C. P. Belliappa's Column

Book Review: New book on Rev. Richter, author of Coorg Gazetteer

“Book on Rev. Georg Richter

(Review by: C.P. Belliappa)

It is well-known that Reverend Richter left an indelible mark on Coorg through his contribution in the field of education. Equally important are his recordings in ‘Gazetteer of Coorg’ wherein he covers the history, culture, customs, flora, fauna, ethnographic and many other aspects of the people in this province.

While Rev. Richter gave us a glimpse of what Coorg was during the mid-nineteenth century, very little is known about his personal story. Mr Albrecht Frenz from Stuttgart, in his recently released book – ‘Georg Richter: His Work in Kodagu on the Basis of Official Reports’ – gives us an insight into Rev. Richter’s journey to India and how he landed in Coorg in April 1856 and spent 31 years here except for a 18 months furlough in Germany.

Strangely, it was an act of indiscretion by Richter that brought him to Coorg! Aged 26, he arrived at Kannur in 1855 in a group of Basel missionaries. Within days he was sent to Mangalore where he started teaching in the Basel Mission English School. He was a good teacher and was popular amongst the locals and the Europeans. However, in 1856 he confessed to his senior colleague, Hermann Gundert, of having seen a streetwalker. He was highly repentant and was in distress.

Another Basel missionary, Rev. Herman Moegling, was already in Coorg, and had established an English school in Madikeri. Hermann Gundert wrote to Moegling to take Richter as his assistant. Richter plunged into serious work both in teaching as well as helping Moegling in developing Anandapur settlement for Christian converts. Soon he was much admired and respected. In 1858 Richter married Armella, daughter of Bernhard Schmid, who worked in Tirunelveli and Ooty.

When Rev. Moegling returned to Germany in 1860, Richter took his place. The book gives details of Richter’s work in the field of education in his capacity as principal of Government Central School, Madikeri, and as Inspector of all vernacular schools in Coorg.

Richter had great respect for Coorgs. He was actively involved in the construction of a hostel for boys in Madikeri in 1862 for which the Coorgs contributed Rs.6,000. He makes mention of Coluvanda Kariappa who built a hostel for girls with his own funds in 1863.

Richter was an avid photographer. The book has reproduced several of his photographs taken in various parts of south India including a few in Coorg. Unfortunately there aren’t any clear picture of his. Obviously he was not interested in ‘selfies’!

There was a pleasant surprise for me in the book. In the section ‘Literature’ where a list of references by the author are recorded, my book ‘Nuggets from Coorg History’, is mentioned. Further, under ‘Preface’, the author has reproduced a few passages from my book. That was very satisfying for me, since I gathered a great deal of material for my book on Coorg history from Richter’s ‘Gazetteer of Coorg’.