Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Playing Santa Claus to bring in joy

Playing Santa Claus to bring in joy
Monday, December 26, 2011 AT 08:38 PM (IST)
 Tags: Point of view,   Christmas,   santa claus,   Camil Parkhe
It was the Christmas in 1985 in Lucknow when for the first time I played Santa Claus to a group of 50 journalists drawn from all over India. We were camping there for a three-month diploma course. Those days, Christmas was not yet commercialised by the market forces and the Santa Claus costume was not so easily available. I had to sport a white beard and a mustache glued onto a cardboard paper. I used a long black overcoat. But none of the campers minded it as this was the first encounter with Santa Claus for most of them. Since then, I have played the role of the old man in red and white attire a number of times.
After the birth of my daughter, playing Santa for her and her peer group became a necessity. Those days, the young ones, majority of them non-Christians in our building and colony, looked forward to meeting Santa Claus on the eve of Christmas and the parties we had in the parking lot on Christmas morning. Their parents too were willing to contribute in various ways to make these events more enjoyable. Now  the children have grown up and are studying at colleges. I am sure they cherish their memories of meeting Santa Claus and the enjoyable parties with him.
When I rang the door bells of my neighbours donning Santa Claus attire for the first time, there were clear signs of disbelief and pleasant shock on their face. I remember a young mother who opened the door around 11 pm and shrieked after seeing the mask of Santa and shut the door. She burst into laughter when she, along with her family members, opened the door again and recognised Santa. The children below three years too have a similar fear reaction when they see a bearded masked man for the first time. It is only a couple of years later that they grow quite fond of Santa Claus.
My teenager daughter no longer expects me to play Santa Claus for her and her friends during Christmas but there are always tiny tots in the building and in the neighbourhood. And they have helped me retained my enthusiasm to don the red and white gown, the long cap, and ring the bell at their home on December 24 night to cheer them and also the elders. Christmas has no longer remained a religious festival of a particular community. It is a joyous festival, a season of sharing gifts and joy with others. This realisation propels me to don the red and white attire every time around Christmas.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Visit to floating city Venice Amid waterways and architecture

Amid waterways and architecture
Sakal Times
Monday, October 17, 2011 AT 03:15 PM (IST)
Camil Parkhe shares the thrill of gondola ride on the canals of ‘floating city’ Venice
We had just arrived from Rome to our next destination during our Europe tour. After alighting from the bullet train, all of us — my wife, daughter and I — were heading towards our hotel when we heard the siren. We looked in that direction and were shocked to see an ambulance moving speedily on waters. It was a speed boat with the familiar Red Cross symbol! Another siren followed and now it was a police team in another speed boat heading towards the site of their call. It took a few minutes to realise that we had arrived in Venice, the floating city where everything is surrounded by water and also moves on waters.
We had arrived on a fortnight-long Europe tour. Although Paris, Lourdes, Rome and Vatican were on our itinerary, Venice was included in it at the last moment as we failed to get the UK visa during our travel schedule. Some fellow travellers had strongly recommended us to visit Venice — a marvel city in the world. And here we were witnessing it within a few minutes of our arrival.
We checked into the hotel, refreshed ourselves and hurriedly came out again on the streets. Our stay in Venice was only for two days and so we were very eager to see how the city looked at night. A journalist colleague, who had been to Venice the previous year, had said that she was yet to come out of the chasm of this wonderful city. I could believe in her words now.
In Venice (spelled Venezia in Italian), one sees flowing water everywhere just like the land we see elsewhere. Venice is  a famous tourist centre and so we were surrounded by tourists everywhere — moving in pairs or groups, enjoying the boat rides, snapping photographs of the ancient castles and in the churches. The buildings, houses, churches, with typical Venetian Gothic architecture, are located right on the banks of the canals. Naturally, bridges here are in plenty, especially at the Santa Lucia Venezia railway station which is the heart of this famous city. In fact, almost all buildings and structures were not less than minimum 50 years old, our three-storeyed hotel was not an exception either. We did not see any structure with modern architecture, or perhaps they had taken good care to have build new structures in a such way that it would not be an eyesore amid the historic setting.
Ride in gondola (boats) in Venice is a must for every tourist, as it offers glimpses into the inner parts of the city. Pope Benedict XVI, who had been here just a couple of weeks before us, too was treated to a royal boat ride in the city. We had a ride  in gondola when the sun was setting; the view of the floating city, lit up with so many lamps everywhere, was just breathtaking. My daughter  went on clicking photographs to capture the beautiful setting.
The next morning, I watched a boatman throwing up a parcel of newspapers on the pavement near our hotel. There were also other boats carrying vegetables, stationary and other goods. I also snapped two photographs of a newly-married couple getting into a small hired boat.
The only downside of Venice is the high prices of the goods. Unlike the other tourist destinations in Europe, Venice is a costly affair.

Friday, October 14, 2011

To Anna Hazare, Gandhiji via Munnabhai

Anna via Munnabhai
Sakàl Times
Friday, October 07, 2011 AT 12:10 AM (IST)
This Gandhi Jayanti had a special significance for the country and the young generation. For most people, Gandhi Jayanti is synonymous with a public holiday (though this time it fell on a Sunday), with the ruling and opposition party leaders making the mandatory visit to the Rajghat and school students being reminded of the importance of Mahatma Gandhi. For years, Bapu has been confined to photographs in government offices and the history and textbooks.
This time, though, it was different for the younger generation and people of various age groups who had participated in the recent spontaneous nationwide stir, supporting Gandhian Anna Hazare. During the stir, the protesters had donned the Gandhi caps to assert their Gandhian way and there was not a single incident of stoning, arson or any other kind of violence in any part of the country during the fortnight-long stir.
The media showed a renewed interest in Gandhiji, the relevance of the principles of non-violence and satyagraha as Gandhi Jayanti came soon after the Anna Hazare-led stir for a strong lokpal bill. The media filled their columns and recorded bites on Gandhiji to meet the interests of the readers and viewers. The Mahatma, to the surprise of all, has certainly staged a comeback.
It was Richard Attenborough in 1980s, who produced his magnum opus film "Gandhi" and reintroduced Gandhiji to Indians and the people all over the world. Three decades later, relevance of Gandhism seems to have resurrected again. The techno-savvy, fun-loving and equally highly competitive younger generation has been attracted to the half-clad Bapu, thanks to Anna Hazare and his team. This interest in Gandhiji and his principles has not come all of sudden. A few years back, "Lage Raho Munnabhai" had played an important role in introducing the younger generation and others to Gandhiji and his ideas.
Bapu with his mischievous smile, portrayed so well by Dilip Prabhavalkar in "Munnabhai," had cast a deep spell on the filmgoers. In his crude and rustic style, Munnabhai showed that Gandhian methods were relevant even today as was seen in real life. There were many incidents of protesters offering flowers to those against who they protested. The young fans and supporters of Anna Hazare are acquainted with Bapu as revealed to Munnabhai. Therefore, it was easier for them to immediately identify or associate with Hazare and take up to sporting Gandhi caps. The transition of the Gennext to Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare has been via Munnabhai.
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Saturday, October 8, 2011

To Anna Hazare via Munnabhai

Anna via Munnabhai
Sakàl Times
Friday, October 07, 2011 AT 12:10 AM (IST)
This Gandhi Jayanti had a special significance for the country and the young generation. For most people, Gandhi Jayanti is synonymous with a public holiday (though this time it fell on a Sunday), with the ruling and opposition party leaders making the mandatory visit to the Rajghat and school students being reminded of the importance of Mahatma Gandhi. For years, Bapu has been confined to photographs in government offices and the history and textbooks.
This time, though, it was different for the younger generation and people of various age groups who had participated in the recent spontaneous nationwide stir, supporting Gandhian Anna Hazare. During the stir, the protesters had donned the Gandhi caps to assert their Gandhian way and there was not a single incident of stoning, arson or any other kind of violence in any part of the country during the fortnight-long stir.
The media showed a renewed interest in Gandhiji, the relevance of the principles of non-violence and satyagraha as Gandhi Jayanti came soon after the Anna Hazare-led stir for a strong lokpal bill. The media filled their columns and recorded bites on Gandhiji to meet the interests of the readers and viewers. The Mahatma, to the surprise of all, has certainly staged a comeback.
It was Richard Attenborough in 1980s, who produced his magnum opus film "Gandhi" and reintroduced Gandhiji to Indians and the people all over the world. Three decades later, relevance of Gandhism seems to have resurrected again. The techno-savvy, fun-loving and equally highly competitive younger generation has been attracted to the half-clad Bapu, thanks to Anna Hazare and his team. This interest in Gandhiji and his principles has not come all of sudden. A few years back, "Lage Raho Munnabhai" had played an important role in introducing the younger generation and others to Gandhiji and his ideas.
Bapu with his mischievous smile, portrayed so well by Dilip Prabhavalkar in "Munnabhai," had cast a deep spell on the filmgoers. In his crude and rustic style, Munnabhai showed that Gandhian methods were relevant even today as was seen in real life. There were many incidents of protesters offering flowers to those against who they protested. The young fans and supporters of Anna Hazare are acquainted with Bapu as revealed to Munnabhai. Therefore, it was easier for them to immediately identify or associate with Hazare and take up to sporting Gandhi caps. The transition of the Gennext to Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare has been via Munnabhai.

