Armenian Churches of West Bengal
Armenian Churches of West Bengal
A compilation of Armenian Churches in West Bengal
Also see my blog posts on Armenians of Calcutta (Kolkata)
The Armenians have been connected with India as traders from the days of antiquity. They came to this country by the overland route, through Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet and werewell established in all the commercial centers long before the advent of any European traders. However, the Armenian community prospered and developed during the 16th right up to the 18th century.
Armenian community sought to reestablish their socio-cultural identity and not just restrict themselves to be a vibrant commercial community. This was one of the reasons that urged them to build churches in their settlements and invite priests. The Church was considered as the centre of all community activities.
In India, wherever they build settlements, they constructed churches. Today, all over India, one can find many beautiful Armenian churches, chapels and historical monuments standing as mute witnesses or silent sentinels of a once-flourishing Armenian settlement. Presently West Bengal alone houses four Armenian Churches in Calcutta (Kolkata) and surrounding areas.
Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth
Armenian Street, Calcutta (Kolkata)
The Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, popularly known as Armenian Church, was built in 1724 has the distinction of being the oldest church in Calcutta (Kolkata).
Over the years the Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) has undergone several modification and extension, including the inclusion of the clock tower. Sadly Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) oldest church is nothing much spectacular in design and beauty, but it’s compound shaded with ancient mango & jamun trees serves as an oasis of peace amoungst one of Calcutta’s (Kolkata’s) bussiest locality.
The Armenian Church of Calcutta (Kolkata) is surrounded by a graveyard contain a large number of graves, among which the most interesting, or rather controversial, is the grave of Rezabeebeh Sookias who departed from this world on 11th June 1630, making it the oldest Christian grave of Calcutta (Kolkata). But historian claims that the mortal remains of Mrs Sookias were removed to the Armenian Church graveyard at a later date.
Regular services are held at the church. The Armenian Christmas which is celebrated on 6 Jan is the most sort after event. Also the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is held at the Armenian Church compound on 24 April.
St. Greogory the Illuminator Armenian Church
Park Circus, Calcutta (Kolkata)
Located on the lanes and by – lanes just of the Park Circus 7 point crossing the St. Greagory the Illuminator Armenian Church is extremely difficult to spot. It shares its boundary wall with the lower Circular Road Cemetery.
St. Gregory, the Illuminator, Armenian Chapel was constructed in 1906 by the funds raised by the Indian Armenian Community.
The complex also houses an old age home named after an eminent Calcutta Armenian Catchick Paul Chater. The complex also contain several graves of the Chater family. The complex is beautifully decorated with lawns, flowerbeds and marble statues. It can be considered as an oasis of peace in one of the chaotic locations of Calcutta (Kolkata).
The Calcutta Armenians celebrate their Easter in the St. Greagory the Illumanator Church where on Good Friday they recreate the burial of Christ.
Holy Trinity Armenian Church
Tangra, Calcutta (Kolkata)
Located on the Eastern fringes of Calcutta Tangra houses Calcutta’s New Chinatown and is a hunting ground for foodies looking out for authentic Chinese food. The Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Tangra is approached from the Math Pukur bus stop on E M Bypass.s
The 1867 built small but elegant Holy Trinity Armenian Church is located in a beautiful compound which also houses a Armenina graveyard. The oldest grave dates back to 1867 and most of the graves are decorated with statues of beautiful angels and floral ornamentation. The compound also contains beautiful manicured lawns complete with flowerbeds and fountain.
Over the years the Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Tangra has undergone several changes, extensions and renovations. In 2007 the church and graves were reconstructed. After the renovation his Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians presented the church with a “khatchkar” (cross-stone) from Holy Etchmiadzin.
St. John the Baptist Armenian Church
Chinsurah (Chuchura), Hooghly
The Armenians in Bengal didn’t restrict themselves to Calcutta (Kolkata) alone. As a flourishing business community they traded with other European communities like the Dutch and French.
Located in Chinchura (Chuchura) St. John the Baptist Armenian Church was completed in 1697 it happens to be the second oldest Church (only next to Bandel Church) in West Bengal.
The foundation stone was laid by Khojah Johannes Margar of Julfa in 1695. The church was completed in 1697 by his brother Joseph/Hovsep and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, in memory of the deceased brother Johannes. The church compound contains a graveyard, with several graves including the one of Khojah Johannes Margar, who died suddenly on 27 November 1697.
The clock tower was erected in 1822 through the munificence of Mrs. Sophia Bagram, a pious Armenian lady of Kolkata, in memory of her husband Simon Phanoos Bagram.
The Calcutta Armenians and the students of Armenian College visits the St. John the Baptist Armenian Church on a pilgrimage on the Sunday after the Armenian Christmas, which is held on 6 January.
St. Mary Armenian Church
The Armenians also had there presence in Murshidabad and surrounding areas. The St. Mary Armenian Church of Saidabad, near Baharampur, was constructed in 1758 by Khoja Petros Arathoo. He constructed the church at his own expense in memory of his parents and brothers.
A prominent Armenian merchant benefactor who was a resident in Saidabad was Manatsaken Vardon. He was the Founder of the Armenian Philanthropic Academy, which was inaugurated on April 2, 1821. Manatsaken Vardon passed away on October 13, 1827 and is buried in the church at Saidabad.
The church closed down after its last sermon in 1860. In 2005, the newly elected Church Committee of Kolkata carried out a major restoration programme the likes of which has never been witnessed in the annals of the Armenian community of India.
Today Armenians from Calcutta (Kolkata) along with the students of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy visit the St. Mary Armenian Church regularly and services are carried out. The most sort after event is the “Blessing of the Grapes Ceremony,” which happeens in the mid August.
Other Armenian Churches in Indian Subcontinent:
- St. Mary Armenian Church, Madras (Chenni)
- St. Peter Armenian Church, Bombay (Mumbai)
- Armenian Chapel, Delhi
- Armenian Apostolic Church of the Holy Resurrection, Dhaka