Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A note on the Marsden MS of Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana

Schurhammer implies that the Marsden MS of Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana came originally from the Jesuits in Goa: 
J.E. Abbot entdeckte unter dem aus Jesuitenbesitz in Goa stammenden Marsden Manuscripts in der School of Oriental Studies, London eine Kopie des Purana aus dem 18. Jahrhundert in Devanagarischrift (10721 Strophen)…. [G. Schurhammer, "Der Marathidichter Thomas Stephens, S.I. Neue Documente." Rome, 1957 (Goa University Library, no. 4325) p. 70 n 23.]

Francis Xavier

Doutrina Christaa. Colegio de Sao Paolo, Goa. 1557. 
Collation: unknown
Location: no surviving recorded copy.
Literature: Prepared in Portuguese by St Francis Xavier from the catechism published y the historian Joao de Barros at Lisbon in 1539. cf. Schurhammer-Wicki, Epistolae S. Francisci Xavierii, I, (1944)

[From Boxer 1.]

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Bhaugun Kamat Vagh MS of the Khristapurana

Yesterday I got a look at the Bhaugun Kamat Vagh MS of the Khristapurana in the Pissurlencar Collection held by the Goa University Library.

The MS is notebook size, with a loose leather cover, and over it a loose brown paper cover.

The brown paper cover indicates in pencil that the MS was found in the house of Bhaugun Kamat Vagh. However, an inscription on one of the initial pages reads, in Portguese, something like this: Offered by Fr Cator [?] to Mr Pissurlencar. Obviously the MS has passed through many hands. It is listed in the Pissurlencar Bibliography issued by the Goa University simply as found in the house of Bhaugun Kamat Vagh. There is no mention of the priest who offered the MS to Pissurlencar.

The MS is not complete: it contains only Avesvaru 38, 47, 48, 20, 50, 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Print editions of the Khristapurana in Lisbon?

I have requested Mr Carlos Fernandes, Curator, Goa Central Library, to inquire from the National Library, Lisbon, about possible print editions of the Khristapurana, as mentioned by Pollard in his article on Thomas Stephens in the Dictionary of National Biography in 1901.

Pollard, A.F. “Stephens or Stevens, Thomas.” Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Sidney Lee. New York: Macmillan; London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1901. Supplement 3:355-356. [S xxiv. http://www.archive.org/stream/p3dictionaryofna01leesuoft#page/356/mode/2up as of 23 May 2011.] On p. 356 he writes:  
Three of his books, all published after his death, are extant in the National Library at Lisbon: 1. 'Doctrina Christa em Lingua Bramana-Canarim,' em Rachol, 1622, 8vo; 2. 'Arte da Lingua Canarin,' em Rachol, 1640, 8vo; a copy of this appears to be also extant at Goa, where it was reprinted in 1857, 8vo; 3. 'Discorso sobre a Vinda de Jesus Christo,' Goa, 1626, 1649, and 1654.

Among authorities cited, Pollard mentions the following which might be relevant: Archivo Universal, Lisbon, January 1861; Indian Antiquary vii, 117; Monier-Williams, in Contemporary Review, April 1878. Foley's Records, iii, 573-589; vii, 738, 1453. Ribadeneira's, Southwell's, and De Backer's Bibl. Jesuit.; Oliver's Collections.

When I mentioned this to Dr Pratap Naik, SJ, Director of the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendra, this morning, he said it was unlikely that Lisbon had print editions. Teotonio de Souza, former Director of the Xavier Centre for Historical Research, Alto Porvorim, had personally made a search. He said the same about the Jesuit Central Archives, Rome: they had been thoroughly searched. 

Naik was of the opinion that Nelson Falcao had made a gratuitous assumption that the Marsden MS was the original. He mentioned Tadkodkar also in this connection: Tadkodkar also is not at all convinced that the Sanskritized Devanagari version is prior to the Romanized Roman script versions. 

Mariano Saldanha's MS of the Khristapurana

Just discovered Marian Saldanha's MS of the KP in possession of the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendra, Alto Porvorim, Goa (TSKK no. V 353).

Leather bound volume, with The Christian Puranna embossed on the spine, along with M.C. Saldanha embossed lower down. In pencil, on the first page, is also M.C. Saldahna. With all likelihood this is one of the MS used by J.L. Saldanha in his work, and mentioned by him in his Preface to The Christian Puranna (1907): "Mr Marian Saldanha, "an enthusiast of Purannic literature".

