An Artist's impression of Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi, S J


(The Courageous Ascetic) 

(1680 - 1747)

Father of Tamil Prose and Tamil Lexicography

The Dante of the Tamil Language





The Story

A staunch ascetic called Valan (Joseph) gets married to a resolute virgin called Mary. To them ‘a child is born’, to them ‘a son is given’, through Divine intervention. How that holy family plays its role in the Divine Drama ­­– or if we may call it Tiruviḷaiyāṭal (Divine Play) as Tamils would call it, or La Divina Commedia as Dante would have it or Divine Providence as the Catholic Church would like to proclaim it ‒ is the burden of the epic.


(Tēmpāvaṇi) (தேம்பாவணி in Tamil) (A Garland of Unfading Honey-Sweet Verses), one of the Tamil classics, a poetical work of Veeramamunivar (Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi), on the life of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ. This Tamil [Divina Commedia] is divided into thirty-six cantos, containing 3,615 stanzas. "It is," says Baumgartner, "the noblest epic poem in honour of St. Joseph written in any literature, East or West". It begins with the birth of Joseph (வளன், சூசை) and ends with his "coronation" by the Triune God in heavenly glory.  

Thembavani has more than 100 references to events and teachings in the Bible. Thoroughly immersed in Tamil literature and culture, Beschi integrates several literary devices successfully employed by classics such as Kamba Ramayanam (கம்பராமாயணம்) and Manimekalai (மணிமேகலை). This is particularly evident in his description of landscape, mountain, sea, desert and fertile land.

Beschi composed the epic keeping Joseph (Valan) as the hero and Mary as the heroine and wove into it several characters and episodes appropriate to the unravelling of the story of Joseph, Mary and their God-son. The epic consists of 3,615 rhymed quatrains in Tamil with 90 variations. It consists of 3 Parts with 12 sections in each. There are 356 episodes that relate to births, deaths, journeys, wars, celebrations, happenings in the Netherworld, Hell, Heaven, etc. It contains philosophical and theological discussions on the nature of God, idolatry, rebirth, Fate, virtue, asceticism, etc. It has an abundance of historical, biblical and fictional characters like Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Joseph of Old Testament, Samson, David and Goliath, Nebuchadnezzar, Tobit and Tobias, John the Baptist, Herod, Kunnan, Navakan, Surami, etc. Its actions take place in several places like Bethlehem, Judea, Nazareth, Egypt, Heliopolis, Gaza, Jericho, Sinai, Beersheba, etc. Kings from the Holy Roman Empire (England, Ireland, Spain, Gaul, Prussia, Norway, Lusitania, Genoa, Etruria, Parthia, Cyprus, Paeonia) come to Vienna at the invitation of Leopold I to install the statue of the hero of the epic (Joseph). Thus ends the epic. 

Thembavani has now been translated into English verse and published as E-Book and Paperback on Amazon Kindle. The book also carries the sandhi-separated (simplified) Tamil text as a free add-on for the use of those who know Tamil. The Tamil text is out of print for the last several decades and is found only in a few libraries worldwide. This is one more reason to include the Tamil text in its entirety. 

Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi 

Beschi occupies a special place in Tamil literature. In fact, the fifth world Tamil Congress held at Madurai in January 1981 acknowledged it by erecting his statue in the city of Madras along with others who have made similar contributions. Beschi composed three Tamil grammars and three dictionaries, Tamil-Latin, Tamil-Portuguese and Tamil-Tamil. His magnum opus, the Thembavani is considered by experts to this day as one of the best Tamil works ever written.

Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi was born in the town of Castiglione Delle Stiviere in the district of Mantua, Italy, on November 8, 1680. He finished his secondary education at the Jesuit School in Montero where the three subjects of rhetoric, humanities and grammar were taught. Desiring to become a priest, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1698 and studied philosophy for three years from 1701-1703 in Bologna, and theology for four years from 1706-1710. He was ordained priest in 1709. His studies included not only philosophy and religion but also the learning of languages like Latin, French, Portuguese, Greek, and Hebrew. On hearing about the work done in India by the Jesuits returning to Italy from India, Beschi was eager to come to India. He was sent by his superiors to India in 1710 and landed in Goa and then came to join the Madurai Province of the Jesuits. Though he was given priestly duties in plenty which involved a lot of travelling, he passionately followed his desire to master the local language, literature and culture. He studied Sanskrit, Tamil as well as Telugu from pundits. He gained mastery in Tamil and because of his boldness in defending the correctness of his convictions, he was fondly called by people as Dhairiyanathar (The Fearless Guru). His magnum opus Thembavani was presented for ratification as a classic in the Academy of Poets and received their approval and the poet was given the title Veeramanunivar (The Courageous Ascetic)

The Dante of the Tamil Language

A tablet was installed in his native place Castiglione Delle Stiviere in 1980 to mark the 300th birth anniversary of Beschi. 

The Chairman of Tamil Nadu Minorities Commission and senior Congress leader Mr S Peter Alphonse honoured Prof M Dominic Raj and received a copy of Thembavani:  A Garland of Unfading Honey-Sweet Verses translated by M Dominic Raj (Retired Prof. of English / First Translator of the entire Tamil Epic THEMBAVANI ) written by Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi in 1726 in pure Tamil (Veeramamunivar- the Father of Tamil Prose and Tamil Lexicography and the Dante of the Tamil Language). The event was organised by Rev. Fr. Charles Kumar (Parish Priest), and the members of the Parish of St. Teresa of Avila Church (Nungambakkam, Chennai 600034) on 13th October 2021.