Friday, October 7, 2011

ज्ञानपीठा'साठी केवळ तीनच मराठी साहित्यिक पात्र?


"ज्ञानपीठा'साठी केवळ तीनच मराठी साहित्यिक पात्र?
कामिल पारखे
Friday, October 07, 2011 AT 08:15 PM (IST)

नुकतेच ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार जाहीर झाले आणि मी उत्सुकतेने ती बातमी वाचली. हिंदी साहित्यिक अमर कांत आणि श्रीलाल शुक्‍ला यांची सन 2009 साठी तर 2010 साठी कन्नड साहित्यिक डॉ. चंद्रशेखर कंबार यांची या पुरस्कारांसाठी निवड झाली. ती बातमी मी शेवटपर्यंत वाचली आणि माझे मन विषण्णतेने भरून गेले. ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार मिळवणारे डॉ. कंबार हे कन्नड भाषेतील आठवे साहित्यिक आहेत, असे त्या बातमीत म्हटले होते.

ज्ञानपीठाची 1960च्या दशकात स्थापना झाल्यापासून, गेल्या पाच दशकांत हा पुरस्कार भारतीय भाषांतील एक महत्त्वाचे मानदंड बनला आहे. ज्ञानपीठ हे भारतीय साहित्यजगतातील सर्वांत अधिक प्रतिष्ठेचा पुरस्कार. साहित्य अकादमीतर्फे दिल्या जाणाऱ्या पुरस्कारांहून अधिक महत्त्व ज्ञानपीठास आहे. काही लाख रुपयांचे बक्षीस आणि सरस्वतीदेवीची मूर्ती ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार विजेत्यास दिली जाते. ज्ञानपीठ सन्मान मिळवणाऱ्या जवळजवळ प्रत्येक साहित्यिकाने त्यापूर्वी साहित्य अकादमीचे पुरस्कार मिळवलेले असतेच.

ही बातमी वाचून विषण्ण होण्याचे कारण म्हणजे, ज्ञानपीठाच्या पाच दशकांच्या इतिहासात आतापर्यंत मराठीला हा प्रतिष्ठेचा सन्मान केवळ तीन वेळाच लाभला आहे. मराठी साहित्यात अनेक उच्च दर्जाच्या कांदबऱ्या आणि कथासंग्रह लिहिणाऱ्या वि. स. खांडेकरांना हा पुरस्कार त्यांच्या आयुष्याच्या अगदी अखेरीस देण्यात आला. दृष्टी अधू झालेली आणि वयोमानानुसार अनेक व्याधींनी शरीर थकलेले असताना त्यांना हा पुरस्कार देण्यात आला. हा सन्मान काही वर्षे आधीच दिला गेला असता तर त्याचा आनंद उपभोगता आला असता, असे ते त्यावेळी म्हटल्याचे स्मरते. त्यानंतर तब्बल दीड दशकांनंतर कवी आणि नाटककार वि. वा. शिरवाडकर ऊर्फ 'कुसुमाग्रज' यांना हा सन्मान लाभला. काही वर्षांपूर्वी कवी विंदा करंदीकरांनाही ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्काराने सन्मानित करण्यात आले होते.

कन्नड आणि हिंदी भाषांतील साहित्यिकांना ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार सर्वाधिक म्हणजे आठ वेळा देण्यात आला आहे. भारतीय साहित्यजगतात मराठी साहित्यविश्‍व अत्यंत समृद्ध समजले जाते. गेली अनेक दशके दरवर्षी नियमाने प्रसिद्ध होणारे दिवाळी अंक, त्यानिमित्त होणारी काही कोटी रुपयांची उलाढाल, दरवर्षी होणारी आणि अनेक अर्थांनी गाजणारी भारतीय मराठी साहित्य संमेलने आणि संपूर्ण वर्षभर कुठे ना कुठे होणारी वेगवेगळी प्रादेशिक, सांप्रदायिक, ज्ञातीय आणि इतर साहित्य संमेलने, यांमुळे मराठी साहित्य जगात प्रचंड घुसळण होत असते, साहित्यनिर्मिती होते आणि त्याचा आस्वादही घेतला जातो. भारताच्या इतर कुठल्याही भाषांत साहित्याविषयी इतके प्रेम वा कार्यक्रम होत असतील, असे वाटत नाही. असे असूनही आतापर्यत केवळ तीनच मराठी साहित्यिकांना ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार मिळावा, याबद्दल मला आश्‍चर्य वाटते.

डॉ. कंबार यांच्यापूर्वी डॉ. के. एस. कारंथ आणि डॉ. गिरिश कर्नाड वगैरे कन्नड लेखकांना ज्ञानपीठ सन्मान मिळालेला आहे. त्यापैकी डॉ. कर्नाड यांचे तुघलक आणि हयवदन आदी साहित्यिक कलाकृतींची मराठी भाषांतरे मी वाचलीही आहे. काही ज्येष्ठ मराठी साहित्यिकांनी लिहिलेले साहित्य, हे हिंदी किंवा कन्नड भाषांतील वा इतर कुठल्याही भाषांतील ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कारप्राप्त साहित्याच्या तुलनेत खुजे आहे, असे म्हणता येणार नाही. तरीही मराठी भाषेला आतापर्यंत केवळ तीनच ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार का मिळावीत? पु. ल. देशपांडे यांच्या साहित्याने मराठी वाचकांच्या मनांवर अनेक वर्षे राज्य केले. मात्र पुलंचा ज्ञानपीठासाठी कधी विचार झाला नाही. जी. ए. कुलकर्णी, गो. नी. दांडेकर, श्री. ना. पेंडसे, नारायण सुर्वे वगैरे मराठी लेखकांचे साहित्य ज्ञानपीठ पुरस्कार मिळण्याच्या लायकीचे नाही, असे कुणी म्हणेल काय? मराठी दलित साहित्याने केवळ साहित्य क्षेत्रातच नव्हे, तर महाराष्ट्रातील समाजजीवनात मोठी क्रांती केली. अशा दलित साहित्यिकांपैकी नामदेव ढसाळ, दया पवार आदींपैकी एकाचेही साहित्य ज्ञानपीठ देण्याच्या लायकीचे नव्हते काय? का असे पुरस्कार मिळवण्यासाठी पडद्यामागे ज्या काही हालचाली कराव्या लागतात, त्यात मराठी माणूस मागे पडतो?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Editor, missionary Archbishop Henry Doering

