Researching Armenian Family History in Asia and Beyond. Your Portal for Armenian Graves & Tombstones in Asia

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Further Notes Surat Page

Further notes on image 3115


*Aslan

– a Turkish
word meaning “lion” was/is also used a proper noun.


**Pirigul

– is actually
the name Pirgul, from the Perian

pir,
meaning “saint or old,” and
quli, “slave” or “servant.”  We
know of a certain Pirigul who was among the Armenian leaders involved in
the defense of Yerevan against the Ottomans in c. 1719-1724.  It’s
hard to say if deceased Aslan’s father and the above Pirigul are one and
the same; the chronology fits well.



The use of this name among the Armenians is very rare.


 


*** Yozhbar(?)

– one would
expect to see the name of a place here but the wording in this and the
following two lines is not clear.  The shapes of the letters are
also misleading.  It is tempting to read YOZHBAR as two words,
meaning “very good” and take the phrase as modifying the word “land.”
The line would read: “He was from the very good land and …”


 


****Gokhtan District

– or Goghtn is the southernmost region of present day Nakhichevan.
In ancient and medieval times it was renowned for its vineyards and
gardens.


 


*****Gaghgochi

– There is no
such village in or near Goghtn, but there is a well known village called
Gagh or Gal in the neighboring district to the north.  It is hard
to say what

gochi stands for.  It could be taken as a
verb meaning “called,” but a verb with the same meaning in line 3 is
spelled differently.  If
gochi is taken as a verb, the text
would read: “from a village called Gagh.”


 


******longer cycle

– This seems
to refer to the cycle of  532 years that was in regular use among
the Armenian, and is still in use in the Armenian Church.  The
cycle is a listing of dates for Easter.  When the cycle is
completed, it is repeated.  Its first year is AD 552. 




 



1221 – + 551 corresponds to AD. 1772, as seen in the second half
of the last line of the inscription.  The number 156 that appears
under 1772 is the year according to Azaria’s calendar (156 + 1616=1772).


 



February 25 – is presumably  the date according to the
Gregorian calendar.  The date according to the Julian calendar
would be February 14, and the the first of Nirhan. In the photo of the
inscription, at the end of the last line there seems to be a small mark
following the word

Nirhan.  It’s not clear if this is a symbol, or
part of a letter indicating the date.

 


Fr. Krikor Maksoudian comments:
“Note – This is an interesting tombstone that merits some comments.


 


a) The majority of the tombstones with long inscriptions have Christian
symbols, whereas this one does not.


 


b) The framework — enclosing a flower, presumably a carnation — at the
top of the present inscription seems to have an Islamic design.


 


c) Unlike the other longer inscriptions, this one has no reference to God
or Christ.  The phrase “went up to the paternal [realm]” poses the
question “whose paternal realm?”


 


d) The very rarely used name Piriguli raises questions, particularly in
view of the fact that the majority of the deceased mentioned in
the other inscriptions and their fathers have Armenian Christian names.


 


e) In the longer inscriptions the family names of the deceased are
specifically mentioned, whereas Aslan son of Piriguli is not identified
by any family affiliation. 


 


These considerations may tempt one to draw conclusions about the origin
and identity of Aslan.  But there is one basic question that remains to
be answered.  If Aslan is not an Armenian Christian, why is he buried in
an Armenian cemetery, amidst people that have Armenian names and
Armenian family affiliations?  Armenian cemeteries were and still are
considered to be sacred ground.   The graves of the faithful are buried
and then “sealed” with the sign of the Holy Cross by the officiating
priest.  (In other words, the priest blessed the shrouded body or the
coffin on its four sides with his hand cross.  Thereafter the “sealing”
is repeated each time that the grave is blessed. The teaching of the
Church as reflected in the text of the burial ritual states that the
“seal” will/must remain intact until the  Second Coming when the “dead
shall rise.”  “

Further notes on image 3119


* Gitun
– means
“knowledgeable,” “learned” or “wise,” which is not an appropriate
epithet for a four year old child.  Though there is no record of

gitun to have ever been used as a
proper noun, there is no other explanation why a child of four should be
called
gitun unless it is his name. If gitun is used as a
first name could it be a translation?   The equivalent of

gitun in Arabic, Ottoman and modern Turkish is arif which is
used as a name.  There is also at least one mention of an Arif who
was Armenian.  Could the deceased child’s actual name have been
Arif Joseph?


