City Monument – The Church of Epiphany, Civil Lines, Gurgaon
A Colonial-era relic.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Certainly not, you can’t miss tomorrow’s service! What would people say? Especially Mrs Bennet and her five daughters, always so eager to gossip.
The Church of Epiphany in Gurgaon is strongly evocative of those local parish churches in rural England that one imagines must be frequented by the kind of people who populate Jane Austen’s drawing room novels.
Tucked in a corner of the quiet Civil Lines, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary in January last year. It was consecrated in 1866 by the Bishop of Calcutta for a handful of British officers serving in the district during that time—reveals a brief history inscribed in the church garden.
A walk around the building gently unfolds the aspects of its Colonial-era aesthetics—the tall thin lancet windows, the tiny bell tower, and the gabled roof that slopes down on both sides as harmoniously as a slow-moving sonata.
The church is tiny and feels as intimate as one’s own home, but it is situated far back in the past. This becomes especially noticeable on gazing upon a second church built some years ago within the same compound. Larger and sleeker, it is like a fashionable cousin visiting from the big city, but the walls and windows of this new church are like any wall or window in Gurgaon.
The original church undoubtedly has more character. Entering it is like escaping from the unrelenting pace and brittleness of daily life.
The ceiling rests on a frame of timber roof truss—its coffee-coloured wooden beams exuding mysteries of a bygone time. A red carpet leads to the altar, a simple metal cross. The stained glass panel behind depicts the crucifixion.
This evening, the church is empty. Hindi-language Bibles with red-coloured edges are stacked on a window ledge.
Switching on one of the low-hanging fans comes as a shock—the initial grating sound rudely violates the church’s restful silence.
Nevertheless, a sense of cozy domesticity soon takes over the senses. The casual visitor may not only feel an inexplicable connection with the current members of the parish, but also with people, long dead, who had regularly prayed here in the distant past. Their presence seems to permeate the very air—around the lamps, about the pulpit, along the pew.
The monsoon is almost here and then it will be very snug to sit in the church and watch the rain falling outside through the beautiful windows. Come with a Jane Austen, of course.
Just like Aunt Jane’s Church