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CHAPTER I

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN MISSIONS IN TAMIL NADU

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO MADURAI

The vast Indian sub-continent, known for its devotion (bakthi), was the birth

place and cradle of many faiths and religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism

and adopted religions such as Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Buddha,

Mahavira, Sankaracharya and Ramanuja, have preached values of life and shown the

path of righteousness to the people. With the dawn of the 19th century, India began to

witness social, economic and scientific progresses along with its religious bent of

mind. To change the faith and belief in superstitions which prevailed among Indians

and the Tamil’s 1 in particular, dedicated Christian missionaries came to India to

evangelise and render social work. They left their homelands, their parents and

relatives for the sake of Jesus and for the greater glory of God.2 They served the sick

and the blind, the deaf and the lame, the unwanted, the incurable and the dying.3

The history of Christianity in India may be divided into four periods namely

the Syrian, the Roman, the Lutheran and the Modern Period. This chapter tries to give

a brief survey on the history of Christian missions in India. It sheds light on the origin

of Christianity in India, the arrival of Portuguese and Protestant missions into the

country and their agenda to Christianize India with special reference to Tamil Nadu

and Madurai.

1
Joseph Tekkedath, History of Christianity in India, Vol II, Church History Association of India,
Bangalore, 1982, p.32.
2
J. Neuuner, Mission in India, Ishvani Kendra, Pune, 1979, p.15.
3
A.Vincent Cinnadurai, Thuduvarum Deva pura (Tamil), Ithaya Veliyidu, Madras, p. 141.
45

St. Thomas Christians

There are two views among scholars about the origin of Christianity in India.

According to one, the foundation of the Christian church in India was laid by Saint

Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. The other view ascribes the arrival of

Christianity in India to the Christian merchants and missionaries belonging to the East

Syrian and Persian churches. But it has been widely believed that Christianity in India

was St. Thomas’ sphere of work. He reached Cranganore in the west coast of south

India in 52 A.D.4

The first converts of St. Thomas were mainly the high caste Hindus especially

Brahmins and the apostle maintained the caste structures tenaciously to the extent of

preserving nearly all the ceremonies of Hindus with regard to birth, marriage and

death. These converts of St. Thomas were called as Thomas Christians. In the

beginning of the Christian era while forming their own religious and social customs

Thomas Christians owed a great deal to Hinduism.5 As it is clear from the above, the

St. Thomas Christians adapted themselves well to the culture of the place.6 Living for

centuries in a positive encounter with Hindu community they developed a theological

vision, which was inclusive, pluralistic and liberal. Compared to the modern missions’

approach to non-Christian religions one must admit that the vision of St. Thomas

Christians was truly an enlightened one. 7 Thus the legacy, which the St. Thomas

Christians received from Hinduism, had not only given them a high social standing,
4
Stephen Neil, The Story of Christian Church in India and Pakistan, Madras, 1972, pp- 21-23.
5
K.P.P. Menon, History of Kerala, Vol. 2, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi,1983, p.445. (The
early Christian were believed from four Brahmin families called Pakalomattam, Sankarapuri, Kalli
and Kaliankal.)
6
A.M. Mundadan, History of Christianity in India Vol.1,Theological Publications in India,
Bangalore,1982, p. 27.
7
Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity in India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985,
p 47.
46

but also helped in shaping spiritual life and attitude adapting itself to the

environment.8

C.V. Cheriyan observes that, “it is evident that their life was strikingly similar

to that of their Hindu brethren. Their customs and manners, life and culture

conformed to the general pattern in the land where they lived. Hence, Christianity in

Kerala developed as an essentially Indian religion while the votaries of that religion

zealously guarded the fundamentals of their faith as the most treasured of their

possession”9At the time of the arrival of Portuguese during the sixteenth century, the

Christians of Kerala were living a privileged life in the society, preserving the ancient

culture of India and vitalizing it with Christian principles. Scholars rightly described

the identity of Thomas Christians as: “Hindu in culture, Christian in Religion and

Oriental in worship.”10

These early Christians were known as Thomas Christians or the Syrians

Christian because of their hierarchical relations with the Eastern Syrian churches and

the liturgy in Syrian language.11The original community of St. Thomas Christians had

undergone, in course of time, a decline. It was reconstituted and reinvigorated by

groups of Christians who came from Persia. This contact was an important event in

the history of St. Thomas Christians in the middle of the 4th century.12

8
L.W. Brown, The Indian Christians of St Thomas, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982,
p.167.
9
C.V. Cheriyan, A History of Christianity in Kerala, Kerala Historical Society, Kottayam, 1973,
p.153.
10
Placid J. Podippara, The Thomas Christians, Longman and Todd, London, 1970, p.27.
11
Joseph Pinto, Inculturation Through basic Communities, Asian Trading Corporation, Bangalore,
1985, pp. 75-76.
12
Julius Richter, A History of Missions in India, Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, Edniburgh, 1908,
p. 30.
47

As is clear from the above, St. Thomas Christians adapted themselves well to

the culture of the place. Living for centuries in a positive encounter with Hindu

community they developed a theological vision, which was inclusive, pluralistic and

liberal. Compared to the modern missions’ approach to non-Christian religions, one

must admit that the vision of St. Thomas Christians was truly an enlightened one.

Stephen Neill in this regard opined that: “There is no clear evidence of attempts by

Indian Christian community to propagate its faith in the non-Christian society in the

midst of which it had its existence.”13

Portuguese in India

In the second half of the fifteenth century, roughly thousand and five hundred

years after St.Thomas’ visit, the Portuguese discovered the sea route to India. Spain

also competed with them in maritime activities. One of the motives behind the sea

voyages was the desire to find out a new route to India for the purpose of spice trade.

The first Portuguese encounter with India took place on 20th May 1498 when Vasco

de Gama reached Kappad near Calicut on Malabar Coast in search of ‘Christians and

spices.’ 14 The second expedition, the Portuguese fleet comprising 13 ships and 18

priests, under Captain Pedro Álvares Cabral, anchored at Cochin on 26th 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. The Portuguese Kings viewed it as their sacred duty to render all support to

spread the gospel. Panikkar says, “The Portuguese Christianisation was a state

enterprise. The king paid for the entire ecclesiastical establishment of the East. The

doctrine of Padroado (jus patronatus established by the Papal Bull of 1514) vested the
13
Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity..., op.cit., p.47.
14
M.G.S Narayanan, The City of Truth, Calicut University Publications, Calicut, 2006, p. 47.
48

authority for missionary work effectively in the hands of the Portuguese crown in

areas where Portugal claimed political rights.”15 The Portuguese considered the Indian

Christians’ life to be inferior in many ways. Their attitude towards Indian Christians

or St. Thomas Christians was based on a sense of superiority about their form of

Christianity, which according to them was a genuine form to which all Christians

should conform so as to be perfect Christians. St. Thomas Christians held a different

view. They could never assume that the Latin form of Christianity was the true form

of Christianity.16

Portuguese missions were against any sort of Indianisation or integration of

Christianity with Indian culture. They did not practice religious tolerance. Many of

their moves were meant to destroy the customs of the indigenised Christians and to

Europeanize them. The Portuguese and the missionaries indulged in proselytization

but asked the new converts to give up their caste and as a sign of it they asked them to

eat beef and drink wine, so abominable to the Indian high castes. (Eating beef and

drinking liquor were the customs of the lowest castes and the outcastes in India).

Thus, they made Christianity a hated and untenable religion for the higher castes.17

Firth says, “In the eyes of the Hindus, Christianity was the religion of the ‘franks or

parangis.’ The term is used to denote especially the Portuguese but also any kind of

European. It was not a complimentary term; it suggested meat-eating, wine-drinking,

loose- living, arrogant persons, whose manners were so far removed from Indian

15
K.M. Panikkar Asia and Western Dominance ,George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1974, p. 280.
16
H.C.Perumalil & E.R.Hambye, Christianity in India- a History in Ecumenical Perspective,
Prakasam publications, Alleppey, 1972, p. 86.
17
Xavier Koodapuzha, Faith and Communion of the Indian Church of the Saint, Institute of
Religious Studies, Vadavathur ,1982, p.144.
49

18
propriety that social intercourse with them was unthinkable.” Anyhow, the

Portuguese colonists had introduced the western based version of Catholicism through

the missionaries. 19 Thus the Portuguese-St. Thomas Christian encounter became a

turning point in the history of the Christians of the Malabar Coast.

St. Francis Xavier and Jesuit Mission

The Roman Catholic period is said to have begun from the year A.D.1500.

Though the missionaries of the Roman Catholic Church were in India in 13th and 14th

centuries, it was only after the arrival of Vasco da Gama in A.D 1498, that its

influence began to be seriously felt. 20 The greatest pioneering missionary of the

Roman Catholic Church was Francis Xavier. After a long gap of 15 centuries (from

the arrival of St. Thomas) St. Francis Xavier arrived at Goa on 6th May, 1542, and

moved along the areas between Goa and Cape Comerin. 21 By the year 1540 the

Portuguese had established themselves firmly on the west coast with their main

mission centre at Goa and stations at Cranganore (Kodungallur) and Cochin.22Under

Portuguese influence, there had been many conversions to Christianity resulting in

creation of an Indo-Portuguese Christian community. It was at this stage that the King

of Portugal, always solicitous for the progress of Christian faith in his rapidly

expanding dominions, appealed to the Pope and the newly formed Society of

18
C.B. Firth, An Introduction To Indian Church History, ISPCK, New Delhi, 2011, p111.
19
C.P. Mathew & M.M.Thomas, The Indian Churches of Saint Thomas, ISPCK, New Delhi, 1967,
p.27.
20
A. Mathias, Indian Christians: Search for Identity and Struggle for Autonomy, Dharmaram
Publications , Bangalore, 1984, p.69.
21
Catholic Encyclopedia online, New Advent, www.newadvent.org/cathen/06233b.htm.
22
George, Schurhammer, Francis Xavier, Vol II, Rome, 1977, p.321.
50

Jesus 23 for sending missionaries to India. The first man to be chosen was Francis

Xavier (1506-1552). Francis Xavier was educated in Paris where he had come under

the influence of Ignatius Loyola.24

Francis Xavier was ordained in 1537. In 1541, he set out for India with the

objective of reclaiming for Christ the ‘heathen’ population of the areas under

Portuguese influence, or in other words ‘Conquer the East for Christianity.’25 Thus

began the Jesuit mission in India, which really changed the cartography of

Christianity in Asia. Francis Xavier is justifiably called the pioneer of missions in

Asia, of which India had a share. He towers above all those who followed him by his

sympathy for the poor and the lowly, by his energy and spirit, by his utter fearlessness

in the face of dangers and his supreme faith in his mission. His consuming desire was

to spread the message of Christ far and wide. He was dogmatic and intolerant, but it

was the outcome of his blind faith. By starting various schools at important places,

Xavier contributed also to the spread of education in India.26The fact that he showed

special concern for the sick and the poor, particularly the fisher folk, increased his

popularity. His spirit has been an inspiration for generations of Christian workers in

India. However, his main drawback, as it must be admitted, was that he knew very

23
The Society of Jesus is a Christian male religious order of the Catholic Church. The members are
called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations on six
continents.
24
Ignatius of Loyola, was a Spanish knight from a local Basque noble family. As a priest since 1537,
and a theologian, he founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and, on 19 April 1541, became its first
Superior General. The great missionary St. Francis Xavier was from a Basque noble family, like his
beloved mentor St. Ignatius Loyola. When Francis met Ignatius in Paris he was a proud, autocratic,
ambitious man wanting to accomplish great deeds in the world. For three years, Ignatius patiently
encouraged Francis to look at his life differently. “What profits a man,” Ignatius asked Francis, “if he
gains the whole world and loses his soul?”. Francis joined St.Peter Faber as the first of Ignatius’s
companions .
25
K.M. Panikkar, India Through Ages, New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House, 1988, p.225.
26
Ibid., p.226.
51

little about the genius and wealth of the Indian culture and religions. Actually his

contacts with India were only through the coastal regions of the south-west and south-

east and with the less or least educated people. Firth is right as he writes, “He had

been criticized for hasty and superficial methods never stopping to learn a language or

really get to know the culture of the people.”27 He died in 1552, exhausted from his

labours and fasts, on a small island off the coast of China.28

His missionary enthusiasm, self-denial and aspirations after a holy life are

lessons for all time. Noble by birth and educated as a Scholar, he gave up all that was

dear to him to go to the ends of the earth out of love to Jesus Christ and zeal for

salvation of his brethren or mankind. Often he was houseless and homeless travelling

on foot without a servant, suffering from cold and hunger, fording rivers and forcing

his ways through unbroken forests exposed to perils of sickness and robbers.29

Robert De Nobili (1577–1656) and the Old Madura Mission

Since the Jesuits facilitated for the establishment of many Catholic women

missions in Tamil Nadu, especially Madurai, their presence in Tamil Nadu is traced in

the following few pages. Ancient Tamil Nadu was ruled by the kings of Chera, Chola

and Pandiya dynasties. During the late medieval period, the Pandiyas captured power

in Madurai. In this situation, Ala-ud-din khliji, Sultan of Delhi sent his commander

Malik Kafur to invade Tamil Country and establish the supremacy of the sultanate in

27
C.B. Firth, op.cit., p. 67.
28
Ignatian Spirituality, A Service of Loyola Press, (Online),
http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/16th-and-17th-century-ignatian-voices/st-
francis-xavier-sj/

29
J.Mallika Punniyavathi, Early History of the Missionary Works of the Royal Danish
Missionaries, the German and the Swedish in different packets of Tamil Nadu: A Historical
Perspective, Journal of Economics and Sustainable Development, (Online) Vol.2, No.5, 201,
p.53.
52

south in A.D 1311.30 The Tamil country became a part of the Delhi Sultanate in A.D

1370. It paved the way for establishment of Muslim rule under the Carnatic Nawab.31

The Vijayanagar Empire was founded in AD 1336 to do away with the Muslim

onslaught in South India. The Vijayanagar Empire created the office of Nayaks to

administer the south (Tamil Nadu). These Nayaks took their seats in Madurai, Tanjore

and Jinji. In this time Christian Missionaries particularly Roman Catholic

missionaries came to evangelise interior Tamil Nadu.32

The rule of the Madurai Nayaks began with Viswanatha Nayak (AD 1529- AD

1564) and ended with Minakshi (AD 1732- AD 1736) which was the golden age for

the Christian activities. During the period of Virappa Nayaka (AD 1572- A.D 1595)

the Christian Missionaries particularly the Jesuits started working in Madurai founded

the Madurai Mission in A.D 1592.33 Fr. Gonsalvez Fernandez was the head of this

Mission34. Robert De Nobili’s (1606- A.D 1656) arrival in Tamil Nadu during Muthu

Krishnappa’s (1601- A.D 1609) period marks a great change in mission

history.35Robert De Nobili was a brilliantly gifted, highly educated and zealous man

who came to assist Gonsalvez and stay at Madurai to evangelise. Born of Aristocratic

parents at Rome in September, 1577, Robert De Nobili had to face opposition from

his family to become a Jesuit. The Jesuits were not permitted to assume high

ecclesiastical and civil offices, as it was the privilege enjoyed by the aristocratic

30
R.C. Majumdar (ed) The History and Culture of the Indian people, Vol VI, Bharatiya Vidhya
Bhavan, Bombay, 1960, p. 53.
31
N.Venkataramanayya, The Early Muslim expansion in South India, University of Madras,
Madras, 1942, pp.123-128.
32
J.Mallika Punniyavathi, op.cit., p.52
33
Raju Kalidos , History and Culture of the Tamils, Vijaya Publications, Dindugul, 1976,p.242.
34
A.Devanesan, History of Tamil Nadu (up to 2000), Renu publications, Marthandam, 2004, p. 237.
35
New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, Madura Mission, www.newadvent.org/cathen/09519b.htm.
53

families of those times.36 The only aim in his life was to become a Jesuit missionary

and go to far off India to preach and convert the non-Christians to Christianity. To

realise his dreams, De Nobili fled from his family to Naples and joined the Jesuits in

1597, with the hope that “when God calls, no human consideration can stop us.”With

great difficulty, he obtained permission to come to India. Starting on April 28, 1604

from Lisbon, he travelled in a Portuguese ship and reached Goa on March 20, 160537

and from there he moved to the fishery coast and stayed there for a short period. Later

he moved to Madurai and mastered Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. He was the first

European scholar to have studied Sanskrit, a language reserved for Brahmins alone.38

The problem before him was to make Christianity acceptable to Hindus

without being imposed on them. He received the answer from St. Paul who said that

while preaching one has to get naturalised in the culture of the community for whom

the message is meant. 39 De Nobili obtained the approval of the Jesuit mission to

undertake a serious study of Hinduism and Madurai was suitable for this purpose.

Robert De Nobili became convinced that Hindus would never listen to the gospel until

a break was made with Parangi40 Christianity. He therefore became determined to

disassociate himself from people and customs which might identify him as a Parangi.

36
J.N. Ogilvie, The Apostles of India, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1915, p. 167.
37
Joseph Chetany, Lead me to Light, the Mission Methods of Robert De Nobili, Divine word
Missionaries, India, 1875-1975, p. 109.
38
C. Selvaraj and C.Lawrence, The impact of British rule in Tirunelveli District- A Study, Golden
Research Thoughts (online), Volume 2, Issue. 6, Dec. 2012, p. 3
39
“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as
under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law”. St Paul to Corinthians 1: 9: 20, The
Holy Bible, Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, Standard Size Edition, USA, 2013, p.182.
40
Parangi, the name by which foreigners were known in India during the time of Fernandez. It is
reported that, when asking a candidate for baptism whether he wished to become a Christian, the
question would be put in the form, “Do you wish to enter the parangi kulam?, Stephen Neill, A
History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to AD 1707, op.cit., p. 280.
54

Fr. Fernandez, however, had been in India since 1560, and for nearly twelve years he

had worked virtually alone to establish a Christian base at Madurai. De Nobili told Fr.

Fernandez that he was not a Parangi and it shocked Fernandez.

After a year of stay with Fr. Fernandez, De Nobili dissociated himself from

him in 1607 and started living in a hut, in a secluded place provided by the king.41 He

decided to make himself an Indian to save the Indians; and to become a Brahman to

the Brahmans. 42 He bathed daily; sat down cross-legged and called himself a

sanyasi.43He ate no meat, and wear wooden clogs and a saffron robe (kavi) instead of

the traditional Jesuit black cassock. He shaved his head except for a small tuft of hair.

He spoke only Tamil, hired a Brahman cook and houseboy, and became a

vegetarian.44 Like all Brahmans, De Nobili limited himself to one meal a day. To

cover the "nakedness" of his forehead, he put sandalwood paste on his brow to

indicate that he was a guru or teacher.45Eventually, he ate only with Brahmans, and

for a brief period, he also wore the Brahman thread of three strands of cotton cord

(ponool), (muppirinul) draped from the shoulder to the waist as a sign of rank (which

symbolise Trinity). He bathed daily and cleansed himself ceremonially before saying

mass. 46 Closely following the social habits of Brahmins, he lived like a Brahmin

Sanyasi and the Tamils called him Thathuva Pothagar (The teacher of Truth) or

41
Joseph Chetany, op. cit., pp. 110-111.
42
J.N. Ogilvie, op.cit., p.171.
43
Sannyasi a Sanskrit word meaning "one who has given up everything," For a Brahman, being a
sannyasi was the last stage of life.
44
Maddy, Historic alleys: De Nobili-The Roman Brahmin,(Online), South India, 2008,
(http;//historicalleys.blogspot.com)
45
J.N. Ogilvie. op.cit., p. 173.
46
Roberto de Nobili: A case study, online Journal, http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/nobili.htm.
55

Roman Brahmin and called his religion “Satya Vedam” (True Religion) 47 and not

“Parangi Kulam” or “Paranki Margam.”48 He wrote two books in Tamil ‘Dialogue

of Eternal life’ and ‘Inquiry into the meaning of life’ and used them to draw the local

Brahmins to debates.49He wrote Tamil poems in classical style named 'Senthamil'. His

prose works in Tamil could be easily understood by everybody. Many of his writings

could not be printed during his time and they remained in palm leaves.50De Nobili

was able to obtain assistance from learned pundits in his study of Hindu religious

thought.51He hoped to win people of the higher castes by leaving the whole caste

system untouched. After years of arduous work, in the course of which he acquired a

fair mastery of Sanskrit, he used to engage in argument with the learned Brahmins of

Madurai, in religious discussion. These discussions were according to the ancient

well-established practice of sastrathavada, debates on religious topics before a learned

audience. There he tried to uphold Christian doctrines in terms of Upanishadic

thought. He is said to have gained the respect of even the orthodox Brahmins of the

court. But, as Richter says, “Nobili’s system stood in sharp contrast to that of Xavier,

which had prevailed hitherto, to the ordinary rule and practice of every monastic order

in India.”52

47
Joseph Chetany, op.cit., p.111.
48
Parangi Margam is a name given to Portuguese by the South Indians, which referred to the culture,
religion and custom of the Portuguese and for a Hindu it meant complete loss of caste. Donald F.
Lach, Edwin J. Van Kley, Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume III: A Century of Advance. Book
1, p.150.
49
Maddy, op.cit., (n.p)
50
C. Selvaraj and C.Lawrence, op.cit., p. 3.
51
T. Sundararaj, The Establishment of the Jesuit Mission of Madurai.” Indian Church History
Review, Madurai, 1980, p. 355.
52
Julius Richter, op.cit., p. 63.
56

Success of Robert De Nobili

De Nobili’s willingness to adapt to Indian customs coupled with asceticism

won him some converts. He used the above mentioned techniques with the support

and approval of his superiors such as the Archbishop of Cranganore and Provincial of

Malabar.53 In 1607, he baptised ten people, including his Sanskrit teacher. In 1609, he

baptised his Brahmin teacher Sivadharma and number of his disciples increased to

63.54They were not required to break their caste or change their dress, food or mode

of life except in the matter of idolatry. They could also retain their sacred thread and

tuft of hair on their head. In the year 1623 De Nobili could reckon 50 Brahmin

converts, 70 Nayak of Raja’s own band and 180 others, a total of 300. In 1644 it rose

to 4150 reaching the sites like Tiruchirappalli, Tanjore, Sathiyamangallam, Erode,

Karur and other places. 55 His success as a missionary became evident when the

Christian population swelled from around 30,000 in 1656 to over 100,000 in 1706.

Due to his successor’s effort in church lore, he was able to convert a large number of

the people to Christianity. He was able to achieve a tremendous success in promoting

Christianity.56Negotiations and understanding of the cultures and cultural exchanges

widened the scope of the conversion. 57 Thirumalai Nayak’s (1623-1659 A.D)

treatment of the Missionaries in a courteous way and the help rendered to them when

53
J.H. Nelson, The Madura Country: A manual, Asian Educational Society, Madras, 1989, p. 116.
54
Joseph Chetany, op.cit., p. 112.
55
Joseph C Houpert, A South Indian Mission, St. Joseph’s Industrial School Press, Tiruchirappalli,
1937, p.45.
56
The Couplin Mission Unit, India and its Mission, Sands and Co, Edinburg, 1923, p. 81.
57
S.Krishnasamy Aiyangar, South India and her Muhammaden invaders, Asian Educational
Services, Madras 1991, p. 75.
57

they approached him was favourable to the missionaries. Thirumalai was much

fascinated by the qualities and services of De Nobili and granted him permission to

preach Christianity and build churches everywhere in the Madurai Country.58

But the other mission groups could not appreciate Nobili’s attempt to present

Christianity in a Hindu garb. Rome forced Nobili to abandon his methods and forbade

him to baptize. He was accused of corrupting Christianity by admitting Hindu

practices into it. Any compromise with Hindu life or religion was forbidden for

example, the eating of beef was held to be necessary as it would put the convert

altogether out of place of Hinduism.59 On January 31, 1623, Pope Gregory XV by a

letter, decided in favour of the method proposed by De Nobili, and permitted the

converted Brahmins to follow their culture.60 Later to convert the sudras he started

another mission called “Pandarasamy mission” as pandarams were venerable among

the sudras as religious priests.

De Nobili went to Jaffna in Ceylon in 1645 by the provincial order where he

spent two years as superior of the Jesuit mission. By this time, he was growing old

and was almost blind. Then he was sent to Mylapore, where he lived in retirement in a

hut outside the town, as a sanyasi until his death in 1656 in his seventy ninth year.

Robert De Nobili died but his work continues to live until this day.61 Thus, De Nobili

was able to offer a solid foundation and that enabled women Missionaries to involve

in empowerment of women and their conversions in Madurai region later. Todd M.

Johnson writes, “Nobili always seemed to be looking for a way in which Hindus,

58
A.Sauliere,” The Life of Fr.Robert De Nobili,” Journal of Asiatic Society, August, 1967,(np).
59
K. M. Panikkar, Asia and..., George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1974, p. 281.
60
Joseph Chetany, op. cit., p. 114.
61
C.B. Firth, op.cit., p. 118.
58

especially those from high castes, would be comfortable with the gospel and be able

to express their Christianity in the context of their culture. By devoting his life to this

pursuit, this Italian Jesuit brought more advances into the Catholic Church’s

understanding of what the indigenous church in India should look like than any before

or perhaps after him. He was indeed an incarnational missionary in the fullest

sense.”62After Robert de Nobili, 122 Jesuits worked in the Madurai Mission till 1759.

Among them are courageous, holy men like St John de Britto (1647–1693), martyred

in Oriyur, Ramnad district and the renowned Tamil scholar, Constantine Joseph

Beschi, who is known by the Tamil name he adopted, Veeramamunivar (1680–1747).

Emmanuel Martiniz continued the services of his predecessor Nobili up to

1656 A.D. While Chokkanatha Nayaka (A.D 1659- A.D 1682) and Muthu Virappa

Nayaka III (AD 1682- AD 1684) were the rulers of Madurai, John De Britto (AD

1649- AD 1693) had to face many setbacks. Anyhow De Britto who came to Madurai

in AD 1680 was devoted to the cause of promoting Christianity with all devotions.63

This period assumes greater significance because of the missionary activities of John

De Britto, a Jesuit Priest from Portugal.64 He questioned the polygamy of Thandia

Thever and that led him to be executed in 1693. 65 The activities of the Madurai

Mission also developed.

62
Todd M. Johnson, Contextualization: A New-Old Idea Illustrations from the Life of an Italian
Jesuit in 17th Century India, http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/04_1_PDFs/Johnson_4.pdf.
63
Alphonse Manickam, Jesuit Madurai Province Historical Backround, In Jesuit Madurai
Province Golden Jubilee (1952-2002) Souvenir, Dindigul, 2002, p.39.
64
J.H. Nelson, The Madura…, Vol-III. op.cit., P, 217.
65
Thadia Thevar, a member of royal family embraced Christianity and he became an ardent follower
of John De Britto. During that period, Polygamy was widely prevalent besides many other ills.
Thadia Thevar was no exemption and he was also practicing polygamy before he became a Christian.
John De Britto imparted in him the virtues and values of Christianity. He was persuaded to live with
only one wife leaving all other women. One among those women was Kadalayi who was related to
Sethupathi. She was offended by the decision of Thadia Thevar to desert her in the name of
Christianity. She sought the help of Kilavan Sethupathi who was the illegitimate son of the former
59

Fr. Constantius Joseph Beschi (Veeramamuniver) succeeded him little later.66

Thekkadath writes, ‘De Nobili indianized the apostolate, Constantius Beschi

tamilicised it.’67 Of all the Jesuit Missionaries who have worked in India, Beschi is

probably the most distinguished for his learning and intellect.68 His literary works

were multifarious. They have enriched Tamil poetry, prose, grammar, lexicography

and translation. His grace the most Rev. Dr. Justin Diraviam instituted an endowment

lecture in his honour at Madurai Kamaraj University. The Beschi Research Institute of

Palayamkottai publishes and popularises his work.69

De Rossi James, popularly known as Sinna Saverivar came to Sarugani in

Tamil Nadu in 1736 A.D. and continued the services with great zeal and enthusiasm.70

He deserves a special mention for his zeal and he wrote two important books “Lives of

saints for everyday of the year” and the “Book of Miracles for everyday of the week”.

