I. Sixteenth to seventeenth centuries: Indian writings in these centuries include letters, catechisms, verse narratives, hagiography, treatises, dialogues, poetic songs and biographies.
1. Amongst the letters are those of four bishops in Malabar to Patriarch Mar Elias (1504) and by Mar Jacob of Cochin to John III of Portugal (1524 and 1530). These recount the earliest contacts - both in friendship and contention - between the Syro-Malabar Christians and the Portuguese.
Conflicts resulting from western intervention in doctrine, liturgy and leadership, are illustrated in letters by Mar Aithalaha of Mylapore, to Archdeacon Palliveettil in 1652; by Mar Gregorios to Syrian priests in his diocese in 1668; and in letters written from Malabar to Rome in 1658 and 1659 by the priests Jacob, Zachariah, Thomas, Paulos, Luka Alexandros and others. (Refer Kuriakose 1982, Thekkedath 1988.)
Other letters of historical or cultural value, many of them in Indian languages, include those of Henry Henriques (fl. 1550), Robert de Nobili (1577-1656), Jerome Xavier (fl. 1600), Thomas Stephens (fl. 1610), Balthazar da Costa (fl. 1640), Andrew Lopez (1644), Emmanuel Martins (fl. 1656) and Anthony Proenca (fl. 1665).
2. Of the verse narratives extant, the most notable is the Ramban Song (The Thomas Parvam). This exists in many ancient traditions and is believed to originate from a disciple of St Thomas. It recounts the coming of Thomas to India, his travels and the founding of many churches and ends with his martyrdom at Mylapore in the year 72. Many versions made in this period. Printed in Orientalia Christiana 32, 1933.
An unusual example of works by Brahman poets upon Christian themes is the narrative of the Thomas tradition written in Telegu by Pingali Ellana-reyudu (c.1603) and entitled Tobhya Carita.
3. The most prolific writer of treatises in these two centuries was Robert de Nobili 1577-1656. (The consolidated listing of his works totals 38 volumes.) In prose verse and dialogue these include:
- Nittiya Jivana Callabam (Dialogue on Eternal Life) and Kaduvil Nirnayam (Theodicy), both in Tamil, and written to stimulate Hindu interest in Christianity. Reprinted TLS, Tuticorin, 1964 and 1969.
- Sesunathat Sarithiram (Life of Christ) and Devamatha Sarithiram (Life of Our Lady), both written in Sanskrit by 1612, and reprinted by TLS, Tuticorin, 1964.
- Attamia Nirnayam (Science of the Soul), in Sanskrit and Tamil. A philosophical treatise on the origin and end of the human soul. Pondicherry 1899, TLS, 1967.
- Mathasampanda Sallapam: un mathamanna? (What is your religion?) c.1620. Considers the signs of true and false religion. Pondicherry, 1915.
- Dushana Dhikaram (Refutation of Calumnies) i.e. against Christianity, 1641, written for those already using the first volume of his catechism. Reprinted at Tuticorin, TLS, 1964. (Refer Rajamanickam, 1972.)
4. The most widely known work of hagiography of the period is probably Flos Sanctorum in a Tamil version of 668 printed pages, by Henriques (Punnaikayal, c. 1586) - "the greatest attempt of the sixteenth century to express Christian thoughts through the medium of Tamil". In addition to catechisms, Henriques produced the first Tamil grammar and dictionary, along with booklets on doctrine and the life of Christ.
5. Catechisms extant include:
A Tamil Catechism written by three Tamilians (sic.) (Lisbon, c. 1550). This is the first known printed book in Tamil (Roman characters) and was assisted by the Franciscan Joao de Vila de Conde.
Tambiran Vanakkam, a shorter Catechism (Quilon, 1578) and Kirisittiani Vanakkam, a larger Catechism (Cochin, 1579) by Henry Henriques. These are the earliest books to be printed in Tamil characters, still extant.
Christian Doctrine in the Konkarni Language by Thomas Stephens (published posthumously in 1622), reprinted by M. Saldanka, Lisbon, 1945.
Gnanopadesa kandam (large catechism or 'Spiritual Teaching') parts I-V (a total of 1620 pages, c.1638-42) by Robert de Nobili. Reprinted, Tuticorin, Tamil Literature Society, 1963-1966.
6. Christa Purana (Christian stories of Old) by Thomas Stephens (1616) is a long poetic work written in traditional form and metre in Marathi and Konkarni. In almost 11,0000 strophes this presents Roman Catholic teaching through the story of the Old Testament and of the Life of Christ, but also evinces concerns shared by such reforming Swamis in Maharastra as Ekanatha (1549-1599). Reprinted 1649, 1654, 1907, 1956 and Bombay 1965.
