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Πέμπτη, 28 Ιουνίου 2007


This article will examine a news story that was published in two English newspapers, The Times and Morning Chronicle with the identical title ‘Subscription for the Greeks in India’ on August 27, 1824. The small Greek community and British philhellenes in Calcutta contributed financially towards the Greek War of Independence. At this time the British East India Company governed large tracts of the Indian sub-continent. An overview of the migration and settlement of Greeks in India and an analysis of the news story will be provided.
1. The migration and settlement of Greeks in India.
Greek merchants controlled trade in the Mediterranean and Levant which served as a springboard for them to seek new markets in Russia and Eastern Europe. The brave and adventurous Greeks who made their way to India in the 18th century came from every corner of Greece and Asia Minor. These individuals were lured by the prospects of making their fortunes through trade in cloth, salt, lime and native products. Most of the Greeks who went to India came from Phillipopolis (now known as Plovdiv located in present day Bulgaria). The Greeks settled in Calcutta and Dhaka (the capital city of modern day Bangladesh).An Alexios Argyree Panaghiotis descendant anglicized his name to Panioty and was regarded as the first head of Greek community in Bengal. In 1771 Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India, sent Panaghiotis on an official diplomatic mission to Egypt “to obtain permission for British merchants to trade in Egypt.” He succeeded in his mission and Hastings gave him the go-ahead to construct a Greek church in Calcutta. Panaghiotis “shifted his commercial operations to Dhaka where he died in 1777.”Alexander Panioty and Alexios Argyree worked tirelessly to ensure that the Greek Orthodox Church in Bengal remained strong to meet the spiritual needs of the Greek communities in Calcutta and Dhaka. Monks came from St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai to minister to the Greek community. Greek Orthodox churches were consecrated in Calcutta and Dhaka in 1782 and 1812 respectively. The Greek Church served as a focal point for the Greek community in Calcutta. During the period 1818-1842, two Epirotes -Constantine Pantazes and Peter Protopapas - were instrumental in constructing a Greek school where the children could learn “their religion, language and culture.” They wanted the Greek youngsters to preserve and maintain their Greek cultural heritage in India. Dimitrios Galanos might be considered the most famous of the early Greeks who settled in Calcutta in 1786. He came to take charge of the Greek school and became very fluent in the English, Persian, Urdu and Sanskrit languages. It is the latter language that he became recognised as one of the world’s foremost scholars and “his translations of the ancient texts are internationally famous.” Galanos translated the “Sanskrit texts into Greek.” Unfortunately he died in Benares in 1833. As the 19th century progressed trading opportunities declined for the Greeks in India. Large business enterprises with head-offices in Europe dominated commerce in India and “on a scale that was never attained by the early Greek merchants.” Some of the leading Greek trading firms operating in Calcutta were: Ralli Brothers, Ralli and Mavrojani, Argenti Sechiari, Agelesto Sagrandi, Vlasto and Co, Petrocochino Bros, Tamv-aco and Co, Schlizzi and Co, Georgiadis and Co and Nichaci and Co. These Greek families involved in commercial activity in Bengal had established close family ties through marriage were all originally from the island of Chios.
2. An analysis of the news story
This news story originally appeared in the Calcutta press. Both news articles are identical but with the exception of the opening sentence. The Morning Chronicle’s opening sentence "among those who are in the habit of ruling absolute power a subject nation of conquered strangers, we should be prepared to expect but little aid towards the emancipation of a struggling nation like the Greeks’’ is excluded in the Times version.In the former newspaper it immediately sets the tone that the Greeks require assistance in their war of independence from the Ottoman Empire. Why the Times news editor chose to omit the opening sentence is difficult to say. The articles mentioned that wealthy Englishmen who lived in the East were prepared to spend their money on a picture, vase, dinner or masquerade ball rather than assisting those in distress. Certain exiled Scottish Highlanders from Sutherland who lived in abject poverty approached their countrymen for assistance in India. A public meeting organized in India for these Scottish Highlanders saw the Chairman and two Englishmen contributing to this worthy cause. However the Scotsmen of India snubbed their countrymen “because it was understood to be unpalatable to a certain Scottish interest that then directed the patronage of India.”This showed a complete lack of compassion and sympathy on the part of the British elite in Calcutta towards the Scottish Highlanders, which would also be exhibited to the Greek cause.The new Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, Dr Heber was the first Englishman to contribute to the Greek cause who saw his offering in assisting a desperate people and fellow Christians to win their freedom from Ottoman rule. Dr Heber was imbued with “English and classic feelings “towards the Greek people.He may have been influenced by Lord Byron and the London Greek Committee.On the other hand, not "a single individual, either in the civil or military service or his Majesty’s or East India Company" contributed to the Greek cause. A paltry 1000 shillings was collected for the Greek subscription according to the news stories.It is possible that British Conservative individuals might have regarded the Greeks as rebels who were challenging the authority of the Sultan. Some of the British ruling elite may have been sympathetic to the Ottoman Empire. Furthermore some of them may not have cared at all for the Greek cause as it didn’t affect their material interests in India. Therefore Lord Amherst, the Governor General in India 1823-28, and his private secretary, Mr. Adams tried to discourage the collection of funds as reported in the news articles.After all Britain was an imperial power with vast interests in India with Moslem and Hindus subjects under her control. The British were mindful of the unrest that occurred amongst Indian troops in 1809 and the Mahrath war 1817-19. From 1817-1824, the British signed a series of treaties with the native rulers to ensure that their rule in India was further strengthened.Captain Nicholas Chiefala was dispatched by the Provisional Government of Greece to raise funds from friends in the “East Indies” for the Greek campaign. He was an adventurer born in Zakynthos in 1765 who made two trips to India and also “published two books on India.” He became well acquainted with Dimitri Galanos.His mission to India raised the following sum of money as shown in Table 1 below:-
Name Rupees Name Rupees

The Lord Bishop of Calcutta (2nd subscription) 100
George Kallonas 100
The Greek Church in Calcutta 2000
Antony Christodolous 100
The Rev D.George 500 George Esau 50
The Rev Mr. Ambrosius 500 John George 10
D.Galanos 1000 P.J Paul 20
John Lucas 1500 Nicolas Spiridon 16
M.Kyriak 200 Magdelene Christodoulous 150
D. Nicolas 200 Constantine Pandazie 1000
George Emanuel 50 J.D Kalogridy 100
Ereny Panioty 300 N.Paleologos 100
Alexander Ducas 100 Athanass Benes 30
Total 8146
Chiefala was an energetic individual who managed to raise additional funds in a second subscription. This figure is reproduced in Table 2 below.
Name Rupees Name Rupees

For subscription 8146 Messrs Colvin &Co 250
M. Athanass 1000 John Palmer 250
E.M Athanass 300 E. Nosky 100
M.J Athanass 250
GM Athanass 150
James Cullen 100
The news stories also mention that Dr Heber had contributed 100 pound sterling in England. Both newspapers reported that Chiefala “whose generous ardour and perseverance in the cause of patriotism and humanity is entitled to the warmest praise.” It is appears that both newspapers were sympathetic to the Greek cause and critical of the uncharitable nature shown by the British in Calcutta.There are four observations noted from the subscription lists above. First the Greeks of Calcutta who contributed funds belonged to the business/merchant class and possessed the financial means to assist their fellow compatriots in Greece. It should be noted that the Greek Church and Clergy also contributed to assist their Orthodox brethren; second Dr Heber’s example may have inspired other Englishmen in Calcutta to contribute money to this worthy cause. These individuals were philhellenes; third, some Greek women contributed to the Greek cause which may indicate that they may have been financially well-off; and finally these articles appeared in the London press in the hope that it would encourage Englishmen to assist the Greeks.In conclusion, the small Greek community of Calcutta provided funds to help their compatriots during their struggle for independence from Ottoman rule. Dr.Heber stands out as a philhellene in providing funds for the Greek cause. Captain Chiefala’s mission to India raised funds for the Provisional Government of Greece.

(This is a shortened version of a larger article)
Stavros T. Stavridis
National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora


At first it may sound Greek to your ear, but if you listen carefully you can make out that the young girl, boy and two priests singing and chanting a capella are actually mouthing Bengali.
Bengali, albeit with a strange syntax similar to the early Bengali translations of The Bible, samples of which can still be seen painted on the walls of Old Mission Church.
Apart from its beautiful structure next to the Kalighat tram depot and the inscriptions in Greek on plaques on the walls, there is little to suggest that the prosperous mercantile community of Greeks had constructed this church, one of the most carefully maintained buildings in Calcutta. The Greeks had built a church in Dhaka too.
With its Doric columns in the portico supporting the pediment, and smart whitewashed facade the Orthodox Greek church stands out amidst the chaos of Kalighat.
The small congregation for Sunday service consists entirely of Bengalis and even the priest, Father Andrew P.K. Mondal, is from Krishnagar. The only person of Greek descent present in the church is Tim Arestou, a lay person from New York who is here to help with charity work.
Perhaps the only surviving Calcuttan of Greek descent is Cedric Spanos, who is known for his histrionic abilities. Jute and spices were what Greeks dealt in and the establishment of Ralli’s Brothers is still remembered. Most Greek businessmen left after Independence.
Like most Europeans the Greeks once lived close to Lalbazar and the first Greek Orthodox church was located near the Portuguese church on Amratola Street and was built at the instance of Haji Alexios Argyree. His family had borne a large part of the cost of the building and the balance was raised by public subscription. Warren Hastings was involved in raising funds. It was built in 1780 and consecrated in 1781.
In early 20th Century the church was moved to its present location. The foundation of the church was laid in 1924 and it was consecrated a year later.
The floors are marble and the pews are wood and the three huge chandeliers are like brazen chrysanthemums turned upside down. The altar of polished wood with painted panels is well preserved.

These paintings on canvas depict Christ after his transfiguration, Jesus and his apostles and Virgin Mary and the archangels Gabriel and Michael wielding swords. St Catherine is painted in one corner.
Father Andrew explained that although traditionally John the Baptist is depicted there, the priest who commissioned these was from St Catherine monastery of Egypt.
The door leading to the sanctum sanctorum has panels depicting the Annunciation with Mary and angel. These paintings in typical late 19th Century style are by D. Tsevas of Athens, 1930. His signature at the corner of each panel says so.
A printed copy of an ancient icon is displayed in front of the altar which parishioners kiss in the course of the service, followed by consecration. The only new paintings are the four on the walls in the severe Byzantine style. These are likenesses of saints sent from Greece. Tim Arestou, who has been here for over a year, says the building is the property of Greek nation.
The nation also owns the Greek cemetery at the Phoolbagan end of Narkeldanga Main Road. It is hemmed in by buildings, and Basanta Das, who lives there with his family, looks after it.
The low-lying cemetery gets flooded during monsoon. It has been cleaned of late but many stone crosses on the graves need urgent repairs.
There is a tiny, plain chapel in the graveyard. Basanta Das points out the oldest grave. The year 1777 can be made out.

The floral relief and inscriptions on the grave resemble those in the Armenian churchyard near Brabourne Road.



