This is in Sri Lanka – December 7 “International No Conversion Day” in honour of ARUMUGA NAVALAR of Jaffna
Magam star day of this month of lights Kaarthigai (December 7, 2020) is observed as “International No Conversion Day” by Hindus of Srilanka, says the text of a poster (in Tamil and Sinhala languages) displayed in 20 districts of the island nation. The poster says that this day is observed in memory of Arumuga Navalar (1822 – 1879) of Jaffna. He is held as the most proficient Sri Lankan Shaivite scholar, polemicist, orator, religious reformer, who fought to reinstate Hindu Tamil traditions in Sri Lanka and India during the colonial era. Born into a renowned literary family, his multi linguist talent led him to work as an assistant for Peter Percival, a Methodist Christian Missionary for translating the King James Bible into Tamil language on one condition that he should be allowed to follow his religious observances, to preach Shaivism and criticize other religions. His knowledge about contents in Bible as a comparative study, was so intense that he could create strong religious rivalry with Christian Missionaries and to prevent conversion on a large-scale to Christianity.
The rampant conversion was seen from Portuguese intrusion into Sri Lanka, where persecution was order of the day in Europe with France witnessing a blood bath massacre of protestants’ on a single day. So with the advent of Portuguese who pursued the policy of their Motherland, the religious persecution became unbearable : Each shaivite family was forced to part with a cow for the Firangis’ dinner. Hindu families led by Arumuga Navalar fled to India and settled down in Vedharanyam and Chidambaram. The vast majority of people who stayed in Jaffna, just for survival, adopted the via media of professing the Catholic religion and following the Shaiva religion.
Those who adopted the via media were actually unable to follow their religion in its bare essentials, which led to their inability to attend to their religious observances such as temple worship visits, fasting on important days; it left them bereft of little or no practise of Shaivism. So they donned the hypocrisy cap to be Shaivites inwardly, pose as Christians outwardly. When Portuguese left Jaffna on compulsion, the Dutch took over the remnants left behind. Though the Dutch were less severe in their approach to propagate Christianity, they were too anxious to impose their faith on people, using more insidious methods followed by direct action.
Arumuga Navalar, a visionary, adapted an unique method used by Missionaries to spread their region. He found that his religion was languishing partly by the neglect of his followers, partly by the Missionary’s aggression. To combat this he thoroughly studied the Shaiva Siddhartha literary works, and explained the excellence of Shaivism and the flaws in Christianity effectively so that people gave up the idea of being baptized.
He proceeded to do constructive work by writing small books and pamphlets detailing what every Shaivite ought to know. Being a deeply religious person, Jiva Seva was Shiva Seva for him. Thus he stopped conversion by changing the mindset of people and bringing about a revival in Shaivism as well as society as a whole.