Monday, 4 July 2016

A colonial church carrying Mogul 's name !! Akbar's church, Agra


Akbar’s Church,Agra,India  ityseeker.com
The famous city of Agra near Delhi in the state of Utter Pradesh is not all  about the Taj Mahal and equally well-known  Mogul  monuments built centuries ago. It is needless to say, it has more to offer  to the travel hungry people, considering its proximity with Delhi, once the capital of the moguls and later the British. The city is  replete with  structures blended with mogul as well as other architectural styles and is a confluence of Hindu, Muslim and Christian cultures that survived through centuries despite several upheavals, battles and treaties. There is an English Church called Akbar's  Church built during the mogul period, The name of the church may sound odd, a Christian prayer house bearing the  enigmatic name of a great Mogul ruler!! Positively it will kindle our curiosity to know  about this monument built during the Muslim rule. On February 18, 1580, a delegation of three Jesuit priests reached Agra for an audience with Emperor Akbar. The reason why Portuguese Fathers Rodolfe Aquauiua, Antoine de Monserrate and Francois Henriques had made the long and difficult journey from Goa to Agra was they wanted to spread the Gospel of Christ and to have a church built to take care of the spiritual needs of the Christians of Agra. Being a man with cosmopolitan outlook ruler happily invited them to practice their religion without fear,
Mogul emperor  Akbar dkfindout.com
Among the Mogul rulers, as it is known, Akbar was not only a dynamic and sagacious  leader, but also a secular administrator.  Commissioned by Akbar in 1598 CE, it catered to the Armenians. In this city  there lived a large community of Armenian Christians who were traders, jewelers  and bankers and who had close contact with Akbar's court. The Armenians came  to this place on Akbar's request and in the course of time expressed their desire to have a church built, Emperor Akbar, who respected other faiths, not only obliged, but also gave grants to build the Chapel.  His son and successor also patronized this church and offered grants. Unfortunately, war broke out between the Mogul ruler and the Portuguese and in its wake Christians in this area faced persecution. In 1635, the church was   pulled down and later the relationship between the the community and the Mogul administration improved. When the church was rebuilt, in the  later period,
Akbar’s Church, Agra  timesofindia.indiatimes.com
during the reign of  Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali, the church was again pulled down by the army.  One Walter Reinhart Sombre helped rebuild the church and expand it. At last, the church came up in 1772. In 1781 CE Farzana, Sombre's wife became a convert in this church. Fittingly, it is named after Akbar, considering his secular credentials and his liberal attitude toward people, following other faiths.

Akbar’s Church from 1772 with additions in 1835 Agra timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Cathedral of Immaculate Conceptio,Ara wikipedia
The early church was built by the missionaries during the reign of Akbar who allowed them to preach the Gospel of Christ and convert the natives to Christianity. The  subsequent demolition of the church points out the fact that the later mogul rulers like Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb were not tolerant towards other faiths. Aurangzeb, in particular, was tyrannical that caused his down fall. The present church, as it stands now,  was rebuilt only after the British gained supremacy in this part in the later years of 1761 with the fall of mogul and other Indian rulers.

Standing close to this historical and small Akbar's church, a new church was built in 1848   to manage the growing congregation  during  church services. The space was not adequate enough to handle a huge gathering.  Further, the christian community also had begun to grow slowly. The large new church complex with imposing building to meet the additional crowds  is called the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception (also known as St. peter Church). It is very much similar to Akbar's church except the altar. The new church has baroque exterior in the front that makes it look majestic. In Wazirpura, the Roman Catholic Complex is a huge colonial site with   imposing baroque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception,

St Patrick’s School built earlier in 1843 is in the same complex. Also included in this complex is St. Peter's college which is housed in an impressive building that has been around since 1840s. This particular colonial building is characteristic of big ornate porch and arcades.

The Akbar's church is a legacy of Mogul as well as British era and their roller coaster rule over the Indian subcontinent.
Ref: 
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Layout/Includes/ETNEW/ArtWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=ETNEW&BaseHref=ETM%2F2010%2F02%2F23&GZ=T&ViewMode=HTML
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/HiddenHeritage/the-story-of-akbars-church/