27.11.2014

Armenians of Kolkata

27.11.2014

Armenians of Kolkata

It’s the 6th of January the oldest Christian Church in Kolkata is all set for the Christmas Mass. Yes you have read it right “Christmas on 6 January !!!!!” It is the Armenian Christmas and the Armenian Orthodox Church celebrates the birth of Christ on January 6.

Kolkata, formally Calcutta, was once considered the second city of the mighty British Empire, but long before the British or other Europeans arrived the trading Community of the Armenians had made Kolkata their home.

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Armenian Christmas Mass at the Holy Nazareth Armenian Church

The Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth, built in 1707 (presently building built in 1924), happens to be the oldest Christian Church in Kolkata. Although fast dwindling in number the Kolkata still hosts a small Armenian Community.

Apart from the oldest church of the city the Armenians also has two more churches in Kolkata and the total number of Armenian Churches in West Bengal is five, excluding the Armenian Church in Dhaka, which is presently in Bangladesh. In spite of their fast decreasing number the Kolkata Armenian still celebrates their festival with great enthusiasm.

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Armenian Pilgrimage to St. John. The Baptist, Armenian Church, Chinsurah

Armenian Christmas: Armenian Christmas is celebrated on 6 Jan at the Holy Nazareth Church. The Armenians believe that Jesus was born on 6 Jan and not on 25 Dec.

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Armenian Good Friday, St. Gregory, the Illuminator Armenian Church, Kolkata

To prepare themselves for the great festival, Armenians fast for a week to cleanse themselves to be worthy of a great miracle and prepare for the celebrations of the great festival.

The highlight of the Armenian Christmas is the ceremony of “Blessing of Water” it commemorate Christ’s Baptism in River Jordan. The Cross will be immersed in water to symbolize the baptism of Christ.

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Carrying the coffin round the Church, Armenian Good Friday

Armenian Good Friday: The coffin bearers slowly carried the black coffin, beautifully stacked with flowers outside the small chapel adjoining to the Lower Circular Road Cemetery in Calcutta (Kolkata). Strangely it was not a funeral and nor the black coffin contained any dead body!!!! This is Armenian Good Friday and the burial of Christ is being recreated.

The decorated empty coffin is placed at the altar and all burial rituals are performed, after that the coffin bearers carry the coffin outside the church, they make their way round the church and bring the coffin back to the altar.

Further prayers follow and the services come to an end with the distribution of the flowers stacked over the coffin, which are said to bring good luck.

The Armenian Good Friday and Easter is observed at the St. Gregory, the Illuminator, Armenian Church in Park Circus, Kolkata.

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Golden Hand of St. John the Baptist. Armenian Pilgrimage to Chinsurah

Pilgrimage to Chinsurah: The former Dutch colony of Chinsurah or Chuchura, located about 40 Km north of Kolkata also houses an Armenian Church, known as St. John, the Baptist, Armenian Church.

There are no Armenians left in Chinsurah today but on the Sunday after the Armenian Christmas, the Kolkata Armenians make a pilgrimage to Chinsurah.

The pilgrims carry with them the golden hand of St. John, the Baptist, who is said to have Baptized Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan River. The Golden hand contains the relic, a piece of bone from the right hand of St. John, the very hand that baptized Christ!!!

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Down the aisle, Holy Trinity Armenian Church, Kolkata

Rangan Datta

Rangan Datta is a management faculty by profession and a travel writer, photographer and blogger by passion.
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