Armenian Church Kolkata Announcement of Celebration
Posted 19 May 2008 - 10:19 AM
Events to Celebrate the 300th anniversary
Of the laying of the foundation stone of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, Kolkata
The Committee of Armenian Church in Kolkata is delighted to announce the celebration of the historic 300th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Holy Church of Nazareth in 1707, between the 8th November and 15th November 2008, in Kolkata.
Included in the events is the re-consecration of the equally historic St. Mary’s Church in Chennai (formerly Madras), the birthplace of Armenian newspaper journalism, which has recently been renovated.
The Committee of the Armenian Church takes this opportunity to extend an invitation to all those who are interested to participate in these events to join in this special and unique occasion.
A diverse range of events will take place throughout the week, which will include a thanksgiving service at the Holy Nazareth church, visit to the historic and renowned Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy, a cultural seminar featuring distinguished Armenian speakers and historians, tours to the two other Armenian churches in Kolkata as well as visits to the Armenian churches in Chinsurah and Saidabad.
It is expected that His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians will grace the occasion with his presence and blessings.
It is also expected that as many members of the community, local, national and international will attend all or some aspects of the events.
Anyone wishing to participate should email the Pastor of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, the Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian at the Armenian Church firstname.lastname@example.org, the Wardens of the Armenian Church at email@example.com, or the event assistant firstname.lastname@example.org, as soon as possible to register their interest. You can also register your desire to attend at www.chater-genealogy.com.
The sooner you communicate with one of the above the sooner we can assist you with the details of your visit to India.
We look forward to seeing you in Kolkata
Haik H. Sookias Jr.
Armenian Church Committee
19th May 2008
Posted 26 May 2008 - 09:58 AM
**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**
Pontifical Visit of His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to Celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth of Calcutta, and Re-consecration of St. Mary’s Armenian Church of Chennai, India.
During the week of November 8 to the 15 2008 the Armenian community of Calcutta will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Holy Church of Nazareth; the Church was initially built in 1707.
St. Mary’s Armenian Church in Chennai (formerly Madras) was built in 1712. The home of the first Armenian periodical in the world, Azdarar, was printed in Chennai in the year 1794. Under the auspices of the Armenian Church Committee it has recently been fully restored and renovated, as have some of the other Armenian churches. St. Mary’s Church will be re-consecrated during this event.
The Pastor, and the Armenian Church Committee members would like to extend an invitation to everyone who is interested to joining them in this historical event.
A variety of events have been planned for the week, which will include a Hrashapar service, Pontifical Liturgy, and Thanksgiving service at the Holy Nazareth Armenian Church. A cultural seminar, inauguration of the Community Centre at Tangra and Ground Breaking ceremony of Armenian College Sports Complex, tours to the Armenian Churches in Kolkata as well as a visit to the oldest Armenian Churches in West Bengal, which are St. John the Baptist Armenian Church built in 1695 in Chinsurah and Holy Virgin Mary Armenian Church built in 1758 in Saidabad.
You will also have the opportunity to visit the 2-Century-old Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy that has recently undergone some major upgrades under the direction of Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian and the Davidian Girls’ School to meet and interact with the students as well as explore the city and other local historical sites.
Many members of the local community as well as national and international dignitaries will attend some or all aspects of the program. An open invitation is extended to everyone who feels that this would be an event of interest.
A detailed program of events will be available shortly. You may request it by contacting Fr. Gulgulian at email@example.com or the Armenian Church Committee firstname.lastname@example.org for all questions or comments you may contact the same. In order to assist us, it is necessary for anyone interested in attending, to please contact Liz Chater at email@example.com. For those in the USA please contact Helena Cray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted 15 August 2008 - 06:26 AM
Celebrations of 300th Anniversary of
Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, Calcutta November 2008
I thought I would write and let you know that the Church is very close to finalising the programme for the 300th Celebrations in November. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it is taking a little longer than we would like. However, it is a very exciting time and therefore it is hoped that once the programme is finalised there will be something in it to satisfy the many facets that the participants are eager to experience. The Armenian Church is optimistic that further details will be issued within the next couple of weeks, in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact myself email@example.com, the wardens firstname.lastname@example.org, Helena Cray or Liz Chater should you wish to do so.
Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian
Pastor of Armenians in India
14 August 2008
Posted 16 August 2008 - 07:42 PM
The following is from here, Aug. 2 issue.
Maybe you guys can come together.
by Tamar Kevonian
India is perhaps an unusual location for an Armenian community, even considering the fact that the well-documented social and economic relationship between Armenia and India existed long before the European discovery of the Indian subcontinent. Currently India’s tiny Armenian pocket, tucked away in the far corner of the diaspora, has six churches (fi ve in Calcutta and its vicinity) and some 200 community members. Th ere has been a signifi cant and continuous Armenian presence in the country since the late 15th century. Helena, 50, is a product of that ancient community, where she was born and raised.
“I was 19 when I left [India]. I hadn’t been back for 23 years,” she says, recounting her adult connection to the
======generation to another.
Ours is a historical history, so to speak. I feel like I come from a very rich culture.”
Edited by Arpa, 17 August 2008 - 06:06 AM.
Posted 17 August 2008 - 01:34 AM
Thank you for that article, that was very thoughtful of you. In fact, I know Helena and we are actually working together on various aspects, including promoting awareness of the Armenians in India; her by running Armenian historical tours in India (and other parts of the world) through her travel company http://www.tniindia.com/, and I by trying to bring the history of the Armenians in India into the 21st Century by making the information attractive and interesting without the "heaviness" of writings from the 19th and 20th centuries. If anyone is interested, she has a historical tour planned for November which will include all the elements of the celebrations taking place in Kolkata for the 300th anniversary of the Armenian Church. Another trip is currently being planned for February of next year. Anyone interested in further details should email me, email@example.com or contact Helena directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted 02 September 2008 - 01:21 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Armenian Churches in India
300th Anniversary Celebrations 8-16 November 2008
We are pleased to announce that preparations continue for the organising of the forthcoming celebrations of the 300th Anniversary of the Armenian Church in Kolkata. Please find below the finalised programme of events.
Saturday 8th November
Guests invited to the re-consecration at Chennai, should arrive today.
Sunday 9th November
Re-consecration of the Armenian Church at Chennai will be conducted by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians.
Monday 10th November
Guests invited for the celebrations should arrive in Kolkata by today.
In the evening there will be a welcome Hrashapar service starting the celebration the 300th anniversary at the Holy Nazareth Church.
Tuesday 11th November
Opening ceremony of the newly constructed Tangra Community
Welcome ceremony of the 300th anniversary celebration
Guests will return to Kolkata via St. Gregory’s so that they can see that church as well.
Wednesday 12th November
Guests will attend a seminar at Tangra.
Guests will be transported back to Kolkata.
Casual evening function
Thursday 13thth November
All guests will visit the Armenian College today. The school will put on a show/exhibition for visitors and guests will be able to tour the school buildings and see how the renovation programme is progressing. There will also be the ground breaking ceremony for the new sports complex.
Friday 14th November
All guests will visit Saidabad today. This is a long journey of 5 (five) hours each way. Return late evening to Kolkata.
Saturday 15th November
All guests to visit Chinsurah and Bandel churches.
Formal banquet in the evening.
Sunday 16th November
10.00 Pontifical Mass at the Holy Nazareth Church will bring the celebrations to a close.
Now that the programme is finalized, it would be greatly appreciated and extremely helpful, if anyone with a serious intention of coming to Kolkata to share this experience with us and participate, could let us know as soon as possible so that we can have an idea of numbers, both at the Chennai service and then the various events in Kolkata
We have made arrangements with some local hotels for discounted room rates. To take advantage of these, as they are offered on a first come first serve basis, please get in touch at the earliest.
Lastly, if you have any old photographs or memorabilia relating to the Armenians in India we would very much like you to bring them along. With your permission, we would like to photograph or scan the items and see if we can put together a book containing all such historical memorabilia supplied and send out as a commemoration book after the celebrations are over.
If you need any further advice regarding your travel or accommodation, do not hesitate to contact the Church office email@example.com or either of our two co-ordinators, Helena Cray firstname.lastname@example.org. for US based people and Liz Chater email@example.com for the UK and other locations.
