How many of us know that there is a little Denmark at our door-step?

Not many of us are aware that the new awakening of modern India began from a small town situated a few kilometers from Kolkata.A trip down the Hooghly can take you to Srirampur where the first modern university of Asia was set up to light the flame of wisdom in thousands of Indians caught in darkness and superstitions.

Modern India started it’s journey from Srirampur in early 18th century. A giant institution, a historical press and a legend named William Carey gave this town its place in history.Earlier known as Akana, Danish traders got the area from the Nawab of Bengal Ali Verdi Khan in 1755. The city was renamed as Fredericsnagar after the Danish king Frederic-V. The new name did not click.

Danes were mostly traders of cotton and silk textiles. Unlike their English, Dutch and French counterparts, they were a peaceful group and had no political ambitions. Denmark being a neutral state during Europe’s gory days, the Danes were able to win the confidence of Britons, French and Portuguese traders operating on Indian soil. All this helped Srirampur become a major trading point.

The Srirampur College helped the light of Asia spread far in the early 18th century.The Institution acquired prominence in the academic world and its name spread far and wide as a centre of excellence.

The massive building, with grand pillars and matchless portico, was completed in 1822 at a cost of Rs 1,50,000.In 1827, King of Denmark Frederic-VI gave permission to the college to offer a degree in Theology. It was a time when no institution in Asia awarded degrees in higher studies.

The college was the place from where India saw the revolution in printing.From 1800 to 1834, Carey and his followers translated Bible in 33 different languages which included Avadhi, Marwari, Baluchi, Multani and others. Some historians opine that modern Bengali script was also invented here and one Panchanand Karmakar carved them in metal type for printing. The first Bengali book title “Raja Pratapdaitya Charit” was also printed from Srirampur press. Soon Carey compiled dictionaries in Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Telegu which were published from Srirampur.

On 13th May 1818, India’s first vernacular paper in Bengali named “Samachar Darpan” commenced publication from here. Along with that, the English newspaper Friends of India was also published from Srirampur. This missionary press of Srirampur was Asia’s first multilingual press.Ninety years of Danish rule ended in 1845 when England purchased the town from Denmark for Rs. 1,20,000. Another attraction of the college is William Carey Memorial Museum. It has rare manuscripts, documents, coins, letters and articles used by Carey.

This article was published on 26th October, 2003 in The Asian Age

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Few of us know that renaissance in modern India originated from a small town called Srirampur, earlier known as Akana, situated a few kilometers from Kolkata.
In this sleepy town, the first modern university of Asia was established and William Carey set up the Srirampur Mission, ushering in the golden era of Indian printing. The history of this town can be traced back to 1755 when Danish traders got this place from the nawab of Bengal, Aliwardi Khan. The city was renamed Fredericsnagar after the Danish king Frederic V. But that name didn't last.

The Danes mostly traded in cotton and silk. In 1805, they set up St Olaf's church, a marvelous piece of European architecture, in front of Srirampur court. The next historical spot is the Srirampur college campus where Dr William Carey in 1822 spent Rs 150,000 to set up the first modern university of Asia.

The college building with its classical Greek column and portico offers a panoramic view of the Ganga flowing close by. This college also earned the distinction of bringing about a revolution in printing. When Srirampur Mission was set up, from 1800 to 1834, Carey and his followers translated The Bible in 33 different languages, including Avadhi, Marwari, Baluchi and Multani. Srirampur again made history when in May 1818, India's first newspaper in Bengali, Samachar Darpan, was published from the town.

One of the attractions of Srirampur College is the William Carey Memorial Museum, which has rare manuscripts, coins, letters and articles published by Carey. One should also visit Martyn's pagoda, where educationist Henry Martin used to discuss theology.

Travel Information
By train from Howrah, Srirampur is hardly an hour away. Take a cyclerickshow to visit all the spots. It will cost less than Rs 50. The Carey Museum is closed on Sunday. On weekdays its open from 10 am-4 pm. St Olaf's church is not open to public, but permission can be obtained from the college.

This article was published on 21st January, 2003 in The Hindustan Times

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