Christianity in India

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Christians in India
File:Nasrani cross.jpg
Total population
27,819,588 (2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Majority in Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya. Significant populations in Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh ,West Bengal and Manipur
Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu,Konkani, Kannada, Bengali, English, Hindi and various Indian languages
Predominantly Roman Catholic (Latin Rite), Saint Thomas Christians (East Syrian Rite / West Syrian Rite) and various denominations of Protestants
Related ethnic groups
Nasranis, Knanaya, East Indians, Khasis, Mizos, Kukis, Nagas, Anglo-Indians, Goan Catholics, Mangalorean Catholics

Christianity is India's third-largest religion according to the census of 2011, with approximately 27.8 million followers, constituting 2.3 percent of India's population.[2] Old legends say that Christianity was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who visited Muziris in Tamilakam in AD 52. There is a general scholarly consensus that Christianity was definitely established in India by the 6th century AD, including some communities who used Syriac liturgically, and it is possible that the religion's existence there extends to as far back as the purported time of St.Thomas's arrival.[n 1]

Christians are found all across India and in all walks of life, with major populations in parts of South India, the Konkan Coast, and Northeast India. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to and are well represented in various spheres of national life. They include former and current chief ministers, governors and chief election commissioners.[4][5] Indian Christians have the highest ratio of women to men among the various religious communities in India.[6][7]

Christianity in India has different denominations. The state of Kerala is home to the Saint Thomas Christian community, an ancient body of Christians,who are now divided into several different churches and traditions. They are Eastern Syrian Saint Thomas Christian churches: the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Chaldean Syrian Church.The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, Mar Thoma Syrian Church and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church are West Syrian Saint Thomas Christian Churches. Since the 19th century Protestant churches have also been present; major denominations include the Church of South India (CSI), St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, the Church of North India (CNI), the Presbyterian Church of India, Baptists, Lutherans, Traditional Anglicans and other evangelical groups. The Christian Church runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals which have contributed significantly to the development of the nation.[8]

Roman Catholicism was first introduced to India by Portuguese, Italian and Irish Jesuits in the 16th century. Most Christian schools, hospitals, primary care centres originated through the Roman Catholic missions brought by the trade of these countries. Evangelical Protestantism was later spread to India by the efforts of British, American, German, Scottish missionaries to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ among Indians. These Protestant missions were also responsible for introducing English education in India for the first time[9] and were also accountable in the first early translations of the Holy Bible in various Indian languages (including Hindi and Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and others).[10]

Even though Christians are a significant minority, they form a major religious group in three states of India - Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland. Other states with historic Christian population include Goa and Kerala, where the number and percentage of Christians has fallen drastically. Christianity is widespread across India and is present in all states with major populations in South India[11]

Early Christianity in India[edit]

St. Bartholomew[edit]

Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew in India. These are of Eusebius of Caesarea (early 4th century) and of Saint Jerome (late 4th century). Both these refer to this tradition while speaking of the reported visit of Pantaenus to India in the 2nd century.[12] The studies of Fr A.C. Perumalil SJ and Moraes hold that the Bombay region on the Konkan coast, a region which may have been known as the ancient city Kalyan, was the field of Saint Bartholomew's missionary activities.[13]

St. Thomas[edit]

A Peutinger Table's depiction of Muziris near the tip of India where St. Thomas is believed to have landed in 52 A.D.
File:Malabar Christians of 19th century.jpg
Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians of Kerala in ancient days (from an old painting). Photo published in the Cochin Government Royal War Efforts Souvenir in 1938
File:Arakuzha Syrian Catholic Church.jpg
Marth Mariam Syrian Catholic Church (Syro-Malabar Rite) at Arakuzha, Kerala is an ancient Nasrani church established in 999 AD
File:Parumala Church.jpg
St. Peter's and St. Paul's Orthodox Church, Parumala, the shrine of St Geevargeese Mar Gregorios in Kerala. He is the first Indian to be canonised by Syrian Christians of India.
St. Mary's Orthodox church, Niranam, established by St. Thomas in AD 52.

According to Indian Christian traditions, the Apostle Thomas arrived in Tamilakam presently in the Indian state of Kerala Kodungallur (also Muziris), Kerala, established the Seven Churches and evangelised in present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu.[14][15][16]

As with early Christianity in the Roman Empire, it is assumed that the initial converts were largely Jewish proselytes among the Cochin Jews who are believed to have arrived in India around 562 BC, after the destruction of the First Temple.[17][18][19] Many of these Jews presumably spoke Aramaic like St. Thomas, also a Jew by birth, who is credited by tradition with evangelising India.[n 2]

A historically more likely claim by Eusebius of Caesarea is that Pantaenus, the head of the Christian exegetical school in Alexandria, Egypt went to India during the reign of the Emperor Commodus and found Christians already living in India using a version of the Gospel of Matthew with "Hebrew letters, a mixture of colture."[20] This is a plausible reference to the earliest Indian churches which are known to have used the Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) New Testament. Pantaenus' evidence thus indicates that Syriac-speaking Christians had already evangelised parts of India by the late 2nd century.

An early 3rd-century Syriac work known as the Acts of Thomas[21][22] connects the tradition of the apostle Thomas' Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. The year of his arrival is widely disputed due to lack of credible records.[23] According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission but Jesus over-ruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes, to his native place in northwest India, where he found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares. The apostle's ministry reputedly resulted in many conversions throughout this northern kingdom, including the king and his brother.[21] The Acts of Thomas identifies his second mission in India with a kingdom ruled by King Mahadwa, one of the rulers of a 1st-century dynasty in southern India. According to the tradition of the Mar Thoma or "Church of Thomas," Thomas evangelised along the Malabar Coast of Kerala State in southwest India, though the various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. He reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about seventeen thousand converts, including members of the four principal castes. According to legend, St. Thomas attained martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai and is buried on the site of San Thome Cathedral.[24]

The world's oldest existing church structure, which was believed to be built by Thomas the Apostle in 57 AD,[25] called Thiruvithamcode Arappally or Thomaiyar Kovil as named by the then Chera king Udayancheral,[25] is located at Thiruvithancode in Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu, India. It is now declared an international St. Thomas pilgrim center.

Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (AD 154–223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it.[21] Certainly by the time of the establishment of the Sassanid Empire (AD 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.[21]

4th century missions[edit]

File:Kodungaloor Mar Thoma Church.jpg
The renovated Mar Thoma Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Kodungaloor; the first Christian church in India, built 52 A. D.

India had a flourishing trade with Central Asia, Mediterranean, and Middle East, both along mountain passes in the north and sea routes along the western and southern coast, well before the start of Christian era, and it is likely that Christian merchants settled in Indian cities along trading routes.[26]

The Chronicle of Seert describes an evangelical mission to India by Bishop David of Basra around the year 300;[27] this metropolitan reportedly made many conversions,[28] and it has been speculated that his mission took in areas of southern India.[29]

The colony of Syrian Christians established at Kodungallur may be the first Christian community in South India for which there is a continuous written record.[30] T.R. Vedantham showing his own perspective on Christianity was the first to propose in 1987 that Thomas of Cana was confused with the 1st century apostle Thomas by India's Syrian Christians sometime after his death, becoming their Apostle Thomas in India.[31]

Medieval period[edit]

File:Kanjirappally Bishop Mar Mathew Arackal at Tomb of Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly.jpg
Syro-Malabar Catholic bishop Mar Mathew Arackal (holding the Mar Thoma Cross which symbolises the heritage and identity of the Syrian Church of Saint Thomas Christians) along with other priests at the tomb of Servant of God March Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly

The Saint Thomas Christian community was further strengthened by various Persian immigrant settlers, the Knanaya colonies of the 4th century, Manichaeanism followers, Babylonian Christians settlers of the 4th century AD, the Syrian settlements of Mar Sabor Easo and Proth in the 9th century CE and the immigrant Persian Christians from successive centuries.

Local rulers in Kerala gave the St. Thomas Christians various rights and privileges which were written on copper plates. These are known as Cheppeds, Royal Grants, Sasanam etc.[32] There are a number of such documents in the possession of the Syrian churches of Kerala which include the Thazhekad Sasanam, the Quilon Plates (or the Tharisappalli Cheppeds), Mampally Sasanam and Iraviikothan Chepped etc. Some of these plates are said to be dated around 774 AD. Scholars have studied the inscriptions and produced varying translations. The language used is Tamil in Tamil letters intermingled with some Grantha script and Pahlavi, Kufic and Hebrew signatures.

The ruler of Venad (Travancore) granted the Syrian Christians seventy two rights and privileges which were usually granted only to high dignitaries. These rights included exemption from import duties, sales tax and the slave tax. A copper plate grant dated 1225 CE further enhanced the rights and privileges of Nasranis.

The South Indian epic of Manimekalai (written between 2nd and 3rd century AD) mentions the Nasrani people by referring to them by the name Essanis. The embassy of King Alfred in 883 CE sent presents to St. Thomas Christians.[33] Marco Polo who visited in 1292, mentioned that there were Christians in the Malabar coast.[34] The Saint Thomas Christians still use the Syriac language (a dialect of Aramaic, which is also the language that Jesus spoke[35]) in their liturgy. This group, which existed in Kerala relatively peacefully for more than a millennium, faced considerable persecution from Portuguese evangelists in the 16th century.[36][37] This later wave of evangelism spread Catholicism more widely along the Konkan coast.[38][39]

Modern period[edit]

Since the 1500s European Catholic and Protestant missionaries have been active in India.[40] In 1900-1914 churches other countries, especially the United States, sponsored missions.[41] Outside Christian missions have been less active since 1914 as Indians themselves take action and Protestant groups have formed unions.[42]

Arrival of the Portuguese and Christianity[edit]

File:Conversion of Paravas by Francis Xavier in 1542.jpg
Conversion of the Paravas by Francis Xavier, in a 19th-century coloured lithograph

The south Indian coastal areas around Kanyakumari were known for pearl fisheries. From 1527 the Paravars were being threatened by Arab fleets offshore, headed by the Muslim supporting Zamorin of Calicut,.[43] The Paravars sought the protection of Portuguese who had moved into the area. The protection was granted on the condition that the leaders were immediately baptised as Christians and that they would encourage their people also to convert to Christianity; the Portuguese would also gain a strategic foothold and control of the pearl fisheries. The deal was agreed and some months later 20,000 Paravars were baptised en masse, and by 1537 the entire community had declared itself to be Christian. The Portuguese navy destroyed the Arab fleet at Vedalai on 27 June 1538.[44][43]

Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, in 1542 began a mission to the lower classes of Tamil society.[45] A further 30,000 Paravars were baptised. Xavier appointed catechists in the Paravar villages up and down the 100 miles (160 km) of coastline to spread and reinforce his teachings.[46] Conversion enabled low-caste Indians to participate more significantly in religious ceremonies than was the case when they were Hindus, this being because their "unclean" occupations (that is, the taking of life) would have prevented any central contribution in Hindu religious ritual. Paravar Christianity, with its own identity based on a mixture of Christian religious belief and Hindu caste culture, remains a defining part of the Paravar life today.[43][47]

Arrival of the Roman Catholic Latin Rites[edit]

The French or Catalan Dominican missionary Jordanus Catalani was the first European to start conversion in India. He arrived in Surat in 1320. After his ministry in Gujarat he reached Quilon in 1323. He not only revived Christianity but also brought thousands to the Christian fold. He brought a message of good will from the Pope to the local rulers. As the first bishop in India, he was also entrusted with the spiritual nourishment of the Christian community in Calicut, Mangalore, Thane and Broach (north of Thane).[48]

File:Luso Tamil Catechism Lisbon 1554.JPG
Portuguese-Tamil Primer (1554). One of the earliest known Christian books in an Indian language

In 1453, the fall of Constantinople, a bastion of Christianity in Asia Minor to Islamic Ottoman Empire; marked the end of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire, and severed European trade links by land with Asia. This massive blow to Christendom spurred the age of discovery as Europeans were seeking alternative routes east by sea along with the goal of forging alliances with pre-existing Christian nations.[49][50] Along with pioneer Portuguese long-distance maritime travellers that reached the Malabar Coast in the late 15th century, came Portuguese missionaries who made contact with the St Thomas Christians in Kerala, which at that time were following Eastern Christian practices and under the jurisdiction of Church of the East. The missionaries sought to introduce the Latin liturgical rites among them and unify East Syrian Christians in India under the Holy See.

In the 16th century, the proselytisation of Asia was linked to the Portuguese colonial policy.

The missionaries of the different orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Augustinians, etc.) flocked out with the conquerors, and began at once to build churches along the coastal districts where the Portuguese power made itself felt.

The history of Portuguese missionaries in India starts with the neo-apostles who reached Kappad near Kozhikode on 20 May 1498 along with the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who was seeking to form anti-Islamic alliances with pre-existing Christian nations.[51][52] The lucrative spice trade was further temptation for the Portuguese crown.[53] When he and the Portuguese missionaries arrived they found Christians in the country in Malabar known as St. Thomas Christians who belonged to the then-largest Christian church within India.[52] The Christians were friendly to Portuguese missionaries at first; there was an exchange of gifts between them, and these groups were delighted at their common faith.[54]

File:Jesuits at Akbar's court.jpg
Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great (r. 1556–1605) holds a religious assembly in the Ibadat Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri; the two men dressed in black are the Jesuit missionaries Rodolfo Acquaviva and Francisco Henriques. Illustration to the Akbarnama, miniature painting by Nar Singh, ca. 1605.

During the second expedition, the Portuguese fleet comprising 13 ships and 18 priests, under Captain Pedro Álvares Cabral, anchored at Cochin on 26 November 1500. Cabral soon won the goodwill of the Raja of Cochin. He allowed four priests to do apostolic work among the early Christian communities scattered in and around Cochin. Thus Portuguese missionaries established Portuguese Mission in 1500. Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy got permission from the Kochi Raja to build two churches – namely Santa Cruz Basilica (1505) and St. Francis Church (1506) using stones and mortar, which was unheard of at that time, as the local prejudices were against such a structure for any purpose other than a royal palace or a temple.[citation needed]

In the beginning of the 16th century, the whole of the east was under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Lisbon. On 12 June 1514, Cochin and Goa became two prominent mission stations under the newly created Diocese of Funchal in Madeira. In 1534, Pope Paul III by the Bull Quequem Reputamus, raised Funchal as an archdiocese and Goa as its suffragan, deputing the whole of India under the diocese of Goa. This created an episcopal see – suffragan to Funchal, with a jurisdiction extending potentially over all past and future conquests from the Cape of Good Hope to China.

After four decades of prosperous trading, the missionaries started the proselytisation around 1540 and during this period, foreign missionaries also made many new converts to Christianity. Early Roman Catholic missionaries, particularly the Portuguese, led by the Jesuit St Francis Xavier (1506–1552), expanded from their bases on the west coast making many converts. The Portuguese colonial government supported the mission and the baptised Christians were given incentives like rice donations, good positions in their colonies. Hence, these Christians were dubbed Rice Christians who even practised their old religion. At the same time many New Christians from Portugal migrated to India as a result of the inquisition in Portugal. Many of them were suspected of being Crypto-Jews, converted Jews who were secretly practising their old religion. Both were considered a threat to the solidarity of Christian belief.[55] which is considered a blot on the history of Roman Catholic Christianity in India, both by Christians and non-Christians alike.

In 1557, Goa was made an independent archbishopric, and its first suffragan sees were erected at Cochin and Malacca. The whole of the East came under the jurisdiction of Goa and its boundaries extended to almost half of the world: from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, to Burma, China and Japan in East Asia. In 1576 the suffragan See of Macao (China) was added; and in 1588, that of Funai in Japan.

The death of the last metropolitan bishop – Archbishop Abraham of the Saint Thomas Christians, an ancient body formerly part of the Church of the East[56][57] in 1597; gave the then Archbishop of Goa Menezes an opportunity to bring the native church under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. He was able to secure the submission of Archdeacon George, the highest remaining representative of the native church hierarchy. Menezes convened the Synod of Diamper between 20 and 26 June 1599,[58] which introduced a number of reforms to the church and brought it fully into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Following the Synod, Menezes consecrated Francis Ros, S. J. as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Angamalé for the Saint Thomas Christians; thus created another suffragan see to Archdiocese of Goa and Latinisation of St Thomas Christians started. The Saint Thomas Christians were pressured to acknowledge the authority of the Pope and most of them eventually accepted the Catholic faith, but a part of them switched to West Syrian Rite.[58] Resentment of these measures led to some part of the community to join the Archdeacon, Thomas, in swearing never to submit to the Portuguese or to accept the Communion with Rome in the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653. Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of Mar Gregorios became known as Jacobites. The ones who continued with East Syrian and Latin theological and liturgical tradition and stayed faithful to the Synod of Diamper and the Roman Catholic Church came to be formally known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from the second half of the 19th century onward.