Is this M.C. Saldanha the same as Dr Mariano Luis Jose de Gonzaga Saldanha of Ucassaim? More proof will be needed. Could it be "M.G. Saldanha" rather than "M.C. Saldanha"? And did the Professor from Ucassaim sign himself "M.G. Saldanha"?

On the 'first' page, written in blue ink:
Father Thomas Stephens
Padri Thomas Estevao
Hea Puranncha adicary
Author of this Puranna...
Next: "Paixao de Christo". First line begins thus: "Namana Marie mate maza..."

Next item: Frei Gaspar de San Miguel's praise of Thomas Stephens.

On a retro: A handwritten page, seems to have been pasted over, but someone has cut out parts.

Next: Pailem Puranna. The first pages seem to be in a more recent hand, probably because the 'original' MS had been corrupted. The later pages, the majority of the MS, is in a more elegant hand.

The language seems Romanized: Spiritu Santu; padri guru.

The praise of Marathi is there: Avesvaru 1, 121 ff.

At the end of the first Puranna someone has counted the verses in each of the Purannas: 1st: 4296; 2nd: 6722; a total of 11018 verses.

Dussarem Puranna: same hand as the Pailem. Romanized: Sao Joao (Av. 18, 54).

Av. 59 ends with v. 122. The Drago edition instead, for examle, goes further; it gives the date of completion as 1614 in v. 129.

Next: "Avesuara Dussara 1722" in blue ink at the head of the page, obviously added later.

The title: "Calvarincha pravatu tethe...." This might be another Paixao. It looks similar to the one in the Goa Central Library MS. Even the date - 1722 - seems familiar. In fact, the last page of this unit reads: "Padra Pascual Gomes de Faria / Hea Purannaca Adicary / 1722 Varussim Rachila."

next item, in a different hand: begins abruptly: "Quarto Mistero / Quinto Mistero".

next item: "Mrutichiya Banna."

A stamp on one of the last pages, or perhaps the inside back cover: CODIALBAIL PRESS, MANGALORE. Perhaps an indication that these MS were bound there.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Khristapurana: some new developments

Mr Hugh Mascarenhas of Nashik recently found a copy of J.L. Saldanha's The Christian Puranna in his grandfather's library in Mangalore. The copy is in his possession in Nashik.

Mr Carlos Fernandes, Curator, Goa Central Library, Panjim, says that Prof. Suresh Amonkar of Mapusa has recently donated a MS of the KP to the GCL. It would appear that the MS had been gifted to him by Bishop Allwyn Barretto of Sindhudurg. Perhaps the MS had been lying around in some church in that diocese. (Mr Amonkar is currently translating the KP into Konkani. I believe excerpts have been appearing in some magazine in Goa.)

The Arambol MS which had been mentioned to me by Fr Agnelo Pinheiro of Rachol Seminary turns out to be a copy of J.L. Saldanha's The Christian Puranna. It is currently in the possession of the Rachol Seminary.

I went yesterday to the Goa University Library. Vast enough building, not very well kept. Lots of 'collections' - which I believe are book holdings donated to the library by distinguished individuals. A copy of the KP is in the Vagh Collection, which itself seems to be part of the Pissurlenkar Collection. The librarian in charge was busy, so I did not get a chance to have a look at the MS.

I still have to visit the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr / Xavier Centre of Historical Research, Panjim, to see their MS of the KP.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The proposed 'Dictionary of Indian Christian Theology'

Dr Eric J. Lott of United Theological College, Bangalore, began working on a Dictionary of Indian Christian Theology in the mid-1980s. He was succeeded by Dr D.C. Scott and Dr O.V. Jathanna of the same College. Unfortunately the project was never brought to completion. Dr Jathanna says it required one or two years of work, but that the College did not find it possible to release any of the editors for this task.

Four files containing precious contributions from leading Christian theologians of the time are preserved in the Archives of the UTC Library at Miller's Road. These are now somewhat dated, and so cannot be published as they are. Still, they remain a precious record of theological thinking in the mid- and late 1980s in India. There are contributions by Richard De Smet (on Pierre Johanns, Thomas Aquinas, and Analogy / Laksana), Bede Griffiths (on Jules Monchanin), Hans Staffner (The Khrista Purana of Thomas Stephens), R. Panikkar, and a host of other very well known theologians, both Protestant and Catholic.

