Devasahayam Pillai, who was born a Hindu in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and converted to Christianity in the 18th century, became the first Indian layman to be declared a saint by the Vatican.
- Besides Devasahayam, the Pope proclaimed five other men and four women as saints.
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- Devasahayam was born on April 23, 1712 in Nattalam village in Kanyakumari district, and went on to serve in the court of Marthanda Varma of Travancore.
- After meeting a Dutch naval commander at the court, Devasahayam was baptised in 1745, and assumed the name ‘Lazarus’, meaning ‘God is my help’.
- His conversion did not go well with the heads of his native religion.
- False charges of treason and espionage were brought against him and he was divested of his post in the royal administration
- While preaching, he particularly insisted on the equality of all people, despite caste differences, which aroused the hatred of the higher classes, and he was arrested in 1749.
- On January 14, 1752, Devasahayam was shot dead in the Aralvaimozhy forest.
- He is widely considered a martyr, and his mortal remains were interred inside what is now Saint Francis Xavier’s Cathedral in Kottar, Nagercoil.
-Source: Indian Express