**170
– according
to Azaria’s calendar: 170 + 1615 = AD 1785.

 


*** Ghamar 7
= July 25
(Julian); August 5 (Gregorian).

Further notes on image 3121



* Hazarapet –


is a common noun, meaning “Chiliarch” or “commander of a thousand men,”
that is also used as a proper noun.  This usage is probably based on
the Armenian texts of the apostolic epistles where in some instances the
word steward (of good graces)is translated as hazarapet.  The
earliest use of this word as a proper noun appears in the 13th
century.

 



** Ugrhlu


– is from the Ottoman Turkish ugurlu meaning “lucky.”  Its used both
as a male and a female name by the Turks as well as the Armenians.



*** 159, Damay 25

= AD 1774, November 10 (Julian); November 21 (Gregorian).

Further notes on image 3123

 



*


The words Lord, God, Jesus and Christ are all abbreviated as usual.

 



** Hayrapet


– means “patriarch” and is used as a proper name


 



*** Mansurents


– Whereas the end part of the family name — that is, -RENTS —  is
clear in the inscription, the first part is not.  Two of the three
characters preceding the above are ligatures.  The third, namely
the Armenian letter for N, may also be a ligature.  One possibility
is to read the name as MANSURENTS.
Mansur is an Arabic word meaning “victory” that is also used as a
proper noun.  The name appears in an inscription dated 1604 in the
chapel of the Holy Forty Martyrs Armenian Church in Aleppo.  A man
with the same name is mentioned in a colophon from c. 1630-1633.
One of his sons was a priest and was probably connected with one
of the churches in New Julfa.




****Year 1139 …Nakha 2


= AD 1691; Nakha 2 = June 20 (Julian), June 30 (Gregorian).

 

Further notes on image 3128



THE DAUGHTER OF BARSEGH [BASIL]; HER NAME



WAS KATAN,* WIFE OF



ZAKARIA SHUKOREAN.  SHE LIVED



IN THIS WORLD FOR THIRTY



AND MORE YEARS.  SHE PASSED ON TO THE




UPPER REALM, THE HOPE OF ALL, IN THE YEAR



1765, TIRA 15, SATURDAY.**



* Katan –


If this is the abbreviated form of Catherine –


Katarine in Armenian – one would expect Kata instead of Katan, unless
the final
–n is the definite article.



** Tira 15, Saturday


– October 1 (Julian); October 12 (Gregorian).

Further notes on image 3132



Tnakert


– or Tanakert was/is a village located at a distance of 6-7 km to the
northwest of Ordubad, Nakhichevan.





** 1231


= AD 1782-1783.  The Armenian New Year was on August 11.





*** Ovdan 25


= February 8 (Julian); February 19 (Gregorian), 1783.  The day of
the week checks out as a Wednesday.

Further notes on image 3138



*Khojazata


– refers to Petros’ ancestry, “born of a khoja.” Khoja [“lord”] and zade
[“born of”]are Persian words.  The term khoja was used by the
Armenians in eastern Armenia, Iran and India in reference to rich
merchants.





**Hana


– The correct transliteration of the name as it appears is Yana, but
there is no such name listed in dictionaries.  Sine the initial Y
is pronounced H in Modern Armenian, the name is Hana, presumably a form
of Anna.



***Shayin –


In this name also the letter Y should be read as H.  Shahin appears
in various forms, but it is a male name, whereas the person mentioned in
the above inscription is a female.  Shayin may be the shorter form
of Shahinar.





****Ovdan 2


– corresponds to January 16 (Julian calendar) and January 27 (Gregorian
calendar), 1729.

Further notes on image 3142



* Evum

– H. Adjarian, in his Dictionary of Armenian Personal Names, vol. 2,
states that Evum, a name of unknown etymology, is mentioned but once in
an 18th century document.  The document is dated
1727-1729.  This inscription is obviously the second place where
the name appears in written form.





** The date

– Nirhan 7, 161 of “the Lesser Era” corresponds to AD 1777, February 20
(Julian); March 3 (Gregorian)
.

Further notes on image 3159


SHE WAS BLOSSOMING WITH
FRUIT,* [WHEN] SHE DEPARTED THIS LIFE.**


SHE WAS THE CONSORT OF
STEPANNOS [= STEPHAN]


CALLED SON OF AGHABAB.


DESCENDED FROM A [NEW] JULFA
FAMILY


NAMED EREWANTS.


