Goa-Karnataka Nexus through the Centuries
by K. L. Kamat
Stop the Kannada-Konkani animosities!
The history bears witness to the symbiotic, and brotherly relationship enjoyed by the people of Goa and people of Karnataka for a thousand years. Here I have tried to list some of the more important cultural and historical bonds between the two states.
© K. L. Kamat
One of the early connections between the two states are documented when the Kadambas of Banavasi (in present day Uttara Kannada district, known as "Vaijayanti" then) won over some parts of Goa. The province of Goa (documented as Gove or Gova) was later occupied by two important Kannada dynasties, the Chalukyas of Badami and the Rashrakutas (c. 757 A.D.),. Goa saw a great deal of development during this period and established itself as an important business center. Subsequent rulers of Goa, the Kadambas of Goa, actually had Chandavar (then known as "Chandrapur") in present day Uttara Kannada, as their capital. The braver of them, king Jayakeshiraya got his daughters married to delegates in Karnataka and laid a solid foundation for the friendship of the two states in the centuries to come.
The First Exodus
In the year 1294 A.D. the Mohammedans repeatedly attacked Goa and looted the kingdom. They also started the harassment of the Hindus and forceful conversions. In 1310 A.D. the army of Malik Kafur snatched the kingdom from the Kadambas and destroyed many of the temples in the region. The Kadambas, who had ruled Goa for three hundred fifty years, had to abandon Goa, even burying the idol of Saptakoteshwara, their family deity, in a field to protect it from destruction before leaving. In the year 1335 A.D. a large number of Hindus migrated to Karnataka, descendents of whom form the powerful Konkani community in the state today.
Vijayanagar to the Rescue
The Vijayanagar kings of Karnataka then came to the rescue of Goa. The king chose Mahadev Mantri, a Kashmiri Saraswat Brahmin, to lead a large army and liberate Goa from the Muslims. During the reign of Harihara II (1376 - 1404), Goa was colonized by the prosperous Vijayanagar rulers. Many of the temples of the Kadamba period were resurrected and generous grants were made for the welfare of the temples. We can trace the benevolence of this act of Mahadev Mantri even today in the fact that all those temples had enough resources to sustain during the onslaught of Portuguese in the next century.
So the role of contributions from Karnataka to preserve the history and heritage of Goa within Goa is huge.
The addition of Goa to Vijayanagar kingdom further strengthened the Vijayanagar Empire, as Goa was an important port for military supplies and trade from the Arab countries. To deny his enemy this important port, the Bahamani king sent his army to conquer Goa in the leadership of his famous general Mohammed Gawan. After two years of fighting, Goa fell to Gawan in 1472 A.D. However the Bahamani kingdom fell later the same year, and Adil Shah of Bijapur assumed the reigns. He was the fourth Kannada ruler (after the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas and the Vijayanagar kings) of Goa till the Portuguese defeated him in 1543 A.D.
The Second Exodus from Goa
The governing Portuguese in Goa wished that all its citizens followed Christianity and appointed several missionaries for the task. However, many of the locals were neither attracted to the Christian philosophy nor the material benefits that were awarded to the converts. So the Portuguese changed strategies and resorted to coercion and legal harassment in 1560 A.D. A large number of Hindus, among them Saraswats, Goud Saraswats and Kudubis, migrated to the neighboring forests of Karnataka, and have lived there since. Many Indian Christians (according to Ibn Batuta 1342 A.D., there were Christians in Goa much before the arrival of Portuguese, who co-existed with the Hindus) also migrated, on the accusation that they were secretly practicing Hindu customs.
Many of the new immigrants were skilled businessmen and administrators, as the rulers of Karnataka quickly discovered, and appointed them to high posts. The kingdoms of Gerusoppa and Keladi appointed Saraswats as diplomats to Mangalore and Cochin, strongholds of Portuguese and Dutch respectively. Venkatappa Nayaka of Keladi appointed Vithal Shenoy as the chief administrator in 1623 A.D., and Vithal Shenoy helped broker many business deals with foreign tourists and colonists. Later Vithal Shenoy introduced Italian traveler Pietro della Valle to the king, and hence was responsible for one of the most important sources of history of the region of the period. The gifts given by Vithal Shenoy to Pietro della Valle are preserved in museums of Italy.
