Comunidades de Goa

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


3rd Vangodd: SOUZA


5th Vangodd: MELO, SOUZA


7th Vangodd: SEQUEIRA






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.

Some Peculiarities:

  • 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.

17 comments on Comunidades de Goa

  • s.d costa

    dear fr nacimento
    Why is it that only the bramins became the gaunkars and why was the rest of the community like the chardis shudras etc allienated for the receipt of the ZON in saligao? Were they not human beings? In my opinion the communidade system is not in line with the teachings of Christ of which you are the torch bearer and you should endeavour your few years of life left for the abolition of this unjust and inequitable system of which you seem to be so proud of.

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear s.d costa,
    This blog is not for discussion. There are other goan sites for such discussion.
    But as you want some englighment, the fact is that there are Culacharins in saligao who receive zon of saligao comunidade besides brahmins and the comunidade of saligao is an institution which is functionong till this date. It is not a portuguese onstituton. I only made a study of saligao comunidade from hindu period and placed my findings before the readers of saligaoserenade till this date. It has got nothing to do with my apostolate as a priest. I tried my best in my pastoral work in the places assigned to me by our Eclesiastical authorities and so far I had no problems with our goan people whom I respected and worked for Christ. I hope you understand Thank you. God blee you and yours.much love. fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Jules Fausto de Sa

    Dear Mr D’Costa,
    Owing to personal computer problems, I was unable to respond to your email to Fr Nascimento, which I thought to be in extremely poor taste. Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas is an extremely well read and respected historian of our community. He has only highlighted the workings of Saligao Communidade and made mention of the various families. He is not advocating the the system was just. Infact, had you bothered to read other messages through Saligao net, he has actually stated that as a Priest he could not judge people because of their castes, but that he had a duty to explain the way life was. I think that one should study all that is good and bad to understand things. I myself, through my genealogical pursuits have found some real black sheeps in my own family. I am not ashamed of them as they possibly had their reasons for their actions. I am very proud of my Goan ancestry and I am grateful to Priests like Fr Mascarenhas, Monsignor Gomes Catao, etc, who through their work have given us important information.
    Fausto de Sa

  • s.d costa

    Dear Fr Nacimento/Dsa
    Let me apologise for my earlier remarks. I did not mean ill will to you or any one else one. In fact father Nacimento was the one who taught me cathecism when he was a Bondya priest- when he was studying for his priesthood(he used to have a small round cutting of his hair at the back of his head).
    What I am trying to convey is that a priest should devote his energies and time for the loftier principles viz Love of God and neighbour which is very much lacking in saligao, the Eucharist-the mystical body of christ, which is being desecrated by our Sligaonkars by fighting among ourselves and then attending the eucharistic celebrations, and on christian virtues and thus save our souls.

    Now Mr Dsa
    As regards Goan roots you are taking about there is nothing left to be proud of, Saligaonkars have sold their ancestral lands to developers who have build Gated communities in saligao(Which is unheard of in Goa) and have sold these villas to outsiders. If this developer had the good of Goans in his mind then he would have sold these properties to Goans and not to outsiders.Half of Cottula and Muddavado are already in his pockets.
    Now he has brought a harvester in the name of community service and is trying to win the hearts of saligaonkars. This too he must be doing for his own selfish ends and finally he will grab all the fields for further persuing his building activities which unfortunately belong to the communidade. Saligaonkars be vigilant and take care of these crooks who are too many in Goa now a days.

  • Jules Fausto de Sa

    Dear Mr D’Costa,
    Well, it is indeed sad what is happening in Goa and in many villages such as Saligao, Aldona, etc, but it the fault of this must surely lie with the Politicians, who have really made Goa a laughing stock owing to their corruption and ill-governance.
    My own family ancestral property is in the neighbouring village of Sangolda and whilst it is wholly intact, the local regulations frighten me as I am not one for bribing to get things in my name.

  • fr. mascinemto mascarenhas

    Dear Mr. D’Costa/D’ Sa
    This blog is not for discussion. There are other sites for such discussions and I am afraid the Editor in future may use the button to stop such unnecessary discussions on Saligaoserenade. I hope you lunderstand. The Home page of saligaoserenade tells you all about the blog . Nevertheless I pray for both of you and your families Regards, fr. nascimento mascarenhas.