The Diocese of Angamaly was transferred to Diocese of Craganore in 1605; while, in 1606 a sixth suffragan see to Goa was established at San Thome, Mylapore, near the modern Madras, and the site of the National Shrine of St. Thomas Basilica. The suffragan sees added later to Goa. were the prelacy of Mozambique (1612) and in 1690 two other sees at Peking and Nanking in China.

Mangalore is another significant region on the west coast which has a huge Christian population. In 1321, the French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France), who also worked in Quilon arrived in Bhatkal, a place near Mangalore and established a missionary station there. Many locals were converted to Christianity by Jordanus.[48] The Portuguese were however unable to establish their presence in Mangalore as a result of the conquests of the Vijayanagara ruler Krishnadevaraya and Abbakka Rani of Ullal, the Bednore Queen of Mangalore. Most of Mangalorean Catholics were not originally from Mangalore but are descendants of Goan Catholics who fled Goa during the Portuguese-Maratha Wars and the Goan Inquisition.

The origin of Christianity in North Konkan, was due to the proselytising activities of the Portuguese in the 16th century. The French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) started evangelising activities in Thana.[59] On the occasion of The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Christians of North Konkan, in Maharashtra who were known as Portuguese Christians discarded that name and adopted the designation East Indians.[60] Marathi Christians are Protestants and are therefore distinct from East Indian Christians who are predominantly Roman Catholics and inhabitants of the North Konkan region. Marathi Christians can be found in the areas of Ahmednagar, Solapur, Pune and Aurangabad. They were converted through the efforts of the American Marathi Mission, The SPG Mission, and the Church Mission Society of Church of England in the early 18th century. British Missionary William Carey was instrumental in translating the Bible into the Marathi language.[61]

Missionary work progressed on a large scale and with great success along the western coasts, chiefly at Chaul, Bombay, Salsette, Bassein, Damao, and Diu; and on the eastern coasts at San Thome of Mylapore, and as far as Bengal etc. In the southern districts the Jesuit mission in Madura was the most famous. It extended to the Krishna river, with a number of outlying stations beyond it. The mission of Cochin, on the Malabar Coast, was also one of the most fruitful. Several missions were also established in the interior northwards, e.g., that of Agra and Lahore in 1570 and that of Tibet in 1624. Still, even with these efforts, the greater part even of the coast line was by no means fully worked, and many vast tracts of the interior northwards were practically untouched.

With the decline of the Portuguese power, other colonial powers – namely the Dutch and British and Christian organisations gained influence.

Syrian Christians in India[edit]

Thomas the Apostle is credited by tradition for founding the Indian Church in 52 AD.[14][62][63] This "Nasrani" faith had many similarities to ancient Judaism, (see also Jewish Christianity) and owing to the heritage of the Nasrani people,[citation needed] developed contacts with the Nestorian religious authorities at that point based in Edessa, Mesopotamia.

The local church maintained its autonomous character under its local leader. When the Portuguese established themselves in India in the 16th century, they found the Church in Kerala as an administratively independent community. Following the arrival of Vasco de Gama in 1498, the Portuguese came to South India and established their political power there. They brought missionaries to carry out evangelistic work in order to establish churches in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage. These missionaries were eager to bring the Indian Church under the Pope's control. They succeeded in their efforts in 1599 with the Synod of Diamper. The representatives of various parishes who attended the assembly were forced by Portuguese authorities to accept the Papal authority.

Following the synod, the Indian Church was governed by Portuguese prelates. They were generally unwilling to respect the integrity of the local church. This resulted in disaffection which led to a general revolt in 1653 known as the "Coonan Cross Oath". Under the leadership of their elder Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, 24 January 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and made an oath that is known as the Great Oath of Bent Cross. The following oath was read aloud and the people touching a stone-cross repeated it loudly: "By the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome."[64] This reference from the The Missionary Register of 1822 seems to be the earliest reliable document available. Those who were not able to touch the cross tied ropes on the cross, held the rope in their hands and made the oath. Because of the weight it is believed by the followers that the cross bent a little and so it is known as "Oath of the bent cross" (Coonen Kurisu Sathyam). This demanded administrative autonomy for the local church. Since it had no bishop, it faced serious difficulties. It appealed to several eastern Christian churches for help. The Antiochene Syrian Patriarch responded and sent metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem to India in 1665. He confirmed Marthoma I as the bishop and worked together with him to organize the Church.When these churches is also the part of Oriental Orthodox, which is also known as Jacobite Syrian Christian Church and Malankara Orthodox Church

Arrival of Protestant missions[edit]

Beginning about 1700 Protestant missionaries began working throughout India, leading to the establishment of different Christian communities across the Indian Subcontinent.


File:St Paul's Cathedral.jpg
St. Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta - seat of the Anglican Diocese of Calcutta, Church of North India

The first Protestant missionaries to set foot in India were two Lutherans from Germany, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau, who began work in 1705 in the Danish settlement of Tranquebar. They translated the Bible into the local Tamil language, and afterwards into Hindustani. They made little progress at first, but gradually the mission spread to Madras, Cuddalore and Tanjore. Today the Bishop of Tranquebar is the official title of the bishop of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tamil Nadu which was founded in 1919 as a result of the German Lutheran Leipzig Mission and Church of Sweden Mission, the successors of Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau. The seat of the bishop, the cathedral and its Church House the Tranquebar House are in Tiruchirappalli. By 2006, there were three million Lutherans in Tranquebar.[65]

William Carey and the Baptists[edit]

File:William Carey.jpg
William Carey, 1761-1834.

In 1793, William Carey, an English Baptist Minister came to India as a missionary but also as a man of learning in economics, medicine and botany. He saw religion and science as twin devices to modernize Indian intellectual life.[66] He worked in Serampore, Calcutta, and other places. He translated the Bible into Bengali, Sanskrit, and numerous other languages and dialects. He worked in India despite the hostility of the British East India Company until his death in 1834. Carey and his colleagues, Joshua Marshman and William Ward, blended science, Christianity, and constructive Orientalism in their work at the Danish settlement of Serampore, near Calcutta. Carey saw the dissemination of European science and Christianity as mutually supportive and equally important civilizing missions\. He also supported a revival of Sanskrit science. Carey played a key role in the establishment of the Agricultural Society of India. Ward, beginning in 1806, published important commentaries on ancient Hindu medical and astronomy texts. In 1818 Carey and his fellow missionaries founded Serampore College to nurture a uniquely Indian variety of European science.[67]

Outreach to upper classes[edit]

Many upper-class Bengalis converted to Christianity during the Bengali renaissance under British Rule, including Krishna Mohan Banerjee, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Anil Kumar Gain, and Gnanendramohan Tagore.[68]

Other missionaries[edit]

The Medak Cathedral of Church of South India is the largest Cathedral Church in India

The London Missionary Society was the first Protestant mission in Andhra Pradesh which established its station at Visakhapatnam in 1805.[69] Anthony Norris Groves, a Plymouth Brethren missionary arrived in 1833. He worked in the Godavari delta area until his death in 1852. John Christian Frederick Heyer was the first Lutheran missionary in the region of Andhra Pradesh. He founded the Guntur Mission in 1842. Supported initially by the Pennsylvania Ministerium, and later by the Foreign Mission Board of the General Synod, Heyer was also encouraged and assisted by British government officials. He established a number of hospitals and a network of schools throughout the Guntur region.[70]

The Church Missionary Society (CMS), a mission society working with the Anglican Communion,[71] began sending missionaries to India and established mission stations at Chennai (Madras) and Bengal, then in 1816 at Travancore.[72] The CMS Mission to India expanded in the following years. The successors of the Protestant church missions are the Church of South India and the Church of North India.[71]

During the 19th century, several American Baptist missionaries evangelised in the northeastern parts of India. In 1876, Dr. E. W. Clark first went to live in a Naga village, four years after his Assamese helper, Godhula, baptised the first Naga converts. Rev. and Mrs. A.F. Merrill arrived in India in 1928 and worked in the southeast section of the Garo Hills.[73] Rev. and Mrs. M.J. Chance spent most of the years between 1950–1956 at Golaghat working with the Naga and Garo tribes.[74] Even today the heaviest concentrations of Christians in India continue to be in the Northeast among the Nagas, Khasis, Kukis, and Mizos.[75] Jehovah's Witnesses began their activity in India in the year 1905 when an Indian returned home after spending some time in Bible study with Charles Taze Russell.[76]

Arrival of the Mormon Missionaries[edit]

Mormon missionaries, or missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) including Hugh Findlay and Joseph Richards, arrived in Bombay and Pune in the early 1850s, but did not meet with much success.

Today, there are two LDS missions in India: The Bangalore Mission and the New Delhi Mission. Due to the growth of the church in India and the restrictions on missionary visas for foreigners, most missionaries serving in the Indian missions are Indian nationals. As of 2015, the church has over 12,000 LDS members in 43 congregations across India.[77] There are no LDS temples in India.

Eastern Orthodoxy in India[edit]

Since 1996, small communities of Eastern Orthodox Christians in India were placed under ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the newly formed Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia that was set up by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.[78] In 2008, the Diocese was divided, and India came under jurisdiction of newly formed Eastern Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore and South Asia.[79]

Art and architecture[edit]

File:Manarcad Marthamariam Cathedral DSW.jpg
Manarcad Church One of the oldest and famous pilgrim sites in India

There are a large number of items of artistic and architectural significance in the religious and domestic life of Indian Christians.[80] Altars, statues, pulpits, crosses, bells and belfries of churches along with other household items are among the many things that form part of the sacred art of the Indian Christians.[80] Church art and architecture of Kerala from the beginning of Christian presence in the region have been greatly influenced by those of other nations and religions as they have been influenced by Kerala's wealth of artistic and architectural traditions.[81]

File:Kottayam Valiapally.jpg
Altar of the St. Mary's Church in Kottayam; also can be seen are two Saint Thomas Crosses from the 7th century on either side; The church was originally built in 1550
File:A traditional Malankara Church - Vadayaparambu Mar Bahanas Church.jpg
A traditional Malankara Church - Vadayaparambu Mar Bahanans Church

Christian art and architecture in Kerala in pre-European periods has not only developed from contact with the countries that had trading posts there but also from indigenous forms and techniques of art and architecture. The advent of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the English has had a great deal of influence on the art and architecture of the church in Kerala.[81] The description of the visits of a Portuguese Archbishop Dom Menezes to various churches before the arrival of western powers in India throws some light on the structures and arrangements of the churches before western elements and types were introduced into Kerala. There were three striking objects of significance in front of the typical Malabar churches, either inside the courtyard or just outside it:

  • The open-air granite (rock) cross called the Nasrani Sthamba
  • Kodimaram (Dwajasthamba) or flag-staff made of Kerala's famed teak wood and often enclosed in copper hoses or paras
  • The rock Deepasthamba or lampstand.[80]

The ornate monumentality of the European churches was introduced to India when parts of Malabar Coast came under the jurisdiction of the Portuguese in the 16th century. They introduced the Romano-Portuguese style, which was assimilated with such artistic and structural finesse by the artists of Kerala, that it created some of the finest pieces of artistry. This laid the foundations for Indian Baroque.[80] After the arrival of Vasco da Gama and more especially after the commencement of Portuguese rule in India, distinct patterns of Christian art developed within the areas of Portuguese influence, mostly along the coasts of the peninsula. The Portuguese were great builders and promoted architecture more than any other form of fine art. St. Francis Church, Kochi is the first European place of worship in India and incidentally also the place where Vasco da Gama was first buried. The Christian art of Goa reached its climax in church building.[80]

Indian Christian art and architecture during the British Raj has expanded into several different styles as a result of extensive church building in different parts of the country. The style that was most patronised is generally referred to as the British Regency style which included Neo-Gothic and Gothic Revival architecture.[82] Most Protestant cathedrals and churches in India conform to this style. St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata is a typical example of the Gothic Revival style. St. Mary's church, Chennai, the first Anglican Church built east of the Suez is one of the first examples of British colonial architecture in India.[83] French and Danish influences on Christian art and architecture in India can be seen in their respective colonies.[84] Today one can see a harmonious blending of the East and the West in the Christian art and architecture of India.[81]


Pesaha Appam is an unleavened Passover bread made by the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala to be served on Passover night

While Christians in India do not share one common culture, their cultures for the most part tend to be a blend of Indian, Syrian and European cultures. It differs from one region to another depending on several factors such as the prevailing rite and tradition and the extent of time for which Christianity has existed in those regions. The ancient Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala have a distinctively different culture when compared to Christians in other parts of the country.[85] Historical ties with the Assyrian Church and assimilation of Indian traditions have contributed to the development of a unique culture among these traditional Syrian Christians or Nasranis of Kerala.[85] The use of ornamental umbrellas for Christian religious festivities illustrates an example of the indigenous character of Kerala's Syriac Christianity.[86]

Goa was colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century AD; as a result of which Goan Christians have adopted a more western culture.[87] The dance, song and cuisine of Goa has been greatly influenced by the Portuguese.[88] Contemporary Goan Christian culture can be best described as an increasingly anglicised Indo-Latin culture. Mangalorean Catholics are descended mainly from the Goan Catholic settlers, who had migrated to South Canara from Goa, a state north of Canara, between 1560 and 1763 during the Goa Inquisition and the Portuguese-Maratha wars. After migration to Mangalore, they adopted the local Mangalorean culture, but retained many of their Goan customs and traditions.[89] Christianity in other parts of India spread under the colonial regimes of the Dutch, Danish, French and most importantly the English from the early 17th century to the time of the Indian Independence in 1947. Christian culture in these colonial territories has been influenced by the religion and culture of their respective rulers.[90]

Contemporary Latin Christian culture in India draws greatly from the Anglican culture as a result of the influence of the erstwhile British Raj. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer is a widely used supplement for worship in the two major Protestant denominations: Church of South India and Church of North India.[91] Today Christians are considered to be one of the most progressive communities in India.[92] Urban Christians are to a greater extent influenced by European traditions which is considered an advantage in the business environment of urban India; this is given as an explanation for the large number of Christian professionals in India's corporate sector.[93] The Christian church runs thousands of educational institutions which have contributed to the strengthening of Christian culture in India.

Religion plays a significant role in the daily life of Indian Christians. India ranks 15 among countries with highest church attendance. Religious processions and carnivals are often celebrated by Catholics.[94] Cities with significant Christian populations celebrate patron saint days. As in other parts of the world, Christmas is the most important festival for Indian Christians. Anglo-Indian Christmas balls held in most major cities form a distinctive part of Indian Christian culture.[95] Good Friday is a national holiday. All Souls Day is another Christian holiday that is observed by most Christians in India.[96] Most Protestant churches celebrate harvest festivals, usually in late October or early November.[97] Christian weddings in India conform to the traditional white wedding. However it is not uncommon for Christian brides particularly in the south to wear a traditional white wedding sari instead of a gown.[98] The vast majority of Protestant women and to a lesser extent Catholic women in India do not wear the bindi (red dot on the forehead) and can therefore be easily distinguished from their Hindu counterparts.[99]


The 2001 census of India recorded 24,080,016 Christians in the country, most of them belonging to the Latin Rite and represented 2.34 per cent of the population. A 2005 report by the Catholic church said that 17,300,000 baptised Catholics lived in the country, although it could not put a figure on how many of those were practising.[101] 310,000 were members of the Syro-Malankara Church[102][when?] and 3,000,000 of the Syro-Malabar Church.[citation needed][when?] In January 1993, the Syro-Malabar Church and in February 2005, the Syro-Malankara Church were raised to the status of major archiepiscopal churches by Pope John Paul II. The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest among the twenty two Eastern Catholic Churches who accept the Pope as the visible head of the whole church.[citation needed]

The Oriental Orthodox churches in India include the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church with 2,500,000 members, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church with 1,200,000 members, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church with 900,000 members and Malabar Independent Syrian Church with 10,000 members.[14][103]

Most Protestant denominations are represented in India, as a result of missionary activities throughout the country, such as the American Missionary Association, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Mission, the Church Mission Society of the Church of England and many other missions from Europe, America and Australia. With approximately 4 million members, the largest Protestant denomination in the country is the Church of South India, which is a union of Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational, Methodist, and Anglican congregations. It is also one of four united churches in the Anglican Communion.[104] A similar Church of North India has 1.25 million members.[105] These churches are in full communion with the Anglican Communion. .[106] In 1961, the evangelical wing of the church split from the Mar Thoma Church and formed the St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India which has 35,000 members.[107] There are about 1,267,786 Lutherans,[108] 648,000 Methodists,[109] 2,392,694 Baptists,[110] and 823,456 Presbyterians in India.[111]

The Open Brethren movement is also significantly represented in India. The main Brethren grouping is known as the Indian Brethren (with a following estimated at somewhere between 449,550[112] and 1,000,000), of which the Kerala Brethren are a significant subset. The closely related Assemblies Jehovah Shammah have around 310,000 adults and children in fellowship as of 2010.[112] They are often considered part of the wider Brethren movement, although they were founded by an indigenous evangelist (Bakht Singh) and developed independently of the older Indian Brethren movement, which originated from missionary endeavours.