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பாடல் எண்
Verse Numbers
  கடவுள் வணக்கம்
Obeisance to God
  காப்பியத் தலைவன்
Hero of the Epic
Humble Presentation before the August Assembly of Sages
  கதை வந்த வழி
Origin of the Story
  7 - 12
  ஊரும் பேரும்
Name of the Place (of composition)
  முதல் காண்டம்
பாடல் எண்
Verse Numbers
  முதலாவது: நாட்டுப் படலம்
  மழை வளம்
  Abundance of Rain
 1 - 3
  ஆற்று வளம்
  Abundance of Rivers
 4 - 9
  உழவுத் தொழில் வளம்
  Abundance from Farming
  10 - 15
  வாழ்க்கை வளம்
  Abundance of Life
  16 – 35
  சோலை வளம்
  Abundance of Groves
  36 - 48
  மலர் கொய்த மகளிர்
  Flower-plucking Maidens
  49 - 57
  மகளிர் புகழ்ப் பாடல் 
  Laudatory Song of the Maidens
  58 - 63
  பலவகை நலங்கள்
  A Variety of Riches
  64 - 73
  மக்கள் நலம்
  Prosperity of the People
  74 - 83
  இரண்டாவது: நகரப் படலம்
  எருசலேம் பெருமை 
  The Fame of Jerusalem
  1 - 15
  நகர வளம்
  Riches of the City
  16 - 38
  ஆலயச் சிறப்பு
  The Grandeur of the Temple
  39 – 50
  பொழுது போக்கு
  51 - 60
  வாழ்க்கை வளம்
  Life’s Riches
  61 - 70
  மூன்றாவது: வளன் சனித்த படலம்
  தாவீது மன்னன்
  King David
  1 - 8
  கோலியாற்றின் அறைகூவல்
  Goliath’s Challenge
  9 - 17
  தாவிதன் வீரவுரை
  David’s Heroic Oration
  18 - 25
  கோலியாற்று வீழ்ச்சி
  The Downfall of Goliath
  26 - 31
  தாவிதன் பெற்ற வாக்குறுதி
  The Promise Received by David
  32 - 38
  வாக்குறுதியின் வழித் தோன்றல்
  The Son of that Promise
  மாசு களைந்த கருப்பம்
  Unstained Conception
  44 - 52
  தேம்பாவணியாய்ப் பிறந்த மகன்
  The Son Born as an Unfading Garland
  53 - 61
  நான்காவது: பால மாட்சிப் படலம்
  குழவிப் பருவம்
  1 - 15
  இளமைப் பருவம்
  16 - 23
  சூசையின் பாடல்
  Song of Joseph
  24 - 26
  வானவன் வகுத்த தவம்
  A Celestial Defines Asceticism
  இல்லத்து இருத்திய தவம்
  Asceticism Established at Home
  அற வாழ்வும் அறத் துணைமையும்
  Ascetic Life and Its Props
  ஐந்தாவது: திருமணப் படலம்
  ஆதிப்பாவத்தால் அழிவுறும் உலகம்
  The Ruin of the World through Original Sin
  கடவுள் அவதரிக்கச் சூசை வேண்டல் 
  Joseph’s Prayer for the Incarnation of God
  கன்னிக்கு வந்த மணத் தூது 
  Message to the Maiden Proposing Marriage
  சீமையோன் செய்த திருமண ஏற்பாடு
  Simeon’s Arrangements for the Marriage
  மரியாள் வேண்டும் துணைவன்
  The Companion Desired by Mary
  மணமகள் மரியாள் மனங்குலைந்து அழுதல் 
 Mary the Bride Weeps in Trepidation
  கடவுள் காட்டும் கன்னிமைக் காவலன் 
  The Virgin Guardian Indicated by God
  தோழியரும் மரியாளும்
  Mary and Her Companions
  மரியாள் கோவில் புகுதல் 
  Entry of Mary into the Temple

Glorification of Joseph in THEMBAVANI

M Dominic Raj

Former Chief Resource Person

Department of Translation

Central Institute of Classical Tamil, Chennai

Right at the outset it should be pointed out that Thembavani is not a book dealing with Catholic dogma or theology. It is an elaborate imaginative narration following the epic conventions that were established in India and abroad. More than La Divina Commedia of Dante, it is Gerusalemme Liberata by Torquato Tasso that seems to give us clarity about the use of Christian beliefs in epic poetry. Andrew Fichter has characterized the poem (Gerusalemme Liberata) as a “Christian epic,” which is based on the theme of redemption. “Tasso's choice of redemption as a theme,” he asserts, “is perfectly suited to his purpose of constructing a true Christian epic, a poem based on Christian principles but one that also possesses the formal properties of the Aeneid, wholeness, magnitude, and unity of plot and character.” (Google: Andrew Fichter and Tasso). Tasso had the problem of mixing romance with the Christian epic dealing with the liberation of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. Veeramamunivar (hereafter referred to as ‘Munivar’) has no such problem because his choice of the Theme of Christian Redemption encompasses his epic plot, setting, and characters (especially the character of the epic hero ‒ Valan (Joseph), and his narration subtly introduces poetic imagination to add flesh to the skeletal narrative of that theme in the Bible. In this effort he found a ready-made model in the mystical visions noted down by the Mystic, Mary of Jesus of Agreda (Mystical City of God), who was praised by some and despised by other Church authorities during her time and later, but who was venerated after several years. Though mystical revelations do not form part of the Church’s dogmas, they definitely go a long way in building one’s Faith in refreshingly new ways. They are the outpourings of holy persons of intense love for God. The death of Joseph as narrated by Munivar follows closely the description of it by the mystic in her book. The convincing nature of her book is based on the quotations she uses from the Bible which very much match the incidents that the mystic says were revealed to her by Mother Mary herself in the visions. When images are built on the foundations of Faith and Holiness, they can be a source of emotional attachment to the core values of dogmas. Thembavani was written not to preach Catholic theology but to attract people to the emotional realization of the ‘True Path’ (மெய் வகை உணர்வு ‒ Patalam XXVII, 148)). God Himself says that this method of harmonising preaching the Scripture while delighting the heart is indeed right, and that He would help that process by giving seven gifts (sacraments).

