Arnos Padre’s 291st death anniversary falls on March 20 – Part 2

By  C K George

Brahmins had  kept Sanskrit  as  their  monopoly  for about  three  thousand  years   preventing others   from learning it including low-Caste  Hindus.

Hanxleden  was  credited to  have  broken  the iron-grip of Brahmins” theocracy  and rendered Sanskrit’s  ancient wisdom  accessible   to  the  whole  world   especially  Europe.

Padre  learnt  Sanskrit language  from two  high-Caste   Brahmins –Kunjhan  and Kesavan-  hailing  from  Angamaly  near  Kochi.

In  those  days  it  was  a taboo  for  non-Brahmins  to  learn Sankrit language and  in  this  regard  Arnos  Padre  had   made a  real  revolution in learning Sanskrit.

For  Arnose  Padre’s  utmost  humility,  sincere  behavior and suave  approach for  all  alike  led the even Brahmins  to show  readiness  in teaching Sanskrit  to  the Western  Jesuit  Missionary,  the  monopoly  language  of theirs.

Arnos  Padre  gained  good and  impeccable  knowledge  in  Sanskrit in no  time and literally  mastered of  the  language.

Namboodiri  Brahmins of those  days  were  reluctant   to  acknowledge  Arnos  Padre’s erudition  and  were skeptic  of   the depth  of  his  mastery  of Sanskrit  knowledge.

Namboodiris  are  reputed  punsters  and lampooners.  Hence  they  did not like  Padre, a  foreigner,   entering   into  discussions  with the  local  intelligentsia  about  the  merits  and demerits  of Hinduism.

Once  a  Namboodiri Brahmin   derided  Arnos  Padre,  on  the  assumption  that  he could  not  understand  Sanskrit  properly  calling   Hanxleden  “Ganapati Vahana Ripu  Nayana –cat-eyed rat (Rat  is the vehicle of the Hindu deity Ganapati) .

Arnos nicely and coolly replied  in Sanskrit itself  “Dasaratha Nandana, Dutha Mukha –Monkey faced  Sri Ram.

On another occasion, one   Brahmin Elayath  laughed  at  Arnos  Padre  saying “Padiri  Villinnu Viseshamanu (As  Hanxleden  was a skeleton, he  would be  most  appropriate  for  making  a bow.

Hanxleden  retorted as  tit-for-tat “ealayathayal Ettavum Nannu” (It would be extremely  good, if  it  were  young).  The  meaning   of  the Sanskrit  word “Elayath” is  young.

With  the  publication  of  Puthanppana (New  Ballad),in  1722, Arnos  Padre   made  the  Holy  Bible  pertaining to the  people, by  revealing  its contents  and essence  in  a simple  and  limpid language  and style  readable  for the common man.

To  put  it  briefly, New  Ballad  made  the Holy Bible   popular  and pertaining  to  the  people  to  a  great  extent.

In  those  days, there  was no  Malayalam  translation   of  the  Holy  Bible. The first  Malayalam  translation  of the Holy  Bible   was  published  in 1811 by  a Protestant  Missionay Claudius Buckner.   It  was  not  permissible  for  Catholics  to read. The  first  Malayalam translation   of  the  Holy  Bible  for the  Catholics  was published in  1953 by  Fr  Thomas  Moothedan.

Prior  to  that,  the  people  of  Kerala had  no  knowledge   of the contents  of  the  Holy  Bible except  that  the  celebrant  priest  read  out certain  sentences from   the  Holy  Bible  during  the  Sunday  mass.

The  clear  and exact  description of  Christ’s   life, Passion, Death, Crucifixion and Resurrection   are of top  quality  of literature the  world  over for  its  genuineness  and sincere  expression of   different sentiments and emotions sans exaggeration in  the New  Ballad   as well as Vyakula Prabandham (Sorrows  of Blessed  Virgin  Mary-Mother of God)

Certain  lines  from  them are  produced  here:

“Neechanithra  Kaasinassa  Ariyunne,

Erannittum  Kaasu  Nakumaayirunnelle, Chathicho Putra/ ”  (Malayalam)

“If  it  knew  that  the  wicked  fellow was  so much  desirous  of  money,

It (money) could have  given him, although begged, Did  you  cheat , Son?

“marathale  Vanna  Dosham, Marathale Ozhippanayi,

Marathil  Thoongy  Neeyum  Maricho, Putra? (  Malayalam )

With  a  view to  avoiding the  sin   which  came  by  tree, You  too  died  of  hanging  on  tree, O Son?

The  above  lines from the  New  Ballad were   being  recited  even by  non-Christian  as  apiece  of perfect  literature  of  everlasting popularity of Christ’s  Passion  and the Blessed  Virgin  Mary’s  sorrows expressed   in  the  new  ballad.

Though   Arnos  Padre  came to  India as   a religious  missionary, he  is  remembered not   for  his  pastoral  and missionary  activities but  for  his  multifaceted  and polyvalent  talents as an  outstanding  poet, linguistic scholar and noted  Indologist.

Arnos  Padre  opened  wide  the  gates of  Sanskrit  language  and literature to  the  world  especially  Europe, rendering  Sanskrit  works  into  English, Latin  and Portuguese   languages.

It  was  Arnos  Padre  who  exposed  liberally  India’s  noble  tradition, culture  and  heritage for Europeans.  Tll  then,  it  was  the prerogative  of high-Caste  Brahmins  to  learn  the  language  of  Sanskrit  and  they monopolized it,without  quarter.

Acoording  to Jesuit  scholars, Hanxleden was  highly  gifted   with a  sharp intellect, sentient  memory  and exceptional   capacity  for  hard work.  His  ardent Missionary  spirit   forced him   to  leave  his   native  place  at  a young  age  of  18  years  and he  proceeded to  a   far  away  country –India, the  land  of Rishis (ascetics).

Padre’s linguistic  achievements  reached  in  Europe  in  no time.

Arnos   Padre  had  made  immense  contribution   for  the  growth  and development    of  Christianity and Christians  in Kerala.  Similarly  he  had  also made rich  contributions  for  the  growth  of Sanskrit  and Malayalam languages  and literature.

However, Arnos  Padre had  to flee with his life midnight from Velur. A wicked  group   of Brahmins had  made a conspiracy     for murdering  Arnos  Padre and it  was  leaked  from  the  plotters  under  the influence   toddy, at the shop.  It  was  overhead by the  maid-servant  of  the toddy  shop and  it  was  conveyed  to  Arnos Padre  asking him  to escape from the snare  of death.

Humble humourous  Arnos  Padre, on tiff  of  his murder, prepared  a  man in his likeness with pseudo stem  and adorned    his surplice  and laid it  on  the  cot he slept.

The  conspirators  as planned earlier,  entered  into  Padre’s  bed room  and cut into several pieces the pseudo stem  man  as  it  was the  genuine Arnos  Padre as  they  were  under the   influence  of liquor.

The  legend  has  it that  Hanxleden  by  hiding, enjoyed  witnessing  the Murder  of   himself coolly. 

Arnos  Padre  left Velur  on the  midnight itself   and reached at  Pazhuvil Church, about   49  kilometers  from  Velur.

He  died  of  a snake-bite at Pazhuvil  on March 20,1732.

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