CHRISTIANITY IN INDIA FROM BEGINNINGS TO THE PRESENT


  
I. INTRODUCTION
Robert Eric Frykenberg's book "Christianity in India: From Beginning to the Present" (Oxford History of the Christian Church, Oxford, 2008) is a worth reading material for those who wish to learn a detail account on the history of Christianity in India. There are several other books found in the market in the same subject also. Like others, this book also gathers and compiles most of the sequential accounts of Christianity in about two thousands years of history, but has critically evaluates most of those historical facts and accounts which impacted the most in different segment of history. The author has adventured into the vague subject, and skillfully demonstrated a well organized work and featured overall story of faith in Christ in India.
The title of the book tells that it is a historical account of Christianity in brief, within a certain period of time: 'From Beginning to the Present' which simply means that the Christian history in India stepped on the very days when Christian faith was brought to India by Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, with ample background information, but 'to the Present' must be understood till the date of its publication in AD 2008. The book does not only compile the historical accounts, incidents and some major turning points of the Christianity in India, but it, through all well-organized chapters, presents a thorough evaluation of the missionary attempts and the results, the seed (gospel) and the soil (the Indian subcontinent, peoples and social structures); and growing plant and its fruits (the impacting growth of Christianity).
The highlighted theme of the book can be drawn from the author's quote from a bishop of Dornakal, Vedanayagam Azzariah, "The religion of Christ is one of the most dynamic factors in the world. It always bursts its boundaries, however strong and rigid those boundaries may be. It refuses to be confined to any race, class, or caste. It seeks to embrace all."[1] These words make clear why the book is written and for what purpose. It is his acknowledgement that the Christianity is an ever-growing religion. But to make this point appreciated he highlights on every related aspect of the historical course that hinders or eases with much careful validation and critics.  In one sense, the aim of author is to give credit to a driving force (God at work) behind the unstoppable spread of Christian faith throughout India and beyond. And yet in accepting this fact he pays attention on the various aspects, including all contemporary facts and forces the socio-political, religio-cultural and geographic-economic situation in both local and global orientation.