A young German Jesuit, Fr Henry Doering, launched a Marathi monthly ‘Niropya’ in April 1903 from a village Kendal-Valan in Rahuri tehsil of Ahmednagar district in April 1903. This magazine presently published from Pune has recently celebrated 100 years of its existence. Significantly, this Catholic magazine is among the only three Marathi periodicals, which have survived for over a century.
Balshastri Jambhekar who launched Darpan (mirror) periodical in 1832 is credited with laying the foundation of Marathi journalism. Thereafter many periodicals were launched in Marathi. Over a period of time, a majority of these periodicals have ceased to exist.
Dnyanoday; a periodical launched by the American Marathi Mission, a Protestant congregation, in 1842 has already completed 150 years of existence and is the oldest surviving Marathi publication. It is still being published from Ahmednagar. The daily ‘Kesari’ was launched by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and veteran social reformer Gopal Ganesh Agarkar on 4 January 1881. This 125-year-old newspaper is still published from Pune. The centurion 'Niropya’ ranks third in the list of longest surviving publications in Marathi language.
It is indeed creditable that a Marathi publication launched by a German Jesuit is among a handful of publications, which have managed to survive despite various problems faced by it. In fact, 'Niropya' too had faced the prospect of wounding up its publication during the First World War hostilities when the British government asked Bishop Doering and other German missionaries, citizens of their enemy nation to leave India. But the magazine, which could not be published for a decade, breathed a fresh lease of life soon after the German missionaries were allowed to return to India. Now the magazine has become a mouthpiece of the Marathi-speaking Christians, a majority of whom was brought to the fold of Christianity by the missionaries during the last 110 years.
The Marathi-speaking Christians - Catholics and in the recent years, Protestants too - from various parts of the country wait eagerly for this magazine that fulfils their spiritual need, besides providing information about various social and other events in their community.
Fr Doering was indeed a missionary with a vision who established this periodical at the beginning of the 20th century to cater to the semi-educated, economically backward neo-Christians in Ahmednagar district. The German Jesuits had started their evangelical activities in this district in1887. A majority of the converts to Christianity belonged to the untouchable Mahar caste, which is presently included in the Scheduled Caste category.
Henry Doering was born in Bocholt in Germany, on 13 September 1859. He was ordained a priest in 1882 and arrived at Kendal-Valan in Ahmednagar district in 1895. The twin villages Kendal and Valan, located on the banks of Pravara river, are very significant for the Marathi-speaking Catholics. This was the place where the priests belonging to the Jesuit German province, had first launched their evangelical mission in rural Maharashtra. A group of persons were baptised by the Catholic priests here in 1887. Gradually Christianity was embraced by people from neighbouring villages and districts. Today, there are a large number of Christians in Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nashik, Beed and Pune districts. A few years ago, the Catholic community from these districts celebrated the centenary of their conversion.
The Jesuits had just launched their missionary work in Ahmednagar district when Fr. Doering arrived in Kendal-Valan. Many untouchables were getting converted to Christianity but the conversion did not bring any changes in their social and economical conditions. The Jesuits established primary schools to educate these converts as well as others. Education was considered important to improve the lot of the local community.
Fr. Doering, like other German missionaries, learnt the local Marathi language to preach Christianity to the locals. It is indeed noteworthy that after learning Marathi, these missionaries also wrote books in Marathi to impart religious education to the converts.
It seems that some missionaries had already written books in Marathi on religious education, even before the arrival of Fr Doering arrived in Kendal. The honour of being the first Marathi religious book of Catholics goes to a book entitled ‘Lahan Catechism (Small Catechism).
Although the book does not carry the author's name, according to research scholar Fr. (Dr.) Christopher Shelke, the author of the book must have been Fr. Dalling who was based in Kendal. Fr. Shelke who hails from Ahmednagar district and is now working as a professor of comparative theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome has completed research on the history of the Jesuit mission in Ahmednagar district. He had published a series of articles based on this research in Niropya monthly in late 1970s. Fr. Shelke has written that when Fr Doering settled in Kendal -Valan, he found that a Marathi religious book entitled ‘Subhaktisar’ was the most popular amongst local people.
‘Subhaktisar’ was written and published in 1895 by Fr. Francis X. Trenkamp who had come to Kendal in mid-1892 that is before Fr. Doering. Fr. Trenkamp had studied Marathi well. Instead of adopting the literary style used by the writers based in Mumbai and Pune, Fr. Trenkamp used the dialect prevalent in Ahmednagar district for writing his book. The local Catholics who had recently acquired the writing and reading skills used this book to understand the tenets of their new religion. The other Jesuit priests also used the book for saying prayers during celebration of the holy mass.
Fr. Doering had to depend on the available catechism book in Marathi to continue his evangelical activities. During those days, the missionaries traveled to long distance villages on horsebacks or tongas to preach Christianity and to help the local people in various ways. There were no religious books in Marathi, which could be used for teaching the principles and doctrines of Christianity to the converts. Therefore, Fr Doering felt the need of creating religious literature in Marathi. Due to non-availability of such literature, priests and catechists were finding it difficult to preach Christianity to children and the adults.
Fr. Doering decided to start a magazine to overcome this problem. The superiors of Society of Jesus agreed to provide financial aid for this venture. Fr Doering published the first issue of the magazine titled ‘Yeshuchya Atipavitra Hrudayacha Niropya’ (Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) in April 1903.
Since then, with an exception of a few years during the First World War, ‘Niropya’ is being published regularly till date. The Society of Jesus owns and publishes the periodical. Jesuits priests have shouldered the responsibility of editing the magazine for the past 100 years, barring a brief span when a diocesan priest edited it.
After launching ‘Niropya’, Fr Doering started improving his Marathi vocabulary for his contribution to the magazine. He learnt dialect of people from Ahmednagar district and also specific terms and concepts used in Hindu religious literature. He started using these and making the magazine more and more user- friendly for the neo-Christians.
Fr Doering was the main contributor writer of the magazine he edited. Initially ‘Niropya’ used to be printed at the ‘'Examiner’ press in Bombay. The first issue of ‘Niropya’ was of 10 pages and there were five brief articles. The articles were entitled - ‘The theme of prayer’, ‘To be an alter server’, ‘The feast of Pope Leo XIII, ‘Let thy kingdom come’, and ‘A martyr’.
The founder-editor of ‘Niropya’ stayed at Kendal, a remote village in Ahmednagar district, whereas the magazine was being published from Mumbai. Therefore, the editor had to take pains to maintain the deadline of the magazine's publication. From the available records, it appears that the fourth issue of the monthly was in a manuscript form. Although, the reason for not printing the issue is not clear, it definitely indicates that Fr. Doering was very particular about publishing the issue in time.
The periodical carried articles about developments in the Christian world and also biographies of Christian saints. Apart from this, the translation of the famous Latin classical book ‘Imitotio Christi’ (Imitation of Christ) was serially published in the magazine. Its three chapters were published in ‘Niropya’ under the title ‘Kristanuvartan’.
The small magazine reached at the doorsteps of the Catholics in Ahmednagar district every month. About 100 years ago there were few newspapers and magazines and these periodicals catered only to a select upper sections of society. Under such circumstances, ‘Niropya’ must have played an important role in the lives of its readers.
Fr. Doering was consecrated the second bishop of Pune diocese on December 8, 1907. The Pune diocese then included Pune, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Kolhapur, Solapur, Ratnagiri, Satara, Sangli and Sindhudurg revenue districts. Presently these areas come under Pune, Nashik and Sindhudurg dioceses. After his elevation as bishop, Doering’s responsibilities increased many fold, but he did not desert his brainchild, ‘Niropya’. After Doering took over as bishop in Pune, the place of Niropya's publication too was shifted to Pune.
Bishop Doering was in Rome when the First World War broke out in 1914. The British government refused permission to Bishop Doering to return to India as he, being a German, was a citizen of their enemy nation. Therefore, the pope appointed him as vicar apostolic of Hiroshima diocese in Japan on 16 June 1921. After being shunted out of India, Bishop Doering must have felt strong desire to return to this country, which he had chosen for his mission.
When the British permitted the German missionaries to return to India to resume their missionary work, Bishop Doering once again opted to return to Pune. He was once again appointed to head the Pune diocese on July 14, 1927. However he was allowed to retain ‘archbishop’ as personal title although Pune was not an archdiocese.
After returning to Pune, within six months Archbishop Doering resumed publication of ‘Niropya’ magazine with renewed enthusiasm. Fr. Shelke has described the incident as - ‘Niropya’ too was resurrected like its Lord, Jesus Christ ’.
For the past 100 years, Niropya has offered its services to its readers at a very reasonable price. The annual subscription for the magazine was Rs. 3 only in 1981. In 2007, this magazine with 36 pages and a colourful cover had an annual subscription of Rs 60 only.
Archbishop Doering’s Niropya has not only inculcated the reading habit among the Marathi-speaking Christians but has also contributed by way of producing generations of writers and poets in the community. Niropya has provided a very useful forum to budding Catholic and Protestants writers, who later earned a big name in Marathi literature. Some of the veteran littérateurs contributing articles to this magazine included Satyavan Namdeo Suryavanshi, Fr. Francis D'Britto and poet Vishwaskumar. The author of this book, who is now a fulltime journalist, got his first literary piece published for the first time in Niropya only. There are many Christian families in various districts of Maharashtra who have been the second, third of fourth generation readers of this magazine.
The Jesuits belonging to Pune, Bombay, Goa and Gujarat celebrated the 150th year of their mission and arrival of the German and Swiss provinces in West India arrival in 2004. A souvenir, titled Reise (yatra), released on the occasion carried a brief note on Niropya, and highlighted its contribution to the Marathi-speaking Christians.
The founder of Niropya Archbishop Doering has also contributed to Marathi literature in yet another great way. ‘Kristapuran’, an epic composed in Marathi by British Jesuit Fr. Thomas Stephens in the Portuguese-controlled Goa in the 17th century was brought to the notice of Marathi readers in Maharashtra by archbishop Doering. ‘Kristapuran’ was printed in Roman script since the technology for printing in Devanagari script was not developed in Goa then. For good three centuries, the existence of this epic had remained unknown to Marathi readers, as it was in Roman script and read widely only in Goa, which was, then under the Portuguese control.
Archbishop Doering studied the epic, understood the importance of the literature and published some parts based on Jesus’ biography from the epic in the form of three booklets after transcripting them into Devanagari. Thus the epic came to the notice of Marathi scholars in Maharashtra. The whole epic was later transcripted and edited by Shantaram Bandelu.
In 1949, Archbishop Doering opted for retirement due to old age. Fr Andrew D’Souza then took charge as the first Indian bishop of Pune diocese. Doering wrote his last pastoral letter in Niropya to bid adieu to the flock he had led for almost half a century. The letter is as follows: -
‘My dear children in Jesus Christ, the Lord had put you under my care for several years. But now the time has come for me to say goodbye to you. Pope Pious X had appointed me as bishop of Pune some 42 years ago as a successor to bishop Bernard Bieder-Linden (SJ).
For seven years I could work in peace for my people. When I had gone to Rome to meet the Pope, the First World War broke out and all my efforts to return to Pune went in vain and I was compelled to remain away from my beloved folk.
After the end of the war, the Pope sent me to Japan. He appointed me as Apostolic Vicar of Hiroshima city there. At last in 1927, the British government permitted me to return to Pune and since then I have been staying amongst you all.
As the Second World War broke out, new problems, new troubles started. The government had incarcerated some young priests because they were Germans. This posed several problems for the bishop to carry out his mission. During those difficult days, I derived strength and satisfaction from the confidence and love given by the faithful and priests. I will always remember their concern and help.
Therefore my dear children, this is my last homily to you. Remain steady in your faith and behave accordingly. You will have to face some new problems. Have devotion towards Sacred Heart of Jesus and immaculate heart of Mother Mary. This devotion will protect you. Pray for your new bishop and for me. I assure you that I would pray for you all everyday. May god bless you!'
-Henry Archbishop
Archbishop Doering passed away on 17 December 1951. Like his predecessor, he was interred in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Pune. Archbishop Doering who came to Maharashtra from Germany and took spiritual care of his flock for so many years now may have gone into oblivion. But Niropya founded by him continues to visit his flock every month, keeping alive memory of its founder and a great visionary missionary.