SHE WAS RAISED AS A VIRTUOUS
DAUGHTER


[TO ONE] NAMED NAZAR
TILAN.***


INVITED BY THE CREATOR


SHE PASSED AWAY AT THE AGE
OF NINETEEN,


IN THE YEAR ONE THOUSAND
SEVEN HUNDRED,


EXTENDED BY EIGHTY-FOUR
[YEARS];


AS MARCH TWENTYFOURTH CAME
IN,****


SHE RESIGNED FROM THIS
WORLD.


 

* Blossoming with fruit
– is presumably in reference to the pregnant state of the deceased.

 


** [When] she departed this
Life
– is the translation of
barely legible and partially damaged two words at the end of the line 4 –
which I am reconstructing as “keans vechareal”.

 


*** Nazar Tilan
– appears in the nominative case instead of the
dative, which one would expect.  This may be due to the fact that all
of the sixteen lines in the epitaph end with past participles ending in –eal
[the nominative form of the past participle].  Putting the name Nazar
Tilan in the dative case would have required putting the participle
modifying the name in the dative form as well and disrupting the rhyme.


 

**** The deceased passed
away on March 24, 1784.  The Armenian wording suggests that she died
in the early hours of March 24.

 Note
from Father Krikor:


“It has a sad story to tell about a very young woman with child.  Her
family name Tilan appears in the list of families that lived in New Julfa.
There was also a Tilanian family living in 19th century
Russia.”


Extract from ‘Armenians in India’ by Mesrovb Seth:

Stephen Agabob’s
first wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of one Nazar Milan, had died on the
24th March, 1784 at the age of 15 and is buried in the Armenian cemetery
at Surat. Old Agabob, who evidently had a passion for girl wives, died in
1802, aged 61 years and lies buried in the Surat cemetery.

Further notes on image 020


* Shams 4 –

corresponds to March 24 (Julian) and April 4
(Gregorian).

 

** The final two words in
the last line (line 5) are abbreviated.  In the first of the two
words a single ligature reads SOWR = SUR- and the word ends with the
letters TS, and


seems to spell Surat + S.
The final -S is probably the definite article which simply indicates the
place where the grave is.  The second and final word in the line
reads HNGTI, on top of which, clearly visible, is the abbreviation sign.
The best I can suggest is the word HANGIST, meaning “rest,” that could
also mean cemetery or place of eternal rest in the genitive/dative form of
the word, presumably used as a locative. 


A more remote possibility would be “at the port of Surat.”  The
regular word for “port” in Armenian is “nawahangist,” ”naw” meaning
“ship.”    

Armenian Graves, Surat

Take a step back to the 1960’s when the last services were held at the Armenian Chapel in Surat

This page would not be possible without the help from the following people

Rananjay Anand, Karen Mkrtchyan and the  India-Armenia Friendship – NGO group on Facebook

Arpine Gyulinyan and her husband Piyush Dalal
Sanjay Choksi and Himanshu Desai
from the Surat Science Museum, all for locating the cemetery and donating their photographs to my Armenian Graves in India Project,

and……..

Professor Sebouh Aslanian, Assistant Professor, Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History UCLA and
Very Reverend Father Krikor Maksoudian, of Arlington, Massachusetts, a professor of Armenian Church History and also a past Director of the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center in New York City.

Both of these respected scholars have the exceptional  knowledge of the rare ‘Julfan dialect’, the style in which the graves were written and sculpted. I am grateful to them, and all my volunteer contributors for  finding the time and contributing the modern Armenian and English translations of these very important graves which until now, have never before been translated into English.

Armenian Church Services in Surat

 

Walking Around The Grounds

General Views Around The Site

Interior Views Of The Chapel

Armenian Graves in Surat – Translations See further notes

GULBIJAN – David Gulbijan

Armenians in Surat

Armenian Cemetery Surat

Armenian Cemetery Surat

 

In 1895 Mesrovb Seth wrote: “…….In Surat, the Armenians erected two churches – one in the city, which is still preserved, but is not now used; and the other which lies in ruins, in their cemetery…….”

There are traces of an Armenian settlement in the city during the 16th century.  In the Armenian cemetery at Surat, which adjoins the cemeteries of the early British and Dutch, there is a tombstone of an Armenian lady who died there in 1579 A.D.  The inscription which is in Ancient Armenian translates: “In this tomb lies buried the body of the noble lady, who was named Marinas, the wife of the priest Woskan.  She was a crown to her husband, according to the proverbs of Solomon.  She was taken to the Lord of Life, a soul-afflicting cause of sorrow to her faithful husband, in the year one thousand and twenty eight of our Armenian era, on the fifteenth day of November at the first hour of Friday, at the age of 53.  Ye who see this tomb, pray to the Lord to grant mercy”.  The year 1028 of the Armenian era is equivalent to the year 1579 A.D.  Her husband, Rev. Woskan, must have been the spiritual head of the Armenians living at Surat during the reign of Akbar, the patron of their race.

