A  ILHA  DOS  AMORES    -    THE ISLE  OF  LOVE

 

By Jorge de Abreu Noronha

 

 

        Cortando vão as naus a larga via                         The ships were ploughing their way over

        Do mar ingente para a pátria amada,                 The vast ocean to their dear homeland,

        Desejando prover-se de água fria                          On the lookout for fresh water

        Para a grande viagem prolongada,                      For the prolonged voyage ahead,

        Quando, juntas, com súbita alegria,                      When with sudden rapture, all at once,

        Houveram vista da Ilha namorada,                       Caught sight of the Isle of Love,   

        Rompendo pelo céu a mãe formosa                    Just as Memnon’s radiant mother, the dawn,

        De Menónio, suave e deleitosa.                             Was heralding a calm and delightful morn.

 

        De longe a Ilha viram, fresca e bela,                      The lovely, verdant island hovered

        Que Vénus pelas ondas lha levava                        As Venus wafted it over the waves

        (Bem como o vento leva a branca vela)               (As the wind will convey a white sail)

        Para onde a forte armada se enxergava;              To where the ships were to be seen;

        Que, por que não passassem, sem que nela          For to prevent their sailing past

        Tomassem porto, como desejava,                         Without making port, as she desired,

        Para onde as naus navegam a movia                  Wherever they went, she kept it full in view,

        A Acidália, que tudo, enfim, podia.                       Shifting it, as she had the power to do.

 

        Mas firme a fez e imóbil, como viu                         But she anchored it on the instant

        Que era dos Nautas vista e demandada,              She saw the mariners speeding towards it,

        Qual ficou Delos, tanto que pariu                           As Delos paused when Latona gave birth

        Latona Febo e a Deusa à caça usada.                  To Apollo and Diana, the huntress.

        Para lá logo a proa o mar abriu,                            The prows parted the waves to a bay

        Onde a costa fazia uma enseada                          With a curving, tranquil beach,

        Curva e quieta, cuja branca areia                         Whose white sand, by another of her spells,

        Pintou de ruivas conchas Citereia.                         The goddess had bestrewn with rosy shells.

 

        Três formosos outeiros se mostravam,                     Three towering peaks came into sight

        Erguidos com soberba graciosa,                            Thrusting upwards with a noble grace,

        Que de gramíneo esmalte se adornavam,            And draped with glassy enamel

        Na formosa Ilha, alegre e deleitosa.                       On that lovely, happy, delightful island;

        Claras fontes e límpidas manavam                        Clear streams, festooned with creepers,

        Do cume, que a verdura tem viçosa;                     Cascaded from the summits,

        Por entre pedras alvas se deriva                             Until with soft gurgles and little moans

        A sonorosa linfa fugitiva.                                         They bubbled gently over pearl-white stones.

 

        Num vale ameno, que os outeiros fende,               Between the hills, in a pleasant valley,

        Vinham as claras águas ajuntar-se,                        The translucent rivers came together

        Onde u(m)a mesa fazem que se estende               To form a lagoon which stretched and brimmed

        Tão bela quanto pode imaginar-se.                      With a beauty beyond imagining;

        Arvoredo gentil sobre ela pende,                           A charming grove leaned over it

        Como que pronto está para afeitar-se,                 As if sprucing up its appearance,

        Vendo-se no cristal resplandecente,                      Staring at its crystal-bright reflection,

        Que em si o está pintando propriamente.            Which captured every detail to perfection.

 

 

The above verses represent, on the left hand column, octaves 51 to 55 of  Canto Nine of “The Lusíads” epic of Luiz Vaz de Camões and, on the right hand column, their prize-winning English translation by Landeg White. The said Canto describes the return journey from Calicut to Lisbon of Vasco da Gama and his fleet after they concluded their epoch-making prowess of discovering a sea route from Europe to India via the Cape of Good Hope.
 

Although the island where they anchored to supply themselves with fresh water for the long journey is not mentioned by name by Camões but merely called Ilha namorada (or Ilha dos Amores), meaning Isle of Love, there is a general consensus that he was referring to the island of Angediva. It is indeed well known that the fleet did call at Angediva and remained there for a few days, not only to rest but also – mainly – to fazer aguada or to fill their ships’ tanks with potable water. The description of the island, given in the above transcribed octaves, fits squarely the Angediva of olden times and corresponds to the succint description given by Gama himself when he referred to the island as terra alta, muito graciosa e de bons ares (a high land, very charming and with good climate) . 

