Bamon-nas and Cha-ra-des

Christianity in Goa emerged after the conquest of Goa and not before. In those days, Hindus who had caste system such as Brahmins, Kshtriyas and so forth were following bigamy ? rich ones having more wives and concubines and even had sexual exploitations of Devadasis ? whores supplied by the temple priests to have the patronage of the rich. Due to the encouragement of the Portuguese rulers and missionaries, mainly due to St. Francis Xavier, families after families converted to Christianity. The Portuguese rulers never bothered about Indian caste system which was not prevalent in Europe and who believed and practiced monogamy. In the process of conversion, they had to baptize all the family members, i.e. head of the family (perhaps, joint family), his brothers and their and his sons and his and their wives, spinster daughters, concubines, keeps, and their children. The Portuguese rulers who were unconcerned about caste systems, however, made a distinction between legitimate ones by applying the theory of monogamy, they recognized the first wife of each male member of the family and her/their issues to be legitimate ones and the rest of the wives and concubines and keeps and their children to be ill-legitimates ones, short of calling them whores and their issues as bastards, but they were distinguished by calling them Bamon (husband)-na(no), i.e. no husband. Presently, the Catholics (Christians) in Goa do not use the word ?BAMON? for husband but they use the word ?GHOV? whereas, even today, the Goan / Mangalorean Saraswats use the word ?BAMON? for their husbands. The legitimate issues were equated with early and first Christians of Kallianpur in South Kanara (Dakshina Kannada) and its surroundings as Cha-ra-de, who inherited the family property and were known as Bhatkars (property owners) while bamon-nas had to make a living by their wits, artisanship and education, and they took various types of Government jobs, as they had no property to inherit. When educational facilities came, they at once took to educational field and easily got into Government jobs, joined priesthood and ensured for themselves bread and butter. Ultimately, they landed in high government positions; their priests got control of the churches. Thereafter, they began to feel elite and became uncomfortable being branded as bastards or Bamon-nas and rated as second class. Therefore, they had to do something. They say that none of the Cha-ra-des were interested in getting higher education then, being discouraged by their parents for fear of abandoning cultivation and farming etc. and they knew that they lagged behind in the field of education, none of them having any high school education save for elementary education, and ultimately in Society and church matters. The Bamon-nas with their large contingent of priests and with their acquired high positions in government administration, controlled the education system and twisted systematically, the words Bamon-nas to Brahmins, based on Hindu system of casteism. And they were not just content in usurping the name of Brahmin for themselves as upper caste but they had to do something about Cha-ra-des and they equated the Cha-ra-des with Kshtriyas and began connoting Cha-ra-des as Kshatriyas. Unfortunately, the uneducated masses of Cha-ra-des, over a period of time, were not able to contest it except orally and in oral exchanges in small fights in the neighbourhood and in their parishes. The Bamon-nas gave open and aggressive publicity as they being Brahmins and they blended their publicity in their songs, plays and dramas and in other forums and their falsehood ultimately triumphed. The few Cha-ra-des, like me who actually knew about this, did not bother to counter it. Bamon-nas gained not only confidence in their success but also encashed on their social status and the ignorance of the Cha-ra-des pedigree.

