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Padre Henrique Henriques

- S.Rajamanickam

 Alexandro Valignano

The famous Italian Jesuit Alexandro Valignano, Visitor for India and Japan (1573-83), Provincial of India (1583-87) and again visitor until his death in 1606, arrived in Goa in 1574.
The following year he visited the Pearl Fishery Coast of Tamilnad and took with him to Gon Fr. Henrique Henriques. The Provincial Congregation of the Jesuits in India was held in Goa in 1575. There it was decided among other things that various works of instruction should be prepared for the native Christians including (1) a Catechism, (2) a Confessionary, (3) a Christian Doctrine and (4) a Book of Lives of Saints.

 Valignano, who presided over the meeting, deplored the fact that not even a short catechism was available to the native Christians.' Of course there was the Cartilha 2 containing a short Tamil Catechism printed in Lisbon in 1554. But as it was in Roman characters it was of no use to the Tamil Paravas. So Valignano ordered Fr. Henriques to prepare those four books in Tamil, and to make it convenient for him to do that work, he relieved him of his job of Jesuit Superior over the Pearl Fishery Coast (Pescaria was the term the Portuguese used for this region), an office he held for over twenty years. Henriques refers to this order in his Spanish preface to his Tamil Flos: " And so by the order of the same Provincial (Valignano), I kept busy composing some books in the same language which were afterwards printed."

Dr. Joam Gonsalves

Further Valignano enjoined on the Jesuit lay-brother Joam Gonsalves the difficult task of making the Tamil types. Gonsalves, whom some call a Portuguese while others call him a Spaniard,3 was born in 1525, entered the Society of Jesus in Lisbon in 1555, took the simple vows in Goa in 1557 and was there in 1575 as a kind of smith, ` Prefectus fabricae domesticae et faber ferrarius'. Being in feeble health he was prematurely worn out and died in 1578.4 That is all we know about the man who made the first types in Tamil. To help him with the design of the Tamil types, Pero Luis, the first Indian Jesuit, went to Goa. Concerning this work of Gonsalves, Henriques has the following in the same preface: Moreover on the advice of the Father Provincial of India, a Brother of the Society, who before joining it was a high Government official, succeeded in making a Malabar printing press, working diligently with his own hand and at the cost of great labour". 5 We have an exact impression of those letters on the last page of Thampiran:கோவையில் உண்டாக்கின எழுத்து (koovaiyil untaakkina ezhuththu): 'Esta letra se fez em Goa: no ano de LXXVII' (These letters were made in Goa in 1577) 6 We have given a photastat of that page in the Tamil Flos we edited (p.xxiii).  Surely some book or other must have been printed with those letters made by Joam Gonsalves. Sacchini in his history of the Society of Jesus says that already in 1577 a Catechism in Tamil was printed with the types made by Br. Gonsalves, whom he calls a Spaniard.7 This is confirmed by contemporary evidence of IIenriques, who writes from Tuticorin on December, 1577, saying that the Malabar (Tamil) catechism was being printed thanks to the endeavours of the Visitor.8 Unfortunately no such printed book has come down to us.

Joam de Faria

The earliest printed books we have are printed not with the types of Br. Gonsalves but with those made by Fr. J. Faria in Quilon in the following year (i.e. 1578). These letters of Faria are placed below the letters of Br. Gonsalves on the same page we referred to above, obviously to show the improvement over them. They have the heading: " Letra feita em Coulam: no ano de LXXVIII " (" These letters were made in Quilon in 1578: கொல்லத்தில் உண்டாக்கின எழுத்து - kollathil untaakkina ezhuththu). These letters are definitely better than those made in Goa and all the three books (Thampiraan vaNakkam, Kiriicitlathiyaani vartakkam, and the Tamil Flos Sanctorum, whose Tamil title has been lost) have been printed with these types.
We have re-edited these works and shall say something about them later. Fr. Thani Nayagam has written a fine article on these books.9 We do not know much about Faria.10
Fr. Schurhammer gives the following details: He entered the Society (of Jesus) in 1563, studied Latin for four years and moral theology one year and was ordained priest in Goa in 1575 at the age of thirty-six. According to the historian Sommervogel 11 Faria was born in 1539, arrived in Goa about 1572 and died there in 1581. We know that the Tamil Flos was printed in 1586, as the preface testifies to that fact. After the death of Faria, Fr. John de Bustamente, who, according to the historian Wicki,l2 was in India from 1563 under the name of Rodrigues, might have printed it. What happened to the Tamil press after his death, we do not know. Perhaps the Dutch destroyed it. For two centuries there is no printing until it is resumed in Ambalacat by Ignacio Archamon, an Indian mechanic.

