Baptist Mission Press in the 1950s.
Baptist Mission Press in the 1950s.
Printing Christian Literature at Baptist Mission Press.
John and Ronald Ellis in the Nilgiri Hills
Climbing up into the
Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu.
The precise and highly skilled business of printing and binding Bibles.
Baptist Mission Press Superintendent
The Clarendon Press, later to become Oxford University Press, where William Pearce was trained.
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Snowdonia National Park, North Wales.
The home of the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff.
Bernard Ellis and family.
Grave of Felix Carey, Serampore.
Memorial to Luther Rice,
Lal Bazaar Chapel, Calcutta.
Memorial to Dr. Judson,
Lal Bazaar Chapel, Calcutta.
Krishna Pal. The first Hindu convert baptised by William Carey in 1800.
Memoir on Krishna Pal describing the first Khasi
Baptist Mission Press in 1906.
“It was the work of translating the Scriptures and revising them for which they [B.M.S. missionaries Lorrain and Savidge] were responsible in Mizoram. The printing and publication work was always undertaken by the Bible Society. This was occasionally done in London, but usually in Calcutta.”
Rev. J Meirion Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’,
‘History of the Church in Mizoram’, 1991,
“Outside the area [Mizoram] there were several notable Mission Presses, e.g. the Baptist Press in Calcutta and Anglican Presses in Madras, Dornakal, etc. The Calcutta Press, now sadly closed , provided many editions of Mizo books and, at a later date, valuable technical advice for the Mission Presses in North and South Mizoram.”
‘Lushai Old Testament. Print-run 5,000; 620 pages .’
Personal notes, Bernard Ellis, 1985.
The ‘Bible Society’ was the British and Foreign Bible Society — Baptist Mission Press’s biggest customer. Christian Literature was printed by the Press at 40% discount, i.e. at cost.
The ‘Baptist Press in Calcutta’ was Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, founded by William Pearce in 1818. By the 1950’s it was capable of printing the Scriptures in all the languages of India (1). Its predecessor, the Serampore Printing Office, was founded by William Ward in 1799 and closed in 1837. All the work was transferred to B.M.P., Calcutta.
Baptist Mission Press was run by my father Bernard Ellis (2) and my uncle Norman Ellis (3) from immediately after the 2nd World War until 1966. Norman had worked there since 1931. My family and uncle lived within the Press walls and when the first Lushai Old Testament was published in (I believe) 1956 I was just leaving Calcutta for boarding school in England.
Lushai was just one of the languages in which all, or part of the Bible, was being printed by Baptist Mission Press at the time. Other languages were Hindi, Gurmukhi, Oriya, Lotha Naga, Tibetan, Riang, Santali, Gujrati, Nepali, Marathi and Bengali, etc. Typically the revised Bengali New Testament took a year to set in type and print.
I remember hearing that my uncle, then Superintendent of the Press, had visited Lushai to advise on printing. I had absolutely no idea where Lushai was.
Both my uncle and father were familiar with Manipur, Nagaland and East Bengal from their time with the British and Indian Armies during the Second World War. Norman was a Captain in the Indian Army (the Rajputs) (4), and my father Bernard was a Chindit Major in the British Army. Kohima, Imphal and Comilla are familiar names to me from their reminiscences of fierce battles fought to keep the Japanese out of India.
A gradual discovery.
In the year 2000 I met, in Derby, a missionary daughter called Eirlys Smith (née Lloyd) ‘Zohmangaihi’, who told me about the Indian state where she grew up, went to a Mizo school and learned to speak Mizo as her first language. She called the state Mizoram. The State capital of which was Aizawl. I had never heard of either. We got out a map and had long conversations comparing our experiences as missionary children.
In 2008 I visited my childhood home in Kolkata and went on to stay at Serampore for three days with the Principal of Serampore College, Rev. Dr. Lalchungnunga. When explaining to him who I was and where I came from he revealed that Mizoram used to be called the Lushai Hills. Suddenly it all made sense. Lushai was my friend’s Mizoram.
I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to a young Mizo husband and wife who were respectively Serampore College’s Professors of New and Old Testament Theology. It was they who told me that Mizoram today is 95% Christian. A statistic I found truly startling. I could not conceive that such a thing is possible in modern India.