42 “பாடிய ஓதையும் வீணைசெய் ஓதையும், பகை அற்று ஒப்ப, எவர் கேளார்?

ஆடிய நூல் மறை ஒத்து அற நல் நெறி அன்னார் நீங்கா ஒமுக்கத்தால்,

கோடிய உள்ளமும் இன்பு உறீஇ சொன்னது உள் கொண்டு, குன்றாத் தெளிவு எய்தி,

நேடிய நன்று உற, உற்றவை நீங்கு இல நிலையே பெற, ஏழ்வரம் ஈவேன்.”

“The sound of songs sung, the sound produced by the veena – who will not listen to them when they are in harmony without discord?

On account of people receiving in their hearts what was said by those preachers who did not leave the excellent path of virtue

That is in consonance with sacred texts with which they were conversant, the people’s warped hearts gained delight, and in order that they may acquire

Undiminishing clarity, gain the desired boon, and be confirmed in a state which will not leave them, I will give them seven gifts.” (Patalam XXXII, 42)

In the very second stanza of the epic Thembavani wherein Beschi introduces his hero, according to Tamil epic convention, we find him glorifying Joseph thus:

2 தே உலகு இறைஞ்சும் சூசை தேன் மலர்க் கொடியைப் பூத்து,

மூ உலகு அனைத்தும் எஞ்சா முறையொடு நிழற்றும் நாதன்

பூ உலகு எய்தி அன்ன பூ நிழற்கு ஒடுங்கிச் சாய்ந்த

யா உலகு அனைத்தும் வாழ்த்தும் இருங் கதை இயம்பல் செய்வாம்.

Joseph, whom the heavenly regions revere, received a plant of honey-filled flowers,

And the Lord who without depletion preserves all the three worlds under His shade,

Deigned to come down into this world and took shelter to rest under his flowery shade –

Let me venture to narrate this powerful story that is praised throughout the world.

In the very next verse, to show Joseph in the glorious light of the Tamil language Munivar gives him the name Valan (vaḷaṉ) ‒ the one full of excellences.

3 வளம் செயும் வரங்கள் தம்மால் வரைவு இல வளர்வு அமைந்த

உளம் செயும் அரிய மாட்சி உடையவன் ஆய தன்மை

நளம் செயும் வடநூலோர்கள் நவின்று இவற் சூசை என்பது

அளம் செயும் தமிழ்ச் சொல்லானும் அவன் வளன் என்பது ஒத்தே.

On account of prosperous blessings received without limit, and flourishing,

He had a rare and glorious disposition of cordial charity, being named ‘Joseph’.

The Sanskritists did instantly echo the foreign scholars and used that name;

But, the name ‘vaḷaṉ’ in Tamil is indeed the most suitable name for him.

The birth of Valan is treated almost at par with the immaculate conception of the heroine Mary. She was born sinless at conception itself and Valan is born with Original Sin in him being removed from the embryo before seven lunar months could pass.

50 புரப்ப ஓர் பொது முறை பொறாத தன்மையால்,

கருப்பம் ஓர் எழு மதி கடக்கும் முன் வினை

பரிப்ப ஓர் சிறப்பு அருட் பயத்தின் சூல் செயிர்

விருப்பமோடு இறையவன் விலக்கினான் அரோ.

Realizing that an ordinary method will not suffice to protect Joseph

From that sin, even before seven moons could pass after that conception,

God, wanting to destroy that sin connected with that conception,

Lovingly removed it with an extraordinary stroke of Divine Grace. (Patalam III, 50)

57 வீடா வான் நலம் செய் நோக்கு நோக்கி விண் இறையோன்

கோடா வரத்து ஆசி செய் வான் மேல் ஓர் குரல் தோன்றி,

“ஆடா நிலை அறத்து என் மார்பில் தேம்பா அணி ஆவான்

வாடா அருள் மகன்,” என்று அம் பூ மாரி வழங்கிற்றே.

The Lord of Heaven, looking at the child and intending to bestow on it

Heavenly blessings inexhaustible, and with a voice from the skies blessing

With unmistakable graces said, “This son of undying grace and abiding virtue

Will be an unfading garland on my breast.” – A lovely flower shower descended. (Patalam III, 57)

59 கூம்பா அணி மகற்குக் கணிதம் மிக்கோர் கூறு புகழ்

ஓம்பா அணி ஆக அனைத்தும் நீக்கி, “ஒருங்கு உடன் ஓர்

சாம்பா அணி ஆக இரங்கி எந்தை தான் புகழ்ந்த

தேம்பாவணியே!” என்று, அணி மிக்கு அம் பூண் சேர்த்தினரே.

