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French Jesuits in India and the Lettres Edifiantes
by Jyoti Mohan



An overview of pre-nineteenth century French writings reveals that there were specific professions or occupations that presented India. Broadly, one can speak of ‘missionary views’,1 and ‘secular views’.2 . A substantial body of research already exists on the works of secular travellers.3 The work of missionaries is only now being examined. This essay is about the letters of Jesuit missionaries about their missions in South India, compiled into the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses. The Lettres édifiantes represent the last attempt of men of the cloth to describe India, before the full-scale advent of Imperialism. More than offering a genuine description of south India per se, the Lettres were extensively quoted by other Europeans writing about India and therefore offered a uni-dimensional image of India to the west.4

Examining the Lettres fulfils several important aims. Firstly, it fills a gap in the scholarship on pre-colonial India.5 Secondly, the work of missionaries becomes especially important for this intellectual history, because the aim of French missionaries in India by the late seventeenth-century was as much to record information as amateur scientists as it was to effect conversions to Christianity. The mission writings are representative of the earliest educated western descriptions of India. These early representations were considered so valuable that nineteenth-century works on India relied greatly on missionary accounts of the previous centuries. Citing Pierre Filliozat, William Halbfass in his essay on India and Europe noted:

The birth of Indology as a real science is the result of a collaboration between Indian traditional scholars and French missionaries. The first work that can be recognized as an achievement is a grammar of Sanskrit written in Latin, in about 1733. It is probably the work of J.F Pons, a Jesuit, who resided in India, especially at Chandranagore, Karaikal and Pondicherry, in the first decades of the eighteenth century.6

By the seventeenth century, new geographical and scientific discoveries and incipient long distance trade between Europe and the East led to increased vigour in seeking information about new lands.7 As R. K. Kochhar points out, traders only explored the coastline of India. Geographical exploration was left to the Jesuits, who had the training, time, and opportunity to criss-cross the country. They also had the necessary discipline to make careful observations, record them faithfully, and transmit them regularly.8 In 1687 Louis XIV sent a mission of fourteen Jesuits to Siam. Designated ‘Mathematicians of the King’ they were to collect whatever information they could about the country and its culture in order to understand the peoples of India, Siam, China, and Japan.9 Expelled from Siam in 1688, only three Jesuits made it to the coast of India alive, including Pères Bouchet and Richaud. The observations of these missionaries along with others who were travelling in India at the time were recorded in the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses.10 As Kate Teltscher points out, between the years 1700 and 1750, Europe viewed India primarily through the medium of the letters of the French Jesuits.11

It is necessary to point out here that the Lettres exhibit several common characteristics. This indicates that an institutional ‘Jesuit view’ of India was already in place by this time. The first feature of ‘missionary views’ in the Lettres was their anti-Muslim stance. For instance, Father Bouchet12, writing in the first decade of the eighteenth century about his travels and efforts at conversion in the southern kingdom of Carnata (Karnataka) in India noted:

The Preachers of the Gospel are frequently imprisoned, and otherwise abused, in their Mission; which is owing to the Avidity of the Mohammedans, who are but too apt, of themselves, to persecute ’em, from the natural Aversion they bear to the Christian Name…The Indians (under the Muslims) are quite miserable, and reap very little Benefit from their Labours.13

Bouchet does not criticize non-Muslim Indian rulers of similarly exploiting their subjects, emphasizing the cruelty and oppression of ‘Mohammedans’ as the central theme. Further evidence of Muslim animosity to Christian missionaries is found in the letter of Father De La Lane to Father Morgues in 1709 that:

The Country is very populous, and abounds with a vast Number of Towns and Villages; but ‘twould be much fuller of Inhabitants, if the Moors or Mohammedans, subject to the Great Mogul, who subdued it, did not impoverish their People by their perpetual Exactions…The Oppression in which the Heathens live under the Government above mentioned, would be no obstacle to propagating our Religion, were not the Moors, at the same Time, the implacable Enemies of the Christian Name.14

Once again, there is no mention of the numerous Hindu feudatories of the ‘Great Mogul’ in exploiting the people although historians have pointed to uniform economic conditions between Hindu and Muslim feudatories of the Mughals during the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries.15

Father Mauduit, missionary in charge of the mission at Pondicherry who had established the Jesuit mission there some years previously, had already described Muslims as having ‘infested all the Country…The Face of the Country is beautiful, and seeming very populous; but it was more so before the Moors had usurped it.’16 Mauduit’s primary mission was to explore Carnata and the opportunities for conversion there. In his extensive travels through the area he describes his encounter with a friendly Muslim Doctor as, ‘a Person of Learning and Capacity…a worthy Man…yet this Doctor was a Mohammedan, that is, a Person still more remote from the Kingdom of Heaven than the Heathens themselves.’17 If any clearer example of Mauduit’s animosity to Islam can be found, it is in his conclusion. ‘The Advantage I have gained by these Journies is, I now know the several Places wherein Missionaries may be sent. The Season seems to be come, for us to labour with Success at the Conversion of the Idolaters of those Countries, which have so long been overspread with Darkness. All imaginable Dispatch should be used, lest the Mohammedans, who get Possession of all these Countries by insensible Degrees, should force the Inhabitants of them to embrace their abominable Religion.’18 In the particular case of the French, this aspect of animosity towards Islam was a long-standing tradition and one that manifests even today, in various legal debates on the condition of former colonial settlers from North Africa in the metropolis.

Another unanimous point lay in proclaiming the antiquity of Indian religion, and the essential unity of a religious power despite polytheism. By the time the Jesuits were writing their letters, the origin of Indian religion was a matter of great interest. Many of the Jesuits who travelled to India were intellectuals and men of science. Several of them were members of the Academia des Sciences19 and the tone of the Lettres they sent back grew increasingly more scientific as the eighteenth century progressed. The Lettres reflect this trend towards recording information about a country and its people not only for the purpose of conversion but also to further knowledge.20 For instance, Father Bouchet provided extensive comparisons between Hinduism and Judaism in a long letter.21 ‘In this present Letter I shall set before you, and I compare some Conjectures, which, I believe, will be thought important. The Design of them is to prove, that the Indians borrowed their Religion from the Books of Moses and the Prophets.’22 Bouchet then proceeded to compare and analyze incidents and figures in Hindu religion and mythology to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and incidents in the Old Testament:23 ‘Among these Customs, which the Indians must necessarily have borrowed from the Jews, and still practice in this Country, I include their frequent Bathings, their Purifications, their extreme Aversion to dead Bodies, the bare touching of which, they imagine to be Pollution. Add to these, the different Order and distinction of Castes; and the inviolable Law, by which all Persons are commanded not to marry out of their own Caste or Tribe.’24 He concludes:

I will here end the long Letter which I have taken the Liberty to address to your Lordship. I therein have given you an Account of such Particulars as were told to me by the Indian Nations, who, in all Probability, were antiently [sic for ‘anciently’] Christians, but fell back, many Ages since, into the Errors of Idolatry…You may perceive, that, at the same Time we win over these abandon’d Nations to Christ, we endeavour to be of some Service to the Literati in Europe, by our Discoveries in Countries with which they are not enough acquainted.25

These comparisons between Hinduism and the Old Testament clearly set out the reasons why Europeans tended to look upon Hinduism more favourably. According to Berliner, the ‘Christianization of Hinduism’ where individual elements of Hindu mythology were compared to Christian mythology may have accounted for the long-standing admiration that many Frenchmen held for India.26 After all as Father De La Lane put it, ‘I shall now give you a Sketch of the Religion of these Indians. They doubtless are truly Idolaters, since they worship strange Gods. Nevertheless, it appears plainly to me, from some of their Books, that they had antiently [sic for ‘anciently’] a pretty distinct knowledge of the true God.’27 The comparisons between Christianity and Hinduism as possessing the same fundamental beginnings began in the thirteenth century work of Jordanus28 and continued in the work of the Theosophists down to the colonial period.29 In their anti-Muslim stance and their opinion that Hinduism held a long-lost belief in the ‘True God’, missionaries were united through the centuries. Apart from rhetorical denunciation of the ‘false prophet’ Muhammad and the ‘false God’ Allah, none of the missionaries writing about India actually clarified what they found so objectionable about Islam or Muslims. In sweeping statements they presented Muslim rulers as harsh tyrants—cruel despots who laid the land to waste and oppressed their non-Muslim subjects. In reality, historians of modern India have demonstrated that individual rulers had their own policies—some were tyrants, others benevolent.30 Religion had little to do with these regimes. There were Hindu and Muslim tyrants, just as there were enlightened rulers of both religions. The fact that missionaries chose to single out Muslim rulers for criticism highlights the antipathy they had for Islam, which, according to Masuzawa stemmed from a long-standing anti-Semitic feeling in Europe.31

No European account of India could be complete without the requisite description of the practice of sati. The Lettres similarly pandered to their audience in their description of sati as an outlandish custom meant to crush women under male tyranny in contrast to the freedom which women enjoyed in Europe. Fr. Mauduit wrote about sati in 1701:

It was with Tears I beheld the Sad Remains of a diabolical Ceremony which the Moors have endeavoured to abolish, since their being Masters of the greatest part of this Country. Not many Days before, a Woman, either out of the Love she bore her deceased husband, or from a Desire of spreading her Name, had thrown herself on the funeral Pile, whilst her Husband was burning on it, and in this manner had been consum’d to Ashes. There were still seen the Necklaces, Bracelets, and other Ornaments of that unhappy Victim of Satan, hanging on the Boughs of the Trees, which stood round the Place where this Sad Ceremony was performed…32

The above quote stands out in its condemnation of the custom of sati as a ‘diabolical’ and ‘sad’ ceremony that had consumed a ‘victim of Satan’. While Mauduit described the motives for sati—love or a desire for glory— as well as the voluntary nature of the act, he described the performer as ‘that unhappy victim of Satan’. Ironically he also acceded to the attempt by Muslim rulers to abolish the custom, once again underlining the flimsiness of the ideological arguments about the relative quality of Islam and Hinduism by the Jesuits. Additionally, by the time the Lettres were being written, European economic interest in India was well advanced, and trading depots, factories and a flourishing trade in cotton, tobacco, tea, spices and other luxury goods. This was at the time when European traders were scrambling to secure their footing in India by establishing their own colonies. The Lettres were translated into English solely because they provided valuable information—geographical, social, political and religious—which helped English merchants in their dealings with the locals in the south of India. For their part, Jesuit missionaries could not have been unaware or even uninfluenced by the emerging theory that the European, or Christian culture to be more precise was a superior civilization that owed other, lesser civilizations the opportunity to develop through the mission civilisatrice. What is interesting to note in this transition is that the voice of the native was never heard. The Jesuits presented their own understanding of these customs and dismissed native explanations for their performance as proof of their irrationality and backwardness. While Jesuit understanding of native customs could very likely be coloured by Enlightenment discourses about individual rights, their refusal to accept anything other than a European moral compass was a new development of the colonial era. While Indian religion may have held a kernel of truth in origin, the Jesuits described contemporary Hindus as ‘idolaters’ who displayed their ignorance and backwardness in their stubborn adherence to superstitions and ritualistic beliefs. For example, according to Father Martin,

All the Indians (to speak in general) worship some Deity; but alas! How ignorant are they of the true God! Blinded by their Passions still more than by the evil Spirit, they form monstrous Ideals of the Supreme Being; and you wou’d scarce believe me, shou’d I name the vile and infamous Creatures to which they pay divine Honours. ‘Tis my Opinion, that no Idolatry among the Antients (sic) was ever more gross, or more horrid, than that of these Indians.33

Every letter of the Jesuits contained references to the idolatrous and superstitious practice of Hindus followed by a description of Jesuit efforts to convert them to Christianity. The priests also made an extra effort to describe extremes of ritual practice in order to sensationalize the backwardness of Hindus for readers and potentially to urge the Church to invest more heavily in the missions. For instance, Father Tachard described the polyandrous Nair community of southern India in 1702 as:

In this Country, called Malleami, there are Castes as in the rest of India. Most of them observe the same Customs; and in particular they all entertain the like Contempt for the Religion and Manner of the Europeans. But a Circumstance, that perhaps is not found elsewhere, and which I myself could scarce believe, is that, among these Barbarians and especially the noble Castes, a Woman is allowed, by the Laws, to have several Husbands…This Custom, which is somewhat monstrous, as well as many other…are founded on the Religion.34

An interesting aspect of the Jesuit letters was their status in society. According to Tachard, ‘The Missionaries who were settled in Caroovepondi, had resolv’d, at their Entrance into that Mission, to assume the Habit, and lead the Life of the Sanias Bramins, or religious Penitents.’35 In fact this circumstance was so strongly felt that it was not a matter of choice. By the seventeenth century, Europeans had made themselves heartily disliked in India by their complete indifference to the customs of the area. As Father Martin explained,

The people of Madura have no Communication with the Europeans, who, by their riotous Excesses, have corrupted all the Christians in India…The Missionaries lead an extremely mortified Life…They are not known to be Europeans; for were the Natives to have the least Notion of this, the Fathers would be obliged to quit the Country…Several Motives prompt the Indians to have the Europeans in so much Horror. Great Cruelties have been committed in their Countries; they have been EyeWitnesses to the most shocking examples of Vices of every Kind…36

On one occasion, Father Bouchet, in order to protect the lives of other missionaries, had to admit his own European roots. This was considered to be an extreme step and only the fact that Bouchet was already well respected in the area made it possible for him to continue working.37 Among the habits, which the Jesuits had to adopt, was strict vegetarianism, since eating flesh of any kind would have prohibited social intercourse with higher castes. They also had to prove their own high caste status by employing Brahmin cooks.38 Mauduit explained the need to live with such austerities. ‘I must observe that it is absolutely necessary the Missionaries should lead a Life of the greatest Mortification, in order to win over the Heathens, who would shew (sic) no Regard to the Law of the true God, nor to the Preachers of it, were these to live with less Austerity than their Bramins and Sanias.’39 Since earlier missionaries made no mention of any special changes in habit or demeanour, one can assume that they made it a point to respect the customs of each country through which they had travelled, or that their oddities did not offend the local population. By the mid-seventeenth century, however, the Europeans had become so confident of their superiority that they flouted the laws of the nations they traded with—eating meat, disobeying the rules of social interaction and etiquette- and consequently became social pariahs. When the Jesuits came to south India, their first task was to make themselves acceptable members of society, which they could only accomplish by posing as Brahmin ascetics from the north.40 In fact, Bouchet even took on the name of Periya Sanjivinatha, meaning ‘Revered master of spiritual healing’.41Since north Indians were fairskinned, the Jesuits could pass for a north Indian Brahmin in order to gain an audience with the people of south India. As Dhruv Raina42 and Ines Županov43 point out the custom of accomodatio was common among Jesuits who thought they could not effect conversions otherwise.

In their attempt to fit in with the local population, the Jesuits also made it a habit to court the brahmins. Interestingly enough, their letters indicate the great contempt which they held for the brahmins as the chief perpetrators of superstition and idolatry, but simultaneously speak of the necessity to court and convert them since the brahmins were the religious leaders and one brahmin convert would surely serve as an example to many other lower castes. Tachard, in his description of the state of the various missions in the South summed up the successes of the missions in terms of the number of brahmin converts in each mission. ‘Father de la Fontaine was extremely fortunate in the very Opening of his Mission…That Father has already baptized a great many Bramins.’44 So as De La Lane wrote to Father Morgues, ‘No Sort of People in the World can possibly be prouder then the Bramins, stronger Opponents of Truth, or more puffed up with the Ideas of their superstitions and Nobility.’45 Yet the Jesuits tried their hardest to convert the brahmins. In his efforts to establish a mission at Carnata, Father Mauduit describes his persuasive words to a group of brahmins that Indians ‘may be in an Error, in imagining that Bruma (Brahma), Wistnou (Vishnu), and Routrem (Shiva), are Gods worthy of Adoration; since that these pretended Deities were only so many vicious, corrupt Men, who were ranked among the Gods, merely by the Flattery of their Fellow-creatures.’ Having made this speech on their misconception, Mauduit then recorded their response. The Bramins liste’ned to me very calmly, and without seeming to regard the Contradictions they necessarily fell into, nor the ridiculous Consequences which they were obliged to own resulted from what they said. At last, finding the Attack grow still warmer, their only Refuge was to withdraw without saying a Word. This gives a tolerable Idea of the People of this Country, and shews that the Conversion of a Bramin is not so easy a Matter as might be imagined. Few Converts have been made here this Year.46

On another occasion, Mauduit recorded his stay at the house of a Brahmin. ‘I lay, at Alcatil, in the House of a Bramin, who daily worshipped the Devil, under the Name and Figure of Poolear. 47 Seeing this Idol standing in the Room where I was to lie, I thought proper to throw it upon the Ground.’48 In a testament to the peaceful nature of the Indians as well as their tolerance of the missionaries, Mauduit recounted that the Brahmin, seeing his idol desecrated the next morning, and a makeshift Altar in its place, left to allow Mauduit to complete his prayers in peace. ‘This drew several Persons to the house, which gave me an opportunity of speaking to them concerning God; and of observing, how unhappy they were, in not being acquainted with the Supreme Being, sole Author of all Good. They listened attentively to me, but were not affected, not one of them then discovering the least Desire to turn Christian.’49

Given the rough and ready methods of the Jesuits, it is not surprising that they failed to convert many Brahmins. However they persisted in their efforts, deeming this so important that they made many concessions, even allowing new converts to maintain their caste purity. In 1702 Mauduit wrote,

‘I am to observe that Catechists of a lower Caste, cannot be employed in instructing such Indians as are of a higher caste. The Bramins and Shootres, who are the principal and most extensive Castes, have as much Aversion to the Parias, who are under them, than any Prince in Europe could entertain for the Dregs of the People. These Bramins and Shootres would be dishonoured in their native Place, and lose all the Privileges of their Caste, should they listen to the Instructions of a Person whom their Countrymen consider as an abominable Wretch. We therefore are obliged, to appoint Parias Catechists for the Parias, and Bramin-Catechists for the Bramins; a Circumstance which gives us no little Trouble, it not being easy to procure such, especially of the latter. Nothing is more difficult than to convert the Bramins; for these being naturally haughty, and puffed up with Notions of their exalted Birth, and their Superiority over the rest of the Castes, they thence are found less tractable and more strongly attached to the Superstitions of their Country.’50

It seems that caste barriers were a huge problem in effecting conversions, even among other castes. According to Father De La Lane,

The Indians are extremely sober, they never committing any Excess, either in eating or drinking. They are born with a natural Aversion to all Liquors which intoxicate; are very reserv’d with regard to Women…are vastly charitable to the Poor…are of a very mild Disposition; whence nothing shocks them so much as a hasty Temper and Anger. Such being their Frame of Mind, ‘tis certain many would then turn Christians, were they not afraid of being expelled from their Castes.51

Considering that society, particularly in south India, functioned around the institution of caste, which dictated each person’s social, economic and political status, fear of losing one’s caste can be understood. A person who ‘lost caste’ effectively lost his whole support system, his social network, extended family and even his economic community. ‘A Person who is expell’d from his Caste is lost to all Refuge or Asylum. His Relations must not hold the least Correspondence with, not even give him so much as a little Fire; and if he had any Children, he never finds an Opportunity to marry them; and thus is forced to either starve, or to enter into the Caste of the Parias, which, among the Indians, is an Act of the blackest Infamy.’52

The efforts of the Jesuits to accommodate Indian customs in their efforts at proselytization reached a dead-end in the infamous Rites Malabars.53 Jealous of the success the Jesuits claimed to have in converting peoples in the East, based on the conversion of the people of the Malabar region of south India where the Jesuits had effected many conversions by maintaining caste purity, other Catholic orders petitioned the Vatican. They challenged the Jesuit method of conversion by claiming that a convert who still held on to his previous beliefs and rituals was not a true, believing Christian. Under pressure from these groups, particularly the Dominicans and Franciscans, and despite the pleas of missionaries in India that allowances made to Indian Christian converts was only meant to be an initial effort to demonstrate the superior religion, the Church ruled in 1744 that such converts were not ‘true’ converts and that no convert could profess the Catholic faith while retaining loyalty to customs dictated by Hindu life.54 From then on, the number of converts to Christianity in India dropped drastically, until the Anglicans began proselytization in a big way in the nineteenth century.55

In spite of these struggles, the Lettres enjoyed a wide readership. According to Sylvia Murr, the Lettres Édifiantes were published when the Jesuits were struggling to maintain legitimacy in face of decreasing funds from the Church and competition from other orders. They were also meant to boost confidence in readers’ faith at a time when the Church was under attack from non-believers and the philosophers.56 As Kate Teltscher notes, the Lettres enjoyed wide circulation in part because they were written to persuade individuals to contribute to the cause of proselytization in India and elsewhere.57

According to the historian of science R. K. Kochhar, although the spread of Christian faith was the most important plan of the Jesuits, their activities had a scientific dimension about them, being the first European men of learning in India.58 Kochhar notes that Bouchet was the first person who, having travelled extensively in the southern part of India, was able to produce a reliable map of the peninsula, which the celebrated geographer D’Anville later used as blueprint for his maps of south India. The Jesuit mission sent by Louis XIV made the first attempt to study Indian languages. These men applied themselves with vigour to the study of the local languages in the south, particularly Tamil and Telegu that were spoken by the majority in the areas they served. Bouchet was fluent in Tamil and was considered a scholar by his fellow missionaries.59 They also applied themselves to the study of Sanskrit believing that this would give them a greater understanding of the foundation of Indian religion and cultural traditions. As Tachard described in his survey of the missions:

Father Mauduit applies himself to the Grandan, which is the learned Language of the Country. A Jesuit, to make his Ministry still more useful to the Indians, must understand their Books writ in that Language; and appear learned in the Sciences professed by their Doctors. The Bramins, who set themselves up as the only learned Men in this Country, won’t permit such Authors as treat of them to be translated; and are prodigiously jealous of them, from a Persuasion that Learning is the true Characteristic of Nobility.60

In studying these languages and writing detailed accounts of their impressions of Indians they encountered, as well as producing rudimentary grammars, dictionaries and linguistic guides for other missionaries to use, the Jesuits provided an invaluable service to later generations of Indologists who used these works as their base to learn about India. For example, a signal service to the study of local languages was performed by Ariel, missionary in Pondicherry, who had compiled a Tamil grammar and collected a wealth of Tamil manuscripts and sent them to Paris where Charles d’Ochoa organized them. Père Coeurdoux was another missionary in Pondicherry who was in touch with Voltaire, Anquetil-Duperron, and other academics, providing them information about Indian culture, history, science, etc.61 In fact it is no coincidence that until the notion of the academic as a rational man of science became dominant in the Enlightenment, many scholars of India were deeply religious and began their studies on India as part of an effort to understand a ‘heathen’ religion or to trace the roots of pagan religion.62


There is no clear image of India that emerges from the fragmentary writings of this period, but there are certain aspects of writings that stood out. The first aspect was the relatively moderate tone that was used to describe Indian religion as compared to the anti-Islamic invective. The second was the intense interest that the Brahmins of India generated. Established as the chief interpreters of religion, they were naturally the first to be consulted on any aspect of religion that travellers were curious about, and equally they formed the first group to be targeted for conversion. In fact this focus on the Brahmins and on caste in India may well be the first ‘French’ aspect of writing about India. As Kate Teltscher points out, by the mid-eighteenth century, one could talk of specific national images of India in Europe. The Jesuit dedication to ‘going native’, courting the Brahmins, learning Sanskrit and engaging Brahmins in long theological debates came to be identified as typically French. This was in stark contrast to the writings of the Lutherans and Anglican missionaries who came to India in the eighteenth century.63 The latter tended to work in north India, completely eschewed the Jesuit practice of accomodatio and focused on effecting mass conversions among the lower castes. While this was more an accident of history rather than any conscious ‘French’ action, the readership for these French Jesuits’ accounts of India remained primarily French—therefore, these accounts informed the French public, particularly the savants, about India.64

An examination of the writings of French missionaries who visited India points to the efforts of these men to create an image of India for their western readers. Since they comprised the majority of Europeans who ventured into the country (as opposed to traders who limited themselves to the ports) their writings were virtually the only firsthand accounts of interior regions in India to be available in Europe. One must remember, however, that the Jesuits were not only steeped in their own religious fervour, but were also subject to the aggressive economic mission that Europe had launched in Asia, particularly in India and China. Jesuit missions to Asia were corollaries to the steady commercial traffic to the East by the late seventeenth-century and the Lettres reflect the need to document the different aspects of the country in order to provide information about the land and people. As outlined in the introduction to each volume of the Lettres, the Jesuits compiled information in order to better effect conversions in India, America and China. Yet the availability of their accounts to the literate public meant that secular writers (such as the philosophes, who cited the Lettres widely) as well as traders and colonialists used them as manuals of information. Many of the missionaries were directly connected to the colonial enterprise, since the French ships usually carried at least one missionary onboard when they voyaged to India. These men were to provide to the spiritual needs of the French, but once they had established their missions, they also actively converted the native population.



1. I use the term ‘missionary views’ to broadly indicate the views of men whose primary aim in writing about India was for the purpose of spreading Christianity.

2. I use the term ‘secular views’ to represent the views of men who travelled to India as merchants, mercenaries and even tourists as opposed to missionaries who were sent to India in pursuit of their evangelical duties. While many of these men were deeply religious and expressed their opinion of Indian religion, their fundamental purpose in travelling to India was not to effect conversion, so they have been grouped into ‘secular views’.

3. Most of the current research on India in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries has used the works of travellers and observers like Jean Baptiste Tavernier and Le Gentil, physicians like François Bernier and Charles Dellon, engineers like Legoux De Flaix, architects like Claude Martin, and most of all mercenaries like Allard, Ventura, RéneMadec, Law de Lauriston, Dubois de Jancigny, Gentil, Claude Martin and Benoit De Boigne. For travelers see Edward Farley Oaten, European travellers in India during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 1909, New York: AMS Press, 1971 reprint; and Distant lands and Diverse Cultures: the French Experience in Asia 16001700, edited by Glenn J Ames and Ronald Love, Westport Ct and London: Praeger, 2003. For the work of mercenaries see Jean Marie Lafont, Indika. Essays in Indo- French relations 1630- 1976, New Delhi: Manohar, 2000, as well as La présence française dans le royaume sikh du Penjab: 1822-1849,Paris: Écolefrançaised’Extrême-Orient, 1992.

4.According to Županov, accounts of the Jesuits provided much of the philosophes’ information about India. Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth CenturyIndia, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 44

5. The scholarship on ‘secular’ writers like Tavernier, Bernier, Charles Dellon and Le Gentil is fairly extensive. Apart from numerous translations of their accounts and monographs dedicated to these individuals, it is very common for their works to be used as sources for the modern period in Indian history. For instance, Binita Mehta, Widows, Pariahs and Bayadères. India as spectacle, Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, and London: Associated University Presses, 2002; and Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European and British writing on India, 1600- 1800,Delhi: OUP, 1995, are among the more recent works which examine the impact of these writers on the image of India in France.

6. Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe. An essay in understanding, Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988, p.44. Cited from P S Filliozat, ‘The French Institute of Indology in Pondicherry’, Weiner Zeitschriftfür die KundeSüdasiens 28, 1983, p. 133.

7. In the preceding years there had been several Jesuit missions which had attempted to effect conversions in North India. A notable work was that of Father Pierre Du Jarric, who came to the Mughal court during the late sixteenthcentury. Jarric studied the writing of all previous Jesuit missions in India and compiled a Histoire des choses plus mémorables advenestant en Indes orientales…which essentially detailed the Jesuit missions thus far in India. His work was translated and published in English in 1926 as Akbar and the Jesuits: An Account of the Jesuit Missions to the Court of Akbar, Oxon: Routledge Curzon, 2005 reprint. A valuable account of Jesuit Missions, Du Jarric did not concern himself too much with a description of the country and people; hence I have left it out of this study.

8. R K Kochhar, ‘Secondary Tools of Empire: Jesuit Men of Science in India’, in Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures, edited Teotonio R de. Souza, New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1994, p. 175.

9. Ibid.

10. The Lettres which deal with India are records by Pères Tachard, Papin, Bouchet, Pons, Calmette and Mauduit and Coeurdoux. They contain detailed descriptions of the people and customs, which allow a better analysis of their image and representation of India for this study. The Lettres seem to have gone through several versions and translations. According to Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, a total of 34 volumes were published between 1703– 1776, edited by LeGobien (vols 1–7), the China expert du Halde (9–26), 27, 28, 31, 33, 34 by Patouillet and possibly René Maréchal or J B Geoffrey for vols. 29, 30, 32. In addition a number of translated, abridged, and altered versions were published well into the nineteenth century: 12- 13. In this study I refer to the earliest English translation of the Lettres, which was published even before the French originals were compiled. This edition was compiled by John Lockman under the title of ‘Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettresédifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work, London: T. Piety, 1762, 2nd Ed. The first edition was published in 2 volumes in 1743, London, by John Noon. The French originals were published periodically by the Paris Jesuit Mission in 34 volumes dating from 1702 to 1776 as Lettres Édifiantes et Curieuses, Écrites de Missions Etrangères, par quelques Missionaires de la Compagnie de Jésus, Paris: Nicolas Le Clerc. For a description of the various versions of the Lettres, see David Clines, ‘In Search of the Indian Job’, Vestus Testamentum, Vol. 33. 4 ,October, 1983, p. 399– 404.

11. Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European Writing and British Writing on India, Oxford and Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks, 1995, p. 5.

12. Bouchet arrived in India in about 1688 and was appointed to establish a new mission at Madura in 1702. He was then appointed Superior of the Mission in Carnata. Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondicherry, Feb. 1703. Ibid, p. 481. For information about Bouchet, see Francis Clooney, Fr. Bouchet’s India: An 18th Century Jesuits’ Encounter with Hinduism, Chennai: Satyam Nilyam Publications, 2005.

13. Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. Ibid, Vol 2: 374.

14. Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondicherry, January 1709. Ibid: 373.

15. There has long been a debate between economic historians of India regarding the state of decline [notably Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707,Delhi: OUP, 1999] or of economic growth [notably Shireen Moosvi, People, Taxation, and Trade in Mughal India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008]during the Mughal period of Indian history. The state of the economy and of the oppression of the people stemmed from the demands of the cities and of the landowning class (zamindars) regardless of their religion. Moosvi emphasizes the religious compositeness in the ruling class under Mughal rule.

16. Father Mauduit to Father le Gobien, Carnata. January 1702. Ibid, Vol 1: 430.

17. Ibid, p. 432.

18. Ibid, p. 440.

19. According to Georges Naidenoff among the Jesuits who were also members of the Académie des Sciences were Fontenay, Tachard, Gerbillon, Lecomte, Bouver, and Visdelov. See Georges Naidenoff, ‘Endeavours of the Missionaries’, in The French in India: from Diamond Traders to Sanskrit Scholars, edited by Rose Vincent, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1990. Also see the decline of Jesuit membership in the Académie during the eighteenth-century in James E. McClellan III, ‘The Académie Royale des Sciences, 1699–1793: A Statistical Portrait’, Isis, Vol. 72, No. 4,December 1981, p. 555.

20. As Županov points out, the Jesuits used the epistolatory form of writing. The goals of the order as stipulated by Ignatius Loyola were two fold. The first was service and the glory of god; the second the service of the Jesuit order to enable the realization of these goals. The founder had prescribed subjects for Jesuit writing, especially for those stationed outside Europe. There were to be four components of Jesuit written composition and correspondence cast in a specified narrative form. The first were accounts of kings and nobles, and these were to be recorded as dramatic, theatrical vignettes. The second was to deal with the life, habits, and customs of the common people, and these virtually took the form of ethnographic descriptions. Naturally there were disputes within the order and it was prescribed that these disputes be couched in dialogical or polemical terms. And finally, their own individual ambitions were sublimated in the rhetoric of sainthood and utopianism. See Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 7.

21. Wilhelm Halbfass also notes Bouchet’s comparison of Indian beliefs with Hebrew beliefs. See India and Europe. An essay in understanding, Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1988, p. 44.

22. Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 2, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 241. For a good discussion of this topic, see David Clines, ‘In Search of the Indian Job’, Vestus Testamentum, Vol. 33. 4, October, 1983, p. 398–418. Also see, Francis X. Clooney, Fr. Bouchet’s India: An 18th Century Jesuits’ Encounter with Hinduism, Chennai: Satyam Nilyam Publications, 2005.

23. Father Bouchet to Bishop Huet, formerly Bishop of Avranches. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses .To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 2, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 241– 63.

24. Ibid, p.264.

25. Ibid, p. 277.

26. Brett Berliner, Department of History and Geography, Morgan State University. Personal communication, December 2006.

27. Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondicherry, January 1709. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettresé difiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 2, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 377.

28. Friar Jordanus, Mirabilia Descripta. The Wonders of the East. Trans. Col. Sir Henry Yule. London: Hakluyt Society Publication no. 31, first series, 1863.

29. Louis Jacolliot was a prolific writer, colonial official and fervent believer that Christianity was derived from Hinduism. His works on the subject include La bible dansl’Inde, 1869 and Christna et le Christ,1874. Jacolliot’s ideas were extensively quoted by the famous Theosophist Madame Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled, 1877.

30. See Tapan Raychaudhuri, Irfan Habib, Dharma Kumar and Meghnad Desai ed., The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, Cambridge: CUP, 1982.

