The people: The Konkanies are said to have originally hailed from central Asia. According to the available evidence around 4000 B. C. they were settled to an agrarian life, supplemented by cattle grazing, on the banks of river Sraswathi which is a tributary of River Indus.
Around 2500 B. C. they are said to have migrated to Thrihotrupura now called as Tiruth. It was here that they separated themselves into families or ‘GOTHRAS’. The next migration was around A. D. 1000, at this time they went in search of greener pastures. They were 2 groups. One of them retains Konkani even to day while the other group settled in Bengal and has assimilated the Bengali culture. The Konkanies were experts in farming and reaped three crops a year, which was a new phenomenon in those days
The Konkani culture has suffered many attacks by the Muslim invaders, Marathas and majorly by the Portuguese. During their infamous Inquisition- a program for religious and cultural conversion the Konkani culture was ruthlessly suffocated and valuable documents were permanently destroyed. This led to the diversification of the Konkani into different religions.
Konkani encompasses 3 religious groups which include more than 20 casts, subcasts and sects. The largest group consists of the Hindus – Saraswath Brahmins ( Chitrapur Saraswath Brahmins & Gauda Saraswath Brahmins) and the Daivajna Brahmins, the others are Vaniyas (merchants), Kudmis (Construction and field workers), Chaptekars ( cooks and caterers), Gudikars (drama props suppliers and puppetry artistes), Konkani Chamgars ( cobblers), Maesths (stonecutters), Bhandaris (barbers), Kharvis (fishermen), the Guravs of Goa, the Mrata Konkanies, The Rajpuri Saraswath and Brahmins of Maharastra.
The next largest religious group is the Christians. The Goan Christians, Mangalorean Catholics (who were originally converts from GSBs) and the Gowde Christians.
Among the Muslims few groups have retained Konkani language and culture. The Navayets are mainly settled in Bhatkal and the Kufis of North Kanaka and Ratnagiri.
The Language:Litreary evidence prove that Marathi is an offshoot of Konkani but the matter still remains controversial. Konkani was written in the Brahmi script and later by Devanagari. In 1556 the Portuguese brought the first press to India. The machine was later utilized by Fr. Thomas Stephens, a British missionary who published in an Asian language.
The first Konkani newspaper O Konkani was published in 1886. The others are Salak In 1889, Rakno 1938 , Sunampranth which is published from Goa.
The culture: The cultural activities include an artform called as Zagor ( Dramatics on religious stories) in Goa, Thiatre ( satirical plays) , Konkani Natak Sabha is still performing various plays in Mangalore. The other significant artforms are Mando which is a song sequence, Dhulpod (string songs).
Gumta is an exclusive musical instrument and is used in Gumta Padam which is a distinct style of music of the Kudmis and the Mangalorean Christians.
Konkanies represent less than 0.5% of India’s population but they have established a distinct place for themselves in all the streams. In 1976 the Sahitya Academy recognized Konkani as an Independent language. In 1987 it was made the official language of Goa. In 1992 Konkani was included in the 8th schedule of constitution of India and awarded the status of a National Language.
The passages on the history and background of the konkanies is authentic only to the extent that they are based on the best available data.
For further details:
Konkani bhasha Mandal (R) Karnataka
Office: Navaratna palace, k. S. Rao Road
Mangalore – 575 001