Year 1995: I was posted to another seaside town by my bank: It was TRANQUEBAR: a coastal area called Tharangampadi.
The term Tharangampadi is a compound of two words.
Padi is a Tamil word from the root Pādu meaning sing.
Tharangam in ancient Tamil refers to the waves, billow, sea.
In Carnatic music, the traditional music form of South India, Tharangam is a raga (melodic mode) being the janyaraga of HanumathThodi raga in the second chakra of the 8th Melakartha raga Nethra.
In North Indian music tradition Hindustani the word Tarang represents a percussion instrument.
The tabla tarang (Hindi: तबला तरंग) is a melodic percussion instrument consisting of between ten and sixteen tuned dayan drums. In a tabla “pair” instrument, the dayan is the treble drum and the bayan is the bass drum. Tarang means “waves”. By hitting with the hand at the center of the different dayan drums – known as syahi – notes of different pitches are produced like a bell ringing. The player is able to perform melodies based on several ragas.
Thus it means the pleasant music played by the rhythmic waves on the shores. The sea at Tranquebar is not violent but very calm and thousands gather every day at early morning to breathe the oxygen-rich air.
It is the place of the first Protestant Christian missionaries in India. Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (10 July 1682 – 23 February 1719) was a member of the Lutheran clergy and the first Pietist missionary in India.
The first book to get printed in Tamil language got printed here.
The art of printing first entered India through Goa. In a letter to St. Ignatius of Loyola, dated 30 April 1556, Father Gasper Caleza speaks of a ship carrying a printing press setting sail for Abyssinia from Portugal, with the purpose of helping missionary work in Abyssinia. Printing operations began in Goa in 1556 (with the first printing press being established at the Jesuit Saint Paul’s College in Old Goa), resulting in the publication of Conclusiones Philosophicas. 1557 saw the posthumous printing of St. Francis Xavier’s Catecismo da Doutrina Christa five years after the death of its author. No extant copy of this work is however, available.
It was not till 1706 when Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a Danish missionary, arrived at Tharangambadi that printing in India could flourish again. A printing press arrived around 1712-13 and the Tranquebar Press produced its first publications. On Ziegenbalg’s insistence, the first Tamil publication from the press reached the mass in 1713, followed by the New Testament in 1714. It was as late as 1821 that printing was revived in Goa with the starting of a weekly called Gazeta de Goa, later known as the Chronista Constitucional de Goa (1835) and still later, the Boletim de Governo do Estado da India (1837).
There is a Danish Fort here set up by the Danish traders after an agreement with the then King Ragunatha Thondaiman of Thanjavur dynasty.
An important place relating to this blog post is The Zion Church, King Street. Consecrated in 1701, it is the oldest protestant Church in India. Prominent with its combination of colonial and Indian architectural features, its construction together with the fortification of the town marked the moving out and spreading of the Danish population into the surrounding settlement.
I became friendly with the Christian people of the area, populated by many Christian institutions. As is my wont, I used to go occasionally to the Church which is nearby our bank premises.
One evening I was totally out of mood caught between various demands and compulsions of my job as a branch manager of a commercial bank. Instead of going to my house 2 kilometers away, my feet took me to the Ziegenbalg Church.
I saw many people in the kneel down posture praying there. I thought I may be barred from entry as I am not a Christian. One gentleman who happened to enter into the Church saw the religious mark of a line of vibuti on my forehead. He took my hands and took me into the Church. He knelt down. I looked at him. He told me to kneel down if I wanted to pray and told that before God, all irrespective of faith, are His children.
I also knelt down and closed my eyes. I remembered a similar occasion of my praying with closed eyes at an Arya Samaj praying hall while serving in New Delhi in 1982. It took me some 5 minutes to still my mind. I liked the vibrations I felt. I wanted to do the meditation longer. I opened my eyes and asked a nearby gentleman when the Church will close for the night. He said that praying session will end in about 20 minutes but I could stay and pray for a longer time if I wanted to.
I said thanks to him and closed my eyes. It took another 5 minutes to still my mind. I meditated about the formless God and later to the form of Jesus Christ who trod on the Earth. I did not track the time.
