Friday, July 19, 2024
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A Non-Consecreted Oldest Church at Vellore – St.Johns Church!

The Elegant English Gothic Church2.Vellore is a burstling city in the state of Tamilnadu. It’s energy is enhanced by having a 133 acres of the largest stone built fort of India in the center of the city. The stone blocks came from Arcot and Chitoor Districts. The fort is a double wall bastion. One can take a leisurely walk along the fort wall. The moat filled fort area with rain water is an exquisite site to relax for proud Vellorians!
Vellore otherwise is known for it’s Medical Tourism – CMC hospital, it’s Engineering College and the Mahalaxmi Golden Temple at Sripuram. Surrounding Vellore are a number of tourist hill retreats and temples – to name a few are Yelagiri, Gingee, Tirvanamalai etc.
Coming back to Vellore city, it’s a humble metropolis with decent staying and dining places. The main attraction is the massive lung space in the city – 150 acres of Vellore Fort – landscaped by parks, walking trails, boating and shaded relaxed spots.
Vellore Fort built in 1566 by Chinna Bommu Naicker of Aravidu Dynasty from the Vijayanagar Kingdom. This fort was the most sought after bastion and passed through hands of Vijayanagar Kings to Bijapur Sultanate to Marathas to Carnatic Nawabs to finally the British, they sought this place in preference to Arcot as the fort was a secure location. The moat round the Vellore Fort housed 10,000 crocodiles during those times and was much deeper those days, today it’s only 15 – 18 feet deep and one can enjoy tourist boat rides. It also was deemed to have an escape tunnel to Vinijipuram 12 kms away. Never discovered to this day.
Vellore Fort is the only place to have a temple, a mosque and a church inside its premises. Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in it’s recent endeavour cleared squatters and demolished unauthorised construction to bring it to it’s pristine shape. The Fort also houses two musuems which display the history of Tamilnadu and the Deccan South Rulers history with artefacts and sculpture.
After Tipu Sultan’s death at the last Mysore Anglo war, his large family were prisoners here along with the last Sri Lankan King, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. After the Vellore Mutiny in 1806, a prelude to the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 – ‘the First War of Indian Independence’. The Tipu Sultan’s family was shifted to Calcutta. Today these prisoners palaces are out of bounds to tourists and the Fort also houses a jail for convicts! District Collectors office and ASI office are also present in this 150 acres open space Fort Complex. This area has become a play area and a morning walk and exercise zone for the people of Vellore. The outer periphery wall with it’s landscaped gardens and parks have become relaxing zones for the lazy and the romantic ones! In all at the Vellore Fort Complex lies a classic exterior English Gothic Church of 1846! The facts and the history are truly amazing of the St.John’s Church, named after the evangelist, St.John. The ground breaking happened in 1884 and was completed in 1846. This 50 × 41 ft square Church was built by the British East India Co and the offficers and men of the garrison collectively. The construction cost was 5,559 British Indian Rupees and furnishings were an additional 500 BIR. This property was a public house, school, a party hall for celebrations of dine and dance events. Hence this church was never Consecrated. But today it’s the oldest standing church in the Vellore Diocese!
Vellore Fort bastion never had a church nor a permanent chaplain. The army barracks were prayer halls. With the death of Tipu Sultan and the spread of Christianity, the need for a church for the Europeans and the native converted christian Indians gave rise to this beautiful church called – the St.Johns Church – a Church of South India today, patronized by the CMC – the Christian Medical College of Vellore. This church opens for service only on Sundays. A visit here and meeting the fellow Christians was a touching moment for me. The yester military colours and memorabilia dorn the church decor. The church is clean, tidy, well kept and full of character. A divine feeling engulfs you out here.
More about other places at the Vellore Fort complex in my future writings – the Temple, the mosque and the two musuems. Vellore is just a three and a half hour drive from Bangalore and is well connected by road and rail.

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