TAK­ING THE PAST FOR­WARD

The Cen­tral Bap­tist Church is where you can still en­joy Urdu recital of the Bible like it was done in the Mughal era.

India Today - - COVER STORY - By Mo­hini Mehro­tra

Steeped in His­tory It was in 1814, when mis­sion­ary J.T. Thomp­son of Bap­tist Mis­sion­ary So­ci­ety bought a piece of land from Mughal Em­peror Ak­bar Shah II in Darya­ganj and built the first evan­ge­list church. How­ever, most of the Chris­tians were killed by the rebels in the re­volt of 1857. Thom­son, along with a host of lo­cal in-charges of the church died, and the Bap­tist con­gre­ga­tion in Old Delhi mi­grated to dif­fer­ent states. Postre­volt, the Bap­tist So­ci­ety in Lon­don in as­so­ci­a­tion with the East In­dia Com­pany con­tacted mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion, and started look­ing for a new piece of land to re­build the church. Fi­nally, they found a Mughal gar­den that be­longed to a pow­er­ful ruler, Begum Samru, the Begum of Sard­hana, and it was here that they re­con­structed the church. The new build­ing was com­pleted in 1860 and, with time, the Bap­tist com­mu­nity re­gained its former go­ings-on in Old Delhi.

The High­light As op­posed to other churches in Delhi which were at­tended and ruled by the Bri­tish com­mu­nity, Cen­tral Bap­tist Church has al­ways been ex­clu­sively man­aged by and for the In­dian con­gre­ga­tion. The most in­ter­est­ing fact about this church is that Urdu, which was the main lan­guage of Old Delhi at the time the con­gre­ga­tion was con­sti­tuted, still con­tin­ues to be the pri­mary lan­guage—Bible verses in Urdu en­graved on the wall be­hind the church al­tar bear wit­ness to this long tra­di­tion. How­ever, scripts in Hindi are avail­able for those un­fa­mil­iar with Urdu.

At No 1860, Chandni Chowk Road, Tel 09873531576

Cen­tral Bap­tist Church is the old­est church in Delhi and per­haps all of north In­dia

Pho­to­graphs by RAJWANT RAWAT

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