J.C. Barreto Miranda, a Goan historian, speaks of this Holy office: "The cruelties which the name of the religion of peace and love this tribunal practised in Europe, were carried to even greater excesses in India, where the Inquisitors, surrounded by luxuries which could stand comparison with the regal magnificence of the great potentates of Asia, saw with pride the Archbishop as well as the viceroy submitted to their power. Every word of theirs was a sentence to death and at their slightes nod were moved to terror the vast population spread over the Asiatic regions, whose lives fluctuated in their hands, and who, on the most frivolous pretext could be clapped for time in the deepest dungeons or strangled or offered as food for the flames of the pyre."
The Goa Inquisition was established in 1560 as recommended earlier by St. Francis Xavier, and finally abolished in 1812. Although its headquarters were at Goa, its jurisdiction extended to entire Portuguese possessions to the East of the Cape of Good Hope, and it had its Commissaries in other major centres. It was started originally to punish Christian converts from Judaism, but next it turned its attention to native converts to Christianity from other faiths, almost all of whom had been converted by threat of force or material rewards.
This Book presents a dispassionate and objective account of the various aspects of the activities of the Inquisition at Goa, against the wider background of the religious policy of the Portuguese in the East. It is mainly based on contemporary material, such as documents in the official archives, correspondence of the Jesuit missionaries and information given by European travellers. At the end its reprinted an account given by Dr. Dellon of his experiences as a prisoner, for about three years.
The Inquisition was established in Goa in 1560. Although known as the Goa Inquisition, its jurisdiction extended to all the Portuguese colonial possessions to the East of the Cape of Good Hope. Four hundred years have now elapsed since Its establishment and the present volume, therefore, has been described as a Quater-Centenary Commemoration Study.
It is more than two decades since I first thought of writing an account of the Goa Inquisition. A volume on the early history of the Printing Press in India, intended to commemorate the quater-centenary of the establishment of the first printing press in Goa by the Portuguese in 1556, which was planned much later, was published three years ago. It is true that the establishment of the printing press in India took place earlier than that of the Inquisition. But the book on the Inquisition was not deliberately delayed to make its publication coincide with the quater-centenary of its establishment. The delay in its publication is in a large measure due to the fact that the task of writing a history of the Inquisition was more difficult and much less pleasant and it was undertaken after considerable hesitation. The history of the printing press in India is a record of achievement and progress and an Indian writer who traces it is called upon to discharge the pleasant duty of acknowledging with gratitude the debt 'which India owes to the pioneering work of the Portuguese and other Europeans. On the other hand, the story of the Inquisition is a dismal record of callousness and cruelty, tyranny and injustice, espionage and blackmail, avarice and corruption, repression of thought and culture and promotion of obscurantism and an Indian writer who undertakes to tell it can easily be accused of being inspired by ulterior motives. From this point of view, it would have been appropriate if the task had been undertaken by a Portuguese historian of the stature of Oliveira Martins, Pinheiro Chagas, Alexandre Herculano or Cunha Rivara. Such a writer would also have done fuller justice to the subject. But in the present circumstances there is little chance that a popular work of this nature from the pen of a Portuguese writer would be forthcoming in the near future. Works of historical research like those by Antonio Baiao, which have been drawn upon in the preparation of the present volume, are likely to interest the student of history rather than the general reader. In the present volume scrupulous care has been taken to eschew bias and present a dispassionate and objective account of the working of the Goa Inquisition. Inspite of this, the picture which emerges is undoubtedly grim. But this could not be helped as truth had to be told. In situations of this nature the historian should be guided by the following memorable words of Pope Leo XIII:
"Endeavour most earnestly to refute all forgeries and false statements, after investigating the sources of the subject-matter. The historians should keep foremost in their minds the fact that the first law of history is that no one should dare to utter falsehood and hesitate to state the truth." ("Enitendum magnopere, ut omnia ementita et falsa, adeundis rerum fontibus, refutentur; et illud imprimis scribentium observetur animo, esse historiae legem, ne quid dicere audeat, deinde ne very non audeat."
-Letter of Leo XIII of 18th August 1883 to the Cardinals: De Luca, Pitra Hergeuraether).
