In a unique and daring attempt, Fr. Varghese Chakkala SDB has done a Doctoral Research in Missiology, on the life and culture of the gypsy tribe, Lambadis of Karnataka. Fr. Varghese, belonging to the Salesian Province of Bangalore, made his brilliant Doctoral Defense on 14th September, 2009, at St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute, Bangalore. His thesis titled, “Evangelization is Liberation: with a special reference to the Evangelization among the Lambadis of Karnataka”, takes him deep into a largely unchartered territory of the life and ethos of this colourful tribe – the Lambadis. Seeing the close parallel between the nomadic history of the Lambadis and that of the Israelites beginning from the sojourner, Abraham and particularly in Exodus, the scholar unequivocally establishes that the Lambadis can attain their liberation in a true evangelization: one that leads them to liberation from political slavery, cultural hegemony, economic bondage, religious shackles and social misery. Anyone is impressed at the numerous original insights in this theological analysis.
What fascinates a searching mind in the Work is the depth to which the researcher has gone to showcase a pile of altogether new and detailed information from the life of the Lambadis, as in a colourful movie! Considerable space is set aside for a very comprehensive study of the origin, classes and clans, population, habitat, physical features, dress, food and drink, social customs and traditions, religion, language, art, etc. of the Lambadis of Karnataka. One is even more surprised to know that the researcher has gathered much of the original information from his live-in-experience with the above gypsies. An exhaustive Bibliography of the study is indeed a gold mine for another researcher in the similar field!
This 405 page Research Work is indeed an asset both to Missiology and Literature. In fact, both Rt. Rev. Dr. T. Antony Swamy, and Fr. (Dr.) Mathew Kalathungal, his research Guides and Rev. (Dr.) A.C. Savarimuthu, the Reader, highlighted the contribution Fr. Chakkala has made to Theology, the people of Karnataka and the work of evangelization. The new doctor in Theology did his Bachelor of Theology and Master of Theology at Sacred Heart Theological College, Shillong (Meghalaya) during which he gained considerable missionary experience. In fact, no one who knows him disputes the fact that Fr. Varghese’s every grain is missionary! For the past few years he was a resident member of the staff of Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore. Currently, he leads the Salesian presence of Don Bosco, Bidar in Northern Karnataka.
Francis Chittilappilly, SDB