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Last updated
31/05/07

"The 300th anniversary of the arrival of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a German who came to Tranquebar in 1706 as the first Protestant missionary to India sent by the Danish monarch, will be marked beginning July 3.

The missionary was a person who did not restrict himself to religion. His arrival in South India served as the launchpad for several pioneering developments in the fields of education, printing and Tamil.

Addressing press persons on Wednesday, S. Muthiah, historian, said that printing, which had died out in 1674, was revived by Ziegenbalg. He introduced the first Tamil printing press in Tranquebar in 1712, from which the first Tamil book was printed.

He also started the first paper mill in Kaduthasipattarai in 1714. Describing him as a remarkable linguist, Mr. Muthiah said he authored a Tamil dictionary and translated Tamil grammative prose into Latin. He also published several books on the Tamil language and culture, he added.

His other contributions include the first translation of the New Testament in Tamil and an interpretation of Tamil culture to Europe. He paved way for enhanced Indo-German relations through his writings.

The celebrations are being organised by Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute on behalf of the National Council of Churches of India. Samuel W. Meshack, principal of Gurukul Lutheran College said that a stamp of Ziegenbalg would be released during the celebrations. Microfilms on the missionary's service produced by Halle University, Germany, will be provided to Gurukul." The Hindu, 29 June 2006
Biography of Ziegenbalg
Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and
Heinrich Plütschau
"Believing that people best hear and learn the Gospel in their own language and cultural context, their first tasks were to learn Tamil and to understand Hinduism. They preached for a definite conversion as the point of entry into Christianity. Ziegenbalg and Plütschau operated a school for reading and writing in Tamil, so that each convert could read the Scriptures. Ziegenbalg translated the Scriptures, Luther's Catechisms, and other works into Tamil.."
Select Bibliography for a Study on the Life and Activities of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg
Learning an Indian Language in 1700s as a foreign language - M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.  " In this short paper I wish to record the statements made by the first ever Protestant missionary, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, as to how he learned an Indian language.."
Tamilology and a German Quest
Albumblatt Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg
Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, an apostle in India
Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg at Wikipedia
India to release Postage Stamp in honour of Ziegenblag, January 2006

Books

The First Protestant Missionary to India : Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg 1683-1719
by Brijraj Singh (Hardcover - March 1, 2000)

Malabarische Korrespondenz. Tamilische Briefe an deutsche Missionare. Eine Auswahl.
by Johann Ernst Gründler, et al (Hardcover - October 1, 1998)

Genealogy of the South-Indian gods: A manual of the mythology and religion of the people of Southern India, including a description of popular Hinduism
by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg: A biography of the first protestant missionary in India, 1682-1719
by Erich Beyreuther

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg,
-
the German who printed the first Tamil text
1682 - 1719

Indo Asian News Service
4 July 2006


Tranquebar (Tamil Nadu), July 4 (IANS) This small coastal town is holding a weeklong commemoration in memory of an 18th century German missionary who not only printed the first English book in Asia but also wrote the first Tamil dictionary.

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a 23-year-old protestant missionary, arrived in Tranquebar, where the Danish set up a colony nearly 300 years ago, on July 9, 1706. The commemorations that began Monday will include a seminar on the contribution of missionaries to civil society in India as well as on the post-modern challenges to Christian missionary activity. A postal stamp on Ziegenbalg, who hailed from the university town of Halle and was sent by King Frederick IV who felt that there should be protestant priests in the tiny Danish colony, will be released on the occasion. The New Jerusalem church in Tranquebar, where he was buried, will be rededicated.

Ziegenbalg was a born linguist. He quickly learnt Portuguese as well as 'Malabar' Tamil. It is said his Tamil teacher was an assistant called Ellapar, who taught him the 'Malabar' alphabets by drawing them on beach sand. He was keen on the new printing technology rather than preaching and conversion and began writing books on Tamil language, dictionaries and manuals on printing.

By 1708, two years after he reached, Ziegenbalg had compiled a bibliography of 161 Tamil books he had read in a text called the 'Biblithece Malabarke', which described what each book contained.In 1709, Ziegenbalg asked for a printing press from Denmark. He also sent back to Halle drawings of Tamil types to be made into blocks. The Halle type for Tamil came to Tranquebar in 1712. It was, however, too large and Ziegenbalg got local workmen to caste smaller types, copied expertly from the Halle type, from cheese tins. His first press came in 1713 along with a printing hand, who ran away. So, Ziegenbalg recruited a German soldier named Johann Heinrich Schloricke, who printed his first book in India in Portuguese.

A printer named Johanne Adler along with two apprentices arrived on the Tamil Nadu coast that same year to help Ziegenbalg's printing industry. Adler set up a type-making factory near Tranquebar to supply Ziegenbalg's press. In 1715, he started a paper mill in the village. And then Adler opened a printing ink making factory nearby. So, Ziegenbalg's press had all that it needed locally.

In 1716, it printed the first book in Asia in the English language, 'A Guide to the English Tongue'. Next year, the press produced a Portuguese A B C book. The press existed for the next 100 years. There is no record of anything printed in this press after that. From the Tranquebar press, the art of printing spread to Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and then Madras (Chennai). Also to the Danish settlement of Srirampore on the Bengal coast. It is in the Srirampore Danish mission that William Carey, often credited with the first printing work in India, and others took forward Ziegenbalg's legacy.

Ziegenbalg had worked on several other Tamil-German scholarly texts. These were only printed 250 years later in Halle and in Madras. Among them were texts like the 'Nidiwunpa' and 'Ulaga Nidi'. Ziegenbalg died in 1719.

Opening the commemoration ceremonies, historian S. Muthiah recalled that Ziegenbalg wrote the first Tamil dictionary and translated Tamil grammar prose into Latin. He established the first Tamil-German scholarly link. He first translated the New Testament into Tamil 'Pudu Etpadu'. The function is being organised by the Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute here and the National Council of Churches in India.
 


Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, an apostle in India
courtesy: http://www.gloryofhiscross.org/apostle10.htm

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, the great missionary of South India, was born in Saxony in 1682. He studied at the University of Balle, then the center for the Pietistic movement in the Lutheran Church. He responded to an appeal from the King of Denmark for missionaries, and in September 1706, he and Heinrich Plueshau arrived in Tranguebar (anglicized form of Tharangambadi in Tamil language), a very small Danish colony on the east coast, close to Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, on the southeast coast of India, as the first Protestant missionaries in that country.

Ziegenbalg began his life in Tranquebar first with the help of interpreters and translators. However, he was determined to learn the local language Tamil, and mastered it in such a way that he would be able to use it for the translation of the Bible and to communicate with the natives in their own language. He and Heinrich persevered in their efforts.

They began preaching and baptized their first converts about ten months later. Their work was opposed both by militant Hindus and by the local Danish authorities. In 1707/08, Ziegenbalg spent four months in prison on a charge that by converting the natives, he was encouraging rebellion.

More than the opposition, he had to cope with the climatic conditions in India. Ziegenbalg wrote: “My skin was like a red cloth. The heat here is very great, especially during April, May and June, in which season the wind blows from the inland so strongly that it seems as if the heat comes straight out of the oven”.

Ziegenbalg began to learn write Tamil letters immediately after his arrival. The missionaries invited the local Tamil Pandit (teacher) to come and stay with them and to run his school from their house. Ziegenbalg would sit with the young children in this school on the floor and practice writing the letters in the sand, a very traditional practice that was in vogue even in early 1650s in Tamil Nadu villages.

Following was an account of his hard work to master the Malabar (Tamil) language:

From 7 to 8 a.m, he would repeat the vocabularies and phrases that he had previously learnt and written down. From 8 a.m. to 12 noon, he would read only Malabar language books which he had not previously read. He did this in the presence of an old poet and a writer who immediately wrote down all new words and expressions. The poet had to explain the text and in the case of linguistically complicated poetry, the poet put what had been read into colloquial language. At first, Ziegenbalg had also used the translator, namely, Aleppa, whom he later gave to one of his colleagues. Even while eating, he had someone read to him. From 3 to 5 p.m., he would read some more Tamil books. In the evening from 7 to 8 p.m, someone would read to him from Tamil literature in order to avoid strain on his eyes. He preferred authors whose style he could imitate in his own speaking and writing.

He soon set up a printing press, and published studies of the Tamil language and of Indian religion and culture. His translation of the New Testament into Tamil in 1715, and the church building that he and his associates constructed in 1718, are still in use today.

He married in 1716, and about that time, a new and friendly governor arrived, and he was able to establish a seminary for the training of native clergy. He died on 23 February 1719 at the age of 37 when he left a Tamil translation of the New Testament and of Genesis through Ruth, many brief writings in Tamil, two church buildings, the seminary, and 250 baptized Christians. Ziegenbalg accomplished great things for God in the prime of his youth and that too, in an alien country, despite the inclement climatic conditions and the hostile attitude of the local people to the preaching of the gospel. (Courtesy: Friends Focus – Sept.2003)


Select Bibliography for a Study on the Life and Activities of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg

Ziegenbalg, B. and J.E. Gruendler: A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Geo Lewis, Chaplain to the Honourable the East India - Company at Fort St. George: Giving an Account of the Method of Instruction used in the Charity Schools of the Church call'd Jerusalem, in Tranquebar by the Protestant Missionaries there, London, 1715, 32p. (Published in English language during Ziegenbalg's lifetime)

Ziegenbalg B., Grammatica Damulica, Halle, 1716 (Published in Tamil-Latin during Ziegenbalg's lifetime)

Germann, W. Ziegenbalgs Bibliotheca Malabarica, in: Missionsnachrichten der Ostindischen Missionsansalt zu Halle, vol.32, Halle, 1880 (this article gives us the complete list of the 119 rare Tamil literature collection, which Ziegenbalg sent to Germany)

Lehmann Arno, German Tamil Studies, in: Wissenbschaftliche Zeitschrift derMartin Luther Universitaet, Vol.17, Halle, 1968.

Germann, W. (Ed.), Genealogy of the South Indian Gods, New Delhi, 1984.

Baierlein, E.R., Rev.: The land of the Tamulians and Its missions, translated from the German by J.D.B.Gribble, Madras, 1875, 242 p.

Beyreuther, Erich: (Tr.from German by S.G. Lang & H.W. Gensichen), Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, A Biography of the First Protestant Missionary in India 1682-1719, Madras, 1955, 80 p.

Buchanan, C., Rev.: Christian Researches in Asia, London, 1812, 312 p.

Hooper, J.S.M.: Bible Translation, Oxford, 1963.

Lehmann, Arno: (Tr. into English by M. J. Lutz) It began at Tranquebar, Madras, 1956, 185p.

Leifer, Walter: India and the Germans, 500 Years of Indo-German Contacts, Bombay, 1977.

Pamperrien, K. (Translator): History of the Tranquebar Mission - worked out from the original papers by J. Ferd, Fenger, Translated into English from the German of Emil Francke, Tranquebar, 1863, 324p.

Penny, Frank, Rev.: The Church in Madras, Vol. I, London, 1904, xii

Samuel G, Rev.: History of the Tranquebar Mission in Tamil, A.D. 1706 -1955, Madras, 1955, 288 p.

Sherring, M.A.: The History of Protestant Missions in India from their Commencement in 1706 to 1871, London, 1875, 484 p.

Stephen Neil: A History of Christianity in India, Cambridge, 1985.

Mohanavelu, C.S.: Standard of education of native Tamil people 300 years ago, as observed and reported by the Germans, in: Wissenschaftliche Zietschrift der Martin Luther Universitat, Halle-Wittenberg, Jg. XXXXI, Nr.3, Halle, 1992, pp.129-134

Mohanavelu, C.S.: German Tamilology, Madras, 1993

275 years of the arrival of Ziegenbalg, Jubilee Malar, 1706-1981

Bergendorff, Conrad, Ziegenbalg - The Church of Lutheran Reformation, St.Luis, 1967

Sandgren, From Tranquebar to Serampore, Carey Lectures, Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, 1955, 22 p.

Ziegenbalg, Dr. Daniel Jeyaraj, 2004.
 

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