Project Canterbury

A History of the Church of England in India
Since the Early Days of the East India Company

By Eyre Chatterton
Bishop of Nagpur

London: SPCK, 1924.

Chapter XXV. The Diocese of Dornakal, 1912. A Diocese of Mass Movements.


1. Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, consecrated in St. Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta, on December 29, 1912.

IN a sermon preached on the occasion of his enthronement, the present Bishop of Madras spoke of his predecessor, Bishop Whitehead, in the following way: "When he succeeded to the Bishopric, twenty years ago, it was almost impossible to make one united Diocese of Madras. There were too many languages, too vast an area, too many different stages of development and of education; and the great service for which he will be remembered in the Church is his formation of the Diocese of Dornakal, which united together in one the homogeneous sections of the Diocese of Madras, and started them on a new and vigorous Church life."

The Diocese of Dornakal began its life on December 29, 1912, when the Rev. V. S. Azariah was consecrated its first Bishop in St. Paul's Cathedral, Calcutta. Dr. J. R. Mott, the well-known missionary authority, who was present on the occasion, has stated that it was one of the most impressive ceremonies he ever witnessed. There were no less than eleven Bishops of the Province of India taking part in the act of Consecration. Indians from all parts, and especially from the new Bishop's own country of Tinnevelly, were present in large numbers to do honour to their distinguished brother. The real significance of the ceremony lay in the fact that Bishop Azariah was the first Indian to be consecrated a Bishop of the Anglican Communion.

It has often been stated that the conversion of India must rest ultimately with the Christians of India, and that when Indian Christian leaders of outstanding ability and devotion arise, results will soon be apparent, far greater than ever witnessed before. We believe that the truth of this has been abundantly proved during the years that have elapsed since Bishop Azariah's Consecration. But we must not anticipate our narrative.

Bishop Azariah is a Tamil by birth and education, and his diocese is, strange to relate, almost entirely Telugu. There is a marked difference between Tamils and Telugus in character and even physical features. The new Bishop, however, thoroughly understands his Telugu fellow-countrymen. Years ago he had been well known as a leader in the Y.M.C.A., and has travelled a great deal in Europe and America, where he has spoken at various religious Conventions. For the two years previous to his Consecration he had been Head of the Mission at Dornakal, started by the Indian Missionary Society of Tinnevelly.

When the Diocese of Dornakal was first formed in 1912, it was quite a small diocese in the south-east corner of the Nizam's Dominions. A few years later it was enlarged by the addition of the District of Dummagudem, in which the Church Missionary Society was working. Then came a Resolution of the Episcopal Synod in the year 1920, which transformed this comparatively small diocese into a diocese which has now probably as large, if not a larger number of Anglican Indian Christians than any other in India. By this resolution all the Mission Districts of both the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the Telugu country, were placed under the Episcopal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Dornakal. This means that the present Diocese of Dornakal includes a large portion of the Kistna district, together with the part of the Godavery district named Dummagudem; parts of the Kurnool and Cuddapah districts to the south occupied by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; also the areas in the Hyderabad State occupied by the Indian Missionary Society of Tinnevelly, the Singareni Mission, the Khammamett Mission (formerly under the Church Missionary Society), and the recently formed Dornakal Diocesan Mission, which has started work in the hitherto totally unevangelised area in the Mulag Taluq.

We are not to think that our Church is the only evangelising agency at work in this part of India, as between the Kistna district and the Kurnool and Cuddapah districts extends a large tract of country occupied by the American Evangelical Lutheran and American Baptist Missions.

The Church of England Zenana Mission has eleven lady workers in the Dornakal Diocese, and carries on evangelistic work at four centres, viz. Masulipatam, Ellore, Bezwada and Khammamett.

At Khammamett there is a big Mass Movement of the Mala and Madiga castes towards Christianity, which has been going on for some years. The number of Christians under the Bishop of Dornakal's fatherly care at the present time amounts to somewhat over 100,000. and every year sees new catechumens admitted and baptised, not by hundreds, but by thousands. The method of baptism largely adopted is immersion, sometimes in one of the great rivers. While the Delegation of the Church Missionary Society was visiting Dornakal, Dr. Bardsley was present and assisted at the baptism of hundreds of converts from the depressed classes in the river Godavery.

