Kohila

8 12 2010

This real incident which was reported in a popular daily Tamil newspaper named "Thina Thanthi" dated 12-9-2010 published from Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, South India, had taken place in the 18th century in Tanjore.

Tanjore town in Tamil Nadu was ruled by a North Indian king from Maharashtra, namely, Pratap Singh under the erstwhile British rule. The British rulers had allowed the local monarchs to continue ruling their respective provinces under their overall control. In the king’s place, there was an astrologer, namely “Pandithar” Rao who was also from Maharashtra. The affix “Pandithar” means a scholar.

Pandithar Rao had a son who worked in the king’s army. He was blessed with a girl child, namely Kohila, but he died prematurely in a war. After some years, his father Pandithar Rao also died. The girl child Kohila became an orphan. At that time, the Hindu orthodox society was bedeviled with many superstitious beliefs like child marriage and ‘Sati”, an evil practice of compelling widows to commit suicide by jumping into the burning funeral pyres of dead husbands.

Kohila was 12 years old. When she was playing as a child, the orthodox society forced her to marry an old man of 60 years who was on the death bed, against her wishes. Before she could before a spinster to consummate the marriage, her old husband died, making her a widow. When the funeral pyre was burning, the people forced her to jump into the burning funeral pyre. When she refused, she was lifted and was about to be thrown into the fire. At that time, an English soldier, namely, Littleton, who was stationed in the nearby town, Tiruchirapalli, happened to pass by the place of that cruel scene. Littleton warned the people against doing such an evil practice called Sati. Then, Littleton saved her from the burning pyre.

Enraged at the rescue of this girl by Littleton, the local people complained to King Pratap Singh who then took up this matter with the higher army authorities of the British government. The army authorities after conducting an inquiry into the matter acquiesced in the action of Littleton. Littleton testified to his superiors that he saved Kohila from the cruel hands of people who had no conscience.

Then the local people refused to accept Kohila into their society and drove her out of their village. Then Littleton gave her asylum in his house and brought her into his house, along with her handmaid, Saratha. Both Kohila and her handmaid Saratha stayed in the house of Littleton. Kohila came to know about the religion of Littleton and thought that it was the Christian religion of Littleton which had sowed seeds of love in the heart of her master. Kohila wanted to become a Christian but baptism was not given to her.

In the meantime, Littleton was transferred from Tiruchirapalli to Tirunelveli. Littleton stayed in Palayamkottai town of Tiruneliveli along with Kohila and Saratha. At that time, Palayamkottai town was very backward and the people did not have the basic facilities like drinking water, etc. Kohila started helping the local people in a big way by giving them free education in the portico of her house. She also preached the gospel to them. Then she changed her name from Kohila to Gloriantha and the name of her hand maid from Saratha to Sarah.

In the meantime, Littleton received orders from the British army to go back to England. Before leaving for England, Littleton transferred all his properties including the house, etc. to Gloriantha. After reaching England, Littleton died there. Though Gloriantha was upset by the untimely death of her master, she continued doing yeomen services to the society.

The local people in Palayamkottai could not get proper drinking water and they had to walk many miles for fetching drinking water. Gloriantha sold a part of her property and dug a well near her house. Potable water gushed out of the well and the people came to this well for water. After getting a good report on her social work that impacted the society, an English presbyter, Rev.Swartzin gave her water baptism. Then Gloriantha desired to construct a church in Palayamkottai. The construction work commenced in 1778 and was finished in 1785. On 23-8-1785, the church was dedicated. This is the first church built in Palaymkottai which is known for its superb education as the Oxford city of India. During 1806, Gloriantha left for her heavenly abode and her body was buried in the premises of this church. Later, the bodies of other saints and of British soldiers were also buried the church cemetery. Many reputed colleges, institutes of learning and schools are now found in Palamkottai because of the vision of Gloriantha.

Today, many people belonging to all religions and walks of life make a beeline to this church in Palayamkottai for prayers.

Source:

Accessed on 08th December 2010


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