Kolkata

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'THE ASSOCIATION OF CALCUTTA ARMENIANS 'MAX GALSTAUN - CHAIRPPERSON A11/9 KALYANI NADIA 741235 WEST BENGAL INDIA 0091 98307 93797

OFFICES AT : 12 CHURCH AVENUE SOUTHALL MIDDLESEX UB2 4DH UNTED KINGDOM 0044 208 8936565 0044 208 577 7998

The Indian Armenian Community observes the 91st Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Azad-Hye, Dubai: On 24th April Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, the Manager of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA), performed a requiem service for the souls of the victims of the Armenian Genocide at the Church compound, near the Memorial Stone dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. At the end of the service Fr. Gulgulian addressed the congregation and reminded them never to forget the sacred memory of our martyrs.

The service was attended by His Excellency Ashot Kocharian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, the Armenian Church Committee, members of the Calcutta Armenian community and the ACPA students. The representatives of the Armenian Church and the Community placed wreaths on the tomb of the Unknown Solder.

Rev. Fr. Oshagan, accompanied by the members of the Armenian Church Committee, paid a visit to "Future Hope", a philanthropic organisation dedicated to the welfare of children, where 120 homeless children are cared for. Fr. Oshagan handed over to the representative of the organisation, on behalf of the Armenian Church, a cheque, the proceeds of which will feed the children for one week.

In the evening Fr. Oshagan, His Excellency the Ambassador of Armenia and Mr. Haik Sookias, Chairman, Armenian Church Committee, planted an evergreen tree (see photo) in the compounds of the Collage, in memory of the Armenian Genocide victims, which was followed by a memorial evening.

The evening was opened by Deacon Tigran Baghumyan, the Administrator of the ACPA. Ambassador Ashot Kocharian read the manifesto signed by the President of Armenia Mr. Robert Kocharian on the occasion of the 91st Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The Ambassador gave a brief talk dedicated to the Genocide. During the evening the audience was shown a documentary film dedicated to the Genocide.

The evening was also attended by the Consul General of Cyprus, Slovakia, representatives of the Russian Consulate, Head of the Cultural Centre, members of the Armenian Community and the students of the ACPA.

See photos and Armenian text at: http://www.azad-hye.net/news/viewnews.asp?newsId=140afg54


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TRADITIONAL PILGRIMAGE TO SURB HOVHANNES ARMENIAN CHURCH OF CHINSURA

Noyan Tapan Armenians Today Jan 18 2006

CALCUTTA, JANUARY 18, NOYAN TAPAN - ARMENIANS TODAY. On January 15, Sunday following the holiday of Surb Hovhannes Mkrtich's Birthday, according to a tradition having existed already for many years, the Surb Liturgy was celebrated in the Surb Hovhannes Armenian church of Chinsura. This is the second oldest Christian church of the Western Bengal. The church is built in 1695. Though no Armenians live any more in that city populated with Armenians once, by such pilgrimages, they pray at the Surb Hovhannes Armenian Church reminding neighboring inhabitants about Armenians' presence and their faithfulness to the heritage left by ancestors.

The liturgy was celebrated by Archimandrite Oshakan Gyulgyulian, the Indian Armenian spiritual pastor and the Manager of the Armenian Philanthropic Academy of Calcutta, who was accopanied by Deacon Tigran Baghumian, a monk of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.


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Armenian church poll in Kolkata may turn into legal battle

Nov 08 2013 Manish Basu

Armenians from around the world are in Kolkata to elect a panel that will control assets running into thousands of crores

Kolkata: In a season of polls, several Armenians from around the world have arrived in Kolkata to vote in an election on Sunday to elect a panel that will control assets running into thousands of crores, and the proceedings could turn into a slugfest, with a possible court challenge on Friday.

The assets are mostly in the form of prime real estate and some five million shares of HSBC that are held by one of the richest religious institutions in India: the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth in Kolkata.

The panel, which has a term of four years, will control and manage these assets and the income arising from them.

Once the most prosperous business community in Kolkata, and one which established itself in the city even before the British arrived on the banks of the Hooghly river, the Armenians of Kolkata now number only around 200, largely due to migration over the past 60 years.

The prosperous Armenians left behind with their church huge estates for the benefit of the underprivileged of the community. The church manages these jointly with the official trustee of the West Bengal government—a custodian of estates—and spends the income from these properties and dividend from shares on charity that is not restricted to Armenians alone.

Most Armenians who still live in Kolkata are old and ailing, and largely reclusive, evident from the poor attendance at last Sunday’s mass at a community church in Park Circus, where services are still held in Armenian. A group of activists used the Sunday services to discretely canvas for support in Sunday’s election to form a new governing body at the church.

The election, which takes place once every four years, could turn ugly. At least two camps, determinedly campaigning to swing voters in their favour, are voicing the same promise: rightful distribution of the church’s largesse, though they differ sharply on the definition of deserving beneficiaries.

Only a handful of those who still live in the city are eligible to vote in Sunday’s election because most local Armenians, being beneficiaries of the church, are barred by an 1889 court judgement from having a say in the formation of the governing body of the institution that provides.

The 1889 judgement was the outcome of a spat within the community over the management of its properties. Typically referred to as “the scheme” by the community, it created statutes aimed at securing the properties from being frittered away by people in control of the Armenian church. Hence, it puts restrictions on the people who can vote.

These statutes, though, have been amended from time to time by the Calcutta High Court, and under one interpretation of a 2009 amendment, even Armenians who do not live in Kolkata and are not Indian nationals can vote. This is likely to be challenged in court on Friday.

The 1889 judgement said only Armenians who lived within a 50 mile (80km) radius of Kolkata, and had been living there for at least six months, could vote in the church election. An amendment six years ago added that only Indians could vote, but this was later repealed.

The dilution in the eligibility criteria has resulted in many people turning up to vote in this year’s election, said Max Galstaun, an activist trying to oust the current committee and its proxies for the next term.

“Many of those people who have turned up to vote this time aren’t, in my view, eligible to vote because they have no connection with Kolkata,” Galstaun said.

He alleged that a large group of Armenian nationals are currently staying in a hotel in central Kolkata, and they are looking to vote in Sunday’s election. Mint couldn’t independently verify this.

An employee at Kolkata’s Armenian College (that is actually a school) said some foreign nationals have lately been teaching there. This person declined to be identified. Whether the same people would be voting on Sunday isn’t immediately known.

At the same time, many of those who have come down are concerned that the church authorities may not allow them to vote. Anthranick Khachaturian, a Kolkata-born Armenian who lives in the UK, said he could face resistance if he tries to vote on Sunday though he has been living in Kolkata for several months, working with a local non-governmental organization.

Similarly, the voting right of Stefano Sarkies, who lives in Australia, having migrated there from Kolkata, has been questioned by the church, though he too claimed he has been living here for many months now.

“People in control of the church are trying to usurp properties,” said Sonia John, a former chairperson of the church. The church manages at least 52 estates, according John, who alleges she wasn’t allowed to vote in the 2009 election.

Several attempts by church officials to hand control of old Armenian properties to real estate developers through murky deals have been blocked by court orders, said Galstaun, adding that many similar attempts have also gone unnoticed or couldn’t be thwarted.

The assets are so vast that the official trustee of the state government refused to give details of them. Replying to a request from the Armenian church, the custodian said in a note in December last year that preparing a list of its assets was a “Himalayan task” because most of them were brought under its control “more than 100 years ago”. Their book value from that time was around Rs.3 crore, show the annual accounts of the church.

There is no controversy over Sunday’s election, said Sunil Sobti, one of the wardens in the committee that runs the Armenian church. “All assets are duly assessed by the official trustee and they are in safe hands,” he said.

An email sent to the church committee seeking clarifications on its recent activities remained unanswered.

A significant section of the surviving Armenians in Kolkata do not have complaints about the way their church is run. “The church takes good care of me and my wife,” said Mac Adams, who is in his mid-80s. He and his wife live in a church-run home for the elderly. “The church has been nice to old people like us.”

http://www.livemint.com/Politics/LGTPEqVbK90Mrz78AulazH/Armenian-church-poll-in-Kolkata-may-turn-into-legal-battle.html


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Blue Santa and fruit-less Armenian cakes

Under Mamata Banerjee, Christmas in Kolkata is tourist-friendly. But the city’s traditions, like the Armenian celebrations, continue to flourish

Dec 23 2016. 08 16 PM IST

Though born and brought up in Kolkata, it is only recently that Brunnel Arathoon, 36, started examining her Armenian roots. All these years, Arathoon says, she had only the one identity, of a Catholic; her paternal origins in the Eurasian country remained a footnote in family dinner-table conversations and a conundrum in social circles.

“I had absolutely no idea of my Armenian identity and the history surrounding it. After I got to know of my father’s side originating from Armenia before shifting to Kolkata, I started looking up the map of the country. It is nice to know where one goes back to,” says Arathoon.

For the first time, she has baked the traditional Armenian Christmas cakes— spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon and stuffed with walnuts, and, unlike most other Christmas cakes, without fruit. They are a marker of her Armenian roots, a country from where large numbers came to settle down in Kolkata and do business, as far back as the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Though the British are popularly believed to have been the first Europeans in Kolkata in 1690—Job Charnock, an employee and administrator of the British East India Company, is regarded as the founder of the city now called Kolkata— the discovery of an Armenian tombstone in the city dating back to 11 July 1630 has pushed back Kolkata’s European links by at least another 60 years. The site of the tombstone of Rezabeebeh, “wife of the late charitable Sookias”, is the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth near Burrabazar, built in 1707 and widely regarded as the oldest surviving church in Kolkata. It stands as a monument to the city’s earliest encounter with Christianity, even as the number of Armenians has dwindled to an official estimate of less than a hundred. Arathoon, however, contends there are many like her: uncounted Armenians grappling with issues of identity, since only Armenians who are baptized are counted.

Having bagged orders for 56 cakes within a few days of promoting her effort on Facebook, Arathoon hopes the world will now come to know of her Armenian background. “Christmas in Kolkata is as good a time (as any ) to spread the word,” says Arathoon.

We meet one evening at a café attached to a book store in the Park Street area. ...

...

For the oldest Christian community in Kolkata, the Armenians, the 25th is the beginning of the period of “Advent of Jesus”, not the day they celebrate Christmas, says Anthony Khatchaturian. Khatchaturian, a prominent Armenian in Kolkata, organizes popular city walks; this year, a “Cake Walk” through the city’s popular Christmas cake outlets has been introduced. It is only on 6 January, when the period of Christ’s incarnation culminates, that the oldest church in the city, the otherwise deserted Armenian Holy Church near Burrabazar, will swell up with the sounds of prayer and singing.

...

Excerpts from: http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/CeotOPEHGPUTSp2HUGahdJ/Blue-Santa-and-fruitless-Armenian-cakes.html


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