The Mission: Synergy with God

It is well-known that the main goal of the Church is to bring to her fold all people for the salvation of their souls. This goal is achieved basically with mission in the broader sense of the word. Mission is our cooperation with the salvific work of God who died on the cross so that all may become one in Him. Therefore every Chrisitan who considers himself or herself an energetic member of the Church, is called to mission. That mission includes reaching out to those who are suffering, especially since Christ, whose footsteps we follow, died on the cross for them. The conclusion is that mission is not just one of the works of the Church, but it is her basic ministry for the renewal and transformation of the world, of all peoples and all nations, so that they can become the co-inheritors and co-participants of the kingdom of Jesus Christ through His gospel.

The Beginnings

These thoughts, by dear brothers and sisters, guided my first steps, a few years ago, in order to journey to far lands where millions of people still live today in idol worshipping idols and false gods. Certainly, before us came many great and holy missionaries. The first missionary to India was Apostle Thomas, who preached the Gospel of Christ in South India, performed miracles, and finally martyred for His Lord in Moulapore, an ancient city near Madras. To our day, these areas are dominated by a vibrant Christian element, even though the local church has cut itself off from the Orthodox Patriarchates and is broken up to different denominations. Since the time of Apostle Thomas until the 20th century, there was no Orthodox Mission in India, even though there were many Greeks in West Bengal, who built a cemetary and a glorious church dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ. A systematic Orthodox Mission started in 1980 in the rural area of Arambah, in West Bengal, 150 km from Calcuta. Fr. Athanasios Anthides, a Greek priest-monk from Egypt, experienced in the missions in Africa, was the first to come to preach Chist crucified in India’s very unfavorable and almost hostile conditions. With simplicity and patience, self-denial and humility, Fr. Athanasios worked for teen years teaching and preaching the truth of Christ and quenching the thirst of our brothers and sisters in India. In the village of Arambah he built a small church dedicated to Apostle Thomas and a humble house for each priest. He progressed in the translations of the Divine Liturgy, the Service Book, and a tome of Orthodox Catechism into the local Bengali dialect. Despite his old age and continuous ailments, Fr. Athanasios journeyed on foot to the surrounding villages, thus forming 24 clusters of believers. He used to say that the mission has to start from the villages where the ground is fertile and unstained from all other heretical teachings. He was right. His preaching brought forth fruit. His spiritual children still talk about Fr. Athanasios with love and affection, knowing him as the man who braught them to the Truth. He fought alone, and his cries for help to Greece went unanswered. He left this life with pain in his heart. The Lord however, satisfied his most deep-felt desire which was to die and be buried in India. On November 28, 1990, the warm ground of West Bengal welcomed the body of the first Greek Orthodox Missionary to India, to give rest to blessed Fr. Athanasios Anthides. Living in the same country, under the same conditions, I too feel his pain and anguish, the battle and the endurance which his love for and faith in Christ gave him. He sacrificed himself on the altar of love and lit the candle of Orthodoxy in Arambah.

Succession - Regrouping

About one year after the falling asleep of Fr. Athansios, by God’s call and the consciense of a huge repsonsibility, and with the hope and grace of God, we came as a small team from Greece to Calcuta. The first few months were spent in repairs of the church building and of the adjacent house. The Church of the Transfiguration was built by the Greek merchants in Calcuta at Amratollah Street, in 1782 but in 1924,it was moved and is now located in an area called Kalighat, named after the goddess Kali whose greatest temple is less than 500 yards from the Church. The Church building is certainly impressive in its grandeur and in its doric style. The interior is decorated with silver liturgical objects, marble floors and altar table. The throne and ambon are carved from wood, with the back of the ambon bearing the inscription : “We preach Christ crucified”. The kouvouklion for the epitaphio and the iconstand are also wood-carvings, donated the faithful. For 250 years, hellenism was flourishing in India. After Indian independence from Great Britain, the Greeks left and the church remained closed for 18 years without any maintenance or repairs. After a few months of exhausting repairs came the time to start the organization of the philanthropic work in the name of the Orthodox Church. The essential part of the daily schedule were the daily services, in greek and bengali, thus witnessing to the fact that for the orthodox, worship holds the first and foremost place in life, and is the source of grace, strength and sanctification.

The difficulties of the Missionary activities

India is a Republic of 26 independent states. West Bengal is under a communist regime which by law forbids any kind of missionary actrivity. Therefore, our actions must always be discrete and cautious. There is always the danger of being expelled if the authorities ever wish to strictly enforce the letter of the law. This fact alone, along with the domination of hinduism in indian society, presents great difficulties for our baptized christians and our catechumens who face contempt from both freinds and family, and from the society as a whole. It is easilty understood, that these newly illumined are like small trees which have been freshly planted and are about to face great storms and winds. They have the need to be continously suported and nourished, so that they can further spread their roots and become strong. This great responsibility of nourishment falls on our shoulders. When the Church prays for the catechumens, they are given stength and the fullness of the faith, salvation from deciet and herecy, and the ability to become members of the Body of Christ. Every Christian has to personally feel the responsibility which is accorded to him, and to show with deeds his sincere interest for his brethren in Christ on this earth.

Journeys - Catechesis

Soon we realized the need to travel frequently to all the villages where there were Orthodox Christians who have minimum opportunity for spiritual nourishment. Our Indian brethren have been raised in an usually hinduistic environment, have heard the basic truths of the faith from the catechizer of their village, have read very few books if any, and have had some chances to attent the Divine Liturgy even though they have never seen a church building. This is all that makes up their knowledge of Orthodoxy. However, their limited knowledge does not stop the Holy Spirit from working in their hearts and from granting them the call to become members of the Body of Christ, to work with humility and patience in order to educate themselves in Christ. When they see us they consider it an honor and they imitate everything we do: how we stand in Church, how we cross our selves, how we talk, whatever we do carries great meaning because, like little children, they are forming their spiritual self by imitating us. Unavoidably there comes to our mind the gospel passage : “whoever scandalizes one of these little ones who believe in me, it is better for that man to tie a rock around his neck and drown himself”. This is how we try to the best of our abilities, to visit the villages in order to hold the Divine Litirgy, to catechize, to hold discussions of various questions, to provide help with food and medicine distribution, to visit schools, to give advice, and to fulfill their spiritual and material needs. The difficulties in this task are various and many. First of all, these travels are difficult. West Bengal is very much behind in technology and in infrastructure in comparison with other nations. Consequently, the roads are terible, motrovehicles are old, and the congestion is unberable as too many cars, buses, bicycles and even livestock exceed the capacity of the roads. In the city, the situation is even worse as noise, polution and the heat require great patience and endurance. A distance of 120-150km take about 4-5 hours. In case of a break-down or other problems, there is no road-side help or telephones. This is why, every time we set off, we cross ourselves, and pray to God that we come back safe.

Divine Liturgy in a hut

We depart around four o’clock in the morning so that we can arrive to our destination by morning, taking with us all the liturgical appointments needed for the Divine Liturgy. The faithful are awaiting us. In a small hut made out of mud, two small tables are set up. One is the altar and the other one is for the preparation of the Holy Gifts. There are no luxurious churches, great choirs, comfortable seats, or beautiful iconography. However, our Lord and God offers Himeself as a sacrifice to all of us for the forgiveness of sins and and life eternal. Slowly people keep coming. Some are not even Christian, but with fear and solemnity observe what is going on. Almost all of the Christians draw near the chalice of Life in order to quench their spiritual thirst. They are all enjoying their blessed day, but in the back of their minds they wonder when the next one is going to come. What is going to be their spiritual nourishment? Their battle is great and the human resources are few. In India, illeteracy is wide-spread, and thus it becomes very hard to find educated Christians that would comprise capable members of the Church and would carry on catechisms, pastoral care, and translations.

Seminars and Translations

For the education of preists and catechists, we have put in place a yealry seminar given by volunteers from the U.S. and Greece, who sacrifice their vacations in order to contribute to the mission. In the translation department there are many delays and difficulties. There have been a few books published, with both liturgical and spiritual content, and many are awaiting printing. The procedure for publishing a book is complicated beyond belief, beginning with the problem of finding a good translator. Translations are done from the english text since there is no greek-speaking Indian suited for Orthodox theological terminology. The printing press companies work at their own pace, and are often very slow and irresponsible. Continuously we run to the site to supervise the work so that it is done correctly and so that they do not cheat us in time and resources. Timeliness, trust, speed, organization and efficiency are words unknown to the life of Calcuta.

Building projects

The same holds for the erecting of buildings. At the present time there are two churches being built, one youth center, and an orphanage with a church on the outskirts of Calcuta. The tools that the construction workers use are primitive; there are no machines, and they carry the building material in straw baskets on top of their heads. Everything is done at a slow pace. The building material is carried over a distance of 20 minutes by foot, on bicycles or rafts since there is no road for automobiles. Often, we have to travel to these villages for supervision of the work, since, unfortunately, there are no trustworthy people for this kind of work. As you can understand, my beloved christians, the mission is one of continuous exhaustion, stress, disappointments, and huge responsibility.


We would be ignorant and ungrateful if we did not confess the blessings which God grants us. Often we have more and more people come to the mystery of baptism, beginning a new life in Christ. It is a sacred moment when people willingly come to confess that they reject Satan and all his works, and join Christ and belieive in Him as King and God, and worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essense and inseparable. It is a trememdous joy in heaven when the houses with the aweful idols of goddess Kali and the elephant formed Ganis, are replaced with the peaceful figures of Christ and His all-holy Mother. It is a great blessing to see people replace their violent and bloody sacrifices to idols and false gods, with their drawing near Christ Who is full love, peace, and compassion. We are truly blessed and grateful to be His humble co-workers in the salvation of men. We were overjoyed especially when multititudes of faithful came from the villages to participate in the services of Holy Week and Easter. Even though they heard little in their own language, their willingness to learn was beyond description, and the awe in which they attended the services was incredible. We felt inadequate and sad in the fact they could not sing and praise God in their language in the hymns of Holy Week with which our Orthodox tradition has enriched us. We hope that by next Easter the translations will be complete. We were also impressed with their willingness to come to the sacrament of Holy Confession and then to the Holy Eucharist. On the night of the Resurrection, their lips uttered the Christos Anesti with joy and strength. The work is difficult, but the joy of seeing our Indian brethren rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord, gives us rest and spiritual peace.
The Philanthropic work 

India is third world country, poor and backwards in comparison with the western world. Especially West Bengal, maybe because of long years of colonization, and because of the communist goverment that took over after independence, is one of the poorest areas in the country. People who live in the industrial world, have no way of imagining the conditions of living in Calcuta. Nevertheless, we will try to sketch a few scenes from this life. Calcuta is a big city with population of 11 million people which features misery and poverty in every corner. Every buidling is very old, blackened by pollution and humidity, and poorly maintained. No matter how many years pass, the view of city life gives a sharp pain in our heart. Millions are homeless, living in the streets, with only some rags for their possessions. Like the poor Lazaros in the parable, so do these people live in poverty, hunger and disease, side by side with dogs and rats, unavoidably thinking about the injustices in the world: others travel in spaceships to outer space, and others fignt for surivival in the streets, forsaken by all. Isn’t this the greatest cross and burden which the modern man daily places on Jesus Christ Who by his sacrifice on the cross willed to give us the supreme example of love and philanthropy? How can we sleep in peace when we hear a baby across the street crying because of fever, or when the monsoon rain falls mercilessly on a homeless family that looks in vain for a shelter? Who can we rest in our cool room and comfortable bed when our brothers and sisters, creatures of God, are baking in the hot tropical sun in the streets and sidewalks for days, months, and years? Life for these people has no yesterday or tomorrow. There is only today. Are they going to survive today? Garbage which is plentiful everywhere, comprise a source of hope for people, animals, and crows. There they will find old scraps of paper which they will sell for a slice of bread. There they will discover something to burn in order to cook their rice so that they can fool their hunger. Wherevere one’s eyes turn, they witness indescribable despair and human degragation. How can we respond to this abyss of human suffering? Where do we start? Human efforts are limited, and we know that no matter what we do, it will be a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless, we are still responsible to try with all our strength, with the hope that our all-merciful Lord and the God-fearing faithful from all over the globe will be our supporters both materially and morally.

