Monday, 31 August 2015

Glen D'Silva and the Khristapurana in song

The scene was Arambol, one of the frontiers of Goa, 500 years
ago. A family mourns the passing away of its eldest member.
That night a man was summoned. Known by the locals as
'Purankar', he had to sing the verses of a holy text called
the 'Krista Purana' for the entire night.

Such was the scene half a millennium ago, when Goa's natives
embraced Christianity. The influence of Latin culture had not
yet reached Goan shores, and the new converts sang their
hymns to the beats of the dholak, ghumot and other folk

          The 'Krista Purana' translates as the 'The
          Christian Puranas', an epic poem on the life of
          Jesus Christ written in a mix of Marathi and
          Konkani by Fr Thomas Stephens, SJ (1549-1619).
          Adopting the literary form of the Hindu Puranas, it
          retells the entire story of mankind, from the
          creation days to the time of Jesus in lyrical verse
          form. The Christian Puranas comprise 11,000 stanzas
          of four verses.

Three years ago, Fr Glen D'Silva, who served on the executive
board of Kala Academy, met its member secretary, Shrikanth
Bhatt, who told him, "Father, someone must revive the Krista

Those words stuck in his mind, and he began to look for the
book, learning later that a handwritten copy lies in the
Pilar seminary museum, while a new edition of the book was in
the possession of the Don Bosco educational complex in

D'Silva certainly had illustrious predecessors to follow. Fr
(Dr) Nelson Falcao had translated the works into English,
while Padmashri Suresh Amonkar, educationist, social worker
and writer had worked on the Konkani translation.

Eleven thousand verses dwelling in 49 chapters divided into
the old and new testaments, D'Silva worked steadfastly in his
mission to revive the almost-defunct 500-year-old 'Krista

          "My main aim in reviving the 'Krista Purana' was to
          bring about a cultural integration. It is important
          for us Goans to know our rich musical heritage in
          order to appreciate our own culture and
          traditions," says D'Silva, who, at present, serves
          the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Vaddem-Curdi as
          its parish priest.

Two years ago, in March 2013, D'Silva sang the first 11
verses in a public performance at the XVI Bhakti Sangeet
Samaroh held at the Kala Academy.

D'Silva is also former director of the Pilar Music School and
he was instrumental in starting music schools in Porvorim,
Moira and Margao. His labour of love in revitalizing the
devotional songs materialized in the release of his album 'O
Namo', comprising 11 songs which is symbolic of the 11,000
verses in the 'Krista Purana'.

The album comprises the songs, 'O Namo' (Oh! Hail to thee),
'Tu Parmananda' (You are the absolute bliss, pervading the
universe), 'Tu Sakshat Parmeshvaru' (You are the very God,
Eternal and Infinite), 'Tu ani Tuzaa Ekach Sutu' (You and
your only Son), 'Namo Visvachiye Dipti' (I bow to you, the
light of the universe), 'Namo Spirita' (Hail to you, Oh! Pure
and Holy Spirit), 'Tu Sapta Divya Dannacha Dataru' (You are
the giver of seven divine gifts), 'Jaisa Baap Taisa Putr'
(The Father as well as the Son), 'Teenazanache Ekach Tatva'
(The three are made of one substance); 'Putr to Baapa Pasuni
Vartala' (The Son, of course, came from the Father); 'To
Amchaa Svami' (He is Jesus Christ our Lord).

Of the 11 songs, 'O Namo', 'Namo Spirita', and 'To Amchaa
Swami' are his favourites. "'O Namo' is a rare composition in
Raag Bhupali, 'Namo Spirita' is Raag Hem Kalian. These are
unheard of by today's generation and 'To Amchaa Swami' is in
Raag Shaym Kalyan, which is my favourite raag," he says.

          "The 11 songs comprise the first chapter of the
          Krista Purana with 25 verses. It is difficult to
          measure the hours and time which I have put in. It
          was an inspiration and God's grace that worked. I
          have not done any great research as such, but,
          whatever I learned in Indian music, I applied it in
          the compositions," adds D'Silva.

The music in 'O Namo' features the harmonium, tabla,
electronic tanpura and the violin, which D'Silva has played
himself. "The audio CD is available at music stores. It has
been produced by Brian D'Silva, who is my brother," he says.

          "Fr Thomas Stephens began writing the 'Krista
          Purana' while he served as parish priest of
          Benaulim almost 500 years ago. Having roots in
          Salcete myself, I felt that God provided me a task
          to preserve, propagate and promote the 'Krista
          Purana' through 'O Namo'," says D'Silva, who is a
          native of Carmona.

"When I completed the first chapter comprising 11 songs, I
realized that my efforts were supported by divine grace as
the 'Krista Purana' itself comprises 11,000 verses," says
D'Silva, who doesn't forget to appreciate the support given
by his congregation. "My love, devotion and gratitude will
always remain second to none to the Society of Pilar," he says.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana: new material

Thomas Stephens. Birth and Childhood of Mother Mary, St John the Baptist and Jesus Christ in the Kristapurana of Father Thomas Stephens, S.J. Tr. and ed. Nelson Falcao. Bengaluru: Kristu Jyoti Publications, 2014. 6+154 pp.

Thomas Stephens. Fadar Thomas Stiphanskrta Khristapuranatila pavitra Mariya, santa Yohana Baptista va Prabhu Yesu Khristaci janmakatha va balapana. Tr. and ed. Nelson Falcao. Bengaluru: Kristu Jyoti Publications, 2014. 6+154 pp.

Nelson Falcao. Fadar Thomas Stiphanskrta Khristapuranatila Prabhu Yesu Khristace duhkhasahana. DVD.

Nelson Falcao. Fadar Thomas Stiphanskrta Khristapuranatila Prabhu Yesu Khristace punarutthana. DVD.

Nelson Falcao. Fadar Thomas Stiphans Khristapurana. Tr. and ed. Nelson Falcao. DVD.

Pär Eliasson. "Mukti in Kristapurana. How Thomas Stephens S.J. (1549-1619) conveys a Christian message of salvation in words with Hindu connotations." MA thesis, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. 2015.  Available online a the university site