Pentecostalism is also a rapidly growing movement in India. The major Pentecostal churches in India are the Assemblies of God, The Pentecostal Mission,[113][114] the New Apostolic Church with 1,448,209 members,[115] the Indian Pentecostal Church of God with 900,000 members (throughout India and ten other countries),[115] the New Life Fellowship Association with 480,000 members, the Manna Full Gospel Churches with 275,000 members,[115] and the Evangelical Church of India with 250,000 members.[116]


File:Yercaud Church.jpg
Church at Yercaud

See main article: List of Christian denominations in India.

Christian Denominations in India
Church Name Population Orientation
Roman Catholic Church 11,800,000 Latin Rite, Catholic
Syro-Malabar Catholic Church 3,000,000[117] East Syrian Rite, Catholic
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church 310,000[118] West Syrian Rite, Catholic
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and
Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church combined
4,700,000[14] West Syrian Rite, Oriental Orthodox
Malabar Independent Syrian Church 10,000 West Syrian Rite,Oriental Orthodox, Independent
Chaldean Syrian Church, or church of the east (oldest Christian in India) 35,000 East Syrian, Church of the East
Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church 900,000[103] West Syrian Rite, Oriental, Independent and Reformed
St. Thomas Evangelical Church 35,000 Episcopalian Protestant
Church of South India 5,000,000 Episcopalian Protestant (United and uniting)
Church of North India 1,250,000 Episcopalian Protestant (United and uniting)
Methodist Church in India 648,000 Protestant
Baptist 2,991,276 Protestant
(List of Baptist denominations in India)
Assemblies Jehovah Shammah 310,000[112] Protestant (Plymouth Brethren)
Lutheran 1,267,786[108] Protestant
Indian Brethren 449,550[112] to 1,000,000 Protestant (Plymouth Brethren)
Presbyterian Church of India 1,347,683 Protestant (Reformed)
Reformed Presbyterian Church North East India 15,000 Protestant (Reformed)
Reformed Presbyterian Church of India 10,000 Protestant (Reformed)
Evangelical Church of Maraland 30,000 Protestant (Reformed)
Congregational Church in India 5,500 Protestant (Reformed)
Hindustani Covenant Church 16,600 Protestant
Worldwide Faith Missions 12,000[citation needed] Protestant
Evangelical Church 250,000 Protestant
New Apostolic Church[115] 1,448,209 Protestant
India Pentecostal Church of God 600,000 Protestant
Pentecostal Maranatha Gospel Church Protestant
New Life Fellowship Association[115] 480,000 Protestant
Sharon Fellowship Church[115] 50,000 Protestant
Manna Full Gospel Churches[115] 275,000 Protestant
Philadelphia Fellowship Church of India[115] 200,000 Protestant
Seventh-day Adventist Church 1,560,000[119] Protestant/Restorationism
Unitarian Union of Northeast India 10,000 Unitarian
Jehovah's Witnesses 42,566[120] Restorationism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1,289[121] Latter Day Saints
Gift of God Ministries 1,000 Born Again Believers
Christian Revival Church 21,447[122] Charismatic, Pentecostal and Holistic Evangelical Movement
Mennonite Brethren Church 103,000[123] Protestant (Reformed)

State populations[edit]

States with percentage of Christians as per 2011 census[124]
State Population Christian (%) Christian (numbers)
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1,210,854,977 2.30 27,819,588
Nagaland 1,978,502 87.93 1,739,651
Mizoram 1,097,206 87.16 956,331
Meghalaya 2,966,889 74.59 2,213,027
Manipur 2,855,794 41.29 1,179,043
Arunachal Pradesh 1,383,727 30.26 418,732
Goa 1,458,545 25.10 366,130
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 380,581 21.28 80,984
Kerala 33,406,061 18.38 6,141,269
Sikkim 610,577 9.91 60,522
Puducherry 1,247,953 6.29 78,550
Tamil Nadu 72,147,030 6.12 4,418,331
Tripura 3,673,917 4.35 159,882
Jharkhand 32,988,134 4.30 1,418,608
Assam 31,205,576 3.74 1,165,867
Odisha 41,974,218 2.77 1,161,708
Chhattisgarh 25,545,198 1.92 490,542
Karnataka 61,095,297 1.87 1,142,647
Dadra and Nagar Haveli 343,709 1.49 5,113
Andhra Pradesh 84,580,777 1.34 1,129,784
Punjab 27,743,338 1.26 348,230
Daman and Diu 243,247 1.16 2,820
Maharashtra 112,374,333 0.96 1,080,073
Delhi 16,787,941 0.87 146,093
Chandigarh 1,055,450 0.83 8,720
West Bengal 91,276,115 0.72 658,618
Gujarat 60,439,692 0.52 316,178
Lakshadweep 64,473 0.49 317
Uttarakhand 10,086,292 0.37 37,781
Madhya Pradesh 72,626,809 0.29 213,282
Jammu and Kashmir 12,541,302 0.28 35,631
Haryana 25,351,462 0.20 50,353
Uttar Pradesh 199,812,341 0.18 356,448
Himachal Pradesh 6,864,602 0.18 12,646
Rajasthan 68,548,437 0.14 96,430
Bihar 104,099,452 0.12 129,247
Caste Demographic data reported by the Sachar Committee on Muslim Affairs in 2006[125]
Religion Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe Other Backward Class Forward caste
Buddhism 89.50% 7.40% 0.4% 2.7%
Sikhism 30.70% 0.90% 22.4% 46.1%
Hinduism 22.20% 9.10% 42.8% 26%
Christianity 9.00% 32.80% 24.8% 33.3%
Islam 0.80% 0.50% 39.2% 59.5%

Despite the sectarian differences, Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians or Nasranis) share a common social status within the Caste system of India and are considered as Forward Caste and Latin Christians are considered as Other Backward Caste.[126]

Christian population in India[edit]

File:India Christian.png
Percentage Christian population, India census 2011

In India, Christian Population is 2.78 Crores as per latest figure of 2011 Census which is about 2.3% of total Indian Population. Christianity is dominant religion in North East states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Manipur while they make substaintial population in states of Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Andaman Nicobar Islands. [127]

A 2015 study estimates some 40,000 Christian believers from a Muslim background in the country, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism.[128]

Reservation issue[edit]

According to Article 25(b) of the Indian Constitution, any reference to "Hindu" denotes a personal follower of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, or Buddhism. Followers of religions other than those classified as "Hindu" (Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc.) are not given reservation benefits even when an individual belongs to the SC, ST, or OBC castes.[citation needed]

Reservation in India was provided for socially backward classes in India, in order for them to reach equality with upper castes.


Hindu–Christian conflict[edit]

Historically, Hindus and Christians have lived in relative peace since the arrival of Christianity in India from the early part of the first millennium. In areas where Christianity existed in pre-European times like Kerala, land to build churches was often donated by Hindu kings and Hindu landlords.[citation needed] The arrival of European colonialists brought about large-scale missionary activity in South India and North-East India. Some indigenous people were supposedly converted to Christianity. The Goan Inquisition, when close to 300 (non-verifiable) Hindu temples were destroyed, is pointed out as a blot in the history of Goa.[129]

After the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, who was a Hindu monk, by Maoists (communist insurgents), tensions flared between the two communities in 2008. Christians were blamed and attacked in the state of Odisha with many killed and over 250 churches damaged while several thousands of Christians were displaced.[130][131][132]

File:Orissa violence destroyedbuilding.jpg
A church that has been burnt down during the 2008 religious violence in Odisha

There has been an increase in anti-Christian violence in recent years, particularly in the states of Odisha, which is usually perpetrated by opposition to Christianity.[133] The acts of violence include arson of churches, converting Christians back to Hinduism by force and threats of physical violence, distribution of threatening literature, burning of Bibles, raping of nuns, murder of Christian priests, and destruction of Christian schools, colleges, and cemeteries.[134][135] An Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death by Dara Singh while sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district in Odisha, India on 22 January 1999. In the annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State also criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians."[136] The report on anti-Christian violence listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. The states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu passed laws placing restrictions on forced religious conversions as a result of communal tension between Christians and Hindus.[137][138] The legislation passed in Tamil Nadu was later repealed.[citation needed]

In 2007, 19 churches were burned by Hindu right-wingers in Odisha following conflicts between Hindus and Christians regarding Christmas celebrations in the Kandhamal district.[139] In more contemporary periods, Hindu-Christian amity continues to exist.

File:Dungeon dwelling of Seringapatam.jpg
A dungeon at Seringapatam. Those Christians who refused to embrace Islam were imprisoned in such dungeons.

Muslim–Christian conflict[edit]

The Jamalabad fort route. Mangalorean Catholics had travelled through this route on their way to Seringapatam
File:Surrender of Tipu Sultan.jpg
General Lord Cornwallis, receiving two of Tipu Sultan's sons as hostages in the year 1793.

In spite of the fact that there have been relatively fewer conflicts between Muslims and Christians in India in comparison to those between Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Sikhs, the relationship between Muslims and Christians have also been occasionally turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Christians were systematically persecuted in a few Muslim-ruled kingdoms in India.

Among the anti-Christian acts of persecution by Muslims was that committed by Tippu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore against the Mangalorean Catholic community from Mangalore in the erstwhile South Canara district on the southwestern coast of India. Tippu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. The Captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.[140]

The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: "All Musalmans should unite together, considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, and labour to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject."[141] Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tippu gained control of Canara.[142] He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates,[143] and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route.[144] However, there were no priests among the captives. Together with Fr Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs 200,000, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.[141]

Tippu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches, all intricately carved with statues depicting various saints. Among them were Nossa Senhora de Rosario Milagres at Mangalore, Fr Miranda's Seminary at Monte Mariano, Jesu Marie Jose at Omzoor, the Chapel at Bolar, the Church of Merces at Ullal, Imaculata Conceiciao at Mulki, San Jose at Perar, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios at Kirem, Sao Lawrence at Karkal, Rosario at Barkur, and Immaculata Conceciao at Baidnur.[141] All were razed to the ground, with the exception of the Church of Holy Cross at Hospet, owing to the friendly offices of the Chauta Raja of Moodbidri.[145]

According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 people,[146] nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured, of which only 7,000 escaped. Francis Buchanan states the numbers as 70,000 captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000  of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with the Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there.[147] The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears.[148] According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tippu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.[149]

The Archbishop of Goa wrote in 1800, "It is notoriously known in all Asia and all other parts of the globe of the oppression and sufferings experienced by the Christians in the Dominion of the King of Kanara, during the usurpation of that country by Tipu Sultan from an implacable hatred he had against them who professed Christianity."[141]

Tipu Sultan's invasion of the Malabar had an adverse impact on the Saint Thomas Christian community of the Malabar coast. Many churches in the Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the center of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tippu's soldiers. A lot of centuries old religious manuscripts were lost forever. The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists to this date. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tipu's army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Saint Thomas Christians were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, areca nut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Saint Thomas Christian farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tippu's army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Maculay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.[150]

File:James Scurry.jpg
The British officer James Scurry, who was detained a prisoner for 10 years by Tipu Sultan along with the Mangalorean Catholics

His persecution of Christians also extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant amount of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls. After the 10-year-long captivity ended, James Scurry, one of those prisoners, recounted that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair and use a knife and fork. His English was broken and stilted, having lost all his vernacular idiom. His skin had darkened to the swarthy complexion of negroes, and moreover, he had developed an aversion to wearing European clothes.[151] During the surrender of the Mangalore fort which was delivered in an armistice by the British and their subsequent withdrawal, all the Mestizos and remaining non-British foreigners were killed, together with 5,600 Mangalorean Catholics. Those condemned by Tipu Sultan for treachery were hanged instantly, the gibbets being weighed down by the number of bodies they carried. The Netravati River was so putrid with the stench of dying bodies, that the local residents were forced to leave their riverside homes.[141]

Historian William Dalrymple asserts that the rebels were motivated primarily by resistance against a move (use of the Enfield Rifle-Musket) by the East India Company, which was perceived as an attempt to impose Christianity and Christian laws in India.[152] For instance, when Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar met the sepoys on 11 May 1857, he was told: "We have joined hands to protect our religion and our faith." They later stood in Chandni Chowk, the main square, and asked the people gathered there, "Brothers, are you with those of the faith?"[152] Those British men and women who had previously converted to Islam such as the defectors, Sergeant-Major Gordon, and Abdullah Beg, a former Company soldier, were spared.[153] On the contrary, foreign Christians such as Revd Midgeley John Jennings, as well as Indian converts to Christianity such as one of Zafar's personal physicians, Dr. Chaman Lal, were killed outright.[153]

Dalrymple further points out that as late as 6 September, when calling the inhabitants of Delhi to rally against the upcoming British assault, Zafar issued a proclamation stating that this was a religious war being prosecuted on behalf of 'the faith', and that all Muslim and Hindu residents of the imperial city, or of the countryside were encouraged to stay true to their faith and creeds.[152] As further evidence, he observes that the Urdu sources of the pre and post-rebellion periods usually refer to the British not as angrez (the English), goras (whites) or firangis (foreigners), but as kafir (infidels) and nasrani (Christians).[152]

In modern times, Muslims in India who convert to Christianity are often subjected to harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims.[154][155] In Jammu and Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, a Christian convert and missionary named Bashir Tantray was killed, allegedly by militant Islamists in 2006.[156] However, there are cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly declaring his/her apostasy. In effect, they are practising Christians, but legally Muslims; thus, the statistics of Indian Christians does not include Muslim apostates to Christianity.

List of Christian communities in India[edit]



The missionaries were highly critical of the Vedas which Hindus have always held in the highest esteem. Vivekananda upheld the Vedas as depositories of divine wisdom. For him, scriptures like the Bible and the Quran were paurusheya, that is, revelations accessible only to particular persons whose experience could not be verified by other people. The Vedas, on the other hand, were apaurusheya, that is, statements of spiritual truths which any seeker could verify by spiritual practice. “Although we find,” he said, “many names, and many speakers, and many teachers in the Upanishads, not one of them stands as an authority of the Upanishads, not one verse is based upon the life of any one of them. These are simple figures like shadows moving in the background, unfelt, unseen, unrealised, but the real force is in the marvellous, the brilliant, the effulgent texts of the Upanishads, perfectly impersonal. If twenty Yajnavalkyas came and lived and died, it does not matter; the texts are there. And yet it is against no personality: it is broad and expansive enough to embrace all the personalities that the world has yet produced, and all that are yet to come. It has nothing to say against the worship of persons, or Avataras, or sages. On the other hand, it is always upholding it. At the same time, it is perfectly impersonal.”34 Rather than processing the Vedas in terms of the Bible, as the Brahmos had started doing, the Bible should be weighed on the Vedic scale and prove its worth. “So far as the Bible,” he observed, “and the scriptures of other nations agree with the Vedas, they are perfectly good, but when they do not agree, they are no more to be accepted.”35 On another occasion he said, “It is in the Vedas that we have to study our religion. With the exception of the Vedas every book must change. The authority of the Vedas is for all time to come; the authority of every one of our other books is for the time being. For instance, one Smriti is powerful for one age, another for another age.”36 34 Ibid., Volume III, p. 32.

35 Ibid., p. 333.

36 Ibid., Volume V, p. 125.


Swami Devananda replied on July 21. After explaining how “the sannyasin is the very embodiment of Sanatana Dharma, “ he said, “The Church does not recognise a priest outside of the apostolic succession of Peter, and we do not recognise a priest outside the Hindu parampara. In that you are a Roman priest and a Benedictine monk, you cannot possibly be a sannyasin; it is verily a contradiction in terms... Christianity, from its very inception to today, has subsumed and subverted the deities, symbols, rituals and philosophies of the peoples it wishes to conquer. This activity which is imperial and not spiritual, must cease before hostilities and mistrust will die; hostilities, by the way, that we never invited in the first place. By trying to justify your position as it is now, you impugn Hinduism, slur sannyasa, rout reason, ruin meaning, mutilate categories, transpose symbols, deny sacred convention and usage, profane principles, philosophise, and generally present an argument that is oxymoronic.”