References: -
1. ‘Khristi Sahitya Aani Niropya ‘(Series of articles on the Jesuit mission in Ahmednagar district) Writer – Fr. Christopher Shelke, Niropya monthly, August 1978, Editor – Fr. Prabhudhar (S.J.), Rosary Church, Ajra, District Kolhapur, - 416 505.
2. ‘Khristi Marathi Vangmay -Fr Stephens te 1960 Akher’ (Marathi Christian literature - Since Fr Thomas Stephens to 1960 A D) Author - Dr. Gangadhar Narayan Morje, Publisher- Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar, and Snehasadan, Shanivar Peth, Pune, 411 030, Distributors - Vidarbha Marathwada Book Company, 1334, Shukrawar Peth, Pune -2 (1984).
3. 'Marathi Khristi Niyatkalike, 1800 te 1950’, (Marathi Christian periodicals- From 1800 to 1950)), Author Bhaskar Jadhav, Publishers - Vijaya Punekar, Maharashtra Khristi Sahitya Parishad, Pune (1981)
4. A note by the publisher, Ramdas Bhatkal, of ‘Kristapuran’ (Marathi) edited by Fr. Caridrad Drago (S.J.), Publishers - Ramdas Bhatkal, Popular Prakashan, 35 C, Pt. Madan Malaviya Marg, Tardeo, Mumbai 411 034, First Shreyas edition (1996-97)
5. Archbishop Doering's last letter to his flock, Niropya monthly September 1949

Bitter test of first newspaper assignment

Bitter test of first newspaper assignment
Sakal Times
Bitter test of a first byline
Camil parkhe
My first newspaper reporting assignment and my byline carried along with it has left behind a bitter test in my mouth to this date. I have destroyed the not even A newspaper editor had promised me a job and when I visited the newspaper office that morning, I was asked to rush to a school and to file a story. The nature of the assignment indeed baffled me. A school teacher had assaulted a fifth standard school with a ruler and a leader of a students union had approached the newspaper editor to publish a news item. When I wondered what was wrong with a teacher punishing an errant student, the editor said that corporal punishment was against law and we must highlight this incident.
Along with the students union leader, I rushed to Ribandar, a couple of km from Panaji, where the school was located. The teacher couple who had founded the small school were surprised when I, along with a photographer and the student leader, approached them to seek their version of the assault.  The husband who was his early sixties was too shocked to react to see newspaper persons arriving at doorsteps to give a bad publicity for his reputed school. His wife who was in an aggressive mood saw nothing wrong in punishing the child who, she said, was at that time attending her classes, having fully forgotten that she had been punished the previous day. When I briefed the newspaper editor about the visit, he excitedly said that there was a good 'copy' for publication. The next day the story written by me and heavily edited by the editor was published with my byline. The same day, the editor told me that I had been hired as a reporter with one day retrospective effect. The joy of getting a first job had no bounds. But I had a nagging feeling that I had committed some of kinds of injustice to the school's dedicated founders.
In my journalism career, I have had some proud moments and some not so proud moments. Some of the incidents have gone blur in memory with the passage of time and it is only when I wipe off the dust from the file of my old newspaper cuttings that faint memories of these incidents are revived. After a few years, I destroyed the clipping of my first byline but I have not managed to wipe out that incident from my memory.

Panch Haud Church tea party stirs storm in Pune

Panch Haud Church tea party stirs storm in city
Sakal Times
Sunday, August 08, 2010 AT 08:01 PM (IST)
Tags: Panch Haud Church, Lokmanya Tilak, Mahadeo Govind Ranade
Lokmanya Tilak and some other prominent Puneites had to pay a hefty price for attending a tea party hosted at the city's Panch Haud Church, which is celebrating 125th anniversary of its foundation on Saturday.
'Pune Vaibhav', a Marathi periodical, had published names of 50 persons who had allegedly attended a lecture and subsequent tea party at the Church of Holy Name in Panch Haud in October 1890, sparking a major storm in Pune's puritan social circle.
Some of those present at the tea party did not drink tea for fear of being defiled. Nonetheless they were held guilty of entering a church. Tilak and Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade, a front ranking leader of the social reformers, were among those who had drank tea at the function.
Consumption of tea and biscuits at the church was then considered akin to renouncing Hinduism and therefore the fundamentalist leaders had demanded social and religious boycott of all those who dined with Christians.
It is said that it was Gopalrao Joshi, maverick husband of Dr Anandibai Joshi, the first Indian woman to secure a doctor's degree abroad, had arranged the sting operation of a lecture and subsequent tea party at the church.
'Pune Vaibhav' however had also published names of some people who had not attended the tea party. These people filed a defamation case against the periodical's editor. A court held the editor guilty of defamation and imposed on him a fine of Rs 200.
The matter however did not end there. Some persons approached the Shankaracharya to punish those who had drank tea at the church. Two representatives of the Shankaracharya then arrived in Pune and conducted hearing in the case at the Sanglikar Wada near Shaniwarwada.
Tilak, an authority on Hindu scripture, defended himself against the charge and argued that he had obtained a certificate of doing Prayachitt (penance) in Kashi. That did not satisfy the fundamentalists and Tilak had to face the threat of social boycott on him and his family members.
Narhar Raghunath Phatak, who has written Tilak's biography, has said that the veteran political leader had even feared that he may not get a Brahmin priest for a religious function during the social boycott period.
The row over the tea party in the church continued for over two years and met a silent death only in December 1892.

Nehru the gardener was my inspiration

Sakal Times
Sunday,  June 27, 2010
Nehru the gardener was my inspiration
Thursday, June 24, 2010 AT 12:00 AM (IST)
Tags: Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Gardening
When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was jailed in Ahmednagar Fort during the Quit India movement, he utilised the prison term to pen his magnum opus ‘Discovery of India’ and to create a rose garden at the historic fort of Chand Bibi. Nehru had no idea as to how long the British rulers would keep him in that prison. But that did not deter him from growing a rose garden there - an act that has inspired me immensely in the past few years.
As a student in Goa, I had developed a garden on an open space near the staircase leading to our hostel. But at that time, I had not known about Nehru’s experiments in the garden.
After marriage, I moved from Deccan Gymkhana to Chinchwad. The large open area in front of our building beckoned me whenever I stood in balcony of our third floor flat. One July morning, I started cleaning the area near our housing society’s water tank. The place had vegetation tall enough to hide buffaloes which roamed there. Next week, I bought a pickaxe and other gardening equipments.
It was then that my wife asked me what I was upto. She could not imagine me cleaning up that dirty place and planning a garden there, especially when the land was not even ours. It was then that Pandit Nehru came to my rescue. “Nehru, a towering leader of his time, made a rose garden even in a prison. So what’s wrong if I develop a garden near our society’s building?” I asked her.
The Nehru example did the trick. Thereafter my wife has never objected to my gardening. Working in a garden which was not even ours was not easy. I was aware of several pairs of eyes watching me scornfully from nearby flats as I cleaned weeds, watered the plants and drove away buffaloes. It was the image of Nehru working in the prison that helped me to carry on. Soon, I developed a garden on that land with many flower plants and some tall trees.
Recently, we shifted to a new building nearby in the same colony. Here, too, the large open space near the building beckoned me. This time, there was no hesitation on my part. I have been developing a garden on this no man’s land, nurturing the saplings with my head held high - thanks to Pandit Nehru !
Posted by zaroka at 1:57 AM  
Labels: Chinchwad, Gardening Ahmednagar, Pandit Nehru

