Languages of Goa

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

At present, the official languages of Goa are Konkani, Marathi, English and Portuguese. For many centuries, Marathi was the cultural language of the Hindus, which continued to be so during the Portuguese regime whereas after the conquest of Goa by the Portuguese, the Portuguese language (besides being the official) and later the English became the cultural languages of Hindus and Christians as well.

Konkani – Lingua Franca of Goa

Even then, the Konkani language always remained the “Lingua Franca” of the Goan masses, a people’s language indeed. It is well known that Marathi for centuries received official recognition in Maharashtra, it was the court language of the Maratha rulers while Konkani never did so either from the native rulers that held sway over Goa or, except for a short time, from the Portuguese, but notwithstanding all these vicissitudes, it survived all these centuries as a people’s language.

Marathi is written in Devnagri script but old Marathi books are found to be written in Balbodh, Mhoddi and Kanarese characters, whereas Konkani language is written in Devnagri, Kanarese, Roman and even Mallayalee script.

Under the Portuguese, the Konkani language in Goa seems to have been encouraged by Afonso Albuquerque himself and his policy was followed by a number of governors that succeeded him. The ecclesiastical authorities through Provincial Councils had ordered the missionaries to study the language under the penalty of their being debarred from undertaking pastoral work in the parishes. Consequently, a plethora of books like grammars, dictionaries and catechisms came to be published in the Konkani language in Goa among the Franciscans and Jesuits – for example the Doutrina Cristã by Thomas Stephens and Flos Sanctorum (Life of the Saints) by Amaden de Santana.

Thomas Stephens Konkani Kendra, Goa

Thomas Stephens Konkani Kendra, Alto Porvorim, Goa

The civil governors were also at the forefront of the Konkani language Renaissance. For instance, one Viceroy, Antonio de Mello e Castro, took up the study of the Konkani language, as he said, to better serve the country and its people. But later, dark clouds began to appear on the Konkani sky. The missionaries themselves fell into a torpor and lost interest in pastoral affairs and thereby in the study of language, probably because the tropical climate began to tell on them. To remedy the situation, native priests were appointed by them as their assistants to deal with the people. This indifference in later years turned into direct resistance against the language inasmuch as they influenced the government itself to pass a Decree (Álvara of 22-06-1684) ordering all the natives to study the Portuguese language within three years. This order later was corroborated by the Archbishop of Goa, D Lourenco de Sta. Maria, who in his Pastoral letter (21-11-1745) to the Goan Christians declared that the ignorance of the Portuguese language would stand as an impediment (canonical of course) for the celebration of marriages among the Christians.(1) In spite of all these checks and setbacks, Konkani never died but it rose, like the phoenix of the fable, from its own ashes and now did gain every momentum in our days.

Konkani’s Second Spring

After integration of Goa into the Indian Union, however, Konkani’s second spring commenced as one of the main languages of Goa. The protagonists of this movement were the great Varde Vallaulikar (better known as Xennoi Goybab), Monsenhor Rodolfo Dalgado and a host of others, who by their works have shown the world of letters that Konkani can stand on its own feet, and therefore claim to be an independent language. The Sahitya Academy in Delhi gave recognition to Konkani as an independent language in February 1975 and the Central Government of India declared it as an official language and placed in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution of India. This led eventually to declaration of Goa as an independent State of India during the prime ministership of Rajiv Gandhi (1987). The Statehood Day is celebrated in Goa every year on 30th May.


(1) BRAGANÇA PEREIRA, A B de; Etnografia da India Portuguesa, p.197.

1 comment on Languages of Goa

  • Dear Friend,

    helo, can u do the the favor of sending me the written Order of mass in konkani language, would be a great help. Or if u can tell me whic website i can find.

    thanks and best regards

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