In the absence of priest, particularly after the suppression of Society of Jesus, these

books, copied in hundreds of palmyra leaves (olais) nurtured the faith of

Sethupathi. In addition to that she induced a Brahmin by name Pampavanam to lead a delegation to
Sethupati and impress him to ban Christianity, demolish all the churches and execute the missionary.
Sethupathi summoned Thadia Thevar and enquired. The status of Thadia Thevar prevented
Sethupathi to go ahead with stringent action. Sethupathi arrested John De Britto and imprisoned him.
The best efforts of Thadia Thevar to release the missionary could not meet success. Sethupathi
started playing tricks. He banished him from his realm and sent him to his brother who was Governor
of Oriyur, a fortress on the northern frontier of the Marava Country situated on the river Pamban. He
also sent through the escorts a secret letter ordering for execution of John De Britto. The Governor’s
wife, who was also a Christian, implored her husband to spare the missionary but it was of no avail.
On 4th February 1693, John De Britto was led to an elevated site and beheaded. His head and limbs
were cut off and hung up as a warning to all the missionaries and Christians. His mortal remains
were not handed over to his followers for burial but were thrown to birds. Also see: Ramasamy.A.,
Ramanathapuram District Gazetteer, Government of Tamil Nadu, 1972, p.165.
66
V.M. Gnanapragasam, A Pearl of Great Price, Nobili Publications, Madurai, 1988, p. 6.
67
Thekkadath, op.cit., p. 214.
68
J.H. Nelson, op.cit., P.299.
69
Golden Jubilee Souvenir (1938-1988), Archdiocese of Madurai, 1988.
70
Joseph.C. Houpert, op.cit., p. 66.
60

Christians.71Steps were taken to unite all the members of the Old Madura Mission into

a single church unit.72

Jesuits' service all over the world was painfully interrupted by an unfortunate

development. As Jesuits went about educating, inspiring and conscientising the people

everywhere, powerful men with strong vested interests, for whom neither God nor his

people really mattered, began to fear and loathe the Jesuits. Yielding to the pressure

exerted by such men with political power, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society

of Jesus on 21 July 1773. Jesuits ceased to exist openly and officially in Madura

Mission and everywhere else.73 At this juncture, the arrival of Protestants into Tamil

Nadu in 1706 A.D. too demanded catalytic changes.74

New Madura Mission

The Society of Jesus was re-established on 7 August 1814 by Pope Pius VII.

Fr. J. Rootham was the General of the Society of Jesus, at the time of restoration.

Pope Gregory XVI, by his Bull Multa Praclare(order from pope), had put an end to

the Jurisdiction of Archbishop of Goa over the missions and handed over the new

Madura Mission, to the Provincial of France, Fr. Francis Renault, who at once sent

four French Jesuits to the Mission in 1837. Joseph Bertrand (1801 –1884), Louis

Garnier (1805 – 1843), Louis du Ranquet (1801 –1843) and Alexander Martin (1799

71
V.M.Gnanapragasam, op.cit., p.8.
72
Sebastian Anand, (ed) 150 years of Jesuit Presence in Madurai Mission, Jesuit Madurai Province
Publication , Dindugul , 2002, p-9.
73
Jesuit Madurai Province, News Letter, (online), http://www.maduraijesuits.org/whoweare.htm.
74
Joseph et.al, Jesuit Madurai Province Golden Jubilee souvenir, Jesuit Madurai Province
publication, Dindugal, 2002, p. 20.
61

– 1840). Later, the Madurai Mission was entrusted to the care of Toulouse Province in

France, founded in 1852.75

Madurai Province

The two Madura Missions - the ‘Old Madura Mission' (1606-1773) run by the

Portuguese Jesuits (before the suppression in 1773) and the “New Madura Mission'

(1837 – 1952) managed by the French Jesuits of the Society became eventually the

Madurai Province. Since its foundation in 1606, all the European Jesuits of both Old

and New Madura missions called their mission “Madurai Mission.”76

While the Old Madura Mission had Madurai as its headquarters, the

headquarters of the New Madura Mission was Tiruchirappalli. Based in

Tiruchirappalli, the French Jesuits of the Toulouse Province developed and

consolidated the Mission with remarkable vision and zeal. Madurai Mission was

raised to the status of a Vice–Province in 1929, dependent on the Toulouse Province.

In the year 1952, when the Toulouse Province celebrated its centenary, the Madurai

Vice-Province was raised to the status of an independent Province. All the well

known Jesuit institutions in Tamil Nadu are the fruits of the vision, due to the tireless

efforts and heroic sacrifices made by the French Jesuits. They are St. Joseph's School

and College, Tiruchirappalli (1844), St. Mary's School, Dindigul (1850), St. Mary's

School, Madurai (1855), St. Xavier's School (1880) and College (1923),

Palayamkottai, St. Francis Xavier School, Tuticorin (1884), Loyola College, Chennai

75
W.Francis, Madura Gazetter, Cosmo publication, New Delhi, 2000, p. 77.
76
Ibid., p.71.
62

(1925), De Britto School, Devakottai (1943) and St. Xavier's College of Education,

Palayamkottai (1950).77

In 1836 A.D. when Pope Gregory XVI ordered the bifurcation of Pondicherry

Mission, the members of the Society of Jesus revived their services at Madurai as a

separate Mission. 78 In 1842 A.D. the Madurai Mission was divided into three

divisions as 791. Tiruchirappalli (North), 2. Madurai (Central) and 3. Palayamkottai

(South).

The French Jesuit Bishop Alexis Canoz S.J. (born on 8 Sep 1805, and died 2

Dec 1888) was the first Bishop of Tiruchirappalli.80 He had the privilege of holding

the office of bishop for forty one years (1846-1888) earning the deepest respect and

affection of those for whom he cared. For them, his death was a sort of a personal

loss. He opened a new period of Christian education in India. Roman Catholic

students enrolled Jesuit institutions. Fr. Canoz felt that the only way to safeguard the

future of the church was to provide education, secular and religious on a high level.

As a result in 1844, the college of St. Joseph came into existence at Nagapatinam.81

Mgr. Faisandier took over as Bishop in 19th December 1913 and held his

office till 24 Sep 1934. He founded St. Paul’s Seminary, on 8th June 1921. He was

succeeded by Mgr. Peter Leonard, as Bishop of Tiruchirappalli. When Madurai

Diocese was established Bishop Peter Leonard was appointed as the first Bishop.
77
http://www.maduraijesuits.org/whoweare.htm.
78
Sukuna, Padarum Kodikku Pavala Vila, Diamond Jubilee Celebration Publication May 1986,
Madurai, 1986, p. 3.
79
Amalavai, Amalavai Vidiyalin Vilasam, Madurai, 2011, p. 2.
80
Kenneth Ballhatchet, Caste, Class and Catholicism in India 1789-1914, Curzon press, New York,
1998, p.125.
81
Stephen Neill, A History of Christianity...,op.cit., p. 296.
63

Faith and Justice were the two eyes of him. He led a very simple and saintly life

which showed his devotion for God and community. He worked for the bifurcation of

the diocese and effected the creation of the Madurai Diocese and became its first

Bishop leaving Tiruchirappalli Diocese at the hands of Mgr. James Mendonca.82 At

the age of 78 he retired and went to live at Shenbaganur, the sacred place where he

had began his Jesuit life. He reached the feet of the Lord on 5th December 1985.

Madurai Diocese became a model diocese under the apostolic guidance of Bishop

Leonard.83

Formation of Madurai Archdiocese

The Madurai diocese was created on January 8, 1938 by the Bull “Si inter

infidel” and its territory was carved out of the former Tiruchirappalli Diocese. At the

time of its inception, it included six out of the eight taluks and former Madurai

District, the whole of former Ramanathapuram District and five taluks of former

Tirunelveli Districts. The present territory of the Archdiocese comprises the whole of

Madurai Civil district, Viruthunagar District, Theni District and four taluks-

Nilakkottai, Kodaikanal, Batlagundu, Natham and four parishes in Dindigul District.

By the apostolic constitution “Mutant Res” dated September 19, 1953 the diocese of

Madurai was raised to an Archdiocese status with Tiruchirappalli, Tuticorin and

84
Kottar as suffrages to Madurai. In the Madurai Archdiocese there are 39

congregations of women religious present and doing valuable services to the society

82
Stanislaus Ponnand, Archdiocese of Madurai origins and development, Nobili Publication,
Madurai, 1983, p.14.
83
Ibid., p.15.
84
Idem., p.17.
64

especially to women. The researcher has limited her study to three congregations

which rendered service during the study period (19th and early 20th century). They are

The Congregation of the Immaculate Conception, Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyons and

Order of the Mother of Sorrows (Servites).

The Catholic Women Missionaries in Madurai

The Congregation of the Immaculate Conception

The first to be mentioned among the Congregations of Sisters who work in

Madurai Arch Diocese is the Congregation of Immaculate Conception. 85 In 1842,

Panjampatty was formally erected as a new, separate parish in Madurai Mission with

Palani Hills, Sirumalai, Manaparai and Rayappanpatty as its boundaries.86The nuns

from European countries were involved in pastoral work for assisting priests. Nuns

not only undertook spiritual services in their home lands but also volunteered to work

in mission countries. France was on top in sending sisters abroad for missionary work.

The parish priests responded to the call of these congregations by supporting and

encouraging them. The call of vocation was heard at Panjampatty. Four young girls

were determined to take the vow of celibacy and dedicate themselves to the service of

God.

The Little Children of the Mother Immaculate:

Fr. Larmey was strongly reminded of the apostolic work of the “Beates” in his

homeland, France and he thought of starting the “Beates” convent at Panjampatty.87

85
Agnes, “The Heart Speaks” Platinium Jubilee Souvenir (1911-1986) of the congregation of the
Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Madurai, 1986, p. Not given.
86
Amalavai, Amalavai Vidiyalin Vilasam, (Tamil), Madurai, 2011, p.4.
87
Sukuna, Padarum Kodikku Pavala Vila, Diamond Jubilee Celebration Publication 1986, May,
Madurai, 1986, p.10.
65

He gave Bro. Augustine the responsibility of shaping up the girls who wanted to

dedicate their virginity and purity to the service of God. 88 Bro. Augustine with a

paternal affection and care looked after them for 10 years. He named them “The Little

Children of the Mother Immaculate”. The house of the “Immaculates” was founded
89
and named “Amalorpaviyin Veedu” Visuvasam(27 yrs old),Viyagammal(25

yrs),Annammal(33 yrs) andSavariammal(33 yrs)90 the first four sisters attired in white

sari, with candles in hands dedicated themselves to the service of God on 2nd February

1899, on the day of the Feast of the Presentation of our Lady.91

New Congregation

Though dedication and piety were at a higher degree with the sisters, they had

not yet taken their vows to become full-fledged nuns. Fr. Augustine’s prayers and his

efforts resulted in success. Fr. Clave SJ visited Madurai Mission in 1907 and “Little

House of the Immaculates” too.92 After having discussion with Fr. Eugine Nespoulous

and Fr. Augustine, he recommended to the Holy Father and got his blessing and

approval for the new Congregation. Fr. Augustine framed regulations for the internal

life of the new order with the help of the rules of the Society of Jesus, and the

regulations and principles related to the practical day to day life, from those of the

Congregation of Unruliness. Fr. Augustine did everything only after a careful study

and planning. Education of the poor villagers was the need of the hour. Hence, he

88
John Britto,“Mary and her Immaculate Conception”, Platinium Jubilee Souvernir..., op.cit.,
page not given.
89
Congregation of Immaculate Conception, Amalavai Kanniyar, (e.d) , Madurai, 1954, p.7.
90
Sr. Ananthi (ed), Amalavai Vidiyallil Vilasam(Tamil), Ammalavai publication, Madurai, April
2011, P. 12.
91
Sukuna, op cit., p.3.
92
Thomas Mc givern (ed), At the Hands of the Lord, Congregation of the Immaculate Conception,
1996, p.11.
66

made teacher training certificate pre requisite for the entry into the Congregation.

They offer more strength to the immaculate of psychological security, psychological

freedom, and unconditional acceptance, thereby reducing the external evaluation and

empathic understanding.93The holy rays of the Immaculate Conception started from

Panjampatty and spread their radiance over the lands of Silukkuvarpatty also.

The Congregation of St. Joseph’s of Lyons at Madurai undertook the

responsibility of training the novices of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception

from Panjampatty. Fr. Augustine enthusiastically completed the preliminary work

with a view to obtain permission at the earliest from the Holy Father and to start a

Congregation. He purchased a small portion from the “Lyons” and built a house for

the Immaculate Novitiate. He chose only seven sisters out of twenty three for

noviciate training, on the basis of competence and spiritual maturity. They are

Augustine Mary, Louie Mary, Catharine Mary, Saviour Mary, Theresa Mary,

Rosammal and Yagammal.94 He took them to Madurai on 2nd July 1911 and put them

under Sr. Radugondh’s care. This solemn day is considered as the day of inauguration

of the CIC.95

The Death of Fr. Augustine Pereira

Fr. Augustine fell seriously ill. The thoughts about the novices at Madurai,

their entirely new atmosphere of life troubled him much. He grew weaker mentally as

well as physically. On 21st October 1911, he felt intense heart pain. He was hopefully

93
Sr. James Ceylene, “Akkanthiranai Valarppan,” Platinium Jubilee Souvernir..., op.cit., P.not
given..
94
Sr. Thanishlas Mary, CIC, Murriyya Urravin Moovar(Tamil), Pavalla Villa Ninaivu Mallar, 1911-
1986, Amala sabai Kanniyar Publication, Madurai, p.160.
95
St. Joseph’s Lyons, Madurai Journal, Vol II, p.184.
67

waiting for his last minute.96 Though Fr. Augustine firmly believed that Mother Mary

the Immaculate would spiritually guard the sisters, he requested his nephew Ignatious

to attend their material needs including their food requirements during their two years

of novitiate. The positive response from Ignatious filled Fr. Augustine’s sinking heart

with joy. The pious, peaceful, purposeful life of Fr. Augustine came to an end after

fulfilling its objectives and reaching its goal on this earth. Fr.Augustine’s health

deteriorated. On 21st October 1911, he lost his life. By his own individual efforts,

along with regular routine religious services, he contributed to the birth and growth of

the Congregation of Immaculate Conception. Mother Augustine Mary (1910-1916

&A.D 1923-1940), Mother Bernardt (1917-1922 A.D.), Mother Sovit (A.D 1941 -

1952) were in the service, and guided the Congregation. 97 Followed by Sr.