Other Purana were later written by, for example, Etienne de la Croix (1629) and Antonio de Saldanha (1655).
Abraham Rogerius (Madras 1631-1641) wrote Gentilismus Reseratus, an account of Hinduism in South India.
Writings on lack of justice in their day, included those of Gaspar Correia (1495-1564) - and later Diogo Couto - denouncing blatant injustices of captains and governors (Boxer 1969, 146f.) and Matheus de Castro (Bishop fl. 1637-, former Brahman) advocating recognition of native clergy and condemning Portuguese discrimination. (Boxer 1969, 237, 257f.)
Other expatriate scholars in the period who have left studies of Indian languages include for Kannada, Leonard Cirinoma (d. 1644); for Konkarni, the prolific Gaspar de S. Miguel (fl. 1640) who also left sermons, a Grammar, biographical and apologetic writings; and for Hindustani, Francis Mary of Tours (fl. 1680).
7. Amongst the biographical fragments for Christian Indians which are available from letters and reports in the period, are those concerning Anandu of Thanjavur, found in a series of letters by Martins, da Costa, Lopez and Proenca (1639-1660). He emerges as a zealous lay 'pastor', and, despite continuing personal misfortunes, devoted to serving poor 'pariahs' and to burying the victims of pestilence. (See Thekkedath 1988, 231f.)
8. A number of apologetic writings in dialogue form are extant, amongst them:
i) A'ina-yui haqq-numa (The Truth-showing Mirror) by Jerome Xavier (fl. 1590-1610) issued in 1597 in Portuguese, and in 1609 in Persian. Christian and Muslim beliefs are contrasted in a dialogue between a Catholic priest, a philosopher and a Muslim mullah.
Xavier also wrote a life of Christ, Mirat-ul-quds (Mirror of Holiness) completed in 1602 (Portuguese and Persian), along with Lives of the Apostles, a History of Martyrs and Saints, a work on the Duties of Kingship, catechisms and commentaries. (See Thekkedath 1988, 436ff.)
ii) A discussion on Hindu and Christian belief between a Christian and a Hindu Brahman was written in Bengali ca. 1680 by an Indian catechist, alleged to be the son of the king of Benares, Dome Antonio do Rozario (Prince of Bhusanar). Its full title is Portugaler Antarpatti Avorar Sadharan Granthaloyayey Rakshita Puthi Haitey Kalikata Visya Vidyalayayer Adhyapak O Senateyer Sadashya (Argument and Dispute upon the Law between a Roman Catholic Father and a Brahman). A MS of 100 pages, it was printed in Lisbon 1743 and by Calcutta University in 1937.
9. A series of remarkable writings in 'early Church Sanskrit' have been preserved in manuscript from the period mid-seventeenth to early eighteenth centuries. Chief among these are:
i) Ezour Vadam (The Jesus Veda) is one of eighth multi-authored or anonymous manuscripts extant in both Sanskrit and French versions, but possibly from Tamil and Bengali originals. (Edited by F.S. Ellis, Asiatic Researches, Royal Asiatic Society, Bengal, 1822). Ezour Vadam is a dialogue between two Vedic sages, one monotheoist and one polytheist, in which the monotheism of 'pristine Hinduism' prevails and is presented as pointing to Christian truth.
ii) Chamo Bedo (Veda of Final Rest), is another of the manuscripts issued by Ellis and is also anonymous (c. 1700). Found in both Sanskrit and French versions, this dialogue between two Vedic figures also attempts to recover uncorrupted 'Hinduism'. No explicit references are made to Biblical or Thomist thought, yet sat, cit, and ananda ('being', 'consciousness', 'bliss') are - for the first time - given Christian connotations. (Amaladass & Young, 1995.)
II. Eighteenth century: Many of the same literary forms continue to be used with the addition of diaries, histories, travelogues and further varieties of exhortation, homily and poem.
10. From the Tranquebar mission (Coromandel coast) the work of some early catechists is known, notably Aaron, son of Chokkanatha Pillai (1698-1745) who was ordained priest in 1733. Many of his sermons, accounts of his regular tours, and letters are extant, and full biographical notes appear in the reports of missionaries to the S.P.C.K. (See Fenger 1863, 163ff. and Paul 1961, 7-24.)
Notes from the teaching of some other catechists, like Savarimuthu and Diogo - both contemporaries of Aaron - also remain, as do declarations by the martyr Devasagayam Pillai (1712-1752) in Travancore. (Jarrett-Kerr 1972, 66ff.) Kajanaiken (d. 1772) a catechist of Tanjore has also left manuscript letters and reports. (Paul 1952, 54ff.)