31.Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005, Chapter 6. Masuzawa correctly terms this sentiment ‘anti-Semitic’ in referring to the common racial origin of the Sephardic Jews and the Arabs, and applies it both to anti-Jewish and anti-Mulism feeling in Europe.

32. Father Mauduit. Written from Carnata, 1701. From John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. Vol 1, London: T. Piety, Second edition, 1762., p. 425.

33. Father Martin to Father De Villette. Marava in the Mission of Madura, November 1709, John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettresé difiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 2, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 416.

34. Father Tachard, Superior- General of the French Mission of Jesuits in the East Indies, to Father De La Chaize. Pondicherry, Feb. 1702, John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettresé difiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 1, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762., p. 168–69.

35. Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondicherry, February 1703. Ibid, p. 481.

36. Father Martin to Father de Villette. Ibid, p. 5.

37. Father Martin to Father le Gobien. Aoor Madura, December 1700. Ibid, p. 459–463.

38. Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondicherry, February1703. Ibid, p. 481. I use the spelling ‘brahmin’ throughout the thesis to indicate a particular caste among the Hindus, as distinguished from ‘brahman’ which is often used interchangeably to denote the Upanishadic Universal Soul or Godhead. While the difference in reality lies in pronunciation, I have used a different spelling in order to avoid confusions between the two terms.

39. Father Mauduit to Father Le Gobien, September 1700. Ibid, p. 9.

40. Dedication to vol. 2 by J B Du Halde, Ibid, p. 364.

41. Francis X. Clooney, Fr. Bouchet’s India: An eighteenth Century Jesuits’ Encounter with Hinduism, Chennai: Satyam Nilyam Publications, 2005, p. 3.

42. Dhruv Raina, ‘The Mystery of French Jesuit Manuscripts on Indian Astronomy: The Narratology and Impact of a Late Seventeenth Early Eighteenth Century Project’, (paper presented at a workshop on ‘Looking at it from Asia: the processes that shaped the sources of history of science.’ Recherches Epistémologiques et Historiques sur les Sciences, Paris, September 2006).

43. Ines G Županov, Disputed Mission: Jesuit Experiments and Brahmanical Knowledge in Seventeenth Century India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 5. She notes that following Nobili’s introduction of the practice of accommodatio in India, almost every Jesuit in India chose one or the other side, writing ‘opinions’ or condemnations, providing arguments for and against this practice. Her work also details the manner in which the practice of accommodatio was accomplished in India.

44. Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondicherry, Februaty 1703. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 1, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 487.

45. Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondicherry, Jan. 1709. Ibid, Vol 2, p. 387.

46. Father Mauduit to Father Le Gobien, Carnata, January 1702. Ibid, Vol 1, p. 423.

47. The Elephant headed deity Ganesha, who is worshipped in the South under the name of Pillayar.

48. Father Mauduit to Father Le Gobien, Carnata, January 1702. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettresé difiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 1, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 425.

49. Ibid, p. 426.

50. Father Mauduit to Father le Gobien, Carnata. January 1702. Ibid, pp. 420–21.

51. Father De La Lane to Father Morgues, Pondicherry, January 1709. Ibid, Vol 2, p. 376.

52. Ibid, p. 377.

53. The Rites malabares or Malabar rites were certain native institutions like caste and specific forms of worship which Jesuits in South India allowed new converts to Catholicism to continue practicing. For many Jesuits working in South India, it seemed impossible to effect conversions without making some accommodation to the centuries’ old traditions, beliefs and practices of Indians. Since the aim was conversion to Christianity, the indulgence to new Indian converts continuing to believe for instance, in magic and the prevalence of spirits, seemed harmless. The accommodation was not actively encouraged by the Popes, but for a while Rome turned a blind eye to them. Eventually, the practice was forbidden by a Papal Brief of 24 August 1734, due primarily to the resentment of other Catholic missions like the Capuchins.

54. For more information about the Rites see E. Amann, ‘Malabares (Rites)’DTC, 9, p. 1704–1746. Also see J. Bertrand, Mémoires historiques sur les missions des ordres religieux et spécialement sur les questions du clergé indigène et des rites malabares d'après des documents inédits. 2. ed,, Paris: P. Brunet,1862.

55. Anglican missionaries targeted lower castes for conversion, offering them an egalitarian society and the possibility of employment in the households of colonial administrators. The history of Christians in modern India reflects the efforts of different groups of missionaries – Southern Indian Christians are pre–dominantly Catholics who were converted by the Jesuits or even earlier. They cling to a caste hierarchy based on their caste in Hinduism prior to conversion and the caste rules, especially relating to marriage are strictly followed. The Church of North India is Protestant, dominated by Anglican congregations, who willingly gave up their caste status upon conversion since most of them were lower castes anyway.

56. Sylvia Murr, 'Les conditions d'émergence du discourssurl'Inde au siècle des Lumières, Inde et Littératures', Purusartha, 7, 1983, p. 239.

57. Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European and British writing on India, 1600–1800, Delhi: OUP, 1995, p. 80.

58. R K Kochhar, ‘Secondary Tools of Empire: Jesuit Men of Science in India’, in Discoveries, Missionary Expansion and Asian Cultures, edited by Teotonio R de. Souza, New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1994, p. 175. Kochhar describes the scientific and geographical studies of various men of the Jesuit Mission in India including Bouchet, Richaud, and Boudier.

59. David Clines, ‘In Search of the Indian Job’, in Vestus Testamentum, Vol. 33. 4, October, 1983, p. 404. Father Martin was an expert in Bengali.

60. Father Tachard, Superior of the Jesuit Missions in India, to Count De Crecy. Pondicherry, Februaty 1703. John Lockman, Travels of the Jesuits, into various parts of the world: particularly China and the East-Indies. Intermix’d with an account of the manners, government, civil and religious ceremonies, natural history, and curiosities, of the several nations visited by those fathers. Translated from the celebrated Lettres édifiantes & curieuses. To which is now prefixed, an account of the Spanish settlements in America, with a general index to the whole work. vol 1, Second edition, London: T. Piety, 1762, p. 487.

61. See Louis Renou, The Influence of Indian Thought on French Literature, Adyar, 1948, pp. 2–3.

62. The most famous example of this kind being Anquetil-Duperron whose life’s work on India was dictated by his quest for Judaic origins.

63. Kate Teltscher, India Inscribed: European Writing and British Writing on India, Oxford and Delhi: Oxford India Paperbacks, 1995, pp. 8, 74–75.

64. Sylvia Murr has commented on the connections between the Jesuits and Enlightenment savants in 'Les conditions d'émergence du discourssurl'Inde au siècle des Lumières, Inde et Littératures', Purusartha 7, 1983, pp. 233–284
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Sep 25, 2020 2:39 am

Pierre Martin, Excerpt from Ezourvedam
edited by Ludo Rocher



[cont'd from Jean Venant Bouchet, by Prof. Dr. Klaus Karttunen]

A New Name: Pierre Martin [(1665–1716)]

We shall now turn our attention to another Jesuit missionary, even though his name has not so far appeared anywhere in the literature connected with the EzV. Manuscript 1765 of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris contains, among other writings connected with Maudave, an "extract from a letter written to Mr. de Voltaire on the Lingam cult" (foll. 118-25). According to the catalogue51 the handwriting is that of Chretien-Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes (1721-94).

The extract is undated, but it is possible, based on internal criteria, to place it within rather precise lower and upper limits. In the letter Maudave speaks about the EzV and uses it as a source of information on the ritual of the Lingam. He even volunteers to have a copy made for Voltaire and send it to him, if he is at all interested in the manuscript. This means that the letter antedates Maudave's visit to Ferney in 1760. On the other hand, Maudave announces that he sends Voltaire a replica of a Linga; also, all data contained on the letter are based on personal observation. We may therefore be assured that the letter was written on 1758-59, during Maudave's first visit to India (see p. 77).

In the letter Maudave also makes a casual reference to the author and the translator of the EzV. About the author he merely records (p. 9) what the text itself seems to suggest, without expressing his personal opinion. "This Dialogue presupposes that Chumontou is the author of the Vedams, that he wrote them to countervail the empty superstitions that spread among men and, above all to halt the unfortunate progress of idolatry." But on the translation Maudave (p. 10) Is both brief and specific: "Its author is Father Martin, the former Jesuit missionary at Pondichery."

Whatever the historical value of this attribution may be, it deserves some attention since it comes from the very man who carried the EzV to Europe. Father Pierre Martin (1665-1716) is well known for several letters in the Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses (Streit 1929:208-9; 1931:3-4, 4, 6, 27, 47) and for at least two dissertations on the missions (Streit 1929:209; 1931:23). Perhaps more interesting than the identity of the translator is the fact that Maudave, writing in India in 1758-59, attributes the EzV to a missionary who died, in Rome, in 1716. The information which he gathered on the EzV during his first visit to India may have been tendentious and wrong, but characteristically, his informants threw the EzV translation back well into the past and made it about half a century old at that time.


Jesuit Revivals, Excerpt from Hybrid Knowledge in the Early East India Company World
by Anna Winterbottom

Jesuit revivals

While the interest in comparative religion in England waned, French scholarship on the subject was being awakened, on the basis of some projects comparable to Marshall and Madhusudana's and the earlier writings of Thomas Stephens. The strategy of accommodation attracted interest in the last years of the seventeenth century among a group of French Jesuits including Pierre Martin (1665-1716). Martin arrived in Balasore via Surat in 1699 after an unhappy spell in Persia. He applied himself to learning Bengali, and after five months claims to have entered a 'Brahmin university', properly attired.205 Martin argues that all new missionaries should be sent to the Madurai mission to learn, as he had, the languages and customs of Indians, to 'read and transcribe the books that the venerable Father Robert Nobili and our other Fathers composed', and to resume the practices that they had begun.206

The renewed enthusiasm for accommodation may explain the mystery of the Ezourvedam. This anonymous text, probably authored during the seventeenth century, reached France by 1760, when a copy was presented to Voltaire. Believing it to be a Hindu text, the philosopher used the work as the basis of his writings about Indian religions. Later scholars debated the status of the text, some regarding it as a version of an original Veda (normally the Yajur Veda) and others as a commentary. However, since the late eighteenth century, most scholars have agreed that the text is in fact a Christian 'pious fraud' disguised as a work of Hinduism.

Recent scholars have focused on the discussion of where and by whom the text was produced, suggesting that Robert Nobili, Pierre Martin, or one or more of several other contemporary Jesuits or converts produced the work in either Bengal or Pondicherry, where versions of the Ezourvedam and four other 'vedas' were discovered in the eighteenth century.207 It was in Pondicherry, in 1769, that the Tamil convert to Christianity Maridas Poulle produced a French translation of the BhP on the basis of an early modern Tamil translation.208 Poulle worked with a number of French intellectuals, including the astronomer and cartographer Jean-Baptiste Joseph Gentil 209 and the translator of the Zoroastrian texts Anquetil-Duperron. Poulle's text has also been suggested as a possible source for the Ezourvedam.210

Despite Marshall's claims in the letter to Coga concerning the propagation of the gospel, there is no overtly Christian message in the texts he produced with Madhusudana. Nevertheless, there are undeniable similarities between the Ezourvedam and the Marshall-Madhusudana texts. The Ezourvedam also opens with a dialogue about the nature of the world; the role of the gunas in creation and destruction is discussed. The genealogy of the gods is given, beginning with Aditi, mother of the gods, and her rival Diti in both texts. In contrast to the BhP, however, in the Ezourvedam the worship of Vishnu's avatars is explicitly denounced as a fall from true religion into idolatrous fantasies. 211 While God the creator starts off alone, he creates the world not by expanding it from within himself, but as a separate entity. We might conclude that the author of the Ezourvedam and Marshall both took selectively from Hinduism's teachings about the creation of the world to support an explanation for creation that supported their own cosmological and theological beliefs.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Sep 25, 2020 3:15 am

Sibylline Oracles
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 9/25/20

Not to be confused with Sibylline Books.

A Sibyl, by Domenichino (c. 1616-17)

The Sibylline Oracles (Latin: Oracula Sibyllina; sometimes called the pseudo-Sibylline Oracles) are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophets who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive, in an edition of the 6th or 7th century AD. They are not to be confused with the original Sibylline Books of the ancient Etruscans and Romans which were burned by order of Roman general Flavius Stilicho in the 4th century AD. Instead, the text is an "odd pastiche" of Hellenistic and Roman mythology interspersed with Jewish, Gnostic and early Christian legend.[1]

The Sibylline Oracles are a valuable source for information about classical mythology and early first millennium Gnostic, Hellenistic Jewish and Christian beliefs. Some apocalyptic passages scattered throughout seem to foreshadow themes of the Book of Revelation and other apocalyptic literature. The oracles have undergone extensive editing, re-writing, and redaction as they came to be exploited in wider circles.

One passage has an acrostic, spelling out a Christian code-phrase with the first letters of successive lines.


The Sibylline Oracles in their existing form are a chaotic medley. They consist of 12 books (or 14) of various authorship, date, and religious conception. The final arrangement, thought to be due to an unknown editor of the 6th century AD (Alexandre), does not determine identity of authorship, time, or religious belief; many of the books are merely arbitrary groupings of unrelated fragments.[2]

These oracles were anonymous in origin and as such were apt to modification and enlargement at pleasure by Hellenistic Jews and by Christians for missionary purposes. Celsus called Christians Σιβυλλισται (sibyl-mongers or believers in sibyls) because of prophecies preached among them, especially those in the book of Revelation. The preservation of the entire collection is due to Christian writers.[2]

Sources for the Sibylline texts

The oldest of the surviving Sibylline oracles seem to be books 3-5, which were composed partly by Jews in Alexandria. The third oracle seems to have been composed in the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor. Books 1-2 may have been written by Christians, though again there may have been a Jewish original that was adapted to Christian purposes.

All the oracles seem to have undergone later revision, enrichment, and adaptation by editors and authors of different religions, who added similar texts, all in the interests of their respective religions. The Sibylline oracles are therefore a pastiche of Greek and Roman pagan mythology, employing motifs of Homer and Hesiod; Judeo-Christian legends such as the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Tower of Babel; Gnostic and early Christian homilies and eschatological writings; thinly veiled references to historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Cleopatra, as well as many allusions to the events of the later Roman Empire, often portraying Rome in a negative light.

Some have suggested that the surviving texts may include some fragments or remnants of the Sibylline Books with a legendary provenance from the Cumaean Sibyl, which had been kept in temples in Rome. The original oracular books, kept in Rome, were accidentally destroyed in a fire in 83 BC, which resulted in an attempt in 76 BC to recollect them when the Roman senate sent envoys throughout the world to discover copies. This official copy existed until at least AD 405, but little is known of their contents.

That use of the Sibylline Oracles was not always exclusive to Christians is shown by an extract from Book III concerning the Tower of Babel as quoted by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in the late 1st century AD.

The Christian apologist Athenagoras of Athens, writing A Plea for the Christians to Marcus Aurelius in ca. AD 176, quoted the same section of the extant Oracles verbatim, in the midst of a lengthy series of classical and pagan references including Homer and Hesiod, and stated several times that all these works should already be familiar to the Roman Emperor.

The sibyls themselves, and the so-called Sibylline oracles, were often referred to by other early Church fathers; Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (ca. 180), Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200), Lactantius (ca. 305), and Augustine (ca. 400), all knew various versions of the pseudo-Sibylline collections, quoted them or referred to them in paraphrase, and were willing to Christianize them, by as simple means as inserting "Son of God" into a passage, as Lactantius:

"The Erythraean Sibyl" in the beginning of her song, which she commenced by the help of the Most High God, proclaims the Son of God as leader and commander of all in these verses:
All-nourishing Creator, who in all
Sweet breath implanted, and made God the guide of all."

Some fragmentary verses that do not appear in the collections that survive are only known because they were quoted by a Church Father. Justin Martyr (ca. 150), if he is truly the author of the Hortatory Address to the Greeks, gives such a circumstantial account of the Cumaean sibyl that the Address is quoted here at the Cumaean sibyl's entry. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "Through the decline and disappearance of paganism, however, interest in them gradually diminished and they ceased to be widely read or circulated, though they were known and used during the Middle Ages in both the East and the West." Thus, a student may find echoes of their imagery and style in much early medieval literature.

These books, in spite of their pagan content, have sometimes been described as part of the Pseudepigrapha. They do not appear in the canonical lists of any Church.

Manuscripts and editions

The text has been transmitted in fourteen "books", preserved in two distinct manuscript traditions, one containing books 1–8, the other 9–14. However, "book 9" consists of material from books 1–8 and "book 10" is identical to "book 4", so that the edition by Collins (1983) contains only books 1–8 and 11–14. The main manuscripts date to the 14th to 16th centuries (Collins 1983:321):

group φ: books 1–8 with an anonymous prologue

Z: Cod. Hierosolymitanus Sabaiticus 419 (late 14th c.)
A: Cod. Vindobonensis hist gr. XCVI 6 (15th c.)
P: Cod. Monacensis 351 (15th c.)
B: Cod. Bodleianus Baroccianus 103 (late 15th c.)
S: Cod. Scorialensis II Σ 7 (late 15th c.)
D: Cod. Vallicellianus gr. 46 (16th c.)

group ψ: books 1–8, without prologue

F: Cod. Laurentianus plut. XI 17 (15th c.)
R: Cod. Parisinus 2851 (late 15th c.)
L: Cod. Parisinus 2850 (1475)
T: Cod. Toletanus Cat 88.44 (c. 1500)

group Ω: books 9–14

M: Cod. Ambrosianus E64 sup. (15th c.)
Q: Cod. Vaticanus 1120 (14th c.)
V: Cod. Vaticanus 743 (14th c.)
H: Cod. Monacensis gr. 312 (1541)

To this may be added the ample quotations found in the writings of the early Church Fathers.

In 1545 Xystus Betuleius (Sixt Birck of Augsburg) published at Basel an edition based on ms. P, and the next year a version set in Latin verse appeared. Better manuscripts were used by Johannes Opsopaeus, whose edition appeared at Paris in 1599. Later editions include those by Servaas Galle (Servatius: Amsterdam 1689) and by Andrea Gallandi in his Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum (Venice, 1765, 1788). Books 11–14 were edited only in the 19th century. In 1817 Angelo Mai edited a further book, from a manuscript in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana at Milan (Codex Ambrosianus) and later he discovered four more books, in the Vatican Library, none of which were continuations of the eight previously printed, but an independent collection. These are numbered XI to XIV in later editions. Several fragments of oracles taken from the works of Theophilus and Lactantius, printed in the later editions, show that even more Sibylline oracles formerly existed. In the course of the 19th century, better texts also became available for the parts previously published.


The so-called Sibylline oracles are couched in classical hexameter verses. The contents are of the most varied character and for the most part contain references to peoples, kingdoms, cities, rulers, temples, etc. It is futile to attempt to read any order into their plan or any connected theme.

Patrick Healy Catholic Encyclopedia (1912) suggests that their present arrangement represents the caprice of different owners or collectors who brought them together from various sources... Though there are occasionally verses which are truly poetical and sublime, the general character of the Sibylline Oracles is mediocre. The order in which the books are numbered does not represent their relative antiquity, nor has the most searching criticism been able accurately to determine how much is Christian and how much Jewish.[3]

Healy continues that Book IV is generally considered to embody the oldest portions of the oracles, and while many of the older critics saw in it elements which were considered to be Christian, it is now looked on as completely Jewish. Book V has given rise to many divergent opinions, some claiming it as Jewish, others as the work of a Christian Jew, and others as being largely interpolated by a Christian. It contains so little that can be considered Christian that it can safely be set down as Jewish. Books VI and VII are admittedly of Christian origin. Some authors (Mendelssohn, Alexandre, Geffcken) describe Book VI as an heretical hymn, but this contention has no evidence in its favour. It dates most probably from the third century AD. Books I and II are regarded as a Christian revision of a Jewish original. Book VIII offers peculiar difficulties; the first 216 verses are most likely the work of a second century AD Jew, while the latter part (verses 217-500) beginning with an acrostic on the symbolic Christian word Icthus is undoubtedly Christian, and dates most probably from the third century AD. In the form in which they are now found the other four books are probably the work of Christian authors. Books XII and XIII are from the same pen, XII being a revision of a Jewish original. Book XI might have been written either by a Christian or a Jew in the third century AD, and Book XIV of the same doubtful provenance dates from the fourth century AD. The general conclusion is that Books VI, VII, and XIII and the latter part of Book VIII are wholly Christian. Books I, II, XI, XII, XIII, and XIV received their present form from a Christian. The peculiar Christian circle in which these compositions originated cannot be determined, neither can it be asserted what motive prompted their composition except as a means of Christian propaganda.[3]

See also

• Alexander Polyhistor
• Hebrew Sibyl
• Jewish eschatology
• Vaticinia ex eventu describes the phenomenon of pretended oracles written after the event.
• Wives aboard the Ark



1. Terry, M. S. (1899). The Sibylline Oracles. Archived from the original on 2002-06-06. The content of the individual books is probably of different age, dated to anywhere between the 1st and 7th centuries AD. Collins, J. J. (1983). "Sibylline Oracles (Second Century B.C.–Seventh Century A.D)". In Charlesworth (ed.). Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 1. Hendrickson. pp. 317–472.
2. Cheyne & Black 1899.
3. Healy 1912.


• Cheyne, Thomas Kelly; Black, J. Sutherland, eds. (1899). "ApocalypticLiterature § 88. Sibylline Oracles" . Encyclopaedia Biblica. 1. Toronto: George N. Morang & Company.
• Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sibylline Oracles" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 19.
• Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sibyls" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 19–20.
• Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Sibyl". The Jewish Encyclopedia. 11. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. pp. 319–323.


• This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Healy, Patrick Joseph (1912). "Sibylline Oracles". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Further reading

• J. Geffcken, Die Oracula Sibyllina, Leipzig, Hinrichs, 1902.
• A. Peretti, La Sibilla babilonese nella propaganda ellenistica, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1942.
• V. Nikiprowetzky, La troisième Sibylle, Paris, La Haye, 1970.
• J. J. Collins, The Sibylline Oracles of Egyptian Judaism, Missoula 1974.
• A. Grafton, Higher Criticism Ancient and Modern: The Lamentable Death of Hermes and the Sibyls, in: The Uses of Greek and Latin. Historical Essays, ed. by A.C. Dionisotti, A. Grafton and J. Kraye, London 1988, pp. 155–170.
• H.W. Parke, Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy in Classical Antiquity, London, Routledge, 1988.
• I. Cervelli, Questioni sibilline, «Studi storici» 34, 1993, pp. 895–1001.
• M. Bracali, Sebastiano Castellione e l'edizione dei Sibyllina Oracula, «Rinascimento» 36, 1996, pp. 319–349.
• R. Buitenwerf, Book III of the Sibylline Oracles and Its Social Setting, Leiden-Boston, Brill, 2003.
• C. Schiano, Il secolo della Sibilla. Momenti della tradizione cinquecentesca degli «Oracoli Sibillini», Bari, edizioni di Pagina, 2005.

External links

• Milton S. Terry, The Sibylline Oracles (complete text, at Elfinspell)
• Milton S. Terry, The sibylline oracles: only those fragments that are quoted in Patristic writings, annotated and set in context, including the long preface of the (6th century?) editor
• The Sibylline oracles, Books III-V, Translated by the Rev. H. N. Bate, M.A., 1918 (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF format)
• The Sibylline Oracles. Translated from Greek into Blank English Verse. New Edition Revised after the Text of Ruch. (1899) Translated by Milton S. Terry. Digital Facsimile. (PDF)
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Part 1 of 2

Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century
Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher
W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania
© 1984 -- John Benjamins B.V.



This series is published with a subvention of the Department of South Asia Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

• Preface
• Introduction
o Historical Survey of Ezourvedam Interpretation
 Nature and Purpose of the Text
 Phase 1 (1760-1782)
 Phase 2 (1782-1822)
 Phase 3 (from 1822)
o The Author of the Ezourvedam
 Early Speculations
 Missionaries
 Roberto de Nobili
 Jean Calmette
 Antoine Mosac
 Other Missionaries
 A New Name: Pierre Martin
 Indian Converts
 Conclusion
o New Contributions to Ezourvedam Interpretation
 The French Original
 The Author of the French Ezourvedam
 The Title: Ezourvedam
 An Evaluation
o The Ezourvedam Manuscripts
 The Pondicherry Manuscripts
 Voltaire's and Anquetil's Manuscripts
 A New Manuscript: BN Fonds Francais 19117
o The edition
o References
• Text
• Index of Indian Terms in the Ezourvedam


Historical Survey of Ezourvedam Interpretation

Nature and Purpose of the Text

Phase 1 (1760-1782)

In September or early October 1760 Louis-Laurent de Federbe, chevalier de Maudave, visited Voltaire at his residence in Ferney near Geneva, and presented him with a copy of a French manuscript called Ezourvedam. Maudave was recommended to Voltaire by the famous mathematician and philosopher Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, in a letter dated 10 September 1760, from Paris (Best 8458). He visited Voltaire on his way from Paris to Mahon on the island of Menorca. Voltaire expressed his happiness about the meeting with Maudave in a reply to d'Alembert dated 8 October 1760 (Best 8527).

Voltaire's correspondence in October 1760 and shortly thereafter often refers to Maudave's visit and to the extraordinary book he brought with him. Maudave is described as "the commander of a fortress near the Ganges" (Best 8713), as" an officer who is going to be a commander on the Coromandel coast, and who came to see me on his way there" (Best 8535), or "the commander of a small fortress on the Coromandel coast" (Best 9107, 9262, 8870). He was "a close friend of one of the principal bramins" (Best 8713). This Brahman was a very wise man (Best 8868, 9107), a correspondent of the French Company (Best 9107), who rendered the Company invaluable services (Best 8868). He knew French well (Best 8868, 9107). and made the effort to translate the EzV from Sanskrit into French (Best 8868, 9107, 13667), in Banaras (Best. 9262). He handed it over to Maudave (Best. 9107), who assured Voltaire that the translation "was very faithful" (Best 8713). Voltaire had a copy1 made, "a poor copy made in haste" (Best 9262), and decided to deposit the original of this "unique and strange manuscript" (Best 8886, 9107) at the King's Library in Paris.2 It is now No. 452 of the "Nouvelles acquisitions francaises."3

There is no doubt that Voltaire was deeply impressed by the EzV; again and again he refers to it -- eventually quotes from it -- in his works and correspondence (Pinard de La Boullaye 1922:213n2). I shall only cite a few passages which best illustrate how Voltaire reacted to the text, and how he interpreted its contents.

On 1 October 1761 he wrote (Best. 9262) to his friend Jacob Vernes, who seems to have inquired about the EzV in an earlier letter: "I have been ill and, besides, very busy, dear Father. I regret answering you so late on the Indian manuscript; it is destined to become the sole treasure that will remain of our East India Company. Mr. de la Persiliere has nothing to do with this book;4 it has actually been translated at Benares, by a Bramin, a correspondent of our poor Company, who knows French rather well. And it was Mr. de Modave, the King's commander on the Coromandel coast, who came to see me a few months ago, and presented me this manuscript. It is definitely very authentic and must have been composed long before Alexander's expedition, for not a single name of rivers, mountains, or cities resembles the Greek names which Alexander's companions introduced into the land. One needs a running commentary to know where one is, and whom one is dealing with. The manuscript is called Ezour Vedam, which means: commentary on the Vedam. Another reason why it must be very old is that in it the author combats the beginnings of idolatry. I am convinced that it antedates Pythagoras by several centuries. I have sent the manuscript to the King's Library, where it is preserved as the most precious gem of their collections."

The Additions a l'essay sur l'histoire generale (1763), which provides the supplements to the 1756 edition of the Essay, contains (15-24) a chapter entitled: "Des Bracmanes, du Vedam, et de l'Ezourvedam," which is largely based on the EzV. Voltaire proudly quotes a few extracts, and qualifies (22) them as describing "the principal features of the Vedam, a book which was until now unknown in Europe and in nearly the whole of Asia." His comments on "Bramin ritual" are less laudatory: "The Bramins have more and more degenerated. Their Cormoredan,5 which is their ritual, is an assemblage of superstitious ceremonies, at which anyone will laugh if he did not happen to be born on the banks of the Ganges or the Indus, or at least anyone who is not a philosopher and who is amazed at the follies of other Peoples but never at those of his own country. As soon as a child is born, one has to pronounce the word Oum over it. If one fails to do so, it will be forever unhappy. One has to rub its tongue with sacred flour, say prayers over it, and at each prayer pronounce the name of a Deity. Next, the child has to be placed in the open air on the third day of the Moon, its head turned toward the North. The series of minute details is endless. It is a conglomerate of all the follies with which purposeless study of judicial astronomy is able to inspire learned men who are clever but at the same time extravagant or deceitful. A Bramin's entire life is devoted to these superstitious ceremonies. They have them for each and every day of the year. It looks as if in India men have steadily become weaker and more conceited as they were more and more subjugated." And he concludes (23-4) the long passage with a renewed appraisal of the antiquity of the EzV: "This old Commentary on the Vedam, from which I have given extracts, seems to me to have been written before Alexander's conquests; for in it appear none of the names which the victorious Greeks imposed on the rivers, towns, and countries. India is called Zomboudipo; mount Immaus is Merou; the Ganges is called Zanoubi. These ancient names are no longer known, except to the experts of the sacred language."

In La philosophie de l'histoire par feu l'abbe Bazin (1765) the EzV is referred to in the seventeenth chapter: "De l'Inde" (97-110), as follows (104): "The library of Paris has, by a lucky accident, procured an ancient book of the Bramins; it is the Ezourvedam, written before the expedition of Alexander into India, together with a recital of all ancient rites of the Bracmans, entitled the Cormo-Vedam. This manuscript, which has been translated by a Bramin, is not really the Vedam itself, but rather a compendium of the rites and opinions contained in that law."6 This statement is followed (105-10) by examples similar to the ones quoted above.

Finally, in La defense de mon oncle (1767) Voltaire reiterates his ideas on the origin and meaning of the EzV: "Before his death the abbe Bazin sent to the Royal Library the most precious manuscript that exists in the Orient. It is an ancient commentary on the Veidam, i.e. the sacred book of the ancient Bramans, by a Braman called Shumontou. This manuscript undoubtedly belongs to the time when the ancient religion of the gymnosophists had begun to be corrupted; except for our own sacred books, it is the most respectable monument of belief in a single God. It is called Ezour-Veidam; as if one were to say the true Veidam, the Veidam explained, the pure Veidam. There is no doubt that it was written before Alexander's expedition to India, since long before Alexander the ancient bramin or abramin religion, the ancient cult taught by Brama, had been corrupted by superstitions and fables. The same superstitions had penetrated into China at the time of Confutzee, who lived about three hundred years before Alexander. The author of the Ezour-Veidam combats all these superstitions which made their appearance in his time. Now, it must have required a relatively long period of time for them to penetrate from India into China; therefore, if we surmise that this rare manuscript has been written four hundred years before Alexander conquered a part of India, we shall not be far from the truth. Shumontou combats all kinds of idolatry with which the Indians began to be affected at that time; and, what is extremely important, he cites the words of the Veidam itself, of which no one in Europe had come to know a single passage so far."7

Assuredly, Voltaire refers to his EzV manuscript as "a copy of the four Vedams" (Best. 8713) and "the Gospel of the ancient bracmans" (Best. 8870). But the passages which I have just quoted and his correspondence (Best. 8527, 8868, 9107, 13667), make it clear that he became soon convinced that the EzV was not the Veda itself but rather a commentary on the Veda. As to its date, exalted statements such as "the oldest book in the world" (Best 9234) -- except for the Old Testament (Best 8870) -- and a book five thousand (Best. 8713) or three thousand years old (Best 9183), are soon replaced by "before the invasion of Alexander the Great (Best 9107, 13667). The EzV Quotes the real Veda, to combat a number of superstitions which manifested themselves in India at the time when the text was composed. These superstitions penetrated into China three centuries before Alexander; they must have originated in India well before that time. Consequently, the EzV must have been composed at least four centuries before Alexander.

The most important point was that, via Maudave and the EzV, Voltaire "could now communicate with a Brame from India" (Best. 8535), and that he and his readers finally obtained first-hand information on the mysterious Indian Veda. Moreover, this Veda contained a real surprise; its precepts were very close to the basic principles of Christianity. Voltaire was happy to conclude that many so-called Christian concepts were, therefore, not exclusively Christian; they existed elsewhere in the world long before the birth of Christ. "Who are we, who owe the sacrement of baptism to nothing else than the customs of the Gangarids, which were passed on to the Arabs and sanctified by our Lord J.C., -- who are we to argue against the antiquity of those who have provided us with pepper throughout Ancient Times!" (Best. 8713). As Debidour (1924:40) puts it: "If he appears anxious to propagate the knowledge of the Ezour Veidam, it is because this book shows that the story of Adam and Eve does not originally belong to the Bible."

The EzV was used, as early as 1762, by Voltaire's faithful nephew, the abbe Mignot (ca. 1725/30-1790/91). In his Quatrieme memoire sur les anciens Philosophes de l'Inde he refers (1762a:247) to "the Ezour Vedam, a commentary on the Vedam in the Samscretan language, the recent French translation of which was communicated to me by Mr. Capperonnier;" he also quotes the EzV on the characteristics and duration of the four yugas (254-5), and comments: "I shall not elaborate on these imaginary calculations which lack all solid foundation, which the author of the Ezour Vedam agrees to be pure fiction, and which do not deserve any attention." In the Cinquieme memoire he again quotes (1762b:263) the EzV, to show that god rules the world: "In the Ezour Vedam the Indians address God with the words, 'you are the savior, the father, and the lord of the world; you see everything, you know everything, you rule over everything.'"

