan Pir in the area.

In the recent past a little riverine ward Canturlim was added to the original eight, which once formed the hub of the commercial activity due to its proximity to the river. This ward has however, often been clubbed with Raint for the sake of convenience.

Some imposing edifices which are steeped with historical significance include the Immaculate Conception Church, the Moira Club whose official name reads “Associacao Academica de Moira” and the Moira St. Francis Xavier High School.

Prof. Teotonio de Souza, a renowned historian and son of Moira, asserts that the church of Moira was built in 1619 and achieved the distinction of a full parish in 1636. The original church was probably a temporary structure made of mud walls with a thatched roof. Between 1636 to 1838 numerous improvements, constructions and repairs were made. The parochial house was built in 1841. On February 6th 1916, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and the monument of Christ the King were added. The Church dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception has a few statues of great artistic and historical value. This includes an Ecce Home statue – a Crucifix with four nails, two nails for Christ’s two feet, which stands sturdy in the Church cemetery. This statue was brought from the Franciscan convent in Old Goa. In 1835, at a public auction the grand bell of the church was bought and to accommodate it, an enlarged belfry was erected in 1839. Interestingly, a Shiva linga which was once used as a pedestal for the holy water basin at the entrance of the church was noticed by an archeologist and now lies in the Archeological Museum at Old Goa.

Affiliated to the Church are the Chapels in different vaddos. St. Sebastian with an ash grey façade is one of the oldest chapels. Ancestry holds that if for any reason the church could not keep the Blessed Sacrament, it was kept here. The Chapel was enlarged in 1927 and opened to the public in 1932. Within a stone’s throw from this chapel is a wayside “Khuris”, one of the earliest crosses in Moira, built in 1602 probably by the earliest Christian converts. It is also believed that the original patron of the Church of Moira is St. Sebastian. But over the years, the focus has moved to the worship of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. For this reason, the feast of St. Sebastian is first celebrated at the Church and then at the Chapel.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel, with a toothpaste-white exterior, is positioned in Alto-Sataporio. This Chapel opened to the public in 1905 holds a very artistic image of Our Lady of Piety, and lies in close proximity to the residents of Sataporio and Bambordem. Likewise, on the Kallizor plateau is the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, built in 1909, by the residents of Kallizor and Atafondem. Besides in the low lying pocket of Kallizor, there is a minuscule Chapel, built in 1872, dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Today, Moira is privileged to have the Dominican friars setting up their abode in Pirazona. In the house gifted by Fr. Victor Dias, the Dominicans have constructed a seminary to train novices in various ministries. Along with the Holy Cross chapel of Pirazona, the Dominicans have their own in-house chapel with an ornate tabernacle and altar and beautiful interior design.

Though majority of the Moidekars are Christians, their roots lie in Hinduism. If today a Christian Moidekar (ganvkar) tries to trace his vangor (original clan), he would turn out to be either a Prabhu or Kamat. It was only through conversions that religious changes brought about subsequent change in culture and name. Till today we have a few temples still standing sturdy. For Instance, the Rastroli temple at Bamordem (tin mansher) and Satteri temple at Pirazona. Some Hindus of Moira also worship at the temples of Ganesh and Ravalghali in the neighbouring villages of Nachinola.

From religious matters to secular ones!!! An important edifice which evokes nostalgia is the St. Xavier’s High School. Situated at the confluence of three wards – Raint, Pirazona, Novo Portugal, this school was built in 1935, and founded by Mr. Manuel Francisco D’cruz. The school, initially a small ancestral house, has grown to accommodate students not just from Moira, but also from neighbouring villages like Uccasaim, Olaulim, Nachinola, etc. Many a poor student from Moira owes his gratitude to Mr. Manuel Francisco D’Cruz who accepted to teach children of families without means, free of charge. Mr. Manuel D’Cruz still lives today in his native village of Nachinola and will be celebrating his 90th birthday shortly. He always loves to hear from his ex-students and many keep in touch with him and have financially supported him in his current hardships.

moiraschool1Each new principal has brought changes for the better making Moira proud to have such a school. Besides this high school, there are two government primary school (shalla) situated at Alto-Calizor and Bambordem.

At the nerve center of the Moira village lies a major landmark – the Associacao Academica de Moira, popularly called the Moira Club. Founded in 1920-21, A. A. de Moira has grown to be a cultural hub of the village organizing various sports and socio-cultural activities. Presidents have changed, new faces proudly call themselves club members, but the club house with its royal blue and white façade, along with a vast football ground facing it still stands strong. The club is one central haunt which is often throbbing with activity. It is known to be the second oldest club in Goa and provides a cordial atmosphere to everyone irrespective of religion, age, sex, or nationality.

The people of this magnificent village are fun loving, hardy and cheerful. Most of them work in the fields or in neighbouring cities. Fresh green tendlims, succulent vegetables and tusk shaped bananas are the famous agricultural products of Moira.

However, one is sad to note that Moira is not the green, bustling and serene old village of the past. Every passing year has brought with it changes. Mr. Nazar Da Silva, pictures the present day Moira in his article “Despair and Hope” to a Canadian Magazine: “Don’t come back looking for nostalgic memories of Moira, you are bound to be disappointed. The sun is still hot, the rain is still wet, but the runoff is much greater and the wells go dry much sooner. Agriculture is a mirage and the Moira banana, an extinct species. Paddy does not pay because of the high cost of labour. In every vaddo of the village numerous homes are either closed or abandoned, for more than 25% of the original Moidekars have migrated.”

We wistfully agree with Mr. Nazar and even notice the change in landscape which has been brought about by the erection of concrete jungles, posing a threat to the environment. Supermarkets dwell side by side with the local posro and taverns lure customers to make quite a profit.

Despite these dark clouds, we have a ‘silver lining’ emerging through eminent personalities like Dr. Teotonio de Souza, Charles Correa, Gokuldas Nagvekar etc. who have made Moidekars proud through their noteworthy achievements. (See section Eminent Moidekars)

So we see that the majestic village of Moira encompasses culture, heritage, legacy, tradition, a native wisdom and much more. Besides, it has also changed with the times adapting itself to newer ideas and ways for better or worse. Moidekars who were considered as the legendary Church pushers have emerged triumphant to take Moira on the global front. This article is in fact a step towards achieving this endeavour.

Thank You is a small word, but it means such a lot. At the onset, we would like to thank Fredrick Noronha (“Saligaocho Kolo”) who has howled his way into strengthening our initiative.

Also, we are grateful to Prof. Teotonio D’souza for allowing us to use his research on Moira.

Suggestions and comments may be sent to Gordon Mendonca