Radugondh, Sr. Patrice took charge of the novices. She is remembered even today for

encouragement and endurance she imparted to the novices.98 To fulfil the devices of

Fr. Harmey on 27th May 1909, Annammal Vironikkam and Susai Mariammal founded

a school at Panchampatty.99 It served as a means for promoting women at all levels.

The Status of Religious Order

Mother Patrice, the first novice mistress, was one of the Lyon’s sisters from

France. The arrival of Mother Patrice on the scene was really felt as God sent.100As an

affectionate and responsible mother, able teacher and capable Superior, she guided

96
Sr. Alphonsa,(compiled), Fr. Thomas Mcgivern S.J (ed), At the hands of God, Congregation of
the Immaculate Conception-History (1899-2006), Congregation of the Immaculate Conception
mission house, Zambia, pp.15-16. pp. 14-15.
97
Congregation of the Sisters of Immaculate Conception, op.cit., p.33.
98
Sr. Josphine Alphonsa,CIC History Book 1899-2001, CIC generalate, Madurai, P.23.
99
Congregation of Immaculate Conception, op.cit., pp.14-15.
100
Sr. Alphonsa,(compiled), Fr. Thomas Mcgivern S.J (ed) op.cit., p.16.
68

and governed for a remarkable span of forty years. Kindness, strictness, perseverance

and enthusiasm were the medium of instruction of Sr. Patrice, which drew the novices

towards her and God. The 8th of September 1913 was a golden day in the history of

the Congregation. The first five sisters of the Congregation took their first vows on

that day. The Novice Mistress Sr. Patrice herself took the five sisters to

Panjampatty.101 It was a wonderful and joyful sight to the villagers to see a white

woman as a Rev Mother. It inspired courage and confidence among the sisters. Rt.

Rev. Bathe SJ Bishop of Tiruchirappalli recognized this Congregation by giving it the

status of religious order. The rules and regulation framed by Fr. Augustine were

printed and given to the sisters. A sacred book of the rules and regulations revised by

Fr. James Planchard SJ was sent to Rome for approval. Sr. Augustine Mary who had

undergone novitiate training was installed as the first Superior General. A dim red

coloured sari became their uniform. New convents were installed in

Anumantharayankottai and Karungulam.102

Though the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception was started at

Panjampatty, Madurai was considered in every sense to be its head quarters. So the

Generalate of CIC was transferred to East Gate Madurai on 23.12.1923. Many

changes in the regulations, procedures and dress were on the move.103The sisters of

the CIC were loved and considered by people as catechists of the poor and the simple,

volunteers of the backward and downtrodden villagers, mothers of the oppressed and

101
Ibid ., p15.
102
Sr. Ananthi,op.cit., p.45.
103
Sr. Alphonsa,(compiled), Fr. Thomas Mcgivern S.J (ed), op.cit., p.16.
69

neglected, who needed comfort and helping hands of Jesus Christ.104 They had a very

large scope for spiritual, social and educational services, especially in villages.

Among the four sisters, Sr. Catherine died at the age of 73 in 1944 Sr.

Saveriammal at the age of 83 died in A.D.1949, Sr. Annammal died in 1949 at the age

of 83 and Dadiris died in 1934 itself.105 Though they are no more, the services they

rendered in upliftment of the congregation are still fondly remembered. On 8th

December A.D.1921, all the sisters were provided with a book of rules and

regulations. They were also called Blue Sisters because on 8th December 1932106 they

changed from saris to blue religious habit.107 From 18thMay 1970 onwards, the blue

dress was replaced by white dress as per the desires of Fr. Jeganath. The rules and

regulations introduced in 1922 were remodeled and new rules were implemented from

1942 by Fr .Peter Leonard. In 1927, Fr.Gomaz founded the rest house at Kosakulam

Pudur for the physically ailing sisters. Up to 1941 there were 15 branches. On 8th

January 1938, the Madurai Diocese was made as Madura Diocesan Congregation.108

The Motto of CIC is “In the Loving foot step of Mary Immaculate” and their

charism is “Preaching the good news in simplicity and love”. Their apostolate is

education, medical care, social work, evangelization, pastoral work, culture and

communication and inter-faith dialogue.109 At present there are totally 795 sisters in

104
Pavala Vizha Malar, op.cit., P.24.
105
Congregation of Immaculate Conception, op.cit., p.33.
106
St.Joseph of Lyons, Notice Historique St. Joseph’s Convent,Vol II, p.11.
107
Fr. Joseph kuyini S.J. with the permission of Bishop changed the dress code of CIC sisters. From
8-12-1932, they started to wear blue colour dress, from that time onwards the sisters of CIC were
called Madurai Blues or Blue sisters.
108
Sukuna, op.cit., pp .26-32.
109
Engravings in the Mother House of the CIC at Old Kuyavar Palayam, Madurai.
70

168 convents. 110 In 25 dioceses, both India and abroad, they are engaged in

evangelisation. In 1986, and 2011, it celebrated its Platinum and Centenary jubilees

respectively.111

Special Purpose being served by the CIC

The following constitute the mission of the CIC. They are112

i. To strengthen the faith of the Christian people, particularly the children and

young women by teaching catechism.

ii. To proclaim the Good News in the villages.

iii. To involve in pastoral ministries of the parishes by helping the parish

priests.

iv. To visit the sick and provide medical help.

v. To impart education in schools and colleges.

vi. To promote devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to Our Lady of

the Immaculate Conception.

Spirituality

The Spirit of the Congregation is to live according to the spirit of the Blessed

Mother of the Immaculate Conception which expressed as: “Behold I am the hand

maid of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) and

110
CIC- Catalogue-2013-2014(unpublished), p.17.
111
Sr. Thanaseeli Solomon(ed), Centenary Souvenir 1911-2011, CIC, p.1.
112
Sr. Josphine Alphonsa,(compiled), Fr. Thomas Mcgivern S.J (ed), At the Hands of the Lord,
Congregation of the Immaculate Conception, 1996, p.13.
71

committed herself totally to God; humbled herself and remained so till the end.113 The

spirituality of the members is to live “In the loving footsteps of Our Lady of the

Immaculate Conception” who depended on God entirely and committed themselves

His will totally and integrated them in mission willingly.114

Attitude towards life

i. Leading a simple life with simplicity at heart relating ourselves lovingly

with the people and being easily accessible to others.115

ii. Being known for hospitality.

iii. Being industrious and enthusiastic even when one is tired, dull and

disgusted.

iv. Being available to render any service at any time.

v. Trusting and depending on God

Jubilee Celebrations of CIC

The sacred journey of the “Immaculates” continued towards a golden jubilee.

In 1954, the Centenary of the Declaration of the Immaculate Conception as an Article

of Faith was celebrated. A small Tamil book titled Amalavaikanniar, “The

Immaculate Sisters”. A History of The Congregation was released and was dedicated

to ‘Our Blessed Mother Immaculate’(Mother Mary) for the first time.116The age of the

Congregation was calculated from 1911 as it was formally inaugurated in that year,

113
Sr. Thanishlas Mary, CIC, Murriyya Urravin Moovar(Tamil),op.cit., pp 158-159.
114
Sr. Antony Pushpa Ranchitham(ed), Oru Thuli… Oddum Nathi, Amalavaiyyin Thanivara
Annmegam, CIC Headquarter’s publications, Madurai, op.cit, p. 40.
115
Ibid., pp.33-34. .
116
Antony Maria Lilly (ed),Amalavarpa Matha Sabai-Madurai(Tamil), killai Illangal Varalarru
(1899-2001) Madurai,2001, p.5.
72

and the Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1961. At the age of fifty, the Congregation

looked youthful, energetic and cheerful. The decade 1953 – 1963 was an important

milestone in the history of the growth of CIC. The strength of the “Immaculates”

touched 500. In the International Eucharistic Congress conducted at Bombay in 1964,

the “Immaculates” contributed an item to the catechetical exhibition and got the

blessings of the Pope. A quarterly journal ‘Anbukkural’ (The Voice of Love) was

brought out in 1970 to proclaim the relationship within the family of the

“Immaculates.”117The sisters began to go abroad from the boundaries of Tamil Nadu

in pursuit of knowledge. In 1971, to lend their service to leprosy patients, Damien

Leprosy Control Centre was started at Nilakottai. The sisters got trained in Allopathy,

Homeopathy and Siddha Medicines.118

Historical Development of Sisters of St Joseph of Lyon

One of the first Apostolic Congregations for women in Church is the sisters of

St.Joseph, founded by Fr. John Peter Medaille in 1650 at Le Puy, France. 119 The

missionary activities of The Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon took shape like a miracle

when French government passed a decree in the year 1904, forbidding the religious

from teaching in schools unless they gave up their religious habits and names taken

while entering religious life. That made them to close down their educational

institutions in France.120 Sisters from all over France arrived at Mother House as their

schools were closed.121 When the door in France was closed, God opened many doors

117
Sr. Josphine Alphonsa,op.cit., P.54.
118
Antony Maria Lilly (ed), Amalavarpa Matha … op.cit., p.7.
119
Sr. Rose Kakanatt(ed), 100 years of Mission in India… St. Joseph of Lyon, 1906-2006, p.5.
120
Edward Schillebeeck, The mission of the Church, Shed and Ward, London, 1973, p.117.
121
St. Joseph of Lyons, Le Regne De Dieu (trans), Chronology of St. Joseph of Lyons in India, Dairy,
1907, p.101.
73

for them. This situation inspired them with missionary zeal and they went to different

parts of the world.122

During this period in September 1904, Fr. Heraudeau S.J, the procurator of the

Jesuits in Madurai mission, was in France searching for a congregation to work with

them in the mission.123 He visited the Mother House of the Sisters of St. Joseph of

Lyons and requested Superior General Rev. Mother Henri Xavier to accept this, and

make it known to the sisters and many who came forward for his mission. 124 Fr.

Heraudeau spoke to those sisters, placing before them the demands of the life at

Madurai (the extreme heat of the sun, scarcity of water, epidemics, serpents and other

poisonous insects). He gave a very discouraging picture but that was the reality.125 It

took almost one and a half year to make a decision. On June 8th 1906, at mid-day of

Trinity Sunday, six chosen missionaries embarked on the French ship named ‘Armand

Behic.’ They were Sr. Marie Justin Pinatel , Sr. Marie Berchmans Mary, Sr. Henri

Madaleine Bouel, Sr. St. Cyrenie Marjollet, Sr. Jeanne Augusta Camus and Sr. St.

Patrice Longin.126 Their journey had its ups and downs; for certain days they had to

endure unbearable heat and later severe sea-sickness. Besides, as they knew only

French, they were isolated in the crowds of passengers of varying cultures. In the

midst of these trials, they experienced deep joy by their anticipation of a life of

service.127 After 18 days of arduous journey, they arrived at Colombo. Again after 13

122
Sr. Rose Kakanatt(ed), op.cit., p.5.
123
St. Joesph of Lyons,Madura Journal, vol I, Madurai, p.2.
124
Sr. Maria Caecilias Dairy (unpublished), p.16.
125
Ibid., p.17.
126
St.Joseph of Lyons, Madura…, op.cit., p.3.
127
Ibid., P. 39.
74

hours of sailing, they landed on the Indian soil at Tuticorin, with great joy and

excitement.128 The Holy Cross Sisters led them to their Convent, with Soosaipillai, a

man sent by the Jesuits in Madurai, as guide. After a night’s rest, the missionaries

continued their journey by train, towards their promised land, Madurai.

The Touching Welcome

The diligent missionaries set their feet at Madurai on June 29, 1906 at 3 pm.

They were welcomed at the Railway Station by Fr. Pages SJ, the erstwhile minister

and procurator of St. Mary’s Madurai, the Jesuit residence.129They stayed in a convent

called the St. Joseph’s Bungalow130 and began their services. In organizing their life

and mission, the Sisters had to face inevitable difficulties as they had to learn the local

languages, get used to the climate, the food habits, the culture, etc. But courageously,

they set out on their duties. It was a herculean task for some of them to master Tamil.

However, their purpose in life and conviction won over all hardships. The Jesuit

Fathers exhibited great concern for their welfare and their mission. They arranged

classes for the sisters to learn English and Tamil.131

More Arrivals

During the next few years, the Indian Mission kept growing due to the arrival

of new members. Sr. Alix Marie D’Ormano and Sr.Radegonde Girardeau arrived on

128
St. Joseph of Lyons, Le Regne…,op.cit., p.152.
129
Ibid., P.166.
130
St. Joseph’s Bungalow is presently called as St. Patrick’s Convent, the Mother House of the
Congregation of Immaculate Conception situated in Old Kosavapalayam Road, Madurai. Ref:
Pamphlet of St. Joseph of Lyons, p.1.
131
St.Joseph of Lyons, Madura…, op.cit., p.67.
75

November 14th of 1908 when Mother Valentine, the Assistant General visited India.132

Sr.Yvonne Bombes de Villiers and Yolande Marie joined the Indian Mission in

1910.133 In 1912 Sr. Regina Etienne and Edwige Bourgin landed at Madurai.134 The

civil authorities, appreciating the services rendered by the Sisters, granted free pass in

1909 to travel in train and to visit different villages.135 Sisters enjoyed this privilege

till 1914 and when this facility was withdrawn, they travelled by bullock-carts.

