St. Antony's Church, Puliakulam

St. Antony's Church, Puliakulam

Church Location

Parish Priest                    : Rev. Fr. V. Arun

Assistant Parish Priest  :  Rev. Fr. A. Nalla Jacob Dass


The Parish Priest, St. Antony's Church, Puliakulam, Coimbatore- 641 045.


1.The name Puliakulam has two versions about its origin :

A.When the Tank, now called ‘Amman Kulam’, was constructed in 1432 the area was covered by Tamarind trees and hence they had to be cleared. Hence the village that sprang near the new tank might have been called Puliankulam.). (PulliTamarind) B. Before 1432, the area was covered with a thick forest and a tiger was roaming there and thus came to be known as Puli (Tiger) + Kulam = Puliakulam. Whatever be the origin the village it must have sprung up only after the Tank was constructed since it was the people of Saveriarpalayam who remonstrated. If Puliakulam were in existence, they would-have objected!

About the origin of Christianity of Puliakulam :

One thing can be surmised, that the Pallars were not the original inhabitants, because If they were there, the village would have been called as “Pallapalayam” (not Puliakulam), as it was wide­ spread custom in those days. Either the Pallars from Perur area might have come and settled down here (of course not yet baptized) or more probably, they must have belonged to the Pandiyan garrison when Coimbatore fort was built during Madura Nayakars time, when the Poligar system (Pallayakarar) was instituted and Coimbatore became the important capital for 30 Palayams ol Coimbatore region. ‘Thirumalai Nayakar sent garrisons from Madurai, to guard the forts of Coimbatore and of Satbiyamangalam. Hence the fort must have been built about the middle of thc century, either by Vishvanatha Naick (1529-1564) or morc probably by Krishnappan Nayak (1564-72). (Cfr: T.K. Shakti Dcvi History of Coimbatore Town. P. 16-17). She in her ve1I- researched book-let, mentions, that Thirumalai Naickar (1623- 1659) sent soldiers to garrison Coimbatore fort, comprising Maravars, Agarnudiars, and that they settled down and formed Ramanathapurarn. Therefore some Pallars also must have accompanied them and it was their practice to settle down, east of the main village or town and Puliakulam is to the east o Coimbatore. But then their Christianity must have originated, much later then 1483 infact they must have settled down here somewhere about 1640 iearly a century later. Since they were shown as Christians already, they could have been baptized at Madura, where the Jesuits started their mission in1606, Coimbatore itself gets its first mention in the historical letters of the Jesuits, only about the year 1676, with a colony of Paria Catholics baptized either at Madura or at Trichy by theJesuits. Thus Fr. Luney and Fr. Bechu following him, put the Christianity of Puliakulam around 1640. But Puliakulam never gets an explicit mention in any of the Jesuit letters. Probably they were one of the ISO Christian Villages with in a radius of 60 miles fro Kannuvakarai center, in the year 1655. Thus the first chapel with mud walls and thatched roofing (the usual practice then) probably was built around 1650-55, occasionally visited by the firstJesuit missionaries of Sathy mission, Frs. Immanuel Martinez and then by Fr. Arcolni, both of them Brahmin Sanyasis.

But most probably, because of their condition as Brahmin Sanyasis, they could not have celebrated Mass in that chapel according to the de Nobil’s method of Adaptation. Probably, the Christians of Coimbatore (Mattakara Cherri) and Puliakulam, would have gone to the neighbouring Savcriarpalayam for hearing Mass and for the reception of other SacramentsB! ut the missionaries must have made up for this handi-cap, by thei influence as Brahmin Sanyasis, (held in esteem by the high castes) must have provided the necessary protection from the Non Christians, especially the fiery and bigoted yogis (the ancieni version of our present Sangh Parivar) (Cfr. C.S. Mariarokiam Op. Cit p. 34.) This sad, unchristian, situation must havc continued for over the next 100 years as Sathy mission, was knowr as a residence of the Brahmin Sanyasis (Ibid. p. 40.) This systerr had its own advantages and disadvantages.

But inspite of distancing themselves from the low-castes (as shown in the letters of theJesuits to their Provincial and through them to Rome form 1606 to 1773 the term ‘low-caste’ is used freely, that is to mean the out-caste people added with the stigma of untouchability that is the ‘Panjamars’ (Pallans, Parians, Sanars ete). How did the missionaries managed to look after these Christians? Fr. Baithazar da Costa, the first missionary to start our Sathy Mission, himself a Pandara swamy, who almost immediately after his first expedition to Sathy in 1643, requested Fr. Martinez, a ‘Brahmin Sanyasi’ to take over, precisely because of this vital handi-cap. He saw a mass movement of conversion of the higher castes i.e. the Sudras: (Sedars (Devangers), Kaikolars (Mudaliars) and Pillais (Vellalar) in our region, though there was already sprinkling of ‘low caste’ Christians from Madura or Trichy settled down at Karur, Errode, Coimbatore ( Mattakara Cherry), Puliakulam, Dharapuram and also at Sathy itself.(Ibid.: p.l7)!

They overcame this disability, by the institution of Pandarams (lay catechists, themselves new converts). He himself has written in1643 thus: “Since the missionaries are so few, we requisition the zeal of the neophytes, who are full of eagerness for th propagation of the gospel. Some of them are exclusively devoted to the direction of Christians and the conversion of pagans. We give them a little monthly salary for their food and the maintenance of their families. We call them Catechists and Pandarams and mentions 4 of them, Saveri Rayan, Diraviam, Yesupathen, Xaviei and Jesu Adian (Catechists from high castes) and one Pandarani Hilaire. (Pandaram means Pariah Catechist)” (Ibid. pp 1-3)0] course these Catechists and Pandarams were not handicapped as the Brahmen Sanyasis, in dealing with the neophytes of castes!

Therefore, we can safely assume, that Puliakulam Christianit) was looked after by any one of these catechists! Till Hyder Ali anc his son Tippu, (1766-99), Puliakulam must have enjoyed comparatively peaceful existence, except the occasional troubles given by the fanatic Vokaliya Yogis, as it happened at Mattakarz Cherri, 1676. (Ibid. P. 90) During the continuous wars betweer the Madura Nayaks and the Mysore Kings, Coimbatore areas was not much affected, because Sathy, Dindigul and Madura, were the main theatres of war! During the Ryder and Tippu’s reign (1766 1799), Coimbatore fort was the central stage and hence must have been affected seriously. Tippu had ordered the demolition of all churches in 1789 in Mysore Mission, of which our mission was a part; so along with the major church of Karumathampatty, all the small chapels were destroyed. Hence the small chapel of Puliakulam, if it still existed in 1790, must have been destroyed. The Christians of the neighbouring Saveriarpalayam suffered much and some of them were taken as prisoners to Srirangapattinam and their church, being a large one was also destroyed. Therefore Puliakulam Christians, though not imprisoned, must have suffered to some extent. Though apostasy under Muslim threat was great, there is no mention. Perhaps the Muslims of Attupalam, Fort area and N.H. Road are descendents of those apostates!

There is an oral tradition that the Christians of Piliakulam, originated from Sathiamangalam, It is quite probable, that due to the persecution of Tippu at Sathy, the Adidravida Christians of Sathy might have fled south, seeking refugee from their own people, settled in and around Coimbatore. Though it would appear remote since such a move by them, at that particular time, would appear to be foolish, as the prover goes “jumping of the fish out of the frying -pan into the fire!” Perhaps after Tippu’s death in 1799, some of the surviving Christians from Sathy area, could have settled down in Puliakulam, thus augmenting its Christianity!

After the take over by the Paris Missionaries, of Coimbatore Mission in 1783, Fr. Abbe Dubois was the pioneer to come in 1803, in search of the scattered sheep. He had built chapels at Kannampalayam, Pudampally and at Severiarpalayam and hence we can assume that he must have looked after Puliakulam Christians also though there is no record that he built any cbapels either here or at Mattakara Street! In the interim period, some Goanese Priests had intruded into our area with the avowed purpose of looking after the sheep, left (leaderless) without priests, because of the suppression of the Jesuits, had started playing a scandalizing role in Coimbatore Mission and though not explicitly mentioned, this Christianity must also have felt its impact. But there was no open 7uarrel here between these Goanese priests and the French Missionaries, as it happened at Karumathampatty, - had been recorded about Puliakulam. The first historical mention of a chapel existing here is in 1820, made by Fr. Bechu, who must have gleaned this from Fr. Luney’s History. (cfr: Bechu : Op. Cit: p.94.)

