Hermann Gundert

Dr. Hermann Gundert (1814-1893), the "Indian" grandfather, was a source of great fascination to the young Hermann Hesse, and exerted an influence that is not to be underestimated. As was later the case with the grandchildren, he attended the Maulbronn seminary before going on to study theology in Tübingen. From 1836 to 1859, Gundert worked as a missionary in southern India. While there, he headed a missionary station, established a school system that still functions today, and engaged in linguistic research. He structured, for example, the grammar of the Malayalam language and compiled a dictionary that is still in use today. While in India, he married his wife, Julie, a missionary sister from French-speaking Switzerland, who bore him six children, among them Marie, the mother of Hermann Hesse. A serious case of dysentery caused him to return to Germany in 1859, where he slowly recovered, yet going back to India was out of the question. The Basel Mission therefore sent him to Calw to assist the founder of the "Calwer Verlagsverein," Christian Gottlob Barth, who was in very poor health. After Barth's death in 1862, Gundert succeeded him in this position. Under his influence, the publishing company grew quite considerably, and the type of books published also changed. Gundert died in Calw in 1893 at the age of 79. Even today, Hermann Gundert is still honoured on the southwest coast of India. In the centre of the town of Talasseri (state of Kerala), a large Gundert memorial was erected in the year 2000.