Food rationing 

One of the firts programs we institued was the daily rationing of morning breakfast consisting of milk and biscuits for the poor children of the area. Very early in the morning they come and wait outside the gates, until the time when the gates open and quickly they come and sit in the courtyard and anxiously await for their morning meal which for many is the only meal of the day. Dirty, with hair uncombed, half-naked, these children beg us for one more biscuit and a little more milk. Often they show us their scars infected by disease and other health problems. When we walk on the street, as soon as they see us they yell: “Father, Father”, and they surround us. I once wondered, what are they were yelling for; Later I understood that all they want is some love and affection. One smile, one affectionate touch makes them happy. If we have some candy to give them, they are not going to forget it for days, whenever they see us. If we look to see where these children live, we will be beyond words. Most of them live in an abandoned muslim burial site. The dark graves are their homes, full of mud, garbage, rats and cockroaches. No one cares for these people. Therefore, we decided to help them as much as we could. We chose some of the most desperate and poor families, about 400 families by now, and gave them cards which they use every two weeks in order to collect a ration of basic substances like rice, sugar, beans, oil, soya, soap and matches. Every Monday, the courtyard fills with the blind and the lepers, paraplygics and skeletons who await for the distribution of food. A pair of crutches is a luxury item as most who are crippled are condemned to crawl on the ground, looking at us with sadness and supplication as their only hope of survival. One must wonder: Who is the one blessed in the eyes of God? Our conscience tests us every time we see this suffering. If these people who are not illumined by the light of Christ suffer this terrible life without protest, then how indebted are we to God for having given us so much. Sometimes one sees these people push each other in the lines, or forget to bring good bags for their ration? But what could one expect from such people who grew up in the streets, who never found out what is a home, a school, a family? Furthermore, our main purpose is not to give food or money to these people, but to provide them with an example of love, patience, meekness, and so by our example to witness Christ. If the material help does not contain this aspect, then the mission has lost its meaning.

Medical care 

Along with poverty and hunger, the health problems that people face are many and unsourmountable. There are very few hospitals which are in terrible condition. Doctors are too expensive, and so is medicine. Very few can afford either. That is the reason why one of our first concerns was the buidling of clinic with Indian physicians who would give free medical care. Today we have three such clinics, one in Calcuta, and the other two in distant villages of West Bengal. Along with the free medicine, we also provide bed-side care when needed. In cases where hospitalization is necessary, we cover the cost when the patient cannot afford it. There is no consideration of social status or religion when medical care is provided. Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and deserves our love and our help which is not measured against our budget but by the love of God. As a result, there have been many cases of long term support for patients who have required operations, and extended care. 

Distribution of clothing 

An additional philanthropic effort which is done thanks to the loving support of faithful in Greece and Australia is the distribution of clothing to the poor. These clothes become instant hits among the people. We often take them to the villages where we distribute them from a moving vehicle for fear of a mob disabling us from moving any further. For some people, these clothes are such a luxury, that they refrain from wearing them until a special occasion. Others will sell them so that they can buy some rice. Many times we will notice children who are suffering from a serious ailment, but instead of complaining about their illness, they are satisfied by a piece of clothing. It seems strange that the child does not care about its health as much as it cares for a peice of clothing that we consider to be useless. This alone is a witness to the misery and the suffering of these people. 

Educational Programs 

The care of children, and especially of their education, comprises an integral part of our mission. For a child to attend school, money is needed for tuition, books, uniforms, etc. Many children, orphans or from poor families, cannot afford school. We try to cover some of their expenses so that they go to school. Our hapiness is to see these children clean, wearing their school uniform, full of hope for a better future for themselves and the Orthodox Church in India. Very soon, two schools will belong to the Church, one in the area of Katal, and one is Avamgal, where tuition will be free. Difficulties arise when religious fanatism, and political dispiutes get in the way of people seeing what is better for them. Many times we visit other schools and distribute notebooks, writing tools, and other supplies such as clothes, desks, seats, lamps, repair material etc.. We also have under our care an orphanage which houses 50 children, for which we provide food, clothing, schools supplies, toys, and whatever other need they have so that can live a human existence. Every time we visit them is for them a special day. We depart early in the morning before the traffic and the heat becomes intense. On the way we stop to buy some fish for their lunch. If we do not bring them that fish then their lunch would be the usual plate of rice with some yellow sause. For breakfast and dinner there is also rice. We wonder how these chidlren can grow just on rice. Nevertheless, this is the rule for the majority of people. After three hours we are there. On the side of the road some of the children are waiting for us and climb on the car. The rest of the children encircle us asking for a hug and to show us their love. After we unload our supplies, we give candy, school supplies, brushes, soap, and other things. The children, in an orderly fashiom, come and receive their small gifts and thank us from their heart. Afterwards, some go to play, others get a haircut from the barber we brought with us. Then lunch time comes, and after a short prayer, the rice is accompanied by a little bit of fish. In a little while comes time to depart. They surround us again, begging us to return soon. We promise them that we will, and as we are leaving, we glorify God for His great care, in that He did not let these children perish. It is a special blessing by God that the founder of this orphanage, a protestent Christian, let us know, from the time he met with us, that he wanted to baptized Orthodox along with his family and all the children of the orphanage. Therefore, after a systematic catechesis of the family and the chidlren, they were all baptized last fall. With amazement we recount the miracles of the Holy Spirit in the souls of men and exclaim: Which God is as great as our God; You are God, which does wonders. 

The Building of the Orphanage 

Moved by the same motivation to help as many people as possible, especially the orphan children which are abandoned in the garbage dumps of Calcuta, we decided to build our own Orthodox orphanage in the outskirts of Calcuta in order to accomodate about 100 children. The plans also see for a clinic, a school, workshops, and a chapel. The aim is that the education of the children will revolve around worship life and orthodox teachings. After many efforts, we managed to buy the necessary land, and having gone through the maze of bureaucracy, we built the wall around the lot. This work is tremendous and needs not only money but also a spirit of sacrifice and love that will mold the souls of these children in the mind of Christ. 

Other Needs

Human needs never end. Other than the usual ways of philanthropic activity, there are countless opportunities to help those who continuously knock on the doors of the mission house. Where can one start? The repairs of homes damaged by storms, unpaid loans, the support of widows, orphans, handicapped people and other s present us with the opportunities to respond to the words of the Lord: “give to the one who asks and do not turn away from the one who wants something from you”, “and if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is it to you? for even sinners lend to sinners so that they receive the same.. Therefore be merciful just like your Father is merciful”. Certainly, in many occasions we have witnessed improprieties, but with the grace of God we have avoided them so that we can responsibly handle the least of the goods that God has entrusted us. 


Words cannot contain what one will feel when he or she witnesses the misery and suffering of the people that surround the mission. What is important is that in every possible way the word of Christ is preached. We know our spiritual and material shortcomings, especially compared to the other Christian denominations who have missions across the globe, and tremendous resources both in personnel and materials. We do not consider our mission to be in competition with theirs. Something of that nature would come in direct opposition of Orthodox teaching which says that mission is first and foremost an act of the Paraclete and secondarily of a human being: “When the Paraklete comes... He will witness for me”. This does not mean that we should be restful. “We are co-workers with God”. God wills our active cooperation for the spreading of the gospel for the glory of His name and the salvation of our brethren. Let us ask ourselves: Are we responding to God’s will responsibly and honestly? The ways we can help are many. God presents us with plenty of opportunities when there is good will. Maybe not all can serve in the distant lands of mission, but they can all offer an equally valuable asset. Even if we pass the word to our fellow man about the mission, that is a valuable offering. The most needed offering one can make is heartfelt prayer for those who are serving missions around the world, and for those not in the Light, so that they too can become members of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This is the prayer I humbly ask of you, and in conclusion I want to thank you for your care and love for the work of God.
A Word on the Indigenous priests: Fr. Patapios has been a priest for 10 years, ordained at the time when Fr. Athanasios had come to Calcuta. He has two daughters who are married and a son in college. He serves eight different centers in a 40km zone. Each center has an average of 80-100 baptized Orthodox, who need to be continuously catechized in order to learn how to live an orthodox life. Fr. Jacob served in the area of Goshpur, with the faithful being scattered in four different villages. The Church is under construction but the 400-500 faithful try to accomodate the Divine Liturgy in different homes. Fr. Jacob has one son and one daughter and together with Fr. Patapios mainly occupies himself with catechism, visitations and the daily services. Fr. Demetrios used to be a security guard at the mission compound. He was interested in the faith and was very pious. He became a reader, and under the spiritual direction of Fr. Ignatios, he was ordained a deacon by His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas. He assists Fr. Ignatios with the various tasks in the mission center as well as accompnies him to the surrounding villages for the Divine Liturgy. The above three priests converted from Hindiusm. Fr. Andrew used to be an Anglican, and worked for a group of people whose efforts were to prevent church building from being sold to private buyers. The Orthodox Church was about to be sold so he came to inquire. It was in 1991 when he kept on searching and became Orthodox. Fr. Andrew is married and has one daughter who just had a baby girl Irene. His wife Maria works at the clinic in the center. Even before converting, Fr. Andrew helped with the legal aspects of the Philanthropic society, and used to handle the accounting.

by Fr. Ignatios Sennis, trans. Tilemahos Alikakos)