If there was an Armenian priest in Surat in 1579 then there must have been a church or a chapel.  Accordingly to an unconfirmed source, the old Armenian church at Surat was destroyed by the Mogul governor at the instigation of the Turkish merchants who came to Surat, after their pilgrimage to Mecca, for the purpose of buying goods.  However, evidence of an Armenian Church can be seen on page 297 of the English Factories in India (1661-1664) which is digitised, click to follow the link) there is a rough map of Surat, (which is reproduced below) showing the positions of the prominent buildings at the time of Sivaji’s first raid on the city, in early January 1664, in which the Armenian Church is clearly shown.

Surat rough map

Surat rough map

The Legend marked on the map is as follows.

  1. The English Factory of that time which stood in the north-western part of    the city, in what was known in 1937 as the Mullah’s Ward.

  2. The Sarai and the mosqueof Mirza Zahid still standing

  3. A building known as the Dadhimar or Racket Court.  It was originally a sarai and may have been the one in which some Armenians and Turkish merchants secured themselves and their goods during the raid.

  4. The Armenian Church

  5. Shows the position of the French factory established a little later

  6. Is the site of the subsequent English factory, near the Mullas’ Water Gate.

During the interval between destruction of the old church and the erection of a new church in 1778 dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Armenian residents of Surat held divine services at a house set apart for the purpose.

The church built in 1778 was pulled down some years later (after 1907) by the wardens of the Armenian church of Bombay, as it had fallen into disrepair and the site was later used as a playground for school children.  The Armenian scholar and writer Mesrovb J. Seth visited the church in January 1907 and observed that “it was still standing, although a portion of the roof had fallen, but the altar, the sacristies (vestries) on either side of the altar, the gallery for ladies on the west side of the church, were in a fair state of preservation, as also the priest quarters on the left side of the main gate.”  He continued “the beautiful church, with historical associations, was, in the absence of devout worshippers, found in the indisputable possession of thousands of owls, bats, crows, cats, rats, snakes and scorpions which howled, screeched, and hissed ominously when the present writer, at the risk of his life, entered the sacred edifice where his revered grandfather, Seth Mackertich Agazar Seth, had worshipped during the last quarter f the 18th century.”  Seth continues “there is a Mortuary chapel in the Armenian cemetery at Surat which is still standing and it will continue to exist as a valuable landmark of the once-flourishing Armenian colony in that historic city, because it has fortunately come under the control of the Public Works Department as a “Protected Monument” thanks to the solicitude of the late Lord Curzon for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments in India.  We could find no date, either inside or outside the beautiful chapel, showing the year of its construction, but in all probability it must have been erected during the 17th century, because there is a grave inside that chapel, with a tombstone bearing the date 1695.

Khojah Phanoos Kalandar, the “Armenian merchant of eminency”, as the English called him, was a native of Julfa (Ispahan) but had settled down at Surat, where his only son’s grave, in the mortuary chapel at the Armenian cemetery bears an inscription in classical Armenian of  which the following is a translation: “This is the tomb of Kalandar, the son of Phanoos Kalandar of Julfa who departed this life on Saturday, the 6th March 1695″”

Armenians in Saidabad

An Armenian colony was established here in 1665, by virtue of a royal farman (decree) issued by the Moghul Emperor, granting the Armenians a piece of land in Saidabad, a suburb of Murshidabad (the then capital of Bengal).  The Armenians flourished and made their fortunes.  In 1758 the well known and extremely successful merchant, Khojah Petrus Arathoon built the Armenian church at Saidabad entirely at his own expense and in memory of his parents.  The place having lost its commercial value, the Armenians left the place towards the end of 1860. 

“There was a brass tablet on the north wall of the Armenian church at Saidabad, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, with an inscription in Armenian, from which it appears that the church was built by Khojah Petrus to the memory of his revered parents, Arathoon his father and Hosannah his mother, Dastagool his wife, Khojah Gregory (Gorgin Khan) and Agah Barsegh (Basil) his brothers and all his blood relations, whether dead of alive.  This tablet is now in the picture gallery of the Armenian Church* at Calcutta.” [Extracted from Armenians in India by M.J. Seth published 1937]


* Sadly, this tablet, along with many other precious and historical items no longer exist. Looted and stolen from this and other Armenian churches in India, by individuals who knew the value and sold them, thus depleting and diluting the history of their very own ancestors and countrymen. Such callous and selfish behaviour deprives the current community, small though it is, of knowing and learning about the many good Armenians who went before them.

