Christianity in Maharashtra
Christianity is a minority religion in Maharashtra, a state of India. 79.8% of the population of Maharashtra are Hindus, Christian adherents being 1.0% of the population. The Roman Catholic archdiocese whose seat is in Maharashtra is Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay. There are two different Christian ethnic communities in Maharashtra: one is East Indians who are predominantly Roman Catholic and another is Marathi Christians, predominantly Protestant with a small Roman Catholic population. The majority of Christians in Maharashtra are Roman Catholics, who are mainly concentrated in coastal Maharashtra, specially Thane, Mumbai, Raigad and are known as East Indians. Protestants, who reside in some parts of Maharashtra, being Ahmednagar, Solapur, Pune Aurangabad and Jalna are called Marathi Christians. The Church of North India has dioceses in the state and is a large Protestant church with full communion with the Anglican Church.
Christianity was brought to the North Konkan region of Maharashtra by St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ. Pantaneus visited India about AD 180 and there he found a Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew language, left with the Christians there by St. Barthlomew. This is mentioned by Roman historian Eusebius, and by St. Jerome in one of his letters. A flourishing Christian Community in the 6th Century was mentioned by Kosmos Indicopleustes and Jordanus, who worked among the Christians in Thana and Sopara areas in the 13th Century. The French Dominican friar, Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) started evangelizing activities in Thana and Sopara was the first work of Rome in North Konkan.
Most history of the Church in India was lost between the 9th and the 14th Century, as Persia went over to the Nestorianism in 800 AD. Since the provision of Church offices and all the apparatus of public worship was looked to a foreign source, the Indian Christians were reduced to "nominal" Christians when this foreign aid was withdrawn. When Dominican and Franciscan Missionaries arrived in the 1300s with the intention of preaching the Gospel, they were surprised to find a small Christian community already in existence. Protestant Missionaries first arrived in Maharashtra from England and America in 1813.
East Indians are an ethno-religious group which resides in the former North Konkan district, Mumbai, Vasai, Virar, and other parts of Thane. Christianity was first installed by St. Bartholomew, one of Jesus Christ's apostles. Due to shortage of priests for many years, the locals were reduced to being "nominal Christians". it was due to the arrival of Portuguese and with them Jesuit missionaries who spread a new form of Christianity called Roman Catholicism in the area. The name East Indians was taken during British Rule to differentiate native Catholics from other Catholics from Goa and Manglore who came to Mumbai in search of jobs, on the occasion of golden jubilee of Queen Victoria.
They are engaged in agriculture, fishing and other rural occupations handed down to them by their ancestors. East Indians have their own village in Mumbai known as Gaothan, which is surrounded by the main city. East Indians are more anglicized than the rest of Maharashtrian Christians, although they speak East Indian language as mother tongue. Portuguese influence can be seen in their language and culture. Portuguese used to rule the area for centuries.
Marathi Christians are people who reside in Ahmednagar, Pune, Aurangabad and Solapur. In Maharashtra, Christians are converts from Islam and Hinduism. Marathi Christians are a result of American Marathi Mission and SPG Mission of the Church of England. During the British time, Ahmednagar was part of Bombay presidency. The first Protestant mission in the district was opened in 1831. Marathi Christians are predominantly Protestant with small numbers of Roman Catholics. They belong to several Protestant denominations, mainly Church of North India. The Marathi Roman Catholics and Protestants are more united with each other than with their co-religionists of other communities. British Missionary William Carey was instrumental in translating the Bible into Marathi language.
In Maharashtra, likewise, the Protestant missionaries concentrated not only on direct evangelism but also founded numerous small vernacular schools. Missionary John Wilson built Wilson College, Mumbai. There are similarities of customs and culture between Hindus and Marathi Christians, such as dress, food and cuisine. The Hindu custom of wearing Saree, Mangalsutra and placing Bindis is still prominent among native Christians. Marathi Christian highly retain their Marathi culture, and they have kept their Pre-Christian surnames. In Maharashtra, great Marathi poet Narayan Wamanrao Tilak realised that a Hindu-Christian synthesis was simply not possible, unless the Christian religion had deep roots in the Indian culture. He trained the Marathi Christians to worship and sing Bhajan and Kirtan. He showed Christian faith in a genuinely Indian way.
List of denominations
- Assemblies of God
- Church of North India
- The Pentecostal Mission
- Greater Grace World Outreach- Indian Missions
- Hindustani Covenant Church
- Methodist Church in India
- Indian Evangelical Team
- International Christian Fellowship
- Separate Baptists in Christ
- New Life Fellowship Association
Famous Marathi Christians
- Vijay Hazare was an Indian cricket player. Vijay Samuel Hazare was a Marathi Christian from Solapur district. He captained the Indian cricket team in 14 matches between 1951 and 1953. Vijay Hazare also captioned Baroda and Baroda won the Ranji trophy in 1959 under his helm. Vijay Hazare is considered by many to be one of the best middle-order bats to play for India.
- Chandu Borde was an Indian cricket player. He was a Marathi Christian from Pune district. He played for the Indian cricket team in 83 matches between 1958 and 1969. His younger brother Ramesh Borde who was a noteworthy first-class cricket player.
- Pandita Ramabai (23 April 1858, Maharashtra- 5 April 1922) was an eminent Marathi Christian social reformer and activist. She was born as Hindu Brahmin and then evengelised.
- Narayan Wamanrao Tilak was a great Marathi poet born in Maharashtra as Brahmin, but later adopted Christianity. He wrote many Christian songs and bhajans in Marathi.
- Shahu Modak (1918–1993), a Marathi/Hindi movie actor, who was born in a Christian family in Ahmednagar. He primarily acted as Lord Krishna in 29 mythological films.
- Father Francis D'Brotto
- Father Stephens
Bro. Bhaudas A. Tadke (Pune) is an Evangelist. From last almost Fifty years he is preaching about the Love of Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only saviour for all human being. He established many Marathi Brethren Assemblies in Maharashtra. He also wrote many Christian Marathi Devotional Songs and translated many songs in Marathi language.
Bro. R. S. Mirajkar (Belgaon - Miraj) is a well known Bible teacher. He taught many brethren in Maharashtra and Karnataka. He wrote many Spiritual books. His famous book is "Navya Kararache Sulabh Spastikaran" in which he explained the New Testament verse to verse. He also translated famous daily devotional "Daily Bread" in Marathi language.
- Baptista, Elsie Wilhelmina (1967). The East Indians: Catholic Community of Bombay, Salsette and Bassein. Bombay East Indian Association.. Contents taken from East-Indians –- History (PDF, 80 KB) article, has been borrowed mainly from Elsie Wilhelmina Baptista's above book.
- Thana District Gazeeteer Part - I: Popualation:Christians-History
- World Christian Encyclopedia, Second edition, 2001 Volume 1, p. 368-371