A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Armenian Churches of India

The Armenian Diaspora is broad and in some cases quite ancient, but were you aware of the network of Armenian churches in India? I certainly wasn't. From the website of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy in Kolkata (ex-Calcutta). They do get around. I'm not sure now where I got this link (though probably via an Armenian friend on social media somewhere), but thanks, and in time for Christmas.

From the site:

2 Armenian Street, Kolkata – 700 001, WB, India

Among all the Armenian Apostolic churches in India, The Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, the oldest Armenian church in Kolkata, plays a unique and important role as it is considered to be the Mother Church of the Indian Armenians. St. John’s Church, the first Armenian church was built by the contribution of the people, on June 22, 1688. But, unfortunately, being a wooden structure, the church was completely destroyed by a devastating fire in 1707. Seventeen years later, in 1724, The Holy Church of Nazareth was built on the old burial ground of the Armenian community by Agha Nazar, hence its name, Nazareth’s church. The architect was an Armenian from Iran named Mr. Levon Ghevond. The belfry and the steeple were added ten years later in 1734 by Mr. Manuel Hazarmall. In 1763 the church was repaired and renovated by Khojah Petros Arratoon, who also embellished the church and built two altars, one on the right hand side of the main altar, in memory of his brother Gorgin Khan, the Minister and Commander-in-Chief of Nawab Mir Kasim of Bengal (1760-1763) and the other on the left hand side, in his own memory. Khojah Petros Arratoon was called “the earthly god of the Armenians in Calcutta” by Joseph Emin. In 1789, Agha Catchik Arakiel presented an English clock to the church which he had ordered from the firm of Alexander Hare of London. The clock arrived in Kolkata in 1792 and was fixed in the clock tower, but Arakiel, who built the surrounding walls and added the houses for the clergy, did not live to see it as he passed away on July 25, 1790. A special feature of the churchyard is the tomb of Rezabeebeh, the wife of the late Sookias. This tomb, dated July 21, 1630 is said to be the earliest Christian tomb in Kolkata.

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