|How Christians have enriched
the Word in India
Camille Bulcke, s.j. (1909-1982)
India’s most famous Christian Hindi scholar, his contributions
to the Hindi language are manifold. The English-Hindi dictionary, even
today a widely known and much used book, was his work. A student with a
doctorate in the Hindi language from Prayaga University, Allahabad, the
subject of his thesis was Ram Katha: It’s Origin and Development, his area
of specialisation being the Rama story. He was a widely admired authority
on the Indian language. In recognition of this, he was appointed, as early
as 1950 with 30 other scholars, by the Bihar governor as a founder-member
of Bihar Sahitya Academy. In 1974, Bulcke was awarded the Padma Bhushan
by the President of India for his outstanding contribution to Hindi literature.
Besides his doctoral thesis, his other publications include Nil Panchi,
Ram Katha aur Tulsidas. Bulcke undertook to translate the entire Bible
into Hindi, Rambatha ki utpatti Aur Bibas (the Hindi Translation of the
Constantius Beschi s.j. (1680-1747)
Beschi occupies a special place in Tamil literature,
something that the fifth world Tamil Congress held at Madurai in January
1981 proudly acknowledged by erecting his statue in the city along with
others who have made similar contributions. Beschi composed three Tamil
grammars and three dictionaries, Tamil-Latin, Tamil-Portuguese and Tamil-Tamil.
His magnum opus, the Thembavani (the unfading garland) is considered by
experts to this day as one of the best Tamil works ever written.
Robert de Nobili s.j. (1577-1656)
The first European Sanskrit scholar, a man who could
quote from the puranas, Apastamba Sutras, which are read by few Sanskrit
scholars even today.
De Nobili was also a scholar in Tamil prose. His works
include, Athuma Nirunayam (the science of the soul), Gnana Upathesa Kandam
(a kind of Summa Theologica) in four volumes, and Thushana Thikkaram (Refutation
of Calumnies). This missionary wrote 21 books, all of which he composed
after becoming blind!
Dr. Caldwell First comparative grammar of the Dravidian
Dr. Gundert Compiled the first, but still highly regarded,
Rev Kittel Compiled the first Kannada dictionary, still
held up as one of the best.
Rebeiro Compiled the Konkani–Portuguese dictionary, still
Dr. GU Pope Translated the famous Tamil works,
Tirukural, Tiruvasagam and Naladiya into English.
Fra Paulino de San Bartolomeo
Author of two major works, Systema Brahmanicum and Criticum
Indicarum, both works that enjoy a special place among works on Indian
philosophy and history.
William Carey (1761-1834)
Linguist, translator, educationist and nature lover.
The Carey library in Serampore is his legacy containing a veritable archive
of material. His literary achievements include translating the Bible into
40 different languages, translating the Ramayana and the Mahabharata into
English, the first newspaper in Bengali.
John Wilson (1804-1875).
Pioneering contributions made to Indian languages, literature
and oriental studies.
His works include Karla Caves, Memoir on the Cave Temples,
Lectures on Religious Excavation of Western India, English and Marathi
Language, Introduction to Molesworth’s Marathi Dictionary, India Three
Thousand Years Ago, Raddi-i-Din Musalmani, Parsi Religion as contained
in the Zen Avasta, History of the Suppression of Infanticide in Western
India and Aborginal Tribes of Indian Presidency.
(Today, nine educational institutions, two in Jalna,
four in Pune and three in Bombay, notably the Wilson college, working under
the aegis of the John Wilson Educational Society, commemorate the work
of this scholar).
Narayan Vaman Tilak (1861-1919)
A poet, born into a Chitpavan Brahmin family, was a first
generation convert to Christianity who played a significant role in the
revival of Marathi poetry. Along with other forms of writing, he wrote
great Marathi bhajans that have enriched the singing of the Christian Church
in Maharashtra. His greatest work, Christayana, was unfortunately never
Tilak delighted in the devotional poetry of the earlier
Maharashtrian saints on which his spiritual side had nurtured. He used
to say that it was over the bridge of Tukaram’s verse that he came to Christ.
He was also committed to a truly Indian Church.
Henry Heras (1888-1955)
A historian of great eminence, who dug deeply into the
past to display to the world the glorious culture and tradition of India.
In 1926, Heras established the Indian Historical Research Institute at
the St Xaviers College, Bombay (later renamed as the Heras Institute of
Indian History and Culture).
This institute is a pioneer in historical investigation.
The vision of the founder was to train scholars and produce a school of
historians. Among his eminent students were MG Dikshit, GM Moares, BA Saletore
and HD Sankalia.
Among the significant tracts authored by him are L Dinastia
Manchu en China, The Writing of History, Notes of Historical Methodology
for Indian Students, The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijaynagara, The Pallava Geneology,
Studies in Pallava History, The Beginnings of Vijaynagara History, Min
Kan, The Story of the Magi, and Studies in Proto-Indo-Mediterranean Culture.
