Clarinda Church, Palayamkottai, Thirunelveli
Clarinda Church is located in Palayamkottai Town in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. It is considered as India's first church; Clarinda Church was founded and consecrated in 1860 by a Brahmin lady who was the first convert in the southern districts. The periphery of this tiny church has a cemetery with wonderfully decorated tombstones from England.
This little building was erected between 1780 and 1785 and owes its foundation chiefly to the efforts of a converted Hindu Widow who was given the name Clarinda. The famous missionary Schwartz dedicated the building in 1785. Though this Church was dedicated under the order of the Lutheran, it was under the jurisdiction of the army department and of the SPCK. Rev. James Hough, chaplain of palamcottah, repaired it in 1818.
In 1852 it came under the control of the SPG. (In 1845, the Danish government had sold the whole of Tranquebar to the British Government) In 1857, i.e., 72 years after the church was built, the SPG handed over the church to the Chennai government on condition they will take good care of the church along with the burial ground in the compound. It came under the protection of Ancient Monument Act.
During the colonial rule, the number of European officers in the army and administration increased they needed a bigger church for worship. The government allotted Rs. 4000/- for repairing it army officials tried to demolish Clarinda Church and build another one in its place. Since the government did not agree to it, they built another church nearby and named it The Christ Church.
It was dedicated 1856 by Rt. Rev. Thomas Dealtry, the third Bishop of Madras. After that Clarinda Church lost its significance. In 1947 with Independence the church came under the Tirunelveli Diocese. The first Bishop of Tirunelveli Rt. Rev. Augustine G. Jebaraj became its trustee. It lay in a dilapidated condition for so many years till Rev. G.N. Kantayya took efforts to renovate it. Services were started from 1959.
For the first time the congregation of Palayamkottai celebrated the dedication day of the church on 24 August, 1959. It was the 174th anniversary day. It was celebrated with great pomp and pleasure. Since then the church is well maintained and frequented by the congregation; it is also regarded as a kind of ‘Sacred Relic’ by many people.
Palayamkottai is located at about 3 Kms from Thirunelveli and 162 Kms from Madurai. Palayamkottai has an efficient bus network. Palayamkottai bus stand, or Palai Bus Stand as it is popularly called by the locals, was the major connecting hub of the bus network. The Palayamkottai bus terminal is also a major stopover for all buses going to Kanyakumari and Nagercoil. There are also numerous connections between the local Palayamkottai bus-stops and Thirunelveli town.
Palayamkottai also has a railway station connecting Thirunelveli Junction and Tiruchendur. Palayamkottai is adjacent to the Thirunelveli railway junction on the Eastern side. An auto from Thirunelveli Junction will cost Rs.40/-. One can get down at Market stop (Thirunelveli Town/Junction to Samathanapuram bus) and walk 5 minutes to reach the temple. Nearest Airport is located at Madurai.