“Nallur Swami Gnana Prakasar OMI was a legend of his time” says Fr. Saveri
Nallur Swami Gnana Prakasar OMI (1875-1947) played a defining role in the Revival and Expansion of Catholicism in Jaffna in the first quarter of the twentieth century. While the Revivial had started already in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the movement of Expansion spearheaded by Swami Gnana Pragasar reached its peak in the second and third decades of the last century.
Swami Gnana Pragasar was legend in his own lifetime: Tall and ascetic, he was an eloquent and compelling orator, a linguist, he was a master of many oriental and Western languages; a social worker, he labored untiringly for the uplift of the under-privileged, a convert himself, he was respected for his vast knowledge of Hindu and Saiva Sidhanta philosophies, a critical savant, he single-handedly authored An Etymological and Comparative Lexion of the Tamil Language, an unfinished opus, but a worthy testament to his brilliant scholarship.
He wrote many books in the fields of history, philosophy, religion, language and literature, some of which are being treated as source-books by scholars. The Codex Historicus and Diary of the Nallur Mission belongs to a special genre, as it is written in the form of notes and comments on persons and matters related to his missionary apostolate. Earlier, all parish priests had to maintain a Codex, a Latin word meaning a book, a day book or ledge, in which were recorded important and significant events and activities of the Parish, for the information of their successors. It was thus a document meant purely for internal use.
Fr. Prof. G. Pilendran has deemed it fit to edit and publish the codex of swami Gnana Pprakasar because of its valuable usefulness to researchers. It is a laudable effort and there is no doubt that this document will help scholars not only to get an insight into many aspects of the catholic church in the diocese of Jaffna in the first half of the twentieth century, but also to evaluate the towering and unique personality of a great missionary, Nallur Swami Gnana Prakasar.
Fr. N. Maria Xavier
Vidvan/Pulavar (Mathurai) S.T.L (Rome)
M.A, Ph.D (Hist.) (London), D.th (Saiva-Sidhantha ) (Passau, FRG)
Ph.D. h.c (University of Jaffna )