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pandita Ramabai – Pioneer of women’s liberation

RAMABAI SARASWATI – Pioneer of women’s liberation
In 1881, a 21-year-old woman arrived in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and astonished the intellectuals and social reformers there by her brilliance and knowledge of Sanskrit. The scholars of Kolkata felicitated her and conferred upon her the title 'Saraswati'. Surprisingly, nobody in Maharashtra (which was then part of the erstwhile Bombay State) had ever heard of this young woman till then. Ramabai Dongre came to Maharashtra with her newly acquired aura in faraway Calcutta. She chose Pune and later Kedgaon, about 20 kilometres from Pune, for her social and religious mission. The aura and fame stuck throughout the rest of her life.
As a social worker, she refused to follow the beaten track and decided to trudge her own path. She became a social worker at a time when women did not even have identity as individuals. But this woman showed the courage to swim against the tide, all by herself. There was no support from a male member of the family. The learned lady faced many a storm after her conversion to Christianity.
The life of Pandita Ramabai is an epic of unending struggle marked by the refusal to part with her values amidst adverse and often harsh circumstances.
Pandita Ramabai Saraswati was born in the village Gangamul near Mangalore in modern-day Karnataka on 23 April 1858. Her father Anantshastri (Anantapadmanabh) Parmeshwar Dongre was a Sanskrit scholar. Anantshastri was from a Chitpawan Brahmin family and had taught Sanskrit to his wife, Laxmibai.
When Ramabai was merely six months old, Anantshastri left on a pilgrimage along with his wife, son, and two daughters. Fifteen years later, the family reached the Madras province. A severe famine in the area claimed the lives of both Anantshastri and his wife. Ramabai, her elder brother, Shrinivas, and elder sister, Krishnabai, were orphaned. This was the beginning of life's struggle for Ramabai.
After their parents' demise, the young siblings continued with their pilgrimage. A few months later, Ramabai's elder sister Krishnabai died. Shrinivas Shastri and Ramabai had mastered Sanskrit and theology under the guidance of their father. They continued the journey, giving discourses on mythology and delivering lectures in Sanskrit. There was no one to offer them shelter or look after them. After moving about for three to four years and covering thousands of miles on foot, Shrinivas Shastri and Ramabai reached Kolkata in 1878. Here they came across many people who valued their knowledge. Scholars from the Brahmo Samaj and Calcutta University treated these bright youngsters.
Shrinivas Shastri and Ramabai's knowledge of Sanskrit amazed the social reformers of Kolkata. In those days women had no right to education and therefore Ramabai's mastery over Sanskrit was definitely a matter of much awe. Ramabai was conferred upon the title 'Saraswati' at a meeting of scholars in Calcutta University. Since then, people across India started recognising the young Ramabai Dongre as 'Pandita Ramabai Saraswati'.
In July 1878, the following news about Ramabai was published in a Mumbai daily: -
'A Maharashtrian lady named Ramabai has come to Kolkata recently. During her stay there, she has astonished the learned people there. She speaks in Sanskrit and composes Sanskrit poetry on the spot. She is 22-years-old and unmarried. Though a Maharashtrian, she comes from the State of Karnataka.'
This news created a sensation in Maharashtra. In Pune and Mumbai, several questions about Ramabai were asked. 'Although a woman, how did she learn Sanskrit? How can she be unmarried when she is already 22 years old? Though a Maharashtrian, how come people here do not know anything about her?' 
Ramabai was introduced to Maharashtra in this manner. She was to stir the social life of Maharashtra in the days to come. Her felicitation in Kolkata followed by the debate in Maharashtra was just a prelude to her stormy life.
But before that Ramabai and her brother went to Silhet in Assam and to Dhaka in Bengal. While in Dhaka, Shrinivas Shastri took ill and died on May 8, 1880. After the loss of her parents, Ramabai at least had an elder brother for support. Now he too was gone. Suddenly for the young, unmarried woman, her native land was left far behind and there was nobody to fall back upon in this world.
When Shrinivas Shastri was alive, he and Ramabai had got introduced to a Bengali person named Bipin Biharidas Medhavi. After Shrinivas Shastri's demise, Bipin Bihari proposed to Ramabai and they tied the nuptial knot at the registrar's office in Bankipur on June 13, 1880. Their registered marriage, devoid of any religious rituals, generated a heated debate in the traditional society. After the marriage, Bipin Bihari Das practiced law in Silhet. Ramabai was blessed with a daughter on April 16, 1881, and the baby was named Manorama.                                                             
Ramabai did not enjoy marital bliss for long. On February 4, 1882, merely 19 months after their marriage, Bipin Bihari Das died following a brief illness. Within a short span of time, Ramabai had suffered the loss of her parents, elder sister, elder brother and now, the misfortune of losing her husband. Ramabai along with the infant Manorama moved to Maharashtra.
Even before her arrival in Maharashtra , people in this region had heard of the scholar woman. After reaching Pune, Ramabai developed a very close association with Ramabai Ranade, wife of Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade. Ramabai Ranade gave emotional support to Pandita Ramabai when the society in Pune turned hostile towards her. It was Ramabai Ranade and veteran Marathi novelist Hari Narayan Apte who took the initiative in organising public meetings of Pandita Ramabai in Pune. She started creating social awareness in society, especially enlightening the women folk. Her work gained tremendous support from the social reformers of Pune. With Pandita Ramabai's initiative the 'Mahila Arya Samaj' was established in Pune, Ahmednagar, Solapur and Mumbai.
Pandita Ramabai holds a very unique place amongst the social reformers who worked for social awakening of the society in Maharashtra towards the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Those days, a majority of social workers were men. The very few women who were active in the social field enjoyed support of male members in their families. Therefore, they could face the adverse criticism for stepping out of their homes to do social work. Pandita Ramabai had come alone from another region and except for her infant daughter, she did not have anyone in her family for support. The hardships and criticism heaped upon Mahatma Jotiba Phule and his wife, Savitribai, is sufficient indicator of what an uphill task it was to work for upliftment of women in those days. Ramabai had suffered a lot of grief in her personal life.  Nonetheless, she chose the difficult path of social awakening. 
During the same period, the British government appointed the first Indian Education Commission under the chairmanship of an educationist Sir W. W. Hunter. Pandita Ramabai's deposition before the Commission regarding the education of Indian women is well publicised. In her testimony, she suggested that due to the prevailing social system in India the country badly required women doctors, and therefore facilities for education in medicine for women was very necessary. The members of the Hunter Commission cross-examined Ramabai. Ramabai did not know English then, so she gave her testimony in Marathi. Sir Hunter himself was highly impressed by Ramabai's testimony. He got the English version of Ramabai's testimony printed and even lectured on Ramabai's social work after he returned to England. Thus, Ramabai's fame reached England even before she could go there.
Soon thereafter, Ramabai left for England for higher education. Her daughter Manorama also accompanied her. While in England in Wantage city, Ramabai, along with her daughter, embraced Christianity. They were baptised on September 29, 1883. A new era had begun in her life. The fear expressed by a section of Maharashtrian leaders that Ramabai would embrace Christianity after going to England had come true. The conversion caused a great turmoil in Maharashtra.
Ramabai stayed in England for three years i.e. till 1886, and completed her studies. During the same time, Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi from Maharashtra had gone to America for medical education. Anandibai was the first Indian woman to go to America for medical education and Pandita Ramabai was the second Maharashtrian woman to go to England for higher education. Annapurna alias Ana Tarkhadkar, daughter of Dr. Atmaram Pandurang Tarkhadkar, social activist and also a leader of Prarthana Samaj, was the first Maharashtrian woman to go to England for higher education. Anandibai Joshi and Pandita Ramabai had never ever met before. But Pandita Ramabai, along with her daughter, sailed from England to America to attend Anandibai's convocation ceremony.
After Anandibai's convocation ceremony, Ramabai stayed in America for two and a half years. During her stay there, she gave lectures in different parts of America . She visited various women's institutes and studied the education system in America. Through her lectures, she created awareness in the American society about the condition of Indian women, especially of child-widows. This awareness led to the establishment of an institution called 'Ramabai Association' to help Pandita Ramabai in her social work. The institution gave an assurance of financial support for her work among women in India.
The main aim of the Ramabai Association was to run a school for the high caste child-widows in India. One of the objectives of the Association's constitution was to have secular school education. Leading social lights like Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar and Mahadeo Govind Ranade were in the advisory committee of the Ramabai Association. Both of them were recipients of the title 'Rao Bahadur' conferred by the British government upon eminent Indians.
On returning to India , on behalf of 'Ramabai Association', Pandita Ramabai established an institution named 'Sharda Sadan' in Mumbai on 11 March 1889 . Child-widow Godubai was the first student of the Sadan. She later became well known as Anandibai alias Baya Karve after her remarriage with veteran social worker Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve, the founder of the first women's university in India, Shrimati Nathibai Damodar Thakarasi University  (SNDT).
Baya Karve has described days at Sharda Sadan in her autobiography titled 'Maze Puran' (My Story). Like Godubai, many other child-widows got shelter and education in Sharda Sadan.
One and a half years later in November 1880, Ramabai shifted the Sharda Sadan from Mumbai to the camp area of Pune. Since Ramabai Association was not a missionary institution, one of its regulations was to conduct functioning of Sharda Sadan as a secular institute. The Association's advisory committee insisted that although Ramabai herself was Christian, she should not interfere in religious matters of child-widow inmates at the Sadan.
But the fact that the lady who was running Sharda Sadan was a Christian and doing so in the service of Jesus Christ could not be denied. It was natural for very young girls to get influenced by Ramabai's intellect, life style and her overall personality. Hence it was often being alleged that Pandita Ramabai was carrying out her missionary work 'discreetly' and 'compelling' helpless girls to embrace Christianity.
On the occasion of the marriage of Sharda Sadan's first student, Godubai, to Dhondo Keshav Karve, Pandita Ramabai hosted a grand feast in Sharda Sadan. Maharshi Karve wrote about the ceremony in his autobiography titled ' Atmavrutta',  " Ramabai was very pleased to see her first student settle down. Other girl students also were very happy that one of their friends was getting an opportunity to experience marital bliss and that at last the door to future well being for widows had started opening. "
Baya Karve also wrote in her autobiography 'Maze Puran', -  "Ramabai gave me ornaments and clothes and also clothes for her son-in-law, Karve.'' This son-in-law of Ramabai made a great contribution to the field of education and women's emancipation in the country. He lived long enough to see the fruits of his pioneering social work. India's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru felicitated Maharshi Karve when he turned 100 years old.. Karve respectfully mentioned Pandita Ramabai along with a select few personalities like Dr. Bhandarkar, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale in his speech.