One of the 4 files contains correspondence (dating from 1985, if I am not mistaken) as well as lists of themes / contributions.

Bede Griffiths' "Jules Monchanin"

The following is the text of a contribution by Fr Bede Griffiths to the proposed Dictionary of Indian Christian Theology, ed. Eric J. Lott, D.C. Scott, and O.V. Jathanna (Bangalore: UTC, late 1980s) (see Sl. No. 30).
Jules Monchanin was a pioneer in the movement towards dialogue and inculturation, which has gained so much importance in the Church in India today. He had made a deep, though critical, study of Hindu philosophy and realised the importance of the advaita doctrine of Sankara in dialogue with Hinduism. So much so that he could say: 'Our only aim is advaita and the praise of the Trinity.'
At the same time he sought to establish a way of life which would be 'totally Indian and totally Christian.' For this purpose he adopted the traditional customs of a Hindu ashram, wearing the 'kavi' habit of a sannyasi, sitting on the floor and sleeping on a mat and adopting a strictly vegetarian diet. These things were innovations at the time but have since become customary among those dedicated to a contemplative life in India.
Above all he sought for an authentic life of prayer and contemplation nourished alike by the Bible and the Vedic tradition, seeking to find the point of unity between Hinduism and Christianity at the source from which each tradition derived. The ashram which he founded on the banks of the Kavery in Tamil Nadu remains a witness to the ideal of contemplative life which he had set before him. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Hans Staffner's "The Khrista Purana of Fr Thomas Stephens"

The following is the text of a contribution by Fr Hans Staffner, SJ, to the proposed Dictionary of Indian Christian Theology, ed. Eric J. Lott, D.C. Scott and O.V. Jathanna, to have been published by United Theological College, Bangalore, in the late 1980s. Unfortunately the Dictionary was never published. However, 4 files of pertinent matter are available in the Archives of the UTC Library, from which I have transcribed the following, with minor corrections (see File no. 1, Sl. No. 155).

The Khrista Purana is a poetic work of 10,962 strophes in the ovi metre. Fr Stephens called it “A discourse on the coming of Our Saviour into the world.” 36 cantos deal with the Old Testament and 59 with the New Testament. It is meant as religious instruction. In each canto a biblical event is related, then a Hindu or Christian asks questions which are answered. In a letter written in 1608 Fr Stephens expressed his intention to publish a work in the Devanagari script, but since in his time there was no press printing books in the Devanagari script, he had to transcribe his Purana into Roman script. Three editions were printed in Goa, in 1616, 1648 and 1656. After Indian languages were barred from the cultural life in Goa, the Purana lost its living space in Goa, but remained very popular in Mangalore. Many families had hand-written copies of the Purana. In 1907 J. Saldanha published a very beautiful edition of the Purana in Roman script, known as the Mangalore edition.
The Purana is known as one of the most beautiful works in the Marathi language. Also many Hindus were keen on a Devanagari edition. In 1956 the well-known Hindu publishing firm, Prasad Prakashan, published a beautiful Devanagari edition of the Khrista Purana, which was prepared by Professor S.B. Bandelu of Ahmednagar College.
Prof. Dr S.G. Tulpule writes in the standard work on Marathi, the Maharashtra Sarasvata:

“Fr Stephens has succeeded in the difficult task of presenting Christ in such oriental garb as appeals to the Hindu mind. The Purana is like  sanctuary in the centre of which is the image of Christ whilst the structure and decorations that surround it are in genuine Hindu style.” 

Friday, 6 May 2011


Prof. O.V. Jathanna brought to my notice another set of bibliographies of Indian Christian Writings, a series of little booklets published by Serampore College, according to languages. I list them here, together with the Baago and Hambye bibliographies.