The staff of European ordained missionaries in the Diocese of Dornakal is small, and consists of but eight English Priests, while the number of Indian Clergy, which is growing steadily, is now fifty-three. The greater part of the pastoral work of the diocese has been handed over to the Indian Clergy. Like our other Indian Dioceses, the Dornakal Diocese has now got its own Diocesan Council. The diocese itself is divided up into Circles or districts, each containing from three to five Pastorates under a Circle or District Church Council, and with the exception of four, the chairmen of these District Church Councils are all Indian. It will therefore be seen that the work of self-government is already largely in the hands of the Indian Church. Steps are being taken to form a Diocesan Divinity School for the training of candidates for Holy Orders. It will grow, we may hope, in importance, and is at present located at Dornakal. It may readily be imagined in a diocese which consists so largely of the ignorant and depressed classes, education is one of the most important branches of missionary work. Over 1200 men and women are employed in the Diocese of Dornakal as teachers in the village schools, and during the last few years, night schools have been started in many villages, so that the young men may have a chance of continuing their education, and of fitting themselves for various subordinate positions in the Police, Forest Department, and other public services in which some standard of literacy is required. The greater number of these teachers have received their education in the Elementary Boarding Schools for Boys, of which there are now seven in the diocese, in addition to the Vocational hchool at Dornakal, where agriculture, weaving, and carpentry are also taught. Those who are fit for higher education are sent on to the two High Schools of the diocese, either to Masulipatam (C.M.S.), or Nandyal (S.P.G.), From the old pupils of these two schools have come the great majority of the Clergy, sub-assistant-surgeons, school-masters and catechists who are now working in the diocese.

Some reference to the Noble College at Masulipatam must be made. It is an old and famous missionary institution started by the Rev. R. T. Noble, of the Church Missionary Society over eighty years ago, and now affiliated to the Madras University. Two years ago it was united with the American Evangelical Lutheran Mission at Guntur, the result of which is that the American College now sends its students for the B.A. Class to Masulipatam, and has also endowed a Professorship in the Noble College. Probably there is no Missionary College in India which is so richly endowed with scholarships from various sources as is this College. Its students now number over two hundred. It is to the Noble College that the Bishop has to look for a supply of well-trained teachers for the Training School and High School at Masulipatam and Nandyal.

There is a flourishing Telugu Churchmen's Society, closely affiliated to and warmly supported by the Church of England Men's Society in England. A Temperance Society has recently been started, with the hope of raising the spiritual and social life amongst the Christian lads and men of the diocese.

Women's work is now going on hand in hand with the work amongst the men. We have already alluded to the excellent work carried on by the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society. Special mention should be made of the Sharkey Memorial School in Masulipatam, which educates the Christian girls up to the Third Form, and has also a Normal Training Class for Women Teachers under the direction of two English ladies. Elementary Girls' Boarding Schools are also doing good work at Ellore, Khammamett, and Dornakal, while the Holy Cross School at Nandyal and a small Primary Girls' School at Kalasapad provide education for a hundred and thirty girls in the Kurnool and Cuddapah districts. Three English lady workers of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel are stationed at Nandyal; but the smallness of the staff of women workers throughout the diocese makes it impossible to carry out the work urgently needed in the villages. As might be expected, the number of educated women in the Dornakal Diocese is still woefully small, and can only reach comparatively few people. Some evangelistic work is carried on by Bible-women in various centres, and quite recently the Mothers' Union, under the Presidentship of Mrs. Azariah, wife of the Bishop of Dornakal, is gradually spreading from the larger centres into the village Pastorates. Lace industries for women have been started at Dummagudem and Khammamett, and a small Diocesan School of Needlework has been at Dornakal.

One has said enough to indicate that a great work is being carried on in this part of India, and that its obvious success leads one to look forward to the time when the number of Bishops who are Indians will be increased greatly in such dioceses, when through their influence the flock of Christ will multiply abundantly.

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