The Indigenous world over and in India specially, are threatened due to religion, caste politics and resource extraction. BIPA – Bombay’s Indigenous People’s Association works with all tribes within the 7 islands of Mobaim / Bombay. BIPA also works with all other indigenous people around India. Our struggle is in maintaining our identity and our whole existence in front of this Development Monster whose greed has no end.
The indigenous of Mobaim / Bombay are the first known organization of tribes prior to the Buddhist and Moguls who stepped foot on our islands. From being fishermen then moving to inland farming during the monsoons, the Indigenous have been evolving as a community since millennia. As a community the indigenous people of the 7 islands organized themselves, each group provided a special service to the community. If you could not serve the community through some acquired skill you were not part of the tribe. The men who gathered fish (‘K’ translates to ‘Tradition’ in ancient Prakriti or ‘Mai bhasa’ (Mother tongue) – Koli were responsible for the fish. They gave fish to the farmer (Kulbi) for a share of rice. The potter (Kumbhar) gave pots to the other communities to cook with and store water and foodgrain, for a share of fish and rice among other limited vegetables that grew in this region. The Salt pan worker (Khari or later known as Aagri) from the same region gave salt to the all of them. The weaver tribe (Kapri) contributed to the clothes for the community. All community names on the ancient 7 islands were in ‘K’. This closed knit ancient islanders community was one whole tribe. Since the community evolved since millennia they observed the stars and created the ‘Shiva’ (number 5 in hebrew for the 5 elements ‘Na’=Earth, Ma=Water, ‘Shi’= fire, ‘Va’ = Vara / Air, ‘Ya’= Yantra / Love consciousness) or ‘Creation Caves’ on those very latitudes for a reason. These caves has the creation story in sculpted art form. These caves are today named by colonialists as ‘Elephanta’ caves. Since the indigenous observed the stars and recorded many observations, they also came to understand the ‘End’ of all things. The Black hole in the cosmos was observed and on another latitude in ‘Andheri’ (Darkness) the indigenous created the caves ‘Mahakali’. Which means Big Black or Big Darkness. This is symbolic of the cosmic black hole. Here there used to be worship and that degraded to sacrifices conducted during those ceremonies. The first Christian mission to India in the 1st century was by St. Bartholomew who came here through the silk route. He gave the indigenous the Bible that was the new testament in oral Aramaic form. Since the apostles were gifted with the gift of tongues (power of languages), St. Bartholomew learnt the indigenous Natures’ language and then gave the indigenous the ‘Christi Puran’ orally. This helped evolve the already informed indigenous people of the islands. Many invasions took place on these islands since this was a popular sea trade route with the earliest roman port in ‘Sopara’, today badly managed by the colonialists and plundering the fort and renaming it ‘Nala Sopara’. Many of our traditions were lost due to invasions. This knowledge systems the indigenous have had since millennia. We have kept it within the community. Our texts have been plundered as it happens in most invasions. We have had many pre-Buddhist, pre-Aryan, pre-Mogul, Portuguese, British and the current rulers whose roots are not from India themselves. Yet they plunder our motherlands without any consequence. The migrant political parties and politicians have a zero affiliation with the land, it’s heritage and the indigenous people
Why have the indigenous retained the Portuguese names?
The indigenous of the 7 islands of Mobaim (real name for Bombay), Vasai among other areas of the Kokan coasts, were adopted by the Portuguese after winning a war with the Moguls and the Peshwa kings of the past. The Portuguese were always trading with the islanders and the mainland. Until they learned about the 1st Century Christians of St. Bartholomew. They researched among the people and identified them and reported this back to their Queen. In the 15ht century they returned with the armadas and made a deal with the Shah then ruling these lands. He allowed them to claim their people of the ‘Kitaab’ / ‘Book’. The Portuguese improved the indigenous people’s housing, brought in more varieties of vegetables from allover the world, domestic animals and birds. They even organized the community socially, since the community was fragmented with invasions of the past. The Mangalore tiles replaced rice grass roofs. Those previous rice grass roofs were really hot. The new Mangalore tiles were made of terracotta that was in abundance in Mangalore. The Indigenous identity was never wiped out as claimed by colonizers today. The Portuguese learnt of the tradition of the indigenous people and gave them Portuguese names that when translated, was the ancient indigenous names of the people. There is a list we will insert in the near future so that the indigenous can identify their tribes. An example of one such name is ‘D’mello’, which translates to ‘Black Bird’, a name adopted by the tribes who revered the black bird as an omen for their group, having coexisted with them since millennia. We have lost so much ancient knowledge systems with invasions and assimilation. Hence the indigenous have retained their Portuguese family last names as their true identity preserved in plain sight. The German Jesuits too did the same documentation in Chatisgarh in central India in the 18 century. Here the communities are divided as per their traditionally revered omen. One such omen is the bird named as per the sound they make, ‘Tirki’ also known as ‘Black Bird’. Most of our indigenous people on the 7 islands revere, animals, trees, insects etc. Most of us also revere the ‘Umbhar’ tree / Fig tree. Since this tree is a water indicator and a whole village comes up around the tree. We also have a wedding ceremony called the ‘Umbracha Paani’ fig tree water, where the roots are dripped of their life juices and put in the well through ceremonial celebrations. Bottom line is Our indigenous of the biggest metropolis of India were nature worshipers because the Divine existed in Nature. it is time our indigenous go back to their roots and live in harmony with Mother Nature. – Prof. Luke Gabriel Mendes