Reading Jesuit Readings of Hinduism

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Will Sweetman
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Will Sweetman Last modified: October 2019

Brahmins and Their Books: The Sixteenth Century

The historiography of the Jesuit encounter with Hinduism begins with the very first published letter of Francis Xavier (1506–52) from India. The letter, written in Spanish and dated January 15, 1544, was first published in French in Paris in 1545, and thereafter in German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian. In it, Xavier describes two encounters with the Brahmin priests whom he regarded as the primary obstacle to the conversion of India. The first encounter, with a group of Brahmins at the temple of Trichendur, has been reconstructed by Richard Fox Young against the background of their respective theologies.1 For Xavier, most Brahmins were as ignorant as they were wicked. He met only one learned Brahmin, who revealed to him that the Brahmins secretly taught that there was only one God but that they were obliged not to divulge this to the credulous masses on whose offerings to idols the Brahmins relied for their income. From this Brahmin Xavier also learned that the Brahmins had books [scripturas], written in a learned tongue, which contained the commandments they were to obey.2 It was not until 1548 that the Jesuits first obtained, briefly, some Hindu texts. These were obtained in Goa, by confiscation. From 1541, possession of Hindu religious artefacts, including manuscripts, had been banned in the areas under Portuguese control. This was part of a wider campaign against the practice of Hinduism, later labelled the “rigour of mercy,” which saw temples destroyed, public observances banned and converts preferred for positions in the Portuguese bureaucracy in Goa.3 Although the texts were taken to António Gomes (1519–54), rector of the College of Saint Paul, the governor ordered them to be returned and there is no further report of them.

Much more is known about a series of texts obtained about a decade later. In 1558, a text called Anādipurā a was seized from the house of a prominent Hindu during the festival of Divali. The following year, a Brahmin who had converted and taken the name Manuel d’Oliveira stole a collection of books from another Brahmin living in the hinterland of Goa. Copies were sent to Europe, together with translations made by d’Oliveira. The copies extant in Europe include texts in both Marathi and Konkani, mostly episodes from the Mahābhārata and Rāmayāṇa, as well as the translations into Portuguese.4 These texts, together with the Anādipurā a, became important sources for the Jesuits in Goa.  As well as being put to use in Goa in sermons against the Brahmins and as sources for the accounts of Indian religion in Jesuit histories by Alessandro Valignano (1539–1606) and Sebastiam Gonçalves (1555?–1619),5 they were also used for vocabularies like those composed by Diogo Ribeiro (1561–1635) and Miguel d’Almeida (1610–83 or 1687)6 and as models for Christian works in Marathi like Thomas Stephens’s (1549–1619) Discurso sobre a vinda de Jesu Christo (1616)—the so-called Kristapurā a—and Etienne de la Croix’s (1579–1643) Discursos sobre a vida do Apostolo Sam Pedro (1629).7

The purāṇas produced by Stephens and de la Croix both demanded and demonstrated considerable sophistication in understanding Hindu theology.8 At around the same time, Jesuits in the Malabar and Madurai missions in the south of India were producing works of comparable sophistication but intended for European audiences. Among these are the Livro da seita dos Indios orientais (1609)9 by the Italian Giacomo Fenicio (c.1558–1632), the História do Malavar (c.1615) by Diogo Gonçalves (1561–1640), and a treatise on Brahminical Hinduism (1616) by Gonçalo Fernandes (1541–1619).10 None of these works was published, but elements taken from Fenicio’s text appeared in the second volume of Manuel de Faria y Sousa, Asia Portugueza (completed 1640, published 1674) and in Philippus Baldaeus, Van de Afgoderye der Oost-Indische Heydenen which was published as part of his Naauwkeurige beschryvinge van Malabar en Choromandel (1672).11 Joan-Pau Rubiés argues that these works, like other contemporary texts such as Antonio Rubino’s (1578–1643) account of the history and religion of Vijayanagara (1608),12 were produced by the Jesuits as a result of “a deep crisis in their missionary methods.”13 This was provoked both by their lack of success in converting Indians living outside areas under Portuguese control and by the emergence of rivals in the form of missionaries of other orders and the Protestant trading companies.

Josef Wicki characterizes Gonçalves’s work as a kind of handbook for new missionaries and suggests that it would have been copied by hand and distributed in the Malabar mission.14 The book’s description of the lands and peoples of the south-west Indian littoral would clearly have served this purpose and the book’s apologetic intent is confirmed by the fact that the outline of their “superstitions and sects” in the second book of the História is followed by an extended refutation of their customs and forms of worship in books three and four.15 However, as Ines Županov points out, Gonçalves also describes in great detail the wealth of the temples and actively exhorts the Portuguese to attack them.16 Županov also examines the accounts of Indian marriage customs given by Fenicio and Gonçalves in the light of the renewed emphasis on the sacramental nature of marriage set out at Trent. She connects the Jesuits’ ethnography with wider European discussions of the effects of climate and the supposedly uncontrolled sexuality of Orientals.

Fenicio’s text is distinguished by his inclusion of verses by Pākkanār, a low-caste poet, highly critical of Brahminical Hinduism and the worship of the gods in the form of physical images. Fenicio collected three hundred of some nine hundred verses supposed to have been composed by Pākkanār, now mostly lost. A century later on the opposite coast, the first Protestant missionary in India, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682–1719) would seize on similar works by low-caste writers like Civavākkiyar, and for the same reasons.17 Away from the areas of European presence on the coast, in the early seventeenth century, Jesuit missionaries in the Madurai mission were beginning to engage with a very different literature in the form of dharmaśāstras (law codes) and texts associated with the schools of orthodox Hindu philosophy, in particular Vedānta.

The Malabar Rites

With the fierce debate over Roberto de’ Nobili’s (1577–1656) adoption of forms of Brahminical lifestyle we enter the zone where the historiography of Jesuit encounter with Hinduism is at its thickest.18 The issues at stake—the contested borderline between religion and non-religion, the possibility of cross-cultural translation and understanding, the reality of caste discrimination in both Hindu society and the Christian church in India—remain highly salient and the sources are rich but still mostly unpublished. The debate between Nobili and his opponents, both Jesuit and other, will therefore likely remain central to any discussion of Jesuit encounter with Hinduism.

In late 1606, Nobili travelled with his provincial, Alberto Laerzio (1557–1630), and an older Portuguese Jesuit, Gonçalo Fernandes (?1541–1621), to Madurai. Fernandes had been working in Madurai, the ancient capital of the Pandya kingdom, since 1595. His flock consisted of low-caste Paravas from the Fishery Coast, converted in the time of Xavier. Although Fernandes had some access to the Nayaka court in Madurai, he had made no converts from the higher castes. Soon after his arrival in Madurai, Nobili separated himself physically and ritually from Fernandes and thereby—he hoped—from the low opinion which the higher castes had of the Portuguese and their religion. In 1609, Laerzio reported that he had given Nobili permission to restrict his diet, to take a Brahmin cook, to avoid contact with the Paravas—and with Fernandes—and to adopt the dress of a sannyasi.19 In the same letter, Laerzio described the conversion, early in 1607, of a learned and high-caste guru. Others followed; nine more in 1607, fourteen in 1608, sixty in 1609. While Nobili regarded this as a success,20 Fernandes objected to his methods. In 1608, Laerzio briefly prohibited further baptisms until doubts about them could be resolved. In May 1610, Fernandes wrote a long letter to Claudio Acquaviva (1543–1615), which sparked a series of formal inquiries into Nobili’s lifestyle and the concessions he allowed his converts.21 In 1623, Gregory XV (r.1521–23) ruled in Nobili’s favor in Romanae sedis antistes. In the course of the controversy, each of the protagonists produced works in defence of their position which relied on their respective interpretations of Hindu practice.

