|First printer in Malayalam.Benjamin Bailey, Missionaries Biography|
|Statue of Benjamin Bailey.Nagampadam, Kerala en.wikipedia.org|
During the East India company rule in 1700s and 1800s, many English missionaries moved over to the Indian subcontinent with a view to spreading Christianity among the natives, not withstanding the hardship faced by them in a strange land. Their sustained efforts, perseverance and dedication did not yield satisfactory results. However, impressive was their contribution towards English / western education in India and founding of many Christian schools and colleges. Besides education, they were the ones who introduced the first printing press in India. Among the dedicated christian missionaries Rev. Benjamin Bailey is worthy of mention. He is credited with the introduction of lithography and first printing press in the southern state of Kerala, which today has the highest literacy rate among the Indian states.
Benjamin Bailey (November 1791 - 3 April 1871), born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, England to Joseph Bailey and Martha, had his missionary training under the Archbishop of Dewbury an others of Church of England. In 1815 he became a missionary and in the same year married Elizabeth Ella. In 1816 the British Church of England sent him as a missionary to Kottayam in Kerala. Remarkably he had spent the next 34 years there in the shadows of Western Ghat and the rigors of Monsoon rains and was instrumental in founding a mission station in Kottayam town.
In those days in India, there were no printing press facilities and most of the written literary works were done on dried palm leaves, using special preservation methods. By introducing printing press in 1821, Bailey became progenitor and publisher of the local language - Malayalam and established a printing press. He gained considerable knowledge of Malayalam, a Dravidian language that has roots in Tamil and Sanskrit languages. He was the first lexicographer in Malayalam and he himself translated the Bible into Malayalam and 1846 published the first English-Malayalam dictionary. The Hindu news paper article of May 29, 2016 stated: Graham Shaw says:" Exactly 300 years ago, on May 12, 1716, a small edition of an English schoolbook rolled off the press at Tharangambadi (once a Dutch settlement ), now in Nagapatnam district, Tamil Nadu. Thomas Dyche’s A guide to the English tongue was printed for use in the charity school for poor Protestant children, established in Chennai in 1715 by East India Company’s chaplain, William Stevenson. Apparently, this was the first book to be printed in English in India, or in the whole of Asia."
|CMS college, Kottayam, Kerala. Deccan Chronicle|
|CMC college, Kottayam. Onmanorama - Manoramaonline|
In 1939-1942 he had a beautiful church built in Gothic style called Christ Church, one of the earliest Anglican churches He finally left Travancore in 1850.
According to The Indian Express daily newspaper article dated 22 December 1996: “As a land of letters, Kottayam is definitely indebted to Benjamin Bailey, the English missionary who came to Kerala, in Kottayam in 1816. In all sense Rev. Bailey is the architect of modern Kottayam. Recently, a statue was erected near the municipal park in Kottayam in his memory."
In 1850, Bailey left Travancore for England where he took up the job of a rural dean and the rector of a quiet village in Shropshire.
He left an indelible mark in the printing history of Kerala. he died on April 3 1981 at the age of 79.