Puroshottam Choudhary (5 September 1803 – 24 August 1890) also spelled Purushottam Chaudhary or Purushottam Choudari or Purushotham Choudhari or Purushottam Choudhary or Purushottam Chowdhary or Puroshottam Choudhary or Purushottam Chowdhari, a Bengali-Indian convert to Christianity, was a Baptist missionary to Telugu-speaking provinces—parts of Madras Presidency, including bordering areas of Orissa and Andhra regions like Chicacole, Vizianagaram, Vizagapatanam, and more. He was a Christian preacher, evangelist, and pastor of the Berhampur Church, founded by Isaac Stubbins in 1838.
He was also a poet, pamphleteer, and renowned hymn-writer for Telugu Christian of his times—contributing immensely to "Bhakti tradition" on Telugu Christianity, indigenous expressions of Christianity in Telugu context, and whereby to Christology in India.
He was born on 5 September 1803 to Kurmanatha Chowdhari and Subhadhra at Madanpur—currently, part of West Bengal state—previously part of Ganjam district, Orissa with predominant Oriya and Telugu-speaking people and their neighbouring lands – Ganjam district is located on the border of Telugu-speaking districts of present Andhra Pradesh—namely, Chicacole(present Srikakulam) and Vizagapatam(present Visakhapatnam). While in Orissa, he was married and was blessed with two sons and three daughters.
(Purushottam choudhary comes from orthodox Bengal Brahmin family whose ancestors migrated to present Andhra-Orissa(odhisa) region in 1700's because of political unrest in Bengal state in those days)(edited by his great grandson 6th generation)
By 1825, it appears, he was introduced to Christian literature, when his brother Jagannadha Chowdhari procured him religious tracts written by William Carey, one of the Serampore Trio. Influenced by the tracts, he obtained more tracts from neighbouring villages and decided to learn more about Christianity. He even went to Vizagapatnam(also known as Vizag) and met Roman Catholic Church and London Missionary Society, already operating over there. Later, he looks been influenced by other Christian evangelists like Helen Knott, General Adjutant Evalin, and Major Brett from East India Company—While working as a tutor in Parlakimedi, he sent a letter to Serampore-press, and through Roman Catholics who happened to know his letter, he was directed to Helen Knott, who gave Gospel of Luke and two tracts—In May 1833, he went to Vizagapatnam to meet missionaries, then-overseen by Major Brett. Here, he had written his own tract on Indian caste in Telugu, published later by Tract society of Madras—While, Brett had plans to send him to Madras by sea, Helen Knott having got positive message from Baptist Missionary Society from Cuttack, he was finally sent to Cuttack. Eventually, he was baptised on 6 October 1833 into Christian faith by Charles Lacey, an English General Baptist missionary to Cuttack, Orissa; Charles Lacey came to Orissa in 1823 for evangelical activities, after William Bampton and James Peggs arrived Orissa in 1822.
Initially in 1834, he worked as an assistant missionary under Major Brett at Madras; accordingly, he made numerous trips to Oriya speaking districts and Telugu speaking districts of then-Madras Presidency, including regions of Andhra and Bellary of present Karnataka, to preach the "Word of God,"(gospel) and to distribute Christian literature, including the evangelical literature written by him. His notable theme of preaching was:
|“||As a blind man cannot lead another blind man, so also the sinful deities cannot save sinners.||”|
After he was baptised, while in Vizagapatnam, he preached gospel over there, and surrounding villages. About this time, he wrote his first lyric I sought the refuge of our Jesus Christ. Though his relatives and villagers outcasted him for renouncing his native faith, he kept on preaching gopel in Vizagapatnam, Chicacole, Madras, Bellary, including his native place near Parlakimedi and surrounding villages.
