5 Interesting Attributes of Mangalorean Catholics in India

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Christopher Managlorean Wedding

Easter was celebrated worldwide on April 16. This Christian festival, which is actually holds more importance than Christmas, marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. It also marks the end of 40 days of Lent, which is a period when Christians have a religious obligation to fast, pray and observe penance.

Estimates peg the number of Christians worldwide at more than 2.2 billion. Of these, around 27 million are Indians. Yours truly happens to be one among them.

Christianity in India

The history of Christianity in India is almost as old as the history of Christianity itself. As per ancient Indian Christian tradition, the religion and culture surround it was brought to India by Thomas the Apostle around AD 50 in a region that now forms part of the Southern Indian state of Kerala. It is also said that another Apostle, Bartholomew, disembarked on the western coast of India and spread Jesus’ message.

The number of Christians in the southern state of Kerala who practice the Syrian Orthodox doctrine of Christianity is evidence of the fact that India is home to some of the earliest Christians in the world.

However, Christianity in India spread significantly between the 16th and the early 19th centuries, when Portugal had colonies in India. Erstwhile Portuguese colonies in India, including Goa, Daman, Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and even Mumbai are known to be home to large populations of native Christians even today.

Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Portuguese Missionaries, with the support of the Colonists, were able to convert hordes of natives in their colonies to Christianity (Roman Catholicism to be precise).

It is worthwhile, however, to know that not all of these conversions were done in the right attitude and spirit on the part of the Portuguese Missionaries. In fact, there are many stories of natives being coerced, sometimes with the threat of violence or attachment of property.

I to belong to a family of Catholics who originate from the Mangalore district of the southern India, in Karnataka. Originally Portugese. Click To Tweet

History of Mangalorean Catholics

I happen to belong to a family of Catholics who originate from the Mangalore district of the southern Indian state of Karnataka. After a lot of reading and discussions with older generations in the family, I learnt that Mangalorean Catholics were originally inhabitants of the Portuguese colony of Goa.

Apparently, they had migrated out of/fled from Goa at different points in time for reasons ranging from the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa (circa 1560), the occurrence of famines and epidemics and political upheavals/wars. It is interesting to note that most of these Mangaloreans religiously held onto a lot of their Hindu/native Indian customs and traditions.

Most Mangaloreans religiously held onto a lot of their Hindu/native Indian customs and traditions. Click To Tweet

Language and Dialects

Although the younger generation prefers to speak in Hindi (the national language of India) or in English, in traditional Mangalorean Catholic households the language spoken is Konkani.

Konkani is actually the language used by Goans and has a lot of Portuguese influence, but the Konkani used by Mangalorean Catholics is heavily influenced by the South Indian languages of Kannada and Tulu. Also, interestingly, the Mangalorean Konkani is written in Kannada script.

Bilingual Names

Traditional Mangaloreans will always have a Christian or a European name, and also a native/Indian middle name. For example, my full name is Christopher Roshan D’Souza. My brother’s name is Ravi Vincent D’Souza. You will also find a tradition of pet names like Pedru for Peter, Ijju for Isabelle, Mettu for Matilda, Gibba for Gilbert, Panchu for Francis, and so on.

History of surnames

Mangalorean Catholics bear Portuguese surnames. This is because our Goan ancestors assumed the surnames of the Portuguese priests who baptised them when they were converted, or their Portuguese godparents.

Hence, you will find surnames like Furtado, Pinto, D’Souza, Pereira, Gomes, Coutinho, Fernandes, and so on in the community. But prod the elders in the community a little and they will tell you the Indian surnames of their ancestors – Prabhu, Shenoy, Nayak, Pai, Kamath, Shet, and so on.

Christopher Mangalorean Wedding

Wedding Rituals

A Mangalorean Catholic Wedding will initially look like a European White Wedding in the Chapel.  Later, you will see Indian rituals like flowers being used to adorn brides’ hair, brides being draped with traditional red Indian bridal sarees (known in the community as ‘Sado’).

Bridegrooms tying Mangalsutras around their wives’ necks, farm produce like pumpkins, rice, betelnuts, coconuts, etc. being exchanged between families, and many others.