We find numerous other Konkanis served in important positions of government under different kingdoms constituting the present day Karnataka. Konkani leader Narayana Malya supported Queen Chennamma of Karnataka in her battle against Shivaji.
Goan (Konkani) Culture Prospers in Karnataka
The immigrants from Goa had brought with them their distinct architecture style that was suitable for the Indian west coast, in addition to their favorite deities. As a result, we see that there is very little difference in the construction styles of Hindu temples in Nageshi, Mangeshi, and Shantadurga, and those in coastal Karnataka. The new immigrants built a number of temples in the region, some of which are existent even today.
The Portuguese tried to conquer more territories moving south into Karnataka, but the ruler of Bhatkal, Queen Bhairadevi defeated them with the help of her newly naturalized citizens (Goans). At the humiliation suffered at the hands of his former wards, the viceroy of Goa, Martin Alfanso De Souza took the extreme step of destroying all of Hindu temples of Goa, and killed many Hindus in an act of revenge. However, the Konkanis made up for loss of the heritage by erecting bigger and grander community centers in their adopted land. Raghunath temple built in 1567 A.D. by brothers Bala and Narayan Kini, Tirumala temple built by Santappa Nayak in 1565 A.D., and Kethapai Narayan temple of 1546 A.D. were constructed in this context at Bhatkal.
The craftsmen from Goa also brought with them the monochrome fine art of Kavi (Indian red) art, and have enriched the arts of Karnataka with this distinct form of art. This form is still seen on many temples on the west coast of Karnataka built in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Kudubi (a.k.a. Kunubi) community, similarly have enriched the Kannada culture through their hunting traditions, folk festivals, and music. The Kharvis were a ship building community in Goa that migrated to Karnataka and have contributed to the fisheries trade as well. They have also served as ship carpenters.
As mentioned earlier, some of the migrants to Karnataka were Christians, and they brought a distinct flavor of Christianity to Karnataka, and built numerous churches in the area. Among the people who came from Goa to Karnataka were also a community today known as the Siddis. They were descendants of the slaves the Portuguese brought with them for labor. But they freed themselves taking advantage of the thick forest coverage and the impending social turmoil. The Siddis are a fearless community due to their African genetics, and having lived with wild animals. The Siddis have served India/Karnataka in the freedom struggle, as soldiers, and as great athletes. Vani (traders), and Sonar (Daivajna) are the other two important communities of Karnataka who migrated from Goa.
Merging of Karnataka and Goa ?
Countless people from Goa have arrived and settled in Karnataka over the centuries. There is also a historical incident of a king of Karnataka seeking shelter in Goa! The Sonda (a.k.a. Soda) kingdom was constantly being attacked by the Marathas and was significantly weakened. In 1764 A.D., the royal family of Sonda had to yield to the conquests of the Muslims, and preferred rehabilitation in Goa. The descendants eventually settled in St. Rozalina town of Goa.
We cannot list the contributions made by eminent Konkanis towards the arts and development of Karnataka, because there are just too many. The banking sector, industrial development, education, the freedom movement, unification of Karnataka, and social reform are some of the areas where the Konkanis have excelled. In some ways, the states of Goa and Karnataka should have been merged into one province, because there are three times more Konkani speaking people in Karnataka than in the whole of Goa!
About the Author
Late Dr. K.L.Kamat (1934-2002) was a famous Kannada and Konkani writer, and brought to light the Konkani fine arts known as Kavi-kala. His published works span three languages and such diverse areas like philosophy, art, science, and fiction. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Jyotsna Kamat, a historian and author, whose articles are featured in this souvenir, and only son, Vikas. The family maintains an informative web site, Kamat's Potpourri (www.kamat.org), a must visit for every curious Konkani.