Documentary  Film

(The life history of Blessed Dhaivasahayam pillai in malayalam)

Devasahayam Pillai was a person who had boldly reproached the command of the King, and had accepted the Christian faith, during the period when it was against the law for the upper-cast people to change their faith. Subjected to the wrath of the King, Devasahayam Pillai had to end his life in a very pathetic manner. He had to undergo several unspeakable torments since the day he accepted the new faith. This CD narrates the sacrificial story of this Blessed Devasahayam Pillai.

January 14 – Blessed Devasahayam Pillai

Devasahayam Pillai (named Neelakanda Pillai at birth) was born into an affluent Nair-caste family at Nattalam in the present-day Kanyakumari District, on 23 April 1712. His father Vasudevan Namboodiri, hailed from Kayamkulam, in present-day Kerala state, and was working as a priest at Sri Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Thiruvattar in present-day Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. His mother Devaki Amma hailed from Thiruvattar in Kanyakumari District. In the Nair matriarchal traditions of the day, Devasahayam Pillai was raised by his maternal uncle, and was inculcated with Hindu beliefs and traditions early on.
Devasahayam’s family had much influence in the royal palace of Maharaja Marthanda Varma, king of Travancore, and Devasahayam went into the service of the royal palace as a young man. His capabilities and enthusiasm did not go unnoticed in the palace, as he was soon put in charge of state affairs as an official under Ramayyan Dalawa, the Dewan of Travancore.
In 1741, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, a Dutch naval commander, was sent on command of a Dutch naval expedition by the Dutch East India Company to capture Colachel, a port under the control of Travancore, and establish a trading post there. In the battle (Battle of Colachel) that followed between the Travancore forces and De Lannoy’s men, the Dutch forces were defeated and the men were either killed or captured. Eustachius De Lannoy, his assistant Donadi and a few other Dutch soldiers were captured and imprisoned.
De Lannoy and the Dutchmen were later pardoned by the king, on condition that they serve in the Travancore army. De Lannoy later earned the trust of the king and went on to become the commander of the Travancore armed forces, winning many battles and annexing various neighbouring territories to Travancore.
It was during their influential roles under the King of Travancore that Devasahayam Pillai and De Lannoy became well acquainted. De Lannoy’s Christian faith interested Devasahayam and De Lannoy enlightened him on the faith, leading to his conversion in 1745.
On Devasahayam’s acceptance of the Christian faith, he was baptized at the Roman Catholic Latin Rite church at Vadakkankulam village (in the present Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu), where the Jesuits had a mission under Rev. Fr. R. Bouttari Italus S.J. Neelakanda Pillai, his name at birth, was then changed to Lazar, although he is more widely known by the Tamil & Malayalam translation Devasahayam (meaning God’s help). Pillai was married by this time to Bargavi Ammal of Travancore. She was also persuaded and converted to Christianity by her husband. His wife was given the baptismal name of Gnanapoo Ammaal (equivalent to Theresa in Tamil & Malayalam). Fearing reprisal in Travancore against her religious conversion, she chose to be a migrated-resident of this village. Some of Devasahayam Pillai’s immediate family members also received baptism later, after being converted to Christianity.
Church chroniclers say that the Brahmin chief priest of the kingdom, the feudal lords, members of the royal household and the Nair community brought false charges on Devasahayam to the Dewan, Ramayyan Dalawa. Pillai was divested of his portfolio in the administration and was later accused of treason and of divulging state secrets to rivals and Europeans. He was later arrested and tortured for three years. After his execution orders were passed, he was initially ordered to be taken on a buffalo to Kuzhumaikkad, where he would be executed. But the original Royal order was altered later to finally to be taken on a buffalo back to Aralvaimozhy border for a meaningful punishment of banishment after carrying out a series of tortures by ten different karyakkars on the advice of the ministers.
Devasahayam Pillai was marched from Padmanabhapuram Palace to Aralvaimozhy by soldiers, over the period of a few days. Pillai was treated like a cruel criminal and as was customary in those days for very cruel criminals, his body was painted with red and black spots, and was intentionally marched through populated areas, sitting backward on top of a water buffalo (the mythical vehicle or vahana of Yama, the lord of death in Hinduism) through the streets of South Travancore. As a method of torture, he was beaten everyday with eighty stripes, pepper rubbed in his wounds and nostrils, exposed to the sun, and given only stagnant water to drink.
While halting at Puliyoorkurichi, not far away from the Padmanabhapuram Palace of the Travancore king, it is believed by Christians that God quenched his thirst by letting water gush through a small hole on a rock, the very place where he knelt to pray. The water hole is still found in the compound of a church at Puliyoorkurichi, about 15 km from Nagercoil.
It is also believed that the leaves of a neem (Margosa) tree in the village of Peruvilai, to which he had been tied while being marched to Aralvaimozhy, cured illnesses of sick people in the village and around. Many more miracles are attributed to Devasahayam Pillai.
In 1752, the original order of the King and his Dewan was to deport him from Travancore, into the Pandya country, at Aralvaimozhy. He was let off in the forested hills near Aralvaimozhy. There, he is believed to have begun deep meditations, and the people from the adjacent villages began visiting the holy man. Christian sources allege that at this time, high caste Hindus plotted to do away with Devasahayam.
The soldiers went up the forested hills and tried to shoot Devasahayam, but were unable to fire; after which he took the gun in his hands, blessed it and gave it back to the soldiers to shoot him to death, if they wished to. The soldiers took the gun back and fired at him five times. His body was then carelessly thrown out near the foothills at Kattadimalai.
It was at Kattadimali in Kanyakumari district that Devasahayam Pillai died on 14 January 1752. His mortal remains were interred near the altar inside St. Xavier’s Church, Kottar, Nagercoil, which is now the diocesan Cathedral.
Since the days of the interment of the mortal remains of Devesahayam Pillai many Christian pilgrims visited his tomb and offered prayers.
He was beatified on 2 December, 2012, and is the first lay person to be elevated to the rank of “Blessed” in India.

