Saint Thomas, Saint Thomas Mount, India
I photographed this statue of St. Thomas on the very top of St. Thomas Mount in Chennai (i.e., Madras), India.
This is said to be very close to the place where St. Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, was mataryed.
The Doubting Thomas
Also known as the Doubting Thomas, due to his disbelief at the news of Jesus's resurrection from the grave, it’s said that Thomas was the first Christian to reach India.
The Apostle Of India
St. Thomas, also known as the Apostle of India, sailed to India in 52 AD to spread the Christian faith among the Jews of Cochin.
He continued to preach along the Malabar and Coromandel coasts of southern India until 72 AD when he bled to death after being shot by an arrow.
I visited St. Thomas Mount twice during my trip to Chennai.
I found the statue presented an emotive and compelling depiction of the Apostle Thomas, portraying him as a deeply spiritual and compassionate man.
I often like to photograph statues up close in a way that removes them from their environment.
In this case the sky makes a good, nondescript background that allowed me to concentrate attention on the emotive and narrative qualities explored within the statue.
The Legacy of Saint Thomas in India
Perhaps the greatest testament to the work of St. Thomas is that there are around 23 million Christians, 17 million of whom are Catholics, in India today.
The third largest religious group in the country, after Hindus and Muslims, Christians nevertheless represent a minority of only 2.3 % of the population of India.
Frankly, I was surprised to discover that there are almost three times as many Christians living in India as there are Buddhists.
Today Christian missionaries in India provide excellent health care and education to many thousands of people attending kindergarten, primary and secondary school, as well as colleges and universities.
The Role Of Missionaries Around the World
I’ve met a number of missionaries over the years. Some of them are truly inspirational.
But the label of missionary is, to my way of thinking, problematic. Frankly I’m always happy when I meet folk who’s primary role is simply to help those in need, not to convert souls to their own particular belief system.
After all the religion most folk associate themselves with is a consequence of where they were born and the religion followed by their parents.
And I think that’s more than reasonable.
I once heard the Dalai Lama respond to a question by saying words to the effect of “you should seek spiritual comfort within your own tradition”.
He is so wise, both culturally and politically.
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