However the printing is poorer than the one we find in the sixteenth century, because the types used are made of wood, whereas the first types made by Gonsalves and Faria were metallic. It is in these wooden types that the first three volumes of Nobili's Catechism were printed as well as the Tamil-Portuguese dictionary of Fr. Proenga. This may be easily verified by looking at the photostats we have of those volumes as well as by looking at the Tamil-Portuguese dictionary edited by Fr. Thani Nayagam in photostat form.13

Henrique Henriques

So far we spoke about the effort of Valignano to edit Tamil books: on the one hand he ordered Fr. Henriques to write the books and on the other he asked Br. Joam Gonsalves to prepare the types; Faria and Bustamente continued the work left undone by Gonsalves.

Now we shall speak of the part Henriques played in the printing work. The Tamil press owes its beginning so much to him that he may be called the "father of the Tamil Press". He it was who collected the necessary funds from the Paravas, who generously contributed 400 cruzados towards it; l4 he sent also the first Indian Jesuit, Pero Luis. to Goa to give the design for the Tamil letters; he wrote several books and got them printed with great care; not all of them have come down to us but we are sure that at least four were printed: Thampiramr vaNakkarn, Kiriiciththiyaani valvakkam, Confessionario (in Tamil: Kompeciyoonaayaru), and the Flos Sanctorum in Tamil, whose title has not come down to us, though we have the whole book. Here we shall give a short account of the man who is so much responsible for the Tamil press and who was the first westerner to make a systematic study of the Tamil language.

Henriques was born at Vila Vicosa in Portugal in 1520. He joined the Franciscans but had to leave them as he was descended from Jewish parents. He studied Canon Law in the University of Coimbra till 1545. Then he joined the Society of Jesus as a deacon after leaving to the poor his property, which amounted to 4,000 crusados. He was ordained
priest in the following year and sailed for Goa. There lie remained till the beginning of 1547, when St. Francis Xavier sent him to look after the Christians of the Fishery Coast. Here he spent all his life except for brief intervals. He died at Punnaikayal on February 6, 1600. The Jesuit Annual Letter for 1601 has this about him: 15
" In the Church of Tutucurim is buried our good Fathar Anrique Anriques, who died last year. He was one of' the first Fathers that came to this Coast and was like an Apostle of this whole Christian community. The devotion which these Christians have for him is so great that I cannot describe it. There is nothing to wonder at the Christians doing this, who were brought up by him and and nurtured in the Faith for so many years, when the Moors and the Hindus who were not such beneficiaries, showed and go on showing him so great a devotion that one cannot but praise the Lord for it. At Puncali (Punnaikayal) further they consider their oath most solemn and binding when they swear by Father Anriques. Moreover on the day he died all the Muslims of the neighbouring village Patanam (Kayal­pattanam) fasted; the Hindus also of the neighbouring places fasted two days and closed all their shops and bazaars to express their grief over the death of the good and holy old man. So great was the respect and consideration every one had concerning his holiness."

When his body was taken to Tuticorin "in his company went seven tonis full of people and at the landing it was hard work to remcw c the multitude on account of the great concourse of these that wanted to touch the corpse with their rosaries and tried to get something of' him to keep it as relic." There is no doubt that he was buried in the church of our Lady of Snows at Tuticorin. But as there were many wars and violent changes during which Churches were destroyed, w c are not able to locate his grave. Perhaps the bones which were I:cpt in a glass case and are still preserved in that church are his.

Thanks to his literary activity Henriques has gained for himself a permanent and an important place in Tamil literature. He was the first grammarian of the spoken dialect. Many people imagine that Fr. Beschi was the first to write such a grammar; few know that before Beschi there were people like Ziegenbalg, Balthasar da Costa, Fr. Aguilar and Henrique Henriques.

Henriques was also the first lexicographer. All the missionaries who came immediately after him made use of the grammar and dictionary written by Fr. Henrique,. He presided over a school of Tamil studies and taught the foreigners Tamil in a systematic way. Though his dictionary and grammar arc not now available, his printed works which remain, the first of tile kind in Tamil, will always be remembered and treasured with pride and affection. It will be interesting to know how this great man picked up Tamil so well. Happily for us we have an account of it from his own mouth recorded in a letter he writes from Vembar dated 31-10-1548 to St. Ignatius.

