BESCHI, Constantino Gioseffo Eusebio (Constanzo B., Constantinus Beschius, Vîra-mâmunivar)

BESCHI, Constantino Gioseffo Eusebio (Constanzo B., Constantinus Beschius, Vīra-māmunivar). Castiglione delle Stiviere near Mantua 8.11.1680 — Ambalakat near Cranganore 4.2.1747. S.J. Italian Jesuit missionary and Tamil scholar. Nearly 40 years in India. Educated at Jesuit school in Mantua. Novice of S.J. 1698, then studies in Ravenna and in 1701-10 in Bologna. Ordained as priest in 1709. In 1710 he left for India, travelling from Lisbon to Goa and joined the Madurai Mission on 8.5.1711. Like —> De Nobili he adopted the robe and habits of an Indian Sanyasi. Settled down in Tirunelveli, and worked in other Tamil towns, too. In the end of the 1730s he probably was the Divan of the local Mughal commander Chanda Sahib. His last years he spent as visitor to the Ambalakat Jesuit College (in 1746) and died there.

In addition to Italian and Tamil, in which he had perfect command, Beschi is said to have known ten languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Persian, Urdu, Telugu, and Sanskrit. He was a grammarian, a Tamil poet and a pioneer of Tamil prose. He developed the orthography making difference between short and long e and o. His three grammars, one in Tamil and two in Latin (of vulgar and high dialect, the latter completed in 1730) were important pioneer works. His Tamil epic Tēmpāvaṇi (completed c. 1727) in 36 cantos and 3615 verses tells the story of Joseph and the birth of Jesus purely with means of traditional Tamil poetry. In Tamil he also wrote Christian prose works, the lexicographical work Caturakarāti, and the famous tales of Paramārthan.

Publications: Grammatica latino-tamulica ubi de vulgari tamulicae linguae idiomate Kotun Tamil dicto tractatur. Tragambariae 1728, 2nd ed. 175 p. 1739, new eds. Madras 1813, Pudicherii 1843; transl. by C. H. Horst: Grammar of the Common Dialect of the Tamulian Language called Kot:unhthamil192 p. Vepery 1806, 2nd ed. Madras 1881; English transl. by G. W. Mahon, with the same title, 156 p. Madras 1848.

Clavis humaniorum litterarum sublimioris Tamulici idiomatis. Edited by K. Ihlefeld & A. Burnell. 8+171 p. Tranquebar 1876, new ed. as Grammatica latino-tamulica ubi de elegantiori Tamulicae dialecto centamil dicta, cui adduntur Tamulicae poeseos Rudimenta. Edited together with B. G. Babington’s English tr. by L. Besse. Trichinopoly 1917; English transl. by B. G. Babington: Beschi Shen-Tamizh. A Grammar of the High Dialect of the Tamil Language, termed Shen Tamil, to which is added an Introduction to Tamil Poetry.  5+12+117 p. Madras 1822.

Vulgaris Tamulicae linguae dictionarium Tamulico-latinum. Madras 1844, new ed. Trichinopoly 1882 (with suppl. by Ford, ib. 1884).

Tonnūl. Grammar in Tamil. 1891; Caturakarāti. A lexicographical work in Tamil.

Tēmpāvaṇi. First published 1-3. Pondichery 1853, then 1891 and often.

Paramārtta kuruvin katai. English transl. by B. G. Babington. L. 1822; French by abbé Dubois. P. 1826; German (from English) by Grässe 1860.

Sources: *L. Besse, Father B. and the Society of Jesus: his time and his writings. Trichinopoly 1918; P. Ceyrac, “Father B., Vīra-Māmunivar”, Indica. IHRI Silver Jub. Comm. Vol. Bombay 1953, 53-60 (with picture); *J.-L. Chevillard, “Beschi, grammairien du tamoul, et l’origine de la notion de verbe appellatif”, BEFEO 79:1, 1992, 77-88; Dahlmann 1891, 12ff.; A. Gaur, Br. Mus. Quart. 32, 1968, 103-108; *V.M. Gnanapragasam, Contribution of Fr. Beschi to Tamil. Diss. Madras 1965 & *“Father B., the Missionary”, Hinduism. Studia Missionalia 35, Rome 1963, ??-??; *J. Houper S.J., Constantius Joseph Beschi S.J., Popularly Known as Veeramamunivar. Tiruchirapalli 1980; *A. Muttusami Pillai, “Sketch of the Life of Father B.”, JMLS 11, 1840, 250-300 (*originally in Tamil, Madras 1822); L. Petech, D.B.I. 9, 1967, 663-665; A. Sorrentino, “Nota su una grammatica del sec. xviii”, AION 40, 1980, 313-318; Tucci 2005, 136-139; Wikipedia (with portrait); *J. Vinson, “Quelques pages inédites du père Constant.-Joseph Beschi de la mission du Maduré”, Recueil de textes et de traductions publié par les professeurs de l’É.L.O.V. à l’occasion du VIIIe congrès intern. des orientalistes. 1889, 1:323-334.

*F.X. Clooney, Saint Joseph in South India. Poetry, Mission and Theology in Costanzo Gioseffo Beschi’s Tēmpāvaṇi. 194 p. Publications of the De Nobili Research Library 39. Vienna 2022.

Grammatical works and their editions listed in the LSI; *Bibliography by J. Vinson, RLing 33, 1900, 1ff.

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