For centuries, our ancestors have populated the area from Dahanu in the North to Chaul in the South. With an established and quite emphatic presence in Mumbai, Raigad and Vasai, the East Indian diaspora today, has also spread to countries like the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc. in the Middle East, and Canada, the US, the UK, New Zealand and Australia in the West.
I have been fortunate to grow up in the knowledge that no matter which part of Vasai or Bombay I step into, I’ll always find an East Indian or two living there. I look at some of the old churches, bungalows, streets, beaches and railway stations and I know for a fact that an East Indian either owned the land or was instrumental in raising funds or the means to construct important aspects of the city we call Mumbai.
The earliest Christians in the Konkan were converted by St Bartholomew, one of Christ’s apostles, who arrived in Felix (Kalyan) in the 1st Century AD. Records also show that Nestorian Christians lived in Thana in 14th Century AD.
The Portuguese arrival in India and more importantly in the North Konkan in the 16th Century AD brought together the various pockets of Christians living in the region. This is when the religion and society of this section became more defined and structured.
By the time the British arrived in the 17th Century in Bombay, the East Indian community was well established.
With the formal establishment of the Bombay East Indian Association on 26 May 1887, East Indian music, art, language, food and culture was a vibrant, thriving thing.
In his book Trace, Teddy Rodrigues lists the following villages and gaothans that used to be populated by the East Indian people. A handful of these villages still retain elements of East Indian life and culture like the houses, clothing style, languages spoken, etc. and one simply has to step into one of these gaothans or pass by them at a particular date in the East Indian calendar to glimpse at a culture that few from outside of it get to experience.
Note: I’ve highlighted villages that still have crosses/grottoes, architecture, celebrations, groups and the like that are either East Indian built/organised or have a strong East Indian presence. I am certain I have missed several more, in which case, do let me know.
|Balliam – Rajoli|
|Dhakti Sutar Aali (Small Carpentary)|
|Mothi Sutar Aali (Big Carpentary)|
With the Maharashtra government looking to revitalise and restore Girgaum’s Khotachiwadi, one hopes that the government and heritage enthusiasts look to preserve and nurture more than just the Portuguese-style architecture and aesthetic of many East Indian villages.
Indeed, many East Indian village associations and community groups undertake the organisation and funding of cultural celebrations like Agera (our harvest festival), East Indian Singing Competitions, Intrus (our Carnaval celebrations), naataks (dramatic shows), Aadressao (Feast of Christ the King), inter-village/parish sports competitions, village rosaries and the like.
It is worth noting that more often than not, these are funded entirely by the villagers or associations themselves.
Update: For East Indians reading this, I would greatly appreciate your help with populating an East Indian Map of Mumbai, Thane, Raigad and Vasai.
I hope to provide our people and those who wish to visit our spaces with a map that will help them find Church feasts beloved to us, East Indian food, our village squares and Holy Crosses, places to purchase our clothes and wares, and even glimpse at the old houses that grace our villages.
Please note that this map is a work in progress and is available to anyone who wishes to use it for free. All suggestions towards making it more accurate are welcome and can be sent in an email to email@example.com
View the East Indian Map of Mumbai here.