The Cuncolim Revolt of 1583 - religious persecution in Goa under Portuguese rule

The  Cuncolim Revolt,Goa 1583

 The  Cuncolim Revolt / Cuncolim Martyrdom by the Catholic Church was a massacre of Christian priests and civilians by Hindus of  Kshatriyas caste in Cuncolim, Goa on Monday, 25 July, 1583 as a protest against Christian priests' attempt to demolish Hindu temples in the locality and forcibly convert the local population to Christianity with support from autocratic  colonial Portuguese administration.

In the wake of  conquest of Goa by Portuguese admiral Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510 and solid construction of Portuguese settlements, on orders from Government administration in Portugal, missionaries of the newly founded Society of Jesus arrived  from  Portugal to Goa mainly  for propagation of Christian faith among the natives.  As enticement or bonus, they offered several incentives  to locals including military support for local rulers to follow Christian faith for salvation. As this largesse rather bait, did not work with Hindus, Jesuits took recourse to religious persecution such as  ban on Hindu rituals, books, symbols, etc and compulsory attendance of Christian preaching,  failing which people will be severely punished.

At  Bardez in North Goa about  300 Hindu temples were razed to the ground. In 1583 Portuguese army destroyed several Hindu temples  at Assolna and Cuncolim villages. These villages and the surrounding lush, rich agricultural fields with copious  water resources, were under the control of  Kshatriya caste. These people depended on bazaars for their produce, and the bazaar economy  relied on regular fairs, temple festivals, etc. The destruction of temples infuriated the locals as it meant deprivation of time-honored religious and cultural traditions that supported  a well defined and  established social fabric and its underlying economic base essential for sustenance, growth  and survival.

The nefarious attempts of the Jesuits with total support from the government to establish Christianity in Cuncolim and other villages of Assolna, Veroda, Velim and Ambelim  were blocked by the people. Christian faithfuls not only trespassed on their privacy and way of life but also pushed them to the fag end of  their patience. Undaunted, the natives  refused to pay taxes and give up their age- old religion. Arrogant as they were, on 25 July, 1583,  five Jesuits accompanied by one European—Goncalo Rodrigues—and 14 native converts, went  to Cuncolim with the  main objective of erecting a cross and selecting ground for building a church.

In the ensuing violent retaliation by the villagers,  five Jesuit priests along with one European and 14 Indian Christians were brutally killed in the incident and  the Portuguese government took revenge by summarily executing most of the local leaders without trial, and destroying the economic infrastructure of Cuncolim - their fundamental source of livelihood. Later the village chieftains were invited for talks at a fort in Assolna where the government killed all but one.

The murdered priests were canonized by the church because their bodies, did not emit foul smell in spite of being in the well for a few days. The struggle between the Portuguese government and the village continued for a long period without any  solution in sight leaving the natives in mental agony and pain. 

At last  through the efforts of the visionary Dr. Rogociano Rebello, a general medical practitioner  who also studied law, the  desperate villagers  got their land back. The villagers' grievances  were at last heard  in the the highest court in Portugal. Finally the efforts of Dr Rogociano Rebello  bore fruit.

“Martyrs’ chapel” was erected, dedicated to the priests and others killed in 1583. In 2003, a memorial to the slain chieftains  in the same year was erected in Cuncolim at the initiative of Prof. Vermissio Coutinho, head of the  Cuncolim Chieftains Memorial Trust.

Cuncolim revolt of 1583- First resistance against foreign rule in India.

Church-Cuncolim Gaunkars clash over martyrs' memorial – November 13, 1999, Goa News. Inquisition.