Incredible Medak- Church of World’s Second Largest Diocese నవంబర్ 5, 2007Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in Art, Articles, Culture, Deccan, heritage, Identity, Manjira, Medak, Telangana Places.
Tags: Bishop Presley, Church and Society, Church in India, Church of South India, CSI, diocese, famine, Father Dhanraj, Gothic, Rev Charles Posnett, tourism
Church that needs to be cherished
The solid white granite Medak Church, standing tall at 173 feet, may be part of the ‘Incredible India ‘ campaign, but it is in a state of utter neglect, says Sapna Kaushik
As a visitor exits out of the city from Hyderabad airport, a large photograph beckons him. It is a picture of the Medak Church that is put up as part of the ‘Incredible India’ campaign.
In a sense, it reflects how the church is being promoted or not being marketed by tourism officials. “Shouldn’t it be in the arrival lounge rather than being in the exit lounge?” asks a visitor.
Not surprising then that there are hardly any visitors to the church. On an average, only 25-odd visitors come to the church a day for a dekko. But on Sunday, this could swell to 2,000, with two sermons being conducted in the church. Most visitors are from nearby Zaheerabad, Bidar, Nizamabad, Nalgonda, Warangal and Mahbubnagar district.
The church is a mere two-hour drive off National Highway 7 from Hyderabad. Though it is part of the Incredible India campaign launched last year, very little has been done to maintain the church that owes its name to ‘methukulu’ (meaning rice in Telugu), which is why the place is also called Medak.
In 1896, when the district was struck by famine, Rev. Charles Walker Posnett, a missionary, evolved the ‘food for work’ programme. If villagers contributed to building the church, they could in turn earn food. That set the ball rolling for this renowned Gothic structure.
From 1914 to 1924, the farmers toiled to erect the church and Thomas Edward Harding, the architect, left no stone unturned in building the cathedral. For the floor, tiles from famous potteries were shipped from England. Then, Italian workmen were brought from Bombay to lay them. The tile’s design is an intricate one in six colours — red, brown, black, yellow, chocolate and grey. The marble on the chancel floor and the reredos behind the Holy communion is from Italy.
What sets the Church apart are the three stained glass windows, created by Sir Frank O’ Salisbury of London. They constitute ‘the gospel trilogy’ in art — the nativity, the crucifixion and the ascension. Made of solar glass, the windows appear in all their glory when its bright and sunny. All the stained glass windows have inscriptions in English, Hindi and Telugu. The Hindi inscription came later, at the instance of Vijaylakshmi Pandit, sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who felt that the national language must find a mention on the stained glass.
The church, the single largest diocese in Asia and the second largest in the world after the Vatican , is built in solid white granite. The tower is 173 feet high, with four pinnacles. If it hadn’t been for the Nizam, the church would have been taller. Old-timers say that when the cathedral was to be built, the Nizam had one condition, that the church should not be taller than the Charminar
The sprawling church compound has 13 institutions, which include a B.Ed college, a junior college, hostels for boys and girls, an old age home, an office to take care of properties and an agricultural centre.
Father Dhanraj, who’s writing a book on the history of churches rues: “Fifty years back, there was a 100-bed hospital in the church premises. Now, it is in bad shape. There was a seminary too, where pastors would be trained. Now, since pastors are trained in Hyderabad, so it is of no use.”
Bhaskar Benny, an advocate of the AP high court says: “As per the Church of South India (CSI) constitution, the Bishop should stay in the vicinity and supervise the Church’s maintenance. However, the present Bishop, B P Sugandhar is staying at the Wesley Boys college premises.”
The church’s ceiling, a soundproof one, now has gaping holes. Due to this, birds frequent the place dirtying it. The pipe organ, also from London, is lying unused because officials at the Church rue that there is hardly anyone who can repair it. However, Father Dhanraj feels that there are enough musicians who can repair the pipe organ. The last time that the organ was used was 30 years ago.
At the gallery, bats hover around and their droppings are all over the place. Some of the old Victorian lights are broken, but their glass hasn’t been replaced, the Father adds.
The pilgrim rest centre, a few yards away from the church, is housed in an old, dilapidated building. It wasn’t like this earlier. Suvarna Rao, a lay member of the Medak diocese, says that members of the church would stay there. But now, since they don’t, there’s hardly any maintenance. However, Rev Wilson, presbyter-in-charge of the church, says steps are being taken to maintain the church. “A mix of coconut oil and kerosene is used to clean the stained glass and the tiles. While the glass is cleaned once a week, the tiles are maintained on a daily basis. A proposal to stone wash the granite, loosely called glasswool, is also on the anvil.”
But, Father Dhanraj feels that from time to time, the metal part must to be painted and needs a special oil application. Adds Rao: “In the cellar, there is an extra stained glass piece and is hardly maintained. Ironically, it is meant to replace any of the stained glasses, in case they break.”
M Balasubramaniam Reddy, joint director of Andhra Pradesh tourism, asserts that the Church is being promoted as a tourist attraction. “A guest house has been built for tourists. A museum which will explain the Church’s history is also being built.”
Meanwhile, questions are being raised on the availability of funds. Rao says that though the state government wanted to take up maintenance of the church, current Bishop, B P Sugandhar, wanted the funds to be transferred to the Medak church.
“Two years back, Bishop Presely’s (first Bishop of Medak diocese) grandson visited the Church and gave funds. However, none of that has been used,” he adds. Bishop Sugandhar was unavailable for comment, recuperating in a hospital in Vellore.
Despite claims and counter claims, to an onlooker, the structure and its surrounding areas definitely need an overhaul. Maybe then, the Church would justify finding a mention at the entry and not in the airport’s exit lounge!
source: Times of India – Hyderabad Aug 03, 2007