The Club of St. Anthony: A Goan Kudd in Mazagaon

European colonization of India began when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and landed in Calicut (Kozhikode) in 1498. In 1510, Afonso de Albuquerque led a military expedition to Goa, capturing the city from the Bijapur Sultanate. The Portuguese continued to expand their influence along the western coast of India, establishing control over Daman and Diu. The capture of Goa was significant as it provided the Portuguese Empire with a strategic base for their naval and trade activities in the Indian Ocean, overseen by a viceroy from Goa. They were the first European power to arrive in India and the last to depart, forced out through a military operation (Operation Vijay) in December 1961.

Outward migration

Goa had a distinct political and administrative system where power and resources were concentrated in the hands of the ruling elite, primarily from the Portuguese nobility. There were high levels of class and social inequality between the ruling elite and ordinary people. For the lesser privileged, opportunities to move up the economic and social ladder were scarce. Migration to Mumbai was a natural choice for those looking for better jobs, trade opportunities, and business ventures. Not only was Mumbai the financial hub of India and a strategic port, it also had a sizeable Catholic community that had resided there for centuries. There were specific requirements for travel between Goa and the rest of India. Till 1961, Goans needed a permit to work in India and a passport to leave Portuguese India. Despite the travel regulations, thousands of Goans migrated to Mumbai, where they worked, and established their own distinct institutions and neighbourhoods. The Goan diaspora in Mumbai remains a vibrant and dynamic community that has played an integral role in the city's cultural, social, religious, and economic life.

Goans in Mumbai

In Mumbai, Goan migrants found jobs, depending on their education levels, interests, and skills. Many were recruited as sailors, dock labourers, or stevedores in the Mazagaon dockyards. Music was always integral to Goan culture, and Goans were skilled in playing Western musical instruments. They worked as instrumentalists in bands and orchestras or in the film and music industries. They were also renowned for their culinary skills, working as chefs and cooks in hotels and restaurants, with some establishing cafes and bakeries. Educated Goans worked as clerks in the textile mills, clergy in churches, or teachers in educational institutions, where their English-speaking skills gave them an advantage over locals. Goan sportsmen played in the various gymkhanas and sporting clubs, particularly football, which holds a special place in Goan culture.

Goan associations and clubs

Goans relied on the support system provided by the village community through a network of family and friends living in Mumbai. Another support group was the East Indian community, fellow Catholics who were converted during Portuguese rule. Goans and the East Indians shared cultural similarities and often lived in the same neighbourhoods and intermarried. Newly arrived migrants received financial support and accommodation through associations and clubs established by their places of origin. Typically, a Goan village provided patronage and membership to such clubs, overseeing its maintenance. These clubs, known as kudd (alternately cudd), were established as social clubs where Goans could socialize, celebrate festivals, and maintain their cultural identity while living away from their native land and families.

St. Anthony of Padua

The Club of St. Anthony of Deussua is located at 351A PD’Mello Road, Mazagaon. The club was founded in 1880 and associated with the village of Deussua in Chinchinim, South Goa district, with St. Anthony serving as its patron saint. Born in 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal, St. Anthony was a Catholic priest venerated in Portugal and former colonies of the Portuguese Empire. He is especially invoked as the patron saint for the recovery of lost items, making him a fitting choice for the club, where people leave their luggage for long periods of time. A small chapel dedicated to the saint is housed inside the club, typical of chapels found inside Goan homes. His feast day is observed each year on June 13th.

Architectural details

In 2013, Antonio Barretto took up residence in the kudd and managed the day-to-day affairs. A member of the club since 1973, Barretto has a longstanding connection to the establishment. According to Barretto, the previous owners of the building were Iranians. Though there is no reliable evidence about which year the kudd was constructed, the structure is certainly more than a century old. An estimate of its vintage can be drawn from architectural details, which include lancet windows with wooden tracery, Corinthian pillar capitals with mythical beasts, a sloping roof with tiles, upper balconies supported on wooden brackets, antique wooden furniture, wooden flooring, etc. The spacious interiors, along with high doors and windows allowing natural daylight to enter the living areas, are typical of buildings constructed during the last quarter of the 19th century.

