Village Names

By Radharao Gracias
20 August 2012 19:58 IST

My family has lived for generations in a little village called Calata, which with Majorda and Utorda constitutes one Village Panchayat and previously formed the Parish of Mae de Deus. Utorda is now the separate parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. The etymology of my village, is clearly apparent, if one looks at the original Konkani names, Khala’ta, Maz’odde and Utor’de. It simply means lower, middle and upper parts and that is the lay of the villages, along the Arabian Sea.

The three villages until 1588, had Maha mai (great mother) as the presiding deity and the temple was dedicated to her. In that year, the entire village embraced christianity, the temple was demolished and a church built in its place, dedicated to Mae de Deus (Mother of God). It was much easier for the villagers to replace “Great Mother” with “Mother of God”. The Jesuit priests appear to have been well versed in psychology. The Jesuits were in charge of the parish until Marquis de Pombal expelled them towards the end of the eighteenth century. That gave an opportunity to one of my ancestors, to become the first native Parish Priest of the village.

The village to the south had Betal, the pre Hindu god, as the presiding deity. The name of the village Betalbatim is derived from Betal Bhat which means the land of Betal. The church in the village is dedicated to Our Lady of Remedios with a side altar to St. Bartholomeu, one of the apostles, whose novenas are currently in progress. If asked, any parishioner will tell you, it is the feast of Sao Betal. Once again, the Jesuits had done their home work and gave the villagers, Sao Betal, to replace Betal !

Further towards the south, is the village of Benaulim (Banavle). Legend has it, that the Kshatriyas stole Kamdenu, the wish fulfilling cow, owned by the father of Parashuram, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu. Aggrieved, Parashuram vowed vengeance and wielding his axe, fought twenty one battles and annihilated the Kshatriyas.  He then laid down his axe, took up the bow and shot an arrow from atop the Sayadaris. The sea parted where the arrow fell, and land emerged. The village where the arrow landed came to be known as “Banavle” (place where the arrow fell). Even today the villagers will point out “Kamla Tollem” as the spot where the arrow landed. He settled Brahmins on land that had emerged.

P.P.Shirodkar disputes the traditional claim for the origin of the name “Banavle”. According to him the name comes from the Kannada word “Vanahalli” which means a forested place. Indeed, there are still vestiges of forests towards the north eastern corner of Benaulim Village. The celebrated Mando “Banavale Monte socolu roddtai khole” is set in this locale. The forested portion, however, is spread over three adjacent villages, Benaulim, Seraulim and Vanelim. The last named is a distinct revenue village which together with Sernabatim, Gandaulim and Colva constitutes a single Panchayat and all the four villages are commonly known to outsiders, as Colva. Hence, Vanahalli, has evolved into Vanelim as a natural phonetic derivative. Thus, Vanahali cannot also be Banavle in the same vicinity.

On the other hand, the legend of Parashuram may be based on some real life incident, garnished and embellished over the years. And this conclusion is based on my own observations. Benaulim is the only village in the whole of littoral Salcete, where all the gauncars are Brahmins (now Catholics) without any Kshatriyas among them. In the other villages namely, Utorda, Majorda, Calata, Gonsua, Betalbatim, Gandaulim, Colva, Vanelim, Sernabatim, Cana, Varca, Orlim and Carmona, Cavelossim the gauncars are all Kshatriyas (now Catholics) without any Brahmin among them. According to legend Parashuram, destroyed the kshatriyas and settled Brahmins. The caste composition of coastal villages of Salcete certainly seems to back the legend. Otherwise, why should there be Brahmins only in Benaulim and no Kshatriyas, while Kshatriyas in all the other villages and no Brahmins?

Of course, I have no conclusive evidence, but there may be a germ of truth in the legend of Parashuram. The matter should be investigated by historians/sociologists. I am keenly interested as I have descended on my mother’s side from those settled by Parashuram in Benaulim and on my father’s side from those whom Parashuram failed to annihilate in Majorda !

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Radharao Gracias

Radharao F.Gracias is a senior Trial Court lawyer and ex President of the South Goa Advocates Association. He is also former independent MLA of Goa. He has been an activist on issues related to Goa for more than three decades.

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Goenkar bab, The KRC also named the Kulem station as "Kule". But later relented to people agitation once the KRC was told the KULE in konkani means Buttocks.

- gobor, navelim | 30 th October 2012 12:41


dear @ Kay...this is an attempt to answer your query ...your last name Deuskar has absolutely nothing to do with the deus a latin word for sanskrit Deo/dev....the last name should be spelt Devus kar....your forefathers ,after fleeing Goa from the fear of forcible conversion ,have first migrated to the village Devus...either the Devus nesr Korgaon in Pernem ...which was a Maratha Sawantwadikar Sawant Bhosale`s territory.....or they might have migrated to a village in the Sawanwadi taluka...Devus,near Danoli after the amboli ghat.....or they must have migrated to a village in the Vengurla Taluka..of the same name....thus we have three names of the three villages ...but before arriving at a def conclusion ,your gotra is v imp...but one thing I am sure and certain ..that your ancestors were not in today`s Fonda..Antruj Antruj was NOT under the religio fanatic Portuguese ! so,your ancestors were 100% from the old talukas which was known as the Antruj,Sanguem,Quempem,Canakon were not the part of Gomantak...and they belonged to the Soundekars....and the non -catholics had No reason to more thing I am reasonably sure is that your last name was NOT Devuskar but something else before the forcible has to be something else....the best thing for you is to visit your kula [family] purohit [ priest ] at Mhardol and make an enquiry....all the best...May mother Mahalasa bless you ....

- Mangesh, Panaji | 25 th September 2012 13:30


Can you tell me if the name DEUSKAR has any connection to Mae de Deus? I am told my family came from a village called DEUS but now I cannot find that village anywhere in Goa. It was possibly near Fonda, since the family temple of all Deuskars is Mhalsa Narayani at Mardol.. Can you help?

- kay, dubai | 23 rd September 2012 13:22


Please tell us history of your Hindu name. Did you have a Hindu parent?

- Caitano, UAE | 23 rd August 2012 02:10


it is a good piece, except that, at one place you write Hindus embracing Christianity in a south Goa village almost overnight. Dude, it wasn't that simple and smooth.

Change of religion back then involved fear, terror, and slaughter.

- Jagan Kamat, Canada | 23 rd August 2012 02:09


Radha, would very much appreciate if you can explain how Carambolim became Karmali, Seraulim became Suravali and Margao to Madgaon.

- Goenkar, Margao | 22 nd August 2012 18:46


I wish to make two points.

1. The legend about Parshurama probably concerns the entire Goa/Konkan coastal plain, not just Benaulim. That the coastal plain emerged out of sea is a geological FACT, not a legent. The evidence can still be seen. At Bambolim for instance, you can find sea sand and shells encrusted in the hill, several metres above the present sea level. You can check it for yourself if you drive down the road from Bambolim Beach Resort to Siridao; see on the cliff on the left. It is clear that sea level receded; when is a matter of research.

2. The caste pattern in Salcete is explained by a different history which speaks of how Brahmins were invited into Salcete by the Charddes to ward off evil, and how the former demanded the most fertile villages of Salcete (along the banks of rivers Zuari and Sal) as a price. Check "De Sasatana Peninsula" by Ignatius Arcamone (1664).

- TENSING RODRIGUES, CARMONA | 21 st August 2012 09:37


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