Incidentally, the alien word Cha-ra-de, as a lay man would read it came from the word CHARADE (pronounced Sha-Sharad?) meaning a riddle. To the Portuguese, who landed first on St. Mary?s island, next to Bhadr-gada Islands, off the coast of Malpo port (about 4-5 kms. To the west of Udupi City D.K.) sent their advance party to the mainland to study the layout, fortifications etc. and to spy on the people for carrying out their foray/raid. To their astonishment, they found a large number of Christians (Catholics). Initially, they thought the local Christians were migrants from the further South ? converts of St. Thomas. But soon, they found that there is no semblance of connection and they were totally different and Aryan-like. Then they imagined them to be foreign settlers but that theory too proved to be wrong. Unlike people of the South, the Christians were fair and looking like Saraswats (Konkanas). The Portuguese were not aware then that Kallianpur Christians were the very first early Christians, being converts of St Bartholomew who had come to India and landed on the Konkan coast of Kallianpur (then known as Kulyan), a thriving port then but since the sea having been receded over the years by about 2 to 3 kms., an island in the sea known as Ugge Kudru is now surrounded by fields all around; and in digging a well by family of Coconut Oil Extractors known as Ghanekars sometime in 1940 (when I was just 9 years old) about two and a half furlongs away from the west end of Ugge Kudre, they found a stern of large sea-going vessel such as schooner or galleon which would indicate that it was sunk when vessels like schooners or galleons were anchored off the island of Ugge Kudru. I clearly remember, the Ghanekars had to abandon further digging until the archaeological Department of the then his Majesty?s government gave them the final clearance, after all the pieces of archaeological importance were taken possession of by them. This established the fact beyond doubt that Kallianpur was in fact a port and huge vessels of those days used to call at Kallianpur port. To the north-east of Ugge Kudru, on the mainland there used to be a fort and the fort or its ruins are now totally non-existant and yet the place is still called by the locals as Kote (Fort) Bagil (door). Besides, greatness and the past history of Kallianpur were preserved by word of mouth to us from generations to generations. And upon return of St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas arrived in India by a sailing vessel which unfortunately, did not touch the Konkan coast but touched Malabar Coast and thus he landed there for eventual evangelization. While the fact of the arrival of St. Thomas and his unique work of conversion in India is well documented, established and confirmed by the Holy See and the historians, the fact of St. Bartholomew?s landing at Kallianpur, though to some extent is established and discussed at the Bishops Conference, it is not yet confirmed. In the absence of the knowledge of the arrival of St. Bartholomew in India and departure before the arrival of St. Thomas in India, the Portuguese could not make out as to how Christianity came to be there, and it became a riddle to them and hence called them Charades (i.e Cha-ra-des). If it was based on Indian Hindu caste system, there was no need to coin another word for Kshtriyas as Cha-ra-des while training the word for Brahmins as Brahmins intact. There seems to be no logic and reasoning for it to be so. Christianity in South Kanara which as on its own, came to be under the Diocese of Goa in subsequent years and the priests were provided from Goa which was under Portuguese rule.

After the British conquest of South Kanara from the clutches of Tipu Sultan, who exterminated thousands of Christians and forcibly converted some of them to Islam, the Christians hiding resurfaced and the South Kanara?s capital at Coondapur in the north was shifted to Mangalore after the Treaty of Mangalore. The Jesuits who landed at Gangulli, Coondapur and stationed at Basrur, Coondapur shifted their headquarters to Mangalore, who built St. Aloysius College and one of them was chosen to be the first Bishop of Mangalore after the creation of a separate diocese of Mangalore. This diocese was created under an understanding between the crown of Britain and the crown of Portugal and the Pope for which the Holy See issued a papal bull as the British authority in India did not want the churches in South Kanara managed by the priests coming from Goa which was under the Portuguese rule. Similar situation availed in Bombay but some of the churches however remained under the Goa diocese who recently came to be totally under the Bombay Diocese after the Independence of India. These churches under the Goa Diocesan administration came to be called Portuguese churches.

Mangalore, then being an education centre, the Bamon-nas, most of them migrants from Goa after the Inquisition in Goa, got early education and a bunch of Rebellos? holding high positions in the British government, got a separate church built at Kallianpur, known as Rosario Church, exclusively for them, about half a mile to the south of Milagres Church, Kallianpur which is on a hillock and churches came to be called upper church and lower church respectively, with a connotation that the parishioners of upper church, made up of Bamon-nas, are of upper caste ? Brahmins and the parishioners of lower church, mostly made up of Cha-ra-des, are lower caste ? Kshatriyas; and the subsequent events by the Rebello?s of Kallianpur brought about a split in the Milagres Church, Kallianpur at the time of the creation of Mangalore Diocese as the Cha-ra-des wanted to continue to be in the Goa Diocese as they suspected that the Mangalore Diocese would be dominated by the Bamon-nas as they had education, high government jobs and the Britishers sought their advice in many matters ? thus having taste of power and that it would give an upper hand to the Bamon-nas of Kallianpur, especially the Rebello clan. The Cha-ra-des had reason to suspect that the Mangalore Bishopric would be totally under the influence of the Bamon-nas and the proud and the persevering parishioners of Milagres Church imagined as to what would be their status under the new Mangalorean Diocesan administration as they knew and were certain, that if a handful of Rebello?s and their ilk could display their power and play foul, in such a short period, they imagined that they should not remain passive and accept the changed situation; and therefore, they did not allow their parish to be in their wily hands through the Mangalore Bishopric, as the subsequent events proved to be so.

