Mahakavi K V Simon (Poet Laureate; the 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 poet), Simon grew up as a child with 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 his 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 the Brethren movement in India and a founding leader of the Brethren movement in Kerala. He mentored an astounding number of disciples including Pandit M. M. John, Pastor K. E. Abraham (the founder of the India Pentecostal Church), Evangelist K. G. Kurien, Evangelist K. G. Thomas etc. Through his Mahakavya ‘Veda Viharam’ (a poetical rendering of Genesis), Mahakavi Simon 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.
Apart from writing 300 songs/poems, Mahakavi Simon also wrote more than 30 books. A few of these works are in defence 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 Gospel critics.
Mahakavi Simon was known for conducting numerous rebuttals and debates. In the 1920’s, Gospel critics such as Krishan Namboodri (who later became 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 Krishan Namboodri and others.
Mahakavi Simon conducted a series of rebuttals. There were public rebuttals as well as books written refuting the baseless allegations of these Gospel critics. Mahakavi Simon not only refuted the allegations of these Gospel of critics but also exposed their double standards by extensively quoting from the Hindu scriptures. This can be seen in his apologetics book ‘Satyaprakashini’.
Similarly, Mahakavi Simon’s knowledge of his contemporary scholarship is also demonstrated in his book ‘Krushil Maricha Kristhu’ (Christ who Died on The Cross). For example, regarding the allegation that Christ came to Kashmir, Mahakavi Simon wrote in ‘Christ Who Died on the Cross’:
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 held the same opinion).
Since Prof. Archibald Douglas of the Agra Government disagreed with Muller’s theory that the entire story was fabricated, he went to Ladakh in the summer. When he told the 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 Tibet, let alone in the collection of the 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 the fraudulent statements of Notovitch. Since there are many such fraudulent 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, having exceptional knowledge of Hinduism, 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. Neighbours 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). (Translation ours).
All these rebuttals later culminated as a debate between Mahakavi Simon and Krishan Namboodri who presented a three hour case against the Christian faith. Then Mahakavi Simon gave a four hour rebuttal by presenting Biblical evidence and extensively quoting 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 Krishnan Namboodri built. This debate had helped to arrest the onslaught of Gospel critics against the Christian faith and edified and encouraged the Christian community’.
May God raise many more apologists in India in obedience to the Holy Scripture, in the Apostolic pattern and in the legacy of the cloud of witness such as Mahakavi Simon.
– Liny John
Harvest Times for Your Family June 2013/Volume 10 Issue 6