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Narayan Vaman Tilak

c.1862-1919. Marathi hymnwriter and poet. Born in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, he was a high-caste Chitpawan Brahman, but his father had forecast from a horoscope that the child would one day forsake Hinduism. Even before the break, his poetic gift and ardent religious spirit made him almost a youthful sadhu. On a train journey a foreigner gave him a NT, and thus began the road to Christianity (he had already been questioning Hindu orthodoxy). He was baptized at Byculla, Bombay, in 1895. Tilak found congenial scope for his gifts, and wise guidance, in the American Marathi Mission, and after ordination in 1904 worked as a preacher at Ahmadnagar. Writing was his great ministry: his hundreds of bhajans gave the Marathi Church a worthy Indian medium of praise in place of translated hymns in Western meter (though Tilak provided also worthy translations of his own). His greatest work was to be a life of Christ in verse, the Christayan, but only the first part had been completed by his death. In 1917 he left mission service in order to form a brotherhood of “the baptized and unbaptized disciples of Christ,” with an ashram at Satara.

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