The Dutch, British, and Danish merchants who set up trading stations, or factories, along the coasts of India in the seventeenth century brought along with them their own chaplains. With the founding of the Lutheran mission at Tranquebar on the east coast of south India in the early years of the eighteenth century, the monopoly which the Roman Catholic Church had till then held in the mission field was challenged. From 1706 till the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Lutheran Mission supported a total of fifty-six missionaries in India.
The mission owed its success to the efforts of two pioneering individuals from Denmark, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plutschau. The Danes had been in Tranquebar since 1620, when the rajah of Thanjavur had allowed them to lease the area. Two churches existed there in the later seventeenth century, one, the Zion church, and the other, a Roman Catholic church. But the situation was transformed with the arrival of Ziegenbalg and Plutschau, both in their twenties, on 6 July 1706.
From the start the two Danish missionaries concentrated on education. Together, they established a school called the Charity School. In 1708, we learn of Ziegenbalg being imprisoned for a brief period on the orders of the Danish commandant. In 1709, we come across him expressing admiration for Indians as a civilized people, and for the depth of their moral insights. By 1711 he had translated the Bible into the local Tamil language, and in 1713, he published a genealogy of the Malabarian gods.
Ziegenbalg prided himself on being a High Church Lutheran and he had a strong sense of his calling to the mission. Anxious to make it a success, he developed a variety of original approaches. He used the Tamil language and Indian music in church services, and in general he sought to have the mission directed from India itself rather than from Europe. Confronted with the caste system, he believed that it had to be weakened within the church, even though it could never be totally abolished. His converts were mainly the
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