Religious Harmony Renewed at Pavoor - On Karnataka-Kerala Border

October 15, 2020

An inter-religious group took an important step towards promoting religious harmony at Pavoor recently at the border of Karnataka and Kerala. As K. T. Vinobha reported in The Times of India, residents cutting across religions and political parties united to make Pavoor a harmonious village through several initiatives. One is a single entrance Arch (Dwara) for temple, mosque and church. It will bear the name of Sri Vidyanath Temple, Al-Mubarak Juma Masjid and Infant Jesus Church. It is dedicated to the former MLA of the area, late UT Farid, father of Mangaluru MLA U T Khader.

It is interesting to note that Pavoor is the scene of another religious/linguistic integration movement which was initiated over a century ago by an Italian missionary and still survives. Essentially, it is the only church in the world which offers Mass and other religious services in Tulu. Here is an overview based on my site-visit and personal interviews with local church leaders – 20 years ago.

But for my above intro, it would come as a pleasant surprise to Tulu language enthusiasts that the only church in the world which conducts religious services in Tulu is at Pavoor in Kerala. Pavoor is 25 KM south of Mangaluru. The Holy Cross Church, which is host to the Tulu service is situated at a distance of 100 metres from the road on which service buses ply.

Church services mainly involve the Holy Mass, mixed with singing of hymns and recitation of prayers. Till the middle of last century the Holy Mass, the pivot of Christian service in the church, was in Latin and only the priest knew what he was saying, though the brief responses from the altar boys and the congregation were also in Latin. The singing and prayers were in English or in any local language. Then Latin was given up to encourage meaningful participation of the congregation and local inculturation.

The unique service in Tulu at the Pavoor church has an interesting background. Though now in Kerala, Kasargod was once part of the old Madras Province along with South Kanara. However, the geographical area of Tulu Nadu extends to Kasargod. Even the Catholic Diocese of Mangalore covers churches in Kasargod deanary with a dozen churches. Whereas in the other churches in the area Konkani and Kannada are used for church services, the main parochial church service at Pavoor church on Sundays is in Tulu.

At the main morning service the hymns are sung in Tulu, prayers are recited in Tulu and the sermon is preached in Tulu. There is a book of prayers in Tulu titled Dyanada Book. There is also a hymn book titled Bhakti Geethalu. Hymns in Tulu are dubbed from Konkani and Kannada hymn books.

Strangely, the credit for introducing Tulu at the Pavoor church goes to an Italian Jesuit priest who first came to St Aloysius College. After coming to Mangalore in 1897, Fr Alexander Canissa, born in 1868 in North Italy, spent one year at Suratkal learning Tulu. He continued his Tulu studies at Jeppu Seminary where he was teacher for preparing young aspirants for the priesthood. While there, Fr Alexander came across persons belonging to a nomadic tribe who made a miserable living weaving baskets and doing odd jobs for a pittance. When Fr Alexander started the Pavoor mission in 1913 it was a barren landscape. He obtained 300 acres of land from the government and settled tribal families there. For the first time they had land of their own to settle down and give up their nomadic life. Over the years these settlers have done some cultivation and sent their children for education. Fr Alexander laboured in this mission till 1940 – for 27 years. Then he went on to become chaplain in some convents and finally retired to Vienny Home, the erstwhile auspice for aged priests, attached to Fr Muller Hospital, Kankanady, and died there in 1955.

Thus the Tulu language services were initiated because the original settlers in Pavoor parish were illiterate, knowing neither Kannada nor Konkani, the dominant church service language in the region.

The new generation of the original settlers is literate and can follow Konkani and Kannada. But, Tulu is well-rooted.





By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Fri, Oct 16 2020

    Mohan Prabhu – Canada: I have visited the multi-religious structure many times in the 1060s/ 80s the course of my hunt for subjects for the weekly columns I wrote for Evening News of India (Times Group) and Free Press Bulletin (eveninger of Free Press Group) – both now defunct.
    Now I pass through the area driven in a vehicle and I see devotees thronging their respective doors. It is a landmark that continues to draw devotees and not likely to be deleted in a hurry.

  • Vincent d Souza, Chennai

    Fri, Oct 16 2020

    Hi Monterio.
    Appreciate your pieces on Mangalore heritage and history. That is also my interest. I had met you at your Bondel home some years ago but lost your contacts. Can you share your phone no./ email ID please?
    I am at 9841049155 /Chennai.

  • Rohan, Mangalore

    Fri, Oct 16 2020

    Dear sir,
    It's good to hear that you are covid negative but your writing always will remain positive and inspiring. This one is informative and has a tinge of history involved.
    All paths lead to the same destination is what I can add of spirituality. Divine providence is in abundance and unbounded.
    Hope to connect with you in the fortnightly column welcome to reason soon...

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Fri, Oct 16 2020

    Very interesting article Monteiro Sir. After reading about Tulu Mass in Pavoor Church, I also feel interested in going there and joining in the Mass one day. Hope I will be able to go soon. The foreigners like Fr Alexander Canissa have contributed a lot to the society be it in Tulu, Kannada after learning the languages here. Great personalities to admire. Thank you sir, for giving the history of many events which we do not know until now.

  • Mohan Prabhu,, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Fri, Oct 16 2020

    Good to read your article on religious harmony. Congratulations.
    The Pavoor church reminds me of the small round public worship island in the middle of a junction opposite Dadar Portuguese church, where Hindus, Christians and Muslims have separate entrances in a common structure, with the symbols of their respective faith. Any person belonging to any of these three faiths can go and pray and I have seen some spending five to ten minutes on each visit, and walking on towards Parel. It is another example of harmony. I don't know if the structure is still there, or if you ever heard of it when you lived and worked in Mumbai. My recollection goes back to more than six decades.

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Thu, Oct 15 2020

    Thank you Mangalorian. You have read it right. Negative is confirmed today. Thanks to all for prayers and good wishes.

  • William Pais, Mangalore

    Thu, Oct 15 2020

    Thanks for sharing vital information on Pavoor. I knew Pavoor is the only place in the world to have regular Tulu church services and wanted to partake in the services. Your article has renewed my interest to go there and witness. These are all things that make a collective heritage and it thrills me no end when you explain how Tulu came there in the first place. There is need to remind about these things lest we forget them in our modern flux towards nothing.

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Thu, Oct 15 2020

    Thank you for the article, Mr Monteiro. I had never known that a Catholic church of the diocese had its service in Tulu.

    First of all, my congratulations to you for getting better (if I read it right).

    In the aftermath of the 2nd vatican Council (ended in 1965), quite a few changes took place with the Catholic church services. Until then, the priest used to face the 'holy of holies', in the 2,000-year-old tradition (no doubt adopted from the Israelites). The service, as you said, was in Latin.

    It is interesting too to note that the foreigners - Basel Mission and Italian Jesuits - did so much for Tulu, Kannada and Konkani. There is a booklet at on the influence of other languages.

    The very first Kannada newspaper "Mangalooru Samachara" was produced by the Basel Missionaries, and published in Mangaluru.

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