13 July, 2024


The Jaffna Version Of The Tamil Bible: By Peter Percival Or Arumuka Navalar?

By Dushyanthi Hoole and S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole –

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. Dushyanthi Hoole


We Tamils of Sri Lanka were in the news as the UNHRC in March 2013 discussed and passed a resolution on minority rights and accountability over alleged war crimes against us. Many Tamils demanding that Sri Lanka respect the rights of minorities were the very people who as supporters of the LTTE suppressed Tamil rights. As we Tamils rightly accuse the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka of rewriting history and school texts to cast Tamils as invaders and the Sinhalese as settlers,[i] it is good to ask if we Tamils too do not exhibit similar tendencies: particularly the idea that Tamil and Saivism are indivisible. Thus anything good in Tamil must have Saivite inspiration. A case in point is that of our ancestor Rao Bahadur C.W. Thamotharampillai, one of the greatest Tamil scholars, despite whose baptismal records, Tamil school readers[ii] teach that he was a Hindu who pretended to be a Christian for privileges[iii] – and our children had to sit through this at Christian mission schools as if in a Nazi classroom!

In this paper we discuss the claiming of much the accomplishments of the Methodist (later Anglo-Catholic) Missionary and Tamil scholar, The Rev. Prof. Peter Percival, particularly in revising an existing translation of the Tamil Bible, for the Saiva revivalist from Jaffna Arumuka Navalar. It is further untruthfully claimed that Percival learnt his Tamil from Navalar. It is also taught in schools, that he translated the first Tamil Bible for Percival. This latter myth is so fully swallowed that even Christian Today[iv] and the Madras Hindu have repeated these untruthful claims as fact.[v] Since I pointed out the presence of other full previous translations, Christian Today has maintained an embarrassed silence while the Hindu has graciously published a correction.[vi]

In conclusion therefore we take up Tamil attitudes to history. The history of Arumuka Navalar has been commandeered to service Saiva Vellala egos so much that little of it can be believed.[vii] These mythical histories cannot be questioned because those who do, do so at their own peril and are accused of attacking the Hindu religion when the debate is really about recent history. But it is heritage history that is emotional.[viii] The nature of heritage histories is such that an article we have written on this subject of Navalar[ix] is being questioned as made up from fiction (in a case of projection) so it has become necessary for us to retell that story with precise references. We do that here.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Percival (24 July 1793 – 11 July 1882) and the Percival Bible

The Percival Bible or Jaffna Bible, formally the Tentative Union Version of the Tamil Bible, was published in 1850 by the American Mission Press from Madras. The word Tentative was used because when the British Bible Society authorised in 1845 the revision by the Jaffna Auxiliary of the Bible Society under Percival of the then existing translation, the Madras Auxiliary was doubtful that Jaffna had the scholarship for the task and had been blocking Percival’s efforts till then.  Percival’s product is historically one of the most abused and misunderstood books.  That it was mainly Percival’s revision of an existing translation, his magnum opus, is evident from his own letter to his parent missionary society at the time, the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (WMMS), dated July 6th, 1849[x] where he records that he was gifted a mahogany desk with a brass plate with the following inscription:

“Presented to the Rev. P. Percival, on the occasion of his completing, after three years of unwearied labour, his Translation into Tamil of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament [sic.], by his affectionate friend and brother, John E. S. Williams. Jaffna, July 5th, 1849.”

Table 1: A Comparison of the Revised Rhenius Translation (1840) and its Revision by Percival (1850): Nominal Changes

That is, the revised translation was approximately from July 1846 to July 1849 and we shall return to this. Although Williams uses the word translation, we do know from the minutes of the Jaffna Auxiliary that what they proposed in seeking permission to revise the Bible was this: “Mr. Rhenius’ translation is the basis of the version, which we propose, as that which be uniformly adopted for the Tamil people.”

Indeed, a Bible translation can be revised in three years but not completely translated afresh. We reproduce in Table 1 the first few verses of the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis, to show that the changes from Rhenius were nominal as befits a revision. Rhenius adds summary lines of the text to follow but Percival has removed them to be faithful to the original.

The Tamil style of the Bible has been widely described as majestic – a questionable claim for a revision showing little difference from the Rhenius version as seen in Table 1. It is because it was a revision that Percival could complete it in 3 years. But Dennis Hudson of Smith College goes on to claim that the so-called majestic style was shaped by Navalar.  We will see that Navalar could not have translated the Bible. Percival himself was no literary savant in Tamil poetry, and that is why he hired Elijah Hoole, a Tamil Christian Pandit,[1] and moved him from Point Pedro to Jaffna where he, Percival was.

In line with the prevailing missionary tradition, Percival promoted prose. The missionaries of Jaffna explored the secular Tamil literature through publishing. Even the Saivite literature was rendered in prose and taught in the mission schools. Percival used as a school reader Instructions to Catechists by Constantino Giuseppe Beschi, S.J. (1680 – 1747) which he considered the best specimen of Tamil prose at the time. Percival and the missions developed Tamil prose by translating versified Tamil classics into prose. Nalan-Damayanti was put into prose by Percival[2] while the Kanthapuranam was put into prose by the Americans.[3] His goal was to give his students “a thorough grammatical knowledge of their own language and acquaintance with classical literature.”[4]

Here Percival was subplanting into Tamil the great Protestant prose traditions of England where disciplinary studies were only after mastering prose. For the Plain Puritan Preaching was, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, to have profound effect not only on Presbyterians and the Dissenting but also the Anglicans as well. It was a style used by the Wesleys who founded Methodism. This style had a great influence on seventeenth century prose, which because of Bacon’s and Hobbes’ advance of the scientific point of view, advocated  that scientific matters should be treated in a style that was plain, clear, simple, and direct, as fitted the nature of the truth it was designed to convey. However, for everyday necessities an Elizabethan prose style was used to convey practical matters. The oldest examples of it are the vernacular Primers and Prayer Books and Catechisms of the middle ages which were more competent for the achievement of  their purpose than the literary prose style of the same period. Say Helen White et al.[5]: “The writers of such literature, mindful of the educational limitations of their audience, and moved more by missionary zeal for popular enlightenment than by literary vanity, very deliberately eschewed the temptations of fashionable rhetoric even at the height of Ceceronian fashion. The Puritans despised the rhetoric and used an unadorned style.” Navalar learnt this prose style from Percival whose student he was. With this prose came a preaching style that Navalar would later adopt.  This laid down five steps to a sermon: 1.Beginning;  2. Exposition; 3. Theological Analysis;  4. Applying the interpretation; and,  5. Conclusion to help the congregation to continue the conversation. This was also adopted by Navalar later.

Percival’s schools came to be praised by British colonial officials. Here is what Sir James Emerson Tennent (Colonial Secretary) had to say in a letter dated Jaffna, March 23, 1848 after observing the examinations being conducted at the America Ceylon Mission’s Batticotta Seminary and Percival’s Wesleyan Seminary – we say Percival’s because he was the Methodists’ Chairman for North Ceylon and supervised all educational institutions:

“The Collegiate Institution of Batticotta is entitled to rank with many an European University. I was present a few days after at a similar examination of the kindred Seminary of the Wesleyan Methodists at Jaffna, conducted by Mr. Percival, one of the most profound Tamil scholars now in India [as Professor and Registrar at Madras]; the course of study was nearly the same, the students taken from the same rank of the natives, and the display of classical learning and scientific attainment which I witnessed was in no degree inferior to that with which I had been so much charmed at the American Seminary.”[6]

Percival’s works include his Anglo-Tamil dictionary (1838) together with his A Collection of Proverbs in Tamil with their Translation in English, by Jaffna Book Society. This is a landmark in book publishing because it is one of the earliest Tamil books in print with other America Ceylon Mission Press books. His The Land of the Veda: India Briefly Described in Some of its Aspects, Physical, Social, Intellectual and Moral was published in 1854.[7] It was probably at this point that he got his doctorate (now the equivalent of the higher doctorate for unsupervised work over a period). Some of his other works are Telugu-English Dictionary (Madras 1862), Aphorisms of the Poet-Saint Auvayar; and he Tamil journal Dinavartamani from 1855.

In 1857 Percival was appointed first Professor of Vernacular Literature at Madras University[8] and was also Registrar of Madras University from 1860; he retired in 1869 aged 76! In the Arumukanavalar Pirapantatirattu[9] it is claimed by Navalar that Percival was “the Principal of the new Madras University.” This characterizes Navalar’s lack of Letters and the unreliable tales emerging from his collected works. The University was established with a Board in January 1840 with the then Advocate General George Norton as its President.[10] Percival was not the Principal of Madras University but the Registrar (a position reporting to the executive head of the institution, the President)[11] and Professor of Vernacular Literature at Presidency College.[12] What was new was incorporation by the legislature on 5 Sept. 1857 with provisions for chairs. At some point Percival was given the chair in Sanskrit too over the objections of local businessmen.[13]

Vernacular literature in Madras was mainly Tamil and Telugu literature. To quote Percival from Madras University, “I had the superintendence of the Public Instruction Press on my hands; and, aided by the Pundits of the Presidency College, and other competent native scholars, had the responsibility of editing, among the works that issued from the Press during this period, seven dictionaries, some of which have since been re-printed.”

