Roberto de Nobili

Roberto De Nobili

Roberto de Nobili

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Roberto de Nobili (1577 – 16 January 1656) was an Italian Jesuit missionary to Southern India. He used a novel method of adaptation (accommodatio) to preach Christianity, adopting many local customs of India which were, in his view, not contrary to Christianity.

Born in Montepulciano, Tuscany in September 1577, Roberto de Nobili arrived in Goa on May 20, 1605. After a short stay in Cochin, he took residence in Madurai in November 1606. He soon called himself a "teacher of wisdom" (தத்துவ போதகர்) and began to dress like a Sannyasin. He took advantage of his noble parentage to approach high caste people and was willing to engage in dialogue with Hindu scholars on the truths of Christianity.

De Nobili studied Sanskrit and Tamil literature and gained mastery in those ancient languages with the help of a competent teacher by the name of Shivadharma.

As he expounded the Christian doctrine in Tamil he coined several words to communicate the message to his Tamil audience. He used the word "kovil" (கோவில்) for a place of worship, "arul" (அருள்) and "prasadam" (பிரசாதம்) for grace, "guru" (குரு) for priest or teacher, "Vedam" (வேதம்) for the Bible, "poosai" (பூசை) for Mass, etc.

Roberto de Nobili adopted also the Indian custom of shaving one's head and keeping only a tiny tuft. He wore white dhoti and wooden sandals to don the look...
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