Swami Devananda replied on July 30: “I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt (as do many of my brothers). I am not able to do so because the inherent tolerance and secularism of Hinduism has been abused by your kind too long. I appreciate that you do not want a sectarian Hinduism, for that would directly threaten your own vested interests… Church motives are always suspect when they are not openly vicious, and the means she employs to further her own wicked ends has never had any relationship to the ideals she preaches at others. You have been in India long enough to know that we idolaters are more interested in what we see than what we hear. We want action, right action, not words... You preach the transcendence of religion but remain yourself an official of a sectarian religion... And not only are you a Roman priest, but the moment you get into trouble you run to mummy Church for financial, emotional, moral, psychological, and doctrinal aid. How is this foreign and first allegiance going to bring about the Indianisation of Christianity, much less the transcendence of religion? Yet you have the insolence to suggest that Hinduism not organise herself in her hour of need. You will teach us religious transcendence from the very pit of religious institutionalism, a pit we have not fallen into in 10,000 years. I think your motives are clear; indeed, the idea is worthy of a Jesuit! We will transcend our dharma and the Roman Church will happily reap the benefits of our foolishness, being already on the scene to fill in the void we leave behind us. If you were remotely serious about the spiritual ideals expressed in your letter, you would renounce the Church forthwith and humbly place yourself in the hands of God. Hinduism has always been a commonwealth of religious and spiritual institutions, some highly sectarian, though we have avoided the curse of centralisation. There are times when centralisation is justified, when the Hindus of conviction must work together for a common goal. This is not sectarianism; it is common sense. I do think Dayananda and Vivekananda would agree with me here. Shankara himself institutionalised sannyas for the same reason that the institution must be revitalised today: to protect dharma. We have always maintained and practised the spiritual ideal of transcending institutional limitations, and have succeeded where others have failed because our spiritual disciplines demand that the correct means be employed. The first injunction observed by all seekers is that they do not interfere with, bastardise, or destroy the culture, traditions, symbols, and religion that support them on their journey, even when they have passed beyond these institutions. And passing beyond these institutions does not mean meddling with them on the way. God has always given us reformers when we need them. Do you qualify, Bede Griffiths?”

But Swami Devananda did not give up. He wrote on August 7: “I had hoped that when you took refuge in humbug jargon, I would at least rate above a superstitious fundamentalist. Chinmayananda is often dubbed a communalist, and I was looking forward to some dramatic monotheistic curse like Great Satan or Antichrist… it remains that you have avoided every specific issue, with generalisations and specious philosophising; it remains that you exploit our tolerance, secularism, and hospitality; it remains that you abuse and pervert our symbols and traditions to your own motivated missionary ends… You have not transcended religion and you have no intention of doing so, whatever your pious declarations. You have an overriding ambition to subvert and subsume us with our own spiritual concepts, just as Paul subverted and subsumed the Greeks with their’s. As you see parallels in history, so do we, and we are thus forearmed. We will not be meekly sold down the river like Constantine !… I am not the protector of Sanatana Dharma; Narayana is the only protector of Dharma. This is an awful truth for you to admit, Bede Griffiths, and one that neither you nor I will escape.”

Swami Devananda replied on October 21: “Apparently you know as little about Buddhism as you do about Hinduism, both of which are Sanatana Dharma. They have the same roots and traditions and usages and a mutual spiritual ideal that goes far beyond their differences. This is not true of the Semitic ideologies, which by their own definition, claim to be superior, unique and exclusive. Voitaire warned of these closed creeds when he wrote: ‘The man who says to me, Believe as I do or God will damn you, will presently say to me, Believe as I do or I will kill you.’ Think about this carefully, Father Bede, for you are the ordained representative of one of these creeds. And you seem to know even less about mantra than you do about Sanatana Dharma.”

The book, Christ in India, by Bede Griffiths was giving a call which was loud and clear, namely, that Hindu civilization was to be taken over by ‘Hindu Christians’ as the ‘Greek Fathers’ of the Church had taken over the Greek civilization.

“They talk of ‘dialogues’ but they are determined that their victims should reach the same conclusions as they do. Their means are flexible, but their aims are fixed. The situation and the truth of the matter demands that we look, not on their arguments but on their mind.” He enclosed another article with his letter. It was his review of Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World. The Rise of Global Evangelization Movement by David B. Barrett and James W. Reapsome published in 1989 by the AD- 2000 Series. The review had appeared in The Statesman dated 25 March 1990.

Fr. Bede’s accusation that Ram Swarup’s articles were aimed at creating “communal strife between Christians and Hindus” was pinned down by him as “the language of blackmail and even threat to which Hindus are often subjected when they show any sign of stir.”

Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, Second Revised Edition, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1995.

SRG VIND BY TIME 14. Let us now turn nearer home and study the question of religious liberty under the domination of the Christian countries of the West. As pointed out by Shri K. M. Panikkar in his book “Asia and a Western Dominance”, the coming in of the Portuguese in India marks the advent of Christianity on Indian soil. “With the Portuguese, Christianisation was a State enterprise”. Since the power was Roman Catholic in its religion, it were the Roman Catholic missionaries who carried on missionary work. On the recommendation of the Pope, King Joao III of Portugal appointed Francis Xavier and sent him to India for the propagation of Christian religion. He landed ashore in 1542 and set to his work in right earnest. He, however, soon realized that without State aid it was not possible to spread Christian religion in India. Writing to Father Rodrigues he said:

   “According to my experience the only effective way to spread religion India is for the King to proclaim by means of an edict to all his officials in India that he shall put trust only in those who will exert themselves to extend the reign of religion by every means in their power.”

To King Joao III he wrote as follows:

   “To your servants you must declare as plainly as possible…… that the only way of escaping your wrath and of obtaining your favour Is to make as many Christians as Possible in the countries over which they rule.” (P. 382, Asia and Western Dominance)

In 1546, he wrote a letter to the King of Portugal requesting him to establish the Holy Inquisition, as it was called. This “unholy and wicked institution” lasted for nearly two hundred and fifty years. It perpetrated innumerable atrocities on both Christians and non-Christians. It proved the worst of its kind, established anywhere.

15. The Portuguese power became ruthless the more it got itself established in India. Royal Charters were issued from time to time making invidious distinctions between Christians and non-Christians and subjecting the latter to untold disabilities. In 1559 an enactment was passed debarring all Hindus from holding any public office. In the same year another law was enacted confiscating the properties of non-Christian orphans if they refused to be converted to Christianity. Yet another law ordered destruction of Hindu temples and images and prohibited all non-Christian religious festivals. In 1560 all the Brahmans and goldsmiths were ordered to accept Christianity otherwise they were to be turned out of Goa. By a law passed in 1567 the Hindus were prohibited from performing their important religious ceremonies such as investiture of sacred thread, marriage ceremonies and even cremation rites. Hindu religious books were proscribed. All non-Christians above the age of 15 were forced to attend the preaching of Christian religion. Hindu temples were destroyed and in their place churches were built. In 1575 another law was passed by which the Hindu nationals were debarred from their civic right of renting state land. People of Goa were prohibited to use their native language by an order of 1684 and were allowed three years to learn the Portuguese language under pain of being proceeded against under law of the land.

The aim of all these enactments was to compel the people either to accept Christian religion or to leave the State.

52. In India, St. Xavier enlisted the support of the Portuguese King in putting political pressure upon people to become Christians (page 44, History of Christian Missions, Richter). That was because “the Portuguese were confronted with a civilization older than that of Europe, with men more highly educated and more deeply learned than their own priests and men of letters, and with religions and customs and institutions whose wisdom equalled their antiquity (page 16, Albuquerque, by Morse Stephens: Rulers of India Series). It was from this time that Christian theology has been carrying on a severe struggle with the Indian religious philosophy.


The Christian missionary enterprise in earnest started with the dogged efforts of Don Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), the third son of the King John I of Portugal. Henry was a militant Christian fired with a bitter hatred for infidels. He was obsessed with the idea of reaching and converting India, and believed that he had received a command from God for this purpose. He had at his disposal the immense wealth of the Order of Christ of which he was the Grand Master.5 In 1458 Pope Nicholas V issued a Bull granting to the King of Portugal “the right, total and absolute, to invade, conquer, and subject all the countries which are under rule of the enemies of Christ, Saracens or Pagans…” On March 13, 1456 this first Bull was confirmed by a second one by Pope Calixtus III. Finally, Pope Alexander VI confirmed the Treaty of Tordesilhas signed on June 9, 1494 in terms of which he divided the world, east and west, between Portugal and Spain to conquer and convert.6 The kings of Portugal fitted and sent several naval expeditions to India, and King Dom Manoel “assumed for himself the title of ‘The Lord of the Navigation, Conquest and Commerce of Ethiopia, Persia and India’.”7 The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) though founded by a Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola, “found a staunch supporter and champion in the Portuguese monarch”. Henceforward Portugal became the base of the missionary enterprise in Asia. It is noteworthy that some of the great figures in the history of Christian missionary activities in the East came to adopt Portugal as their second country “with the revival of religious zeal within the Catholic church following the Protestant movement... Francis Xavier, a Spaniard, came out as the Portuguese King’s Inspector of Missions. Father Vagliano, an Italian recruited in Lisbon forty-two missionaries of whom only six were Portuguese. To Ricci, another Italian, who completed his education at Coimbra and Goa, Portugal was the spiritual home.”8 Small wonder that “with the Portuguese christianization was a state enterprise” and that the Portuguese kings “paid for the entire ecclesiastical establishment in the East”.9

Christian missionaries had accompanied every Portuguese naval expedition to India after Vasco da Gama reached Calicut in Malabar in 1498. In 1534, Goa which had been occupied by the Portuguese in 1509 “was made a bishopric with authority extending over the entire Far East”. Rooting out of Hinduism was a special task assigned to every Portuguese viceroy. “Hindu temples in Goa were destroyed and their property distributed to religious orders (like the Franciscans) in 1540.” With the arrival of Francis Xavier in Goa in 1542 and the establishment of the College of St. Paul by him, Goa became the centre for training missionaries to be sent out to other countries in Asia. “For the next hundred years entry of missionaries into the Far East was permitted only through Goa.” Under advice from Francis Xavier, the king of Portugal established the Inquisition in Goa.10 “Intolerance of things Indian became henceforth the characteristic of feature of missionary zeal in India. Any compromise with Hindu life or religion was avoided e.g. the eating of beef was held to be necessary as it would put the converts altogether out of the pale of Hinduism.” But Portuguese power decayed in the second half of the seventeenth century and Portugal’s interest in missionary work declined even in South India. “The establishment of the Inquisition in Goa (1561) and the auto da fé (first instance 1563) revolted the conscience of both Hindus and Muslims alike.”11 Even in Goa, the majority of population continued to be non-Christian. Thus the “attempt of the Portuguese, secular and missionary,… to carry the heathen fort by assault” has failed.12

1K.M. Panikkar, Asia and Western Dominance, London (1953), Seventh Impression, 1967, p. 15.

2Ibid., p. 314.

3Ibid., p. 297.

4Ibid., pp. 279-80.

5Ibid., p. 25.

6Ibid., p. 27.

7Ibid., p. 34.

8Ibid., p. 45.

9Ibid., p. 280.

10Ibid., p. 280.

11Ibid., p. 28 1.

12Ibid., p. 283.

13Ibid., p. 290.

14Ibid., pp. 290-91.

15Ibid., p. 291.

16Ibid., p. 242.

17Ibid., p. 249.

18Ibid., p. 295.

19Ibid., p. 282.

20Ibid., p. 288.

21Ibid., p. 289.

22Ibid., p. 242.

23Ibid., pp. 67 and 289.

24Ibid., pp. 66-67.

25Ibid., p. 293.

26Ibid., pp. 56-57.

27Ibid., pp. 282-83.

28Ibid., p. 58.

29Ibid., P. 283.

30Ibid., p. 286.

31Ibid., pp. 286-87.

32Ibid., p. 287.

33Ibid., pp. 287-88.

34Ibid., pp. 291-92.

35Ibid., pp. 292-93.

36Ibid., p. 13 8.

37Ibid., pp. 138-39.

38Ibid., p. 149.

39Ibid., pp. 150-51, 254, 259, 267.

40Ibid., p. 296.

41Ibid., pp. 296-97.

42Ibid., p. 294.

43Ibid., p. 163.

44Ibid., p. 164.

45Ibid., pp. 273-74.

46Ibid., p. 171. Emphasis in source..

47Ibid., pp. 172-73.

48Ibid., pp. 272-73.

49Ibid., p. 27 1.

50Ibid., pp. 294-95.

51Felix Alfred Planner, The Catholic Church in India: Yesterday and Today, Allahabad, 1964, p. 14.


We shall let a Christian historian speak about what the Portuguese did in their Indian domain. “At least from 1540 onwards,” writes Dr. T. R. de Souza “and in the island of Goa before that year, all the Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building materials were in most cases utilised to erect new Christian churches and chapels. Various vice regal and Church council decrees banished the Hindu priests from the Portuguese territories; the public practice of Hindu rites including marriage rites, was banned; the state took upon itself the task of bringing up the Hindu orphan children; the Hindus were denied certain employments, while the Christians were preferred; it was ensured that the Hindus would not harass those who became Christians, and on the contrary, the Hindus were obliged to assemble periodically in churches to listen to preaching or to the refutation of their religion.”2

Coming to the performance of the missionaries, he continues: “A particularly grave abuse was practised in Goa in the form of ‘mass baptism’ and what went before it. The practice was begun by the Jesuits and was later initiated by the Franciscans also. The Jesuits staged an annual mass baptism on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (25 January), and in order to secure as many neophytes as possible, a few days before the ceremony the Jesuits would go through the streets of the Hindu quarters in pairs, accompanied by their Negro slaves, whom they would urge to seize the Hindus. When the blacks caught up a fugitive, they would smear his lips with a piece of beef, making him an ‘untouchable’ among his people. Conversion to Christianity was then his only option.”3

Finally, he comes to “Financing Church Growth” and concludes: “...the government transferred to the Church and religious orders the properties and other sources of revenue that had belonged to the Hindu temples that had been demolished or to the temple servants who had been converted or banished. Entire villages were taken over at times for being considered rebellious and handed over with all their revenues to the Jesuits. In the villages that had submitted themselves, at times en masse, to being converted, the religious orders promoted competition to build bigger and bigger churches and more chapels than their neighbouring villages. Such a competition, drawing funds and diverting labour, from other important welfare works of the village, was decisively bringing the village economy in Goa into bankruptcy.”4

1 Francis Xavier was the pioneer of anti-Brahmanism which was adopted in due course as a major plank in the missionary propaganda by all Christian denominations. Lord Minto, Governor General of India from 1807 to 1812, submitted a Note to his superiors in London when the British Parliament was debating whether missionaries should be permitted in East India Company’s domain under the Charter of 1813. He enclosed with his Note some “propaganda material used by the missionaries” and, referring to one missionary tract in particular, wrote: “The remainder of this tract seems to aim principally at a general massacre of the Brahmanas” (M. D. David (ed.), Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, Bombay, 1988, p. 85). Anti-Brahmanism has become the dominant theme in the speeches and writings of Indian secularists of all sorts.

2 M.D. David (ed.), op. cit., p. 17.

3 Ibid., p. 19.

4 Ibid., pp. 24-35. For a detailed account of Christian doings in Goa, see A.K. Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition, Bombay, 1961, Voice of India reprint, New Delhi, 1991 and 1996.

5 Sisir Kumar Das, The Shadow of the Cross, New Delhi, 1974, p. 4.

6 P. Thomas, Christians and Christianity in India and Pakistan, London, 1954, p. 114.

7 Sisir Kumar Das, op. cat., p. 5.

8 M. D. David (ed.), op. cit., p. 8.

Panikkar, K. M., Asia and Western Dominance, London, 1953.

ISHWAR SHARAN K.M. Panikkar, in Malabar and the Portuguese, writes, "More than this, they suggested to [Vasco da Gama] that with their help he should conquer the Hindu kingdoms and invited him to build a fortress for this purpose in Cranganore. This was the recompense which the Hindu rajas received for treating with liberality and kindness the Christians in their midst."

