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Origins of Christianity in South Kanara
(Diocese of Mangalore)

Map of India.  Click to enlargeSouth Kanara comprises the present Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. Christians appeared as a significant force in South Kanara only after 1500AD. Christians migrated from various places in Goa between 1500 AD to 1763 AD. In the context of South Kanara these original Christian settlers are called the Konkani Christians.

Konkani Christians migrated from Goa because of political, economic, cultural and other reasons.

Economically because the Portuguese imposed oppressive taxation. The gravity of the oppression can be comprehended by the fact that a direct memorandum was sent to the king of Portugal at Lisbon in 1642 by the natives of Goa.
Culturally because the Portuguese rulers of Goa tried to enfore cultural assimilation of Konkani Christians into the Western culture. Their personal names, food habits and even dress were made to conform to the contemporary European Christian standards. As long as the Konkani Christians tried to maintain a separate identity through their language, customs and manners, the Portuguese government practiced social discrimination. This factor also made the Konkani Christians leave Goa.
Politically because of the uncertainty after the decline of the Vijayanagar Empire and the subsequent military invasions of the Sultans of Bijapur and the Marathas.

Another reason the Konkani Christians migrated from Goa was because of the Edict of Goa Inquisition. The contemporary records give us some insight into the oppressive character of Goa's Inquisition. It wanted to eliminate all the traces of paganism in the customs and manners of the native Christians with particular reference to birth, death, festivals and dress. It created a sense of fear and insecurity instead of love and brotherhood in the minds of the native Christians. Thus the Goa Inquisition provided the most important religious cause for the migration of the Konkani Christians to South Kanara.

The rulers of Vijayanagara and the Nayaks of Keladi encouraged the Konkani Christian migration because they were a useful group in the economic set up of the region. The Konkani Christians came to South Kanara during this period as artisans, merchants, cultivators and even for the propagation of faith. Agricultural land was available in South Kanara in sufficient quantity for cultivation. Gradually the Konkani Christians learnt Kannada and Tulu, but retained Konkani as their mother tongue, they built churches, organized parishes, started industries and warehouses in the region to promote socio-economic development in their own way. By 1763 AD when the Keladi dynasty fell from power, the Konkani Christians of South Kanara were happily living and enriching the local society.

Then came the rule of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan between 1761 - 1799 AD. When South Kanara was under their rule, the Konkani Chrisitians had to suffer from hardships. The Konkani Christians of South Kanara were caught up in the crossfire of Anglo-Mysore relations and many of them were subjected under Tipu Sultan to what the Konkani Christians call the historical experience as the Captivity. Tipu shaped the policy of captivity which brought inhuman misery, death, torture in many ways to the captured Konkani Christians.

The fourth Anglo-Mysore war led to the liberation of Christians from captivity after 15 years. The British took over South Kanara after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799 AD. Those Christians who survived the captivity returned to South Kanara. They were allowed to resettle on their land and their land holdings were returned.

One of the major developments in the history of Christians of the region is the arrival of the Basel Mission. The Basel Mission was a Protestant mission from Basel, in Switzerland. It arrived in South Kanara in 1834 and was active till 1914. The main purpose of it's work in the educational field was to liquidate illiteracy and make the people read and write so that they might be able to understand by themselves the spiritual and ethical life they were expected to lead.

Catholic Rites in South Kanara

  1. The Latin rite belonging to the Diocese of Mangalore
  2. The Syro-Malabar rite belonging to the Belthangady and Kottayam dioceses
  3. The Syro-Malankara rite belonging to the Bathery diocese

Diocese of Mangalore

Map of Mangalore.  Click to enlargeThe Diocese of Mangalore covers the geographical area of 9,425,91 sq. kms of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts in Karnataka and a part of Kasaragod district in Kerala. Out of the total population of 3,879,482 Catholics of the diocese number 250,000 in 150 parishes.

Almost all Konkani Christians in the Diocese of Mangalore are the descendants of the migrants from Goa in three major waves : after 1560 because of the Inquisition and after 1570 and 1683 because of famines and political upheavals. The number of migrants in Canara, scattered over a vast area, was considerable.

In 1514 Padroado (State Patronage) system was introduced in Goa and in 1534 Goa became an independent diocese having a vast territory, including the whole Canara. In 1632 the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of faith, popularly known as Propaganda was established by the Holy See. Pope Clement X appointed Fr Thomas De Castro honourary bishop of Fulsivila and Vicar Apostolic of Canara in 1674 under the Propaganda system which the Portuguese refused to recognize. Thus there was a conflict between the Padroado and Propaganda.

By 1800 the British had replaced the Portuguese in India. Taking advantage of the situation Pope Gregory XVI abolished the Padroado system outside the Portuguese territories in India, and he extended the Propaganda system in these territories and Apostolic Vicariates were established.

In 1836 the Catholics in the region were advised to transfer their allegiance to the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly, because as there was no ligitimate bishop in Goa, as the Portuguese government nominee was not acceptable to the Holy See. Many priests with their parishioners followed this advice but others refused, resulting in rift among the Mangaloreans in 1838. Canara was established as an independent Vicariate under Bishop Michael Anthony ocd in 1853. In 1886 the Vicariate was raised to the status of a Diocese and the Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore, Most Rev. Nicholas Maria Pagani sj became the first Bishop of Mangalore.

Bishops of Mangalore

Vicariate of Mangalore
Bishop Michael Anthony ocd 1853-1869
Bishop Mary Ephrem ocd 1869-1873
Under Bishop of Verapoly 1873-1878
Under Jesuit Administration 1878-1886
Diocese of Mangalore (est. 1886 by Pope Leo XIII)
Most Rev. Nicholas Maria Pagani sj.1886-1895
Bishop Abundius Cavadini sj 1895-1910
Bishop Paul Perini sj 1910-1923
Under Jesuit Administration 1923-1928
Fr Valerian J. D'Souza 1928-1931
(first diocesan priest to be appointed Bishop)
Fr Victor Rosario Fernandes 1931-1955
Bishop Basil Salvadore Peres 1955-1958
Bishop Raymond D'Mello 1958-1965
Bishop Basil Salvadore D'Souza 1965-1996
Most Rev. Aloysius Paul D'Souza 1996-


Area 8,425.01 sq. kms
Total population 37,44,513
Catholics 3,40,654
Languages spoken Konkani, Kannada, English, Tulu and Malayalam
Revenue districts Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kasargod
Diocesan Clergy 278
Religious Priests 123
Religious Brothers 15
Religious Women 1,595
No. of Parishes 149
Houses of Women Religious 160
Houses of Men Religious 21
Formation Houses
Major Seminary 01
Minor Seminary 01
No. of Educational institutions 242
P. G. Depts. / Colleges 03
B. Ed. Colleges 01
Colleges 10
Technical Institutions 12
Collegiates (P.U.C.) 11
High Schools (10th std.) 61
Primary Schools 144
Hospitals 10
Dispensaries 14


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