While working for Sharda Sadan, Pandita Ramabai was also active in the Indian National Congress. Due to her efforts, women representatives were included in the Congress. Ramabai was present as a women's delegate at the Indian National Congress session held in Mumbai in 1889. Ramabai was among the only two women members who were present at the Social Conference that took place after the Congress session. A detailed report of Ramabai's speech then, was published in the issue of The Times of India, dated December 30, 1889.
An epidemic of plague played havoc in Maharashtra in 1897.  At that time, Pandita Ramabai raised her voice against miseries of common people due to the stringent checks carried out by the British officers in people's residences. She wrote a letter in this connection in the English weekly, 'Guardian'. While answering the question in this context in the Parliament, Lord George Hamilton read out Ramabai's letter.
When a session of the Indian National Congress was held in Pune for the first time in 1895, some of the leaders, who had gathered there from all over India, visited Ramabai's Sharda Sadan. By then, 12 girls from the Sadan who had got impressed by Ramabai's work had already got converted to Christianity. The conversion raised a great storm in Maharashtra. In the social conference that followed the Congress session, K. Natarajan, editor of  'Indian Social Reform' tabled a resolution that protested against the practice of shaving the heads of widows and called for making the widows self-reliant. Natarajan said in his speech, "Ramabai has led the way by putting in effort for education of widows. I cannot stop praising her work that is going on successfully in this city. I have no sympathy for the people who are criticising Ramabai for a few conversions to Christianity. I do not believe in stereotyped religious tenets. Welfare of our brothers and sisters, to my mind, is the supreme religion. Giving food to a hungry person is a highly religious act and a donation of superior quality. Whatever be the differences of opinion we may have about religion, we are so deeply in debt of Pandita Ramabai and her friends and her associates in America that we will never ever be able to pay it back. ''
Caste discrimination was not acceptable to Ramabai. But the high caste girls in Sharda Sadan had to follow very strict puritanical rules of the Ramabai Association. Had they not followed such rules, many high caste people would never have sent their child-widow daughters and sisters for education to the Sadan. Baya Karve has described her initial days in Sharda Sadan in the following words, "for six months I had to cook my own food because a Brahmin woman cook was not available then. Some times I had to cook even for Govindrao and Kashibai Kanitkar, Hari Narayan Apte and others when they visited the Sadan.' 
Ramabai was of the opinion that even if the girls were child-widows and neglected by society, they should live in comfort at the Sadan. People who used to keep an eye on the happenings in Sharda Sadan used to lament that, " Ramabai bathes the girl inmates in milk and ghee." Once there was even a debate in Pune's Marathi   newspapers  Kesari and Sudharak over the food eaten by child-widows in Sharda Sadan. Baya Karve wrote in this context- "The advisory committee of Ramabai Association was of the opinion that it was not proper for widows from the   castes to live in luxury. But Ramabai never shared this view. She would remember her own past days and say, 'I opened this school to bring these students out of their hardships. I have decided to keep them in comfort. Their comforts would not be cut down."
Krishnabai Gadre, another famous inmate of Ramabai's Sharda Sadan, has also written about her days in the Sadan - 'what a beautiful bungalow it was, and what a garden full of lovely flowers! We were allowed to move about freely as per our wish. We would sit in the drawing hall also. We would sit on beautiful couch and chairs and chat, go to garden, braid garlands of flowers like Jai, Jasmine, Mogra, Chameli, Bakuli and Madhumalti and adorn our hair. Ramabai gave us information about flowers, birds and trees and also taught us to observe them through binoculars. What pampering used to be there! Which child-widow would refuse to come and spend her time in such a splendid atmosphere? Sometimes Ramabai would take us to the terrace in the dawn and teach us about constellation etc. with great interest.''
One frequent allegation leveled against Ramabai was that she lured girls from Sharda Sadan to convert to Christianity. Some people got so scared due to the allegations that they withdrew their daughters from the Sadan. Nonetheless, the number of orphan girls, abandoned child-widows who took refuge in the institute did not reduce. Ramabai bravely faced the allegations and continued her work for rehabilitation of widows.
In those days, girls were married off on turning five or six years of age. Many a times these tender aged girls used to be married off to elderly men. Therefore misfortune would strike some girls even before experiencing marital bliss and they would become child-widows. These child-widows had to live an extremely neglected life. People of their own family and the society would neglect them. A Parsi social reformer Bairamji Malbari raised his voice against the ill treatment meted out to child-widows. The effect of the movement was that the British government passed the Marriage of Consent Bill in India. According to this Bill, physical relations maintained by a husband with his wife less than 12 years of age was to be an offence. The Bill would have helped to reduce the hardships faced by women. Pandita Ramabai therefore took the initiative to mobilise support for the Bill.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the Marriage of Consent Bill kicked off a controversy in Maharashtra, especially in Pune. Right from the beginning, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak had opposed introduction of social reforms by the foreign British government. In addition to that, opposition to the Bill was also expected from orthodox sections of the society. Because of this Bill, a great conflict arose between social reformers like Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Dr. Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade and the orthodox people who opposed the proposed law. Pandita Ramabai who was striving for the welfare of women started organising women to support the Bill.  The rival groups in Pune indulged in a lot of mudslinging against each other during the row over the Marriage of Consent Bill. Of course, social reformers like Agarkar, Ramabai, and Dr. Bhandarkar were in minority and had to pay a heavy price.
A meeting held in Mumbai to muster support for the Bill was conducted by Pandita Ramabai and was presided over by social worker Cornelia Sorabji. Thereafter on behalf of Arya Mahila Samaj, Pandita Ramabai and Kashibai Kanitkar organised a meeting in Pune. 'Sudharak', edited by social reformer Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, said that in the meeting barring the exception of five to six women, all women signed the resolution supporting the Bill.
N. C. Kelkar, editor of Marathi daily Kesari, in his biography of Lokmanya Tilak has mentioned the conversation at this meeting. This throws light on the distinctive strong character of Pandita Ramabai. Kelkar wrote, ''At the meeting, Kashibai Kanitkar justified the Bill, but some other lady stood up and asked,' Would you like, if as per the provisions of the Bill, a legal suit is filed against your son-in-law?' Kashibai was a staunch Hindu. She was not able to answer this. Ramabai also was a born Hindu but her ideology had changed after her conversion to Christianity. When Kashibai was left speechless, Ramabai replied, 'It's much better! Son-in-law is not above daughter'. This straightforward answer was in keeping with her nature. And this nature was not formed after her religious conversion. ''
Notwithstanding the uproar raised against the Consent of Marriage Bill, the Bill was finally passed and the law came into existence. These days most girls do not get married before they are 20. But some 100 years ago, Ramabai had to struggle and face adverse criticism to ban marriages of girls below 12 years of age.
In 1897, there was a severe famine in central India . Ramabai gave shelter to hundreds of girls who had been reduced to skeletons due to hunger. Had Ramabai not rushed to help those girls, they would have probably died due to hunger.
Ramabai Association in America had agreed to financially support Ramabai's work for Indian women for 10 years. Once that period got over in 1898, Ramabai once again went to America and dissolved the Association. Thereafter, with the help of a newly formed  'American Ramabai Association', Ramabai started work of the Mukti Sadan at Kedgaon near Pune. Ramabai spent the rest of her life in Kedgaon.
Ramabai opened various centres in Kedgaon for underprivileged women. Her family and relatives desert a woman if she goes astray or becomes victim of an untoward incident. Pandita Ramabai opened 'Krupa Sadan' for rehabilitation of such deserted women. She also started 'Preeti Sadan' for the old, disabled and destitute women.
The credit of opening the first school for the blind in India goes to Manorama, Pandita Ramabai's daughter. This school was also located in Kedgaon. By teaching blind women to read and to write Braille script, Pandita Ramabai and Manorama, in a way, offered them vision. The blind women were taught to knit sweaters, make cane chairs and weave baskets. Thus, the blind women were made financially self-reliant.
Soon after settling in Kedgaon in 1905, Ramabai took up the task of translating the Bible into Marathi. She continued with this mission till the last day of her life. She took 18 years to translate the entire Bible. Many editions of English translations of the Bible were available during Ramabai's time. But she decided to translate the original Hebrew and Greek Bible into Marathi. This scholar woman learned Hebrew and Greek only for this purpose. 
Rama Dongre, who was born in Karnataka, knew Kannada language and from her father she learned Sanskrit. After coming to Maharashtra, she mastered Marathi. Later, she also learned English and lectured in England and America. After crossing 40, she started learning Hebrew and Greek for translating the holy Bible.
Pandita Ramabai is the only woman in the world to translate the holy Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek languages. While shouldering the responsibility of nearly 2,000 destitute girls and women in 'Mukti Sadan', Pandita Ramabai still found time for such extraordinary literary tasks! .
Manorama expired at the age of 40 on  July 24, 1921. Ramabai endured the shock of her beloved daughter's death with great courage and continued with the translation of the Bible. This had become a mission during the last days of her life. She displayed a strong desire to live till the completion of the translation work. This she fulfilled.
Ramabai's translation of the Bible was being printed at her own printing press in Kedgaon. A few months after her daughter’s death, i.e., on April 4, 1922, Pandita Ramabai read the last proof of her work and sent it to the printing press: the same night, this great scholar and social worker bid adieu to the world. 
References: -
1.  'Maharashtrachi Tejaswini Pandita Ramabai':  (Marathi) Author and publisher- Devdatta Narayan Tilak. Shanti Sadan, Agra Road, Nashik (1960)
2.  Vadhastambhache Sevak '  (Marathi)Author- Theodore Williams. Marathi translation - D. Y.  Gaikwad. Publisher- Outreach Prakashan, Indian Evangelic Mission, 7, Langford road, Bangalore, 560 025 (1991)
3.  'Bharat Ani Khrista', (Marathi)  (India and Christ) Author - Fr Hans Staffner (S. J.) Marathi translation- Dr. V. P. Bhide. Publisher- Marg Prakashan, Stephen's Niwas, 2008,Saint Vincent Marg, Pune, 411001, (1988)
4.  'Khristi Marathi Vangmay' (Fr. Stephen Te 1960 Akher):   (Marathi) Author - Dr. Gangadhar Narayan Morje, Publisher Dr. P. S. Jacob, Principal, Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar and Fr  (Dr) Matthew Lederle (S.J.), Snehasadan, 250, Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030 (Distributor-A. J. Prabhu, Vidarbha Marathwada Book Company, 1334,Shukravar, Pune, 411 002-(1984).