In June 1911, Madurai was again ravaged by cholera which caused the death

of 2 orphans, 2 workers and a cook in the convent.136 The sisters were much grieved

but they placed their trust in Our Lady and installed a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes

in the house which averted the danger.137 In the same year, the novitiate for the Sisters

of the Immaculate Conception was opened. The founder of the new Congregation

Fr.Augustine, requested the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon to take responsibility in

formation of the candidates for his Congregation. In response to him, Sr. Radegonde

took charge of this formation but she had to discontinue it very soon, due to her ill

health. Sr. Patrice continued as their novice mistress for forty years.138 Thus, a new

dimension was added to the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph in India.139 [

132
St.Joseph of Lyons, Madura…,vol II, Madurai,p.59.
133
St.Joseph of Lyons, Notice Historique of St. Joseph’s Convent, vol I, Chronology of St. Joseph of
Lyons in India, Madurai, p.6.
134
St.Joseph of Lyons. Madura…, vol II, op.cit., p.210.
135
Sr. Rose Kakanatt(ed), op.cit., p.9.
136
St.Joseph of Lyons. Madura…, vol II, op.cit., p.185.
137
Le Regne De Dieu, op.cit., p.273.
138
Sr. Alphonsa,(compiled), Fr. Thomas Mcgivern S.J (ed), op.cit., p.16.
139
St.Joseph of Lyons. Madura…, vol II, op.cit., p. 195.
76

God Added to their number

On 1st January 1920 three new members Sr. Joseph Albert Badole, Sr. Jeanne

d’ Arc Ferrand and Sr. Rosalie Castenet were added.140 After a year, on March 1st

1921, two more arrived, Sr. Paul Theoleyre and St. Remi Bernard. 141 In 1924

November 6th, three missionaries came to India with Mother Marie Benedicte the

Assistant General; they were Sr. Anne Placidie Landy, Sr. Henri Madeleine and Sr.

Rose Benedicte Benoit.142 Sr. Rose Benedicte was the first American missionary to

India and she started teaching in Dhanappa School immediately. In November 1925,

Sr. Alberic Estrad and Patricia de Jesus143 also reached Madurai.

Historical Development of Servites or Order of the Mother of Sorrows (Sisters of

Seven Dolors)

The Servite order is one of the oldest religious communities in the western

Church. It came into being in 1233 at Florence, Italy when a band of Florentines

decided to group together to form a fraternity under Mary’s aegis, which would

attempt to live a more deep Christian life of prayer. The indigenous congregation of

Servites was founded by five Tamil women with their earnest efforts on 8th December
144
1854, as the congregation of our Lady of Seven Dolors at Melapudur,

Tiruchirappalli and under the guidance of the Jesuit missionaries, particularly Father

Peter Mecathi and Mgr. Alexis Canoz. They rendered their service to the humanity by

140
St.Joseph of Lyons, Notice Historique St. Joseph’s Convent,vol I, op.cit., p.7.
141
St. Joseph of Lyons, Petit Historique De La Communaute De Hospital De Government(trans),
Chronology of St. Joseph of Lyons in India, Madurai, 1916-1946, p. 8.
142
Notice Historique St. Joseph’s Convent,op.cit., p.8.
143
Petit Historique De La Communaute De Hospital De Government, op.cit., p.50.
144
Peregrine of Servites, Golden Jubilee Souvenir, 1927-1977, Trichy, p.38.
77

liberating involvement and in the power of Resurrection. Founders were Susai

Natchathiram, Savarai, Ursula, Chinna Savari and Amirtham. Their Charism is

Liberating Involvement with the powerless in the power of Resurrection. 145 Their

order is Second order of Servants of Mary. Patron is Mother of Sorrows. 146 This

Servites had extended their services to places like Australia, Philippines, Italy, Burma,

and North India like Delhi, Kolkota, Orissa, Bhopal, Maharastra and South India like

Tamil Nadu, Andra Pradesh and Bangalore. Servite Provinces are Alexis Province,

Juliana Province, Maria Susai Natchatrammal Province, Madurai Province, Luisa

Province, and Maria Mandal and under generalate. Generalate is located in Chennai.

Approval Rules through constitution and directives. Servites were approved in the

year 1876.147

The Servite Sisters wanted to organise small gatherings and educate them. One

such attempt was in formation of sodality to bring women together. Soon many girls

too joined the sodality. These women gathered for group prayers and offered

themselves to Mother Virgin Mary. They gathered together every evening with pious

widows in private houses for prayer. The sodality was a social gathering where they

discussed the problem faced and prayer united them. Nearly 1000s of children

gathered for Sunday catechism. An active woman of the sodality was Maria Susai

Natchatiram. A very notable feature of this congregation was that an Indian priest

145
Ibid., p.3.
146
Seven Dolors pay more devotion to the seven sorrows of Our Lady that happened in her life. They
are the prophecy of Simeon (St. Luke 2: 34, 35), the flight into Egypt (St. Matthew 2:13-14), the
loss of the Child Jesus in the temple (St. Luke 3: 43-45), the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way
of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross and the burial of
Jesus.
147
Sr.Corona Mary, Directives…, op.cit., p.4.
78

named Antony Pereira was in charge of it. He was replaced by Fr. Mecathi.148It was

this experience of Mecathi that helped him in organising the sodality for women.

Formation of Congregation

Mgr. Alexis Canoz had promised to the Christian in Trichirappalli that he

would start a refugee home for the widows. Mean time, the young Christian women

also wanted the Jesuits to establish a home exclusively for them. Due to financial

problems Alexis Canoz had to postpone it later. 149 The Mission had to face two

practical problems in order to establish a refugee for the widows.

I. Financial problem for starting home for the widows.

II. To identify a suitable person who would train and form them. They sought

foreign and local help in this aspect.150

The minds of the first Missionaries of Tiruchirappalli were greatly exercised

due to their helpless state and the misery of young widows there. They divided the

plan of gathering them in a big house near the present Cathedral at Tiruchirappalli and

give them a new orientation in living for the Kingdom of God so as to expose them to

the Christian ideas and wait for grace to work in them.

Naming of the Congregation

Fr. Mecathi had a fervent devotion for “Our Lady of Dolors”, a devotion much

valued by the Christians. The religious Father Mecathi had inherited the name from

their early Father who had put them under her patron age. Maria Susai Natchathiram

148
Servites Diary, File No 1, Generalate, Trichirappalli, 1992, p.173.
149
Letter from Alexis Canoz to Fr. H. Pouget, France, 10 June 1858. Ref: The Advent: Catholic
Encyclopedia, (Online).
150
Memories of Alexis Canoz, dated 9 May1857 (n.p).
http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bcanoz.html/
79

as superior, in 1859 on the feast day of Our Lady of Seven Dolors, the sisters

pronounced their vows. The Servants of Mary formerly called “Sisters of Seven

Dolors” 151 was founded at Tiruchirappalli in 1854. 152 The members of this order

called themselves Servites. Their Order is known as Servants of Mary Mother of

Sorrows. Mother of Sorrows popularly worshipped as “Viyagula Matha” is their

patron saint.153 They came to Madurai in 1882. They render educational, medical and

social service besides the spiritual service in Madurai Archdiocese. They have a

simple mission target of liberating women and their development. So they concentrate

more on social work. They were popularly known as “Friends of Servants of Mary.”

Thus, in their own way, Servite sisters are doing their best to improve the condition of

women directly and to the society indirectly.154

Reaction of Indian Sisters

The Indian Sisters were treated as second rate citizens in their own land. The

Reparatrice155 were supposed to teach the Sisters of Seven Dolors all the duties of

religious life and all the things needed to direct them to conduct successful school for

girls. This hope had not been fulfilled and not developed so people could understand

it. It was considered as useless and people never thought about it in that line. The

sisters of Seven Dolors were treated as servants. As in those days, both French and the

English were ruling over India. The European Sisters too wanted to control the Indian

151
Seven Dolors pay more devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady which made them known as
Seven Dolors.
152
Corona Mary,Vallin Vetri(Tamil), Servite publications, Tiruchirappalli, 1977,p.23.
153
The Servites Religious Order, Italy,1905, p.11.
154
Corona Mary. op.cit., p.24.
155
Reparatrice are the religious sisters who came from France to train Indian sisters.
80

Sisters. 156 But the Vellalars who had been considered superior caste of the Tamil

Society could not tolerate the French Sisters who sent away many local sisters to their

homes without proper reason. Even the professed sisters who lived long in the

convent were forced to leave the order.

The converts at the Tiruchirappalli town were dissatisfied with the attitude of

the French Sisters. So the Seven Dolors was separated from the Reparatrice. But they

did not have Church organised constitution. The Dolors started the religious life at

‘Rosevella’, a house located near the Cathedral, the Mother house,

Tiruchirappalli. 157 Sr. Maria became the first superior General in 1876. She was

elected by twenty one professed Sisters. It was the first general election in the Dolors

Congregation.158

Congregation of St. Anne, Tiruchirappalli

The congregation of St. Anne was started on 2nd February 1858 with five

widows at Tiruchirappalli. The founder and the first mother was Annammal who was

a young widow. During that time in Tamil Nadu the condition of widows were very

pathetic. They were made to wallow in the mire of misery like maggots. In order to

give a meaning to their life, this convent was started.159 In course of time it became a

convent for spinsters. Their motto is “Witness unto Dedication and Simplicity.”160 In

1910, they first came to Rayappanpatti and established middle school, orphanage,

hostel, nursery school, school of typing, tailoring and dispensary. Then they started a

156
Besse Leon, Le Mission Reparetrice Madure, Trichirappalli, 1926, p.202.
157
Personal interview with Sr. Carona Mary on 7.10.2014.
158
Sr.Corona Mary, op.cit., pp.52-53.
159
St.Anne sister, Thelintha Neeruttu(Tamil), St. Anne’s Publications, Tirchirappally,1998, pp.70-78.
160
Silver Jubilee Souvenir (1982-2007), Mariya Province of Sisters of St. Anne, Trichy, p.1.
81

house at Hanumanthampatty in 1912 and continued their educational, evangelical and

liturgical service. They came to Madurai on 16th September 1982, 161 and their

provincialate is located at Ellis Nagar in Madurai. “Anbagam” is their important

service centre which is located near Race Course Ground, Madurai. It was founded by

Dr. Manuel A. Thangaraj and his wife Mary Thangaraj in 1970 with the aim to serve

mentally challenged children. When their vision of Anbaham was complete, and

owing to advancing age, the founders found it necessary to obtain assistance in the

day to day running of Anbaham. After long consideration, they approached the Sisters

of St. Anne of Tiruchirappalli who had extensive experience in service to the

disabled. The sisters agreed to take over the management of the Institution under the

direction of the “Anbaham Governing Council”. Ever since they took over in 1987, it

takes care of physically handicapped and mentally challenged persons.

Sisters of Louis de Gonzaga

The congregation of Louis de Gonzaga was started at Pondicherry by Rev. Fr.

Michael Ansaldo S.J in 1775. Their mission in India was fighting for the

empowerment of the dalits (suppressed section), who are marginalised in the society

due to Varna system.162In Palanganatham at Madurai they started a house with four

sisters in 1968 to do evangelical work and render social service. They run a middle

school also. Through their educational ministry, social work and parish work, they do

their best for the society and Church.163

161
Ibid., p.26.
162
Varna System- Racial Factor or Varna or colour was the original basis of the caste system. The
caste Hindus were grouped as varnas and the outcastes were held as avarnas (colourless).
163
Gonzaga Congregation, History of Gonzaga Congregation, St. Alosius Gonzaga Congregation
Generalate, Pondicherry, 2000, p.22.
82

Daughters of St. Mary of Leuca

The Congregation of the Daughters of St Mary of Leuca was started at Rome

in 1938 by Mother Elisa Martinez. They opened a convent at Balarangapuram,

Maduari in 1968 and later at Moonrumavadi near Kosakulam Pudur. They run a

hospital with all modern equipments. Sisters of this Congregation serve as nurses and

specialised doctors are brought from outside in 1986, Elisa Bondolfi Gregori (EBG)

Matriculation School was started to cater to the need of the local society in

Moonrumavadi. In these ways, the sisters of St.Mary of Leuca render yeoman

services to their brethren in the name of service to God.164

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pondicherry

Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was

founded in the year 1844 in Pondicherry. The very inception of this congregation

aimed at liberating the illiterate womenfolk from various types of atrocities and social

injustices. The sisters of this Congregation are deeply committed to their motto, "In

the experience of God towards liberation of Women". Though the congregation runs a

large number of educational institutions, health and social work organisations in

various parts of India and abroad, education has been their strongest weapon to

achieve the above said motto. The sisters have rendered their great service for over a

century to the oppressed and the marginalised. In the field of education the

congregation has got Higher Secondary Schools, High Schools, Middle and Primary

Schools. The sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have their Generalate in

Pondicherry. They have three provincialate in Tamil Nadu at Pondicherry, Madurai

164
Interview with Rev Sr. Prisca of St Mary of Leuca convent, Moonrumavadi, Madurai.
83

(Uthankudi) and Rajakambiram (near Manamadurai). In 1976, they started a

matriculation school by name Arul Malar and now it’s one of the best Hr. Sec.

Schools in Madurai.165

Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

The ICM sisters landed in Kodaikkanal in the erstwhile Madurai District in

1925. They started a crèche and a dispensary there in 1936. They also started a Tamil

Medium School for girls and upgraded it to higher secondary School in 1984. This is

the first educational institution for girls in Kodaikkanal. They also have social work

centre called Natpagam (House of Friendship). They also run Sacred Heart Higher

Secondary School for Girls in Srivilliputhur.166

The First Protestant Mission

The Dutch settlement established at Pulicate in AD 1609, the establishment of

the fort St George in AD 1639 by the British and the Danish settlement founded at

Tranquebar in AD 1620 were parallel events which assisted in promotion of Christian

Missionary activities. But they had no intention towards religious propagation and

were specific in improving their lucrative income through trade and commerce.167

Protestants had been in existence since the early sixteenth century, but were slow to

recognise any obligation to preach the gospel to non Christians. At this time few men

did begin to be aware of this obligation. In England the Society for the Promoting

Christian Knowledge (SPCK) 168 was formed by some members of the Church of

165
Directory of Madurai Archdiocese, Madurai, 1987, pp.135-136.
166
V.M. Ganapragasam op.cit., p..225.
167
David Immanuel, Reformed Church in American Missionaries in South India, (1838-1939),
Asian Trading Corporation, Bangalore, 1986, p.23.
168
Raju Kalidos, op.cit., p243.
84

England in 1698, with the objective of not only maintaining charity schools and

distributing Bible and other Christian literature in England and Wales, but also in

promoting Christian knowledge both at home and in other parts of the World. In 1701,

the Society for the Propagation of Gospel in foreign parts was founded169. During the

emergence of modern period in Asia, Protestant Christianity had its way in south

India.170

The Eighteenth Century saw the beginning of Protestant missionary work in

India. Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) and Plutschau, two godly generals were the first

protestant missionaries.171 They were sent out by King Frederick IV of Denmark, a

Lutheran to preach the Gospel in the Danish possessions in India, and they arrived at

Tranquebar on 9th July 1706 as royal missionaries at the personal expense of the

king.172 Ziegenbalg was born in Pulsnitz, Saxony, (Germany) on 10th July 1682, he

was born to a poor but devout Christian parents.173 He studied at the University of

Halle, the centre for Pietistic movement in the Lutheran Church. He responded to an

appeal from the King of Denmark for missionaries, and in September 1706 he and

Heinrich Pluetshau arrived at Tranquebar on the south-eastern coast of India, the first

Protestant missionaries in India.174

169
C.B. Firth, op.cit., pp.130-131.
170
D.D. Kosambi, Culture and Civilisation of Ancient India, Vikas Publications, Bombay, 1970, pp.
1-3.
171
John Rutherfurd, Missionaries Pioneers in India, Edinburgh Publishers, Edinburgh, 1896, p.2.
172
C.B. Firth, op.cit., p. 131.
173
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartholom%C3%A4us_Ziegenbalg.
174
James E. Kiefer, Biographical sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past, Lutheran Calander,
23 Feb 1914, P.1.
85

Ziegenbalg’s network of ‘charity schools’ or ‘orphan schools’

(dharmappallikkudam), modelled on the Francke175 Weisenhaus prototype in Halle,

was started on 22 March 1707.176 In August 1707, a small mission church was built.