Nobili wrote three Latin treatises—in 1610, 1613, and 1619.22 The texts are deeply marked by Nobili’s study of Hindu texts under the guidance of his Brahmin converts. Foremost among these was Śivadharma (b.1584), a Telugu Brahmin who took the name Bonifacio when he converted. The Informatio (1613) includes over one hundred quotations from Sanskrit texts. Many of these are from the Manusm ti, the most authoritative of the dharmaśāstras, but also from a variety of other texts ranging from the Taittirīya Brāhma a and Āra yaka of the black Yajur Veda to Kālidāsa’s epic poem on the birth of Kārtikeya, the Kumārasa bhava. In these works, Nobili defended his—and his converts’—observance of certain practices on the basis of a distinction between those that had religious significance and those that were merely signs of social rank. Identifying “the exact border between rites or customs with religious meaning, and those without it” had already been an issue of “fundamental importance” for the Goan Inquisition in the later part of the sixteenth century.23

In 1616, Fernandes responded to Nobili’s treatises with one of his own. The first part (O sumário das serimonias), describes the lifecycle rites of Brahmins from birth through initiation and marriage to entry into the state of a sannyāsīn, with a description of some of the daily and other rites performed by and for Brahmin sannyāsīns. The second, much shorter, section (O compendio de ditos de graves autores) describes penances (prāyaścitta) according to the dharmaśāstra of Parāśara.24 The text largely consists of extracts from Sanskrit texts translated into Tamil by Śivadharma/Bonifacio and then into Portuguese by Fernandes with his assistant Andrea Buccerio.25

Nobili’s example was cited repeatedly by his successors in the south Indian missions, both in the eighteenth century and after the restoration of the Society. They also acknowledge drawing on his knowledge of Hindu literature, which few were able to surpass. In the early twentieth century, a series of Jesuits embarked on studies of Nobili and the Malabar rites debate.26 After Indian independence, Nobili was presented as “the first European Indologist” by Augustine Saulière (1885–1966) and “the first Oriental scholar” by Savarimuthu Rajamanickam (1917–).27 Their characterisation of his engagement with Hinduism as an academic study paved the way for the recent representation of Nobili as a pioneer of inter-religious dialogue.28 More critical accounts of Nobili include those of Županov and Paolo Aranha. Županov suggests the differences between him and Fernandes owe much to their respective backgrounds. Nobili’s “aristocratic perspective” and brahminical retreat allowed him to distance himself from the differences that emerged in everyday contact, decontextualising these so as to allow the identification of analogies that he made use of to stabilize his position as a Roman Brahmin. Fernandes, who had first come to India as a soldier, was older, less scholarly, less sure of his own position, and more inclined to rely on direct experience in forming his “demotic perspective.”29 Aranha has recast the debate by shifting the focus to Indian agents, the Brahmin converts: “Far from being an enlightened experiment of early modern missionaries, the Malabar Rites were primarily an expression of the prevailing agency of the leading native converts.”30 He has also emphasized that “at the end the real issue was always the perpetuation of castes and therefore of Dalit oppression.”31

The Jesuits Confront the philosophes

The works of Fernandes and Nobili were not published until the twentieth century. While some Jesuit letters and reports from the first century of Jesuit mission were used by Giovanni Pietro Maffei (1535–1603) for the account of Brahmin beliefs and practices in his Historiarum Indicarum libri XVI (1588), Rubiés characterises his treatment as “both dismissive and superficial” and argues that it was not until the second half of the seventeenth century that Jesuits began “to participate as expert orientalists in the Republic of Letters,” motivated by the need to respond to “the growth of religious heterodoxy and free-thinking in Europe.”32 Libertine readings of Indian religion—like that of François Bernier (1620–88)—held the potential to undermine the orthodox and biblical account of human history. The first significant intervention was Athanasius Kircher’s (1601/2–80) China illustrata (1667), which for its account of Indian religion drew on information from Heinrich Roth (1620–68). Roth had been in India from 1652, at first in Goa and then, from 1654, at the Mughal court in Agra where he studied Sanskrit and Persian. On his return to Europe in 1662, he brought with him a primer of Vedānta as well as a Sanskrit grammar and annotated transcriptions of a metrical dictionary of Sanskrit.33 His account of the avātaras of Viṣṇu, Decem fabulosae Incarnationes Dei, quas credunt Gentiles Indiani extra et intra Gangem, which appeared in Kircher’s China illustrata, is based on on purāṇic sources.34 Kircher was a major figure but Roth had had only two months with him in Rome and China occupied a much more prominent position in Kircher’s work. It was not until the appearance of the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses in the early eighteenth century that Jesuit reports of India, and of Hinduism, emerged from the shadow of China.

Ignatius of Loyola (c.1491–1556) had insisted on the importance of regular correspondence for the sake of good governance and to strengthen the bonds between the dispersed members of the Society but also with an eye to the reputation of the Society among outsiders. Many collections of letters from the missions had been published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.35 The Lettres édifiantes et curieuses was, however, the first organised series of such collections. They appeared at a time when the Society, especially in France, faced challenges from several directions. Thirty-four volumes were published, initially more or less regularly and then less frequently from the 1740s.36 Much of the series also appeared in German translation, edited by the Jesuit Joseph Stöcklein (1676–1773).37 The first ten volumes also appeared in English where the letters were accompanied by a sustained footnoted assault on the Jesuits, drawing on Jansenist sources, by the translator John Lockman (1698–1771).38

The publication of the Lettres was clearly an attempt to respond to critics of the Society. Paschoud argues that the letters served to defend the Society’s practice in two major debates: the Chinese rites quarrel and the Jesuits’ “reductions” in their missions in Paraguay.39 The letters from India came primarily from French Jesuits in the newly established Carnatic mission (with some also from Jesuits in the French possessions in Bengal as well as from the older Madurai mission). Their reports on aspects of Hinduism would be put to use against critics both within the church—in the context of the revived Malabar rites debate—and without, as the Jesuits intervened in debates over religion with heterodox thinkers. As the Lettres were intended for a public audience, however, they avoided the rites controversy in favor of the latter.

The best examples of Jesuit interventions in debates over religion in Europe are three letters from Jean-Venant Bouchet (1655–1732), two addressed to Pierre Daniel Huet (1630–1721) and one to his fellow Jesuit Jean-François Baltus (1667–1743). The letters to Huet offer first-hand evidence from India to defend the authority of the biblical account of history by tracing the diffusion of both idolatry and monotheism to India.40 The difficulty with such accounts, as Rubiés points out, was the ease with which the direction of influence could be reversed to establish Indian priority thereby “[creating] the grounds for European libertinism.”41 It was perhaps for this reason that these letters were republished virtually unchanged in the volume on idolatrous peoples in Jean-Frédéric Bernard (1683–1744) and Bernard Picart’s (1673–1733) Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (1723),42 despite the deist inclinations of the editors. Bernard and Picart also published a version of another Jesuit account of Hinduism, “Breve noticia dos erros que tem os Gentios do Concão na India” written by the Jesuit João de Brito (1647–93), martyred in the far south of India in 1693.  This, however, was taken from a translation by the Huguenot physician Charles Dellon (1649–c.1710) which omitted the sections condemning Hinduism.43

Bouchet’s letters are taken by Rubiés to exemplify a fourth stage in European (but, in practice, mostly Jesuit) encounters with Hinduism. The first, in the sixteenth century, he characterizes as “simple condemnation.” The second was inaugurated in the early seventeenth century by the crisis in missionary methods. The third was their intervention in the later seventeenth century in debates in the European Republic of Letters in the form of the “antiquarianization of primary ethnographies” in the hands of authors like Kircher.44 The fourth stage, in the early eighteenth century, was provoked by the growth of libertine readings of Hinduism and la crise de le conscience européenne (the crisis of European conscience). While Bouchet’s letters to Huet were perhaps assimilable within Bernard and Picart’s deistic project, the letter to Bouchet was not. In it, Bouchet marshalled evidence from Jesuit encounters in India with oracles and others possessed by demons to support Baltus’s rebuttal of Bernard de Fontenelle’s (1657–1757) skeptical Histoire des oracles (1686). While Bouchet clearly sought to resist the disenchantment of the world by skeptical or libertine thinkers, the accounts of exorcisms in this and other Jesuit letters were also part of a pattern of reporting miraculous events which served to justify mission itself by comparing events in the missions with the experiences of the early church.45

