(This article titled ‘Holy Brahmavar’ is written on the basis of the visit made by the OBL Forum Delegation to Brahmavar in November 2009)
It was indeed a great joy for the OBL Delegation to visit the Brahmavar Orthodox Church. Brahmavar Orthodox Community deserves a very special status in the history of the Indian Orthodox Church. The Indian Church which was confined within the boundaries of Kerala got a national outreach when the former Roman Catholic Priest Alvarez (His Grace Mar Julius Alvarez) and his group reunited with the Mother Orthodox Church.
Brahmavar is a small town located in the Uduppi Taluk in the State of Karnataka in India. The town is 13 Kilo meters away form Uduppi and is surrounded by the Kalliyanpur River. In the year 1678 a Roman Catholic Church (St Milagaris) was established in Brahmavar by the Padruado Missionaries who were under the realm of the Portuguese queen. The Church was destroyed by Tippu Sultan in 1784, but was reconstructed in 1806.
The power crisis between Portuguese missionaries and Propaganda Communities had its effects on Brahmavar. The majority of the people supported the Portuguese Missionaries and the Padruado Community. They strongly opposed the Propaganda Community and Roman Pope. Those who supported the Propaganda Community built Mount Rosary (1856) Church, which is one Kilo meter away from St Milagiri Church.
Later a peace pact was signed between the Roman Pope and the Portuguese King which made St Milagiris Church of Brahmavar a part of the Propaganda Community. Brahmavar Christians requested to reconsider the decision. But Rome did not reply favorably. ‘The Peace pact cannot be altered for three or four fishermen in Goa or for some drunkards and trouble makers in Kalliyanpuri’. The response from Rome was not at all satisfactory and it was an insult to the entire Brahmavar Christians. Hence the members of St Milagiris Church under the leadership of Father R L Nuronah protested against the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
In December 1889 Fr Alvarez reached Mangalore. He understood the real situation in Brahmavar and organized the discontented believers. A new Church was built for them in Brahmavar. Fr Nuronah was influenced by Fr Alvarez and he was very well attracted towards the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Fr Nuronah was given the leadership of the Brahmavar Orthodox Church, which had a membership of 4000 families. In the year 1889 on Easter Day Fr Nuronah celebrated the Holy Mass in the newly built Orthodox Church.
His Grace Mor Julius Alvarez
A former Roman Catholic Priest who joined the Indian Orthodox Church Fr Alvarez was consecrated the Metropolitan of India, Goa and Ceylon. He devoted most of life serving leprosy patients and poor sections of the society. Father Alvarez was the first person to reunite with the Orthodox Church from the Roman Catholic Latin Rite in India. Metropolitan Alvarez was very much persecuted by the Roman Catholics. He fought a brave war to protect the Orthodox faith irrespective of the cruelty inflicted on him and his followers by the Roman Church. But he faced a tragic end and was buried in one of the Municipal Graveyard in Panaji (Goa) without receiving an Orthodox Christian the funeral or burial due to an Orthodox prelate, on account of Roman persecution. Later the relics were recovered and moved to St Mary’s Orthodox Church in Panaji in 1979 under the direction of HIS Holiness Catholicos Matthews I of the East..
Saintly Padre Rock. Lopez. Nuronah – The Unsung Hero of the Orthodox Reunion Movement in India
Padre Nuronah was born in 1850. After completing basic education he joined the Rachol Royal Seminary in Goa. He was provided scholarship by the Government of Goa for Seminary education. After completing seminary education he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on March 12, 1881 by Bishop Thomas De Almeda. He served as the assistant vicar of Salvador De Monte Church. Later Father Nurorah became the Vicar of Panaji Ribandr Church and finally reached Brahmavar, where he got reunited with the Mother Orthodox Church.
Padre Nuronah was a multifunctional personality. He was a great educator, a spiritual father, writer, and social reformer. The reunion with the Orthodox Church put Padre Nuronah in great trouble. He was always threatened by the Roman Catholic Church. Padre Nuronah was very much loved by the Brahmavar residents. He was very particular and strict about the Orthodox faith, especially, Orthodox prayers and sacraments. He motivated many people to participate in prayers through house visits.
Many a times the Roman Catholic Church tempted Brahmavar Orthodox Christians to join the Roman Church by offering rosary, pictures of saints and other valuable gifts. But Padre Nuronah successfully blocked all Roman attempts and confirmed his faithful in the Orthodox faith.
Books Written by Padre R L Nuronah
He had written a total of eight books of which the following five are still available. They are: The Hidden Treasure, Mor Julius Alvarez (1929), Mutual Differences (1930), Syrian Catholics and Roman Catholics Compared (1934), History of Rome (1934)
In his books Padre Nuronah publicly challenged the Roman Catholics and biblically proved that St. Peter never reached Rome and he never founded the Church in Rome and and he emphatically denied that St. Peter established his throne (Eee) in Rome. Padre Nuronah also challenged the Roman Catholics to pay 500 rupees (which was a a considerable amount then) or prove that he was wrong. He would definitely return to the Roman Church if they proved him wrong. But no one took the challenge.
