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.