Problem with Percival’s Greatness

Percival’s high achievements in the Tamil language and education are a problem for Tamil-Saiva nationalists because, as the late Prof. K. Sivathamby, a liberal Saivite of the University of Jaffna, explains:

“Navalar and his followers, in their anxiety to prove beyond doubt the indivisibility of the Saiva–Tamil character […] underplayed if not openly kept away from public attention the secular literature that was produced in Jaffna. […] This underplaying of the secular literary tradition was to show that no major literary activity in Tamil is possible without Saiva inspiration.”[14]

Thus Navalar is miscast as the chief translator with Percival merely his supervisor. Navalar biographer, Yohi Suddananda Bharati, says “that the [Bible] turned out under Percival’s supervision was really Navalar’s handiwork.”[15] Yet another biography by Varathar commended to us by no less an authority than the late Professor Kanapathippillai in the foreword, tells us[16] that the Bible was translated by Navalar. The twentieth century Tamil scholar and ‘grandfather of Tamil’, U.V. Swaminatha Aiyer, even says that Navalar wrote the Bible.[17]

Now that Navalar is made the translator, his Jaffna Bible is raised up as the first Tamil Bible. This is easily swallowed even by modern scholars like Shanti Pappu,[18] despite several complete older versions being available in universities and the internet. The first complete Tamil Bible was translated by the Danish Lutheran Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg (and Benjamin Schultze who completed it upon Ziegenbalg’s demise) in 1723.[19] The translation of the German Lutheran Johann Philip Fabricius followed – the New Testament in 1772 and Old Testament in 1791.[20] And what Percival did was to revise the Rhenius translation, a more recent version in Percival’s time.

These impossible claims by Tamil Saivite nationalists, as explained below, were rooted in Wesleyan missionary Jewel Robinson writing that Navalar “had been for a long period, day after day, the worthy companion and valued assistant of the gifted and plodding Mr. Percival in preparing and editing treatises and hymns in Tamil, and translating the Prayer-Book and the Holy Bible.” Robinson having arrived in 1847 when Navalar left the mission, the only consistent explanation – surmising from Navalar’s sympathetic biographers’ claims that he was an unpaid teacher under Percival and their excuses of why all his classmates had got good jobs but not he etc. – is that Navalar was a poor student who was failing to graduate from school and was helped by Percival by employing him assisting Percival as his valet after school to keep his papers and things in order and, going by Robinson, accompanying him on the preaching circuit carrying his bags, and not assisting in translation. This probably is where Navalar gained intimate knowledge of Methodist methods so much as to be called the “Best Methodist” by Prof. Sivathamby. It is this passage by Robinson that Yale’s Bernard Bate states is “foundational to almost all subsequent writings about what happened.”[21] Navalar’s biographers thereafter go to town in the puranic tradition embellishing his life in every way possible.

Still, Christian writings were more cautious until Bishop Sabapathy Kulandran of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India on seeing the Percival Bible for the first time and, admitting that he had only heard of its existence till then, gets all excited and calls it the Navalar Bible in 1957[22] although there is no record anywhere of Navalar on the Translation Committee or in the carefully kept minutes of that Committee or in the archives of the Church. The simplest explanation is that Navalar had no part to play. But Kulandran was of the pre-independence generation that failed to take a balanced look at missionaries. He wrote of Percival as a racist for not acknowledging Navalar: “Western scholars of those days had a firm opinion that work of Eastern scholars could certainly be availed of, but that their names were scarcely worth mentioning.”[23]That he was a Bishop has been made much of. Says Harvard professor John Carman, “Since Bishop Kulandran has been decidedly more positive about Western theology and Western missionaries than some other Tamil Christian scholars his summation must be taken seriously.”[24] Carman has been widely quoted on doctoral committees of theses from Harvard dealing with or touching on Navalar.

Kulandran’s was a most unkind cut indeed against Percival, one of whose reasons for leaving the Methodist mission about 1852 being his firm belief in native abilities and the authorities in London being “reluctant to support his views of ‘native ministry’.”[25] In judging Kulandran’s serious charge it must be remembered that the tradition in Bible translation is not to mention anyone by name and accordingly even Percival is not mentioned in the Jaffna Bible.   Nor does Percival sound a racist unable to appreciate anything from Orientals when his appreciation of the eastern mind is clear in his preface to his extracts from the Cural, where he writes that it

“… will be read with pleasure,  as affording proof of the existence of the loftiest sentiments, the purest moral rules, and equal power of conception and expression. Nothing certainly, in the whole compass of human language, can equal the force and terseness of the sententious distichs in which the author conveys the lessons of wisdom he utters.”[26]

Percival, for example in his book on Tamil Proverbs acknowledges his dependence on native contributors. We believe that the rare reference in Bible translation records to collaborators by Percival was mainly because the Tentative Version was his own handiwork.

Who taught Percival Tamil?

To add insult to injury, it is commonly claimed that Navalar “at a young age, tutored his Principal in Tamil at the Jaffna Central School of Rev. Dr. Peter Percival;”[27] in any event Percival was still Mr., not yet a Doctor then. This “young age” is 4 years old, Navalar’s age when Percival arrived in Ceylon in 1826. Nalini Ranjan[28] is more explicit that Percival learnt Tamil from Navalar. Even the respected T. Kailasapillai says “Navalar was Pandit to Percival.”[29] Chaiva Periyar S. Shivapathasundaram is more expansive in puranic style: “The Rev. Gentleman […] availed himself of this opportunity to study Thamil literature and Grammar under Navalar. He [Percival] was so much benefitted by his teachings that he often referred to him [Navalar] as his Guru.”[30] Similarly in the Pirapantatirattu[31] it is claimed by Navalar that, “Percival … had his Tamil education in Jaffna.”

The early Navalar biographies were not by scholars, not even by university graduates, but by his admirers and a nephew. So they take the form of puranic story-telling. These get embellished with time. Chaiva Periyar Shivapathasundaram (who is held up as a great Tamil leader by TamilNet), despite his education as Principal of Victoria College in the 1930s, begins his oft-cited Navalar biography thus:

“Navalar was born at a propitious hour. The Saiva religion was panting for him. The Thamil language was thirsting for him. Jaffna was longing for him. The Shaiva Religion had been in the stranglehold of alien forces for two centuries. Thamil Literature and Grammar were gaoled in palmyrah leaves. Jaffna had no leader and was groping in the dark. Navalar came, saw and gave them all relief.”

This typifies the tone and nature of early Navalar biographies which fed into later formal writings. It is not for us to say if these are a product of deliberate lies and selective wishful historical narration, or one careless mistake having an avalanche effect. But the Tamil tradition of praising kings as being descended from the Moon and the Sun without seeing it as being untruthful, surely has something to do with it. We have seen untruthful funeral orations taking poetic licence, later becoming history. Also to do with it is the tradition of seeing as treasonous any attempt to question histories and narratives that take away from the Tamil self-image of greatness.

But Peter Percival himself says[32] “Almost immediately after my arrival in this country in 1826, I entered on my Missionary work among the Tamil people, having acquired the rudiments of their language in England from a gentleman who had spent several years in the South of India and North Ceylon.” This gentleman was The Rev. Dr. Elijah Hoole.

An ancestor of these writers, Srinivasam, influenced by his teacher Mr. Stansbury at the Wesleyan English School in Point Pedro (probably Hartley) was baptised by Percival on April 15, 1845 at the age of 16.[33] Srinivasam thereupon rejected his Hindu name Srinivasan and took on the name Elijah Hoole obviously because of Percival’s influence. This Hoole became one of the Anglican Church’s first Tamil priests in Ceylon. He was regarded as a prize catch because of his training in temple ritual and the Hindu Shastras and therefore his conversion is described in detail in the book by JW Balding, One hundred years in Ceylon; The Centenary volume of the Church Missionary Society in Ceylon, 1818-1918, CMS, London, 1922. The CMS archives at the University of Birmingham[34] show that this Hoole was employed as ‘Pandit’ or scholar by Percival from 1847 to revise the Bible translation and spent 1849-50 with Percival in Madras finalising the revised translation and defending it before the Madras Auxiliary. When Percival switched from the Methodist Church to the Anglican around 1852, Elijah Hoole also did and joined St. John’s as Pandit when the school was opened in 1852[35] by the Rev. Robert Pargiter, another Methodist missionary in Ceylon who had become Anglican and was ordained in 1866.

Initially Percival was in Trincomalee; for we see a report from him dated March 1827 from there.[36]  But all biographies today say Percival came to Jaffna in 1826. This is a necessary corollary of the mythical claim that Percival learnt his Tamil from 4-year old Navalar. Since a 4-year old could not travel to Trincomalee to give lessons to Percival, Percival is brought to Jaffna. Percival’s Jaffna station began only in 1833 or so when he returned after a 4 year stint in Bengal as made clear by Methodist archives. Once in Trincomalee, Percival engaged a teacher[37] and learnt The Mahabharatha and mastered The Nannool[38]   and promoted the latter’s study which with several other great Tamil works like Chilappadikaram were condemned reading for us as they were written by Jains.[39] Navalar was but 4 years old at the time and far away in Jaffna to teach Percival. Percival who lived in Trincomalee and in Bengal after coming to Ceylon in 1826, began his Jaffna work only around 1833 or 1834. It would appear that his mislocation in Jaffna from 1826 is to make the claim of Navalar teaching him Tamil sound credible.