Rejecting, as not worth considering at all, all the praises heaped on the child

As unfading ornaments by exceedingly learned astrologers based on calculations,

The people added beautiful ornaments exclaiming, “O Thembavani, − undrooping garland

You have already been decorated by our Lord himself gathering together all His praises!” (Patalam III, 59)

The outstanding intellectual and spiritual powers of Valan are revealed in great detail in the many debates and discussions he has with the philosophers and ascetics of different religions whom he meets during his stay in Egypt. Munivar has masterfully shown us how even in dire circumstances while staying in Egypt as a refugee, the dauntless ascetic Valan spends his time teaching the principles of the True Religion as found in the Ten Commandments. That was the religion available to Valan during his life on earth. These elaborate episodes and narratives remind one of similar scenes in Manimekalai. In Canto XXVI, when Manimekhalai goes to the city of Vanji (vañci), she meets a number of philosophers and religious preachers who were residing there propagating their views. To gain enlightenment she approaches all of them, namely, the Nyayavadis, the Shaivites, the Vaishnavites, the Vedantins, the Ajivikas, the Nirganthavadis, the Sankhyavadis, the Vaisheshikas (the exponents of Scientism), and the Butavadis (materialists), and not convinced by any of their arguments she rejects all of them and their dogmas and maintains an independent view of the salvation of her soul. She then goes to Kanchi (kāñci), and there she meets once again her guru Aravana Adigal and is instructed by him on the principles of Buddhism. After teaching about Buddhism to her Aravana Adigal occludes:

“‘Give up illusion by reading scriptures;

By meditation, contemplation, and

Realisation. Be freed from mental

Darkness by these four!’ Thus with firm goodwords

He illumined the lamp of knowledge for her.”

(Manimekalai, translated by Dr. Prema Nandakumar, P. (p. 186, Lines 259-262, Tamil University, Thanjavur, India, 1989)

Fully convinced by his teachings, and aiming to attain salvation by renouncing everything in this world in order to avoid rebirth that once again brings sufferings and prevents the soul from attaining Bliss, she undertakes renunciation, puts on the garb of a sannyasi and begins to practice penance.

The above-mentioned episodes in Manimekhalai prove beyond doubt that there was a high degree of religious tolerance, an atmosphere of democratic and transparent sharing and debating of varied and even contradictory ideas in all matters including philosophy and religion. It is in this spirit that Munivar has sketched the character of Valan, in the same mould as Aravana Adigal, making him perform the same function also by putting forth his beliefs to enlighten the minds of his listeners and help them to follow the True Path to redeem the soul from its present predicaments.

The entire Patalam XXVII entitled ‘A Discourse on Good Conduct’, deals with how Valan explains the Jewish religion to the Egyptian scholars and general public. He discusses weighty matters like Fate, Rebirth, the essence of God and other beliefs. One of the debates centring around the existence of only one unique God, Valan concludes with these words:

164 ‘‘சீரிய சவிய மிக்கன அமான சிறப்பன தூயன யாவும்

நீரிய முறையில் உளன் அவன் தேவன், நீங்கில் ஒன்று அவன் அலன் ஆகி,

காரிய நலத்து அவ் இலக்கணம் ஆறும் கடவுள்வாய் உள என்பார். அவற்று ஒன்று

ஆரிய வனப்பின் தன்னிடத்து இல்லான் ஆண்டகை அவன் அலன் அன்றோ.”

“Goodness, Beauty, Fullness, Boundlessness, Eminence, Purity – One in whom all these attributes

Exist in a spontaneous manner is God; even if one of them were to cease, He is no more God;

Scholars say that those six attributes are present in God with the propensity to act and if, among them,

Even one attribute does not exist in Him with exceptional Beauty, then He is no God at all.”

165 ‘‘சீர் எலாம் ஒருவற்கு இயல்பு என ஆகி, சேர்த்திய பலர்க்கு எவன் உண்டு ஆம்?

ஊர் எலாம் ஒருனை ஆள் அரசு ஆய், மற்று ஒருவர் கேட்டு ஒழுகுதல் அரசோ?

ஏர் எலாம் உள பல் தேவர் வேறு ஆக, இவற்கு உளது ஒன்று அவற்கு இலதாய்,

நீர் எலாம் இல ஒவ்வொருவற்கு ஒன்று இன்றி நீர்த்த ஓர் இறையும் இல்,’’ என்றான்.

“After establishing that it is only in that One is there the nature of every excellence, how can they exist in several gods who are joined to Him?

Only one man being the king to rule an entire country, if people were to listen to and abide by what someone else says, will he also be king?

If all Beauty were to be present in several gods who are dissimilar, it will be that what one god has the other one does not, and since total excellence

Will not be present in any one of them with each one not having one attribute or the other, there will also be no God of supreme excellence,” concluded Joseph. (Patalam XXVII -- 164,165)

After many more instances of glorifying Valan, Munivar comes to the point of having to narrate his illness and death. The child-God, gives Valan a duty to perform after his death. Valan is told that when he goes to the netherworld (limbo), he should give the people residing there the joyful news that soon their stay will end and they will go to Heaven because the One who was prophesied to save humanity has been born on earth and will in a very short time fulfil the redemptive plan of God. On hearing all that was conveyed to them by Valan, they joyfully proclaim as follows:

58 “அன்பிற்கு உண்டோ மாத்திரை ஆக அளவு? எம் பால்

அன்பிற்கு உண்டோ ஓர் பயன்? வான் ஆள் முதல்வற்கே

என்பிற்கு உண்டோ வெஃகும் ஓர் நன்றி? இவை ஆகி,

பின்பிற்கு உண்டோ மானிடர் ஆசை பெற?” என்பார்.

“Is there any unit of measurement for His love? For His love for us is there

Any benefit for Him? For the Prime One who rules Heaven, is there any return

That He may desire because of His taking on flesh? Being all these things,

Is there any profit for Him to go in search of human love?” They exclaimed.

59 “அணியே, அன்பே, அன்பு அது சிந்தே, அருள் வேந்தே,

மணியே! உன் பேர் ஆர்வம் நிகர்ப்ப வலர் உண்டோ?

பிணியே கொண்டாய்; பேர் அரசு ஆகி மனிதர்க்கே

பணியே நின்றாய்; உன் தயை ஈதோ பரிசு?” என்பார்.

