Friday, 15 December 2017

St. Peter's church (1829), Royapuram and legal dispute over its control

Ft. St. George. Madras (Chennai) old
 It is a deplorable fact that unwanted disputes arise over places of religious worship for serious or petty reasons and such things do happen in all religions, irrespective of countries and regions.  The people involved in such disputes over gods' houses do not care either about the sanctity of the place or about their own  virtues of perseverance and solve the disputes peacefully, instead of approaching the court of law to resolve the issue. In the heart of Royapuram lies an old and historical church known as St. Peter's built by the Indian Christian  boatmen community in the middle of the 19th century. Though their devotion to Christianity is not questionable, the control of Arch diocese of Mylapore in the religious administration of the church caused resentment among the community that built the church. Mired in controversy, the legal wrangle in the court between the Arch diocese and the boatmen community continued for a pretty long time to such an extent, the church was closed for more than a decade in the 1930s. No masses, no daily prayers. Perhaps, it may be a prolonged religious dispute before the court in the colonial history of India!!

St. Peter's Church at Royapuram, Chennai from whose name Royapuram  is derived  based on the Tamil word Royappar,  began as a chapel in 1780. It was  built exclusively by the industrious and hard working Hindu community called Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars. By profession, they were boatmen migrated from a place called Durgapatinam near Pulikat on the Coromandel coast, Tamil Nadu, helping the British mercantile traders there. The East india Company got a piece of land at Chennapatnam and founded Fort St. George in 1644.  In 1710, the boatmen community   settled near Fort St. George  and served the East India company. Their job was to  help  naval and cargo ships reach the dock and bring in the cargo. Over a period of time, they not only became prosperous but also Christian coverts. The chapel was built to take care of their religious obligations. The land comprising 720 acres  was allotted in 1799 to them by the Marine board secretary for their residential needs as they made the boatmen move out the Chapauk area.  With funds raised by them and support from the Marine Board, the boatmen built a Gothic styled church St. Peter's  in 1829 and was consecrated in the same year by Bishop of Mylapore  Dom Manuel de Ave Maria  Upon consecration, its keys  to the church were delivered to the headmen of the community. Rev.Fr. Anthonis Martin de Silva  was appointed as the Vicar.
Ft. St.George, black/white towns, Madras. Dentista!!! - WordPress.com6
 The decision to appoint a man from Irish mission as Vicar in the place of Rev. Fr. Antonius Martin de Silva became a controversy and split the Mudaliar groups.  Arch diocese of Mylapore was controlling the religious administration of the church. 

Unfortunately,  with regard to  Christian  tradition and denomination to be followed in the new church, there was  neither  a general consensus nor  unity among the Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars  and Arch diocese.  One group wanted to support the Irish Mission and the other preferred  Goan mission. The control of church's money went to the government as there was some dispute over the collection of money on a regular basis from boat owners and boat operators to main the church. The simmering differences between two factions  continued unabated from 1860s till early 1900s with court cases, appeals, etc.  During 1848, the fighting became so bad that  the Goan mission  supporters built St. Antony's church  just right across  the St. Peter's Church with proper compound walls.

 It is a matter of great regret and highly condemnable that a place of worship and veneration has become a bone of contention and the matter remained unsolved for a pretty longtime. Neither the Mudaliars who built the church nor the Arch diocese of Mylapore who had control over the matters related to religious tradition to be followed by the church wanted to make a compromise and settle the dispute amicably. This unsolved issue resulted in the closure of this church for 14 long years from  1935-49. St. Peters Church was originally under the dominions of the Cathedral and later changed hands to Petite Seminary School Fathers up to 1860. At last both parties again approached the court for acceptable legal remedy. It was  ruled by the High Court that the income from the shops and schools around the Church were given to the Archbishop for the management of church schools and orphanage, etc.. Then there was a higher appeal in the Supreme Court at Delhi, which affirmed the ruling  of the Madras High Court.

