December  2000
Cover Story

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 Bible)

 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 languages.
Dr. Gundert Compiled the first, but still highly regarded, Malayalam dictionary.
Rev Kittel Compiled the first Kannada dictionary, still held up as one of the best.
Rebeiro Compiled the Konkani–Portuguese dictionary, still an authority.
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 completed.
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 day.

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); Hindi Vyakaram.
Paulus Topno,   s.j.Chotanagpur Ke Adim  Jati.
Anthony  Dungdung  The Kherias of Chotanagpur.
Boniface Tirbay Uraon Symbols, Smiling Uraons.

[ Subscribe | Contact Us | Archives | Khoj | Aman ]
[ Letter to editor  ]
Copyrights © 2001, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.