In the subsequent octaves, right up to 63, Camões desribes, always with recourse to Greek mythology, the various fruit-bearing and other trees which grew on the Isle of Love, namely orange, citron, lemons, poplars, laurels, myrtles, pines, cypresses, amoras (mulberries) – a word meant as pun on amor (love) – and diverse others. He then refers to “a myriad of birds”, flowers and a “snowy swan” that “sang from the lake”, to which “from the bough, the nightingale replied”. 

Now, Angediva being one – even if the largest - of a group of five small islands off the coast of Karwar, one wonders why Gama, and after him Pedro Alvares Cabral, the first Viceroy of the Estado da Índia D. Francisco de Almeida (who built there the first ever – though short-lived – Portuguese fort in eastern countries) and the various later viceroys and governors never thought of occupying and taking possession of the remaining four islands as well, in spite of Gama having sent at least two of his ships to one of the neighbouring islands for washing and cleaning. Was it perhaps because Angediva was the only one with good potable water and an enchanting, soothing and breath-taking vegetation?

After this first visit of Vasco da Gama in 1498, the island was visited in 1500 by Pedro Alvares Cabral who, after departing from the river Tejo in Lisbon, going west and “finding” Brazil, crossed the Atlantic Ocean eastwards and then the Indian Ocean and, after being in Calicut and Cochin, landed at Angediva on August 22, 1500 on the way back to Lisbon. He was accompanied, among others, by eight Franciscan friars headed by Fr. Henrique Soares from Coimbra, who celebrated there the first ever Latin-rite Catholic Mass in the territory that is now the state of Goa and converted 23 of its inhabitants, as narrated by the historian Padre M. J. Gabriel de Saldanha, citing the História Seráfica da Ord. de S. Francisco. At the time of Saldanha’s writing (1898) the island had a church and was inhabited by 49 persons but, according to A. Lopes Mendes, the 1881 census had registered one “freguesia”, one village and 34 families with 93 individuals of both sexes. 

It is generally believed that the above mentioned mass was the first ever in India and the whole of Asia, as it is also believed that the Catholic diocese of Goa is the oldest Latin-rite diocese of India. This is not so, as the diocese of Quilon in present-day’s state of Kerala was created by Pope John XXII – then residing in Avignon, France – by his bull Venerabili Fratri Jordano of August 21, 1329 while that of Goa was created by Pope Paul III on January 31, 1533; and, as regards mass, the French Franciscan Friar Jordan Catalani de Severac, who in 1329 became the first bishop of Quilon, had arrived in India eight or nine years before along with some companions who, thus, were probably the first to celebrate Latin-rite Catholic masses in India. So, notwithstanding the fact that bishop Jordan was stoned to death at Thane (in Salsette island, Mumbai) by Muslims in or around the year 1336 and the See of Quilon then remained vacant for centuries, the fact is that India witnessed the celebration of Latin-rite masses at least 179 years before the first mass said at Angediva.

The church to which Saldanha referred is the Church of Nossa Senhora das Brotas or of Our Lady of Springs (Zhorinchi Saibinn in Goa’s Konkani language). Was this the first ever Catholic church in Goan soil? The answer is negative. It is not known whether Fr. Henrique Soares and companions built a church – maybe they just erected a shed; but later, when D. Francisco de Almeida built his fort in late 1505 (demolished seven months later), he must have followed the general custom of erecting within the fortified area a chapel, as there are records of the existence of a chapel or a church in 1506. Was this a predecessor of the present Brotas Church? Perhaps. But what is known is that on the site of the present Igreja de Nossa Senhora das Brotas a church was built in 1683 on the ruins of a Hindu temple, when in the previous year the Viceroy Count of Alvor (Francisco de Távora, 1681-1686) decided to fortify the island to ward off the attacks of the Maratha sovereign Sambhaji.That Hindu temple, however, was not destroyed by the Portuguese but by the Arab traders who, much before the Portuguese, had been calling at the island in search of water. The church built in 1683 was rebuilt to its present structure in 1729 by virtue of a royal order (from Lisbon) of November 28 of the previous year. 

(D. Francisco de Almeida arrived at Angediva in September 1505 and, after ordering the construction of the fort, proceeded to Honavar and then to Cannanore where with the permission of the local sovereign he built another fort and on October 22 assumed the title of Viceroy which had been conferred upon him).

 Lopes Mendes tells us: “The memorable island of Angediva is one of our (i.e. Portuguese) landmarks of glory in the East, for being the first Malabar shore where D. Francisco de Almeida landed, on September 13, 1505”, while Carlos A. de Morais has the following to say: “Having been of yore a flourishing advanced post of the Hindu kingdom of Bisnaga (Vijayanagar), it had faced decline since the Muslims began navigating between India and the Red Sea. The Hindus were thus forced to leave it and settle in the mainland. In 1505 D. Francisco de Almeida built there our first fort in Indian lands. Five years later Afonso de Albuquerque chose Angediva to concentrate a navy of 28 ships destined to undertake the reconquest of Goa. In that place the Great Captain made a striking speech to his men in order to incite them for the reconquest, which materialised on November 25, 1510”.

