Roman Catholic Brahmin

Roman Catholic Brahmin (Bamonns /baməɳ ~ bamɔɳ/ in IAST Romi Konkani, ಬಾಮಣು in Canara Konkani and Kupari in Bombay East Indian dialects), is a caste among the Goan,[1][2][3] Bombay East Indian[4][5][6][7][8] and Mangalorean Catholics[9][10][11] who are patrilineal descendants of Konkani Brahmin converts to the Latin Church in India, in parts of the Konkan region that were annexed into the Portuguese East Indies, with the capital at Velha Goa. They retain some of the ethno-social values and customs of their Hindu ancestors, and most of them exhibit a noticeable hybrid Latino-Concanic culture.[12] They were known as the Brahmins among the "New Christians."[13]


In Goa, the Brahmins were engaged in the priestly occupation, but had also taken up various occupations like agriculture, trade, goldsmith, etc.[14] The origins of this particular caste can be traced back to the Christianisation of the Velhas Conquistas (Portuguese: Old Conquests) that was undertaken by the Portuguese during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was during this period that the Jesuit, Franciscan and Dominican missionaries converted many Brahmins to Christianity.[15] The first mass conversions took place among the Brahmins of Divar, and the Kshatriyas of Carambolim.[16]

All converts from Brahmin sub-castes (Goud Saraswat Brahmin, Daivadnya Brahmin, etc.) were lumped into a single Christian caste of Bamonn.[17][18][19] Since the conversions of Brahmins of a particular area became instrumental in the conversions of members of other castes because it resulted in loss of temple priests, such converts were highly valued and esteemed by the church and Portuguese authorities alike.[15] They were even allowed to wear the Yajnopavita (sacred thread) and other caste markings by special dispensation of Pope Gregory XV in 1623, on the condition that these were blessed by a Catholic priest.[20]

The Bamonns in general, consider their caste system to be an Indian class form of social categorisation.[21] Since their concept is divorced from all the religious elements associated to it by their Hindu counterparts, they tend to justify their maintenance of caste as a form of social stratification similar to the Western class concept.[21] Traditionally, they are an endogamous group and have refrained from inter-marriage with Catholics of other castes.[21][22] However, while the Bamonns never inter-married or mingled with the lower castes, the statutes and norms of the Roman Catholic church restrained them from discriminating against the latter.[23] Although most now carry Portuguese surnames, they have retained knowledge about their paik (ancestral pre-conversion surnames) such as Bhat, Kamat, Nayak, Pai, Prabhu, Shenoy, and Shet.[24][25] The konkanised variants of these surnames are Bhôtt, Kāmot, Nāik, Poi, Porbų (Probų), Šeņai, and Šet.[25]

Mudartha is a unique surname to be found among some Bamonn families that hail from Udupi district in Karnataka.[26] There is also a population of Saarodi (Kshatriyas), but Bamonns constitute the largest caste in the Mangalorean Catholic community.[9][10][11] Most Mangalorean Catholic Bamonn families trace their patrilineal descent to Goud Saraswat Brahmins.[9][10][11][27] There were a few historical instances in the Mangalorean Catholic community, wherein some Protestant Anglo-Indians were admitted into the Bamonn fold by Catholic priests at the time of their conversion to Catholicism,[28] their descendants are known as Pulputhru Bamonns (Pulpit Bamonns).[28][verification needed]

A 1976 genetic analysis study conducted on three groups of Saraswat Brahmins and one group of Goan Catholic Bamonns in Western India, confirmed the historical and ethnological evidence of a relationship between Goan Catholic Bamonns and Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmins.[29] The study further revealed that intergroup differences between the subject groups suggested a genetic closeness, with genetic distance ranging from 0.8 to 1.5.[29]

In popular cultureEdit

  • In her poem entitled de Souza Prabhu, the Goan poet Eunice de Souza muses about her Bamonn heritage:[30]

"No, I'm not going to

delve deep down and discover,
I'm really de Souza Prabhu
even if Prabhu was no fool
and got the best of both worlds.
(Catholic Brahmin!

I can hear his fat chuckle still.)"

  • The main protagonist of Mangalorean writer Richard Crasta’s erotic novel The Revised Kamasutra, is Vijay Prabhu, a small town, middle class Bamonn youth living in Mangalore during the 1970s.[31] Filled with erotic longing and a deep desire to flee staunchly conservative Mangalore, he embarks on a sexual and spiritual odyssey that eventually lands him in the relatively liberal United States.
  • The protagonists of Konkani novelist, V.J.P. Saldanha’s novels such as Balthazar from the novel, Belthangaddicho Balthazar (Balthazar of Belthangadi), Sardar Simaon and Sardar Anthon from Devache Kurpen (By the Grace of God), Salu and Dumga Peenth from Sordarachim Sinol (The sign of the Knights) are Bamonns. A few characters such as Jaculo Pai and Monna Kamath from Sordarachim Sinol,[32] Sardar Simaon Pedru Prabhu, Sardar Anthon Paul Shet and Raphael Minguel Kamath from Devache Kurpen have evidently Brahmin surnames.[33]
  • Antonio Gomes' debut novel The Sting of Peppercorns (2010) focuses on the trials and tribulations faced by the de Albuquerques, a Bamonn family from Loutolim in Salcette. The family is headed by its patriarch Afonso de Albuquerque, a namesake of the conqueror of Goa to whom the family is linked through legend. Apart from him, it consists of his wife Dona Isabella, their two sons Paulo and Roberto, their daughter Amanda, an aunt Rosita noted for her cooking skills, ayah Carmina, and several servants who live on the de Albuquerque estate.[34]
  • Shakuntala Bharvani's novel Lost Directions (1996) features a minor Goan Bamonn character, Donna Bolvanta-Bragança. She is a fervent Catholic who takes pride in her Brahmin heritage, scornfully reprimanding the protagonist Sangeeta Chainani for mistaking her to be an Anglo-Indian.[35] When Chainani innocently inquires as to how she can call herself a Brahmin while adhering to Roman Catholicism, her inquiry is contemptuously dismissed by the character.[36]

Notable personsEdit


a ^ In his A Konkani grammar published in Mangalore by the Basel Printing Press in 1882, Italian Jesuit and Konkani philologist Angelus Francis Xavier Maffei stated that Mangalorean Catholic Bamonn families then were still referred to by their paik surnames.[25] In the book, Maffei also gives a Konkani language grammar exercise:

Mezār lugaţ gallāiñgī? Galtāñ.
Have you covered the table with cloth? I will!

Suriār kiteñ assā moņ, amkāñ sǎrkeñ kǎļnāñ: zipki mǎnis moņtāt, suriār sǎbār kǎtañ assāt.
We do not know properly what’s there in the moon: Learned people say that there are many spots in the moon.

Kitleañ uorānčer amiñ yēzāi? Dånparā yā sānjer.
At what time should we come? Afternoon or in the evening?

Amiñ Devā kurpā sāmbaļtāuñ moņasăr, Deu amger rāutā.
God resides at our home, as long as we keep His grace.

Pātkiānger Deu rãutãgī? Rāutā, puņ išţa bǎri niñ.
Does God stay at sinners’ home? He stays, but as a friend.

Tuzo pūtų khǎiñ assā? To seireānger assā.
Where is your son? He is at a relatives’ house.

Tūñ khǎiñčea gǎrānt assāi? Āuñ Porbuger assāñ, mozo bāu Kāmtiger, moji boiņ Nāikāger, moji māusi Šēţiger, mozo sentur Šeņǎiñger.
In whose house do you reside? I stay at the Prabhu household, my brother at the Kamath household, my sister at the Naik household, my aunty at the Shet household, my great-grandchild at the Shenoy household.

