Monday, May 13, 2013

Narayan Vaman Tilak

Narayan Vaman Tilak (1861—1919) is a Brahman poet of the Marathi language in India. While travelling by train in 1893 he met a Christian missionary who gave him a Bible. Tilak, who had felt dissatisfied with Hinduism’s ritualism and its caste system, felt very attracted to Christianity. He was particularly drawn to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Because of the distance of father-figures and the closeness of mothers, in Indian culture, Tilak chose to describe Jesus from a more Indian perspective:
------"Tenderest Mother-Guru mine,
------Saviour, where is love like Thine?..."

Professor Richard Fox Young of Princeton Theological Seminary wrote that “to discover his real voice and to put a recognizably Indian face on Christianity, Tilak felt compelled to reject the worship forms in the American mission churches...In a famously subversive poem of protest, he complained that in those churches ‘we dance as puppets, while [missionaries] hold the strings.’ In Tilak’s heart, only Christ could strike the right chords.”

I Have Called You Friends

One who is all unfit to count
----As scholar in Thy school,
Thou of Thy love hast named a friend —
----O kindness wonderful!

So weak am I, O gracious Lord,
----So all unworthy Thee,
That e’en the dust upon Thy feet
----Outweighs me utterly.

Thou dwellest in unshadowed light,
----All sin and shame above —
That Thou shouldst bear our sin and shame
----How can I tell such love?

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: