Friday, 12 December 2014

A Hindu saint cum catholic French misssionary -Jean-Antoine Dubois,India

Fr.Jean Dubois classiques.uqac
Fr.Dubois, Indian Saint www.prayede
  Abbe J.A. Dubois or Jean-Antoine Dubois (January 1765 – 17 February 1848) was a French Catholic missionary in India, and member of the 'Missions Etrangères de Paris'.
Dubois's book Rupa publ. co
At the outbreak of the French Revolution he went to India to preach Christianity. Upon arrival in India to spread the Gospel of Christ among the natives, he was  first attached to the Pondicherry mission, and worked in the southern districts of the present Madras Presidency. After  the fall of Seringapatam in 1799 soon after Tipu Sultan's death in the final Mysore war against the British army led by Wellesley, he went to Mysore kingdom to reorganize the Christian communities. Tipu Sultan, between 1784 and until his death in 1799, demolished numerous churches and persecuted the Christian communities. Mangalorian Christians were very much affected by his misguided policies. Fr. Dubois  restored the catholic missions in Bangalore and other places and tried to rebuild the damaged churches or build new ones

He was instrumental in  founding of agricultural colonies in many places. In order to become part of a society in which the majority of the population are Hindus, he learned their manners, customs and ceremonies and wrote a treatise on them. He adopted their style of costume and clothing and in the garb of a Hindu sanyasi - saint he moved around with the natives and earned their confidence. He became well known and people used to call him ''Dodda Swamiyoru.'' He abstained from eating meat for many years.

In those days smallpox was a dreaded disease and lots of people died because of improper medical care. People had to depend on effective  local treatment that considerably reduced the number of death. However, there was no vaccination available. The local treatment consisted of isolating the patient in a room where he had to lie down on a specially prepared soft bed of large banana leaves with clusters of fresh neem leaves placed all over the body and around the patient.  when cooking, seasoning  of mustard, spices,etc was avoided and the the patient was given herbal medicine to reduce pain and coconut water for energy. Fr. Dubois, realizing the severity of smallpox and long enduring local medical treatment, took serious steps to introduce vaccination  to reduce the incidence of death and the spread of smallpox  as a preventive measure.

Though he remained thirty-two years in India for missionary work, his labors were  all fruitless and he  became convinced that the conversion of the Hindus with the deep-rooted prejudices of centuries was impossible under the existing conditions. 

 He wrote  a book in French: Description of the Character, Manners and Customs of the People of India, and of their Institutions, religious and civil" (London, 1816). This work was bought by the East India Company for twenty thousand francs and printed at their expense. His treatise was received with wide spread criticism in England and his sharp criticism on the ''Devadasi System''(the age old tradition of temple dancing  and the girls specially brought-up for this purpose) prevalent  in India in those days earned the ire of  several sections of Hindu communities.

Dubois left India in January 1823, with a special pension conferred on him by the East India Company. 

 Ref: Antoine_DuboisD'Souza 2004, p. 6
"Jean-Antoine Dubois". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. D'Souza 2004, p. 60