The first Tamil converts, nine in number, were baptised in the following month.177

He set up a printing press, and published studies of the Tamil language and of Indian

religion and culture. His translation of the New Testament into Tamil in 1715, and the

church building that he and his associates constructed in 1718, are still in use today.

He thus became a pioneer in the Western study of South Indian culture, society, and

religion.178 With him, a new epoch in the history of the Christian mission in Tamil

Nadu had begun. His close co-operation with the Society for the Propagation of

Christian Knowledge (an Anglican group) was an early exercise of harmony between

Christian communities in the mission field.179 He was called the father of Modern

Protestant Mission. 180 John Rutherfurd writes that Bartholomew Ziegenbalg is a

morning star of modern missionary movement.”181

175
Francke established first series of school at Halle in 1695. These schools were originally a
charitable institution for the children of beggars and similarly destitute parents. Ref : James van
Horn Melton, Absolutism and the Eighteenth-Century Origins of Compulsory Schooling in
Prussia and Austria, Cambridge University Press, 1988,UK, p.33.
176
Hudson, Protestant Origins in India: Tamil Evangelical Christians, 1706-1835, William B.
Eerdmans , Massachusetts, 2000, pp. 6-9.
177
C.B Firth, op cit., p.133.
178
Gerald H. Anderson, Pioneer German missionary in South India, History of Missiology, Boston
University,(online book), http://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/w-x-y-
z/ziegenbalg-bartholomaus-1682-1719/
179
James E. Kiefer, op.cit., p.2.
180
P. Daniel Jeyaraj, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, the Father of Modern Protestant Mission: An
Indian Assessment, ISPCK, New Delhi, 2006, p.52
181
John Rutherfurd, op.cit., p.1.
86

Later they were joined by a host of other missionaries such as Grundle,

Schultze, Kiernader, Gericke, Schwarkz and others. Grundle and Schulize translated

the scriptures into Tamil and completed the first vernacular Bible in India in the year

A.D. 1727 Kiernander was the first protestant missionary from Sweden who worked

at Cuddalore and later at Bengal. Fabricius gave the Tamils their first hymn book.182

Ziegenbalg died in 1719 at the age of thirty six. He was buried in the New Jerusalem

Church, a beautiful eclectic building the construction of which he had just

completed.183

Christian Frederick Schwartz (1726-1798)

One of the greatest of these early missionaries was Christian Frederick

Schwartz, (1726-1798) ‘the father of the Christian Church in Tanjore and

Tiruchirappalli’. Firth says, “Of all missionaries connected with the Tranquebar

Mission, the best known was C.F. Schwarz.184

He arrived in South India on 16th July 1750 and for nearly half a century

worked unceasingly in these districts until his death in 1798.185 He was sent out by the

Danish mission representing the Society for Propagation of Christian Knowledge

(SPCK). Schwartz was a man of unusual ability. 186 The young Schwartz worked

among Tranquebar congregations and schools. He established a school in every local

182
P. Daniel Jeyaraj, A German Exploration of Indian Society: Ziegenbalg’s ‘Malabarian
Heathenism’, ISPCK, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 34–41.
183
Julius Richter , op.cit., p.163.
184
C.B. Firth, op.cit., P 140.
185
J Mallika Punniyavathi, op.cit., p. 53
186
Gospel for Asia Missions journal, Christian Frederick Schwartz (1726-1798), Early Protestant
Missionary to India, 5/19/2000.
87

congregation, faithfully following the philosophy and formula developed by Francke

in Halle.187 He and his "helpers" then became responsible for all new mission work

south of the Kaveri River. This task involved caring for congregations in Tanjore,

Tiruchirappalli, and Tirunelveli.188 He worked as Chaplain of the British Regiments

kept at Tanjore, Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli. His earnings as the Chaplain were all

spent on establishing schools for orphans and helpless children. Major A. Preston, the

Commander of forces helped Schwartz a big deal in his ministry for the poor and

needy.189

What Schwartz contributed by ministering to the sick, wounded, and dying

sepoys and soldiers was so appreciated, he was given an award of nine hundred

pagodas (gold currency, equivalent to about 360pounds) from the Nawab of the

Carnatic (the Arcot prince whose palace in Tiruchirappalli was then under company

"protection"). 190 These funds were useful for building new schools, including a

special "orphan school" for the neglected offsprings of the soldiers.191

Schwartz and Modern Education

Schwartz's most notable achievements, in modern education and in

government, still lay before him. His scheme for a modern, state-subsidized "public"

system of schools in India began with the Rajahs of Tanjore, Shivaganga, and
187
Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West, Grand
Rapids,Mich,Eerdmans, 2003, pp.15–22
188
Jaques and Wright, Remains of the Rev. C.F. Schwarz Missionary in India, London, 1820, p.6.
189
Ibid., p.4.
190
Hendry and Owen Chadwick (ed), Oxford History of the Christian Church, Christianity in
India- from the beginning to the present, Oxford University press, Oxford, 2008, p.154.
191
Farlex, The legacy of Christian Friedrich Schwartz, Periodicals, International Bulletin of
Missionary Research , the free Library, July 1, 1999, p.2.
88

Ramnad. High schools that he established so impressed the East India Company's

residents at Tanjore that the company's directors in London and its government at Fort

St. George, in Madras, were persuaded to subsidize them, even though none of these

schools lay within company territory.192An affluent Brahmin widow, residing with an

English officer at the company's fort at Palayamkottai (Palamcottah), had appealed to

Schwartz for help. In 1778, having come to Tirunelveli to see for himself, he baptized

her, and christened her Clarinda.193 She later made a personal endowment to pay for

construction of a proper prayer-school building for the new congregation, Schwartz

sent Satyanathan Pillai, one of his most gifted "helpers," to serve as a permanent

resident pastor-teacher and organized one of India's earliest modern "mass

movements" of conversion to Christianity. Thousands turned to the new faith and

suffered severe persecution.194

Schwartz died on 13 February, 1798. Heber later wrote, “He was one of the

most active and fearless, as he was one of the most successful missionaries since the

Apostles.”195

Leipzig Missionary Society

This mission stepped into the shoes of the Tranquebar Mission of the

Lutherans from 1836. Praised as ‘Aristocrat among Missions’ it sought to unite

Lutherans of Europe and America in the great missionary enterprise in India. For
192
Wm. H Price A.M, The life and labors of the Rev. Christian Frederick Schwartz: The great
Lutheran Missionary to India, Lutheran Book Concern, January 1, 1895, p.50.
193
A. Madhaviah, Clarinda:A Historical Novel, Tirunelveli Nambar Vattam, 1915; 2nd edn.1992,
p.47.
194
Jaques and Wright, op.cit., p.7.
195
Thomas Robinson, The Last Days of Bishop Heber, Vepery Mission Press, Madras, 1829, p.55.
89

seventeen years they operated out of Dresden as a branch of the Basel Society.

Leipzig continued to work in the south among the Tamils. They basically carried on

the work begun by Ziegenbalg and Pluetschau and worked with other societies also.

Today, the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) traces their history back

through Leipzig to Ziegenbalg.196

Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC)

On 14th January, 1919, the Tamil Lutheran congregations that had been tended

by Swedish and German missionaries with the assistance of Indian pastors formed the

Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church. Churches of the TELC are the oldest Lutheran

congregations in India, founded by Danish Halle Mission in Tranquebar, a Danish

colony since 1706. Bartholomew Ziegenbalg, Benjamin Schultze, Philip Fabricius,

and Christian Frederick Schwartz were instrumental in providing a strong foundation

for the Lutheran churches among the Tamils in the eighteenth century.197The first

Indian minister to be ordained was Aaron way back in 1730. The Leipzig Evangelical

Lutheran Mission (LELM) continued the mission work of the Tranquebar mission

when the Danish East India Company sold its property to the British East India

Company in 1845.198 Karl Graul (1814–1864), LELM’s first director and a famous

exponent of the concept of Volkskirche, visited India during 1849 and 1853,

strengthening the local churches. Karl Graul opposed the tendency among the

churches connected with English missions in tolerating caste system in the church,

196
Dave Koenig, Lutherans in History of India 1909-2009, (online),
http://lutheranmissions.org/history/history-of-lutherans-in-india-1909-2009/
197
Arno E Lehmann, Lutz(trans), It Began in Tranquebar: The Story of the Tranquebar Mission
and the Beginning of Protestant Christianity in India Published to Celebrate the 250th
Anniversary of the Landing of the Protestant Missionaries at Tranquebar in 1706, Christian
Literature Society, Madras, 1956,p.112.
198
P.Daniel Jeyaraj, “Lutheran Churches in Eighteenth-Century India,” Lutheran Quarterly, 17,
2003, p.90.
90

and he saw caste as a social system that gave a sense of dignity and belonging.199 This

attitude towards caste led to sever his connection with LELM and start Danish

Missionary Society, resulting in emergence of Arcot Lutheran Church among the

Tamil speaking people. The main contribution of LELM was formulation of a

constitution for an independent Tamil Lutheran Church in the second half of the

nineteenth century.200 In formation of the TELC, Tamil Christians played a significant

role right from the days of the arrival of German missionaries in 1706.

Church of Sweden Mission in Tamil Nadu (CSM)

Swedish Lutherans also had contributed toward the emergence of Lutheranism

among the Tamils. They began to assist LELM starting in 1848. In 1874 the Church

of Sweden Mission assumed responsibility for a share of a Tamil field and in the year

1901 a separate Swedish diocese was established in India.201 In 1919 the Church was

formally established adopting Episcopal form of polity. 202 It had many illustrious

missionaries.

John Zacharias Kiernandar(1711-1799) assumed the responsibility of

preaching the gospel and he landed at the shores of Cuddalore of Tamil Nadu in India

on 8th August 1740 AD.203 He was the first Swedish Missionary to come to India. He

turned his attention to Bengal, on 29th September 1758, after he had arrived at

199
Ibid., p.91.
200
Sunder Singh, “The Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Church in India: A Study of its
Relationship to the Movements for the Lutheran Unity, with Special Reference to Tamil Nadu
and Andhra Pradesh,” M.Th. Thesis, Senate of Serampore College 1992, p.42.
201
E.Theodore Bachman and Mercia Brenne Bachmann, Lutheran Churches in the
World: A Handbook, Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1989, p.217.
202
Julius Bodensieck (ed), The Encyclopedia of the Lutheren Church, Auguburg Publishing House,
Minneapolls, 1965, p.117.
203
M. Wilkinson, “Sketches of Christianity in North India”, Seeley Londen, 1786,p.31
91

Calcutta.204 Another missionary of the Church of Sweden mission was Carol Jacob

Sandegren. He was born at Maesinge in Sweden on 1st October 1841. He studied in

Sweden and came to India on 17th November 1869, when missionary Rev. C.T.

Kremmer was the pastor at Chennai. 205 Rev. C.J. Sandegren stayed with him and

served the church. He married Miss Theodara Kremmer, the daughter of Rev. C.T.

Kremmer. This marriage gained significance since it helped the church of Sweden

Mission and Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Mission to work together. Later Sandegren

assumed the responsibility of discharging evangelical and social works in

Coimbatore, Madurai, Virudunagar and Sirkali. Between 1901 and 1915 he was the

president of the church of Sweden Mission council. After a considerable period of

selfless service, he died at Madurai in 1929.206

Missionary Ernest Heuman was born at Halmstad in Sweden on 9th July

1858 and studied at Uppsala. He was ordained on 12th June 1889.207 He reached India

on 14thOctober 1903 and served at Pudukkottai, Mayavaram, Thanjore,

Tiruchirappalliand other places. He was elected as the president of the Church of

Sweden Mission Council in India and he occupied the post from 1916 to 1921.208 The

Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church was constituted in the year 1919 with the native

Tamil Pastorates. The first Synod of the newly constituted Church of TELC was held

in 1919. Dr. Rev. Ernst Heuman of CSM was elected the first Bishop of the Tamil

204
Ibid., p.4.
205
J.S.Ponniah, An Enquiry in to the Economic and Social Problems of the Christian Community
of Madura, Ramnad and Tirunelveli Districts, Madurai, 1938, p.26.
206
J. Mallika Punniyavathi, op.cit., p.55.
207
Richard Fox Young (ed), India and the Indianness of Christianity: Essays on Understanding-
Historical, Theological and Biological-in honor of Robert Eric Frykenberg, Wm,B. publishing
house, U.K, 2009, pp.207-208.
208
Robert Eric Frykenberg, (ed), Christians and Missionaries in India: Cross-Cultural
Communication since 1500, Wm,B. publishing house, U.K, 2008,p.282.
92

Evangelical Lutheran Church and with the name “The Bishop of Tranquebar”, he

servedfrom 1921 to 1926.209

Rev. David Heuman Bexell was born at Barnar in Sweden on 24th August

1861, studied at Lund and Leipzig, and later he was ordained in the year 1887. He

reached India on 30th August 1887. Motivated by the famous Sweden Church

missionaries Peter Fjellstedt and C.A. Quchterlong, he came to India as the Swedish

Church Missionary. Between 1912 and 1916, he served as the President of the Church

of Sweden Mission.210 He was elected as the second Bishop of TELC and served from

1928-1933. He translated the classic Christian literature in to Tamil and published it

in 1933as English -Tamil dictionary, known as Tranquebar Dictionary, which was his

lifetime work. It greatly facilitated for mutual understanding between the Western and

Tamil people, later in the context of their cultural encounters. He worked as a

missionary in several parts of TELC such as Dindigul, Pudukkottai, Madurai,

Chennai, Tiruchirappalli and Coimbatore. He attained eternal peace in 1938 at

Coimbatore.211

Dr. Fredrik Kugelberg was born at Ljungurum in Sweden on 20th September

1890. He studied at Uppsala and Stockholm, arrived in India on 8th December

1905.212 As he was a doctor by profession, he felt the necessity to establish a hospital

at Tiruppatur. As a result of it, he founded the hospital at Tiruppatur (in erstwhile

209
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_Evangelical_Lutheran_Church.
210
Gurukul Lutheran Theological College, http://www.gltc.edu/index.php/9-overview.
211
Religious Tract Society, The Missionary year book for 1889- Containing Historical and
Statistical accounts of the principal Missionary Societies, 1932, London, p. 298.
212
Dr. Fredrick Kulugburg, The Journal of the Christian Medical Association of India, Volume:
38, Christ Medical Association India, Sep 1963.
93

Ramnad District) called “The Swedish Mission Hospital”.213Sister Sonja Person, Dr.

