It’s time the Danes, the Germans, the local authorities and the Tamil Nadu Government got together to make Tranquebar/Tarangambadi a truly living heritage town Photo: M. Srinath
Tranquebar, Tarangambadi if you so wish, has two parts to
its more recent history. From 1620 it has a history as a Danish settlement that, from 1845, became British till Independence, and from 1706 it has a history as a German mission settlement that had developed at the invitation of the Danes. You would think the
Danes and the Germans would work together in preserving the heritage of Tranquebar, but 10 years ago, when the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg and Hermann Plutschau to establish the Halle (Germany) Mission, the first formal Protestant
missionary effort in Asia, was being commemorated, I found the Germans and the Danes each going their own way in marking their respective historic connections with the town.
And, as a member of INTACH’s then Tamil Nadu chapter I found myself trying,
unsuccessfully, to get two languages to talk together and work together in a third one. Since then, the Danes have tried to work with INTACH’s Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry chapters and the Tamil Nadu Government, and have not got very far, while the promises
made ten years ago by those interested in the German connection were put in cold storage. That is, until this year — when I’ve again been talking to the Francke Foundation of Halle that had from the first supported the Ziegenbalg mission.
days ago there was formally inaugurated in Tranquebar a Halle Foundation project to establish a Ziegenbalg Museum in Ziegenbalg’s house after it has been restored. That will be a second restoration, for work had indeed started on it after the promises
of 2006 but then petered out and the building was left to languish again. I hope that will not happen once more, three years from now, when Francke Foundation’s Jasmine Eppert hands over the Museum to the local Lutheran authorities after she has set
Meanwhile, there are a couple of aspects of the historic German tenure in Tranquebar that I hope Jasmine and her colleagues will keep in mind. One, though Ziegenbalg and his successors came out as evangelists, Pietists that they were the search
for indigenous knowledge became of greater interest to them and, long before, Max Müller, Indian, particularly South Indian, knowledge went back to Germany and is carefully preserved in the Halle Foundation. The Museum’s first priority should be
to not only reflect this, by having digitised and stored in it all material available in this knowledge bank, but it should also develop the Museum as a study centre where an Indo-German cultural exchange can take place. An Indo-Danish study centre is what
the Danish Museum had planned when it joined hands with INTACH Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Nadu Government to restore the Governor’s Bungalow. That’s an idea that remains in limbo.
Secondly, probably the most significant
contribution of Ziegenbalg to India was reviving printing after it had died out in the Portuguese territories, the only areas where it had put down roots in the 16th Century. This needs to be commemorated not merely with an exhibition but with a live printery
and demonstrations. Are there any printers out there with early 19th Century (I doubt whether you can find 18th Century machines today) equipment they might like to offer a Ziegenbalg Memorial Printing House?
And last but not least, it’s time
the Danes, the Germans, the local authorities and the Tamil Nadu Government got together to make Tranquebar/Tarangambadi a truly living heritage town and a sought-after tourist destination where beaches will be an added attraction to heritage.
the Post Knocked…
* Dr. N. Sreedharan writes: “You need not have said ‘Mea culpa’ for describing IRFCA as an anagram (Miscellany, July 11)… An anagram is a word formed by rewriting the letters of another word
in a different order. An anagram of ‘Elvis’ is ‘lives’. Similarly ‘plum-lump’, ‘rasp-spar’, etc. IRFCA is not an anagram because it has not evolved in that manner.
IRFCA is an acronym, but is not fully-fledged.
An acronym is a curtailed word formed by combining the initial letters of the words that make up the name of something. IRFCA does fulfil this condition but it does not meet another condition, a serious one, that the combination of initial letters should be
pronounced as a single word — AIDS, Laser, NATO, UNESCO, etc. The combination of letters comes first and is called an abbreviation. It is an acronym in embryonic stage. Later, people pronounce the letters together as a single word and the birth of an
acronym is complete. IRFCA fails to fulfil this second condition. Hence, it remains an abbreviation. Or, a not fully fledged acronym.”
My only question is whether Dr. Sreedharan is sure that the members of IRFCA do not use the letters as a single
word, an acronym, in their conversation. I rather imagined they would, and had, so, meant ‘acronym’ and carelessly used ‘anagram’. So the ‘Mea culpa’.