Culture. People in Goa. Despite over four centuries of Portuguese dominance, earlier characteristics of Goa's population are still obvious. While during the Inquisition the Portuguese made systematic efforts to wipe out all social traces of the earlier Hindu and Muslim cultures, many of their features were simply modified to conform to external Catholic demands. Thus even in the Old Conquest areas the predominantly Catholic community is still divided along much earlier caste lines.

The four major varna groups of Hindus, the Brahmins or priestly caste, Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants) and Sudras (agriculturalists) retained their designations in only slightly modified form. Thus according to the People of India project of India's Anthropological Survey, the different sub-castes of the Brahmin community in Goa merged into the single Catholic Saraswat group, the Vaishya sub-castes merged into one, the Charddo Catholic community, and the remainder became Catholic Sudras. There was a small community of Catholic Mesticos, most having left Goa for Portugal after Liberation. Today the two highest Catholic castes, the Brahmin and Charddo Catholics, have become a single group, inter-marrying and generally occupying high positions in society. Catholic Sudras, who include the Christian fishing communities, remain separate.

The Catholics are sub-divided into a number of occupational groups. In Salcete, Ponda and Quepem, for example the Carpenter group (Thovoi) is common, and many continue to depend on making small items of furniture or decorative images for Church buildings. Along the coast the Catholic Kharvi, or fishermen, claim to be Goa's original inhabitants. While their surnames - Rodrigues, Costa, Souza, Dias, Pereira - have all been adopted from the Portuguese they are direct descendants of the Hindu fishing communities of the coast.

Unlike the Christian communities the Hindu castes are still sub-divided along their original occupational lines. Thus the Brahmin community includes the Chitpavan Brahmins, present in all the talukas originally as priests. Most claim Marathi as their mother tongue although many also speak Konkani, and they are strictly vegetarian. The Daivadnya Brahmins in contrast are largely goldsmiths, taking the name Shett. Unlike the Chitpavan Brahmins they are not vegetarian, eating fish, mutton and chicken but abstaining from beef, pork and buffalo. They have strong cultural links with Maharashtra.

One of the most remarkable communities among the Hindus is that known today as the Gomantak Maratha Samaj. The group belongs to the former devdasis, dancing women and prostitutes who had been dedicated to temples and the service of their deities. Ancient Hindu scriptures (the Puranas) had suggested that the most beautiful girls should be dedicated to temple service, and that they should be considered of high social status. In the social uplift movement of the 1940s and 1950s which sought to improve conditions for the devdasi community a number of different groups came together in the Gomantak Maratha Samaj. Among them were the devlis, who had been responsible for lighting the temple lamps or working as temple attendants, and the Chedvaan, Bandi and Farjand groups, who had been dependent on landlords. Before independence all large temples had a priest (pujari), lamplighters (jyotkar), musicians and people who recited religious songs (kirtankars), and groups of temple girl dancers (bhavins). It was the children of this last group who formed the distinct devli community, remaining under the control of the Mahajans (trustees) of the temple. Other members of this community include the kalavants, who claimed descent from the mythical apsaras or divine dancers and singers, and bandes (meaning literally 'bound up') who were tied to landlords as maids and concubines.

There are also the tribal groups such as the Gavdes and Kunbis. Gavdes were originally nomadic hunters and fishermen who worshipped natural elements, while the Kunbis usually worked on the land and herded animals on the hillsides and lived in villages with mud and thatch huts. Some continue to wear traditional tribal dress. Kunbi women can be identified by row upon row of bead necklaces and copper bangles covering their arms from wrist to elbow and their long well-oiled hair coiled up into a distinctive shape.

Central city highway

Central city highway