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The East Indians of Bandra Bazar Road

East Indians or East Indian Catholics are a Marathi-speaking, Roman Catholic ethnic group, based in and around the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in the state of Maharashtra [2]. These people are of the original Marathi ethnic group and had been evangelized by the Portuguese, while retaining much of their pre-Christian traditions.

Pre-Portuguese era

Though It is commonly thought that the origin of Christianity in North Konkan, was due to the proselytizing activities of the Portuguese in the 16th Century. It was, St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ, who preached in North Konkan. There are indisputable evidences of this fact by the writings of Kosmos Indicopleustes of his having seen in Kalyana a flourishing Christian Community in the 6th Century and of Jordanus, of his having labored among the Christians in Thana and Sopara in the 13th Century. The French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) started evangelizing activities in Thana and Sapora was the first work of Rome in North Konkan. Sopara was an ancient port and an international trading center. The water once extended all the way to Bhayander creek thus making the whole area extending from Arnala to Bhayander an island - referred to as Salsette island. In the time of the Buddha, Sopara, (Ancient Shurparaka), was an important port and a gateway settlement. Perhaps this induced Ashoka to install his edicts there. Sopara is referred in the Old Testament as Ophir, the place from which King Solomon brought gold, Josephus identifies Ophir with Aurea Chersonesus, belonging to India. Septuagint translates Ophir as Sophia, which is Coptic for India. This refers to the ancient city of Soupara or Ouppara on the western coast of India.

It should then come as no surprise that contact with India dates as far back as the days of King Solomon. Pantaneus visited India about AD 180 and there he found a Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew language, left with the Christians there by St. Barthlomew. This is mentioned by Eusebius, and by Jerome in one of his letters. The finding of a Gospel of Matthew left with the Christians by Bartholomew is very strong evidence to the existence of a Christian community in India in the first century at the time of the visit of St. Bartholomew. It traces the history of the Church in India to the first century. In fact, it is an independent confirmation of the Indian church’s ancient and apostolic origin. Most history of The Indian Church was lost between the 9th and the 14th Century, as Persia went over to the Nestorianism in 800 AD. Since the provision of Church offices and all the apparatus of public worship, was looked to a foreign source; when this foreign aid was withdrawn. the Indian Christians were reduced to "nominal" Christians.[2]
[edit] Portuguese era
Main article: History of Bombay under Portuguese rule (1534-1661)

The whole policy of the Portuguese, who came to India in 1498, was to bring the Indian Christians under their concept of Roman Catholicism. The Bramhins Prabhu and other high-class Hindus who were prudently and ceremoniously converted were treated by the Portuguese with honor and distinction. In stark contrast, was the attitude of the Portuguese to those groups who were engaged in cultivation, fishing and other rural occupations handed down to them by their ancestors. These groups were given neither education, not proper instructions in the dogmas and doctrines of the church. Among the converts the Portuguese made, it cannot be denied that a large number of them were descendants of the Christian Community founded by Apostle St. Bartholomew . But these new converts were not strangers to the old Christians. They were their own people with whom they had been living for centuries. The Portuguese however welded them into one community. Ever since then, this community has remained a separate entity, without becoming one with any of the other Christian community. In certain instances, they were even referred to as "Portuguese Christians". With the defeat of the Portuguese at the hands of the Marathas and later on the advent of the British, there came a lot of change. In the 1960s, the Archdiocese of Bombay estimated that there were 92,000 East Indians in Mumbai out of which 76,000 were in suburban Mumbai and 16,000 in urban Mumbai.[1]
[edit] British and modern era
Main articles: History of Bombay under British rule and Bombay Presidency

On 11 May 1661, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in the possession of the British Empire, as part of Catherine's dowry to Charles.[3] From the early days of the East India Company, there were no other Indian Christians in the North Konkan except the East Indian Catholics. Employments that were intended for the Christians, were the monopoly of the East Indians. With development, came in railways and steamship, a boon for the traveling public. And with that came a number of emigrants from Goa which were also known as Portuguese Christians. The British found it expedient to adopt a designation which would distinguish the Christians of North Konkan who were British subjects and the Goan and Mangalorean Catholics who were Portuguese subjects. Accordingly on the occasion of The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Christian of North Konkan, who were known as "Portuguese Christians" discarded that name and adopted the designation "East Indian”. By the adoption of the name "East Indian" they wanted to impress upon the British Government of Bombay that they were the earliest Roman Catholic Subjects of the British Crown in this part of India, in as much as Bombay, by its cession in 1661, was the first foothold the British acquired in India. As the children of the soil, they urged on the Government, that they were entitled to certain natural rights and privileges as against the emigrants.[2]
[edit] Culture

Although, they have preserved their pre-Christian Marathi culture and traditions, many Portuguese and influences have been absorbed. They speak in exclusive East-Indian marathi dialects. Most of them are fluent in English as well. A village of East-Indians who to this day speak Portuguese. The language of the Kupari Christians is a dialect of Marathi known as Shamedi. The East Indian cuisine is a unique blend of Koli, Marathi, and Portuguese cuisine. They still retain many of the practises of pre-Christian tradition. Most of the East Indian women wear typical Maharashtrian saree and Koli dresses.[4] . East Indian ladies also wear the Mangalsutra. The East Indians of Vasai also practise the pre-Christian tradition of visiting the Vajrayogini temple every year.

There are five broad cultural groups of East Indians - Kulbis, Samvedi Christians, Koli Christians, Vadvals, Salsette Christians and the urbanized section.
[edit] Prominent East Indians

* Gonsalo Garcia: Roman Catholic saint from India
* Joseph Baptista: Indian freedom activist.
* Michael Ferreira: amateur player of English billiards
* Gavin Ferreira: olympic hockey player
* Luke Mendes - Film Maker [His film Dog Eat Dog was an official selection at the Festival De Cannes 2007

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