We may note further journal entries from Percival dated April and Dec. 1827 from Trincomalee,[40] where he is preaching in Tamil, English and Portuguese. The same source shows him in Trincomalee in 1828. Two years after his arrival in 1826, Percival was able to write, from Trincomalee with Navalar 6 years old and in Jaffna, “I feel little difficulty in preaching in Tamil. I feel equal liberty as well in my colloquial intercourse with the people.”[41] Percival would soon acquire the reputation of being “unsurpassed as a preacher in the Tamil language.”[42]

Percival: Christian Priest, not Agnostic

With Percival’s achievements and role the above theory of Saiva inspiration in all good Tamil things would collapse.  As Percival the European cannot be made into a Saiva Vellala, he must at least be made into an agnostic against mission goals. Thus TamilNet, an extremist Tamil web-newspaper run by Tamil-Saiva nationalists, has falsely suggested that Percival “deviated from evangelism” and thereby “contributed to the quality of education in Jaffna” and the founding of many schools.[43]  What TamilNet implies is that education under an apostate is better than under a Christian.

These claims about Percival’s loss of faith are incorrect. It was the time of Anglo-Catholic revival and he merely joined the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Anglicans’ high-church Catholic wing around 1852. It was a zealous missionary society restoring Catholic articles of faith jettisoned by the Anglican Church and converting non-Christians from the Americas to Asia and from among British dockworkers. The case cannot be made, as TamilNet has vainly tried, that the supposed apostasy of the principal at the premier Methodist school contributed to the quality of education in all of Jaffna. He was an Anglican priest to the last. His own last will – Shanti Pappu’s date of the will, 8th Aug. 1882[44] cannot be correct because he was a month dead by then – gives him as being a Clerk in Holy Orders, Anglican formalism for Priest, which many non-Anglicans miss. Indeed, as Pappu notes[45], Percival was the officiating minister at the baptisms of his grandchildren close to his death. Percival never stopped being a Christian priest. Even the official history of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society shows the high regard in which he and his faith continued to be held by his previous Church:

“In 1851 the Rev. P. Percival returned to England, and it was hoped and expected that after the usual furlough he would come back to direct the affairs of the District. But during his furlough a serious disagreement arose between him and the Secretary in London, the issue of which was the withdrawal of one of the ablest Missionaries ever sent to the East. Over the details of this deplorable dissension it is best that the veil of reticence be drawn. … Shortly before he left Ceylon Percival published his last report, and if any hesitation be felt as to the character of his administration, a perusal of that report would at once remove it. It is an exposition of missionary policy pursued during a quarter of a century, which stamps its author with the mark of a statesmanship only too rare in either the councils of the Church at home or on the field itself.

“At a time when there seemed to be a complete lack of vision, and when all that could be called policy seemed to be an ever shifting adaptation of action to circumstance, this man saw the Church of the coming days, and bent his marvelous strength and his most tenacious purpose to provide for it. He was never deterred by difficulty, nor did he allow himself to be either embittered by suspicion or estranged by opposition. He kept an unwavering course through the twenty-five years of his ministry, and left behind him a record of service which all may envy, and few will be able to emulate.”[46]

Arumuka Navalar, the Casteist

Arumukam, later Arumuka Navalar with the title Navalar (powerful-tongued), after 6 years in traditional vernacular schools, joined Percival’s school, the Wesleyan Mission School, when it opened its doors in 1834. He was aged 12. He never graduated after 13 years of mission school studies at a time when most finished in half that time, and in 1847 organized a walk out of more than half the students when a Gabriel Jerony, a 15 year old boy of the Nalavar caste (Indian equivalent Nadar, Chanar) was admitted. Today, objective folk would call Navalar a rowdy for this.

Affirming that reputation as a casteist as further confirmed by the next section, in his book in Tamil (The State of Religion in Jaffna – Yaalpaanach Chamaya Nilai) Navalar strongly berates a person for having drunk coffee at the missionary’s house because the cook was a Pariah (kusinip pariyandai kopi). TamilNet has taken on the impossible task of showing this Navalar who taught children that meritorious charity is only to Vellalahs, Chetties and Brahmins, to not be a casteist. They say attributing caste prejudice to him goes against “the spirit of Navalar’s own writings in Pirapanthath-thiraddu.”[47] They obviously have not read Navalar’s  Paalar Paadam on charity or his comments on the kusinip paraiyan’s kopi in Yaalpaanach Chamaya Nilai or the Morning Star account of the next section. Prof. A.R. Venkadachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies avers that even generally liberal Marxists like the late Prof. K. Kailasapathy[48] “betray their pro-Saivite ideological position in papering over Arumuka Navalar’s virulent anti-Buddhism/Jainism.”[49] Because of the way in which Navalar has been built up among Jaffna Hindus, even lower caste Hindus below Vellala Sudras adore him, showing the poor, brain-washed-from-school, intellectual climate in Jaffna.

Navalar: Impossible as Bible Translator

Despite valiant attempts to make Navalar the translator of the Jaffna Bible, there are three good reasons why Navalar could not have had a hand in revising the translation. First, he was a pupil to the end (1847) at the Wesleyan Mission and not teacher[50] as claimed. This is clear from The Morning Star from Jaffna, a fortnightly Protestant bilingual newspaper and probably the first Tamil newspaper which was begun in 1841. It is recorded thus in the article titled “ABSURDITIES OF CASTE dated 25 Nov. 1847[51]:

“One Gabriel Jerony a lad of 15 of Nallerva[52] Caste, formerly a pupil in the school, after an absence of two years at Puttalam, lately returning, was re-admitted into the institution. The high caste lads of the school with Aroomoogayar at the head, resented his re-appearance among them and demanded of their master that he should be put in a separate place. This was for a time complied with, but the boy presenting a complaint to Mr. Percival, the matter was inquired into and on Mr. Percival’s refusing the demand made by the high caste party that the boy should be dismissed, about 50 of them simultaneously left the school.

“The next day Casinader Modr and Ramalingar Shroff waited on Mr. Percival in behalf of the boys and promised that they should return to the school if he would make some clear distinction between this lad and the others, but without dismissing him. Mr. Percival declined to do any thing more than to allow him or them, if they chose, to remain at the bottom of the class instead of taking their rank in it. With this concession they were not satisfied and withdrew; and the lads of course have not returned. …

“Under the excitement produced by this first demonstration the friends of the lads, to wit Casinadan  Modliar, Ramalingam Shroff and Raganadan Modliar and Mr. Mootooveloe, Merchant, and others have opened an independent School, on which 35 of the 50 lads are said to attend. From this school, we understand the Bible and all Christian books are banished, and it holds its sessions on Sundays as on other days. …”

The two emphasized words show Navalar was a student. We know Aroomoogayar was Navalar from letters he signed in the Morning Star in 1841 and from Saiva histories that show him founding his own school thereafter. Tennent,[53] quoting directly from Percival’s “MS. Notes of the Wesleyan Mission,” repeats this Morning Star account with the additional explicit detail from Percival that the leader, Aroomoogayar [sic.], was a student and the rebel students elected him as their “Assistant Teacher” in the rival establishment they opened. Thus for Navalar the break with Percival afforded his first opportunity to enter the teaching profession, albeit only as an Assistant Teacher in a school off a verandah that soon failed. Stories about Navalar having been a teacher under Percival are impossible given that the best he could get at this rebel school was Assistant. In fact for Navalar the break with Percival afforded the first opportunity to enter the teaching profession, albeit only as an Assistant Teacher.  Robinson also confirms he was a pupil.[54]

We learn from other later references in the Morning Star[55] that out of the 50 students who left, 35 did return but not Aroomoogayar; i.e., Navalar, who despite still being a student at the time of walking out of Central College went on to found his own school which soon folded and this school is referred to as the secession school by the Morning Star.[56]

After breaking with Percival could Navalar have worked with Percival in translation? – no, given that he was busy immediately with his failed verandah school, and then went off to Madras to buy his own press, and he in his pamphleteering was calling missionaries Mleccha (barbarians)[57]  and Christianity as the foreign Devil religion.[58] Nationalists to claim that Navalar was a responsible translator had to stake a responsible position for Navalar under Percival. So, much mental gymnastics had to be gone through to accomplish this. For example S. Thananjeyarajasingham,[59] a Senior Lecturer at University of Ceylon (Peradeniya Campus) writing in 1974, first complains that one had to be a Christian to teach at a Christian school and then claims that Navalar was a teacher at the Wesleyan school. Indeed Navalar’s nephew T. Kailasapillai says that at Percival’s request Navalar worked as an English teacher in the lower classes and Tamil teacher in the upper classes without any wages! This by itself should raise a red flag to any critical scholar. In fact we find Kailasapillai waffling when he writes that “Navalar was known to have been a student until the age of 22 [i.e 1844] and little is known about whether he was a student after that.” This seems an attempt hide the fact that even at age 25 in 1847 Navalar could not graduate. In another place we find Navalar trying to make excuses for why all his juniors  had finished and gone on to get good jobs but he had not. He says it was because of his love of the Saiva religion – but what could that have to do with remaining a permanent student?

Prof. R.F. Young and The Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan,[60] seemingly relying on Kailasapillai, say “Eventually [emphasis ours] he was hired to teach Tamil and English at the Wesleyan mission school in Jaffna.” The word “eventually” suggests some delay in the process. Kailasapillai[61] reports a supposed conversation where Percival says that “he cannot find a teacher like Navalar even if he is paid” showing that he was not paid and just kept at school as a favour despite lack of progress in studies. This confirms that Navalar was in unpaid capacity as a menial assistant to Percival. This conversation is repeated by Dennis Hudson[62] (a Harvard-trained academic from Smith College who more than any other has spread these myths about Navalar, carrying them from their Saiva nationalist sources into formal western academic literature through his numerous papers). But he fails to mention the key part “even if he is paid.”