Six months ago I was entranced by some YouTube movies of Mizo and Manipur Gospel Choirs and decided to create a web site devoted to them. It seemed a good idea to add some Mizo church history pages to the site and after a bit of research I found there was only one book on the subject available in England. That book I soon discovered was written by the father of my friend Eirlys ‘Zohmangaihi’, Rev. J. Meirion Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’. She lent me her copy and this project grew from there.
To a missionary son used to hearing about the frustrations and limited success of work on a mission field that had been in existence since 1800 the Mizo story seems, by a factor of 10, to be way beyond anything that could possibly be true. Who are these Lushais or Mizos? What kind of missionary started it all? How could they have been so successful in such an incredibly short period of time? How was it possible the church could stand on its own feet so quickly?
I have been researching William Carey’s (5a & 5b) Serampore colleague William Ward (1769-1834) (6) since 2004 and am working on a new site about him. I also have a web site devoted to Serampore at virtualserampore.org made up of photographs I took during my visit in 2008.
Having spent my working life as a graphic designer I am trained to present information in as clear and attractive a way as possible. The sources should in no way be tampered with and I have approached this project in exactly the same way as the two projects mentioned above.
Although Rev. Lloyd’s ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ text has been shortened and edited, the integrity of his original has been scrupulously adhered to. The main body of the text is derived entirely from his book. Direct quotations he makes from letters are reproduced verbatim. A few amplifications for outsiders, like myself, have been added but they are clearly indicated. They are either in the form of tinted panels at the top of the pages or notes at the foot of the main text. Most notes come from Wikipedia and links are included to the Wikipedia pages. In other places complete quotes from Wikipedia have been included. Occasionally dates and small paragraphs etc. have been added to J. Meirion Lloyd’s ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ text and these are indicated by square brackets ‘’.
Mizoram became India’s 23rd State in 1986 and I am assuming it was from this date that the Lushai Hills were officially called Mizoram. To save confusion Rev. Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ starts calling the Lushais (also called Lusai, Lusei, or Looshai) Mizos from the start of his narrative and I have followed his lead. Lushais and Mizos are essentially older and newer names for the same people.
Burma has been renamed Myanmar since Rev. Lloyd’s ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ book was published in 1991 and the new name has been used instead of Burma wherever possible.
Rev. Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’, when referring to the early missionaries uses different abbreviations for their names which some might find confusing. For example David Evan Jones (7) is sometimes called ‘D. E. Jones’, ‘Jones’, even ‘D. E’., or just by his Mizo name ‘Zosaphluia’. As this site will hopefully be visited by those both inside and outside Mizoram I have used his Welsh and Mizo name — Jones ‘Zosaphluia’. This also applies to Rowlands ‘Sapthara’, Lorrain ‘Pu Buanga’, Savidge ‘Sap Upa’, Watkin Roberts ‘Saptlangvala’, Mendus ‘Pu Mena’, Kitty Lewis ‘Pi Zomawii’ and Katie Hughes ‘Pi Zaii’.
I am surprised Rev. Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ never attaches the title ‘Rev.’ to any of the missionaries. To keep the integrity of his original I have followed his lead. This may be due to the fact that on the mission field most missionaries are ordained so the term ‘Rev.’ becomes redundant among colleagues.
I am deeply indebted to Eirlys Smith ‘Zohmangaihi’ for kindly allowing me to borrow her copy of her father’s book, and for allowing me to use the text on this web site. I hope it does justice to his scholarship and commitment to the Christian heritage of Mizoram and its people.
I am also deeply indebted to various photographers who have either visited Mizoram, or live in Mizoram, for the extra dimension I believe their superb photographs add to the text. Most are members of Flickr.com and links to their Flickr pages are next to their photographs which respects their Flickr anonymity. Some have been kind enough to check the text and maps for me and I am very grateful for their time and willingness to help. Others have helped to clarify certain points I find difficult to understand, particularly the relationships and names of the peoples of Mizoram. I do not wish to upset anyone, which makes it essential for me to understand these matters. If there are still mistakes I would like to sincerely apologise in advance.
BMS World Mission has very kindly provided me with images of Lorrain ‘Pu Buanga’ and Savidge ‘Sap Upa’, and other Mizo images for use specifically on this web site and copyright for those images remains with them.
This site has been created on an iMac, using iWeb, Photoshop and Freehand. It is best viewed by visitors with broadband and has been tested on all the most used browsers. It is suitable for both PCs and Macs. The new iPad seems designed for a site like this.
