Claudius Buchanan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Claudius Buchanan
Claudius Buchanan00.jpg
Born (1766-03-12)12 March 1766
Cambuslang, Lanarkshire
Died 9 February 1815(1815-02-09) (aged 48)
Broxbourne, Hertfordshire
Nationality Scottish
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Queens' College, Cambridge
Occupation Theologian

Rev Claudius Buchanan DD FRSE (12 March 1766 – 9 February 1815) was a Scottish theologian, an ordained minister of the Church of England, and an evangelical missionary for the Church Missionary Society.[1] He served as Vice Provost of the College of Calcutta in India.

Early life[edit]

Buchanan was born in Cambuslang near Glasgow. His father, Alexander Buchanan, was the local schoolmaster in Inverary.[2]

He was educated at the University of Glasgow and the Queens' College, Cambridge.[3] He was ordained in 1795 by the Bishop of London.


After holding a chaplaincy in India at Barrackpur (1797–1799), Buchanan was appointed Calcutta chaplain and vice-principal of the college of Fort William. In this capacity he did much to advance Christianity and native education in India, especially by organizing systematic translations of the scriptures.

During a visit to Malabar in 1806, present day South-western state of Kerala, he visited Mar Thoma VI, head of the Malankara Church at Angamali, near Kochi. Mar Thoma was very happy to hear Buchanan’s intention of translating the Bible into Malayalam, the local language, and he presented a Syriac Bible said to be of some antiquity to Buchanan.[4] The Bible was subsequently deposited among the Oriental Manuscripts in the public library of the University of Cambridge.

In January 1806, Buchanan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

He died in Broxbourne in Herefordshire in 1815 where he was superintending an edition of the Syriac Scriptures (c.f. his extensive memorial inscription). He is buried, along with his wife Mary and two infant children, in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Little Ouseburn, North Yorkshire and his residence, Moat Hall, is adjacent to the Church.


Buchanan was influential in introducing the Jagannath tradition and Hinduism to the American audience in early 19th-century. He called Jagannath as Juggernaut and Hindu as "Hindoo" in the letters he wrote from India back to the United States. According to Michael J. Altman, a professor of Religious Studies, Buchanan presented Hinduism through Juggernaut, as a "bloody, violent, superstitious and backward religious system" that needs to be eliminated and substituted with the Christian gospel.[5] He described Juggernaut with Biblical terminology for his audience, called him the Moloch, and his shrine as Golgatha – the place where Jesus Christ was crucified, but with the difference that the "Juggernaut tradition" was of endless meaningless bloodshed, fabricating allegations that children were sacrificed in the "valley of idolatrous blood shed to false gods".[5] In his letters, states Altman, Buchanan "constructed an image of Juggernaut as the diametric opposite of Christianity".[5] In his book Christian Researches in Asia published in 1811, Buchanan built on this theme and added licentiousness to it. He called hymns in the language he did not comprehend as "obscene stanzas", art works on temple walls as "indecent emblems", and described "Juggernaut" and Hinduism to his American readers as the religion of disgusting Moloch and false gods. Buchanan writings formed the "first images of Indian religions" to the American evangelical audience in early 19th-century, was promoted by American magazines such as The Panoplist and his book on "Juggernaut" attracted enough reader demand that it went through numerous editions.[5]

Buchanan's pamphlets moved Christian missionaries and triggered a bitter debate between them and officials of the East India Company. His writings led to many emotional sermons and mission advocates lectured on the need to "combat immorality and convert the unsaved" Indians.[6] The writings of Buchanan and other missionaries constructed and exploited cultural and religious differences, which had a profound and lasting effect on how Americans saw non-Christian peoples.[5][7]


An account of his travels in the south and west of India, which added considerably to our knowledge of nature life, is given in his Christian Researches in Asia (Cambridge, 1811). After his return to the United Kingdom in 1808, he still took an active part in matters connected with India, and by his book entitled Colonial Ecclesiastical Establishment (London, 1813), he assisted in settling the controversy of 1813, which eventually ended in the establishment of an Anglican Indian episcopate in 1878 in the Travancore-Cochin states. This Church known as CMS Church merged with other Churches in South India on 27 September 1947 to form The Church of south India (CSI).

A collection of 'Sermons on interesting subjects' by Buchanan was published by J Ogle in Edinburgh in 1812. It consists of the texts of eight sermons preached in the UK between 26 February 1809 and 2 June 1811. The first sermon was entitled "The Star in the East" . It was preached in the parish church of St James, Bristol, on the author's return from India.


  1. ^ Adrian Fortescue, The Eastern Churches Trilogy, p366
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Buchanan, Claudius (BCNN791C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ Buchanan, Rev. Claudius. Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India Page 76.
  5. ^ a b c d e Michael J. Altman (2017). Heathen, Hindoo, Hindu: American Representations of India, 1721-1893. Oxford University Press. pp. 30–32. ISBN 978-0-19-065492-4. 
  6. ^ Chancey, Karen (1998). "the Star in the East: the Controversy over Christian Missions to India, 1805–1813". The Historian. Wiley-Blackwell. 60 (3): 507–522. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1998.tb01404.x. 
  7. ^ Verney, Michael A. (2013). "An Eye for Prices, an Eye for Souls: Americans in the Indian Subcontinent, 1784-1838". Journal of the Early Republic. Johns Hopkins University Press. 33 (3): 397–431. doi:10.1353/jer.2013.0057. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Buchanan, Rev. Claudius, LL.D. Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India. Second Cambridge Edition, 1811.
  • Buchanan, Rev. Claudius. "The Star of The East". 1809.

External links[edit]