Worlds First Tamil Bible Translation Stolen From Thanjavur In 2005 Traced To London Museum: Report

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World's First Tamil Bible Translation Stolen From Thanjavur In 2005 Traced To London Museum: Report

The deputy administrator in Thanjavur's Serfoji Palace had filed an official complaint regarding the theft with the Thanjavur west police station on October 10, 2005. A case was registered, but there was no advancement.

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The Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police has tracked down the 300-year-old, world's first printed Bible translation in Tamil, which was stolen from the state's Thanjavur to London's King George III museum, officials revealed on July 1.

As per a report in News18, sources claimed that the Idol Wing department had also begun bringing the Bible back to India.

Why Was The World's First Tamil Bible Stolen?

According to an officer, the Bible was initially stolen from Saraswathi Mahal Library in Thanjavur in 2005. The theft is suspected to be the doing of a group from abroad who had visited the library. The deputy administrator in Thanjavur's Serfoji Palace had filed an official complaint regarding the theft with the Thanjavur west police station on October 10, 2005. A case was registered, but there was no advancement.

Nearly over a decade after that, in October 2017, Saraswathi Mahal Library administrator E Rajendran filed a complaint with the idol wing, and an official case was registered, and investigations were launched.

Right after, the progress was studied by Director-General Idol Wing, Jayanth K Murali, a separate team was formed in 2020, and the squad painstakingly undertook a detailed analysis of the registry during the period the Bible went missing. It was found that on October 7, 2005, the library had hosted a group of foreigners.

"We found that the visitors had come to India to attend a function to commemorate Bartholomeus Ziegenbalg, the Danish missionary who had printed the Bible," Murali was quoted as saying.

The Investigation Process

An officer from the Idol Wing then reviewed all the websites of libraries and private collectors linked to Ziegenbalg manuscripts and came across the King George III museum. As a result, they managed to track down the stolen first Tamil translation of the Bible published at a printing press in Tharangambadi during the 17th century and could match the robbed Bible with the one at the museum.

The King of Denmark had officially sent Ziegenbalg to Tamil Nadu, and he reached Tranquebar (The anglicized name of Tharangambadi), which was a Danish colony in 1706, close to Nagapattinam. The Protestant missionary translated the New Testament in 1715 into Tamil. Upon his demise, another missionary, Schwartz, passed on the first copy of the Bible to Tulaji Rajah Serfoji, the ruler of Thanjavur during that time.

The Tamil Nadu government had kept this antique as an exhibit at Saraswathi Mahal Library.

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