In the library of the Armenian church in Calcutta, used to be a beautiful manuscript copy of a collection of 306 hymn, canticles and melodies composed in ancient Armenian by the Fathers of the Armenian Church from time to time.  From the title page it could be seen that it was compiled by Petrus Amirjan, a chorister, but the date and place of the compilation was not shown.  From the colophon (the symbol or emblem that is printed on a book and represents a publisher or publisher’s imprint) that this copy was made at Saidabad from the original of Petrus Amirjan, by a young Armenian, named Arakiel, the son of Mahtesy Johanness, who laboured for 4 months with great devotion and completed his self-imposed task on the 17th August 1757.

The colophon indicates that the paper was supplied by Martyrose, the son of Arathoon and the cost of the binding was borne by Petrus, the son of Rev. Nicholas, the pious and zealous warden of the Saidabad Armenian Church.  Further evidence indicated that Carapiet, the son of Mathew, helped the copyist by reading the original, thereby enabling him to revise the copy.  The volume, again according to the colophon, was presented by the scribe, Arakiel Mahtesy Johanness to the Armenian church at Saidabad, on the 3rd August 1759 in memory of all those mentioned above who had participated in its production.

The manuscript itself was composed of 320 quarto pages, measuring 10” x 7 ½ “.  It was beautifully written, like print, with a reed pen on thick hand-made glazed paper, in jet black Indian ink, with the headings and the first letters of the lines in red ink.  In the 1930’s Mesvrob Seth noted in his book “Armenians in India” that “although written 180 years ago, it is in a very fair state of preservation, despite the damp climate of Bengal”.  Whatever became of it?

Another prominent Armenian merchant who lived in Saidabad was Manatsaken Sumbat Vardon.  He was the founder of the Armenian College, which opened its doors on the 2nd April 1821 and is still going strong today.  Manatsaken Vardon departed this life at Saidabad on the 13th October 1827 at the very early age of fifty five years having been born in Julfa Ispahan on the 6th September 1772.  He was buried in the church in Saidabad.

The Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in 1758 and the last service was held there in 1860 after which the church remained closed for nearly a century because the Armenians left towards the end of 1860 due to the decline of commerce and trade.  Successive caretakers looked after it, the last being the late Mr. Mathevos Carapiet who served there between 1908 and 1952. His wife Mary, continued to look after it until her death in 1968, a most remarkable selfless act, by two remarkable people.  During the 100 years or so that it was closed, it was left to the ravages of time.  As a result, the roof collapsed on the altar and the walls were severely damaged.  In 1960 a small number of dedicated Armenians of Calcutta collected funds and had the church thoroughly renovated.  This brought a short-lived revival of just two services being held at which a large number of Armenians from Calcutta attended.

Following the death of Mary Carapiet in 1968 the church no longer had anyone to tend it and it quickly fell into a serious state of disrepair which, coupled with fire and earthquakes almost destroyed it.  The agonies of the heart of that church must have been heard by those few Armenians in Calcutta 37 years later because in 2005, the newly elected Armenian Church Committee of Kolkata vowed that the church should once again, stand tall and proud, and went about a major restoration programme the likes of which have never been seen in the Armenian community of India before.

On the 5th December 2006 the Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Virgin Mary of Saidabad was re-consecrated by His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Prelate of Australia and the Far East and Pontifical Legate of Armenians in India and the Far East assisted by the Pastor of Armenians in India, the Very Reverend Father Oshagan Gulgulian.  It is a delight to be able to report that regular  services are held at Saidabad attended by the Armenian community from Kolkata and the children from the Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy as well as the girls from the Davidian Girls’ School.

You only have to look at the “before” and “after” pictures to see what the miraculous transformation that has taken place due entirely to the commitment and dedication of the newly formed Armenian Church Committee of Kolkata.

Armenians in Madras

The Armenians in Madras in 1949 celebrating the visit of Bishop Vahan Constantian

Armenians flourished at Madras during the 17th and 18th centuries, when they had the trade of the Asians in their hands, and carried on a lucrative trade with Europe and the East.  From a valuable Armenian manuscript, written at Masulipatam by Sarkies Johannes in 1790, it can be seen that Armenians settled permanently at Madras in the year 1666.