The Star of David

As one views the facade from the front courtyard, the six-pointed Star of David on the balustrades of the staircase and the porch stands out as a prominent symbol. The Star of David, emblematic of the Jewish faith and now featured on the modern flag of Israel, suggests a historical connection with the Baghdadi Jews living in Mazagaon. Originally, the term ‘Baghdadi’ in India referred to Jews from the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern-day Iraq. However, it later encompassed Jews fleeing persecution from Syria and other parts of the Ottoman Empire (and Aden in Yemen), who were Arabic-speaking, as well as Jews who arrived from Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan. Mumbai’s most influential Baghdadi Jew, Sir David Sassoon, resided in a palatial mansion in neighbouring Byculla and founded many charitable, educational, and religious institutions in the area.

Life at the kudd

The St. Anthony Club allows long-term stays to its members at a nominal cost. The duration of stay for guests depends on the nature of their work. Unlike hotels, guests can leave their belongings in a trunk with their names written on them. These trunks are locked, stacked, and stored at no extra cost and can be accessed by guests whenever they return. This kind of arrangement suits the itinerant lifestyle of sailors, who visit Mumbai sporadically. Those interviewing for jobs or appearing for exams stay for long periods, often for several months. The club has transitioned from hosting only men to accommodating families and community members. However, accommodation remains sparse, and a ‘do not disturb’ policy is respected.

Tourism boom in Goa

Goan society underwent significant changes following Goa’s merger with India. Goans who could prove their Portuguese ancestry were given the option to migrate to Portugal and obtain Portuguese citizenship. This resulted in a mass exodus of Goans who settled in Portugal and other Portuguese colonies. As travel within India became easier, Goans diversified their migration to other parts of India and abroad. These factors not only changed the demography of the state but also impacted its economic development. In the 1970s, Goa became a popular destination for hippies drawn to its idyllic lifestyle and sandy beaches. From the 1980s onwards, Goa emerged as a highly sought-after tourism destination for domestic and international travellers. Thanks to the tourism boom, Goa (according to NSDP per capita figures in 2021-22) now has the highest GDP per capita among all Indian states, two and a half times as high as the GDP per capita of the country as a whole.

Decline in outward migration

While economic prosperity has generated jobs and revenue for the state, it has also caused a decline in outward migration from Goa. The clubs that once catered to Goan migrants have either shut down or fallen into disrepair, facing challenges due to low occupancy and lack of patronage. The Club of St. Anthony is among the handful of clubs still operational. Barretto’s friend, Rafique Baghdadi, a film historian and journalist, occasionally leads heritage enthusiasts to the site during walks in Mazagaon. This has brought the kudd some recognition in the media and raised awareness of its historical significance. However, further community involvement is necessary to ensure the preservation of this century-old institution for its historical value to the Goan diaspora.

The Club of St. Anthony Deussua is located at 351A PD’Mello Road, Mazagaon. The building is not visible from the road, except for the uppermost floor. It is approached through a narrow entrance located between shops facing PD’Mello Road. The road is named after Placid D'Mello (1919–1958), a trade union leader and founder of the All India Port and Dock Workers Federation.

Kudd is a dormitory-style club that provides affordable accommodation to Goan residents living and working in Mumbai. From 1960 onwards, after the integration of Goa with India, outward migration from Goa has considerably declined. Dwindling occupancy impacted the operation of kudds. Many kudds closed or were repurposed. Among the handful of operational kudds is the Club of St. Anthony in Mazagaon.

The Club of St. Anthony is located close to Dockyard railway station on the Harbour Line, making it a convenient place to stay for those travelling by train. Kudds are associated with their place of origin, typically a Goan village which provides patronage and members to the club. The Club of St. Anthony was established for visitors from Deussua village, Chinchinim.

