ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Can Archives Decide the Traditional Elites in Goa?

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   The article by Parag D Parobo titled Power and Politics of a Hindu Upper Caste in Colonial Goa (17401961) (EPW, 13 August 2022) highlights the status of Shenvis or Gaud Saraswat Brahmins (GSBs) as traditional elites in Goa. This letter nowhere tries to deny the role of Shenvis in the modern history of Goa but draws attention to the academic trend wherein a numerically marginal community of Shenvis or GSBs is ceremonially installed at the centre stage of the history-writing process. It visualises the scribe and hides the indigenous rulers. The invisibility of the ruler around the Shenvis makes them capable enough to bargain and conduct political activities autonomously. The modern history of Goa pays more attention to the Shenvi scribes than the rulers they were working under. This approach has resulted in marginalising peoples history and celebrating the scribal status of the GSBs. The numerically large communities like Bhandari, which were politically active during the Maratha, Adil Shahs, and the Portuguese rule are simply reduced as mere toddy-tappers. The history of Goa has been researched from the point of view of powerful castes rather than producing a communitarian historical narrative.

In states like Maharashtra, Maratha history plays the role of peoples history. Every caste and community traces their role in the history of the making of the state. The regional history of Goa fails to extend such agency to all the castes and communities living in the small state. Rather, the Bahujan castes largely rely on the Maratha history associated with Maharashtra. This is due to the overemphasis on archival history of the GSBs, irrespective of their religious status. Can we write exclusive socio-economic history of Goa by separating the historical relations of caste and communities from the erstwhile Deccan region? Can we reduce the Shenvis or GSBs to only the state of Goa? Can we fully believe the archives to understand the making of communities in Goa? These questions need attention while writing the socio-economic history of Goa. Historically, the Shenvis are not confined to only the territory of Portuguese Goa but are found across the territory of the Deccan region. The present-day social relations in Goa are largely based on the evidences found in archives.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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