The Boundary of Crosses

The Crosses

Recently I was on a holiday to Goa, when I got the chance to explore South Goa. After a long ride of more than 2 hours, we finally reached Cabo De Rama fort. It had a small & nondescript entrance. Eager to relieve our sore bums, we jumped off the bike & rushed in the direction of the fort on foot.

Except that, there wasn’t much to see. The fort lay completely in ruins, with only few of the wall intact. Once weapons of mass destruction, the cannon-guns were lying around in the fort like discarded toys. On a Sunday afternoon, considered to be peak rush-hour period, even tourists & visitors had abandoned the fort. Besides me & my friends, there were hardly 6-8 people milling around. 

After going through the mandatory photo-shoots in different picturesque places around the fort, we landed up at the most distinct structure within the fort – a church. In stark contrast to the surroundings, it stood in it’s full glory, shining bright white, in the center of the courtyard. The other thing which immediately came to one’s attention was the crosses surrounding the church. On all sides of the church, at a distance of around 150-200 feet, were small crosses which made up a kind of boundary around the church. It was quite peculiar & something none of us had ever seen. There was an air of mystery surrounding it which got us all piqued & we immediately started discussing the same. Suddenly, we heard a voice from behind us – 

“Would you like to know the story behind the crosses?”

We turned around to see an old man standing a few feet behind us. Though surprised, I assumed he was a local & probably a guide & must’ve overheard us discussing. 

“Surely we would like to know. Are you a guide, sir?, I asked 

“Yes I am. But you can pay me whatever you wish to.”, he replied. 

“Well, that’s fine then. Please tell us the story.”

“Hmm.. I’ll start from the beginning.”

The actual date of construction of the fort is not known. However, the earliest findings indicate that the fort was constructed by the Soonda King from Karnataka. The king was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama & believed that Lord Rama & Goddess Sita had resided here during their exile. The king soon went on to erect a grand temple to Lord Rama. Such was the grandeur of the temple that people came from far off places to see & pray at the temple. It even had its own Temple Guards chosen from the best of warriors skilled in different fighting styles ranging from archery to sword-mastery, axe-mastery etc. The temple was so popular that even the fort came to be known as Ram – Qila. The fort’s location at a cape was quite important as it provided a bird’s eye view of the entire Arabian sea & the coastline which helped fend off attacks against invaders from the sea. 

The importance of the location meant that the fort was under constant attack by various factions. The fort had survived an onslaught of attacks by various Hindu & Muslim kings & the Portuguese. However by the 18th century the Portuguese had established a strong foothold in India, especially Goa & they launched a vicious & deadly attack in 1763. After a long & gruelling battle, the Portuguese won the fort & entered it where the last piece of resistance was given to them by the Temple Guards. They fought valiantly but were soon overwhelmed by numbers. However, the Portuguese incapacitated & imprisoned them rather than simply killing them. They knew these warriors were upstanding & respected citizens & converting these prisoners to Christianity would result in faster conversion of the rest of the people in surrounding towns. They had become quite adept at this. By this time, the Goa Inquisition had lasted for more than two centuries. 

The Goa Inquisition had claimed the lives of millions of citizens. By the 16thcentury, the Portuguese had set up their empire across the Southern & Western regions of India. A judge & his two henchmen were sent to Goa in 1960, India to convert people to Christianity. They believed the best way to control & keep people in check was through religion. The judge was answerable to no one but only to Lisbon. It is said that the atrocities committed & number of people killed during the Nazi orchestrated Holocaust paled in comparison to the Goa Inquisition over the 3 centuries of Portuguese rule in Goa. 

The Portuguese tried to first bribe the Temple Guards to convert them to Christianity. However they soon realized it won’t work. Thereafter they started torturing them the nine Temple Guards. They consulted the works of the Inquisition Priest & Vicar General; a 41 point plan for torturing Hindus. Starting with the youngest, they first tried flogging him publicly. When that didn’t work, they smeared beef on his face and even pushed some of it down his throat. He choked to death soon after. As they progressed up the chain of command of the Temple Guards, the methods became increasingly inhumane. The second temple guard was had his bones broken, one after another and left to die in the Town Square. He died of blood loss by the fourth day. The others met similar or worse fates one after another. 

But none of them met an ending as barbaric or as terrible as the leader. His family was brutally beaten to death & his wife raped over & over in front of his eyes. When even that didn’t work they started to slice off his eyelids. Following this, they started to work off on amputating his limbs until only his head & torso remained. Through some miracle, he still managed to be conscious. The vicar decided it was enough. 

They tied his body to a stake & burnt him publicly. 

“ENOUGHHHHH!!!” I shouted. “Please tell me this is all just a story.”

“I wish it were so, kiddo. Life is cruel.

But life does come a full circle too. Let me finish the full story”

To be continued… Part 2 (The Boundary)

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