We are all very excited about this wonderful historic occasion and do hope that we will see as many of you in Kolkata as possible.
2nd September 2008
Posted 25 November 2008 - 10:01 AM
By Leonard M. Apcar
International Herald Tribune
CALCUTTA - Before there were call centers and Indian conglomerates, before
the East India Co. or the British Raj, there were Armenians who made their way
to India to trade and to escape religious persecution from the Turks and,
Entrepreneurial and devout Christians, but familiar with the Islamic ways of
Mughal emperors, Armenians arrived in northeast India in the early 1600s, some
60 years before British adventurers became established traders here. They
acquired gems, spices and silks, and brought them back to Armenian enclavesin
Persia such as Isfahan.
Eventually, some Persian Armenians - including my ancestors - left and set up
their own businesses and communities here, landing first on India's western
flank in Surat and nearby Bombay, the present-day Mumbai, and then moving to
the river banks in northeast India that led to Calcutta's founding as a
sprawling manufacturing and port city.
At its zenith, Calcutta was the British Empire's "second city." Its vast
manufacturing centers rivaled the English Midlands, and wealth flowed freely to
Jews, Britons, Armenians and some Indians. They in turn poured money into
elaborate colonial mansions, Victorian memorials and a luxurious Western way of life
virtually transplanted to the wilting jungle of West Bengal.
The British are gone now, of course, and that way of life is literally
crumbling in the dusty, clogged streets of Calcutta. All but gone, too, arethe
Armenians who began leaving India long before the British.
But last week Armenians with Calcutta roots gathered here again from around
the world. More than 250 people came officially for the 300th anniversary of
the oldest church in Calcutta, a finely preserved Holy Church of Nazareth tucked
inside the narrow, winding alleys and chaotic bazaars of the north section of
But they also came to be together again and to honor an extraordinary
restoration effort of all five Armenian churches and assorted graveyards innortheast
I came from Hong Kong, but many came from England, Iran, the United States
and Australia. We walked the cemeteries looking for graves of grandparents and
great-grandparents, toured the 187-year-old Armenian school, admired the
ambitious renovation work recently completed on the churches and cemeteriesand at
the gleaming white church in downtown Madras.
Armenians never amounted to more than a few thousand people in Calcutta, but
in the 18th and 19th centuries they ran trading companies, shipping lines,
coal mines, real estate developments and hotels. A few served in the colonial
government, and some had sewn themselves so finely into the fabric of colonial
India that they were decorated with British titles and were leaders of private
"They ran Calcutta," one alumnus of the Armenian school, David Alexander,
said with a touch of exaggeration.
By the time the British left, and an independent India was on a socialist and
anti-colonial bent, the Armenians had mostly cleared out. Wealthier, educated
and more confident as entrepreneurs, they left not for Armenia itself, thena
Soviet-controlled postage stamp of a state, but for London, where some
Calcutta Armenians had second lives, or new frontiers in Australia or the United
My great-grandparents left earlier; as a young couple they headed for Japan
in 1890, and their descendants ended up staying and trading for 50 years.
Of the nine million Armenians in the world, only about a third are in
Armenia. The bulk are in Russia, the United States and France, with a smattering
along the trading routes of Asia. Armenian churches and graveyards dot India in
Agra, Delhi, Hyderabad, Madras, Mumbai, Surat and, of course, Calcutta. Butthey
are also in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Yangon in Myanmar; on Penang Island off the
coast of Malaysia; Singapore; and parts of Indonesia - all places where
Armenians settled, traded and worshiped.
Worship is the social adhesive that binds Armenians together. Clannish and
wary of outsiders, the church has always been the focus of their socialist and
cultural lives. Given Armenia's pride as the first state to adopt Christianity
as its religion, it was not surprising that last week with the families came
Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians, as the leader of the Holy Armenian
Apostolic Church is known, and a choir of two dozen from the church's seat in
But the real stars in Calcutta were its five churches. Only a few years ago
four of them were weed-infested snake pits looking like Roman ruins. Now, in
the midst of southeast Calcutta's horrid slums, on gritty, rutted roads, rises
Holy Trinity Chapel in the Tangra district with a new dome and a manicured
graveyard. Inside, I found the refurbished graves of my great-great grandparents,
who in the 1880s lived in Calcutta and Rangoon, as Yangon was known then.
