Serampore Mission

Serampore Mission (1800-1845) India's first Christian missionary organisation. william carey and his two associates established this mission on 10 January 1800. The Mission started preaching the message of Jesus from two places in Hughli district. The first Catholic Church in this district was established at Bandel in 1599. About two hundred years later a Protestant Church was built in serampore (1800). William Carey established this Church and the mission on 17 August 1761. It was through his initiative that the Baptist Missionary Society was formed.

As representative of the Society, Carey and Thomas came to Bengal for preaching Christianity. After facing some crisis during the first few months, Carey established himself at Madanabati in north Bengal. He began missionary activities by way of translating the Bible, founding schools and preaching Christianity. The first Christian Church was founded here. At the end of the 18th century, a few more missionaries were sent to Bengal to work in collaboration with Carey. To avoid expulsion by the English Government, they took shelter at the Danish settlement at Serampore. Carey took charge as the Treasurer here and conducted the translation work of the Bible. Marshman opted for discharging the responsibility of school administration, while Ward took the responsibility of the printing work. Fountain was entrusted with the task of establishing the library. On 24 April 1800 the Serampore Mission Church was inaugurated. Carey became the Chief Priest of the Church, while Marshman and Ward were made Assistant Priests. This Mission was self-supportive. The cost of the missionary activities was borne by Marshman, Ward and Carey from their own earnings; Marshman from the schools, Ward from the Press and Carey from his teaching job in the fort william college. Mission's activities relating to the preaching of the religion could not come up to their expectation because of the ban imposed upon them by the British company government. However, they were highly successful in such other activities as translation of the Bible, foundation of schools, and so on. The Mission acted as the forerunner in the development of Bangla Prose.

During 1812-13, the missionary activities took a new turn. There was a huge fire in the serampore mission press in 1812. All valuable manuscripts, printed materials, papers were gutted. However, the Press was revived. The company lifted the ban imposed upon the Missionaries in 1813. Consequently, the Mission got the opportunity to widen their sphere of activities. The Mission played the leading role in the fields of industry, literature, science, newspaper and periodicals, social reforms etc. This paved the path of renaissance in the country. In this period, the Mission opened up its branches at many places in both East and West Bengal.

The serampore college was established on behalf of the Mission in 1818 with a view to imparting religious teaching to the local people. One of the objectives of the college was to offer secular higher education also. Hence, two different teaching courses were introduced in the college. The Mission had to face a great crisis due to the sudden demise of William Ward and Carey's eldest son, Felix in 1922-23. The flood in the river Hughli also put the Mission to problems. The Serampore College was raised to the status of a Deemed University in 1827 under the patronage of the Danish Government. In 1828 the Serampore Mission was forced to severe its connection with the Society in England, thus making it completely independent. The Mission suffered an irreparable loss when the company with whom the Mission had all its deposits became bankrupt. During this period of adversity, Carey (1834) and Marshman (1837) passed away. The mission could function for few more years, not without difficulty, and ultimately in 1845 the Serampore Mission was closed. [Sunil Kumar Chattopadhyay]