Kerala

‘Lucifer’ pulls back a church from oblivion

New-found fame: The St. Andrews CSI church is in an abandoned tea estate at Puthukkada in Idukki district.  

Eighteen years ago, the Peerumade Tea Company in Idukki became defunct due to labour strikes and related issues. Along with the company properties, a Gothic-style, British-built church at Puthukkada too was abandoned. It was destined to pass on quietly to history.

Then, Lucifer happened. Some scenes of the hit Malayalam movie were shot on the pristine premises of St. Andrews Church, Puthukkada. Local people say the church was renovated with contributions from the makers of the film. A new coat of paint later, its fortunes seem to have revived. Movie buffs now regularly troop in for a glimpse of ‘Lucifer Church’ and to soak up the ambience.

St. Andrews is one of the three remaining Gothic style churches built by the British in Idukki’s tea plantations. The other two are at Munnar in Devikulam and Pallikunnu in Peerumade. Just ruins remain of the British-built Union Church at Kottamala, near Upputhara.

Sunitha Sreenivasan, daughter of a former manager of the company, now settled in Bengaluru, said she had vivid memories of the church which was active three decades ago. “I still remember Fr. Kuriakose Plathottam who was the priest then,” she said. Ms. Sreenivasan’s family lived in a bungalow close to the church. They left when she was 12. Many such bungalows which housed senior plantation officials in the estate have collapsed.

In 1952

According to Sekhar, a former estate worker, the plantation was managed by the British parental company even after Independence. As per a plaque on the wall of the church, its foundation stone was laid by J.M. Wilkie in 1952.

Unlike the other two British-made churches, there is no British cemetery attached to St. Andrews, bringing down its ‘heritage value’ by a notch.

Still, what is lacking on the heritage front is compensated abundantly by the beauty and quietude all around. “This church is on a small hill, with the prettiest environs. A dried-up tree nearby adds to the charm,” says C.P. Roy, who came to see the church.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 10:03:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/lucifer-pulls-back-a-church-from-oblivion/article33603795.ece

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