Soon his wife joined him at Chicacole, and was ordained on 24 April 1835 by the Baptist missionaries at the Baptist conference in Cuttack under supervision of Amos Sutton, impressed by his sincere work in the ministry; later, he was sent to work exclusively among Telugu people as an assistant to Samuel S. Day, a Canadian-born American Baptist missionary to Telugus in Srikakulum, Visakhapatnam, Bellary, Nellore, and most of Madras Presidency provinces; and founder of Telugu Baptist mission at Nellore. After he worked as an evangelist for a while, he was appointed as pastor at the Church in Berhampur, also known as Silk City, in Ganjam district.
In 1836, he was invited by the judge at Chicacole to preach gospel there. In 1838, he was invited to Berhampore, where he spent seven years by preaching and touring all Ganjam district neighbourhoods. In 1844, he went to Chicacole station under London Missionary Society and preached gospel there for another six years till 1850. In 1851, after he lost his wife, he was transferred again to Vizagapatnam; over there, he helped the missionaries in Bible translation and continued his gospel preaching. In 1861, he toured several Telugu-speaking areas for gospel preaching, namely, Anakapalli, Yellamanchili, Tuni, Pithapur, Samalkot, Peddapuram, Cocanada(present Kakinada), and several other Andhra regions. In 1862, he was recruited to preach evangelistic work at Chittivasala, near Bimlipatnam, and on Sunday evenings to preach at Polepalli. During these course, several of his family members were baptised.
In 1868, having decided to retire from mission work, he went back to Cuttack where his children lived. After he returned to Cuttack, by 1870 he had warm friendship with Das Anthravady, a pastor. He and Anthravady baptised several people and preached the gospel visiting Chicacole, Vizianagaram, and Chittivalasa. In 1872, Anthravady published a poetical work by Purushottam entitled The Gospel Trumpet—one thousand copies were printed and distributed in Telugu speaking districts. In 1875, he was again offered his former paster job by mission and finally made him in charge of the Church at Berhampore.
He was also a good poet and renowned hymn-writer; he composed one hundred and thirty hymns, authored books, seven Christian tracts, and published many pamphlets with teachings of Jesus Christ. Having lost vision of both eyes after fifty-four years of preaching with London Mission and English Baptist mission, he lived a remaining life on pension from Church. He died at an age of eighty-seven on 24 August 1890, and was buried in Cuttack.
A biographical account of him entitled Rev. Purushottam Chowdhari was authored by John Chowdhari, his grandson. Another book entitled Bhakti Theology of Purushottam Choudari was authored by Joseph Ravela, professor of Andhra Christian Theological College(ACTC).
- Nilachala Vilasa, a poem written while a heathen—not yet baptised, 1828.
- Kulachara Pariksha (Examination of caste), a tract, 1833.
- Muktimarga Pradarsanam (The way of happiness), a tract, 1845.
- Yesu Kristu Prabhu Sataka (Ode to the Lord Jesus), a poem, 1845.
- Jagannadha Pariksha (Testing of Jagannath), in Telugu, 1845.
- Muktimarga Pradarsanam (The way of happiness), a tract, 1845.
- Rakshana Charitra (History of salvation), 1846.
- Nistara Ratnakaram (Jewel mine of salvation), 1846.
- Vigraha nirmana (The creating of an Idol), 1847.
- Pancha Chamara Pannamulu, 1847.
- Pancha Ratnamulu (Five jewels), poems about God, 1847.
- Brahma Jnana (on Pantheism), 1856.
- Andhakara Nasanam, in Telugu, 1861.
- Masuchi, Visuchi, Sankata bhranti nivritti(The destruction of the fear of disease), 1862.
- Manasse Mulam (The mind is everything), 1863.
- Kristava Niti Prakasamu (the gospel trumpet) written in 1851, a booklet in Telugu, published by Das Anthravedy in 1871.
- Satyaveda sara sangraha or Christ's paratatva (Christian philosophy), 1871.
- Devuni Viradrupa Varnana(Description of the grandeur of God), in Telugu, 1884.
- Life of Purushottam Chowdhari, 1888.
