Narayan Waman Tilak

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Narayan Vaman Tilak (6 December 1861 – 1919) was a Marathi poet from the Konkan region of then Bombay Presidency in British India, and a famous convert to Christianity.


Tilak was born on 1861 in the village of Karajhgaon in Ratnagiri District of Bombay Presidency.

During 1869–1873, he studied in the town of Kalyan near Mumbai, and studied primarily Sanskrit literature during the next four years in the town of Nashik. After learning English and other school subjects during 1877–1889, he terminated his studies, undertaking a modest job as a teacher to support himself and his bride, Manakaranika Gokhale (मनकर्णिका गोखले), to whom his marriage was arranged in 1880 by his family in accord with the social custom of his times.

Lakshmibai Tilak was the married name of Tilak's wife. Laxmibai had no formal schooling; however, through Tilak's encouragement, she learned to read and write Marathi, mastering the language to the extent of later writing her autobiography, Smruti Chitre (स्मृतिचित्रे), which turned out to be an autobiographical masterpiece in Marathi.

Tilak undertook a variety of modest jobs in different towns in Maharashtra at different times in his life, including the job of a teacher, a Hindu priest, and a printing press compositor.

In 1891, he got a job in Nagpur as a translator of Sanskrit literature. (He himself wrote some poems in Sanskrit in the following years.) Under the patronage of one Appasaheb Buti, he edited for a while a Marathi magazine named Rushi (ऋषि), which was aimed at discussions of Hindu religious matters.

In 1893, Tilak was once travelling by train from Nagpur to Rajnandgaon, a princely state ruled by a Hindu priest, and located within the then Central Provinces of India, in search of employment. During this journey, he met a Protestant missionary Ernest Ward of the Free Methodist Church who spoke glowingly of Christianity, presented a copy of the Bible to Tilak, and whispered a prophecy in Tilak's ears that Tilak would convert in less than two years.

He felt attracted towards Christianity to the extent that he relinquished Hinduism and formally accepted Christianity in February 1895. He did so without informing his wife, who had at that time strong faith in Hinduism. The religious difference resulted in the separation of the couple for some time. During the time of separation, Laxmibai was absolutely ruined due to lack of support. She accepted Christianity in 1900, and the couple resumed their matrimony with much mutual love.

Tilak mostly lived in the town of Ahmadnagar and served the church as a preacher for about 24 years, until his death in 1919. Due to the eligatarian principles of Christianity; it's said that his grandsons may have married tribal women. (Tilak had moved to Satara two years before his death.) In Ahmednagar he founded the Marathi magazine Dnyanodaya which is still being issued today.

Writer and poet[edit]

Tilak composed over a hundred Christian devotional songs in Marathi in either abhanga (अभंग) or ovi (ओवी) form. They were published in a book titled "Abhanganjali" (अभंगांजली). He also commenced in 1909 composition of epical Khristayan (ख्रिस्तायन). He composed 10 chapters of it and left it uncompleted at the time of his death; Laxmibai subsequently completed it by adding 64 chapters of her own.

Besides the initial parts of Khristayan (ख्रिस्तायन), Tilak wrote many long poems comprising several hundred lines, each. His over 2,100 poems include:

  • Khristayan (ख्रिस्तायन)
  • Wanawasi Phool (वनवासी फुल)
  • Sushila (सुशीला)
  • Majhi Bharya (माझी भार्या)
  • Bapache Ashru (बापाचे अश्रू)
  • Parwatarohan (पर्वतारोहण)
  • Srushtichi Bhaubij (सृष्टीची भाऊबीज)
  • Pure Janato Micha Majhe Bala (पुरे जाणतो मीच माझे बळ)
  • Ranashing (रणशिंग)
  • Majhya Janambhumiche Nav (माझ्या जन्मभूमीचे नाव)
  • Priyakar Hindistan (प्रियकर हिंदीस्तान)
  • Lekarachi Jidnyasa (लेकराची जिज्ञासा)
  • Kawichi Winawani (कवीची विनवणी)
  • Kawi (कवि)
  • Kevdhe He Krourya (केव्हडे हे क्रौर्य)


Primary Sources[edit]

  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "Maza Anubhav." (Steps to Christ). Dnyanodaya 54/11 (Mar. 1895) 2 pp.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "Stree" (Woman). Dnyanodaya 54/13 (Mar. 1895) 2 pp.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "A Brahman's Idea of Sin." Dnyanodaya 59/23 (Jun. 1900) 1.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "Hindus as Givers." Dnyanodaya 59/29 (Jul. 1900) 1.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "A Few Thoughts on the Lord's Prayer." Dnyanodaya 66/37, 38, 41, 42, 43, 49 (Sep. Nov. 1907) 6.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "The Study of Indian Myths." 71/37 (Sep. 1912) 1.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. Bhakti-Niranjana. Nasik, n.d. 160 pp.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. (Translations of his poems into English, including parts of the Khristayana.)
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "India's Great Demand." YMI (Jan. 1909) 10.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "My Motherland." YMI (Sep. 1917) 513.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. "No Longer I But Christ." YMI (Apr. 1926) 219.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. Susila and Other Poems. Calcutta: YMCA, 1926. 60 pp.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. (Poems in English translation by J.C. Winslow.)
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. Christayan. Tr. into English by J.C. Winslow. CSS Review.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. Translations in J.C. Winslow, Narayan Vaman Tilak. Calcutta: YMCA, 1923. 137 pp.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman. Loka Bandhu Prabhu Yeshu Khrist. (Jesus the People's Friend, I). [Prose.] Bombay: Bombay Tract Society, 1921. 38 pp.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman, and Tilak, Laksmibai. Khristayana. Nashik: Devadatt Narayan Tilak, 'Shantisadan,' 1938.
  • Tilak, Narayan Vaman and Laksmibai Tilak. Khristayana. Sanskipta. [= Abridged] Mumbai: Bombay Tract and Book Society, 1959.

Secondary Sources[edit]

  • J. C. Winslow, Naryana Vamana Tilak (1923)
  • Nazareth, Malcolm J., Reverend Narayan Vaman Tilak: An interreligious exploration. Temple University, 1998.
  • Patil, Subash, Santa Tukaram ani Rev. Tilak: Ek Bhāvanubandha. Pune: Snehavardhana Publ. House, 2005.
  • Richard, H.L., Christ-bhakti: Narayan Vaman Tilak and Christian Work among Hindus. ISPCK.
  • Richard, H.L., Following Jesus in the Hindu Context: The intriguing implications of N.V. Tilak’s Life and Thought. Pasadena: W. Carey Library, 1998.
  • Sheikh, Mir Isahak, Laksmibai Tilakanchi Smrtichitre: Ek Chintan. Pune: Pratima Prakashan, 2000.
  • Tilak, Ashok D., Chalta Bolta Chamatkar. Popular prakashan, 2005.
  • Tilak, Ashok D., Chavaituhi. Nashik: Mukta Ashok Tilak, Shantisadan, 2001.
  • Tilak, Ashok D., Jara Vegala Angle. Nashik: Mayavati Ashok Tilak, 1979.
  • Tilak, Ashok D., Takkarmāl. Nashik Road: Vangmayaseva Prakashan, 2006.
  • Richard, H.L., Following Jesus in the Hindu Context. Secunderbad, India: OM Book, 1998.
  • George, Anthony D., Svatantryapurvakalatila Dharmantarita Khristi Vyaktinci Atmanivedane Samajika Ani Vangmayina Abhyasa. Mumbai: Mumbai Vidyapeeth, 2007. [PhD thesis on pre-1947 Marathi converts to Christianity, submitted to Bombay University.]

External links[edit]