Glimmering Goa and Her History
Iris C F Gomes
For years Prof Prajal Sakhardande has been idolised by his students and admired for his activism. The college professor is famous for his ability to pull out historical facts at the drop of a hat and has indeed inspired many of his students to take up history as a subject of study. This associate professor of History at Dhempe College of Arts and Science at Miramar, Panjim, has been lecturing there since 1993. Prof Sakhardande is also the vice chairman of the Goa Heritage Action Group, a non-profit involved in the preservation of Goa’s heritage, and the convenor of the History-History Forum that organises history-related activities under his guidance.
Goa Gold Goa Silver: Her History, Her Heritage from Earliest Times to 2019 is the third book written by Prof Sakhardande. The first two are Muslim History and Heritage of Goa and Matanhy Saldanha, the Legend: Hero of the Subaltern, which was written with Santosh S Sawant Wadkar.
Prof Sakhardande talks about his love for history, which developed at a young age, ‘My love for History dates to the third standard, wherein as a little boy I was drawn to my History textbook with its colourful sketches of historical personalities such as Dadabhai Naoroji, Sarojini Naidu, etc. Then I read Amar Chitra Katha books on historical figures. The subject of History always attracted me, and I was always orientated towards the past. I pursued by BA, majoring in History, MA and MPhil in History, and now I am pursuing my PhD in the same subject.’
Goa Gold Goa Silver: Her History, Her Heritage from Earliest Times to 2019 was written to fill the gap in Goa’s historiography. Prof Sakhardande explains, ‘This is the first book that covers the entire period from the geological timeline to Parrikar’s death in 2019. It's a vast canvas as well as a chequered one. There have been many books on Goa but not any one book covering this entire period.’ While there have been other books focused individually on particular areas of Goa’s history, Goa Gold Goa Silver provides a comprehensive study in a language that is easy to read.
The title is one that many are intrigued by and Prof Sakharande tells us that ‘Goa Gold’ commemorates the golden jubilee of Goa’s Liberation and of the Opinion Poll. ‘Goa Silver’ because it commemorates the silver jubilee of Goa’s Statehood and the Konkani language’s inclusion in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. He gives an overview of the book, saying, ‘The book delves at length into the various phases of Goa’s history: the pre-Portuguese phase, the Portuguese phase, the post Liberation phase until Statehood and the contemporary history of Goa from Statehood to Parrikar’s death, that was the end of an era.’ Moreover, the book gives the reader knowledge of little known or unknown aspects of Goa’s history such as the rule of Devraj Bhoj, the first king of Goa, the first queen Vijaya-Bhattarika of the Badami Chalukyas, pre-Portuguese society (food, religion, festivals), the Portuguese era, religious policy and conversions, the Inquisition, the impact of Portuguese rule, the freedom struggle, the post Liberation era of Dayanand Bandodkar, Shashikala Kakodkar and Rane. Historic moments such as the Opinion Poll Movement, Dr Jack de Sequeira’s role, the status of women, the student’s agitation for half ticket, Nylon 6,6, the Goa Bachao Abhiyan, the Heritage Movement, a list of Goans in all fields, movies, etc.
Apart from being instrumental in the preservation of Goan heritage monuments, Prof Sakhardande has been involved in the discovery of many historical caves, tunnels, etc. His activism is not restricted to saving heritage monuments and Goa’s culture but is extended to environmental and social activism as well. He says, ‘We have saved several monuments…I campaigned for them individually and under our Goa Heritage Action Group. I successfully led the Save Coconut Chipko Andolan, and I participated in the Heritage Movement, Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan, Goa Bachao Abhiyan, Goa’s movement against SEZs and many others.’
Prof Sakhardande’s work with his students is well-known and quite innovative in the teaching world in Goa. In Dhempe College he founded the History-History Forum for students. This entails organising the Kushawati heritage trail, Old Goa heritage walk, Miramar-Tonca-Dona Paula heritage walk for students, Mhadei heritage trail, Panaji heritage walk, etc for his students. He has made detailed PowerPoint presentations on the history and heritage of Goa for his students and students in various colleges. To the question of how far a sound understanding of history goes in creating strong citizens of a society, he says, ‘Knowledge of history is a must. It is most important to get you rooted in your life by learning from the past. The first assignment I give my students is to find the history of their own family and the family’s surname, their village or town history and the history of their immediate surroundings, in our case Miramar, before studying history of the world.’