It was a tradition in the church to have only French priests, but in modern times, Tamil Christians trained in Christian Theology are allowed to conduct payer and masses. The Church is  being administered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madras and Mylapore.,_Royapuram

Royapuram, Chennai and its hoary past

Royapuram fishing harbour Chennai, en.wikipedia. org
Royapuram railway station, 1856. Chennai en.Wikipedia
Royapuram is in North Chennai, Tamil nadu and many fishing communities are living here. The growth of Royapuram that has a hoary past is quite fascinating and the very mention of its name invokes in our mind the  old railway station which was the first one opened in 1856 by Governor Harris of Madras Presidency, connecting  Royapuram to Arcot (present day Walajapet near Ranipet), the titular capital of the Nawab of Carnatic. It is tagged as the oldest surviving railway station in the Indian subcontinent. During the colonial days, the reason why Royapuram  was the preferred destination for a big railway station was its proximity to the British settlement as well as native Indian colonies settled near-by. For 17 years, the Royapuram railway station was the only one in the city  till Madras Central station became operational in 1873. The Royapuram railway station played a crucial role when Madras Port became operational and all the cargoes from the ship were transported via Royapuram railway station. This led to the opening up of Egmore station as terminus  for the south-bound trains in 1907.

If you  go back  and trace  the history of Royapuram, it has close links with  Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars  who were a group of enterprising Hindu  boatmen who had  settled in Fort St. George in Madras Presidency around 1710. it is believed that that these so called boat people migrated from Durgarayapatnam ( north of Pulicat) for better employment opportunities. They offered their boating services to the East India company by way of docking the Naval and Cargo ships  at Madras and transporting goods by boat and in the next two decades, they became prosperous and were staying close to Ft. St. George. The boat people never failed to pay the toll to the marine board.There were boat owners operating both catamarans as well as Masula boat ( it is made of non-rigid planks sewn together with coir ropes and are common along Andhra and Tamil Nadu 

St. Peter's church, Royapuram, chennai,
coasts. They were of immense help to the British and their services in  aiding the British  vessels arriving at Madras and handling cargo was quite indispensable. Marine Board took decision to change the location of landing  and chose  North Beach ( where the main harbour buildings are located today). So,  the boat-owners and their crews too had to move out. In the wake of shifting of Customs House and Master attendant's Office from Ft. St. George to  Black town, the boat people were offered in 1799 a big chunk of  land in a new village comprising 720 acres by the Marine Board that was under the control of East India Company. Lord Edward Clive of EIC granted the lands to them.  Both the English company and the marine boat people were mutually inter-dependent.  Their ties with the English company was so good, during the brief French take over of Ft. St. George in 1746, these boat people also followed suite and moved over to Ft. David, Cuddalore (now in Cuddalore district, TN) and got back to their place when the British repossessed it.

The village that was offered to the boat people, later came to be called Royapuram. It was here  Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars who became Christian converts built a Chapel in 1780 to fulfil their spiritual needs. No details are available about the early structure.  Later, with help from the Marine Board, a Gothic-styled church called St. Peter's was built in 1829 by the boating community. It is the oldest church in this part of Chennai.  Upon consecration, Its keys  to the church were delivered to the headmen of the community. Royapuram takes its name from St. Peter's ( in Tamil Royappar ; puram refers to an area).



Thursday, 14 December 2017

St. Peter's Church (1829). a historical monument in Royapuram, Chennai

St Peter’s Church (1829),Royapuram
St. Peter's Church is one of the oldest and historical churches in Royapuram area of Chennai, Tamil Nadu and  was built to cater to the religious needs of the small  Indian enterprising community living there who were followers of Roman Catholic sect. Originally they were Hindus, later became christian converts. The old chapel was built by a group of boatmen, assisting  the East India Company that was running a trade post at Ft. St. George. The present Church was constructed with a portion of the Government’s grant and it was erected as a Parish in 1829 by the Bishop of Mylapore.  Records point out that  Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars were instrumental in establishing the church there by making major contribution towards construction. The work on the church began in 1825 and completed in 1829. Part of the contribution came from the Secretary of Marine Board. The Archdiocese of Mylapore appointed the Rev. Fr. Antonis Martin D'Silva as the Church's first priest of this old church.

