Jews in Goa By Nissim Moses Historian



The Portuguese Jews arrived in India as traders probably well before the year 1500 CE when it was
socially acceptable to be Jewish in Portugal. Between the time of their arrival, the capture of Goa (1510
CE) and the beginning of the seventeenth century the Jewish Community flourished openly and then later
as Marrano Jews. The full evil of the Inquisition and its terror through Criminal Priests later Canonized as
Saints like Saint Francis Xavier (grave in Goa Church-Basilica of Bom Jesus) and others was only felt
from around about the year 1560 onwards. Picture No-1 shows the location of the Jewish Community in
the erstwhile Colony of Goa. Picture No-2. Shows-the location of the Jew Street (about 600 meters long)
and the dwelling area of the then Jewish Community in Goa. Finally it also shows the location of the villa
of the most famous resident of Goa a Marrano Jew of international repute Dr. Garcia-De-Orta and is
located between the Basilica de Bom Jesus and the Church of St Francis of Assisi. The area of the Jewish
Settlement and the residence of Dr Garcia-De-Orta are a part of the garden of the Archaeological Survey
of India.
Dr. Garcia-De-Orta was brought to India by the then Viceroy and for his excellent services rendered to
the Senior officials of the colony and the military and as a token of their appreciation was given one of
the major islands of what later developed into Bombay City. The purpose of this was to enable Dr.
Garcia-De-Orta to study the “Flora and their Medicinal Properties” of these tropical islands. Based upon
his studies Dr. Garcia-De-Orta wrote a book “Coloquios Dos Simples & Drogas He Cousas, Medinias Da
India” in Goa in Portuguese and published by another Jewish printer Joao De Endem in 1563. This book
was later translated and published in English by Sir Clemens R. Markham, London in 1913. He was the
first European to write and publish a book on tropical medicine and attempt to synthesize between
western, eastern and oriental medicine. Dr Garcia’s book was later adapted and edited by another reputed
surgeon and scientist of the Jewish Faith, Dr. Christovao da Costa who came to Goa from Mozambique
(between 1568-1571). His book was printed in Burgos in 1578 and was titled “Tractado de las Drogas”.
Dr Garcia-De-Orta passed away sometime between 1568 and 1570. As per the accounts given by his
sister to the “Tribunal of the Inquisition” he was buried in a traditional Jewish manner.

At the persistence and insistence of Saint Francis Xavier the Inquisition was instituted in 1561 and lasted
till 1774 then restarted in 1579 and lasted till 1821. Up to that time the catholic priests and missionaries
were often involved in violent acts of converting the Hindus and Muslims to the Christian faiths. With the
institution of the Inquisition they turned their full wrath on the Marrano Jewish community of Goa. They
learned that the sister of Dr Garcia-De-Orta being a Marrano Jew, practicing Judaism, brought her before
the tribunal and upon whose decree she was burnt alive at the stake. Learning from her testimony that Dr.
Garcia-De-Orta had been a practicing Jew they exhumed and burnt his bones. Prior to the inquisition in
1543 a Dr Jeronimo Dias a Marrano Jew was strangled and burnt because his views conflicted with those
of the Christian missionaries.

The contribution of Dr. Garcia de Orta was not only to the medical sciences, but his Quinta or Manor
House called “Bombay Castle” built on his estate in 1554, on the island of Bombay has recently
undergone major renovation, restoration and conservation performed by work by Captain Christopher
Chamberlain of the World Ship Trust. Recently, it was handed over to Admiral Mahadevendra Singh,
Chief of Naval Staff –India, under whose inspiring leadership as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief,
Western Naval Command, the work was performed. Bombay Castle has grown to become what is now
INS Angre, which includes the Naval Barracks, the Naval Dockyard and the Head Quarters of the
Western Naval Command. This structure is closely related to the growth of Bombay as a commercial
center and the maritime history of India. See Picture-3 of Bombay Castle- Reproduced from the Maritime
Heritage -World Ship Trust Website.



Besides the persecution of the Marrano Jewish Community through the Instrument of the Inquisition the
priests & prelate of the Portuguese Catholic Church confiscated all Jewish Property and converted the
synagogues to churches and probably destroying all historical records of their deeds. Recent interest
among people of the Christian faith in Goa to develop a bridge and reconcile with their past have started
to shed more light on the history of the Jewish Community in this area. Picture No. 4 represents three of
the several synagogues that have been known to exist in the Goa area. These synagogues have been
converted into churches or left to decay. These Pictures were sent to the author, by Mr. Cyril Fernandez; a
Goa based journalist; who is trying to research the History of Jewish settlement in that area and single
handedly generate interest in the heritage of a long lost and forgotten community of Marrano Jews who
livid in Goa.


Jews in Goa By Nissim Moses Historian - Jews of India

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Jews in Goa. By. Nissim Moses. Historian. Due to the author's involvement in the study of the Heritage of the Bene-Israel of India and their. Communal Integrated ...