“O Jewel! O Love! O Ocean of Love! O King of Grace! O Gem! Is there anyone

Powerful enough to do what is equal to what You have done with exceeding zeal?

You accepted afflictions for our sake, and being an emperor You stood by us

To serve humans; is this the reward for Your compassion?” They exclaimed.

60 இவ் வாய், எஞ்சா நாள்தொறும் அன்னார் இசை பாடி,

மெய் வாய் வல்லோன் சூசை உரைப்ப, விழைவு ஓங்கி,

உவ்வு ஆய், இன்னா நீங்கிய மிக்கோர், உருகு உள்ளச்

செவ் வாய் துய்த்த திவ்விய இன்பம் திதி விள்ளா.

Like this, those inhabitants, singing daily without ceasing, and Joseph, the one

Of powerful and truthful tongue, narrating more happenings, surged in zeal; they,

From whom, because of their practice of austerity, sorrows had gone away, melted

In their crimson-mouthed hearts, and experienced an immutable state of divine ecstasy. (Patalam XXXIV, 58-60)

Not satisfied with granting this amount of honour to Valan, Munivar paints a masterstroke that surpasses one’s most fertile imagination. Jesus, after His death, goes to the Netherworld as Supreme Bliss, takes all its inhabitants, including Valan, along with Him, and along with the inhabitants of Purgatory, brought there by the angels, goes to the sepulchre where He had been buried and shows them the wounds suffered by Him to gain Salvation. After His resurrection in glory God asks Valan also to put on his body.

70 “தீய் முகத்து உலகு அழிவு உறுங்கால், அறம் சினந்த

பேய் முகத்து எனைப் பெயர்கு இலார்க்கு இயல்பு இது என்று அறிய,

நோய் முகத்து இறந்து அரிய தூது உரைப்ப நீ நுதலி

வீய் முகத்து, இவண் விட்ட மெய் எடுத்து எழுக,” என்றான்.

“In order that it may be made known that this is the glory that will be received by those

Who have not abandoned Me in the face of the devils that hate virtue when this world

Will be destroyed because of fire, you died in sickness; here is your body that you had left,

After your death, intending to propagate that rare message – take it and arise!” He said.

71 அலை புறம்கொளீஇ ஆதவன் எழுந்து, ஒளி முகத்தின்

கலை புறம்கொளீஇக் கவின்நிறை திங்கள் சேர்ந்தது போல்,

இலை புறம்கொளீஇ ஏடு அவிழ் கொடி நலோன் எழுந்து, எம்

நிலை புறம்கொளீஇ, நிமலனைத் தொழுது முன் நின்றான்.

The sun, rising up leaving behind the sea, and the beauty-filled moon, showing on the outside

The sixteenth phase of brightness of its light on its face, as if joining it, the excellent one

With the flower stalk of flowers with petals unfurling by pushing out the leaves, rising up to life,

Overcoming and casting aside our state of existence, stood in front of the Pure One, adoring Him. (Patalam XXXV, 70, 71)

Not satisfied with that, Jesus and Joseph visit Mary to console her. On hearing all that had happened till then, Mary becomes joyful and says:

84 மாய் அளவு அரிய மகனைக் கண்டு அயின்ற

நோய் அளவு இன்பம் நுகர, மற்ற நலோர்

மீ அளவு உடுப் போல் விளங்கக் கண்டு உவக்கும்

தாய், அளவு இல வாழ் தகையின், புகழ் அறைந்தாள்.

Experiencing a delight equal in measure to the sorrow that she had experienced on seeing

Her singular Son up to the time that He died, that mother, on seeing now other people

Of virtue shining like stars in the region of the heavens and rejoicing, in the nature

Of having obtained a measureless life of felicity, declared the praises of her Divine Son.

85 ஆயதும் அறைந்து, அவ் அவையைக் காட்டிய தன்

சேயது மொழி கேட்டு, “இது நீ செத்து அடைந்த

நோயது பயன்!” என்று இரங்கி நொந்து அழுத

தாய், அது நமக்கு ஆம் என, நோய் தாங்கினள் ஆல்.

On hearing the words of her Son that described what had happened in the Netherworld

After His burial and on His showing her that assembly from there, she said, “This is the reward

For Your death and my mourning,” and wept with pity and grief, pointing out to us

That it was indeed for us also that she had submitted to that, and had endured her sorrow.

86 இந் நிலைப் பலவும் பல நாள் இயைந்து, அன்னார்,

தம் நிலை செல்லா, தரித்த கால், இவண் வீட்டு

அந் நிலை சென்றது அன்ன, ஆனந்தச்

செந் நிலை வடிவம் காட்டிச் செலுத்துவரே.

In this and in several other ways, the Divine Son and Joseph spent many days,

In an appropriate mingling, without going to their permanent place in Heaven,

And made this place itself into that heavenly abode which they had to reach, producing

Delight in Mary, showing her indeed their form of joyful and sublime state of permanence! (Patalam XXXV, 84-86)

To glorify Valan further, Munivar provides another stunning episode. He makes the ascending Christ take His foster-father along with Him to Heaven in a cloud chariot.

7 விரை கிடந்த வெற்பு ஏறி, விண் வேந்தனும்

கரை கடந்த கடல் கடந்து இன்பு உற,

நிரை கிடந்தனர், ஆகுலம நீத்து அற,

சுரை கிடந்த சொல் ஆசி தந்தான் அரோ.

The King of Heaven ‒ the Divine Son ‒ climbing the mountain filled

With fragrance, and making those who had gathered there in orderly rows

Acquire a delight like a sea that has crossed its bounds, and to remove

And destroy their sorrows, did give His blessings with honey-inlaid words.

