Monday, July 11, 2022

Vedanyakam Sastri

Vedanyakam Sastri (1774―1864) is an Indian poet and lyricist who served as court poet in the palace of Serfoji II ― who was the ruler of the Bhonsle dynasty of the Maratha principality of Tanjore (now known as Thanjavur). His name is alternately spelled Vedanayagam Sastriar as well. He was born into a Catholic family, but embraced Protestantism at the age of twelve. Sastri’s poetry became very popular, however, many missionaries felt he went too far to contextualize Chrsitanity to the Indian culture.

His poetry draws together Christian imagery with traditional Tamil literary structures. He performed dramatic versions of stories from the creation of the world right through to the return of Christ. Some of his works include The Garland of Prayer, The Drama of the Crippled Hero of Wisdom, and Bethlehem Kuravanci.

After years of respected service to the king, several powerful individuals in the palace showed intolerance toward Christianity. Sastri, however, remained outspoken about his faith, while showing respect for the faith of others.

The United Theological College in Bangalore, preserves some of the original manuscripts of his writings, as part of their collection of ancient palm-leaf manuscripts and rare books.

from Song #153

Pallavi:---------I love you, O my king
------------------A thousand praises sing!

Anupallavai:---To Jesus Christ the God of my tremendous salvation!
------------------You alone are the one who sustains me!

Saranam 1:----Word of God, Heavenly Bridegroom, Father Lord,
------------------You are the source of all life
------------------Well spring of divine joy, Sachidanandha!

Saranam 2:----King of Canaan, you who are worshipped in heaven
------------------With desire I search for you
------------------Pray and praise you.

Saranam 3:----Wasted are the years when I did not seek you
------------------Bewildered at my hapless state was I
------------------You rescued and brought home safely the abandoned
------------------Sheep that I was, do you correct me.

Saranam 4:----Praise and worship be to you
------------------O Jehovah you protected me for ever and ever
------------------I wonder I worship you
------------------The Holy Word, Christ Jesus!

Saranam 5:----You of whom man has searched from the beginning
------------------You who rejoice with us in our celebrations
------------------According to Vedanayagam’s praises
------------------I long to embrace you…

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.