Christianity in West Bengal

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St. Paul's Cathedral - seat of the Anglican Diocese of Calcutta, Church of North India
The Bandel Church, rebuilt in 1660 on the site of an older 1599 church.
St. Andrew's Church, Darjeeling. Built: 1843, Rebuilt: 1873

Christianity in West Bengal, India is a minority. At the 2001 census, there were 515,150 Christians in West Bengal, or 0.6% of the population.[1] Although Mother Teresa worked in Kolkata (Calcutta), Christianity is a minority in Kolkata as well. West Bengal has the highest number of Bengali Christians. Bengali Christians have been established since the 16th century with the advent of the Portuguese in Bengal. Many upper-class Bengalis converted to Christianity during the Bengali renaissance under British Rule, including Krishna Mohan Banerjee, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Anil Kumar Gain, and Gnanendramohan Tagore.

Bengali Christians have made significant contributions to Bengali culture and society. They are considered one of the most progressive communities, and have the highest literacy rate, the lowest male-female sex ratio, along with better socio-economic status.[2] Christian missionaries run major social institutions dealing with Education and Healthcare in the state, such as those by the Jesuit Catholics, and the Protestant Assembly of God and Church of North India.

History[edit]

It has been present since the 16th century. The Portuguese established a settlement in Bandel, Hooghly district in the 16th century, and Bandel Church, perhaps the first church in West Bengal, was built in 1599.[3] Burnt down during the sacking of Hooghly in 1632, the church was rebuilt in 1660. The followers of Christianity mainly settled in Barddhmann, Bankura, Kolkata and Hooghly district of West Bengal.

William Carey, who founded the Baptist Missionary Society, went to India in 1793 and worked as a missionary in the Danish colony of Serampore, because of opposition from the British East India Company. He translated the Bible into Bengali (completed 1809) and Sanskrit (completed 1818). His first Bengali convert was Krishna Pal, who renounced his caste after conversion. In 1818, Serampore College was founded to train local converts for the ministry.

Denominations[edit]

St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Calcutta (1813) of the Church of North India. The Roman Catholic ecclesiastical province which has its seat in West Bengal is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Calcutta (1834).

Other denominations:[4]

Notable Bengali Christians[edit]

References[edit]