St.Peter's church (1829)Royapuram, Chennai

In the early years, the chapel (built in 1780), under the control of  Vicar Apostolic, had daily services as well as hourly prayer. Later, it was divided into two churches namely St. Peters and St. Antony's Church, following the division among the  Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars - the former supporting the Irish mission and the latter, following the Goan tradition. The church has been a prominent  landmark in the suburb  of Royapuram. The name Royapuram is derived from the Tamil appellation for St. Peter Royappar  and Puram meaning area / place. In 1779 the Royapuram area comprising 720 grounds was allotted by the Marine Board under the English company on order from  Lord Edward Clive to the Indian community - mostly fishermen moved from Chapauk to Royapuram. The marine board shifted the Customs House and Master Attendant's Office to Black Town from Fort St. George in 1799. Consequent to  removal of Customs House and Master Attendant's Office to Black Town, the marine Board granted the lands to the fishing community for residential purpose.

St.Peter's Royapuram 

Gurukula Vamsha Varnakula Mudaliars, who were quite enterprising community took care of the British naval and cargo ships docking at Madras and their services were quite indispensable for the British company.There was no proper harbor here in those days.

Built in Gothic architecture, the church has a prayer halls for the devotees. The altar houses conventional Catholic images. Quite impressive features in this church are the  plaques of St. Peter, St. Anthony, Jesus Christ, Chindadri Matha showcased  in glass chambers. They are set in standing posture on the walls facing the devotees, while the image of Child Jesus is located in an open chamber around the sanctum.

Originally, St. Peters Church was  under the dominions of the Cathedral and later it came under the  Petiti Seminaire School Fathers till 1860. In the early days the priests in the church were  only French and natives were not allowed, but during modern times, Tamil people were also allowed to conduct prayer, masses, etc. Presently, the Church is  being administered by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madras and Mylapore.[

During the Christmas time the festival of the temple is celebrated  for eight long days, beginning with flag hoisting on 24 December and ending with a feast and religious lectures on 2 January. The famous feasts offered in the temple are : the feast of St. Peter on the 29th June and the second for Our Lady of Voyage called Chitirai Matha from 29 August to 8 September. The highlight of the event is a car procession with the Church deities around the streets of Royapuram, an offshoot of Hindu temple tradition.,_Royapuram

"Royapuram: Wheel of time takes the sea away". Chennai: The Hindu. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2015.

Rani Gaidinliu, a daring Nagaland woman who revolted against the British Colonists

 In the early centuries, the Indian subcontinent had conservative societies across the land cutting across religion, caste and regions. Progress of the communities was retarded because of various restrictions in the society, in particular, for women. Consequently, the social cauldron became stagnant, ridden with superstition and social evils, especially, in the case of women, the less said, the better. There arose a necessity for conscientious people in the society to bring the women out of darkness and face challenges in the society. The responsibility fell on the well-informed and enlightened reformers in our society to take the task of instilling confidence in Indian women and uplifting their status in our society. Women rights activists like Pandita Ramabai Ranade, Kadambini Ganguly (the first woman graduate) and others chose the political platform to address the grievance of Indian women. Women leaders in the Indian national Congress (INC) emphasized the need for the women to take part in the freedom struggle along with men and get involved in national movements. This opened up a new age for Indian women to raise their voice against the British, thus establishing their role in matters of national importance. Countless Indian women courageously revolted against the British. Theirs is a story of courage, commitment  and sacrifice for country's freedom. If we are enjoying fresh air and freedom in the cool shadow of democracy and if India is what is today, it is because of brave men and women who put their personal lives behind their patriotic duties.     