Perhaps the most important name connected with the EzV in this early period is that of Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil Duperron (1731-1805), who quotes a long passage from it in the "Discours Preliminaire" to his Zend-Avesta (1771:1, I. lxxxiii-lxxxvii). Anquetil adds the interesting remark, that "the manuscript brought back to France by Mr. de Modave [and delivered to Voltaire] originally comes from the papers of Mr. Barthelemy,8 second of the Council at Pondicherry, who probably had the original translated by the Company's interpreters under his orders."

Anquetil possessed his own copy of the EzV; it is No. 20 of the Fonds Anquetil, now No. 8876 of the "Nouvelles acquisitions francaises" at the National Library in Paris.9 This copy is evidently more complete than Voltaire's; the supplementary final section (fol. 55 recto) is introduced: "from the copy of Mr. Tessier de la Tour, nephew of Mr. Barthelemy, a member of the Council at Pondicherry." Folio 2 recto contains a note, in Anquetil's handwriting, in which he mentions the name of the person who introduced him to Tessier's copy: Antoine Court de Gebelin,10 and in which he also speculates on the origin of Maudave's manuscript. "On August 27, 1766, a Swiss (Mr. Court de Gebelin, of Geneva) came to see me. He told me about the Ezour-Vedam which had been brought back from Pondicherry by Mr. Tessier, the nephew of Mr. Barthelemy, second in rank in that town. It had been found in the papers of that councilman who, as reported by Mr. Tessier, had also other Indian books translated. It is probably from there that Mr. de Maudave had derived his. This Swiss has in the meanwhile confirmed that it is the same work and that Mr. Tessier's copy contains one more chapter at the end. Or else, Mr. de Maudave has obtained his from Mr. Porcher, the commander at Carical whose daughter he had married." I shall come back to the manuscripts of the EzV, their origin and mutual relationship, later in this volume.

Anquetil's interpretation of the EzV and its dialogue between Biache and Chumontou is shown most clearly in a handwritten marginal note in his manuscript (fol. 8 verso). On Chumontou's statement (Text p. 116) that the common interpretation of the terms choto, rozo, and tomo is wrong and ought to be replaced by his own, Anquetil comments: "This is how the Br[ahman] Chumontou proceeds. Later in this treatise he refutes the legends told by Biache, either because they are contrary to good sense, or because they are not found in the ancient books, and he provides a moralistic explanation for those that are based on facts which he agrees to. However, these legends are accepted throughout India (see Abrah. Roger), and Chumontou does no more than confront them with the doubts of a philosopher which cannot be held to represent the religion of India. To prove that they are, he ought to combat authority by authority."

In the same year in which Anquetil published his Zend-Avesta Jean Rudolphe Sinner, Seigneur de Balaigues (1730-1787), refers to the EzV in his Essai sur les Dogmes de la Metempsychose e du Purgatoire enseignes par les Bramins de l'Indostan. He alludes (1711:59n) to Mignot mentioning the EzV, but mainly impresses upon his readers to give due consideration to what Voltaire has to say about it. "The illustrious author of the Philosophie de l'histoire tells us, in the chapter on India, that this book reached the King's Library by a happy coincidence. What is most peculiar is that the French translation was made in India, by a Bramin who was connected with the French India Company. One should also read very carefully what the same Author-Philosopher tells us about the Sacred Books of the Bramins in various chapters of his Essai sur l'histoire generale, and especially in the chapter on India included in the Supplement. There he speaks of the Ezour Vedam, and adds that it was he who deposited the copy in the King's Library, together with one of the Cormo Vedam which is a ritual book of the Bramins."11 Sinner had not seen the EzV personally, but the fact that he is able (1771:128-30) to add a few data on the manuscript and its content via "un Homme de Lettres" in Paris, shows that the EzV was read by the intelligentsia in the French capital, and that those who did not live in Paris were anxious to hear about it.

Guillaume Emmanuel Joseph Guilhem de Clermont Lodeve, baron de Sainte-Croix (1746-1809),12 used the EzV in a communication to the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres on the life of Alexander the Great, in 1772. The dissertation was published in 1775, and translated into English in 1793. Sainte-Croix repeatedly refers to the EzV.13 He calls it "an ancient commentary of the Vedam, written in the Sanscreet language and translated by a Brahmin of Benares,"14 a passage to which he appends15 an interesting note: "The Ezour-Vedam, which should not be confused with the Esrou-Vedam, according to the spelling adopted by the Indian translator of the Bhagavadam, or IssoureWedam, according to that of Abraham Roger, one of the four Vedams, is only a commentary on these books, or rather an explanation of the doctrine contained in them. This book is, therefore, later than the Vedams." One of Sainte-Croix' friends16 informs us that already at that time he had decided to become the editor of the EzV.

In 1776 another friend of Voltaire, Paul Philippe Gudin de la Brenellerie (1738-1812), lists among the "progres des Arts & de l'Esprit humain, sous le regne de Louis XV," paragraph "Erudition Asiatique," the surprising fact that "Mr. de Voltaire had a Brame, right in the heart of India, translate a commentary of the Veidam, called Ezour-Veidam." We are told (NBG 22, 1858, 347) nonetheless that "Voltaire was very favorably impressed" by Gudin's book!

The text of the EzV was published in 1778: L'Ezour-Vedam /Ou / ncien Commentaire / Du / Vedam / Contenant l'exposition des opinions reli- /gieuses & philosophiques des Indiens. / Traduit du Samscretan / par un Brame. / Revu &- publie avec des observations prelimi- / naires. des notes &- des eclaircissemens, two volumes in-12, 17 Yverdon, at the press of Mr. De Felice. The edition is anonymous, but we know from other sources18 that the editor was the baron de Sainte-Croix. Sainte-Croix used Voltaire's manuscript, but, since it was incomplete, he supplemented the final section from Anquetil's copy "which he was kind enough to communicate" (ix-x). The editor's evaluation of the EzV is clear from the Preface (vii-viii): "How grateful we would be to Mrs. Holwell & Dow, if they had given us, without prejudice, a precise survey of the philosophical opinions of the Indians, and a faithful picture of their religion! The author of the Ezour-Vedam, which is published in this volume, seems to have had this goal in mind, and he has lived up to our expectations." More specifically, Sainte-Croix' interpretation of the EzV combines acceptance of Anquetil's handwritten note in the margin of his EzV manuscript (see p. 8) with his readings on the philosophy of the Indian "Ganigueuls." He quotes some of La Croze's statements on these philosophers, and subsequently (1.147-8) analyzes the dialogue between Biache and Chumontou as follows: "A man shrouded in the darkness of idolatry reports, under the name of Biache, the fables that are most highly sanctioned in India, and exhibits the whole array of popular theology of that country. The philosopher Chumontou rejects this mythology as contrary to good sense, or because he has not read it in the ancient books, and he gives moralistic explanations for the fabulous stories that are based on facts which he has to admit. In his answers to Biache's questions the Ganigueul philosopher teaches his own beliefs on the unity of God, creation, the nature of the soul, the dogma of suffering and reward, the worship that is due to the Supreme being, the duties of all ranks, etc. He pays special attention to those absorbed in pure contemplation; in this respect his principles are in perfect agreement with those of the Samanaeans and the ancient sectarians of Budda." Sainte-Croix is much more critical of Voltaire. He quotes long passages from him, and comments on them. His main point of disagreement is (1.150) that. since the EzV opposes the teachings of the Ganigueuls to present beliefs of the Indian people, "it certainly cannot be very old."19

Johann Samuel Ith (1747-1813), a friend of Sinner's and Sainte-Croix', refers ("Vorrede" 25-6) to his correspondence with the latter about the EzV and to its evaluation by "as untrustworthy an author as Voltaire," in 1778. He subsequently translated Sainte-Croix' book into German, with an interesting Preface, containing valuable information on the early reception of the EzV in Europe.20

The works of Joseph de Guignes (1721-1800) are a case in point to show how much the EzV had been accepted as a reliable source book on Indian religion in the seventies of the eighteenth century. De Guignes refers to it and quotes from it without hesitation or justification. For instance, his statement "In the Ezour-Vedam four states are mentioned, that of marriage, that of celibacy, that of the Sanjassis, and that of the Oudoutas or Bikouk" (1776:198), is followed by a supporting quotation from the text (199). However, de Guignes also introduces a new and far reaching element. In his earlier communication (1772:31) he says: "Viassen wrote down the four Vedams, and added to these books the one called Baradam, as if to make it into a fifth Vedam. He taught the first Vedam, called Roucou, to Baylen; the second called Yesrou, to Vayssam-baijen; the third called Samam, to Saymien; & the fourth. called Adarbanam, to Soumanden. We know these books under the names of Roucou-vedam, Ezour-vedam, Sama-vedam, & Adarvana-vedam." In other words, de Guignes identifies the EzV with one of the four Vedas mentioned in Mariyadas Pillai's Bhagavadam, transliterated there as Yesrou.21 The same idea appears again four years later (1776:205): "We do not have an exact and precise idea of the books which, in India, are regarded as their sacred religious books, namely the Vedes. Abraham Roger makes all four Vedes into a single doctrinal corpus: 'the first or Rogou-vedam ... The second or Ezour-vedam deals with superiors or governors to whom they attribute sovereignty over everything ...' According to Father Pons ... those Brahmes are divided into four sects, each of which has its own laws: the Roukou-vedam, or, according to the Indian pronunciation, Rec-bed, & the Yajour-vedam (i.e. the Ezour-Vedam of Abraham Roger),... " In reality, Rogerius22 does not use the term Ezour-vedam. He says: "This Vedam is divided into four parts: the first part is called Rogowedam; the second Issourewedam; the third Samawedam; the fourth Adderawanawedam ... The second part treats of the Regents to whom they attribute sovereignty over everything." Once again, the identification: Ezourvedam = Issourewedam, is de Guignes'!

The immediate impact of Sainte-Croix' edition on the study of Indian religions in Europe is also visible, for instance, in Christoph Meiners' (1747- 1810) fourth section: "On the religions of the Indians and the teachings of the Brachmans" (1780:91-140). The professor of philosophy at the Georg August University in Gottingen evidently acquired the EzV edition after the main body of his work had been written. But, on at least five occasions (115, 127, 131, 135, 130), he inserts references to Sainte-Croix' preface and edition in his footnotes.

Phase 2 (1782-1822)

The second phase in the history of EzV interpretation begins in 1782, with the publication of Pierre Sonnerat's (1749-1814) Voyage aux Indes Orientales. Sonnerat informs us (1.7) that he has been fortunate enough to gather information on the true nature of India's mysterious Veda; and he owes this new information at least indirectly to the EzV. "I had in my possession a copy of the so-called translation of the Ezour-Vedam preserved at the Royal Library. I showed it to a learned but fanatic Bramin; and, since this book did not at all correspond to the impression he wanted to give me of his religion, he felt obliged to initiate me into its mysteries." Sonnerat's principal statement (1.215) on the nature of the EzV, which has been used again and again by modern scholars, deserves to be cited in full. "One ought to guard oneself against including among the canonical books of the Indians the Ezourvedam, of which there is a so-called translation in the Royal Library, and which has been published in 1778. It is definitely not one of the four Vedams, notwithstanding its name. It is a book of controversy, written by a missionary at Masulipatam. It contains a refutation of a number of Pouranons devoted to Vichenou, which are several centuries later than the Vedams. One sees that the author has tried to reduce everything to the Christian religion; he did introduce a few errors, though, so that one would not be able to recognize the Missionary under the disguise of a Bramin. Anyhow, Mr. Voltaire and a few others were wrong, when they gave this book an importance which it does not deserve, and when they regarded it as canonical." Sonnerat made it clear, for the first time, that the EzV was a Christian rather than a Hindu document. Voltaire had been misled, even though he too had noticed the close connection with Christianity. On 1 October 1761 he wrote (Best. 9262) to his friend Jacob Vernes: "You would be surprised to find in this manuscript some of your own opinions, but you would also see that the ancient Brachmans who thought like you and your friends were more courageous than you."

Notwithstanding Sonnerat's discovery a number of European writers seem to have remained unaware of the controversy raised by the EzV, and they continue to regard it as an authentic document. In 1792 the French encyclopedist philosopher Jacques-Andre Naigeon (1738-1810) reprints Sainte-Croix' edition in its entirety in his Philosophie ancienne et moderne, as the sole - lengthy - "addition" to Diderot's - short- article on the philosophy of the Indians; it is labeled: "Exposition des opinions religieuses & philosophiques des Indiens." More than ten years later Carl Christian Schmidt, "minister of the counts of Leiningen-Westerburg and consistorial," inserts (1803: 19-47) in his Repertorium fur die Literatur der Bibel a whole chapter with "Passages from the Ezour-Vedam, compared with passages from the Old and New Testaments." He believes (20) that "the Commentary on the Vedam cannot have been composed without written or oral familiarity on the part of its author with the Bible and the teachings of Christianity." To be sure, it is difficult to recognize Christ under the disguise of Chrixnou; "Christ is described in a most frightful manner, partly under influence of the teachings of Christianity themselves, partly because of the attitude of the priests who did not look favorably upon the introduction of a foreign religion." Also (19), "Voltaire and others went too far; by trying to make the book more ancient than the Bible. Voltaire has made it a target of hate, with the result that people refuse to find anything worthwhile in the Commentary on the Vedam." The time has come now objectively to compare the EzV with the Bible; hence Schmidt quotes forty-four passages, via Ith's German translation, and provides references to parallel passages from both Testaments. Bohlen (1830:135) describes Schmidt as an example of those who "attack the antiquity of the Pseudo-Vedas and, through it, of Sanskrit literature generally, without however in any way questioning the authenticity of the dubious book." Another case in point is the French philosopher Felicite-Robert de Lamennais (1782- 1854), who wrote his Essai sur l'indifference en matiere de religion between 1817 and 1821. He repeatedly refers to Sainte-Croix' EzV (131, 155, 243-6 with long quotations, 300-1), without insisting on its authenticity but also without in the least doubting it. Schwab wonders (1950:168) that, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, one goes on quoting a text which by then had been totally discredited; but he adds: "at least, when it happens with the pen of a man such as Lamennais, one can say that a book, meant for missionary work, reverts to its natural usage." A similar case is reported by Soderblom (1926:330): "In the 'Samling af de alste folkslagens religionsurkunder ofver deras religiongsbegrepp och mysterier: published anonymously by C. M. Schoerbing in Stockholm 1820, there is also the translation of a passage from the 'Ezur Veda;' in this book it ranks first among the sources of Indian literature which are reproduced in it."

The staunchest champion of the authenticity of the EzV was -- and remained -- Anquetil Duperron. Although he "had passed many years of his life in India and professed a profound knowledge of its religion, antiquities and literature" (Ellis 1822:3), he refused to be convinced by the arguments put forth by Sonnerat and, later, Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo. In Oupnek'hat (1801-02:1.xviii n) the EzV still figures among the source materials to be consulted on Indian philosophy. And in his notes to the French translation of Paulinus' Voyage to the East Indies (1808:3.120-2) there is a long passage in which he attacks Sonnerat "whose magisterial assertions cannot be trusted when it comes to erudition about India," and Paulinus to whom he applies the Latin maxim: plus negaret asinus quam probam philosophus" an ass can deny more than a wise man can prove."

We also know that the editor of the EzV, the Baron de Sainte-Croix, remained unaffected by the attacks until the time of his death. Silvestre de Sacy (1809:xiii) informs us: "Mr. de Sainte-Croix abandoned the idea to bring out a second edition of the Ezour-Vedam, and to enrich his notes with the help of the works of the English scholars. He did have the intention to reply to the very harsh criticisms of the Missionary (i.e. Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo], but did not have the time to realize this project." Sacy himself remained faithful to Sainte-Croix, and again defended him in 1817. When Sainte-Croix (1778:2.95) uses the EzV to show that in India too the phallus cult is considered something horrible, Sacy notes (1817:2.68n) that Sonnerat and Paulinus deny the authority of the EzV and maintain that it was written by a missionary. Yet, "one might ask, I think, whether Sonnerat and Father Paulinus, when they advance such a paradox, have actually read the Ezour-Vedam. Whatever the learned missionary may say, this book, which is directed against the idolatrous cult of the Indians, would be a very strange catechism of the Christian religion."

However, the stubborn defense by Anquetil and Sainte-Croix, together with the innocent quotations by authors such as Lamennais, are now the exceptions. Rarely has the EzV been recognized as an authentic document, after 1782. One scholar even claims to have discovered the forgery independently of Sonnerat. Gottfried Less' Geschichte der Religion (1884) deals at great length with the EzV in the chapter on "The Sacred Books of the Indians" (1886:416-24). The author stresses three points. First, much in the EzV reminds us of the Bible, and must have been taken from that source. Second, passages of Pure Religion alternate with superstition, errors, and ignorance of the worst kind. Third, both in content and expression many things are European, specifically French. "If we add all this up together, I cannot help considering the book as the fabrication of some European and French missionary. A missionary such as there are many among the perfidious writers of the Lettres edifiantes! Either this missionary has contrived it in its entirety, probably with the same goal with which the Sibylline Books were once composed, in order to convert the Indian pagans to Christianity without their realizing it. Or in his translation he has changed and recast a true Indian book in such a way that one can no longer separate the author from the translator, which means that it is of no use whatever." Less finally points out that, after he had written these pages, he was confirmed in his opinion by Sonnerat, whose travel account appeared two years earlier.

I do not know whether other arguments have been added to those of Sonnerat and Less. Anyhow, as early as 1786. August Hennings no longer hesitates to write (373) that "today no one believes any longer in the authenticity of the Ezurvedam, which he [i.e. the editor] claimed to be authentic."

In the nineties the Carmelite missionary Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo (1749-1806) attacked the authenticity of the EzV in his own characteristic way in at least four of his works. The most severe and substantial attack came in 1791, in Systema Brahmanicum (315-7). "The Ezourvedam is the notorious gift from the most learned prince of philosophers, Voltaire who, because of his zeal to promote Indian arts and sciences -- a zeal with which the good man was inflamed -- presented it to the Royal library in Paris. But does Voltaire really know what the Ezourvedam is? Does he know what is in the book? Does he know its author? Has he read the book? Did he make sure that this is an authentic book? The Yajiurvedam, not the Ezourvedam, contains the Samscrdamic Brahmanic precepts that teach how to perform the yagam, i.e. the sacrifice to the sun, ... The Ezourvedam, Voltaire's notorious gift that found its way into the Royal library in Paris, or rather which he pressed upon them to use it as the foundation for his own philosophical superstructure, is a manuscript composed by a missionary in India, at Masulipatam on the Coromandel coast, against the gentiles, and in which the author refutes the pagan religion of the Indians. For it to be read more eagarly by the gentiles, and in order that they be confused by reading it, he called it with a false name: Ezourvedam. See Sonnerat vol. 2, book 3, page 41. A copy of this manuscript was presented, by whom I do not know, to Mr. Voltaire, and he gave it to the Royal library. And what do modern European scholars do with it? With singular zeal and effort they scrutinize the Brahmanic law, i.e. the Ezourvedam; they comment on it, interpret it, build philosophical structures on it, and, like bags inflated and distended by the wind, with rattling cheeks, knitting their eye-brows, they educate the people and the king alike.23 But behold! one gust of wind, and the whole structure of the building lies in ruin! The book falsely called Ezourvedam, is a Christian book, which refutes the superstitions of the Brahmans in the Tamil language, and, as such, goes against the Brahmanic law. See La guida Scientifica, p. 460, note 1. 24 The author says: Si veda l'istesso Ezourvedam, ove si combattono ancora varie sorti d'Indiane superstizioni. So, the Ezourvedam goes against the Brahmanic books and the Indian pagans; and it is this book that is thrust upon us as the law, as the true source of Indian religion, from which we ought to derive a knowledge of things Indian. What shall we conclude from all this? That our philosophers are either dumb idiots, or in fact remarkable impostors. The best solution for the dilemma may well be to call them both. Their immense debates and their differences of opinion on foreign peoples clearly show that they have little if any knowledge of Indian chronology, religion, and philosophy, and that, without any basis, out of their fiery heads, they just try to deceive the imbecile and the ignorant." In Examen Historico-criticum (1792:42) the EzV is again called "not an authentic Indian work, but a spurious, supposititious, and contemptible book." Paulinus sets forth a number of criteria which help determine whether or not a particular text is a genuine Sanskrit book, and he quotes the EzV as an example to show that a text is spurious. The Museum Borgianum (1793) casually refers to "the author of the preliminary remarks on the spurious Ezourvedam" (151), and "the author of the spurious book entitled Ezourvedam" (243). The Viaggio alle Indie Orientali (1796:66) contains the remark: "the Ezour-Vedam ... , a book composed by a missionary, and falsely attributed to the Brahmins" (1808: 1.170), which provoked the above mentioned criticism by Anquetil Duperron.
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Part 2 of 2

Phase 3 (from 1822)

The beginning of the third phase in the history of EzV interpretation is connected with the names of Sir Alexander Johnston and Francis Whyte Ellis. Johnston25 not only discovered a manuscript of the EzV in India; he found a whole collection of similar texts. The place where the manuscripts were preserved left little doubt about their origin: the house of the Catholic missions at Pondicherry. We have an anonymous account of Johnston's discovery. 26 "At a moment when everything relating to the celebrated Society of the Jesuits excites considerable interest in this country as well as on the Continent, it may be well to make known to the public, more generally than it is at present, a circumstance relative to a missionary of that Society, who resided in India nearly 200 years ago; because it will at once show the extraordinary talent of the Jesuits generally, and the great knowledge of the Sanscrit language, and the Hindoo religion and manners, acquired by the members of that Society, who were sent into the East as well as the zeal and perseverance with which they promoted, according to their own views of this duty, the conversion of the natives of India from Hindooism to Christianity, Sir Alexander Johnston, when chief justice and president of his Majesty's council in Ceylon, having, in consequence of his suggestions upon the subject, been authorized by his Majesty's ministers to frame a special code, which might be applicable to the religious feelings, local circumstances, and peculiar customs of all the different castes and descriptions of Native inhabitants of that island, felt it to be his duty, in the first instance, to ascertain as nearly as he could the authenticity of all those books, Indian as well as European, which were generally believed to contain the most correct information respecting the real tenets of the Brahmanical and Buddhist religions. Amongst other European books, the authenticity of which he was desirous of ascertaining. was the 'Ezour Vedam,' a work in French, which Voltaire, in his 'Age of Louis the Fifteenth,' had announced to be a French translation made from a very ancient and original Sanscrit work, by a most respectable Bramin of the Pagoda of Seringham, who had rendered great services to the French at Pondicherry, but which work Monsieur Sonnerat had, subsequently to Voltaire's publication, suspected to be the production of some French Missionary. Sir Alexander Johnston, while on a journey to Madras from the island of Ramisserum, which is situated between the northwest part of the island of Ceylon, and the south-east extremity of the peninsula of India, and which is as celebrated for its sanctity in the southern part, as Jaggernaut is in the northern part of Hindoostan, determined, if possible, to ascertain whether the original of the 'EzourVedam' was or was not a Sanscrit work. With this view, in travelling through the several provinces of Tinnevelly, Ramnad, Madura, Trichinopoly, and Tanjore, he made the most particular inquiries upon the subject at all the Pagodas of any note in those provinces, amongst others, at the Pagodas of Ramisserum, Trichindore, Tinnevelley, Madura, Tanjore, Combeconum, Chillumbrum, and particularly at that of Seringham. He could not, however, find the least trace amongst the Bramins of those Pagodas of any translation ever having been made into French of a Sanscrit work, called the 'Ezour Vedam,' nor that any such work was ever written, either by a Bramin of the Pagoda of Seringham, or of any other Pagoda in those provinces. Extending his inquiries still farther on the subject, Sir Alexander Johnston went to the French settlement of Pondicherry, and there having obtained the permission of Count Dupuis, the French Governor of that place, examined, in company with Colonel Fraser, the English Political Resident there, all the manuscript works in the Jesuits' College of Pondicherry. Among these he found the manuscript copy of the 'Ezour Vedam' in French and Sanscrit. He immediately mentioned this circumstance to the late Mr. Ellis, then the principal member, and most learned ornament of the College of Madras. At the request of Sir Alexander, and for the purpose of deciding on the authenticity of the work in question, Mr. Ellis (than whom no one could be better qualified for this task) entered into a minute examination of the manuscripts, and ultimately produced a very learned dissertation on the subject, which is inserted in the fourteenth volume of the 'Asiatic Researches,' wherein he proves that the 'Ezour Vedam' is not the French translation of a Sanscrit original, as was believed by Voltaire, but a work entirely composed by the celebrated Jesuit, Robert de Nobilibus, in the year 1621, for the express purpose of promoting, by this 'pious fraud,' the conversion of the Hindoos to Christianity!"

Francis Whyte Ellis'27 posthumous article -- rather, monograph -- in the fourteenth volume of the Asiatic Researches, in 1822,28 is probably the most important and influential contribution to the study of the EzV. Ellis pays tribute (55 n.A) to his predecessor. "The manuscripts described in the ... essay ... were discovered, as it may justly be said, for the knowledge of their existence was previously confined to a few individuals belonging to the mission, by Sir Alexander Johnston, the chief justice of the island of Ceylon, and Captain Fraser, the British resident at Pondicherry, during a visit of the former gentleman to the coast. It was from Sir Alexander Johnston, also that I received the printed copy of the Ezour Vedam, and the information which induced me to make the inquiries respecting these manuscripts, the result of which I have here stated."

Ellis' account -- which antedates the anonymous article quoted earlier -- made known (41) for the first time the existence, at Pondicherry, not only of what may have been the original of Voltaire's EzV but also of other similar works." ... it was chance that enabled me to ascertain that the original of this work still exists among the manuscripts in the possession of the Catholic missionaries at Pondicherry, which are understood to have originally belonged to the society of Jesuits. Besides the Ezour Vedam, there are, also, among these manuscripts, imitations of the other three Vedas; each of these are in Sanscrit. in the Roman character, and in French, these languages being written on the opposite pages of the manuscripts, to give them the appearance of originals with translations annexed."

He gives examples of the transliterated sanskrit verses, and compares them with the French translations. This allows him to draw conclusions on the place of origin and on the authorship of the EzV, to which I shall return later in this study. All eight manuscripts are described in detail, with an interesting note on No. 7 (27) : "At the end of this manuscript are two dates on a slip of paper, on which the concluding lines of the translation are written, one is 'Annee 1732: the other 'Annee 1751.' "

The Asiatic Researches, published by the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, may not have had a wide circulation in Europe outside the limited circles of those directly interested in things Indian.29 Yet, those who read Ellis' article were convinced by it. They in turn wrote about the true origin of the EzV, and made the discovery at Pondicherry known to a much wider circle of readers. Except for a few isolated cases such as Lamennais -- and Father Castets (see p. 51) -- I have found no author who continued to defend the authenticity of the EzV after 1822. This is not to say that the EzV was no longer to be the object of discussion and research; rather the opposite is true.

Some authors turn their attention -- eventually their sarcasm -- to Voltaire and his followers, and to their interpretation of the EzV. Even before the true nature of the text became known some of Voltaire's adversaries criticized him for considering it to be older than the Bible. Chretien-Frederic Schmid, for example, without explicitly referring to the EzV, rejects (1766:32) Voltaire's conception of the antiquity of the Veda generally: "The author has not proved anything; he takes advantage of arguments which, in part, establish the truth of the Christian religion, to show us that that ritual of the Bracmans is authentic. The point is that one should not merely examine the style and subject-matter of a writer; one should also confront him with History. If facts are disavowed by History, they cannot be true, however simple one imagines them." And the abbe Guenee (I772:2.329)30 asks the question: "It is not strange that an author, who is willing to overlook the absurdities of the Vedam, the Cormovedam, etc., in favor of a few beautiful precepts -- which have in all probability been copied after our Sacred Books --, feels obliged to hold against the latter even the most meaningless inconsistencies, nay even scribal errors?"

Those who accepted the EzV as a genuine document became a far easier target after 1782 and, even more so, after 1822. In a review of volume fourteen of the Asiatic Researches August Wilhelm Schlegel says (1824:50) that Ellis' article "... unravels a pious fraud ('ein frommer Betrog') which was aimed at the followers of the Brahmin religion, but which accidentally came to Europe and led a number of famous writers into error." About the 1778 edition Schlegel (51) has this to say: "in it the editor, as prominent a man as the Baron de Saint-Croix, who has earned a high reputation in other fields, has used a vast range of knowledge to pile error upon error. He rejects Voltaire's opinion of the high age of the book, but he never thought of questioning its authenticity. Voltaire milked a he-goat, and Sainte-Croix held a strainer under it ('Der eine milkt den Bock, und der andre halt ein Sieb unter')."

Unlike Paulinus, Schlegel (1824:56) is ready to excuse Voltaire's mistake; he did not have the means to detect the forgery. The fact that he attached so much importance to the document only shows his deep insight. But he cannot forgive Anquetil Duperron "who has lived in India for a long time, and professes to be an expert on Brahmanic theology." The varying degrees to which Schlegel holds the three early interpreters responsible are echoed by Mill (1831:v) who is even harsher on Anquetil: " ... the editor, the able antiquary Baron St. Croix, whose delusion is more to be wondered at than Voltaire's, who introduced the MS. to the French King's library. That Anquetil du Perron should have been among those imposed upon by this work, is yet more extraordinary: for notwithstanding his garrulity and want of judgement, he certainly differed from the others in possessing some knowledge of the genuine Vedas, though only through the awkward and often mistaken medium of a Persian translation. His Upanishad, or (as the Persian translation has barbarously rendered the usual pronunciation of that word in Upper Hindustan) Oupnekhat, published at Strasburg in 1801, in two volumes 4to. has long been the only considerable specimen of the preceptive part of the Vedas that is accessible to European readers. Even there (Pref. p. xviii) the Ezour Vedam is spoken of as genuine."

The anonymous author in L'Ami de la Religion refers (anon. 1836b:258) to the article in The British colonial Intelligencer. "A foreign journal provides us with new and rather curious evidence of the profound wisdom and critical skill of one of our most famous philosophers of the last century." At the end of his article (260) he concludes: "To be sure, this is not the first example of scientific blunders by the philosopher from Ferney; but it bears pointing out how this sworn enemy of the sacred monuments of Revelation has allowed himself to be mystified. Here is another chapter to be added to the mistakes pointed out in the past by the abbe Guenee in his Lettres de quelques Juifs." In the French edition31 of the lectures delivered in 1835 in the Palazzo Odescalchi, Cardinal Wiseman (1841:2.xxxviii-xxxix) points out that, when the translation of the EzV came to Europe, Voltaire and his friends did not miss the opportunity to use it as evidence to show that the Christians had borrowed their dogmas from the heathens. "Well, one has discovered in recent years that the Ezour-Vedam was composed in 1621 by a pious missionary, to facilitate the propagation of Christianity among the Hindus." According to Laouenan (1884:244) the principal victim of the EzV story was Voltaire himself, "which shows how easily the free-thinkers comply with anything that seems to them to be hostile to the Christian Religion."

More recently, Pinard de la Boullaye, a Jesuit, rejoices (1922:213) that "actually, Voltaire was just about two thousand years off." Schwab refers (1934:97) to Voltaire "who, blindfolded, launched into the notorious hoax of the Ezour-Vedam." Castets (1935:3) exclaims: "How easy it was at that time, scientific assurance and a display of erudition that touched all bases." Of course, "the Philosophers imagined to have discovered in their Vedam a terrific weapon against the originality of the religion of Jesus Christ;" how wrong they were! Brumfitt states (1963:54) rather sarcastically: "Whether the Indians have been deceived is not recorded, but Voltaire certainly has." In more recent literature Pomeau (1956:360) stands alone in defending Voltaire; the Jesuits themselves had prepared him to be ready to find a fundamental theism in the religions of all ancient peoples.

Reactions to the Christian EzV itself vary considerably, from full-hearted approval of an eminently worthy cause to deep felt indignation at a truly ignominious undertaking. They are commensurate with the authors' being more or less favorably disposed toward conversions to Roman Catholicism in general and conversions by Jesuits in particular. It will be enough to cite a few examples.

The abbe Bach, a Jesuit, is most appreciative (1848:67) of "the spirit of the Ezour-Vedam": "Leaving aside its artistic value, one should at least recognize that it was both an ingenious and apostolic idea. In this way the missionary32 wanted to prepare the spirit and the heart of the Brahmins, and gradually lead them to a complete conversion. To be understood by them, one had to use their own language, and, to allow them to see the light, one had first to heal their sick eyes. Those who know the genius of the Brahmins will judge whether this method was not far more rational than reading the Bible to them at once." Another Jesuit, Joseph Dahlmann (1891:20) is equally enthusiastic: "while composing his religious poem the author33 was guided by the same aspiration which we also detect in his fellow-Jesuit Beschi, namely the destruction of the bastion of the Brahman caste and their sacred scriptures, by creating a Christian literature in the splendor and fascination of the Sanskrit language. It was a monumental enterprise, which in the entire range of missionary activities is matched solely by the literary productions in the field of Chinese language and literature."