However, from “Madras in the Olden Time: Being a History of the Presidency from the First Foundation to the Governorship of Thomas Pitt, Grandfather of the Earl of Chatham 1639-1702. Compiled from Official Records by James Talboys Wheeler.”  Published in Madras in 1861, comes the following extract.

In January  1692 the Court of Directors [of the East India Co.] sent a letter to the administration at Fort St. George, Madras stating: “We have discoursed Sir John Goldsborough (newly arrived in Madras as Governor General, who took over from Mr. Yale) about enlarging our Christian town to a Quadrangle, so as it may be done without detriment to the Company, with handsome stone bridges over the river; in which designed new moiety of the city, one Quarter of that moiety may be set apart for the Armenian Christians to build a new church (for the worship of God according to their own Rites), at their charge, with stone and other durable materials, and also convenient dwelling houses for their merchants, they paying as such ground rents as will fully defray our charges. And that Quarter so set apart for their use  you may call it “Julpha” that being the town from whence Shah Abbas the Great brought them, when he conquered Armenian and settled them in a suburb of his new made metropolitan city of Ispahan and called the Quarter he allotted there to the Armenians “Julpha” the name of the city from whence he brought them”.

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Armenians settled here and grew rich, trading in textiles, precious stones, silks, and spices.  Amongst them Petrus Woskan because a member of the East India Company’s Council.  When the Nawab (Indian Prince) of Arcot visited Madras, it is said that Woskan draped the main streets with costly silks and entertained him on a lavish scale.  The Nawab was so pleased that he asked Woskan what he would like in return as a favour.  The shrewd Woskan with an eye to greater business did not lose this golden opportunity.  He immediately asked for the monopoly of the inland trade to Madras and the interior, which the Nawab graciously granted without hesitation.

 

Coja Petrus Woskan stone

Coja Petrus Woskan stone

Thereby Woskan soon became a millionaire and utilised a large portion of his wealth in charitable works.  At his personal cost he build the Marmalong Bridge across the Adyar River in Madras in 1726.  In spite of heavy traffic for over two centuries, the bridge stood until 1960, when it was replaced with a more modern structure.   He also built a flight of 160 large stone steps leading to the top of St. Thomas’ Mount in Madras, where the Church of St. Thomas was built on the reputed site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas the Apostle.  There are a few Armenian graves around this Church.  The pictures of the twelve Apostle hanging on the inside walls of the Church have their names inscribed in Armenian letters.

Petros Woskan was born in Julfa, Iran, in 1681 and passed away in Madras in 15th January 1751.  His will included the following direction:

“My heart longs for home where, should I be unable to go, when my last day comes,
my heart be sent to my native town, so that I shall have a grave there”.

Accordingly, his heart was sent to Julfa in a golden casket and entombed in the grave of his parents in a Church built at the cost of his great grandfather, Khojah Petrus Velijanian.

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself had said
This is my own my native land”.

The first Armenian church in Madras was erected in 1712 in the Esplanade of the city.  As the British authorities objected to tall buildings in the Fort area, this church and the Latin church in the same neighbourhood were demolished.  However, another account indicated that in fact these two churches were wrecked in 1746 by the French military during their occupation of Madras.

The second Armenian church  dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary was built in 1772 on land that was originally the burial ground of the community and where a chapel stood where they worshipped whilst the present church was being built.  The ground belonged to the famous Agah Shameer.  His wife, Anna, had been buried there in 1765 and a room built to her memory.  This room, was known as “Shameer’s Room” and was attached to the church that was built seven years afterwards.

One cannot mention Armenians in Madras without mentioning Rev. Haruthiune Shmavonian.  He was born in Shiraz, Iran and came to Madras in 1750 and served the Church for 44 years.  During the years 1794-1796 he published the very first Armenian journal in the world and named it “Azdarar” (ie. Adviser).  It was a completely one-man achievement for not only did he edit, compose and print it, but he also cast the typefaces and made the printing paper from cotton pulp.  He is acknowledged as the “Father of Armenian Journalism”.  He died in Madras on 9th February 1824 and was buried in the churchyard.  The tombstone of Rev. Shmavonian’s grave being in a state of decay for many years (see right), was replaced with a new and beautiful black marble slab in 1965 (see below) with the original epitaph inscribed on it, courtesy of the Armenian Association.

