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The Clan System in the Goan Village
Gaunkari - The Village
System In Goa
Mississauga 14 Dec 2018
From ancient times
(anywhere from 1500 to 2500 years ago) much of Goa – especially the talukas of
Salcette, Bardez and Tiswadi were organized around the village. Indeed the name
Salcette is a corruption of Saxsti (meaning 66 villages), Bardez – a corruption
of Baradesh (meaning 12 villages),
and the name Tiswadi means 30 villages. Each village was run like a little
Some of the land was private land on which one built one’s
house, and the larger part was communally owned by the male descendants of the
original settlers of the village through an organization called the “Gaunkari”. When the Portuguese took
over Goa, they largely retained the Gaunkari,
but changed the name to “communidade”.
This communal land was leased out by bid and the moneys collected was shared
out as a dividend (called “zonn” or “jonno” in Konkani) to the registered
male descendants of the original settlers. These registered descendants (or
those entitled to be so registered) were known as “gaunkars” (members) of the
For example, the village of Moira in Bardez was settled on by
5 families some 1500 to 2500 years ago. Their descendants by lineage are the 5
clans (“vangod”/“vangor” in Konkani)
of Moira. These vangods were also gaunkars. (People other than vangods may have been assigned partially
zonn for special services to the
village, but we shall leave this aside for simplicity.) To receive his zonn a
gaunkar has to register with the communidade
office. After one’s linkage to the village and to one’s ancestors is
confirmed, the registration is logged onto a ledger book known as the “matricula”. On the matricula they log the following information: • Log date • Names
& Surname of the gaunkar (and sometimes his father’s name) • Current place
of residence (It could be said village, another village, or another country) •
Age • Clan/Vangor Number • name of the inscription and book sheets where you
find it done • virtue by which he was enrolled Note that the registrar fills in
your clan number!
The vast majority of people are unaware of this feature and
hence have no clue of their clan. In my case I found my first cousin on my
father’s side registered on the Moira Matricula
as being from Clan 1. This was how I discovered my clan. How Christian Goans
Got Their Surnames The vast majority of the conversions from Hinduism to
Catholicism in Goa did not occur as individual conversions, but as mass
conversions of the whole clan.
For Moira, this
occurred around 1617 according to Dr. Teotonio De Souza. When a clan converted,
because of their large numbers they may have been assigned several godfathers.
Each group would take the surname of their godfather. So, for instance, in
Moira Vangor 3 whose Hindu surname was Kamat took the surnames Azavedo, Lobo,
Nazareth, Siqueira, Sousa and Velozo. See Tables 1 and 2 for a correspondence
of Clan numbers and surnames for Moira and Saligao.
Some Notes on Surnames
• The names in one village are totally independent from the
surnames of another village. So, for example, a Velozo from Moira is not
related to a Velozo from another Goan village. • A surname may not be unique within a village. For example
in Moira there are Nazareths in Clan 1 and in Clan 3; the two groups are not related
– a least from their father’s side. • By good fortune a name may belong to only a single clan.
For example Gama, Velozo, Azavedo, Mendes in Moira each belong to a single clan
(see Table 1). Thus all Gamas from Moira are related to each other etc. • Spellings morph over time. To illustrate, Velozo, Vellozo,
Veloso, Velos, Veloz all started out being spelt as Velozo; Souza, started out
as Sousa; Sequeira was originally Siqueira, Mello were once Melo, Nazareth
started off as Nazaré etc. • De, D’, da, dos…. These prefixes are not strictly speaking
part of one’s surname in Portuguese. All Goan church records written in
Portuguese used the term de, da, or dos in their records. My own family records
say “de Nazareth”. It just means “of”. Some families chose to include it as
part of their surnames and others not. Sometimes one branch of the family uses
D’Mello, and another will use “De Mello”, for example. • Strictly speaking, Hindus prior to conversion did not have
surnames. The second names they took on joining the village pertained to their
function. For example, Kamat means
“cultivator”, and Shenoy means
“clerk”. However, as their Hindu designations did not change from one
generation to the next, they in essence became like surnames.
Families Associated with
a Village other than Gaunkars
This article is a simplified version. There are other people
besides “gaunkars” that are
associated with a village. A family may have provided invaluable service to a
village is therefore provided fractional zonn in gratitude. Their descendants
may be forever linked to that village. Some people had special functions in the
village like “escrivao” (scribe).
Some families worked for a gaunkar’s
family for several generations. They too became associated with the village.
Others settled in the village due to plagues or other problems in their own village.
They may have done this 200 years ago, and so are forever linked to the village
even though they are not vangors. The
zonn system has largely fallen apart
in Goa today and as a result younger Goans are less inclined to know the
village of their origin.
1) Goa Vol
II - Gaunkari Translated by Rui Gomes Pereira. A. Gomes Pereira 1981. Gomes
Pereira Rd, Panaji, Goa A book on the old village associations: the structure,
the purpose etc... 2) Goa Vol I - Hindu
Temples & Deities, Rui Gomes Pereira Translated from the original in
Portuguese by Antonio Victor Couto. Published by Pereira 1978. Printwell Press.
A book of the temples and deities of each village of Goa in the pre-Portuguese
era. It also specifies the number of clans in each village and sometimes some
of the original Hindu surnames of those living in each village. 3) Village Goa: A Study
of Goan Social Structure and Change Written by Prof. Olivinho Gomes Chand
1996 Tables TABLE 1 VANGODS/CLANS OF MOIRA, BARDEZ