Rani_Gaidinliu, nagaland. YouTube

Gaidinliu (1915–1993) was a Naga  woman spiritual and political leader who in 1927, at the age of 13, joined the Heraka religious movement of her cousin Haipou Jadonang. Born on 26 January 1915 at Nungkao Tamenglong District, Manipur Gaidinliu  was the fifth of eight children, her parents were  Lothonang Pamei and Kachaklenliu. She was from the Rongmei tribe (also known as Kabui).  The family belonged to the ruling clan of the village. The Heraka religious movement assumed political dimension and Ms. Gaidinliu, with no formal education (there were no schools in her village) emerged as a great leader and   revolted  against British rule in India along with other members.  Nagas wanted self-rule to safeguard their tribal belief and culture. Wherever the British ruled, they earned the ire of the docile, quiet native people by indulging in exploitation of land and labor, depredation, racial intimidation, etc. What at stake was Indian natives' dignity and their pride.  The availability of guns was a blessings for the Nagas  and  Ms. Gaidinliu and other leaders  turned into an armed rebellion against the British policies of forced labour and ruthless oppression.The  tribal people of Naga saw the erosion of their culture and land and their political movement was serious about driving  out the British from Manipur and the surrounding Naga areas.

After Jadonang was arrested and hanged by the British in 1931, Gaidinliu  became his spiritual and political heir. She and other countless rebels  engaged the Assam Rifles in armed conflicts in the North Cachar Hills (16 February 1932) and the Hangrum village (18 March 1932). The British launched a massive manhunt for her and she hoodwinked them by moving across various villages , some of which now come under Assam. In a surprise move at Pulome village Captain MacDonald launched a surprise attack  on 17 October 1932. Gaidinliu, along with her followers was arrested near Kenoma village. by the British. At Imphal, the trial against her and others went for about a month. At last, Ms. Gaidinliu, who was just 16 years old,  was convicted on the charges of murder and abutment of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Political Agent's Court. Unfortunately, most of her  associates, who vigorously fought against the British, were either executed or jailed,

Rani_Gaidinliu, nagaland. NewsFlicks
Very much impressed by her courage and patriotism, Jawaharlal Nehru met her at Shillong Jail in 1937, and assured her of her release soon. He was the one who gave her the title "Rani" ("Queen"), and, obviously, she became a popular figure  as Rani  Gaidinliu in the local community.

Unfortunately after a long spell of jail life, Gaidinliu was released from prison after independence in 1947  and,  upon her release, she never kept herself idle. She spent much of her valuable time working for  the welfare and progress of her people. Being a staunch follower  and an  advocate of the ancestral Naga religious practices, she adamantly resisted the conversion of Nagas to Christianity. In this part of NE India, Western missionaries  had been seriously engaged in converting the tribes to Christianity at the cost of destroying their age old tribal culture and tradition. No doubt, these missionaries made a valid contribution in the realm of education, however, their over enthusiasm in religious conversion won them bad rap.  In the early 1950s, Gaidinliu moved over  to her native village of Longkao. Till her health failed, she made valuable contribution to the progress of Naga tribal community and found them a niche in the Indian history of freedom movement. Gaidinliu was honoured as a freedom fighter and was awarded a Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Gulab Bari, Faizabad, India - a beautiful Mausoleum built by the Nawab of Awadh

Gulab Bari, Faizabad,Uttar Pradesh. YouTube
Gulab Bari, Tomb of Nawab

Gulab Bari (meaning 'Garden of Roses') is a fascinating well-laid out rose garden in Faizabad, UP, covering a vast lush green area. It houses  the Tomb of Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula (1753–1775), the third Nawab of Awadh  and his parents. The garden  has an excellent  collection of roses of various hues  and varieties nearly arranged  by the sides of water fountains. It is said that the ruler would come to this place often to enjoy the fragrance and to take decision  on political matters in a comfortable, peaceful ambiance provided by the nice-smelling rose garden and the greenery surrounding it. 

Second gate, Gulab Bari, Faizabad,
Nakkar Khana at Gulab Bari, Faizabad. Inditales

Gulab Bari, the maqbara (Mausoleum) of Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula is a declared monument of national Importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.

Nawab Shuja-ud-daula and his sons.

Above image:  Shuja-ud-Daula (1753–1775) the Nawab of Awadh, with  his four Sons, General Barker and other military officers of the East India Company. The Nawab himself built the tomb - Gulab Bari at Faizabad, his capital city.

