I received ‘For the Love of Mandovi’ from my father-in-law just after I started living on the banks of the Mandovi river. It has been on my ‘To Be Read’ shelf for more than 7 years now. It was when I started walking around the city of Panaji, post-pandemic that I pulled out this book to read. As I always say, books pop up when it is the right time to read them. So, I read it as I walked along Mandovi.
For the Love of Mandovi by Dr. Mohan Pai
This is a fictionalized history of 16th CE Goa. This was the time when Goa was under the rule of Adil Shah of Bijapur and hoped to be aligned to Raya of Hampi. In the middle of the 16th CE, the Portuguese set foot on the land of Goa. No one ever thought what this simple step of inviting the Portuguese to fight Adil Shah would cost them for the next 450 years and for some forever.
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I have heard about these stories in bits and pieces. It is always mentioned in smaller phrases, something that is still painful for most people. It was this book that took me to the nuances of the story of the Inquisition. The book told me that the choice people had was between being alive and giving up their life. If they chose to live, then the choice was between converting and staying on the land of their ancestors or keeping the religion and leaving the ancestral land. Can we even question the choices people made?
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The tortures done during the inquisition, especially on the neo-converts are difficult to read. I cannot even imagine what people went through. The story of Brahmapuri Mutt that was trying to move as many people as possible out of Portuguese territory tells me about the role of religious Mutts during this time. The author also hints that it is because the Mutts were rigid in not taking back the neo-converts that they were not left with any option. Could a lot of conversions have been nullified if the Mutts were not as rigid? Maybe.
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The life of neo-converts presents the dynamics that led to Portuguese domination. Their loyalties could not be trusted by either their earlier friends and families or the new regime. They could flip the balance for either of them. Sometimes they were loyal to their original religion and helped others out of the situation. At other times, in order to prove their loyalty to new masters, they would inform the moves of their own people and land them into trouble. Eventually, you feel that without the support of these people Portuguese would not have managed to rule this land.
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I have been studying the temples of Goa, but this book took me to the original temples and their locations. I read the stories of how temples were destroyed, how some Murtis could be saved but how most were lost. The description of the Mahalasa Narayani temple, its festivals, and its destruction made me visit the new temple that has recently been rebuilt at the same place. The temple must have been huge as its parts can be seen scattered across what is now the industrial pocket of Goa. There are many more temples, including the one at Brahmapuri that I am yet to visit. I know nothing much survives but still, the land had been a witness to the events of the land.
Krishna, the protagonist of the ‘For the love of Mandovi’ is a brave Saraswat boy who tries to save as much of his people as possible. The story tries to highlight the lack of Kshatriyas among the people that led to a lack of fighting spirit among people. In-fighting among Shaivites and Vaishnavites has been mentioned but I am not sure how much of it would have contributed to the downfall.
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For the Love of Mandovi is a very well written story of someone whose ancestors must have migrated southwards from Goa. There is documentation of the events as they happened. There is an emotional thread through the characters of the story. The book is not available online. It has been published by Mangalore based Baliga Publications. I hope a bigger publisher picks up and makes it available nationally and in e-book format.
Language oscillates between narrative and storytelling. Like Rahul Pandita’s book, Our Moon has blood clots, this book can also leave you sad for a long time. This is despite the fact that the author has tried to give it an optimistic end. By talking about the achievements of all those who chose to settle outside Goan territory.
If Goa’s history intrigues you, read it.