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Malayalam Movies and Songs

Father Nagel

Born3rd November, 1867
Died12th May, 1921
CareerLyrics (2 songs from 2 Movies)
First MovieAranaazhikaneram (1970)

Volbright Nagel was born in Hesse, Germany on November 3rd, 1867. He was orphaned at a very young age. At the age of 18, after listening to an evangelical discourse by a cobbler, Nagel became a devout Christian. Filled with the desire to become a missionary, he travelled to Basel in Switzerland where he joined the Basel Mission Training Institute in 1886 and graduated after 6 years. In 1893, he joined the Lutheran Mission.

Fr. Nagel reached Kannur as a missionary in December 1893 and took charge of the Lutheran Mission Centre in Valiamkulam. He faced several hurdles and difficulties here. He soon left the Lutheran Church in 1896 and wandered aimless in the southern parts of Kerala. It was during this period that he met Paramel Ittoop in Kunnamkulam. Kunnamkulam had already become a major center of Christianity in Kerala back then. Fr. Nagel settled down here and became part of the society here. He learnt to write and speak in Malayalam and soon came to be adopted by the folk of Kunnamkulam as one of their own.

In 1897 he married Harriet Michelle, an Anglo-Indian lady who was a teacher in Kunnamkulam and moved to Neelagiri. In 1906, he established an orphanage and a home for widows in Thrissur. This instituition known as ‘Rehoboth’ still exists.

In 1914, he returned to his native Germany. He planned to return to India after sending his older children to England for their studies. But his plans were thwarted when the First World War erupted. Being a German, he could not enter the British held Malabar. He travelled to Switzerland and his wife Harriet and three younger children remained in Malabar while his older two children were in Britain. Miserable in Switzerland at the separation from his children, Fr. Nagel was paralyzed and bed-ridden. Later he recovered enough to teach at the Bible School in Germany. It was here that he suffered a cardiac arrest. Harriet travelled to Germany to take care of him. Fr. Nagel passed away on May 12th, 1921. Harriet Nagel passed away on January 27th, 1935.

Fr. Nagel wrote a book on Christian baptism. He also penned the lyrics of several Christian devotional songs in Malayalam. All Christian congregations in Kerala still sing these songs. Malayali Christians revere him for bringing the Word of God to the shores of Kerala.

Some of his well-known songs:

Snehathinte Idayanaam Yesuve
Ninnodu Prarthippaan Priya Pithave
Jayam Jayam Kollum Naam
Deivathinte Ekaputhran Paapikale Rakshippaan
Maranam Jayicha Veera
Yesu Varum Vegathil
Ente Jeevanaam Yesuve
Samayamaam Rathathil Njan (This song was composed as a devotional number and not as a funeral dirge. Yet no funeral march is complete today without this song)

Fr. Nagel’s Samayamaam Rathathil Njan became popular through the film ‘Aranaazhikaneram’. P Leela and Madhuri lent their voices for this song. Thus, the life and works of a priest, born in Germany, who travelled to Kerala and learnt Malayalam, became very much part of the Malayali social and religious milieu.

Prepared by: Remitha Satheesh


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