Padre Nuronah was a great visionary in establishing educational institutions. He founded the COSMOPOLITAN School which is the first basic educational institution in Brahmavar. The School attracted many students irrespective of caste or creed or sex. Padre Nuronah provided great relief for many people who suffered from different kinds of diseases. He treated many people and provided them with food and shelter. Hundreds of them found relief under his care.
Padre suffered from diabetes towards the end of his life. He was persecuted by the Roman Catholic community which tried to force him back to the Roman Church. They even got an order from the local authorities to admit Padre Nuronah at the nearest hospital, a suspicious admission to jeopardize his life. But the timely intervention by Fr P. G. Varghese saved him from the cruel hands of Roman Catholics. The District Collector Humayun made an order in which he effectively blocked the Roman Catholics from entering the Brahmavar Church.
It has been stated that a cross appeared on the back of Padre Nuronah at least two years before his death. On July 23, 1936 Padre R L Nuronah had his last breath. He was buried at St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral in Brahmawar. It is reported that a large number of people, especially non-Christians, have received blessings from the intercession of Padre Nuronah after his death. Even at present thousands are seeking favours at the tomb of this unsung Saint. For the Brahmavarians, Padre Nuroah is a saint, who intercedes to God for the well being of their entire community.
The activities of Metropolitan Mor Julius Alvarez earned a large number of members for the Orthodox Church in places like Goa, Brahmavar, Mangalore, Tangavoor, Dindigal, Tiruchirappalli and Ceylon. But lack of proper care from the Center of the Church resulted in the disintegration of these communities. But there are around 850 Orthodox Christian families surviving in Brahmavar and this is due to the dynamic leadership of Padre Nuronah.
Priests such as Fr P G Koshy ( 1890-1935), Fr K K Kuriakos (1904-1986), Fr K T Varghese (1912-1986), and Fr Damian gave leadership to the Brahmavar Orthodox Community at different periods of time. These priests completely devoted their skills, time and energy for the growth of Brahmavar Community. They acted as strong communication bridges between the Malankara Orthodox Church and the Brahmavar Orthodox Christians. Their hard work helped Orthodoxy to survive in Brahmavar. The present Cathedral (St Mary’s Syrian Cathedral) was rebuilt during the times of Fr P G Koshy. In 1986 Very Rev Archimandrite Dr, N J Thomas was installed as the Vicar General of Brahmavar Orthodox community. The next two decades were considered to be the golden era of this community. He introduced the celebration of Eastern Syrian liturgy for all Sundays, earlier it was only celebrated once in a month. The liturgical services were held in the Latin Rite with its Konkini and Kannada translatons. Though many were hesitant to accept this change in the beginning, later the entire community accepted the beauty of the Eastern Liturgy and prayers. Konkini is the local language and Kannda is the regional language. Hieromonk G M Scariah took over the administration of Brahmavar on the retirement of Archimandrite Dr. N J Thomas.. At present Rev Fr Lawrence David Crasta is the Vicar General and Correspondent since Hieromonk G M Scariah has chosen to do his higher studies.
Brahmavar Orthodox Church- Data Base
Total Land- 25 Acers
Number of Families- 850
Cathedral- 1 (St Marys Syrian Cathedral)
Chapels- 5 (Sastan, Kurady, Kolalgiri, Kandloor, Hulikal)
Congregations- Mumbai, Banglore, Mandya, Kuwait, UAE
Fr David Crasta (Vicar General- Brahmavarian)
Fr Lawrence D’ Souza (Brahmavarian)
Fr D A Johnson
Fr V M Geevarghese
Fr Abraham Kuriakos
OSC Educational Society- Apex Body (General Administration and Manage Funds)
SMS Degree College
Two COSMOPOLITAN Higher Primary Schools
SMS Pre -University College
SMS English Medium School (State Syllabus)
SMS English Medium School(CBSE)
The above institutions are well managed with high quality faculties and infrastructure facilities and are leading educational institutions in Brahmavar. The OBL delegation was invited to attend the annual kindergarten celebrations at SMS English Medium School. The small kids amazed us by their performances. The Professional Academic Management System of the Brahmavar Orthodox Institutions is indeed a role model for many Church institutions in Kerala and else where.
Brahmavar Orthodox Christians have a number of peculiar characteristics with regard to their culture, tradition, life style and prayer habits.
There is no monthly subscription for Parish members. Along with the orthodox feasts (Perunnal), they also celebrate the memorial feast of Metropolitan Julius Alvarez (September 23) and Fr Nuronah ( July 23). All Orthodox prayers have been translated to Konkni and Kannda languaes.
There are two feasts which are celebrated as part of the Latin tradition, Memorial service of All Saints (November 1) and memorial service of All Souls (November 2). The person who sponsors a major feast is known by the name ‘Sirginth’. He wore a special dress and carries an iron rode during the procession.
The World record holder in Philately Mr Daniel Manthro is a member of the Brahmavar Orthodox Church. He has the third position in the World and 1st in Asia for the collection of stamps in the category “Birds”.
Fr Aswin Fernadez (Mumbai), one of the well recognized Iconographers of the Church belongs to Brahmavar Orthodox Community.
Other Christian Communities
The Syrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite Syrian Church in India) has a Chapel, Retreat Center and an Old Age Home. The Latin Catholic Community owns a Church and a School.
It is very important to bring the Brahmavar Orthodox Community to the forefront of the Indian Orthodox Church.