Willem Caland, professor of Sanskrit at Utrecht, was evidently impressed by certain aspects of the EzV; he follows (1918:292) Schlegel quoted earlier, and calls the text "a pious fraud" (pia fraus) . Caland admits that it is a "tendentious work" and a "forged document," but he adds: "However, the scope and realization of the book are highly ingenious, and the author proceeds very tactfully in combatting Hinduism. He does not reject all aspects of Hinduism; for instance, he grants them their cosmological and cosmographical theories, which are not in contradiction with the Christian doctrine, nor does he introduce any new terminology. He only tries to make them believe, that the Vedam is something entirely different from what they believe it to be. The modern reader soon realizes that the term Vedam really refers to the Christian doctrine." The term "pia fraus" was also used, without further comment, by another indologist Moriz Winternitz (1909: 12n = 1927:13n =1959:11n). Antonin Debidour, the author of a study on Voltaire's knowledge of India, describes (1924:30-1) the EzV as an ingenious manoeuver to destroy the beliefs that existed among Vaisnava Brahmans, subsequently to convert them to Christianity. Joseph Mansion, formerly professor at the University of Liege, considers (1931:20n1) the EzV to be a work of apostolic zeal. He even refuses to qualify it as a work of Christian proselytism -- "Christ is not even mentioned it it" --, and calls it "philosophical anti-idolatrous propaganda." "The author combats polytheism and tries to establish for the Hindus, through the medium of their own traditions, the belief in one God, Creator and judge of good and evil."

Peter von Bohlen represents the neutral approach. He speaks (1830:1.134) of an interesting "literary forgery which blindfolded scholars for a long time, at the expense of the Indian religion," and this notwithstanding the fact that there were enough elements to recognize it as "an apocryphal compilation" (1.135). "The purpose of the book is to destroy the Indian religion without, however, overtly replacing it with Christianity" (1.136). Friedrich Adelung (1830:94; 1832:76; 1837:121) too restricts himself to qualifying the EzV as a "forgery ... at the instigation of the Jesuits."

Right from the beginning Ellis (1822:1) was rather harsh on the EzV: "... an instance of literary forgery or rather, as the object of the author or authors, was certainly not literary distinction, of religious imposition without parallel." Elsewhere (35n2) he adds, with reference to the pseudo-Vedas generally: "The intention is evidently to destroy the existing belief, without regarding consequences or caring whether a blank be substituted for it or not."34 Julien Vinson has written thrice on the EzV. In 1902 he refers to "the notorious Ezour-Vedam, that Indian apocrypha, which shook the literary world just before the Revolution"(281). Twenty-one years later Vinson seems discouraged and says (1923: 172) that the EzV no longer deserves the attention of scholars: "The Ezour-Vedam is a pastiche, a supposititious book, a fraud, that passed unnoticed in India, but which one has tried in vain to give some credit in Europe. It is without value and without interest. Scholars should no longer waste their time on it."

The Rev. J. Murray Mitchell (1849:132n) did not think very highly of the EzV: "Mr. Ellis ... calls this imitation of the Vedas, 'an instance of literary forgery or rather of religious imposition without parallel'. Mr. Ellis doubtless means without parallel in point of boldness; for it is by no means remarkable in point of success. It was a complete misnomer to term the forgery a Veda; for in style, metre, and contents it differs as widely from the true Vedas, as the odes of Catullus from the laws of the XII Tables." Max Muller also labeled 0859:5) the EzV "a very coarse forgery." The anonymous account in the Oriental Herald (anon. 1827:236) passes a severe judgement. Speaking of the use which Voltaire made of the EzV, the author adds: "But the discovery of its forgery sufficiently refutes the notion, and easily accounts for the resemblance in question, while it adds another proof to the many already on record, of how little reliance is to be placed on theological authorities generally, when, even for the propagation of a faith which peculiarly teaches men to abhor dissimulation and to denounce fraud, and expressly prohibits the doing of evil, even if good is to arise therefrom, men of the highest talent and attainments could be found to use these noble gifts in forging and passing off as authentic, and of divine origin, dogmas and doctrines originating in their own zealous but unscrupulous imaginations." It will be clear from this passage why the Italian translator (anon. 1836a:136) suspected the author of these lines to be a Protestant. Another Protestant, and historian of Protestant missions, Julius Richter, introduces (1906-1908:67) his remarks on the EzV as follows: "The fundamental dishonesty of the Jesuitical system is perhaps revealed in the most striking way of all by the remarkable literary forgeries which the Jesuits committed, probably about the middle of the seventeenth century."

Finally, there are the reactions of those who were themselves involved in composing Sanskrit treatises to combat Hinduism and promote conversion to Christianity. On the one hand, William Hodge Mill (1831:iv-v) dissociates himself and his own Christa-sangita from the composers of the pseudo-Vedas and their tactics in the following strong terms: "The style of the mythological poems [i.e. the Mahabharata and Ramayana] has been indeed before attempted by Christian imitators for a different purpose, -- but one to which, from Indian usage, it is equally well adapted, as the celebrated episode of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, may suffice to shew, - that of conveying moral or metaphysical instruction in the form of dialogue. The attempt in this manner to restore the great truths of natural religion, which the Brahmanical system has obscured or depraved; to refute by arguments drawn from themselves the polytheistic and pantheistic systems, to which the vulgar and the sage are severally addicted, is a work strictly within the province of a Christian instructor; and, if executed with as much of good faith as of spirit and ability, would have reflected undoubted honour on that celebrated Society from which the project originated. But when, as if to defeat the success of the design with all Heathens of knowledge and integrity, we see the names of Narada, Jaimini, and other teachers of Brahmanic theology, introduced as refuting and denouncing it, and the name of the most ancient and sacred of all Hindu writings, prefixed as the real title of the composition, (though the Vedic style is widely different from that of the Puranas in which these pretended Vedas are written), no skill in the execution can screen from censure the authors and abettors of a forgery equally disingenious and imprudent." On the other hand, there is the most interesting and unexpected reaction on the part of John Muir, in 1838. Muir had not seen the pseudo-Vedas; he anticipated that he might not agree with certain aspects of these -- Roman Catholic -- texts. But at the same time, since the work had been done, he wondered whether, with the necessary changes, they might not be usefully employed in his own Christian debate with Hinduism. In a letter to the editors of the Calcutta Christian Observer Muir (1838:507-8) proposed the inquiry should be made whether the Pseudo Vedas, written by the Roman Catholic Missionaries on the Coromandel Coast do not contain much valuable matter which might be easily adapted, with a little modification and retrenchment, to the refutation of the Brahminical errors, philosophical or popular. The propriety, or even necessity of meeting with an exposure in their native Sanskrit the many perilous and delusive doctrines of the six Darsanas (or schools of philosophy), and the other errors of Hinduism seems to admit of no reasonable doubt; and if such a confrontation is to be found in the labours of the Romanists, as with some expurgation, revision and addition could be rendered satisfactory and conclusive, it should be seized upon with avidity .... The dross could easily be left and the pure gold extracted, refined, stamped and circulated." I shall show later in this volume that Muir's search for the Sanskrit pseudo-Vedas remained unsuccessful and suggest a reason why this was so.



1. This must be the copy described by Havens-Torrey (1959:49). It is not mentioned by Fernand Caussy: "Inventaire des manuscrits de la bibliotheque de Voltaire conservee a la bibliotheque imperiale publique de Saint-Petersbourg," in Nouvelles archives des missions sciesntifiques et litteraires, n.s. 7, 1913, 1-96. It does appear in Bibliotheque de Voltaire. Catalogue des livres, Editions de l'Academie des Sciences de l'USSR, Moscow-Leningrad, 1961, p. 1015, No. II ("Annexes manuscrites") 26a. The source of this attribution is apparently Havens-Torrey p. 206, No. 2184.

2. Voltaire announces it in a letter to the librarian Jean Capperonnier, on 13 July 1761 (Best, 9107). It was sent on 14 August 1761.

3. Henri Omont: Bibliotheque Nationale. Nouvelles acquisitions francaises I (nos. 1-3060), Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1899, p. 69.

4. It is clear from other correspondence that Voltaire previously gave Vernes another manuscript that did belong to "feu Mr de la Persiliere." Vernes seems to have asked Voltaire whether the EzV also came from the same source. On Vernes, see Paul Chaponniere: "Un pasteur genvois ami de Voltaire," in Revue d'histoire litteraire de la France 36, 1929, 181-201, especially p. 193.

5. Misprint for Cormovedan. See note 11.

6. Translated -- adapted from the 1766 translation, p. 102 -- from Oeuvres completes 1785, 16.79-80.

7. Translated -- adapted from the 1768 translation, p. 63 -- from Ouevres completes 1785, 27.221-2. "L'abbe Bazin" is the name under which the Philosophie de l'histoire was first published (1765). It was attacked, among others, by Pierre Henri Larcher of the College Mazarin, under the title: Supplement a la philosophie de l'histoire de feu M. l'abbe Bazin (Amsterdam 1767). Voltaire replied in La defense de mon oncle (Geneva 1767).

8. On Louis Barthelemy, see p. 84.

9. Henri Omont: Bibliotheque Nationale. Nouvelles acquisitions francaises III (nos. 6501-10000), Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1900, p. 244. The manuscript itself carries on its initial page, the note: "Volume of 58 folios. 18 March 1896."

10. On Antoine Court de Gebelin, a Protestant minister, see Charles Dardier: Court de Gebelin. Notice sur sa vie et ses oeuvres, avec notes et pieces justificatives (Nimes: F. Chastanier, 1890), and Dictionnaire de Biographie Francaise 52, 1961, 999. He was born at Nimes in 1725 (Dardier 6, 19) or in Geneva in February 1719 (DBF); he died at Franconville (Seine-et-Oise) on 12 May 1784.

11. Sinner's statement that Voltaire also deposited a copy of the "Cormo Vedam" results from a misinterpretation of passages quoted pp. 5-6, in which Voltaire refers to the Cormovedam, but not as distinct from the EzV.

12. NGB 43, 1864, 144-6.

13. Pp. 376, 377, 384, 385, 386 = 1775 ed. pp. 230, 231, 235, 236, 238.

14. P. 394 = 1775 ed. p. 242.

15. 1775 ed. p. 315, not reproduced in the 1793 translation.

16. 1th 1778:23 ("Vorrede").

17. Anquetil possessed an "exemplaire tire sur grand papier d'Hollande, format grand in-8, tres rare" (Catalogue des livres de M. A.H. Anquetil-Duperron, Paris: Tilliard, 1805, p. 41).

18. 1th (1778:23): "... the modesty, which enhances his birth and capabilities, did not allow him to mention his name. I owe the liberty to do so to his special friendship which I have enjoyed for several years." Max Muller (1861:148n) makes the erroneous statement that "the French translation was sent to Voltaire and printed by him in 1778."

19. Sacy (1809:xiii): "In writing his preliminary observations Mr. de Sainte-Croix wanted to show how dubious the so highly praised antiquity of the religious dogmas and sacred books of the Indians is." Cf. NBG 43, 1864, 145.

20. "1th translated the book from French and by doing so, drew attention to Sanskrit literature" (Escher, in J.S. Ersch and J.G. Gruber: Allgemeine Encyklopadie der Wissenschaften und Kunste, sect. 2, vol. 26, Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1847, p. 252).

21. It is surprising that Foucher d'Obsonville's "Discour preliminaire" to Bagavadam ou Doctrine Divine, Ouvrage indien, Canonique ... (Paris: Tilliard, 1788) does not refer to the EzV. Foucher returned to Europe in 1771, to find that the Indian whom he had paid to translate the Bhagavata had already sent it to Europe, in 1769. He wrote his "Discour" in 1887. Had he been convinced by Sonnerat's arguments (see p. 13)?

22. De Open-Deure Tot het Verborgen Heydendom ... Door D. Abrahamus Rogerius, Leyden: Francois Hackes, 1651, p. 26. Edited by W. Caland, in: Werken ultgegeven door de Linschoten-Vereeniging, 10, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1915, p. 21. Guignes probably used the French translation: L porte ouverte. Pour parvenir a la connoissance du paganisme cache ... Traduite en Francois par le Sieur Thomas La Grue, Amsterdam: Jean Schipper, 1670, p. 35.

23. Mill (1831:vi): "In the censure which this able Carmelite proceeds to pass on the absence of all critical judgment here displayed by the philosopher of Ferney, and the easy credulity of those on whom he could impose such a composition for the second Veda of the Brahmanical theology, no intelligent reader can fail to concur as well deserved. But it is singular, that amidst so much virtuous indignation at these attempts to delude the European public, he should so entirely forget the confessed falsehood of his brother missionary, in practising precisely the same imposition on the Hindus."

24. Paulinus (1791:315) states that, if one studies Indian religion and philosophy without any knowledge of Indian languages, Indian books, etc., they inevitably remain unintelligible and obscure. And he continues: "For a towering heap of such dreams, see La guida scientifica, vol. 1, Naples: Domenica Sangiacomo, 1791, part 2, chapter 5, pp. 459 sqq. This superb scientific leader who, a blind man himself, accumulates hallucination upon hallucination without clearing any of them, offers himself as a guide to others! Among the major productions of the effervescent minds of Europe he also cites les observations preliminaires sur l'Ezourvedam pp. 13 to 172, published at Yverdon in 1777."

25. Johnston (1775-1849) is best known as the reorganizer of the Government of Ceylon. See DNB 10, 1908, 940-1.

26. As far as I have been able to find out, the account originally appeared in the Oriental Herald (1827). It was reprinted, first, in The British Catholic colonial quarterly Intelligencer (1834), and, subsequently, translated into Italian in the Annali delle scienze religiose (1836). The latter journal adds (136) that it looks like an article written by a Protestant. See References, under anon. 1827.

27. Ellis rose in the ranks of the East India Company from a writer in Madras (1796) to judge of the zillah of Masulipatam (1806), collector of land customs in Madras Presidency (1809), and collector of Madras (1810). He died at Ramnad, 10 March 1819. See DNB 6, 1908, 694. Hough (1839:2.239n2) calls him "a gentleman deeply read in brahminical lore, and imbued with Hindoo predilections. In the knowledge of Oriental literature he was equalled by few. He was likewise a great admirer of the talents of some of the Jesuit missionaries: but he was too upright a man not to denounce such an imposture as this."

28. The paper was read at a meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, on 6 August 1817. See anon. 1818:188.

29. Langles published (1823) his analysis of the fourteenth volume of the Asiatic Researches not only because of the importance of its contents, but also in view of "its rarity in England itself where it has not been reprinted, and in the rest of Europe where only very few copies have been received."

30. The Lettres de quelques Juifs were first published in 1769 in one volume, but were soon extended to four volumes. See Fr. Duffo: L'abbe Guenee. Agrege de l'Universite, adversaire de Voltaire (1717-1803), Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1933, pp. 10-1.

31. The "Introduction analytique" (1841:2.v-xl) does not appear in the original English edition o f1836. Nor does it appear in the only other English edition -- later than the French -- which I have seen: the fifth edition of 1861. Yet, the "Introduction analytique" is by Wiseman himself.

32. We shall see later that Bach believed in the authorship of Father Calmette.

33. Dahlmann too believed that Calmette is the author, see p. 45.

34. This sentence, slightly modified, appeared already in the report on the session of the Asiatic Society (anon. 1818:189), and is repeated by Hough (1839:2.240).
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Part 1 of 2

The Author of the Ezourvedam: Early Speculations, Excerpt from Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century
Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher
W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania
© 1984 -- John Benjamins B.V.



The Author of the Ezourvedam: Early Speculations

Voltaire obviously did not have a clear idea on the author of the EzV.35 On the one hand he seems to suggest the name of Chumontou; on the other hand he mentions a learned Brahman both as the author of the Sanskrit original and the French translation. Thus, in the Additions a l'essay sur l'histoire generale (1763:18): "I have in hand the translation of one of the most ancient manuscripts in the world; it is not the Vedam which is so much talked about in India but has not yet been communicated to any European scholar; it is the Ezourvedam, an ancient commentary, composed by Chumontou, on this Vedam, on that sacred book of which the Brames say that it has been given to mankind by God himself. This Commentary has been written by a very learned Brame, who has rendered important services to our East-India Company; and he himself has translated it from the sacred Language into French." In the Pricis du siecle de Louis XV Voltaire (1769-1785:25.313; 1774:2.86) refers more specifically to the translator of the EzV. He quotes someone's opinion that the Brahmans "afford the purest model of true piety, which is to be found on the face of the earth," and explains in a note: "The high priest of the island of Cheringam, in the province of Arcate, who justified the chevalier Law,36 against the accusations of governor du Pleix, was an old man, aged one hundred years, and respected for his incorruptible virtue; he understood the French language, and was of great service to the East-India Company. It was he that translated the Ezour-Wedam, the manuscript of which I sent to the royal library."

As could be expected, Anquetil Duperron did not ask questions about the original text and its author. But he had different ideas than Voltaire on its translator. He states (1771:lxxxiii) that the French EzV belonged to Mr. Barthelemy, "who probably ordered that a translation be made from the original by one of the interpreters of the Company, who were under his orders." In 1808 Anquetil expresses a very different opinion, which will be quoted in another context.

Sainte-Croix accepts what is said on the title page: "translated by a Brahmin." He adds (1778:1.x) that, although he has revised the style of the translation, he has not corrected all mistakes "to preserve for the Indian author that foreign aura which inspires confidence in the readers, and will convince them of our trustworthiness." As far as the author of the original is concerned, he speaks (1.165) of "Chumontou, the author of the Ezour-Vedam." We have seen earlier that he also had specific ideas on Chumontou's philosophic affiliation. Hence his conclusion (1.146): "We find all over the Ezour-Vedam the principle tenets of the doctrine of the Ganiguels ..., there is consequently no doubt that the book has been composed by a philosopher of that sect."


Needless to say, the situation changed drastically after 1782, when the EzV came to be looked upon as a Christian composition rather than an authentic Hindu scripture. From now onward one could not avoid raising the question of the authorship of the original version. There were two possibilities: either the author was an Indian convert to Roman Catholicism, or he was a European missionary writing in India. The latter alternative has been given preference right from the beginning, and has found more adherents ever since. Sonnerat (1782:1.215), without quoting his source, merely states that the EzV was a book of controversy "written by a missionary at Masulipatam."37 As indicated earlier Paulinus repeats Sonnerat's statement on more than one occasion; yet whereas all other writers explicitly or implicitly think of a Sanskrit original, Paulinus believes in an original Tamil text. Laouenan (1884:244) attributes the EzV to "a French Jesuit missionary, oft he Pondicheny mission." I have already referred to Less' identification of the author as "some European and French missionary," who either made it all up himself or distorted a true Indian book in such a way as to make it unrecognizable.

References to unidentified missionaries continue to appear in later literature. Macdonell, for instance, calls (1900:2) the EzV "a forgery made in the seventeenth century by a Jesuit missionary." Richter (1906-1908:67) says that the Jesuits published the EzV "to support Nobili's claim to have restored a hitherto lost Veda," but he adds: "which of the missionaries it was, we do not know." Windisch (1917:8) prefers to be equally vague: "The way in which abuses and squabbles are accumulated definitely suggests a European rather than an Indian author." Yet. from a relatively early time scholars were no longer satisfied with the general statement: "a missionary." They also tried to identify the missionary who wrote the EzV. In view of the fact that it had to be a missionary who was unusually conversant with Indian religion; in view of the fact also that it was always assumed that the French EzV was a translation of an earlier Sanskrit original -- or, eventually, an original in some modern Indian language -- and that the author had to be capable of writing a book in that language, the choice was limited.

Roberto de Nobili

The first name that came to mind was that of Roberto de Nobili, S.J. (1577-1656). He was first mentioned in 1822, by Ellis. Here more than elsewhere Ellis’ statements have been influential. They not only have been cited to approve of them or reject them; they have also been quoted second or third hand, and, as a result, they have been misquoted, and used to draw conclusions which Ellis himself never anticipated. In short, they have integrated the EzV in the much broader controversy surrounding Roberto de Nobili, with heated accusations by some and passionate defenses by others.

Ellis (1822:30) makes the following general statement on “the Vedas” which he discovered at Pondicherry: “There prevails among the more respectable native Christians of Pondicherry an opinion, on what authority founded I know not, that these books were written by Robertus a Nobilibus.” Ellis himself (31-2) seems to have hesitated to accuse the missionary of a regular forgery: “… considering the high character he bears among all acquainted with his name and the nature of his own works, I am inclined to attribute to him the composition only, not the forgery, of the Pseudo-Vedas. It is not improbable that the substance of them as they now exist is from his pen, and that they consisted originally, like his works in Tamil, of detached treatises on various controversial points, and that some other hand has since arranged them in their present form, imposed on them a false title, transcribed them into the Roman character and translated them into French. To effect this would have been easy and would have required comparatively but little knowledge of the Sanscrit; the dissertations were probably divided by their author, as they now stand, into a statement of the points in controversy, and a refutation of them; all that was necessary, therefore, was to prefix the prosaic introduction and to add the final abstracts containing the title given them, and they received at once the form they now bear.” Ellis even envisages the intervention of a third person: the translator. Since the French version is not a faithful rendering of the Sanskrit text, he concludes (35-6): “… notwithstanding the identity I have noticed between the handwriting, both of the Sanscrit and the French, throughout the manuscripts, for those may be copies only, I think the judgment which will be formed will lead to the conclusion against the probability of the author and translator of these works having been the same person.”

Nobili’s name was indeed a very plausible one. Those who connect it with the EzV point to the peculiar way of conversion which he introduced in India, and which, several decades later, was to lead to the notorious Malabar rites controversy. A missionary who knew Indian languages well, a missionary who went to the extent of adopting certain Hindu rites and customs and behaving like a Brahman, was also the kind of person who would be capable and willing to produce a document such as the EzV. More specifically with regard to Nobili’s attitude toward the Indian Vedas, a number of modern scholars take delight in quoting his letter to the principal of Malabar, Alberto Laerzio, dated 24 December 1608: “I have found in their books that formerly four laws were preached in this country, three of which are still taught by the Brahmins, namely, the laws of Brahma, Visnu and rudra. The fourth was a spiritual law, which taught men to obtain salvation and a part of this law is mixed up with the other three, but the rest is lost, and there is nobody learned and holy enough to recover it... Moreover, the most learned among these people assert that it is written in their books that none of these laws can bring true salvation, from which some conclude that there is no other life beyond the present one. I take occasion of this to tell them that they are indeed mistaken if they think they can be saved by any of those three laws, and I proceed to prove it to them by the very words of their books. As they are most anxious to save their souls, for which they undertake various works of penance and alms-giving, I tell them that I have come from a distant country for the sole purpose of teaching them that law which is said to have been lost. Thus I adapt myself to their ideas just as Saint Paul adapted himself to the ideas of the Athenians, regarding the unknown God. I tell them that if they wish to recover and learn that law, they must become my disciples. This facilitates conversions, for, once they have recognized me as their guru, they come willingly and even gladly to my instructions. This method is in conformity with the custom of this country where we find many sects all admitting the three laws but each of them professing allegiance to a particular teacher. Being eager to receive the law of spiritual salvation, as they call the religion I teach, they first decide to be my disciples and receive from me the tichei [initiation] I give them." Nothing was easier than to see in this letter38 an implicit reference to the EzV.

Schlegel (1824:54-5) agrees that Ellis' hypothesis concerning de Nobili was a most probable one, but he refuses to share his scruples about the missionary's authorship. "I would be happy to share Mr. Ellis' opinion, since I wish that high spiritual values be kept separated from accusations of fraud. Yet, if the many incidents told about Roberto de Nobili are true, he cannot claim innocence in this respect. However, if Mr. Ellis thinks that the forgery of the Vedas is an unparalleled fraud, he seems to have forgotten the histories of all religions and conversions. After all, this pious fraud has not yielded much of a result in Asia, and it has done no harm in Europe; we can therefore look upon it from a purely literary point of view, and, from that point of view, I am rather pleased to meet in the Order a European philologist who, as early as the seventeenth century, was capable of writing truly attractive Sanskrit verses. If he has not been assisted by learned Brahmins, the author of these verses displays a rare talent. Such assistance cannot a priori be denied, yet it is hardly believable, in view of a few mythological blunders which have crept in. A learned Brahmin would not have made Vyasa a pupil of Sumantu, since it should rather be the opposite."

According to the anonymous author in the Oriental Herald (anon. 1827:236) the EzV is "a work entirely composed of the celebrated Jesuit, Robert de Nobilibus, in the year 1621, for the express purpose of promoting, by this 'pious fraud,' the conversion of the Hindoos to Christianity." In von Bohlen's (1830:136) opinion "everything has now been clarified, even the name of the author has been established," namely: "The author is the Jesuit Missionary Robertus de Nobilius (s9c), a relative of Pope Marcellus II, who so zealously conducted conversions in India about 1620, that he even wore the apparel of an Italian mendicant, and, thanks to his knowledge of the vernacular languages and Sanskrit as well, composed a number of writings for that purpose." Adelung (1830:94; 1832:76; especially 1837:121) uses practically identical words, and Wiseman's reference (184:2.xxxix) to the EzV as "having been composed in 1621 by a pious missionary" undoubtedly derives from the same source.

In the meanwhile another variant on the divided participation of Nobili and others appears in the Preface (1831:vi-viii) to Mill's Christa-sangita. "Whether Mr. Ellis is right in separating the composition from the forgery of the Pseudo-Vedas, and assigning the former only, on the view of his high character, to the celebrated nephew of Bellarmine, Robertus de Nobilibus, to whom their entire composition is ascribed by the Christians of Southern India, may admit of considerable question. I am disposed with him to ascribe the blundering part of the imposture, viz. the ascription of the title Veda, to the more modern copyist, whose diversity from Robert de Nobilibus is completely demonstrated from the circumstances which Mr. Ellis has brought to light, (the mode of exhibiting Sanscrit words in the MS. e.g. Okioro, Zoimeni, Bedo, &c.... being such as could only proceed from one who had learnt the language from the Pandits of the province of Bengal, which was certainly not the case with the founder of the Madhura Mission). But it would be difficult to exempt from all share in the forgery, him who puts Christian, or at least Anti-Vedic sentiments into the mouth of Atri, Narada, Jaimini, &c., a mendacious assumption of their names (as F. Paulin would not scruple to call it) in order to gain Hindu readers, which enters into the whole texture of the original composition. And whoever will study the history of the Society of Jesus -- not from the narration of enemies, but from their friends or themselves -- will see amidst the numerous contradictions it presents, abundant reason to distrust the validity of any argument, which would infer from the possession of extraordinary virtues, of real piety however debased by superstition, and the most disinterested benevolence and probity in all secular concerns, that such a forgery for a purpose deemed pious would be therefore inadmissible. As it should seem from vol. xiv, p. 62 of the Jesuits' Letters, that no one of their number after Robert de Nobilibus was sufficiently versed in Sanscrit to have composed these papers, it becomes of less consequence to enquire who was their transcriber at Masulipatam or elsewhere, who gave them their Bengalese interlineations, and perhaps their Vedic titles also. The history of the Jesuits in India presents us with more than one instance of missionaries who acquired their knowledge of Brahmanical literature in this province. One Pierre Martin, whose letter from Balassore in the year 1699 occurs in the 10th volume of the Lettres Edifiantes, tells us, that after five months' assiduous application of the Bengali, he disguised himself as a Brahman, and in that character commenced studying the Shastras as a Brahmachari or Sanscrit student in a celebrated Brahman University, (at Naddea doubtless), until the insurrection of Subha Sinh against the government of Aurang Zeib compelled him to retreat thence to Orissa, after which we hear of him frequently in the same collection, as a most zealous and active missionary in the Southern Provinces.... Other instances might doubtless be found in the subsequent history of these Roman Sannyasies (as the Jesuit Fathers were usually called in India), at a date more approaching that of the MSS. of this forgery, were the subject thought worthy of closer investigation."

The anonymous account in L. 'Ami de la Religion (anon. 1836b:259) invokes Ellis "who seems to be a Protestant," to show that the EzV was composed "from one end to the other" by Roberto de Nobili. Hough (1839:2.240), on the contrary, is of the opinion that Nobili's authorship has not been proven, although it is very likely. "The author of this and the other writings in question cannot be accurately ascertained. The more respectable native Christians of Pondicherry are of opinion that they were written by Robert de Nobili. The authority for this opinion is not known; but it is not improbable, as he was in many respects qualified for the work; and other polemical writings that are unquestionably from his pen, greatly resemble, both in matter and language, the controversial parts of these Pseudo-Vedas." Mitchell (1849:132n) refers to the Asiatic Researches and considers the EzV a work "written by Nobili in Sanskrit;" but he thinks that "on the whole, this achievement of Nobili's, which, when it is first heard of, strikes one as something colossal, dwindles on careful examination into very ordinary dimensions." Mullbauer (1852:179n1) is more cautious: he is not convinced that the pseudo-Vedas are by Nobili himself. "But it is highly probable that they have been written by a missionary of the school of F. Robert; whether they were written at a much later date cannot now be decided." A few years later Michaud's Biographie Universelle further spreads the word (BU 1861:633) that "Father de Nobilibus is most probably the author of the Ezourvedam ...; evidence for this is exhibited in volume ... 14 of the Asiatic Researches," and goes on to quote Ellis. Under the article on Abraham Roger the BU comments (1862:314n) that, on the part of the English scholars, "it shows at least how highly they rated the talent of the Jesuit missionary." The latter article is in turn quoted as an authority in the Nouvelle Biographie Generale (1862:151).

Max Muller refers to the EzV in three of his works. From the earliest onward (1859:5) he minimizes Nobili's contribution; the EzV was "written, as it appears, by a native servant, for the use of the famous Jesuit missionary in India, Roberto de Nobilibus." Two years later (1861:148) he refers to Nobili's letter to Laerzio: "... the very idea that he came, as he said, to preach a new or a fourth Veda, which had been lost, shows how well he knew the strong and weak points of the theological system which he came to conquer," but he adds in a note: "The Ezour-Veda is not the work of Robert de Nobili. It was probably written by one of his converts." Finally, in Physical Religion (1891:39) he draws a distinction between a Veda which Nobili might have composed and the EzV. "That he knew the Veda, and that he had learnt to appreciate its enormous authority among the higher classes in India, is best shown by the fact that he announced himself as come to preach a new Veda. Whether he actually composed such a work we do not know, but it seems quite certain that the notorious Ezour-Veda was not his work. This Ezour-Veda was a poor compilation of Hindu and Christian doctrines mixed up together in the most childish way, and was probably the work of a half-educated native convert at Pondicherry."

An interesting error appears in de Manne's Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes. Its first (1834:no. 598, p. 126) and second (1862: no. 996, p. 82) editions say about the EzV: "This work, which has been translated in India by a Jesuit named Nobili, was sent by him to Voltaire. The latter received it eagerly, and communicated it to Mr. de Sainte-Croix who became its editor." This statement was attacked by Somervogel -- under the pseudonym Pierre Clauer (1862) -- who pointed out its anachronisms while creating some of his own,39 and the article disappeared from the third edition of the Dictionnaire in 1868.

Numerous readers must have learned from Benfey (1869:334-5), who quotes Ellis and Schlegel, that Nobili knew Sanskrit so well that "a forgery of the Vedas has been attributed to him." The anonymous reviewer in La Civilta Cattolica again repeats (anon. 1881:80) in Italian what had already been said in the Oriental Herald, and by Bohlen, Adelung, Wiseman, and others. Soon thereafter two influential and widely read reference works in turn conveyed similar messages. According to Hobson-Jobson (1886-1968:962) the EzV was "composed by some missionary in the 17th century (probably by R. de' Nobili), to introduce Christian doctrines." Winternitz too, states (1909:1.12n1) that the text "probably comes from the pen of the missionary Robertus de Nobilibus."40

Meanwhile, by the turn of the century two authors produced some of the strongest indictments ever against Roberto de Nobili qua author of the EzV. D'Orsey combines (1893:256) Ellis' attribution with the line of accusations produced by Mosheim41 and others. "They even went so far as to assume heathen names; and, to answer objectors, Pere Robert applied his great skill to the production of a forgery in Sanscrit on an old bit of parchment. When questioned as to the genuineness of this certificate he solemnly swore before the council of Brahmins at Madura that the document was authentic and that he, like all Jesuits, was directly descended from their Indian Divinity! Nor was this all. He forged a new Veda which was so well executed that, for nearly two centuries, it imposed upon the natives themselves. The trick was at last discovered; and it has recently been thoroughly exposed by Mr. Ellis of Madras who declares that the Ezour-Vedam was a 'literary forgery' or rather 'a religious imposition without parallel.'" Even more damaging was Japp's article, eleven years later. He first (1904:978) makes the general accusation: "There is, indeed, no more curious instance on record of misdirected missionary enthusiasm, genius and devotion alike perverted, and bad immoral methods pursued unrestingly in what was felt to be pre-eminently a good cause. An obscure and youthful member of the Order of Jesus actually conceived the bold idea of convincing the Hindoos that Christianity was the natural development of the old Vedic system, much as it was the fulfillment of Judaism. To give fully effect to the notion, he essayed one of the most remarkable impostures ever practised on human credulity. His bold strategem was the forging of a Veda, and then claiming for his work all the authenticity which Brahmins assign to the sacred books that have come down to them from earliest days." The same accusation is repeated a few pages later (984), but this time it is followed by observations on the impact of the EzV. "The revelation in which the Hindoos believe is contained in four Vedas, the Rig, Yagur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas. These Nobili had always professed to hold in the deepest reverence. Now he began to give out that these sacred writings were but preparatory to a fifth and more important revelation. He knew this revelation; he had received it direct from the supreme and invisible Brahma. Having by degrees communicated these statements to his disciples, he at length produced the fifth or Esur-Veda [Ezour-Veda], and placed it in the hands of his followers. The leading principles of Christianity were in this suggested rather than plainly enunciated. De' Nobili seems to have intended it to excite enquiry and give him ground for explaining orally the doctrines of the Church rather than to present to the Brahmins definite grounds of belief. The appearance of this remarkable work was the signal for stormy discussions. The Brahmins without the most searching enquiry could not accept a new revelation, and one made too under such circumstances. The language of the new Veda was naturally the first point of attack. But Nobili had so thoroughly followed his models even in the minutest details, that phraseology and style alike strengthened the idea of an identity of authorship with that of the accepted sacred writings. The very handwriting of the manuscript, it had to be confessed, was identical with that of the oldest and best attested copies of the Rig-Veda. Could it be believed that a foreigner was able so successfully to imitate the sacred books? Almost all the critics agreed that so far from affording any evidence of imposition, the style of the Esur-Veda [Ezour-Veda] was strongly confirmatory of its claim to a Divine Origin. Though the doctrines were novel, there was nothing in them to alarm any except bigots. The Brahmins, divided in their opinions, proposed that De' Nobili should swear that his statements regarding the revelation were true, and, in the presence of a large assembly, he made a solemn declaration with the usual Brahminical formularies, that he had received the Esur-Veda {Ezour-Veda] from the hands of Brahma himself."

