by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas
“Whether to abolish or reorganise comunidades has been a subject of much discussion. These are otherwise known as agricultural associations. Let us try and focus attention on this extremely old institution activity. The exact date of organising comunidades is not known, but Portuguese historian Joao de Barros, in his publication Decade II, Fr. Francisco de Sousa in his book Oriente Conquistado, and Afonso Mexia, in his book Foral de Usos e Costumes, establish the date as 1526. It is known that centuries earlier, a few people from across the Ghats came to Goa. They were agriculturists, in Cape Canar( Karnataka), and not having good lands for cultivation, were attracted by the freshness and beauty of Goa.
The first people to live in Goa divided themselves into families called Vangores, each vangor representing a family. In order of preferences, these were again classified and called first, second, third, etc, vangor. The territory was again divided into malos, meaning provinces, and each of the malos into gaos, or village. A certain number of vangores were transformed into ganvponn or comunidade. It is clear that the term gaos led to the formation of the term comunidade. Which in the early days was the most elevated form of family control in respect to religion, economics and society.
The gauncares of each village divided the plots, a part being determined for religious service another for the maintenance of its employee, and the third for the barber and other mediums. The comunidade got its income from fields, fishing, in the lakes and rivers, which income was distributed between the Ganvcares. The ancient Hindu and Muslims princes who established themselves much later over the Konkan dominion, maintained the comunidades in the village, extracting a nominal tax known as foro.
When Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa (1510) he respected the religious norms, which were administered through effective laws. He allowed the customs and traditions to continue, and did not increase the taxes already existent. On 16 September 1526, Afonso Mexia, organiser of the vendor of Royal Treasury, in the name of King Joao III of Portugal, published a decree ‘Foral dos Usos e Costumes’ to regulate the rural economy of village Comunidades and bring them under civil administration. With this, the comunidades came under the direct tutorship of the government.
The new constitution regime in Portugal, whilst determining new ways of public administration, did not alter the working of comunidades. A decree dated 15 September 1880 gave comunidades the new name of associacoes Agricolas, which brought immense benefits to the cultivator, and allowed him to hold onto land for three years at a time, on a nominal foro (tax). A law in 1886 translated the existing legislation into a more efficient administration of the comunidades.
In October 1929, to improve the working of the agricultural department, a new workshop called inspection of comunidades was established. On more than one occasion the Portuguese thought of reorganising and even making comunidades extinct.”
[Reference: “Goa those bygone days” by Antonio Menezes in Mirror, 29 December 1996].
Comunidade de Saligao
The village was administered by the Comunidade, an institution of village administration retained by the Portuguese and which stands till our present times. Under it, the common land of the village was vested on the Ganvponn, the corporate entity of the village. There were village helpers, the carpenter (thovoi) or mesta, the barber (mhalo), the shoe-maker (mochi), the washerman (modvoll), the crier (parpoti) and blacksmith (vinani). Some of them had their own namoshins or cultivable lands. On questions affecting the interests of the whole village, the Ganvponn decided by vote.
The 12 Christian Brahmin Vangors (clans) of Saligao Comunidade had one vote each. The members of the 12 “vangodd” enrolled themselves as follows:
1st Vangodd: CRUZ, FURTADO
2nd Vangodd: GAMA, COSTA, MELO, SEQUEIRA
3rd Vangodd: SOUZA
4th Vangodd: REMEDIOS, SOUZA, DANTAS
5th Vangodd: MELO, SOUZA
6th Vangodd: CORDEIRO, FIGUEREDO, MELO, MACHADO, NUNES, PAIS, RAMOS, SALDANHA, SOUZA
7th Vangodd: SEQUEIRA
8th Vangodd: ALMEIDA, ABREU, MENDONCA, NORONHA, SOUSA
9th Vangodd: COUTINHO, LOBO, MONIZ, DIAS, MASCARENHAS, MATIAS, MENEZES, PINTO, SERRAO, SOUSA
10th Vangodd: COSTA, COELHO, CARVALHO, CAMPOS, FERNANDES, GOMES, MONIZ, MARQUES, SOUZA
11th Vangodd: MASCARENHAS, CARNEIRO
12th Vangodd: AZAVEDO, FERNANDES, VAZ
The above are all Brahmin ganvkar and their primary enrolment as members of the Comunidade to receive zon (dividend) was after having completed the age of 12 years. They were known as joneiros gauncares.
There are others who receive zon only. They are called Paustes and Taikilles or Kulcharins. They are outsiders established in Saligao, working for the Community and receiving zon a little less than the ganvkar. Their primary enrolment is after completing the age of fifteen and are of the following surnames: ALMEIDA, DIAS, MONTEIRO, SEQUEIRA, VAZ, SOUZA, FERNANDES. They are only joneiros but not ganvkar.
- The Fernandes and Marques of the 10th Vangodd of Saligao Communidade are dodde-zonnkar (double zonkar), that of Saligao as joneiros-ganvkar and of the Comunidade de Chorao. In the Communidade of Chorao they are known as Brahmin-Kulacharins. (vide, Livro de Comunidade de Chorao, Ilhas, Goa)
- In the Comunidade de Saligao, the alimony corresponding to one zon is paid to the only son of a deceased ganvkar. When male children are more than one, the eldest received the zon in full and the others received one-half each. This alimony was extended to the sons of Kulacharins in Saligao Comunidade (vide, Gomes Pereira, Rui, Goa Gaunkari, The Old Village Associations, Vol. II, p. 59).
- A few members of the first five vangodd of the Comunidade de Saligao had, to the exclusion of the other members, the right to celebrate the feast of Novidade (vide, Gomes Pereira, Rui, Gaunkari…, Vol II, p. 116). In my younger days at least two of my friends, the late Caetano Antonio dos Remedios from Tabravaddo and Mel D’Souza from Arrarim were presidents of the ‘Festa de Novidades’ which was celebrated on August 6. It is celebrated now too but without a president and at a changed date in the month of August.
- Every Comunidade member of Saligao has to register his name by himself or through proxy (ganvkar) annually in the Book of the Comunidade in order to receive the zon of that particular year in May. All these enrolments ( primary or yearly) are done by the Escrivao. The member will not receive the zon for the particular year if he has not registered his name in the book.