Definitely a new permanent chapel was built here in 1859 (Fr. Luney : p. 288 of Vol. I) by Fr. de Gelis. In the first official Statistics of Coimbatore Vicariate of 1859, we read: “Piliakulam (a substation of Coimbatore District ( Parish) with Fr. de Gelis as Parish Priest of this District: 300 Catholics, a church under construction, no house”. (Bechu : op. Cit : p.38). Till 1900, it was a sub-station of the Cathedral Parish and from 1900, it was attached to Saveriarpalayam. It was established as a separate parish in 1916, with Fr. M.S. Michael, as the first Parish Priest. He built a belfry and popularized the devotion to St. Antony. He started the Boy’s Elementary School in 191 3. Fr. Pannet donated a bell to the Church. In 1892, Fr. Boulanger -renovated the church. Fr. Aloysious built a part of the presbytery in 1905. Fr. Guibal (1927 -37) built the sacristy and a convent for the Presentation sister and started the St. Theresa’s Girls Elementary School in 1929. Fr. N. Mathalainathar (1937-47) worked hard to bring unity in the parish and to bring order in the life of the parishioners. Fr. M. Regis (1947-1954) extended the wings, put up the gallery for th choir, paved the sanctuary and the front part of the main aisk with mosaic stones. In 1952, he raised the boy’s Elementary School into a Higher Elementary School. Fr. A Soosay (1954-57) raised the Girl’s Elementary School into a Higher Elementary School with the help of the Government Scheme. He built new building for the Boy’s as well as the Girls’ Schools. Fr. MS. Royar (1957- 1959) modified the main altar and erected the altar of St. Joseph. Fr. Amirdham (1959-?) extended the church on both sides anc Bishop Savarimuthublessediton2.9.1962. On 17.6.1963, bell was blessed, On July 1963 the Boy’s school was raised to High school.

Fr. Maria Aloysius, in the 1980s composed the Novena in honor of St. Antony and introduced Novena Services on Tuesdays and made the devotion even more popular.

Fr. M. Guruswamy with great efforts put up the new, large church, in a modern-style and Bishop Ambrose consecrated it on 12-06-1987. Fr. P. lrudayam, constructed anew presbytery audit was blessed on 18-06-1995. Fr. Joseph Sagayam put up a modern first floor to the Presbytery in 2001 and an open-air shelter, at the back yard of the Church for the pilgrims and also built St. Antony’s Religious Depot, well-stocked with religious articles, at the side entrance.

The playground area, behind the church compound was cleared against great opposition from the unlawful occupants and was fully encircled by compound walls by Fr. M.M. Chinnayan. A new two-storied building was constructed for the High school, by Fr. John Joseph who continued the preparatory efforts of Fr. Gurusamy and Fr. P. Irudayam for Ramanathapuram area to be detached from Puliakulam and constructed a new modern church and a Presbytery there. It was consecrated by Bishop Ambrose on 16-07-1995.

Main Station

Distance from the Cathedral Church : 3 K.Ms.

Total No. of Catholic Families in the Main Station : 2,300

No.of Catholics in the Main station : 20,000

Mass Timings

Weekdays : 6.00 a.m & 6.00 p.m.

Tue : 6.00 am, 7.30 a.m, 11.30 a.m & 6.00 p.m

Novena to St.Antony

Sat : 6.30 a.m & 6.00 p.m

Sundays : 5.16 a.m, 6.30 a.m, 8.00 a.m, 8.45 (Children’s Mass) 5.30 p.m

Diocesan institutions :

1. Carmel Garden Mat. Hr. Sec. School 0422 - 2220904,2322987

2. St. Antony’s Boy’s High School 0422 - 2315525

3. St. Antony’s R.C. Boy’s Primary School 0422 - 2315525 (Con)

4. St. Antony’s Nursery School 0422 - 2315525 (Con)

5. St. Antony’s Computer Centre. 0422 - 2311298 (Con)

Religious Houses :

1. Presentation Convents

a. St. Theresa’s Convent 0422 - 2318596

b. Little flower villa 0422 - 2318218

2. Carmel Convent ( 2 nd Order) 0422 - 2222074

3. Missionaries of Charity 0422 - 2221921

4. F.S.J. 0422 - 5525620

Religious Institutions :

1. St. Theresa’s Girl’s Middle School 0422 - 2318596

2. Home for Dying and Destitutes 0422 - 2221921

Lay Association :

1. Legion of Mary

2. Carmel Youth Movement

3. Prayer groups

4. 3rd Order of St. Francis of Assisi

Patronal Feast : June 13th St. Antony (Sunday after June 13th)

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