Sita Ram Goel, in Papacy: Its Doctrine and History, writes, 'Vasco da Gama had bombarded Calicut when the Zamorin ruler of that place refused to be dictated by him. He had plundered the ships bringing rice to the city and cut off the ears, noses and hands of the crews. The Zamorin had sent to him a Brahmin envoy after securing Portuguese safe-conduct. Vasco da Gama had cut off the nose, ears and hands of the Brahmin and strung them around his neck together with a palm-leaf on which a message was conveyed to the Indian king that he could cook and eat a curry made from his envoy's limbs."

K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, in A History of South India, tells the story of the propagation of Christianity in India. He writes, "[The Portuguese] acted throughout as if they had a divine right to the pillage, robbery, and massacre of the natives of India. Not to mince matters, their whole record is one of a series of atrocities. They delighted particularly in plundering all rich temples within their reach, even Tirupati not escaping their predatory attentions.... The Roman Catholic missionaries, headed by St. Francis Xavier,[39] were not only forcefully converting to their faith large numbers on the pearl--fishery coast ... but induced the fishermen to transfer their allegiance to the king of Portugal.... The Franciscan friars and Jesuits were busy demolishing temples and building churches in the coastal cities, and the Portuguese governor of Goa was reported to be organising a plundering raid against the rich temples of Kanchipuram.[40] ... The Portuguese policy of [destroying temples and] turning religious propaganda to political use roused the resentment of even the tolerant rulers of Vijayanagar and their Feudatories."

M. Arunachalam, in an article in Christianity in India: A Critical Study, writes, "It is well known that the Portuguese sacked the famous Tiruchendur Murugan Temple on the sea coast and threw the idol into the sea. Sometime later, in 1654, the chieftain Vadamalaiyappa Pillai of Tirunelveli, salvaged the idol from the sea and installed it at the present Tiruchendur temple."[41]

He continues, "The Tirumalai Nayak Mahal [at Madurai] is another example. Jealous of its magnificence, the British began demolishing it, but public agitation checked it and what we have today is only a part of what was originally there."

The British were generally less destructive than the Portuguese and the French, but they did not hesitate to attack temples that were in the way of construction works or to desecrate them as a means of intimidating the local populace. They fired on the temples of Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh for this last reason; and Victoria Terminus in Bombay is built on the original site of that city's famous Mumbai Devi Temple. In Madras they obliterated the small Hindu shrines that once stood inside Fort St. George. The fort now contains St. Mary's Church, the first Protestant church built east of Suez.

But it is the French who vied with the Portuguese in their Christian zeal to destroy Pagan places of worship. Henry Love, in Vestiges of Old Madras, records that they used temples as barracks in their military operations against the British. Between 1672 and 1674, at Madras, they fortified the rebuilt Kapalees--wara Temple in Mylapore and the Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane when they were besieged by Golconda and the Dutch.

Sita Ram Goel, in History of Hindu-Christian Encounters, quoting The Private Diary of Anand Ranga Pillai translated by J. Frederick Price and K. Rangachari, gives a graphic account of the destruction of the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple at Pondicherry by the French governors wife, Madame Dupliex, and the Jesuits. He writes, "The Vedapuri Iswaran Temple was the principle place of worship for the Hindus of Pondicherry. The Jesuit missionaries built the Church of St. Paul adjacent to it and obtained an order from the King of France that the Hindu temple should be destroyed ...

"The first incident at the Vedapuri Temple took place on March 17, 1746. 'On Wednesday night at 11, writes Pillai, two unknown persons entered the Iswaran Temple carrying in a vessel of liquid filth, which they poured on the heads of the Gods around the altar, and into the temple, through the drain of the shrine of Iswaran; and having broken the pot of dirt on the image of the God Nandi, they went away through a part of the building which had been demolished' ...

"As the report of this sacrilege spread, Hindus 'from the Brahmin to the pariah,' held a public meeting. The governor, Dupliex, when he heard of it, sent his chief peon to disperse the meeting.... The people, however, defied the order and protested, you better kill us all'...

"The next incident recorded by Pillai took place on December 31, 1746. 'It was reported, he writes, tonight at 7, that an earthen jar, filled with filth, was thrown from within the grounds of the Church of St. Paul, into the Temple of Vedapuri Iswaran. It very nearly fell on the head of Sankara Aiyan, who was at the shrine of the God Pillaiyar, on his way round the temple, in the performance of religious duties. When the jar struck the ground, and broke to pieces, the stench emitted was unbearable'...

"The temple was now doomed to destruction. 'Yesterday,' Pillai continued in his diary of September 8, '200 soldiers, 60 or 70 troopers and sepoys were stationed at St. Paul's Church in view of the matter in hand. This morning, M. Gerbault (the engineer), the priests with diggers, masons, coolies and others 200 in all, with spades, pick--axes and whatever is needed to demolish walls, began to pull down the southern wall of the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple and the outhouses. At once the temple managers, Brahmins and mendicants came and told me.... Just then ... news was brought that Father Coeurdoux, the superior of St. Paul's Church, had kicked the inner shrine with his foot, and had ordered the Coffrees to remove the doors, and the Christians to break the Vahanams..."

Pillai now went to Governor Dupliex, in an attempt to save the temple, as did the caste leaders who sought to save the temple's movable articles, but it was all to no avail.

"Then Father Coeurdoux of Karikal came with a great hammer, kicked the Lingam, broke it with his hammer, and ordered the Coffrees and the Europeans to break the images of Vishnu and the other Gods. Madame [Dupliex] went and told the priest that he might break the idols as he pleased. He answered that she had accomplished what had been impossible for fifty years, that she must be one of those Mahatmas who established this [Christian] religion in old days, and that he would publish her fame throughout the world.... Then [the native convert] Varlam also kicked the great Lingam nine or ten times with his sandals in the presence of Madame and the priest, and spat on it out of gladness, and hoping that the priest and Madame would regard him also as a Mahatma. Then he followed Madame. I can neither write nor describe what abominations were done in the temple. I know not what fruit they will reap. All the Tamils think the end of the world has come. The priests, the Tamil Christians, the Governor and his wife are more delighted than they have ever been before, but they have not yet considered what will befall them in the future."[42] [38] This paragraph fully exposes the hollowness of the Catholic apologists' claim that the Church's association with Portuguese imperialism was unwilling and an unfortunate accident of history.

[39] In a letter to the Society of Jesus, quoted by Sita Ram Goel in St. Francis Xavier: The Man and His Mission, Xavier wrote, "Following the baptisms, the new Christians return to their homes and come back with their wives and families to be in their turn also prepared for baptism. After all have been baptized, I order that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken. I know not how to describe in words the joy I feel before the spectacle of pulling down and destroying the idols by the very people who formerly worshipped them.' Xavier did this after the Hindu raja of Quilon had given him a large grant to build churches. In another letter he writes, 'There are in these parts among the pagans a class of men called Brahmins. They are as perverse and wicked a set as can anywhere be found, and to whom applies the Psalm which says: "From an unholy race, and wicked and crafty men, deliver me, Lord.' If it were not for the Brahmins, we should have all the heathens embracing our faith."

[40] On one of these voyages up the Coromandel Coast the Portuguese were blown ashore in a storm, at a fishing village 12 kms. south of Nagapattinam. They declared that the Virgin Mary had saved them and in thanksgiving took over the local Vel Ilang Kanni Devi Temple (which was the sister shrine of the Vel Thanda Kanni Devi Temple at Sikkil, closer to Nagapattinam). This village has now become the famous Christian pilgrimage centre of Velankanni. The original Devi temple was enclosed within the first Portuguese church, known as the Mada Koil, that is situated at a distance from the present Basilica of Our Lady of Health. The stone image of the Devi was on public display until some years ago, but has since been removed and an image of the Virgin Mary put in its place.

[41] The hundreds of temples and thousands of idols destroyed by the Portuguese in Goa has been documented by A.K. Priolkar in The Goa Inquisition. And the historian T.R. de Souza, quoted by M.D. David in Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity, writes, "At least from 1540 onwards and in the island of Goa before that year, all Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building material were in most cases utilized to erect new Christian churches and chapels."

[42] The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is built on or beside this temple site, and the local tradition is that the broken Lingam is hidden under an altar in the church. The Christian practice of covering a desecrated image or sacred stone with an altar is very old and churches in England, France, Italy and Spain that have been built on Pagan sites are found to contain these images and other relics.

T.G. Percival Spear, author of India: A Modern History and co-author of the Oxford History of India, commenting on the Portuguese in India in an Encyclopaedia Britannica article, writes, "The Portuguese early considered that no faith need be kept with an infidel, and to this policy of perfidy they added a tendency to cruelty beyond the normal limits of a very rough age; the result was to deprive them of Indian sympathy. In religion the Portuguese were distinguished by missionary fervour and intolerance.... Of the latter, there was the Inquisition of Goa and the forcible subjection of the Syrian church to Rome at the Synod of Diamper in 1599."

The Synod of Diamper was followed by the burning of Syrian books by Archbishop Menezes of Goa, and the myth of St. Thomas, now firmly in the hands of the Church, took on a marked anti-Hindu character. But Roman Catholic bigotry was universal—and continues. Percival Spear observes, "Then came Roman Catholicism, which today has perhaps 5,000,000 followers and an array of churches, convents, and colleges all over India. A by-product has been a tradition of intolerance, which still lingers."

The "encouragement and hope" that Francis Xavier brought to the "less privileged" people of India, and the "light and heat" that he shed on them, is best described in his own words in a letter he sent to Jesuit headquarters in Rome;

Following the baptisms, the new Christians return to their homes and come back with their wives and families to be in turn prepared for baptism. After all have been baptized, I order that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken. I know not how to describe in words the joy I feel before the spectacle of pulling down and destroying the idols by the very people who formerly worshipped them.

Xavier did this after the Hindu Raja of Quilon had given him a large grant to build churches. In another letter he writes: There are in these parts among the pagans a class of men called Brahmins. They are as perverse and wicked a set as can anywhere be found, and to whom applies the Psalm which says: "From a unholy race, and wicked and crafty men, deliver me, Lord." If it were not for the Brahmins, we should have all the heathens embracing our faith.

  1. Sita Ram Goel in "Francis Xavier: The Man and His Mission", New Delhi, 1985
  2. A.K. Priolkar in "The Goa Inquisition", New Delhi, 1991
  3. G. Schurhammer in "Francis Xavier: His Life, His Times", Rome, 1973-82
  4. K.M. Panikkar in "Malabar and the Portuguese", Bombay, 1929. 

India too has had its share of Christian iconoclasm. After the Portuguese settlement, hundreds of temples in and around the Portuguese-held territories were demolished, often to be replaced with Catholic churches. "Saint" Francis Xavier described with glee the joy he felt when he saw the Hindu idols smashed and temples demolished.6 Most sixteenth and seventeenth century churches in India contain the rubble of demolished Hindu temples.

SRG VIND BY TIME 11. The impatient Xavier, still dissatisfied with the result of his labour wrote to the King of Portugal that the only hope of increasing the number of Christians was by the use of the secular power of the State. As a result of this note, the King issued orders that in Goa and other Portuguese settlements, “all idols shall be sought out and destroyed, and severe penalties shall be laid upon all such as shall dare to make an idol or shall shelter or hide a Brahmin”. (Page 54 History of Missions Richter). He also ordered that special privileges should be granted to Christians in order that the natives may be inclined to submit themselves to the yoke of Christianity. (P. 54-ibid). (srg vind by time) 4. History of Christian Missions in India by Richter, 1908.

ISHWAR SHARAN These yalis are Hindu symbols, not Christian, and Ved Prakash, Director of the Institute for the Study of Western Religions, Madras, asserts that the cross on St. Thomas Mount is an over-cut temple stone. He claims support for this view from the most unexpected quarter. Dr. R. Arulappa, the former Roman Catholic archbishop of Madras, in Punitha Thomaiyar, says that yantra stones in temple foundations were dug up by the Portuguese on three of the four sites in Madras that they associated with St. Thomas and where they built churches—Mylapore, Little Mount at Saidapet, and Big Mount at St. Thomas Mount. Arulappa, R., Punitha Thomaiyar, Madras, 197-



Impact of MataparIkshA Controversy on Muir

Muir revised his MataparIkshA once more between 1852 and 1854 when he returned to Scotland. Then he gave up writing in Sanskrit and took to publishing Original Sanskrit Texts. “The materials in these still standard books never betray the author’s original purpose in amassing them: to demonstrate that Christianity is rationally superior to Hinduism.”39 Sanskrit studies had a beneficial effect on Muir and he no more regarded the language as a “golden casket full of pebbles and trash.” The contents of Sanskrit texts now so fascinated him that he endowed a Chair of Sanskrit Language, Literature, Philosophy and Comparative Philology at the University of Edinburgh in 1862.

Muir also moved away from Evangelism and towards the Broad Church movement which thought that “Christian doctrine was sorely out of alignment with modern science.” He now believed that “the Bible could not be exempted from the rigorous philological and historical analysis to which he had subjected the Vedas.” In 1861, Muir published his Brief Examination of Prevalent Opinions on the Inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. He found that both had mutual discrepancies besides several other shortcomings. The introduction to this book was written by H. B. Wilson who said that it “clearly reveals the impact of the Matapariksha Controversy upon Muir’s belief in the Bible.” Muir himself wrote, “We may be assured that as Christianity comes into actual close contact with Orientals of acute intellects…it will be met with a style of controversy which will come upon some among us with surprise. Many things will be disputed which we have been accustomed to take for granted, and proofs will be demanded, which those who have been brought up in the external evidence school of the last century, may not be prepared to supply.”40

Muir continued to believe for some time that Christianity had an immeasurably superior message in the sphere of morality. But after a few years he gave-up that belief also “admitting that Christian virtues are neither superior to others nor sui genesis.” In 1879, he published Metrical Translations from Sanskrit Writers in which “didactic passages from Indian literature were juxtaposed with others from Biblical and classical Greek authorities.” He concluded, “These sentiments and observations are the natural expression of the feelings and experiences of Universal humanity; and the higher and nobler portion of them cannot he regarded as peculiarly Christian.”41 Richard Fox Young, op. cit.,Young, Richard Fox, Resistant Hinduism, Vienna, 1981. 39 Ibid., p. 166.

40 Quoted in Ibid., pp. 167-68.

41 Quoted in Ibid., pp., 168-69.

The first Hindu salvo came from Ishwar Sharan of Madras. In a letter to the Weekend Express he pointed out what Christian historians such as R. Garbe, A. Harnack and L. de la Vallee-Poussin had stated long ago about the spurious character of the Acts of St. Thomas. He also cited Bishop Stephen Neill’s warning to Christians against accepting the St. Thomas story as serious history. But what was more significant, he made known for the first time to the lay readers that the “St. Thomas Church stands on the ruins of a Jain Neminatha-swami temple and a Hindu Shiva temple which had a Nataraja shrine attached.” The fact that Jain and Shiva temples stood at the site where the St. Thomas church stands now, stated Ishwar Sharan, was vouchsafed by inscriptions discovered in the church compound and recorded in a scholarly book, Jain Inscriptions in Tamil Nadu, compiled by A. Ekambarnath and C. K. Sivaprakasam and published from Madras in 1987. In another book, Indiavil Saint Thomas Kattukkadai written in Tamil by Ved Prakash and published from Madras in 1989, the Shiva temple that existed at Mylapore before it was replaced by the St. Thomas church, had been identified with the original Kapaliswara temple.

The Weekend Express published this letter in its issue of 13 January 1990 but suppressed its first and last paras. The first para had expressed astonishment that the “Indian Express allows its respected columns to be used to promote this Catholic romance as historical fact in this age of excellent and critical scholarship.” The last para was about the two temples replaced by the St. Thomas church and the evidence from the inscriptions and Ved Prakash’s book. This censorship was applied in spite of the fact that the Weekend Express had before it Ved Prakash’s book which the author had sent to the weekly for review several months before C.A. Simon’s article was flashed on its front page.

So Ishwar Sharan wrote a letter of protest on 16 January 1990 and sent it to the resident editor of the Indian Express in Madras. He pointed out how his letter had been truncated by a paper which had ‘given prime space’ to a Catholic apologist to “tell his version. of a controversial story.” He brought to the resident editor’s notice the articles which had been published earlier in the Indian Express about the destruction of Hindu temples by Muslims and that of some Jain and Buddhist temples by certain Hindu kings, and saw no reason why “Christians have escaped this review though they were the worst perpetrators of these kinds of deeds.” He also pointed out that though Ved Prakash had sent as many as four copies of his book to the Express Weekend, the latter had not even acknowledged it in the “books received” column, not to speak of reviewing the scholarly study. Finally, he asked the resident editor that “when the Pope in Rome can no longer enforce the Index, how is it that the Indian Express can censor our reading material, obstruct a free access to information, and suppress discussion of a subject because it is controversial?”

