Thursday, September 15, 2011

BIS #2581 CHRISTIAN CONTRIBUTION TO MARATHI LITERATURE- DIVYADAAN

Romero D’Souza sdb
DIVYADAAN, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011: The Salesian Institute of Philosophy - Nashik, had a Seminar titled, “Christian Contribution to Marathi literature“(Christi sahityache Marathi sahityas yogdan) presented to us by authorized and acknowledged scholars of the Marathi Literature. Fr. Robert Pen sdb, the principle of Salesian Institute of Philosophy introduced the Speakers for the seminar as well as briefed about the subject of the seminar to the participants. He began by going back to the history of Marathi Language and its significance on present day Maharashtra and concluded by shedding light on the relevance and the importance of certain individuals (Pandita Ramabai, Laxmibai Tilak, Baba Padamanji, Henri Doring, N.V. Tilak, Thomas Stephen, William Carey, and S N Suryavanshi) whose contributions has left an everlasting impression on the Marathi Literature.
The first speaker for the seminar was Miss Cecelia Carvalho, professor and a prolific Marathi writer from Vasai. She presented a paper entitled, “Contribution of Pandita Ramabai, N.V. Tilak and Laxmibai Tilak.” The writing of these three has a trace of commonality, for they were contemporary writers and most importantly, they have been converts from Brahmin community to Christianity. The essential element of their writings in Marathi literature has religion, culture, and hybridization of culture and literature. A glimpse on the literature of Pandita Ramabai, Rev. Narayan Vaman Tilak, Laxmibai Tilak sufficed the presentation made by the speaker.
 
Pandita Ramabai’s translation of the Bible was one of the most important contributions to the Marathi Literature. Rev. Narayan Vaman Tilak’s poems were developed as an assimilation of Hindu and Christian culture. His famous work ‘Kristayan’ (Abhangs – in verses form) is held in high esteem because of its contribution to the Marathi literature.  Laxmibai Tilak was basically a poetess before writing ‘Smuruti chitre.’ Though not a literate, she wrote poems of high literacy. Her writings have the originality, one which can be accounted here is ‘Passage to England’, a Marathi book full of poet-prose.
 
According to Miss Cecelia Carvalho, in the flow of time, the Marathi speaking Christian communities have started writing with clarity and high caliber. This only proves that the philosophy of Christianity is being rooted in this soil and has flourished in the language of the speakers and writers. After eight hundred years, today, there is a cultural democracy and Indian identity shaped in Maharashtra, and is in the main stream with the language of the people of this soil. 
 
The second speaker Mr. Kamil Parkhe, editor of Sakal Times Pune, presented “Contribution of Henri Doering and Baba Padamanji.” He was very passionate in expounding his paper. In his presentation on the life and works of Rev. Baba Padmanjee, he brought to our notice that he was the first novelist in Marathi literature. The novel ‘Yamunaparyatan’ written by him in 1857 is also recognized as the first novel in the Marathi language. He was originally a Chitpawan Brahmin but got converted to Christianity. He was the editor of the Bible and Tract Society in Mumbai. He was also a member of the translation committee of the Bible Society. He enriched Marathi literature as he wrote for fifty years, from 1852 to 1906. His autobiography ‘Arunday’has been translated into many languages. Besides, this he also ran periodicals like ‘Udayprahba, Satyadipika (Dhakati), Satyadipika (Thorli), Satyawadi, Kutumbmitra and Aikyadarshak’.
 
In the second part of his presentation entitled, “Editor - Missionary Archbishop Henry Doering”Mr. Parkhe emphasized on the greatness of Doering as a missionary and his love for the people of this land. Like other German missionaries, he learnt the local Marathi language to preach Christianity to the locals. There were no religious books in Marathi, which could be used for teaching the principles and doctrines of Christianity to the converts. Therefore, he felt the need of creating religious literature in Marathi.
  
Fr. Doering published the first issue of the magazine titled, ‘Yeshuchya Atipavitra Hrudayacha Niropya’ (Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) in April 1903. This magazine presently published from Pune has recently celebrated hundred years of periodicals, which have survived for over a century. Niropya has provided a very useful opportunity to many budding Catholic and Protestant writers, who later earned a big name in Marathi literature. Some of the veteran literature contributing articles to this magazine included Satyavan Namdeo Suryavanshi, Fr. Francis D’Britto and poet Vishwaskumar. There are many Christian families in various districts of Maharashtra who have been the second, third of fourth generation readers of this magazine. Now the magazine has become mouthpiece of the Marathi-speaking Christians.

The Third Speaker of the day, Fr. Nelson Falcao presented a paper entitled, “Contribution of Thomas Stephen and Contemporaries.” He was very lucid and effective in speaking about the famous work of Thomas Stephen, the Kristapurana (a Biblical Epic). He did this by showing the gathering the different editions and manuscripts from his research. This paper highlighted the points such as Life of Thomas Stephens, Meaning of  Purana, Why the Kristapurana, Works of Stephens, Kristapurana in South Canara, Editions of the Kristapurana, Marsden Version of the Kristapurana, Indian Elements in the Kristapurana, Hindu-Temple; deity Christ, Christian Hindu Encounter, and Model for De Nobili.

According to Fr. Nelson, the reason why Kristapurana came to be written was because the Hindu converts asked Fr. Stephen for a Purana on Christ. They wanted a literature in their very own language. This study was done in order to come to grips with the thought of Thomas Stephens, to examine his attempts at Christian-Hindu encounter, to investigate his method of effective communication, and to find out his process of Indianization, Adaptation and Inculturation.

The scholarly presentation of all the above papers led to many questions based on history, research and the critiques of Christian Marathi literature. The task and the attempt made by these literary studies show that these contributions were made out of their love for God and for the betterment of people of the soil, and to live a happy life through the process of Inculturation and Indianization.

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