Tuesday, 23 August 2016

First Protestant church in India - Zion Church, Tranquebar


The Zion Church,Tranquebar, talesofanomad.com
The Zion Church at Tranquebar,theuntourists.com
Above image:  More than 300 years ago, in 1707 right here in The Zion Church at Tranquebar, a coastal village five Protestant converts were baptized for the first time in India. This place was then part of Tanjore kingdom.  ..............................

The Danish settlement at Tharangampadi is an important settlements in the world and the Danish fort here  is the second largest Danish fort in the world. The Dansborg Fort was the most important gateway in the trade route from Europe to Coramandel coast for the Danish Emire. Despite several odds, the Danish settlement survived here for a long time and it is home to the very first Protestant church in India.

The  old Church and the other buildings in the fort complex saw renovation  in the  past -  by the Tranquebar Association with  help  from the Danish royal family and the State Archaeology Department in 2001. The recent project named ''Destination Development of Tranquebar" by the Department of Tourism of the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2011 was undertaken to repair and restore the old monument without disturbing its heritage value. With additional funds, almost all major restoration works were completed recently. With the blue sea in the drop and the serene surrounding, it is a good hide out for those who want to be free from the madding crowd and city pollution.

Zion Church, one of the oldest churches in Tharangampadi (Tranquebar) in Nagapattinam district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, was once part of the  Danish settlement. It is  located on  the premises of Fort Dansborg, built  by the Danish company in 1620 after getting necessary permission from the ruler of Thanjavur king Ragunatha Nayak (1600 -1634). The Danish Admiral Ove Gjedde in 1620  sinned the treaty that allowed the Danes to build a fort and the settlement. It is one of the most prominent landmarks of Tharangambadi.
A statue of Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg ,Tharangampadi.  www.newindianexpress.com

Indian postal stamp Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg - StampGallery.Com
Ziegenbalg leaving Tranquebar (p.170, 1890),London Missionary Society. en.wikipedia.org

The Church was built in 1701 by Rev. Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg  (10 July 1682 – 23 February 1719). He along with his fellow student, Heinrich Plütschau, became the first Protestant missionaries to India. They landed  at the Danish colony of Tranquebar on 9 July 1706 and Ziegenbalg's  mission  was to  spread the vision of the Gospel  at request of the King of Denmark -  Fredric IV,  who was also the head of Lutheran Church of Denmark.  Both Ziegenbalg  and Plütschau established the
Zion Church, Tharangampadi  en.wikipedia.org

Tamil in a few years and took the honor of being the first  to translate and print The New Testament of the Bible in Tamil in the printing press inside the fort.
They specifically got the printing press from abroad for this purpose. 

Zion Church, Tharangampadi  www.tamilnow.com
The Danish mission here was the first Protestant mission in India and  had German missionaries trained at Pietist schools and seminary founded by Francke at the end of 17th century.

Zion Church,  which  Rev. Ziegenbalg established, is believed to be the first Protestant Church in India and was built for the Governors, while the other Church, the New Jerusalem Church  (built in 1718), for soldiers and the community. Incidentally Rev. Ziegenbalg  later became  a popular missionary in this region and a scholar in Tamil. Ziegenbalg was the first pastor of the church and he preached in Tamil.   
Ziegenbalg  and Plütschau & The Danish mission Tharangampadi, Tamil Nadu. thelostlander.wordpress.com

The church  located  near the  the Bay of Bengal and has an exterior made of brick, stained glass windows and tiled brick spire. The architecture of this church is  in Indian style of that time. Conventional Methodist images and a prayer hall for the devotees are in the altar.  In the glass chamber one will find the plaques of Jesus Christ and some of the apostles a in standing posture on the walls facing the devotees. In 1782, the church underwent some modification. The historic bell tower in the church and numerous tombstones will normally draw the attention of the visitors.
We learn a few things about the church from the  church records   of 1781 to 1814 indicating the burials carried out in the church,  the expenses incurred for building the tombs, funeral services and maintenance of the cemetery.

Zion Church is an active venerated place with hourly prayer and daily services and is under the dominion of the Trichy-Tanjore Diocese of the Church of South India (CSI).
The other tourist attractions are the Masilamani Nathar  HinduTemple built in the 13th century, New Jerusalem Church built in 1718, the Town Gateway built in 1792, the Danish Governor Bungalow built in 1784 and a series of tomb stones built during the 17th and 18th centuries.