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LIFE AND MARTYRDOM

Blessed Devasahayam Pillai was born at Nattalam in the Elangam Veedu Nair family in the year 1712. His original name was Neelakanta Pillai, he hailed in an affluent family that was well known for their piety and virtue.  Maharaja Marthanda Varma, the king of Travancore give a place to Neelakanta Pillai in his court. Born into a Hindu, he converted to Christianity and is considered as a martyr of Christian faith.

 

statue of dp , st.francis xavier cathedrralCONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY AND BAPTISM

After the Battle of Colachel (1741) Captain Eustachius De Lannoy was captured as one of the war prisoners and he influenced Devasahayam Pillai in the catholic faith. De’Lannoy was born in Belgium in the year 1716, joined the Dutch Army and came to Cochin in 1738 as an officer in the Dutch Navy. After his arrest in Battle of Colachel, he did service under Marthandavarma for over thirty six years and participated in many battles fought by king Marthandavarma. He was affectionately called by the natives of Travancore as ‘Valiya Kappittan’. In due course De’Lannoy and Neelakanta Pillai became good friends and later he was responsible for the conversion and martyrdom of Neelakanta Pillai.

 

De’Lannoy requested Fr.J.Baptist Buttari, in charge of Holy Family Church Vadakankulam to give baptism to Neelakanta Pillai. Father Buttari gave in and most gladly baptized Neelakanta Pilla with the baptismal name Devasahayam. Later his wife Bhargaviammal was also converted to Christianity and given the baptismal name Gnanapoo (Theresa). Both led a true Christian life and used to preach the gospel of Christ. Some of Devasahayam Pillai’s family members also received baptism later.

 

ARREST OF DEVASAHAYAM PILLAI

The Brahmins give false witness against Devasahayam Pillai and was arrested on 23rd February 1749 like a criminal. D.P.Singaram, the Personal Secretary of the king made very serious charges. One of the charges was that Devasahayam Pillai had no fear of the king because he loved Christ. Another was that he called Brahma, Vishnu and Siva as devils and the third charge was his disrespect for Brahmins, saying that he could cut their sacred threads. He also framed many more charges against him. Since the king respected the Servant of God, he asked him whether the charges were true. Devasahayam calmly replied with a smiling face that he did nothing, expect become a Christian and received baptism after studying the Bible daily and the Ten commandments. With no proper trial conducted the king pronounces the death sentence and put him in prison. They made him to suffer a lot in the prison by not giving him proper food, using bad words against him, against Jesus and against the Christians etc. He suffered a lot for the sake of Jesus and his people.

 

 MIRACLES IN HIS LIFE

For torture he was shifted to different prisons. As they reached a forest at Puliyoorkurichi he asked for water and the soldier gave dirty water. He made the sign of the cross, blessed and drank the dirty water. After a short while the soldiers themselves felt the need of water and requested him to pray to his God. After praying he struck a rock with his elbow and immediately water came out from the rock and soldiers drank it and proclaimed that Devasahayam’s God was supreme and Almighty. Today also water comes from that same rock which is called ‘Muttidichanparai’.

 

It was also believed that the soldiers took him to Peruvilai and tied him to lifeless neem tree, close to the executioner’s house. Here he was exposed to day and night to the rain and sun. However miraculously the dried neem tree to which he was tied sprouted and came into life putting on fresh leaves. The surprised executioner approached Devasahayam and told him that he did not have a child for many years and requested to pray to his God that he might receive a child. Devasahayam convinced him and said that in the name of Jesus he would have a son. Soon his wife conceived.

 

DEATH

Baptized  at the age of 33 (on 14th May 1745) he was arrested after four years because of his faith, paraded and tortured brutally and finally shot dead on the night of 14th January 1752. The venue chosen for the execution was on the fringe of the wild Aralvaimozhy forest. He was carried like a sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered for no crime other than accepting the Lord ship of Jesus Christ. Devasahayam Pillai begged for few minutes to pray and praise the God, which they granted him. He knelt down on the rock and prayed at Kattadimalai, silently for all. Finally he said “Yes Lord, I am ready, they will be done”. He called the soldiers and they shot at him five times and he called on the Lord and accepted death. The dead body was in the jungle for seven days; during this period wild animals ate the dead flesh, only some bones were left there. The Rev.Fr.Thomas Bansiga, Parish Priest at Kottar received the sacred remains and interred them under the main altar in the St.Xaviers Church, Kottar.

 

BEATIFICATION

Blessed Devasahayam Pillai is the first married lay man from India to be beatified by the Catholic Church. He was declared a Martyr and Blessed on 2 December 2012 at a ceremony held in the Diocese of Kottar at Carmel Higher Secondary School Grounds, Nagercoil. Angelo Cardinal Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the function as Delegate of Pope Benedict XVI. Many participated in the grand ceremony from all over India. On the same day as Devasahayam Pillai was declared as Blessed, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the crowd gathered in Rome.

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“I welcome all gathered here today to pray with me. I especially greet the people of Kottar who celebrate today the beatification of Devasahayam Pillai. His witness to Christ is an example of that attentiveness to the coming of Christ recalled by this first Sunday of Advent. May this holy season help us to centre our lives once more on Christ, our hope, God bless all of you.”

The newly created Diocese Kuzhithurai has Blessed Devasahayam Pillai as its patron.

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