India's first major contact began when Vasco de Gama landed with gunboat and priests (1498). The newcomers were not only pirates and merchants but also believing Christians. They had the pope's mandate to convert heathens in the lands they conquered. They found that the natives had a flourishing religion of their own. They took to destroying their temples in earnest. Within decades of their occupation of small coastal parts, they had destroyed, according to their own records, 601 temples in 131 villages--all important Christian Orders taking part in this pious work. Franciscan friars destroyed 300 Hindu temples in Bardez, Jesuits 280 in Salsete.
St. Francis Xavier, who participated in this meritorious work, wrote back home: "As soon as I arrived in any heathen village, when all are baptized, I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken to pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done."