The enclosure wall that surrounds Gulab Bari is built of Lakhauri bricks lime plastered and decorated with plaster molding. Within the enclosure is built  the tomb of Shuja-ud-daula along with mosque Imambara, Shahi Hammam, Baradari and a well approached through triple-arched gateways. Shuja-ud-daula  himself built the tomb  during his lifetime  and it can be accessed through an imposing gateway. As in many mausoleum,  here the central chamber contains the cenotaph which houses the graves of Nawab Shuja-ud-daula and his mother. The tomb proper stands in the centre of a Charbagh Garden accompanied by fountains and shallow water channels. The square double-storied mausoleum has an arched veranda on each side and an upper story with three arched facade adorned by minarets on the corners. The huge and impressive dome of the central chamber is crowned by inverted louts and metal finial.

Gulab Bari is secretly connected to a boali in Lucknow and was  used to be a hiding place for the successors of the Nawab Shuja-ud-daula in case of emergency. it is a place of worship for the local Muslims and this place needs to be properly maintained. 
Gulab Bari is open 4 am – 7 pm, year-round.

Shuja-ud-daula, who  made Faizabad the capital of Awadh during his reign built  very huge and impressive  artistic  buildings in the city. It shows during his rule the city  attained prosperity, which it never saw again. The other attractive  buildings  built by Nawab Suja are  Moti Mahal and the tomb of Bahu Begum. The former was the residence of his beloved wife (he took her hands in 1743) and the latter is the Begam's Maqbara, at  near-by Jawaharbagh where she was buried after her death in 1816. Bahu Begum, a distinguished woman with noble heart was instrumental for many Muslim buildings in Faisabad.After her demise till annexation by the EIC, the city had begun to lose its beauty and glory. Later Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula shifted the capital to Lucknow.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Flagstaff Tower, Delhi, that saved many British families in 1858

Flagstaff Tower, Old Delhi,
The Flagstaff Tower, Delhi, in 1858
Among the many monuments  of Delhi, the ones associated with the Sepoy mutiny of 1857 against  the malicious and tyrannical East India Company's rule are very few. The Flagstaff Tower in old Delhi may be a small monument, but, considering the  emerging dangerous situation then, it played a big role by giving  asylum to the Europeans when they escaped from the outrageous and murderous  rebels. Many of the Europeans and their families would have experienced terrible mental agony and pain as escape from Delhi  was impossible. If this tower were not there, it is likely, many would have become victims to the fury of the lynching mob.
Flagstaff Tower, Old Delhi, dating  back around 1828, is a one-room tower in the style of battlement and castle.  Constructed by the British India Army at the highest point of North (or Kamla Nehru) Ridge, about a mile and a half north of the city gates (near North campus of Delhi university), this signal look-out  tower made of  red sandstone is one of the earliest buildings  erected  in this part of the city. In 1910, the area where the tower stands now  was the highest point on the ridge and was mostly barren, covered with low-lying shrub. It is  now a memorial and "protected monument" under Archaeological Survey of India.

During the Sepoy mutiny/freedom struggle of 1857, the  castellated tower, with its canopied look-out rising above castellated parapets, played a crucial role and was used as a refuge and "the general rendezvous point for the non-combatants, and for those of the sick and wounded.  Here, without fear or risk of attack they could  move about, assemble there and hear the news from the front where the British forces were tackling the Indian rebels.  

On the morning of 11 May 1857, when the sepoys started hunting for European personnel of the East India company and their families in the Cantonment, Civil Lines and the walled city of Delhi, the survivors started fleeing towards the Tower.  During the siege of Delhi,  the watch/signal tower sheltered  many Europeans and their families who were waiting for help to arrive from nearby Meerut.

However, after long confinement they found the interior  of the tower suffocating.  In the first week of June, 1857, there was a pitched battle between company forces and the rebels near the tower, later the British forces recaptured the ridge. Lots of soldiers lost their lives. Finally, it was in the autumn of that year, the city was finally brought under control again.