Σάββατο, 23 Ιουνίου 2007


Ο Δημήτριος Γαλανός ο 'Αθηναίος' είναι πιθανώς ο πρώτος και πλέον εύγλωττος έλληνας λόγιος των νεότερων χρόνων. Πρόσφερε πολλά στη γνώση μας για τις φιλολογικές, φιλοσοφικές και θρησκευτικές παραδόσεις της Ινδίας. Γεννήθηκε το 1760 από μια οικογένεια μεσαίας τάξης στην Αθήνα. Ο πατέρας του Παντολέων και η μητέρα του Διαμάντω είχαν τρεις γιους και μια κόρη ονόματι Κάργια. Ο μεγαλύτερος αδελφός του πέθανε σε μικρή ηλικία και ο νεότερος, ο Φιλάρετος, ανέλαβε την διαχείριση της πατρικής περιουσίας. Η εκπαίδευση του Δημήτριου ξεκίνησε στη γενέτειρά του, στην Αθήνα υπό την εποπτεία του γνωστού διδάσκαλου Ιωάννη Βενιζέλου. Στην ηλικία των 14 ετών μετέβη στο Μεσολόγγι, εμπορικό κέντρο της δυτικής Ελλάδας που διατηρούσε στενές σχέσεις με τους έλληνες εμπόρους της Βενετίας. Εκεί μελέτησε με τον διακεκριμένο γραμματικό Παναγιώτη Παλαμά. Μετά από τέσσερα χρόνια ο Γαλανός εγκατέλειψε το Μεσολόγγι και ταξίδεψε στην Πάτμο, όπου μελέτησε αρχαία Ελληνικά, φιλοσοφία, Λατινικά, ρητορική και εκκλησιαστική μουσική επί έξι χρόνια. Δiευθυντής της σχολής εκείνη την περίοδο ήταν ο Δανιήλ Κεραμεύς. Αργότερα ο Γαλανός έκφρασε την ευγνωμοσύνη του στους πρώτους δασκάλους του, σε γράμματα που έγραψε από το Βαρανάζι, όταν ειδοποιήθηκε για το θάνατό τους.
Ολοκληρώνοντας τις σπουδές του ο Γαλανός πήγε στην
Κωνσταντινούπολη να συναντήσει το θείο του Γρηγόριο, μητροπολίτη της Καισαρείας εκείνη την εποχή και Πρωτοθρόνο της Ιεράς Συνόδου στην Κωνσταντινούπολη. Εργαζόμενος στην Κωνσταντινούπολη ως δάσκαλος, συνάντησε τον Μαντρατζόγλου, έναν εμπορικό αντιπρόσωπο των Έλληνων της Βεγγάλης στην Κωνσταντινούπολη. Αυτή η συνάντηση έπαιξε αποφασιστικό ρόλο στη ζωή του Γαλανού. Ο Μαντρατζόγλου τον βρήκε ιδανικό για τα παιδιά των ελληνικών εμπόρων που είχαν εγκατασταθεί στο Ναραγιανγκάντζ (Narayanganj) κοντά στη Ντάκα (Dhaka) και την Καλκούτα και του πρόσφερε μια θέση δασκάλου εκεί. Ο Γαλανός, πρόθυμος να διευρύνει τις γνώσεις του, αποδέχθηκε πρόθυμα την προσφορά του Μαντρατζόγλου και προετοιμάστηκε για το ταξίδι του στην Ανατολή; «...για να φέρει το φως της πατρικής εκπαίδευσης στους Έλληνες της Ινδίας, και να στείλει από εκεί στην Ελλάδα μερικούς σπινθήρες του φωτός της Ασίας» σύμφωνα με τα λόγια του Γεννάδιου. Ο Γαλανός δεν είχε φυσικά καμία ιδέα ότι δε θα έβλεπε ποτέ ξανά την πατρίδα του.

Ο Γαλανός στην Ινδία

Ο Γαλανός έφυγε από την Κωνσταντινούπολη για να επισκεφθεί τη Μονή του Σινά που έστελνε ιερείς στην ελληνική κοινότητα της Βεγγάλης. Από το Σινά ταξίδεψε στη Βασόρα, όπου επιβιβάστηκε σε ένα σκάφος για την Καλκούτα. Μετά από ταξίδι έξι μηνών, στην ηλικία των είκοσι έξι πλέον, έφθασε στη Βεγγάλη το 1786. Εκεί εργάστηκε ως δάσκαλος για έξι χρόνια. Φίλος και προστάτης του υπήρξε ο Κωνσταντίνος Πανταζής, μετανάστης από την Ήπειρο και πρόεδρος της ελληνικής κοινότητας. Εκείνη την περίοδο η Βεγγάλη ήταν χωνευτήρι ινδικών και δυτικών ιδεών. Το τελικό αποτέλεσμα αυτής της συγχώνευσης ήταν η εισαγωγή κοινωνικών και θρησκευτικών μεταρρυθμίσεων του κινήματος 'Brahmo Samaj' του 1828 που εισήγαγε ο Raja Rama Mohan Roy (1772-1833). Η Βασιλική Ασιατική Εταιρία της Βεγγάλης είχε ήδη ιδρυθεί το 1784 και αρκετοί δυτικοί λόγιοι ενδιαφέρονταν για τη μελέτη της σανσκριτικής γλώσσας και λογοτεχνίας. Είναι πολύ πιθανό να συναντήθηκε ο Γαλανός με αυτούς τους διανοούμενους και άρχισε εκεί την προσωπική του μελέτη στη γλώσσα και τη λογοτεχνία. Συναρπάστηκε από την αφοσιωμένη στάση τους και, εξασφαλίζοντας ικανοποιητικούς πόρους, αποσύρθηκε από την εργασία του για να αφιερωθεί αποκλειστικά στη μελέτη.
Το 1793, ο Γαλανός αναχώρησε για την πόλη του Βαναράζι
. Στο Μπεναρές σύμβουλος και μέντοράς του ήταν ο Μανσί (διοικητής) του βασιλέα Σιτάλ Πρασάντ Σινχ. Με τη βοήθεια και καθοδήγησή του σύντομα έγινε γνώστης της «γλώσσας των θεών», όπως αποκαλούντο τα Σανσκριτικά. Δάσκαλός του υπήρξε ο Κανταρντάσα του Καζί, της πόλης των Μπραχμάνων, τον οποίο ο Γαλανός αναφέρει σε μια σύντομη σημείωση, στο χειρόγραφό της μετάφρασης της Μπαγκαβάντ Γκίτα και ο Σίβα Ράμα, τον οποίο αναφέρει στη διαθήκη του.
Ξεχωριστός ανάμεσα στους λίγους ξένους που συνδέονταν με τον Γαλανό ήταν ο
Ρώσος Πιότρ Φεντέροφ (Peter Federoff). Ο επίσκοπος Χέμπερ γράφει για αυτόν: «Υπάρχει επίσης κάποιος Ρώσος που ζει πολύ με τον Έλληνα». Ο Φεντέροφ πέθανε στο Μπεναρές και τον τάφο του έφτιαξε ο Γαλανός. Η επιγραφή στην ταφόπετρα αναφέρει: «SACRED ΤΟ ΤΗΕ MEMORY ΟF PETER FEDEROFF Native of Russia Who died in the prime of Life οn the 4th Jan.Y. 1825», και ακολουθεί στα Ελληνικά, «Ο ΞΕΝΟΣ Δ. ΓΑΛΑΝΟΣ ΤΩ ΞΕΝΩ ΠΕΤΡΩ ΤΩ ΡΩΣΣΩ».
Ο χαρακτήρας, η συμπεριφορά και διάφορα περιστατικά από τη ζωή του Γαλανού στο Μπεναρές καταγράφονται στο Αφηγήσεις ενός ταξιδιού στις άνω επαρχίες, του επίσκοπου Χέμπερ, γραμμένο το 1824. Γράφει για τον Γαλανό, χωρίς να αναφέρει το όνομά του: Ανάμεσά τους (δηλ. τους Ευρωπαίους που ζουν στα Βαρανάζι) υπάρχει και ένας Έλληνας, καλά εκπαιδευμένος με καλούς τρόπους που ζει εδώ πολλά χρόνια, με δικούς του πόρους και μελετά τα Σανσκριτικά. Άκουσα πολλά για αυτόν στο Αλλαχαμπάντ, για το μυστήριο του χαρακτήρα και της κατάστασής του. Είναι πολύ καλός γνώστης της αρχαίας γλώσσας της χώρας του και μιλά καλά τα Αγγλικά, τα
Γαλλικά και τα Ιταλικά. Οι τρόποι του είναι τρόποι ευγενούς και επικοινωνεί ελάχιστα με τους Άγγλους, ενώ αντίθετα φαίνεται να γνωρίζει καλά τις πριγκιπικές οικογένειες των Ινδουϊστών. Η κυβέρνηση τον αντιμετώπιζε στην αρχή με καχυποψία, αλλά δεν υπήρξε κάτι μεμπτό στη συμπεριφορά του που να επιβεβαιώνει τις υποψίες τους. Είναι τόσο λίγοι οι Ευρωπαίοι που μένουν στην Ινδία, ώστε φαίνεται παράξενο το γεγονός ότι επιλέγει να μείνει κανείς εδώ με τη θέλησή του, μόνο και μόνο από την αγάπη του για τη σανσκριτική λογοτεχνία, όταν μάλιστα δε φαίνεται να παράγει κάποιο έργο επί του θέματος.
Αργότερα κάποιοι από τους συμπατριώτες του αναρωτούνταν αν είχε γίνει Ινδουϊστής, γιατί φορούσε ινδικά ενδύματα, είχε φίλους Μπραχμάνους και έδειχνε παθιασμένο ενδιαφέρον για τη σανκριτική γλώσσα και λογοτεχνία. Επιπρόσθετα υπάρχει μια περίεργη σημείωση στο βιογραφικό τμήμα του Ινδικών Μεταφράσεων Πρόδρομος
, που αναφέρει ότι ο Γαλανός έγινε Μπραχμάνος και τιμάτο ως λόγιος και άγιος από τους Ινδούς και τους Ευρωπαίους. Η δήλωση πως έγινε Μπραχμάνος πιθανώς δεν είναι αληθής, γιατί γίνεται κανείς Μπραχμάνος μόνον από γέννησης.