The resident editor did not acknowledge this letter. And the Indian Express dated 29 January 1990 published on its city page an article, ‘Madras - City Of Neglect’, by Harry Miller denouncing the American evangelists for “disfiguring the city walls with their offensive posters” but repeating the St. Thomas story. Miller had reminded the Americans that “the very first evangelist - one Thomas by name - landed on our shores within a few years of the Crucifixion, some five centuries before America was ‘discovered’” and that “we have never needed another.” Ishwar Sharan wrote another letter to the Indian Express stating the facts which he had presented to the Express Weekend in his letter of January 13 and adding some more. He mailed a copy of it to Harry Miller as well. The Indian Express did not publish the letter. Nor did Harry Miller acknowledge or respond to it.

But Ishwar Sharan had taken care to circulate his 13 January letter among a number of Hindu scholars in Madras and elsewhere. Some of these scholars also wrote letters to the Express Weekend presenting the same facts in their own individual ways. They seemed to have forced the Express Weekend to have second thoughts on the subject. It published on 10 February 1990 a letter from Swami Jyotirmayananda which referred to the Tamil inscriptions and the book by Ved Prakash and stated: “There is reason to believe that St. Thomas church stands on the ruins of a Jain Neminathaswami temple and a Shiva temple which had a Nataraja shrine attached.” The letter inferred correctly that the Shiva temple was the original Kapaliswara temple on the Mylapore beach but made a mistake in speculating that the original Kapaliswara temple “got eroded by the sea.”

The mistake was corrected by Ved Prakash in a letter which the Express Weekend published on 3 March 1990. “Nowhere in the book,” he pointed out, “do I mention that the Siva temple on the Mylapore beach was eroded by the sea. What is mentioned about the Siva temple is as follows: ‘…many evidences available in Santhome church show how there was a Siva temple and it was occupied, then step by step demolished and converted into a church.” in support of his case, he cited a 12th century Chola inscription of 8 lines “found in the Cathedral” and an established Hindu tradition showing that the Kapaliswara temple “was there up to the 16th century” when the “Christians started demolishing it.” He concluded that the present-day Kapaliswara temple did not stand on its original site and was built by Hindus at its new place “out of whatever they could salvage from the ruins of the old temple.”

Ved Prakash’s statement about destruction of the original Kapaliswara temple by Christians was confirmed by Dr. R. Nagaswamy, formerly Director of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu, and now Director of the Indian Institute of Culture in Madras. In an article, ‘Testimony to Religious Ethos’, published in The Hindu of 30 April 1990, he wrote: “A careful study of the monuments and lithic records in Madras reveals a great destruction caused by the Portuguese to Hindu temples in the sixteenth century A.D. The most important temple of Kapaleeswara lost its ancient building during the Portuguese devastation and was originally located near the Santhome cathedral… A few Chola records found in the Santhome cathedral and bishop’s house refer to Kapaleeswara temple and Poompavai. A Chola record in fragment found on the east wall of the Santhome cathedral refers to the image of Lord Nataraja of the Kapaleeswara temple. The temple was moved to the present location in the sixteenth century and was probably built by one Mallappa… A fragmentary inscription, twelfth century Chola record, in the Santhome church region refers to a Jain temple dedicated to Neminathaswami.”

Meanwhile, on 9 March 1990 Ishwar Sharan had sent to the Express Weekend a scholarly article, ‘What the Historians Say About Saint Thomas’, in reply to C.A. Simon’s piece on the ‘slain saint’. It carried citations from several impeccable sources, literary and archaeological, regarding the career and character of St. Thomas, the chronology of Christian presence in India, and the replacement of Hindu temples by churches at Mylapore. The article was neither acknowledged nor returned. Subsequent queries regarding the fate of the article also brought no response. So he addressed a registered letter to the resident editor on 1 June 1990 stating that his article had been “accepted by a respected publisher” to be published as book, and that “if you do not intend to publish the article… then the same should be indicated to me within the next two weeks…” The resident editor replied by a letter dated 11 June 1990 and said: “I find that Express Weekend carried on 13th January a letter from you on Mr. C.A. Simon’s ‘In Memory of a Slain Saint’. We have also published letters from Swami Tapasyananda and Mr. Ved Prakash on the same subject. It is not as if, therefore, the Indian Express refused to give space to your point of view. The availability of space being a severe constraint Express Weekend finds it very difficult indeed to publish long articles.”

Ishwar Sharan decided to do some plain speaking to this editor who had equated a brief and censored letter to the editor with a grossly misleading front-page article. In his letter dated 25 June 1990, he said: “So the truth of the matter is that you do indeed have space to promote the ancient lie about St. Thomas coming to India to get killed by the wicked Hindus and especially the very wicked Brahmins, but you do not have space at all in your newspaper when somebody tries to unmask the fable… Swami Tapasyananda did not get a letter published in the Express Weekend as you have stated, but has written his own article in The Vedanta Kesari… What is really distressing is that you not only connive at this vicious lie being published in your paper to malign the Hindus but that you support it by suppressing the truth no matter how often or in what form it is presented to you.” The resident editor did not care to reply.

Till this time, Ishwar Sharan did not know that Swami Tapasyananda of the Ramakrishna Mission in Madras had also sent an article to the Express Weekend and had received neither an acknowledgment nor a rejection. All he knew was that the Swami’s article, ‘The Legend of A Slain Saint To Stain Hinduism’, had been published in the June 1990 issue of The Vedanta Kesari, the monthly of the Ramakrishna Mission in Madras. So it was a puzzle to him as to how the resident editor’s letter had named Swami Tapasyananda as the writer of a letter which was never published. The cat came out of the bag when he referred the matter to the Swami, and learnt that the latter had indeed sent his article to the Express Weekend in the first instance.

Swami Tapasyananda’s article being as detailed and documented as his own, Ishwar Sharan sent a copy of it to C.A. Simon whose address he had succeeded in obtaining from the Express Weekend after waiting for several months. The reply he received from C.A. Simon was revealing. Firstly, Simon disclosed the sources of his information about the story of St. Thomas. He referred to two modern books, a few leaflets, a stamp issued by the Government of India in 1972, and a speech by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India. Secondly, he admitted that he was. no scholar of the subject and ‘not aware of the controversial version’ given by the other side. Finally, he prayed: “I learned that you are going to publish a book and intend to include my article as the Christian version. As I do not stand for any religious sect or group you may desist from doing so. Instead you may refer to more authoritative works on the subject if you feel so.” The confidence with which he had written his article was gone as soon as he was made to know the difference between fact and fiction. What intrigued Ishwar Sharan, however, was the question: How had C.A. Simon come to know that Ishwar Sharan’s article was going to be published as a book? Ishwar Sharan had not conveyed the information to him. The conclusion was obvious - C.A. Simon had learnt it from the resident editor of the Indian Express!

But in spite of all evidence presented to it regarding the myth of St. Thomas, the Indian Express persisted in promoting it. On 2 August 1990, it published a letter from Raju Thomas, a learned Christian of Madras. The letter was about the plight of Scheduled Caste converts to Christianity. It rebuked the rich and powerful Christian Church in India for demanding reservations for these converts while itself doing nothing for them although they constituted 85 per cent of the Christian population in India. But it was prefaced by the old lie that Christianity had reached Kerala “in the first century before it went to Europe.” Ishwar Sharan wrote another letter to the Indian Express on 3 August 1990 stating once again the true facts of the case. This letter was not published. But as a copy of the letter had been sent by him to Raju Thomas, the latter wrote a long letter to the Indian Express expressing doubts about the existence of Christianity in India in the first century AD. Raju Thomas’ letter, too, was not published. Shri Ishwar Sharan came to know about it only when Raju Thomas wrote to him on 31 August 1990.

“You may ask me,” said Raju Thomas in his letter to. Ishwar Sharan, “if such is the case why did I assert that Christianity had come to India before it had reached Europe? My answer to this question is that I deliberately wanted an open debate and discussion on this subject… We will be able to challenge and question such falsified histories and traditional beliefs only when we take up such issues to the public and do not keep them as the top secrets. But the question is how many of our ‘intellectuals’ are ready to have open-minded debates and discussions?…” He was not quite correct in blaming the intellectuals alone. It is true that intellectuals who take pains to study every subject from its sources, are few and far between in this country. But it is also true that an intellectual culture cannot grow in an atmosphere where the media is controlled by purveyors of palpable falsehoods or bullied into abject surrender by the thought police of Nehruvian Secularism.

That the intellectuals were hungry for correct information on an important subject, was proved when Ishwar Sharan’s book, The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, was published by VOICE OF INDIA in February 1991. The book sold very fast. It was reviewed in leading journals and commented upon favourably by well-known scholars. The main chapter in the book carried Ishwar Sharan’s article submitted by him to the Express Weekend in reply to the one by C. A. Simon. The article had been expanded with additional material and informative footnotes. Besides, the book reproduced the articles by C. A. Simon, Swami Tapasyananda and Harry Miller. The letters which Ishwar Sharan had addressed to the Express Weekend on the subject of St. Thomas and the Santhome cathedral were also reproduced along with his exchanges with the resident editor of the Indian Express and Raju Thomas. The crowning piece in the book was the confession by C.A. Simon.

The most important development, however, was the stir which the book caused among the intelligentsia in Madras. The intelligentsia was aware that Christian missionaries had been using the St. Thomas story for maligning Hinduism and extolling Christianity. But it was not in a position to develop a dialogue because it lacked the correct information and the proper perspective. Now it was fully equipped and could hit back.

The International Institute of Tamil Studies, an academy sponsored and financed by the Government of Tamil Nadu, had published in 1985-86 a book titled Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppu Ayu. The writer of the book was M. Deivanayakam, a Christian scholar supposed to be an expert on Tamil antiquities. The University of Madras had conferred a doctor’s degree on the author for writing this dissertation. The thesis propounded by him was that the ancient Tamil saint, Tiruvalluvar, had become a disciple of St. Thomas and converted to Christianity. Stray sentences had been picked up from the Tamil classic, Tirukkural, and lined up with stray sentences from the Bible in order to prove the point that the Tamil saint owed his teaching to his contact with the Christian scripture.

Some scholars had written letters to Deivanayakam pointing out that his book was full of distortions and altogether misleading. But Deivanayakam had remained unrelenting. The Dharampuram Shaiva Math had invited the Christian scholar to a conference of Tamil scholars, and requested him to disown the thesis. He had come to the conference but refused to yield ground. Finally, the Math had prepared a book of refutation. It had been written by an eighty-five years old Tamil and Shaiva scholar, Arunai Vadivel Mudaliar. Ishwar Sharan’s book on St. Thomas came as a -shot in the arm of Mudaliar whose book was released by Sarojini Varadappa in a gathering of three hundred Tamil and Shaiva scholars held in a packed hall at Madras on 24 October 1991.

The meeting was presided over by justice N. Krishnaswami Reddiar, a retired judge’ of the high court. He denounced Deivanayakam’s book as “trash in the name of research.” He quoted from Ishwar Sharan’s book to point out that “the visit of St. Thomas to India was a myth”, and wondered how a book like that by Deivanayakam could be published by an institute set up by the Government and honoured by a university with a doctorate. Dr. R. Nagaswami, eminent archaeologist, also censored the institute and the university for sponsoring a spurious thesis, and said that the St. Thomas story “was a ruse to spread Christianity in India.” He cited what he knew from his own excavations at the Santhome church. Some other speakers, too, took Deivanayakam to task.

Meanwhile, Ishwar Sharan had discovered another Christian fraud. It came to light that Deivanayakam had collaborated with Dr. R. Arulappa, the Catholic Archbishop of Madras, in writing another but similar book, Perinbu Villakku, published in 1975. The Archbishop had also tried to prove that Tiruvalluvar had come in contact with St. Thomas during the latter’s travels in South India, and converted to Christianity. But he had gone much further, and forged ‘evidence’ on palm-leaf scrolls in support of his thesis. He had employed a Hindu scholar of Christianity, Ganesh Iyer, for this purpose, and paid him to the tune of 15 lakh rupees. The fraud had been exposed when someone put the police on the trail of Ganesh Iyer. The case had dragged on in the Madras metropolitan court from 1980 to 1986 when Ganesh Iyer was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment on various counts. But Dr. Arulappa had got him acquitted by means of a civil suit for compromise filed in the Madras High Court at the same time that the criminal case was going on. Ganesh Iyer had spilled the beans soon after.

Ishwar Sharan included the full story of this fraud in the revised and enlarged second edition of his book published by VOICE OF INDIA in 1995. The second edition included all the material published in the first edition and several other very informative articles, particularly those from Koenraad Elst and Leela Tampi. “What was originally an introduction to the study of the myth of St. Thomas and the destruction of a great Shiva temple” had now “begun to take the shape of a broader investigation into the Christian presence in India.” It carried an introduction by Koenraad Elst. “In Catholic universities in Europe,” wrote Elst, “the myth of the apostle Thomas going to India is no longer taught as history, but in India it is still considered useful. The important point is that Thomas can be upheld as a martyr and the Brahmins decried as fanatics.”

Two conclusions emerged clearly from this particular Hindu-Christian encounter. Firstly, although the major print media in India is owned by Hindu moneybags, they have handed it over to Hindu-baiters of all sorts.7 Secondly, there is no law in the country which can deal with intellectual crimes committed by Christian scribes ever so often. In fact, the existing law comes down heavily on those who expose those crimes; they are branded as Hindu communalists and accused of creating enmity between communities.

Footnotes: 1 Papacy. Its Doctrine and History, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1986.

2 Stephen Neill, History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to 1707 AD, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 27.

3 Ibid., p. 49.

4 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru provides an excellent example of how some innocents abroad lap up lies sold by powerful organizations. “You may be surprised to learn,” he wrote to his daughter, Indira, on April 12, 1932, “that Christianity came to India long before it went to England or Western Europe, and when even in Rome it was a despised and proscribed sect. Within 100 years or so of the death of Jesus, Christian missionaries came to South India by sea... They converted a large number of people” (Glimpses of World History, CUP reprint, Fourth Impression, 1987, p.87).

5 Papacy, pp. 56-57.

6 C. A. Simon admitted subsequently that “I was not aware of the controversial version given by Sri Sita Ram Goel.”

7 The Indian Express at Madras continues to spread Christian lies in a big way while sharing an occasional paragraph for mild or uninformed protests against them.


The archaeological evidence indicates that these churches were built after the ninth century by Nestorian immigrants from Persia. The famous church at Palayur north of Cranganore was built by the Portuguese and is dedicated to the fourth century martyr St. Cyriac (Mar Kuriakkos Sahada). Fr. Herman D'Souza, in In the Steps of St. Thomas, writes, "The [Palayur] temple deserted by the Brahmins as a result of St. Thomas's efforts, was turned into a church. Pieces of broken idols and remnants of the old temple were lying around the church till a short time ago. Two large tanks, one on the eastern side of the church and the other near the western gate, are tell-tale relics of the ancient glory of the Hindu temple." D'Souza was writing in 1983 and includes pictures of the old temple walls, well and tank in his book. He is blaming St. Thomas for the temple‑breaking activities of the Portuguese and Syrian Christians.

[32] This hill is crowned with a Portuguese church dedicated to the Virgin as Our Lady of Expectation, and was built around 1547 on the foundations of a demolished Vishnu temple. It contains a wooden icon of the Virgin said to have been painted by St. Luke and given to St. Thomas at Jerusalem, an eighth century Persian 'bleeding' cross said to have been carved by St. Thomas (which stopped bleeding as soon as the British moved into the area), and two paintings of St. Thomas and his spear-bearing Hindu assassin. The older painting fixed behind the altar suggests an Iyengar brahmin wearing nāmam on his forehead, about to stab the praying apostle from behind, and the other painting, one of a series of the martyred apostles, shows an unidentified Hindu as the assassin.

[33] This nineteenth century Gothic cathedral replaces the sixteenth century Portuguese church that was built on the site of the demolished Kapaleeswara Temple. It is dedicated to St. Thomas and contains two of his tombs, two sets of his relics including the bone from Ortona, Italy, and the metal spearhead that is said to have killed him. Other churches in Madras that are associated with St. Thomas and are identified as having been built on temple sites are Luz Church in Mylapore and Our Lady of Health Church on Little Mount at Saidapet.

