February 21, 2018

Sarugani Sacred Hearts Church

Sarugani is a small village near Kalaiyar Kovil in Tamil Nadu state of India. There is a famous Roman Catholic Church located here. The village is popular due to this church and the annual festival celebrated here. Let me provide both the details along with some historical background in this article.

The beautiful church in this village is called as "The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary". It was built in 1753 CE and it is the first Sacred Heart Church in the entire country. The entire structure of the church was built as per the Portuguese architectural style. The current structure is renovated; however, the facade and the tower remain intact and they are the only original portions remaining in the structure.

Father James de Rossi, the priest from Italy, came to Madurai and started missionary works in 1736 CE. He was very popular and the locals called him as "Chinna Savariar". He once saved the life of Chinna Marudu from the British soldiers. As the token of gratitude, the village was gifted to him, thus enabling him to build this church here.

The priest had also authored few Tamil books. He is believed to have done some miracles, due to which he managed to gain good rapport with the Ramnad King. It is believed that he accurately predicted the day when his soul would leave this world.

Father Maria Louis Leveil, a priest from France, came to India. He served in India for about 60 years and spent his last few years in Sarugani. He left this world on 21st March 1973 CE. Even today, thousands of devotees of different faiths, come to this church on 21st March every year, to celebrate the life of the "People's Priest". The day is celebrated in grand manner with the procession of the portrait of the priest followed by the community feast.

The facade of the church building, which is an original work, has the stucco images of the hearts of Jesus and Mary in the middle, flanked by the heavenly messengers. Below these images, Jesus Christ is found in the middle, who is surrounded by five angels, two messengers with swords, two ugly figures which probably refer the people of the other faiths, two common men who are being pulled up by the angels (conveying conversion?) and two priests. The angel like figure above Jesus has a ghost under her feet and she holds a balance (weighing scale) in her arm.

A tall staff with the holy cross on the top is found facing towards the church.

In the main hall of the church, the idol of Jesus is found in the middle; he is flanked by Mary in the right side and St.Joseph in the left side. The images of Mary, Jesus on cross, Mary holding Jesus on her lap after he was crucified, and Mary holding the cross in her arms are found in various places within the church.

The tomb of Father Leveil as well as the place where he used to pray regularly are also located within the church complex. The tomb of Father Rossi is found in a nearby village on the banks of the river Manimutharu.

Happy travelling.

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