Η πλαστογραφία του Κεφαλά

Ο Νικόλας Κεφαλάς, έλληνας καπετάνιος από τη Ζάκυνθο, που επισκέφθηκε τον Γαλανό στο Βαναράζι (προφέρεται και Βαναράσι), πίστευε ότι ο λόγος για τον οποίο ο σοφός Αθηναίος μελέτησε και υιοθέτησε τα μπραχμανικά έθιμα ήταν η προσπάθεια κατανόησης του ευγενικού και ηθικού τρόπου ζωής των Μπραχμάνων. Αναφέρει, επίσης, ότι παρόλα αυτά ο Γαλανός παρέμεινε Χριστιανός και υποδεικνύει το γεγονός ότι οι Ινδουϊστές δεν αποδέχονται τους αποστάτες. Η ευκολία όμως με την οποία κινείτο ο συγκεκριμένος ξένος στην ινδική κοινωνία, θα μπορούσε να θεωρηθεί ως ένδειξη ότι το όραμά του καθοριζόταν πέρα από συγκεκριμένα ιδεολογικο-θρησκευτικά όρια.
Ο Κεφαλάς κέρδισε την εμπιστοσύνη του Γαλανού που του ενεχείρισε χειρόγραφα των μεταφράσεών του, για να παραδοθούν στις ελληνικές αρχές της
Πελοποννήσου. Ο Κεφαλάς όμως παρέδωσε το σανσκριτικό κείμενο στη Βιβλιοθήκη του Βατικανού και επιχείρησε το 1825 την πρώτη του ευρωπαϊκή μετάφραση, συνδυάζοντας την ελληνική μετάφραση με μια δική του Ιταλική με το όνομά του. Στην εισαγωγή ο Kεφαλάς αυτοπαρουσιάζεται ως γενναίος ταξιδευτής ο οποίος, στα μακρινά του ταξίδια, συναντήθηκε με Μπραχμάνους, από τους οποίους έλαβε σανσκριτικά κείμενα μεγάλης αξίας. Στη διαδικασία της πλαστογραφίας δεν ξεχνά μάλιστα να αναφέρει τη 'βοήθεια' που του παρείχε ο Γαλανός:
Βρέθηκα σε αυτή την πόλη να συζητώ με τους σοφότερους και επιφανέστερους. Ανάμεσά τους συνάντησα έναν διάσημο Μπραχμάνο, τον Γκατζανούνγκ, ο οποίος μου παρουσίασε ένα μικρό βιβλίο με τίτλο Sommaria di sentenze morali del filosofo indiano Sanakea. O Σανακία είναι πλέον σεβαστός μεταξύ των Ινδών και ορισμένοι θεωρούν ότι έζησε στην εποχή της δυναστείας Ράμα-Πριτάρα περίπου το 2641 π.Χ. Το βιβλίο ήταν γραμμένο στην ιερή σανσκριτική διάλεκτο. ...Αλλά για καλή μου τύχη συνάντησα τον αθηναίο φιλόσοφο Δημήτριο Γαλανό, που ζούσε στην Ινδία επί 35 χρόνια. Γνώριζε πολύ καλά τις επιστήμες και την
ινδική λογοτεχνία. Εκτός από τα Ελληνικά, τα Λατινικά και άλλες ευρωπαϊκές και ανατολικές γλώσσες, επίσης γνώριζε πολύ καλά τη σανσκριτική διάλεκτο και τα μυστήρια των Ινδών. Τον τιμούσαν οι Μπραχμάνοι και οι ταξιδιώτες όχι μόνο για τη σοφία αλλά και για το ηθικό του ανάστημα. Του ζήτησα να με βοηθήσει στη μετάφραση του έργου στη μητρική μας γλώσσα και ως καλός πατριώτης εκείνος (ο Γαλανός) συγκατατέθηκε, αφού ο Σανακία δεν ήταν ακόμη γνωστός σε οποιαδήποτε ευρωπαϊκή γλώσσα.
Ο Κεφαλάς έκδωσε ένα ακόμη βιβλίο για την Ινδία με το μακρύ τίτλο «Περιγραφή της αρχαίας πόλης του Μπεναρές, του αρχαίου ινδικού πολυθεϊσμού, των λατρειών και των εθίμων αυτών των λαών γραμμένο από τον καπετάνιο Νικολό Κεφαλά, Έλληνα από τη Ζάκυνθο κατά τη διάρκεια του ταξιδιού του στο έτος 1824, έκδοση του ιδίου και εικονογραφημένο με σχεδίασμα γεωγραφικού χάρτη της Ινδίας από τον ίδιο». Σε αυτό το βιβλίο ο συγγραφέας μιλά και πάλι ευνοϊκά για τον Γαλανό:
Στην έρευνα που έκανα στο Μπεναρές για την ινδική
θρησκεία με βοήθησε ο φιλόσοφος Δ. Γαλανός… Αξιοσέβαστος και ικανός άνθρωπος, ο οποίος, ακολουθώντας τα βήματα του Πυθαγόρα και του Πλάτωνα, μυήθηκε σε όλα τα ινδικά μυστήρια και ο οποίος μια μέρα θα πλουτίσει την Ευρώπη με τη βαθιά γνώση και τις ανακαλύψεις του.
Η απάτη του Κεφαλά που έκανε τυχαία γνωστό το σανσκριτικό κείμενο στην Ευρώπη, αποκαλύφθηκε λίγα χρόνια αργότερα, όταν τα χειρόγραφα του Γαλανού έφθασαν στην
Ελλάδα. Στο χειρόγραφο αρ. 1855, της Εθνικής Βιβλιοθήκης της Ελλάδος υπάρχει μια επιστολή που αναφέρει τα εξής: «Ο Δ. Γαλανός ο Αθηναίος μέσω του αξιότιμου καπετάνιου Νικόλαου Κεφαλά αποστέλλει τούτο το πρωτότυπο σανσκριτικό κείμενο και τη μετάφρασή του για να παραδοθεί στις ελληνικές αρχές της Πελοποννήσου. Ινδία Δεκέμβριος 1823».


Ο Γαλανός κρατούσε τακτική επικοινωνία με τους συγγενείς του στην Ελλάδα και μάθαινε τα νέα της ελληνικής επανάστασης από αγγλικές εφημερίδες. Πιθανώς επισκέφθηκε τους φίλους του στην Καλκούτα και τη Ντάκα τη χρονιά που ξέσπασε η επανάσταση, όπως φαίνεται από την επιγραφή που χαράχτηκε κατ’ εντολή του ίδιου σε τάφο έλληνα φίλου του. Στην τελευταία επιστολή του προς τον ανηψιό του Παντολέοντα, (14 Δεκ. 1832) ρωτά με μεγάλη αγωνία για την κατάσταση της χώρας και της οικογένειάς του:
Και για τη γη των πατέρων μου: γράψε μου σε ποια κατάσταση βρίσκεται η χώρα; Είναι ευτυχής από τότε που απελευθερώθηκε ή ήταν ευτυχέστερη υπό τον ζυγό; Κοινοποίησέ μου τα ονόματα των ηγετών και των πολιτικών των Αθηναίων. Γράψε μου για το σπίτι του πατέρα σου, πόσους αδελφούς και αδελφές έχεις, ποιο είναι το όνομα της μητέρας σας και ποιανού κόρη είναι. Γράψε μου πώς είναι η οικογένεια της αδελφής μου και από ποια ασθένεια πέθανε ο Παναγής. Γράψε μου, αν γνωρίζεις, αν ο Παναγής έδωσε 1300 ρουπίες στην Εταιρεία Καλών Τεχνών. Σου έδωσε 500 ρουπίες ή όχι;
Σε μια άλλη επιστολή (Δεκ 1829) που έστειλε στον ανηψιό του Παντολέοντα, ο Γαλανός παραθέτει τον
Ισοκράτη και τους σοφούς Ινδούς, προκειμένου να υποδείξει ότι εκείνοι που επιθυμούν να αποκτήσουν σοφία και ευημερία, χρειάζεται να περάσουν από πολλές δυσκολίες, να αποχωριστούν τα σπίτια και τους συγγενείς τους και να ταξιδέψουν σε ξένες χώρες:
Εάν είσαι λογικός και άνθρωπος με πλατειά αντίληψη, τότε έλα σε μένα. Αν είσαι παράλογος, στενόμυαλος, λιγόψυχος και έχει μυαλό σκλάβου, μείνε εκεί. Μείνε βάρβαρος, λαδέμπορος ή οινοπώλης, πούλα ρύζι και φασόλια. Εφόσον φέρεις το όνομα του πατέρα μου, αυτού του μεγάλου και καλού άνδρα, και καθώς ήκουσα πως είσαι οξύνους, θέλω να έρθεις εδώ σε μένα. Έγραψα στους πατέρες του όρους Σινά για σένα, αν αποφασίσεις να έλθεις. Πάρε μαζί σου ό,τι βιβλία, λεξικά και γραμματικές έχεις. Αν δεν έλθεις εσύ, θα έλθει κάποιος άλλος και θα γίνει κληρονόμος της γνώσης και της περιουσίας μου ... Αλλά, παρόλο που βλέπεις ότι είναι δυνατά όλα αυτά τα καλά πράγματα, εσύ δε θέλεις να υποβληθείς σε λίγη δοκιμασία, αλλά είσαι και οκνηρός σαν να σε έσπρωξε στο λήθαργο κάποιο μαγικό φίλτρο. Αφυπνίσου άνθρωπε και γνώθι σεαυτόν. Γίνε
Προμηθέας και όχι Επιμηθέας.
Εκφράζει την αγάπη του προς εκείνους που εκπαιδεύονται: «Όστις μανθάνει, και παιδεύεται, εκείνον έγω αγαπώ». Στην ίδια επιστολή, εκφράζει τη λαχτάρα, τον νόστο για επιστροφή στην Ελλάδα μαζί με τον ανηψιό του, μετά από την ολοκλήρωση των μελετών του στην Ινδία, «. .και τότε θα σε τιμούν και θα σε υμνούν [στην Ελλάδα] και θα σου δείχνουν το θαυμασμό τους».
Ο Παντολέων τελικά αποφάσισε να ταξιδέψει στην Ινδία και έφθασε στη
Βεγγάλη στα τέλη του 1832. Ωστόσο, αντί να του υποδείξει να πάει αμέσως στο Bαναράζι, ο Γαλανός το έστειλε να μελετήσει Ελληνικά με τον πατέρα Ανανία στην Καλκούτα. Στην ίδια επιστολή, που ήταν πιθανώς η τελευταία της ζωής του, ο Γαλανός εξέφρασε έναν βαθύ σεβασμό για τους παλαιούς φίλους του στην Καλκούτα: «… όλο το σεβασμό που δείχνεις σε μένα, τόσο να δείξεις και περισσότερο ακόμα στον πολύ καλό φίλο μου Κωνσταντίνο Πανταζή, γιατί είναι το alter ego μου» και «. ..πήγαινε στην κατοικία του άλλου φίλου μου του Μανολάκη Αθανασίου να τον χαιρετήσεις και να του φιλήσεις το δεξί χέρι». Ο Γαλανός όμως δε συνάντησε ποτέ τον ανηψιό του.

Ο θάνατος

Ασθένησε και πέθανε στις 3 Μαΐου του 1833, (είκοσι ημέρες πριν από την άφιξη του Παντολέοντα στο Βαρανάζι). Η Επιθεώρηση Ασιατικών Μελετών ανακοίνωσε στις 3 Μαΐου: Απεβίωσε στο Μπεναρές ο κος Δημήτριος Γαλανός στην ηλικία των 74. Ήταν ελληνικής καταγωγής, και αφιερώθηκε επί πολλά έτη με μοναδική επιμέλεια στη μελέτη της ιερής γλώσσας και της λογοτεχνίας των Ινδουϊστών. Άφησε πίσω του πολυάριθμες μεταφράσεις από τη Σανσκριτική στην ελληνική γλώσσα.
Ο θάνατος του Γαλανού καταγράφθηκε στα επισκοπικά αρχεία του Μπεναρές (1833), που κατέληξαν εν τέλει στην Επισκοπή του Αλλαχαμπάντ και στα αρχεία ενταφιασμών (1833) της Αρχιδιακονίας και επισκοπής της Καλκούτας, καθώς επίσης και στον πρώτο Κώδικα (1792-1914) της ελληνικής εκκλησίας στην Καλκούτα. Δεν καταγράφθηκε η αιτία θανάτου. Ο Σουλτζ υποθέτει ότι πιθανώς έπεσε θύμα της
χολέρας η οποία, σύμφωνα με το Ενθυμήσεις της Βόρειας Ινδίας (Λονδίνο, 1848), γραμμένο από τον Αιδεσ. Γουΐλιαμ Μπάυερς (William Buyers), μάστιζε την πόλη του Βαναράζι εκείνη την περίοδο και έγινε η αιτία χιλιάδων θανάτων. Θάφτηκε στο χριστιανικό κοιμητήριο της πόλης που τον φιλοξένησε για το μεγαλύτερο διάστημα της ζωής του. Στην επιτύμβια πλάκα χαράχθηκε η παρακάτω επιγραφή:
ΕΙΣ ΜΝΗΜΗΝ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙOΥ ΓΑΛΑΝΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΑΘΗΝΑIOΥ (ακολουθούμενη από δύο γραμμές στα Φαρσί)
Το νόημα των
Φαρσί (επίσημης γλώσσας εκείνη την εποχή) γραμμών που συντέθηκαν από τον Μανσί Σιτάλ Σινχ, (σοφό μπραχμάνο, φίλο και δάσκαλο του Γαλανού) είναι λίγο πολύ η ίδια με την ελληνική μετάφρασή τους, που καταγράφεται στο Ινδικών Μεταφράσεων Πρόδρομος:
Βαβαί εκατοντάκις! Ότ' ο Δημήτριoς Γαλανός Απήλθεν εκ του κόσμου τούτου εις τας αιωνίους μονάς. Μετά κλαυθμού και οδυρμού το οίμοι! είπον έξω φρενών. Απήλθε φευ! ο Πλάτων του Αιώνος