The Carnatic mission was established in Pondichéry at a time when both the Capuchins and the Missions Étrangères de Paris were already active there. Disputes between the two orders were not resolved by the governor’s decision to make the Capuchins responsible for Europeans in Pondichéry while the Jesuits looked after Indians and sought new converts. The disputes came to a head over the Jesuits’ adoption of the accommodationist strategies of the Madurai mission and the rites quarrel was revived. As it had in the previous century, the rites debate fostered inquiries into the nature of Indian practices and their role in shaping Hindu identity. Although written some fifteen years earlier, Brito’s treatise was translated into French as “Relation des erreurs qui se trouvent dans la religion des gentils Malabars de la coste de Coromandel dans l’Inde” (Report on the errors found  in the religion of the Malabar Gentiles of the Coromandel coast in India). It was translated by Bouchet—who was chosen to represent the Jesuits’ position to the papal legate, Charles-Thomas Maillard de Tournon (1668–1710), appointed to adjudicate the question—and has therefore until recently been ascribed to him. Although Bouchet’s translation was completed before the resumption of the rites debate, Rubiés notes that it “became part of the repertoire in defence of accommodation” and was likely presented to Tournon while he was in Pondichéry.46

In 1704, Tournon issued a decree condemning certain “obscene, idolatrous, and superstitious” practices—mostly connected with life-cycle rites.47 Bouchet was sent to Rome to seek to have the decree overturned but he was not successful and Tournon’s decree was confirmed by papal bull in 1744. This moment has often been seen as the formal end of the rites debate but this is true only in hindsight. The superior of the Carnatic mission who in 1745 received instructions from the superior general to implement the papal decision was Gaston-Laurent Cœurdoux (1691–1779). His efforts to do so sparked resistance from the high castes in Pondichéry and the French governor was forced to intervene and impose a compromise.48 Cœurdoux had arrived in India in 1733 and would remain there until after the suppression, dying in Pondichéry in 1779. Two hundred years after his death, Sylvia Murr demonstrated that he was the true author of a celebrated work first published in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, in both English and French, by the Abbé Jean-Antoine Dubois (1766–1848).49 Dubois sold his text to the English East India Company and it became one of the most widely circulated texts on Indian religious beliefs and practices.50 Cœurdoux’s work is to be seen as both the crowning achievement of Jesuit Indology prior to the suppression and as an attempt to present caste as a civil institution, one not incompatible with the unity of Christian believers.

Determining Cœurdoux’s intentions is made more difficult by the fact that his original manuscript is lost. Murr demonstrates that both Dubois and a French artillery officer Nicolas-Jacques Desvaulx (1745–1823) must have had copies. Both made changes but Murr concludes that Desvaulx’s were restricted to shortening and “rejuvenating” the manuscript around 1777. This was shortly before Cœurdoux’s death and may have been done under his supervision.51 From Desvaulx’s manuscript, published by Murr, it is clear that the work was intended to serve a number of purposes. Murr argues that Cœurdoux was responding to Voltaire’s (1694–1778) attempts to use earlier Jesuit reports of Hinduism to establish Indian priority. He revises Bouchet’s (and Kircher’s) account of the diffusion of idolatry (via Egypt) and monotheism (via Moses) to India, pushing this back earlier to the dispersion of the sons of Noah after Babel. He provides Indian evidence for the flood—laboriously calculating the dates to show that “le deluge Indien prouve la Bible” (the Indian deluge proves the Bible).52 At the same time, the work was also intended to show that the experience of the remaining French Jesuits in India—who by this time had witnessed the defeat of the French in India at the hands of the British, the expulsion of the Jesuits from France, and finally the suppression of the Society—would be indispensable in guiding the young missionaries of the Missions Étrangères who had been sent to replace them.53

It should, however, not be overlooked that Cœurdoux’s account of caste is entirely consistent with what informed the Jesuit position in the rites debate. This has perhaps been obscured by the fact that one of the significant changes introduced by Dubois in his versions of Cœurdoux’s text was precisely to argue that “the foundation of all their customs is purely and simply religion.”54 This was of a piece with Dubois’s view that caste posed an insuperable obstacle to the conversion of Hindus.55 For Cœurdoux, however, caste was an ancient institution, comparable to the division of the French into three estates, and not peculiar to India but also found among the Israelites, where it was established by Moses, at God’s command, by adapting and perfecting “le Système politique de l’Egypte et de l’Arabie” (the political system of Egypt and Arabia).56 By the time of the final redaction of Cœurdoux’s text, around the time of the Society’s suppression, it was apparent that the Jesuits were in no position to contest the decisions of Tournon in 1704 or Benedict XIV (r.1740–58) in 1744. Nevertheless, Cœurdoux’s work has to be seen as a continuation and culmination of a particular Jesuit reading of Indian society and religion from the early seventeenth century.

If Cœurdoux’s work—in the guise of Dubois’s widely disseminated editions—was the most significant Jesuit intervention in the European debates on Hinduism, the second was undoubtedly the Ezour-Védam.57 A manuscript with this title, supposedly a French translation of a Sanskrit original, was presented to Voltaire in 1760 by a French officer. Believing—or choosing to believe—that it was a faithful translation of an authentic Indian scripture that pre-dated the New Testament, Voltaire seized on the Ezour-Védam as evidence for a form of monotheism uncorrupted by idolatry that had flourished in India prior to the culmination of the Christian revelation. A version of the text, drawn from both Voltaire’s manuscript and another obtained by Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (1731–1805), was published in 1778 as L’Ezour-Védam ou ancien commentaire du Vedam... Traduit du samscretan par un brame (The Ezour-Védam, or ancient commentary on the Vedam). Translated from Sanskrit by a Brahmin). Despite the fact that it was quickly identified by the French traveller Pierre Sonnerat (1748–1814) as “a book of controversy, written by a missionary” that dealt with material that is purāṇic, rather than Vedic, in character,58 it became a source for a number of European scholars who had long wished to have access to the Vedas.59 The reception of this text has been summarized brilliantly by Ludo Rocher. He reviews the arguments for the different Jesuits whose names have been attached to the text—Nobili, Jean Calmette (1692–1740), Antoine Mosac (1704–79), and a few others—before arguing that, rather than being a French translation of a Sanskrit original, the Ezour-Védam was composed in French with the intention that it then be translated into Telugu.60 For that reason it is probable that the text was written by one of the French Jesuits of the eighteenth century, even if it drew on knowledge of Hindu literature dating back to Nobili. Evidence of both Bengali and South Indian forms in the names cited in the text suggest that it was likely written by someone who had spent time in both the Bengal and the south Indian missions. Rocher mentions Pierre Martin (1665–1716) as one Jesuit who had spent time in both missions; another is Jean-François Pons (1698–1752/3) who had studied with Brahmin pandits in both Bengal and Tanjore.

The third significant contribution of the French Jesuits to European knowledge of Hinduism was their collection of almost three hundred Indian manuscripts around 1730. Although, as we have seen, the Jesuits had obtained Hindu texts as early as the 1540s, and sporadically thereafter, there is no evidence of a systematic attempt to collect such works. In the late 1720s, they set out to do so only in response to a commission from the royal librarian in Paris. Jean-Paul Bignon (1662–1743), titular abbot of Saint-Quentin-en-l’Isle, was appointed royal librarian—a post held by his father and grandfather—in November 1718. The library had fallen into disorder under his predecessor and Bignon was instructed to restore order and to make the library “more worthy of the magnificence of a great prince.”61 One of his first acts as librarian was to have Étienne Fourmont (1683–1745), professor of Arabic at the Collège royal, draw up a list of Oriental works to be acquired for the library.62 Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s (1619–83) earlier collections of Oriental manuscripts for the royal library had been focused primarily on texts relevant for biblical scholarship, although a wider interest in Oriental texts had also been driven in part by practical considerations arising from trade.63 Both Bignon and Fourmont, by contrast, were personally most intensely interested in Chinese texts. It was the need to demonstrate the full scope of the king’s “curiosity,” which meant that other texts, including Indian works, were sought.

