`Missionaries denigrated religion, culture’-Says indologist and grandson-in- law of Dr. Herman Gundert

published on March 11, 2008

`Missionaries denigrated religion, culture’

KANHANGAD: A seminar on the activities of the Basel Missionaries in Malabar and South Canara district of Karnataka, held here on Sunday, has thrown up some interesting aspects on their activities.

The seminar `Mission and vision’ was organised by Vasudha, a cultural organisation. Dr. Albrecht Frenz, an indologist and grandson-in- law of Dr. Herman Gundert said the missionaries had denigrated the religion and the culture of the local people to placate the British.

Dr Dennis Fernandez, head, Department of History at the St Aloysius College, Mangalore said the intention of the missionaries was to convert the natives. Though they tried their best to convert the upper castes, especially Brahmins, they could not succeed in their efforts. Instead they converted Thiyyas of Malabar and the Billavas of South Canara which are considered identical by the historians.

He said sixty percent of the converts were Thiyyas and Billavas, thirty percent from scheduled castes and five percent from Nairs. The efforts of the missionaries to convert Muslims were met with stiff resistance.

Jayaprakash Raghavaiah, professor, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode said the Basel Missionaries were good at management of crafts.

They taught the converts several trades also. He also said that several Basel Missionaries had later joined the Nazis.

Dr Kesavan Veluthatt, head, Department of History, Mangalore University said though the missionaries had contributed a great deal towards the enrichment of Tulu and Malayalam languages, their ultimate aim was religious conversion.

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