The second reason why Navalar could not have translated the Bible, given the dates as to when Percival translated the Bible in Percival’s brass plaque (three years from July 5th, 1846) is that  it was impossible for Navalar to have played any role in the translation’s revision when he had quarrelled and left Percival early in 1847, unable to speak to Percival and relying on his masters to speak through them to Percival as seen in the Morning Star piece. Navalar left Percival in 1847 and was busy calling missionaries barbarians and foreign devils when Percival and Pandit Elijah Hoole spent 1849 and 1850 in Madras defending the Bible before the Madras Auxiliary of the Bible Society and working on the type-setting. Indeed, the comical nature of Tamil writers and their followers is seen in Navalar biographer Yohi Suddhananda Bharathy’s account where Percival the European was scared to go before missionaries of the Bible society in Madras to defend the translation but Navalar told Percival not to worry, goes with Percival, and performs a magnificent job with Percival as bystander. The minutes of the Jaffna Auxiliary of the Bible Society[63] show Percival’s endeavours with that Society from 1836 (mainly in printing and distributing Tamil Bibles). This is used to claim that Navalar as a young boy was translating when it fact he had become a permanent student unable to pass the exams. (One of the Tamil biographies claiming brilliance for Navalar unwittingly gives away the real situation in saying that Navalar was a dull student in his early years).

Percival’s nascent attempts at revising the Fabricius version of the Tamil Bible under the Jaffna Auxiliary of the Bible Society with Rhenius as consultant never took off because the Madras Auxiliary blocked it. The Madras Auxiliary, handling Bible distribution for the larger body of Tamil Christendon compared to the independent Jaffna Auxiliary, was influential on Tamil translation issues with the parent society, the ecumenical and non-sectarian British and Foreign Bible Society. Madras argued that Jaffna must conform to the King James’ structure; for the 1611 English translation commissioned by King James had become the standard English text, perpetuated through quotations and readings in the Anglican Prayer Book and use in most English Protestant Churches. The first Fabricius manuscript of Genesis translated by Jaffna had been sent to Madras in October 1840 for comments and approval.  It had been in the Madras Auxiliary’s hands for 3 years and 9 months and the printed copies 2 years without a reply from the Madras Auxiliary.

Percival got his real go ahead to translate when Jaffna bypassed Madras with The Rev. Dr. Elijah Hoole’s help and applied to the parent society in London for permission to revise and publish its own edition independently of Madras. By the middle of 1845, Jaffna was given the requested permission from the parent society to print its own edition of Tamil Sacred Scriptures and grants of paper and Bibles.[64] Given shipping times, this permission and grants were not received till the end of 1845. Accordingly there would now be a revision of the Rhenius version but Rhenius had just died and was no longer available as consultant. The little work done on the Fabricius version seems to have been abandoned by this point and nothing is known of what happened to the 7 books of the 66 books in the Fabricius translation of the Bible that Percival had revised. If an argument is to be made that Navalar helped Percival, it must focus on these few books of the Bible but even for that there is no evidence.

What was the difference between these versions? There were minor differences in words hinging on the use of Sanskrit (for example whether to use jalam or thanneer for water) and theology.  Vedanayaka Sastri of Tanjore, standing up for the Fabricius version as soon as the Rhenius version appeared, argued that in the first chapter of the Gospel according to St Matthew, 46 words found in dictionaries had been replaced by Rhenius with “ugly and improper” words used by the lower castes or hunting tribes (as he put it), destroying the meaning, sweetness and grammar of the older translations.[65] As a result, for example, so-called Sudra words like ‘thanneer’ have been replaced by the Sanskrit ‘jalam’ Tamilised into ‘chalam’ by Percival.

As for theology, for example, the previous translations used Tampiran (the Absolute), Paraparan (Protector) and Sarveswaran (Lord of All) for God. Percival uses ‘Thevan’. Harvard’s John Carman who seems to see no role for Percival in the 1850 Bible translation, simply says “Navalar used tevan!”[66]

But Thevan had been justified well before Percival by the Reverend H Bower (Biblical and Theological Dictionary, SPCK, Madras, 1841). As Young and Jebanesan point out, ‘Thevan’ for God was in line with the policy of North Indian translators. But many disliked the word because Thevan is Sanskrit and conjures up images of multiple gods, so Hindu nationalists, who claim that Navalar translated the Bible, must distance him from this part of the work. Accordingly the myth is created (and given respectability by Harvard’s John Carman) that Navalar had promised his mother “not to teach the correct word ‘Iswaran’ (Lord) to the Christians.” Indeed, if true this would be the kuru-ninjai (abuse of teacher) by Navalar against Percival that Navalar stoutly declared as one of the five major sins.

Reading the actual Bibles we recognise how Tamil had evolved under the missions. Fabricius and Zeigenbalg are difficult to read because the missions had not yet reformed writing. Thus words run together. Without the dots (kuththu) on top of consonants, to give one example, the letter ‘n’ stands for both n and na. The letters ke and kay are written the same, using the letter “ottrai kombu” for both.  Further the verses are not numbered. The Rhenius Bible had evolved somewhat, and made some changes in script for enhanced readability, while the Percival Bible used the modified prose script with the expanded set of letters. Percival continued Tamil-letter numbering for pages and verses as in Rhenius.


And the third reason why Navalar could not have revised the 1850 Bible is this. The title page of the Percival Bible (reproduced here from our personal copy) explicitly says that it is translated from the root languages and compared with previous translations.  Navalar did not know Hebrew or Greek. TamilNet writers who have probably not seen the Bible have tried to waffle out of this problem in their anxiety to make the Church obliged to Navalar, claiming he translated from English and the Jaffna translation was the first Tamil Bible. C. Rudra, a Colombo-bssed writer, also asserts without an iota of evidence in Colombo’s Daily News that “What Navalar translated was from the English version into Tamil for which a [sic.] knowledge of Hebrew or Greek was not required.”[67]In this modern age such writers should at least look at the Bible before commenting on it off the cuff. Moreover, the Church which puts so much into what every word in the Bible means would never have given such an important task to someone who had not only not finished high school at age 25 but had difficulties doing so and had no Christian faith. At the time the Church had so many native Tamil scholars who were Christians at degree level from Batticotta Seminary to whom they could have turned if there was a need.

The Failed Translation

Despite the Percival Bible’s so-called majestic Tamil it failed failed in so far as it ceased to be used for the very reason of its high Tamil. Having made Navalar the translator, Tamil nationalists now find it impossible to admit that the revision failed or even that it was a mere revision. No sooner than the Tentative Union Version had left the press, than provision was made in Madras for yet another revision.[68] The Rev. D. Holden (a missionary in India’s Tinnavely) comments on the acceptability of the Jaffna revised translation:

“[Percival] went to all the mission stations, pleading hard for the admission of his translation into the churches, but he failed; his translation had a fault throughout; it was too poetic and lofty in style: the poor people could not understand it, so it was rejected. But Mr. Percival … stood by his translation and succeeded in persuading some missionaries to give it a trial. It never made way, however.”[69]

Others took the same view. “Major missions, particularly the Anglicans of Tanjore (SPG) and Tinnevelly (CMS), did not accept it.”[70] The Report of the Committee appointed for the Revision of the Tamil Bible adds further that the Union Version, “though undoubtedly meritorious, was held by most good judges to be written in too literary a style, and to have neither the faithful simplicity of Fabricius nor the easy flow of Rhenius. It was used chiefly at Jaffna in Ceylon, and in a few of the American Missions.”[71] Even in Jaffna, Kulandran adds, it ceased to be used after 50 years of trial use and is no longer seen.[72]

Only Saivite extremists in Jaffna believe in the revised translation’s greatness and its continued use. For their own greatness in their minds has been built on the Christian Church’s inability to do anything without Navalar’s help. Thus Tamil textbooks teach that Navalar translated the Bible and any suggestion to the contrary is seen as utterly untrue. Ironically the missionary catechismic style is used for this: Teacher – “Who translated the Tamil Bible?”; Class: “Arumuka Navalar.”  Students St. John’s College and Chundikuli Girls’ College in Jaffna, both CMS institutions, have been put through this propaganda. Since books are by the government, these mission schools put their children through this.

Irresponsible North American Scholarship

Soon everything about Navalar is cooked up or exaggerated. The tradition of uncritically repeating mistakes in print and relying on polemical and sectarian histories once they are committed to writing as if they are absolutely true is seen as Western scholars like Dennis Hudson[73] and Bernard Bate[74] commit all these fables into staid journal literature, going so far as to say Navalar means “learned,” as Hudson does.

