Mary in sari in Indian Bible

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By CITHARA PAUL
  • Published 14.06.10
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June 13: Enter, a Bible “by Indians for Indians”, replete with quotes from the Gita to Gitanjali.

The Indian Church is bringing out an “Indianised” Bible next month that will show Mother Mary wearing a sari and even a bindi on her forehead, and her husband Joseph in a loincloth and a turban.

The illustrated Bible will also be annotated with the commentary that runs side by side with the original biblical text making references to Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi and quoting from Hindu texts and Rabindranath Tagore.

“This is a Bible made in India, by Indians and for Indians,’’ said Fr George Chathanattil of the Society of St Paul which is in charge of publishing the Bible written in English.

The commentary repeatedly refers to Hindu concepts to convey biblical teachings.

For instance, the Vedic interpretation of light is used to explain the Christian concept of Genesis. Similarly, Jesus’s words about storing “treasures in heaven’’ in the Gospel of Matthew is compared to the Bhagvadgita’s teaching that “work alone is your proper business, never the fruits it may produce”.

The Bible has verses from the Ramayan and the Mahabharat aplenty. It draws comparisons between the biblical Ten Commandments and 10 basic precepts of ancient Indian scriptures, which include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth) and brahmacharya (celibacy).

Church sources said such “localised” versions of the Bible now existed only in Africa, and that Indian Christians so far mainly read the King James version of the Bible. The new Indian version is an attempt on the Church’s part to “bring Indians and the Church closer’’.

“Our attempt is to make people feel at home with the Bible. When one hears one’s own cultural expressions, it is easier for the Indian Christian community to understand the Bible,’’ Fr George said.

The new Bible will have 27 themed pictures that are quintessentially Indian, such as a family living in a slum in the shadow of a skyscraper, with a portrait of Mother Teresa in the background. Sources said many of the figures in the pictures have a slightly darker shade of skin than is usual in western biblical images.

Fr George said the commentary in the annotated Indian Bible was the product of 15 years of research by a set of 30 Indian biblical scholars. Each of the major divisions of both the Old and New Testaments opens with a brief but comprehensive introduction.

The Society of St Paul had done a test launch last year with a rough, early version of the new Bible.

“The response we got to the trial launch was amazing. People from all walks of life have responded positively to the new Bible and we are happy that the national edition is ready,’’ Fr George said.

To start with, the Society plans to print 50,000 copies, to be distributed among all the states.