ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Vypeen’s Portuguese Devosta


Cardoso Hugo - Universidade de Lisboa - Faculdade de Letras, Lisbon, Portugal


45 – South Asian–Portuguese relationships from the fifteenth century to the present: Colonialism, interactions, and identities


 The ceremonial repertoire of Southern Kerala’s Latin Christians includes a Lent tradition known as Devastha Vili or, among the Catholic community of Vypeen (Cochin), Devosta. It consists of a set of prayers typically recited at night and in the open air, with a single (usually male) voice loudly calling the community to prayer. The Catholics of the region ascribe the origin of the Devastha to the Portuguese period and specifically St. Francis Xavier’s permanence in the 16th c., and its depiction in Johny Miranda’s Requiem for the Living testifies to it being seen as distinctive of the Paranki community, i.e., the Portuguese-descended/influenced section of Kerala’s population. In various locations, the Devastha is performed in Malayalam. In Vypeen, however, it is recited in Portuguese (and not the Portuguese-based Creole spoken there until recently; Cardoso 2019), a result of the generational transmission of a text which is now only partially understood by the community. Based on fieldwork conducted in 2007, we will describe Vypeen’s Portuguese Devosta in terms of its rituals, linguistic content, and social significance.


Cardoso, Hugo C. 2019. ‘The Indo-Portuguese creoles of the Malabar: historical cues and questions’, in P. Malekandathil, L. Varadarajan & A. Farooqui (eds.), India, the Portuguese, and Maritime Interactions, vol. II, 345-373. Delhi: Primus Books. Miranda, Johny. 2013. Requiem for the Living (transl. Sajai Jose). New Delhi: Oxford University Press