Panaji: Korlai is a small village situated in the coastal region of Raigad district of Maharashtra. While the Portuguese ruled over Goa, Daman and Diu in India, a lesser known fact is that between 1520 to 1740 Portuguese had their colonies in Korali village too .
When Chimaji Ballal popularly known as Chimaji Appa the younger brother of Bajirao Peshwa of the Maratha empire freed the Village of Korlai from the clutches of colonisers, many Portutuse moved southward towards Goa while few settled in the village.
Due to the influence of colonizers many villagers even today speak Portuguese mixed Marathi. A mixture of Portuguese and Marathi, the language continues to be the mother tongue of the Christian farmer community in upper Korlai, a village of 700 families located at the foot of the Korlai Fort. Isabel Viegas a local resident of the village while speaking in an interview said “We sing our Portuguese folklore while working in our fields and harvesting, this is a part of our culture”
Lavina Rosario also a resident inferred “When i was in Pune with my friends, my mum called me and I spoke to her in our local language, my friends were awe-struck, they said that they have never seen any Indian language like that . I had to explain them about the significance of our culture”
Korlai was ignored by the Government forgetting its distinct character, until Professor of Indiana University J. Clency Clements wrote about the village in his research book “The Genesis of a Language, The formation and development of Korlai Portuguese”
According to Clements, Portuguese invaders arrived on the Konkan coast in 1505, and captured the Revdanda and Chaul forts by 1523. Conversions took place in the area and Portuguese replaced Marathi language in certain coastal areas. Between 1505 and 1594, the Portuguese army fought several wars with local rulers and finally established their hegemony in 1594. The Korlai Fort was captured and the village established at the foothills. The Portuguese built the St Matthews Church on the fort around 1630 for their army.
Although this mixture of languages survived many centuries today this unwritten unique language of Korlai is endangered as villagers feel it will be forgotten in coming years.