Thursday, 30 January 2020

Oldest Portuguese Church (1848) of Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Calcutta blog.com
Bengal  in the Indian subcontinent became a heaven for the mercantile  traders from the Western countries soon after the discovery of the sea route by the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama in August 1498  on the coastal Malabar (near Calicut)  off the Arabian sea. Two decades later the Portuguese moved into Bengal for the first time to engage in trade, etc.  The first contact took place in 1512-13 and later the arrival of British traders and settlers  encouraged the Christian missionaries  to follow them  as they  were very particular about spreading the Gospel of Love of Christ among the natives . They  landed  in Bengal in large numbers, not realizing native people's knowledge  in the area of native  religions,  languages, metaphysics, science and architecture.  
There are countless churches in Bengal that date back as far back  as the 17th century and they stand as a legacy of European colonial  traders and rulers in this part of Indian subcontinent. To the natives, Christianity was a new religious concept never heard before and the missionaries found it tough to convert them into other faith as their faith in local religions were deep rooted.  Besides, they had language barrier that retarded their evangelical work in India. Missionaries felt compelled to learn the native language(s) in course of their work later in other parts of India. However, their services were of great help to the Colonial rulers and European officials and merchants.  Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Kolkata is one of the oldest churches in Bengal  patronized by the Portuguese who happened to be the early European settlers in this region. 

The church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located on Lenin Sarani, Dharmatala, Kolkata  was founded in 1832 by Pascoa Baretto de Souza, grandmother of Sir Walter de Souza, who was  a Consul General of Portugal in Calcutta. In 1821, Ms. de Souza’s son was tried by the court for shooting and injuring a person named Joseph Gonsalves while returning from the old Chowringhi Theater.  She took a vow  to build a church if her son would be  acquitted.  As the court found him not guilty, the lady went ahead to begin the work on the church.  The foundation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was laid later.  The church  was under the parish of the padroado until 1844.
/Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Kolkata, WB puronokolkata.com
Above image: This colored lithograph, dated 1848, taken from plate 7 of Sir Charles D’Oyly’s ‘ Views of Calcutta and its environs’.............................

Only in 1686  it was Job  Charnock, an official of the East India Company  who took efforts to develop the fishing villages and later the EIC  named it as Calcutta.  But prior to their monopoly and dominance,  Portuguese from Hoogly  had already settled in this part of Bengal and had been in trading activities. The Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Calcutta was originally  a Roman Catholic Church for the Portuguese community in Calcutta. The Catholic Emancipation Act having been  been passed in 1829, the church as planned  by Mr. s Pascoa da Souza, a member of the prominent Portuguese family, the Barrettos,  came up between 1832 and 1834. It was built  behind Dharamtola Bazaar on Dhurrumtollah (Dharamtola) Street in the prime area of of British Calcutta.
https://puronokolkata.com/2014/03/13/portuguese-church-mugihata-kolkata-1848/
https://www.indianetzone.com/67/churches_west_bengal.html