8 மேவி மீ எழு முன், விரைத் தாமரை

வாவி மீ எழும் வான் கதிர் போன்று, அருள்

தூவி, மீ எழ, சூசையை நோக்கி, உள்

ஆவி மீ எழும் அன்பொடு, கூறினான்.

Before ascending with desire, like rays of the sun rising and standing

On top of the fragrant lotus flowers in a pool, the Divine Son

Poured His Grace on Joseph, and looking at him, asked him

To ascend, and with love swelling in His heart and soul, said thus.

9 “புண்ணைக் காக்கும் மருந்தினைப் போன்று உளோய்,

கண்ணைக் காக்கும் இமைக்கு இணை காதலால்,

மண்ணைக் காக்கு எனை மண்ணிடைக் காத்தலால்,

விண்ணைக் காக்கு அரசாக விளங்குவாய்.”

“Because, with a love that is equal to that of the eyelids that protect

The eyes, and like a medicine that heals and protects wounds, you have,

On this earth, taken care of Me who am Myself the One who protects

The earth, you will be a king who takes care of the heavenly abode.”

16 மிகை விரிந்த வியப்பு, இமையாது, இவண்

தொகை விரிந்து நின்றார் துயர் தீர்ப்ப, வான்

முகை விரிந்த மணி முகில் மூடி, அவ்

வகை விரிந்த வில் வாகனத்து ஏறினார்.

In order to end the sorrow of those who stood stretched out in crowds

In that place with astonishment expanding in excess, and without blinking,

With a lovely cloud, blooming in the sky, covering them, the two of them

Stepped into a mushrooming cloud-chariot that was of the same type of lustre. (Patalam XXXVI, 7-9, 16)

To crown it all, Munivar makes God the Son plead with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit to crown Valan as a king in Heaven by narrating to them how splendidly He was looked after by His foster-father while was on earth. They readily agree to the proposal and the coronation takes place.

28 வான் புறத்து இலகும் செஞ்சுடர் காண வந்து என வனைந்த வாள் மகுடம்,

தான் புறத்து ஒரு வேறு ஏழ் சுடர் பூண்ட தன்மை ஏழ் மணி ஒளி இயக்க,

மீன் புறத்து அகற்றும் செல்வ வீட்டு உவகை மிக அளவு இன்றி, அம்முடியை,

கான் புறத்து அலர் கோல் சூசை தன் தலைமேல் களிப்பு எழ, முதலவன், புனைந்தான்.

The lustrous crown, which was fashioned, as if the sun, shining in the heavens, had come to witness the event, was shining

With a sparkle produced by seven gems on its outside in the manner of its wearing seven other suns; with the ecstasy

Of the wealthy Heavenly abode, which casts away the stars as being less in lustre, surging without limit, and with joy

Rising in Joseph who held the flower stalk spreading fragrance all round ‒ that crown was placed on the head of Joseph by God the Prime One.

29 ஆர்த்தன தேவ மகிழ்வு ஒலி அரவம்; ஆர்த்தன தொடர் துதித்துழனி;

ஆர்த்தன தேவ வீணை வாய் அமலை; ஆர்த்தன இனியபாவிசைகள்;

ஆர்த்தன பொலிந்த சோபன வகுளி, ஆர்த்தன அதிசய குமுதம்;

ஆர்த்தன உவப்பில், ஆர் ஒளி மகுடம் அருந்தவற்கு, அருட் சுதன், புனைந்தான்.

Boomed the tumultuous sounds produced by divine ecstasy; rumbled the continuous sound of offering of praises;

Reverberated the sound coming out of divine lutes; resounded the sweetness of songs; resonated the sound

Produced by unparalleled felicitations; thundered the proclamation of the crowds with such tumultuous exultation,

The incomparable ascetic was crowned with a crown of overwhelming lustre by God the Son of Divine Grace.

30 ஆர்த்தன பல்லாண்டு; ஆர்ந்தன உவகை; ஆறு அறுநூற்று மூ ஐம் பூ,

சீர்த்தன மதுவின் பூத்தன, சூசை சேர்த்த கைக் கொடியில். அம் மலரால்

கோர்த்தன ஆறாறு அணிகளே. கடவுட் குளூஞ் சுடர்ப் பதத்து அவை, வானோர்,

நீர்த்தன இன்பத்து அணிய, மா தவற்கே, நேயனும் ஒளிமுடி புனைந்தான்.

Reverberated the acclamations of blessings of long life; joys abounded; six times six hundred plus three times five

Were the number of flowers blooming with honey in the stalk held by Joseph; with those flowers, garlands that numbered

Six times six were oven; and with them the angels decorated with superlative delight the cool and resplendent feet of God ‒

In this fashion, the exceptional ascetic was crowned with a dazzling crown by God

the Divine Lover. (Patalam XXXVI, 28-30)

To make Valan available to everyone on earth to help them in their needs, he is given seven boons that are related to the seven types of virtues that he had practised while he was on earth.

33 “களங்கம் உற்றது கண்டு இந்து தேய்த்து ஒளிறும் கழலினாள் கன்னிமை காத்து,

துளங்கம் முற்றிய செஞ்சுடரின், உன் கற்பும், துகள் அறக் காத்தனை என்னா,

உளம் கண் உற்று அழற்றும் விரக நோய் அற, கற்பு உரி நலம் தர வரம் தந்தே,

விளங்க முன் பதித்த முதல் மணி தந்தேன், வெண் கொடி ஒத்து உளத் தூயோய்!”

