Karnataka

Harobele’s centuries-old association with Christianity

RAMANAGARA - KARNATAKA - 13.01.2020 : Hindu Jagarana Vedike members take out the Kanakapura Chalo protest rally against the installation of 114 foot tall Jesus Christ statue atop Kapalabetta in Harobele village, at Kanakapura in Ramanagara district, on January 13, 2020. Photo K. Murali Kumar

RAMANAGARA - KARNATAKA - 13.01.2020 : Hindu Jagarana Vedike members take out the Kanakapura Chalo protest rally against the installation of 114 foot tall Jesus Christ statue atop Kapalabetta in Harobele village, at Kanakapura in Ramanagara district, on January 13, 2020. Photo K. Murali Kumar   | Photo Credit: K_MuraliKumar

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While records show that Christianity here dates back to 1662, the village has an unbroken tradition of staging a play every Good Friday on Kapalabetta since 1906

Harobele, a small village in Kanakapura district, has a population of about 3,500, most of whom are Christians. The village finds itself in the eye of the storm as they are trying to instal a statue of Jesus Christ atop a nearby hill, Kapalabetta.

Hindu right-wing organisations, which started a campaign against the installation here on Monday, alleged there was “large-scale conversion to Christianity” in the village and the statue was a “conspiracy” towards the same end.

But records indicate that Christianity in Harobele village dates back to 1662. Fr. Antappa, who has studied the history of the Church in Karnataka, cites a letter by Fr. Simao Martinz, a Jesuit preacher from Portugal to the Jesuit order in Rome on October 31, 1662, that records this. Martinz was preaching in Karnataka.

Fr. Antappa himself hails from Harobele. “The village has till date given 36 priests and 112 nuns, which shows the long Christian tradition here,” said Chinnaraj, a resident of the village at the forefront of efforts to instal the Jesus statue.

The Kapalabetta at Harobele village where the Jesus Christ statue is proposed to be installed; members of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike taking out a ‘Kanakapura Chalo’ rally against the sculpture, and (bottom) shops downed shutters during the rally at Kanakapura in Ramanagaram district on Monday.

The Kapalabetta at Harobele village where the Jesus Christ statue is proposed to be installed; members of the Hindu Jagarana Vedike taking out a ‘Kanakapura Chalo’ rally against the sculpture, and (bottom) shops downed shutters during the rally at Kanakapura in Ramanagaram district on Monday.  

The first record of Christian worship at Kapalabetta in recent history dates back to 1906 when a path of the cross and a cross were installed by Fr. Lazarus. “That year, the village performed a play ‘Yesu Kristana Padugalu mattu Punaruthana’, written by a teacher Innasappa on Good Friday. In an unbroken tradition, the play is performed on the hillock every Good Friday since then. It is like our village fair and there is a belief that if the play is not completed, it brings misfortune to the village. So we ensure it is completed,” said Rita Reeni, a resident.

The play and the fair is an annual attraction to non-Christian villagers around as well. “It is an annual calendar event in the region. Many of us also go and participate,” said Basavarajaiah, a resident of Nallahalli, a neighbouring village. “There is a belief among the Hindus that giving muni (sacrifice) to the Cross on the hillock brings good fortune,” he said.

Hindus and Christians in the region seem to live in harmony and claim there has never been any communal disturbance in the area. “The church in Harobele runs one of the best schools. Over 100 children from our village, including my grandchildren, go there. We have always lived in harmony. Kapalabetta has always been a Christian site even from my father’s time,” said Hombe Gowda, 85, a resident of Nallahalli. “We are amused at what the leaders are saying and the television is reporting, that Kapalabetta was a Hindu site called Muneeshwara Betta. That is a different hillock. We don’t want the communal harmony of our villages disturbed. Why should we object to Christians putting up a statue of Jesus Christ there? Do they object to us building our temples?” asked Kempe Gowda, 79, a resident of Krishnayyana Doddi.

RAMANAGARA - KARNATAKA - 13/ 01/2020 :  Shops closed during the Hindu Jagarana Vedike members take out the Kanakapura Chalo protest rally against the installation of 114 foot tall Jesus Christ statue atop Kapalabetta in Harobele village, at Kanakapura in Ramanagara district, on January 13, 2020. Photo K Murali Kumar

RAMANAGARA - KARNATAKA - 13/ 01/2020 :  Shops closed during the Hindu Jagarana Vedike members take out the Kanakapura Chalo protest rally against the installation of 114 foot tall Jesus Christ statue atop Kapalabetta in Harobele village, at Kanakapura in Ramanagara district, on January 13, 2020. Photo K Murali Kumar   | Photo Credit: K_MuraliKumar

Hindu residents of the surrounding villages The Hindu spoke to denied any efforts at conversion to Christianity.

Hindu right-wing leaders have claimed large-scale conversion and said the very fact that Christian population that was around 1,000 rising to 3,500 was itself an evidence for the same.

“Records show there were around 1,000 Christians in the village as far back as the 18th Century. Is it a surprise that we are around 3,500 now?” asked Mr. Chinnaraj. “Hindu right-wing leaders are saying we are all converts. Yes, that may be the case with our ancestors 350 years ago. I was born into this religion and is it a crime?”

Muneeshwara

Betta is a hillock that abuts the Harobele dam and is a site of stone quarrying for over two decades now.

“A small Muneeshwara temple was there in a shed in the foothills, but was submerged in 1970s when the dam was built. Since then, even Hindus do not worship at the hillock,” said Kempe Gowda, a resident of a nearby village.

Hindus of the region have since then shifted to Siddeshwara Betta, a nearby hillock to offer “muni”, a form of sacrifice to God.

Prabhakar Bhat visits spot

Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, who led the rally, was allowed to visit the proposed site of the statue on Monday evening amid heavy police protection.

Later, speaking to mediapersons, he claimed to have found “signs of a Hindu place of worship” atop the hill.

He also said that residents, who deny the hill was ever a Hindu worship site, were “innocents who don’t realise they are being manipulated by politicians.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 3:48:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/harobeles-centuries-old-association-with-christianity/article30561744.ece

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