Mahakavi K V Simon was a towering apologist of the 19th century India. His contribution to the Malayalam literature and to the Christian apologetics is worth emulating. His debate with Swami Agamanda of Ramakrishna Math was a milestone in the apologetics history of India. A brief biography and excerpts from the notes of the debate.
Mahakavi K V Simon (Poet Laureate, highest rank given to a poet in India) was a towering apologist of the Christian faith in India. Born in 1883 in Kerala to Mr. Varghese (who had mastered Hindu Puranas) and Mrs. Kandama (who was a skilled in poetry), Simon grew up as a child with an exceptional skills in poetry. Taught by his elder brother K V Cherian, Simon started writing poems by the age of 8. In 1885, Simon was born-again in a gospel meeting conducted by Tamil David. In 1886 he passed the examination in native language, and became a teacher at the age of 13 in Marthoma School, Eduramala.
Mahakavi Simon was a scholar in Malayalam, Sanskrit, and Tamil. He also mastered English, Hindustani, Telugu, Kannada, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Syriac. In 1900, he married Ayroor Pandalapedika Rahelamma (later popularly called as Ayroor Amma). They had one daughter. Mahakavi Simon was one of the prominent leaders of Brethren movement in India and a founding leader of Brethren movement in Kerala. He had mentored an astounding number of disciples including Pandit M M John, Pastor K E Abraham (the founder of India Pentecostal Church), Evangelist K G Kurien, Evangelist K G Thomas etc. Mahakavi Simon through his Mahakavya Veda Viharam (a poetical rendering of the first book of the Bible – Genesis) has inspired many in the following generations to write poems and even Mahakavya in Indian Languages.
Mahakavi Dr. T. A Kurien who wrote Mahakavya in Hindi, Yisu Charit Manas (life of Jesus Christ, which according to Dr. Lakshminarayana Dhube, Professor at Sagar Hindi University is the first Hindi Mahakavya in 1000 years and first about the life of Jesus Christ), was inspired by Mahakavi K V Simon (http://www.ethne.com/pdf/AprJun03/e5yesu%20charit.pdf).
Apart from writing 300 songs/poems, Mahakavi Simon had also written more than 30 books. A few of the works are defense of the Gospel like Satyaprakashini, Krushil Maricha Kristhu (Christ who died on the Cross), Prathiyukthi etc. Satyaprakashini and Krushil Maricha Kristhu are notes prepared from the rebuttals to the wild allegations raised by Swami Agamanda.
In 1926, Hindu apologists like Swami Agamanda, Rishiram, and R C Das wrote and spoke against the Christian faith and opposed conversion. The entire Christian community in Travancore requested Mahakavi Simon to refute Swami Agamanda in a debate. Later the debate between Mahakavi Simon and Swami Agamanda was held. Swami Agamanda presented a three hour case against the Christian faith. Then Mahakavi Simon gave a four hour rebuttal by presenting the Biblical evidences and extensively quoting from the Hindu scriptures in Sanskrit. It is said that the many Hindus enjoyed the rebuttal as Mahakavi Simon spoke fluent Sanskrit.
In the words of his disciple K G Thomas as Mahakavi Simon started speaking it became a mighty wave and destroyed and washed away the mountain of criticism that Swami Agamanda had built. This debate had helped to arrest the onslaught of Hinduism against the Christian faith and edified and encouraged the Christian community. Though it is beyond the scope of an article to translate the entire notes of criticisms and rebuttals of Swami Agamanda and Mahakavi Simon, excerpts of a few criticisms and its rebuttals are given below.
Sakshi Note: The following text is excerpted and translated from Christ who Died on The Cross. We have avoided translating from Satyaprakashini as there are extensive quotes from Sanskrit by Mahakavi Simon. However, in the future, God willing, it is our desire to make English translations of regional apologetics works so that it is available to larger audience. Excerpted and translated with adaption to English Idioms:
Swami Agamanda: Jesus had been on the cross for only a few hours. It takes a lot of time to die on the cross. The thieves who were crucified along with Jesus were not dead. Therefore, it is not possible to think that Jesus died so fast.
Mahakavi Simon: The assumption that “it is not possible to think that Jesus died so fast” is against the witness of the documents. Bible very clearly says that Jesus did die on the cross. We read in John 19: 33 that “But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs”. When the Bible clearly states that Jesus died, it is a wonder that someone would depend on his own assumptions and logic to deny it.
The blabbering that “it takes a lot of time to die on the cross” is to establish that Jesus did not die on the cross. However, the death of Christ was not due to nailing of hands and legs on the cross but due to breaking of pericardium as it is clearly seen when blood and water came from the side when a solider pierced Jesus. Doctors are unanimous that pericardium can break if there is an excessive pain. Therefore death of Jesus happened in this way.
Swami Agamanda: Jesus was not buried like other criminals. His body was kept in a spacious room which one of his rich disciples had carved in a rock.