The association of the club with Deussua village, South Goa district, is evident in the wrought iron gates where Deussua is written in large metal letters, along with Club of St. Anthony.

Currently, the Club of St. Anthony has around 4,000 members. The glory days of the club are preserved in old photos and trophies displayed in cabinets. Kudds have strong ties with football, the most popular sport in Goa. This photo of the sports club of St. Anthony was taken in a Mumbai studio after they won a football tournament.

The Club of St. Anthony of Deussua is more than 140 years old. It was established in 1880. In 1980, the club celebrated its centenary year under the ownership and management of the Catholic community in Deussua. Some photographs of the centenary event are displayed in the reception hall.

The altar is dedicated to St. Anthony, the patron saint of Deussua, after whom the club is named. The Latin phrase praebe filii cor tumm written on the shrine with portraits of Jesus and Mary (on the left) means ‘My Son, give me thy heart.’ The phrase domus mea doums orationis on the central arch means ‘My house is a house of prayer.’ The phrase petite et acepietis on the arch with a portrait of the Madonna and child (on the right) means ‘ask and you shall receive.’ The altar has been illuminated with lights during Christmas.

A small figure of St. Anthony and a photograph of the incorruptible body of St. Francis Xavier displayed at the Basilica of Bom Jesus at Velha Goa are displayed on the chapel wall. St. Anthony was the patron saint of Padua and was venerated in Portugal and the colonies of the Portuguese Empire. St. Francis Xavier, though born in Xavier, Spain, became a Catholic missionary working for the Portuguese Empire, spreading Catholicism in India, Malacca, China, and Japan. Both are venerated as saints among Catholics in Goa, which for 450 years was part of the former Portuguese Empire.

The chapel at the Club of St. Anthony is typical of those found in Goan homes, where a chapel is designated for use by family members. The chapel offers a shared space for prayer, reflection, and gathering during festivals. Spaces like these emphasize the importance of Goan identity, religious traditions, and the sense of community that defines the unique character of the clubs.

A garlanded portrait of Jesus greets visitors in the reception hall. The Latin phrase adveniat regnum tumm, written on the scroll above, translates as ‘May your kingdom come.’ This particular phrase is associated with Christ the King, referring to the idea of the Kingdom of God, where Christ is described as being seated at the right hand of God. In front of the portrait is a small figure of Mother Mary holding the infant Jesus.

Over time, the celebrations at the Club of St. Anthony have become muted. During Christmas, the manager, Antonio Barretto, makes arrangements for decorating the club with lights. In 2023, he installed a Christmas tree with the Star of Bethlehem and a miniature representation of the nativity scene (the birth of Jesus in a manger) in the reception hall.

The word kudd translates to room in the Konkani language, the native language of Goans. The Club of St. Anthony offers eight dormitories, six family rooms, three toilets, three common bathrooms, and a community kitchen. Once catering exclusively to young men, the Kudds have adapted to changing times. Nowadays, they are open to all, including women and families.

Goans emigrated to Mumbai in search of better trade, education, and employment opportunities. Erivan Velho, a 26-year-old from the village of Deussua, is staying at the club where he is preparing for his exams. The kudd offers students like Erivan a quiet place to stay and study away from the hustle of the city.

Accommodation at the club is cheap but basic. Guests are provided a single bed in the dormitory. Only members of the club are allowed to stay in dormitories. Every guest is expected to maintain decorum and discipline and not create nuisances for others.

During the colonial period, Goan migrants worked as pantry boys, dhobis, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, musicians, clerks, and other sundry jobs at Mazagaon. Some found employment in factories, hotels, offices, railways, and mills that dotted Mazagaon and Byculla. Many worked as sailors on ships that had to transit through the dockyards. Due to their itinerant lifestyle, they would leave their personal belongings at the kudd, locked away in trunks.