We see K.M. de Silva, D.Litt. Lond., one of Sri Lanka’s foremost historians, falling into the inviting trap of repeated myths by stating that “Navalar was instrumental in the formation in 1888 of the Saiva Paripalana Sabhai,”[75] whereas Navalar was quite dead by 1879. Likewise the late A.J. Wilson, D.Sc. Lond., of the University of New Brunswick, a Methodist and son-in-law of Tamil federalism’s father-figure SJV Chelvanayagam, states that the Bible was translated from English and “Jaffna Hindu College is an enduring monument to [Navalar’s] untiring efforts” whereas it had started only in 1890 as Hindu High School, 11 years after Navalar’s death.[76] Prof. Lakshmanan Sabaratnam, a Sri Lankan Tamil Christian who is on the South Asian Studies faculty at Davidson College, another elite American institution perpetuating Navalar myths, goes on to list Peter Percival as Charles Percival and states that Navalar was hired as a monitor/teacher in Percival’s mission school and “soon persuaded to read the English Bible and help translate it. The Tamil translation was published in Madras and distributed widely in recognition of Navalar’s own proficiency,”[77] whereas 1) the Percival Revision was overall a failure and hardly used in India; 2) at the mission schools, reading the Bible was compulsory as Percival himself states in describing the activities for a day[78] and therefore no persuasion was necessary for student Navalar to read the Bible – he had to; and 3) the Bible as seen from its frontispiece was translated from the root languages.

As if every great American program on South Asia has to praise Navalar and attack Percival,  building on Bishop Kulandran’s assessment, the charge of colonial paternalism has been directed at Percival by Sascha Ebeling of University of Chicago’s South Asian Languages and Civilizations Department.  Ebeling unfairly calls Percival’s content editing of Tamil literature “colonizing the realm of words” without mentioning Percival’s reasons for the editing of texts meant for schools.[79] Prior to the missions the Hindu scriptures were read out, put out as plays and taught in the thinnai (verandah) schools only to so called high-caste men among the Tamils (as Vellala Sudras in Jaffna call themselves while neutral outside scholars refer to Jaffna by the phrase “Sudra Dominated”[80]) and it was disallowed for women to even hear them, saying education would ruin a woman’s chastity – no doubt in part due to the erotic content of these texts. For example, according to Percival even in a text as innocuous as Nalan-Damayanthi, upwards of 500 out of 1100 stanzas had to be excised by him to make the text presentable to children.[81] Auvaiyaar too could not be presented to children without cuts.

It is absurd for a western scholar to blame Percival today for what all Tamil parents continue to do – keep vulgar material away from children. Western scholars with their trigger happy culture of opening fire on missionaries simply because their university culture sees it as admirable and chic, take pot-shots at missionaries like Percival through hurriedly written papers and books to enhance their own self-image as non-racist.

The debate over reading to children racy, raunchy stories from the puranas and the Kanthapuranam is very old[82] and settled insofar as no Tamil – whether Hindu or Christian – would want his or her children to read them. We suggest that blaming Percival is an act of racism in trying to reopen something that Tamils have settled on Percival’s side.

Such is the nature of western scholarship today – somehow get out one more paper or book regardless of accuracy to get that promotion.

Challenge to Tamils – The K. Sivathamby Example

When we Tamils are fighting for equality and justice in Sri Lanka, it is important for us to reflect in our lives these same values we argue for.

The late Prof. Sivathamby’s life is a living example of how oppressive and vindictive our society is. A progressive, he had dared to note that Christians in Sri Lanka live oppressed and live as the oppressed (odungiyum, odukkappattavarumaay vaalhindranar). We have also seen his comment on the indivisibility of Saivism and Tamil. He clearly invited trouble by his open expressions of his thoughts.

Our vindictive society would not forgive. He is therefore commonly put down on grounds of caste and was denied a chair in Jaffna for long (having had to settle as professor but not in Tamil) to be recognized as Visiting Professor of Tamil at Madras. Ever in death he is not left alone by Vellalas who have attacked his scholarship as “rather superficial […] grazing like a goat […] But, originality was not his forte. Ideas or thoughts that he culled from English works, he translated and presented them [sic.] in Tamil, sometimes without proper credit to the original contributor.”[83] This was from the Ilankai Tamil Sangam, a major organization of Tamil expatriates in New York projecting the Vellala perspective. The accuracy of their assessment must be viewed through Sivathamby being honoured abroad despite the Vellala jealousy, by the Thiru V. Kalyanasundaram Award by the government of Tamil Nadu and appointment as a visiting Professor of Tamil at the world’s best universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University and Cambridge. His highest honour which clearly makes Jaffna Vellalas jealous is the chairing and organizational role he received at the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore in June 2010.[84] To deny him what they did not control, a campaign basically said if he went he would be a traitor to the Eelam cause. He became worried but went. Sivathamby is obviously correct in his assessment of our Jaffna society when we consider

  1. Christians have not dared to challenge the incredible claims on Bible translation when we have so much literature to the contrary, and know that the Bible would never have been given to an unbeliever to translate.
  2. At last count after independence, Vellalas were 50%. But no non-Vellala has dared to challenge Navalar being imposed as a National Hero on all of us except rather subtly by Sivathamby. Surely Non-Vellalas are not so fond of such a casteist as Navalar? The culture in Jaffna is such that challenging Navalar will be used to identify the person challenging as low-caste – so silence is wise.
  3. When the Navalar myth is challenged, it is countered by loud personal insults like on Sivathamby implying that Christians are low caste traitors who cannot afford to have their ancestries looked into and by casting the Navalar claims as a religious debate when it really is an issue of recent history with no metaphysical claims. When Christians are so insulted in these debates, few Saivites speak up – in fact we are aware of none.  It suggests that the many decent Saivites and non-Vellalas we know are scared to comment, just like many Christians are.

We challenge Tamils to develop as deep a critical sense in history such as that which we have demonstrated in the sciences, engineering and medicine. After all, even if all the other misinterpretations about Percival and Navalar are excused, what cannot be excused is this: that a community that keeps teaching its children that the 1850 Tamil revised translation of the Bible is the first ever when a) the frontispiece of that Bible itself says it is a revision made comparing with previous translations and b) such previous translations are available on the internet and libraries for us to see and examine. There seems little or no hope for such a community without willingness to re-examine and self-correct. That willingness is integral to the scientific method, the scientific method that Peter Percival struggled to inculcate in all of us.

A Last Thought on Tamil History

As Tamil-educated persons brought up in Jaffna we carefully state after studying Percival. Sivathamby and our LTTE experience that a good segment of Tamil writing is based on status-enhancing distortions. Even as the LTTE was killing civilians, ethnically cleansing the North of Muslims and conscripting children, we were in denial and anyone who said otherwise was scurrilously attacked as a traitor. The LTTE rather oddly was enhancing Tamil self-worth and was defended by practically every Tamil in public life. We were brave fighters we thought to ourselves when poor low-caste children were fighting for us while we looked after ourselves and our children. We denied conscription; the forced emptying of Jaffna when the LTTE lost in 1990; LTTE withdrawals were described as strategy; even the brutal murders of the TELO and EPRLF were supported on grounds of eliminating crime at a time when the LTTE also was robbing and as late as in April 2009 we kept denying that our people were being held by the LTTE in Mullivaikal as hostage human shields, thereby preventing them from escaping the murderous army. Anyone who did not agree was a traitor. How good then are our historical records? Horrible!

Out attitude to history as a self-status-enhancing tool becomes evident when we see some of our elders in their own books preceding their names with titles such as Sri la Sri [of Utmost Auspiciousness], Chaiva Periyar [Great Saivite], Yohi [Master of Yoga] etc. and placing the word Avarhal after their name in imperial pluralization of themselves. These titles unlike university or church titles, were not by organizations subjecting the awardee to rigorous tests prior to award.  Imagine a book in English where the author describes himself as “Great Man so-and-so” and writes the royal We for I in the preface. The book would immediately lose value and the author would be considered absolutely mad. But in Tamil, and even in an English book by a Tamil author for a Tamil readership, such self-imposed titles seem to make the work gain in value!

So much so that the fabricated histories of the Tamil Bible and nasty, self-serving and jealous assessments by nobodies of the great Sivathamby acutely remind us about that observant Persian Muslim scholar Alberuni of the Eleventh Century who commented on thinking in Greater India thus:

“They believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs. They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited and stolid. … Their haughtiness is such that if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khurasan and Persis, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar. If they travelled and mixed with other nations, they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as narrow-minded as the present generation is.”[85]

Lest this astute and respected polymath be also dismissed in scurrilous terms, we end this work by quoting Kamil Zvelebil, the widely recognized Czech Indologist and renowned Tamil scholar who was adored by Tamil language lovers. Zvelebil forcefully ends Chapter 2 of Part 1 of his acclaimed tome on Tamil Literature, titled Questions of Authenticity and Attribution, with what he terms “a warning to over-enthusiastic Tamil scholars,” [86] by quoting  E.M. Foster:

“Indians have a marked capacity for worship or for denunciation but not much critical sense, as criticism is understood in the West.”

Perhaps as a non-Western-European scholar Zvelebil was prepared to state what he saw without bowing down to political correctness which western and American bred scholars are reluctant to do because of frivolous charges of racism which can be easily mobilized against them by their detractors. After all, real scholarship must be able to make free and accurate observations. For that would be in the Percival tradition.

[1] S.R.H. Hoole, The Isurupaya Textbooks, The Island, Feb. 25, 2003,

[2] Government of Sri Lanka, Tamil-Year Six, Educational Publications Department, Isurupaya, Bataramulle, 1993.

[3] S.R.H. Hoole, C. W. Thamotharampillai, Tamil Revivalist: The Man Behind the Legend of Tamil Nationalism (Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies 1997)

[4] Babu Thomas, “Tamil Bible author’s grave discovered in Salem,” Christian Today, 8 July 2009.