Japp was obviously influenced by Hough (1839:2.238) who had already mistakenly spoken of a fifth rather than a fourth Veda. "Finding that these works (= the four Vedas) were received as the fountain of all knowledge, human and divine, Robert de Nobili and his colleagues did not scruple actually to forge a fifth Veda, in which they interwove, with consummate skill, a sufficient portion of the Bible to give it a Scriptural character, without awakening suspicion. Their object was to refute the doctrine of the Puranas, and when the work should become established as an authentic Veda, they meant to show its accordance with the Gospel, and hence to deduce an irrefragable argument for the divine origin of Christianity. It was composed in a style so closely resembling that of the other Vedas, as effectually to impose upon some of the most learned brahmins; but to what extent it succeeded in conciliating them, there are no means of ascertaining." But, whereas Hough continues more cautiously: "This pseudo-Veda was for many years known only to a few individuals belonging to the mission of Pondicherry, where it was kept, with other works of a similar description, from the knowledge of all persons who were thought likely to detect the imposture. At length a copy of it came into the possession of M. Voltaire," Japp (985) is carried away by his imagination: "Copies of the Esur-Veda were carried to the chief centres of Brahmin theology. Even the pundits seriously discussed its authenticity." And he concludes (990) his recital as follows: "If Robert de'Nobili had any craving for earthly notoriety the noise which his work made after his death made its way to the French settlement of Pondicherry, and was sent home with other oriental treasures to the Royal Library, Paris, in 1761. A hundred and five years after Robert's death an edition of l'Ezur-vedam, received as a genuine Vedic work, appeared in Paris in 1778."

Nobili's name continues to appear in recent literature. Vinson (1920:260) states: "... it was an Italian, Father Robert de' Nobili, in Latin de Nobilibus, cardinal Bellarmin's nephew, who was the first one to study Sanskrit; he is credited with a very cautious and moderate book of Christian propaganda ... This false pastiche could have a certain amount of success, because the Brahmans carefully reserve the knowledge of the Vedas to themselves." Two years later, in Kern's Licht des Ostens (1922:258) the EzV is listed immediately after the Laws of Manu and the Bhagavadgita: "However, no Indian book had as much impact on Europe as the Ezur Veda, a hoax produced in India, compiled by the Jesuit Robert de Nobilibus, probably with the help of a native." According to Debidour (1924:30) the EzV was a manuscript in Bengali -- a misunderstanding of another statement by Ellis, which will be discussed later -- preserved in the library of the Jesuit missionaries at Pondicherry. And he continues: "One of them, probably F. Robert Nobili or Nobilibus (1577-1656) had composed, for the sake of Christian propaganda, a certain number of metaphysical and religious treatises in the language of the land. Later, even better to mislead the Indians, another less learned missionary gave four of these treatises the names and outward appearance of the four Vedas; moreover, he provided them with not too accurate a French translation." Heiler (1925:183) makes use of the EzV in his attack on the Jesuits: if they want to criticize others, they should first apply the same criteria to themselves, and remember "how De Nobili or his school tried to capture the credulous Indians for the Roman church through the monstrous forgery (Risenfalschung) of a 'fifth Veda.'" Soderblom (1926:329) quotes Max Muller and speaks of the enormous success of "the coarse falsification which the famous Jesuit missionary in India, Robert de Nobilibus, had probably prepared by an indigenous servant." A decade later Pagliaro (1935:541) writes for the Enciclopedia italiana: "Roberto dei Nobili ... acquired such a profound knowledge of the Indian texts that he succeeded, certainly not without indigenous assistance, composing in Sanskrit a kind of false Veda, the Esur Vedam, through which he hoped to make Christian concepts penetrate in India." As recently as 1959 Havens-Torrey (206) identified Voltaire's personal copy of the EzV as: "No. 2184: Nobili, Roberto di, Ezour Vedam. MS. in fol." The Russian editors of the catalogue in 1961 42 were only slightly more cautious: "[(?) Nobili, Roberto di]. Rit de l'Ezour Vedan !." Garrett's statement (1971:93), just a few years ago, is probably as characteristic as that of any modern scholar who, after consulting the obvious source materials on the EzV, has to come to the conclusion that it "was a poem in Sanskrit, probably composed in the middle of the seventeenth century by a missionary named Roberto de' Nobili, or by someone associated with his mission."

The fact that numerous authors, starting with Ellis, have, directly or indirectly, connected Roberto de Nobili with the EzV has not prevented others from, more or less emotionally, denying his authorship, with a wide variety of arguments.

The first argument maintains that Ellis’ vague reference to the beliefs of “the native Christians of Pondicherry” cannot rank as valid evidence to attribute the text to Nobili. The principal exponent of this argument is Hull. The goal of his article is to draw a different picture of Nobili’s than the one painted by Japp; but, since all Japp’s arguments are based on Ellis, Hull’s criticism (1904:1230) reaches, beyond Japp, all those who have repeated the attribution first formulated in 1822: “Now clearly, if De Nobili did write the Veda, and put it forward as an inspired work, and swore that he had it from Brahma himself, then actum est with the honesty of De Nobili, and no decent man could wish to defend him. But this is just the question. First, does history show that he wrote any Veda such as could be identified with the MS. in question? Secondly, does history record that De Nobili used any Veda in the way described? We have found good reasons for believing that evidence is wanting on either count, and that both charges are without solid foundation.”

A second set of arguments is connected with various aspects of the language in which the EzV is written. Clauer (1862:336), who mainly argues against Nobili being the translator of the text, points to the fact that the missionary never wrote anything in French. Yet another aspect of the language of the EzV provides perhaps the most serious argument against Nobili’s authorship: the peculiar way in which Sanskrit terms have been transliterated in the manuscripts. Ellis (1822:12-3) already pointed out that the transliterations reflect influence of Bengali pronunciation: “… this work, whether the author were a Native or a European, must either have originated in the provinces of Bengal and Orissa, or have been composed by some one, who had there learned the rudiments of Sanscrit … the establishment of this fact will tend materially to facilitate the tracing of these forgeries to their origin.” Charpentier (1922:138), followed by Vinson (1923:169) – who changed his opinion since his earlier publication in 1902, argues that Bengali transliterations cannot be expected from Nobili who spent his life in the South of India. Caland, discussing the way in which Sanskrit words and quotations are treated in Nobili’s Latin Apologia, concludes (1924:50): “… from the manner which Nobili used in transcribing the sounds of Sanskrit (which may partly be founded in Italian), two conclusions may be drawn: 1. that he cannot possibly have written the Ezourvedam, a conclusion which can also, with almost absolute certainty, be drawn from other reasons…”

A third line of argument insists on the incompatibility of the contents rather than the language of the EzV with Nobili’s works. According to Rajamanickam (1972:96), “we have only to read the books of Nobili in Tamil and other languages. There we find only orthodox doctrine whereas in the Ezour-Vedam it is a mixture of Hinduism and Christianity.” Nobili’s works in Tamil and Sanskrit are also used for a similar but far more subjective criterion by Charpentier (1922:138); according to him the author of these masterpieces “would never have written a book so full of errors and displaying such an ignorance of the sacred language of the Brahmins.”

The fourth argument was first formulated by Max Muller (1861:148n): “it is not mentioned in the list of his work.” His sources are Bertrand43 and Mullbauer (1852:205n). The argument returns more convincingly, one year later, in Clauer’s (1862:336) note on de Manne’s dictionary: the EzV does not appear under Nobili’s name in Southwell’s Bibliotheca,44 nor, more significantly, in the notice on Nobili’s life and works by his contemporary and close friend, F. Antao de Proenca.45 To be sure, later Sommervogel (1894:1780) himself lists the EzV among Nobili’s works, but at the same time he refers to an earlier volume of his Bibliotheque (1891:266) in which he repeats his argumentum a silentio from Southwell and Proenca. Hull (1904:1233-4) also uses Proenca’s silence in his refutation of Japp: “… if, moreover, copies were multiplied, and distributed to the centres of Brahmanism, and its authenticity was openly discussed, it seems unlikely that a contemporary, living on the same mission, laying himself out to compile a catalogue of De Nobili’s works, should have omitted all mention of it.”

The fifth argument draws on the silence of Nobili’s enemies rather than his friends: the missionary cannot have been the author of the forgery for the simple reason that even in his lifetime, in India, he had many adversaries who would have been happy to use that kind of activity as a weapon against him. Says Rajamanickam (1972:96): “Fr. Goncalo and Fr. Buccerio, his neighbours in Madurai, kept a close watch on him and attacked Nobili on any point they could find. It is extraordinary that they never mention this forgery. Further his Provincial Pero Francisco wanted to suppress the Madurai Mission and was eager to find a plausible reason for doing this. If there was any sign of forgery, he would have been only too glad to stop Nobili’s work at Madurai.”

A last argument addresses the problem of eventual misinterpretation of Nobili’s letter to Laerzio. Nobili’s Veda, which according to some is referred to in this letter, has never been found; it definitely had nothing to do with the EzV (Sauliere 1953:373); Bachmann 1972:81). According to Castels (1931:346), "the missionary argued that his Veda was the one revealed to primitive man, this was the one he had come to preach at Madura, and the only one that could procure salvation." Cronin (1959-90) adds that "by 'the law which is said to have been lost' Nobili evidently meant the primitive religion revealed to mankind and obliterated by sin, which is embodied in and perfected by Christian Revelation," and he refers to the precedent set in China by Matteo Ricci. According to Rajamanickam (1972:94), "it is a way of presentation of Christ as the 'Expectation of the Nations.' Theologians will call it 'sensus accommodatus' accommodation in plain language. This is what St. Paul meant when he preached the Unknown God at Athens."

For all these reasons Dahmen, one of Nobili's principal biographers, does not mention the EzV at all in one of his books, even though it has (1924a:34-45) a chapter on Nobili's "literary activities." In another volume he states (1924b:73n3), without hesitation, that "the Ezour-Vedam ... is definitely not his;" in Dahmen's opinion (1931:37n69), "the myth that the EzurVedam was composed by Nobili, which is perpetuated even today, has been definitely refuted."
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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Part 2 of 2

Jean Calmette

In the meantime a second Jesuit was credited with the authorship of the EzV: Father Jean Calmette (1693-1740). The source of this attribution seems to be a number of statements by Calmette himself, which might easily be interpreted as coming from a person most likely to have composed the EzV. In 1733 he writes 46 about his involvement in collecting Oriental books for the library in Paris, and adds: "We already derive much benefit from it for the advancement of religion. For, having thus acquired the most essential books which are like the arsenal of paganism, we forge weapons out of them to combat the doctors of idolatry, and it is these weapons that hurt them most deeply. They are: their philosophy, their theology, and above all the four Vedams which contain the law of the brames, and which India has from time immemorial regarded as the sacred book, the book with unquestionable authority, and derived from God himself." Two years later he writes47 to Father Delmas: "Since the time that the Vedam, which contains their sacred books, came into our hands, we have extracted from it those texts which are most apt to convince them of the fundamental truths that destroy idolatry. For the uniqueness of God, the characteristics of the true God, benediction and reprobation, they are all in the Vedam. But the truths which are contained in that book are spread across it like gold dust across heaps of dirt; for the rest, one finds in it the basis of all Indian sects and, probably, the details of all the errors that make up the body of their doctrines. The method we adopt with the brames is as follows. We first make them agree on certain principles which simple reason has introduced in their philosophy; and through the consequences we draw from these we show them without difficulty the erroneous character of the opinions which are current among them. Especially in a public discussion they cannot close their eyes to arguments drawn from the sciences themselves, and even less to the demonstration that follows, in which one shows them by means of the very texts of the Vedam that the errors which they earlier rejected are part of their law. Another method of controversy is to establish the true and unique nature of God by means of definitions and propositions drawn from the Vedam. Since this book has among them the highest authority, they cannot help admitting them. After that the plurality of gods is easily refuted. If they reply that this plurality is in the Vedam -- which is correct -- one points to the fact that their law is contradictory and that it is inconsistent with itself." In a third letter Calmette refers48 to his ability to write verses in Sanskrit: "I have not missed the opportunity to compose a few verses in this language for the sake of controversy, to oppose them to those composed by the Indians." And Father Coeurdoux, writing in 1771, thirty one years after Calmette's death, reports (Anquetil 1808a:687) that there are, in the possession of the Jesuits at Pondicherry, "a few samskroutam verses by Father Calmette."

The principal champion of Calmette's authorship was Julien Bach, S.J. He notes (1848:60) that Calmette studied Sanskrit and sent the Veda to Europe. "But this was not all; being above all desirous, as a missionary, to convert the idolaters to whom he had been sent; knowing from experience how impossible it is to eradicate Indian prejudices without going back to their source; noticing on the other hand that the origin of most brahman superstitions was the way in which the Vedas abused primitive tradition -- he applied himself first of all to extract a number of texts from these Vedas to combat the Brahmans with their own weapons." Twenty years later Bach (1868:12) repeats that Calmette composed the EzV, and he adds: "The form adopted by Father Calmette is the dialogue, similar to the form of the brahmanic Vedas. In it a missionary and a brahman speak alternately, both under ancient names, the brahman to expose his ideas according to the Vedas and Pouranas, and the missionary to refute them. Thus, if we accept with the missionary that Indian superstitions derive from primitive traditions altered by ignorance or their taste for fables, and if we give the term Veda its real meaning revelation, we have the entire work of the missionary in a nutshell: there was a Veda, a primitive revelation, and its tradition spread as far as India; but you, brahmans, have corrupted the Veda by mistakes of all kinds. I shall destroy these mistakes." Bach (1868:23) also relates an interview with the abbe Jean Antoine Dubois on the authorship of the EzV; Dubois introduced a minor variant: "It is by Father Calmette, he also told me. But, he added, many Missionaries have contributed to it."

Bach's hypothesis has not met with much success. Yet, Sommervogel, whose main purpose was to deny de Nobili's authorship (see p. 41), adds (1891:566) without comment "Father Bach has shown that the original is by Father Calmette." Hull advances two arguments in favor of Calmette. First, he quotes (1904:1232) "a correspondent from Trichinopoly," saying, not without a few inaccuracies: "The Ezur-Vedam was written by Father Calmette. This Jesuit was a very clever linguist; and he wrote the Ezur-Veda in Sanskrit as a kind of pastime -- not with a view of imposing it on the public. It it he taught the principles of natural religion as paving the way to Christianity. It was never used as a means of converting Brahmins; in fact the MS. remained unpublished till after the suppression of the Jesuits in France, when some one, having found it in Pondicherry, sent it to a society of savants in Paris. The work was deciphered and admired as showing the purity of the Hindu religion; but when the mistake was discovered they began to accuse the Jesuits of dishonesty for writing it so skillfully." Hull's second argument (1232-3) is that Sommervogel lists it as one of Calmette's works in his Bibliotheque. Heras, who finds (1927:389n) that "there cannot be more historical errors in a few lines" than in d'Orsey's statements on the EzV, and who is of the opinion that Japp's "unfounded accusation" of de Nobill has been "thoroughly refuted" by Hull, undoubtedly also follows the latter when he says that "there cannot be any doubt about the authorship of the Ezur-Veda, A French Jesuit, named Calmette, wrote it one century later," Calmette's name has also found its way into Streit's Bibliotheca Missionum (1931:82-3): "Among his linguistic works became famous: his Ezour-Vedam," followed by the erroneous statement that "Voltaire found a copy of it in the National Library in Paris."

For a reason which is difficult to ascertain the British Library catalogue has the following note under Sainte-Croix' edition: "A fictitious work, written in French by J. Calmette." The Library of Congress call numbers, of Sainte-Croix' edition and of both editions of Ith's German translation, also seem to indicate that the cataloguer attributed the EzV to Calmette. The most extravagant statement on Calmette, which reminds us of Japp's information on Nobili, is Dahlmann's (1891:19): Calmette acquired an extraordinary skill in handling the Sanskrit language, "and his famous poem, the Ezour Veda, which was so much talked about in his time, became instrumental in numerous conversions in brahmanic circles."

The earliest author who explicitly expressed doubts about Bach's hypothesis is Vinson. He (1902:293) cannot accept Calmette for the same reasons for which he rejects de Nobili (see p. 40): the Vedas from Pondicherry, besides exhibiting Bengali transliteration, are too voluminous to have been the work of one man. Besides, Maudave's "revelation" came only in 1760, twenty years after Calmette's death. Castets (1935:40) advances similar arguments: nothing in Calmette's correspondence reminds us in any way of the EzV which, moreover, cannot have been written by a missionary who never worked anywhere else than in the Telugu country. Della Casa (1955:54-5) does credit Calmette with the discovery of the Vedas copies of which, in Telugu script, were sent to Paris; but "everyone now agrees that Calmette should not be charged with the ungainly medley of brahmanic wisdom and Christian doctrine, called Ezour Vedam."

Antoine Mosac

Besides de Nobili and Calmette a third Jesuit missionary has been given credit for the EzV: Antoine Mosac (1704-ca.1784). Here again there is a passage in the Lettres Edifiantes el Curieuses (1840:2.691), dated Chandernagore 1 January 1753, according to which "the Reverend Father Mosac, the Superior of the mission and priest of the colony, is the only one who knows their language."

As the translator, rather than the author, of the EzV Mosac's name appears for the first time in 1808, in Anquetil Duperron's memoir to the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres (1808a:685) and again in his notes on Paulinus' Viaggio (1808b:3.120n). Anquetil quotes a passage from a letter which he received from Father Coeurdoux, dated Pondicherry 10 February 1771: "I shall add here what I have heard more than once from Father Calmette, who knew samscroutam and who had made a thorough study of the scholarly books of the Indians, namely that the true Vedam is written in such an ancient samscroutam that it has become quasi unintelligible, and that what is normally cited as such is the Vedantam, i.e. introductions to and commentaries on the Vedam. In fact, in one of the famous prayers called gaitri one hears only one word: savitourou, the sun. On the other hand Father Mosac, who has studied the samscroutam language, maintains to have discovered the true Vedam. He says that it is more recent than the popular Indian religion, of which it is a detailed refutation. The author of the text is a true philosopher, who combats polytheism such as it existed all over the world for a long time after the deluge. This vast work has been translated by Father Mosac; you would find it a real treasure, if he agreed to communicate it to you," Anquetil concludes (1808a:685n): "This book must be the Ezourvedam," and elaborates (1808b:3.121n): "Father Mosac, who was the Superior of the Jesuits at Schandernagor in 1756, had learned Samscretam from the Brahmans of the university or school of Noudia, on the Ganges. I am led to believe that the Vedam which he translated was the Ezour-Vedam, and that his translation came to Pondicheny, from where it was brought to France and came in the hands of the learned baron de Sainte-Croix, who gave it to the public enriched with curious and instructive notes." This conclusion also corresponds with Anquetil's handwritten note in his own EzV manuscript (fol.1 recto): "Most probably this is the Vedam translated by Father Mosac, of which Father Coeurdoux speaks in his letter of 10 February 1771."

More than one century later, the name of Mosac appears again in the growing EzV literature. Jarl Charpentier (1922:144-5), who was manifestly influenced by Anquetil, makes Mosac both the author and the translator of the EzV. "P. Antoine Mosac S.J., the Superior of the mission at Chandernagore, is the author of the manuscript which has been printed under the title Ezour-Vedam, together with a commentary by the baron de Sainte-Croix. Having spent a considerable length of time in Bengal, and having studied Sanskrit under the Brahmans of Nadiya, he is probably also the author of the original versions of this Veda and of the other pseudo-Vedic texts discovered by Francis Ellis," Under influence of Charpentier's article Vinson changed his mind. Whereas at the time when he wrote his earlier contribution (1902) he went along with the then prevalent idea that Roberto de Nobili was responsible for the EzV, he now feels (1923:169) that "Charpentier's remarks and quotations demonstrate that it should be attributed to Father Mosac who wrote it in Bengal one century and a half earlier." Charpentier's article is also at the basis of a statement to the same effect by Mansion (1931:19-20).

Whereas Mansion (20n I) "agrees with Charpentier and recognizes that there is nothing offensive to the memory of F. Mosac in attributing to him this work of apostolic zeal which cannot even be called a pious falsification," his compatriot Hosten (1923:137n28) again refuses to credit Mosac with the authorship of the text: "Father Mosac was the translator, not the author, of the deistic books falsely labeled with the titles of the four Vedas, which compose the collection of the Pseudo-Vedas of Pondicherry." Hosten has no definite answer as to when Mosac acquired the originals of the pseudo-Vedas. He may have found them "in the Telugu country, in which latter country Mosac was for a short time," Hosten seems to be personally inclined toward the hypothesis that "Father Mesac may have obtained them at Nadia where he studied Sanskrit for a time about 1741." In his opinion. "the books themselves seem, however, to have been composed in Eastern Bengal." The implication appears to be that they were composed by Indians; Hosten even asks the question: "Were they composed with the purpose of deceiving the Missionary?" Whatever the case may be, "a hideous calumny, which has weighed on the Jesuits since 1822, will now be silenced; it will be shown instead that ever since 1742, one of their number ought to have ranked in the forefront of the pioneers of Sanskrit studies" (1922:66;cf.1921:500). Dahmen (1931:37n69), who is mainly interested in proving the non-involvement of de Nobili, adds the casual remark that in his opinion too, it is very unlikely that Father Mosac be the author of the EzV. Most recently, Rajamanickam (1972:96) reverts to the transliteration argument to assign the EzV to Bengal but he still believes that it was translated into French by Mosac.

Other Missionaries

I have found two other missionaries mentioned as the authors of the EzV, mere casual references without any further sources or evidence.

Laouenan (1884:245) agrees that the EzV has been composed by a Jesuit missionary. "Some have attributed it to Father de Nobili, but it is far more likely that it was the work of Father de Villette, a French Jesuit at the Pondicherry mission."49

Vinson, who wavered between de Nobili in an earlier publication (1902) and Mosac in a later one (1923), mentions in an intermediate paper (1920:262) that Father Boucher studied Tamil and Sanskrit "he knew the latter language so well that he has been taken as the author of the false yadjour-vedam."50

Indian Converts

Few scholars have credited Indians with the authorship of the EzV. In the period between 1782 and 1822 I have found only one writer who rejects the missionary theory in favor of an Indian author. According to Hennings (1786:377): "Whatever the nature of the EzV may be, it is not possible to agree with Sonnerat and consider it the work of a European, even less a missionary. The contents again and again point to an Indian origin." In more recent times Max Muller's (1859:5) already quoted reference to "a native servant, for the use of ... Roberto de Nobilibus," finds a parallel in Vinson's (1902:293) "converted brahmins under the supervision of one or more missionaries at Chandernagor or in some other town in Bengal for the sake of religious propaganda." In Physical Religion Max Muller (1891:39) minimizes even more the role of de Nobill to stress that of an Indian convert: "This Ezour-veda was a poor compilation of Hindu and Christian doctrines mixed up together in the most childish way, and was probably the work of a half-educated native convert at Pondicherry." Hosten (1921:500) simply states that "the Ezour-Vedam was the work of an Indian, posing as a deist, but betraying at every turn his Hindu or polytheistic upbringing." Louis Renou (1946:41) has a most ingenious theory which I shall come back to later; according to him the EzV is a purely Indian product: "The Sanskrit original, by a Hindu from Bengal, has been translated by an indigenous interpreter at Pondicherry."

Yet, here too arguments have been construed to show that the EzV cannot have been composed by an Indian convert. Charpentier (1922:137·8), for instance, eliminates Indian authors on the basis of a most simplistic and unrealistic dichotomy, and, by elimination, reverts to a European author. "... a Hindu belonging to one of the lower castes -- which have always been the favorite targets of the zeal of the missionaries -- would definitely be unable to write a single line in Sanskrit, nor would he have sufficient knowledge of brahmanic mythology to write these treatises which are full of allusions of this sort. On the other hand, a convert belonging to one of higher castes -- for instance, a brahman -- who would be conversant with Sanskrit and who would know by heart the myths and dogmas of his religion, would never compose, in bad Sanskrit, books which are not only incorrect but which on occasion totally contradict the Indian concepts. Notice, for example, that the Ezour-Vedam does not accept the theory of rebirth; the latter is explicitly rejected in volume II, pp. 186-197, where suffering in hell and reward in heaven are said to be eternal, and where 'Chumontou' teaches that there is no rebirth after death. On p. 124 of the same volume the author makes him say that the true cause of illness are the excesses of a life of sin; illness, in turn, causes death: 'That is the sole reason why human lives have different durations: However, such a physiological and naturalistic view is not that of the Hindus; they believe that a person's life span is predetermined by the amount of good or bad (punya or papa) karman accumulated in his previous existences. Sainte-Croix himself (vol. II, p. 185 note) thinks of the possibility of Christian influence; this is far more than just a possibility. We shall not be far away from the truth, if we state that the Ezour-Vedam has been written by a European Christian who had acquired some knowledge of Sanskrit and enough familiarity with brahmanic theology to discuss it, not however without sometimes committing serious errors."


After all this it might be worthwhile to quote the opinions of Lanjuinais, who wrote after Sonnerat's discovery in 1782, and Castets, nearly one century after Ellis' article of 1822.

In his "First Memoir on the Sanscrit Language," written in 1810 (Schwab 1950:167), Lanjuinais seems unconvinced both by those who defend the authenticity of the EzV and by Sonnerat's and Paulinus' arguments against it. He proposes (1810-1832:1.35) the following solution: "If one takes into account that throughout the book an effort is made not only to refute Indian paganism, but also to reject, without compromise and as absolutely inadmissible, any incarnation of the deity, one cannot help believing that the author belonged to one of the sects of the Coromandel coast, which disapprove of the exterior and ordinary doctrine and practices of the Vedas, and which restrict themselves to pure theism or to the quietism of the enlightened."

The main point of Father Castets' 1921 contribution was to refute Hosten's (1921) arguments in favor of Mosac as the translator of the EzV. Castets' principal argument is a chronological one. He enumerates, backward, all the steps the translation would have to go through before it arrived in Europe, and concludes (578): "All these transactions, especially with the slow rate and the few opportunities of travel holding in those days, must certainly have taken many years, which would bring us back ... to the paper watermark date of the Pondicherry manuscript of 1742, if not before." On the other hand, Father Mosac went to Bengal in 1744. Learning Bengali and perfecting his knowledge of sanskrit must have taken several years. Hence he cannot have been the translator. And Castets (578) to state, nearly one century and a half after Sainte-Croix: ".... as for me, until further and more conclusive evidence be forthcoming, I see no reason to disbelieve what is said in the 'Preface' to the printed edition, viz., that the real author of the work was a Gnani, a very likely author of such a production, and the translator a Sriringham Brahmin of note, who knew French and had rendered good services to the French cause."

In other words, the problem of the authorship of the EzV has not been solved to everyone's satisfaction. This can perhaps be best illustrated with a reference to Caland's cautious statements. He (1918:293) quotes Ellis' opinion that the kernel of the pseudo-Vedas was the work of de Nobili, but that their present form is due to other missionaries. Yet, it is "also very well possible that the texts have been written by converted Hindus under the supervision of the Jesuits." Zachariae (1921:157) is equally ambivalent and does not commit himself beyond listing the various possibilities in the writings of one author the uncertainty concerning the authorship of the EzV translates itself in a purely negative enumeration of those to whom it should not be attributed. Pinard de la Boullaye (1921:21n4) feels that Ellis was definitely wrong in attributing the book to Nobili; and he is not convinced by Bach, because he cannot believe that Calmette, for whom the Vedas were still sealed books in 1737, would have been familiar enough with their archaic language to translate them before his death in 1740.



35. Voltaire did not attribute the EzV to Roberto de Nobili, as Rajamanickam (1972:94) declares.

36. Jacques Francois Law, who capitulated at Srirangam (12 June 1752). For the ensuing dispute between Law and Dupleix, see Alfred Marthineau: Dupleix et l'Inde Francaise III (1749-1754), Paris: Honore Champion, 1927, pp. 231-60 and passim. Martineau: Dupleix. Sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris: Societe d'Editions geographiques, maritimes et coloniales, 1931, pp. 179-88; Virginia McLean Thompson: Dupleix and his Letters (1742-1754), New York: Robert O. Ballou, 1933, pp. 300-66. It is difficult to verify the source of Voltaire's data: did he have them from Maudave, and, if so, did he reproduce them correctly? I have not been able to find the name of Law's defender. He can hardly be his interpreter Dhosti, since Law pretended that Dupleix and his wife bribed Dhosti to testify against him (Thompson 365).

37. Sonnerat does not explain why he locates the author at Masulipatam. Castets (1935:5-6), who rejects the idea that the author was a missionary, asks indignantly: “How could Sonnerat ever suggest a missionary at Masulipatam, for there was no missionary, especially no French missionary, permanently stationed in that locality?”

38. Translation from Cronin (1959:89-90). See also Joseph Bertrand: La mission du Madure d'apres des documents inedits, vol. 2, Paris: Poussielgue-Rusand, 1848, pp. 20-1. As early as 1614 the contents of this letter figure prominently in Pierre de Jarric: Histoire des choses plus memorables advenues tant en Indes Orientales, que d'autres pais de la decouverte des Portugais, Bordeaux: Millanges, 1608-14, vol. 3, pp. 761-2.

39. Clauer (1862:336) states that "Abraham Roger is the first one to consider Father de Nobili as the author of the Ezour-Vedam, and this opinion was adopted later by a professor from Madras, Ellis." On Clauer's article, see also Retouches au Nouveau Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes et pseudonymes de M.E. de Manne, par l'auteur des Supercheries litteraires devoilees [Joseph Marie Querard], Paris: the author, 1862, p. 42.

40. The readers of the English translation (1927:13 n. 1959:11n) should be aware that, by then, Winternitz had changed his mind. In the translation he says that the EzV "used to be ascribed to the missionary Roberto de' Nobili. But W. Caland, Th. Zachariae (GGA 1921, p. 157) and others deny, that he was the author of the fraud."

41. Johann Lorenz Mosheim (1694?-1755, a Lutheran): Institutionum Historiae Ecclesiasticae antiquae et recentioris Libri Quatuor, which is the successor to Institutiones Historiae Christianae Antiquioris (first edition: 1726, several times reedited). The paragraph on Roberto de Nobili and his successors appears in the Latin edition of 1755 (Helmstad: Weygand) -- the last one in Mosheim's lifetime -- pp. 830-1. See the English translation by J. Murdock (1892 edition, vol. 3, pp. 247-8). Among the other opponents of de Nobili and the Jesuits in India should be mentioned the Capuchin Pere Norbert (Pierre Parisot, 1695-1769), especially for his Memoires historiques presentes au Souverain Pontife Benoit XIV sur les Missions des Indes Orientales (first edition: 3 vols., Luques 1744).

42. See note 1.

43. Bertran, op. cit., vol. 3 (1850), p. 116.

44. Nathanael Southwell: Bibliotheca scriptorium Societatis Jesu, Rome: de Lazzaris, 1676.

45. It is not clear to which notice Clauer refers here. He probably means the “Notice sur le P. Robert de’ Nobili,” in Proenca’s letter to the General Gosvin Nikel, dated Tiruchirapalli 1660, edited by Bertrand: op. cit., vol. 3, pp. 110-8. The list of works is on pp. 116-8.

46. Letter dated Vencatiguiry, 24 January 1733, to Mr. de Cartigny, Intendant general des armees navales en France. See Lettres Edifiantes et Curieuses (ed. Aime Martin, Paris: Auguste Desrez) 2, 1840, 611. For references to other editions, see Streit (1931:86, No. 321).

47. Letter dated Ballapouram, 17 September 1735. See ibid., pp. 621-2. References in Streit (1931:89, No. 337).

48. Dated 25 December 1737. Quoted by Vinson (1902:278), without indicating his source. Not listed by Streit (1931). Referred to by Hosten (1923:149) as from Darmavaram.

49. Streit (1931:6,27,47 lists three letters from Father Pierre Martin to Father de Villette -- plus one in Streit 5, 1929,208-9, but nothing written by de Villette himself. He does not appear in Sommervogel's Bibliotheque.
50. I assume that Vinson refers to Father Jean Venant Bouchet (1655-1732), on whom see Streit (1931:2).
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

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New Contributions to Ezourvedam Interpretation, Excerpt from Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century
Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher
W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania
© 1984 -- John Benjamins B.V.



New Contributions to Ezourvedam Interpretation

The French Original

There may have been differences of opinion on the language in which the original EzV was written -- generally Sanskrit, occasionally Bengali or Tamil --, but the idea that there has been an original in an Indian language which later served as the basis for the French translation, has been unanimously accepted by all those who have written on the EzV so far. According to Langles (1825:2) the writer of the manuscript at Pondicherry has taken care to provide a French translation face to face, better to create the impression of an original Sanskrit text accompanied by an interpretation in a Western language. Even though Laouenan accuses Ellis of having made the Sanskrit original disappear at Pondicherry (see p. 54), he too cannot get away from the idea that what we possess is nothing more than a translation, and he speaks (1884:244) of "the book, sent to Europe together with a French translation." I have already quoted Schlegel's enthusiasm about a seventeenth century European being able to compose attractive Sanskrit verses, and Hosten's pride that a member of the Society of Jesus has been a pioneer of Sanskrit studies. Others have not hesitated to make very precise statements on the Sanskrit original. Max Muller (1861:148n) says that "it is in Sanskrit verse, in the style of the Puranas." Mansion (1931:19) went one step further and actually talked about the quality of the author's Sanskrit; he described the EzV as "a recent compilation in Sanskrit verses, which are not always correct." Japp's comparison of the phraseology, style and even handwriting of the EzV with those of the real Vedas, and the details he provides on the spread of the text in panditic circles have been cited in the chapter on Roberto de Nobili.

In the meantime, no one has paid attention to a detail in Ellis' description (1822:19·30) of the manuscripts at Pondicherry. In fact Ellis himself refers to it in a most casual way, and certainly did not draw any conclusions. I have already mentioned that the Sanskrit and French texts of the pseudo-Vedas are written on opposite sides of European style copy books. The detail I want to point out at this stage is that the French side is consistently complete, whereas the Sanskrit side is not. For instance, manuscript No. 5 (Ellis 24-5) is only partly in Sanskrit. And manuscript No. 1 (Ellis 19), which is the one we are particularly concerned with, is: "A copy of the Ezour Vedam in French only." Also, No. 2 (Ellis 19-20), which contains the EzV among several other texts, is: "All in French without the Sanscrit."

To be sure, it is conceivable that the scribe accidentally wrote the French "translation" first and intended to fill in the "Sanskrit original" later. Caland (1918:293) is one of the very few who noticed the absence of a Sanskrit text yet "even though Ellis did not find the Sanskrit original of the 'Ezourvedam' in the collection of manuscripts, it seems to me highly probable that it once existed, and that our Ezourvedam has been translated from a Sanskrit text." Laouenan (1884:245) suggests nothing less than that Ellis was the one who made the Sanskrit text disappear: "the Sanscrit manuscript, which was in the library at Pondicherry in 1816, was handed to Ellis, the Principal of the College of Madras, for examination; he did not return it." Castets (1935:12n2) rightly rejects this unfounded accusation.

There is, however, another possible explanation for the absence of a Sanskrit EzV in the library at Pondicherry. Against the unanimous tradition held by all those who have written on the EzV in the past I suggest that the French text of the pseudo-Vedas is the original one; that the French originals were meant to be translated into an Indian language; that translations were indeed made or at least started for some of the texts, but not for the EzV. In addition to the absence of a Sanskrit text in Pondicherry, there are other arguments that support this conclusion.

First I question the logic of EIlis' (1822:4) reasoning: "as the object of it is undoubtedly that stated by Mr. Sonnerat, namely to refute the doctrines of the Puranas and to lead indirectly to the introduction of Christianity, it was evident that to attain this object it must have been originally composed in one of the Indian dialects." Assuredly, to convert Indians it had to be written in one of their languages. But once this task accomplished, the purpose of the enterprise had been achieved. One may indeed wonder why the Indian text had subsequently to be provided with a French translation.

Second, the French text is far too fluent and idiomatic to be the result of a translation from Sanskrit. I shall repeat here at a more general level the question which Less (1784=1786:419·20) asked with regard to the prayer which Visnu is supposed to address to the deity above him (Text p. 125): "Who would not believe to be reading Flechier or Massillon?"

Third, about the Sanskrit portions of the manuscripts Ellis (1822:22) has this to say: "The Sanscrit part of all these manuscripts contains many alterations and variations of reading in the same hand, either inserted in the margin or interlined." And he interprets: "these sometimes correct, sometimes alter the sense and are such as an author would make to an original work." A different and more likely interpretation is that the French text was the original one, and that emendations in the Sanskrit section are corrections added by the translator who tried to make his work more perfect and accurate.

Finally, at the meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (2 February 1848) a letter by John Muir was read; it contains (163-4) the following passage: "I suggested to the Society several years ago that an attempt should be made to procure for the Library the original Sanskrit text of that curious work the Pseudo-Yajur-Veda, (of which some account is given in a paper by Mr. Ellis in one of the earlier Vols. of the Society's Researches, as well as in the English preface to Dr. Mill's Sanskrit poem, the Christa Sangita) which the Roman Catholic missionaries composed several centuries ago to promote the reception of Christian doctrines. A French translation of this Pseudo-Veda or part of it, appeared at Yverdun towards the close of last century, which is perhaps in the Society's Library: but it appears very desirable that we should possess the original of so curious a work. In consequence of my former suggestion, Dr. Wilson of Bombay was requested to use his endeavours to procure a copy; but I do not recollect to have heard the result. If no effective steps were taken towards the end in view, I would beg to suggest that the attempt should be renewed, and application made to any of the Society's correspondents in the Madras Presidency, or in any quarter which may seem most likely to promise success. It was in the College of Jesuits at Pondicherry, if I recollect right, that the manuscript was said to be deposited; and perhaps that establishment may have broken up at the period of the French Revolution or from subsequent causes. If this, on enquiry, appear to be the case, the fate of the Library, and its present place of deposit, if still in existence, might be traced." As a result of this letter, it was "Resolved, that M. E. Ghibelin of Pondicherry be requested by the Society to institute the search for the Pseudo-Yajur-Veda, recommended by Mr. Muir." It should come as no surprise that the Sanskrit original of the EzV was never found.52

The Author of the French Ezourvedam

If the French version of the EzV was the original one, the question remains: who was its author? My answer to this question will be different in nature and precision -- or lack of it -- from those of my predecessors. They were looking for an author who knew Sanskrit; since most of them were led to reject an Indian author, the choice was limited. Hence the names of de Nobili, Calmette, Mosac, and a few others. I am trying to determine the author of a French text, which leaves a far wider range of possibilities, both among the Indian converts and the French residents in India. Even though I shall no longer propose a specific name, I shall at least try to circumscribe the group to which the author of the EzV must have belonged.

There are good reasons to look for the author among Europeans rather than Indians. First, those pseudo-Vedas of which a Sanskrit version is preserved, "are in Sanscrit, in the Roman character" (Ellis 1822:4). Ellis noticed this fact and tried to interpret it (32): it was the work of the anonymous author who elaborated the notes of de Nobili and who also translated the text into French. "This supposition ... explains why the Sanscrit does not appear in its appropriate character and orthography, in which it is difficult to suppose it was not originally written by the author." In reality, the "many alterations and variations of reading in the same hand" (22) in the romanized Sanskrit sections clearly show that we witness the author-translator at work. Under no circumstances could this be an Indian, no more than one imagines a native Greek writing and correcting his own language in Roman script, or an Englishman producing English literature in Devanagari.

Second, and even more convincing, is the particular way in which Indian proper names and other terms have been transliterated in the pseudo-Vedas in general and the EzV in particular. Bohlen (1830:135) thought that the "highly corrupt transliteration" of Indian proper names was due to the influence of Italian orthography. This assumption may have been helpful to attribute the text to Roberto de Nobili, but it is totally unfounded. Ellis came much closer to the truth, although the transliteration system leads him to make apparently contradictory statements. On the one hand he quotes (1822:30) the opinion of "the more respectable native Christians of Pondicherry ... that these books were written by Robertus a Nobilibus;" also, in the passage quoted earlier in this volume (see p. 31), in which he defends de Nobili against a possible accusation of forgery, he repeatedly refers (31) to a Sanskrit original written or at least translated in South India. On the other hand, he rejects (3) Sonnerat's location of the EzV at Masulipatam, "all the Sanscrit terms used in it, being altered according to the Bengali pronunciation." Later in his article he quotes (12) an example of pseudo-Vedic Sanskrit, and concludes: "This specimen of the original will suffice to convince those acquainted with the Sanscrit and with the changes it undergoes in the Pracrits and spoken dialects, that this work, whether the author were a Native or a European, must either have originated in the province of Bengal and Orissa, or have been composed by some one, who had there learned the rudiments of the Sanscrit." Ellis' insistence on the Bengali orthography of the pseudo-Vedas has later been used by Hough (1839:2.239) to show that Masulipatam is unacceptable as their place of origin, and by Vinson (1902:293), Zachariae (1921:157), Charpentier (1922:138), and others to prove that the EzV cannot be the work of de Nobili, who worked in South India. It has also led to pure misunderstandings, such as the one by Debidour (1924:30): "The Ezour Veidam ... was a manuscript in the Bengali language;" what Ellis really said (3) is that, while inspecting the printed text, he concluded that the work was in Bengali. Equally mistaken is Vinson (1923:169), when he concludes that the French version is a second hand translation, from Sanskrit via an intermediate Bengali translation!

In reality, the transliteration system of the EzV exhibits a strange but interesting mixture. There are indeed a number of transliterations that suggest Northeastern pronunciations: Chumontou, Biache, Prokriti, Chib, Gonecho, Zomboudipo, Baroto Borcho, Narodo, Odorbo, choto-rozo-tomo, Narajon, Kochiopo, Zomo. But there are also several equally typical South Indian forms: Ezour Vedam, tarkan, Pouranans, Vichnou, Patalan, Salagraman, Veikuntan, Keilassan, amroutan. On a number of occasions the two transliteration systems have been combined within the same word: Oupabedan, Chuarguam; or within the same sentence: "the summit of mount Chumerou is Veikuntan, the residence of Narajon" (Text p. 122). Renou (1946:41) is the only one who has noticed this mixture and drawn from it the interesting conclusion referred to earlier in this study: a Sanskrit original written by a Bengali, and a French translation by a South Indian. Yet it is difficult to agree with Renou. Either the original was written in an Indian script; if this was the case, we cannot account for the Bengali transliterations on the part of the South Indian translator: the text written by a Bengali, even in his own Bengali script, has nothing to do with the way in which he would eventually pronounce it. Or the original was written in Roman transliteration; in this case the Bengali author would indeed have given all Indian terms according to his own pronunciation, but we can rest assured that the South Indian translator would have replaced all Bengali pronunciations by his own. I cannot accept that an Indian author of the French EzV would have resorted to two systems of transliteration, one Bengali, the other South Indian. He would systematically adopt a single system: the one that reflects the pronunciation in his own area of India. Two systems of transliteration definitely point to a European author, one who had heard Sanskrit words pronounced in different parts of India, or at least had been taught these terms by Indians coming from different parts of the subcontinent.

A third argument against those who believe in an Indian author for the EzV is provided by the text itself. I refer here to several passages which definitely point to a European writer. Near the end of the book (Text p. 203) Chumontou says, in a very European way: "The desire to undeceive mankind and to save them, this is the sole incentive that made me undertake this work; therefore I have consulted nothing but the truth. It alone has guided my quill, has inspired me ... " On a number of occasions the text alludes to situations which are strictly European. Thus (Text p. 163) Mount Mandara revolves on Narayana's shoulder" even as the mill rotates in a coffee maker;" or, it is surprising that the offspring of a tall man is "like a dwarf or a pygmy" (Text p. 184). Dates are sometimes indicated according to the solar rather than the lunar calendar. There is a reference to "those who fast on 14 January" (Text p. 178). Sainte-Croix adds notes to "the month of December ... the month of June": "Margam or Margisaram of the Indian year," and "Jeistrum or Any," respectively (1778:1.256; Text p. 128). When the manuscripts say that "the Indian hour has only twenty-four minutes," Anquetil notes in the margin: "This is a European speaking here;" the edition (1.266; Text p. 131) prefers to delete the word "Indian." Again in the same paragraph there is a description of an Indian instrument to measure time and a reference to "our twenty-four hours." Anquetil repeats the same marginal note; Sainte Croix places the entire passage in a footnote, with the remark: "This explanation of how the Indians measure time has been inserted by some European. I have considered it my duty to delete such an evident interpolation." And he resorts to the same solution for other "European" sentences, such as when the text says about Mago: "This month corresponds to the month of December" (2.35; Text p. 157), or about Maguodechan: "This land is West of Chandernagor, and is about 125 days away from it: (2.163; Text p. 197).

That the European author of the EzV was a Frenchman requires no further proof. I have already referred to the fluent and idiomatic language of the French text "which reads like that of Flechier or Massignon." Besides, the Sanskrit terms are consistently transliterated in such a way as to adapt them to the pronunciation by speakers of no other European language than French.

Next, I consider it a very likely hypothesis that the French author of the EzV was a missionary. Some modern authors have unnecessarily tried to deny the proselytic character of the text. I have already quoted Mansion (see p. 24). In Castets' (1935:6) opinion too, "the mass of disparate and purely Hindu concepts exhibited in this book, and agreed to by Chumontou, the so-called missionary disguised as a Brahman, in no way resembles Christian concepts." On this point I agree with the majority of those who have written on the EzV. Not only would a missionary be the only one to be interested in composing such a means of conversion; he would probably, at that time, also be the only one to make the effort of learning enough about Hinduism to be capable of writing this kind of interesting and ingenious composition.

Finally, the French missionary most probably belonged to the Society of Jesus. Hosten's "hideous calumny" (see p. 47) and the emotional denials by others are based on the premise that the composition of the EzV and the other pseudo-Vedas was a despicable act. I shall indicate later that there was much more to it than that. There was certainly no doubt on this score in Maudave's mind, in his unpublished letter to Voltaire. Also, the manuscripts were discovered in the former house of the Jesuits in Pondicherry, and the composition of the French Vedas is not in disagreement with Jesuit conversion methods as they have been applied both in India and elsewhere in the world.

The question who the French Jesuit author of the EzV was, we can only speculate on. Calmette was very much involved in the search for the Vedas; Mosac is a definite possibility; there may be some truth to Maudave's information on Martin; there is no way of verifying the references to de Villette and Bouchet. The author of the EzV may be one of these, but he may also be one of their many more or less well known confreres. In the present state of our knowledge we cannot go any further than that.

The Title: Ezourvedam

It is important to remember that the EzV came to Europe at a time when practically nothing was known about the Indian Vedas.53 Even when authors such as Sonnerat and Paulinus began to question the authenticity of the book, they had very little to compare it with. Joseph de Guignes in two passages quoted earlier (1772:313; 1776:205) was probably the first one to identify the EzV with the Yajurveda, although there is, a few years earlier, Clemence's (1767:49) remark in his critique of Voltaire's Philosophie de l'histoire: "If we were to believe him on the antiquity he assigns the Ezourvedam, which is the second of the four parts that compose the Vedam ...." Sonnerat (1782:1.215) states that "it is definitely not one of the four Vedams, notwithstanding its name." According to Lanjuinais (1810-1832:1.35) EzV is "a corruption of Yadjour-Veda, in Malabaric Yezourvedam, the second book of the Vedas." Ellis' note (1822:4; compare already anon. 1818:189): "Besides the Ezour-Vedam, there are also, among these manuscripts, imitations of the other three Vedas," implies that he too considered the EzV to correspond to the Yajurveda.

The identification enters the field of indology with Schlegel. His casual remark (1824:51): "Ezour Vedam (after a corrupt pronunciation of Yajurveda)," has been accepted by all and has never again been questioned. Langles (1825:2nl) too mentions that "Ezour Vedam is a corruption for Yadjour Veda," and repeats (2) that Ellis also found manuscripts of forgeries of "the other three Vedas." Bohlen (1830:1.134) casually refers to "a treatise called Ezourvedam, as they corrupted the name Yajurveda." Adelung (1830:93-4; 1832:75-6; 1837:120-2) discusses the EzV in the chapter on the Yajurveda. Muir's letter (1848:463) refers to "that curious work. the Pseudo-YajurVeda," and Mitchell (1849:132n) points to "Asiatic Researches XIV for the account of the pretended Yajur Veda." Weber (1853:235) seems to assume that the term Elz refers to the Yajurveda, and he insists on the difference between the French text and the false Yajurveda which is the object of his own language." I have indicated earlier that Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo (1791:315) also realized that the EzV was different from the Yajurveda.

The situation in the manuscripts is complex and confused. Voltaire's copy, as it was carried to Europe, definitely bears the title "Ezour-vedam." Yet, Ellis (1822:19) describes his manuscript No. 1 as follows: "A copy of the Ezour Vedam in French only, probably the original whence the transcript was sent to France was made, as the original title of the work, 'Jozour Bed,' which appears at the head of the first page has been crossed out with a pen and the words 'Ezour Vedam,' as it stands in the printed book, written above it." Anquetil's manuscript also bears the title "Ezour vedam," but its final section, which is missing in Voltaire's copy, is introduced: "Continuation of chap. 3rd (Book VIII) of the Ezour Vedam (Zozur Bedo in the copy of Mr. Tessier) ... " Accordingly, the same final section, added by a very different hand in Voltaire's copy after it became Nouvelles Acquisitions Francaises 452, is called "Continuation of the Zozur Bedo," and Court de Gebelin's remarks in the same manuscript (see p. 83) are labeled: "Note on the Zozur Bedo."

All this seems to indicate that the original title of the volume was "Zozur Bedo" rather than "Ezour Vedam." However, when the four Vedas are described in chapter 1.4, Chumontou says (Sainte-Croix, 1778:1.200, cf. text p. 114): "God dictated them to the first man, and instructed him to communicate them to the other human beings, that they might learn to do good and avoid evil. These are the names by which they were indicated: the first is called Rik, the second Chama, the third Zozur, the fourth Odorbo." Again, later in the same chapter Chumontou states (1778: 1.204, cf text p. 115): "Poilo was the author of the Rik Vedam, Zoimeni of the Chama-Vidam, Chumontou of the Zozur-Vedam, Onguiro finally of the Adorbo-Vedam." Both Anquetil (fol. 8 recto) and Sainte-Croix (1778:1.204n) were confused by one Chumontou speaking about another: "This Chumontou is different from the Brame who is speaking here; the former has given the Zozur-Vedam, not the Ezour-Vedam which is by this second Chumontou." I should add that, in the second passage, the manuscripts even increase the confusion; they do not read "Zozur-Vedam" but "Ezour vedan" (cf. p. 86). Sainte-Croix was probably right when he corrected this inconsistency, which must have been introduced by a scribe -- the scribe of Voltaire's manuscript(?) -- who was as confused as Anquetil and Sainte-Croix by the existence of two different Chumontous.

In any case, the way in which the four Vedas are mentioned in the text makes it clear that the manuscript that came to Europe was meant to represent something different than one of the traditional four branches of the Indian Vedas.

Moreover, one of the manuscripts discovered at Pondicherry -- No. 3 in Ellis' description (1822:20-3) -- contains three parts: Rik Beder Chaka, Zozur Beder Chaka, and Chamo Beder Chaka. That means that the Yajurveda was represented in the Pondicherry collection by the Zozur Beder Chaka, and that it is unlikely that the EzV was supposed to play the same role.

Also. it is obvious from the text of the EzV itself that its author wanted it to be more than a Vedic sakha. The EzV refers to itself as "the Veda" without specification. When Biache asks for Chumontou's help, the latter hesitates (Text p. 110) whether he should instruct him or not: "Why do you come to me today and request me to teach you the Vedam, and to instruct you about the truth?" The question clearly indicates that the instruction which Chumontou is about to impart, namely: the EzV, is thought of as "the Veda." Again, Chumontou lists (Text p. 110) a number of conditions for his teaching: Biache shall no longer call Brahman, Visnu, Siva, Ganesa, etc., gods; he shall no longer distinguish between men; etc. "This, then. is the first preliminary step to be taken, for you to acquire the right disposition to understand the truths contained in the Vedan, and to appreciate them." The truths contained in "the Vedan" are, of course, the truths contained in the EzV. In another passage (Text p. 203) it is said "While giving us his laws, God has shown us the road to be followed in order to obtain the eternal award. The book that contains this law is called Vedan. In reality there is but one Vedan; but since four different individuals have divided it among themselves to teach it to mankind and to transmit it to posterity, the book has been given four names, indicating the different matters treated in each of them." Here too there is no attempt to rank the EzV among these four.

Finally, though the passage in one of Voltaire's letters is difficult to interpret, it seems to indicate that he too considered his manuscript to be more than just one of the four branches of the Veda. He writes (Best 8713) to a friend: "An officer who commands a fortress near the Ganges and an intimate friend of one of the principal Bramins has brought me a copy of the four Vedams which, he assures me, is very faithful." Voltaire may well have received this information from Maudave. In his unpublished letter to Voltaire Maudave not only says that he personally believes in the antiquity of the Sanskrit language "and of the Ezourvedam" (p. 3); he also argues against the Jesuits, who maintain to have discovered Latin words in the Vedas, and concludes (p. 4): "Therefore, I am fully convinced that the brames who wrote the four books of the Ezourvedam did not know Latin."

What was the EzV really meant to be?

I shall begin with the element Vedam. There are sufficient indications that, in the eyes of Europeans, the Veda was for the Hindus what the Bible or Gospel was for the Christians. Bach (1868:17) refers to one of Beschi's writings, Veda-Vilakkam, and adds: "which means: 'Light of the Gospel.'''54 La Croze (1724-1758:2.222) speaks of the Vedam "which is a collection of ancient sacred books of the Brachmans;" elsewhere (1724=1758:2.251) he states that the Veda "has among these idolaters the same authority which the Holy Scripture has among us." Paulinus had his own views on the term Veda, but the following passage (1796-1808:320) shows that for him too, the Veda was not something specifically Hindu; the term can be used for Christianity and other religions as well: "This word ... does not signify exclusively a sacred book but implies in general as much as a sacred law, whether observed by Indians or other nations. Thus, for example, the law or religious system of the so-called Nazarenes, or Christians of St Thomas, is called Nasranni Veda, and the Jewish law Judhaveda."55 Even more significant than the statements by authors directly concerned with India is the opinion of the general historian of religions, who had no access to Indian sources, but reflects the overall atmosphere created by contemporaneous writings on India. According to Less (1784=1786:417), the "Schaster" contains "explanations of the Vedam, the Bible of the Bramins." Voltaire himself was convinced that Maudave brought him "the Gospel of the ancient bracmans" (Best 8870). Besides, I shall also quote the following entries in the University of Madras Tamil Lexicon:

vetam 1. The Vedas; 2. The Jaina scriptures; 3. The Bible; ...
veta-k-karan Christian (the only meaning!)
veta-pustakam 1. The Vedas; 2. The Bible.
veta-vakkiyam l. Vedic text; 2. Gospel truth.
veta-viyakkiyanam 1. Commentaries on the Vedas; 2. Expounding the Bible.

Let us now turn to the element Ezour. Within the complex transliteration system of the EzV referred to earlier in this study the term °vedam shows that "Ezourvedam" belongs to the group of words which the author acquired via a Southern pronunciation. The logical assumption is that the element Ezour° also has been coined so as to be pronounced in the Tamil way. Vinson (1923:170), who otherwise follows Charpentier (1922:138) in assigning the EzV to Bengal and Mosac, has noticed that "Ezour-Vedam is a Tamil word." He correctly refers to the fact that "the phonetic habits of Tamil require that a long or short initial e be preceded by a y," and he uses this argument to identify the EzV with the Yajurveda. It is, however, possible to give a different meaning to the term Ezour, keeping in mind that in it the Yajurveda is called Zozur Bedo, that the EzV pretends to be far more than one of the four branches of the Veda, and that, consequently, Ezourvedam ought to indicate something different. I propose that, after dissolving the Sanskrit sandhi, Ezour stands for Y-ezous. i.e. Jesus, in the Latin pronunciation which was common among missionaries. Once again, the Tamil Lexicon supports this hypothesis; one of the forms used for Jesus is ecu.

Consequently, Ezourvedam is a subtle and disguised way of indicating what the book really meant to be: "the Gospel of Jesus." The fact that the South Indian pronunciations of Yajurveda came close to it may have played a role in the choice of the term; they provided a convenient disguise for the real meaning of the title.
But we should, above all, not forget that the artifice would not have been possible without the general ignorance and confusion, at that time, with regard to the real titles -- and contents -- of the four Vedas. The titles were overheard in different parts of India, which implies very different pronunciations, by Europeans who noted them down, as carefully as they could, but each of them according to the specific spelling of his own mother tongue. Their more or less clearly written Indian terms were copied, often more than once, and eventually printed, by individuals who knew nothing at all about the subject, and who often misread the original words and distorted them even further.56 I am also convinced that the EzV -- and the prestige it initially enjoyed -- in its turn contributed to the confusion. I have already referred (see pp. 11-12) to de Guignes' erroneous identification. Sonnerat too, reports (1782:1.209) that the Vedas are called: Iroukou, Issourou, Samam, and Adrenam. But he adds in a note: "They are also known as Roukouvedam, Isrou or Ezourvedam, Sama or Chamavedam, and Andernam or Andernavedam." More recently Omont57 mentions, among the manuscripts sent to Paris by the Jesuits in India "Three books of the Ezour Vedam." But when Fourmont51 described the manuscript, he noted: "A paper manuscript containing a work entitled Ejour-vedam." This latter has at least the advantage of corresponding to one of the Vedas listed by Calmette, in a letter of 1731 (Vinson 1902:290).59

An Evaluation

Much has been made in later literature of so-called errors in the EzV. Sonnerat (1782:1.215) already said, about the missionary who composed the text, that "he did introduce a few errors, though, so that one would not be able to recognize the Missionary under the disguise of a Bramin." Whereas Sonnerat referred to errors against the Christian dogma, others have been upset by inaccuracies in the text on points of Hindu religion. Langles (1825:3-4), for example, aims his scorn both at the "archibrame of Cheringam" and at the missionaries: "He who knows the obsequious nature of the Hindus and their natural propensity to imposture, will in no way be surprised to see that the archibrame of Cheringam obligingly backed the pious imposture of the missionaries, even at the expense of his own religion. In fact, one might be led to think that he has attempted to extenuate his literary sacrilege or perhaps forestall its disastrous effects, through grammatical errors and numerous antibrahmanic propositions which he has scattered all over his composition. For, the imposture is revealed no less by its very content than by the original text inserted in the manuscript. How could these forgers be so inconsiderate as to place right near their misdeed something that to any reader versed in the languages of India would appear like incriminating evidence? It is hard to understand ... Besides, it does not really matter to know who were these impostors, dupes of their accomplice, both clumsy proselytists and poor erudites." I have already quoted Charpentier's (1922:137-8) rejection, on the one hand, of an Indian author on account of "serious errors," and, on the other hand, of Nobili who "would never have written a book so full of errors and displaying such an ignorance of the sacred language of the Brahmins." Vinson's article of 1923, which leans heavily on Charpentier, continues along the same lines; there are, in the EzV, "errors and inaccuracies which show that the author was not too well acquainted with brahmanic mythology" (1923:171). Of this Vinson quotes two examples: "It is said that humanity descend from a single couple and that the first man was called Adimo. No Sanskrit book says anything of the sort. ... Similarly rebirth is categorically and emphatically rejected; yet, it is the official and basic foundation of all Indian philosophical systems." And he generalizes (1923:171-2): "It has often been a serious default of the missionaries not to have adequately studied what they wanted to refute. They are incapable of discussing on equal terms with the learned, the well-educated, and the members of different castes, among whom they make very few proselytes." These accusations are highly unjustified. They are baseless as far as the -- inexistent -- language of "the original" EzV is concerned. Insofar as they relate to the content they fail to do justice to the performance of the author, and they display a lack of understanding of the purpose for which the book has been composed.

1 have shown how astutely the title of the book has been chosen. And, if one reads the text carefully, it is clear that it is full of equally clever and subtle constructions. Throughout the text the author -- more exactly, the interlocutor Chumontou -- makes use of Indian terminology and Hindu concepts. But he skilfully manipulates them, first, to justify and establish "the Vedam" as superior to the idolatrous beliefs personified by Biache, and, on that basis, to expose the contents of that Veda -- the Christian teachings -- even if they run opposite to Biache's statements.

A case in point is the use made by the author of the Hindu system of yugas. This is how Biache describes (Text p. 108) the present age: "The unhappy era in which we live is an era of sin. Corruption has become general. A limitless ocean has engulfed everything. Only a few virtuous souls are kept afloat. All the rest has been carried away. Everything is corrupted. I myself am drowning, like the others, in this ocean of injustice, of which I perceive neither the shores not the bottom; I am bound to perish like them. Therefore, extend your helping hand; as an expert pilot pull me out of this abyss, and guide me safely to the port." The idea that we live in an age of sin and darkness had to be acceptable to any Hindu, who would immediately interpret it as a reference to the Kaliyuga. Trying to change the present situation and restore "the golden age" was not only a normal but also a most attractive idea. The golden age which Chumontou preaches is the one proclaimed in "the Veda," which is, in this case, the Christian Bible.

1 also have to disagree with Vinson's analysis of God's creation of the first man and woman. According to Chumontou (Text p. 112). "God created at first a single man and a single woman, who were to give birth to the rest of mankind." The use of the term Procriti as the name for the first woman shows the author's familiarity with Indian philosophy. And the name Adimo for the first man is an ingenious way of introducing Adam under the disguise of a perfectly acceptable Sanskrit term meaning "the first one." Voltaire was, understandably, surprised. He comments (1765:109-10): "What is even more extraordinary is that the Vedam of the ancient Bracmans teaches that the first man was Adimo and the first woman Procriti. Adimo Signifies Lord; and Procriti means life, even as Heva, among the Phoenicians and the Hebrews, signified also life, or the serpent. This conformity deserves special attention."

It must have become clear from earlier quotations that Father Hosten was one of those who did not hold the EzV in high esteem. He expresses (1921:500) his general evaluation of the pseudo-Vedas in the following terms: "That the Sanskrit itself could not have been composed by a Catholic Missionary was evident from the fact that no Catholic priest could have resigned himself to teaching merely a crude theism mixed with gross Hindu superstitions and all kinds of erroneous philosophic and scientific doctrines." Castets (1921:577), who disagrees with Hosten on other points raised in this article, fully subscribes to this statement. It comes as a surprise, then, to see the same Hosten on the same page of the article arrive at this conclusion: "These translations would certainly be worth printing; they contain in dialogue form expositions of Hindu beliefs and practices with very able refutations of polytheism; they are the work of a profound thinker, one who anticipated Ram Mohan Roy by at least a century."

This unexpected enthusiasm is as uncalled for as the accusations of errors and poor judgement on the part of the author. Whether or not the author of the EzV was "a profound thinker," we do not know. He certainly did not want to appear so in this particular composition. Both those who have praised and those who have denunciated the EzV have invariably lost sight of one fact: The EzV was not written in order to convert through it the learned and the highly sophisticated among the Hindus. In that respect it is totally different from most works of, say, Roberto de Nobili. One has only to read the text to see that it addresses itself at the uneducated -- or not highly educated -- masses.

For example, the author -- again very astutely -- uses (Text p. 171) the Hindu theory of world ages to justify his teaching the Veda even to people of low caste. The age in which we live is an age of sin and wickedness. But it has at least one advantage. In more virtuous ages much more was expected of the people: each caste, each stage of life had its own sacrifices, and had to abide by its own form of religion. "Today we are no longer subject to all this. Anyone who is pious can perform religious duties, and he can do so irrespective of time and place. Besides, in earlier times it was not allowed to teach the vedan to Choutres and the common people. That would have been a sin. Today it can be done, without fear or scruple."

Again and again Chumontou's arguments against Hindu beliefs are based on the kind of logic that could only convince those who were unaware that we are dealing here with mythological rather than real situations. It is impossible that, by drinking the Amroutam, the Hindu gods have obtained immortality in the Chuarguam. "For, if new ones continued to be born without any of them dying, their number would have become infinitely large, and for many centuries now they would have been unable to find space in the Chuarguam" (Text p. 169).

In fact, I tend to believe that the EzV was not meant to be translated into Sanskrit, in which case it would have reached no more than a small minority of learned Hindus. The French text (p. 186) seems to point to a Telugu rather than a Sanskrit translation. "Chumontou enumerates the names of all countries on earth; the curious will find them on the opposite page, in the Telegoa language."

The preceding evaluation of the EzV is, as we saw earlier, based on my conviction that the text has been composed by a Jesuit missionary. I therefore want at this point to address the question whether this amounts to adding another voice to the often repeated charge of Jesuit dishonesty in India. This charge, according to some Jesuit writers, should be and has been laid to rest. Koch's Jesuiten-Lexicon mentions (1934:278, 868-9) the fact that the EzV has been attributed to Jesuit missionaries such as de Nobili and Calmette; "the charge is traditional, but has never been proven," and "it is unlikely that a Jesuit has composed this '5th Veda.'" The Lexicon has in turn been quoted as an authority by Della Casa (1955:54n6).

