City Monument – St Peter’s Church, Palam Vihar, Gurgaon
New world church.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A slowly moving breeze is stealing through the windows as if it is trying to murmur a secret to the billowing white curtains. Otherwise, the silence is so profound and intense that it seems to be as stone-like as the marble on the floor.
This is one of the lesser-known churches of the Millennium City. Tucked away in suburban New Palam Vihar, the modestly built St Peter’s Church stands amid a dusty expanse dotted with gigantic cranes and still-to-be-finished towers.
From a distance it is impossible to imagine the building as a church—it has no gabled roof like Gurgaon’s more famous church, the colonial-era Church of Epiphany (already featured on these pages). But it does have a simple cross at the top, which conveys a most palpable evidence of the fact that New Palam Vihar is home to many Christian households.
Like most things in this part of the metropolis, the church is new. Consecrated in 2010, it resembles an unwieldy bungalow but that character instantly vanishes on entering the prayer hall. Here, you could be in any next-door Catholic church anywhere in the world.
This cold afternoon the smoggy daylight is assertively streaming in through the thin semi-transparent curtains. The wooden pews, stacked with Hindi Bibles, are shining so brightly that you can see your face on them. The church’s walls are framed with wood-cut images inspired from the final moments of Christ’s life—“Jesus falls the third time,” “Jesus robbed of his garments,” “Jesus nailed to cross”… “Jesus dies on the cross.”
Two sets of winding staircases go above to an additional hall. Crammed with plastic chairs, this part of the church is less atmospheric. Nevertheless the staircases are imposingly grand as if they were uprooted from a nawab’s palace.
The altar shows Christ in white robes, along with two little winged angels in pink dresses standing on either side. A bouquet of fresh flowers is placed on the floor.
The church is empty. It’s a weekday afternoon, after all. Watching the curtains move in time with the rhythm of the soft breeze is cathartic. To spend an hour here, with the mobile phone switched off, is likely to rejuvenate the tired senses.