[5] The Hindu, “The trail of two British innovators in India” (July 8, 2009).

[6] S.R.H. Hoole, “Not the first,” The Hindu ,July 20, 2009. http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/20/stories/2009072055460803.htm

[7] S.R.H. Hoole, “Arumuka Navalar: Fake Images and Histories,” The Sunday Leader, March 31, 2013. Also The Colombo Telegraph. https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/arumuka-navalar-fake-images-and-histories/ and The Sri Lanka Guardian, http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2013/03/arumuka-navalar-fake-images-and.html

[8] S.R.H. Hoole, “Heritage Histories: Through Jaffna Central College and St. John’s College,” The Sunday Leader, Colombo Telegraph and the Sri Lanka Guardian. Scheduled for April 7, 2013.

[9] D. Hoole and S.R.H. Hoole, “The Truth about the Tamil Bible,” Hri South Asia Trust Archives. http://www.hrisouthasian.org/resource-center/gandharva/5-archives/387-the-truth-about-the-jaffna-bible.html

[10] Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society [Continued as] Wesleyan Missionary Notices, New Series, Vol. VII for the Year 1849 (London: Wesleyan Mission-House, 1849): p. 161

[11] See CMS Archives, Repository University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department, Main Library, Edgbaston Campus. File on The Rev. Pandit Elijah Hoole, p. lxxviii. FindingNo CMS/B/OMS/C CE O71 . pp. lxxvi-

[12] Sascha Ebeling,  Colonizing the realm of words: The transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth Century South India (Albany: State University of New York Press) 2010

[13] W.W. Howland, Historical Sketch of the Ceylon Mission (American Board of Commissionaers for Foreign Missions, 1865).

[14] Elijah Hoole, The Year Book of Missions, (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1847)

[15] Helen White, Ruth Wallerstein and Ricardo Quintano, Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose, Volume One: 1600-1660, McMillan, NY 1951.

[16]Sir James Emerson Tennent, Christianity in Ceylon: its introduction and progress under the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, and American missions; with an historical sketch of the Brahmanical and Buddhist superstitions (London: John Murray, 1850). 178-179

[17] Kenneth R. Cracknell, “Percival, Peter (1803-1882)” in G.H. Anderson (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999): 527

[18] Stuart Blackburn, Print, Folklore, and Nationalism in Colonial South India, New Delhi: Orient Longman’s, 2006.

[19] Devadarshan Ambalavanar, “Arumuga Navalar and the Construction of a Caiva Public in Colonial Jaffna,” (Cambridge, MA: Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, 2006):183

[20] http://www.unom.ac.in/index.php?route=university/history (accessed 19 Jan. 2013). The Morning Star of the 1840s has news reports such as who attended events concerning the opening of the new university and so on.

[21] Percival’s letter as Registrar of the University of Madras to the colonial authorities at Fort St. George, dated 3 Aug. 1857 is given in Parliament (House of Commons, Great Britain), Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons, XXIV, Part II, Session 2, (1859), 361. The same sessional reports give the names of the Directors of the University.

[22]Stuart Blackburn, Print, Folklore, and Nationalism in Colonial South India, (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003): 119. Aslo see P. Percival, Tamil proverbs: with their English translation: containing upwards of six thousand proverbs (Dinavartamani Press, 1874): p. viii for the preface where Percival is described as Professor of Vernacular Literature at Presidency College and that in 1870 he was relieved from his “heavy duties in connexion with the Presidency College and the University,” showing the dual nature of his appointment.

[23] See Blackburn, ibid.

[24] K. Sivathamby, Sri Lankan Tamil Society and Politics (Madras: New Century Book House, 1995).

[25]S. Kulandran, “The Tentative Version of the Bible or the Navalar Version,” Tamil Culture 7 (1958): 245.

[26]Varathar, Navalar (In Tamil) (Colombo 7: Sri la Sri Arumuganavalar Sabai, 1979), 13-4; this propaganda is widely taught in schools as we have seen.

[27]U.V. Swaminatha Aiyar, The Story of my Life (in Tamil) (Madras: Institute of Asian Studies, 1942), 62.

[28] Shanti Pappu, “Prehistoric Antiquities and Personal Lives: The Untold Story of Robert Bruce Foote,” Man and Environment XXXIII, no. 1 (2008): 36

[29] A recent and most inaccurate book not only lists Navalar as a translator but puts him before Ziegenbalg, Johann Phillip Fabricius: LLC Books, Translators of the Bible Into Tamil: Arumuka Navalar, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, Johann Phillip Fabricius (General Books LLC, 2010)

[30] C.R.A. Hoole, Arumuka Navalar, Baldaeus Theological College, Trincomalee. http://www.baldaeus.com/html/0065.html Accessed 20 Jan. 2013.

[31]Bernard Bate, “Arumuga Navalar, Saivite sermons, and the delimitation of religion, c. 1850,” Indian Economic & Social History Review 42: 469-484 (2005): 474.

[32] S. Kulandran, 1958.

[33] S. Kulandran, 1958:236.

[34] John B. Carman, “Protestant Bible Translations in India: An Unrecognized Dialogue?,” Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies: Vol. 4(3) 1991. Available at: http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/jhcs/vol4/iss1/3. Accessed 19 Jan. 2013.

[35] Kenneth R. Cracknell, 1999. p. 527

[36] P. Percival, 1874; E. J. Robinson, Hindu Pastors: A Memorial (London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1867):29.

[37]Kasipillai Manickavasagar, “Among the Chetties rose a great Tamil scholar: 200th birth anniversary of Simon Casie Chetty will be celebrated today at Kalpitiya,” The Sunday Times, March 25, 2007.

[38] Nalini Ranjan, Twenty first century journalism in India (Sage Publications, 2007)

[39]T. Kailasapillai, Arumukanavalar’s History, (in Tamil), (2nd edn.) (Point Pedro, 1955), 11; Chapter 14. (The first edn. Madras, 1918).

[40]Chaiva Periyar  S. Shivapathasundaram, Arumukha Navalar (Jaffna: Sivaprakasa Press, 1950), p. 7.

[41]Devadarshan Ambalavanar (2006): 183

[42]Peter Percival, Tamil Proverbs with their English Translation (Mylapore: Dinavartamani Press, 1874).

[43]CMS Archives, Repository University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department, Main Library, Edgbaston Campus. File on The Rev. Pandit Elijah Hoole. FindingNo CMS/B/OMS/C CE O71 . pp. lxxvi-

[44] Ibid.

[45] The start-date for St. John’s according to CMS records is 1852 but the school claims 1823. See Reference 8 above for details.

[46] Church Missionary Society, The Missionary Register, Vol. 16, 1828. p. 122

[47] R.F. Young, and S. Jebanesan, The Bible Trembled: The Hindu-Christian Controversies of Nineteenth Century Ceylon (Vienna: Sammlung de Nobili, 1995): 109. The Englishman Elijah Hoole’s connection to Percival may perhaps explain why Srinivasam, upon baptism at the hands of Peter Percival, took on the name Elijah Hoole.

[48] R.F. Young and S. Jebanesan (1995):11 0.

[49] A.R. Venkatachalapathy, In those days there was no coffee: writings in cultural history: New Perspectives on Indian Pasts (Yoda Press, New Delhi, 2006): 108.

[50]The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, Vol. VII, Third Series, 1828.

[51]C.R.A. Hoole, Modern Sannyasins: Protestant Missionary Contribution to Ceylon Tamil Culture (Bern: Verlag Peter Lang, 1995).

[52]E.J. Robinson (1867): 101-2.

[53]TamilNet, “Graves of Peter Percival, R B Foote, discovered at Yercaud,” July 8, 2009. www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=29748 . Accessed April 2010

[54] Shanti Pappu (2008): 37

[55] Shanti Pappu (2008): 30-50.

[56] G. G. Findlay and W. W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, Vol. 5 (London: The Epworth Press, 1924): 39-40

[57] http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=29787. Accessed 02 March 2013.

[58] K. Kailasapathy, Eelathu Ilakkiya Munnodigal Madras, 1986

[59] A.R. Venkatachalapathy (2006): 113, Footnote 40.

[60] S. Thanjeyarajasingham (The Educational Activities of Arumuga Navalar, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar Sabai, Colombo, 1974)

[61] Uthayatharakai – Morning Star, Jaffna November 25th 1847

[62]         Note that the caste of Nalavar (as spelt now in Sri Lanka) does not exist in India. By profession, the Nalavas are toddy-tappers/coconut pluckers whose equivalent caste in India would be Nadar/Shanar in terms of profession but theJaffna Nalavar are not as politically powerful or educated or rich or Christianised like their Indian counterparts. M.D. Ragavan (n.d., Tamil Culture in Ceylon, Colombo: Kalai Nailaiyam) has speculated on the independent origins of the caste in Jaffna.

[63] Sir James Emerson Tennent (1850): 146

[64]Chaiva Periyaar Shri S. Shivapathasundaram (1950) says that Percival “asked him to teach English in the lower classes and Thamil in the upper classes.”

D. Ambalavanar, 2006, 9 says “he worked as a Tamil Teacher and Bible translator.”

D. Dennis Hudson, “Arumuga Navalar and the Hindu Renaisance Among Tamils,” Chapter 2, pp. 27-51 in Kenneth W. Jones (ed.), Religious Controversy in British India” Dialogues in Asian Languages (Albany, SUNY Press, 1992): 29, says Navalar was “a teacher of Tamil and English and an advisor to the translator of the Bible.”

