Kerala’s Alappuzha church backs BJP for ‘saving’ historical shrine from demolition

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St George Orthodox Church Cheppad, cheppad church, BJP kerala christians, R Balashankar, Chengannur assembly seat, kerala seembly elections, indian expressThe St George Orthodox Church, Cheppad, is believed to be built in AD 1050. The church has 47 mural paintings, of 13th-century origin, which have been preserved over the centuries. (Source: Vishnu Varma/Express)

A 1000-year-old Christian church in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, which was to be demolished for the widening of a national highway, is now set to be declared a protected monument.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church credits BJP leader Dr R Balashankar for “saving” the St George Orthodox Church at Cheppad with his “timely intervention” in the matter, and has urged people to vote for the BJP leader, who is likely to contest from Chengannur assembly seat in the upcoming elections.

Currently, CPI (M) legislator Saji Cheriyan represents Chengannur constituency.

On Thursday, Orthodox Church spokesman Fr Johns Abraham Konat said the Church head Baselios Marthoma Paulose II wanted the faithful to keep away from partisan political interests and vote for Balashankar, co-convener, BJP national training programme.

“If Balashankar is not voted to victory, it would be ungratefulness. The Prime Minister had intervened in the issue of the Cheppad church, which had been subsequently handed over to the Archaeology Department, and thus the decision to demolish the church had been scrapped.”

Fr Konat added: “It was Balashankar who gave a courageous leadership in this effort to protect the historical church. He is the BJP candidate in Chengannur, where the Orthodox Church is an influential force. When the LDF and UDF fronts kept away from the issue without rendering any help for protecting the church, it was Balashankar who, like a Church member, intervened.’’

The St George Orthodox Church, Cheppad, is believed to be built in AD 1050. The church has 47 mural paintings, of 13th-century origin, which have been preserved over the centuries. Besides, 19th century Malankara Metropolitan Philipose Mar Dionysius is buried here.

According to the widening alignment decided by NHAI, the church was to be demolished and orders in this regard had been issued.

Sources said the Church has raised the issue before political parties, including the BJP, over the last several years. It was only last month that the issue came to the notice of Balashankar, who took steps to bring the matter to the notice of Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

Subsequently, officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) inspected the church, and stated that the church is one of the rarest in Kerala, having traditional architectural patterns with rare and beautiful mural paintings on the walls of the altar

“Considering the historic, art and architectural importance of the church, this office intends to protect the church as a centrally protected monument of national importance. It is, therefore, informed that the present alignment of the NH may please be changed to protect this ancient church and its valuable mural paintings,’’ the ASI added.

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