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'buried for others the true doctrine that the Philosophy and natural Geology teaches, and invented for the others one sect much devoid of reason'. Fenicio's stories of deeds and misdeeds of Indian gods, goddesses, demons and other supernatural beings are all infused with metaphors and allegories of sexual desire. The episodes of divine debauchery and fornication are strung together in overlapping stories.21

The reading of Hindu cosmology and theology as unspiritual, profane and dirty is shared by Fenicio's contemporary Diogo Goncalves, who was also a Jesuit missionary in the Kerala region. His treatise, Historia do Malavar (1615), deals with 'political' customs and with 'the errors of the Malabars concerning the cult and adoration of God'.22 This is a very militant Portuguese 'nationalist' text with no empathy for Hindu cosmogony and peculiar social practices, such as polyandry and caste (pollution) rules. What is interesting about the treatise is the fact that he divides Indian customs into political and religious, the division that became an important, albeit controversial, epistemic tool for approaching paganism after the famous dispute between Roberto Nobili and Goncalo Fernandes Trancoso.

Neither Roberto Nobili nor Goncalo Fernandes Trancoso intended to write an account of the paganism that they observed in the Madurai Mission, at the heart of the Tamil country, at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was through their personal, political and 'ideological' clash that they forged two different perspectives on paganism. By establishing a separate, high-caste, 'aristocratic' mission in the same town, Nobili tried to dissociate Christianity from its image of low-caste religion practised by the Portuguese, the 'impure', meat-eaters and alcohol-drinkers, and by the pearl-fishing community of Par-ava Christians. Nobili's accommodationist mission was to target Brahmanical and the highest castes by presenting himself as a teacher of a new spiritual religion. Thus he lived and behaved as a Brahman sannyasi (hermit), he started learning Sanskrit from a Brahman teacher who later became his first convert, and he employed Brahman, vegetarian cooks. His method was inspired by Alessandro Valignano in Japan and Matteo Ricci in China and, moreover, had full approval from his superior in Cochin, the Provincial of the Malabar Province, Alberto Laerzio. Another Italian Jesuit missionary, Antonio Rubino, also started an accommodationist mission at the court ofthe King ofVijayana-gara at Vellore at around the same time as Nobili in Madurai (1606). Political turmoil on the Coromandel coast, the order by the King of Spain and Portugal to end the mission in 1611, and Laerzio's change of heart as to the economic

21 Charpentier, Livro da Seita, p. 8.

22 Wicki (ed.), P. Diogo Goncalves S. I. Historia do Malavar, p. 108.

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