Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut in 1498 AD. His arrival marked the beginning of not only trade relations of Europeans with Indians but also of the visits of Roman Catholic missions to India. Initially, the activities of the missionaries were restricted to Goa, Cochin, Tuticorin, and other coastal areas. St Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit missionary who arrived in India in 1542. Another missionary, Robert de Nobili played an important role in spreading Christianity in India.
Spread of Christianity in India
St Francis Xavier
- He came to Goa in 1542 and spent the initial months treating the sick in hospitals.
- He then began to spread the word of God to the people.
- In 1584, he sent three missionaries to the three main Indian centers to establish missions and to spread Christianity.
- He worked relentlessly for ten years and preached the teachings of Lord Jesus.
- After his death, his body was enshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa.
Robert de Nobili
- He arrived at Goa in India in 1604. He later moved to Madurai in 1606.
- He learned Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu and studied Indian philosophy.
- He distanced himself from his fellow missionaries and adopted the dress and diet of the natives and lived an ascetic life.
- He was accused by other missionaries of straying away from the principles according to which a missionary should live his life. Later in life, he visited Sri Lanka.
- After returning to India, he spent the last three years in poverty. He died in 1656.
Impact of the Christian Missionaries
- To learn and understand Indian languages, the missionaries compiled dictionaries and grammar codes of the Indian languages. For example, the English Jesuit Thomas Stephens compiled an epic in Konkani and published the grammar code of Konkani.
- The missionaries taught Western music to the Indians. They also introduced new musical instruments.
- The missionaries also patronized arts, paintings, and sculptures. These were largely religious in themes.
- The Portuguese Church introduced European architectural ideas in India. This included high-pitched roofs, balconies, and verandas.
- The missionaries spread knowledge of the country’s flora, fauna, people, customs, and religion to the Western world with their popular letters sent from the mission field.
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