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Thembavani (Tamil: தேம்பாவணி; transl. A Garland of Unfading Honey-Sweet Verses[1])[2][3] is a Tamil classic poetical work by Veeramamunivar (Costanzo Joseph Beschi)[4][5] (Tamil : வீரமாமுனிவர்) on the life of Saint Joseph, the legal father of Jesus of Nazareth.[6] It is divided into thirty-six cantos, containing 3,615 stanzas.


The poem begins with the birth of Joseph, called Valan. He becomes a staunch ascetic who later marries Mary, a resolute virgin. Through divine intervention, Mary gives birth to a son. The following episodes describe the family's lives. The work ends with Valan's coronation by the Triune God in heavenly glory. Finally, kings from the Holy Roman Empire (England, Ireland, Spain, Gaul, Prussia, Norway, Lusitania, Genoa, Etruria, Parthia, Cyprus, Paeonia) come to Vienna at the invitation of Leopold I to install the statue of the hero of the epic.

Thembavani has over 100 references to events and teachings in the Bible. It has an abundance of historical, biblical and fictional characters, including Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Joseph of Old Testament, Samson, David and Goliath, Nebuchadnezzar, Tobit and Tobias, John the Baptist, Herod, Kunnan, Navakan, Surami, etc. Its actions take place in several places like Bethlehem, Judea, Nazareth, Egypt, Heliopolis, Gaza, Jericho, Sinai, Beersheba, etc.


The epic comprises 3,615 rhymed quatrains in Tamil with 90 variations, and M. Dominic Raj has translated it into English in unrhymed quatrains of free verse following the ‘Sprung Rhythm’ style of Hopkins. It comprises 3 Parts with 12 sections in each. There are 356 episodes that relate to births, deaths, journeys, wars, celebrations, happenings in the Netherworld, Hell, Heaven, etc. It contains philosophical and theological discussions on God, idolatry, rebirth, Fate, virtue, asceticism, etc.

Thoroughly immersed in Tamil literature and culture, Beschi integrates several literary devices employed by classics such as Kamba Ramayanam and Manimekalai. This is evident in his description of landscapes.


Prof. Alexander Beecroft of the University of South Carolina regards Thembavani as one of the seven World Classics that are yet to be translated into English from their native languages. He places Thembavani as the third on the list.


  1. ^ Thembavani: A Garland of Unfading Honey-Sweet Verses /by Beschi S. J., Costanzo Giuseppe (Author), Beschi S. J., Fr Costanzo Giuseppe (Author), Veeramamunivar (Author), Dominic Raj M (Translator), Marudanayagam P (Introduction)
  2. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Constanzo Giuseppe Beschi" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. ^ Sundar, James (19 July 2009). "James Sundar Chithambaram: Research on Beschi's Tembavani".
  4. ^ Haskell, Yasmin (19 April 2021). "Translating Human and Divine Nature between Europe and China". Journal of Jesuit Studies. 8 (3): 483–489. doi:10.1163/22141332-0803P008. ISSN 2214-1324. S2CID 236575016.
  5. ^ Anandan, A. J. (4 April 2018). The Kingdom in a kingdom: English Methodist Mission in Mysore State 1813-1913. SAIACS Press. ISBN 978-93-86549-12-9.
  6. ^ Ditchfield, Simon (29 January 2020). "Getting beyond "Jesuit Thinking". The "désenclavement" of Jesuit Studies Twenty Years on. Where We Are Now?". Journal of Jesuit Studies. 7 (2): 311–318. doi:10.1163/22141332-00702010. ISSN 2214-1324. S2CID 213900774.