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Charles Theophilus Ewald Rhenius

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இந்தப் பக்கத்தை தமிழில் வாசிக்க: இரேனியஸ்

இரேனியஸ் ஐயர்
Rhenius Ayer

Charles Theophilus Ewald Rhenius (Also known in Tamil Nadu as Irenius Ayer/Rhenius Ayer/Reynis Ayer) (5, November, 1790 - 5, June 1838) was a Protestant missionary who worked in Tamil Nadu. His translation of The Bible into a simpler and readable Tamil is his salient contribution to Tamil literature. He is considered one among the pioneering European missionaries who also significantly contributed to Tamil such as Veeramamunivar, G.U. Pope and Robert Caldwell. He also protested the caste influences prevalent in the Churches of his time.

Birth, Education

Rhenius was born on 5, November 1790 in a place named Graudenz, in Prussia, Germany. His father Nicholas Rhenius worked in Prussian army. His mother’s name was Catharina Dorothea Schiemann. When Rhenius was six his father passed away. He had two sisters and two brothers.

Rhenius studied in Cathedral School in Marienwerder till he was 14, after which, he worked under his uncle for three years in Paska. In 1807 he worked for his paternal uncle in overseeing his land. Rhenius became interested in Christian mission work during this period. He went to Berlin, studied to be a pastor and was ordained in 1812.

Personal Life

Being a Protestant, Rhenius came to India through Church Mission Society (C.M.S) on 4th of July 1984. Only that year East India Company had been allowed to take missionaries to India by the British Government. Since there was a shortage of Anglican clerics CMS sent Rhenius to India.

Rhenius stayed in Tharangambadi for five months and learnt Tamil. He married a Dutch woman named Annie Van Someran in Chennai. In Chennai he learnt Tamil as well as Telugu.

Missionary Work

தூய திரித்துவப் பேராலயம் - பாளையம்கோட்டை
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Palayamkottai

In his time the Anglican church had thought better to align with the East India Company. East India Company, for commercial reasons, had a policy to compromise with prevailing social practices in India. They were not inclined to fight the caste system and thus antagonize the upper caste people.

But Rhenius was firm on removing caste differences and untouchability in Church. He wrote a review of a book in which he brought out criticism on aspects of Anglican church he found inadequate. But the editor did not publish it. Rhenius published it himself. For this he was removed from his position by C.M.S.[1]

Since he could not align with Anglican Church he was transferred to Tirunelveli. From 7th July 1820 he stayed in Tirunelveli for 18 years and served the Church and people. He established a biblical society in Sindhu Poonthura, and spread the Christian message in nearby villages. Those who supported Rheinus Ayer stopped going to C.M.S churches. He built a prayer house for them in Adaikalapuram. Later it became St. John’s Church. It is also called "Chinna Koyil" meaning little church (or Sub church).

Rhenius established 371 Christian societies in Tirunelveli. In Murugankurichi, Palayamkottai where the Cathedral Church is located he had built a small church in 1826. Today it is known as Holy Trinity Cathedral. For his missionary work in Tirunelveli he was called 'The Apostle of Tirunelveli’.

Rhenius introduce spreading Christian message through simple pamphlets in Tamil He established Madras Tract and Religious Book Society for this purpose. This was later merged with Christian Literary Society. He also established it in Tirunelveli. He used paper imported from England and distributed pamphlets in thousands. He spread religious knowledge to the ordinary people.

Social work

At the time of Rhenius, the pastor of Tirunelveli was from Vellalar Caste. He had allowed Indian caste and religious practices in the church. Rehnius opposed these practices in school, church and hostels. He was strict about students and people being treated equally in these institutions. Apart from Vellalars he also began to make teachers and preachers out of Nadars. He started conversion of Nadars. He was a challenge to the plans of Church to make a strong beginning in Tamil Nadu by converting Vellalars, mentions researcher Vedasagayakumar. Due to this Rhenius faced many challenges himself.