Blessed Devasahayam Pillai (Tamilமுத்திப்பேறு பெற்ற தேவசகாயம் பிள்ளை(1712–1752), born Neelakanta Pillai in southern India, is a beatified layman of the Latin Catholic church. Born into a Hindu family in the 18th century, he converted to Christianity and is considered a martyr of the Christian faith. Pillai was an official in the court of the king of Travancore, Maharaja Marthanda Varma, when he came under the influence of Dutch naval commander, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, who instructed him in the Catholic faith. He is believed to have been killed by the then Travancore state for upholding his Christian faith.

In 2004, at the request of the diocese of Kottar, Tamil Nadu Bishops' Council (TNBC) and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) recommended Devasahayam Pillai for the process of beatification to the Vatican. Some Hindu groups objected to this initiative on the grounds that there was no evidence of religious persecution in Travancore during that period, and that Pillai was executed for sedition. However, documents dating back to the period of Devasahayam Pillai show that conversion of court officials to Christianity was not tolerated.

On June 28, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree regarding the martyrdom of Devasahayam Pillai and he was referred to as "Venerable".

On 2 December 2012, a ceremony of beatification and declaration of martyrdom was held in Nagercoil, in the Roman Catholic diocese of Kottar in Southern India, presided over by Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, acting as papal delegate. Devasahayam Pillai is the first layman to be elevated to the rank of "Blessed" in India (the step preceding raising a person to Sainthood under the Canon Law of the Catholic Church).

Lay Martyr Devsagayam Pillai’s 300th Birth Anniversary Observed

Kottar (UCA News)

April 23 marks the 300th birth anniversary of Devsagayam Pillai, a Catholic convert from Hinduism who the Church claims was martyred for his faith. Special prayers were held at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Aramboly, a parish under Kottar diocese that has a shrine dedicated to the layman who is now a Servant of God. In a rare gesture eight years ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India endorsed his canonization cause. That was the first official attempt to have an Indian layperson declared a saint. It was also the first time the bishops’ conference directly took up a canonization cause.

All Indians who have been declared blessed until now were Religious or priests. Kottar diocese in Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari district, where Pillai was born, initiated his canonization cause and set up a diocesan tribunal for the process in 1984. In 1990, the diocese sent to Rome the case of a lame Hindu boy, who walked after seeing a vision of Pillai, to speed up the process.