If it took the French fifty years to destroy the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple at Pondicherry, it took the Portuguese as long or longer to bring down the Kapaleeswara Temple on the Mylapore beach and build their St. Thomas Church in its place. They, too, would succeed because the Hindus, who had resisted them over the years, ultimately could not resist their superior European weapons and guile.

P.K. Nambiar, in Census of India 1961, Vol. IX, Part XI, writes, "Mylapore, which is a part of Madras city, is an ancient town. Sri Tiruvalluvar, the author of the famous Kural known as Tamil Vedham, who lived in the first century A.D.,[43] lived his entire life at Mylapore. Saints Sambandar and Appar have composed songs mentioning the God of Mylapore as Sri Kapaleeswara. It was a prosperous town when the English built the Fort St. George in 1593. But the present temple does not contain any feature of the Dravidian style of architecture. The carvings in the pillars are poor specimens compared with those in some of the ancient temples. When there was an erosion of the sea about the close of the last century, there was a landslip on the San Thome beach. It revealed carved stone pillars and broken stones of mandapam found only in Hindu temples. It is a historical fact that the Portuguese, who visited India in the 16th century, had one of their earliest settlements at San Thome, Mylapore. In those days they were very cruel and had iconoclastic tendencies. They razed some Hindu temples to the ground. It is probable that the other Mylapore temple referred to in the Thevaram hymns was built on the seashore and that it was destroyed by the Portuguese about the beginning of the 16th century."

This is the understatement of a government historiographer writing in an official publication. M. Arunachalam, in an article in Christianity in India: A Critical Study, is more direct when he writes, "The Kapaleeswara Temple at Mylapore, Madras, is a standing example of Christian desecration. The great temple of Shiva at Mylapore was situated not in its present site, but at the site of the present San Thome Church even up to the end of the 16th century. It was demolished by the Portuguese vandals and their missionaries of that period, who erected their church on the site where the Hindu temple originally stood.

"Rama Raya, the Vijayanagar ruler, to save the Hindu temples, waged a war on the Portuguese in Mylapore and Goa simultaneously. The Portuguese were defeated and he took a tribute from them for their vandalism. But, when the Vijayanagar rule fell at the Battle of Talikota (1565) before the Mohammedans, the Portuguese continued their demolition work."

Rama Raya came to Mylapore in 1559, and R.S. Whiteway, in The Rise of Portuguese Power in India, observes that "when San Thome was held to ransom for the intolerant acts of some Jesuits and Franciscans, the Raja of Vijayanagar kept such faith with the Portuguese that, as one of them says, such humanity and justice are not to be found among Christians."

N. Murugesa Mudaliar, in Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Temple Mylapore, writes, "Mylapore fell into the hands of the Portuguese in 1566, when the temple suffered demolition. The present temple was rebuilt around three hundred years ago. There are some fragmentary inscriptions from the old temple still found in the St. Thomas Cathedral." M. Arunachalam also says, "Later, devout Hindus built the present temple of Mylapore at a different site, a few furlongs west, out of whatever they could salvage from the ruins of the old temple. A number of carved temple stones can still be seen on the compound wall of the church."

V.R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, quoted in Tiru Mayil Kapaleecharam Kumbhabisheka Malar 1982, believed that the great Shiva temple covered the area now occupied by the palace of the Roman Catholic bishop of Madras. This estate, on the south side of San Thome Cathedral, still contains scattered temple ruins and includes a museum.[44]

V. Balambal, in Journal of Indian History 1986, Vol. LXIV, Parts 1--3, writes, "According to certain Dutch sources quoted by A. Gelletti, the old town of Mylapore was demolished in 1674 by the order of the King of Golconda and was in ruins. This hypothesis is questioned as some epigraphs[45] specify that the old shore Temple of Kapaleeswara was demolished in the 16th century by the Portuguese and some of the ruins including a broken Vinayaka image are still seen scattered within the demesne of the Mylapore bishop's palace. It is also said that the remnants of the temple, its pillars, etc., were found immersed in the sea sixty years ago."[46]

Dr. R. Nagaswamy, former Director of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu Government, and present Director of the Indian Institute of Culture, Madras, in "Testimony of Religious Ethos", published in The Hindu, Madras, on 30 April 1990, writes, "A careful study of the monuments and the lithic records in Madras reveal a great destruction caused by the Portuguese to the Hindu temples in the 16th century A.D. The most important Temple of Kapaleeswara lost all its ancient building during the Portuguese devastation and was originally located near the San Thome Cathedral. A few Chola records found in the San Thome Cathedral and Bishop's House refer to Kapaleeswara Temple and Poompavai.[47] A Chola record in fragment found on the east wall of the San Thome Cathedral refer to the image of Lord Nataraja of the Kapaleeswara Temple. The temple was moved to the present location in the 16th century and was probably built by one Mallappa [or Mayil Nattu Muthiyappa Mudaliar]." Later on he states, "A fragmentary inscription, 12th century Chola record in the San Thome Church region, refers to a Jain temple dedicated to Neminathaswami."

A. Ekambaranath and C.K. Sivaprakasham, in Jain Inscriptions in Tamil Nadu, following the Jesuit Fr. H. Hosten, describe a stone in the eastern side of the church which records in twelfth century Tamil characters a gift made to Neminathaswami by Palantipara(yan). They remark, "The existence of a Jain temple dedicated to Neminatha at Mylapore (of which San Thome is a part) is not only known from this record, but also from the Mackenzie Manuscripts, recording the transfer of a Neminatha image from Mylapore to Chittamur, probably to protect it from destruction. Some Jain images are said to have been buried by the side of the nunnery at San Thome."

Fr. H. Hosten's testimony, in Antiquities from San Thome and Mylapore, is interesting and worthy of review. He writes, "Fragmentary Tamil inscription of eight lines on a stone found at the cathedral, northwest end of the verandah, on the top line of the granite foundations of walls projecting from the verandah into the garden.

"When I visited Mylapore last February, 1924, the stone was still lying near the place of the find. It ought to go to the Bishop's Museum and receive an appropriate number.

"According to the Assistant Archaeological Superintendent of Epigraphs, Madras, this inscription is a fragment in Tamil and it seems to register a tax--free gift for burning at night a lamp before the image of Kuttaduvar (Nataraja) in the temple of Suramudaiyar. Palaeographically this inscription may be assigned to the 11th century A.D.

"A later communication from the Government Epigraphist for India, Fernhill, Nilgiris, says that Mr. Venkoba Rao, the Assistant Archaeological Superintendent for Epigraphy, Madras, pronounces the inscription belongs to Vikrama Chola's time (12th century) and that the gift was to the Hindu god Nataraja, whose shrine is always to be seen in a Siva temple.

"The stone was not found at its original site, as is shown by its fragmentary condition, the parts above and below, as well as right and left, being wanting. All we can gather is that the foundations in which the stone was inserted are of a date later than the inscription. To argue, as was done at the time of discovery in the Madras Mail, that, if the stone was dug up from any depth, it would indicate an original Saiva temple, on the ruins of which the Portuguese church of modern St. Thomas was erected, is to show a lamentable ignorance of what Marco Polo and even earlier writers have written about St. Thomas."

The lamentable ignorance was with Fr. Hosten of course, for accepting unquestioned Marco Polo's "tall tale". He did not know that without Marco Polo there is no St. Thomas in a South Indian seashore tomb; he also did not know that all earlier accounts of the legend have St. Thomas buried on a mountain to the west of subcontinental India—in "India" --Parthia, or Edessa, or mysterious Calamina.

The writer in the Madras Mail was mistaken for believing that a stone dug up from a depth must be in its original position, but Fr. Hosten was mistaken for thinking that a stone is not at its original site because it is near the surface of the ground, in a newer foundation and in a fragmentary condition. The plain truth is that the stone should not have been in the church at all. Temple--breakers invariably use the rubble they have created in the new building that they put up at a site, if only because it is available and must be utilized, and it is quite reasonable to assert that if temple stones are found in the walls and foundation of San Thome Cathedral, it is because they have originated there or very near by.

Again, Fr. Hosten writes, "During the excavations made near the tomb this year (1923), when an Indian inscription was found which no one could read, one writer wrote to the Madras Mail to insist that the church was on the site of a Hindu fane. This writer would have been greatly puzzled if we had asked him at which time the place became Christian."

The Portuguese historian Gaspar Correa, probably the most credulous annalist in history, describes extensive ruins in Mylapore and its environs including Big Mount. He attributes this devastation to the wind and rain and angry sea rather than his bigoted and iconoclastic countrymen. But at the same time he gives backhanded testimony for a Shiva temple on the Mylapore beach. In Lendas da India, quoted by George Mark Moraes in A History of Christianity in India, he writes, "On their festival days the Hindus would bring their images accompanied by large crowds and great rejoicing and would, as they approached the door of the church, lower them three times to the ground as a mark of reverence to it, a practice which had been followed from time immemorial."

The practice had indeed been followed from time immemorial, in the first Shiva temple where it originated, whose place on the beach was now usurped by the Portuguese church. The practice was to take the festival images around the temple and lower them three times to the ground, at the sanctum door before the muladeva. The Hindus were continuing the ritual in the second temple, and by taking the festival images to the church on the beach were reverencing the ancient mulasthana—even if Christians and Gaspar Correa vainly thought otherwise.

[45] See Annual Report on Epigraphy 1923, Nos. 215 to 223.

[46] See A.M. Paramasivanandam's Ancient Temples of Tamilnadu.

[47] Poompavai was the daughter of a wealthy sixth century Mylapore merchant called Siva Nesan Chettiar. He wanted to give her in marriage to the saint Jnanasambandar, but she died from snakebite before meeting him, when picking flowers for the Lord in the garden. Her father cremated her and kept the bones and ashes in a pot. When Jnanasambandar visited Mylapore, the Chettiar kept Poompavai's ashes in front of him and narrated the story of her death. Jnanasambandar responded by singing eleven songs in praise of Lord Kapaleeswara, lamenting the death of the girl at the end of each song. When he had finished, the pot of ashes burst and a twelve year old girl stepped forth. Jnanasambandar then declined to marry her, saying that she was his "daughter". Poompavai has her own shrine within the precincts of the Kapaleeswara Temple.

[48] Dr. Nagaswamy, in The Hindu article "Testimony of Religious Ethos", mentions the finding of Buddhist relics and a mutilated Buddha image in Mylapore. The Chola period image is now in the Madras Museum.

[49] Many of the famous churches of Europe are built on Pagan temple sites. They include St. Peter's, Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Maria Rotunda (The Pantheon) in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Paul's in London. St. Benedict built his monastery on an Apollo temple that he had destroyed himself, at Monte Cassino, Italy. The much revered Black Virgins found in churches and monasteries in Spain and Italy are images of the Egyptian Goddess Isis and Her son Horus. The list is very long.

[50] These are at Maliankara, Parur, Gokamangalam, Niranam, Chayal and Kurakonikollam in Kerala, and Tiruvithancodu in Tamil Nadu (this being the "half church", which is a converted Hindu temple).

The best evidence for a Shiva temple on the Mylapore beach is offered by the Tamil saints. Iyadigal Kadavarkon, the sixth century Shaivite prince of Kanchipuram, Jnanasambandar and Arunagirinathar, the sixth and fifteenth century Shaivite poets, consistently mention in their hymns that the Kapaleeswara Temple was on the seashore. Jnanasambandar writes, "The Lord of Kapaleeswaram sat watching the people of Mylapore—a place full of flowering coconut palms—taking ceremonial bath in the sea on the full moon day of the month of Masai." Nine centuries later, and one century before the arrival of the Portuguese, Arunagirinathar writes, "O Lord of Mylapore temple, situated on the shores of the sea with raging waves ..."

Both saints show in these verses that the Lord was on the seashore, and Jnanasambandar marks that He was watching His devotees in the sea—that He must have been facing east. This is not the case today. The seventeenth century Vijayanagar temple is built inland and the Lord faces west, with the all--important flag pole and image of Nandi in the western courtyard before Him. This arrangement indicates that the present temple is a second temple, as the Âgama Shâstra does not permit a temple that has been moved from its original site and rebuilt to face in the same direction as its predecessor. Neither Jnanasambandar nor Arunagirinathar had reason to sing of the Lord by the sea if He was not there. Their testimony is impeccable and by itself destroys the argument for a seashore tomb of St. Thomas.


Encounter at Pondicherry

The following account of what the Christians did to Hindus in Pondicherry has been taken from the Diary maintained by Anand Ranga Pillai, scion of a Tamil merchant family from Madras. His family along with several others had migrated to Pondicherry at the invitation of the French who occupied that town as the headquarters of their possessions in India. These families had brought considerable prosperity to it. Pillai was appointed Chief Dubash towards the end of 1747, five years after M. Dupleix became the Governor of Pondicherry. He held the post till 1756, two years after Dupleix’s departure. He had, however, kept an account of what he saw and heard since September 1736. His Diary which was written in Tamil continued till 1761 when he died.

The editor of the translation in English writes as follows regarding the treatment of Hindus in Pondicherry: “The religious policy pursued in the early part of the century at Pondicherry is remarkable. It appears to have been ordered that no temple should be repaired; Nainiyappau was ordered to be converted within six months under pain of losing his post as Chief Dubash; Hindu festivals were prohibited on Sundays and the principal Christian feasts; even when these regulations had caused the greater part of the town to be deserted, the Jesuits urged that a temple should be pulled down instead of conciliatory measures being employed. (Registre des deliberations du Conseil Souverin, i, pp.125, 140, 142, 153 etc. This valuable collection of documents is being printed by the ‘Societe di 1’Histoire de 1’Inde Francaise’ at Pondicherry.) It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in this zealous proselytising policy lies one reason why Pondicherry was far inferior to Madras as a commercial centre; and perhaps the same cause also contributed to the absolute failure of Dupleix’s efforts to induce the Madras merchants to settle under the French.”1

The Vedapuri Iswaran Temple was the principal place of worship for the Hindus of Pondicherry. The Jesuit missionaries built the Church of St. Paul adjacent to it and obtained an order from the King of France that the Hindu temple should be destroyed. It could not be done due to strong resistance from the Hindus who constituted the most important native community in the town. Pillai gives an account of how the temple was desecrated repeatedly by the Jesuits and finally destroyed with active help from the French establishment, particularly Madame Dupleix.

The first incident at the Vedapuri Temple took place on March 17, 1746. “On Wednesday night at 11,” writes Pillai, “two unknown persons entered the Iswaran temple carrying in a vessel of liquid filth, which they poured on the heads of the gods around the altar, and into the temple, through the drain of the shrine of Iswaran; and having broken the pot of dirt on the image of the god Nandi, they went away through apart of the building which had been demolished. Early this morning, when the Nambiyan and the servants of the temple, opening the main gate, entered, and saw the nuisance which had been committed, they at once reported the matter to their superiors, and to the Mahanattars; and bringing them to the spot, showed them what had been done.”2

As the report of this sacrilege spread, Hindus, “from the Brahman to the pariah”, held a public meeting. The Governor, Dupleix, when he heard of it, sent his chief peon to disperse the meeting. The peon “struck a Chetti on the cheek” and ordered the people to go away. The people, however, defied the order and protested, “You better kill us all.”3

When this resistance was reported to the Governor, he sent for some Hindu leaders. He reprimanded them but promised to settle the matter in consulation with Pillai who was present. “No sooner,” continues Pillai, “had the Mahanattars departed than from 100 to 200 Muhammadans of Mahe appeared before the Governor, for the purpose of shooting them [the Hindus]. As prior to the arrival of these, the Mahanattars had consented to a settlement, he directed the Muhammadans to guard the four gates, so that they could not go out. They obeyed this order. All this took place before 4 this afternoon. What will occur hereafter is not known.”4 He does not record what settlement, if any, was arrived at.

