Friday, October 20, 2017

St. Antony's Church, Azhagappapuram, Kanyakumari

St. Antony's Church, Azhagappapuram, Kanyakumari
St. Antony's Church is located at Azhagappapuram near Kanyakumari Town in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu. St. Antony's church stands in the middle of Azhagappapuram.

A Malayananchan from the Hindu Nadar community that moved in here after the Mudaliars era, had become a prominent figure. His eight sons were known as the Eight mavericks. In the period 1700–1740 Malayananchan converted to Christianity and was baptized by the Vadakankulam parish priest, Paranjothi Nathar; he was re-christened as Swamiadian. Malayananchan built with his own money a thatch-roofed church, dedicating it to St. Antony. As he believed he had been cured of a serious ailment by divine grace, he donated his land surrounding the church, where the primary school was later built. The sepulcher of his eldest son still stands intact at the eastern frontier of Azhagai (Oor Nadar Kallarai).
Azhagai village grew as settlers started gradually moving in. The existing church land was acquired in the mid-nineteenth century. Vadakankulam parish priest Soosai Gregory Nathar and the people constructed the church in two phases. In those days, the areas falling to the west of the Western Mountain range, were called Kollam diocese and those located on the eastern side of the mountain, Thiruchi diocese. Azhagappapuram was under Thiruchi diocese. During the period 1730 to 1830, the village was in Anakarai parish; during the period from 1830 to 1910, it was merged with Vadakankulam parish.
This village was named after Azhagappa Mudaliar, a famous Mudaliar who lived in here early, in recognition of his meritorious services to Azhagai. The Mudaliars and others did many freelance jobs for their livelihood. They are known to have run mini-weaving operations. However, apparently due to lack of adequate income to make ends meet, they are believed to have moved away from Azhagai. With the construction and opening of the Pechiparai dam in 1910, water started flowing across this plain through Thovalai canal, greatly affecting Azhagai and its inhabitants. Agriculture became the backbone of the area's economy.
Azhagappapuram Parish:
In the 1910, on May 23, the then parish priest of Azhagai, Fr. Pappai, upgraded the Primary school to Middle School. In the year 1921, keeping in view the increase in population, Azhagappapuram became an exclusive parish. Fr. Stanislaus Raja became the first Parish priest. Rajakrishnapuram was attached to Azhagappapuram parish in 1921. In the same year, St. George's church at Thirumoolanagar was blessed and that village was merged with Azhagai parish. When Tuticorin diocese was established in the year 1923, Azhagappapuram parish was brought under it.
St. Theresa’s Statue:
Wishing to build a small church for St. Theresa, Fr. Dharmanathar (Jan 1926 Dec 1930), started construction work with the fistful of rice he received from the people of Azhagai. Fr. Thairiyanathar continued with the construction work (July 1931 July 1934). The finishing touches were given by Fr. Mariadhas. The saint's statue was crowned by the Vadakankulam senior parish priest, Innasiyar. The school had to shut, but was reopened by Fr. Mariadhas. By then a cholera epidemic started taking a heavy toll of the population of Azhagai. Fr. Mariadhas ensured speedy supply of medicines. It is believed that after the inception of St. Theresa’s statue, cholera vanished from the face of Azhagai.
St. Antony's Festival:
The Vadakankulam parish priest used to come to Azhagai every year in June for the St. Antony's festival during the period June 4 to 13, when he also took care of various affairs of the church and the community.
Kanikai Matha Festival:
On February 2, 1851 Fr. Martin started the Kanikai Matha festival. Thereafter, the Vadakankulam parish priest started visiting Azhagai twice a year for the two festivals. In 1908, Fr. Gousanal of the Jesuits Order established Holy Communion at Azhagai church. In 1910 Azhagappapuram was brought under the jurisdiction of Kootapuli parish.
The Church is located at about 9 Kms Kanyakumari, 9 Kms from Suchindram, 17 Kms from Nagercoil and 88 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. The Church is located at about 500 meters from Bus Stop. Azhagappapuram can be reached from Kanyakumari and Suchindram by road. National Highway 7 passes nearby. Nearest Railway Station is located at Kanyakumari (8 Kms). Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram.