October 3, 2023 , CogniShift.Org

Mari Poghosyan , Armenian Artist Enterpreneur, Curator and Custodian.Dr.Prashant Madanmohan , Orthopaedic surgeon,Armenian Cultural Advocate

Armenian Virtual Museum - Chennai, India

Armenia in India - A Cultural Legacy

"Armenia in India - A Cultural Legacy" unfolds the rich legacy of Armenian cultural imprints in India, weaving through centuries of shared interactions, influences, and historical intersections. Armenian Artist and Enterpreneur Mari Poghosyan, with her profound connections to both nations, curates a journey that traverses through the vibrant Armenian street in Chennai, the echoes of the bells in the Armenian Church, and the poignant tales etched on the tombstones of the Armenian cemetery. This space is a confluence where stories, histories, and personal narratives intermingle, offering a comprehensive view into the Armenian-Indian cultural mosaic. Explore, engage, and immerse yourself in a legacy that has seamlessly intertwined itself into the socio-cultural fabric of India, all through the eyes of a dedicated Custodian and Curator of Armenian and Indian Cultural Legacy.

Armenian Freedom Circle - Southern Program and Indian Madras ( now Chennai )

The history of the Armenian community of India is highlighted by the publication of the first Armenian monthly magazine “Azdarar” (“Herald”). It has been issued in Madras in 1794-1796. The activities of Movses Baghramyan and Shahamir Shahamirian are also noteworthy. In 1770–1790, Shahamirian headed the Armenian patriotic circle in Madras, of which Baghramyan had been a member, as well as headed the printing house founded by him in 1771.One of the most pivotal publications to come out of Shahamiryan’s press was Movses Baghramyan’s book “New notebook to call Yordorak.” This book presented a plan for the liberation of Armenia, a vision that was revolutionary for its time.

Armenian community in Madras 1790 British Library London

A picture from around 1790, housed in the British Library in London, depicts members of the Armenian population in what is now known as Chennai, India. In the backdrop, Chennai’s Armenian Church of St. Mariam Astvastsatsin and the fortress of St. Gevorg are visible. Additionally, both Armenian and British trading vessels can be seen moored in the Bay of Bengal.

The Armenian Church ,Chennai

The Armenian Church of St. Mary, c. 1905 situated at Armenian Street, Chennai opened in 1712 cognishift.org

The Armenian Church of Chennai located at Armenian Street, Chennai.

The Saint Mary Church in Chennai, also recognized in Armenian as Սուրբ Աստվածածին Եկեղեցի, was originally built in 1712 and underwent a reconstruction in 1772. This church, situated in Chennai, stands as one of the most ancient churches on the Indian subcontinent. Notably, it boasts a six-bell belfry. Also referred to as the Armenian Church of Virgin Mary, it is positioned on Armenian Street, within the George Town neighborhood. Aga Shawmier succeeded Uscan as leader of the Armenian merchant settlement and this church was built (and consecrated in 1772) in his chapel grounds. It has a Shawmier’s room built in his wife’s memory according to a local historian.  The church came up on the graves of about 350 Armenians.

Harutyun Shmavonyan, the pioneer publisher, and editor of the inaugural Armenian periodical, “Azdarar,” is buried at this location.

The church boasts the largest bells in the city, each tipping the scales at 200 kg, with the two oldest originating from 1754 and 1778. The altar of the church is a relic from a previous Armenian church situated near the Madras High Court. Additionally, two other bells were donated by Eliazar Shawmier, while the remaining pair date back to 1837. Furthermore, the church complex historically functioned as a burial ground for the city’s Armenian community.

The Armenian Street in Chennai

Indian Madras, one of the centers of the Armenian diaspora in the 18th century

Indian Madras, one of the centers of the Armenian diaspora in the 18th century , showing the Armenian street in Madras and Church

Coja Petrus Oscan

Coja Petrus Oscan Julfa Armenian Madras

When you visit the tranquil Armenian Church of St. Mary, located on Armenian Street, you will find a commemorative plaque that honors the benevolent Armenian , Coja Petrus Oscan , an Armenian merchant who settled in Chennai, India  was notably generous with his wealth. He made substantial contributions to the public.He constructed the Marmalong bridge across the Adyar river.He contributed to the construction of St. Rita’s Church in Santhome. A slab on the east wall of the church has the inscription “In the memory of the Armenian nation, 1729.To assist pilgrims traveling to St. Thomas Mount, he funded the creation of a step-way leading up the hillock a A devout individual, Petrus practiced his faith at the Chapel of Our Lady of Miracles in Vipore (Vepery), which he privately owned.Petrus had no children and his wife inherited his wealth. When she died, she left it to charity. 

A tastefully designed plaque on the bridge features inscriptions in three languages: Armenian, Persian, and Latin, which reads: “This bridge was built for public interest by Coja Petrus Uscan, belonging to the Armenian nation, AD 1726.” The establishment of the bridge and the stepped pathway to the hill acted as catalysts for the creation of a road, which eventually developed into Mount Road, spurring the southern expansion of the city.

Coja Petrus Uscan who led the Armenian community of Madras from 1723 to 1751 is regarded as the greatest and most famous member of the community.The Armenian merchant community was primarily focused on trade and helping the local government build infrastructure.They contributed to the public infrastructure.The community has almost become extinct, yet its memory survives through Petrus Uscan’s numerous endowments and works of charity.

Constructed at a cost of Rs 1 lakh and bequeathed to the city, the Marmalong Bridge was a testament to Uscan’s commitment to Madras, a city he chose to settle in after arriving in 1724. Not only did he fund the construction of the bridge, but he also ensured resources for its maintenance. Eventually replaced by the Marimalai Adigal Bridge, the original Marmalong Bridge is commemorated with a plaque featuring inscriptions in Persian, Armenian, and Latin. A few years ago, local history aficionados initiated a campaign titled “Retrieve the Uscan Stone” on Facebook, aiming to garner support and attention to preserve the plaque

 

Marmalong Bridge by Petrus Oscan

Marmalong bridge, Anna salai built by Armenian Coja Petrus Oscan Cognishift.org

Marmalong bridge, Anna salai built by the Famous Philanthropist Armenian Coja Petrus Oscan  – painting by William Hodges, Yale Center for British Art.

The Marmalong Bridge, the earliest bridge spanning the Adyar River, was initially built by Armenian trader Coja Petrus Uscan in 1728 with his own funds.A plaque commemorating Uscan’s contribution to the bridge’s construction is placed at its northern end, adjacent to the Saidapet bus stand.The name of the bridge is derived from the localized English version of the neighboring village of Mambalam. 

 

Harutyun Shmavonyan

Gravestone of Haruthyun Shmavonyan Armenian church Chennai

Հարություն Շմավոնյան Harutyun Shmavonyan, Gravestone of Shmavonyan, at the Armenian Church Chennai

 
 

 

Harutyun Shmavonyan (Armenian: Հարություն Շմավոնյան), born in Shiraz, Persia, in 1750 and passed away in Madras, India, in 1824, was a revered priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church and is hailed as the pioneer of Armenian journalism due to his establishment of the Armenian journal “Azdarar,” for which he also served as editor. Shmavonyan, who relocated to Madras (present-day Chennai), India, in 1784, dedicated himself to serving as an Armenian priest and later, in 1789, established a second Armenian publishing house.

In October 1794, he launched the Armenian journal “Azdarar” (Armenian: Ազդարար), marking it as the inaugural Armenian periodical ever to be published, thereby cementing his legacy as a trailblazer and the father of Armenian journalism. Although funding for the new publication was secured, the readership was relatively modest. Shmavonyan managed to publish 18 issues of “Azdarar” before its publication ceased in 1796.

Harutyun Shmavonyan passed away in 1824, leaving behind a legacy of pioneering Armenian journalism.

Shahamir Shahamiryan

Shahamir Shahamiryan’s “Vorogayt Parats”

Shahamir Shahamiryan’s “Vorogayt Parats”

Shahamir Shahamirian, an Armenian writer, philosopher, Armenian freedom movement proponent and prosperous merchant of the 18th century, was born in New Julfa, Iran, and later relocated to India, establishing himself as a wealthy merchant and an active participant in the Armenian community of Madras (now Chennai, India). In 1771, he and his associates established Madras’s first Armenian printing press. Shahamirian, in 1787/88, published “Vorogayt Parats” (“Snare of Glory,” under his son Hakob Shahamirian’s name), which included a proposed constitution for a prospective independent Armenian republic, earning him recognition as the first Armenian constitution’s author.

Born in 1723 in New Julfa, Shahamirian journeyed to Madras during the 1740s. Here, he soon established himself as a leading figure among the Armenians, largely due to his inheritance of his uncle’s fortune. This wealth positioned him as the most affluent Armenian in Madras.

His intellectual pursuits led him to collaborate with key figures like Movses Baghramian. Together with other Armenian intellectuals, they founded the iconic Madras Armenian printing press in 1771. Their printed works stand out as pioneering Armenian expressions of European Enlightenment ideals.

One notable publication was “New Booklet called Exhortation”, championing the revolutionary ideals of constitutional democracy. Shahamirian’s magnum opus, however, was “A Book called Snare of Glory” (Vorogayt Parats). This visionary document is acclaimed as the first-ever Armenian constitution, proposing a parliamentary republic for Armenia with a clear delineation between church and state.

Influence and Vision

Shahamirian’s efforts were not universally lauded. Simeon I of Yerevan, the Armenian Catholicos, perceived Shahamirian’s secular and liberal principles as a threat. The rift escalated when in 1776, the Catholicos demanded the cessation of the Madras press and the destruction of their publications. However, after the Catholicos’ death in 1780, the press resumed its activities, further publishing Shahamirian’s “Booklet of Aim” in 1783, outlining a communal constitution for the Armenian community.

Shahamirian, a visionary, perceived alliances with Heraclius II of Georgia and subsequently the Russian Empire, as key to liberating Armenia. His constitution proposed the possibility of a member from historic Armenian royal dynasties being elected lifelong leader of the republic.

Legacy and Passing

Shahamirian’s demise came in 1797. His substantial legacy included a staggering 52 million gold francs and various properties spanning factories to tobacco plantations in Malacca.

Edward Raphael & Samuel Moorat

Edward Raphael Portrait by John Smart
Samuel Moorat

The Armenian community notably marked its presence in Madras around the 1660s. “Madras: The Land. The People and Their Governance” by S. Muthiah highlights that the most ancient Armenian tombstone, belonging to Coja David Margar, can be traced back to 1663 and was discovered near Little Mount.Armenians of Madras were the first to discover the sepulchre of St. Thomas upon the Mount in the 16th Century.An Armenian merchant sailor called Thomas Cana, arrived along the Malabar Coast in 780 AD long before the Portugese explorer Vasco da Gama reached India.

While the exact timeline of Armenian settlement remains unrecorded, their dominant role in trade between India and West Asia, as well as with Manila (a Spanish stronghold at the time), is evident. According to “Madras: The Land. The People and Their Governance” by S. Muthiah, the Armenians primarily dealt in commodities like silk, spices, and gems, establishing a trade monopoly in these regions.

 

Edward Raphael, originating from New Julfa in the Armenian quarter of Iran’s Isfahan province, emerged as a notable figure in the Armenian merchant community in Madras in the latter half of the 18th century. In 1788, he co-founded the Carnatic Bank, Madras’s first joint-stock bank, which persists today as the Bank of Madras.

 Additionally, Raphael, alongside his son-in-law and distinguished diamond merchant, Samuel Moorat, established the Collegio Armeno Moorat Raphael in Venice. Both men, known for their enlightenment and ties to the scholarly Mekhitarist order, aimed to offer top-tier education to young Armenians in Europe through their college.Edward Raphael’s son Alexander raphael after his father’s death went to Britain and was the fisrt British-Armenian to serve in the House of commons in the United Kingdom.

 

Admiralty House by Coja Nazar Jacob

Admiralty house Nazar Jacob Jan Armenian based in Chennai

Clive House built by Coja Nazar Jacob originally for himself  was the nerve centre of Fort St. George during the British period and continues to serve a bureaucratic purpose even today 

The initial renowned Armenian residence in Fort St. George is presently known as Admiralty House, constructed by Coja Nazar Jacob Jan, who reached Madras in 1702.

Aga Nazar Jan paved the way as the inaugural prominent Armenian merchant in Madras, succeeded by notable figures like Coja Petrus Uscan, Aga Shawmier Sultan, and Aga Samuel Moorat. After Samuel Moorat passed away in 1816, his son, Edward Moorat, depleted his substantial inheritance living a luxurious life. His demise marked the beginning of the diminishing Armenian presence in Madras.

Hosanna Arathoon Memorial stone

Hosanna Arathoon , memorial stone in the Luz Church. early 19th century,

 

Hosanna Arathoon was an Armenian widow of a famous Armenian C. Arathoon who lived in Chennai.

 

 

Arathoon Road

John Arathoon was another famous Armenian merchant sharing the same surname who traded in precious stones. He settled in Chennai ( then called Madras) and left his fortune to charity.

There is still the road named Arathoon Road in Royapuram in Chennai where he used to stay.

Arathoon Road , Royapuram

Arathoon Road , Royapuram

The Armenian Community in Chennai, India today

Presently, three Armenian families reside in Chennai, gathering at the Armenian Church in Chennai to celebrate and uphold their rich heritage.

The Armenian Virtual Museum  stands as a testament to the profound and enduring Indian-Armenian cultural legacy, ensuring that the vibrant tapestry of shared histories and collaborative endeavors is not only preserved but also continues to thrive. 

 

 

Armenian Church Armenian Virtual Museum Chennai Times of India

News article on Times of India about the Armenian Community in Chennai and Celebration of Armenian Christmas on Jan 5

Armenian Church, Chennai today

Armenian church Chennai Altar Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Chennai Altar, Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Bellfry 6 bells Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Bellfry 6 bells Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Bellfry 6 bells middle 2 Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Bellfry 6 bells middle 2 Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Bellfry 6 bells top 2 Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church Bellfry 6 bells top 2 Armenia Virtual Museum

bell beams Armenia Virtual Museum

bell beams Armenia Virtual Museum

Panoramic view of Bell tower Armenia Virtual Museum

Panoramic view of Bell tower Armenia Virtual Museum

Plaque Petrus Oscan Armenian Church Armenia Virtual Museum

Plaque Petrus Oscan Armenian Church Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian CHurch bell with Tamil inscription Armenia Virtual Museum

Armenian Church bell with Tamil inscription Armenia Virtual Museum

Shahamiryan Armenia Virtual Museum

Shahamiryan Tablet Armenia Virtual Museum

About Armenia Virtual Museum by Cognishift.org

About Armenia Virtual Museum by Cognishift.org

Cognishift.Org takes pride in curating and preserving the Armenian Virtual Museum, a digital space that encapsulates and showcases the Armenian cultural and historical imprint in India.

Mari Poghosyan, an Armenian artist and entrepreneur who diligently oversees the digital curation of the Armenian Virtual Museum. She is also the dedicated custodian of the Armenian Virtual Museum Centre at Velachery, Chennai, ensuring that the stories, artifacts, and collective memory of the Armenian-Indian connection continue to be accessible and celebrated by generations to come.

Dr.Prashant Madanmohan is an Orthopaedic Surgeon, Author, Armenian Cultural Advocate, Founder of Cognishift.org

Mari Poghosyan:

“Mari Poghosyan, an innovative Armenian Artist and Entrepreneur, plays a pivotal role in the digital curation of the Armenian Virtual Museum. As a dedicated custodian of both the museum and the Armenian Virtual Museum Centre at Velachery, Chennai, she seamlessly blends technology and tradition to preserve and showcase the rich Armenian cultural legacy to a global audience, ensuring that the vibrant tales and traditions of Armenia continue to inspire and educate future generations.”

Dr. Prashant Madanmohan:

“Dr. Prashant Madanmohan, a distinguished Orthopaedic Surgeon and insightful Author, stands as a fervent advocate for Armenian culture in India. As the visionary Founder of Cognishift.org, he not only bridges the realms of healthcare innovation and literary pursuits but also ardently works towards intertwining the rich cultural tapestries of Armenia and India. His endeavors aim to illuminate the shared histories and vibrant cultural exchanges between these two ancient nations, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation amongst their peoples.”

References

  1.  Prashant Madanmohan (2023-09-09). THE MONK WITH A STETHOSCOPE: A Mesmerizing Tale of Mind Control, Memory Mastery and a New Dimension of Being (1st ed.). CogniShift. ISBN 978-81-950325-2-5.
  2. Dr Prashant Madanmohan; Mari Poghosyan (2023-09-29). Armenian Legacy in India : Chronicles deciphering Indian and Armenian Cultural Legacies 
  3. Muthiah, S. (2014). Madras Rediscovered. Chennai: EastWest. p. 383. ISBN 978-93-84030-28-5 
  4. Vestiges Of Old Madras (1640-1800)  by Love, Henry Davison
  5. Times of India Mari Poghosyan Surb Tsanund Armenian Christmas is here. Times of India Mari Poghosyan Surb Tsanund Armenian Christmas is here.

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Armenia Art Virtual Museum

Original Art work bringing to life the rich Armenian Art and Culture by Mari Poghosyan – Armenian Artist Enterpreneur

Artsakh-Rug-Armenian-lady Mari Poghosyan Armenia virtual museum

Artsakh-Rug-Armenian-lady Syunik Artsakh Taraz

Artsakh-Rug-Armenian-lady Mari Poghosyan Armenia virtual museum

Artsakh Winter costume of a woman Mari Poghosyan Armenia virtual museum

Artsakh Winter costume of a woman Syunik Artsakh Taraz

Artsakh Winter costume of a woman Mari Poghosyan Armenia virtual museum

Artsakh jewellery of a woman Mari Poghosyan Armenia virtual museum

Artsakh jewellery of a woman Syunik Artsakh Taraz

Artsakh jewellery of a woman Mari Poghosyan Armenia virtual museum

Noravank Monastery, Vayots dzor ,Armenia by Mari Poghosyan Cognishift.org Oil on canvas painting original art

Noravank Monastery ,Oil painting on canvas, 98 x 69 cm Jan 25 2024 , Mari Poghosyan

Noravank Monastery Jan 25 2024 , Mari Poghosyan

Khndzoresk caves, Armenia Oil painting on canvas 98x76 cm Original art Mari Poghosyan

Khndzoresk caves, Armenia Oil painting on canvas 98x76 cm Original art Mari Poghosyan

Khndzoresk caves, Armenia Oil painting on canvas 98x76 cm Original art Mari Poghosyan

Վանա լիճ, Աղթամարի Սուրբ Խաչ եկեղեցի, Հայ ճարտարապետության կոթողներից մեկը։ Lake Van, Holy Cross Church of Akhtamar, one of the monuments of Armenian architecture. Oil painting on canvas 98x76 cm Original art Mari Poghosyan

Վանա լիճ, Աղթամարի Սուրբ Խաչ եկեղեցի, Հայ ճարտարապետության կոթողներից մեկը։ Lake Van, Holy Cross Church of Akhtamar, one of the monuments of Armenian architecture. Oil painting on canvas 98x76 cm Original art Mari Poghosyan

Վանա լիճ, Աղթամարի Սուրբ Խաչ եկեղեցի, Հայ ճարտարապետության կոթողներից մեկը։
Lake Van, Holy Cross Church of Akhtamar, one of the monuments of Armenian architecture.
Oil painting on canvas 98x76 cm
Original art
Mari Poghosyan 12 Feb 2024

Dadivank Armenian Monastery in winter ❄️ ❄️❄️ Original Art , Oil painting on Canvas, 98 x 69 cm. Mari Poghosyan

Dadivank Armenian Monastery in winter , Oil painting on Canvas, 98 x 69 cm. Mari Poghosyan Jan 31 2024 , Mari Poghosyan

Dadivank Armenian Monastery in winter ❄️ ❄️❄️
Original Art , Oil on Canvas, 98 x 69 cm.
Mari Poghosyan

From the Ashes ,Armenian Genocide Memorial Acrylic on Canvas painting 50×60cm Mari Poghosyan 6.02.2024

From the Ashes ,Armenian Genocide Memorial
Acrylic on Canvas painting 50×60cm
Mari Poghosyan
6.02.2024
#art #armenia #ArmenianGenocide

Armenian Art Gallery

Original Art paintings by Prof. Dr. Lems Nersisyan – World renowned Armenian Artist Educator and Cultural Ambassador.

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