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Who is a GSB Konkani anyway?

This is my 200th post and my first for this year.So, I'm writing about something that is close to my heart.
Who is a Konkani anyway?
Years ago, my brother, while at college, had to write a mid term evaluation paper on “People and Cultures of India”. He wrote a paper called ‘Who is a Konkani anyway?’
It explained beautifully who a Konkani Gaud Saraswath Brahmin is, and how these people came to be associated with Kerala, even though they are not Malayalees. (Malayalam is the language in Kerala.)
A question I am often asked is “Where are you from?”
What I like to say is “How does it matter?”( I really do not know why people want to know where I am from. It irks me most of the time.What difference does it make to them where I am from?)
I usually say “I have never lived in one place for more than three years—so it is difficult to answer where I am from.”
Then the asker becomes a little more curious. “So, what is your mother tongue?”
Konkani
“Oooh. So are you Catholic?” (At this point I am already bristling, trying my best to hide my irritation)
“No I am a Gaud Saraswath Brahmin and a staunch Hindu.”
Most  are confused at this point. Many people are ignorant about History, Culture and Languages about India. (Click on the word 'Konkani' in bold if you wish to know more about Konkani people)

I guess, the confusion about Konkani arises mainly, as it is a language associated with Goa. Originally, my great grandfather lived in Goa.In fact, the family temple is still in Goa. In the 18th Century when the Portuguese invaded India and began converting people forcibly to Christianity, my great grandfather along with many families fled, leaving behind property, ancestral homes, shops---everything they owned. Everything familiar. He carried with him only a small idol of Lord Vishnu. The families who fled settled down along the coast of South of India. That is how you find Konkanis in Karnataka as well as Kerala. (The most conservative fled to the southern parts which were farther away from Goa)
My great grandfather established a temple in a small village in interior Kerala and it still stands.
When I first heard these facts as a child, I was so enraged at the unfairness.
“Why didn’t they fight back?” I remember asking my dad.
“They were helpless. The Portuguese were more powerful.” my dad answered.
“How can they force someone to follow another religion?” I asked. Tolerance is one of the tenets of Hinduism and an act of forcible conversion was truly appalling and beyond my comprehension. I did not understand it as a little girl.(In Hinduism, there is no provision for ‘conversion.’ Hinduism is a way of life.)
I still do not understand it as an adult.
As I grew older, I realized why in the Konkani community, especially among GSB Brahmins, there is such a strict adherence to Tradition and Culture. I understood its richness, its depth, its meaning and the intense need to preserve it. After all, my ancestors were refugees in Kerala, with no belongings, except for an idol and iron hard determination.
Years passed. The next generation was born. And the next. Languages now changed and merged slightly with the local language.(That is the reason why there is a distinct difference in the dialect of Konkani spoken in Karnataka, Kerala and Goa.)
As time went by, people worked hard, progressed, prospered, grew. In 1727 in Ernakulam, a temple was established and it today known as T.D temple, in Ernakulam, Kerala. (The photo above shows the outside gate.When you enter, there is large compound. You cross it and there is the sanctum sanctorum)
The Architecture is amazing.The carvings are so beautiful.(see photo below)
In December 2007, on 23rd to be precise, my Father-in law had organized a grand puja called a ‘Brahmotsav’ in this very temple. The rituals, the grandeur, the splendour, the richness-- all of it was overwhelming. It started at 6:30 am and when it finally finished, it was 10:30 pm in the night. Traditional lunch (served on banana leaves with all the Konkani delicacies) was provided for two thousand people.(and they were all served inside the temple) The logistics, the co-ordination and the execution was amazing and left me stumped.

There were many Pujas. (in case you do not know what a puja is, click on the word)

The grandest amongst them was undoubtedly the ‘Bhangara Garuda Puja.’('Bhangara' in konkani means Gold) Garuda is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu and the one at TD temple is taken out on special occasions. It is made of solid gold. Its beauty and richness left me gaping.
Here are more pictures.

I was so glad that my children got to soak it all in.
We returned home that night, tired and exhausted but very contented, quiet and immersed in our thoughts.

Comments

  1. This was such an interesting post. I know very little about Indian cultures. You have some beautiful pictures, and it's nice to get to know you a little better!

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  2. Sue: In India, there are so many different languages that it is hard for Indian themselves to know all! But the culture in each community is similar with slight variations.Glad you found it interesting.GSB konkanis are only a miniscule of the vast Indian population.

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  3. Very beautiful pictures. India is so large and its cultures so old that it would take a lifetime to know it all, but very interesting.