Το έργο

Ο Δημήτριος Γαλανός πέραν της καταγραφής των ινδικών ηθών, μετέφρασε πολλά κείμενα από τα Σανσκριτικά. Έγραψε το μεγάλο Σανσκριτο-Αγγλο-Ελληνικό λεξικό, Λεξικό της Περσικής - Σανσκριτικής και Ελληνικής και επίσης Σανσκριτικό Ονομαστικό Λεξικό της ινδικής μυθολογίας. Το γλωσσολογικό του έργο διακρίνεται για τη βαθιά κλασική παιδεία, τη φιλοκαλία και επιμέλεια αυτού του ασυνήθιστου έλληνα λόγιου που αναζήτησε και ασπάστηκε τα διδάγματα της ινδουιστικής φιλοσοφίας, όπως φαίνεται από τα παραπάνω, χωρίς όμως να απαρνηθεί τη χριστιανική του πίστη. Στις φωτοτυπημένες σελίδες του λεξικού του είναι εντυπωσιακή η καλλιγραφία της σανσκριτικής γραφής αλλά και το πλήθος των συνώνυμων λέξεων στα Eλληνικά και στα Aγγλικά που χρησιμοποιεί για να ερμηνεύσει τη Σανσκριτική γλώσσα.
Παρόλο που δεν τα κατάφερε να επιστρέψει στην πατρίδα του, ο Γαλανός πρόφθασε όμως να κληροδοτήσει όλο το συγγραφικό του έργο και τα λεξικά του στην
Ακαδημία Αθηνών, μαζί με μια σημαντική χρηματική δωρεά για την ίδρυση του νέου πανεπιστημίου. Το κληροδότημα πέρασε στη νεοσύστατη Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη και το έργο του εκδόθηκε από υπαλλήλους της Βιβλιοθήκης που δε γνώριζαν Σανσκριτικά.
Σχεδόν 170 χρόνια από τον θάνατό του επανεκδόθηκε το λεξικό του συγκεντρωμένο σε ένα τόμο. Ένα έργο που χρήζει πιθανώς ιδιαίτερης προσοχής, ίσως οφειλή μας σε έναν παράξενο έλληνα διανοητή που έζησε μακριά από τον τόπο του και γεφύρωσε την ινδική φιλοσοφία με την ελλληνική και κατ’ επέκταση ευρωπαϊκή διανόηση.
Οι παρατηρήσεις του, ιδιαίτερα σε επιστολές προς φίλους του παρουσιάζουν ένα ιδιάζον χαρακτηριστικό. Για παράδειγμα προς τον πατέρα Γρηγόριο της Σίφνου, ιερέα που υπηρέτησε στην ελληνική εκκλησία της Ντάκα επί πέντε χρόνια έγραψε: «Προσεύχομαι στον Πατέρα
Ωκεανό, τον Ποσειδώνα και τον ινδικό θεό Βαρούνα να είσαι καλοτάξιδος στην επιστροφή σου». Τούτη η τριπλή αναφορά παρουσιάζει μια σαφή τάση συγκρητισμού, που δικαιολογείται από την πολυετή μελέτη του στα σανσκριτικά κείμενα αλλά και από μια βαθειά γνώση της ελληνικής μυθολογίας.
Από αυτή την άποψη ο Γαλανός δρα ως
θρησκειολόγος, ανεξάρτητα από τις προσωπικές θρησκευτικές του αντιλήψεις. Πέραν της αδιαμφισβήτητης θέσης του ως φιλόσοφου διανοητή φαίνεται πως τα κίνητρά του έχουν έναν πρώιμο θρησκειολογικό χαρακτήρα. Αναφέρεται ότι μυήθηκε στα μυστήρια των Ινδουϊστών. Παρόλο που κάτι τέτοιο δεν αποδεικνύεται παρά μόνον έμμεσα από το πολύχρονο έργο του, που προϋποθέτει κατανόηση των γραφόμενων πέρα από εκείνη που μπορεί να επιτύχει κανείς με μόνο το φιλολογικό ενδιαφέρον, είναι πολύ πιθανό να μην είναι καθόλου άστοχος ο τίτλος που του αποδόθηκε, ο πρώτος «έλληνας Μπραχμάνος». Οι Έλληνες των Ινδιών είναι σαφώς μια περίεργη ιστορία με αρχαιότατες ρίζες. Ο Γαλανός, όμως, ως χαρακτηριστικός εκπρόσωπός τους είναι η ζωντανή μαρτυρία για το πώς χτίζεται μια γέφυρα κατανόησης ανάμεσα σε Ανατολή και Δύση και από αυτή την άποψη αξίζει του σεβασμού και του ενδιαφέροντός μας.

Dimitrios Galanos (Greek Δημήτριος Γαλανός, 1760-1833) was the earliest Greek Indologist. His translations of Sanskrit texts into Greek made knowledge of the philosophical and religious ideas of India available to many Europeans.
Born in Athens, Greece in 1760, he spent 47 years in India, where he translated many Hindu sacred texts into Greek and compiled a Sankrit-English-Greek dictionary of over 9000 words. He died on May 3, 1833 in Varanasi, India. He was buried in the Catholic cemetery there, and his tombstone was inscribed with the epitaph, "ΕΙΣ ΜΝΗΜΗΝ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙOΥ ΓΑΛΑΝΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΑΘΗΝΑIOΥ" (in memory of Dimitrios Galanos of Athens) followed by two lines in Persian.
A "Dimitrios Galanos" Chair for Hellenic Studies was established at Jawaharlal Nehru

University in New Delhi, India in September of 2000.


The Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Empire and the subsequent Turkish occupation of Greece and the Balkans in the late 15th and early 16th centuries forced upon the Greeks a harsh servitude under an alien imperialism which threatened their culture. Fortunately for them their Turkish masters despised commercial occupations and this enabled many Greeks to achieve relative prosperity under the banner of trade. In fact, almost the entire commercial activity of the Ottoman Empire was in the hands of Greeks and Armenians in the 18th and 19th centuries. Greek merchants dominated the trade of the Mediterranean and the Levant and thrust tentacles into Central Europe and Russia. Eventually the most daring of them found their way to India in the 18th Century.
The earliest record of a 'Modern', commercial Greek presence in India is to be found in the Latin Memorial tablets of two Greek merchants in the Catholic Cathedral of Calcutta- the dates of their deaths in this city are given as 1713 and 1728. Some Greeks arrived overland through Persia and Afghanistan but many more chose the sea route via the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. They came from the Greek Diaspora- from Asia Minor, from the Aegean and Ionian Islands, from mainland Greece but especially from the Thracian city of Philippopolis (now called Plovdiv and lying within Bulgaria). They settled chiefly in Dhaka and in Calcutta. It is difficult to be precise about their numbers but between 1770 and 1800 there were probably about two hundred or more Greeks in Dhaka and Narayanganj and somewhat less in Calcutta.
The great majority was engaged in trade. At the outset they were exporters of Dhaka cloth to Europe and the Levant via Basra but towards the beginning of the 19th century they were ousted from this trade by the competition of the English
east india company and they sought compensation in the inland trade of Bengal. They traded in salt and other native products and some were engaged in the manufacture of chunam (lime).
Alexios Argyree Panaghiotis (his name later anglicized by his descendants as 'Panioty') was the first recognized head of the Greek community in Bengal. Born in Philippopolis he came to India in 1750 and in 1771 was sent by Warren
hastings on a diplomatic mission to Cairo to obtain permission for British merchants to trade in Egypt. His work successfully accomplished, he was given permission by Hastings to build a Greek church in Amratollah Street in Calcutta. He eventually shifted his commercial operations to Dhaka where he died in 1777.
His son Alexander Panioty, who was an extensive trader in salt between Narayanganj and Chittagong, continued his work and started a chunam manufactory in Sylhet. Alexios Argyree and his son were the chief agents in ensuring the presence of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bengal for they arranged with the Archbishop of Sinai to send monks from the monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai to serve the spiritual needs of Greeks in Dhaka and Calcutta. The Greek Church of the Transfiguration in Amratollah Street, Calcutta was consecrated in 1782 and another church was opened in Dhaka in 1812. In these early days the best known Greek Orthodox priest in Calcutta was the dynamic father Constantine Parthenios from Corfu whom Zoffany took as his model for Christ in his painting of the Last Supper which hangs in the Anglican church of St. John in Calcutta.
From about 1820 to 1840 the economic prosperity of Dacca and Narayanganj declined largely as a result of the competition of the Lancashire cotton industry and the fortunes of the Greek community there declined with them. In the last quarter of the 19th century the London-based Greek firm of Ralli Brothers constructed a memorial at Ramna in Dhaka to the memory of these early merchants. This Memorial contains ten gravestones of Greek merchants, some of their wives and one Greek priest who died between 1800 and 1860 and was built in the style of a classical Greek temple. It has been moved subsequently from its original site to one near the Teacher-Student Centre of Dhaka University. Most of the inscriptions are in classical Greek but some are in English.
The Calcutta Greek community was centred on its church in Amratollah Street. From 1818 to 1842 its doyen was a merchant from Epirus, Constantine Partazes, who traded with Constantinople and built a Greek school in Calcutta for the community's children to give them the elements of their religion, language and culture. In this work a fellow Epirot, Peter Protopapas, ably seconded him. A small number of Greeks took advantage of the advance of British power into the area of Agra and Oudh and set up as merchants and shopkeepers in Cawnpore, Meerut, Karnaul and Delhi.
As the 19th century progressed and opportunities for individual entrepreneurs in trade declined, the offspring of the first generation of Greek merchants turned to other forms of employment. Even towards the end of the 18th century, a few adventurous spirits became mercenary soldiers. Two examples of this trend can be seen in the cases of Count Alexander Ghika and Adam George. The former hailed from a prominent Phanariot family of Constantinople, and served as a high-ranking officer in the army of the Maratha chief, Ambajee from 1796 to 1802. The latter was his contemporary, and in 1791 enlisted in the force of the famous Savoyard soldier, Benoit de Boigne, serving Scindhia of Gwalior, and became the commander of a troop of cavalry.
Most of the second and third generations of Bengal Greeks took up employment as uncovenanted officials in the Bengal Administration of the
east india company and later of the Crown. The most successful of these men was Demetrius Panioty (a direct descendant of Alexios Argyree Panaghiotis). In 1849 he obtained employment as a Writer in the Bengal Secretariat, was transferred in 1853 to the Durbar Department of the Governor General and in 1880 became Assistant Private Secretary to the Viceroy, lord ripon. In this capacity he served several Viceroys until his death in Simla in 1895. After his death the Imperial Government erected a monumental fountain to his memory on the Maidan in Calcutta. His wife Persine acted as a Hindustani interpreter to the Vicereine, Lady Dufferin, in her contacts with the wives and female relations of Indian princes.
Probably the most famous of the early Bengal Greeks was the distinguished Sanskrit scholar, Demetrius Galanos of Athens who arrived at Calcutta in 1786 to take up the post of a teacher in the Greek school. He rapidly acquired an excellent knowledge of English, Persian, Urdu and Sanskrit. To further his expertise in Sanskrit he moved to Benares in 1792 where he adopted the lifestyle of a Brahmin, studied under a Brahmin teacher, Satoul Singh and embarked on a series of translations of Sanskrit texts into Greek. He died in Benares in 1833 and was buried in the English cemetery. He is acknowledged today as one of the foremost European Sanskrit scholars and his translations of the ancient texts are internationally famous.
By the mid-19th century the small-scale commercial ventures of the first Greek traders had almost come to an end. Large European firms with Head Offices in Europe now handled most of the commerce in India and on a scale that was never attained by the early Greek merchants. That the Greek trading presence in India did not die out but rather expanded was due to the operations of several London-based Greek trading Companies and in particular, to the most famous of them, Ralli Brothers, who opened their first Indian branch in 1851 at 15 Lal Bazaar, Calcutta.
Its founder was the remarkable businessman, Pandius Rallis whose family hailed from the Aegean Island of Chios. He established Ralli Brothers in London in 1826 and so skillfully did he handle its affairs that it rapidly became a powerful firm owning its own ships and transporting thousands of tons of cereals, foodstuffs, spices and other commodities from the Near East to Europe. From its base in Calcutta it extended its operations all over Northern India including, from 1882, Narayanganj, where it owned a jute mill and had two steam launches moored at its wharves. From Bengal Ralli Brothers exported huge quantities of jute to the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Italy, Russia and the USA. It also traded extensively in wheat, pulse, linseed, poppyseed, sesame, rice, saltpetre, shellac, jaggery, castor oil, turmeric, ginger, India rubber catch and borax.
At the end of the 19th century, besides Ralli Brothers, there were several other Greek trading firms operating in Calcutta: Ralli and Mavrojani, Argenti Sechiari, Agelesto Sagrandi, Schlizzi and Co, Petrocochino Bros, Tamv-aco & Co, Georgiardi & Co, N Valetta & Co, Giffo & Co, Pallachi & Co, Vlasto & Co and Nicachi & Co. A scrutiny of the marriages made by the Rallis with other Greek families reveals that Greek commercial activity in Bengal was dominated by a close-knit clan of noble families from the island of Chios, related by marriage.
In addition to trading firms there were in the early years of the 20th century three large firms of Greek tobacconists in Calcutta: Theo Vafiadis (a Greek from Cairo) at 4 Dalhousie Square, SZ Andricopoulos at 10 Dalhousie Square and P-isti and Pelekanos at 104 Clive St. These Greek firms gave employment to a very large number of Greeks either in Calcutta or the mofussil. These men were not, in the main, like the old Greek merchant families who settled permanently in Bengal because most of them returned to Greece at the end of their working lives.
Before and after the First World War the Greek contribution to European social life in Calcutta was considerable and at least one Greek from this community achieved some fame in the outside world. Marie Nicachi, born in Calcutta in 1888, brought up and educated there, was an exceptionally gifted professional violinist whose performances were enthusiastically applauded by Calcutta audiences. In 1910 she embarked on a professional tour of Europe and gave recitals in all its major capitals, playing before the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria in Vienna and before Czar Nicholas II and his Czarina in St. Petersburg. When the First World War broke out she returned to her family home in Corfu where, between the wars, she delighted local and foreign celebrities with the virtuosity of her performances.
The Second World War marked the terminus of Greek commercial activity in Bengal. The independence of India and Pakistan and the partition of Bengal between them created a new commercial climate and in these conditions Ralli Brothers and most of the other Greek firms gradually ceased trading. The days of grandeur between 1850 and 1950 have passed away.

