Arnos Padre’s 291st death anniversary falls on March 20 – Part 1

By  C K George

The German Jesuit Missionary Priest, Joannes Ernestus Hanxleden alias  Arnos Padre  was  a “storm   on  two  legs  in the  literary  and cultural  horizon   of not  only Kerala but  also  the  world over” for  about  three decades.

He  had  produced classical works  in Malayalam  and  Sanskrit  when   it  was  a taboo  for non-Brahmins to learn  Sanskrit  language.

Padre  had  made  immense  contribution  for  the  growth  and development of   Malayalam and Sanskrit   languages  and literature  in the  early  part  of  18th century.

Hanxleden  mastered   of Sanskrit   and Malayalam  languages in  a  short  period.

Born in  1681 at Ostercappeln, near  Osnabruck (Germany), Hanxleden left  Augsbourg on  October  03,1699 as  a Jesuit  Missionary  for Surat (India)   along  with Fr  William  Weber,  Fr  William Meyer and Gasper  Schillinger (A barber  by  profession)  and they  (Arnos  and Schillinger alone)     landed   at Surat  on  December, 13, 1700, after  a long and  tedious  journey  of  437 days. (Surat fell in Gujarat, the native State  of  Indian  Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi)

They  suffered  a lot  of  troubles  and tribulations  during their  voyage  including the demises   Fr Weber  on  24-11-1700   and Fr  Meyer on  28-11-1700.  Their  bodies were  dropped  in  to  the  deep sea  by   the  ship’s  valets  for  Davy  Jones’s locker.

Hanxleden  proceeded  from  Surat to  Goa  and he left  Goa  in November 1701, with a letter from the Rector   of Saint Paul’s  Seminary  for Ambazhakad  Jesuits’  Seminary,near Thrissur. 

Ambazhakad   had  a well  established  College  and Seminar y   for  training  of priests.

The  whole College  complex  at Ambazhakad  consisted  of  Saint  Thomas  Church, a full-fledged  Seminary  and a printing press.  It  was  totally  destroyed  in 1797  by  Tippu  Sultan”s   Military  March.

Hanxleden    entered   the  Saint   Paul’s College/Seminary  at Ambazhakd in  1701  and he  was  ordained  priest in 1707 at  Ambazhakad.

Hanxleden   served  as a Missionary  priestin Cranganore (Kodungalloor), Udayamperoor, Kuruvilangad, Chettuva  and Mattam.   He  was  vicar of Saint  Mata  Dei  Cathedral at  Calicut (Kozhikode)  for  seven  months. 

Arnos  Padre  was appointed Secretary   to  the  Kodungalloor   Archbishop, Don  Joao  Ribeiro  for  four  years  from 1707  after  his  ordination  as priest.

Arnos  Padre  arrived  at Velur  in  1712.  Out  of Hanxleden’s    three  decades  long  polyvalent   multifaceted  life  in  Goa   and Kerala,   over  16  years  he had spent  at Velur,near  Thrissur, the Cultural Capital  of  Kerala.

He  had  learnt Malayalam and Sanskrit at  Velur and earned  impeccable  knowledge in them even  to  compete  with high Caste  Brahmins” Sanskrit knowledge.  He  had  authored several    books in  Malayalam and  Sanskrit  languages  at  Velur.

Priests Weber  and Meyer died  of  plague during their  voyage at the middle  of  the  sea   just  five days  for them  to  land  at  Surat.

Fr  Weber’s   death  had  made a great  shock in Hanxleden  for he  was Hanxleden’s  superior, Novice  Master , Friend, Philosopher and guide  in  all  aspects.   

Arnos   Padre’s  main works  are:

1)       Malayalam-Portuguese  Dictionary

2)       Malayalam Portuguese Grammar

3)      Malayalam-Sanskrit  Dictionary

4)      Sanskrit Grammar (Gramatica  Grandonica)

5)      Puthanppana (New Ballad or New  Hymn)

6)      Chathuranthyam (Four  Ends  of  Life)

(a) Canto  of Death (b) Canto of Judgment (c)Canto  of Hell (d) Canto  of Heaven.

7)      Umaparvam (Sorrows   of  Blessed  Virgin Mary-Mother  of  God)

8)      Vyakula Prabanndham (Dolours   of  Holy  Mary)

A  short   poetical  work  is another  lamentation  of  Virgin  Mary.

9)      Genovaparvam (Life  of Saint  Genevieve) or Genova Punya  Charitham

The  literary  and poetic qualities of  this  hymn are  so sublime, composition so  perfect and free  from  any  defects.

10)      Ave  Maris Stella (Hail  Star of the  Sea)

A  beautiful  Latin  hymn  rendered   by Hanxleden into  Sanskrit  and Malayalam ( A garland   of 12  stars).

It  was  described by the  leading  litterateurs  as  a poem  of richness of expression, elegance  and beauty in par excellence.

(The article to be continued…)

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