THE SERVANT OF GOD DEVASAGAYAM PILLAI (Kottar Diocese)
(23 April 1712-14 January 1752)
The Servant of God, Devasagayam Pillai, was born in 1712, of Vasudevan Namboodri and Devakiamma at Nattalam, formerly of South Travancore, now in the civil district of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu .
He was named Neeakanda Pillai, and “Pillai” denotes his caste affiliation, Nair, and it is among the high castes in the Hindu social order. A man of character and well educated, Nilakanda Pillai started his career as a soldier and then became a Palace official in charge of Kingdom’s treasury.
During his tenure as Treasury official, the Kingdom suffered due to lack of revenues and loss of property. Neelakanda Pillai shared his sufferings and the difficulties with Eustachius Benedictus De Lannoy, the captured Dutch Captain, who was then serving as an army advisor to King Marthandavarma. A fervent catholic that he was, De Lannoy, quoting the Book of Job, counseled him. Taken up by his explanation, Neelakanada Pillai wanted to become a Christian. Fr. Giovanni Battista Buttari, a Jesuit Missionary based in Vadakkankulam, baptized him as Devasagayam, Lazarus, on May 14, 1745.
After his conversion, Devasagayam Pillai converted many people including his wife, Bhargaviamma. Convinced of the equality of all as Children of God (Gal.3:28) he decried caste distinction and superstitions. At the insistence of the infuriated Hindu Priests, the King wanted him to reconvert to Hinduism. But Devasagayam Pillai was firm in his faith and so the King ordered him to be arrested. He was arrested on Feb.23, 1749, and for three years he was tortured and paraded in chains to various places including Pukliyurkuruichi, now a parish in Kottar Diocese. A defiant Devasagayam refused to give up Christ and so he was shot to death on January 1752 at Kattadimalai forest, Aralvaimozhy. His mortal remains were discovered by the Christians who brought them to Kottar and buried in front of the main altar of the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Kottar, which in turn became the Cathedral of the Diocese of Kottar.
Attempts were made to present his cause to the Holy See, starting with the Ad Limina visit Report-1756. Recently in 1993 the Cause was canonically instituted in the diocese of Kottar. The Diocesan Enquiry was duly sent to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints and the validity of the Diocesan process was confirmed on 18th March 2010. The Historical commission (2011) and the Theological commission (2012) in Rome have unanimously approved the POSITIO and the fact that the Servant of God suffered death for his faith. On June 28, Pope Benedict XVI has authorized the Pontifical Commission for the Cause of Saints to promulgate the decree declaring the Servant of God Devasagayam Pillai( Lazarus) from the Diocese of Kottar beatified.
Address: Vice Postulator, Bishop’s House, P. Box 17, Asaripallam Road, Kanyakumari District, 629 001, Tamil Nadu.