11. Amongst the correspondence extant from this century is a rare series of letters from Mar Thoma IV (1686-1725), head of the Jacobite community in Malabar, to Antioch, Leiden and Batavia. These are in Syriac and contain notes on the history of the Malabar churches, along with requests for the sending of bishops and priests and for Dutch help against the Portuguese clergy. They clearly preserve in concept and language ancient traditions of the East Syrian Churches. Written 1709, 1713, 1715, 1717, 1720 an 1728. Printed in part in Leiden, 1714 and 1863. (See Schurhammer 1963, 333ff.)
12. Narrazione (Diary of Principal Events), begun by Ildefonso and others in 1653, continues with little interruption as a chronicle of the Carmelite mission in Kerala until 1740. (See A. Teresia Hierarchia Carmelitana, Rome, 1936-1939.)
13. Jacome Goncalvez (1676-1742), of Goa and Ceylon, has left fifteen books in Tamil (apart from those in Sinhalese noted under Sri Lanka below). These include:
- Christiyana Alayam (The Christian Treasure House). Octavo MS 1725 - "possibly the oldest prayer book in Tamil now extant". Includes catechism and meditations.
- Dava Arulveda Puranam (Compendium of Sacred History). The Biblical story in verse interspersed with doctrinal sections. Two volumes, Folio 1725, printed Madras 1886.
- Suvishesha Viriturai (Explanation of the Gospel for Sundays) - 'with moral implications'. Quarto 1728, Printed 1848.
- Viyakula Pirasangam (Sermons of the Passion). Quarto 1730, printed 1844. Still being used in Ceylon, in mid-20th century.
- Gnana Unartchy (Spiritual Exhortation). Fourteen doctrinal sermons on the soul, conversion and human destiny. Written 1734, printed 1844.
- Sugurda Darpanam (Mirror of Virtues and their Practice) - 'with mystic and polite precepts'. Octavo, 1736. Printed 1914.
- Five other volumes, written 1715-1738, contain arguments against Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Calvinism.
The extensive correspondence of Goncalvez has also been published by V. Perniola, Colombo, 1983.
14. Jean Calmette (1693-1740) worked mainly in Pondicherry (1726-1740) on similar lines to the authors of Ezour Vedam (above). Collaborating with Christian Brahmans, he produced Satyaveda-sarasamgraha (issued as A Short Exposition of the Essentials of the True Religion, edited by J. Aelen, Nellore, St. John's Press, 1931). In 195 verses, Vedic affirmations are used to 'clear the pathway' for the 'ray of light' from God, i.e. a salvation from the cycle of rebirth.
Many prayers, similar to those of de Nobili are also attributed to Calmette and were originally printed in Canarese characters (Tattiagrantha slokamulu, 2nd ed. 1878; some included in Aelen's edition, 1931.) (Refer Amaladoss & Young 1995.)
15. Amongst Tamil and Telegu poets who wrote on Christian themes in this period, are Antony Kutty Annaviar (fl. 1710-1730), a lay colleague of Beschi, who wrote Aradanai Prasagam and Arul Vasagam, Rajah Saraboji, a protege of Schwartz (fl. 1790), and Mangulgiri Ananda-Kavi (fl. 1790). His Vedanta-rasayana, in Telegu, presents the life of Christ and the doctrines of the Christian church for the Hindu convert to Christianity.
16. Of Christian pastors working in southern states, Satthianandhan ("Possessor of truth", c. 1750-1815) of Tinnevelly district, was notable. Ordained in 1790, he soon became a Superintending Minister and many of his letters and sermons are extant. These were printed in Reports of the S.P.C.K. between the years 1790 and 1814. He also wrote a Bible Commentary in Tamil, and a volume of Church history in Tamil and English. Anna Satthianandhan (wife) also wrote booklets including A Day in the Zenana and A Good Mother. (See Caldwell 1881.)
17. Writings in Malayalam on Christian faith and practice in this century include:
- The oldest printed book in Malayalam is the Symbolum Apostolicum in Lingua Malabarica (1713) which with other Christian publications then "began a modern era for Malayalam literature".
- Samkshe Pavedartham (On the Christian life) by Kathanar Clement (1772).
- Gnana Muthu Maala (Pearls of Wisdom), an anonymous MS written on palm leaf (1784). This comprises a series of exhortations for the Christian life written in a style similar to the Biblical Proverbs.
- A similar palm leaf MS, Christogita (Song of Christ) gives the life and work of Christ. Both printed by Kerala State Archives, Trivandrum, 1966 and 1972.
- Vedatarkam (On Doctrinal Disputes) by Kariattil Malpan Joseph (1768). This was written to attempt a reconciliation between various Keralese communities then in discord.
