Mangaluru: A statue of Dr. Ferdinand Kittel, a Lutheran priest from Germany who wrote the first Kannda-English dictionary that introduced Kannada language to the Western world, was unveiled at the Karnataka Theological College on Saturday.
Kittel’s kin, including his great-granddaughter Almuth Barbara Eleonore Meyer (Kittel) and his great-great-grandson Yves Patrick Meyer, were present on the momentous occasion.
The event coincided with the celebration of the 175th anniversary of the Karnataka Theological College (KTC) at Balmatta.
Senior scholar Prof Dr. B A Vivek Rai in his address reflected on the life and works of Dr. Ferdinand Kittel for the Kannada language. Dr. Kittel set aside his missionary work for pursuing his work on Kannada, he opined.
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Kittel arrived in Mumbai in 1853 and thereafter moved to Dharwad. He was fascinated by the Kannada language. After learning the basics, Kittel did deep research into the language and produced authoritative works on the Kannada lexicon, translation, grammar, and textbooks. The dictionary brought out by him in 1894 contains 75,000 Kannada words, Prof Rai said.
Kittel’s was so immersed in his Kannada work that his Missionary superiors were unhappy. They accused him of neglecting his Christian missionary work. They had also threatened him to leave the mission. But it is mentioned in his letters that Kittel retorted that if he left the mission, he would establish his own mission and continue the work for Kannada, Prof Rai said.
Deputy Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Friedrich Birgelen, said Dr Kittel became a bridge between India and Germany. “The contribution of Kittel to Kannada is a great legacy. Being a missionary, Kittel has contributed a lot to Kannada. He became a bridge between the two countries. His desire to learn the local language, customs, and music is laudable,” he said.
Kittel’s great-granddaughter Almuth Barbara Elenore Meier (Kittel) said, “I listened to my grandfather tell me about my great-grandfather… I am happy to see the affection of the people here.”
Kittel’s great-great grandson Yves Patrick Meyer said that Kittel left everything and came to India at the age of 21. Through his work, he conquered the minds and hearts of the people of Karnataka.