An attempt to know, understand (and ultimately, transform) that which occurs on the fields of play - India (her politics, media, music) and beyond ...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Robert De Nobili - The Roman Brahmin deception etc.

A couple of days ago I came across this report in The Hindu.

CHENNAI: The Jesuit community in Chennai will come together on Saturday to commemorate three important events in the history of the mission in South India: the 450th death anniversary of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the movement, the 400th founding year of the Madurai Jesuit mission (the first such mission in this part of the country) and the 350th death anniversary of Robert De Nobili, the founder of the mission.

The mention of 'De Nobili' and Madurai in the article rang a bell - although a slightly muffled bell. Surely I had come across Nobili somewhere in my readings. It wasn't too long before I made the connection with the story of the 'Roman Brahmin' deception. Please read Sri. Arun Shourie's article on the hoax perpetrated by De Nobili on Indians in his quest to harvest converts. (Aside: This site contains a host of brilliant articles by Sri. Shourie that expose the chicanery of the pseudo-secularists in various contexts.)

Some excerpts from Sri. Shourie's article (emphasis is mine):

A missionary, De Nobili came to India in 1608. In Church lore, he is credited with having secured among the largest harvest of converts for Jesus.
De Nobili put out the fiction that he was a "Roman Brahmin" -- Romaca Brahmana was the title he gave out. Francis Ellis, in his contribution to the 1822 Transactions of the Asiatic Society, explained, "Nobili, who was looked upon by the Jesuits as the chief apostle of the Indians after Francois Xavier, took incredible pains to acquire a knowledge of the religion, customs, and language of Madura, sufficient for the purposes of his ministry. But this was not all: for to stop the mouths of his opposers and particularly of those who treated his character of Brachman as an imposture, he produced an old, dirty parchment in which he had forged, in the ancient Indian characters, a deed, showing that the Brachmans of Rome were of much older date than those of India and that the Jesuits of Rome descended, in a direct line from the god Brama.
It turns out that forgery was a regular industry with de Nobili. He produced a "fifth Veda" into which he had smuggled notions which would help inveigle people into Christianity. Ellis found the original forgery in the possession of Catholic missionaries in Pondicherry. He found that our artful missionary had similarly produced versions -- with convenient alterations and interpolations -- of the Rig, Sama, and Atharva Vedas too. And several other "scriptures"!

To deceive people into conversion, de Nobili not only altered his own appearance, he disguised rites such as baptism, the service etc. And he asked his disciples as well as the new converts to retain Indian appearances: "....His converts retained the 'Shendi' or tuft of hair which marked the caste Hindu," Ogilvie writes, "they wore a sacred cord indistinguishable from that of their Hindu neighbours, and they bore an oval caste mark on their brow, the paste composing or being made of the ashes of sandalwood instead of as formerly the ashes of cow dung."

When his rivals in the Church charged de Nobili with dissimulation, he argued that what he was doing was in accord with the prescription of Saint Paul: for had Paul not advised missionaries to be sure that they became "all to all"?

What Sri. Shourie wrote then about the deception in the context of Sonia (see below) is equally applicable to Rahul:

The dissimulation is on display on the public platform every day. In the beginning, the recluse. Then the carefully planned public exposure. The daily audiences to the privileged few. The central claim of being the "Roman Brahmin". The stout denial to being European. The falsehoods which are put out on behalf of, and for the advancement of the Romaca Brahamana....

Sigh, we Indians never learn ...


  • At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I know this story. Read it first in Shourie's column published in our local newspaper. The similarities between DeNobili's operation and the present UPA dispensation( they are dispensing India, really) are striking. Apparently even the agenda is. But the trojan horse is not gonna work twice....well unless we awaken our countrymen.

  • At 7:29 AM, Blogger ashok said…

    never heard of this story..thanks for the info


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