Bena Das, an Indian woman patriot and her abortive assassination attempt on Gov. Stanley Jackson (1932)

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, though freedom struggle across India  was the domain of men, there were countless women who proved their courage, perseverance  and indomitable spirit  as freedom fighters and earned a unique place for themselves  in the history of our freedom movement. They left the hearth and home in the comfort zone  for a purpose and sought the life of sacrifice, suffering and imprisonment to protest against the British and their despotic rule.  Many of them hogged the limelight, but some remained unsung and unnoticed till their death. On among them is Bena Das. Less than 21 years old, a student of an institution, Bena Das is a forgotten woman freedom fighter and revolutionary  from West Bengal, yet she has made a niche for herself in the history of Bengal.  

Beena Das, Freedom fighter.

Bina Das (1911–1986) was one of the most daring women revolutionaries and nationalists of Bengal. Daughter of a well-known Brahmo teacher, Beni Madhab Das and a social worker, Sarala Devi, at  a very young age Bena Das was very much saddened by the painful freedom struggle going on across India against the  unjust and oppressive British rule. Since, the Colonial India had its capital in Calcutta (Kolkata), it is quite obvious that Bengal became a breeding ground of freedom well-known fighters such as Nataji, Sri Aurabindo, C.R.Das, et al (the list goes on). The suppression of freedom movements by the ruthless British administration who broke every law of human decency, the untold suffering and racial slurs and discrimination faced by the millions  of impoverished  Indians left a deep wound in the mind of Ms. Bena Das and impacted her psyche. Drawn  more by patriotism than by her studies and, further,   to have more involvement in the freedom struggle. she  joined the "Jugantar" revolutionary club ( it was one of the two main secret revolutionary organizations operating, in the guise of a fitness club in Bengal for Indian independence) to fight against the British. Besides, she was a member of Chhatri Sangha, a semi-revolutionary organization for women in Kolkata. The interesting aspect of this unique  young woman is  she  carried on her patriotic activities while she was a student of St. John's Diocesan Girls' Higher Secondary School, South Kolkata. Then she was not even 21 years old.  

In those days when freedom movement was going on vigorously,  a section of patriots, took to violence as a way to free India unlike Gandhian who preferred non-violence to achieve the same goal. Bena Das, being a gutsy woman, thought violence was one of the ways to get the attention of the higher ups in the government and the scoop-hungry media world over; in addition, it will instill fear among the British officials. Weighing the pros and cons, she decided to  assassinate a leading British official to get the global attention and other western countries  will come to know  more about the British misrule and how the Indian nationalists  are being hounded like dogs by the British using the brute force of the police.
Stanley Jackson, Cricket player. Stanley Jackson © Getty Images

Above image:  Stanley Jackson:  He was  a conservative politician and the Governor of Bengal 1927–1932. Jackson was a great batsman with  15,901 First-Class runs at 33.83 and 31 centuries; he played  20 Tests  and scored 1,415 runs (average of 48.79).  He captained the English team five times. He spotted the cricket talents of Ranjitsinghi and was responsible for his inclusion in the  Cambridge First XI and the awarding of his Blue.. .........

On 6 February 1932, Bena Das, neither a trained assassin nor good at handling hand guns,  made an abortive attempt to assassinate the Bengal
Gov. of Bengal, Stanley Jackson,
Governor Stanley Jackson, in the Convocation Hall of the University of Calcutta. 
She walked to the dais with the revolver concealed under her gown, She pumped in five shots - two missed. In the meantime, the Vice-Chancellor, Hassan Suhrawardy, a trained military man trying to protect the Governor, in a 
jiffy, jumped towards Ms. Bena  to pin her down, not before three shots rang out from her gun, whizzing past dangerously. One bullet injured  Prof. Dineshchandra Sen. The Governor, who happened to be the all-England cricket captain,  had a close call. Fortunately,  no major mishap had happened. Ms. Bena Das faced the trial and during grueling interrogation, she never gave in  and refused to reveal  her accomplishes. She  was sentenced to nine years RI - rigorous imprisonment.