" Since Father Master Francis orders me to give you a minute account of' myself, let your Reverence know that as soon as I came to this Coast, 1 began to learn to speak and read the language, but it wits so difficult that I despaired of ever being able to master it, and so I gave it up and on account of the difficulty. I always used  a topaz (interpreter). So when Father Master Francis came from the Moluccas in the month of February 1548, I did not know more than two words of Tamil. At that time my interpreter having left me to attend to other business I decided to learn the language, and day and night I made it my only occupation, without however omitting to visit the places entrusted to me, and God was pleased to help me greatly.

I discovered a sort of method to learn: Just as in Latin they learn the conjugations, so I did in this language; I conjugated the verbs, learning the preterites, the futures, the infinitives, subjunc­tives etc. This cost me much labour; I learnt also the accusatives, genitives, datives and the other cases. And so l came to know which is to be put first, whether the verb, or the noun and the pronoun. I learned it all in a short time, so that when I speak to these people in their language, they are greatly astonished that I should have learned it in such a short time.

There are some Portuguese who for four, five or six years have been speaking some words of the language, but when they want to use the present they use the future, and they do not know which is which. When the people of the country hear me speaking their language using the proper moods, tenses, and persons. they are astonished; and they are still more amazed, when they see that in five months I have made such progress; they say that I could not do that by natural means.
 I have learned to read and to write as well, and Father Master Francis orders me to send you a written ola. It is now three or four months that I do not use any interpreter. I speak and preach to them in the same tongue, and as the pronunciation is very difficult and very different from ours, at times all do not understand me, and therefore when I have given an instruction in the Church, I ask some one else to repeat it in Malabar (Tamil) and in the same words, so that all may understand better, but in a few months with God's help, I shall not be in need of such help and I shall speak in such a way that all will understand me. I have no interpreter here who knows how to state clearly our doctrine; the Father says one thing, and the interpreter often says another. . . . With God's help, I shall execute Father Master Francis's command to make a kind of Grammar of this language, so that the Fathers may easily learn it. I shall insert in it the conjugations and declensions, and the rules of grammar which are very useful whether you speak through an interpreteror ot in the language itself."
Further, in his Spanish preface to the Flos Sanctorum in 1586, he says that he has already written about Grammar: "Thirty seven years ago, Holy Obedience sent me with other Fathers of the Society to preach and administer the Sacraments to the said Christians; during that time I have made a very careful study of this language with the desire of helping those Christians; and at the cost of much labour, and by God's grace, I came to know it well enough to write a grammar of that language."

Calendar Change

The Tamil Calendar, which begins somewhere in April, does not agree with the Gregorian or Julian Calendar, which is followed all over the world, particularly in Christian liturgy. So feasts like Christmas which fall on a definite day (Dec. 25) in the Gregorian calendar cannot be permanently fixed on a definite day in the Tamil Calendar.
This created a problem for the early missionaries. Fr. Henriques (1520-1600) sent by St. Francis Xavier to work among the Paravas of the Pearl Fishery Coast was, so far as we know, the first to tackle this problem and find out a practical solution. He examined carefully the Indian Calendar and noted which Tamil months corresponded to which Gregorian months.
Thai, the Tamil month, more or less corresponded to January. So he made it identical to January, giving it the same number of days and also making it begin on the same day as January. The next month, Maaci, was made to correspond to February and got 29 days in leap years and 28 in ordinary years. Similarly the other months were made to correspond to each other. We give below the table of correspondences between the calendars as given by Fr. Henriques in his Tamil Flos Sanctorum printed in 1586.16
31 days
31 days
28 (29)

 According to this system it was very easy to fix immovable feasts in the Tamil Calendar. Christmas fell always on Maarkazhi 25, Assumption on AavaNi 15, Circumcision on Thai l, etc. All the missionaries who came after him followed this system and we are told that it is still followed in Ceylon and in coastal Churches where Henriques worked. But in the interior, where the Hindus were in the majority, this system was never accepted and the old Tamil calendar was the only one in use. Missionaries who were working there, had to struggle with two different calendar without being able to find any correspondence between them.

Father Beschi solved this problem by finding a concordance between the two calendars in his treatise " De Annis ac Mensibus Tamulicis" (Tamil months and years). Unless you have those tables which Beschi gives it is impossible to find out a particular date off hand. The system of Henriques, though not accepted by the Hindus, is very easy. Any child can find out the Tamil date from the Roman Calendar, because it keeps the same months with the same number of days and changes only the foreign names of the months by the Tamil months. This system is so simple that one may wonder whether there was any need for Fr. Henriques to formulate such a system. Here perhaps we have a clear case of the genius finding out the obvious.

