Konkani as a language has suffered a dreaded fate. In the early years of Portuguese rule the language suffered immense damage. To establish their rule, Portuguese uprooted many aspects of the Goan society. Besides famously destroying temples in the old conquest regions the Portuguese also systematically dismantled the cultural landscape of Goa. That is why there is such a difference between the old and new conquest in terms of culture. Konkani language was a certain casualty in this process.
Consequence of inquisition on Konkani language
The Portuguese in order to gain a strong foothold in the old conquest that was made up of Bardez, Tiswadi, Salcete started the infamous inquisition. Temples were destroyed, customs and traditions were banned and most importantly local language was banned. All available literature in Konkani language was destroyed. The language was left in the shadows to a point where status of Konkani as a language was questioned.
Many argue that Konkani is a spoken language rather than a written one. There are many claims that support it since the colonial times, Konkani did not develop. In fact, the regions of Goa free from Portuguese rule were using Marathi in the official documents. The belief that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi became stronger. Which is contested till date.
Change in winds for Konkani
As a measure of repentance or rather acceptance of reality. Half a century later things began to turn in Konkani’s favour. The Portuguese began printing books in Konkani language to reach out to the masses in Goa. “Krista-Purana” published by Fr. Thomas Stephans in 1616 is a very good example. In 1808, Konkani language edition of Bible was printed and distributed. All these efforts of reviving a language that was destroyed by the same authorities was not enough. Except, Konkani was now written in the Roman script.
Waman Raghunath Shennoi Varde Valaulikar became widely popular as Shenoi Goembab. He was credited with reviving Konkani literature and also promoting it as a separate language from Marathi. He is said to have written what is believed to be the first modern Konkani short story “Mhoji Baa Khuin Gelli?”.
He had successfully translated Bhagavad Gita into Konkani, titled “Bhagwantalem Geet”. He also pubished a historical book titled “Albuquerquan Goen Koshem Jiklem” (How Albuquerque Won Goa). These are just a few contributions from one of Konkani’s greatest writers.
Konkani language agitation
It is only after a bloody agitation that Konkani became the official language of Goa in the 1980’s. The two scripts of the language, Devanagari and Roman script have lately created some unpleasantness among Konkani lovers.
The fact remains that Konkani lacks or lacked many aspects because it was oppressed. Hence, it would not be fair to write it off as a dialect of Marathi.
Image credit – Deccan Chronicle