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  4. I for one would be someone who would ask..where are you from?..you would probably clip me round the ear and send me on my way..but I for one think the heritage, culture and tradition you have revealed to us here is something so rich and special ..you are obviously proud of your roots and so you should be...it's not called 'God's Own Country' for nothing! :-)

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  5. It's so interesting! I'd need a year off to study India and all its richness, I'm completely (well, almost) ignorant about it.

    There are so many religious and cultural beliefs that were damanged and possibly extinguished in those times by Christian missionaries, it's really sad.

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  6. Hats Off,PS..A piece of History beautifully brought out..You have a lovely way of putting across things..People seldom understand hinduism is a way of life and is a target of poaching ..
    The photographs just transported me to those places..You are a lucky person ,I guess
    God Bless
    TC
    CU

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  7. Congrats on the 200th post..an achievement by itself
    TC
    CU

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  8. Congrats on the 200th!
    Nice read indeed, and excellent photographs too!

    -Balu

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  9. hey... well.. I remember asking u whether ur from kerala. But then I saw pics of urs taken in kerala, so it was only natural to assume so. but this post was really informative. kudos for penning it! I had always wanted to know.

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  10. Very informative post especially for a GSB like me .

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  11. I love it when you write about something close to your heardt. You get so passionate about it that it makes great writing.

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  12. Really you explained well about KONKANI...i only rember konkan is a launguage and one more thing is konkan railways....

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  13. Raghu Ram: Thanks and Thanks for stopping by!Konkani is the language.Konkan refers to the region or the area where Konkanis hail from.

    Freelance: How have you been? Will look you up soon!

    Ajitbhai:Thanks!

    Pointblank:Thanks do much..I always find it tiring to explain to people that i am from kerala but not a malayalee.Now I guess, I can just point them in the direction of this post!

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  14. Balu: Thanks friend!!

    CU: Thanks so much--I appreciate your kind words.

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  15. Devil Mood: I doubt if the Christian missionaries succeeded in extinguishing beliefs.It is precisely to ESCAPE the forcible conversion that people fled, leaving behind property worth lakhs.Perhaps that is why there still exists a strict adherence to belief, rituals and traditions.When you come close to losing what you have, you value it even more.

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  16. //.When you come close to losing what you have, you value it even more//

    Wonderful
    TC
    CU

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  17. Congrats on your 200th post..and my!! you've done a great job here. Educated, revelled in the nostalgia and brought the culture out to us. I can understand your frustration in communicating with Indians themselves who are so misinformed of their own languages and culture.
    And this puja that the family has conducted must have been so beautiful, I can clearly imagine all that, just a with the pictuers of your temple and the description. Your are passing down a greta value to your children and that is love for the roots.

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  18. Happy New Year hun!

    Keshi.

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  19. this is pretty much what goes on in the tulu culture too...the temple reminds me of our ancestral one in south kanara....

    u've explained it beautifully and yeah, kids need to drink in this part of the culture too...:)...

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  20. Hey Ps!
    ...So now I know what a Gauda Saraswat Bramhin is! :) I like people who are proud of their culture and where they come from! I strongly believe it is important to know your roots and indeed, Hinduism is a way of life!

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  21. Kongini ambalam (as the TD temple known among locals) is very near to my uncles place, and have been ther emany times.. i have some GSB friends who stays very nearby to that temple :) where so ur grandfather establish the temple?
    a good read to one of the vibrent cultures of India :) and yeah - congratz on 200 not out.. wish you could have done this @ australia now, for teh Indian cricket team ;)

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  22. i guess u learn something new every day! i didnt know this...interesting...is there any difference in the puja done?...i hve noticed tht mookambika temple in karanataka follows kerala traditions, like removal of the shirt whn entering the santuary...they say tht its becoz shakaracharya established it there but was originaly intended to be established in kerala...

    very intersting post

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  23. Tys: Yes I have been to the Mookambika temple. The TD temple too follows the ritual of removing the shirt while entering the sanctom sanctorum.

    --Xh--:Thanks. Glad to know you have heard of it!My grandpa established the Alungal temple--It is in a small village about 40 kilometres from ernakulam.

    Pretty woman: :-)

    Thinking aloud: I think basically many of the hindu rituals are same.Yes--important for kids to absorb.

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  24. CU: Thanks again!

    Keshi: Happy new year to you.

    Prats:Thanks!Family didnt conduct it--but paid for it!:-)

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  25. I love Konkani food!

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  26. TS: you are invited home for a konkani meal!