In 1719, Fourmont, evidently drawing on the Dutch Calvinist Abraham Rogerius (c.1609–49), drew up a list of works to be obtained that included the Vedas, the Rāmāyaṇa, a pañcā kam or almanac, and the works of Bhartṛhari.64 China, however, took priority and the list of works was first sent there. It was not until November 1727 that Fourmont made efforts to obtain texts from India, at first through the Compagnie des Indes.65 The Compagnie’s “commandant général” in Pondichéry, Pierre-Christoph Lenoir (1683–1743), initially tried to obtain them through the Compagnie’s own networks but in September 1728 he turned to the Jesuits.66

A little less than two years earlier, in December 1726, the superior of the Jesuit Carnatic mission, Étienne Le Gac (1671–1738), had been asked by the Abbé Étienne Souciet (1671–1744), librarian and professor of mathematics at the Jesuit college Louis-le-Grand, to obtain copies of the Vedas.67 Le Gac had demurred, expressing doubts about the utility of sending texts no-one in Paris would be able to read. In the same year, he had also refused to sanction the purchase of a supposed translation of the Vedas that had been offered to Memmius René Gargam (1686–1754). Gargam thought the text would be of “very great use to all the missionaries [...]  in refuting the errors of the Gentiles,”68 but Le Gac— believing the text would be “useless for the conversion of souls”—again demurred, noting the mission’s always parlous financial condition.69 But in the face of the resources and authority of Bignon and Lenoir, Le Gac’s resistance finally gave way. Seven packets of manuscripts, collected both in the south and in Bengal, were despatched to Paris between 1729 and 1735.70 As well as Hindu manuscripts in Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu, the consignments also included printed Jesuit and Lutheran works in Tamil and Telugu, and some Persian manuscripts—mostly historical and literary works—collected in Bengal.71

The texts in Indian languages have been catalogued several times, the most complete treatment being Gérard Colas and Usha Colas-Chauhan’s Catalogue raisonné of the manuscripts in Telugu.72 The commissioning of the collections has been discussed by Colas, Jean-Marie Lafont, and Nicholas Dew,73 but a full treatment of the content, sources, rationale, and impact of the collections is wanting. Among the Hindu texts collected in the south were the first manuscripts of the Vedas to be sent to Europe (the sa hitās of the Ṛg, Yajur and Sāma Vedas), a part of Kampaṉ’s Tamil Rāmāyaṇa, the śatakas of Bhartṛhari (in Sanskrit with a literal translation into Telugu), as well as Tamil and Telugu works in various genres (dharmaśāstra, grammar, mythology, folktales, and didactic works). Some of these were in the form of prose digests in colloquial Telugu of classical works (both Telugu and Sanskrit). These are recorded in inexperienced handwriting on European paper; Colas suggests these likely represent recordings made by the Jesuits themselves of converts’ summaries in spoken Telugu of works which they had committed to memory.74

Sanskrit works were collected both in the south and in larger numbers in Bengal. Although these include some works in the same genres as those in Tamil and Telugu, they included also works of dharmaśāstra and many of philosophy, mostly Navya-Nyāya and Advaita Vedānta. From the south, Calmette sent works by Appaya Dīkṣita, a prominent sixteenth-century Śaiva intellectual, as well as Gaṅgeśa’s Tattvacintāma i, an influential thirteenth-century Sanskrit work on the sources of knowledge that Calmette described as containing “the full extent of their philosophy.” From Bengal, Pons sent nearly fifty philosophical works, including another copy of the Tattvacintāma i and other Navya-Nyāya works. It was on the basis of his study of these works that Pons made his only contribution to the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. This is a justly famous 1740 letter, which gives an overview of Sanskrit literature and, especially, of the orthodox schools of Hindu thought.75 Although many of these texts remain in Paris, Le Gac’s doubts about their utility were proven. In 1847, the Jesuit Julien Bach (1795–1872) commented wryly: “aucun indianiste n’est tenté d’en fair usage, et c’est de ces livres qu’on peut dire: Sacrés ils sont, car personne n’y touche” (No Indianist is tempted to use them, and it is of these books that one may say: they are sacred, for no-one touches them).76

A separate and very different Jesuit engagement with Hindu literature was taking place at the same time in the Tamil country. Here Costanzo Gioseffo Beschi (1680–1747) had mastered literary Tamil and produced his Tēmpāva i, an epic poem on the life of Saint Joseph, which recalls the works of Stephens and de la Croix a century earlier, as well as other works in simpler genres such as ammā ai.77 While the elevated style of Tēmpāva i reveals a deep familiarity with standard works of Tamil Hindu literature such as Kampaṉ’s Irāmāvatāram, Beschi did not produce any systematic response to Hinduism.78

After the Restoration: Recovering the Jesuit Past

The years that saw the decline and eventual suppression of the Society also witnessed the growth of British territorial power in India and the first scholarly studies of Hinduism by non-clerical authors. Even if, as Ângela Barreto Xavier and Županov argue, the emergent Company’s Orientalism was built on the ruined remains of Catholic Orientalism,79 by the time of the restoration the missionary moment had passed. While many Jesuits (and other missionaries) would make contributions to scholarship on Hinduism, they would never recover the pre-eminence they had enjoyed as authorities for European knowledge of Hinduism from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

Jesuits continued, however, to curate the history of their engagement with Hinduism particularly through the publication of primary sources from the early period. Notable in this respect are the works of Joseph Bertrand (1801–84), particularly his massive compilation La mission du Maduré (1847–54).80 The four volumes made available in print for the first time letters from the seventeenth century as well as many of the letters that had appeared in the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. Several new editions of the Lettres édifiantes had appeared between 1819 and 1843. Given the delicate situation of the Society in France, even after 1814, these editions emphasized more the curieux than the édifiant.81 Bertrand’s attempt to revive the series was less successful; only two volumes of the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses de la nouvelle mission du Maduré appeared. The remarks on Hinduism are superficial. In one of his own letters, Bertrand notes that while the first Jesuits had found many Brahmins learned in Sanskrit and the Vedas, their learning is now lost, as English offers the only route to employment. Their religion, like that of other Hindus, is now nothing more than “l’idolâtrie proprement dite, et l’idolâtrie la plus grossière” (idolatry itself, the very coarsest idolatry).82 In France, where Indology had been institutionalised for the first time with the establishment of a chair in Sanskrit at the Collège de France in 1815, Julien Bach staked a claim for the Jesuits as the founders of this new discipline.83 He drew attention to an unpublished letter on the Vedas by Louis de Bourzes (1673–1735), a French Jesuit in the Madurai mission, and to Calmette’s dispatch of the Veda sa hitās to Paris.84

For much of the twentieth century, Jesuits continued to dominate the historiography of the Jesuit encounter with Hinduism. Jean Castets (1858–1936), the last scholar to have seen the collection of texts that included the Ezour Vedam, published a study of them in 1935.85 Joseph Wicki (1904–93) edited a number of important early Jesuit accounts of Hinduism,  including those of Diogo Gonçalves and Gonçalo Fernandes Trancoso, as well as virtually all the letters of the sixteenth-century Jesuits.86 S. Rajamanickam published many of Nobili’s works—including two of his Latin treatises (with English translations) and several smaller works in Tamil.87 Soosai Arokiasamy examined Nobili’s understanding of the term dharma, and its use in contemporary Indian Catholic discourse following Vatican II.88

It was not until the last quarter of the twentieth century that historians outside the society provided substantial analyses of the Jesuit encounter with Hinduism. Murr’s study of Cœurdoux led the way, and was followed by a series of books by Županov, which include studies of many of the most significant Jesuit authors who wrote on Hinduism prior to the suppression of the Society.89 Both sought to move beyond celebratory or hagiographic approaches and to provide a more critical account of the extent to which Jesuit engagement with Hinduism yielded genuine understanding. Joan-Pau Rubiés’s studies of many of the same authors are distinguished by placing them within both the global context of Jesuit engagement with cultural diversity and within the trends of theological analysis of the other over the longue durée.90 More recently Ananya Chakravarti has examined Jesuits from different missions—in India, Thomas Stephens and Etienne de la Croix in Goa, and Baltasar da Costa in Madurai, and in Brazil—within the global space of the Portuguese empire.91

Ethnographic accounts of contemporary Indian Christianity and its complex interactions with aspects of popular Hinduism have flourished in recent years. Among these works, David Mosse’s The Saint in the Banyan Tree stands out for its use of Jesuit archival materials to examine the interactions between Christianity and caste society in India.92 It also examines the role of contemporary Jesuits, such as the former provincial of the Madurai Province, Fr. Francis Xavier, in the church’s response to Dalit Christian activism.