Photo: Article published on Reading Eagle,
hoto: Article published on Glasgow Herald in
 No sooner was she  released in 1939 from the prison, undaunted by her tough jail life, than she had joined the Congress party. Again, she went to jail - 1942 - 1945, this time  for her active participation (in 1942),  in the Quit India movement led by Gandhiji. Her  patriotism and her various constructive political activities gave her a strong base to serve the people of Bengal. She won the laurels from many quarters and consequently from 1946-47, she was a member of the Bengal Provincial Legislative Assembly. She married Chandra Bhaumik in 1947 who was an active member of he Jugantar.  She became a member of  the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. from 1947–51.Bina Das wrote two autobiographical works in Bengali: Shrinkhal Jhankar and Pitridhan.

 As ill-luck would have it, Bena Das' life in her last days was a poignant one, spent in loneliness and isolation in Rishikesh after her husband's death. Here, she died in obscurity on  26th December 1986  The most heartrending fact is this great woman patriot's body was recovered from the road side in a partly decomposed state and the passers-by had no idea who she was and her selfless  contribution to India's freedom. Her identity was established only after a month or so. In countless cases, neither the central or the state governments fail to recognize the contribution made by certain freedom fighters, not to speak of giving them a decent  and comfortable shelter and medical care till they die. Bena refused the dole offered by the government.  Many of these worthy patriots die  either unsung or unheard of and Bena Das is an unsung freedom fighter 

In the southern states like Tamil Nadu, because of the  prevalence of linguistic chauvinism, the contribution made by women freedom fighters like Bena Das from other states is not known.



Monday, 11 December 2017

St. John's Diocesan Girl's school, one of the oldest in Kolkata

St. John's Diocesan Girls' H.S. School,Kolkata
Soon after the British Government directly took over the administration of India after 1857 from the East India company that had run the proxy  government for the Crown, much emphasis was placed on western education and, in this respect, many missionaries arrived in India in the late 19th century to impart sciences, languages etc., based on Western models. Besides male missionaries, female missionaries also landed in India and many of them realized that Indian  woman's position in the conservative and superstitious Indian society was quite pathetic as  she was not allowed either to venture out of home or attend schools. The belief had been that education was of no use to the women whose area of activities was their home, in particular, kitchen. Their responsibility was to take care of domestic chores and the needs of the family. The women missionaries  decided to open schools to educate the young girls to understand the values of knowledge  and the need to become literate.  St. John's Diocesan Girls' school in Kolkata is one among the  girls institutions founded by women missionaries. 

St. John's Diocesan Girls' school, one of the oldest girls' schools in Calcutta (Kolkata), West Bengal, was

Angelina Margaret Hoare ,

founded in 1876 by one Angelina Margaret Hoare (17 May 1843 – 10 January 1892), a  devoted British missionary from Kent, England along with Ms. Millman, missionary from England.  It was located at Elgin and Sarat Bose Roads in South  Calcutta. Apart from doing missionary work, Angelina paid  serious  attention to  the advancement of woman's education in British India so that she could read and write, face challenges in her society  independently and help  other women come out of the conservative closet and lead their lives with confidence. This way  women would  be of immense help to their families, neighbors, communities  and the nation. 

Kolkata. St. John's Diocesan Girls' H.S. School,campus
In 1894, the administration of the school was handed over to the Sisters of the Community of John the Baptist Convent, Clewer, England and the school was named St. John's Diocesan by the Clewer Sisters of John the Baptist from Windsor, Berkshire.

With  respect to admission to the school, initially, Ms. Angelina Hoare had poor response from the local community  and had to be content with few students. In those olden days, in the conservative society, girls had no access to basic education in many parts of India. However, over a period of time, the school grew in stature; so was the number of girl students getting into the school. That it became the only reputed Christian woman's institution  in the entire NE India from 1908-31 bears testimony to the hard work and dedication shown by the teachers and the school management of St. John's Diocesan school.

Ms. Angelina was a woman of foresight, vision and above all catholicity. She was of the strong opinion that the school belonged to all people in the society regardless of social status or group. One could understand her true belief about the Diocean School from her letter to her brother in England. She died in 1892 when she was just 48 years old.