Monday, September 19, 2011

William carey, social reformer and linguist

Contribution of Christian Missionaries in India

Rev William Carey

Author : Camil Parkhe

Published by Gujarat Sahitya Prakash

William Carey, social reformer and linguist
Reverend William Carey is known as the father of printing technology in India. This Baptist missionary is credited with printing the first books in several regional languages of India. He is also one of the first social reformers in India to protest against the social evil of Sati , the custom of forcing a widow to end her life by jumping into the burning funeral pyre of her deceased husband. Carey, along with veteran social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy, made efforts to legally ban Sati. 
Carey is also credited with starting the first newspaper in an Indian regional language. ‘Samachar Darpan’ was the first newspaper in an Indian language. Carey and his missionary colleague, Dr Joshua Marshman, first published it in Bengali from Serampore on May 31, 1818. Earlier, Carey made significant contribution in the fields of botany and agriculture during the latter part of the 18th century and in the beginning of the 19th century.
William Carey was born in England on August 17, 1767. His father was a weaver. While he was a student, Carey worked with his uncle as a gardener till he turned 14. This developed into a lifelong passion for botany and agriculture. Later, to earn a living, he worked as a shoemaker till he was 28. Due to this background, some officers of the East India Company used to look down upon him even after Carey was ordained as a priest of the Baptist Mission. He had studied Greek, Hebrew and Latin. This study encouraged him to learn various languages and thus he became a linguist.
Carey left England on June 13, 1793 with the intention of preaching the gospel in India. He arrived in Kolkata five months later, on November 11, 1793. The East India Company had established its political control over most of the Indian territory by then.
Even though the officers of the East India Company were Christians, unlike the Portuguese, they skillfully avoided mixing up political governance and missionary work. The British had come to India as traders and later had managed to capture political power in the country. They had absolutely no intention of converting the local populace to Christianity. On the contrary, they were afraid that any intervention in the religious affairs of the local people might boom-rang and pulverise their political power. Therefore, they had banned the work of Christian missionaries in the area under their political control.
Carey realised that it was not possible to openly undertake any missionary work in India due to this British policy. He was forced to take up a job in the Indigo Factory at Madanavati. He worked in the Indigo factory for six years.
Carey had married Dorothy Placket before he reached India.  They had four children, all born in India. Four priests of the Baptist Mission arriving in India from England later joined Carey. Since missionary work was prohibited in the area under British regime, Carey and his colleagues established a mission at Serampur, which was under Dutch control, in 1800. The Dutch had not banned missionary activities in the area, which was under their political control.

While at Madanavati, Carey learnt Bengali and Sanskrit languages. He was to later try to translate Sanskrit grammar and dictionary into English. Having established a Baptist Mission at Serampur, Carey now took upon himself the task of publishing the Bible in Sanskrit and Bengali languages.
He established a printing press at Serampur. Since printing technology was not yet developed in the country, he started producing the types in Bengali, Devanagari, Farsi (Persian), and Arabic scripts at this press. The first books in various Indian languages were printed in Carey’s printing press. Carey thus earned the honour of becoming the first printer and publisher of the first books in a variety of Indian languages.
In 1801, the New Testament in Bengali was printed at the Serampur press. In 1804, Rev. Carey started translating and publishing Bible, in other major Indian languages like Hindustani, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and Tamil.
Two hundreds years before Carey, the Portuguese had introduced printing technology in Goa which was under their control. Kristapuran, an epic in Marathi compiled by a British Jesuit, Fr Thomas Stephens, was printed in 1614. However, in the absence of a printing technology for Devanagari script, Fr Stephens had to print his Marathi epic in Roman script.
During this time, Carey had also started studying Marathi. He had never stepped into Maharashtra where Marathi is spoken. Therefore, he had no exposure to Marathi language. He sought help of some Marathi experts for translation.
In 1805, Carey published a Marathi version of the Gospel according to St Mathew, entitled, ‘Sant Mathewche Shubhavartaman.’  It was the first book in Marathi printed in the Devanagari script. Carey published the second edition of this book in 1807. This time, the Marathi book was printed in Modi, a script now on the verge of extinction.
By 1811, the New Testament was translated into Marathi and printed at the Serampur Press. During the same period, Carey had started work on translating the New Testament in Konkani as well. 'Sant Mathewche Shubhavartaman’, the Gospel according to St Mathew, was published in 1815 in Konkani language.
Research scholar S. M. Pinge in his Marathi book ‘Europeanancha Marathicha Abhyas Va Seva’  ( The study of Marathi language by the Europeans and their contribution to this language), says, ''Although Carey’s Bible-related books in Konkani and Marathi were written for apostolic work and for educating people about Christianity, it is beyond any doubt that it gave tremendous boost to linguistic studies.'' He further says, "Despite so many problems in translation, Carey learnt the local languages and translated Bible in these languages. His service in development of Marathi language and literature needs to be appreciated.”
It appears that Rev. William Carey’s stay was restricted to Bengal only. He never visited western or southern parts of India like Maharashtra and Karnataka. He never had the opportunity to witness languages like Marathi, Konkani and Kannada in practice, as spoken by the people in their respective areas. Despite staying away from these territories, Carey contributed a great deal to the literature of these languages and must be complimented. Many people at that time criticised Carey's language and composition used in Konkani, Marathi and other languages. These critics also included some American and Scottish missionaries who had studied Marathi.
In 1801, Fort William College was established in Kolkata. A Marathi language course was introduced in the college in 1804 and Carey was appointed as the professor of Marathi language. Apart from Carey, some other Marathi pundits also used to teach Marathi in the same college. The teaching of Marathi at college level thus began for the first time in Bengal province, far away from Maharashtra. Rev. Carey thus can be rightly called as one of the first professors of Marathi language.
While teaching in Fort William College, Rev Carey, with the help of other Marathi pundits, authored several Marathi books. In 1805, Carey along with Pundit Vaijanath Shastri authored the grammar of Marathi language and published it. In 1810, Carey prepared ‘A dictionary of Marathi language’, the first dictionary in this language, with the help of Pundit Vaijanath Shastri and published it in Modi script.  This was the first ever dictionary in Marathi. This Marathi - English dictionary contains about 10,000 words and has 652 pages.
Carey’s printing press at Serampur had become an important centre of printing technology in the India of those times. There was a foundry for casting types required for printing purpose. Many people took these types to various parts of the country and started their own printing presses there.
During the period of 1805 to 1832, Carey’s printing press printed about 12,000 volumes in 40 Indian languages. At no other place in the country was this printing facility available at that time. This underlines the importance of Carey’s pioneering work.