Jesuit Theological Engagement with Hinduism in the Twentieth Century

The most significant Jesuit contributions to the understanding of Hinduism made in the twentieth century have been explicitly theological studies. In the early part of the century these emerged from the “Calcutta School”—a group of Jesuit Indologists connected with St Xavier’s College in Kolkata. The first of these was William Wallace (1863–1922), who had first come to India as an Anglican missionary in 1889. Wallace’s encounter with Hinduism—and particularly with the works of the Hindu-Catholic, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (1861–1907)—at first left him disillusioned with the mission but eventually led him to return to India in 1901 as a Jesuit missionary. Clooney credits Wallace with “restoring in the twentieth century the intellectually and spiritually ambitious sensibility of the Jesuits.”93 Wallace in turn inspired Georges Dandoy (1882–1962) and Pierre Johanns (1882–1955), and a series of later Jesuits—both European and Indian—to a theological engagement with Hindu thought, especially Advaita Vedānta, within the frame of academic inquiry.94 Notable among the following generation of Jesuit scholars are Camille Bulcke (1909–82), Richard de Smet (1916–97), Mariasusai Dhavamony (1925– ), and John Vattanky (1931– ). Bulcke and de Smet, both Belgian Jesuits, came to India either side of the Second World War. Bulcke began his scholarly career with a dissertation on Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika but is known primarily for his work on the Ramcaritmānas, the Hindi Rāmāyaṇa of Tulsīdās.95 De Smet completed an influential but unpublished doctoral thesis on Śaṅkara that presented him as a theologian and not only a philosopher. De Smet later edited a series of articles on Hinduism by Jesuits, which first appeared as monthly letters in 1957–59, and were subsequently collected and expanded as Religious Hinduism: A Presentation and Appraisal by Jesuit Scholars.96 The work went through four editions and was translated into French, German, and Spanish. Dhavamony, a Tamil Jesuit, produced a pioneering study of Śaiva Siddhānta97 as well as works on Thomist thought. John Vattanky, a Jesuit from Kerala, established his reputation as a scholar of Nyāya with a study of Gaṅgeśa’s Tattvacintāma i, thus extending the trajectory of a Jesuit engagement with Hindu philosophy which reaches back through Pons and Calmette to Nobili.98

The next generation of Indian Jesuits continued to combine scholarly work on Hinduism with theological reflection. Francis X. D’Sa’s (1936–) doctoral thesis at Vienna—a study of the Mīmāṃsā philosophy of language in the principal commentators on Jaimini—was followed by a comparative theology of Hinduism and Christianity.99 Noel Sheth (1943–2017) received a Harvard doctorate on the divinity of Krishna as it develops from “rustic outlook” of the Hariva śa to the more refined theology of the Vi ṣṇ u Purā a and the Bhāgavata Purā a.100 Krishna—and more broadly the concept of avatāra—has drawn consistent attention from Jesuit scholars.101 Anand Amaladass published a series of translations from Sanskrit and Tamil, including Hindu texts as well as the works of earlier Jesuits such as Nobili and Beschi.102 The work of many of these scholars has been discussed by Francis X. Clooney in his recent Teape lectures, published as The Future of Hindu-Christian Studies. 103 Clooney himself is without doubt the leading contemporary Jesuit scholar of Hinduism. As well as several studies of earlier Jesuit engagements with Hinduism, he has made a distinctive contribution to comparative theology by reading closely side-by-side texts from the Hindu and Christian tradition.104

The rich historiography of the Jesuit encounter with Hinduism has broadened further as non-Jesuit scholars have begun to contribute to it in the last forty years. Much work remains to be done, however, particularly in relation to the Jesuit engagement with oral and folk traditions of popular Hinduism not represented in Brahminical literature. The demographic center of the Society of Jesuit now lies in South Asia,105 and it is to be expected, and hoped, that this shift will be reflected in new approaches to the five centuries of Jesuit encounter with Hinduism.


1 Richard Fox Young, “Francis Xavier in the Perspective of the Śaivite Brahmins of Tiruchendur Temple,” in Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Perspectives and Encounters, ed. Harold G. Coward (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1989), 64–79.

2 Epistolae S. Francisci Xaverii aliaque eius scripta, Vol. I (15351548), ed. Georg Schurhammer and Joseph Wicki. Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu (Rome: Apud “Monumenta Historica Soc. Iesu,” 1944), 171–73.

3 For opposing views of this period see Anant Kakba Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition (Bombay: A. K. Priolkar, 1961) and Anthony D’Costa, The Christianisation of the Goa Islands 1510–1567 (Bombay: A. D’Costa S.J., 1965).

4 Josef  Wicki, “Old Portuguese Translations of Marathi Literature in Goa: c.1558–1560,” Indica 12 (1975): 22–26 summarizes the Portuguese translations in Rome (ARSI, Goan. 46, fols. 348–94). There are also three codices in the Braga Public Library (771, 772, 773), which are described in L. A. Rodrigues, “Glimpses of the Konkani Language at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century. XIII: Ramayana and Mahabharata,” Boletim do Instituto Menezes Bragança 163 (1990): 43–72 and Panduronga Pissurlencar, “A propósito dos primeiros livros maratas impressos em Goa,” Boletim do Instituto Vasco da Gama 73 (1956): 55–79. The first two codices contain rough and fair copies of stories from the epics, all in Konkani. The third codex contains Marathi works, by Goan authors. One of these may be a version of, or a commentary on, Jñāneśvara’s Marathi version of the Bhagavad-Gītā.

5 See Valignano, Historia del principio y progresso de la Compañía de Jesús en las Indias orientales (1542–64), ed. Josef Wicki (Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 1944; 1584), 2:30–34 and Sebastião Gonca̧lves, Primeira parte da história dos religiosos da Companhia de Jesus, ed. Josef Wicki (Coimbra: Atlântida, 1957–62; 1614), 3:34–45, 62–65. Giovanni Pietro Maffei, who used Valignano’s history, mentions the name Parabrammam, identified in the Anādipurāṇa as the sole god (Historiarum Indicarum libri xvi [Florence, 1588], 27).

6 L. A. Rodrigues, “Glimpses of the Konkani Language at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century. VI: Pre-Portuguese Konkani Literature,” Boletim do Instituto Menezes Bragança 131 (1982): 3–23, here 18 and 22.

7 Nelson Falcao, Kristapura ̄ ṇa: A Christian-Hindu Encounter; A Study of Inculturation in the Kristapura ̄ ṇa of Thomas Stephens, S.J. (1549–1619) (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2003), 12–13.

8 For an overview of Jesuit accounts of Hinduism to this point see Rui Manuel Loureiro, “O descobrimento da civilização indiana nas cartas jesuıt́as [século XVI],” in Entre dos mundos: Fronteras culturales y agentes mediadores, ed. Berta Ares Queija and Serge Gruzinski (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1997), 299–327.

9 This date is proposed by Joan-Pau Rubiés in his Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: South India through European Eyes, 1250–1625 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 315.

10 Jarl Charpentier, The Livro da seita dos Indios orientais (Brit. mus. MS. Sloane 1820) of Father Jacobo Fenicio, S.J. (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksells, 1933); Josef  Wicki, ed., Diogo Gonçalves S.I., Historia do Malavar (Hs. Goa 58 des Arch. Rom S.I.) (Münster: Aschendorff, 1955); Josef  Wicki, ed. Tratado do Pe. Gonçalo Fernandes Trancoso sobre o Hinduıśmo (Madure 1616) (Lisbon: Centro de Estudos Históricos Ultramarinos, 1973).

11 Faria y Sousa and Baldaeus used different manuscripts of Fenicio. See Jarl Charpentier, “Preliminary Report on the “Livro da Seita dos Indios Orientais” (Brit. Mus. Ms. Sloane 1820),” Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies 2, no. 4 (1923): 731–54. See also the introduction to Albert Johannes de Jong, ed., Afgoderye der Oost-Indische Heydenen door Philippus Baldaeus (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1917).

12 Relatione d’alchune cose principali del regno de Bisnagà, Archivum​ ​Romanum​ ​Societatis​ ​Iesu​ ​[hereafter​ ​ARSI] Goan. 33 fols. 320r–325v. The text is published in Joan-Pau Rubiés, “The Jesuit discovery of Hinduism: Antonio Rubino’s Account of the History and Religion of Vijayanagara (1608),” Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 3 (2001): 210–56, here 243–55.

13 Rubiés, Travel and Ethnology, 318.

14 Wicki, ed., Historia do Malavar, xii; Josef Wicki, “Die ‘Historia do Malavar’ des P. Diogo Gonçalves S.I.: Ein Beitrag zur Indologie und Missiologie,” Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 14 (1945): 73–101, here 81.