Paul Byron Norris

Φιλοπερίεργοι έμποροι από τη Βαλκανική και τη Μικρά Ασία, Xιώτες και Επτανήσιοι νησιώτες ναυτικοί και τυχοδιώκτες ήταν οι πρώτοι Έλληνες έποικοι που εγκαταστάθηκαν στισ Ινδίες. Ας αναφέρουμε και σε ταφόπετρες στο κοιμητήριο του Καθολικού Ναού της Παναγίας στο προάστιο Murghihatta της Καλκούτας, όπου είναι θαμμένοι αρκετοί απ' αυτούς.Ορισμένοι από τους 150 πρωτοπόρους Έλληνες που εγκαταστάθηκαν στην περίοδο 1770-1835 στην Καλκούτα των Ινδιών, όταν η πόλη άκμαζε ως πρωτεύουσα της Αυτοκρατορίας των Ινδιών, στην Dakha και στην ευρύτερη περιοχή της Begal, κατόρθωσαν να πλουτίσουν. Στην Καλκούτα των Ινδιών, οι 50 περίπου Έλληνες συνεργάστηκαν με τους Πορτογάλους και τους Αρμενίους εμπόρους, λειτούργησαν Ορθόδοξο ναό και κοινότητα, την οποία ευεργέτησαν με τέσσερα οικήματα μέχρι το 1781, που ιδρύθηκε ο ναός τους.
Ο συμπαγέστερος όγκος των πρωτοπόρων Ελλήνων προερχόταν από τον Ελληνισμό της Μικράς Ασίας και ήταν έμποροι και τεχνίτες. Ελάχιστοι ήταν εγγράμματοι, όπως ο Δημήτριος Γαλανός από την περιοχή της Αττικής, ο οποίος είχε μελετήσει τη Σανσκριτική στην Οξφόρδη. Στην Ντάκα είχαν εγκατασταθεί λιγότεροι, όπως ο Παναγιώτης Αλεξίου από τη Φιλιππούπολη, ο οποίος εποίκησε την Ντάκα το 1772.Από τα μέσα του 19ου αιώνα, Χιώτες κυρίως έμποροι της Βρετανίας, από τα εμπορικά κέντρα του Λονδίνου, της Γλασκόβης και του Μάντσεστερ εκδήλωσαν ενδιαφέρον να επεκτείνουν τα συμφέροντα των εμπορικών τους οίκων στις Ινδίες και στην Κίνα. Από τους πρώτους καταξιωμένους εμπόρους της περιοχής που εγκαταστάθηκαν στην Καλκούτα ήταν ο Ζαννής Σκυλίτσης (1845) και ο Παντιάς Ράλλης (1852). Ο τελευταίος ανέπτυξε μεγάλη εμπορική δραστηριότητα στις Ινδίες και δημιούργησε εμπορική αυτοκρατορία. Η εγκατάσταση των δύο Χιωτών εμπόρων προκάλεσε αλυσιδωτή μετανάστευση και εποίκηση Χιωτών εμπόρων στην Καλκούτα και στην Ντάκα, με αποτέλεσμα να λειτουργήσει ακόμη και Αδελφότητα Χιωτών στην περιοχή (1851). Αρκετοί που εγκαταστάθηκαν στα μέσα της δεκαετίας του 1850 είχαν δοσοληψίες με τη βρετανική Εταιρεία των Ανατολικών Ινδιών. Μετά το 1850 έχουμε την ανάδυση Ελλήνων εμπόρων, που επικράτησαν οικονομικά στην αποικία των Ινδιών, στις τάξεις των ευγενών της Βρετανίας. Ευαγή ιδρύματα, μνημεία και μουσεία στην Καλκούτα και στην Ντάκα προδίδουν την ανθρωπιστική και οικονομική παρέμβαση των Ελλήνων εμπόρων, κατά τη διάρκεια του 19ου αιώνα, με ευεργεσίες τους προς την ευρύτερη κοινωνία.Εκκλησιαστικά αποίμαντοι παρέμεναν οι πρωτοπόροι Έλληνες των Ινδιών. Στα 1760 στις Ινδίες οι Έλληνες έμποροι, οι οποίοι εξήγαγαν τα ντόπια προϊόντα στην οθωμανική αγορά, συνεργάσθηκαν με τους Αρμένιους του σιναφιού τους, προκειμένου να χρησιμοποιούν τον Ορθόδοξο ναό των Αρμενίων, καταβάλλοντας ετησίως, ο καθένας ένα rupee. Αργότερα, με προεξάρχοντα τον καφέμπορο Αλέξη Χατζηαργύρη, και σε συνεργασία με τους Πορτογάλους, λειτούργησαν Ελληνικό Ορθόδοξο ναό αφιερωμένο στο όνομα της Παναγίας (1772), ενώ μεταγενέστερα, το 1781, ίδρυσαν τον ανεξάρτητο πλέον Ελληνικό Ορθόδοξο ναό της Μεταμόρφωσης του Σωτήρος, με χρήματα που διέθεσαν η οικογένεια του ευεργέτη Α. Χατζηαργύρη και ο ευπατρίδης Δ. Παρθένιος από την Κέρκυρα. Την ίδια χρονιά οι 40 περίπου Έλληνες της Καλκούτας και περιχώρων συνέπηξαν Κοινότητα με το τίτλο Ελληνική Αδελφότητα Ελλήνων της Καλκούτας, ανακηρύσσοντας ως προστάτη του οργανωμένου Ελληνισμού το Βασιλέα της Αγγλίας. Τις πνευματικές ανάγκες των πιστών εξυπηρετούσαν ιερείς που απέστελνε αρχικά το Πατριαρχείο Αλεξανδρείας και στη συνέχεια το Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο.Κατά τη διάρκεια του 20ού αιώνα τόσο η ελληνική όσο και η αρμενική κοινότητα παρέμειναν ισχυρές με πλούσια κοινωνική και πολιτιστική δράση, σε όλο το διάστημα της αποικιοκρατίας στις Ινδίες.Η ανεξαρτησία των κρατών της Ασίας από τους Βρετανούς, Ολλανδούς, Γάλλους και Πορτογάλους αποικιοκράτες οδήγησε σε εθνικοποιήσεις και βέβαια σε απελάσεις, περιορισμούς και τελική έξοδο των Ελλήνων από την Ινδία, κυρίως μετά το 1955. Μετά το 1960, ελάχιστοι Έλληνες έποικοι παρέμεναν στην Καλκούτα και την Ντάκα, είτε ως υπερήλικες μαγαζάτορες, είτε ως μέλη ορθοδόξων ιεραποστολών και κληρικών. Το 2005, σύμφωνα με εκθέσεις διπλωματικών και ανωτέρων κληρικών, προξενικά έγγραφα και μαρτυρίες των εποίκων της περιοχής και αρχειακό υλικό, ο αριθμός των εποίκων ελληνικής καταγωγής που είναι εγκατεστημένος στις Ινδίες είναι 38 οικογένειες εκ των οποίων οι περισσότερες είναι επίγονοι παλαιότερων ελληνικών εγκαταστάσεων, κυρίως στην Καλκούτα.
Το μόνο που μας θυμίζει σήμερα την ένδοξη παρουσία της Ελληνικής κοινότητας στις Ινδίες, κατά το παρελθόν, είναι το Ελληνικό νεκροταφείο και ο νεοκλασικός Ελληνορθόδοξος ναός της Μεταμόρφωσης του Σωτήρος, που σήμερα έχει ανακαινισθεί με την φροντίδα του Αγιορείτη μοναχού Ιγνάτιου και του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου Κωνσταντινούπολης και συνεχίζει το έργο του με την σύσταση της φιλανθρωπικής εταιρείας που έχει ιδρύσει τα τελευταία χρόνια ορφανοτροφεία, σχολεία και νοσηλευτικά κέντρα, παρέχοντας νέες δυνατότητες για την υποστήριξη ευρύτερων Ελληνικών και ευρωπαϊκών αναπτυξιακών προγραμμάτων στην περιοχή της Καλκούτας.