K. Kailasapathy (2006) says Navalar joined Central College in 1834 and spent fourteen years there both as a student and teacher. We see him borrowing from others now.

[65] Morning Star, Aug. 25, 1853. It calls the school the “secession school” established on grounds of caste.

[66] Also according to Ambalavanar, he established an English Saiva school in 1872 “which did not last long due to inadequate financial resources.”

[67] Ambalavanar, 2006, p. 76

[68]V. Kanakarattina Upāttiyāyarin̲ Śrilaśri Nallūr Ār̲umuka Nāvalar carittiram (1994):59 (numbered in Tamil) Chunnkaththu Changarapaditha Pandi

[69] S. Thananjeyarajasingham (The Educational Activities of Arumuga Navalar, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar Sabai, Colombo, 1974)

[70] 1995, p. 24.

[71] Kailasapillai, 1955, p 26

[72] 1992, p. 38.

[73] JABS, A Brief Narrative of the Operations of the Jaffna Auxiliary Bible Society – 1835 to 1870 in the Preparation of the Tamil Scriptures (Jaffna: Strong & Asbury Printers, 1868).

[74] JABS (1868), Record of meeting on June 19th, 1845

[75] R.S. Sugirtharajah, The Postcolonial Biblical Reader (Malden, MA: Blackwell) 2006.

[76] John Carman, op. cit. 1991. Available at: http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/jhcs/vol4/iss1/3.

[77] C. Rudra, “Distortions and prejudices galore,” Daily News, Sept. 6. 2003. The misuse of the article shows the Tamil language-based, flawed thinking of authors who do not read the vast English literature.

[78]William Canton, A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society: with Portraits and Illustrations, Vol. II (London: John Murray, 1904).

[79]Rev. D. Holden, “The Tamil Mission in South India,” The Irish Church Advocate, (July 1, 1879): 198-199

[80]Devanesan Rajarigam, The History of Tamil Christian Literature, (Madras: Published for the The Christian Literature Society, 1958).

[81] The Colonial Church Chronicle, and Missionary Journal, July 1847-Dec. 1874 (London: W.H. Bartlett) 1869:147

[82] S. Kulandran, 1958

[83] D. Dennis Hudson (1992): 29

[84] Bernard Bate, 2005.

[85] K.M. de Silva, A History of Sri Lanka (Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 353

[86]A.J. Wilson, Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Its Origins and Development in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (University of British Columbia Press, 2000): 27-28

[87]Lakshmanan Sabaratnam, Ethnic attachments in Sri Lanka: social change and cultural continuity (Palgrave Macmillan) 2001

[88] S. Thananjayarajasingham (The Educational Activities of Arumuga Navalar, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar Sabai, Colombo, 1974) in trying to say that Navalar kept himself pure by not attending Christianity classes says “Whether the young Navalar was compelled to attend the Church Service with which the school work for each day began remains to be investigated.”

[89] Sascha Ebeling, 2010.

[90] Bryan Pfaffenberger, Caste in Tamil Culture: The Religious Foundations of Sudra Domination in Tamil Sri Lanka (Syracuse: Syracuse University, 1982).

[91] http://www.archive.org/stream/tamilproverbswi00percgoog/tamilproverbswi00percgoog_djvu.txt accessed 14th April, 2011, p. 17

[92] For example see the long running series of Tamil articles in the Morning Star (in and around the issue of 23 Aug. 1849) about how Siva lost his sexual organs after seducing the chaste wife of a holy man and she cursed him. Discussions revolve around the gods as examples to children.

[93] Sachi Sri Kantha, “Professor K. Sivathamby (1932-2011): A personal appraisal,” Ilankai Tamil Sangam, Aug. 7, 2011.

[94] The Hindu, “Scholar K. Sivathamby to participate in Tamil Conference,” Oct. 26, 2009.

[95] Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Ancient India (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Majumdar, 1960), 468-469

[96]Kamil Zvelebil, Tamil Literature (Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1974)

*Dushyanthi Hoole, PhD USC, Research Professor, Department of Chemistry, Michigan State University

*SRH Hoole, DSc (Eng) Lond, PhD Carn. Mellon,  Professor,  Michigan State University

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Latest comments

  • 3

    I wonder why this man always trying to seed religious tension among Hindus and Christians.

    This professor having lot of venom , but being a Tamil christian does not have a fang.

    We all are lucky that he is not from the majority community,

    • 0

      He things Tamil Christians are Europeans and hence they are superior.

  • 2

    Tamils accuse the Sinhalese of horrendous crimes. They are right. But they are not ready to look through the very similar atrocities committed in the name of their cause by LTTE.
    The holocausts of Mullivaikal and Nandikadal have been caused by the Sri Lankan government AND the LTTE. Prabhakaran in this respect was an accomplice of Rajapaksa.
    If you are asking for truth, you should be ready to accept it.

  • 1

    This article is as amusing as it is irrelevant. Who cares about the name, the caste or the religion of the people who translated the Christian bible into Tamil. Infact, the bible has been translated and interpreted so many times into so many different languages, that christians themselves are lost; they ‘dont see the wood for the trees’! and that is why there are so many different sects and cults. I believe this is applicable to all religions and philosophies.

  • 0

    amusing irrelevance

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy

  • 1

    This article is irrevelant. It does not matter who translated the Bible, the more important question is “have you read it from cover to cover”? If you do, you’ll end up being a atheist. If you do not, you are a true Christian.

  • 1

    Ratnajeevan Hoole and Dushyanti Hoole are obsessed with the subject of Arumuka Navalar. This in turn indicates that we need to deconstruct the concept of Tamil identity to begin with. We are Tamil Hindus. That is an identity that needs to be emphasized henceforth given how Tamil Christians have used the Tamil political platform since 1956 to secure their own narrow political objectives much as they did in East Timor, South Sudan, Biafra, the tribal states in Myanmar etc. This in turn fits into the broader geostrategic objectives of the West, an otherwise gradually declining political and economic bloc.

    It does not matter whether Percival translated the bible into Tamil or whether Navalar did it! Navalar’s greatness lies elsewhere as the comments threat in response to Ratnajeevan Hoole’s article on March 30 well illustrated. It had to do with the modern Tamil Hindu education system, the use of the modern printing press not just to republish the classics but also for missionary activity, and Tamil Hindu organization. Navalar also linked North Sri Lanka and South India in a resurgence of Tamil Hindu religious activity in response to the inroads of a colonial sponsored Christianity.

    The issue of caste in Tamil Hinduism, while unfortunate, can be compared to the racism and anti-Buddhist polemic fostered by Tamil Christian politicians since independence, not to mention the indirect church-sponsored eviction of Muslims from the Mannar district to make that district Sri Lanka’s first Christian majority district.

    Its time we think in terms of Tamil Hindu, in terms of a civilizational alliance with liberal Buddhists and forego the language of victimization and discrimination. While this will need a principled stance against Mahinda Rajapakse, a despot that the Hooles were only too willing to ally with in order to get the Jaffna University Vice Chancellorship, it also means a rejection of the church sponsored definition of modern Tamil identity in Sri Lanka and the subtext of anti-Sinhala racism.

    The article is otherwise irrelevant, hackeneyed in light of all the earlier publications of the Hooles and cliched. It offers no new perspective except to spew hate indirectly at Hinduism.

  • 1

    These are chauvinist sick minds at work to divide the Tamils with this exercise irrelevant to society as a whole in the current context.


  • 1

    I had an inadvertent typo in my comment above. I meant to say ‘comments thread’

    The use of the terms ‘Saivite extremists’ highlighted by the Hooles should perhaps be countered with the concept of ‘Vellalar Protestants’. The Hooles epitomize that mindset – narrow, confused, irrelevant, archaic and obscurantist in their religious belief and obsessions with long forgotten 19th century conflicts!

    There is also an subtext of personal denunciation in what ever Hoole publishes. The attack on Savitri Goonesekere was one example. This opinion piece itself has more indirect and subtle attacks on Dennis Hudson, Bernard Bote, Sascha Ebeling, Professor Kanapathipillai, Sudhananda Bharati, Professor Kailasapillai and even Professor K. Sivathamby that they purport to defend, not to mention Bishop Kulendran indirectly as well! I wonder what the poor old man Kulendran did to elicit the Hoole vengeance. And of course the repeated incessant attacks on Navalar and earlier Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Thamotherampillai are also examples.

    The Hooles are reactionary fundamentalists.

  • 0

    Hoole speaks of ‘we Tamils’. How charming! Lets first define who a Tamil is. Kannaki, the heroine of the Tamil epic – the Silapadikaram in the last chapter of the text – varam tharai kaathai advises Ilanko Adikal on what the ideal Tamil is i.e. one who believes in rebirth and does appropriate good karma in order to win a better birth. The concept of karma and samsara is what links Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. So before the Hooles preach on a church pedestal on Tamil rights, let them first become authentic Tamils. This means respect for other religions and their iconic heroes. Its means an appreciation of Tamil architecture, music, classical dance, literature and sculpture, all of which were underpinned by Hinduism or in the instance of literature by Jainism as well. By no means can Hoole be considered a Tamil. Another commentator in another article had dismissed Hoole as a coconut – black on the outside and white on the inside. These are no Tamils – they are just Christians who have exploited the Tamil issue for their own political ends.