15 Fenicio’s work similarly devotes a great deal of space to refutation of Hinduism, but these sections were omitted in Jarl Charpentier’s 1933 edition of the text.

16 Ines G. Županov, “Lust, Marriage and Free Will: Jesuit Critique of Paganism in South India (Seventeenth Century),” Studies in History 16, no. 2 (2000): 199–220, here 203. In 1543, Xavier sailed to Goa from the Fisher Coast with the governor Martim Affonso, who was returning from a planned (but aborted) attack on the Tirupati temple. 

17 Will Sweetman and R. Ilakkuvan, Bibliotheca Malabarica: Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg’s Tamil Library (Paris: École française d’Extrême Orient, 2012), 84–85.

18 For an overview of the historiography, as well as a significant new reading of the episode, see Paolo Aranha, “Sacramenti o saṃska ̄ ra ̄ ?: L’illusione dell’accommodatio nella controversia dei riti malabarici,” Cristianesimo nella storia 31 (2010): 621–46. Another historiographical summary is in Matteo Sanfilippo, “Roberto De Nobili: Un’introduzione,” in Roberto De Nobili (1577–1656) missionario gesuita poliziano: Atti del convegno Montepulciano 20 ottobre 2007, ed. Matteo Sanfilippo and Carlo Prezzolini (Perugia: Guerra Edizioni, 2008), 13–22, here 15–19.

19 Laerzio to Acquaviva, Nov. 20, 1609. ARSI, Goan. 53, fols. 1–18 translated in Joseph Bertrand, La mission du Maduré d’après les documents inédits, 4 vols. (Paris: Poussièlegue-Rusand, 1847–1854), 2:1–15.

20 It has been argued that what Nobili’s Brahmin and other high status converts had in common was that, at the time they met him, they were facing some form of economic or spiritual difficulty (Ines G. Županov, “Prosélytisme et pluralisme religieux: Deux expériences missionnaires en Inde aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles,” Archives de sciences sociales des religions 39, no. 87 [1994]: 35–56, here 46).

21 Nobili allowed converts to retain signs of their membership of the higher castes (wearing the sacred thread, marks on the forehead, a tuft of hair on an otherwise shaven head), to continue ceremonial bathing, to avoid the use of saliva during baptism, and to use the tāli (a necklace) rather than a ring as a sign of marriage. Fernandes’s letter is reprinted with a French translation in Pierre Dahmen, Robert de Nobili, l’apo ̂ tre des Brahmes: Première apologie, 1610; Texte inédit latin (Paris: Spes, 1931), 195–205.

22 “Responsio ad ea quae contra modum quo nova Missio Madurensis utitur ad ethnicos Christo convertendos obiecta sunt” (1610, ARSI, Goan. 51, fols. 125–44, published in Dahmen, Robert de Nobili); “Informatio, de quibusdam moribus nationis Indicae” (1613, ARSI, FG, 4001, fols. 43–83; 85–88 and 721 II/2, fol. 46, edited and translated into English in S. Rajamanickam, ed., Roberto de Nobili on Indian Customs [Palayamkottai: De Nobili Research Institute, 1972]); and “Narratio fundamentorum quibus Madurensis Missionis institutum caeptum est, et hucusque consistit” (1619, S. Rajamanickam, ed., Roberto de Nobili on Adaptation [Palayamkottai: De Nobili Research Institute, 1971]).

23 Giuseppe Marcocci, “Rites and Inquisition: Ethnographies of Error in Portuguese India (1560–1625),” in The Rites Controversies in the Early Modern World, ed. Ines G. Županov and Pierre-Antoine Fabre (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 145–64, here 151. Marcocci notes also the still earlier concern of the Portuguese Inquisition with the rites as “external signs” of apostasy among New Christians.

24 Fernandes’s treatise was edited by Josef Wicki under the somewhat misleading title Tratado do Pe. Gonçalo Fernandes Trancoso sobre o Hinduísmo (Madure 1616) (Lisbon: Centro de Estudos Históricos Ultramarinos, 1973). The title of Wicki’s earlier German summary of the text gives a more accurate indication of the content: Die Schrift des P. Gonçalo Fernandes S.J. über die Brahmanen und Dharma-Sastra (Madura 1616) (Münster: Aschendorff, 1957).

25 Wicki, Tratado, 7. For Śivadharma/Bonifacio’s role, see Margherita Trento, “Śivadharma or Bonifacio?: Behind the Scenes of the Madurai Mission Controversy (1608–1619),” in Županov and Fabre, Rites Controversies, 91–120.

26 Dahmen, Robert de Nobili; Jean Castets, La simple vérité sur la querrelle des rites Malabares (1703–1744) (Trichinopoly: St Joseph’s Industrial School Press, 1933). 

27 Augustine Saulière, “Fr. Roberto de Nobili, S.J., the First European Indologist,” in Indica: The Indian Historical Research Institute Silver Jubilee Commemoration Volume, ed. Balkrishna G. Gokhale (Bombay: St Xavier’s College, 1953), 372–76; S. Rajamanickam, The First Oriental Scholar (Tirunelveli: De Nobili Research Institute, 1972); Augustin Saulière and S. Rajamanickam, His Star in the East (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1995).

28 C. Joe Arun, “Religion as Culture: Anthropological Critique of de Nobili’s Approach to Religion and Culture,” in Interculturation of Religion: Critical Perspectives on Robert De Nobili’s Mission in India, ed. C. Joe Arun (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2007), 19–41; Paul M. Collins, “The Praxis of Inculturation for Mission: Roberto de Nobili’s Example and Legacy,” Ecclesiology 3, no. 3 (2007): 323–42; Jan Peter Schouten, “A Foreign Culture Baptised: Roberto de Nobili and the Jesuits,” Exchange 47, no. 2 (2018): 183–98.

29 Ines G. Županov, “Aristocratic Analogies and Demotic Descriptions in the Seventeenth-Century Madurai Mission,” Representations 41 (1993): 123–148.

30 Paolo Aranha, “The Social and Physical Spaces of the Malabar Rites Controversy,” in Space and Conversion in Global Perspective, ed. Giuseppe Marcocci et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 214–32, here 215.

31 Paolo Aranha, “Discrimination and Integration of the Dalits in Early Modern South Indian Missions: The Historical Origins of a Major Challenge for Today’s Christians,” The Journal of World Christianity 6, no. 1 (2016): 168–204, here 189.

32 Joan-Pau Rubiés, “Reassessing ‘the Discovery of Hinduism’: Jesuit Discourse on Gentile Idolatry and the European Republic of Letters,” in Intercultural Encounter and the Jesuit Mission in South Asia, ed. Anand Amaladass and Ines G. Županov (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2014), 113–55, here 125.

33 Jean-Claude Muller and Arnulf Camps, The Sanskrit Grammar and Manuscripts of Father Heinrich Roth S.J. 1620–1668: Facsimile Edition of Biblioteca Nazionale Rome Mss. or. 171 and 172 (Leiden: Brill, 1988). The texts are the Vedāntasāra of Sadānanda, dated around 1490, and the Pañchatattvaprakāśa, composed by Veṇīdatta in 1644. In 1671, Athanasius Kircher planned to publish the former, together with a Latin translation, which can only have been by Roth (Arnulf Camps, “Father Henrich Roth S. J. [1620–1688] and the History of His Sanskrit Manuscripts,” in Studies in Asian Mission History, 1956–1998 [Leiden: Brill, 2000], 90–102, here 97 and 99).

34 A shorter account of the nine principal Indian gods appeared independently (Heinrich Roth, Relatio rerum notabilium Regni Mogor in Asia [Aschaffenburg, 1665], 4–5).

35 A “Tentative List of the Principal Editions of the Jesuit Letters from India, 1542–1773” appears as an appendix to John Correia-Afonso, Jesuit Letters and Indian History (Bombay: Indian Historical Research Institute, 1955), 176–86.

36 Adrien Paschoud, “Apologetics, Polemics, and Knowledge in French Jesuit Culture: The Collection of the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses (1702–1776),” in Reporting Christian Missions in the Eighteenth Century: Communication, Culture of Knowledge and Regular Publication in a Cross-Confessional Perspective, ed. Markus Friedrich and Alexander Schunka (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017), 57–71.