Kudds allows storage for left-over luggage at no extra cost. The trunks are neatly stacked on top of each other along the wall, saving floor space. With dwindling occupancy, nowadays more trunks vie for space in the corridors than actual guests staying there.

Each guest is allowed one trunk for storage which contains their personal belongings. The trunks are labelled with family names or membership numbers for identification.

The reception hall is used as a community space and for meeting outside visitors. Up until the early 2000s, the feast day of St. Anthony, which falls on June 13th each year, was celebrated in the club with dance balls in the hall and dinners. Nowadays, it is a much quieter place, occasionally used by visitors for watching TV.

The Club of St. Anthony has trappings of a space from another era, caught in a time-wrap. A curious anachronistic detail is a bell pull hung from the ceiling of the reception hall. The bell is connected to a wire that can be pulled from outside to alert the manager if a visitor finds the gate locked from inside. There is no electric calling bell.

The wide entrance and tall windows along the reception hall keep the interiors breezy and well-ventilated. The reception hall—the largest room in the club—is naturally illuminated by sunlight during the day. The building is west-facing, and light streaming in the late afternoon casts long shadows in the reception hall.

Gothic architecture went through a revival in the late 19th century and became very popular in Mumbai through the works of architects like Frederick Stevens. The club building was likely built in or around the same period, which has certain Gothic revival elements. For example, a distinctive feature of the neo-Gothic architecture is the use of stained glass windows, which cast colourful light on the interior of the building.

After decades of neglect, the building underwent a facelift, thanks to a collective effort by community members of Deussua. During the restoration, some material and structural changes were made to the century-old building. The original wooden flooring was replaced by marble flooring, and metal grilles were added to the windows. Even post-restoration, there is an overall sense of dilapidation and aging, as evident from the peeled plaster on the walls of the veranda.

The lancet doors and windows have a distinctive pointed arch at the top. The windows feature fine tracery. Tracery is typically used as a decorative element in the upper part of Gothic windows (or screens, panels, and vaults), which are divided into sections of various proportions by a stone framework (wooden in this case).

The fluted Corinthian pillars sport elaborate mouldings of stylized acanthus leaves and floral scrolls on their capitals. Camouflaged within the flora are figures of birds and beasts, some real and some imaginary. For example, the pillar capital in the foreground (on the right) has a hybrid creature with a human head and the body of a bird, similar to the sphinx from Greek mythology.

The view of the open space in front of the club is reserved for parking vehicles (as mentioned on the board above the entrance). Long-term tenants stay in the quarters above the entrance.

The front veranda is divided by five semi-circular arches. Corinthian pillars support the brackets on the first-floor balcony. Over the years, the building has undergone many structural changes. For example, the second floor was added later and was originally not part of the building. The building on the right was also added later and has a staircase leading directly to the first and second floors. This new building has partly obstructed the façade of the older building.

A short flight of steps connects the courtyard (now used for parking vehicles) to the front veranda. The balusters along the handrails feature the Star of David (a six-pointed star recognised as a symbol of Judaism) motif, which also features on the parapet of the veranda. On either side of the staircase are squat pedestals, which may have supported statues or planters. The helical steps in the foreground lead to a side gate on the veranda.

The Star of David features in pairs of two on the parapet of the veranda. A flower motif is placed in the central part of the hexagram. The sets are separated by balusters. The presence of this Jewish symbol may be associated with the previous owners of the building, who could have been Baghdadi Jews, who had a sizable population living in Mazagaon in the 19th century but have since migrated to other countries.

Rafique Baghdadi is a long-time resident of Mazagaon and an expert on the culture and heritage of his neighbourhood. He is a veteran film journalist by profession and often visits the kudd with fellow heritage enthusiasts to give them an introduction to the multicultural history of Mazagaon.

Antonio Barretto is the current manager of the Club of St. Anthony. A member of the club since 1973, he has a longstanding connection to the place. In 2013, he took up residence in the kudd and now manages its day-to-day affairs, keeping it operational.