The first Armenian publication in India, which was printed in Madras dates back even further than the start of Rev. Shmavonian’s journal, it being published in 1772 with an interesting title page which translates into English as:

“New pamphlet, called Exhortation , composed for the awakening of the Armenian youth from the weak and idle drowsiness of the sleep of slothfulness, and with an ardent and tender desire printed at the expense and through the exertions of Jacob Shameer by his tutor Moses Bagram, for the benefit of the tender Armenian youth, in the year of the incarnation of the Word 1772 and in the year 1221 of the Armenian era.  In India, at the city of Madras, at the press of the said Jacob Shameer.”

The works in the Armenian language, published at Madras between the years 1772 and 1800, possess considerable literary merit. Source: Seth, Armenians in India P.596.

The Armenian Church at Madras was once well known for possessing a large number of rare and valuable manuscripts and books.  In April 1904 Mesrovb Seth made his first visit to the church in Madras and made the following observation.

“Having arrived on the Saturday, we went to the church service the following day, which was very poorly attended owing to the paucity of Armenians in that city.  We paid our respects to the priest in charge and he received us in the room where the so called Church Library was located.  As a bibliophile, if not a bibliomaniac, we expected to find a large number of rare manuscripts and a complete collection of the works which had been issued from the different Armenian presses at Madras, between the years 1772 and 1812, but we were sorely disappointed when we saw no manuscripts and only a few torn and dilapidated copies of “Hisoos Vordi” (Jesus the Son) which was printed in Rev. Arathoon Shumavon’s press in 1792.

It seems the once beautiful and well stocked library of the church was completely devoid of its past historical content which had never had an inventory done of its unique collection.

FREEMASONRY

It appears that in 1838 a new freemason’s lodge was established in Madras by members of the Armenian community, and it was named the “Armenian Lodge”.

 

Armenians in Lahore

Several Armenians owned breweries and others were general merchants.  When the Moghul governor threatened to annihilate the Christians in Lahore, the Armenians were in such fear that 20 merchants with their families fled from the city.  Considering the number of merchants who fled, and the presence of an Armenian Bishop in Lahore in 1711, the community must have been a fairly large one.  So there must have been a chapel or a church where the Armenians worshipped.

 

There are now no traces of Churches or graves in Lahore where the Armenians lived and died during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Records show that a few Armenians were still left in Lahore, as an Armenian Archbishop Sahak Ayvadian who was a primate of Indo-Iranian Diocese in Calcutta visited them in May 1907.  But there is no further record as to what became of them.

Armenians in Gwalior + Narwar

Here also, as in other cities in India, the Armenians prospered. Colonel Jacob Petrus was the Commander of the Scindia of Gwaliors’ Army, which position he held for 70 years.  He erected the Armenian Church at Gwalior and for many years maintained a priest at his own expense to attend to the spiritual needs of the Armenian colony there.  He died at the ripe old age of 95 years.  His sons, one a Captain and the other a Major had served under him.  The Captain was killed during the Mutiny in 1857.  The Major having wasted his wealth by high living, died at the early age of 35 years.  It is recorded that Colonel Jacob had a large number of Armenian officers under his command, all of whom amassed large fortunes in later years.

Armenians in Dhaka

 

Dacca Church

Dacca Church

There was a fairly large Armenian colony here during the early part of the 18th century, most of whom were engaged in the jute trade.  Prominent Armenian jute merchants had their own companies, namely, Messrs Sarkies & Sons, Messrs David & Co., etc.  Gradually the jute business was absorbed and monopolised by the more powerful and better organised British firms who established themselves there.

Before the Armenian community had its own church or cemetery a number of Armenians were buried in the cemetery of The Church of the Holy Rosary Tejgaon,itself built in 1677.  The oldest Armenian tombstone is of Avietes a merchant who was the son of Lazar of Erivan and dated 15 August 1714.  The Armenian community continued to use the church until 1794, 13 years after their own was built.

The early Armenian settlers built a small chapel in the midst of their community graveyard. By the end of the 18th century the Armenian colony in Dacca had grown considerably and the chapel was found inadequate for the needs of the community.  Major subscriptions were made by Michael Sarkies, Astwasatoor Gavork, Margar Pogose and Khojah Petrus. They replaced the chapel with a Church, known as the Holy Resurrection Church which was completed in 1781 and consecrated by His Grace Bishop Ephreim.  The extensive grounds on which this Church was built were presented by a well known Armenian merchant, Agah Catchick Minas.  His wife, Sophia is entombed inside the church.  Another merchant, Johannes Carapiet Sarkies added the belfry in 1837, which also served as a clock tower. In 1907 a parsonage was built and in 1910 the floor of the church was covered with marble, and electric lights and fans were donated by the late Mr. Arathoon Stephen of the Grand Hotel Calcutta, in memory of his grandfather Rev. Hyrapiet Gregore Bashkhoomian who was priest at the church for 15 years from 1828.  He passed away suddenly on the eve of his retirement from Dacca, and is buried in the churchyard near the belfry.