37 Galaxis Borja González and Ulrike Strasser, “The German Circumnavigation of the Globe: Missionary Writing, Colonial Identity Formation, and the Case of Joseph Stöcklein’s Neuer Welt-Bott,” in Friedrich and Schunka, Reporting Christian Missions, 73–92.

38 John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits into Various Parts of the World: Compiled from their Letters…, 2 vols. (London, 1743).

39 Paschoud, “Apologetics, Polemics, and Knowledge,” 59.

40 Rubiés, “Reassessing ‘the Discovery of Hinduism,’” 135–41; Francis X. Clooney, Fr. Bouchet’s India: An 18th-Century Jesuit’s Encounter with Hinduism (Chennai: Satya Nilayam, 2005), 46–65.

41 Joan-Pau Rubiés, “From Antiquarianism to Philosophical History: India, China and the World History of Religion in European Thought (1600–1770),” in Antiquarianism and Intellectual Life in Early Modern Europe and China, 1500–1800, ed. Peter N. Miller and François Louis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 313–67, here 327.

42 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Monsieur Picart and the Gentiles of India,” in Bernard Picart and the First Global Vision of Religion, ed. Lynn Hunt, Margaret Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010), 197–214.

43 Joan-Pau Rubiés, “From Christian Apologetics to Deism: Libertine Readings of Hinduism, 1600–1730,” in God in the Enlightenment, ed. William J. J. Bulman and Robert G. Ingram (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 107–35, here 115.

44 Rubiés, “From Christian Apologetics to Deism,” 129–30.

45 Will Sweetman, “The Cessation of the Oracles: Authenticity and Authority in Jesuit Reports of Possession in South India,” in Amaladass and Županov, Intercultural Encounter and the Jesuit Mission in South India, 156–76.

46 Rubiés, “Libertine Readings of Hinduism,” 133.

47 For details see Gita Dharampal, La religion des Malabars: Tessier de Quéralay et la contribution des missionnaires Européens a la naissance de l’indianisme (Immensee: Nouvelle revue de Science missionnaire, 1982), 37–39.

48 Léon Besse, “Liste Alphabétique des Missionaires du Carnatic de la Compagnie de Jésus au XVIIIe siècle,” Revue historique de l’Inde franc ̧ aise 2 (1917/18): 175–241, here 199–200.

49 Sylvia Murr, L’Inde philosophique entre Bossuet et Voltaire, vol. I: Mœurs et coutumes des Indiens (1777); Vol. II: L’indologie du Père Cœurdoux (Paris: École française d’Extrême Orient, 1987).

50 The third edition, under the title Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, was published in 1906 by Oxford University Press with a laudatory preface by Friedrich Max Müller and went through ten printings by 1959. The text was translated by Henry Beauchamp from Dubois’s revised French manuscript (Jean-Antoine Dubois, Mœurs, institutions et cérémonies des peuples de l’Inde, 2 vols. [Paris: J. S. Merlin, 1825]).

51 Murr, L’Inde philosophique entre Bossuet et Voltaire, 1:56.

52 Murr, L’Inde philosophique entre Bossuet et Voltaire, 1:169.

53 Murr, L’Inde philosophique entre Bossuet et Voltaire, 1:58.

54 Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, 31. On the differences between Dubois’s and Cœurdoux’s accounts of caste see Will Sweetman, “Colonialism All the Way Down?: Religion and the Secular in Early Modern Writing on South India,” in Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formations, ed. Timothy Fitzgerald (London: Equinox, 2007), 117–34, here 120–23.

55 Jean-Antoine Dubois, Letters on the state of Christianity in India, in which the conversion of the Hindoos is considered as impracticable... (London, 1823).

56 Murr, L’Inde philosophique entre Bossuet et Voltaire, 2:14.

57 Ludo Rocher, Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1984).

58 Sonnerat, Voyage aux Indes orientales, cited in Rocher, Ezourvedam, 13.

59 Will Sweetman, “The Absent Vedas,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 139, no. 4 (2019), forthcoming.

60 Rocher, Ezourvedam, 71.

61 Jack A. Clarke, “Abbé Jean-Paul Bignon ‘Moderator of the Academies’ and Royal Librarian,” French Historical Studies 8, no. 2 (1973): 213–35, at 227.

62 Henri Auguste Omont, Missions archéologiques franc ̧ aises en Orient aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1902), 809.

63 See, for example, the account of Colbert’s efforts to establish a reliable supply of native French speakers of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian (Nicholas Dew, Orientalism in Louis XIV’s France [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009], 24–25).

64 Jean Filliozat, Bibliothèque nationale, Département des manuscrits: Catalogue du fonds sanscrit; Fascicule I, nos 1 à 165 (Paris: Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1941), i.

65 Filliozat, Bibliothèque nationale, ii.

66 Gérard Colas and Usha Colas-Chauhan, Manuscrits telugu: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1995), 7.

67 Le Gac to Souciet, 10 Oct 1727, Archives de la Province de France de la Compagnie de Jésus, Paris [hereafter AFSI], Fonds Brotier 88, fol. 115.

68 Gargam to Souciet, September 15, 1726, AFSI Fonds Brotier 82, fol. 72r.

69 Le Gac to Souciet, October 10, 1727, AFSI Fonds Brotier 88, fol. 115v.

70 The consignment notes are extant in manuscript (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Nouvelles acquisitions françaises [hereafter NAF], 5442) and were published by Henri Omont in 1902 along with extracts from the correspondence between the key figures in the commissioning and collecting of the texts (Missions archéologiques françaises en Orient, 806–51).

71 For a list of the last, see Francis Richard, Catalogue des manuscrits persans, vol. I: Ancien fonds (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1989), 19.

72 Colas and Colas-Chauhan, Manuscrits telugu. The consignment notes formed the basis for Fourmont’s account of these texts in the first volume of the catalogue of the Royal Library’s manuscripts published in 1739. Further catalogues covering at least parts of the collection were prepared by Alexander Hamilton and Louis Langlès (Paris, 1807; the published version excludes the section “Catalogue des manuscrits samskrits en caractères telingas,” in NAF 5440, fols. 28v ff.), Velanguani Arokium (ms. 1845; NAF 5443), Julien Vinson (Paris, 1867), Antoine Cabaton (1912), and Jean Filliozat (1941–70).

73 Gérard Colas, “Les manuscrits envoyés de l’Inde par les jésuites français entre 1729 et 1735,” in Scribes et manuscrits du Moyen-Orient, ed. François Déroche and Francis Richard (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1997), 345–62; Colas, “A Cultural Encounter in the Early 18th Century: The Collection of South Indian Manuscripts by the French Jesuit Fathers of the Carnatic Mission,” in Aspects of Manuscript Culture in South India, ed. Saraju Rath (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 69–80; Jean-Marie Lafont, “The Quest for Indian Manuscripts by the French in the Eighteenth Century,” in Indika: Essays in Indo-French Relations, 1630–1976 (New Delhi: Manohar, 2000), 90–118; Dew, Orientalism.

74 Colas, “Collection of South Indian Manuscripts,” 77–78.

75 See Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, “The French Institute of Indology in Pondicherry,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens 28 (1984): 133–47, here 133–35 and Will Sweetman, Mapping Hinduism: “Hinduism” and the study of Indian Religions, 1600–1776 (Halle: Verlag der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle, 2003), 142–45.

76 Julien Bach, “Notice sur la première découverte des Vedas,” Annales de philosophie chrétienne 35 (1847): 434–43, here 434. Lafont states that the texts were known to “far more people than was thought until today. These texts became known through clubs, associations and a network of contacts, often by word-of-mouth as the result of a public lecture given at some salon or academy, either in Paris or the provinces” (Jean-Marie Lafont, “India and the Age of Enlightenment, 1612–1849,” in Indika, 23–50, here 36). This would be fascinating, if true, but unfortunately Lafont cites no evidence for such dissemination.

