The Goa-Jharkhand connection: A Pandora’s box?

When I started writing my book on the history of Goa’s politics, I realised the Politics of Power always moved around the Land of Goa for centuries together. Not only post-liberation or during the Portuguese regime, but even before 15 different dynasties ruled our tiny state. It was obvious to dig deeper into it. Who developed this land? When? How? Does it belong to them today? If not, why? 

The search began afresh. Many historians and intellectuals had strongly objected to the much-publicised theory that Goa – or the whole Konkan coast – is a creation of Lord Parashuram by receding the seawater with the power of his miraculous arrows. The mythological epic is found in Sahyandri Khand of Skand Purana. Parashuram belonged to the Aryans. But Aryans entered the Sindhu region itself around 1600 BCE. And much later they came to Goa. 

However, Goa or the Konkan coast has a history of human settlement for not less than 10000 years. The digging continued with Dr D D Kosambi, Romila Thapar, Anant Ramkrishna Sinai Dhume, Luis de Assis Correia, Gerald Pereira, Dr P P Shirodkar, Dr Nandkumar Kamat and so on…

No matter how many nomadic tribes had passed through the Konkan coast, historians have established the fact that the first settlers of Goa were the Kol, Asura, Mundari, Kharva etc. They travelled down from Chota Nagpur, the vast plateau in East India that covers most parts of Jharkhand and also Chattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar. 

Today, in Goa, we call them Gauda, Kunbi, Velip, Jalmi, Satarkar etc. – the ‘Mull Goenkar’ tribal community. They kept arriving till 3500 BCE. Parashuram, the real man called Ram who always carried Parashu in his hand, however believed to have come down to Goa after 1500 BCE. Almost 2000 years later. The epic was woven around him, claiming that he created the Konkan coast, indirectly denying the historical fact that the tribal community had developed our land. 

As this intelligent tribal community did not have a plough, they started shifting cultivation, called ‘Kumeri’. Eventually, to utilise the water flowing down from the mountains of Sahyadri which was turning saline due to the Arabian Sea, the innovative tribal community invented a double-’bandh’ model and created huge tracks of Khazan land.  The land belonged to the whole community and the community was administered with a three-tier administration model, called ‘Gaunkari’ – ‘Gauponn’, ‘Barazan’ and ‘Varg’. 

And they also created a language to communicate, through which today’s modern Konkani has evolved. Some linguists claim that Konkani (and even Marathi) developed through ‘Prakrut’. Is this the same Austro-Aseatic language of the indigenous community of India? Did Konkani originate from Sanskrit and was an Aryan creation through the Indo-Aryan language, or the Astro-Aseatic indigenous language of the tribal communities?

Questions were many. Answers were vague. At this juncture came an opportunity to visit Jharkhand, for the Fourth Rashtriya Vichar Manthan organised by Dr Rammanohar Lohia Research Foundation of New Delhi, headed by our journalist friend Abhishek Ranjan Singh. It was in the capital city of Ranchi on 16 and 17 December 2023. 

Dr Madhu Ghodkirekar presenting a paper at a National Conference in Ranchi

We had a group of activists who were associated with the Foundation from the time the Second national conference was held in Goa in 2021, to commemorate 75 years of Dr Lohia’s civil disobedience movement, which started on 18 June 1946, the Goa Revolution Day. This year the Foundation was commemorating 75 years of the most brutal Kharsawan massacre on 1 January 1948, of around 500 tribals, in ‘independent’ India. 

We decided to seize this opportunity, by roping in scholars, researchers and activists from Goa’s tribal movement. And also fixed a meeting with the faculty of tribal languages at Ranchi University. Dr Prakash Parienkar, the vice-dean of the Research discipline of Goa University’s School of Languages (who recently bagged the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award) also jumped in and joined us. 

There was a special session at the conference on “Tribal Communities of Goa and Jharkhand: Locating Migratory Perspective”. Using his medical knowledge as a forensic expert, tribal thinker Dr Madhu Ghodkierekar presented the whole picture of how the multi-ethnicity of the indigenous tribal community has spread worldwide. Adv Joao Fernandes, who revived the original Christian Gauda culture in his Quepem taluka, described in what manner the tribal culture is quite different from the Church-driven westernised culture of Goa’s Christian community. And I explored the little historical research I had conducted, which had more questions than answers. 

This session came as a big surprise to the learned audience at the conference, including the veteran socialist leaders from Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and the whole Hindi belt. They were aghast to learn that Birsa Munda, the ‘Bhagwan’ of the tribal community and the courageous tribal leader, was worshipped even in Goa. Ramesh Tawadkar, the Goa Assembly Speaker and minister Govind Gaude, both from the tribal community, are these days on a forefront to celebrate Birsa Munda Jayanti as ‘Jan Jati Gaurav Divas’ to salute the freedom fighter warrior, who fought the British to protect land rights of tribals.

Goa delegation led by Dr Prakash Parienkar in a meeting with Dr Hari Oraon at Ranchi University

After having a brief tour of the ‘Ghaati’ (mountains) in the outskirts of Ranchi, on 18 December, we met the linguistic scholars of seven tribal languages at Ranchi University, led by Dr Hari Oraon,  coordinator of the Faculty of Tribal Languages and a tribal himself. Beforehand, I did a small exercise of going through the Mundari and Santali dictionaries. To my surprise, I found over 200 words used either verbatim or with little variations, in Konkani. 

The faculty members were shocked to see the words we use like ‘Khunti’ (Jharkhand has a district with this name), ‘Parab’ (festival), ‘Bhale Bhale’ (an exclamation of joy), ‘Aankur’ (seedling), ‘Torkari’ (vegetable), ‘Bondo’ (fool), ‘Chuchu’ (urinating), ‘Bent’ (cane) etc etc. Our ‘Gaunkari’ system is similar to their ancient administrative system, where they have ‘Akhada’ (‘Maand’ in Goa), the community head and priest, a decision-making system, a variety of tribal cuisine, herbal medicines, dancing steps (padanyas) of folk dances and what not. During our tour in the mountains, we found various jungle trees, which are also found in Goa. In fact, we felt that we were moving in the mountains of Goa, not Jharkhand. 

Our tribal researchers and activists including Devidas Gaonkar, Ramkrishna Jalmi, Ravindra Velip, Caetano Carvalho as well as Dr Ghodkirekar and Adv Fernandes were shooting questions one after the other and the faculty members were explaining about the similar customs and traditions they were following in different tribal communities. Dr Parienkar also found one faculty member, whose community was cultivating on the lines of ‘Puran’, based on which the award-winner has recently published his first novel. 

Goa delegates with Tribal Languge Experts of Ranchi University

The meeting was over, but not discussions. Group and individual conversations and exchanging phone numbers continued for the next one hour, while we had gathered in the campus to take a group photograph. Dr Oraon also proudly showed us the ‘Akhada’ they have built on the campus and also assured Dr Parienkar to begin inter-university research on several aspects through study tours, seminars, workshops, dissertations, exchange programmes etc. 

It seemed like the visit to Ranchi University, on the eve of Goa Liberation Day, would open a new chapter in the history of Goa. Facets of the real authentic history and its roots would be unearthed. What is also needed to unfold the hidden truth is a joint action by the tribal research centres set up by the Jharkhand and Goa governments, besides the research at academic institutes like Goa University and Ranchi University. Looks like it’s a Pandora’s box, which has a hidden treasure of aboriginal customs and traditions.  Search for a real authentic history begins…

(This article appeared in The Navhind Times on 31 December 2023) 

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *