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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 4, June16-15, 2010

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Two Germans who contributed to South India:
Remembering Schwartz in St. Mary’s in the Fort

Two Germans who contributed to South India:
Schultze who enriched Telugu

Making waves – but he’ll miss the Asian Games

Beyond the bridges of Adyar

Two Germans who contributed to South India:
Remembering Schwartz in
St. Mary’s in the Fort
(By Dr. C. Venkatesan, Sesquicentennial Emeritus Professor,
Department of Indian History, University of Madras, in an article written in 2008.)

St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George, consecrated in 1680, houses a multitude of monuments. It is a museum of historical artifacts reviving memories of a bygone era when orientalists, discovering the majesty of Indian civilisation, civil servants and military officers, served the Company and the Crown, and ecclesiastics spread the Word of God. Here you walk with history.

The Schwartz memorial, St. Mary’s Church in the Fort. (Photo: S. Anvar)

One particular marble sculpture with a magnificent epitaph on the northern wall of the church beckons visitors. The East India Company had the memorial erected to perpetuate the memory of the Rev. Fr. Christian Fredrick Sch­wartz1 (1726-98), a German missionary “whose life was one continued effort to imitate the example of his Blessed Master.”

The marble monument is of large proportions – maybe the largest of its kind in the church. It represents Schwartz on his death-bed taking farewell of “his disconsolate brethren”, including Prince Serfoji (1777-1832) of Tanjore. The various personages in the sculpture cannot be identified at this distance of time with any degree of definiteness. We can only presume that they were all associated with the ascetic in one way or another. What we can, however, feel is that there is an air of anxiety, of distress, of sorrow writ large across the length and breadth of the scene. In a corner, at the head of the piece, there is an angel holding a cross and hovering over the group. I take it as a symbolism that Schwartz was in the last moment of his life and was about to depart on his journey to his heavenly home.

The sculpture is important; far more important is the epitaph beneath it. It reminds me of the Allahabad Pillar inscription of Samudra Gupta describing the qualities of the head and heart of the warrior-king. Written in lucid and elegant English, and spread over 43 lines, it is a great piece of condensed history – a history of Schwartz, of his gifts and graces, of his mission and movement, of his mixing with princes and people, of his life and death. The text was composed by John Huddleston of the Civil Services. He was British Resident at Tanjore, knew his subject well and was familiar with his many public services.

The epitaph says that he came to India as a Protestant missionary from Denmark, “went about doing good” during a period of fifty years, erected a church in Tanjore, and established Christian seminaries in Ramnad and Tinne­velly. It goes on to say that Hyder Ali “sent orders to his officers to permit the venerable Father Schwartz to pass (through the war-ridden Car­na­tic) unmolested and show him respect and kindness.” It informs us that “the late Tulajee Rajah of Tanjore... desired to entrust to his protecting care his adopted son Serfoji... with the administration of all affairs of his country2.”

Between the lines, we can read the respect which Sch­war­tz commanded and the benefits which he bestowed on his people. He was beloved and honoured by the Europeans; he was held in deep reverence by the natives of every degree and every sect. People had “unbounded confidence in his integrity and truth;... the poor and the injured looked up to him as an unfailing friend and advocate;... the great and powerful paid him the highest homage3.” His house was an asylum for orphans. He spent the last years of his life maintaining and educating free of cost children of indigent parents. In a style that has a restrained dignity of his own, the Company’s scribe writes that “In him religion appeared not with a ... forbidding mien but with a ... placid dignity.”

Unlike most other sculptures in the church, this one mentions the name of J. Bacon Jr. as the man who sculpted the piece. The year was 1806, and the place London.

* * *

There is more to Schwartz than what we learn from the memorial. He became the guardian of Prince Serfoji, shielded him from harm, educated him in liberal arts and sciences, and ensured his succession to the throne. Schwartz made Serfoji a scholar among princes and a prince among scholars. Serfoji acknowledged Schwartz as his Rajaguru.

Schwartz inspired confidence among the British and Indian statesmen. The rulers in Fort St. George chose him to negotiate peace with Hyder Ali and Hyder Ali responded by saying “him I will receive and trust.”

Wherever Schwartz moved and worked – Tranquebar (1750-62), Trichy (1762-76), Tanjore (1776-98) – schools, where even the poorest of the poor were taught languages, sciences, and mechanical arts, sprouted. He wanted education to be “life-oriented”. The first English school he founded was in 1786.

Schwartz’s biographers make it a point to underline his social concerns. He wanted poverty to disappear, demanded a fair price for the paddy of the peasants, planned the protection of the people from pestilence, built houses for those who had nowhere to live, and wanted to safeguard the environment. He walked from place to place so that he could meet people, mix with them, listen to their woes, heal their wounds, console them, and fill them with hope.

Protestant churches in the Tamil country today reverberate with the sounds of songs sung in Tamil. The chances are that they are mostly P. Vedanayaka Sastri’s (1774-1864) compositions. And Sastri was discovered by Schwartz – not only discovered, but brought up as a beloved son, taught as a disciple and ordained as a Minister. Sastri wrote hundreds of devotional hymns in Tamil and found in them the best medium to express his theological beliefs. There is hardly a Protestant home in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka which is without a copy of his Jepamalai, a rosary of songs and prayers. Serfoji made him a court poet. Tamil society conferred on him titles like Veda Sastri, Veda Siromani, Suviseda Kavirayar and Gnanadeepa Kavirayar. Sastri was the greatest evangelical poet of his time and was never far from the thoughts of Schwartz and Serfoji. Yet the epitaph in St. Mary’s Church does not mention his name. History will not excuse this omission.

Schwartz served the people of the Tamil country for almost fifty years and became a legend in his own lifetime. He was a Christian in the most comprehensive sense of the term – a Christian who promoted social harmony, a Christian who practised charity, a Christian who did not distinguish between princes and peasants, a Christian whose character was flawless, and a Christian who breathed humanism in every fibre of his being.

The marble memorial in St. Mary’s Church4 is like the Pyramids of the Pharaohs and Pillars of Hercules. It will inspire countless generations of my countrymen. Schwartz, Serfoji, and Sastri may have died, but the legacy that they have left is sure to live for ever.


1. The Company writes his name as Frederick Christian Swartz but I prefer to follow the form Christian Fredrick Schwartz that his ­biographers use.

2. Elsewhere I read, “This is not my son but yours; you must be his guardian and protector.” What a moving statement – an ailing native king handing over his adopted son to the care and custody of a foreign missionary who had come from Sonnenburg in Prussia to the singing waves of Tranquebar.

3. When the news of Schwartz’s death reached Serfoji, “Serfoji came to look at him before the coffin was closed, wetted him with tears, and followed him to his grave.” I wish to know whether there is a similar instance anywhere else in history of a king following a commoner’s casket.

4. Rajah Serfoji commissioned a similar marble plaque in 1801 as a memorial to this mentor. It was sculpted by John Flaxman and was installed in the Fort Church in Tanjore. The sculpture shows Schwartz and Serfoji clasping hands.


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Two Germans who contributed to South India:
Schultze who enriched Telugu
(‘Pages from History’ by Dr. A. Raman, Charles Sturt University,
Orange, New South Wales, Australia.)

Benjamin Schultze, who was to make a significant contribution to Telugu, arrived in Madras from Germany seven months after Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg (1682–1719) died at the Tranquebar Mission he had founded. Johann Ernst Gründler, Ziegenbalg’s colleague, helped Schultze and his two companions, Nicolaus Dal and Heinrich Kistenmacher, to settle in Tranquebar and learn Portuguese and Tamil. When Gründler died in 1720, Schultze assumed leadership of the Tranquebar Mission.

Schultze, who was born in Sonnenburg (then Branden­burg), had studied Theology with August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) in Halle, Germany. A difficult person, Schu­lt­ze had several conflicts with his colleagues in Tranque­bar and moved to Madras to join the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1726, on a salary of £60 a year. He ­remained in Madras from 1728 to 1743, when he returned to Germany. He learnt Telugu in Madras, besides acquiring ­proficiency in Sanskrit and Hindustani.

Besides his several books on Christian theology, Schultze wrote Die auf der Küste Coromandel in Ost-Indien befindliche grosse und berühmte Stadt der Englischen Nation Madras oder Fort St. George (A large and famous city of the English nation, Madras or Fort St. George, on the Coromandel Coast in eastern India), which includes vivid descriptions of his observations and experiences in Madras. The book was published in Halle in 1750.

Telugu’s profile as a language was enriched by Schu­ltze’s compilation of a dictionary, development of a grammar, and translation of the Gospels. He provided a Telugu version of the New Testament – the first prose in Telugu. His most remarkable contribution to the Telugu language is Grammatica Telugica (Telugu Grammar) published in Halle in 1728, which was written in Latin and Telugu, with an introduction in English, while he was with the SPCK in Madras. He also compiled a four-language dictionary (English–Tamil–Telugu–Latin), but it was never published. The handwritten manuscript, however, is in the Francke Foundation in Halle. Similar to the ­reforms in Tamil letters made by Ziegen­balg, such as introducing dots over consonants, Schultze reformed Telugu letters, making them more suited for writing and printing.

By 1713, a printing press with Tamil and Telugu typefaces existed in Tranquebar, thanks to Ziegenbalg and Johann Gottlieb Adler. The first Tamil tract, Das Verdammliche Hey­den­thum, had already been printed in Tranquebar. Schu­ltze was aware of the Tranque­bar printery, yet he got his books printed in Halle. To publish books in Telugu, he had to get permission from the local Mission office and the Halle Collegium Orientale started by his mentor, Francke, in 1702. The Madras Mission rejected Schultze’s request to print the Bible in Telugu. But he was determined to have his Telugu version of the Bible printed, because a majority of the then Madras population comprised Telugu-speakers.

In spite of a good command over Telugu, circumstances forced Schultze to seek the review and comments of a Telugu scholar and an Armenian in Madras, whose review and commentary were positive. Schultze’s Telugu was principally the language as spoken in Madras, i.e. mixed with Tamil words, but he had the help of a Telugu scholar he employed in Madras, a man who was well-versed in Tamil too, to polish it.

Schultze’s Grammatica Telugica includes eight chapters: (i) Introduction, (ii) Pronunciation, (iii) Phonetics, (iv) Adjectives, (v) Pronouns, (vi) Verbs, (vii) Particles, and (viii) Syntax. There is an appendix titled In the intention of offering some materials, which will enable easy reading (pronunciation) of Telugu. Schultze wrote Gram­ma­tica Telugica between March 16 and May 4, 1728 with a view to helping future missionaries of the Royal Danish Lutheran Mission. Instead of writing in German, Schultze wrote the grammar in Latin. Ziegenbalg had reasoned – when he wrote Grammatica Damulica (Tamil grammar) in Latin – that a universal language such as Latin would be the rational choice for future missionaries coming from different parts of Europe. Schultze’s Grammatica Telugica was meant to serve the Mission’s needs, but it became handy to the common people, extending beyond the Mission’s needs, in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

G. Duverdier refers to Schultze as a polyglot with a passion to learn languages. However, H. Liebau refers to Schultze as a linguist. Schu­ltze’s Grammatica Hindos­tanica done in 1741 reinforces the view that Schultze was a linguist. While in Madras, he started a Tamil school (known as the ‘Malabar School’) with 12 students in 1726, and also a Portuguese School in 1732.

Schultze’s versatility in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and Hindustani leaves the impression that he was a pioneering student of Indian culture and languages, transcending his principal role of a missionary.


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Making waves – but he’ll miss
the Asian Games
(By Smitha Ramamurthy)

Exams – his priority

Ajay Rau is giving Asian Games a miss, but hopes to continue preparing for Olympics 2012.

2009-2010 has been a good year for sailing for the 22-year-old. Earlier this year he had impressive results in Chennai, Qatar and China leading to the Asian Games selections but, later, to his disappointment he found out that he had to give the selections a miss due to an unfavourable education schedule at the University of New South Wales.

“My final exams are clashing with the Asian Games and finishing my education is as important as my sporting career,” says Ajay. He will, however, continue his training for the 2012 Olympics campaign and hopes he will be able to qualify for India.

He has been selected for the Men’s Radial World Championship. He was 15th last year, India’s best ever finish at a World Championship.

Rajesh (India’s Asian Games representative) and Ajay are expected to lead India’s charge at the 2010 World Championships.

