Sacred Heart Church, Valparai

Sacred Heart Church, Valparai

Church Location

Parish priest : Rev. Fr. Jegan  Antony


The Parish Priest, Sacred Heart Church, Valparai P.o, Via Pollachi- 642 127.


From the ancient Sangam Age, the Anamalai Ranges were bown to be inhabited by tribals, but otherwise untouched. But by the advent of the British, who were essentially traders but at the same time an adventurous entrepreneurs, who would dare to do anything for anything that could enrich their trade. Thus one of the earliest English pioneer, Mr. Marsh dared to penetrate into this area on horse back and reached a place now called Kavarkal, from where, even today one can have the most breath-taking, panoramic view of the vast Valparai area as far as one’s eyes could see. But as an English man, he was not so much enamoured by the magnificent view, but more with trade-instinct, he immediately gauged its economic worth, as a “gold-mine” from its potential as a suitable area for Tea and Coffee plantations (which wer considered then as black and brown gold!) and thus the rush to Valparai ranges commenced, Rightly therefore he is still remembered as the “ Father of Valparai” and a bronze statue of his has been erected on that spot with a commemorative monument.

His heroic exploration opened the flood-gates of other European entrepreneurs, funded by various financial organizations of England who were only waiting “to jump onto the caravan of investors” to make ready, easy, but long lasting profits! Thus, the first enterprise was started by the Punachi Estate at Water falls.

The heavy initial investment was no problem for the British, because of the cheap human labour that was available, accentuated by the political, economical and above all sociological conditions of Tamilnadu. The inhuman, caste inequalities and oppressions by the higher caste made the large population of the lower cast especially in the Madura and Tiruunelveli districts, eager to migrate to other places such as Valparai, to escape the tyranny of the caste system. Thus Valparai was getting a continuous supply of cheap labour.

Thus started the migrations in thousands, of such earlier down-trodden people to countries as far as South Africa, British New Guinea, Mauritius, the West Indies towards the West and as far as the Island of Figi, Malayasia, Singapore, Burma to the East, where their descendents, though, initially had to suffer, much, but in course of time, have managed to come up in those far-away ‘foster-parent’ countries, not only sociologically, but economically, educationally and culturally, so as even to occupy the top political posts in the countries of adoption, from being illiterate “bonded- labourers” to he Presidents, Prime-ministers etc of their country of adoption (eg. Mauritius, British New Guinea, Figi etc)

No wonder, nearer at home, the Valparai Hills ( and the Kodaikanal hills and the Niligirs Hills) were able to draw an abundant supply of labourers, under the diabolical “Kangani” system of recruitment, by which an inter-mediary (Kangani) was rewarded according to the number of labourers, not merely individually, but as families, was able to entice to work on the Estates. Ofcourse, the Kankani would have “promised the Himalayas” to the thousands of under nourished, ill treated caste- less (Harijans or Adi-dravidars and “Dalits”) people especially from the dry areas of Tamil Nadu, (North Arcot and South Arcot, Madurai, Tirunelvelli etc) were like “iron waiting for the magical pull of the Magnet” mainly to escape the unjust and inhuman caste servitude of their native villages. Thus the “kankanis” ( the agents) had a roaring business! Their duty would cease, once the labourers were handed over to the plantation owners. But soon the poor people would realize what they had bargained for un-thinkingly - instead of the tyranny of the caste-people in the plains now the tyranny of the European Planters on the plantation! We can imagine how the “naive” victims would have felt and experienced in these thickly forested area, infested with Elephants, tigers snakes etc. Besides the sudden transfer from the hot humid and dry climate of the plains, to the cold, rainy and inhospitable wild life of the hills, how the labourers would have felt! In the initial stages, the planters themselves would have to make-do-with tents or other temporary tenements! If so, what would have been the condition for the newly arrived people from the plains. The hard work of clearing the dense forests to make them fit for Tea or Coffee plantations and that too under the merciless and “exacting maistries” who, though of the same caste as the labourers, must have been more exacting and cruel to their own brethren and worse, the difficulty in adjusting to the totally unfamiliar climatic conditions, must have made the life of those pioneers of the early days, not just miserable but hellish! But of course with the palliative of being provided with full-meals thrice a day, with added accruements of course of woolen blankets etc, above all free from the indignities of the caste inequalities, must have been, a sort of palliative. But for those who thought that, inspite of all these plus points, the slavery of their own place of origin, was better and hence brave enough to try to escape, there were only one or two, forest paths ( no roads worth the name yet ) to the plains and some must have tried, but the planters were quick to seal of all points of escape with tight security ! Thus willy nilly the original labourers were kept imprisoned in their new found haven of freedom!