The process of designing it, finding the pictures, and working with Rev. Lloyd’s ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ text has been a revelation and a delight in every respect. I really hope my feeling of awe at what has been achieved in God’s name is communicated to visitors to this site.
‘Expect great things from God,
attempt great things for God’.
Rev. William Carey, Friar Lane Particular Baptist Chapel, Nottingham, Wednesday, 30th May, 1792.
Ronald Ellis, Derby, UK, August 2010 (8).
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This site is dedicated to all those British missionaries, and their families, who, since 1793, have accepted the call to bring the Gospel to India, and succeeded, through great personal sacrifice and dedication, to translate and print the Scriptures in all the languages of India, until the 1960s and 70s.
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(1). Books known to have been printed by Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta:
‘Pathian Lehkhabu Chanchin Thu’, an outline of the Old Testament, originally by Charles Foster, translated and published in Lunglei.
‘Sâm Bu’: (fakne hlate), (Psalms), (1938-1961?), published by B.M.S. missionary in Mizoram, Frank Raper, translated by Lorrain ‘Pu Buanga’.
‘Lushai Old Testament’, 1956, 5,000 copies. (Manuscript notes of Bernard Ellis in the possession of the webmaster)
According to J. Meirion Lloyd, ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ the work of translating and revising the Scriptures was the responsibility of B.M.S. missionaries Lorrain ‘Pu Buanga’ and Savidge ‘Sap Upa’. Printing and publication was carried out by the British and Foreign Bible Society, ‘occasionally in London, but usually in Calcutta’, i.e. at Baptist Mission Press Calcutta. BMP had been acquiring the skills to print in all the languages of India since 1818. There are 18 main languages of which most have their own unique alphabets, plus 96 subsidiary languages. There are 212 languages in total with 10,000 speakers or more.
(2). I have some notes my father made for the deputation sermons he delivered in the U.K. while on furlough in 1954, 1958 and 1962. In them it is clear that he was well aware of the amazing missionary successes achieved in Assam. This was probably through his dealings with Frank Raper, a BMS missionary in Lunglei, and from what his brother Norman had to tell him after visiting what he knew as Lushai to give technical advice on printing. Under the heading ‘Some Surprising facts about India’ Bernard wrote:
‘Half the Christian population of India is Roman Catholic. Sixty per cent of those who are not Roman Catholic live in South India. Most of the remaining non-Roman Catholic population live in Assam where the Christian Church continues to increase by leaps and bounds’.
Bernard was a printer and a trained journalist. He was a lay preacher and had not been ordained, though many previous Superintendents of the Press had been.
(3). Norman Ellis was a lay preacher and had also not been ordained. He was very skilled and experienced in every aspect of printing including typecasting, typesetting, machine work, bookbinding and print management. He had a natural gift for typography. The press workers had a great respect for him as he could do everything he asked them to do. The two brother’s skills complemented each other. They were deacons at Lower Circular Road Baptist Church.
Between them they published and printed the trade magazine for the Indian printing and papermaking industries called ‘Indian Print and Paper’. The Superintendent of BMP, whoever he was, had a place on the Publications Committee of the Asiatic Society (founded 1784), and BMP printed many of their publications. For an idea of just some of BMP’s work over the years click on this link.
BMP was a profitable press. It contributed tens of thousands of pounds over the years to the Baptist Missionary Society for the salaries of missionary evangelists, teachers, doctors, nurses etc. The managers were paid the same as every other missionary.
(4). Norman did his officer training at Bangalore and became a Captain in the Rajputs. When the War ended he was asked by the Indian Army to write the official account of their involvement in the Burma campaign but declined in order to return to his work as Superintendent of Baptist Mission Press.
(5a). William Carey baptised Krishna Pal, the first Hindu convert, on 28th December 1800 in the River Hooghly. Krishna Pal baptised the earliest Khasi converts at the Serampore Mission’s station at Cherrapunji in 1813. The station was abandoned by the Serampore Mission and revived by the Welsh Presbyterians in 1841.
See: Church-mission dynamics in Northeast India.
