Husband and Martyr from India – (1712-1752)
+ Neelakanta Pillai was born in the Kingdom of Travancore (India) and was raised in the Hindu religion. A court official of the king of Travancore, Neelakanta was considered a member of the highest social caste.
+ It was through his contact with a Dutch military official, Captian Eustachius De Lannoy, that Neelakanta was introduced to the Christian Faith.
+ Neelakanta was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church at the Jesuit mission in the village of Vadakkankulam, receiving the Christian name “Lazar” (Lazarus), although he came to be known by the Tamil and Malayalam name “Devasahayam” (meaning “God’s Help”). His wife was also baptized, receiving the Christian name “Gnanapoo Ammaal (the Tamil and Malayalam equivalent of “Teresa”). Fearing reprisal for her conversion, Gnanapoo chose to remain in Vdakkankulam rather than return to the court of the king.
+ As a consequence of his conversion, Devasahayam was removed from his post and the Hindu religious leaders and feudal lords brought charges against him, accusing him of treason and for divulging state secrets to the Europeans.
+ Imprisoned and tortured for more than three years, he was eventually taken to Aralvaimozhy. Along the way, his body was painted with red and black spots, designating him as a public criminal. He was taken through populated areas, sitting backwards atop a water buffalo and exposed to public humiliation.
+ After years of suffering, Devasahayam was left in a forested area near Aralvaimozy, effectively banished by the king. People from the local villages began to visit him, recognizing him as a holy man. This angered the high caste Hindus and they began to plot his death.
+ Blessed Devasahayam Pillai was martyred by Hindu soldiers on January 14, 1752, and his remains were interred near the altar of St. Xavier’s Church in Kottar (now the diocesan cathedral). His tomb became a popular place of pilgrimage and he was beatified in 2012.
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.