And he goes on: “It was in this island that in 1662 took shelter from the monsoons the vessels transporting the English general Sir Abraham Shipman who, with a corps of 500 men, was preparing himself to take possession of Bombay, a city that, by the treaty of peace and marriage of Princess Catarina to Charles II of Great Britain, the Government of Portugal had offered as dowry. Suffering under the inclemencies of lodging and climate, the general died at Angediva on April 5, 1664, many of his officers and soldiers having also died. There he was buried”.

“In 1768 the island attained its biggest ever development, being endowed with a governor with a staff and 350 soldiers. By 1856 its population was devastated by a great epidemic which had its origin in the localisation of the cemetery near a fountain which supplied water to the population. Little by little the island faced decadence. In 1961 there were only two very old women and a Goan ex-military (the well known corporal Dias) who had a child in his company and divided his time between the island and the Indian Union territory. Besides these civilians, there was a military garrison of thirty men”.

A little later he describes: “Corporal Dias was a Goan ex-military who lived in a house near Praia Grande. He lived of contraband and travelled frequently to the Indian Union. With him lived a 13 year old boy, also Goan, Chandrakant. Corporal Dias was already a traditional figure of Angediva and had been living there for many years. During the invasion he was in Indian territory”. 

And it so happens that, while many of the island’s garrison died during the Indian invasion, the same Carlos A. de Morais tells us that some of the soldiers were taken captive and some others absconded  and  carried  on  fighting,  not  knowing  that  Goa  had  surrendered.  One  of them, Corporal Valdemar Marques, was detected – thanks to the barks of one  of  the garrison’s  dogs who had followed him – and captured on December 20, while the last member,  Soldier  Manuel Caetano, traversed the island for yet another day,  spent  the  night  of  the  21st  at  the  nearby Round island,  then crossed over  to  the mainland where  he  was fed by some fishermen,  and then surrendered  to  the  Indian  police  on  the 22nd. The child Chandrakant was  used  by  the  Indian military and police  to  interrogate the Portuguese captives.  So, while Operation Vijay in Goa, Daman and Diu ended on December 19,  the effective submission of the island of Angediva to the Indian military forces was only completed three days later, on December 22.

 

 

Conclusion: 

The island of Angediva is of historical interest because it can be said that the Portuguese Estado da Índia had its beginning and end there. It is also of great archaelogogical value because of the many ruins which it holds, not only of the Portuguese but also of the pre-Portuguese period of its history. 

It was sung by the Portuguese bard Luiz Vaz de Camões in his epic Os Lusíadas (“The Lusíads”). This epic was partly written in Goa. 

The Church of Nossa Senhora das Brotas on the northeastern point of the island has an equally historical value, it being the successor to the oldest Catholic church in the state of Goa (built in 1505/1506 by order of the first Viceroy of the Estado da Índia), notwithstanding the present structure dating back only to 1729.

For all these reasons, the island should not be appropriated by the Indian Navy and placed out of bounds to the civil population – mainly of Goa and Karwar – be it for religious be it for affective reasons, and its cession to the Navy by the Government of the State of Goa has to be deemed as criminal. 

 

References :  

·         Camões, Luís de – Os Lusíadas – Edição Nacional – Imprensa Nacional de Lisboa, 1971 

·         Gomantak News Service – Our Lady of Brotas Feast at Anjediva Island – article in the Gomantak Times sunday supplement “Weekender”, Panaji (Goa, India), Jan. 24, 1999 

·         Lopes Mendes, A. – A India Portugueza, vol. II – Imprensa Nacional, Lisbon (Portugal), 1886 – Reprint by Asian Educational Services, New Delhi (India), 1989 

·         Morais, Carlos A. de – A Queda da Índia Portuguesa – Intervenção, Lisbon, 1980  

·         Saldanha, Padre M. J. Gabriel de – História de Goa (Política e Arqueológica), vol. I – Livraria Coelho, Nova Goa, 1925 – Reprint by Asian Educational Sevices, New Delhi, 1990 

·         White, Landeg – Luiz Vaz de Camões – The Lusíads – Oxford World’s Classics – Oxford University Press, Oxford (Great Britain), 1997 (paperback in 2000). This work won the “Teixeira Gomes Prize” for translation in 1998

·        Rashtra Deepeka Ltd – Indian Christian Directory for the New Millennium – Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala, India), 2000

 

 

      Jorge de Abreu Noronha
October 26, 2002

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