Ysander, Dr. Sendol, Dr. Ericleson, Dr. Wallden and a group of other missionaries

from Sweden who served in this noble ministry developed this hospital with all

facilities and the CSM Hospital became one of the best hospitals in Tamil Nadu.214 A

Home for blind was started in 1971 by Sister Sonja Person. She served two terms

during 1944 - 1959 and 1963 - 1983 in Tirupattur. A school for blind children was

started in 1972 by Sister Sonja and it got upgraded as a Middle school in 1979. Miss.

Brigitta Enval served as the Manager of the School till 2007. In 1926, a nursing

school was opened by Sister Wilche.215

Missionary Rev. Paul Sandegren a pioneer missionary of the Church of

Sweden Mission was called Paul Apostle because he sacrificed and devoted his whole

life to the poor people of Tamil Nadu. Between 1915 and 1925, he served at various

places such as Madurai, Virudunagar, Chinaiypuram, Chinna kollai and Sathur.216 In

1920, conflict between the police and the Kallar community began in the same place.

This struggle in Nadukkottai led to abnormal agitation in surrounding areas. The

British Government notified the Kallar community as a criminal tribe. 217 In this

critical situation, Rev. Paul Sandegren entered into the areas and helped them. After

this incident, most of them changed their attitudes and behaviors. His services to this

particular community were wonderful. Rev. Paul Sandegren built a beautiful church at

Usilampatti. The four pillars that stand outside this church represent the four gospel

213
http://ashokism.blogspot.in/2006/06/swedish-mission-hospital-campus-at.html.
214
Proceedings of the CSM Indian Missionaries conference 14-16.2.1932. (unpublished).
215
Religious Tract Society, op.cit., p.299.
216
J. Mallika Punniyavathi, op.cit., P.56.
217
Criminal Tribe Act (CTA), an All India Act, was originally meant to control tribes which made
crime a tribal profession and amongst whom there was no sense that crime was a wrong or
undesirable thing, thus proving to be addicts to the systematic commission of non-bailable offences.
Originally passed in 1871, it was extended to the Madras presidency with certain amendments as
Act III of 1911 on the basis of the recommendations of the Indian Police Commission appointed in
1902-03.
94

workers and the twelve pillars of the Holy Redeemer’s Lutheran Church at the rear

side of Union Christian Higher secondary school, Madurai, represent the twelve

Disciples of Christ. He entered into eternal rest in the year 1972.218

Missionary Esther Peterson (1890 - 1960)

India experienced many social evils in the society such as sati, female

infanticide, child marriage, prevention of widow remarriage and denial of educational

and property rights to women. In this situation, Esther Peterson rendered priceless

service to uplift the women of Tamil Nadu219.

Missionary Miss Ellen Nordmark


She was born on 14th July 1902 at Sweden and she came to India as a

missionary in 1938. She was basically a teacher and a pastor. She had closely

associated herself in educating women.220 The establishment of the Girl’s High school

and Women Teachers Training Institute at Usilampatti are the significant

contributions of Nordmark. 221 During the period of World Wars, the German

missionaries could not serve in India because Germany was against the British. Evan

at this critical juncture, Swedish Missionaries carried out the mission works with

greater responsibility, managed the mission properties and mission works

effectively.222 It is the most significant period in the History of Christian Missionaries

in Tamil Nadu.223

218
The Forty Ninth Report of the Basel German Evangelical Missionary Society in South
Western India for 1888, The Basel Mission Press, Mangalore, 1889.
219
Ibid., p.58.
220
Flora Gnanamanickam, “My Experiences at Usilampatti,” Arunodhayam (Tamil), a Christian
Journal, Christmas Issue, January 1958, p. 11.
221
Refer chapter II for more details.
222
J.S. Ponniah, op. cit., p. 27.
223
J. Mallika Punniyavathi, op cit., p57.
95

American Madura Mission

From the time of Jonathan Edwards (1725- 1750),224 a revival in Christianity

led to the formation of new churches and strong missionary societies in the United

States of America.225 The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions

(ABCFM), the first mission sending organisation in North America was established in

June 1810, under the Charter, granted by the Massachusetts General Court.226This

came into existence largely through the appeal of five young men227 who held the

famous ‘Hay Stack’228 meeting in 1800 at William College in Massachusetts, USA.

All of them had finished their training at Andovar Theological Seminary 229 and

wanted to be sent as missionaries.230 American Madura Mission (AMM) as a body of

the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions231 (ABCFM) with its

headquarters at Boston, in Massachusetts State of the United States of America,232

224
Jonathan Edwards was an extraordinary writer. By many estimates, he was the most acute early
American philosopher and the most brilliant of all American theologians. At least three of his many
works. viz: Religious Affections, Freedom of the Will, and The Nature of True Virtue stand as
masterpieces in the larger history of Christian literature. George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards-
A Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 1939, p.1.
225
Annual Report of the American Madura Mission, un.pub., 1899, P.14.
226
Bengt Sundkler, Church of South India, the movement towards union, 1900-1947, London,
1965, P.20.
227
Founders of ABCFM : Mr. Adoniram Judson, Mr.Samuel Nott, Mr. Samuel J.Mills, Mr. Samuel
Newell and Rev.Luther Rice , (ref) Rufus Anderson, Memorial Volume of the First Fifty Years of
ABCFM, ABCFM Board, Massachusetts,1863,p.39.
228
Hay Stack was a place where the American Reformist Church Missionaries used to meet for
discussions and to decide on the mission actions for the future.
229
Andover Theological Seminary is located in Newton, Massachusetts and is the oldest graduate
school of theology in the United States.
230
The American College Calendar, Madurai, 1983-1984, P.13.
231
The Religious Trust Society, The Missionary year Book for 1889, containing historical and
statistical account of the principal Protestant Missionary Societies, London, p. 311.
232
Melen Voglesan Banninga, A Sketch of the life work of John J.Banninga in Pasumalai, South
India, 1910-1942, California, 1961 (No page number given).
96

was established as an offshoot of Jaffna Mission233 in 1834, sent missionaries to the

Madurai area to work with churches and institutions.234 They made efforts aiming at

social change especially through the social upliftment of the depressed classes,

education of the masses and medical services. They strongly felt the prevalence of

social evils especially suppression of women, female infanticide, superstitious beliefs

and caste discrimination and dedicated themselves for their abolition.

Selection of Madurai and Formation of American Board of Missionaries

Among the territorial segments in the south, Madurai occupied a prominent

place. It remained the cradle of Tamil literature, learning and culture.235 When the

American missionaries entered Madurai, they found the schools for Brahmin students

patronised by the kings of Vijaya Nagar Empire and Madurai had already

degenerated. 236 The AMM missionary Mr. Spaulding landed at Devipatnam near

Ramnad on 10th January 1834.237 Later he made a detour through Tirunelveli as well

233
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was the first foreign mission
sending agency in North America. It sent its first missionaries in 1812 to India. Upon reaching India
and being denied entry, some in the group went to other locations in the area. Samuel and his wife
Harriet Newell tried to start a station outside of British territory on the Isle of France, but Harriet
soon died during childbirth. When Samuel tried to re-enter India, he was diverted to Ceylon where
he was the initial missionary of the ABCFM Ceylon mission. The first ABCFM missionaries to
Madurai came from this Ceylon mission. Samuel and Roxana Nott and Gordon Hall found went to
Bombay where they started covert mission work. Adoniram and Ann Judson and Luther Rice had
decided to become Baptists during the voyage to the East and soon resigned from the service of the
ABCFM. Eventually the Judsons made their way to Serampore to work with the Baptist mission.
Rice returned to the United States to solicit aid for the establishment and maintenance of a Baptist
Mission in India. Ref: Oliver Wendell Elsbree, The Rise of the Missionary Spirit in America
1790-1815 ,The Williamsport Printing and Binding Col. Williamsport,1928, pp.114-118.
234
Annual Report, ABCFM, 175th year, New York, 1936, P.1
235
Dr.B.Sobhanan, A History of Christian Mission in South Kerala Historical Society,
Thiruvanathapuram, 1996, P.77.
236
J.S.Chandler, Seventy-five years in the Madura Mission : a history of the mission in South
India under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, Boston,
Massachusetts, U.S.A., American Madura Mission,Madras,1910,p.29.
237
The American Missionaries who went to Madurai were the Rev. Levi Spaulding, the Rev. William
and Mrs. Lucy Brownell Todd, Rev. Henry Hoisington, Francis Asbury, Edward Warren I and
Edward Warren II, from Ceylon, were also part of the original group.
97

as Travancore and reached Madurai on 8th February. 238 The following Sunday, he

preached to a small congregation in Tamil. He developed a thought of commencing a

new missionary station at Madurai, which was a popular city of ancient Kings and the

seat of Brahminical influence in Tamil Nadu, where the Roman Catholics had already

laboured and gained many converts. The finding that no permanent Protestant

Missionary labour had been bestowed in Madurai till then, made Spaulding spearhead

successfully.239After a long and deep study, Madurai was selected as the most suitable

place for founding a Mission and it became the head quarters of the American Madura

Mission later.240

Then Spaulding returned to Jaffna and wrote from there to his Mission head

quarters about his desire and feasibility to start a new missionary station in such a

popular district, the city of the ancient Pandyas.241 When the Mission was opened, the

missionaries had to make the journey to India in ships coming around South Africa, a

journey which took nearly three to four months.242There were no Railways in India

and the journey from Madras to Madurai had to be made in bullock carts which took

238
The beginning of the AMM corresponded directly with the 1833 act of the British Parliament
establishing a new charter for the East India Company. In the past, the East India Company had
discouraged mission because of the fear of upsetting people and discouraging trade. This 1833
Charter now permitted and encouraged the Company to extend their realm of influence in India
from commercial transactions to promoting also the moral and educational "civilization" of India.
This gave American missionaries permission to legally enter India and establish institutions. Ref:
James Hough, The History of Christianity in India from the Commencement of the Christian
Era Hatchard & Son. Nosbet and Co., London,1865, p.193; quoted in B. Sobhanan. "The
American Madura Mission" in A History of the Christian Missions in South India, ed.
Historical Society, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 1996,p.140.
239
J.S.Chandler, op.cit., p.36.
240
J.S.Chandler, American Madura Mission, Report, Vol, I 1834-1884, Madurai, 1886. p.7.
241
Majumdar, An Advanced History of India, T.K. Sengupta, Mac Millan Indian Press, Madras 1979,
p.23.
242
Ibid.,p.118
98

two weeks at least. 243 On July 31st, 1834, three American missionaries landed at

Madurai. They were Rev. and Mrs. Williams Todd, and Rev. Hendry Hosington.244

Todd and Hosington appointed themselves mutually as officers of the Mission. Todd

became the President and Treasurer and Hosington acted as the Secretary and Auditor

of the treasurer’s account.245

The aim of the American missionaries was to proselytize the Gospel, plant

churches and nurture them to Christian maturity. They carried their objectives with

the help of preachers, catechists, school teachers, press and doctors. Though they

came with the prime motive of ‘Christianizing’ the natives, the means and modes

246
adopted by them to achieve their goal needed special reference. Their

proselytisation activities mainly cantered on evangelical, educational, medical and

social aspects. For several years, the policy of the mission was to introduce

knowledge of Christianity among the people by means of free schools.247 Mrs. Lucy

Todd was not lucky in realising her dream of opening a school for girls because of her

premature death on 11th September, 1835, at the age of 35. On February 16, of the

same year, other reinforcement came to Madurai. Among them were Mrs. Eckard,

Mrs. Lawrence, Mrs. Poor and Mrs. Hall. Like Mrs. Todd they had come from Ceylon

where years of labour and hardship had already undermined their health.248

243
Annual Report of the American Madura Mission, 1900, p.160.
244
W. Francis., op.cit., pp 77-78.
245
J.S.Chandler, Seventy-five years..., op.cit., p.39.
246
B. Sobhanan, op.cit., p.144.
247
W.Francis. op.cit., p 78.
248
Capron Hall School Magazine, 1950, p.15.
99

The Foundation Period, 1835-1851

Mrs and Mr Todd and three native assistants were at work in the beginning of

1835. They had to face several difficulties posed in the new mission field. They

cleared the ground for foundations of future mission work. 249 Mr. Eckard was

appointed the secretary of the mission. Their aim is to establish far-reaching school

system in and around Madurai as early as possible.250 They learnt Tamil language,

spending much of their time, and began to preach in Tamil which helped them to

reach the natives. The methods and contents of their mission efforts were based on

their own cultural background. As they understood that ‘a claim on Tamil is a claim

on the hearts of the natives’, they attached importance to vernacular schools. Daniel

Poor was the instrument for foundation of Mission schools in Madurai. He arrived on

18th of October 1835 and lost no time in making enquiries and getting information. In

1836 there were 37 schools in Madurai and the villages around it. They were

increased to 59 in 1837. In three years, since the commencement of the mission, its

schools were educating half the school-going children of Madurai.251The Mission’s

work was extended to Dindigul and Tirumangalam in 1836, to Tirupavanam in 1838,

and to Sivaganga in 1839.252The boarding schools which were responsible for the

success of A.M.M. helped in moulding the character and life style of the students.

