New ‘Indian Bible’ strikes positive chord among Catholics

July 10th, 2008 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, July 10 (IANS) Mother Mary in a sari, Joseph clad in a dhoti and they nurse the Holy Infant Jesus attired in typical Indian baby clothes, in a small hut, surrounded by modern skyscrapers, with words of Sanskrit origin like “bhakti,” “janam” and “gyaanmarg” used liberally. All this and more can be found in the Indianised version of the Holy Bible, introduced last fortnight all over the country, taking the Christian community by a pleasant surprise.

“It has proved to be extremely popular among the Catholic community with over 15,000 copies sold out within barely 10 days. Now it has gone for a reprint,” said Rev. Augustine Kanachikuzhy of the Society of St. Paul, Mumbai who is also the general editor of the new Bible.

Kanachikuzhy told IANS that the next batch of the new Bible would be received from the Kolkata-based printers by October for distribution. The new Bible has 2,200 pages in full colour printing, illustrations with an Indian touch spread across the text and each copy weighs around one kg.

The outcome of nearly two decades’ research by the local Church authorities, the ‘Indian Bible,’ as it is called, is a user-friendly holy scripture, practically devoid of heavy religious language that was considered difficult for the lay persons to understand.

It is even easy on the pockets of the faithful - costs around Rs.250 against the original versions which cost upwards of Rs. 1,000 a copy, said the spokesman for the Archbishop of Mumbai, Fr. Tony Charanghat.

Bishop of Vasai (neighbouring Thane district) Thomas Dabre, a religious authority, oversaw and approved the Indian text with his knowledge of Indian and Catholic religion.

Bishop Dabre - who holds a PhD on “The God Experience of Tukaram - A Study in Religious Symbolism (1987)” - said several Biblical scholars, theologians, writers and artists were involved in the production of the new Bible.

The Bishop, who is the chairman of the Indian Bishops Commission for Christian Doctrine, said there are similar ‘localised’ versions of the Holy Bible in Africa and the Philippines.

“Based on the Philippines version, we decided to bring out an Indian version with complete Indian text, appropriate illustrations and other relevant aspects that the local audiences could relate to,” he told IANS.

He said the illustrations are symbolic - the tiny hut surrounded by skyscrapers depicts the centuries old divide between the rich and poor. The Holy Infant was born in a stable surrounded by animals, but in modern world, there are huts surrounded by skyscrapers, according to Bishop Dabre.

He explained that the aim behind the unique project was two-fold - the text of the Holy Bible must speak to the people and their culture, and also have meaning for the non-Christian readers.

“We hope it will appeal to the Indian sensibilities, reading it will make the text come alive in the Indian situation, and give the faithful a feeling that it is ‘our’ text,” Bishop Dabre said.

Fr. Charanghat said the response from the public has been overwhelming to the new Indian Bible. The other words from Indian scriptures include “shanti,” “moksha,” “mukti,” “vishwa,” “surya,” “maranam,” “mauna,” “kripa,” “anugraha,” and the like.

Bishop Dabre said there might be some who may find the Indianised Bible a bit unusual and unexpected.

Rev. Kanachikuzhy said there is no immediate plan to introduce the Indian Bible in other Indian languages or in a miniature format on the lines of some international organisations.

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