As time progressed and the initial hardships of de-foresting and planting of coffee or tea, the planters became more humane, and they evolved the system of” Padis” ( rows of houses for the plantation laboureres, with separate and better quarters for the clerical and managerial staff, according to their rank and for the managerial staff ( usually Europeans in those days, with well-built and furnished bungalows on vantage mountain tops. It served 2 double purpose of maintaining the superiority of the white-skinef (later of Indian Babus) Asst. Managers and officers over the lowl) local “browns” and also to be able to supervise the territory below, This iniquitous, and barbaric system, has been perpetuated til today, by our own Indians, who have taken over the Proprietorshi1 of the Estates from 1947, though the difference in the colour oi the skin has long ceased! It is sad to note that our own country men are worse than the European owners! Even in the beginnin1 of the 21” century still an ordinary labourer cannot enter thc compound of a higher official, and has to observe all the custom and practices sub-servience of the English period though then are no English masters around.

Ofcourse, all the owners of the plantations were Christians mostly of the church of England (later C.S.1.) from the beginning In between there used to be some of the managers rank, who were Roman Catholics. Thus, we see that in the plantations o /knamalai Hills, the predominance of the Protestants( now C.S.I.) and only on a very marginal level of Roman Catholics. Naturally the Protestant managers would have supported their ow missionaries and only to a small extent, tolerated the Roman Catholics. But it so happeneJ (that some of the labourers brought by the Kanganis were Roman Catholics. But because of their over­ powering presence, the Protestants had an initial advantage in obtaining important lands for their churches and other privileges. Hence, even today the Protestants (now called C.S.l.) enjoy greater voice and are numerically more powerful.

Perhaps, the Coimbatore Diocese, still in its infancy, and with only a few missionaries, when the plantations started, the Roman Catholics were too late to make the best of the Britis rule and the British control of these areas to reap benefits.

In historical records, we find a mentioning of the catholic presence only form the beginning of the20th century. Even before 1916, Valparai area, was looked after by the priests of Pollachi. Fr. Tignous M.E.P. seems to be the first priest to have looke after the Catholics of Valparai, many of them already Catholics for a long time in their places of origin in Madura and Tirunelvelli Districts. Initially the priest from Pollachi (or Udumalpet) was caring for their spiritual needs. The priests, used to spend a few days at Valparai and visit the numerous Estates, perhaps staying at some Catholic managerial staff houses. Fr. Tignous 1916 1918 seems to be the “ Father” of this Christianity. In 1916, he had started the construction of the church at Valparai. It was the only marketing centre in those days, when people, from all the Estates, had to come to Valparai on Sunday for purchasing all their weekly requirements. Fr. D.M. Antoninathar, constructed a small chapel at Valparai, the land must have been acquired by Fr. Tignous, since Valparai is a Government land ( not under the Estate companies). This parish has the distinction of having as its Parish Priest the future Bishop of Coimbatore. This distinction goes to Fr. L. Tournier (Bishop of Coimbatore from 1932 to 1939), who was the first Parish Priest of Valparai when it was made a separate parish in 1924 (from July 1924 to September1926). The present Presbytery must have been built in his time.

Fr. Head ( September 1926 February 1933 ) who was well-known for his hunting skills, as proved by the numerous stuffed wild animals, still on display at St. Michael’s Higher Secondary School in the Science hall. After him, for one year, the parish had no parish priest . His successor was Fr. C.S. Mariarokian (from March 1932 June 1935 ). He got the Iyerpady Estate to build a chapel, in honour of St. Antony, near the Iyerpady Tea factory and blessed it on 17.04.1932 . Fr. Joseph Vettapatty the frail missionary of the later-day mission of Dharapuram, succeeded him as Parish priest from June 1935 July 1938 . Then Fr. S. Andrew (July 1938 June 1940) extended the small parish church. Then the last French missionary to land at Coimbatore Diocese, Fr. Raymond de Prigney ( March 1940 June 1940 was the parish priest, that is, when the diocese was handed over to the native clergy and hence he had to leave Valparai to join Mysore Diocese. The fist Indian Parish Priest was Fr. Chinnasway (June 1940 - January 1 943) and then the great missionary of Valparai Fr. S. Annaswamy (January 1943 - October 1947) who converted many families. Besides, it was he who popularized the devotion of St. Paul the Hermit at Iyerpadi. Fr. G.M. Manuel ( October 1947- January 1948) was the Parish priest for a short period, and then came Fr. George Kunnath (January 1948 - January 1959), who still holds the record for the period to serve as parish priest here. It was he who completed the construction of the church at Mudis started by Fr. S. Annaswamy. In 1952, he rebuilt the Chapel in honour of St. Paul of the Desert at Iyerpady, and got it blessed by the Vicar General Fr. A. Joseph o 27.04.1952. He also improved the Presbytery at Valparai. He constructed the front portion of the convent of the Carmel sisters. In 1958, he constructed the compound wall of the church in front. Fr. A. Chinnaswamy (June 1959 1960 ) built the 2 small side altars, as a memorial of his Sacerdotal Silver Jubilee.

