Ravi is a traveler and foodie who loves to visit off-the-beaten-track places and understand the culture, history and customs behind them.
The History of Christianity in India
India is a land of myriad diversity and unique mysteries. From magical temples and breathtaking palaces to bone-chilling experiences of the unknown, there is no dearth of splendorous structures across India with fascinating (and sometimes horrifying) stories behind them. However, the churches spread across India are the most unexplored or unknown places.
The history of Christianity and churches go back as far as 52 AD. It is believed that the young Jesus spent his childhood in the Kashmir region of India, and later St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus, visited the country and spread Christianity. Much later in the colonial era, India was ruled by the British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese at different times. They created stunning churches across various regions, exhibiting their cultures and architectural richness.
This article talks about five of the most offbeat churches in India.
- Rosary Church, Karnataka
- St. Johns Baptist Church Mumbai
- Three Kings Church, Goa
- Bandel Church, West Bengal
- Kadamattom Church, Kerala
1. Rosary Church, Karnataka
Rosary Church is an abandoned church built on the banks of Hemavathi River in Shettihalli village of Hassan district, about 200 km away from Bangalore. The church was constructed by a French missionary named Abbe J A Dubois in 1860 using brick and mortar with stained glasses imported from Belgium.
Now the bizarre part, this church is submerged in water most of the year and is visible entirely only during the summer. This happens due to the Gorur-Hemavathi dam that was constructed in 1960. Since then, every year during peak monsoon (from June to October), the land floods with water and submerges everything, including the church, with only the spires visible.
Despite the water, the church still stands with a third of its structure above water. The church is also called a "floating church" or "submerged church" due to this unique phenomenon. Its gothic architecture, beautiful French arches, and magnificent building facades make it one of the most beautiful churches in India.
Travel Details: The church is in the town of Shetihalli, 200 km from Bangalore. The city is well connected by buses and taxis. The best time to visit is from October to March when the entire church can be seen in all its glory.
2. St. Johns Baptist Church, Mumbai
Infamous as one of Mumbai’s most haunted locations, the St. Johns Baptist Church is located at Andheri East at SEEPPZ industrial complex in the city's heart. It was constructed in 1579 by Father Manuel Gomes, a Portuguese Jesuit also known as the “apostle of Salsette."
The church is dedicated to John the Baptist, and a 17th-century document, "Oriente Conquistado," written by a European traveler, tells us about its importance and the pomp with which the feast of St John was celebrated every year at that time. Unfortunately, a massive epidemic hit the nearby village of Marol in 1840, and most of the local populace was wiped out. The church was abandoned and soon fell into decay.
However, over the years, the church became notorious for unexplained hauntings, mysterious happenings, and the terrible shrieking of a young bride. She had fallen to death in the church’s pond 300 years ago. In 1977, the local people also performed an exorcism to eliminate the demons, but the stories refused to die down.
Today the church is off limits for most of the year except for the second Sunday of every May when the ruins of the church come to life with pomp and gaiety. Hundreds come on this day to participate in the mass and offer prayers.
Local people also use this opportunity to propagate the church's history and incredible cultural significance within the potpourri of Mumbai. However, for the rest of the year, the church remains abandoned, maintaining its haunted reputation.
Travel Details: The church is located within Mumbai city limits and can be easily accessed by local cabs and buses.
3. Three Kings Church, Goa
The Three Kings church was built in 1599 on the hill of Cuelim in a village called Cansaulim in South Goa. The hill is uninhabited, offering breathtaking views of the Arabian sea with small quaint villages near the bay. The church comes to life every January during the Three Kings feast, which the locals celebrate with pomp and glory.
This church may look serene and beautiful, but it has a gory story involving murder and poisoning. As the story goes, three kings fought for control of Goa some 300 years back. Once, one of the kings invited the other two for a meeting and poisoned them to death. Enraged by this action, the locals came after the king to avenge the deaths. The terrified king shut himself inside the church and poisoned himself to end his life. Later all three kings were buried in the same church.
To date, this church remains the most haunted place in Goa, with multiple sightings of the three kings around the area. Locals and the police also advise not to visit the church after sunset, although no harm has been inflicted by the ghosts yet. This church has also been picturized in several movies like Finding Fanny and Bhoonath.
Travel Details: Cansulim beach is just 15 km from Veloso in South Goa. The village is well connected by road, and local taxis and buses are available up to the town,
4. Bandel Church, West Bengal
The Bandel church, built in 1599, is said to be one of the oldest churches in India. The church is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosario, also known as Our Lady of the Rosary was built by the Portuguese to commemorate their settlement in Bengal.
Over the years, various leaders refurbished the church, and now have three altars, tombstones, and a shrine to Mary. An annual festival is also celebrated every November, which many devotees from India and abroad attend.
That said, the church has a gory history of bloodshed. As the story goes, towards the end of the 16th century, The Portuguese had established themselves powerfully in Bengal. They were inflicting brutal acts on the locals, including selling women and children as slaves.
This news reached the then King of Mughals, Shahjahan, who deployed a large army to attack Hooghly port and crush the Portuguese. In the bitter war that followed, the Portuguese suffered heavy casualties, and four out of five priests of the Bandel church were also killed. The fifth was captured and was given the punishment to be trampled under an elephant.
Miraculously, the elephant lifted the priest on his back instead of trampling him, saving his life. The Mughal emperor was amazed by this act, and he set the priest free. Later the freed priest devoted his entire life to rebuilding the church destroyed in the war.
Travel Details: Bandel is a small town only 40 km from Kolkata. Many buses and taxis operate from Kolkata to Bandel. It is also connected through Howrah station in Kolkata.
5. Kadamattom Church, Kerala
Kadamattom Church is situated close to Kolenchery town near Muvattupuzha, Ernakulam District in Kerala, India. It was built around the 9th century AD by Mar Sabor, an Egyptian monk from the Syriac Orthodox Church residing in India. The church has unique Gothic architecture with Persian influences and Egyptian handiwork in the interiors. The church has a Persian Cross, whose arms are equal in length with inlaid inscriptions.
There are a lot of myths surrounding this church which has attracted a lot of tourists over the years. As the story goes, the son of the then King of Kadamattom was dying due to a disease that the king's physicians could not cure. The king desperately tried every cure, but all efforts turned futile.
It was then Mar Sabor, an Egyptian monk came to the king's rescue and cured the child. The king was so happy that he gave him a large tract of land to build a church that still stands today.
Since then, people worldwide have visited the church to cure themselves of any ailment or disease. Major festivals are also held during the January to February period to mark the death anniversary of the legendary priest, who, it is believed, besides being a theologian, also possessed supernatural powers and performed sorcery. There is also a picture of Mar Sabor inside the church commemorating his contributions to helping the poor and the needy.
Travel Details: The small town of Kolenchery is just 34 km away from Cochin city with regular buses and taxis plying to the same. The closest railway station is Aluva, which is about 34 km away. The central railway station is Ernakulam Junction, situated 42 km away from Kolenchery town.
- The church underwater
- Rosary Church alias Shettihalli Church – A Submerged Church
- St. Johns Baptist Church - The Most Haunted Church in Mumbai
- St. Johns Baptist Church
- Three kings church – the most (un)haunted place in Goa
- 3 Kings Church – Most Haunted Place of Goa
- Bandel Church
- The story of Bandel Church
- 9th-century Kadamattom Church, Kerala
- Kadamattom church and its liaison with miracles...
© 2022 Ravi Rajan