Devasahayam malai is 8 km north of nagercoil and situated on the Nageroil - Thirunelveli highway in Tamilnadu, India
Legend and beliefs :
Devasahayam Pillai was an 18th century convert from Hinduism to Christianity in the southern part of India.He may have been an official in the court of the Travancore king, Maharaja Marthanda Varma, during which time he came under the influence of the former Dutch naval commander, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy.
He is believed by Roman Catholics to have been martyred. In 2004, the Tamil Nadu branch of the Catholic Bishops' Council in India recommended Devasahayam Pillai for the process of beatification to the Vatican.This led to arguments as some Hindus believe that there is no evidence of religious persecution in Travancore during that period, and that Pillai was executed for sedition
Early Life :
Devasahayam Pillai (named Neelakanta Pillai at birth) was born into an affluent Nair-caste family at Nattalam in the present-day Kanyakumari District, on 23 April 1712.His father Vasudevan Namboodiri, hailed from Kayamkulam, in present-day Kerala state, and was working as a priest at Sri Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Thiruvattar in present-day Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. In the Nair matriarchal traditions of the day, Devasahayam Pillai was raised-up by his maternal uncle, and was inculcated with Hindu beliefs and traditions early on. Devasahayam’s family had much influence in the royal palace of Maharaja Marthanda Varma, king of Travancore, and Devasahayam went into the service of the royal palace as a young man. His capabilities and enthusiasm did not go unnoticed in the palace, as he was soon put in charge of state affairs as an official under Ramayyan Dalawa, the Dewan of Travancore.
Conversion to Christianity :
In 1741, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, a Dutch naval commander, was sent on command of a Dutch naval expedition by the Dutch East India Company to capture Colachel, a port under the control of Travancore. In the battle (Battle of Colachel) that followed between the Travancore forces and De Lannoy’s men, the Dutchmen were vanquished. Many Dutchmen, including De Lannoy and his assistant Donadi.
De Lannoy and the Dutchmen were later pardoned by the king, on condition that they serve in the Travancore army. De Lannoy later earned the trust of the king and went on to become the commander of the Travancore armed forces, winning many battles and annexing various adjacent territories to Travancore.
It was during their influential roles under the King of Travancore that Devasahayam Pillai and De Lannoy became well acquainted. De Lannoy’s Christian faith interested Devasahayam and De Lannoy enlightened him on the faith, leading to his conversion in 1745.
On Devasahayam’s acceptance of the Christian faith, he was baptized at the church at Vadakkankulam village (in the present Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu), where the Jesuits had a mission under Rev. Fr.R.Battari Italus S.J. Neelakanda Pillai, his name at birth, was then changed into Devasahayam (means God's help in Tamil/Malayalam for Lazarus) after receiving baptism.
Orders based on accusations and charges :
Roman Catholic sources allege that the Brahmin chief priest of the kingdom and members of the royal household and the Nair community brought false charges on Devasahayam to the Dewan, Ramayyan Dalawa, and that Devasahayam was divested of his portfolio in the administration and was later accused of treason and of divulging state secrets to rivals and Europeans. He was initially ordered to be taken on a buffalo to Kuzhumaikkad, where he would be executed and finished-off. But the original Royal order was altered later several times to finally to be taken on a buffalo back to Aralvaimozhy border for a meaningful punishment of banishment after carrying out a series of tortures by ten different karyakkars on the advice of ministers.
Other traditions and beliefs :
Devasahayam was marched to Aralvaimozhy by soldiers, over the period of a few days. As was customary in those days for very cruel criminals, his body was painted with red and black spots, and he was intentionally marched through populated areas, sitting backward on top of a water buffalo (the mythical vehicle or vahana of Yama, the lord of death in Hinduism) throughout South Travancore from Padmanabhapuram palace. On the way en-route, he was daily beaten with eighty stripes, pepper rubbed in his wounds and nostrils, exposed to the sun, and given only stagnant water to drink.
While halting at Puliyoorkurichi, not far away from the Padmanabhapuram Palace of the Travancore king, it is believed by Christians that God quenched his thirst by letting water gush through a small hole on a rock, the very place where he knelt to pray. The water hole is still to be found in the compound of a church at Puliyoorkurichi, about 15 km from Nagercoil.
It is also believed that the leaves of a neem (Margosa) tree in the village of Peruvilai, to which he had been tied while being marched to Aralvaimozhy, cured illnesses of sick people in the village and around. Many more miracles are attributed to Devasahayam Pillai.
In 1752, the original order of the King and his Dewan was to deport him from Travancore, into the Pandya country, at Aralvaimozhy. He was let off in the forested hills near Aralvaimozhy. There, he is believed to have begun deep meditations, and the people from the adjacent villages began visiting the holy man. Christian sources allege that at this time, high caste Hindus plotted to do away with Devasahayam.
Some people believe that the soldiers went up the forested hills and tried to shoot Devasahayam, but were unable to fire; after which he took the gun in his hands, blessed it and gave it back to the soldiers to shoot him to death, if they wished to. The soldiers took the gun back and fired at him five times. His body was then carelessly thrown out near the foothills at Kattadimalai.
It was at Kattadimali in Kanyakumari district that Devasahayam Pillai died on 14 January 1752. His mortal remains were interred near the altar inside St. Xavier's church, Kottar, which is a Cathedral now in Nagercoil.
At the beginning of the 21st century, many Christian devotees started offering prayers at his tomb. After a series of initiatives and much deliberation, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), Tamil Nadu council, later in 2004, duly recommended his beatification, following scrutiny of available historical evidence, in consultation with others.
Devasahayam Pillai is now considered one of the endless list of servants of God.
Places of Interest :
Devasahyam Pillai is believed to be buried in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier at Kottar in Nagercoil.
Devasahyam Pillai’s clothes and other belongings are kept in a church in the small town of Vadakkankulam, in Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu State, India. They are exposed at the church on 15 August every year, the feast of the Assumption of Mary. His wife was buried in the cemetery there.
Puliyoorkurichi, location of the water fountain believed to have quenched Devasahayam’s thirst, is on the Nagercoil - Trivandrum highway.
Aralvaimozhy, where Devasahayam was killed, is also on the Nagercoil - Tirunelveli highway. At that spot on the hillock (called Kaattadimalai), devotees believe that at the moment of martyrdom, most of the rocks
were broken into pieces and one piece that fell down rang like a church bell. This is called the Bell Rock.
It is still there and when striked with a stone it makes Bell sound. It is believed to cure diseases and give answers for prayers of the devotees void of religion. So people come here every Friday to offer their prayers at the Bell rock.