Works of Henriques

The annual letter for the year 1600 gives the following as the work of Henriques:
(1) Lives of the Principal saints, (2) Manual for Confession, (3) Christian Doctrine-Translation of Marcus George's book in Portu­guese, (4) A life of Christ (till the ascension). The annual letter for the following year 1601 speaks of a few more books: (5) Tamil Grammar, (6) Tamil-Portuguese Dictionary, (7) Another book refuting the fables of the Gentiles and in defence of the Divine Religion. Besides these he has written about 60 letters. Their list is given in our second edition of the Flos (pp. 706 ff.). He has also written a treatise consisting of thirteen chapters on the " Brotherhood of Love " (" Confraria da Caridade "), which is even now prevalent in the coastal areas. As far as the Tamil works are concerned, only two of them are now available, i.e. nos. (1) and (3).
There is also another book which is available, though it is not mentioned in the list above. The name of this book is Thampiraan vaNakkam. All the items found there are incorporated in (3), Kiriiciththiyaani vaNakkanz. That may be the reason why it is not mentioned separately. We had the privilege of editing Thampiraa vaNakkarrv and Kiriiciththiyaani varraklzam under the common titlen Yarlakkam in 1963. This year (1967) we have edited (1) under the name ATiyaar varalaatzt. The original title has been lost, as the only copy that was available has the introductory and title pages missing. Henriques must have spent several years on this work, as it runs to 668 printed pages. We have added about two hundred pages of notes to the text. As Fr. Thani Nayagam has given a detailed description of these books in the article he wrote for Tamil Culture '17 we shall say no more about them here.

Henrique's Contribution

Henriques was the first European Tamil scholar we know of. During his time there were some Portuguese who knew Tamil, like Anloni Criminali, and Pray Joam de Condem who supervised the first Cartilha printed in 1554. Still so far as we knwo. none of them had a grasp of the Tamil language and made a systematic study as Henriques did.
It is thanks to Henriques that we have the first Tamil grammar of the spoken dialect; further, he it was, who compiled the first Tamil dictionary. Moreover he conducted a school of Tamil studies at Punnaikayal and persuaded the Portuguese to speak and write in Tamil and even to punish themselves in case they used Portuguese words by mistake instead of Tamil words. He collected funds for the first Tamil Press and printed Tamil books as early as 1578. It is due to him that Tamil is privileged to be the first non-European language to go to the press in its own characters.
Moreover he is the first prose writer in Tamil. His works had the unique distinction of being printed in his life-time. They may not be classics, but still they will always be treasured by all lovers of Tamil literature, as they are the first Tamil books which were printed. By these works and also by his devoted service in Tamil Nad for more than fifty years, he won the hearts of the Tamil people and has merited for himself a permanent place in Tamil literature. He will always be known as the " father of the Tamil Press " and a pioneer in Tamil prose. Further, his works will be of great interest to linguistics as these works are the earliest record we have of the spoken dialect.

1 Georg Schurhammer, " The First Printing ", Orientalia, Lisboa, 1963, p. 319.
2.This booklet has been re-edited by Dr. J. Filliozat under the title, Un Catechisme tamoul du XVle siecle era lettres latines (Institut Franqais d'Indologie, Pondichery, 1967)).
3 Schurhammer, op. cit., p. 317, note 2, and p. 318, note 3.
6 Ibid., p. 318, and Ariyaar varalaatu, p. xx. [ATiyaar varalaatu = g. O7rra
corrvoaflj;,%rb (ed.), A6darrq_4wa Aul.a6rrrrr'r 0wb,rr~w Flos Sanctorum 6rsbrp wul.wrrri ar7Gurr,9; ,5relbb ar2l6uA@w& ffbDarb. &TAUa*5r4-. 1967.1
5 Ariyaar varalaatu, p. LXX.
6. Ibid., p. xxiii.
7. Schurhammer, p. 316, note 2.
8. Ibid., p. 319.
9 Xavier S.Thaninayagam " The First Books printed in Tamil ", TC VII (1958), pp. 288-308.
10.Schurhammer, p. 318.
11. Ibid.
12. Ariyaar varalaatu, p. xx.
13. Anttao de Procenca's Tamil-Portuguese Dictionary, A.D.. 1679, prepared for publication by Xavier S. Thani Nayagam, Department of Indian Studies, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, 1966.
14.Schurhammer, p. 319.
15.Ariyaar varalaatu, p. xii.
16.Ariyaar varalaatu, p. 668.
17. see note 9.

Source : Tamilnation

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