Due to the canonical civil disobedience in the Milagres Church-parish, arising on account of creation of new Mangalore Diocese, a conflict arose amidst the church administrators known as Junta and the nine of the ten Junta members resolved to have the status quo and would not agree to accept a priest sent by the Mangalore Bishop, as the earlier incumbent priest was recalled by the Patriarch of Goa. These 9 Junta members were in the dark about these developments and they did not know that the creation of a separate diocese for South Kanarites as Mangalore Diocese was essentially done under political pressure of the British government that resulted in issuance of a Papal Bull to that effect except one man, Mr Ignatius Lewis, the President of the Junta who was getting an update from his priest brother, Rev. Fr. Santan Lewis, the parish priest of the church at Kulur (next to the present Mangalore Harbour) who failed to impart this information to the benefit of the other nine due to his pride and arrogance, considering himself to be superior to them because of his wealth, education and his position as President of the Junta; and at the same time, the Bamon-nas particularly, the Rebello?s gave the impression that they were the ones who were instrumental in creating the Mangalore Diocese. Due to this upheaval and unrest, the church had to be closed, the church having no priest from either of the Dioceses of Goa or Mangalore, during the pendency of a civil suit in the District, thus frustrating the attempts of the Mangalore Bishop to foist them a priest of his choice. The government authorities, under the promptings of the Mangalore Bishop, had the church doors sealed until the disposal of the suit. The Mangalore Bishop was actively supported by this handful of Rebello?s, whose advice he had sought, thus the bishop playing directly into the hands of the Bamon-nas. These Rebello?s who were in high government positions advised the Bishop of Mangalore to call the disobedience to his authority as SCHISM, though the unrest had nothing to do with the Dogmas of the Church to call it as ?schism.?

The said court was presided over by a British Munsiff ? judge and they were know to be fair but very diligent and careful in giving their verdict, had decreed that the Milagres Church at Kallianpur would be either of the diocese of Goa or Mangalore, provided the church door seal is broken by the priest sent by either of the Diocese of Goa or Mangalore, knowing fully well that it would be next to impossible to get a priest from Goa, having no transport then with several huge, deep and broad rivers to cross, while it was easy to do so from Mangalore. The parishioners of Kallianpur accepted the judgement and sent their emissaries to Goa Patriarch and saw to it that the dissenting lone member of the Junta, the President of the Junta at that, is not allowed to go to Mangalore to fetch a priest as they cordoned off his house and kept strict watch over his movements.

The parish emissaries of the nine Junta members had to go by sea transport ? boat to Goa but they were denied a priest by the Patriarch of Goa, as he was bound by the Papal Bull and these emissaries finally caught hold of one Rev. Fr. Noronha, a Padraodo priest, being not under the direct jurisdiction and the authority of the Patriarch, who consented to come to Kallianpur as the parish priest. In the meantime, the president of the Junta, Mr Ignatius Lewis escaped disguising as a fisherman to Mangalore and got a priest assigned by the Mangalore Bishop, and he upon the arrival on a horse and armed with a pistol, broke the seal and entered the church; and thus the Milagres Church at Kallianpur came to be under the Bishop of Mangalore.

The nine rebel Junta members and most of the parishioners who were supporters did not accept this defeat but they built another church at Brahmavar and named it St. Mary?s Church. Rev. Fr. Noronha who arrived in Kallianpur found that the Milagres Church was already under the Mangalore Diocese and he agreed to be the parish priest of the newly built St. Mary?s Church at Brahmavar, in order to administer sacraments to Christians and keep them together and in due course to resolve the matter amicably, by explaining to them the correct position in due course as they were unwilling to listen to any reasoning. But unfortunately, under the malevolent and ignoble advice from the Rebello?s of Kallianpur, not being satisfied as being called the disobedience as Schism, wanted them to be expelled from the core of Christianity, the Bishop of Mangalore, biased as he was for not submitting to him, excommunicated the parishioners of St. Mary?s Church, Brahmavar. The Orthodox Church of Malabar, when came to know about this, invited them to join Syrian Christianity, which under the circumstances appealed to them and they joined en-mass, thus coming out of a situation imposed upon them by the evil designs of the Bamon-nas who got rid of a large number of challengers to their affrontery. A book on Schism in South Kanara came to be written containing total false-hoods and lies and justifying their highly questionable action and the resultant fallout, under the direct patronage of Bishops of Mangalore ? most of the later Bishops being Bamon-nas, and not a single one Cha-ra-de. As the schismists became economically poor due to lack of educational facilities, most of them came back to be Roman Catholics. I, myself was able to bring in five to six families to the Roman Catholic Church after my explaining to them the trivial reason that made their forefathers to have disobedience against the Mangalore bishopric and that Mangalore Bishop was absolutely and totally wrong in excommunicating them, at which they felt that their ancestors were not wrong, but the wronged ones.

I have been trying to get more evidence in the matter but the same having been systematically destroyed by the lot of Bamon-nas over the years; I am not in a position to submit concrete proof. Therefore, I believe, independent investigations in the matter should be done without disclosing this to any known Bamon-nas, who would otherwise stop at nothing and foil attempts in arriving at the truth. Archives in Lisbon in Portugal, London in England and Rome in Italy would be the best place.

Author: Vincent Lewis- India