  • William Vaz

    Dear Fr Mascarenhas,

    I would like to introduce myself as an Individual having roots to Saligaon but now having place in Mahrashtra (Kankavli). We once were originally from Saligao and had migrated to Maharashtra leaving all the property back in Saligao.

    I read your article and developed interest in knowing the history flow of Saligao for last 200 years. I jope you can be helpful to me in pursuing this.

    Thanks in advance .


  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear William,
    It is nice to know that your ancestry is from Saligao and that since 200 years your ancestors left Saligao to be in Maharashtra( Kankavli ) I know most of the people with surname Vaz that they are from Donvado in Saligao. I also know that more than 400 years passed the catholic people of Saligao belonged to the Parish of Holy Trinity , Nagoa de Bardez. But from 26th November, 1873, Saligao people founded a new Church in Saligao though the existing chapels in Saligao belonged till 25th Nov, 1873 to Nagoa church. From 26th November, 1873 these chapels at Saligao were affiliated to the new chuch of Mae de Deus, Saligao which has completed 137 years on 26th Nov., 2010. So your ancestors went to Kankavli from Saligao when they were parishioners of Nagoa Church.
    Regarding your properties at Saligao I do not know anything nor I have the expertise in that field. However I do study about the culture, folklore, and a bit of history of our native village of Saligao. if you read the blog saligaoserenade you may find something about our village, Men & Matters.Wishing you God’s blessings,
    fr. nascimento mascarenhas.

  • Henry Assumption

    I am very interested to get in touch with William Vaz from Kankavli as I am looking for a relative who used to live there some 15 years ago. Can you help/? please?

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Henry,
    So far I do not know Mr.William Vaz. I am sorry I am unable to help you for the moment. I am awaiting a reply from Mr. Vaz, if he knows at least from which vaddó in Saligão his ancestry comes from. This may give me some clue for my further study regarding his querry Much love fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • hello my name is forefathers are all from goa and i belong to a poor community of barbers. i had simple doubts which i want to find out.can somebody help me out.
    1.when the whole of india is under the democractic rule how does the land belongs to a group of some communidades. who are they to rule the land. and if they have accuired the land did they buy it from the government.if so then why the land is not available to common man at government rates. why the prices in goa are touching the sky where a goan itself is unaffordable to buy the land in which he is grown up all his life and why the people from delhi gujarat rajasthan and other states are becoming our bosses and driving out and leading the goan poor community to poverty.

  • Zelia

    Can any one let me know the parents of Zita Azavedo from Saligao who married Dr. Kevin Quadros. I am seeking her parentage.


  • John Nazareth

    Dear Fr Nascimento
    I am curious that there are differences between the vangors by surname here and those published in your book “Land of the Sal Tree”.
    For example, here Vangor 2 has 4 names whereas your book has 7. (I’m presume Souza and D’Souza are are same.)
    Which one is correct?

  • Ratti Extross

    Dear Fr. Nascimento,

    I am a gauncar of Tivim, I own some land which is surrounded by Communidade land which has been given for road widening, however there remains narrow strips of land around my property, hence I have no access to my land, what do I do to overcome this problem, the communidade is making an attempt to blackmail me in this regard.

    Your advice/assistance would be highly appreciated.

    Yours faithfully,

    R. Extross.

  • Winns

    Why is it not manadatory for the Daughters also to receive a share the rights.. or is it mandatory for the brothers to share with their Sisters..?

    this is only an enquiry…


  • anthony dsouza

    Dear Austin de Gama
    Hi… Would like to know which month and week of the year is the zone distributed to the zonkar…

  • Nuts

    Hello father, I am Natasha Guarda. I live in Chinchinim but parents are from Azra Maharashtra. Christian people there are supposed to be of Goan origin and they all are zonnkars of some villages in Bardez taluka,including Saligao. I just wanted to know if you have heard of any family with Guarda surname and of which village could Guarda people possibly be ganvkars of, because we are the only ones who are not gaonkars, rest all are.

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