However some historians have challenged the bishops' move, saying the Church based its case on "historical inaccuracies." According to Church accounts, Pillai's conversion upset King Marthanda Varma, who ordered his arrest and imprisonment. When three years of torture failed to make him abandon his new faith the king ordered his execution in 1752. He was executed at a place that now comes under Kottar diocese.

Historian A. Shreedhara Menon, who claimed to have studied the king’s 29-year reign, dismissed the Church version as a "concocted story" and "figment of imagination." He said he found no evidence of religious persecution during King Varma's rule. Another historian, M.G.S. Narayanan, said there was no army chief with the name Pillai during Varma’s regime. He urged the Church leaders not to "tamper with history for the sake of making someone a saint." P. Parameswaran, another Hindu historian, said the king executed Pillai for tampering with palace records, but not for converting to Christianity,

The hero of many Tamil folk dramas, Devasahayam was born Neelakanta Pillai into a Hindu high-caste Nair family on April 23, 1712.His tryst with Christianity began after he met a Dutch general, who was the king's military adviser. Pillai was baptized Lazarus in 1745, but people called him its Tamil term, Devasahayam (God's help).

According to Father B. Wilson, a researcher into Tamil folk drama of the 19th century, Pillai identified with the poor and oppressed and challenged the unjust social order.

After his arrest, Pillai was taken around the villages on an old buffalo and daily given 30 strokes with a bamboo stick. They filled his eyes and nostrils with pepper and forced him to stand in the sun and drink polluted water. He was executed on a small hillock on Kanyakumari-Tirunelveli border.

According to tradition, at the time of execution a rock fell and produced a sound similar to the tolling of a bell. Reportedly, the rock still produces that sound when struck with a stone. After his death, villagers took Devasahayam's body to St. Xavier's Cathedral near Nagercoil and buried it there. The tomb remains in the church center.

Some 1,000 pilgrims from various religions, most of them Hindus, visit his shrine daily, according to diocesan officials. The pilgrims pour oil and milk over a stone cross erected on the spot where Pillai was martyred.

Devasahayam Pillai and Puthenparampil Thommachan are the only lay people from India being considered for sainthood.

Pope Benedict XVI recognized Devasahayam Pillai, an 18th century Hindu convert to Catholicism in Tamil Nadu, as a martyr for faith and made him a venerable, the second stage in the Catholic Church’s four-tier canonization process.

On the same day, the Vatican congregation approved Changnacherry diocese in neighboring Kerala state to start the canonization cause of Puthenparampil Thommachan that allows him to be called the Servant of God.

Pillai and Thommachan are the only lay people from India being considered for sainthood. Six nuns and priests have reached the third stage, where a candidate is declared blessed.

Only two Indians have reached sainthood – Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, a Franciscan Clarist nun who died in 1946 aged 36, and Gonsalo Garcia, who was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1957 at the age of 40.

Pillai, according to the Church records, was executed in 1752 for refusing to abandon his new faith.

He was killed at a place which is now under Kottar diocese Kanniyakumari district that initiated his canonization cause in 1984.

To speed up the process, the diocese in 1990 sent to Rome the case of a lame Hindu boy, who walked after seeing a vision of Pillai.

In a rare gesture ten years ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India endorsed his canonization cause, the first official attempt to have an Indian layperson declared a saint. It was also the first time the bishops’ conference directly took up a canonization cause.

However some historians have alleged that the Church case is based on "historical inaccuracies." According to the Church accounts, Pillai's conversion had upset King Marthanda Varma, who ordered his arrest and imprisonment.

Historian A. Shreedhara Menon said his studies could find no evidence of religious persecution during the king’s 29-year reign and dismissed the Church stand as a "concocted story" and "figment of imagination."
The other candidate for sainthood, Thommachan, was the father of two in Changanacherry archdiocese and was known as the Kerala Assisi for popularizing the Franciscan Third Order in Kerala. He died in 1908 at the age 72.
He began leading a life of piety at the age of 28 and gathered a group of lay people who prayed for sinners and engaged in charitable works.

Directed by    Jinto Joseph
Produced by   Ebenezer Creations
Written by   Jinto Joseph
Music by  Eby Thomas
Cinematography   Eldho Issac
Edited by   Suneesh Sebastian
Production company  Dreamline Movies
Distributed by  Maranatha Media Center
Release dates   04 July  2014
Running time  38 minutes
Country  India

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