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WILLIAM CAREY OF SERAMPORE: A YOUTH ICON PAR EXCELLENCE SHIVRAJ K. MAHENDRA Introduction Generations after generation youngsters have looked for icons that they can imitate in their lives. Many of such youth icons have generally been sought from the worlds of sports or movies, religion or politics. While there are several masters of their own area, the all-rounders are only a few. One of the greatest all-rounders the world has ever seen is known to history as William Carey. It was Carey who said, Expect great things from God, Attempt great things for God. He not only said it, but also did it and lived it. This article attempts to see William Carey as a man of achievements and seeks to draw inspiration from his life and work for the youth today. The Life of William Carey William came from a very humble background. He was born on August 17, 1761 at Paulers Pury in England. His father was a weaver-turnedschoolmaster. Carey’s schooling was done at home till the age of 14. After that, he began to work as a shoemaker. During this period, he continued his learning and taught himself classic languages such as Latin, French, Greek and Hebrew and he also learned Theology. His parents filled him with the knowledge of the Bible. While working as a shoemaker, Carey was led to Christ by a fellow worker named John Warr. Carey founded the famous Baptist Missionary Society at England in 1792. He came to India in 1793 and engaged himself in the historic task of Bible translation. Having fruitfully served Christ with all his talents and abilities for more than 40 years, Carey breathed his last at Serampore (West Bengal) on June 9, 1834. The Legacy of William Carey Life is all about expectations and attempts! Carey expected great things, attempted great things and

Chronicle of Fishers for Christ, December 2016 © Shivraj Mahendra

achieved great things. He has left a great legacy behind. Who he was, can be seen from what all he had done. William Carey was a pioneer in many fields. Some of those fields of are highlighted below. Language and Literature: Carey was the first person to translate and publish the great Indian classic, Ramayana, into English. Through his works, Bengali, which was earlier considered a language ‘fit for demons,’ acquired the status of the foremost literary language of the nation. Carey also compiled the first Sanskrit dictionary for scholars. He translated and published the entire Bible into six prominent Indian languages (including Hindi) and Bible-portions into total forty languages. Mass Communication: William Carey is credited to be the founder of print technology in India. He brought the modern science of printing and publishing here and built the largest press in India at that time. Most printers had to buy their fonts from Carey’s press at Serampore. He also established the first newspaper ever printed in any oriental language. His English journal, Friend of India, had become the force that was instrumental in the rise of social reform movements in India. Education and Learning: Carey founded several schools for Indian children of all castes and established the first College in Asia, the Serampore College, which is now a University. He was a professor of Bengali, Sanskrit and Marathi at the Fort William College, Calcutta (Kolkata). India’s religious culture had denied to most Indians free access to knowledge keeping them in the bondage of ignorance. Carey stood against this tradition and promoted freedom and power that come from the knowledge of truth.


Banking and Economy: It was William Carey who first introduced the idea of Savings Banks to India. This he did to fight against the evil of usury prevalent in his time. The moral dimensions of Carey’s economic efforts had assumed special importance in India. In order to modernize Indian agriculture, economy and industry, Carey advocated the policy that Europeans should be allowed to own land and property in India. This was the foreshadow of opening the doors to international companies for business in India. Agriculture: Carey was the founder of the AgriHorticultural Society in the 1820s. This was 30 years before the establishment of the Royal Agricultural Society in England. Carey did a systematic survey of agriculture in India and wrote extensively on agricultural reform in the prominent journal called Asiatic Researches. Medical: Carey was the first person to lead the campaign for a humane treatment for leprosy patients. Until his time lepers were buried or burned alive in India with the belief that violent end purified the body for a healthy rebirth. Carey believed that these people need to be cared with the love of Christ. Ecology and Environment: Carey advocated as well as practiced the cultivation of timber and provided practical advice on how to plant trees for environmental, agricultural and commercial purposes. His ecological motivations came from his belief that God has made human beings responsible for the earth. Social Reforms: Carey was the first person to stand against the widespread oppression of women in 18th and 19th century India. The Indian man was crushing the woman through polygamy, female infanticide, child marriage, widowburning (Sati), forced female illiteracy, etc., all sanctioned by religion. Carey conducted sociological and scriptural research and published his reports to raise public opinion against these evils. He opened schools for girls and arranged marriages for widows who had converted to Christianity. It was through Carey’s persistent battle against Sati for 25 years that led to the official abolition of this abominable practice in 1829. In addition, Carey was the first to introduce steam engine to India. He also introduced the scientific study of astronomy, pioneered the idea of lending libraries, and contributed towards the birth of Indian nationalism. Carey’s Christian spiritual teachings Chronicle of Fishers for Christ, December 2016 © Shivraj Mahendra

revolutionized the 19th century religious scene in India. The early leaders of the Indian Renaissance such as Raja Rammohan Roy, Keshub Chandra Sen and others, drew their inspirations from William Carey. He is called the father of modern missionary movement and holds a central place in the story of the modernization of India. The Lesson from William Carey For today’s youth, who is in search of significance, there is a lot to learn from Carey. It must be noted that Carey’s commitment to his various endeavours were not in any search of significance, rather a commitment to serve the Lord by serving humanity. It is important to remember that great things are not achieved in all favourable situations. It must also be noted that things were not easy at all for Carey. Carey lived a very difficult and painful life. From early morning till late in the night he worked tirelessly. He lived in poverty and health situations. He suffered loss of dear ones. However, nothing could hinder or stop him from what he was called to achieve. He did his best in the worst situations and made a history. He used his talents and abilities and became a yugpurush, and an icon par excellence. Conclusion Young life today generally appears to be hanging between expectation and attempt! In the life and works of Carey, we find a matchless all-rounder. Carey’s life calls us for a commitment to do the will of God with all that we have and all that we can. Carey followed Christ as his supreme Lord and Master. In obedience to him, he expected great things and achieved great things. What would we like to achieve in our life? What legacy can we leave behind? How would we like to be remembered? You will find your answers to these vital questions in this question: Who is your role model? May the God of history and the Lord of Carey enable us to become what He wants us to be.

Shivraj Mahendra is a theological translator, author and educator. Connect with him on Facebook or email:

Note: An earlier version of this article has previously appeared in Radiant 2011 and Wise 2012.


Willaim Carey