"These things had to be recreated," said Haik Sookias Jr., who helped lead
the reconstruction effort in Calcutta. "If we let our churches go, then
Armenians will never come back to India, and people will walk by and say 'the
Armenians used to live here.' But by renovating these churches, Armenians will live
Richard Hovannisian, a historian and professor of Armenian studies at the
University of California at Los Angeles, said what distinguished the Armenian
diaspora in India was that the Armenians never accompanied their trading
ambitions with military force. Nor did they try to enforce cultural supremacy. "They
succeeded within the structure of the adopted communities," he said.
At base, Armenians were survivors with a fortunate sense for sometimes
picking the right side when superpowers clashed. When it became clear that the
British were going to overpower other Europeans and Arabs to take control of India,
Armenians agreed to ship all their goods to Europe and the Middle East
exclusively with British ships instead of the Arab fleets they had used before.
When the Dutch ruled what is now Indonesia, and their ships ran out of money
during long, storm-delayed sailings around the Cape of Good Hope, the story
goes that Armenians loaned money to the Dutch. It wasn't purely a banking
transaction. It also ensured that Armenian businesses might continue to prosper in
the Java rice fields.
Over time, Armenian merchant princes were overpowered by the rise of merchant
banking institutions in Europe and the large international companies they
financed, Hovannisian said.
As Indians took control of their country, Armenians were looked on as
holdovers from a colonial past. Many large Armenian family enterprises in India were
either sold off or closed.
Today, there are only a few hundred Armenians in the entire Calcutta region
of about 15 million people. The Armenian school here has long relied on
students from abroad to fill its dormitories.
While the Armenian community in Calcutta has all but disappeared, there is
hardly a serious guidebook or history book of the city that does not mention
their influence, charities and churches.
That is a source of pride and communal strength reflected in last week's
commemoration. "When the economic powers of Indian communities weakened andwaned,
there were greater challenges to figure out how to establish deep roots
here," said Professor Hovannisian. "It drew the Armenians closer."
Posted 23 July 2012 - 11:22 AM
Seven Armenian College Students Get Baptized at Calcutta Armenian College
16:12, July 16, 2012
On July 15, students and teachers of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin’s Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA) and the Armenian Community of Kolkata, India celebrated the Feast of Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Vartavar).
The Holy Transfiguration is one of the five major Feasts in the Armenian Church Calendar. The Divine Liturgy was held at Holy Nazareth Mother Church. The Church Service and subsequent baptism were conducted by Very Rev. Father Khoren Hovhannisyan, Pastor of Armenians in India and Manager of Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy.
The Celebration was doubly blessed – on one hand there was the great joy of Celebration of Holy Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ and on the other, was the memorable occasion for seven young students of Armenian College as it was the day of their baptism.
Alvard Nikoghosyan, Mariam Avetisyan, Gevorg Mkrtchyan, Sirvard Hovhannisyan, Gegham Badalyan, Avetis Avetisyan, Tatevik Yeghoyan are the children of the big ACPA family who got baptised on this auspicious day.
At the sacrament, senior students of ACPA became godfathers to those who got baptized. A grand lunch in the School Dining Hall was organized on this occasion by the management of ACPA where the newly baptized children got their crosses and gifts from their guardian, Father Khoren.
Posted 04 September 2023 - 07:45 AM
Hidden inside the chaos of Kolkata’s business district, right next to Brabourne Road flyover, is an oasis of peace and calm. Shaded by jamun and mango trees, an old church hides in plain sight.
On any day except Sunday, you will have to wade through a literal ocean of humanity before you arrive here. This is the Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth — recognised as the oldest church in Calcutta.
It is believed that the original church building — a small wooden structure — was built around 1688. It burnt down in a devastating fire in 1707. The campus was originally a graveyard for the Armenian community. The present church building came up on this graveyard in 1724. If you visit it today, you will find scattered around the church building old tombstones. One of these has piqued the interest of historians for years now and led to much debate and discussion without a definite resolution.
