Remembering 'Mangaloora Samachara'

Remembering 'Mangaloora Samachara'

July 1 is a historic and significant day for vernacular press, as on this day 169 years ago (1843), Karnataka’s first vernacular newspaper - Mangaloora Samachara - was launched.

Interestingly, it took just seven years for German missionary Hermann Frederick Moegling of the Basel Mission, to master Kannada language and to launch the newspaper, after he arrived at Mangalore in 1836 armed with Bible, to spread the message of the Gospel. With that enterprising leap in journalism, Moegling set a revolutionary step in the field of vernacular journalism.

It may be recalled that the Basel Mission here celebrated his 200th birth anniversary of Moegling last year for which a team of 16 Germans, including Moegling’s great granddaughter Monika Landgraf, her husband Wilfried Landgraf and the couple’s son Peter Landgraf, had arrived at Mangalore to witness Monika’s great grandfather’s achievements.

Born on May 29, 1811, Moegling studied theology in Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and subsequently joined the Basel Mission which brought him to Mangalore in 1836.
Research on Moegling’s early days in Mangalore and other parts of northern Karnataka revealed that along with another German missionary, Samuel Hebich, Moegling travelled on foot from here via Goa to look for a suitable place in the upper part of the region to “plant the Gospel among people who had never heard of it before”.

Besides his proselytising activities apart, Moegling was a zealous learner and litterateur who, during his sojourn in Mangalore between 1836 and 1853 and later in Kodagu between 1855 and 1860 (when he returned to Germany), he produced copious volumes, including “Dasara Padagalu”, “Kanakadasara Bhaktisaara”, “Chennabasava Purana”, “Basava Purana”, “Jaimini Bharatha”, “Thorave Ramayana”, “Kumaravyasa”, New Testament (in Kannada), “Kannada Gadegalu”, “Christa Geethegalu” (hymns) and many more — all firsts in Kannada.

Giving details about “Mangaloora Samachara”, Benet G Ammanna of the archives department of the Karnataka Theological College, told Deccan Herald that it contained eight different aspects that included ‘voora varthamana’ (local news), ‘sarakarada niroopagalu’ (East India Company and its laws and regulations), ‘sarva rajya varthamanagalu’ (state news), ‘nuthanavada ashcharya suddigalu’ (unusual news), ‘anyara nadthegalu’ (mannerisms), ‘subuddigalu’ (good conduct), ‘kathegalu (moral stories and songs of Purandaradasa) and an announcement stating that “anybody can send the news and it will be published if it is true.”

The paper was printed using stone slabs, which exist even to this day in the Basel Mission Printing Press in Balmatta. Recalling Mogling’s great efforts, Rev Ratnakar Sadananda said it was a very difficult task to publish a newspaper at that time because there was no simple way of communicating news and other written words to the general public.

Great contribution

Moegling’s most lasting contribution to Kannada literature was with the editing and publishing of ancient classics under the series Bibliotheca Carnataca (1848-1853) for which he was awarded a doctorate in 1858.

When his cousin Gottfried Weigle died in 1855, Moegling (at the age of 45) married Weigle’s widow Pauline. This marriage gave Moegling four stepchildren from Pauline’s earlier marriage.

One of Moegling’s last contributions to Kannada was the publication of a Kannada-English dictionary. He motivated the British in this endeavour and suggested the name of Rev Ferdinand Kittel as the ideal person to head the project. Moegling died in 1881 and his memorial remains in Esslingen, Germany.

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