Pinge while appreciating contribution of Rev. Carey has said, "Carey learnt Marathi and apart from several other Marathi volumes, published prose volumes of Bible in Marathi. He also motivated Marathi experts to write books.'' Pinge further added, "Carey published Marathi books at a time when no literature was being produced in this language. Besides, he published these books in Bengal where Marathi was not even spoken. This single fact has made Carey immortal in Marathi literature."

Rev Carey laid the foundation of printing technology in India. The history of literature of several Indian languages cannot be complete without the mention of Carey’s contribution. He took immense efforts to print the first books in these vernaculars. In his endeavour, Carey did not receive any support from the political rulers. The linguists too kept on criticising him for his language. Nonetheless, Carey continued his work. Carey is the only person whose mention, however small, will appear in the history of many Indian languages.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his book, ‘The Discovery of India ’ has mentioned Rev William Carey and other missionaries of Serampur Baptist Mission, who contributed in the fields of Indian printing technology and literature. Nehru praised the missionaries for their work as follows: “The printing of books and newspapers broke the hold of classics and immediately prose literatures in the provincial languages began to develop. The early Christian missionaries, especially of the Baptist Mission of Serampur, helped in the process greatly. The first private printing presses were established by them and their efforts to translate the Bible into prose versions of Indian languages met with considerable success. There was no difficulty in dealing with the well-known and established languages, but the missionaries went further and tackled some of the minor and undeveloped languages and gave them shape and form, compiling grammar and dictionaries for them. They even laboured at the dialects of the primitive hill and forest tribes and reduced them to writing."
Rev Carey’s contribution is not confined to Indian printing field, languages and literature alone. He was indeed a versatile personality. Apart from missionary work, printing technology, language, literature, he also worked in the field of botany, education, library science and social reforms.
Even before the British could establish an agricultural institute in India, Carey had established the Agricultural Society of India in 1820. Carey was interested in botany right from his childhood. While working in India, he was granted a membership of The Linnean Society of London in 1823. The Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy. Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species and organising them into systems of classification. Carey was also a member of the London-based Geology Society. It is obvious that he had deep interest and had studied these subjects.
After 1820, William Carey edited and published three volumes of Flora Indica or Descriptions of Indian Plants, authored by his late friend, Dr. William Roxburgh (1751 - 1815).  These volumes are considered as excellent reference volumes for botanists even today. In recognition of the research done by Carey in botany, a plant has been named after him and it is called, ‘Careya Habetia’.
William Carey brought English daisy flower to India. He is also credited with introducing the 'Linnean system’ in gardening. At Serampur, Carey planted 427 types of saplings on a five-acre field. It was a matter of surprise as to how Carey could find time for research in so many fields.
Carey raised a very strong protest against foeticides, abortions, child sacrifices and the custom of Sati. Social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy too had waged a battle against sati. Carey raised protests against the sati custom as early as 1805-06. The British government had followed a policy not to intervene in the religious customs of Hindus. Carey was of the opinion that the Hindu religious scriptures did not advocate sati.
In order to create public opinion against the sati practice, Carey in 1803 started collecting statistics on incidents of sati. He collected details of the victims of this evil social custom. He combed an area of about 80 miles around Kolkata to find that 1,170 women had to die because of this custom. At that time, this custom was most prevalent in Bengal and Carey had witnessed widows being pushed into the funeral pyres of their husbands and burn alive. He had witnessed such an incident for the first time in 1799. He even tried to stop it. He was told by people, ‘If you cannot bear seeing this, get lost!’
Some orthodox people canvassed against Carey, stating that the custom of sati was in conformity with Hinduism. A petition was submitted to the Governor General in India, arguing that Rev Carey and Rev Sleeman were doing missionary work in India and preaching against Hinduism, specifically the custom of sati, and therefore they should be deported from India. Rev. Sleeman also was leading a movement against sati. At village Paran near Jabalpur, Rev Sleeman had guarded the pyre continuously for three days and three nights to avert the burning alive of a child-widow from the Paroha community!
To create public awareness against the evil custom of sati, Carey had asked Raja Ram Mohan Roy to contribute a column in ‘ Samachar Darpan’. The column helped create public opinion against this evil custom among the Bengali masses.
On December 4, 1929, the then Governor General Lord William Bentinck banned the age-old custom of sati  by issuing an order. The efforts of William Carey and Raja Ram Mohan Roy finally bore fruit. During those days, Carey was also working as a government translator. The day Lord Bentinck issued the proclamation, Rev William Carey did not attend church because he had to translate the order declaring sati illegal from English to Bengali. He was afraid any delay on his part might send one more widow to the funeral pyre and made available the order in the local language immediately.
This missionary served in India for 41 years and offered his services to the local people in various fields. He did not visit his motherland even once during this period. This linguist scholar and social reformer breathed his last on June 9, 1834.
The year 1993 marked the 200th anniversary of this great missionary and visionary stepping on the Indian soil. These 200 years had witnessed a phenomenal progress in the Indian printing technology, native literature, and social structure. Rev Carey had played a pioneering role in this progress. The Government of India therefore released a commemorative stamp on William Carey in 1993, acknowledging  Carey’s contribution in various fields.
In the 2000-year-old history of Christianity, missionaries have made important contributions in various fields the world over. The contribution of most of these missionaries was restricted to a few fields only. Rev William Carey however made precious contributions in several fields like literature, technology, science, social awakening, printing technology, education and so on. And his contributions made an impact that was long lasting.
1.‘Europeanancha Marathicha Abhyas Wa Sewa’  (Marathi)  (The study of Marathi language by the Europeans and their contribution to this language), Authored and published by S. M. Pinge, 24B, Cantonment Aurangabad, Distributors - Venus Prakashan, Pune (1959)                                   

2.‘William Carey Ani Bharatacha Punarjanma’ ( William Carey and The Regeneration of India) , original authors:  Ruth and Vishal Mangalwadi, Marathi translation by Dr. Sanjay Athawale, Publishers - G. L. S. Publishing, Udyog Bhavan, 250 D , Worli, Mumbai 400 025 (1998).
3.‘Wadhasthambhache Sewak’   (Marathi) Original Author- Theodor Williams, Marathi Translation - D Y Gaikwad, Publishers - Outrich Prakashan, Indian Evangelical  Mission, 7, Lonford Road, Bangalore 560 025 (1991)

4.‘ The Christian Community and The National Mainstream’ - By Louis D’Silva - Printed by Dr  M E Cherian. Spicer College Press, Pune -411 007.

5.‘Marathi Mudranachya Paoolkhuna’   (Marathi)  (Footprints of printing technology in Marathi), Arun A Naik, Daily Lokmat (November 28, 1999)
6.‘Kayada hounahee Na Thambalelya Sati Prathecha Bolka Itihas’ - (History of Sati custom which has continued despite a legislation banning it),  Francis D’Souza, Marathi daily ‘Loksatta’ (3 December 1999)
7.‘Fight the Sati in the mind Silence is acquiescence’ - A J  Philip  'The Indian Express’ (November, 17, 1999)