Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Manapad: Conversion of the Paravas

This 19c litho from Creative Commons, done by some unknown Western artist, is titled conversion of the Paravas by St. Francis Xavier in 1542. I am not sure if the Paravas wore costumes like the one depicted here. In the background the soldier and the girl look like a scene from the Rome of the old. Perhaps the artist did not have first hand knowledge of the local scenario.

The Paravas are a proud and ancient community in the southern most part of India. Also known as Bharathar or Bharathakula Kshathriyar, they are believed to be the descendants of the Pandya kings. The Paravas were prominent even during the Sangam era. They were involved in pearl trade and maritime activities.

After the Muslims captured their homeland in the 14c, the Paravas were almost pushed into slavery. They resisted the attempts to convert them forcibly into Islam.

The Portuguese entered the scene during the first half of the 16c and offered the Paravas protection if they became Christians. This led to the biggest mass conversion (about 30,000 people) to Christianity in India. The Portuguese had the Bible translated into Tamil and distributed among the new converts. This is considered to be the first instance of the Holy book being made available in an Indian language.

St. Francis Xavier worked among the Paravas for a few years during the early 1540s, staying at Manapad near Tiruchandur in Tamil Nadu. The photos below (copyright reserved) by KO Isaac (Photography: The Photographic Society of Madras, capturing images for 150 years ) shows the cave where the missionary lived during his sojourn there and the churches in Manapad. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Maddy gives more details of the conversion of the Paravas at the following links:


Maddy said...

interesting - about their being descendants of pandya kings and being called Kshatriar. Have to check up on that

franz said...

Thanks for this share. It is helpful for my remembrances. Here another remembrance:
The original poem is "Andenken" from Friedrich Hölderlin (Hoelderlin). I would like it, if all Christians would be as fiery as Francis Xavier.
My blog: