Hyderabad’s busiest area Chirag Ali Lane is today known for its massive mobile phone crowded market. However, in a quiet corner in the same lane is located one of Hyderabad’s most unique and important historical St. Luke’s Hindustani Church gets easily overlooked due to bigger buildings around it, but what makes it special is not its architecture alone. It is the only place where the weekly service is held in Urdu.
The location of the church is such that most of us are bound to miss it while passing by. If not for its signboard outside, recognizing it as a church will be nearly impossible unless you know what to look for. The St. Luke’s Hindustani church is also devoid of the typical classic-revival style (or gothic) form of architecture that adorns the Christian holy places.
The word, ‘Hindustani,’ which is considered as a blend of cultures, is embedded in the name of this historic church, which relied heavily on Urdu script and now slowly transformed itself into using Devanagari. Located in Abids, the church was established in 1-acre land that was gifted by Nizam to the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) in 1905. Earlier, it was named Norman Miller Memorial Chapel. However, after Independence, it was transferred to the Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA), Diocese of Medak, and it was changed to a church and was renamed as ‘St Luke’s Hindustani Church’. Since then, it remained the only church that continues to hold prayers in Hindustani. The Urdu is still on the nameplate of the church. The church is located opposite to Hyderabad Collectorate in Chirag Ali Lane in Abids.
Instead, it has a plain and simple rectangle construction. It was originally built as a chapel (small place of worship with an altar), which nonetheless makes it look beautiful. So how did Urdu come about as it’s medium of instruction of service? The answer to that is not complicated; the St. Luke’s church was constructed specifically by missionaries for local Muslim converts to Christianity when it was founded more than 100 years ago.
Built-in 1905, it is said that the founding missionaries even learned Urdu for the purpose of spreading Christianity. While it may seem surprising, protestant and catholic churches have their services in local languages typically. For example, the Centenary Baptist Church in Secunderabad was built for the local Telugu masses back in 1875, while the St. Thomas’ Tamil Cathedral near the Secunderabad railway station was constructed for the local Tamil Christians back in 1852.
Today, the St. Luke’s Hindustani Church has a small number of members, but it still continues its age-old tradition of conducting its service in Urdu simply due to its history and uniqueness, which is best captured in the last picture. Reverend K. S. Herald Christian, who is its Presbyterian in-charge, said that the weekly service takes place at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays.
“We have 35 members in our church, as it is a small church. At present we are conducting our service online due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But otherwise, people can visit the church and attend the Sunday mass once things are back to normal,” said Rev. Christian. The church’s members include retired IAS officer V.K. Bawa, who is well-known in Hyderabad for his efforts in conserving the city’s heritage and writing a book the Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.
The Church follows the Presbyterian denomination of protestant tradition, as most of those who visit the place to worship were converts. “Any religious devout can worship in the church. There is no bar on visitors from other communities. Everyone can visit the church to remember God Almighty. Christians who speak Hindi prefer this church, as they can easily understand the language,” said Rev K Samuel Herald Christian, In-charge at the church.
Christian explained that Urdu is an easy language to understand and every single verse of the Bible is interpreted in Urdu in a lucid and eloquent way so that it is easily understood. So, all prayers are conducted only in Urdu, but now the script remains Devanagari. Hundreds of devout from other religions also attend the prayers on Sundays, and they even attend the service of the Holy Communion, which will be administered on Sundays in the first and third weeks of every month, he added. Christian said, “The church remains the home of God.
Any religious devout can visit us and worship here. I welcome everyone to join us for the Christmas celebrations this year.” “Urdu is an easy language to understand. All prayers here are conducted only in Urdu. I regularly visit the church for worshiping,” said Saleem Joseph, a regular visitor. #KhabarLive #hydnews
(Disclaimer: Some parts of this article taken from Younus Lasania‘s published articles.)