The next incident recorded by Pillai took place on December 31, 1746. “It was reported,” he writes, “to-night at 7, that an earthen jar, filled with filth, was thrown from within the grounds of the Church of St. Paul, into the temple of Vedapuri Iswaran. It very nearly fell on the head of Sankara Aiyan, who was at the shrine of the god Pillaiyar, on his way round the temple, in the performance of religious duties. When the jar struck the ground, and broke to pieces, the stench emitted was unbearable.”5

The outrage was reported to Pillai by ten men including some “heads of castes.” He made a representation to the Governor who deputed some councillors to “inspect the place.” But before the officials could start on their job, they were briefed privately by Madame Dupleix, the Governor’s wife, who was in league with the priests of St. Paul. An inspection at the temple followed. “The gentlemen,” continues Pillai, “then entered the temple, smelt the broken jar, pronounced that it had contained filth, and judging by the position of the scattered fragments, arrived at the decision that it must have been thrown from the church, and that there could be no mistake on that point.”6

But before a report could be submitted to the Governor, a member of the team insisted that the “priests should be consulted.” So the team went to the church and rang its bell. “On hearing the sound,” records Pillai, “the senior priest, Father Coeurdoux, came out, and opening the door, asked the business that had brought them there. They then explained what had taken place. They remarked that, from the position of the pieces of the broken jar, and an examination of the ground about the temple and church, there could be no doubt that the direction from which the jar came was that of the latter. They also noticed that the stones at the base of the temple wall on the side of the church had all been pulled down. When those holding the investigation urged that this was not right, the priest exclaimed: ‘It was not our doing. They, themselves, must have dug them out, with the view of lodging a complaint, and getting the wall, which is in a ruinous state, restored.’”7

Finally, a report was made to the Governor that “the complaint made was true, and that the priests of the Church of St. Paul were responsible.” The Governor asked for a written report and exclaimed, “I will not only write to France regarding this affair, but will also take such action with respect to it, that the priests of the Church of St. Paul will ever remember it.”8 But he went to bed soon after and did not remember the matter when he rose next morning.

Pillai, however, brought it to his notice. The Governor told him that “with a view to making the people of the Church of St. Paul smart for what they had done, he would consult with the members of the Council and take measures accordingly.”9 Next, the Governor himself accompanied Pillai to the church in order to make further enquiries. The priests who used to be warm when meeting Pillai were now dead cold towards him, “the reason being that they thought it was I who had brought the matter of the filth being thrown into the Vedapuri Iswaran temple, on the previous night, to the notice of the Governor, and had him to send the Councillors, to inquire regarding it.”10

The Governor agreed to meet the Mahanattars on January 5, 1747 and listen to their complaint about desecration of the temple. In the morning of that day, however, he asked Pillai to advise the Mahanattars not to raise the question of the temple when they met him. Pillai advised them accordingly and in private when they arrived. But “in spite of my advice they began to do so” and the Governor “rose up, addressed a few kind words to them and went into his wife’s room.”11 That was the end of the matter so far as the second incident was concerned.

Pillai started functioning as the Chief Dubash when the earlier incumbent who was a native Christian and had held the post for 20 years, died on June 25, 1747. His formal appointment, however, was still in the future. The Jesuits became more and more hostile to him because they thought he was coming in the way of their demolition of the Hindu temple. The Governor had a low opinion of the Jesuits whom he regarded as “deceitful people.” But he was under pressure from Christians in the town and advised Pillai to meet the Superior in the Church of St. Paul and try to improve his relations with them.

The Superior who was no other than that criminal, Father Coeurdoux, asked Pillai to become a Christian when he met him on September 20, 1747. “We all know,” said Father Coeurdoux, “that you belong to a respectable family that has been held in esteem for generations... But if you had been a Christian, many others would have become so too.”12 Pillai was surprised and protested that he had always been impartial between Hindus and Christians. But the priest persisted, “Say that you will, I am sure that all will become Christian if only you would set the example. We should be quite satisfied with you as Chief Dubash if you were a Christian. As you are not, we have had several times to urge M. Dupleix to appoint one. We have written to Europe, and we will write again. We shall do our utmost, we will speak in the Council, for we have got a letter from the King that the post must be reserved for Christians.”13 He also asked Pillai “to explain to the heads of castes the orders about the Vedapuri Iswaran temple”, to which Pillai replied that he “would spare no pains.”14

A man named Annapurna Ayyan came to Pillai on October 8 and reported, “Louis Prakasan came and told me that the Karikal priest [Coeurdoux] wished to see me. When I went to him, he told me I was a good man, always did as they wished, and there was a favour I must promise them. I asked what it was that I could do. He said he had heard that you [Pillai] would do whatever I asked, and I was therefore to ask you to get the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple pulled down. I told him it was impossible, that you would never listen to me, and that, had it been possible, Kanakaraya Mudali15 would have got it done. The priest answered that he [Mudali] did not because he was a Christian and besides he was not so clever as you. He said you could persuade people with a thousand reasons, put your opponents to silence, and do as you pleased. If I explained the matter to you and got the temple removed, he promised they never would forget it so long as their church lasted. That is what he told me.”16 Pillai laughed and said that “they were always saying things like that.” But he suspected that Ayyan had “promised his [Pillai’s] assistance to the priests.”17

The Jesuits succeeded in destroying the temple in September 1748 when Pondicherry was besieged by the British and the bulk of the Hindu population had moved out of the town. “This morning,” writes Pillai in his Diary for September 7, “tents were pitched round St. Paul’s Church, and two hundred soldiers and a hundred sepoys were quartered there. The Governor, M. Paradis and others went thither and desired that a mortar might be mounted there. But they asked that the Iswaran temple should be pulled down. I think the Governor may have arranged (through Madame) for their help in certain Europe matters; so, as this is a time of war, there was much talk, a council was held, and the priests were told that the Iswaran temple would be demolished. The Governor then went home.”18

Pillai was very unhappy when he heard the news, “The Governor,” he wrote, “has dishonoured himself. Firstly, he has listened to his wife’s words and allowed her to manage all affairs and give all orders... The priests of St. Paul’s Church have been trying for the last fifty years to pull down the Vedapuri Iswaran temple; former Governors said that this was the country of the Tamils, that they would earn dishonour if they interfered with the temple, that the merchants would cease to come here, and that the town would decay; they even set aside the king’s order to demolish the temple; and their glory shone like the sun. But the Governor listens to his wife and has ordered the temple to be destroyed, thereby adding shame to his dishonour,”19

The temple was now doomed to destruction. “Yesterday,” Pillai continued in his Diary of September 8, “200 soldiers, 60 or 70 troopers and sepoys were stationed at St. Paul’s Church in view of the matter in hand. This morning, M. Gerbault (the Engineer), the priests with diggers, masons, coolies and others, 200 in all, with spades, pick-axes and whatever is needed to demolish walls, began to pull down the southern wall of the Vedapuri Iswaran temple and the out-houses. At once the temple managers, Brahmans and mendicants came and told me.”20

Pillai recollected how the Governor had been working to this end since his arrival. “Before M. Dupleix,” he observed, “was made Governor, and when he was only a Councillor, all the Europeans and some Tamils used to say that if he became Governor, he would destroy the Iswaran temple. The saying has come to pass. Ever since his appointment, he has been seeking to do so, but he has had no opportunity. He tried to get Muttayya Pillai to do it in May or June 1743. But the latter would not consent, though the Governor threatened to cut his ears off and beat him publicly and even to hang him.”21

He reflected on the situation that had been deliberately created by the Governor, taking advantage of the British invasion. “The Governor,” he wrote, “allowed the Brahmans to depart, because ten or twenty of them might be bold enough to suffer death, and because he suspected them of being spies; but he ordered that those who went should not be readmitted, thus taking advantage of the war to get rid of the Brahmans, though other caste people might return. So all, both men and women, had departed. Besides, he has posted soldiers to frighten away even fifty or a hundred persons, should so many come to speak on behalf of the Brahmans. The four gates of the Fort have been closed by reason of the troubles; and he has ordered the destruction of the temple. What can we do? There are not even ten of the heads of castes to assemble and speak. We can do nothing, because he has taken advantage of this time of war to accomplish his longstanding object and demolish the temple.”22

So Pillai advised the Brahmans that “they could do nothing but remove the images and other things to the Kalahasti Iswaran temple.” But they did not agree with him and said, “We will speak to the Governor about it, and tell him that if he insists, some of us will die and none will care to remain here.”23 He told them that the Governor had made up his mind, that he was not likely to listen to them, that the temple was already being demolished, and that the only thing that could be done was to save the images and other sacred articles. “I heard just now,” he said to them, “that the southern wall and the out-houses had been pulled down, and that they were demolishing the Arthamantapam and Mahamantapam. Don’t delay. Remember how blindly matters are being driven on. The St. Paul’s priests will send the European soldiers, Coffrees, Topasses, and even their parish converts with clubs into the temple to carry away, break and damage all they can. If you complain, they will only beat you. So you will lose not only the temple, but also the articles, the images used in the festivals, the Pillaiyar and all the other images. Any one can do what he pleases here now, and there is no man to question him. Still worse is it in matters connected with our temples. By his wife’s advice, M. Dupleix has accomplished what has been attempted in vain for the last fifty years. But now the time has come. I cannot describe the boundless joy of the St. Paul’s priests, the Tamil and pariha converts, Madame Dupleix and M. Dupleix. In their delight, they will surely enter the temple, and will not depart, without breaking and trampling under foot the idols and destroying all they can. So go quickly and remove all the articles.”24

More news came in quick succession. “Just then,” proceeds Pillai, “news was brought that Father Coeurdoux, the Superior of St. Paul’s Church, had kicked the inner shrine with his foot, and had ordered the Coffrees to remove the doors, and the Christians to break the Vahanams.”25 He now went to the Governor, hoping that the latter would himself mention the subject. But the Governor did not, as if he was unware of what was being done. Some ten heads of castes also arrived and “salaamed the Governor.” The Governor did not talk to them directly but asked Varlam, a native Christian, to find from them what they wanted. Varlam told him that “they sought his permission to remove the articles from the temple which was being destroyed.” The Governor “gave them the permission but told the peons to beat and disperse the crowd.”26

The Governor’s permission, however, served no purpose. Pillai records:

“I heard that the priests of St. Paul’s Church told the Coffrees, soldiers and pariahs to beat the heads of castes when they went to the temple to remove their articles. They were scarcely suffered to approach the temple, and when they were removing the Vahanams, shoulder-poles and temple documents, each man was beaten twenty or thirty times. It was with extreme difficulty that they rescued the idols used in the processions and the Pillaiyar.

“Then Father Coeurdoux of Karikal came with a great hammer, kicked the lingam, broke it with his hammer, and ordered the Coffrees and the Europeans to break the images of Vishnu and the other gods. Madame went and told the priest that he might break the idols as he pleased. He answered that she had accomplished what had been impossible for fifty years, that she must be one of those Mahatmas who established this religion [Christianity] in old days, and that he would publish her fame throughout the world. So saying he dismissed them.

“Then Varlam also kicked the great lingam nine or ten times with his sandals in the presence of Madame and priest, and spat on it, out of gladness, and hoping that the priest and Madame would regard him also as a Mahatma. Then he followed Madame. I can neither write nor describe what abominations were done in the temple. I know not what fruit they will reap. All the Tamils think that the end of the world has come. The priests, the Tamil Christians, the Governor and his wife are more delighted than they have ever been before, but they have not yet considered what will befall them infuture.”27

Pillai learnt later on that “the temple had been levelled with the ground and that the whole people were troubled at heart.” He reflected, “The wise men will say that the glory of an image is as short-lived as human happiness. The temple was destined to remain glorious till now, but now has fallen.”28

Footnotes: 1 The Private Diary of Anand Ranga Pillai translated from Tamil by Rev. J. Frederick Price and K. Rangachari, Madras, 1904, Volume IV, p. 144, Footnote.

2 Ibid., Volume I, p. 332. Filth was quite an appropriate weapon for the filth that Christianity has been all along.

3 Ibid., P. 333.

4 Ibid., p. 334. Muhammadan hoodlums have always been available to whosoever wants to torment the Hindus in India or elsewhere.

5 Ibid., Volume III, p. 220. The stench symbolized the stench which Christian missionaries spread wherever they are present.

6 Ibid., p. 221.

7 Ibid., pp. 221-222. Father Coeurdoux’s logic was unbeatable. It represented the way the missionary mind has always functioned.

8 Ibid., p. 222.

9 Ibid., p. 224.

10 Ibid., p. 225.

11 Ibid., p. 231.

12 Ibid., Volume IV, pp. 147-48.

13 Ibid., pp. 149-50.

14 Ibid., p. 151. The reference is to the order from the King of France that the temple be destroyed.

15 The earlier Chief Dubash.

16 Ibid., pp. 164-65.

17 Ibid., p. 166.

18 Ibid., Volume V, pp. 295-96.

19 Ibid., p. 297.

20 Ibid., pp. 229-300.

21 Ibid., p. 300.

22 Ibid., pp. 301-02.

23 Ibid., p. 302.

24 Ibid., p. 306.

25 Ibid., p. 307.

26 Ibid., p. 308.

27 Ibid., pp. 310-311.

28 Ibid., p. 312. I summarized Pillai’s story in three paras in a letter to The Statesman when the Cathedral occupying the site of the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple was in the news in early 1995. The daily had been publishing aggressive letters from Christians, pleading innocence and accusing Hindus of inventing stories. But my letter was ignored. I also tried to get the story published in the Organiser, the mouthpiece of the Sangh Parivar. In this, too, I failed.


  1. See Jones 2012, p. 93. For a more thorough treatment of the topic which affirms Jones' claims, and for the use of Syriac, see Frykenberg 2008. Neill takes it as certain that Christianity was established in India by the 6th century and also affirms the possibility of the St. Thomas tradition being true.[3]
  2. “It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Israel in the first century CE. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73)” (Myers 1987, p. 72).


  1. "Census of India :Religion PCA". Government of India. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  2. "Religion census: Despite high level of female education, why is Christian population growth rate same as average Indian? - The Indian Express". The Indian Express. 29 August 2015. 
  3. Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 (2004).
  4. Hon'ble Shri P. C. Alexander
  5. "Govt appoints new Governors, Margaret Alva gets U`khand". Zee News. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  6. "Christians have best sex ratio in India". The Times of India. 
  7. "Population by religious communities (Census 2001)". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  8. Thomas 1974.
  10. Herald of library science Volume 11 Sarada Ranganathan Endowment for Library Science - 1972 "In 1773, Ferguson's Hindoostani dictionary was published from London. According to Dr L.S. Varshaney, the first translation of the Bible in Hindi appeared in 1725 which was translated by Schultze."
  12. "Mission of Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India". Nasranis. 
  13. Bartholomew the Apostle#Mission to India
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Fahlbusch 2008, p. 285.
  15. Stephen Andrew Missick. "Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic studies. 
  16. Origin of Christianity in India – A Historiographical Critique by Dr. Benedict Vadakkekara. (2007). ISBN 81-7495-258-6.
  17. The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities by Orpa Slapak. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 2003. p. 27. ISBN 965-278-179-7.
  18. "Early references about the Apostolate of Saint Thomas in India, Records about the Indian tradition and Saint Thomas Christians & Statements by prominent Indian Statesmen". Nasranis. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  19. "Kuzhippallil". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  20. Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiastica5. 9–10. Pantaenus, who was known by Clement of Alexandria (Eusebius Historia Ecclesiastica 5.11.1–2; 6.13.2) and Origen (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 6.14.8), was certainly a historical person.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 A. E. Medlycott, India and The Apostle Thomas, pp.18–71; M. R. James, Apocryphal New Testament, pp.364–436; A. E. Medlycott, India and The Apostle Thomas, pp.1–17, 213–97; Eusebius, History, chapter 4:30; J. N. Farquhar, The Apostle Thomas in North India, chapter 4:30; V. A. Smith, Early History of India, p.235; Brown 1956, pp. 49–59
  22., From "The Apocryphal New Testament" Translation and notes by M. R. James, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924
  23. A. E. Medlycott, (1905) "India and the Apostle Thomas"; Gorgias Press LLC; ISBN 1-59333-180-0.
  24. Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 (2004). p 29
  25. 25.0 25.1 Dr. Isaac Arul Dhas G,'`Kumari Mannil Christhavam' (Tamil), Scott Christian College, Nagercoil, 2010, ISBN 978-81-8465-204-8, Page 7
  26. Neill, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 (2004). p 29
  27. Baum and Winkler 2003, p. 53
  28. Missick, Stephen Andrew (2000). "Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. XIV (2): 33–61. Retrieved 2 March 2009. 
  29. Neill, A History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707 (2004). p 41
  30. K.S. Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 vols., London, 1940–1949
  31. T.R. Vedantham, "St. Thomas Legend" in the South Madras News, Madras, 1987
  32. Syrian Christians of Kerala- SG Pothen- page 32-33 (1970)
  33. Anglo Saxon Chronicle Part II, 750–919 CE
  34. Marco Polo. The Book of Travels. page 287.
  35. "What Language Did Jesus Speak?". Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  36. Brown 1956.
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Further reading[edit]