Devasahayam: The First Martyr for Jesus Christ in Travancore
6 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2017
Date Written: 2014
Travancore was the first and foremost among the princely states of India to receive the message of Jesus Christ. According to tradition, St. Thomas the Apostle came to India in 52 A.D. He made many conversions along the west coast of India. It had to the beginning of Christian Community in India from the early Christian era. He attained martyrdom in 72 A.D. at Calamina in St. Thomas mount, Madras. He was the first to be sacrificed for the sake of Christ in India. During the close of the second century A.D. the Gospel reached the people of southern most part of India, Travancore. Emperor Constantine deputed Theophilus to India in 354 A.D. to preach the Gospel. During this time the persecution of Christians in Persia seemed to have brought many Christian refugees to Malabar coast and after their arrival it strengthened the Christian community there. During the 4th century A.D. Thomas of Cana, a merchant from West Asia came to Malabar and converted many people. During the 6th century A.D. Theodore, a monk, visited India and reported the existence of a church and a few Christian groups at Mylapore and the monastery of St. Thomas in India. Joannes De Maringoly, Papal Legate who visited Malabar in 1348 has given evidence of the existence of a Latin Church at Quilon. Hosten noted many settlements from Karachi to Cape Comorin and from Cape Comorin to Mylapore. The Portuguese were the first European power to establish their power in India. Under the Portuguese, Christians experienced several changes in their general life and religion. Vas-co-da-gama reached Calicut on May 17, 1498. His arrival marked a new epoch in the history of Christianity in India. Many Syrian Catholics were brought into the Roman Catholic fold and made India, the most Catholic country in the East. Between 1535 to 1537 a group of Paravas were converted to Christianity by the Portuguese. In 1544 a group of fishermen were converted to Christian religion. St. Francis Xavier came to India in the year 1542. He is known as the second Apostle of India. He laid the foundation of Latin Christianity in Travancore. He could make many conversions. He is said to have baptized 30,000 people in South India. Roman Congregation of the propagation of Faith formed a Nemom Mission in 1622. The conversion of the Nairs was given much priority. As a result, several Nairs followed Christian faith particularly around Nemom about 8 k.m. south of Trivandrum. Ettuvitu pillaimars, the feudal chiefs began to persecute the Christians of the Nemom Mission. Martyr Devasahayam, belonged to the Nair community and was executed during the reign of Marthandavarma (1729-1758). It is an important chapter in the History of Christianity in South India in general, and of Travancore in particular.
Keywords: St. Thomas, Devasahayam, Marthanda Varma, St. Thomas Mount, Vasco-da-gama
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