“O one pure of heart like the stalk of white flowers you are holding! Protecting the virginity of the one whose glowing feet

Stood stamping the moon considering it to be tainted, you have faultlessly guarded your own virginity that sparkles like the full dazzle

Of the sun; hence, I have given you the gift of granting to people the excellence appropriate to chastity so that the disease of lust, that reaches the mind

And staying there scorches it, may be totally destroyed in them ‒ that is the principal sparkling gem I have given you, fixed in the front part of the crown.”

34 “போய், வினை கொணரும் பொறிகள் ஐந்து அடக்கி, பொலம் தவ வேலியைக் கோலி,

தூய்வினை உளத்தில் துகள் புகா காத்து, சுடர் விளக்கு ஆயினாய் என்னா.

தீய் வினை வரு முன் காக்கவும், வந்த தீது நேர்ந்து ஒழிக்கவும் உணர்த்தி,

காய் வினை விலக்கும் வரத்தை இவ் இரண்டாங் கதிர் மணி காட்டும், மாதவனே!”

“O magnificent ascetic! Subduing the five senses that go up to the mind and bring down the urge to perform evil deeds,

Fixing around you a beautiful fence of penance, guarding the mind, which is a place appropriate only for good deeds, against the entry of stains,

You had become a brilliant lamp to all; hence, to guard people even before an evil deed takes shape, and to convince them

To fight and destroy it once it has taken place, this gift of scorching evil deeds has been given ‒ the second resplendent gem indicates this.”

35 “பருதியே உடுத்து, பனிச் சுடர் இயக்கி, பரமனைப் பயந்த தாய் தன்னைக்

கருதியே கருத்துக் கடந்த அன்பு அருளால் காத்து அரிது ஓம்பினாய் என்னா,

சுருதியே வடிவாய்த் தோன்றிய தாயின் தொடர்பு அருள் உதவி சார்பு எய்தத்

தருதியே என மூன்றாம் மணி தந்தேன், தயைக் கடல் கடந்து அருள் மிக்கோய்!”

O one of Grace exceeding the limit of the ocean of compassion! Clothed with the sun itself and spreading cool rays,

You took outstanding care, with a loving grace beyond imagination, of the mother taking into consideration the fact

That she had delivered the Lord; hence, you shall give people the gift of obtaining the companionship, Grace, succour, and support

Of that mother who appears with the deportment of the Scriptures ‒ it is for this reason that I have given you the third gem.”

36 “கனம் பழுத்து இரிந்த உரும் என விண்ணின் கடிந்த பேய், கொண்ட தொல் பகையால்

மனம் பழுத்து இயற்றும் வஞ்சனை நாண, வழு இலா வென்றனை என்னா,

சினம் பழுத்து எதிர்த்த குணுங்கு இனம் ஓடி, செல்வ நின் நாம வேற்கு அஞ்ச

தனம் பழுத்து எரி நாலாம் மணி, வரமே தந்தது ஆம், வெற்றி அம் கொடியோய்!” 

“O one holding the lovely banner of victory! You flawlessly conquered the devils, putting to shame their revenge carried out through the maturing
In their minds of the ancient hatred they possessed because of their having been cast out from Heaven like thunderbolts that get split
And fall from a full-fledged cloud; hence, in order that the brood of devils that attack people with their full-blown rage might run away,
I have given your felicitous name the power of a javelin ‒ that gift is signified by the fourth gem that blazes to perfection set in gold.”

37 “தே அருள் திளைத்த நிரப்பினால், கன்னி சினையை உற்று ஈனினும், ஈன்ற
மேவு அருள் மகவை மகன் என இனிதாய் விருப்பொடு வளர்த்தனை என்னா,
நோவு அருள் புதல்வர் இலாக் குறை தீர்த்து, நுண் தகைச் சந்ததி அளிப்ப.
கா அருள் கமழ் பூங் கொடி நலோய், ஐந்தாம் கடி ஒளி மணி வரம் தந்தேன்.”

“O magnificent one with a flower stalk wafting the fragrance of Grace like the scent found in flower groves! Even though the virgin,
Fully drenched in Divine Grace, conceived and gave birth to a child, you brought up, with sweetness and zeal, that child,
Who was delivered with Divine Grace dwelling in Him, as your own son; hence, I have given you the gift of providing an excellent lineage
To those who agonise on not possessing the blessing of having children, by putting an end to their drawback ‒ that is the fifth gem of bountiful light.”

38 “விருந்தினைக் கண்டார் முகத்து, அளவு இன்றி வினை செய மிடைந்த நோய் அருந்தி,
திருந்தினை பொறையின் நுண்முறை எல்லாம், திரு மணிக் குன்று ஒத்தாய் என்னா
மருந்தினைப் போன்று வருந்தினார் வருத்தம் அறுத்து, உளம் குளிர்ப்ப நல் வரமே
அருந்தினை என, ஆறாம் மணி அளித்தேன், அரும் பொறை அருள் அரசு உடையோய்!”

“O you who possess the sovereignty of the Grace of rare patience! Like the face of those who are happy when meeting guests,
You underwent excessive afflictions engaging yourself in labour without measure and perfected all the exquisite ways of achieving patience,
And stood firm as a lovely rock of diamond; hence, I have given for you to possess the excellent gift of demolishing, like a medicine,
The sufferings of those who labour, and of bringing coolness to their hearts ‒ that is the sixth gem I have given you.”

39 “தாயொடு புதல்வன் இரு புடைத் தாங்கி, தகும் துயர் ஆற்று அருள் இயக்கத்
தீயொடு தீந்த தளிர் உடல் நீக்கி, சென்று தூது உரைத்தனை என்னா,
நோயொடு மெலிந்த உடல் கெடும் எல்வை, நொந்தவர்க்கு உதவ நீ, ஒளியின்
வாயொடு மலர்ந்த கடை மணி வரமே வகுத்தது ஆம், வான் தொழு மரபோய்.”

