Friday, January 30, 2009
The Tamil Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, it is said, has been translated into more than 200 languages. One of those languages is Tamil, spoken in India and elsewhere. The first part of the work was translated into Tamil in 1793, the full text by 1853. One who read this book in Tamil prior to his conversion to Christianity was Henry Alfred Krishnapillai (1827-1900). It so impressed him that he intended to translate it in versified form. But after he was converted and joined the Anglican church, at the encouragement of friends, he labored for 16 years and created an orginal epic poem like the Rāmāyaṇa, modelled after Pilgrim's Progress, which he called Iratcaniya Yattirikam ('Journey of Salvation'), which was published in 1894. Although he wrote other Christian books and hymns in Tamil, this was his magnum opus, considered to be one of the greatest Christian Tamil works of the 19th century. He was known as the Christian Kamban.