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Devsahayam Pillai, an 18th-century Hindu convert to Christianity would be made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in the Vatican.
He is the first Indian layman to be declared a saint by the Vatican. All other Indians elevated as saints have been members of the clergy.
Who was Devsahayam Pillai?
Devsahayam Pillai was born in 1712 in the village of Nattalam in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari District.
He grew up in an upper caste family of temple priests and was known as Nilakanda Pillai.
He went on to serve in the court of Travancore’s Maharaja Marthanda Verma. It was here that he met a Dutch naval commander, who taught him about the Catholic faith.
He then converted to Christianity in 1745. He took the Christian name Lazarus, but later came to be known as Devasahayam (God’s help).
However, he then faced the wrath of the Travancore state which was against his conversion.
In 1752, just seven years after he became a Catholic, Devasahayam was shot dead. Since then, he has widely been considered a martyr by the Catholic community in South India.
The Church is of the view that his preaching of equality of all people despite caste differences eventually led to his martyrdom.
Source: This post is based on the article “Explained: Who is Devasahayam, the first Indian layman to be conferred saint” published by Indian Express on 16th November 2021.