Nandini Das making the BBC documentary ‘The Kristapurana’
Professor Nandini Das, Exeter College Tutorial Fellow in English, has presented two documentaries on BBC radio recently, now available online.
The first explores the remarkable history of a book, ‘The Kristapurana’. 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. 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, it is now barely a memory.
Professor Das, a scholar of early travels and voyages of exploration, examines why this extraordinary text has all but disappeared, and asks who was Thomas Stephens and how did he find himself on the other side of the world? She brings the epic poem and its 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.
More recently, Professor Das appeared on BBC Radio Three talking about the life and work of Lady Mary Wroth. Author of the first prose romance published in England in 1621, Lady Mary Wroth’s reputation at court was ruined by her thinly veiled autobiographical writing. Visit her family home, Penshurst Place in Kent, and you can see her portrait, but Professor Das says you can also find her in the pages of her book The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, which places centre stage women who ‘love and are not afraid to love.’ Scandal led to her withdrawing it from sale and herself from public life.