  • 1

    what are these people going on about. why do tamil people have to talk about christianity. have the tamil people become custodians of an alien faith. in my opinion all converts have to be reconverted to their original faith. i don’t think srinivasan rejected hinduism voluntarily as he was an infant of 16 years old. he was probably enticed with free educatin, free boarding and lodging.

  • 1

    i am sorry i forgot to mention pocket money and wine gums.

    • 1

      The Hooles are great intellectuals and the saying Aanda Parambarai would equally suit them the LTTE.

      The LTTE was crazy and the whole of the Tamil people including hooles are responsible for their dominance. We should admit collective responsibility for this.

      Admitting that should not be an endorsement of the ambitions of Protestant Chrisitianiy or the ambitions christian tamils.

      As for hooles venturing into social sceinces despite being a scientist is a fool heardy enterise.

      • 1


        The Hooles had their degrees in the physical sciences, not literature, linguistics and anthropology. This particular opinion piece is yet another instance of their non-academic approach. There are lots of citations in this article but the citations are merely appended to indicate that they had read the texts and that they disagree with the authors. Its not an academic discussion of pros and cons using one author to perhaps qualify another. Reality is always nuanced and the academic narrative is not a rant.

        Hinduism and Tamil identity are linked and will always be, the church sponsored ‘Dravidian’ movement notwithstanding. Tamil classicism, the classical music tradition, the classical dance tradition, the high architecture, the stone and bronze work all have Hinduism for their inspiration. High literature had a ‘secular’ (the term itself is recent), Hindu and Jain imprint. Yet the ‘secular’ early literature of the Sangham era presupposes a folk and high tradition and belief system that is Tamil Hindu. It was the Saivite commentators of the medieval era that preserved the Sangam and post Sangam work assiduously, not to mention commented on the various texts, commentaries that are still studied in the university of South India and Sri Lanka. The Jaffna Kingdom was first formed by a Pandyan General, a Tamil Brahmin. Professor Pathmanathan’s seminal work – Kingdom of Jaffna describes this. Christianity was introduced during the colonial era. It is still financed by the west.

        Navalar as I had mentioned was stellar in his use of the modern printing press like Gutenberg, in his use of simple Tamil prose, in his establishment of a modern Hindu school system, in his links with South India and most importantly in his contribution to the definition of Sri Lankan Tamil identity. Percival is a no-body today. If one were to attack Percival, almost no one (Hoole aside) would come to his defence. The assiduous defence of Navalar in response to previous articles of Hoole, not to mention in the Tamil Language press only illustrates how Navalar’s memory is still cherished and continues to inspire us. This debate on who translated the Tamil Bible – Percival or Navalar is irrelevant to us. The Tamil Bible is a non-text for most of us who would rather read the Tirukural for inspiration!

        I think it is important to now deconstruct S.J.V. Chelvanayakam – the greatest fraud in modern Tamil history. He assumed a saintly veneer but his task was merely to complement what that other Anglican had done – S.W.R.D Bandaranaike – to divide Sri Lanka on racial grounds, one that the church would benefit from in a post colonial era. Buddhists were set against Hindus and vice versa, despite all our similarities, be it the belief in Karma, Samsara and Moksha (as one commentator above mentions), our veneration of the same deities, our similar wedding and funeral customs, our celebration of the same new year etc. Its time to recreate that civilizational affinity. The Rajapakses have to go – but one hand can not clap by itself – so we need you on the other side to help out.

        Aayushman bhava!

  • 0

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  • 1

    Hoole is trying to rewrite history. Navalar’s achievements in Sri Lankan Tamil history are obviously a problem for him. I have with me two publications which are by far more reliable than Hoole’s diatribe. One is by S. Kulendran who published in 1958 – “The Tentative Version of the Bible or the Navalar Bible”. The other is by Fabricius – “The Translation of the Bible into Tamil” published only thre years ago – 2010. Both are clear that Percival had a problem with brown skinned natives, frequently plagiarized their work and claimed it as his own without due acknowledgement to those who had worked under him. Percival was obviously a white racist in the classic mode of the 19th century when the Anglo Saxon empire was at its peak.

    Hoole lacks a critical sense of history and is vindictive in his sweeping generalizations. His forefather – Elijah Hoole was born a Hindu, then became a Methodist and eventually switched to being an Anglican – all part of the political play at hand and the need to secure imperial patronage. There was a change in Governor and George Willian Anderson was appointed colonial Ceylon’s CEO in 1850. The 1848 revolt in south Ceylon had been cruelly suppressed and the Anglican church given clear privileges that it did not have relative to other Protestant churches until then. This explained the turn coat Elijah Hoole’s subsequent rejection of the Methodist church and adoption of the Anglican faith. These were the rice Christians of yore. Percival’s religious odyssey paralled that with a switch from Methodist to Anglican. He almost became Roman Catholic but death overtook that chameleon before he was to change.

    There’s a lot more behind Hoole’s version of history than he is willing to admit!

  • 0

    This professor having lot of venom , but being a Tamil christian does not have a fang….Newton
    christians themselves are lost; they ‘dont see the wood for the trees’! and that is why there are so many different sects and cults……Essie
    We are Tamil Hindus. That is an identity that needs to be emphasized henceforth given how Tamil Christians have used the Tamil political platform since 1956 to secure their own narrow political objectives much as they did in East Timor, South Sudan, Biafra, the tribal states in Myanmar etc….DD
    ideal Tamil is i.e. one who believes in rebirth and does appropriate good karma in order to win a better birth….Jaya
    why do tamil people have to talk about christianity…Rama

    WHERE DOES IT ORIGINATE FROM ? PRO CATHOLIC / CHRISTIAN WEST.. THESE WERE NO IDEAL TAMILS. no wonder the church were the loot keepers. S.J.Emmanuel equated prabakaran to his Master Jesus abd suicide cadres to martyrs.
    Rayappu, yet in search of his eelam a frequent visitor to the Barbers rat hole.

  • 0


    You have raised a very sensitive issue in relation to SJV Chelvanayagam. It will be interesting if some one undertakes an in-depth study of SJV Chelvanayagam’s role in setting up the Tamils against the Sinhalese. Did the Christian lobbies including Catholic Action had a hand in promoting Chelvanayagam against the Hindu GG Ponnambalam or was it a mere ambition on the part of Chelvanayagam to become a Tamil leader that made him to break away from Congress Party? I believe Chelvanayagam got the Federal Party to oppose the government’s move to take over of missionary schools in the sixties because of the lobbying and pressure from the Christian churches. Another interesting fact is that Federal Party always opposed SLFP governments which were seen as pro-Buddhist whereas it readily supported UNP governments. UNP always had the support of the Catholic and other Christian religious leaders.

    After the demise of Chelvanayagam there was no Christian leading the Tamils in parliamentary politics [Edited out]

    Provide proof – CT

    • 1

      I have heard the following story confirnmec by G. G. Ponnambalam :

      When the decision was made by the Tamil Congress to join the D.S. Senanayake governent, ministerial positions were offered to that party. Lord Soulbury advised DS and Sir Oliver Gunatilleke that GGP should be in the cabinet, as he could be formidable person to deal with, if left out. However, GGP proposed that S.J.V. Chelvanayagam should be inducted to the cabinet, as he was his senior by age. However, DS opposed this by saying that he did want a lean and hungry looking man like Cassius in his cabinet. GGP joined the cabinet and SJVC bid his time to stab him in the back!

      It has also come down the grapevine that the final decision to join the DS government was made at the Bishop’s house in Vattukottai and there were fire works in the area, even before the message was conveyed to DS.

      Are there persons who can confirm these stories?

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2

    Dr Hoole

    First of all, I would like to say all religious have bullshit principles. Not just Hinduism.

    However when you respect the bullshit in Christianity, you have to respect the bullshit in Hinduism as well. Otherwise, you have to accept that you are a fundamentalist.

    If you ask my personal opinion, all religions have good principles and bull-shit

    Sorry off-topic, but at least slightly relevant.

  • 0

    From the Hooles’ extensive analysis and facts above, in the scholarly tradition, it is now very clear to a logical mind that Navalar could not have “translated the Bible”. Sadly, we were even taught at school that Navalar wrote the Bible.

    This article clearly presents the case for Percival updating a version used even before Navalar was born, or PErcival was preaching from; strictly keeping to the rules of translation of sacred Christian texts with deep knowledge of all the ancient Bible languages.

    Whoever disputes the facts in this article must then publish a scholarly reply in a reputed journal refuting that Percival translated the Bible but Navalar did. Shouting a hundred insults like unschooled persons or writing false things in Wiki and private blogs over and over with no academic credence and as pieces that are not peer reviewed does not make the case that Navalar wrote the bible in Tamil and not his Tamil teacher, Rev. Percival who started the Dept of Tamil at the Madras University. It is cheating our children feeding them lies. That will make weak academics of them. Also address the questions such as -If Navalar translated, then why was he insulting this Bible in his speeches everywhere? And, why was C. W Thamotharampillai B. A. a far better Tamil scholar than Navalar not invited for this sacred work by Rev. Percival? Surely, there must be strict rules on persons translating the Bible.

    The un-scholarly insults here are proof of the paucity of scholarship among certain vociferous sections of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka and abroad. They and their children deserve our pity.

    If they want us to believe otherwise they should publish a scholarly reply in a reputed journal refuting that Percival translated the Bible and it was Navalar who translated the Bible and published it in India and after testing it in the Churches.

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