The records of the Inquisition should have formed the most important source of information for writing an account of its working. Unfortunately, they are not available either ill Goa or in Portugal and there is reason to believe that they were destroyed. In the absence of these, it became necessary to draw mainly upon the documents in the official archives in Goa, and published conternporarv correspondence of Inquisitors and Jesuit missionaries. Some information relating to the Goa Inquisition which is available in the records of the Inquisition of Portugal has also been published. Occasional references to it are also found in the accounts of contemporary European travellers to India. Another major source of information is the Relation de l' Inquisition de Goa by Dr. C. Dellon (Paris, 1688) in which the writer gives an account of his own sufferings as a prisoner of the Inquisition of Goa. An English translation of this work is reprinted in the second part of this volume.
It will be seen that the account given in. this volume is to a large extent presented in the words of the original documents on which it is based. In my view this procedure not only adds to the accuracy and authenticity of the narrative but also helps to recapture the contemporary atmosphere.
An extract from the Christian Researches in Asia by Dr. Buehanan, who visited the Inquisition of Goa in 1808, is also printed in Part II. Dr. Buchanan's writings contributed to bring about the abolition of the Inquisition of Goa.
Some particulars about Dr. Dellon and his account of the Inquisition of Goa are given in Chapter IV of Part I of this volume. I have also shown in the same chapter that doubts about the authenticity of Dr. Dellon's account raised by some scholars in India are baseless. The English-translation of Dr. Dellon's account which is reprinted in Part II was published in 1812.
The immediate cause of the establishment of the Inquisitional tribunals in Spain and Portugal was the tendency to apostasy noticed among the enforced converts to Christianity from Judaism. These were known as New Christians and the slightest suspicion of adherence to any of the ancestral customs of Judaism on their part, whether of religious significance or not, sufficed to justify arrest and trial. The story of the Inquisition, which forms an integral part of the age-long heroic struggle of Judaism for survival in the face of pitiless persecution and countless miseries, will, therefore, always prove of special interest to the Jews. In the sixteenth century the New Christians of Portugal largely availed themselves of the opportunities provided by the colonial trade in the East and established themselves in Goa and its dependencies. The atmosphere of comparative freedom there encouraged them to observe less caution in their day to day life than at home. Scandalised at this laxity, the Portuguese missionaries demanded the establishment of a Holy Tribunal in the East and it was, therefore, natural that the New Christians should have been the objects of the solicitude of the Goa Inquisition also. In the East there were also the native converts, a large majority of whom had been brought within the Christian fold by threat of force or lure of material rewards. It was inevitable that many of these should also continue to adhere in secret to their ancestral beliefs and practices and the energies of the Inquisition of Goa were also directed towards the prevention, detection and punishment of these heretical tendencies. As a consequence, the life of these new converts was rendered so insecure that many of them left the land of their birth and settled down in the adjoining territories outside the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. The Hindus living within the Portuguese dominion, were forbidden to observe their ancestral rites and customs, even behind closed doors, and subjected to many other discriminatory laws. The Inquisition took a prominent part in enforcing these measures and the resulting harassment was so great that many of the Hindus also emigrated to neighbouring territories. Thousands of Konkani-speaking families, both Hindu and Christian, who are found scattered in various centres in Mysore, Kerala and Madras today are the descendants of these emigrants. The present volume should be of special interest to them as it would help them to trace the history of their ancestors and explain the circumstances in which their families were forced to leave their original homes.
I wish to thank the Board of Trustees of charitable institutions and funds of the Goud Saraswat Brahman Community of Bombay for the grant given for 'the publication of this volume. I also acknowledge my indebtedness to the Poona University for the grant-in-aid towards the cost of publication of this work.
I am indebted to many friends for their valuable assistance in bringing out this volume. I wish, however, to refrain from mentioning them by name, as I am afraid this would cause embarrassment to many of them and might even place some of them in difficulties. It must be remembered that the Inquisition has been abolished but the spirit which guided its activities is not entirely extinct.
I wish to thank the authorities of various institutions who allowed me to make use of books in their libraries in the preparation of this volume. I am grateful to the authors of standard works on the subject which, as the footnotes to the text would indicate, I have freely drawn upon. In particular, I have taken the liberty to include in the volume pictures appearing in some of the old standard works. I must also place on record my appreciation of the excellent work done by the Bombay University Press.
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