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. According to the 2011 census, there were 658,618 Christians in West Bengal, or 0.72% 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. Later in the 19th and 20th centuries, 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 are considered a model minority, due to their significant contributions to Bengali culture and society for the past two centuries. They are considered to be among the most progressive communities in Bengal, 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, such as those run by the Jesuit Catholics, and the dominant Protestant Church of North India (CNI).

History[edit]

Christianity has been present in Bengal 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, the first theological college in Bengal, Serampore College, was founded.

Denominations[edit]

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

Other denominations include:[4]

Notable Institutions[edit]

La Martinière Calcutta, one of India's most prestigious schools, is run by the Protestant Church of North India
St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, run by the catholic Jesuits, is one of India's best colleges

Schools[edit]

Colleges[edit]

Population[edit]

Population by district[edit]

Christians in West Bengal by district (2011)[5]
# District Total population Christian population  %
1 Jalpaiguri 3,872,846 186,279 4.81%
2 Darjiling 1,846,823 141,848 7.68%
3 South 24 Parganas 8,161,961 66,498 0.81%
4 Kolkata 4,496,694 39,758 0.88%
5 Nadia 5,167,600 33,835 0.65%
6 North 24 Parganas 10,009,781 26,933 0.27%
7 Dakshin Dinajpur 1,676,276 24,794 1.48%
8 Paschim Medinipur 5,913,457 23,287 0.39%
9 Barddhaman 7,717,563 21,220 0.27%
10 Murshidabad 7,103,807 18,102 0.25%
11 Uttar Dinajpur 3,007,134 16,702 0.56%
12 Maldah 3,988,845 13,209 0.33%
13 Birbhum 3,502,404 10,906 0.31%
14 Haora 4,850,029 8,666 0.18%
15 Puruliya 2,930,115 8,646 0.30%
16 Hugli 5,519,145 7,300 0.13%
17 Koch Bihar 2,819,086 4,122 0.15%
18 Bankura 3,596,674 3,865 0.11%
19 Purba Medinipur 5,095,875 2,648 0.05%
West Bengal (Total) 91,276,115 658,618 0.72%

Trends[edit]

Trends in Christian population of West Bengal[6]
Census year  % of total population
1951 0.70%
1961 0.59%
1971 0.57%
1981 0.59%
1991 0.56%
2001 0.64%
2011 0.72%

References[edit]

  1. ^ Population by religious community: West Bengal. 2011 Census of India.
  2. ^ Indian Christians Treat Their Women Better, Sex Ratio Highest
  3. ^ Roma Bradnock, Footprint India, Footprint Travel Guides, 2004, ISBN 1-904777-00-7, p. 584.
  4. ^ World Christian Encyclopedia , Second edition, 2001 Volume 1, p. 368-371
  5. ^ Population by religious community: West Bengal. 2011 Census of India.
  6. ^ B.P. Syam Roy (28 September 2015). "Bengal’s topsy-turvy population growth". The Statesman.