As a journalism student and professional sailor studying at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Ajay Rau has immersed himself in the Australian way of life and his multicultural surroundings by being elected as the Secretary of the UNSW Windsurfing and Sailing Club. For him, the language of sport transcends ethnic and lingual differences, because it is a stage that allows everyone to participate, regardless of race. Having organised a number of sailing events for the club, he has made lasting relationships with students from various parts of the globe.

“When you’re on the water, you’re not looked at as an Australian or Indian. You are purely judged on your skills as a sailor,” Ajay says. “I don’t consider myself as Ajay the Indian. I am Ajay. I have an identity.”

Ajay says that his enthusiasm to get involved with sporting activities and social events outside of the Indian community has allowed him to effectively integrate within the wider Australian community.

“I feel that back in India people should make more of an effort to educate students to learn to adapt to different countries before they head out, and not be closed within your society,” Ajay says. “All of us are very proud Indians, but that doesn’t mean that we have to stay only with each other.”

Ajay accepts that negative issues such as racism and cultural differences will happen from time to time in every society, but it is important to move forward towards reconciliation rather than keep contemplating on the past.

He recently participated in the Sydney to Hobart Yachting Race, making him the first Indian to do so in the history of the event. According to him, it is one of the most ‘Aussie’ things a person can do.


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Beyond the bridges of Adyar
(Courtesy – Madras Boat Club’s Club Class)

It took me almost 40 years to discover the most astonishing place I have ever been to. And it was lying there... right under my nose!

I have passed it by a million times and always looked askance, unable to bear the smell and the debris floating on the river.

However, when I turned 44, and losing more than just my hair, I discovered the joy of rowing.

Gliding past the bridges of the Adyar in our racing sculls, I enter a world of wild, yet tranquil beauty. The Theosophical Society on one side and the island on the other, with fish jumping out of the river into our boats… Like some magical, lost kingdom, right in the heart of the city!

We row all the way to the broken bridge and back, watching the birds in their hundreds roosting along the banks. And on days when we have dallied a bit and the sun is going down, we watch the fruit bats over the Theosophical Society in their thousands, venturing out on their nightly sorties! Or catch the eerie call of the fox or a glimpse of spotted deer.

The Theosophical Society (TS) is based on the realisation that life, including all its diverse forms, human and non-human, is indivisibly One. Perhaps it is this philosophy that has helped keep the area in and around the TS pristine. Both humans and animals take refuge in this oasis of calm and serenity in a world that nevertheless bustles.

However, a pall of gloom hangs over this magical place. While the Tamil Nadu Government, with its Adyar Poonga plans, has declared this an Eco Creek, the same Government plans to build an elevated corridor across the broken bridge on to Elliot’s beach and joining with the East Coast Road. If this is allowed to happen, one of the most sacred places in the city will become just a memory to cherish for some of us.

Just recently, as we neared the broken bridge in our Quad scull, each of us struggling to keep pace with James (our coach) as he put us through our paces in preparation for the World Masters, a fish leapt out of water and slapped me on my face and was gone before I knew it. To me, this was a wake up call to shake off my apathy and do something concrete to help save this precious habitat.

Even as I write, there are plans to widen the Adyar Bridge by building another bridge between the old and the new. To ease traffic, they say… but even a child will tell you that the bottleneck is at the Andhra Mahila Sabha.

So what do we do about it? We go about our busy little lives, hoping that someone will stand up some day and have the courage to say ‘No more’; to say ‘No’ to the Expressway; and say ‘No’ to the expansion of the bridge… It is time we realised that we have the power to collectively stop what we believe is not right. It is not a question of courage; it is a question of conviction and a belief that we can make a difference.

Those of us who row know that when we pull together, when we get our timing right, the boat will fly. True and straight.

I write this to ask you to pull together on this issue – because it has implications for us all.

How can you help?

Join ROB (Reclaim Our Beaches) and plant some Mangrove saplings.

Strengthen the movement against the elevated corridor with Save Chennai Beaches. Mail:


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In this issue

What's ahead for old Assembly complex
Action’s needed – not a sub-committee
By the great banyan
Old Dravida in Papua New Guinea
Historic Residences of Chennai - 44
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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