The Armenians have a long history with the subcontinent. The first documented arrival is of a trader named Thomas Cana who reached Malabar in 780 AD. The Ottoman and Safavid conquests of the Armenian lands in the 15th century led to a mass exodus of the community from their motherland and many landed in Mughal north India. One of the more illustrious ones was Abdul Hai who became the Chief Justice of Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar. Slowly, they spread away from Agra to other provinces like Punjab and Bengal. Many Armenians worked as officers in the armies of native rulers.
As winds of fortune showed signs of diversion from the Mughal dynasty to European powers, the Armenians were quick to sniff it. On June 22, 1688, a treaty was signed in London between the English East India Company and the Armenian community in India that granted favourable trading rights to the community as well as equal rights with British subjects regarding the freedom of residence, travel, religion and unrestricted access to civil offices. It coincides well with the construction of the church in what would become the metropolis of Calcutta.
But hidden behind the church building, lies a gravestone that throws up the logical flow of time into a whirlwind. Mesrovb Jacob Seth, the 19th century Armenian historian and writer decoded the gravestone’s message as below:
This is the tomb of
Wife of the Late Charitable Sookias
Who departed from
This World to
On the 11 th July, 1630
The year mentioned is 60 years before Job Charnock’s famous landing somewhere near present-day Nimtolla Ghat that put in motion events that saw three small hamlets transform into the second most important city in the entire British Empire. But does it mean that as early as 1630, in the second year of Emperor Shah Jahan’s rule, there was a community of Armenians in this region – back then dominated by forests, marshlands and swamps?
We look for answers to the writings of Mesrovb Jacob Seth. He writes, “Armenians formed their first settlement in Bengal in the year 1665 by virtue of a farman issued by Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb granting them a piece of land at Saidabad, with full permission to form a settlement there.” This does seem to rule out the possibility of an Armenian settlement in what would become Calcutta in future back in 1630. But then how does one explain this oddity?
The simplest explanation is that maybe Mesrovb Jacob Seth made a mistake while translating. After all, the inscriptions on the original gravestone may have become eroded with time so it is not entirely impossible that such a mistake might take place. But Mesrovb Jacob Seth was a foremost authority on Armenian history in the subcontinent and him making such a mistake while not impossible, certainly seems improbable.
In the 18th century, a rich Armenian businessman of Calcutta by the name of Catchick Arakiel sponsored refurbishing of the interiors of the church, construction of a watch-tower, residents for priests and erection of boundary walls for the compound. His son, Agah Moses Catchick Arakiel wrote a letter to an Englishman of the name Hawksworth in 1801. The latter got the letter published in The East Indian Chronologist. Agah Moses writes, “…Shortly after establishment of Calcutta by the English, the Armenians settled amongst them….” This also lines up with the signing of the trade treaty in London in 1688. It is worthwhile noting here that except that of Rezabeebeh, there is no other tombstones in the Church compound that date back to the 17th century.
Writing on this matter, the famous historian Professor CR Wilson states, “Regarding the earliest grave of an Armenian churchyard in Calcutta, the tombstone is dated 11th July, 1630 AD. This has been taken as showing that the Armenians were established in Calcutta as early as 1630. The inference does not seem valid. The instance is isolated. No other tombstones in the churchyard are dated earlier than the 18th century. There is nothing to show the stone is situ. It may well have been brought to Calcutta from elsewhere…..Even if the stone is in situ, it does not prove the existence of an Armenian colony. In India, a person must be buried where he dies. If an Armenian voyager died in a ship near Calcutta, it would be necessary to bury the body here.”
Mesrovb Jacob Seth does mention that Armenians had trade relations with the Dutch at Chinsurah as early as 1645. So it does seem probable that Rezebeebeh mostly died while on a ship voyage somewhere on the Hooghly and was buried on the nearby coast. Years later, when the Armenian community built a settlement in the region, her grave was possibly moved to their graveyard.
While this does seem the most likely explanation, not everyone is satisfied. Thus, the mystery of Rezabeebeh Sookias’ grave continues to this day. But then again, isn’t life rather dull without a whiff of mystery.
Be as that may, if you have never been to the Armenian Church, I do recommend a visit. And do make a point to check out the most mysterious tombstone in Calcutta.
Reference: Kolikata Dorpon (Calcutta Mirror) – Volume I by Radharaman Mitra
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