Somi Jezu Krist vāur kǎrtālo, teātz jinsār tūñ vāur kǎr ani asseñ sompūrņ zatoloi.
Everyone should live as Jesus Christ did; Live like him and you will become complete.

Zōkōņ Jezu Kristāčer sǎtmāndināñ, pātienāñ ani tātso mōg kǎrināñ, takā zǎrti zāun zǎli.
The man who does not trust, believe in, and love Jesus Christ, will be judged.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France) & Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses 2001, p. 638
  2. ^ Risley & Crooke 1915, p. 80
  3. ^ Rao 1963, p. 45
  4. ^ "Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Institute". 1939.
  5. ^ "The Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay". 1968.
  6. ^ Baptista, Elsie Wilhelmina (1967). "The East Indians: Catholic Community of Bombay, Salsette and Bassein".
  7. ^ Baptista, Elsie Wilhelmina (1967). "The East Indians: Catholic Community of Bombay, Salsette and Bassein".
  8. ^ Congress, Indian History (1972). "Proceedings".
  9. ^ a b c Silva & Fuchs 1965, p. 6
  10. ^ a b c Prabhu 1999, p. XV
  11. ^ a b c Fernandes 1969, p. 246
  12. ^ Rathore, Ashok (16 February 2017). Impact of Christianity on Indian and Australian Societies. ISBN 9781514494615.
  13. ^ "The Connecticut Evangelical Magazine: And Religious Intelligencer". 1808.
  14. ^ Gomes 2004, p. 176
  15. ^ a b de Mendonça 2002, pp. 39–40
  16. ^ Gomes 1987, p. 64
  17. ^ Gune & Goa, Daman and Diu (India). Gazetteer Dept 1979, p. 238
  18. ^ Gomes 1987, p. 77
  19. ^ Shashi 1996, p. 117
  20. ^ Manrique & Collis 1995, p. 47
  21. ^ a b c Westin et al. 2010, pp. 227
  22. ^ Silva & Fuchs 1965, p. 15
  23. ^ Sinha 2002, p. 74
  24. ^ Pinto 1999, p. 168
  25. ^ a b c Maffei 1882, p. 217
  26. ^ D'Souza 2009
  27. ^ D'sa 1965, pp. 71–72
  28. ^ a b D'Souza 1996, p. 58
  29. ^ a b Bhatia et al. 1976
  30. ^ Mehrotra 1992, p. 119
  31. ^ Crasta 1992, p. 12 (Stream of consciousness narration by the protagonist) "When I was born, many years later, there was the problem of naming me, a Christian descendant of Brahmins – and earlier of colonizing Aryans from South-eastern Europe."
  32. ^ D'Souza 2004, p. 64
  33. ^ D'Souza 2004, p. 52
  34. ^ Gomes
  35. ^ Bharvani 1996, p. 50 "She hissed aloud, 'I'm no Anglo! I'm Donna Bolvanta-Bragança and I'm a Catholic Brahmin from Goa. That infidel lick-spittle of the British, that toad, that nanoid Negritic Nirad Chaudhuri who calls Goans half-caste Meztizos, may his body and soul burn in hell-fire!'"
  36. ^ Bharvani 1996, p. 50 "'I studied at a Convent in Bombay,' said Sangeeta, in an attempt to calm the eyes pouring forth fire and brimstone, 'and I have the greatest respect for the Catholic community. I go to Church quite often – sometimes even to the Novenas at the Mahim Church on Wednesdays. But how is it, I don't quite understand, since you are a Catholic, can you still call yourself a Brahmin? I thought only we Hindus were plagued by this shameful caste system?'... Miss Bolvanta-Bragança wiggled a snake-like finger threateningly at her. 'Has somebody put you up to this, my girl? Has Belial been at it again? I'm a Brahmin Goan and I'm not here to listen to any of your nonsense, Miss whatever-your-name-is!'"


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