Rhenius Ayer was keen to teach students in Tamil language. He translated text books into Tamil. Geography. History and General Knowledge books were translated into Tamil for the first time under him.

மேரி சார்ஜென்ட் மேல்நிலைப் பள்ளி
Mary Sargent Highschool

In May 1815 he started his first school in Chennai. The he started many other educational institutes. Since there was shortage of teachers and preachers he started a seminary. It is today known as 'Bishop Sargent School’. He also started a school for women. Today it is grown into 'Mary Sargent High School’.


Higher caste converts were treating new converts poorly. To stop this Rhenius established many new settlements. Nallur, Meyur, Samathanapuram, Muthalur, Adaikalapuram, Kadaadchapuram, Sathyanagaram, Kirupapuram, Anpin Nagaram, Arokiyapuram , Santhapuram, Pavanasapuram, Nesapuram, Nallamal Puram, Iratchanya Puram, Soukitapuram, Dharmanagaram, Nayinur, Visuvasapuram, Santhoshapuram, Asirvathapuram, Anukkirakapuram, and Seeyon Malai notable ones among the new settlements. In 1872 he bought Puliyurkirichy, a village from a doner from Germany named 'Count Dohna’ and settled Christians in it. The place was named Dohnavur.

Contribution to Tamil

தமிழ் இலக்கணம்
Tamil Grammar

Rhenius learnt Tamil grammar from Mugavai Ramanuja Kavirayar formally using grammar books such as Nannool. Then in Tirunelveli Thiruparkadalnathan Kavirayar taught him Tamil grammar and literature for a period of 14 years.

Rhenius Ayer’s translation of Vedagamam (Bible) is an important Tamil work. Fabritius Ayer’s version was available in Tamil but it had inadequacies and was not widely available. Rhenius was asked to revise the version.

Rhenius quoted Martin Luther saying it was not necessary to translate the Bible word by word and translated the Bible in the language of the common people.[2] The work he started in Chennai., he continued in Tirunelveli. Even though there was a team for translation he was the primary translator. He completed the New Testament first and the Old Testament partly from Genesis till Daniel. He could not complete the rest. Even though his translation was appreciated as very good he was criticized for not following the source fully as Fabritius.

Rhenius was the first to avoid the practice of compounding words in Tamil and separated individual words with space. The Tamil grammar book written by him in 1825 is an important book. In 11 years after he came to Tamil Nadu it was also written in English. It was written with many example sentences with conscious efforts to minimize the use of Sanskrit words.

The book 'Bhoomi Sastram’ (Geography) published 1832 is another important work. It was 728 pages long and the first Tamil book to record the new found enlightenment era knowledge from Europe. It has notes on Isaac Newton and Francis Bacon. Many new words (jargons) in Tamil.[3]


இரேனியஸ் கல்லறை
Rhenius Grave

Rhenius Ayer died on 5th June 1838.

His tomb is in Adaikalapuram, outside St. John’s Church cemetery, in the middle of the village.


There are many books written by Rhenius Ayer.

Prose Books
  • Bhoomi Sastra Nool
  • Palavakai thirutattam
  • Thamizh Ilakkanam
  • Vedha Utharana Thirattu
  • Uruvaga Vanakkam
  • Manukkula varalatru Surukkam
  • Samaya Saram
  • Protestant - Catholic uraiyadal (dialogue)
  • Suvushesha saramsam
  • Christhu Marga Nichayathuvam
  • Theyveega Saramsam
Text Books
  • Poogolam (Geography)
  • Sarithiram (History)
  • Iyarkai(Nature)
  • Vana Sasthiram (Astronomy)
  • Manukula Varalaru (Anthropology/History)
  • Surya Mandalam (Sun Family)
  • French Ilakkanam (French Grammar)
  • Kala Nul (Time)
  • Thargam (Logic)



✅Finalised Page