Ο oρθόδοξος ελληνισμός του Λιβάνου χρονολογείται από τον 19ο αιώνα και ενισχύθηκε κατά την περίοδο της Μικρασιατικής Καταστροφής (από τη Σμύρνη και την Κωνσταντινούπολη) και κατά τον Β' Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο. Είναι αξιοσημείωτο ότι η πρώτη ελληνική κοινότητα με την επωνυμία "Φιλόπτωχος Ελληνική Κοινότης Βηρυττού" (σύμφωνα με στοιχεία του ενημερωτικού δελτίου Greek community of Beirut) ιδρύθηκε πολύ πριν από την ανεξαρτησία του Λιβάνου, με άδεια της τότε Λιβανέζικης κυβέρνησης και της Γαλλικής αρμοστείας, το 1926. Αμέσως ακολούθησε η "Αστική Ελληνική Σχολή" και η ίδρυση της "Ενωσης Ελληνίδων Κυριών" και του αθλητικού συλλόγου "Αετός", ο οποίος εξελίχθηκε αργότερα στην "Ελληνική Λέσχη Βηρυττού".
Σύμφωνα με τις πηγές της ελληνικής πρεσβείας, η εγγεγραμμένη ελληνική κοινότητα σήμερα ανέρχεται στους 3.000 κατοίκους. Κυριότερη ίσως εστία ελληνοφωνίας στο Λίβανο αποτελούν οι κρητικής καταγωγής κάτοικοι της χώρας, οι οποίοι κατοικούν στο βόρειο Λίβανο και είναι, κατά πλειοψηφία, μουσουλμανικού δόγματος. Σύμφωνα με τα δεδομένα πραγματοποιηθείσης επιτόπιας ερευνάς μας (Τσοκαλίδου, 2000), οι ελληνόφωνες εστίες της χώρας συγκεντρώνονται κυρίως στην πρωτεύουσα Βηρυττό και την Τρίπολη του Β. Λιβάνου. Τέλος, εκτός από τους ελληνικής καταγωγής κατοίκους της χώρας, στο Λίβανο υπάρχει και ακαδημαϊκή εστία ελληνομάθειας, η θεολογική σχολή του Balamand στο Β. Λίβανο, η οποία προετοιμάζει ορθοδόξους ιερείς με υψηλό βαθμό ελληνομάθειας. Η σχολή αριθμεί 60 φοιτητές (ανάμεσά τους και λίγες φοιτήτριες), οι οποίοι παρακολουθούν κάθε μέρα μαθήματα στα Ελληνικά.
'Οπως προείπαμε, οι κυριότερες εστίες του ορθοδόξου ελληνισμού στο Λίβανο είναι η πρωτεύουσα Βηρυττός και η Τρίπολη του Β. Λιβάνου. Εκτός από την "Ελληνική Κοινότητα" υπάρχει και η "Ελληνική Λέσχη", με αυτόνομη διοίκηση, η οποία απαρτίζεται από νεαρά μέλη τής ελληνικής κοινότητας και διοργανώνει ξεχωριστές εκδηλώσεις για τη διατήρηση της ελληνικής ταυτότητας στο Λίβανο. Το σημερινό σχολείο της ελληνικής κοινότητας Βηρυττού ενισχύεται από την ελληνική πολιτεία με αποστολή αποσπασμένου δασκάλου, αλλά συντηρείται αποκλειστικά από την ελληνική κοινότητα Βηρυττού.
Στην Τρίπολη του Β. Λιβάνου λειτουργεί εδώ και 40 χρόνια Ελληνική Λέσχη, στην οποία συχνά λειτουργεί και σχολείο Ελληνικών. Είναι αξιοσημείωτο το ενδιαφέρον ατόμων μη-ελληνικής καταγωγής στο Λίβανο για την ελληνική γλώσσα, με την οποία μπορούν να αισθάνονται άνετα τόσο ο ορθόδοξος ντόπιος πληθυσμός (περίπου 15% του συνόλου), λόγω κοινού θρησκεύματος, αλλά και οι υπόλοιπες κοινωνικές ομάδες, που μαθαίνουν από νωρίς να εκτιμούν την ελληνική παράδοση, κυρίως για λόγους παλαιών ιστορικών δεσμών αλλά και γεωγραφικής εγγύτητας. Ταυτόχρονα, όμως, τα περιορισμένα μέσα που διαθέτουν τα ελληνικά κοινοτικά σχολεία (ιδίως η έλλειψη βιβλίων και εκπαιδευμένου διδακτικού προσωπικού) συνεπάγονται και χαμηλό επίπεδο ελληνομάθειας, ενώ έμφαση δίνεται σε επιφανειακά στοιχεία της ελληνικής κουλτούρας, όπως είναι οι χοροί και οι εθνικές γιορτές.
ο Κρητικός Σύνδεσμος ("Φιλανθρωπικός Κοινωνικός Λιβανέζικος Κρητικός Σύλλογος") ιδρύθηκε το 1996 στο επίνειο της Τρίπολης του Β. Λιβάνου, την Ελ Μίνα. Σύμφωνα με το καταστατικό τού συλλόγου, τα μέλη του αυτοπροσδιορίζονται ως πρόσφυγες από την Κρήτη (τέλη του 19ου-αρχές 20ου αι. με έτος ίδρυσης το 1897), οι οποίοι μετοίκησαν στο Λίβανο και ειδικά στις περιοχές τής Τρίπολης και της Ελ Μίνα. Σκοπός τους είναι η βελτίωση του βιοτικού επιπέδου και η επιτέλεση φιλανθρωπικού και κοινωνικού έργου, με τρόπο αφιλοκερδή και χωρίς πολιτικές επιδιώξεις. Αξιοσημείωτο είναι ότι στο καταστατικό του συνδέσμου δεν γίνεται καμμία αναφορά στο θρήσκευμα των μελών. Οι ίδιοι δηλώνουν ότι το γεγονός ότι ζουν σε μία πολυθρησκευτική κοινωνία έχει συντελέσει στη διαμόρφωση μιας ανεκτικής στάσης απέναντι στη θρησκεία. Η ελληνική πρεσβεία τού Λιβάνου τούς αντιμετωπίζει συχνά με δυσπιστία, ενώ οι ίδιο νιώθουν ότι δεν καθιστούν αρκετά αισθητή την παρουσία τους ως ελληνόφωνη εστία της διασποράς παρ' όλο που εξακολουθούν να διατηρούν την κρητική τους συνείδηση και να επιθυμούν σχέσεις με την μητροπολιτική Ελλάδα. Ενδεικτικά, πολλοί δήλωσαν ότι, παρ' όλο που είναι μουσουλμάνοι, είναι μονογαμικοί και θεωρούν το διαζύγιο ντροπή, θέλοντας έτσι να αποδείξουν την προτίμησή τους σε κάποιες χριστιανικές ελληνικές παραδόσεις. Μέχρι να αρχίσει ο εμφύλιος πόλεμος στο Λίβανο (1975), η κοινότητά τους ήταν πολύ δεμένη και απόλυτα ενδογαμική. 'Επειτα όμως, πολλοί αναγκάστηκαν να μεταναστεύσουν και η κοινότητα διασπάστηκε, ενώ όπως τονίζουν οι ίδιοι, οι σχέσεις τους με τους Λιβανέζους συμπολίτες τους υπήρξαν πάντοτε άριστες. Η πλειοψηφία τής κοινότητας διατηρεί τα Ελληνικά σε ικανοποιητικό βαθμό, ενώ ένα μέρος της έχει μόνο παθητική γνώση της γλώσσας.

Orthodox Hellenism in Lebanon dates from the 19th century and was strengthened at the period of the Asia Minor destruction (from the Smyrna and Constantinople) and during the Second World War. It is remarkable that the first Greek community with the name " Greek Benevolent Association of Beirut" was founded much before the independence of Lebanon, with the authorization of the then Lebanese government and French governorship, in 1926.This was immediately followed by the "Urban Greek School" and the foundation of the "Union of Greek Ladies" and the athletic association "Eagle", which developed later in the "Greek Club of Beirut". According to the sources of the Greek embassy, the registered Greek community today amounts 3.000 residents.However, the main source of Greek speakers in Lebanon constitute the Cretan origin residents of country, who live in Northern Lebanon and are, in their majority, Muslim in doctrine. According to the data of our realized research which took place on the spot (Tsokalidou, 2000), the Greek-speaking enclaves of the country are assembled mainly in the capital Beirut and Tripoli in N. Lebanon. Finally, apart from the Greek origin residents of country,there also exists in Lebanon an academic institution of Greek language learning.This is the theological faculty of Balamand in N. Lebanon, which prepares Orthodox priests with a high degree of Greek language proficiency. The faculty numbers 60 student(among them a few female students), who study courses in the Greek daily.As we have mentioned, the main enclaves of Orthodox Hellenism in Lebanon are the capital Beirut and Tripoli in Northern Lebanon. Apart from the "Greek Community" the "Greek Club",also exists with an autonomous administration, which is composed by young members of the Greek community and organizes separate events for the maintenance of Greek identity in Lebanon. The current school of the Greek community in Beirut is strengthened by the Greek state by sending school teachers from Greece, but is maintained exclusively by the Greek community of Beirut. In Tripoli in Northern Lebanon,a Greek Club functions for 40 years, which often also functions as a Greek school. The interest of individuals of non-Greek origin in Lebanon for the Greek language is remarkable.By learning Greek,the Orthodox local population (roughly 15% of total), become to feel more comfortable of their common religion, but also the remainder social groups, learn from an early age to appreciate the Greek culture, mainly for reasons of old historical connections but also geographic proximity. Simultaneously, however, the Greek Community schools have a limited ability (the lack of books and educated instructive personal) to teach the Greek language and this results in low level Greek proficiency,and emphasis is given in superficial elements of the Greek culture, such as dances and the national holidays.The Cretan Association ("Charitable Social Lebanese Cretan Association") was founded in 1996 at the port of Tripoli of N. Lebanon, El Mina. According to constitution of the association, its members are self-proclaimed as refugees from Crete (late 19th-beginning of 20th century, with the year of foundation 1897), who emigrated to Lebanon and specifically in the regions of Tripoli and El Mina. Their aim is the improvement of their standard of living and the realization of charitable and social work, with without economic profit and without political objectives.It is remarkable that in the statute of the association there is no mention about the religion of the members. They themselves declare that the fact that they live in a multi-religion society has contributed in the creation of an accepting attitude in regards of religion. The Greek embassy in Lebanon, faces them often with mistrust,(mainly because they are Muslims) while they themselves feel that they do not render enough , their presence as a Greek-speaking community in the diaspora, even though they all continue maintaining their Cretan conscience and wishing for relations with metropolitan Greece. Indicatively, many declared that, even though they are Muslim, they are monogamous and consider divorce to be a shame, wanting thus to prove their preference in certain christian Greek traditions. Until the beginning of the civilian war in Lebanon (1975), their community was very tied together and completely endogamous. After the war however, many were forced emigrate and the community was split, while they stress , their relations with their Lebanese fellow-citizens have always been excellent. The majority of the community maintains Greek in a satisfactory degree, while part of it has only a passive knowledge of language.

By Roula Tsokalidou