Varanasi is a city that has always assimilated religions, traditions and cultures in its fold. In British Period it assimilated Christianity which was alien to its deep rooted Hindu Traditions. With settlement of British Population in colonial times many Churches were constructed as a practice of Religious establishment. All Religions have fought for religious supremacy in India and have mingled with Indian Traditions as India is the country which have accepted all as own and have followed the principle of universal brotherhood. Churches of Varanasi don’t have ancient roots and all are made in 18th-19th centuries along or near British habitations of colonial period. Presently Varanasi has 12 Churches.
Some of prominent Churches of Varanasi are :
St. Mary's Church :
The St. Mary's Church is situated in the cantonment area of Varanasi. It has a low tower, spire and projecting portico. In the place of windows, the church has louvered doors to the sides and hooded ventilation slots beneath the cornice. The rectangular fanlight stands above the doorway of the church that protects it from the glare of the sun by a plain timber canopy- a simple device which has a major architectural impact. In the serene atmosphere of the church lie many memorials and Churchyard. Church is regularly visited by Anglo-Indians, Indians who have converted to Christianity and tourist or others who wish to visit.
St. Thomas Church, Godowlia, Varanasi :
In the heart of the holy city of Benaras, which is the centre of Hindu pilgrimage, there lies a centuries-old St Thomas Church in Godowlia. This church has popularised the area as 'Girija Ghar crossing'. However little is known about the history of this church lying in the domain of Hindu dominating area of the city.
According to father Stevens of the church, there are no inscriptions on the walls of this church that can inform them about the time when it was built.
"It is believed that Saint Thomas, also known as Didymus, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, visited the city roughly during 52 AD to 72 AD" , informed father Stevens.
According to Stevens, Saint Thomas was the only Apostle of Jesus who went outside Roman Empire to preach the Gospels and spread Christianity. He is believed to have crossed the Arabian Sea and sailed to India in 52 AD in Kerala where he spread Christian faith among Jews.
"Banaras was also on the itinerary of Saint Thomas apart from many other old cities most of which were South Indian cities, and it is believed that he came to preach people at this place when the present congested area of the city had nothing except a few temples and the River Ganges. That particular piece of land became the place of worship thereafter leading to the formation of the St Thomas Church. So one can realize how old the age of the church is," said Stevens.
Though there is lack of any evidence to support this claim, fact may be false because there have been much boasting of such events in Hindu as well as Christianity and scriptures related to Varanasi didn’t mention any propagation of Christianity and international relations were shrunken due to lack of navigation at the time.
There have been duels over claims of most ancient religions in India and various groups have tried to ascertain their religions as most ancient. So is the case of this church too. There may be truth as India saw flourished relations and rich exchanges of goods as well as religions, philosophy and cultures during this period as it was the time of Holy Roman Empire.
"The church with its present structure is not built after 1700 AD as its bricks suggest," added David, a worshipper at the church.
It is worth mentioning here that the church is a protestant church and comes under Churches of North India (CNI), Diocese of Lucknow.
"The 60 feet height of the church was the tallest in the area at the time of my great grand-parents," added Kisan, a tea vendor outside the church.
"The walls of the church were losing its texture until a few years back when it was painted in traditional light yellow and white colour of protestant churches," said Ravi, another devotee.
The city has always been an epitome of composite cultures and the history of the St Thomas Church related to Apostle of Jesus and its presence in an entirely Hindu domain is another milestone that reflects the unity in diversity of the city.
Roman Catholic Diocese of Varanasi :
Diocese of Varanasi
Roman Rite | Hindi
45 Varanasi Cantt.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh 221002 India
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Varanasi (Latin: Varanasien(sis)) is a Latin suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of Agra in northern India' s vast state Uttar Pradesh.
Its cathedral episcopal see is St. Mary’s Cathedral in the city of Varanasi.
- Established on July 11, 1946 as Apostolic Prefecture of Gorakhpur, on territory split off from the Diocese of Allahabad, exempt, i.e. directly subject to the Holy See.
- September 17, 1958: Renamed as Apostolic Prefecture of Benaras-Gorakhpur.
- Promoted on June 5, 1970 as Diocese of Banaras (Benaras), losing its exempt status by becoming a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Agra
- May 14, 1971: Renamed as Diocese of Varanasi (as the city had changed its name).
Ordinaries : (All Latin, Roman Rite)
Vice-President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India
Eugene Joseph (2015.05.30 – ...)
Some other Churches of Varanasi are:
St. Francis of Assisi :(ID: 136486)
St. Francis of Assisi is located in Nagwa Area of Nagwa Police Station in Varanasi.
B 30/76 Nagwa
Varanasi, 221005 India
Weekend Mass Time of Saturday is 5:30 PM and of Sunday is 7:30 AM(IST). Daily Mass Time is 6:30 AM. Church has not provided schedules for daily readings. It follows Roman Rites.
St. John the Baptist :(ID: 136489)
Diocese of Varanasi | Roman Rite | English
Varanasi, 221005 India
These Churches in common have a colonial History and now their membership has expanded with conversions of Indians into Christianity. Besides there are some newly established Churches with Hindi names and purely indigenous in religious influence except some basic principles of Christianity.