- The Varthamana Pusthakam (Kariattil Malpan's Roman Journey) by Paramakkal Kathanar Thoma (1788) is an impressive travelogue of an eight-year journey to Rome and back in order to gain freedom for Syrian Christians from all western Bishops, written in 562 pages of lucid Malayam prose. Including few western idioms, it argues strongly for the independence of Indians from foreign domination.
18. Amongst expatriate writers in vernacular languages the following were prominent:
- Veermamunivar (Joseph Constantuis Beschi) utilized many Hindu theological conceptions as a means of Christian teaching in Thembavani, an Epic on the life of Joseph in Tamil (c. 1710). He also wrote Gnanabodanmu (Spiritual Instruction) in Telegu (Nellore 1953), and in Tamil, Vaetha Vilakam (Explanation of Religion) (Pondicherry, 1936).
- Arnos Pattiri (John Ernestus), in the same period, wrote many long poems on Christian themes in Malayalam.
- Bartolomaeus Ziegenbalg (1683-1719). His works include:
Thirty-four Conferences Between Danish Missionaries and the Malabarian Brahmans, London, SPCK, 1719, records the frank exchanges and also letters arising from the Tranquebar Lutheran Mission, which prefigure much later debate.
The Genealogie of the Malabar Gods (Madras 1867) and Malabarishes Heidentum (Amsterdam 1926) were published only in later centuries, because of earlier opposition to their sympathetic approach to Hindu beliefs.
Angnanam Ethanai Aruvarukkappaddathakka Karyam Entrum (How the Heathen too could be saved), (Tranquebar 1713).
- Abbe J.A. Dubois published c. 1790, his Letters from India, recalling the age of de Nobili, and also his somewhat pessimistic study Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies.
- Extensive letters, and other writings, also remain for Ziegenbalg's contemporaries and successors; Henry Plutschau (fl. 1720), Johann Philipp Fabricius (fl. 1790), Jerome Rodrigues (fl. 1770), Christian William Gericke (d. 1803), and Christian Friedrich Schwartz (1724-1798) whose Remains and Memories were published in London (1826 and 1834), and whose ward, Prince Serfoji of Tagore, wrote English poetry in his honour..
19. A brief note is necessary concerning the large number of Syriac and other manuscripts which were written, copied and/or translated between 1504 and 1760, and which are still held in Kerala libraries. These include letters, Gospels, commentaries, liturgical MSS, apologies for the Church of the East and anthologies, from the third to fourteenth centuries. Amongst many Indian writers, copyists and compilers recorded in MS colophens are Mar Jacob (1504), Jacob Malpan 'of Malabar' (1556), Mar Joseph (1567), Mattai Panorkidan (1584), Metropolitan Simon (1701), Deacon Abraham of Mudurute (1734) Mar Iwannis (1749), and Jacob Julius (Konat) (c. 1790). (See van der Ploeg, 1983.)
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Baago, K. A Bibliography. Library of Indian Christian Theology. Madras, Christian Literature Society, 1969.
Bertrand, J. La Mission de Madure d'apres des Documents inedits. 4 volumes. Paris, 1847-54.
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Boxer, C.R. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire 1415-1825. London, Penguin, 1969.
Caldwell Records of the Early History of the Tinnevelly Mission. London, 1881.
Chatterji, S.K. Language and Literature of Modern India. Calcutta, Bengal Publishers, 1963.
Fenger, J.F. History of the Tranquebar Mission. London, 1863.
George, K.M. A Survey of Malayalam Literature. Bombay, 1968.
Jarrett-Kerr, M. Patterns of Christian Acceptance. London, Oxford University Press, 1972.
Kuriakose, M.K. (comp.) History of Christianity in India: Source Materials. Madras, C.L.S., 1982.
Menachery, George (ed.) St Thomas Christian Encyclopoedia of India. 3 vols. Trichur, 1973.
Paul, Rajaiah Cross Over India. London, SCM Press, 1952.
------ Chosen Vessels. Madras, C.L.S., 1961.
Perniola, V. The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka: The Dutch Period, vol II. Colombo, 1983.
Rajamanickam, S. The First Oriental Scholar. Tirunelveli, De Nobili Research Institute, 1972.
Schurhammer, G. "Letters of Mar Jacob Bishop of Malabar 1503-1550" in Orientalia, Rome, 1963.
Thekkedath, J. History of Christianity in India Volume II. Bangalore, Church History Association of India, 1988.
van der Ploeg, J.P.M. Syriac Manuscripts of St Thomas Christians. Bangalore, Dharmaram, 1983.