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Alagappapuram, Azhagai Mahnagar
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|Nearest city||Tirunelveli, Trivandrum|
|Vidhan Sabha constituency||Kanyakumari|
Azhagappapuram is a panchayat town in Kanyakumari district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located about five miles northwest of Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India. It falls under the Agastheeswaram taluk of Tamil Nadu. St. Antony's church stands in the middle.
- 1 Location and Transport
- 2 History
- 3 Demographics
- 4 St. Antony's Church
- 5 Kanikai Matha festival
- 6 Azhagappapuram parish
- 7 St. Therasa's Statue
- 8 Development in Azhagai
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Location and Transport
It spans an area of about nine km2. Kulasekarapuram is situated in the south-west and Myladi in the north-west, near Suchindram, Thovalai, Kanyakumari and Vattakottai. Trivandrum International Airport is the nearest airport. Kanyakumari Railway Station serves the town. Azhagappapuram can be reached from Kanyakumari and Suchindram by road. National Highway 7 passes nearby. Azhagai's main occupation is agriculture.
Far back in time, Mudaliars and Muslims came first and lived in this village. Hindu Nadars and aborigines Dravidas, few in number, joined them later. 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 Petchiparai 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.
As of 2001[update] India census, Azhagappapuram (Alagappapuram) had a population of 8101. Males constitute 46% of the population and females 54%. Azhagappapuram has an average literacy rate of 82%, higher than the national average of 59.5%; 85% of the males and 80% of females are literate. 10% of the population is under 6 years of age, 50% of them are males.
St. Antony's Church
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, Paranjyothi 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 Tiruchi 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.
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 Vadakamkulam parish priest started visiting Azhagai twice a year for the two festivals. In 1908, Fr. Gousanal of the Jesuits Order established Holy Communion at the Azhagai church. In 1910 Azhagappapuram was brought under the jurisdiction of Kootapuli parish.
In the same year, 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 Azhagappauram 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, Azhagappauram parish was brought under it.
St. Therasa's Statue
Wishing to build a small church for St. Therasa, 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. Therasa's statue, cholera vanished from the face of Azhagai.
Development in Azhagai
Fr. Rosario Correira (May 1937 April 1938) took charge of the parish soon after his ordination. Fr. Thirukudumbadhason Thalmaitha (1938 Dec 1939) built the school office building and another block for the school on the northern side of the church. Fr. Boopalarayar was the parish priest during the period June 1939 to May 1940. He was succeeded by Fr. Joseph Fernando for a brief stint. Then, during the time May 1943 March 1946, Fr. Michael was the parish priest. He was also the correspondent of the school. In 1944, acknowledging the wishes of the people of Azhagai, the Bishop of Tuticorin diocese, Rev. Roche, D.D.D.C.L, founded the convent for nuns and named it St. Seseeliammal Illam. Fr. Periyanayagam (April 1946 April 1947), was custodian of the parish and the school.
Fr. A.M. Novamani
In 1947 Fr. A.M. Novamani assumed charge of the Azhagappauram parish and promised to establish a high school; he founded it in 1948. At a time when radio broadcasting was unusual, Fr. Novamani set up a local radio broadcaster by the name R.S. Nadar Vaanoli, broadcasting service news and connecting people to the outer world. When a severe famine struck Azhagai during his stewardship, Fr. Novamani, with the help of a philanthropist called Pioneer and the support of the diocese authorities, brought into Azhagai emergency food supplies and other essentials, which were distributed to the needy. Cholera then broke out. Fr. Novamani had the district health authorities' camp at Azhagai to administer treatments on a war footing and distribute vital medicines. Several disease prevention measures were put in place; many lives were saved. The Holy Heart Nunnery was founded by Fr. Novamani with the approval of Fr. Roche. In 1952 Fr. Novamani established the St. Joseph Girls School with ninth and tenth standards only. He was responsible for the primary school, had the four car streets laid with gravel, established the Government Hospital, the Veterinary Hospital, the Cooperative Bank, the Cooperative Printing Press, and a Small Savings Scheme.
Notable clerics were Fr. Mariamanikam (October 1954 – December 1957), Fr. J.S. Arasaratnam (Jan 1952 March 1962) and Fr. D. Gnanaprakasam. In 1964 Fr. Stanislaus Pandian (Oct 1964 to May 1972) took charge of the parish. He started and completed projects like new buildings for the school and the Pandian Hall, and laid the foundation stone for the new church. In 1968 he facilitated the establishment of primary school in Thirumoolanagar with Government recognition. He also built three classrooms for this school. He abolished the practice of collecting taxes from the members of the parish. The parish priest in 1972-73 was Fr. M.S. Antony. He started the Novena service for St. Antony on Tuesdays. He also completed some building construction works started by his predecessor, the Pandian Hall and three classrooms at St. Antony's High School. Fr. John Xavier Fernando was the next to take charge of the parish (1972–1973). He resolved disputes relating to some of the parish land. During his span, the Velankanni church adjacent to the West Bus stand was blessed and declared open. He also acquired land and completed the construction of Pottalkulam Velankanni Matha church. The next parish priest was Fr. Paul Robinson (1979–82). He undertook and completed the renovation work of St. George's church at Thirumoolanagar, and added five classrooms to St. Antony's High School, with Government aid. He was followed by Fr. Julian (1982–86), who sourced costly equipment for the school laboratory. He then built a water tank beside the church well, a basketball ground, and a wall segregating the High School from the public road on the southern side of the bungalow. He refurbished the portico of St. Theresa's church.
Fr. Antony Robert
Fr. Antony Robert followed Fr. Julian in 1991. He completed the pending works of the Girls School five classrooms. He also provided drinking water supply there, he built three science laboratories above the building located to the west of St. Antony's School basketball court. He managed to buy 14 cents of land and set up a playground with the help of the people of Azhagai. Substantial amount of money was spent on these projects, which bolstered the school infrastructure. He set up a Peace Committee, co-established by the parish and its members. Instead of trying to resolve disputes through the police and courts, at considerable cost, the Peace Committee began settling disputes amicably.
Fr. Selva George
Fr. Selva George took over from 1996 to 2001. He built for the high school, Fr. Cruzmarian Golden Jubilee Block. He provided facilities for sports activities on the premises of the schools. Modern toilet facilities were added to all the four schools during his time. With the funds allocated by the Government he established a library and laboratory for the high school. He built the George Hall and constructed a new building for the primary school at a cost of Rs. 40 lakhs on the site of the old building. He built a church at Indira Nagar with a community hall upstairs, and a church at Valan Nagar. He laid, with Government assistance, a basketball court in Thirumoolanagar, and built a children's orphanage with the help of the Forest Department. Fr. Selva George developed the Cross Mountain, located to the north of Thirumoola Nagar, as a place of pilgrimage, paving it with well-laid roads, acquiring acres of land around it, and building the St. Thomas memorial there. He also opened the shrine of St. Mary up on the hill. He bought fifty cents of land to expand the cemetery, which decongested the graveyard. He purchased a generator and electrified the main churchyard with the cooperation of Kuwait-living Azhagai people. St. Terasa's shrine was refurbished in its centenary year during his tenure. He founded the clinic run by St. Vincent Paul Sabha. He founded the Parish Bench, which facilitated the active participation of many parishioners in its activities.
Fr. Gerald Cruz
Fr. Gerald Cruz was in charge of the parish during 2001 to 2003. The bell tower was built and a brand new bell installed atop during his stewardship. He bought badly needed chairs, benches and desks for the George Hall of the Boys High School.
- "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.