Evangelical expansion in south India - from Tranquebar to Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Tirunelveli, and thence to Travancore (at Tiruvanthapuram) -reached its highest point during the early nineteenth century, and then spread to the north. With pietist roots, via Halle missionaries who had arrived in 1706, Vellalar Christian disciples from Tranquebar and Thanjavur had already spread a network of chapel-schools across south India. Each expansion, initiated by local leadership, was followed after roughly half a century of incubation by a mass movement among lower-caste peoples. Influential 'Hindu Christians' of Thanjavur provide a lens for comprehending what later happened among lower-caste Christians.
The most renowned was Vedanayagam (Pillai) Sastri (1774-1864). Born in Palaiyamkottai (Tirunelveli), son of Christian poet Devasahayam Pillai, 'adopted' and taken to Thanjavur by Schwartz when he was twelve, Vedanayakam quickly became a master teacher, headmaster and writer. Schools, endowed by the rajahs of Thanjavur, Shivaganga and Ramnad, had already become so famous that Company directors paid subsidies for them to train civil servants, and Brahman families vied for admission of their sons. The Tamil-English curriculum, mingling biblical with Enlightenment learning and reflecting Francke's Halle ideals, provided an education available nowhere else in India at that time. The Saraswati Mahal Library, with its science laboratory and 'Cabinet of Wonders', symbolised the Enlightenment in India.
9 Ballhatchet, Caste, class and Catholicism, p. 5.
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