Books Published by Liz Chater

Sir Catchick Paul Chater
A Brief Biography

Sir Catchick Paul Chater

Sir Catchick Paul Chater, book cover.

[Out of Print]

Sir Catchick Paul Chater, a maverick, cut-throat wholly focused business man, or perhaps a man deeply affected by his early traumatic childhood? He knew what is was like to have nothing. This very brief personal biography written by Liz Chater to whet the appetite about his extraordinary life is a pre-curser to a larger and more detailed book. Published by the Armenian Church in Kolkata under the Chair of Mrs Sonia John, it was commissioned as part of the commemoration events of 2005 in Hong Kong.

Marble Hall. A Pictorial Review.

Marble Hall. A Pictorial Review. Book cover.

More Details from my bookstore

In two different sizes.  This is the first book in a series of ‘lifestyle accounts’ that highlight the remarkable life of Sir Catchick Paul Chater and the significant contribution he made to both the Chinese and British communities in Hong Kong during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sir Paul’s main home in Hong Kong was Marble Hall and he worked closely with the architects Leigh & Orange. During the design and planning process he liaised with, and oversaw the building contractors who were all locally employed Chinese workers. Marble Hall was a culmination of many influences. There is no doubt that its design was a small gesture of acknowledgement towards La Martiniere. Built of marble, La Martiniere was his school in Calcutta and had a lasting influence throughout his life.

This book highlights the wonderful architecture and design features of Marble Hall as well as that of his other homes. It offers a glimpse at the rare pieces of the Chater Collection placed by Sir Paul with care and for maximum impact in and around his home, a collection which was once considered the best privately owned art and china east of Suez.

Other books in this series will highlight his Masonic and philanthropic work, his pastimes and hobbies, his personal life and his businesses.Armenian Graves Inscriptions and Memorials in India

Armenian Graves, Inscription & Memorials in India. DACCA
1722-1977 [currently out of print]

Armenian Graves Inscriptions and Memorials in India. Dacca. 1722-1977.

Armenian Graves Inscriptions and Memorials in India. Dacca. 1722-1977.

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It contains in excess of 160 full colour photographs of all the remaining graves at the Armenian Church Dhaka (Dacca, previously in Bengal but now in Bangladesh). In addition, I have included over 25 individual family tree charts that relate directly to those Armenians buried in Dhaka. These charts have been drawn up from my own research of the Armenian community’s existence there between the 18th and 20th centuries. I have also uniquely cross-referenced the grave inscriptions with the original Armenian Church death register entries and where possible, I have also included important factual information from those registers. All transcriptions and register entries that are written in Armenian have been expertly translated into English, to further help the Armenian family history researchers around the world who may have a South East Asia genealogy connection.

 

Eype, St. Peters.

Eype, St. Peters.

Graves At St. Peter’s Churchyard, Eype, Dorset

Eype Graves at St Peter's Church

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Symondsbury Cemetery

Symondsbury Cemetery

Graves at Symondsbury Cemetery, Dorset

Symondsbury Cemetery

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Symondsbury St. John the Baptist Church.

Symondsbury St. John the Baptist Church.

Graves at St. John the Baptist Churchyard, Symondsbury, Dorset

Symondsbury St John the Baptist Churchyard

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Armenians in Delhi

There was a fairly large community here in the early part of the 17th century. They built a church and according to old records, Rev. Stephanus was the priest in 1713.

During the Sack of Delhi in 1739, King Nadir Shah’s army devastated the city which included the complete destruction of the Armenian church and cemetery, both of which were situated in the centre of the city. All Christian Churches and cemeteries that came into existence since the Sack of Delhi were likewise destroyed by the Indian mutineers in 1857. Only one small Armenian cemetery and the Martyrs’ Chapel attached to it situated in Kishengunge on the outskirts of Delhi escaped destruction. The oldest grave in this cemetery dates back to 1787. The Chapel and cemetery are being preserved by the Archaeological Department of the Government of India.

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