Armenian (St. John, the Baptist) Church, Chinsurah
St. John, the Baptist, Armenian Church, Chinsurah
Annual Pilgrimage of Calcutta Armenians to Chinsurah (Chuchura)
Also see: Armenians of Calcutta (Kolkata)
Every year on the Sunday after the Armenian Christmas, which is celebrated on 6 Jan, the handful of Calcutta (Kolkata) Armenians along with the students of the Armenian College make an annual pilgrimage to the St. John, the Baptist, Armenian Church in the erstwhile Dutch settlement of Chinsurah (Chuchura).
The St. John, the baptist, Armenian Church in Chinsurah (Chuchura) was founded in 1695 and happens to be second oldest Christian Church, only next to the Bandel Churchin West Bengal (WB).
Chinsurah (Chuchura), a Dutch colony till 1825, was a flourishing port and no wonder it attracted the attention of the trading community of Armenians.
The foundation stone of the St. John, the Baptist Church 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. Sadly the clock has long vanished.
Today there are no Armenians left in Chinsurah (Chuchura) and the Aremian Church of St. John, the Baptist is generally kept under lock and key.
Every year on the Sunday after the Armenian Christmas, which is celebrated on 6 Jan, the entire Armenian community of Calcutta along with the students of the Armenian College make an annual pilgrimage to the church, and it is the only day in the year the church is open.
The pilgrims carry with them the golden hand of St. John, the Baptist, who is said to have baptised Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan River. The Golden hand contains the relic, a piece of bone from the right hand of St. John, the baptist, the very hand that baptised Christ!!!
The Golden Hand is kept the Armenian Church of Holy Nazareth at Calcutta (Kolkata) and is only taken out during the annual pilgrimage to Chinsurah (Chuchura).
The Mass at the St. John, the Baptist Church begins at about 11:00 am and continues for about two hours. The mass is followed by lunch and social gathering.
In 2014, 12 Jan happened to be the day of the annual Armenian pilgrimage to Chinsurah. The prayer was led by Fr. Zaven Yazichyan, the pastor (priest) of Armenians in India and was assisted by two other priest and the boys of the Armenian Collage. The mass progressed with the singing of the choir and occasional ringing of the Church bells..
The Golden Hand of St’ John was the centre of attraction and the mass ended with the Armeninas pilgrims kissing the Golden Hand, containing a piece of bone from the right hand of St. John, the baptist, the very hand that baptised Jesus.