Main content

The Kristapurana

50 years before Milton's Paradise Lost, another Englishman composed his own poetic retelling of the Bible, in an Indian language, Marathi. Professor Nandini Das investigates.

A full 50 years before John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, an Englishman called Thomas Stephens composed an epic based on the story of the Bible, and he wrote it in Goa, India - that lush, monsoon soaked region so beloved of hippies and holidaymakers.

And he wrote it, not in English, or any European language, but in a regional Indian language, Marathi. 11,000 verses in a classical Indian verse form, rich with images of India - jasmine and coconuts, palm trees and gurus.

'The Kristapurana' is the great, forgotten jewel of Anglo-Indian contact, and the story of its making is as complex as the man who wrote it. Once read and recited in every Christian household in Goa, now barely a memory… why has it disappeared?

And who was this man, this Thomas Stephens? How did he find himself on the other side of the world?

Professor Nandini Das, scholar of early travels and voyages of exploration, is fascinated by Thomas Stephens, and 'The Kristapurana'. She brings the epic poem, and it's writer to life, tracking the scattered traces of his life, from the Tower of London to a remote parish church in south Goa, in an evocative monsoon soaked adventure, reaching back almost 500 years.

Producer: Sara Jane Hall

Singing bell music by kind permission of Longplayer - Jem Finer's composition for a 1000 years.

Available now

44 minutes

Last on

Sun 18 Nov 2018 18:45

Broadcast

Featured in...

Classical music in a strongman's Russia – has anything changed since Stalin's day?

Classical music in a strongman's Russia – has anything changed since Stalin's day?

What composer Gabriel Prokofiev and I found in Putin's Moscow...

Six Secret Smuggled Books

Six Secret Smuggled Books

Six classic works of literature we wouldn't have read if they hadn't been smuggled...

Grid

Grid

Seven images inspired by the grid

World Music collector, Sir David Attenborough

World Music collector, Sir David Attenborough

The field recordings Attenborough of music performances around the world.