The Personal Period, 1852-1871

In this period thrust was on rural areas. The neutral religious policy of the

British brought restriction in the educational work of missionaries. However, when

249
J.S.Chandler, Seventy-five years..., op.cit., p.40.
250
The missionary year Book for 1889, op.cit., pp. 314-315.
251
Ibid., p.47
252
Idem., p.51
100

the people realised the importance of mission schools which fetched them jobs, they

appealed to AMM to undertake more ventures. After studying the problems of

widows and orphans, Madura Widows’ Aid Society was established to provide

pecuniary aids to them. They openly challenged certain social evils and obtained

success in putting an end to it. 253 Missionaries overlooked the early difficulties

oflanguage, climate, food habits, culture, etc., during this period and prepared

themselves to undergo any task that had confronted them. Wives of the missionaries

and single women missionaries visited homes, met the women and worked for their

upliftment. Lot of missionaries came to serve in AMM during this period.

Period of Rapid Development (1872-1909)

When Indian National Congress gained popularity, the Christians joined it and

the missionaries even sympathised with the movement. The emphasis too shifted from

the regeneration of the individual to that society through the gospel. Their efforts

resulted in the mass movements of depressed classes into Christianity. Even during

the period of rapid development, the American Madura Mission visualised to

diversify their activities on all fronts-medical, educational and social works. They laid

more emphasis on the rural population for achieving the meaningful life for them. In

fact their techniques to win over the different categories through self respect and self

reliance helped them give training in industrial work.254

253
F.E. Jeffery, The Eighty First Annual Report of the AMM-1915, Methodist Publishing House,
Madras, 1916, P.59.
254
F.E. Jeffery, The Sixty Fourth Annual Report of the AMM-1898, A.M. Mission Press, Pasumalai,
1899, p. 42.
101

Transition between Rapid Development and Transfer of Mission Work

(1910-1924)

The front line leaders of the mission noticed the mental attitude of people

under slavery and servitude particularly due to the control of the British rule. They

foresaw the danger of the educated elite alienating themselves from the agricultural

labourers and the emergence of gulf between Brahmins and non-Brahmins. The world

war brought the lives of people to a calamitous level and caused miseries to the

missionaries.255 Their travel and the back and forth movement to America were much

hindered. The non-co-operation movement initiated by the Indian National Congress,

aimed at social change through the removal of untouchability and others which were

synonymous with the effort of AMM. The justice party also worked on similar lines

and for all these the missionaries were the pioneers of social justice who toiled for the

uplift of lower castes. The American Missionaries in general stood with the legal

claim of a free India for socio-political advancement and hence the government

monitored their activities. The missionaries also wanted the native Christians to be

independent with the sense of equality and freedom when receiving the responsibility

and power from them. They also wanted the women to be self sufficient and hence

they taught them employable skills. 256 The Rachanayapuram School served as an

abode for abandoned women, widows and new converts. They sensed the emergence

of national unity and passion for political liberty due to the new awakening.

255
J.S.Chandler, Seventy-five years..., op.cit., p. 287.
256
M.S.Blaufuss, Changing Goals of the American Madura Mission, 1830-1916, New York, 2002,
p.149.
102

Transfer of Missions Work (1925-1934)

The final phase of the Mission was the transfer of Mission work undertaken

between 1925 and 1934. Blaming the Congress for the stronghold of landlordism and

capitalism, self respect and communist movements emerged. The self respect

movement fought against untouchablity, casteism and capitalism similar to that of the

missionaries. When some of the Indian pastors supported national movement, the

collector of Madurai directed the Missionaries to take appropriate action. The

missionaries taught democratic principles and as a special case the students elected

their leaders.257 Even among the Kallar boys who studied in boarding schools, there

occurred no thefts. The native Christians believed that they would follow the mission

for which the missionaries had come initially.

In 1934, the AMM celebrated its centenary by creating the Madura Mission

Sangam to which the AMM with the approval and urging of the ABCFM handed over

its authority. 258 The Madura Mission Sangam consisted of missionary, church and

institutional delegates: twenty-four Indians, eighteen Americans, twenty-five men and

seventeen women. 259 It was organized in committees to carry out the work of all

departments formerly in the AMM. The only exception was the American College

that was governed by its own board. The AMM continued as a body and the ABCFM

and its successor bodies in the United States continued to send missionaries to the

Madurai area to work with churches and institutions for another half

257
Ibid., p.289.
258
John Banninga, Centenary Celebrations, January 11-14, 1934, Lenox Press, Madurai, 1934,p. 3
259
Dorothy Lockwood, Glimpses 1929-1980, The Lockwoods, January 1934, p. 33.
103

century. 260 Today, the AMM no longer exists as a legal entity. Churches and

institutions established during the time of the AMM are now part of the Madurai-

Ramnad Diocese of the Church of South India.

Eminent Missionaries in American Madura Mission

Rev. Banninga (1901-1942)

He was a notable person who served for a long time. He worked as the

Secretary of the American Madura Mission, the Chairman of Madurai Church

Committees, Principal of the Bible School, President of the United South Indian

Churches and in many other positions. John X. Miller, a Scott, came as an American

Missionary and worked for the improvement of Pasumalai School.261 He started the

Trade School at Pasumalai. His wife Mrs. Margaret Miller loved the children who

were sick and poor and she earned the name “Mother Miller”. Dr. R. A. Dudley

started boarding schools at various places and encouraged the churches to serve the

society. He worked as the Secretary of the American Mission. He made arrangements

for the Bible School to obtain income from the Churches.262

Daniel Poor

He was instrumental in establishing Mission schools in Jaffna as well as in

Madurai in 1836. He arrived at Madurai on 18th October 1835 and immediately after
260
In 1961, the ABCFM became part of United Church Board for World Ministries (UCBWM) in
connection with the church union that formed the United Church of Christ in 1957. This UCBWM
merger included the mission and service agencies of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the
Congregational Christian Churches. Ref: David Stowe, A Brief History of the United Church
Board for World Ministries, New York: UCBWM, 1984. In 1996, the UCBWM covenanted to
work in partnership with the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church/Disciples of
Christ. This programmatic and decision-making body is called the Common Global Ministries
Board. During the re-structuring process of the United Church of Christ in 2000, the UCBWM
became part of the Wider Church Ministries division of church administration.
261
J.S.Chandler, op.cit., p.294.
262
Stanley Vaughan.C., Seventy Sixth Annual Report of the AMM-1910, American Mission Lenox
Press, Pasumalai, 1911, p. 48.
104

his arrival, he visited the schools already existing in Madurai and analysed their

function. He conducted meetings for the natives and educated them about their

services. Though he came on an initial assignment for three months after observing

the conditions at Madurai, he requested the Board for transferring more of services to

Madurai. The types of schools included free schools, English schools, Boarding

schools, Girl’s schools, Boarding school for girls, Theological seminary. He worked

for five years at Madurai and went to Sri Lanka. As he was taking care of the cholera

affected people, he died at the age of 66 in February 1855.263

Rev. William Tracy

William Tracy was born on 2nd June 1807 in the USA. At the age of thirty, he

came to India as ABCFM missionary with his wife Emily. In 1836 he had studied at

Andover Newton Theological School. He served as the first principal of Pasumalai

Theological Seminary. When he took efforts towards removal of caste discrimination

in the church, he and his wife were attacked. He worked in the AMM from 1837 to

1877. He spent first five years to learn Tamil and socio-economic condition of Tamil

society. He replaced the palm scripts with printed books in mission schools. At the

age of seventy, on 22nd November 1877, he died in his residence at Thirupuvanam.264

Horace S Taylor

He came with his wife Martha Taylor to Madurai on 11th October 1844. He

started mission work at Thirupuvanam and played a major role in establishing the

263
Ibid., p.47.
264
William Tracy, Madura, to Rufus Anderson, Boston, 4 April 1848, Transcript in the hand of
William Tracy, "Papers of the ABCFM," ABCFM 16.1.9. Houghton Library, Harvard University.
105

sanatorium at Kodaikanal. Miss Martha S Taylor, his daughter came to Madurai and

did mission work at Madapasalai. He was instrumental in creating ten churches and

orientation of five pastors. After illness, he died at the age of fifty seven on 3rd

February 1871.265

Rev. John Rendall

John Rendall joined the AMM on 29th April 1846. He wanted to establish

churches in all the four sides of Madurai North, South, West and East gates of

Madurai. As he planned and maintained financial dealings of the Mission efficiently,

he was popularly known as Ideal Treasurer. In 1857, he started the unique practice of

circulating papal books among the missionaries for sharing their problems and

experiences they came across during her Mission work. Jane B Rendall, his wife died

during his journey to America.266

William B. Capron

William Banfield Capron was born in Uxbridge, Massachusetts on 14th April

1824. His education took him to Phillips Academy, Yale (1848), and Andover

Theological Seminary, (1856). He was an ordained Evangelist upon his graduation

from Seminary. During his days as a student, William was a private tutor in Baltimore

for one year and Principal of Hopkins Grammar School in Hartford, Connecticut for

six years. Sarah B. Hooker a female missionary graduated from Wheaton Seminary in

Massachusetts married William Capron on 1st October 1856. Over the course of their

marriage, the Caprons had 3 children. On 24th November 1856 the Caprons sailed to

265
S.C. Bartlett, Historical Sketch of the missions of the American Board, American Board, Boston,
1876, p.29.
266
J.S.Chandler, Seventy-five years..., op.cit., p.261.
106

Ceylon, India as missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign

Mission. Arriving in Madras in March of 1857, they laboured in Madurai,

Tirupuvanum and Manamadurai for the next sixteen years. From 1872 to 1875, the

Caprons visited America, returning to the field in January 1875. William Capron died

the following year on 6th October 1876 of heart disease. Sarah Capron lingered in

India for ten years,267 before returning to America in 1886. She remained active in

religious, educational and medical work until her death in 1919.268

Rev. L.L. Larbeer

Rev. L.L. Larbeer hailed from German ancestors. He came to India as a

Missionary of AMM at his young age. He worked very hard for the growth of the

churches and education. He was the man who started the “Love Divine” in Pasumalai

which was a channel to make thousands and thousands know the true love of Christ,

every year. Miss. M.T. Noyes was the second daughter of Rev. Joseph Tucker Noyes.

She lived for sixty six years and toiled for forty years in upliftment of women’s

education at Madurai city.269

Rev. Dr. Frank Van Allen

He was born in Dubuque, Iowa on 10th January 1860. After finishing his

education from Yale Medical School in 1885, he studied at Yale Theological School

upto May 1888. He departed for India with his wife Harriet Gurnee on 13th October

1888. Till his death in 1823 he worked in the hospitals of AMM as a medical Doctor.

He was instrumental in establishing the Albert Victor Hospital. His wife suddenly
267
J.S.Chandler, Seventy-five years..., op.cit., p. 160.
268
Congregational Library and Archives, Capron, William Banfield (1824-1876) and Sarah Brown
Capron (1828-1919). Papers, 1830-1876, un.pub., (n.p)
269
Twenty Ninth Annual Report of the American Board of Commission on Foreign Missions,
Crocker & Brewster, Boston, 1837, P.89.
107

died of cholera on 5th June 1911. In spite of his deteriorating health, he decided to

continue his service in India. He died at Melur near Madurai on 28th August 1923. 270

It was the American missionaries who introduced changes in the schools and

they took effort to start more institutions to extend education to the masses aiming at

enlightenment and social change. The literacy movement initiated by the missionaries

became people oriented and brought amelioration for the women and weaker sections

of the society. Admission of low caste children in missionary schools and opening of

girls’ schools created discontent among the natives. The school system introduced by

the A.M.M was brought to the attention of British parliament in 1845. The

contributions of American missionaries to primary education were remarkable. It was

offered not only to Christians but also to the caste- Hindus, girls and outcastes.

Through their mission they were able to remove the strings of caste discrimination

and social stigma through education.271

The Christian Missions rendered exemplary services and prepared the grounds

for their future course of action. The ever growing trend of promoting education

depended on bringing people within the circle of Christianity. Religion was a

motivating power and Gods call was the guiding spirit, which made the missionaries

work selflessly in Madurai area. In their ministries to the needy more emphasis was

given to the value of universal brotherhood and to serve the humanity beyond the pale

of the Church. Missions had their own apostolate and charisms based on which they

were serving many target groups, especially the women folk. So from the beginning

of the missions, social and humanitarian consideration encouraged their religious

270
Church of South India..., op.cit., p. 8.
271
Delphin Prema Dhanaseeli, American Madura Mission, Services Rendered by American
Missionaries at Madurai (1834-1934), Serials Publications, New Delhi, p. 225.
108

activities. The history of Christianity in India is viewed as an integral part of the socio

– cultural history of the Indian People. The contribution of the Christian missionaries

towards the abolition of the social evils especially against women will go permanently

in the annals of the history of Tamil Nadu. Conversion to Christianity was only

secondary, but making the natives worthy human beings was the primary aim of these

missionaries. The Missionaries in addition to their prime objective of evangelism

strove as lovers of humanity to achieve something more enduring. Though the social

evils were opposed by the government officials and broad-minded Hindu leaders, they

hesitated to act against the social and religious belief of the people due to lack of will

and courage. Yet, the Christian missionaries vehemently condemned these social evils

and toiled for their abolition. Though the missionaries had come with the mission of

evangelising the natives they never indulged in forced conversion. They were much

concerned in promoting Christian values and love of Christ among the natives. In

such a process, they attracted more individuals and on certain occasions, groups of

people came voluntarily and embraced Christianity after relinquishing their earlier

evil customs and practices. In the absence of modern roads and transports,

missionaries used to walk miles together every day and personally attended to the

needs of the people and empowered them socially, spiritually and culturally, obeying

the command of their heavenly Lord. The impact of western ideas and the efforts of

Christian missionaries served a remedy to improve the victims of exploitation,

ignorance, ill health, poverty, social injustice and inequity.