Lakhs of Christians in India have been following the teachings of the Bible for generations. But now for the first time, the holy book has made an appearance in an Indian avatar. All this in an attempt to help Indian Christians understand the Bible better.
A prayer service in Marathi at a chapel in Vasai outside Mumbai in an area that has a majority of Christian fisherfolk or ‘kolis’ comes across as a surprise for some, and a routine for others.
These villagers, who converted to Christianity generations ago, are now happy their culture is finding a resonance in the scripture.
“The latest edition of the Bible in India now has a distinctly Indian flavour. The Virgin Mary clad in a sari, or even the flight to Egypt depicted in pictures with clear Indian imprint,” says Cardinal Oswald Gracious, the Archbishop of Mumbai.
There are 27 such typical Indian sketches besides footnotes that refer to the Indian scriptures for easy understanding.
It’s a work that took 18 years to accomplish and has been inspired by similar attempts in countries like the Phillipines.
“All our prayer services are in Marathi. Now that Virgin Mary’s picture is also depicted in our clothes, that makes us feel nice,” says Janu Peter Patil, a fisherwoman from Vasai.
Another resident of Vasai, Marisina Jonathan Patil, adds: “We already read the Bible the Marathi, now its like our scriptures are coming closer to us.”
The new edition has sold 30,000 copies in its first week and gone in for a reprint.
The Bishop of Vasai, Thomas Dabre, says, “In today’s materialistic world, its not possible to follow the true Christian way of life. The Church here cannot ignore the cultural similarities. This edition is an affirmation of that.
Orthodox Christians are not impressed, though. They feel the Bible should remain untouched.
But for villagers like them, efforts like these only reaffirm a way of life they’ve been following for generations.