Thursday, 8 October 2009

In search of the Khristapurana of Thomas Stephens

These days I have been going through the Saldanha, Bandelu, Drago and Falcao editions of Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana. The great question is: what was the original script of composition - Devanagari, as Falcao claims, or Roman, as Saldanha and Bandelu claim? The problem is that, of the first 3 printed editions, we have not as yet been able to trace a single copy.

Strangely, A.F. Pollard, in his article in the Dictionary of National Biography, claims that these editions are extant in the National Library (Archivo Universal), Lisbon.

Then again, Saldanha has given some indications of where he found the manuscripts that he collated for his edition: Messrs. Dunbar Brothers of Parel, Bombay; Marian Saldanha, Julian Coelho, the Rev. S.B.C. Luis, and J.A. Saldanha.

Of these, all were in Roman script except the last, which was in Devanagari script. He also says that J.A. Saldanha had exhibited this MS at the Royal Asiatic Society in Bombay, and that it had caused quite a stir. So which is this MS? What has happened to it? And what relation does it bear to the Marsden MS on which Falcao has based his edition?

Yet again: the famous 'Censures and Licences,' from which largely we get our information about the 3 editions of the Khristapurana, are to be found not in these MS but in J.H. da Cunha Rivara's Portuguese introduction, “O Ensaio Historico da Lingua Concani,” to the Grammatica da Lingua Concani pelo Padre Thomaz Estevayo (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional, 1857). Where did Cunha Rivara get them from? That would be interesting to find out.

At any rate, a first step has been taken today: inquiries among the Mangalorean Catholics of Nashik. Mr Hugh Mascarenhas told me that he would contact a cousin of his, a Mr Lobo, who, if I heard right, used to be editor of the famous Mangalore Magazine which J.L. Saldanha quotes in his Introduction to The Christian Puranna.

Another step would be to write articles in the popular magazines in Goa and Mangalore on the latest Falcao edition and solicit MS from people.

Yet another step would be to send a copy of the Falcao edition to the Bishops of Goa and Mangalore and request their help in getting MS.

Yet again: requesting Pratap Naik of the Thomas Stephens Konkkni Kendr at Porvorim for help. And perhaps also the Xavier Historical Institute next door to it.

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