I felt very happy and peaceful. I had completely forgotten my worries and I was no longer stressful. No sound was there as more than 70 people all prayed silently.
A feeling of white colour came to my mind first. Then with closed eyes I saw the colour white slowly getting brighter and brighter. Then I sensed that a light cloud of white descending on me. This I sensed with a jerk when it touched my head.
I did not know how long it lasted. Suddenly I started to feel a field of high vibration descending from above, pass through my head to my face and throat. It descended further to my shoulders and to the lungs and heart area. I felt very pleasant yet alarmed at this strange happening, slightly fearful as it was my first such experience.
I wanted to come out of the sensation by opening my eyes and by relaxing from my posture. I could do neither. My fear increased. I prayed to the Lord to protect me as I could not stand the vibration. After some moments I felt light.
Still I did not change my position nor did I open the eyes. I internally knew that I could open my eyes. But I did not want to do that.
The whitish cloud had become lighter and I sort of enjoyed it. I stayed with closed eyes for some more time and felt very peaceful.
Some time later, I internally felt grateful to the Lord for giving me peace and love. The faces of my parents and the images of Hindu deities I prayed at home came to my mind. Again without conscious thinking, the images of Jesus as a child with Mary occupied my inner vision.
I felt someone touching me from behind. I touched back that hand and felt it belonged to a woman. I felt ashamed at what I did.
The lady touched my head and I heard her saying “brother, slowly come out of your meditative mood. I am waiting.” I heard her steps moving away from me.
Another minute went by and slowly I opened my eyes. Astonished that I was alone in that hall, I realised that I had taken a long time. I felt that the lady was a person who wanted to close the Church for the night. Her saying the word ‘waiting’ I took to mean that she will close the Church after I came out.
I walked to the doorway. I did not find anyone. I came out and saw some 10 people stand in the street and talking.
One lady came seeing me come out. She took a chair and asked me to sit down. She sat in the opposite chair.
She said she had seen me at the bank some times. (It was just two months after I joined duty there.) She was the principal of the Girls’ Teacher Training College.
She said she was also praying in the hall. She had a vision, in which she heard some words being told and a direction to talk to me later. I felt profuse tears run down my cheeks.
I give below in Tamil the exact words she spoke, as I have not forgotten all these 23 years:
“அன்பரே அஞ்சவேண்டாம். கண்ணீரைத் துடையும். உங்கள் மீது இயேசு கிறிஸ்து நேசமாய் இருக்கிறார். அவர் என்றும் உம்மைக் காப்பார். ஒரு இந்துவாய்ப் பிறந்திருக்கும் உங்களை ஒரு கிறிஸ்தவராக மாற்றி விடுவாரோ என்று இன்று நீங்கள் அஞ்சினீர்களாம்.
அப்படி மாறவேண்டாம். தங்களின் வாழ்வு வரை தாங்கள் இந்துமதத்திலேயே இருக்கலாம். நீங்கள் அவரிடம் நெடுநாளாய் தொடர்பு கொண்டுள்ளீர்கள்.
ஊழியம் பார்க்கும் இரு கிறிஸ்தவ சகோதரர் மூலம் உங்கள் நீண்ட நாள் நோயை குணப்படுத்தினார்.
எனவே அஞ்சவேண்டாம். எப்போதும் உம்மிடம் நேசத்துடன் இருந்து உம்மைக் காப்பார்.”
“Beloved friend. Do not be afraid.
Wipe out your tears. Lord Jesus Christ loves you. He will always safeguard you.
You feared whether he will ask you who is a Hindu to become a Christian.
You need not change. You can be a Hindu till you breathe the last. You are connected to Him since long. He healed you of your long illness through two of His servants.
Do not fear ever. He will lovingly protect you for ever. ”
I had not met her earlier nor had spoken to her. I had never told anybody about my illness at Nellikuppam which was healed by Christian prayer. Here she could tell all this.
I knew and still now believe that she was a favourite daughter of Jesus Christ who spoke to her about me and blessed me with a message of love and solace.
Praise be to the Lord.
That was my fourth contact.
December 25, 2018.