Heras was one of the founders of the Indian History Congress
and the Heras library that remains between us as a legacy from him is a
treasure trove of some 26,000 books!
In 1981, the government of India honoured his contribution
by releasing a commemorative stamp on Heras for his outstanding contribution
to historical science and archaeology.
Fr Santapau (1903-1970)
A specialist in the flora and fauna of the Western Ghats,
he was also with the government of India to revive and reorganise the Botanical
Survey of India. He had personally collected over 1,00,000 botanical specimens
still preserved in Bombay, at the Kew Gardens in England, the Arnold Arboretum
of Harvard University and the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
Fr Carlos Valles, s.j.
In 1983, when the Ranjitram Gold Medal, the highest accolade
for contribution to Gujarati literature, was conferred on Fr Valles who
had made India his home since 1948, it was a recognition of this Spanish
missionary’s worthy contribution to an Indian language.
This medal was the last of a series of similar forms of
recognition showered on him by the Gujarat state. Valles was recipient
of the Kumar Gold Medal for his book Vyakti Shadtar; earlier, he was awarded
the Shri Aurobindo Gold Medal for his book, Tarun Ashram. So exceptional
was his writing that he won the Gujarat government’s annual prize for the
best book published in that year for five years in succession!
The most popular of Valles’ books are Gandhiji ane Navi
Peedhi, Jivan Darshan, a book of meditations and Atma Kathana Tukada, the
author’s autobiography that is believed by critics to have truly enriched
the Gujarati language.
Valles, who has gone back to his home country Spain, returns
at least once a year to Gujarat, the land that has occupied his creative
energies. Quite apart from his much-appreciated contribution to Gujarati
literature, Valles has also undertaken keen studies on Jain theology. His
discourses with Jain munnis and among the community are remembered to this
Fr Joseph Tieffenthaller (1710-1785)
He was the first geographer to draw up a fairly accurate
map of the Ganges. His Historical Geographical Description of India contains
accurate descriptions of Indian birds, trees, plants and flowers that he
studied during his 29-year-long tour of the region and also as a result
of astronomical and geographical observations he made during those wanderings.
The Jaipur astronomical library stands as a tribute to his work.
Thomas Stevens (1549-1600)
A Jesuit priest, who has received accolades for his Kristaun
Puran or Christian Purana, an epic in 11,000 stanzas which scholars still
hail as a masterpiece of Marathi literature.
Fr Antonio de Monserratte (1556-1600) First person,
after Ptolemy, to make a map of India.
Fr Eugene Lafont
Of the St Xaviers College, Calcutta, has the distinction
of introducing modern science into India with his knowledge of experimental
physics and his ability to popularise science among the people.
Fr Gacome Fenicio (1558-1632) Author of Livro da Seita
dos Indi Orientais, a first account of the Hindu religion and customs.
Missionary Offerings to Tribal Culture
Fr Stephen Fuchs, anthropologist
Tremendous contribution to Tribal languages and tribal
culture. His books include, The Aboriginal Tribes of India, The Children
of India, Social Origins, The Gond and the Bhumia of Eastern Mandla, Tales
of Gondwana, The Origin of Man and His Culture, Rebellious Prophets: A
Study of Messianic Movements in Indian Religion, Origin of Religion and
at the Bottom of Indian Society.
Fr. J.B. Hoffman Encyclopedia Mundarica;
published by the Chotanagpur Credit society.
Fr. Van Exem Religious System of the Munda Tribe.
Rev. Notrott Bible in Mundari.
Fr. Martin Topne Mundari Folklore.
Fr. Paulus Kullu, s.j. Kharia grammer — Kharia
Dharm Aur Sanskriti Ka Vishlesham
Fr. Deny s.j HO Encylopedia.
Fr. Joachim Dungdung Kharia Jiwan Aur Paramparayen.
Fr. John Rabra Adivasi Mausmi Rag Aur Nritya.
Rev. Edmon Campion My Uraon culture.
Bro. Michael Kujur Uraon sanskriti.
Rev. P. O. Bodding Santhal Folklore (Three
Volumes); Santhal Encyclopedia
J. Troisi Santhal Religious Encyclopedia.
Michael Eather, s.j. Research on Tribal styles of learning
in Maths & English.
P. Penette s.j.Dawn of Ranchi Mission.
Mathias Dungdung Kharia Aur Hindi.
Peter Shanti Naurangi Bible in Sadani (Nagpur);
Paulus Topno, s.j.Chotanagpur Ke Adim
Anthony Dungdung The Kherias of Chotanagpur.
Boniface Tirbay Uraon Symbols, Smiling Uraons.