A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MARTYR DEVASAHYAM

A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF MARTYR DEVASAHYAM

Nilakandan (Servant of God Devasahayam) was born of Vasudevan Namboodiri and Devakaiamma in a Hindu Nair family at Nattalam in Kanyakumari District on 23 April 1712. He learnt Tamil, Malayalam and Sanskrit, besides other sciences archery, marital arts etc.

Marthanda Varma the King of Travancore appointed him as his court official. He supervised the construction of the Fort at Padmanabhapuram Palace. He also served as steward at the Neelakandaswamy Temple there.

In 1741 De Lannoy the captain of the Dutch army was captured as a prisoner of war by King Marthanda Varma during the war that took place between the Dutch and the State of Travancore at Colachel. Later, De Lannoy was appointed as commander-in-chief of his army. Nilakandan, as court official, became closely associated with De Lannoy, a staunch Catholic. In fact, it was De Lannoy who greatly inspired Nilakandan to embrace Christianity.

When Nilakandan was in great distress De Lannoy consoled him by narrating to him the story of Job who was steadfast in his faith in God despite his untold misery. He spoke to him about the boundless love of Jesus Christ. He also talked to him about the perishable/ transitory nature of the things of this materialistic world. After some deep meditation and study of the Christian religion, Nilakandan expressed his strong faith in Jesus Christ. He was administered Baptism at Vadakkankulam on 14 May 1745 and christened 'Devasahayam'. Later, his wife Bhargaviamma too embraced Christianity and was christened 'Gnanappu.'

After his conversation he preached about equality of all people irrespective of caste, creed, colour and social status. He socialized with people of the lower castes and worked for their uplift. This provoked the wrath of the higher caste Brahmins and Nairs. They accused him of desecration of their gods and degeneration of the age-old traditional ethos and customs of the kingdom.

When Marthanda Varma heard of his conversion and his 'highly objectionable' practices and activities he ordered Nilakandan's arrest and imprisonment on 23 February 1749. The king then commanded Nilakandan to be dragged from village to village in his kingdom, and to be tortured in public and to be subjected to ridicule, harassment and shame. This persecution went on unabated for more than three long years. But nothing could break his indomitable spirit and faith in God. When the king did not find any change of heart in him, he ordered Nilakandan to be shot dead at point-blank range at Kattadimalai on Friday 14 January 1752. His body was then dumped in the forest to be devoured by wild beasts.

His mortal remains were later collected from the forest and buried in St. Francis Xavier's Church, Kottar. As he was martyred for Christian faith he is very much loved and honoured by the Catholics of the diocese of Kottar in particular and by most of the people in the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and beyond. Canonization Process

  1. Action taken immediately after the death: On hearing of the death of Devashayam, the most Rev. Clemens Joseph, S.J., the Bishop of Cochin, sent out a circular to all the parishes of his diocese asking them to ring the bell in all Churches and to sing the 'Te Deum' and thank the Lord for giving them a martyr. The Bishop himself sang a Pontifical High Mass and preached about the heroic life and martyrdom of Devasahayam.
  2. Mention of Devashayam in the Quinquennial Report: On 15 November 1756 The Most Rev. Clemens Joseph, S.J., Bishop of Cochin, submitted his Quinquennial Report about the diocese to Pope Benedict XIV before his 'Ad Limina Visit.' In that, he narrated in great detail all the events leading to the martyrdom of Devasahayam Pillai on 14 January 1752 on the hill of Kattadimalai near Aralvaimozhi in Kanayakumari District. So Rome was kept well informed of the martyrdom of the Servant of God even in 1756, just four years after his death.
  3. 'Nihil Obstat' (No Objection) from Rome to start the Canonization Process: His Eminence Josephus Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Perfect of the Congregation for the cause of Saints gave the declaration of 'Nihil Obstat' on 22 December 2003 to start the Diocesan Phase of Canonization.
  4. Establishing the Historical Commission: In 2003 The Most Rev. Dr. Leon A. Tharmaraj, Bishop of Kottar, after appointing Fr. George Nedungatt, S.J. as Postulator and Fr. A. Gabriel as Vice Postulator, established the Historical Commission consisting of Fr. J. Rosario Narchison, Fr.John Kulandai and Mr. Varghese Antony on 5 July 2004. The Commission collected all available books and documents about the Servant of God.
  5. Constitution of the Diocesan Enquiry: The Board of Diocesan Enquiry, a Tribunal for collecting the testimonies about the Servant of God was constituted on 3 July 2006 by Bishop The Most Rev. Dr. Leon A. Tharmaraj. The Diocesan Board consisted of Fr. S. Solomon as Presiding Judge, Fr. I. Kulandaiswamy as promoter of Justice and Fr. M. Soosai as Notary.
  6. Solemn Conclusion of the Diocesan Enquiry: On 7 September 2008 a function was arranged to bring to a solemn conclusion the enquiry made by the Diocese. It was presided over by The Most Rev. Dr. Peter Remigius, Bishop of Kottar at St.Francis Xavier's Cathedral, Kottar. The Diocesan Board of Enquiry submitted all the relevant documents to the Bishop at this concluding session. All the documents were then put in a box and sealed.
  7. Documents sent to Rome: The box containing the documents was submitted to the Apostolic Nuncio, New Delhi on 24 September 2008. The Most Rev. Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio forwarded the documents to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints for the Apostolic Process.
  8. Decree to start the Apostolic Process: A Decree to start the Apostolic Process (Roman Phase) was issued in Rome on 12 November 2008. Accordingly, the box was opened for the process on 9 September 2009. Let us all earnestly pray for the speedy conclusion of the Process.
    1. WHY NOT TRY

      The most destructive habit.....................Worry
      The greatest Joy.....................Giving
      The greatest loss.....................Loss of self- respect
      The most satisfying work .....................Helping others
      The ugliest personality trait..................... Selfishness
      The most endangered species .....................Dedicated leaders
      Our greatest natural resource.....................Our youth
      The greatest 'shot in the arm'.....................Encouragement
      The greatest problem to overcome.....................Fear
      The most effective sleeping pill.....................Peace of mind
      The most crippling failure disease.....................Excuses
      The most powerful force in life.....................Love
      The most dangerous act.....................A gossip
      The world's most incredible computer..................... The brain
      The worst thing to be without.....................Hope
      The deadliest weapon.....................The tongue
      The two most power-filled words.....................'I Can'
      The greatest asset.....................Faith
      The most worthless emotion.....................Self-pity
      The most beautiful attire.....................SMILE!
      The most prized possession.....................Integrity
      The most powerful channel of communication.....................Prayer
      The most contagious spirit.....................Enthusiasm

      Life ends; when you stop Dreaming,
      Hope ends; when you stop Believing,
      Love ends; when you stop Caring,
      ! So please share this balance sheet of life.
      And Friendship ends; when you stop Sharing....!

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