Unfortunately, the school earned the ire of the British government in the wake of a  serious incident againt the government. A student of this school,  one Beena Das (who happened to be a freedom fighter) on 7 April 1931 shot the then Governor, Stanley Jackson. This resulted in the  loss of  recognition of the  status of the school by the British Government. During its earlier days till the 1970s it was a coeducational institution and after1970s, it has become  exclusively a girls' educational institution, devoted to their  advancement and better educational opportunities.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Why is St.Paul Church, Diu, India a unique one? - some interesting facts

St. Paul’s Church,Diu, India. My Simple Sojourn
During the Portuguese colonial rule, a number of beautifully designed churches came up in their settlement(s). The Portuguese,  the later colonists British, French  and Dutch, landed in India not only to to explore their mercantile trade prospects, but also to introduce Christianity among the natives. Hence, they began building many churches and brought in a lot of preachers, in particular Jesuits from Portugal.

In the Diu island on the west coast of India,  there existed three churches that had been built after the island was taken over by the Portuguese in the 16th century. St. Paul’s Church, named after St. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus, is a popular  one and it s the island's last remaining fully-functional church. The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, the first church built in Diu in 1593, is now used as a hospital and the other one St. Thomas Church is converted into a museum. Famous for its unique Baroque - Gothic architecture, it was completed in 1610 AD; work began in 1601. Diu that has a chequered history remained in the possession of the Portuguese from 1535 until 1961  when the Indian Union took over the island.

The historical church is unique for the following reasons: 

01. Dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception this church is the largest one on the island.

St.Paul Church,Diu,Goa, India 1610 AD
St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India. ashimanarain.
 Above image: Interior of St. Paul, Diu, India. Furniture and wood paneling made of superior quality wood. Built in 1610 by the Jesuits from Portugal...........

02. The interior of the church has a well decorated  wooden paneling and furniture  made from quality wood, including lavishly carved 400 year old impressive pulpit. 

03. Its eye-catching volutes and shell like motifs are inspiring. Besides, the fascinating and delicate wood carving makes it the most elaborate and distinct among all the Portuguese churches in India.

St.Paul church,Diu,Goa,
 Above image: St. Paul Church, Diu, India: Note the details on the facade of the building...........

04. Yet another feature is the detailed front elevation that adds  zest to its appearance.

Statue of Mary, St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India.TripAdvisor
Statue of Mary, St.Paul church,Diu,Goa, India.Crazy Travellers
 Above image: St. Paul Church, Diu, India: Wooden statue of Mary. Highly ornate made from single 
log of Teak wood. St. Paul’s Church is the best representation of the Baroque-Gothic
architectural style of the Colonial reign in the Diu Island...............

St Paul church, close view.
St Paul church, pulpit.

05. In many churches the statue is made of marble or any other hard stone. Here, the mesmerizing statue of compassionate Mary in the altar is made from a single log of Burmese teak wood  that is lined  and lit up with 101 candles, an amazing piece of wood  work that may baffle our imagination.

Altar. St.Paul church,Diu, India
Beautiful painting. St.Paul church,Diu, India
 06. Above the altar are found Priceless old paintings and  nice statues thatenhance the divinity of this place of veneration.

07. The front part of St. Paul church is similar to the Bom Jesus Basilica  in Goa, but for a third story  as well as compartments formed by the buttresses as in the Goan church

08. A distinct feature  of this church is the religious images made in ivory and the objects made in silver have strong local influence in this Jesuit Church. The reason attributed to it is the highly skilled  native artists / artisans  were not trained to recreate the original Jesuit architectural designs. Such work needs special training, besides  knowledge of the religion. Religious images made from ivory or metals are rare in many churches.

09. The Feast of the Eleven Thousand Virgins to mark the commencement of the school year and the other one  on 25 January to mark the conversion of St. Paul are the two important religious events associated with this church and lots of Christian attend these joyous events. These events have been observed for centuries. 

10. Singing in the church was not an accepted practice among the Jesuits who came to India in the early days,  however, over a period of time, it became part of important ceremonies.,_Diu