Devsahayam Pillai – UPSC Prelims

Why in News?
  • 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.