On the evening before the wedding, a ceremony known as ‘Ros’ is organised. This is for both the bride as well as the groom by their respective families. A symbolic purification and anointing is conducted by way of applying coconut milk on their heads, hands and feet – this is like a traditional Hindu ‘Haldi’ ceremony.

There is also a ceremony at the end of the wedding reception known as ‘Opsun’, which is similar to the ‘handing over’ ceremony called ‘Vidaai’ that Hindus practice, wherein the bride’s parents symbolically hand over their daughter to her in-laws and request them to treat her as their own daughter.

Warding off Evil Eye

There is a very Indian concept known as ‘the evil eye’. There is believed to be a curse cast unknowingly by a malevolent glare. It is believed that it can be caused either when someone looks at you with evil intentions, or envies you, or sometimes even when someone is extremely fond of you.

It is believed that receiving the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury. Traditional Mangalorean Catholic households follow the traditional Hindu way of warding off the evil eye with the help of salt, red chilli peppers and some exotic Indian spices.

These interesting trivia are merely the tip of the iceberg as far as the community is concerned. 

5 Interesting Traits About Mangalorean Catholics in India www.raisingworldchildren.com #mangalorean #catholics #india #indianvalues #tradition #oldwivestales

  Christopher Roshan D’Souza is father to a 3 year old boy. By profession, he has a Masters Degree in Finance. He is working as a Research Analyst with a reputed global data and insights company. In an alternate life, he is a blogger who loves writing poems and short stories. He has a keen interest in music across genres, is a football fanatic (Arsenal FC fan), and is currently learning to play the guitar. He also loves trekking to hill forts and photography. Christopher likes to describe himself as a Jack of a few trades and a master of some, and as an introvert who loves appreciation yet hates being in the limelight.

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11 Replies to “5 Interesting Attributes of Mangalorean Catholics in India

  1. Hey Chris,
    Being a fellow mangalorean, I could relate to all the facts you mentioned and was tickled to see ‘Panchu’ in your list of pet names as we have coined our own Francis with it. Loved your wifey’s sado 🙂
    Visited your blog too! really interesting and intense.

    Keep rocking mate.

  2. Hi! Lovely article 🙂 I’m a Mangalorean Catholic too. I have a question and would love it if you could help me with it. Is it true that the women from the bridegroom’s family help the bride wear the saddo? Is there any reason why? I need the information for my Masters paper. Please do help if you can! Thank you so much!

  3. There are quite a few things that are amiss or mistaken here

    The short history of Mangaloreans mentions the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa but not Tipu Sultan’s fanatical and tyrannical massacre of more than half of the population of Mangalorean Christians in the 17th century.

    The claim about Hindi BEING the NATIONAL LANGUAGE needs to be fact-checked. Hindi is just one of the 22 official languages of the Govt of India, the only difference is that HIndi is given patronage from the federal govt while the others are not. On the backside of any Indian rupee note anyone can see translations of at least 18 different languages including Konkani. We should be more concerned about Konkani youth taking up Hindi English or Marathi as a replacement for their mother tongues in various parts of the Konkan and the diaspora communities instead of emphasising the non-existent national language status of Hindi, which is quite irrelevant.

    Some Mangalorean Christians unlike Goans and East Indians also retain their castes and identify as Bhmman (Brahmin) and Suddo (Kshatriya) not to discriminate against or oppress the lesser castes but for reasons of ancestral pride and ethno-social identity and status

    Just as the red saree-choli set or sadoh and karimani or mangalsutra is worn by Mangalorean Christian brides, pre-modern traditional grooms also wore ethnic clothing, a dhoti-like lower garment called “khaas” in my family circles and a short kurta along with a Mysore Peta type turban was worn by my great grandfather. But unfortunately with increasing westernisation the burden of upkeep of both textual and traditional beliefs and praxis falls only upon the shoulders of Indian women.

    While Mangalorean Christians generally do like to follow Indian culture and traditions, they will however not approve of superstitions pseudo-science and the occult arts. The vast majority of Mangalorean Christians including the ordained priests in churches and consecrated virgins in convents tend to be conservative and yet progressive. I am very sure that they don’t subscribe to or make of use salt chilly peppers or hang an old pair of sandals to ward off any imaginary evil eyes. These things are best left to the pre-modern eras and the fantasy fiction genre of films and television entertainment.

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