“O one from a lineage which even those in Heaven revere! Along with the mother, the Son also holding you on either side,
And assuaging your suffering in an appropriate manner by pouring Divine Grace on you, discarding your body that was like a sapling
Singed by fire, you went to propagate the message I gave you; hence, I have assigned to you the gift of assisting those who suffer
At the moment when their body, enfeebled by sickness, is ruined ‒ that is the last gem that glows with a dazzle.”
(Patalam XXXVI, 33-39)

(The emphasis in each stanza is by the translator.)

Finally, to prove that Valan does indeed come to those who approach him and takes away their miseries and grants them their petitions, Munivar brings in the real life incident that happened in the life of Leopold I, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1658 ‒ 1705). It seems that the emperor’s enemies had schemed to give him poison because he was successful in all his wars. Joseph appeared to him, warned him not to touch the drink and saved his life.

58 நெஞ்சில் தகவு இற்று, இழிவு ஆர் நிகரார்
எஞ்சி, தகு போர் வெல ஈடு இலதால்,
வஞ்சித்து வெல்வாம் என வந்து, ஒரு நாள்
நஞ்சு இட்டு உயிர் ஈறு இட நாடினர் ஆல்.

His enemies, with their pride destroyed in their hearts, weakened
Because of excessive disgrace, lacking the requisite strength to win
A proper war, came, thinking of overcoming him through cunning,
And, one day, sought to destroy his life by giving him poison.

59 ஈண்டு, ஆங்கு உதவத் தனி எய்தி, வளன்,
வேண்டார் வினை மாயை விளம்பி, அதைத்
தீண்டாது என, எண் திசை காத்து வழாது
ஆண்டான் உயிர், அன்பொடு காத்தனன் ஆல்.

In this state of affairs, Valan, reaching there to help him in a singular way,
Appeared to him and told him about the deceitful deed of his enemies,
And asking him not to touch it, did protect, with love, the life of the king
Who protected and ruled flawlessly in all the eight quarters of the world. (Patalam XXVI, 58-59)

Apart from this, he also received two other great favours because of his devotion to Joseph ‒ his miraculous cure from a dreaded disease, and most importantly the birth of a son to be his heir. His first wife died a few years after her marriage and the two sons delivered by her died while still very young. His second wife also died a few years after marriage leaving behind only two daughters. After his fervent prayers to Joseph, and only after eleven years after his first marriage, was a son born in 1678 whom Leopold named Joseph (later Emperor Joseph I who ruled from 1705-1711). Thus, Munivar shows that one of the seven boons given to Joseph by Gog, namely, to grant the prayers of those who need offsprings, was used by Joseph to help is devotee Leopold.

79 “நஞ்சு இட்டு எஞ்சா வஞ்சனை நல்கும் வினை நீக்கி,
எஞ்சித் துஞ்சாது என் உயிர் காத்தான் இவன் என்னா,
மஞ்சிற்கு எஞ்சாது ஆர் அருள் பெய்த வளம் ஓர்ந்து, என்
நெஞ்சில், துஞ்சா மின் முடி சூட்டல், நினைவு உற்றேன்.”

“Because he is the one who has removed the evil deed of undiminishing revenge, carried out
By my enemies by giving me poison, and protected my life, and considering the prosperity poured
On me through his abundance of Grace that is no less than that of the clouds, I have considered
And decided in my heart to crown him with an irremovable crown of lightning-like sparkle.”

80 “பின்றாது ஓம்பி, நோய் பசி பேரா, பகை பொன்றப்
பொன்றா அன்பால் ஆண்டு எனை உம்மை, பொலி இன்பம்
குன்றா வீட்டு உய்ப்பான், மலர் குன்றாக் கொடிக் கோமான்,”
என்றான், நின்றார் உள் உருக, பேர் இயல் வல்லான்.

“Taking care of us without any deviation, destroying disease, hunger and enmity
With his unperishing love, he will rule over you and me and guide us to the heavenly abode
Of excellent joy that never abates ‒ the king who holds the stalk of undrooping flowers,”
So said the powerful king of grandeur, making those standing around him melt at heart. (Patalam XXVI, 79-80)

To show his gratitude to Joseph for the blessings received, he organises a grand festival, installs a statue and crowns it in the Church in Vienna. This historic event is narrated in great detail and with outstanding pompousness by Munivar in the final part of Thembavani. The whole of Thembavani ultimately is a rapturous glorification of everything that is connected to the hero, the heroine, their God-son, the episodes and characters and Divine interventions that impinged on them as well as the part played by them in the Divine Plan of Salvation of humanity. Equally remarkable is Munivar’s poetic genius in transforming this story into an Indian Tale where the aroma and the panorama of the Tamil countryside and its people are made to leave an indelible experience in the reader’s consciousness. No doubt that Beschi is acclaimed as the great integrator of Tamil culture and Christian heritage.


[1] Translator’s emphasis

(Note: The textual citations in Tamil and English are taken from the book Thembavani A Garland of Unfading Honey-sweet Verses. It carries the sandhi-separated Tamil text and the English translation into verse of the text by M Dominic Raj and published in 2019 by the translator.)

This paper was presented at the Seminar St. Joseph in Literature held, on 22 November, 2019, at the Centre for Christian Research (CCR), at St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous) – A 175 year old Jesuit Institution, Tiruchirapalli, organised by Rev. Dr. S. Mani Valan S.J. (Pages 22 to 41). This edition was edited and published by organiser in November, 2019.a

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