II. SUMMARY OF THE BOOK
The introductory chapter argues that one should have a minimum knowledge about the land and its variety of cultural segments, which is collectively called India. It is a continent in itself or subcontinent as the writer describes. Same idea is further discussed in the second chapter. The writer begins with a discussion about the initial implantation of the ‘Word of God’ in India, along with the expansion of Christianity across the world. He highlights on the primal religions in the native India, among which Christianity was accepted as one of the earliest religions. He attempts to lay down the very foundation of history of Christianity in India on this fact. It is taken for granted that the Apostle Thomas came to India in AD 52 and through his all life-efforts in Christ he was able to leave seven congregations who then left to carry the mission of sharing their faith to their neighbors. The Christian mission still is moving forward even in our days more than any other times in the history.
Third chapter explores the contexts of the growing movements (crusades) and the classical religious traditions within the country. An aggressive religiosity of different segments were the forces which pushed forward to win all in the name of God or gods, which had impacted most of the of European Christendom, and on the other hand, the invading of all others into own religion, the Islam became non-stoppable in the entire Middle-East. In this chapter some localized terms like dharma-karma, Al Hind, and Dar-ul-Islam are the topics discussed to evaluate the context of all those rivalry religious groups, the Islamic crusade in attempting occupy the land and Hindu retaining as it was. Chapter 4 focuses on Thomas Christians and Thomas tradition in India. The writer argues that canonical belief in the significance of the arrival and survival of Thomas Christians from the very first century and onwards is really important to lay a foundational understanding about the entire history of Indian Christianity.
The chapter 5 examines about the expansion of the Catholic Christianity in India. In the beginning it was particularly outsiders' effort to come down to coastal Goa and its periphery. The Portuguese traders and missionaries, and later the Spanish gunmen with assurance of having Roman order succeeded in establishing the colonial rule. Chapter sixth further tells why the Catholics failed to make any significant connections within Mughal India. Yet, in the centuries which followed the earliest and strongest expressions of indigenous Christianity anywhere in the continent in both ideological and institutional forms, continued to survive in those communities that still claimed and accepted the apostolic tradition of St Thomas as the historic basis for their origin and as the doctrinal basis for their ecclesiastical authority. This chapter highlights how the missionaries collaborated with the timely raised leaders, who acted as dubashis, who had learned to be communicator of gospel by interpreting languages, writing and being mediators. Those Christian Dubashis were the go-between and somehow able to bridge the cross-cultural gaps.
Chapter 7 focuses on how the process of unifying among the complicated cultural, social, religious aspects of India as one Nation. It explains the Indian Raj (political power), the force of integrating those hundreds and thousands of different peoples-and-lands under one Raj went on in gradual process. This act of political unification somehow help the whole India to have exchanges among themselves, for example, this very integration approach opened the door to inter-caste marriages or inter-dinning between the so called higher or lower images they have been carrying as norms of social life. Chapter 8 focuses on the conversion of the lowly ones, Dalits, Shudras and untouchables. This gives an overview of how some of the entire communities were to be more open to respond the Christians' witness resulted in mass conversions.
The chapter 9 discusses on how the European church tried to control the Indian Christians and failed because most of the prominent missionaries in the land openly rejected the idea. Chapter 10 draws its readers to particularly Maharashtra, Gujarat and Northern Indian states as the movement of arising political-religion in the name of Hindu Raj or Hindutva. This chapter gathers ample facts against the Hindu political leaders' conspiracy that the British colonial officially supported the Christians missionaries were wrong. Those years of oppositions to both monotheistic religions like Islam and Christianity gets institutional supports. Likewise, following chapters examine the modern English educational trends throughout the country and English becoming a widely spoken language even to connect political states together. The writer highlights the contributions of those missionaries and high-class elites who therefore invested so much into education.
'Trophies of Grace', as highlighted in chapter 13, was given name for Christians for their faithful efforts towards the Kingdom of God and achievements they were able to make. Chapter 14 surveys the indigenous movement of mass conversion particularly in North-East India, like Assam Valley, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and further, which thrilled the worldwide Church from mid-19th century. And the last chapter of the book presents some concluding thoughts arguing that the Christian faith in India in different times, places and circumstances kept continue to overspread, which transcended into almost all people groups from the so-called high caste or class to the lowest of the lower alike. The author concludes his book with very insightful statement that "there is no single Christian culture, movement or trend that has not found root in India."[2]
III. CONCLUSION
The readers of this book should agree with Frykenberg that to understand the Christianity in India is a vast subject of study. In this attempt one must understand the geographical and socio-cultural setting within the lands of India as acknowledge by the author as a sub-continent. Indeed India has been considered as a different continent since early history due to her geographical situation, surrounded by the sea and separated by the high mountains. India's real representation is the distinctive diversities within in terms of lands, peoples and distinctive way of life from the centuries.
The whole point of the book is that the Christianity in India is not what is being propagated so that people would change their religions and become Christians. But it has a long root in the history, longer than many other faiths, religious sects and practices. The Indian Christianity, in fact, has a long and rich heritage, and has been the long-waited for millions of Indians to liberation from their spiritual, social and also economical conditions. The majority of Indians who become the followers of Christ were (are) in search for an identity, and they have found a solid ground in Christ, where they can stand up as one people before men and God.  
The important point about this book is that the author has done well-compilation chronological accounts of Christianity in about two millenniums' of history, and skillfully validated major events that contributed in the history of Christianity in India. The author has best maintained the academic research value throughout the pages, measuring the historical facts to prove the arguments he has caught as theme of this work that the Christianity in India is out-product of God's intervention, peoples' acceptance and their willingness to exercise the faith taught in the Bible and to dedicate their lives unto the only God as redeemed people for eternal life. Throughout the chapters the author has evaluated the original Indian Christians' efforts in preserving and spreading the heritage of faith, and also the foreign missionary attempts in the face of oppositions.



[1]Freykenberg (Oxford 2008), Preface Page III.
[2]Frykenberg (Oxford 2008), p 483

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