Works he assisted
- In compilation of Telugu Baptist hymn book.
- Assisted W.Dawson(L.W. Society) on Telugu hymn book, containing about 80 of Purushottam's hymns, 1848.
- Assisted in compiling hymns about 130.
- Assisted J.Hay on Telugu scriptures.
- Index to the Telugu Bible, a laborious production of Purushottam.
- Some sources list his date of birth as 1880. See Mallampalli 2004, p. 116
- "Purushottam Chowdhari: India's Greatest Baptist Preacher". centerforbaptiststudies.org. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
On September 5, 1803, in a village called Madanpur in the Ganjam District of West Bengal a child was born to Kurmanatha and Subhadhra Chowdhari. They called their son Purushottam which means "good man."
- "Chowdhari Purushottam". archive.org. Retrieved 28 May 2012.
In 1832 he remembered that his brother had given him seven years previously a Christian tract. When he had read it carefully he determined to give up his ascetic life and learn more about the Christian religion. He obtained three more tracts in neighboring villages. In his search for more light he went on one occasion to Vizagapatam and was directed to a Roman Catholic Church, but seeing images there he turned away. A missionary of the London Missionary Society was living there then, but he was very ill and died soon after- wards. Later, while in Parlakimedi as a tutor, Mr. Purushottam sent a letter by a messenger to Berhampore addressing it to the "Padre" of that place. This fell into the hands of the Roman Catholics; so he deter- mined to go to' Madras. Meanwhile an opportunity arose for a visit to Chicacole. On inquiring about Christianity he was directed to a lady, Mrs. Helen Knott, who became deeply interested in him, and gave him a copy of the Gospel according to Luke and two tracts. Through reading the Gospel and conversing with Mrs. Knott he determined to become a Christian.
- Taneti, James Elisha (2011). History of the Telugu Christians: A Bibliography. Scarecrow Press. pp. 11–89. ISBN 9780810872431.
- Rao 1983, pp. 5–6
- Mallampalli 2004, p. 117
- Debendra K. Dash, Dipti R. Pattanaik. "Missionary Position: The Irony of Translational Activism in Colonial Orissa". erudit.org. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
on 12 February 1822, missionaries like Bampton and Peggs reached Orissa with the specific purpose of spreading Christianity among the Oriyas. As has already been hinted, by 1813 the British Parliament through legislation had allowed the missionaries ostensibly to undertake educational activity in company territory. Since then the company administration had been encouraging the appointment of bishops in Calcutta. The Missionary Societies formed in Britain sent their representatives to various parts of India. After Bampton and Peggs in 1822, Charles Lacey came to Orissa in 1823. Amos Sutton followed suit on 11 March 1825, and Nois and Phillips, in 1835.
- Ravela, Bruce R.; Joseph (2004). Bhakti theology of Purushottam Chowdhari. the University of Michigan (Christian Literature Society).
- "A Baptist Bibliography". American Baptist Historical Society. baptistheritage.com. 1954. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- Elisha, James (2006), "Canadian Baptist mission work among women in Andhra, India, 1874–1924", Baptist History and Heritage 41 (1): 42–54
- Mallampalli, Chandra (2004), Christians and public life in colonial South India, 1863–1937: contending with marginality, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-32321-5
- Menachery, George; Hambye, Edward René (1982), The St. Thomas Christian encyclopaedia of India, Volume 1, Trichur, OCLC 1237836
- Rao, Sundara R. R. (1983), Bhakti Theology in the Telugu Hymnal, Confessing the faith in India 16, Madras: Christian Literature Society on behalf of Bangalore: Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, OCLC 10453651
- Joseph, Ravela (2004), Bhakti theology of Purushottam Chowdhari, Christian Literature Society, OCLC 65517210
- Sudheer, B. M. (May 2007), "Purushottam Chowdhari: India's Greatest Baptist Preacher", Baptist Studies Bulletin (Mercer University) 6 (5)