Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Ganjam and its French connection

In an earlier post, we had covered the guava fruits of Ganjam, the small village just two kilometers off Srirangapatna, the island capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan.
After the death of  Tipu Sultan on May 4, 1799 in Srirangapatna, Shehar Ganjam-the City that he founded was taken over by the British. However, today Ganjam is known for its French connection and not British and all thanks to Abbe J.A. Dubois or Jean-Antoine Dubois, the French missionary.
Abbe Dubois (1765-1848) was a French Catholic and he had come to India in 1792 as a member of the Missions Etrangeres de Paris.  He first came to Pondicherry and then to Srirangapatna in 1799 to reorganise the Christian community.
Apart from being a missionary, Dubois founded agricultural colonies and was instrumental in introducing vaccination as a preventive method to control smallpox.
He also wrote down a record of Hindu manners, customs and ceremonies. He gave up European society and adopted the native style of clothing, and dressed himself very much like a Hindu.
He would go around Srirangapatna, Ganjam and surrounding areas in the garb of sanyasi. Like a Hindu monk,  he abstained from eating meat and this continued for several years.
Locals of  Mysore Kingdom, used to seeing him in Indian style dress and in local manners  affectionately called him Dodda Swamiyoru.
He established “The Immaculate Conception Church (Abbe Dubois Church) at Ganjam where he lived for 30 years.
The church today has a 15-feet high bell tower. Adjacent to the bell tower is a small memorial structure (house) which is believed to be the hermitage of the Padri Abbe Dubois.
He also  founded a school for the children of Ganjam village.
The school is at the rear side of the Church and it can be said to be Ganjam’s oldest school.
Since Dubois followed local customs and tradition, he was highly  popular. He was fond of raagi mudde and he had no hesitation in joining farmers for their work in fields.
Abbe Dubois had learnt all south Indian languages, including Kannada. He knew Sanskrit too. He left India for France in January, 1823 where he became the Superior of the Christian order that he represented.
What sets out this missionary from the rest of  his ilk is his frank confession in his “Letters on the State of Christianity in India” that Hindus might never convert to Christianity.

1 comment:

  1. Kuntibetta in Pandavapura was called "French Rocks" probably because it was the French base of those helping tipu..any more info would be nice