  • Baago, Kaj.
  • Hambye
  • Roy, Parimal. Bibliography of Original Christian Writings in India in Gujarati. Serampore, West Bengal, 712 201: Senate of Serampore College, 1991.
  • Joseph, Ravela and B. Suneel Bhanu. Bibliography of Original Christian Writings in India in Telugu. Serampore: Senate of Serampore College, 1993.
  • Mabry, H.P., H.S. Wilson and Zaimingthanga. Bibliography of Original Christian Writings in India. North East Languages. Serampore: Senate of Serampore College, 1992.
  • Jadhav, Bhaskar, et al. Bibliography of Original Christian Writings in India in Sanskrit. Vol. 4. Serampore: Senate of Serampore College, 1994.
  • Alwin Maben, Arun Kumar Wesley, Ivan Alberts. Bibliography of Original Christian Writings in India in Kannada and Tulu. Serampore: Senate of Serampore College, 1994.
  • Boxer, C.R. "A Tentative Check-List of Indo-Portuguese Imprints, 1556-1674." Separata do Boletim do Instituto Vasco da Gama, no. 73. Bastora, Goa: Tipografia Rangel, 1956. TSKK no. 3520. [Copy offered by Boxer to Prof. Mariano Saldanha. Contains probably important jottings, corrections and updatings by the latter.] 

Thursday, 5 May 2011

More De Smet items found

On 3 May 2011 I paid visit to the wonderful library of United Theological College, Miller's Road, Bangalore, to try and find the contributions of De Smet to the proposed Dictionary of Indian Christian Theology. I had learned through a friend who had spoken to prof. O.V. Jathanna, one of the editors of the Dictionary, that the work had never been brought to completion. This time I met the professor myself; he was very gracious, told me that unfortunately the College had not found it possible to set aside one or two persons for the job, which is why the job remained unfinished. However, he said, the files were available in the Archives, and he himself requested the Librarian to let me have access to them.

There are 4 files containing the various contributions, as well as the correspondence. They are, I think, a treasure trove of matter; unfortunately, as I have said above, never published, and now somewhat out of date. But surely some day a job waiting to be done: it would provide a wonderful cross-section of theological thinking in India in the 1980s (the correspondence dates from around 1985 to 1987, from my cursory glance).

I found the 3 items of De Smet: a two pp. typescript on Pierre Johanns; 1 p. on Thomas Aquinas; and 1 p. on Analogy / Laksana.

I resisted the temptation to copy other material, restricting myself to a 1 p. typescript by Hans Staffner on The Krista Purana of Thomas Stephens, and another 1 p. typescript by Bede Griffiths on Jules Monchanin, founder of the Shantivanam monastery at Kulitalai on the banks of the Cauvery.

But the other great find, and unexpected, was what I think is De Smet's study of "The Christian Encounter with Advaita Vedanta: A Study of Four Centuries," published as late as 2010 under the title "Christianity and Shankaracharya" in vol. 3 of the St Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, ed. George Menachery (Thrissur, Kerala), 22-42. The article is 20 pp. of fine print, large format, and perhaps corresponds to the typescript in the possession of Daniel De Smet, which is some 40 pp. plus.

The date of completion of the above is a problem, given that vol. 2 of the Encyclopedia was published in 1973, and vol. 1 in 1998, with vol. 3 coming only last year, in 2010. A cursory look at De Smet's notes in the published text reveals that it could not have been written earlier than 1976 (the most recent item there is 1975: see 41n65 Mattam and 42n121 Marathi Tattvajnana Mahakosa). However: in the 1980 article "Sankara Vedanta and Christian Theology" Review of Darshana 1/1 (1980) 33-48, De Smet says:

This survey of the attitudes adopted by Christian scholars towards Śāṅkara Vedānta in this century is summed up from a monograph (now in the press)[i] in which I have studied the four centuries of encounters between Christians and Vedānta beginning with Robert de Nobili (1577-1656).

This would seem to indicate that the piece published 2010 was ready in 1980. The note added by me [this is from the draft of Understanding Sankara: Essays by Richard De Smet, to be published by Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi], will accordingly have to be modified. 

Two points to be cleared up: (1) the mention of a 'monograph' had led me to expect a book length essay. (2) In 1990-91 - long after he had probably sent his contribution to prof. George Menachery - De Smet said he was still working at the MS; more precisely, he said he was 'enriching' it with matter from the Jesuit Archives. One possibility of clearing up the second point is to inquire from prof. Menachery himself.

[i] [This monograph was, unfortunately, never published. From conversations with De Smet in 1990-91, I recall that he was still working on it during his year long residence at the Jesuit Casa degli Scrittori, Rome. However, it would seem that a 40 page typescript is available with Daniel De Smet, with the title, “The Christian Encounter with Advaita Vedānta: A Survey of Four Centuries,” together with another fragment with pagination running from 33 to 65. The latter item, in fact, echoes the subtitles of the present article: The Creative Assimilationists; The Apophatists; Christians in Dialogue with Advaitins.