Some Jesuits have written in highly emotional terms against the EzV. I have already quoted Father Hosten's reference to "a hideous calumny." The same author also states (1921:499) that "on a priori grounds, no Catholic Missionary could ever have been guilty of such dishonesty as we have been accused of." Castets' indignation (1935:48) at the suggestion of a Jesuit or European author echoes Hennings (see p. 49): "The fact that one has dared to attribute it, not just to missionaries, but to Europeans generally, can be explained only as the result of complete ignorance of the contents of these productions, or, as the case of Ellis shows, by the authors' inability to free themselves of ineradicable prejudice." Several years earlier Hosten (1921:499) had already called Ellis "the chief culprit in the accusations levelled against the Jesuits." Now Castets (1935:9-10) seems to suggest that the very purpose of Ellis' search for the EzV was to discredit the Order generally and Nobili in particular. "In 1816 a well-known indologist, Mr. Ellis, the Principal of Madras Government College, and a great searcher for manuscripts left by the former Jesuits of Madura, paid, for that purpose, a visit to the House of the Mission, formerly the Residence of the Jesuits at Pondicherry. Might it not be possible that the missionaries of the Foreign Missions, the present occupants of this ancient residence, and heirs to the documents left behind by the former Jesuits of the Carnatic, who took refuge with them, be the unknowing keepers of the Sanskrit original of the famous Ezour Vedam? The presence with them of such a document would confirm the then generally accepted suggestion of a missionary author. With the hope of such a discovery Mr. Ellis submitted his request to the priests of the Mission who, in return, handed the learned visitor a whole collection of manuscripts on the Vedas which they inherited from the Jesuits, their predecessors."

Schlegel was undoubtedly much closer to the truth when he pointed out that the composition of the EzV should be viewed as an integral part of the history of missions generally. There is no doubt that anyone who considers the conversion of Hindus to Christianity a worthwhile enterprise, has to look upon the EzV as a historically interesting contribution in that direction. Charpentier (1922:145) notes: "Only the period in which every activity of the Jesuit Fathers was more or less condemned as a crime has been able to see in this ... something totally unpardonable."

Converting Hindus to Christianity proved to be a very difficult task. It accounts for the much disputed attitude of de Nobili, and the entire Malabar rites controversy. It also accounts for the missionaries' desire to find, understand and make use of the Vedas. The way in which the Vedas were finally obtained may also be criticized as an act in which honesty was temporarily set aside. It is described as follows in a letter from Father Calmette, dated 1730 (Vinson 1902:209):60 "It seems to me that we would never have obtained it, if we had not among the bramins a number of hidden Christians, who have regular contact with them without being recognized as Christians. It is to one of these that we owe this discovery, and at present there are two of them, searching for books or trying to copy them. If they found out that they were doing it for us, they would suffer terribly, especially when it comes to the Vedam. It is a thing that would not be forgiven." The composition of the EzV has to be seen within this historical framework. No missionary had seen a copy of the Veda; and if they had, it remained totally ununderstandable. Besides, the missionaries had found out that most Indians were as ignorant of the Veda as they were themselves. There is an interesting letter to that effect, from Father Le Gac to Fourmont, dated Pondicherry, 4 October 1730, in which the missionary announces the presence of a copy of the Rigveda among the books sent to Paris:61 "Even among the most skilled brames there are very few who can explain the contents of the Vedams. For them knowing the Vedam means being able accurately to pronounce the words with the right rhythm and tone of voice; it is the only thing that the most skilful teachers teach their students for many years. I do not know anyone who makes it a point to explain them word by word." Under these circumstances it is only natural that the Jesuit missionaries became tempted to resort to an attitude which has been aptly described much later, by Bach (1868:17): "The main obstacle being the people's blind respect for the person of the brahmin, the missionaries had the excellent idea to use against them the weapon of ridicule, and they put the French causticity to work."

In fact, the temptation to compose a Veda was very much in the air at the time. I do not want to stress here the idea that one of the Vedas was considered lost, and that it was this lost Veda which the Europeans tried to replace by their own. In view of the discovery, at Pondicherry, of a whole series of pseudo-Vedas, I tend to agree with Hosten's (1921:499) argument: "How then could a Jesuit have hoped to make the Hindus believe in books which under the titles of their four Vedas concealed as they did matter entirely different from their accredited Vedas?" But there are other elements which may have contributed to it. For instance, La Croze (1724-1758:2.222) nearly formulates an invitation for someone to write something like the EzV. Discussing the relationship between India and Egypt, he states that scholars might probably be able to go much farther in this, if they had a translation of the Veda into Latin or some other European language. "Most probably one would find in it a number of antiquities which the superstitiously arrogant Bramins withhold from the peoples of India whom they regard as profane, and to whom one should show no more than the exterior of religion wrapped up in legends, at least as extravagant as those of Greek paganism."



52. There is a reference in the Proceedings of the Asiatic Society (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 16, 1847, 498), that procureur-general E. Gibelin sent to the Society a copy of his Etudes sur le droit civil des Hindoux (Pondicherry 1846-47), but there is no trace of his answering the letter on the EzV.

53. Hennings (1786:377) comments that Sainte-Croix' introduction exhibits much learning "with regard to the Wedams, of which it is still not known whether they exist or not, and if they do, their value is still unsettled and doubtful."

54. Written by Beschi, at the order of his Superior, to combat the Tranquebar Lutherans. First published in 1728, and often reprinted. See Leon Besse: Father Beschi of the Society of Jesus, Trichinopoly: St. Joseph's Industrial School Press, 1918, pp. 85, 193-4; Streit (1931-32).

55. See also Paulinus 1791:281n3 and 1792:46.

56. On spelling errors for Indian words in European manuscripts and early editions, see pp. 87, 89.

57. Henri Omont: Missions archeologiques francaises en Orient aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siecles, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1902, p. 1189.

58. Etienne Fourmont: Catalogus codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Regiae. Pars prima, complectens codices manuscriptos orientales, Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1739, p. 435.

59. Not listed in Streit 1931.

60. See note 58.

61. Omont: Missions archeologiques, p. 843. See also p. 845, for a similar statement in a letter dated 20 February 1732.
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The Ezourvedam Manuscripts, Excerpt from Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century
Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher
W. Norman Brown Professor of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania
© 1984 -- John Benjamins B.V.



The Ezourvedam Manuscripts

The Pondicherry Manuscripts

The manuscripts which Ellis saw in Pondicherry in 1816 can no longer be traced. The latest exhaustive reference to them is by Father Hosten, in three successive publications. He says (1923:137n28) that "what remains of them is in my possession now for study, lent to me by the authorities of the Catholic Mission of Pondicherry." Two years earlier he stated (1921:500; cf. also 1922:65) that manuscripts of the archives of the Procure des Missions Etrangeres de Paris, "bound up in two large tomes," had been with him, at Darjeeling, since the end of 1918. I am not sure how to interpret his reference to the size of the EzV: "The manuscripts contain portions of the Ezour-Vedam (Yajurveda), about which there has been no little commotion in Oriental circles since 1761, in Voltaire's time; but, whereas the Ezour-Vedam printed at Yverdon in 1778 contains only 8 books, the Pondicherry manuscripts of the Ezour-Vedam must have originally contained 42 books" (1922:65). For a reason which he explains no further, he seems to believe (1922:66; cf. also 1921:500) that "large portions still existing in 1816 have been lost."

In the description of manuscript No. 3, Ellis (1822:22) adds a remark on the handwriting of the entire collection: "The handwriting of this manuscript differs from that in which the Ezour Vedam is written, but agrees with that of the Sama Vedam and of all the others in which Sanscrit and French are found together." In other words, according to Ellis the handwriting of the EzV manuscript is different from that of all other texts in the collection. On the other hand, Hosten (1922:65-6; cf. also 1921:500; 1923:138n28) reports as follows on a visit to Pondicherry, in 1921: "During my visit to Pondicherry, a few minutes' search in the Cathedral Church registers, where many entries were in Father Mosac's handwriting, showed clearly that all the Pondicherry manuscripts on the Vedas, both transliterations and translations, are by Father Mosac. ... I had a photograph made of some of the entries in the Cathedral Church registers, signed by Father Mosac, and as I have photographs of parts of his translations, even the most exacting critics will be able to satisfy themselves as to the identity of the writings."
As indicated earlier, Hosten believes that Mosac is the author of the French translation only, not of the Sanskrit original. "The fact that at times, he confesses that he does not understand the Sanskrit text proves also that he is not the author of the Sanskrit texts" (1922:65; cf. 1921:500; 1923:138n28). If Hosten's reference is indeed to marginal notes to the Sanskrit sections, in Mosac's handwriting, it is also possible that these manuscripts were Mosac's own copies, of both the French and the Sanskrit sides, of earlier documents, in which he occasionally was unable to establish the correspondence between the two. As Castets (1921:577) puts it: "even if the whole could be identified to be in the handwriting of the said Father, the only safe conclusion would be that this missionary had written down the document found in the Pondicherry Mission Library, but, not necessarily that he was rather the discoverer or the translator."

Although he does not explicitly say so, Castets himself seems to have seen the Pondicherry manuscripts, some time before 1935. He reports (1935:10) that "in the course of time the collection has been bound in two volumes, and is even considerably deteriorated." He also suggests (1935:12-3) that there are variant readings in the different manuscripts: "If Mr. Ellis had been able to compare the manuscript that was handed to him with the Yverdon edition, he would have discovered that if one confronts the three manuscripts -- Voltaire's, A. du Perron's, and the one found at the Mission -- with one another, not one is found to be identical with any other, at least not as far as the contents are concerned." And he adds (14), about Ellis' No. 2: "The Ezour Vedam in this copy-book contains eight books, even as the printed Vedam; but, as I indicated earlier, it differs from the other three manuscripts by many additions, in the form of introductions, or even additions of several of these books." Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to verify these data.

Castets also has different ideas on the original owner -- and annotator -- of the Pondicherry manuscripts. He quotes (1935:45) a letter by Calmette to show that, to acquire manuscripts in India, paying money for them was not necessarily a sufficient condition: "Less than six years ago two missionaries, one in Bengal and another one right here [i.e., in the Telugu area], have been misled. Mr. Didier, an engineer for the King, gave 60 roupies for a so-called Vedam, in favor of Father Pons, the superior of Bengal." From this Castets (46) draws the conclusion, first that Calmette fully realized that the Vedas at Pondicherry were nothing more than "counterfeits, composed and sold by Brahmin sharks, to impose upon them" and, second, that Calmette "provides us the name of the principal supplier of the collection, namely Father Pons, who is also the famous marginal annotator of these Pseudo-vedams." And Castets concludes (46) with a touching description of Pons' activities: "Father Pons, for a long time a missionary among the Telugus, Superior of the Mission in Bengal from 1728 to 1733, eminent sanskritist, author of a treatise on Sanskrit prosody, great collector of Sanskrit books, who finally, reduced by age and exhaustion, to forced leisures, at the seat of the Mission, in Pondicherry, enjoyed himself revising his past acquisitions, even in the year of his death which came in December 1751 or January 1752." The following year Srinivasan repeats (1936:132) that Father Pons "was a victim of the famous hoax perpetrated in connection with the Yajur Veda," on the authority of Castets.

Voltaire's and Anquetil's Manuscripts

As far as Voltaire's copy of the EzV is concerned, we know that he received it from Maudave, a well known figure in French colonial history.62 Louis-Laurent de Federbe, chevalier and later comte de Maudave,63 was born on 25 June 1725 at the castle of Fayet, near Grenoble. From April to July 1756 he took part in Louis XVs expedition to Menorca.64 In May 1757 he left for India, with Count Lally. He arrived in Pondicherry on 28 April 1758,65 and participated in the capture of Fort St. David and the siege of Madras. On 26 June 1758 he married Marie Nicole,66 the daughter of the commander of Karikal, Abraham Pierre Porcher des Oulches.67 When all senior officers were recalled in September 1759, Maudave returned to France;68 he arrived at Lorient on 2 February 1760. During the voyage he wrote part of a "Memoire sur les establissemens a la cote de Coromandel,"69 which he completed after his arrival on Menorca, on 6 December 1760. We have seen earlier that it was on his way from Paris to Mahon that Maudave visited Voltaire at Ferney.

On 28 March 1761 Maudave again embarked for India, aboard the Fidelle. He arrived at the Ile de France (Mauritius) just after the news of the fall of Pondicherry (14 January 1761) reached the island. He convinced the governor to give him the Fidelle, and he sailed for Negapatam, where he arrived on 4 April 1762. Under the pretext of lightening the suffering of his compatriots in India, he actually tried to rally them around Yusuf Khan, of Madura.70 Not only did he lose the confidence of the Dutch and had to move to Tranquebar, he also lost the support of the Council of the Ile de France who terminated his mission on 31 January 1764. Seven weeks later he left Tranquebar and joined his family on Mauritius. Maudave spent two years and a half on the Ile de France, managing a large estate but not politically inactive. When the General Assembly at Port-Louis decided to send two representatives to Paris to discuss the colonization of Madagascar, Maudave was one of them. He arrived at Lorient on 9 May 1767. Ten months later he sailed again, and, via the Ile de France, reached Fort Dauphin on 5 September 1768, as the "commander on behalf of the King of the island of Madagascar."71 After two years he was recalled, and by the end of 1770 he left Madagascar for Mauritius.

But, once again, in 1773, Maudave sailed for India, "in search of a military career under one of the Indian princes."72 He traveled to Calcutta, Lucknow, Delhi, and Hyderabad; after four years he was taken seriously ill, and died at Masulipatam, on 22 December 1777.73 The British Government, for obvious reasons, refused to grant him the honors due to his rank.74

From this short biography Maudave appears to us as the prototype of the eighteenth century adventurer. "His life was a true novel;"75 and, "intelligent, courageous, and a natural wanderer, Maudave is one of those who have gone everywhere but never arrived at anything."76 Yet, he also took an active interest in all parts of the world he visited, especially India. From the time of his first return from India, in 1760, when he visited Voltaire and when d'Alembert described him as "a man of intelligence and merit" (Best. 8496) and "an Indian" (Best. 8567), his advice was also sought and appreciated by the foreign minister of Louis XV. "Choiseul soon recognized Maudave as someone unusually well acquainted with matters Indian, on whose information he could rely: the puzzle of Hinduism, Oriental customs, the location of the warriors and neutrals, he knows everything, gives his opinion on everything. And this good soldier occasionally also turns out to be an accomplished economist. He bristles with ideas on the commercial possibilities of our establishments and on the ways to reorganize them. He supports his speeches with writings which he composed during the long journey."77

To be sure, the religions of India were not Maudave's primary concern. He states himself, at the end of the unpublished letter to Voltaire: "I feel I have neither the energy nor the knowledge, Sir, that would be required to explain to you here and now the foundations of Indian religion. To tell you the truth, this subject has roused my curiosity only intermittently. The political situation of the country, its history, and the ways and means to make our Establishments in it more flourishing, have occupied most of my time. These things appeal more to my taste and interest me more professionally. The abominable superstitions of these peoples arouse my indignation. They are a disgrace to human reasoning. But is there any place on the earth where reason is not corrupted by superstition?" Yet, he was also not totally uninterested in the religions of India, We are told by d'Alembert (Best 8567) that Maudave was anxious to meet Voltaire and "take his orders for the Bramins." He did write Voltaire extensively on the "Lingam." Unless there have been other similar letters to the philosopher of Ferney during or right after Maudave's first stay in India, Malesherbes' indication that this is only an extract from a longer letter may very well be confirmed by d'Alembert's statement in another letter to Voltaire (Best. 8458): "He has written you recently a great letter (une grande lettre) on India, which will be for him the best way to commend himself to you." We also know from the unpublished letter that Maudave knew the EzV well, so as to be able to quote from it the relevant passages on the "Lingam." This in turn is confirmed by two marginal notes in what was to become Voltaire's copy of the EzV. Twice on the same folio (fol. 14 recto = book 3, ch. 6), a handwritten note, probably by Maudave to himself, says: "Copy these prayers in the letter to M. de Voltaire." The prayers do not appear in Malesherbes' "extract," but may have figured elsewhere in the letter.

The "extract" raises more questions than it answers. If Maudave was convinced that Martin was the translator of the EzV, and if he wrote so to Voltaire, how do we explain the latter's belief, after he met Maudave in person, that the translator was the high priest "of the island of Cheringam," together with detailed information on this gentleman's knowledge of French and his defense of Law? On the one hand, Maudave assured Voltaire that the translation "was very faithful"; on the other hand, he writes in the letter (9- 10): "I must confess that this manuscript is quite strange. I find in it propositions on the unity of God and on the creation of the universe, which are so direct and so much in agreement with our own Sacred Books, that I cannot have full confidence in the accuracy of the translation."

In fact, Voltaire's general enthusiasm about the French EzV, as described earlier in this volume, is in strange contrast with Maudave's own misgivings. He believes in the antiquity of the Sanskrit language and its EzV, but he does not agree with the way in which the Jesuits interpret -- and translate -- the Vedas. According to them, "the four books of the Vedam contain our principal dogmas and even some of our mysteries." If the Jesuits are right in saying that they have discovered Latin words in the Vedas, the Vedas must be very recent. And this cannot be true. But, then, the Jesuits find traces of their own faith in every part of the world: in the Chinese books, in Mexico, among the savages of South America!

All this seems to indicate at least one thing: Maudave was puzzled by the French EzV, to the point of doubting its authenticity. But he was convinced that it was a translation from a Sanskrit original -- even though elsewhere in the letter (9) he calls it "a Malabar dialogue" --; to him no one must have even hinted at the fact that this might be a text written in French by the missionaries themselves. This leaves us with the question: did Maudave receive a copy of the EzV directly from the Jesuits, or did he obtain it through an intermediary? The sole conceivable argument in favor of the former alternative is Maudave's specific reference to the Jesuits and to the translator, Father Pierre Martin, in his unpublished letter. However, since this letter has remained unknown so far, the latter alternative has been invariably adhered to. Two possible intermediaries have been mentioned over the years.

The first intermediary that has been considered is Maudave's father-in-law, Abraham Pierre Porcher des Oulches, whose name appears repeatedly in the official documents of the French East India Company.78 He appears as the "chef de la Compagnie" at Masulipatam when his daughter Jeanne Marie was born on 28 October 1736. He was the commander at Karikal, at least from August 1754 until April 1758 and is still so described at the birth of Maudave's daughter Louise Marie Victoire Henriette, on 19 April 1760. Between his posts at Masulipatam and Karikal he was a member of the "Conseil Superieur," and he is again given that title from 6 November 1759 onward.

Porcher des Oulches seems to have taken pride in sending Indian documents to Europe. In his chapter: "On the religion of the Indians," de La Flotte79 refers to one of his sources as "a manuscript brought from Pondicherry in 1767, and sent through the intervention of Mr. Porcher, the former governor of Karikal. One sees, on one side, the Indian text, and on the other side figures of all the deities painted by a local painter, after the originals which are in de Pagodas." It was once again Porcher's son-in-law, Maudave, who brought these and/or similar documents with him when he returned to France on 9 May 1767. Anquetil, who returned from India on 15 March 1762, appears to refer to the same manuscripts, when he says (1808:3.122n) several years later: "A few years after my return to France, I was consulted about four large volumes in-folio, with figures of Indian deities, accompanied by a French translation, for which he (= Maudave) asked the King's Library a considerable price; the affair was arranged."80

Anquetil mentions at least twice the possibility that Maudave obtained the manuscript of the EzV from his father-in-law. But it is clear that, according to him, it is more likely that it came from the papers of Louis Barthelemy. I have already quoted Anquetil's handwritten note to that effect in his own manuscript of the EzV. In a note to Paulinus' Voyage he repeats (1808:3.122n): "The translation of the Ezour-Vedam, made by an interpreter of the Company, passed into the hands of Mr. de Merave (sic), while at the same time another copy remained among the papers of Mr. Barthelemy, which went to his nephew. Father Coeurdoux who, in 1771, mentioned to me the copy of his learned confrere Father Mosac, evidently did not know that the Ezour-Vedam existed in French, in the hands of Mr. Barthelemy; and Mr. de Merave, the purchaser, who wanted the merit of his present for himself, surely did not divulge his acquisition in India. He obtained it either from Mr. Barthelemy himself, or from Mr. Porcher, the commander of Karikal near the famous pagoda of Chalambron, whose daughter he had married."81

In fact, at an earlier stage of his career Anquetil mentions (1771:1,1 .lxxxiii) Barthelemy only, and this is also the way in which the origin of the EzV is reported by Sainte-Croix (1778:viii): "This work comes originally from the papers of Mr. Barthelemy, second of the Council of Pondichery. Mr. de Modave, known for his intelligence and for his services, brought a copy of it from India." All this speculation derives, of course, from the way in which Anquetil himself acquired his own copy. As indicated earlier (see p. 8), based on a note in the manuscript, he obtained it, via Court de Gebelin, from Tessier de la Tour, nephew of Barthelemy. He returns to this in his note on Paulinus' Voyage, together with speculations on the origin of the text as translated, in his opinion, by Mosac: "Mr. Barthelemy, second of Pondichery, who was in charge of the interpreters, was a covert Protestant. It is through Mr. Court de Gebelin, also a protestant, that I have been given access to the copy of Mr. Teissier de la Tour, nephew of Mr. Barthelemy. The translation of the Ezour Vedam was sent to the King's library in 1761.
Father Mosac, formerly the superior of the Jesuits at Schandernagor, which was taken by the English in 1757, could then very well be at Pondichery. In 1771 Father Coeurdoux mentioned to me that he was the translator of a Vedam in which Indian polytheism is refuted. In view of the precarious situation in which the Mission found itself, he may have tried to show his work to the secretary of the Council at Pondichery, to gain his support. Did Father Coeurdoux know this? Or else, the book may have existed among the Brahmes of Scheringam, who through their contacts with the French undoubtedly became more easy-going in matters of religion."

What was formerly Voltaire's copy of the EzV contains, written by a different hand, a "Notice sur le Zozur Bedo, et sur sa traduction." This notice which, according to a third hand, is "par Mr Court de Gebelin," elaborates in similar terms on the origin of the text. It is, as Pinard de la Boullaye (1922:213n1) rightly remarks, "highly fanciful;" yet, it deserves to be quoted in full in the original for it is also characteristic of Vedic speculations of the time.

"Zozur est un mot des langues du Gentoo, et compose du mot Zo contre & du mot Zur poison. Ce Vedam ne peut etre mieux nomme.

"Ce Livre doit avoir ete compose dans le Malabare. Biach qu'on y fait parler sans cesse, ou l'un des Interlocuteurs etant une Divinite de ce Pays, qui ne se trouve point dans les deux plus anciens livres des Bramines le Shastah de Brama, & l'Aughtorrah-Bhade: qui est de meme que le Vedam du Malabar une innovation du livre original le Shastah de Brama. A l'exemple de ces innovateurs, nombre de gens d-esprit & pleins de genie s'eleverent il y a environ 3400. ans contre les doctrines recues & s-exprimerent sur tous les points de la Philosophie et de la Theologie Indienne avec beaucoup de liberte et de force: Ainsi le Zozur doit etre de ce tems la, ayant ete fait dans le meme esprit.

"Par raport a sa Traduction, elle a ete faite par les ordres de M. Barthelemi premier Conseiller a Pondichery. Ayant grand nombre d'Interpretes pour lui, il leur fit traduire quelques ouvrages indiens avec toute l'exactitude possible: mais les guerres de l'Inde & la ruine de Pondichery ont entraine la perte de tout ce qu'il avoit rassemble sur ces objets: et il ne s'en est echape que la traduction du Zozur, dont il ne subsiste qu'un seul exemplaire complet. entre les mains de M. Teissier de la Tour neveu de M. leConsr. Barthelemy. C'est sur celui la que l'on a fait la Copie que l'on possede a la Bibliotheque de Sa Majeste, et que l'on n'avoit pas eu le tems d'achever sans doute lorsque M. de Modave s'embarqua pour revenir en Europe."

[Google translate: "Zozur is a word from the Gentoo languages, and consists of the word Zo against & from the word Zur poison. This Vedam cannot be better named.

"This Book must have been composed in Malabare. Biach that one does there talking incessantly, or one of the Interlocutors being a Divinity of that Country, who is not found in the two oldest books of the Bramines the Shastah of Brama, & the Aughtorrah-Bhade: which is the same as the Vedam of Malabar a innovation from the original book Brama's Shastah. Following the example of these innovators, number of people of spirit & full of genius arose about 3400 years against the doctrines received & expressed on all points of Indian Philosophy and Theology with great freedom and strength. So the Zozur must be from that time, having been done in the same spirit. "In relation to his Translation, it was made by the orders of Mr. Barthelemi, First Counselor in Pondicherry. Having a great number of interpreters for him, he had them translate some Indian works with all possible accuracy: but the wars of India & the ruin of Pondicherry resulted in the loss of all that he had gathered on these objects: and only the last translation of Zozur, of which only one complete copy remains, between the hands of M. Teissier de la Tour nephew of M. leConsr. Barthelemy. It's certain the one that we made the copy that we have in the Library of His Majesty, and which no doubt had not had time to complete when M. de Modave embarked to return to Europe."]

I have not been able to gather any information on Tessier -- or Teissier -- de la Tour. Louis Barthelemy is much better known; although his career in India runs parallel to that of Porcher des Oulches, of the two he is the more prominent one and holds the highest offices. His name appears repeatedly in the official documents of the French Company.82 He was born at Montpellier, circa 1695, came to India in 1729,83 and stayed there until his death at Pondicherry, on 29 July 1760. He served at Mahe, was a member of the council at Chandernagore, and was called to Pondicherry in 1742. His duties at Pondicherry were twice interrupted in later years: in 1748 he was appointed governor of Madras, and in 1753-54 he preceded Porcher as commander of Karikal. He rose to the rank of "second du Conseil Superieur," and in the short period in 1755, between the departure of Godeheu and the arrival of de Leyrit, Barthelemy's name appears first on all official documents. It should perhaps be mentioned, first, that on 22 February 1751 Barthelemy represented the father of the bride at the wedding of Jacques Law -- Dupleix was the witness for the bridegroom --, and second, that on 8 August 1758 he was godfather of Jacques Louis Law. These two entries seem to suggest that he was indeed close to the Law family, whose interpreter has been given credit for the translation of the EzV (see p. 28). It should also be pointed out that Barthelemy died more than half a year after Maudave -- and the EzV -- reached Lorient on 2 February 1760.84

The Company failed to found a successful colony on Madagascar, but was able to establish ports on the nearby islands of Bourbon and Île-de-France (today's Réunion and Mauritius). By 1719, it had established itself in India, but the firm was near bankruptcy. In the same year the Compagnie des Indes Orientales was combined under the direction of John Law with other French trading companies to form the Compagnie Perpétuelle des Indes [The Mississippi Company].
Lauriston Castle from the south

Law was born into a family of Lowland Scots bankers and goldsmiths from Fife; his father, William, had purchased Lauriston Castle, a landed estate at Cramond on the Firth of Forth and was known as Law of Lauriston. On leaving the High School of Edinburgh, Law joined the family business at the age of 14 and studied the banking business until his father died in 1688.

-- John Law (Economist), by Wikipedia

The reorganized corporation resumed its operating independence in 1723.

-- French East India Company, by Wikipedia

Jacques Alexandre Bernard Law, marquis de Lauriston
Birthdate: 1 February 1768
Death: 12 June 1828)
French soldier and diplomat of Scottish descent, and a general officer in the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars. He was born in Pondicherry in French India, where his father, Jean Law de Lauriston, was Governor-General. Jean Law de Lauriston was a nephew of the financier John Law. Jacques’ mother was a member of the Carvallho family of Portuguese traders.Lauriston Castle, in Scotland, was inherited by John Law in 1729. Lauriston is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.

Jacques Louis Law de Clapernon
Birthdate: 1758
Immediate Family:
Son of: Jacques François Law, comte de Tancarville and Maria de Carvalho
Husband of: Louise Law de Clapernon
Father: of Joseph Amédée Geneviève Saint Caprais Law de Clapernon

Jacques François Law
French: Jacques-Francois Law, Compte de Tancarville
Birthdate: 1724
Death: 1767 (42-43), Mauritius
Immediate Family: Son of William Law of Lauriston and Rebecca Desves de Percy
Husband of Maria de Carvalho
Father of Jacques Louis Law de Clapernon
Brother of Jean Law, baron de Lauriston; Jeanne Marie Law and Elisabeth Jeanne Law

Baron Jean Law de Lauriston
Birthdate: October 5, 1719
Death: July 16, 1797
Twice Governor General of Pondicherry. Law was a nephew of the financier John Law, who had founded the Banque Générale and in 1719 had helped re-finance the French Indies companies. Jean Law was a contemporary of Alivardi Khan. Jean Law’s son was soldier and diplomat Jacques Lauriston.

William Law of Lauriston
Birthdate: 1675
Death: 1752 (76-77)
Immediate Family: Son of William Law of Brunton, Baron of Lauriston and Jean Campbell
Husband of Rebecca Desves de Percy
Father of Jean Law, baron de Lauriston; Jeanne Marie Law; Jacques François Law, comte de Tancarville and Elisabeth Jeanne Law
Brother of John Law de Lauriston; Andrew Law of Lauriston and Jean Law of Lauriston

William Law of Brunton, Baron of Lauriston
Birthdate: estimated between 1608 and 1668
Death: September 1684, Paris, France
Immediate Family: Son of Reverend Mr. John Law of Waterfoot, Minister of the Gospel at Neilston and Agnes Shearer; Husband of Jean Campbell; Father of John Law de Lauriston; Andrew Law of Lauriston; William Law of Lauriston and Jean Law of Lauriston
Brother of John Law, goldsmith

A New Manuscript: BN Fonds Francais 19117

In the meanwhile, no one seems to have noticed the existence, in the Bibliotheque Nationale, of a third manuscript of the EzV. The catalogue: Ancien Saint-Germain Francais III. Nos. 18677-20064 du Fonds Francais (by L Auvray and H. Omont, Paris: Leroux, 1900), has the following entry: "19117, 'Zozur Bedo'; traduction francaise du YADJOUR VEDA,4c livre des Vedas. En huit livres. XVIIe-XVIIIe. Papier. ) 58 pages. 208 sur 205 millimetres. Cartonne. (Saint-Germain, Harlay 515.)." This is, indeed, another copy of the EzV, in eight books.

The manuscripts of the Harlay family were donated, by Achille IV de Harlay (died 23 July 1717) to Louis-Germain de Chauvelin (1685-1762), on 11 August 1716.85 The condition attached to the donation said that the manuscripts should stay with de Chauvelin and his male descendants until one of them died without further male descendants "revetus de charge de judicature." [Google translate: load bearing judicature.] At that time the manuscripts were to become the property of the Benedictines of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Chauvelin not only allowed the members of the Order to use the materials while he still held the usufruct; he also enriched the collection with documents which were his own full property.86 On 19 March 1755 he decided to transfer the collection to Saint-Germain, together with those manuscripts of which he himself was the owner.87 The manuscripts were transferred from the castle of Grosbois to the abbey. They remained a special fund while deposited there, until they were transferred, together with the other manuscripts of Saint-Germain, to the Bibliotheque Nationale, in 1865.88 There the entire collection was integrated into the "Troisieme Serie" of the Fonds Francais: manuscripts 15370 to 20064.89

These data do not entirely solve the problem of the origin of the third EzV manuscript. The donation of 11 August 1716 was accompanied by a catalogue which is, however, lost, with the result that it is no longer possible to ascertain which particular manuscripts were added to the collection by de Chauvelin.90 We can only presume that the EzV did not belong to the original collection of 1716, and that it was one of the latest additions; it is no. 515 in a collection of altogether 519 items. But, even then, the third EzV manuscript must have belonged to the collection by 1755, five years before Maudave brought his copy to Europe.

The principal problem that remains unsolved in all this is that in two handwritten catalogues at the Bibliotheque Nationale, manuscript "Harlay 515" is described as "Melanges cont. 110. pieces": in the "Catalogue des manuscrits de Monsieur** [Chauvelin]",91 and in the "Catalogue des mss. de la bibliotheque de feu Mre Achilles de Harlay, premier president du Parlement de Paris, passes depuis dans la bibliotheque de feu messire Louis- Germain Chauvelin, ancien garde des sceaux, et actuellement dans la bibliotheque de l'abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres, a Paris, 1762."92 [Google translate: Catalog of mss. of the library of the late Mre Achilles de Harlay, first Speaker of Parliament of Paris, since passed in the library of the late Messire Louis-Germain Chauvelin, former Keeper of the Seals, and currently in the library of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in Paris, 1762.]

Even assuming that the EzV manuscript did belong to the private collection of Louis-Germain de Chauvelin on 19 March 1755, it is no longer possible to investigate how and when he acquired it. The important fact is that it is the oldest EzV manuscript in Europe, even though no one ever took notice of it. It also shows that the terminus ante quem [Google translate: term before he] for the composition of the EzV, which until now was 1759 -- the time when Maudave left India --, has to be advanced with at least five years and possibly by more than that.

The new manuscript further complicates the problem of the original title of the French text. As I said earlier, the title in the manuscript is "Zozur Bedo." Yet, on two occasions on which the title is mentioned in the body of the text (pp. 214, 215), the scribe writes "leZourvedan" This seems to suggest that the copyist was familiar with the term "Zozur," but, at the same time, it is a clear indication that his original read "l ezourvedan" or ''l'ezourvedan.''

The Harlay manuscript will play an important role in the new edition of the text.

