"Gaudasaraswatha" brahmins speaking Konkani

NAYAK Anand anand.nayak at UNIFR.CH
Fri Nov 26 09:29:13 UTC 2004

I am happy to say that I belong to the Gaudasaraswati groupe and my mother tongue is Konkani. Incidentally, there are many Gaudasaraswati's in the West, all those who have names like mine and others like Prabhu, Bhandari, Kamath,Bhatt and so forth and who speak Konkani at home.Most of the members of our community are Brahmin Hindus but there are exceptions like me, my ancestors converted to Christianity in the 16th century. These Christians are particularly in the region of Goa and Mangalore. The Gaudasaraswatis have their Temples alll over the West coast of India, from Cochin to Bombay,  dedicated to Saraswati, Laksmi or one of the Consorts of Vishnu who is venerated particularly under his symbol of Shesha, the Serpent. The Valkeshwari Temple in Bombay is one of their main centres.

Material for a research work is not easily available. But there is a popular literature available in India, written for the Saraswatis who seek to know more about thier roots. True, we are often taken for Bengalis in India. Perhaps more for our physical features than for the language Konkani which has some resemblancres to Bengali but which more akin to Marathi and is often considered by the Marathi people as a sort a dialect of that language. The Konkani people however do not accept this interpretation and since a few years there have been efforts to revive this langauge ( most of the Gaudasaraswatis live outside their homeland), particularly in Goa. The "Christupurana" (The Purana of Christ) written by the English Jesuit Thomas Stevens (landed in Goa in 1579)is taken to be in old Konkani by the Konkani people; the Marathis claim it as their literature. This only shows that  both these languages belong to the same source.

Research material on Konkan Gauda Sarasvatis can be found at the Xavier Centre of Historical Research Institute,Alto Provonm, Goa - 403 521. A few recent books can also be useful: P.F. Pinto, History of Christians in Coastal Karnataka (1500-1763), Samanvaya, Mangalore 575 002, 1999.This work gives an extensive bibliography over the Portuguese conquest of the Konkan coastal territories where the Gaudasaraswatis live. Two other works: A. Machado, Sarasvati's children (1799-1999), Mangalore, 1999; M. Lobo, The Mangalorean Catholic Community, Camelot, Mangalore, 2001 (printmatic at vsnl. Net).

Prof. Dr. Anand Nayak
Université de Fribourg/ Universität Freiburg-Schweiz
CH- 1700 Fribourg
0041-26 300 74 38 / 300 74 37 
0041-79 306 97 45 (mobile)
Anand.Nayak at unifr.ch


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