(5b). ‘At Chatuk I met with Mr. Smith. After reading the letter [of introduction to Mr. Smith], he returned it to me, and also gave me a letter of introduction to the Judge of Sylhet. When I arrived there, I gave the Judge the letters, and, on his enquiring, told him the reason of my coming into that part of the country. Mr. Smith arrived at Sylhet a few days after. The Judge desired to see the books I had brought with me, and was much pleased with them, and told me to give them to those who wanted them. I preached and distributed the tracts there.
The Judge wished me to go into the Khasee country, and gave introductory letters to a jemadar and subadar there, and also a sepoy as a guard. I was three days going into that country. The jemadar and subadar gave me lodging. I made known the glad tidings there. There I hope four sepoys, and two natives of the Khasee country, and a native of Assam, were converted.
After a few days, the Judge, and Mr. Smith arrived there. I told them that I was very glad, for my labours had been successful. They requested to see the above-mentioned seven people, and enquired of them, whether they believed in the death of Christ, that he died for sinners, and whether they wished to be baptized. The gentlemen then wished me to baptize the seven men, and had a silver basin filled with water, brought on the table, and requested me to begin ordinance. I told them I had never seen baptism performed in that manner. Upon their enquiring about the mode I followed, I referred to the baptism of St. John, mentioned in the New Testament. They then said, I might do it in the way I preferred, and we went to the Dhuvuleshwuree river. There were present eight rajas, and about six hundred Khaseeyas. I read the sixth chapter of Romans, expounded and prayed, and then baptized the seven men. I remained in that part of the country eight months, proclaiming the gospel, and then returned to Serampore.
Pages 24 & 25. ‘Ward’s Memories of Krishna Pal’, Rev. W. Ward, 2nd edition, Serampore, 1822. Courtesy Derby Local Studies Library.
(6). William Carey’s colleague at Serampore, William Ward, formerly the editor of the Derby Mercury, baptised Dr. Adoniram Judson D.D., the first American Baptist Missionary, and his wife Ann, at the Lal Bazaar Chapel, Calcutta, on 6th September 1812. He also baptised Rev. Luther Rice (1783-1836) at the same chapel on 1st November 1812. Dr. Judson (1788-1850) went to Burma where he worked for 38 years. He translated the Bible into Burmese.
William Carey had prepared a font of Burmese characters in 1807. His son Felix Carey prepared a Burmese Grammar in 1814 and created Burmese translations of the Gospels a year later.
A press and type were sent from the Serampore Printing Office to Burma and in 1817 the American Baptist Mission Press was founded in Rangoon by an American printer called George Hough.
(7). Wales (Cymru) is a distinct country within the United Kingdom with its own capital Cardiff (Caerdydd). For most Welshmen English is their only language, but in the north and west, where many of the Welsh Presbyterian missionaries in Mizoram came from, Welsh (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg) is still spoken as a first language by the majority of the population. English is their second language. The Presbyterian Church of Wales is the largest denomination in the country. The Welsh language is as unintelligible to an Englishman as Mizo would be. The early missionaries have distinctively Welsh surnames (Williams, Jones, etc.), and would almost certainly have spoken with a Welsh accent. It is worth pointing out that Rev. Lloyd, whose surname is also distinctively Welsh, published two versions of his book, both equally available through the UK library service, one in English and one in Welsh. Many of his sources such as D. E. Jones’ ‘Zosaphluia’ autobiography and the publications of the Welsh Presbyterian Church were printed in Welsh which he has translated. Welsh is said to be the oldest spoken language in Europe. The Principality is known for its hills and mountains (see right), its language, and for its choral heritage. Welsh men and women are very proud of their country and their culture.
(8). As a child I travelled from Calcutta to a boarding school in the Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu, in the South of India. The children of Assam Tea planters would send their children to Calcutta where my mother assembled a school party and escorted us all down to the Nilgiris at the start of the school year. She would escort us back again for the long Cold Weather holiday and make sure the Assam tea planters children found their way back to their parents in Assam. The school in the Nilgiris was 3,000 feet above the Plains, similar to the Mizo Hills, and we were surrounded by tea bushes as far as the eye could see.
Bernard Ellis’s Major’s pips and Burma Star medal.
A Rolls Royce jet engine above the River Hooghly just north of Serampore.
Derby is the home of Rolls Royce aero engines and Zohmangaihi’s husband is a scientist at the Rolls Royce factory.
A Facebook message to a Mizo Choir member, who asked who I am.