Mahakavi Simon: Anyone who reads this portion of the speech may think that ‘a spacious room’ was selected for living Christ to rest. The preacher does not want anyone to think of a tomb. However, anyone who reads the Bible will know that it is the imagination of the preacher and it was a not ‘a spacious room’ for comfortable living, but only a tomb which its owner Joseph had carved (Matthew 27:60, N. T. Dr. Gundert). We wonder whether it is worth to answer a person who practices willful deception. Anyways, next time when this person asks for ‘a spacious room’ it is certain that we may have to only show a tomb.
Swami Agamanda: Another argument that Ahmedians present is the Oil of Jesus. This oil is said to be prepared by the disciples of Jesus. Even today, Medical Science experts consider this as good oil for the healing of wounds. As such there is no evidence that Jesus had any other wound apart from what he had on cross, it follows that disciples had prepared this oil for the healing of wounds of Christ on the cross.
Mahakavi Simon: Here comes the writer with an oil to prove his case!!! This oil supposedly has the name- Oil of Jesus. There is no evidence that either Jesus or his disciples had ever prepared oil for the healing of wounds. Even the Church history or folklore remains silent on such oil. It is said that myrrh and aloes were made ready to put on the dead body of Jesus. It was according to the custom of Jews (Matthew 26:12). John 19: 38-10 reads that these spices were not for the healing of wounds but to put on the dead body of Jesus. In Genesis 50:2, 3, 4, 26; 2 Chronicles 16:4, Bible testifies that such spices were applied to dead bodies that did not have wounds like Jesus. Therefore, it is only a graduation in ignorance of the Bible and Jewish custom that compels one to think that such oil was prepared to heal the wounds.
Now, we will close the Bible and search the history for such oil. The founder of Ahmedians has recently prepared a ‘fraud’ medicine by the name Jesus Oil. Now an Ahmedian Muslim in Lahore by the name Hakim Muhammad Hussein prepares and sells it. To popularize it, it is named as oil of Jesus. In 1898, Ahmed had written a small booklet named ‘Medicine revealed by God to annihilate Plague’. Now the government has banned its divine inspiration. We leave this argument by saluting the intelligence of this author who thought that he will hide the sacrificial death of Jesus on cross for the salvation of mankind with a fraud oil prepared by a Muslim.
Swami Agamanda: The third proof that Ahmedians produce to show that Jesus did not die on the cross is the tomb at Srinagar. There are many proofs to show that this is the tomb of Jesus.
Sakshi Note: There are five proofs that Swami Agamanda produces all of which Mahakavi Simon refutes. We are giving only the fifth one which is more relevant for today.
Mahakavi Simon: The fifth proof is based on some similarity between Yusuf and Jesus to argue that they are both one. It is also based on assumptions and not on historical evidences. Moreover, it is written by people who have seen neither Jesus nor Yusuf. Is it not foolishness to believe that Yusuf and Jesus are one only because of a few similarities? It is like arguing that cat and dog are same based on similarities.
Moreover, there is an interesting story that adds to difficulty in accepting the myths and historical witness to the tomb and to the claim that Jesus came to India.
In 1887, a Russian named Nicolas Notovitch went to Ladakh via Kashmir and spoke to the Buddhist priests there. Seven years later he wrote a book in which he said that the chief priest had showed him an old manuscript and read it to him in which it is said that Jesus came to India when he was 12 and studied under the Jain, Buddhist and Hindu teachers. This book of Notovitch, which was published in French and English, caused much dispute among the followers and scholars of these religions. However in the 1894 October issue of the magazine ‘The Nineteenth Century’ scholar Max Muller wrote that this was a trick by the Buddhist priests to please Notovitch (knowing that Notovitch holds the same opinion).
Since Prof. Archibald Douglas of Agra Government disagreed with Mullers view that the entire story is fabricated, he went to Ladakh in the summer. When he told he story of Notovitch to the priests at the monastery, they were extremely angry. He came to know that there is no such record anywhere in the Tibet leave alone in the collection of monastery. Prof Douglas published his travel report in the 1896 April issue of ‘The Nineteenth Century’. As a result it is generally agreed that Notovitch is an unreliable adventurist. Even then, Hindus and Muslims hold on to fraud statements of Notovitch.Since there are many such fraud records and false histories being circulated in India and Europe, records about the tomb in Kashmir is also not acceptable unless we verify it.
There is another example that we would like quote which strengthens our assumption.J. N. Farkar M.A., D Lit, a great religious student and scholar, especially having exceptional knowledge of Hindu ism, in his book ‘Modern Religious Movements In India writes this:“There is a tomb at Kannayar Lane in Srinagar of Kashmir. It is not more than 200 years old. Neighbors say that it is the tomb of Yusuf. Certainly it is the tomb of a saint in Islam. It does not have any special story behind it (Page 141).
Note by Sakshi: An Apologetics Network in India: It is our desire to introduce great apologists like Mahakavi Simon from all the regional languages in India. We request our readers to kindly introduce us to the early apologists in your languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannda, Bengali, etc) to us. If you can send us a brief write-up of their biography and an excerpt of their work translated in English, we would be truly grateful. If not, at least let us know their names and where we can get more resources about them.
Let us encourage each other by sharing the truly great legacy of Christian faith in India which God Our LORD has given us.
This article was contributed by Bro. Jerry Thomas.