Remembering First Protestant Missionary and printer Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, Tharangambadi

Indian postal stamp. iStampGallery.Com

The New Jerusalem church was first built during  1717-1718 by Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a Danish missionary who  on July 9, 1706 landed in Tranquebar (Tharangampadi), now in Nagapatnam District, Tamil Nadu. About 312 years ago, this part of coastal area, was a Danish  settlement. The other well-known Danish settlement being Serampur, part of Danish India under the name Frederiknagore from 1755 to 1845 near Kolkata, West Bengal. Danes, for some time governed it from Tranquebar.
New Jerusalem church, Thrangampadi. Wikipedia
In the 2000s, the Church was not in good shape due to vagaries of nature and age of the structure and the renovation work was taken up in earnest in the subsequent years.  The renovated New Jerusalem Church in the coastal town of Tranquebar,  was rededicated in July 2006  by Rt. Rev. Margot Kassmann, Bishop, Church of Hannover, Germany.

 Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg has taken the credit of being the first Protestant Missionary and first Royal Missionary from Denmark to India and his mission was to spread the Gospel of Love as taught by Jesus Christ among the natives. The renovation cost of the church ran more than Rs.70 lakhs and particular care was taken not to disturb the heritage value of the first place of Protestant Christian worship in India. 
The two-day event of tercentenary of `Tranquebar Mission was in memory of the arrival of Ziegenbalg. This re-dedication function organized by the  Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) was attended by a hundreds of delegates from several countries including Germany, United States, France, Netherlands, etc.

Ziegenbalg did a few things that won the admiration of the locals and others. Though he landed in India with a view to propagating Christianity, he took keen interest in the language spoken here - "Tamil" (One of the six classical languages in the world;  well- advanced and one of the oldest too) and gained considerable mastery over it. Initially, he learned Tamil along with children in a school there. Besides, Ziegenbalg set up the first ever printing press in India at Tranquebar and published books related to  the Tamil language and Indian religion and culture. The New Testament translated into Tamil by him (1715)  and the famous church the New Jerusalem Church that he and other missionary built in 1718 stand as a great monument to him. Based on his advice  Tamil studies were introduced in 1711 in the Martin Luther University in Halle. He vociferously gave  much emphasis on woman's education. Way back in 1707 itself he introduced Tamil Seminary  and made it easy for the people to understand the contents in Bible and related stuff. Considering his hard work and selfless service on the soils of Thrangambadi, the local people, cutting across religion and caste, would like to have a Manimantapam (memorial hall) in honor of  of Ziegenbalg.
Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, Thrangampadi. thebluedrive
In order to further honor this great Protestant Missionary, as part of the re dedication and remembrance event Rt. Rev.T. Aruldoss, inaugurated an institute for printing technology at the same place where Zieganbalg started the first printing press. it is quite appropriate to call him the father of printing press in India and was instrumental in introducing special techniques to improve the quality of printing.
The foreign  delegates  held a conference in July 2006  and released  a souvenir, containing a hand-written Bible and several booklets on the services rendered by Ziegenbalg .

Ziegenbalg died at the age of 37 on February 23 in 1719, too short a period, but his achievements were far greater  than his age. His mortal remains are in The New Jerusalem Church that was built by him at Tranquebar.