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  27. congrats on your 200th post which is a major milestone!

    and i loved reading about konkani history. i could identify with it since i'm a mallu from kasaragod who has been away since childhood. but whenever i visit ther, or see the pics (like the one in your post), i get goose-bumps. i guess its deep in one's blood!

    p.s. i love konkani food too! and many people assume that konkani food is the same as malvani food and are amazed when someone tells them that you get mind-blowing veg konkani food!

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  28. GREAT POST HOW ARE YOU?

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  29. Having stayed in Southern India for many years and having close friends from there, I got to learn about the culture, the heritage and the beauty of it all. Infact, we had this temple called Madhya Kailasha near our college campus and we visited there often on Birthdays,or when we felt low in life.. The solace and contentment it gave was uncomparable.. :)

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  30. nice know abt teh GSBs.. but then I thought they had a lot to do with maharashtra too... now is dat a misplaced conception??
    secondly, i've found loads of similarities between a GSB and say the Bong culture.. is dat mere chance or there's some link out there??

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  31. Sam:Yes,there are GSBs in Maharashtra too--some spea konkani, some speak marathi. I guess there will be lots of similarities in all Hindu cultures.Yes--you are right--a temple or nay place of worship for that matter does radiate so much serenity.

    Guru: Funnily not many know that GSB cuisine is purely veg! Many think konkani cusine means sea food.

    Kaylee: Am

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  32. Kaylee:I mean i am okay--How have you been?Will drop by soon.

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  33. Wow.... I had no clue about the history of the TD temple... Have attended so many weddings there!

    Nice post.... very very very nice indeed!!!!

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  34. Ritu: Oh! There aretwo TD temples actually--there's one in Kochi--and one in Ernakulam.Thanks for the nice compliment!

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  35. You know, the two "sams" are different!! ;)

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  36. Sam:I didn't notice that!!Shall check--thanks for pointing it out.

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  37. finally.. all my doubts are cleared :D And I remember asking you where you are from!

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  38. lolzzz.... ah well.. i guess ew had ps confused back there!! :D

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  39. Wow what an interesting post. I loved reading it. I agree a religion shouldn't be forced on anybody. It doesn't make sence at all. In my feeling it goes against the core off every religion.

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  40. Interesting post! I am guilty of posting you the same question, when I first read your blog. Being a malayalee, I was curious to know which part of Kerala you were from. :)

    Now, I know. No, you couldn't have been my next door neighbor. :( But I knew a girl in college who was Konkani ( K Shenoi).

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  41. Oh, I thought I had already commented here, the story of your family is fascinating! And the pictures are amazing, I wish one day I'll be able to visit India and get to know all the nuances of this so rich multi-millennial culture.

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  42. Hey I am GSB and after reading this post I know exactly what to tell people when they ask me where I am from. My parents are based from Kerala too and now are settled in Bangalore.

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  43. i am a gsb konkani woman. i always face the same dilemma. my parents are from karkala. hubby's parents are from mangalore. but we were born and brought up in shimoga. we call shimoga (375 kms from bangalore) our hometown. we dont have any of the cultural background of our ancestors. still i am proud to be one of those of my community who are living all over india especially karnataka and those who live outside india. i really appreciated ur article. u are welcome to join my group. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/konkani_buddies/
    sangeeta shenoy, bangalore.

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  44. hinduism is a way of life---wow i loved tht sentence...we r indeed very tolerant n thts one reason india has so many religions...

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  45. chaang article..!

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  46. I am a GSB Konkani woman. I was knowing little bit about our culture & rituals. I read your article & infact its very interesting and a informative article. Thanks a lot for this madam .. Hoping to see more articles from your side

    Thanks & regards,
    Preethi Pradeep Shenoy, Hyderabad

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  47. I am a GSB Konkani woman. I was knowing little bit about our culture & rituals. I read your article & infact its very interesting and a informative article. Thanks a lot for this madam .. Hoping to see more articles from your side

    Thanks & regards,
    Preethi Pradeep Shenoy, Hyderabad

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  48. its a nice post ma'm.
    i don't have much idea about the cultures of south, so the post was really interesting for me..

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  49. I am a GSB and proud to be one. I get the same responses about my community like u do. People nowadays do not read and are not interested to know about the various communities that reside in India. South Indians are all madrasis!! I read a lot about the origin of GSB's, where they came from, how did they start eating fish inspite of being brahmins. I hope you have read that which is very interesting. Anyways it was nice to read your blog.

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  50. A brief history of GSB clearedsome misconceptions and brought out the resellient trait of the community.The pictures of the tradional temple at Ernakulam and the slide show are captivating.An excellent post

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