Thembavani, Veeramamunivar’s Magnum Opus On Jesus Christ

  • 25 Dec 2020

Thembavani is a Tamil classic written by Veeramamunivar, a poetical work which describes the life of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ from his birth to his coronation.
This literary work is divided into thirty-six cantos, containing 3,615 stanzas, which contains over 100 references to the events and teachings explained in the Bible. 
Thembavani which successfully integrates Kamba Ramayanam and Silappathikaram in it is the first ever Tamil magnum opus which was written by a foreigner, a non-native speaker of Tamil.
This literature was first presented in Madurai, in the year 1726 after it was opposed by many. But in the end, Veeramamunivar was presented with the title 'Rajarishi'.
Here's what you need to know about this epic poem: 

The Meaning

The name of this Tamil classic, Thembavani, comes with such a beautiful meaning. It can be seen as 'themba+ani', which means the unfading garland or can also be seen as 'then+pa+ani', the ornament of poems as sweet as honey.

The story of Veeramamunivar 

Veeramamunivar is a Christian priest who was born as Constantine Joseph Beschi in Italy in the year 1680. Upon completing his education, he was sent as a missionary to Madurai, to preach and promote Christianity. 
In South India, Beschi realized that he needs to master the Tamil language in order to bring his knowledge to the rest. Thus, he started learning the language deeper while serving in places such as Madurai, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli, Elakurichy and so on. 
During his time as a missionary in India, Beschi started many Catholic pilgrim centres and even escaped a death sentence in the year 1714. 
He adopted the name Veeramamunivar and gave an enormous contribution to the Tamil literature. Among his literary works are:
- Composed three Tamil grammars and three dictionaries (Tamil-Latin, Tamil-Portuguese and Tamil-Tamil)
- Chaturakarati (a lexicon containing word, synonyms and categories of words and rhymes)
- Translation of Thirukural, Devaaram, Thiruppugazh, Nannool and Aathichoodi to several European languages
- Wrote Urai nadai illakkiyam (Tamil grammar for the common use)
- Wrote literatures such as Kaavalur Kalambagam, Thonnool, Vedhiyar Ozukkam and Paramarthaguruvin Kadhai
- Improved Tamil writing (introduced the system of dotting the Tamil consonants (க், ங், ச்...) and writing the long vowels as ஆ instead of அர, கா instead of கர)

Due to Veeramamunivar’s immense contribution to the Tamil language and literature, the government of Tamil Nadu erected a statue of him on the Marina beach.

Source: Wikipedia and Wikivisually
Photo Credit: Living in Faith, Loyola College, Youtube, Vikatan, Pinterest, GunaTamizh

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