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'An Earthly Journey From Church to Cemetery'

Role of Christian community in local history of Malegaon

Sunday April 08, 2012 10:21:31 AM, Meshramkar Sunetra, ummid.com

 

 

Every religion plays an important role in shaping society, community as well as history. So the study of a religion is essential to understand the community as well as the local history. Omission of facts about religion creates false impression that religious life of human kind is insignificant or unimportant. But there is history in all men's lives. The knowledge of basic symbols, practices, concepts, principles etc. is essential to share each other's feelings. It promotes cross-cultural understanding which leads to peace and mutual respect for other's religion.


Malegaon is located on Mumbai-Agra national highway. Local Jahagirdar Naro Shankar Raje Bahadur started building fort in 1740 and completed it in 1760. Some historians, however, dispute its construction by Naro Shankar and claim that the fort of Malegaon has a history which proves its existence in eighth century. The British captured Malegaon Fort in 1818. The British army stayed in the North Portion of the city which is known as Camp Area. Two Historical monuments of British rule are still in camp area and these are St. Paul Church, previously known as Christ Church and Christian Cemetery or Grave yard.
 

St. Paul Church

St. Paul Church of Malegaon is nearly 190 years old. The exact date of establishment is not known but the oldest grave in the cemetery notes that Isabelle Kantril died on 21st Oct. 1819. So it clearly indicates that the church was built in 1818 or 1819.

Malegaon is multicultural and multilingual vibrant city. 70 % of the total population is Muslim Community. Malegaon's population is now near about seven lakh but the Christians are very few nearly two hundred fifty (250) people.

 

The British army stayed in Malegaon, previously known as 'Malligaum' (Anglicized native name) for many years. St. Paul Church of Malegaon is nearly 190 years old. The exact date of establishment is not known but the oldest grave in the cemetery notes that Isabelle Kantril died on 21st Oct. 1819. So it clearly indicates that the church was built in 1818 or 1819. St. Paul Church is good example of Gothic Architecture.

 

Christianity was founded in 1st century and spread from Jerusalem. The branches of Christianity are Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. St. Paul Church is a Protestant Church. The main customs of Christianity are Baptism, Confirmation and Communion. The church is built in stone with east-west direction. It's length is 25 feet and width is 22 feet. The Church has Latin Cross Shape. The height of the Church is 25 Feet. The windows display Gothic Structure.


The Christian Cemetery is located to the north of the church. Graveyards or cemeteries are generally established at the same time. The term 'cemetery' is originated from Greek word 'Koimeterion' which means ' sleeping place' or French word 'Cimetiere' which means 'graveyard'. So cemetery is a final resting place. It is a place set aside for long term burial of the dead, with or without monuments.

 

Early Christian history tells that burial took place in sacred church ground. Burials were divided by social status. The families of the deceased who could afford the work stone-mason had headstone carved and set up over the place of the burial with indication of the name of the deceased, date of birth and death, and other biographical data. Those who could not pay for headstone, usually had some religious symbol made from wood on the place of burial.


Christian cemeteries are of nine types - Anglican, Baptist, Christian Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Protestant Reformed, Quaker and Roman Catholic. Cemetery at Malegaon is protestant Cemetery. According to the structure, the types of cemeteries are i] Lawn Cemetery ii] Natural Cemetery iii] Monumental Cemetery iv] Family Cemetery.

The cemetery at Malegaon is Monumental Cemetery. It is traditional style where headstones or other monuments made of marble or granite or similar material rise vertically above the ground, typically around 50 c.m. but can be 2 mtrs. high. Often the entire grave is covered by slab, commonly concrete, marble or granite. The area of Cemetery in Malegaon is 3 acres. The entrance of the cemetery catches attention with poetical lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem 'God's Acre'. The lines are engraved on the two pillars of entrance gate.


''This is the field and a cre of our Lord into its furrows shall we all be cost".


'A cre of our Lord' is Ancient Saxon Phrase for burial ground.

 

There are near about one hundred graves of British Army Officers as well as Christian priests. Gravestones are erected which offer information about the deceased person. The tallest monument is of Lieutenant Col. John Beck who died on 20th Aug. 1849. At the entrance of the graveyard is the grave of a couple. Rev. Shankar Balwant and his wife Parubai. Both died in 1884.

 

Another tall monument is of Lt. Cruickshank and Captain B. Justice who were in 7th Regiment of North Infantry. The inscriptions on their grave has mentioned Malegaon as Malligaum. The marble monument of Lt. Col. Arthur John Boig is still in good condition. John Bell Dunstberville died at the age of 48 on 7th July 1833. There are some graves without monumental inscriptions. However, the grave stone epitaphs are a meaningful way to give respect to the deceased. They reflect one's existence highlighting their personality traits and accomplishment in life. Death cannot kill the names of good men.

The peaceful, serene, calm atmosphere of the cemetery makes us tongue tied & silent. It makes us aware about the hard- hitting reality that we all are living life but moving towards its final destination 'death' itself . But we ought not be afraid of death as it takes us back to our Creator. We need to ponder over the following lines from William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'.
 

"All that lives must die; Passing through nature to eternity"
 

A Christian's journey begins at Church with Baptism and ends in Cemetery.

 

 

The writer is Asst Prof at JAT Art, Sc & Commerce

Senior College for Women, Malegaon.

She can be reached at sara_2806@rediffmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Photo: ummid.com)

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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