17th century Hindu-Christian epic against today’s fundamentalism
by Nirmala Carvalho
At a time when religious fanaticism and communalism are growing, the epic poem written by a Jesuit in the 17th century shows how bridges can be built between different cultures and ways of thinking. It offered Hindus and Christians an opportunity to meet.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Konkan Kristapurana is an epic poem that blends Christian and Marathi cultures. Written in the 17th century by a Jesuit priest, Fr Thomas Stephens, it represents an attempt to bridge the divide between the Christian faith and the local culture. Recently, it played it was at the centre of a seminar organised by the Department of Marathi Culture at Pune University.

The text offers ideas and images drawn from the Bible in a traditional Indian style, the purana, to which Hindu converts to Christianity could relate.

In opening the seminar, Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune, stressed the importance of this centuries-old document. “In the age of globalisation,” he said, “where there is a constant tension between foreign and local cultures, tradition and modernity, Kristanpurana shows the way for balancing the old and the new even 400 years after it was written.”

According to Bishop Dabre, the epic’s radical contribution lies in its “message that all religions should be open to cultures and thought patterns in the world”.

“Father Stephens mastered Marathi and responded to the local people’s aspiration to understand Christianity in their own language,” he said. Thus, he connected well with his readers.

For a Konkan Kristapurana expert, Fr Nelson Falcao, “It is more urgent today, in the face of increasing fundamentalism, that the Kristapuranas be used as a guide to face the challenges in the Church and society.

It is especially “urgent and relevant to build bridges and dialogue at every level” to oppose “religious fanaticism and communalism” at a time when “wars are fought in the name of religion,” Fr Falcao said.

For him, “One of the most fascinating aspects in the Kristapuranas are the attempts at Christian-Hindu encounter,” not to mention Fr Stephens’ “method of effective communication as well as his process of Indianisation, adaptation and inculturation”.

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