Thursday, 19 September 2019

The All Saints' Church, Khadki India and its link with colonial military


All Saints Church, Khadki, near Pune, MH .flickr.com
All Saints' Church , Khadki, near Pune India . travelogueunlimited.blogspot.in
The All Saints Church. Khadki near Pune, Maharastra  had close association with the early colonial ruler- the British East India company (later  a proxy government under the Crown administration) and subsequently the British government that took over the control of India after the Great Rebellion of 1857. Located on the Pune - Mumbai high way, the church' link with the British India military is quite interesting . The church has a small hall full of information related to military history of this region and the famous visitors to the church during the colonial rule spanning roughly 100  years.  Mainly a garrison church, taking care of the spiritual needs of the soldiers and the senior officers serving the English military, it happened to the largest church then closest to the civilian power of the city.

Soon after the English company took over the control of the city, a summer house came up near Sangamwadi mainly for use by the governor of Bombay. The  governor  Mount Stuart Elphinstone  was a frequent visitor and would stay here to keep him and his family away from the tropical summer heat and humidity of slowly growing Bombay city.  Many famous hill stations in India like Ooty and  Kodikanal, Darjeeling in West Bengal, Mussoorie in Uttrakhand  and Nalthera  in Himachal Pradesh were developed by the colonial rulers mainly to escape from scorching summer  heat and radiation. In 1864, yet another summer residence was built at a short distance to  the west. The first occupant of this home was the first crown governor of Bombay residency, Bartle Fiere. This building is now part of the Savitribhai Phuke Pune university. This residence and the other one at Sangamwadi were close to Christ church which was the old name of All Saints' Church.
The governor, in those days, would attend the Sunday services and in the front part of pews the seats are marked where the senior officers would sit according to their designation. Built in 1834, the church was consecrated by the English priest of Church of England Thomas Carr. Later he became the first ever Bishop of Bombay and the church has records dating back to 1854. In that year one J. Reynolds was the head priest or Chaplain.

 The teak wood beams that support the high ceiling, cobble-stoned facade and the massive church bell (weighing 500 kg) were retained. In 1866, some expansion took place as the necessity arose. Befitting the Church's association with the military one can see on two wall panels leading up to the altar two battle standards encased in  glass.  Soon after the wars, these battalions and regiments were disbanded. Besides, some officers and soldiers who were killed in the war were buried here in the graveyard. 
An interesting fact emerges from the Church's records. It is about the 14th Light dragons that was landed here in 1841 and based in the military station at Khadki. The soldiers took part in the Angelo-Sikh wars - first and second. Though they at last emerged victorious,  the English company lost hundreds of men in the battles in Ambala, now in Punjab.  Most of the casualties are commemorated in the church.
On the wall we also get some information on Bombay Sappers, dating back to 1777 when the Company groomed a group called Marine Battalion. In 1903, it was rechristened as Pioneers and later was disbanded in 1933. The plaque is in the church, but not the colors.This historical church is 150 ft long from east to west and 75 ft broad at the chancel. This post is based on the TOI article mentioned below.
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/all-saints-church-takes-pride-in-military-history/articleshow/63456604.cms