Symbol of Hope: First Church of Northeast India

The first church of Northeast India will be rededicated after renovation tomorrow, 26th October. Christine Ao sends this profile:

GUWAHATI, Assam: Located in the heart of Guwahati city inside Nehru Park at Panbazar, the edifice of  Christ Church is a symbol of peace and hope. Looking back at  its glorious and eventful history,  we can say this church marked the beginning of the institutionalization of Christianity in the north-eastern region.

This Anglican church  was founded in 1844 when Rev Robert James Bland was appointed as the Chaplain of Assam, and consecrated in 1850 by Rt Rev Daniel Wilson, Bishop of Calcutta.

In the 1860s Oscar Jean Baptiste Mallitte photographed the church for the first time in its neo-Gothic architectural glory. It stood as an epitome of colonial British architecture until two severe earthquakes brought the structure to ruins in 1856 and 1897.
The present-day building of the church was built in 1901. Being the first church of North East India, it is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Given that the building was extensively damaged by termites, Rev Angel Daimari and the pastorate committee of the church took the initiative to restore this historic church and give it a new lease of life. The members of the church contributed towards this cause.

Ranjib Baruah, a heritage conservation architect, supervised this project under the aegis of the Heritage Conservation Society of Assam (HeCSA). Other members of HeCSA who are actively associated with this project are artiste pensioner Manik Borah, chief advisor and retired bureaucrat Himanshu Shekhar Das along with Pradeep Sharma, Dr Bhupen Deka and Bikash Goswami as advisors.

“A combination of Tudor-style architecture and Assam-type construction was used to restore this church. To stabilise the building bamboo, GI lead and plaster were used,” said Jayanta Baruah, secretary of HeCSA.

The restoration process began in March this year and has been completed in record time. On October 26, the Christ Church will be rededicated by Rt Rev Michael Herenz, Bishop of the Diocese of North East India.

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