Rev. Fr. Sebastian Murukhithara (1960 64) brought the sdministration of the parish, under control. In order to remedy :he long - standing need of the Valparai area, he tried to start a Catholic school. He brought the Carmelite sisters of Ernakulam bo start an Elementary school and a hostel for girls, under them. Re also baptized some families. Fr. R. Sadhanandam succeeded iim. During Fr. Marianather’s time, he started a Home for the Eoys, to enable them to stay and pursue their studies at Valparai Boy’s High school, since thrre were no other High school in the whole region then. Many of the boys, were falling into bad ways and so this Boy’s home, really did a yeo-man’s service to the area. He constructed a new building (ground floor) for this Boy’s home but, it was closed later.

Fr. S. Amalraj, fostered the Novena in honor of Our Lady of Vellankanni at Karumalai, a substation (and here the Patroness is known as ‘Karumalai’ Velankanni Annai) naturally situated at the banks of a rivulet, which has made it all the more to look alike original Lourde’s Grotto. Since then it has become a pilgrimage centre. The foundation for a more fitting church at Karumalai was blessed and layed by Bishop Ambrose on 14.08.2001. Fr. T.S. Kennedy, completed the beautiful church and it was blessed by Bishop Ambrose.

A new church was constructed by Fr. A. Kulandairaj iii 1990, and was consecrated by Bishop Ambrose on 12.01.1990, A new Chapel was blessed at Akka Malai, a substation or 12 .03. 1978.

Main Station

Distance from the Cathedral Church : 105 Kms.

Total No. of Catholic Families both in the Main & Sub- Stations : 450

Total No. of Catholic Families in the Main Station : 194

No. of Catholics in the Main station : 1200

Mass Timings

Weekdays : Mon to Thurs : 6.30 am

Fri & Sat : 6.00 pm

Sundays : 8.15 a.m & 6.00 p.m

Religious Houses :

1. Sacred Heart Convent

Religious Institutions :

1. Sacred Heart Girls Hr. Sec.School

2. Sacred Heart Primary School

3. Sacred Heart Mat. School

4. Sacred Heart Home for girls

5. Sacred Heart Preparatory School

Lay Associations :

1. Kolping

2. Legion of Mary{3}

3. Mother of Immaculate,Mother of Mercy

4. Sacred Heart Prayer Group

5. Sacred Heart Catchism Teachers Group

6. ‘Helping Hands’ Youth Moments

PATRONAL FEAST: Sacred Heart of Jesus


1. Monica N.C

Distance - 6 Kms.

Families - 20

No. of Catholics - 100

Mass Timings - Once in a month

2. Villonie

Distance - 13 Kms.

Families - 15

No. of Catholics - 75

Mass Timings - Once in a month

3. Cinehone Pathampathi

Distance - 12 Kms.

Families - 15

No. of Catholics - 75

Mass Timings - Once in a month

4. Cinehone

Distance - 10 Kms.

Families - 12

No. of Catholics - 60

Mass Timings - Once in a month

5. Karumali

Distance - 8 Kms.

Families - 20

No. of Catholics - 100

Mass Timings - Every Sunday 12.00 noon

6. Akkamalai

Distance - 12 Kms.

Families - 23

No. of Catholics - 120

Mass Timings - Every Sunday 1 .00 p.m

7. Sirugundra

Distance - 5 Kms.

Families - 32

No. of Catholics - 120

Mass Timings - Once in a month

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