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Tamil Scholar Bishop Caldwell's House now a Memorial

Feb 17, 2011 10:01:24 PM- transcurrents.com

IDAIYANKUDI: English Protestant missionary Bishop Robert Caldwell's house at Idaiyankudi, a small hamlet situated about 70 Km from here, is now a memorial. The 19th century house has been renovated at a cost of Rs.18.50 lakh by the State Government. It was inaugurated by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi through videoconferencing on Thursday.

Addressing the function from Chennai, Mr. Karunanidhi said that though several foreigners such as G.U. Pope and Beschi were enticed by the beauty, ancient nature and strength of Tamil, Bishop Caldwell was the foremost among all of them, as he came out with an authoritative work – ‘Dravida Mozhigalin Oppilakkanam' (a Comparative Grammar of Dravidian Languages) in 1856 which established the uniqueness of Tamil. He had learnt Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tulu, during his stay at Idaiyankudi between 1841 and 1882.

Former Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai had earlier honoured Bishop Caldwell by installing his statue on the Marina Beach on February 2, 1968, on the occasion of Second World Tamil Conference. The statue was unveiled by multi-lingual scholar Appadurai.

Mr. Karunanidhi recalled the release of a special stamp of Bishop Caldwell during the World Tamil Classical Conference held in Coimbatore on June 17, 2010. The Chief Minister also listed the contributions of Rev. Fr. Constantine Joseph Beschi, popularly known as ‘Veeramaamunivar', Henry Alfred Krishna Pillai, Vedhanayagam Pillai, Samuel Pillai and others in enriching Tamil with their contributions.

Apart from releasing Rs. 1.26 lakh for installing a bronze bust of Bishop Caldwell at the entrance to the memorial, the State government also sanctioned Rs. 30 lakh for constructing a new residence for the priest, who was hitherto living in the house of Bishop Caldwell. A cheque for this amount was handed over to CSI Bishop of Tirunelveli Diocese Most Rev. J.J. Christdoss at the function.

Bishop Caldwell first came to Madras on January 8, 1838 from Clady, Northern Ireland, at the age of 24 as a member of the London Mission Society. A graduate from the University of Glasgow, Caldwell, who joined the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Mission (SPG), was fascinated by the comparative study of languages. Caldwell served as the Bishop of Tirunelveli along with Bishop Sargent and did much original research on the history of Tirunelveli. He studied palm leaf manuscripts and Sangam literature and made several excavations, finding the foundations of ancient buildings, sepulchral urns and coins with the fish emblem of Pandya Kingdom.

Speaker R. Avudaiyappan, Ministers K. Ponmudy, Parithi Ilamvazhuthi, T.P.M. Maideen Khan, Poongothai Aladi Aruna and Geetha Jeevan, Rajya Sabha MP S. Thangavelu, MLAs M. Appavu and P. Veldurai, Vicar General of Palayamkottai RC Diocese Rt. Rev. Fr. S. Antonysamy and District Collector M. Jayaraman spoke. ~ courtesy: The Hindu ~