77 Some of Beschi’s shorter works (such as Tirukka ̄ valu ̄ r Kalampakam and A ṉṉ ai A unkal Antāti) have recently been translated (Anand Amaladass, Gift of the Virgin Conch-Shell: Tirukka ̄ valu ̄ r Kalampakam by Constantine Joseph Beschi S.J. [Tiruchirappally: Golden Net Computers, 2018]; Anand Amaladass and S. V. Antony, Mother Mary’s Song of Affliction by Constantine Joseph Beschi S.J. [Tiruchirapalli: Tamil Literature Society, 2018]). It has sometimes been argued that Tēmpāva i must have been written by Beschi’s teacher, Cupratīpa a former court poet (kavirāyar). While Sascha Ebeling and Margherita Trento argue this question cannot be resolved with certainty, they point to elements of European Christian imagery in the poem, which suggest that “it could not have been excogitated by a Tamil poet alone” (Sascha Ebeling and Margherita Trento, “From Jesuit Missionary to Tamil Pulavar: Costanzo Gioseffo Beschi SJ (1680–1747), the ‘Great Heroic Sage,’” in L’Inde et l’Italie: Rencontres intellectuelles, politiques et artistiques, ed. Tiziana Leucci, Claude Markovits, and Marie Fourcade (Paris: Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2018), 53–89, here 65.

78 His other works include grammars of both classical and colloquial Tamil, dictionaries, and a series of polemics directed against the Protestant missionaries who had arrived in the Tamil country just a few years before he did. For a list of his works see Ebeling and Trento, “Jesuit Missionary to Tamil Pulavar,” 73–76.

79 Ângela Barreto Xavier and Ines G. Županov, Catholic Orientalism: Portuguese Empire, Indian Knowledge (16th–18th Centuries) (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015), esp. ch. 8 “Archives and the End of Catholic Orientalism.”

80 Bertrand, La mission du Maduré. On Bertrand, see Sabina Pavone, “The Province of Madurai between the Old and New Society of Jesus,” in Jesuit Survival and Restoration: A Global History, 1773–1900, ed. Robert A. Maryks and Jonathan Wright (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 331–50.

81 Helge Wendt, “The Lettres édifiantes et curieuses: The Politics of History in Different Nineteenth-Century Editions,” in Missions and Media: The Politics of Missionary Periodicals in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Felicity Jensz and Hanna Acke (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2013), 97–112.

82 Joseph Bertrand, ed. Lettres édifiantes et curieuses de la nouvelle mission du Maduré (Paris, 1865), 1:290–91.

83 On the role of the manuscripts collected by the Jesuits in the emergence of Sanskrit scholarship in France, see Gérard Colas, “Les traditions sanskritistes de la mission du Carnate: Entre oubli et réinvention,” in Le sanctuaire dévoilé: Antoine-Léonard Chézy et les débuts des études sanskrites en Europe 1800–1850, ed. Jérôme Petit and Pascale Rabault-Feuerhahn (Paris: Editions de la BnF, 2019), 17–37.

84 Bach, “Notice sur la première découverte des Vedas.” A second article made the case for ascribing the Ezour-Védam to Calmette (Bach, “Notice sur l’Ezour-Vedam et sur les autres Pseudo-Vedas,” Annales de philosophie chrétienne 37 [1848]: 59–67). The articles were reissued twenty years later in the form of a book on Calmette: Le Père Calmette et les missionnaires indianistes (Paris, 1868). On Bourzes’s letter see also Sweetman, “Absent Vedas.”

85 Jean Castets, L’Ezour védam de Voltaire et les pseudo-védams de Pondichery: Voltaire et la mystification de l’Ezour Vedam; Découverte des pseudo-védas de Pondichéry (Pondichéry: Impr. moderne, 1935).

86 Joseph Wicki, ed., Documenta Indica, 18 vols. (Rome: Institutum historicum Societatis Iesu, 1948–88).

87 Rajamanickam, Adaptation; Rajamanickam, Indian Customs; For a list of Nobili’s Tamil works edited by Rajamanickam see Saulière and Rajamanickam, His Star in the East, 472–74. Anand Amaladass and Francis X. Clooney republished the English text of Indian Customs, as well as English translations of two shorter Tamil works (Preaching Wisdom to the Wise: Three Treatises by Roberto de Nobili, S.J., Missionary and Scholar in 17th Century India [St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2000]).

88 Soosai Arokiasamy, Dharma, Hindu and Christian, according to Roberto de Nobili: Analysis of Its Meaning and Its Use in Hinduism and Christianity (Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1986).

89 Iñes G. Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999); Županov, Missionary Tropics: The Catholic Frontier in India (16th–17th Centuries) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005); Xavier and Županov, Catholic Orientalism.

90 In addition to those works cited above, see also Rubiés, Travel and Ethnology, ch. 9, “The Missionary Discovery of South Indian Religion: Opening the Doors of Idolatry.”

91 Ananya Chakravarti, “The Many Faces of Baltasar da Costa: Imitatio and accommodatio in the Seventeenth-Century Madurai Mission,” Etnográfica 18, no. 1 (2014): 135–58; Chakravarti, The Empire of Apostles: Religion, accommodatio and the Imagination of Empire in Modern Brazil and India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

92 David Mosse, The Saint in the Banyan Tree: Christianity and Caste Society in India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

93 Francis X. Clooney, “Alienation, Xenophilia, and Coming Home: William Wallace, SJ’s From Evangelical to Catholic by Way of the East,” Common Knowledge 24, no. 2 (2018): 280–90, here 288.

94 Sean Doyle, Synthesizing the Veda: The Theology of Pierre Johanns, S.J. (Bern: Peter Lang, 2006).

95 Ra ̄ makatha ̄ (Allahabad: Hindī Pariṣad, 1950).

96 Richard V. De Smet and Josef Neuner, eds. Religious Hinduism: A Presentation and Appraisal by Jesuit Scholars (Allahabad: St. Paul Publications, 1964). For Smet’s work, see Bradley J. Malkovsky, “The Life and Work of Richard V. De Smet, S. J.,” in New Perspectives on Advaita Veda ̄ nta Essays in Commemoration of Professor Richard De Smet, S.J. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 1–17.

97 Mariasusai Dhavamony, Love of God According to Śaiva Siddha ̄ nta: A Study in the Mysticism and Theology of Śaivism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971).

98 John Vattanky, Ga geśa’s Philosophy of God (Madras: Adyar Library, 1984). Nobili cites Tattvacintāma i in his first apology (Willem Caland, De ontdekkingsgeschiedenis van den Veda [Amsterdam: Johannes Müller, 1918], 333).

99 Francis X. D’Sa, Śabdapra ̄ ma ̄ ṇyam in Śabara and Kuma ̄rila: Towards a Study of the Mīm̄ a ̄ ṃsa ̄ Experience of Language (Vienna: Institut für Indologie, 1980); D’Sa, Gott, der Dreieine und der All-Ganze: Vorwort zur Begegnung zwischen Christentum und Hinduismus (Düsseldorf: Patmos, 1987).

100 Noel Sheth, The Divinity of Krishna (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1984). Krishna’s exploits in the Bhāgavata Purā a, as interpreted in Vallabha’s commentary, were also the focus of James D. Redington’s doctoral thesis (Vallabācārya on the Love Games of K ṛṣṇ a [Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983]).

101 Ishanand Vempeny, Kṛṣṇa and Christ: In the Light of Some of the Fundamental Concepts and Themes of the Bhagavad Gītā and the New Testament (Pune: Ishvani Kendra, 1988); Francis X. D’Sa, “Die christliche Inkarnation und das hinduistische Avatara,” Concilium 29, no. 2 (1993): 146–52; Noel Sheth, “Hindu Avatāra and Christian Incarnation: A Comparison,” Philosophy East and West 52, no. 1 (2002): 98–125.

102 Anand Amaladass and Richard Fox Young. The Indian Christiad: A Concise Anthology of Didactic and Devotional Literature in Early Church Sanskrit (Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1995); Amaladass, Tattavatrayavya ̄ khya ̄ nam: Maṇava ̄ ḷama ̄ muni’s Commentary on Piḷḷai Loka ̄ ca ̄ rya’s Tattvatrayam (Madras: Satya Nilayam Publications, 1995); Amaladass, Refutation of Rebirth: Punarjanma A ̄ kṣepam by Robert de Nobili S. J. (Chennai: Tamil Literature Society, 2019).

103 Francis X. Clooney, The Future of Hindu–Christian Studies: A Theological Inquiry (New York: Routledge, 2017).

104 Clooney, Seeing through Texts: Doing Theology among the Srivaisnavas of South India (Albany: State University of New York, 1996); Clooney, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Clooney, Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008); Clooney, Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019).

105 Thomas P. Gaunt, SJ. “By the Numbers: Jesuit Demography,” Nineteen Sixty-four (September 1, 2015), (accessed September 22).

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