Narayan Waman Tilak was a renowned Marathi poet and a social reformer. He is loved throughout Maharashtra as “the poet of children and flowers”. He was born in a Hindu Chitrapavan Brahmin family in Karajgaon village in Ratnagiri District of Maharashtra, India on 6th December 1861. Some of the literature on His life mentions that he was disliked by his father, because he was born with feet first. (It was considered a bad omen among the Indian culture in those times.) During his education, he learned Sanskrit literature extensively. He later married to Manakaranika Gokhle. Her married name was Lakshmibai Tilak.
After his eduction, he took up several jobs in different places in Maharashtra such as a teacher, Hindu priest and a press compositor. In 1893, Tilak was traveling in search of a new job by train from Nagpur to Rajanandgaon Sansthan –which was a princely state in the Central Province of India in those times. During the travel in train, he met a Christian missionary, after some conversation, he presented Tilak a copy of the Bible and whispered a “prophesy” in Tilak’s ears that Tilak “would come under of grace of Savior Jesus in less than two years.”
Tilak was as such very disappointed with the Hindu caste system, the emphasis of rituals and ceremonies in Hinduism. He was drawn to the teachings of the Jesus Christ in Gospels and after series of life changing events, he decided to be a follower of Jesus Christ in 1895. When Lakshmi bai heard about his decision, she was stunned. This led to a separation between the couple for some time. But she too started studying the Bible on her own and felt the same interest and affection. She too accepted Jesus as her Personal Savior and God in the 1900. The couple resumed their married life together. After accepting Christianity, Tilak mostly lived in the town of Ahmadnagar and served the local church as a preacher for about 24 years, until his death in 1919.
Tilak introduced using “Bhajans” and “Kirtan” in to the Marathi church enriching their devotional life by the art form familiar to them. “He never gave up his Indian cultural birth right but brought the riches of Hindu heritage in to the Church.” (link). Narayan Wamanrao Tilak has written more than 2100 poems, some of them comprising over hundreds of lines. He also started to compose in Marathi an epic titled “Khristayana” describing the works of Jesus Christ in a native Indian form. However, he died after finishing only ten of its chapters. Lakshmibai later completed the epic by adding to it 64 chapters of her own. Laxmi bai also worte her autobiography called “Smruti Chitre” which was a masterpiece in Marathi literature. It was published in 1934-1937 in 4 parts.
Narayan Waman Tilak’s work in Christian literature and poetry in Marathi language has been immense, yet, much forgotten over the period of time. However his legacy and Christian influence still lives on in many lives he touched through the Love of Jesus Christ….