The Edition

There is no doubt that the three EzV manuscripts: A (= Anquetil), H (= Harlay), and V (= Voltaire), are closely related and derive from the same archetype. This archetype was already a copy, prepared by a scribe who was not familiar with the subject matter. He was especially unfamiliar with the Indian terms used in the text Hence all three manuscripts read: Noudo for Nondo (pp. 152, 153). Nilokouto for Nilokonto (p. 164), Chuelo for Chueto (p. 127). Ouguochino for Ougrocheno (pp. 152, 153) , etc. Were it not for the abbe Dubois93 (1825:2.448; 1906:694), I might not have been able to correct Toulochi, toutona, nasti, otsibo, toulochi, into: Toulochi, toulona nasti oto ebo toulochi (p. 204; Dubois: Tulasi-tulana-nasty, ataeva tulasi).

Of the three manuscripts, A and V are more closely related with one another than they are with H. E.g., p. 117 AV ont en H en ont; p. 157 A V du tout rim H rien du tout. On a number of occasions the better reading is preserved in AV. E.g., p. 126 AV a la tete H est la tete; p. 196 AV enfers H enfants; p. 196 AV Vedan H Divan; p. 198 AV damnes H demons. H also exhibits a number of omissions, which can be easily recognized, either as simple haplographies (e.g.. pp. 109; 195; 203), or because the words are necessary for the context (e.g., pp. 111; 137; 201). Only on a few occasions is it difficult to decide whether we are faced with omissions in H or additions in AV (e.g., pp. 117; 124; 169) . Passages which occur in AV only are printed in brackets.

Elsewhere the better reading appears in H. E.g., p. 150 H faites moy part de AV faites moy de, p. 200 H le tremblement de sa tete ebranle H l'ebranlement de sa tete ebranle. Eventually H is more faithful to its original. E.g., p. 190 AV sous la metamorphose d'un arbre H sous la metamorphose de l'arbre followed by an empty space. This seems to indicate that, in the archetype, either the name of the tree was not indicated, or that it was illegible. Cf. Dubois 1825:2.540 en prenant la forme d'un Vepou [margousier] = 1906:713 a vepu or margosa-tree.

Far more important is the fact, first, that H, like A, is complete, and, second, that it contains numerous shorter and longer passages that are missing in both A and V. This situation becomes particularly evident in the latter half of the text. One gets the impression that the scribe of the sub-archetype of A and V decided to shorten the text, by eliminating unnecessarily verbose and repetitious formulas. E.g., p. 171 H quels sont, Seigneur, ... ou nous vivons?, is reduced. in AV. to quels sont donc ces avantages?

Although in many cases the abbreviated version does not eliminate anything that is essential for the understanding of the text, it is evident that it is H that maintains the style and general atmosphere of the original throughout. In fact, there are indications that AV no longer reproduce the original text. E.g., p. 183. Biache announces "a few questions," but AV have maintained only one: "is there only one soul?"

Too elaborate a critical apparatus would be required to indicate the numerous passages -- both pure omissions and abbreviated circumlocutions -- in which AV differ from H.

For all these reasons, and except in cases in which A and V obviously preserve the better reading, the edition is based on H. The text will, therefore, be very different from Sainte-Croix'.

Punctuation, accentuation, and spelling of words generally are inconsistent in all three manuscripts, as they generally were in the 18th century. As far as possible, the edition follows H.

H -- and, hence, the edition --- uses "Ezour Vedan," as against "Ezourvedam" in A and V. Elsewhere in this volume I have maintained the latter spelling, for it is in this way that the text became known in Europe, and it is in this way that it has been referred to ever since.

For the same reason another inconsistency has been allowed. The two interlocutors of the EzV became known as "Biache" and "Chumontou." H consistently writes "Biach" and "Chumantou."

H has fewer chapter titles than A and V. It often adds headings in the margin, which, however, do not always correspond to the titles in A and V. The edition omits these marginal notes, but reproduces the titles in H.

The edition also follows H, rather than AV. in case of variants which, for all practical reasons, are identical. E.g., p. 125 AV je serois curieux de scavoir la priere qu'on luy addresse H quelle est fa priere qu'il lui adresse. Je serois curieux de la scavoir? This principle is applied even in cases where it is not clear whether AV actually preserve the original reading, or whether they have tried to improve on it. E.g., p. 111 AV qui n'aime que la verite et qui NE LIT que le vedan; p. 125 AV a regler sa maison a GOUVERNER son pais; hesitantly, p. 129 AV danseuses H danseurs.

Indian names create problems of their own. I have already indicated that the copyist of the archetype wrote nonsense words, which appear identically in the three manuscripts. In addition, the individual scribes have created numerous nonsense terms of their own. In all these cases the edition is based on the premise that at least the author of the French EzV knew the names and terms he used, and that it is therefore appropriate to restore Indian terms to the spelling which the original author may be presumed to have used. When AV and H display different but acceptable readings, the edition follows H. I have already referred to "Biache"/"Biach" and "Chumontou"/"Chumantou." Other examples: AV "Lingam" H "Linguam", A V "Chvarguam" H "Chuarguam", etc.

The edition makes yet another assumption, namely that in the original text Indian terms were spelled in a uniform fashion. This may not have been the case, but it would again not be possible to provide all relevant data without extensive critical notes. Instead, variants will be added in the Index of Indian terms. The sole exceptions to this assumption are "Chako" /"Choko" and "Chojonboumounou" /"Chuajanbou Mounou", which obviously reflect different pronunciations.



62. On Maudave generally, see B. Foury: Maudave et la colonisation de Madagascar, Paris: Societe de l'histoire des colonies francaises, 1956.

63. In the Actes de l'Etat Civil of Pondicherry for 19 April 1760, on the occasion of the birth of his daughter Louise Marie Victoire Henriette, his name appears as Henri Louis Laurent Dolizy de Maudave (Resume des Actes d l'Etat Civil de Pondichery de 1736 a 1760, ed. A. Martineau, Pondicherry: Socieste de l'histoire de l'Inde Francaise, 1919-20). Fourty (op. cit., p. 6n2) notes that, in official reports, the form "Modave" occurs more frequently than "Maudave." A Toussaint (Dictionnaire de biographie Mauricienne, Port-Louis: The Standard Printing Establishment, 1941-66, p. 462) uses the form "Faidherbe."

64. E. Guillon: "Port-Mahon. La France a Minorque sous Louis XV (1756-1763," in Nouvelles archives des missions scientifiques et litteraires 5, 1893, 265-382, especially 336-7.

65. H. de Closets d'Errey: Resume des lettres du Conseil Superieur de Pondichery a divers. Du 1er Aout 1725 au 31 Decembre 1742 et du 8 Decembre 1749 au 14 Novembre 1760, Pondicherry-Paris: Leroux, 1933, p. 174.

66. F.A. Aubert de la Chenaye-Desbois et Badier: Dictionnaire de la Noblesse, 3rd ed., Paris: Schlesinger, vol. 7, 1865, p. 884, wrongly calls her Catherine.

67. Henri Pouget de St. Andre: La colonisation de Madagascar sous Louis XV d'apres la correspondance inedite du Comte de Maudave, Paris: Librairie coloniale, 1886, p. 5, uses the variant "Porcher de Soulches."

68. Maudave's name appears twice in The DIary of Ananda Ranga Pillai, vol. 11, Madras: Government Press, 1927, p. 283, under the date of 27 January 1759. Both entries refer to military maneuvers, under Lally.

69. Now manuscript No. 575 at the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, in Paris.

70. On this period in Maudave's life, see S.C. Hill: Yusuf Khan. The Rebel Commandant, London: Longmans Green, 1914, passim.

71. See E. Daubigny: Choiseul et la France d'Outre-Mer apres le traite de Paris. Etude sur la politique coloniale au XVIIIe siecle, Paris: Hachette, 1892, pp. 130-47.

72. S.P. Sen: The French in India 1763-1816, Calcutta: Mukhopadhyay, 1958, p. 143. See there, the chapter on Maudave, pp. 143-9. Sen erroneously states (143) that Maudave "first came to India in 1773."

73. E. Gaudart: Catalogue des manuscrits des anciennes archives d l'Inde Francaise. Vol. 6: Yanaon, Mazulipatam et diverses localities, 1669-1793, Paris: Leroux, 1935, p. 42, No. 5180.

74. Gaudart: Catalogue, Vol. 1: Pondichery, 1690-1789, Paris: Leroux, 1922, p. 83, No. 288, quotes a letter from Bellecombe and Chevreau in Pondicherry to perrichon who was then administering the settlement of Masulipatam: the way in which the English treated Maudave "was dishonest but ... we have nothing to say in the matter." On the ambivalent power structure at Masulipatam at that time, see S.P. Sen: op. cit., pp. 110-1.

75. Guillon: op. cit., p. 336.

76. Ibid., pp. 336-7.

77. Foury: op. cit., p. 11.

78. I have attempted to reconstruct Porcher's career in India from the various publications of the Societe pour l'histoire de l'Inde Francaise. The following data are based on circa thirty entries which need not be listed here in detail.

79. De La Flotte: Essais historiques sur l'Inde, precedes d'un Journal de Voyages et d'une description geographique de la cote de Coromandel, Paris: Herissant, 1769, p. 167 n. a.

80. Foury (op cit., pp. 120-1) also mentions that this manuscript was brought back by Maudave, and that it was deposited in the King's Library. And he continues (121n1): "Perhaps this book on morals should be connected with the Sanskrit manuscript which Maudave proposes to send to Voltaire (cf. MS No. 1765 of the Museum) and with a note inserted in the Fragments sur l'Inde: "The man who wrote these memoirs has sent to the King's library the Cormovedam, and an old commentary on the Vedas. It is filled with predictions for every day of the year, and of religious principles for every hour.'" (See Fragments sur l'Inde, 1773, p. 44; Fragments on India, translated by Freda Bedi, Lahore: Contemporary India Publication, 1937, p. 25.) I hesitate to subscribe to Foury's conclusion because, although informants are mentioned in the Fragments sur l'Inde, Maudave is not one of them. Foury has a tendency to overrate Maudave's influence on Voltaire. For instance, "Maudave has played the role of informant for Voltaire in 1758 and 1759" (121n); in reality they did not meet before the end of 1760.

81. Castet's statement (1935:1) on the origin of the EzV is thoroughly confused: "In 1760 a superior officer of the East India Company, Mr. de Modave, returned to France from Pondicherry, and brought with him two French translations of an unknown text called Ezour Vedam. Mr. de Modave had found these manuscripts in the papers of his father-in-law, Mr. Barthelemy, second of the Conseil Supreme of Pondicherry, who died in that town in the same year. One of the translations was handed to Voltaire, whereas the other was deposited at the royal library." See also Lamalle 1937:179-80.

82. To reconstruct Barthelemy's career I have consulted the same range of source materials which I used earlier for Porcher des Oulches. See note 78.

83. I borrow this date from Castets who quotes (1935:1) a long passage from Gaudart, probably from the Catalogue de quelques documents des archives de Pondichery (1931), which I have not been able to consult. "He was a modest administrator, without ambition but extremely honest ... He retired in 1759 and, at the time of his death, left a considerable fortune. When the inventory of his succession was made, his widow, at her own request, made to the notary the following statement which reveals the feelings of true philanthropy that animated her husband: 'that she does not have a single slave of either sex, since her late husband had broken the seal of slavery whenever he acquired a slave.'"

84. Therefore, Castets (1921:578): "a copy of this text had next been brought from India, probably after M. Barthelemy's death, by another Pondicherry official, M. de Moldave," is wrong.

85. Leopold Delisle: Le cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Nationale, 3 vols. Vol. 2, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1874, p. 101.

86. Ibid., p. 47.

87. Ibid., p. 103.

88. Ibid., p. 51.

89. Ibid., p. 329.

90. Ibid., p. 101.

91. Henri Omont: Catalogue general des manuscrits francais. Nouvelles acquisitions francaises II. N05 3061-6500, Paris: Leroux, 1900, p. 48, No. 5744.

92. Ibid., p. 86, No. 5746.

93. We have seen earlier (see p. 44) that the abbe Jean Antoine Dubois had his own opinion on the composition of the EzV. I noted only recently that long passages in the EzV correspond to Dubois' text. These correspondences, even in Dubois' French version, are never verbatim, but too close to be accidental. The problem of Dubois' sources or the common source of Dubois and the EzV remains to be solved. References in this section -- and in the Index of Indian terms -- are to: Moeurs, institituions et ceremonies des peuples de l'Inde, 2 vols., Paris: 1825; and Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies, transl. Henry K. Beauchamp, 3rd ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906 (often reprinted).
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:02 am

Achille de Harlay
by Wikipedia France
Accessed: 9/26/20

A New Manuscript: BN Fonds Francais 19117

In the meanwhile, no one seems to have noticed the existence, in the Bibliotheque Nationale, of a third manuscript of the EzV. The catalogue: Ancien Saint-Germain Francais III. Nos. 18677-20064 du Fonds Francais (by L Auvray and H. Omont, Paris: Leroux, 1900), has the following entry: "19117, 'Zozur Bedo'; traduction francaise du YADJOUR VEDA,4c livre des Vedas. En huit livres. XVIIe-XVIIIe. Papier. ) 58 pages. 208 sur 205 millimetres. Cartonne. (Saint-Germain, Harlay 515.)." This is, indeed, another copy of the EzV, in eight books.

The manuscripts of the Harlay family were donated, by Achille IV de Harlay (died 23 July 1717) to Louis-Germain de Chauvelin (1685-1762), on 11 August 1716.85 The condition attached to the donation said that the manuscripts should stay with de Chauvelin and his male descendants until one of them died without further male descendants "revetus de charge de judicature." [Google translate: load bearing judicature.] At that time the manuscripts were to become the property of the Benedictines of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Chauvelin not only allowed the members of the Order to use the materials while he still held the usufruct; he also enriched the collection with documents which were his own full property.86 On 19 March 1755 he decided to transfer the collection to Saint-Germain, together with those manuscripts of which he himself was the owner.87 The manuscripts were transferred from the castle of Grosbois to the abbey. They remained a special fund while deposited there, until they were transferred, together with the other manuscripts of Saint-Germain, to the Bibliotheque Nationale, in 1865.88 There the entire collection was integrated into the "Troisieme Serie" of the Fonds Francais: manuscripts 15370 to 20064.89

These data do not entirely solve the problem of the origin of the third EzV manuscript. The donation of 11 August 1716 was accompanied by a catalogue which is, however, lost, with the result that it is no longer possible to ascertain which particular manuscripts were added to the collection by de Chauvelin.90 We can only presume that the EzV did not belong to the original collection of 1716, and that it was one of the latest additions; it is no. 515 in a collection of altogether 519 items. But, even then, the third EzV manuscript must have belonged to the collection by 1755, five years before Maudave brought his copy to Europe.

The principal problem that remains unsolved in all this is that in two handwritten catalogues at the Bibliotheque Nationale, manuscript "Harlay 515" is described as "Melanges cont. 110. pieces": in the "Catalogue des manuscrits de Monsieur** [Chauvelin]",91 and in the "Catalogue des mss. de la bibliotheque de feu Mre Achilles de Harlay, premier president du Parlement de Paris, passes depuis dans la bibliotheque de feu messire Louis- Germain Chauvelin, ancien garde des sceaux, et actuellement dans la bibliotheque de l'abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Pres, a Paris, 1762."92 [Google translate: Catalog of mss. of the library of the late Mre Achilles de Harlay, first Speaker of Parliament of Paris, since passed in the library of the late Messire Louis-Germain Chauvelin, former Keeper of the Seals, and currently in the library of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in Paris, 1762.]

Even assuming that the EzV manuscript did belong to the private collection of Louis-Germain de Chauvelin on 19 March 1755, it is no longer possible to investigate how and when he acquired it. The important fact is that it is the oldest EzV manuscript in Europe, even though no one ever took notice of it. It also shows that the terminus ante quem [Google translate: term before he] for the composition of the EzV, which until now was 1759 -- the time when Maudave left India --, has to be advanced with at least five years and possibly by more than that.

The new manuscript further complicates the problem of the original title of the French text. As I said earlier, the title in the manuscript is "Zozur Bedo." Yet, on two occasions on which the title is mentioned in the body of the text (pp. 214, 215), the scribe writes "leZourvedan" This seems to suggest that the copyist was familiar with the term "Zozur," but, at the same time, it is a clear indication that his original read "l ezourvedan" or ''l'ezourvedan.''

The Harlay manuscript will play an important role in the new edition of the text.

-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher

Achille de Harlay
Achille de Harlay, in Charles Perrault, "Des hommes illustres who appeared in France during this century" (1700)
Functions: Attorney General at the Parliament of Paris; First President of the Parliament of Paris
Titles of nobility: Count of Beaumont
Birth: March 7, 1536, Paris
Death: 23 October 1616 (at 80), Paris
Nationality: Kingdom of France Kingdom of France
Activity: Politician
Dad: Christophe de Harlay, Lord of Beaumont
Mother: Catherine Du Val
Spouse: Catherine de Thou
Child: Christopher II of Harlay
Other information
Owner of: Place Dauphine
Place Dauphine under the reign of Henri IV, by Chastillon. Claude Chastillon - Drawn from the French Topography or representations of several towns, villages, chasteaux, plans, fortresses, vestiges of antiquity, modern houses and others of the kingdom of France, Boisseau, Paris, 1655
Master: Louis Duret
Primary works: "Custom of Orleans", in 1583

Several Achilles Harlay held prominent seats of judges in Parliament of Paris in the late xvith century to the early xviith century1.

Achilles Ist Harlay

Achilles Ist Harlay is a magistrate French, born in Paris on March 7, 1536 and dead the 23 October 1616, first president of the Parliament of Paris from 1582 to 1611.

Son of Christophe de Harlay, Lord of Beaumont (now a commune of Beaumont-du-Gâtinais), president with mortar of the Parliament of Paris, and of Catherine Du Val.

Under the Old French Regime, mortar presidents are chamber presidents within parliaments.

Each parliament was chaired by a “first president” appointed by the king and was divided into several chambers (civil chamber, penal chamber, commercial chamber, chamber of maritime commerce, etc.). The most prestigious of these rooms is called the “Grand Chambre”.

The president who presides over it is the Mortar President, named after the “mortier” (a black velvet cap edged with gold).

A toque (/toʊk/[1] or /tɒk/) is a type of hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all. Toques were popular from the 13th to the 16th century in Europe, especially France....


• A toque, or sometimes touge, was the traditional headgear of various French magistrates.
• A low type in black velvet, called mortier (also rendered in English as mortarboard), was used by the président à mortier, president of a parlement (the royal highest court in a French province), and of the members of two of the highest central courts, cour de cassation and cour des comptes.
Andrea Mantegna: Ludovico III Gonzaga (detail from the frescoes of the Camera degli Sposi, 1465–74).

The square academic cap, graduate cap, cap, mortarboard (because of its similarity in appearance to the mortarboard used by brickmasons to hold mortar) or Oxford cap, is an item of academic dress consisting of a horizontal square board fixed upon a skull-cap, with a tassel attached to the centre.
In the UK and the US, it is commonly referred to informally in conjunction with an academic gown as a "cap and gown". It is also sometimes termed a square, trencher, or corner-cap. The adjective academical is also used....

The mortarboard is generally believed by scholars to have developed from the biretta, a similar-looking hat worn by Roman Catholic (and High Church Anglican) clergy. The biretta itself may have been a development of the Roman pileus quadratus, a type of skullcap with superposed square and tump (meaning small mound). A reinvention of this type of cap is known as the Bishop Andrewes cap. The Italian biretta is a word derived from the Medieval Latin birretum from the Late Latin birrus "large hooded cloak", which is perhaps of Gaulish origin, or from Ancient Greek πυρρός pyrrhos "flame-colored, yellow".

The cone-shaped red (seldom in black) biretta, related to the ancient Etruscan tutulus and the Roman pileus, was used in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to identify humanists, students, artists, and learned and blooming youth in general. The shape and the colour conveyed meaning: Red was considered for a long time the royal power, whether because it was difficult to afford vestments of such solid and brilliant dye or because the high symbolic meaning of blood and life, thus the power over life and death.

It is no accident that the capo (captain) headwear is found so often in Renaissance paintings: for example the highly famous one by Piero della Francesca of Federico da Montefeltro with his red cap. Campano wrote about these hats in his Life of Niccolò Fortebraccio, "he used to wear a red and high hat, the higher from the head the wider it became." Federico and Niccolò were Condottieri. The same cap is seen on Bartolomeo Colleoni, commander of the Venetian Armies in 1454, on the Duke Ludovico III Gonzaga and on John Hawkwood in his equestrian monument by Paolo Uccello. This cap as worn by the leading Italian nobles at the end of the fifteenth century became a symbol of their military and civil powers over Italian cities at a time when the whole of Europe was going to be deeply transformed by Italian influences.

-- Square academic cap, by Wikipedia

• A red toque is sometimes worn by German judges, primarily by justices on the Federal Constitutional Court.

-- Toque, by Wikipedia

The Universal Dictionary of Furetiere accurate at time of Louis XIV, there are ten presidents mortar to the Parliament of Paris, including the first President1.

The office of president with mortar is marketable, that is to say freely purchasable and transferable, under the condition of paying a transfer tax to the sovereign.However, to actually exercise the office, one must be approved by parliament in the form of a legal review. The office is therefore theoretically reserved for the holder of university degrees in law. The office confers, at the end of twenty years of exercise, hereditary nobility, but the system of heredity means that it is exercised, most often, only by people who are already noble.

In contemporary judicial justice, the equivalent of this function within the courts of appeal is that of “First president of the chamber”3.

-- Mortar chair, by Wikipedia

In 1558, he became adviser to the Parliament of Paris.

On May 30, 1568, he married Catherine de Thou, daughter of the first president Christophe de Thou, with whom he had a son, Christophe II de Harlay.

Christophe de Thou (or Christofle at the time) is a French magistrate born in Paris on October 28, 1508 1, died in Pontorson on 1st November 1582, first president of the Parliament of Paris from December 14, 1562 to his death.

Christophe de Thou, first president of the Parliament of Paris. Print by the engraver Léonard Gaultier, Pourtraictz of several illustrious men who have flory in France since the year 1500 until now.

Christophe de Thou was the son of Augustin de Thou, Lord of Bonneuil and of Villebon, president with mortar of the Parliament of Paris
2, died on March 6, 1554, and of Claude de Marle de Versigny (daughter of Jean de Marle, Lord of Versigny, and Anne du Drac). The couple [WIFE!] had 21 children, 14 of whom died in infancy.

-- Christophe de Thou, by Wikipedia

In 1572, he resumed his father's office as president with mortar in Parliament, which the latter had resigned on August 30, 1572. On the death of his father-in-law Christophe de Thou in 1582, Henri III appointed him the first president of the Parliament of Paris.

Statue of Achilles de Harlay on the facade of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris by Martial Thabard

He has remained famous for the firmness he showed during the Eighth Religious War on May 12, 1588 facing Duke Henri de Guise during the Day of the Barricades in Paris, in an unsuccessful attempt to restore order for the benefit of King Henry III. He replied to the Duke de Guise: "It is great pity when the valet drives out the master. Besides, my soul belongs to God, my heart belongs to my king, and my body is in the hands of the wicked, let them do what they want!"2. Embastellated by the leaguers and replaced by Barnabé Brisson as first president, he returned to his duties with the accession of Henri IV.

Chamfort attributed to him this caustic remark launched at Parliament: "If these gentlemen who talk did not make more noise than these gentlemen who sleep, that would greatly accommodate these gentlemen who listen"3.

In 1598, Achille Ist Harlay buys two-thirds of the property of the Abbey of Saint-Denis in Beaune-la-Rolande with its jurisdiction rights for 16,666 crowns.

Defending the Church and its affiliates was a high priority for the king, who initiated numerous acts of royal intervention against the nobles and local royal officials in his efforts to retain ecclesiastical support. First, Louis VI guarded the clergymen from local lords, who often stole property from monasteries and churches. He later defended the abbeys and priories from the financial burdens of heavy taxes imposed by royal officials. The king was so adamant about maintaining the security of the monasteries that he destroyed the fortifications of a traditional royal supporter, Burchard of Montmorency, who had refused to accept the decision of the royal court in a case of dispute with the Abbey of Saint-Denis...

The Church often offered political support to the king through its ecclesiastical authority. In politics, “archbishops and bishops from northern and north-eastern sees were among the Capetians’ most important supporters” because of the crown’s ability to protect them.89 High-ranking church officials supported the monarch by applying ecclesiastical pressure on the opposing castellans.90 Abbot Suger described how the clergy met at a council in Beauvais to renounce Thomas of Marle as a noble through the means of an anathema supported by a papal legate.91 Church officials had excommunicated another local lord named Leo before he died along with his men during the siege of his castle, Meung-sur-Loire, in 1103.92 Hugh Balver of Laversine received excommunication for his hostile acts towards a town under the ownership of the Abbey of Saint-Denis.93 A dispute arose between the king and Hugh Le Puiset in 1111, and a royal charter described the conflict as a “feudal and ecclesiastic coalition against Hugh Le Puiset.”94 This display of ecclesiastical assistance demonstrates the willingness of the Church to support the king against insubordinate nobles, especially those who had threatened the interests of the monasteries....

Learning from his earlier mistake, Louis VI was later careful to justify his acts of warfare against the nobles through legal means. One of the first nobles the French monarch challenged was Burchard of Montmorency, who had attacked the lands of the Abbey of Saint-Denis. Before advancing against Burchard and his allies, Louis VI called the baron to his court to stand trial for his actions. On another occasion, the king fought Mathew of Beaumont for improperly seizing the castle of Luzarches from his father-in-law. The king advanced against Beaumont only after the Baron had not presented himself at the king’s court upon royal command. Even the monarch’s half-brother, Philip, was not exempt. After granting two castles to Philip, the king summoned him to court to answer claims that he had mistreated the poor. In 1109, Louis VI called Haimo of Berry to court for a case involving the absconding baron in an inheritance suit. Military forces, led personally by the king, captured Haimo in Berry, brought him to trial, and finished the inheritance case.111...

Another suit occurred between Hugh Le Puiset and Abbot Bernier of Saint Florentin in Bonneval. Here, the baron forced multiple payments of gîte on the abbey for its lands of Baignolet, and the king ruled in favor of the Church again, declaring that Puiset could ask for the gîte only once a year.126 Earlier in the reign, Louis VI had sent word to all of the ecclesiastical and lay barons in the domain “that he concedes to the abbey of Saint-Denis a market at Touri (on Beauce), and abolishes the oppressive customs established on the land of this abbey by the seigneurs of Puiset.”127 For the second time, the king forced Hugh Le Puiset to abandon his claims to unjust customs publicly.128 These examples show that the nobility were no longer completely disregarding royal commands and court decisions. The king’s military campaigns contrasted with Philip I’s lack of enthusiasm towards the end of his reign. If the castellans did not adhere to royal orders, they at least had to weigh the gains and losses of potential retaliation for their insubordination. Lords began to understand that ignoring the crown now presented the possibility of military attacks from the throne.

-- The Consolidation of Local Authority Through the Defense of the church in the Royal Domain of France Under Louis VI (1101-1137), by Paul Westley Bush

In 1607, Achille Ist Harlay receives the privilege to develop the Place Dauphine in Paris, by concession of King4.

It was he who judged Ravaillac in 1610.

François Ravaillac is a French regicide born in 1577 in Angoulême and executed on May 27, 1610 in Place de Grève in Paris, for the assassination of Henri IV, King of France, on May 14, 1610.

A tormented spirit, brought up in hatred of the Huguenots, he was subject to frequent mystical visions in the years preceding his crime. During his trial he claims to have acted alone, accomplishing a divine mission. The members of his family suffer the consequences of his act....

He was sentenced to death by the Parliament of Paris 18 after a ten-day trial which concluded with the isolated act of a Catholic fanatic17. During his trial, he presented his act as a divine mission19 and claimed to have acted alone. Subject to issue four times20, he led the May 27 Place de Grève where he was quartered after long hours of torture. Its members reduced to ashes are thrown to the wind while the hysterical crowd disperses the rest of his body21...

The family's property is seized, his house in Angoulême is razed, with a ban on using the land for building. Regicide of siblings are forced to change their name on pain of death18.

His parents are forced into exile. They settled in the small isolated hamlet of Rosnay, currently located in the commune of Lavigny in Franche-Comté. As Franche-Comté was then part of the Holy Roman Empire, they thus escaped threats. The name of Ravaillac is gradually transformed into Ravaillard and Ravoyard4.

-- Francois Ravaillac, by Wikipedia

He resigned his charge on March 29, 1611 during the investigation of the Escoman affair: in 1611, charges were brought against the Duke of Épernon, Jean-Louis Nogaret of La Valette, concerning his involvement in the assassination of King Henry IV. The accuser, Mademoiselle Jacqueline d'Escoman5, companion of the Marquise de Verneuil, implicates her mistress and accuses her of having organized the assassination with the help of Épernon. A trial conducted by a tribunal whose Achilles Ist Harlay is first president, hears the witnesses, including Verneuil and Épernon. The first (and only) arrested taken by the court is ultimately the continued detention of Mademoiselle d'Escoman. Fifteen days after the arrest, Harlay is retiring. On July 30, his successor sentences Escoman to life imprisonment for slander6.

The street Harlay, which limits the Paris courthouse west, was named in his honor. A statue of Achilles Ist Harlay is located on one of the facades of the City Hall of Paris7.

His descendants: a dynasty of magistrates in the Paris Parliament

• Achilles I st Harlay (1536-1616)
• His son, Christophe II de Harlay (born around 1570, died in 1615), Count of Beaumont, was advisor, then president of the Parliament of Paris (in 1582) and ambassador to England from 1602 to 1607. He married on June 3, 1599 Anne Rabot, lady of Illins and Hautefort.
o Their son, Achille II de Harlay, born in 1606, died on June 7, 1671, was count of Beaumont, adviser to the Parliament of Paris (1628-1635), master of requests (1635-1661), councilor of state. He married on October 18, 1638 Jeanne-Marie de Bellièvre (died on March 19, 1657 at the age of 40), daughter of Nicolas de Bellièvre, Lord of Grignon and mortar president of the Parliament of Paris.
 Their son, Achille III de Harlay, born on1st August 1639, died July 23, 1712, Count of Beaumont, Lord of Grosbois, was King's Counsel to Parliament (1657-1667) then Attorney General (1667-1689) and finally First President of the Parliament of Paris8. He married on September 12, 1667 Anne-Madeleine de Lamoignon, daughter of Guillaume Ier de Lamoignon, who was also First President of the Parliament of Paris4.
 Their son, Achille IV de Harlay, born on July 11, 1668, died July 23, 1717 9, Count of Beaumont, Marquis de Bréval, Counselor in Parliament (1689), Advocate General (1691), Counselor of State (1697). This is a small-son-great Achilles Ist Harlay2 . He got married on February 2, 1693 with Louise Renée de Louët (c. 1672-1749 10), only daughter of Robert-Louis du Louët, marquis de Coëtjunval (in Ploudaniel), dean of the Parliament of Brittany and Renée Le Borgne de Lesquiffiou, owner of the castle of Lesquivit in Dirinon.
 Their only daughter, Louise-Madeleine de Harlay, born in 1694, died on September 7, 1749 11, married on September 7, 1711 Christian-Louis de Montmorency-Luxembourg, (born on February 9, 1675, died 23 November 1746 in Paris), Duke and Prince of Tingry, Lieutenant-General of the Armies of the King and of the Province of Flanders, Marshal of France4. At least six children are born from their union.

But by the death of the Maréchale de Montmorency in September 1749, "the elder branch of the House of Harlay, known as the Counts of Beaumont, and all this House [...] is reduced to a single person, who is Madame la President of Crevecœur, daughter of the late Mr. Harlay de Celly, State Councilor and granddaughter of Mr. Chancellor Boucherat."11


The Harlay family papers are kept in the National Archives under the number 394AP 12.

Notes and references

1. Julien Broch, "A conservative judicial body of the State: Parliament in the speeches of the First President Achille Ier de Harlay (1536-1611)", Justice et Etat, Proceedings of the AFHIP international conference (Aix-en-Provence, September 12 and 13, 2013), 2014, p. 85-107 (ISBN 978-2-7314-0956-7)
2. "Encyclopedia of the People of the World: Universal Directory of Sciences", volume 13, searchable [1] [archive]
3. Characters and Anecdotes, n°1164.
4. [2] [archive]
5. Henry IV "Political Assassination" [archive]
6. Files on Henry IV and other historical figures of royalty [archive]
7. [3] [archive]
8. [4]. [archive]
9. He is buried "in the cemetery of Saint-Paul, in Paris, as he had requested". Annals of the Historical & Archaeological Society of Gâtinais, 1911, p. 304.
10. She died at the Bellechasse convent at the age of 77 and was then buried in Beaumont-Du-Gâtinais. Mercure de France, May 1749, p. 229-230. Online. [archive]
11. Mercure de France, October 1749, p. 210-211. Online. [archive]
12. See the notice in the virtual inventory room of the National Archives [archive]



• Achilles de Harlay, first president of the Parliament of Paris, in Charles Perrault, The illustrious men who appeared in France during this century, at Antoine Dezallier, 1700, volume 2, p. 51-52 (read online) [archive]

External links

• Authority records :
o Virtual international authority file
o International Standard Name Identifier
o National Library of France ( data )
o University documentation system
o Gemeinsame Normdatei
• data BnF: Achille de Harlay (1536-1616) [ archive ]
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