Christian Sadhus and Sastris: Shameless Conversion Games

by B R Haran

Source: Conversion as motive, 28 Aug 2009, VijayVaani Publishers.

It is an open secret that the foremost aim of the Church is to spread Christianity throughout the world and establish its rule. Yet an Indian government led by a ‘Hindu’ party welcomed Pope John Paul II as a State Guest and allowed him to give a clarion call for evangelization of India on this sacred Hindu Bhumi.

With the advent of Republican Party rule, the US government under George Bush allotted millions of dollars for this purpose through the Joshua Projects. Simultaneously, with the advent of the Congress-led UPA government with Sonia Gandhi as Chairperson, conversions have become rampant, as evidenced by an alarming increase in the planting of churches across the country totally disproportionate to the population of Christians, and the brazen implementation of ‘inculturation’ techniques.

Conversion activities have increased manifold in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the former ruled by the Congress and led by a Christian Chief Minister, and the later ruled by an atheist (read anti-Hindu) Dravidian-racist party. The deficient growth of Hindu organizations and lack of public awareness of the danger of conversions has helped the growth of churches in these states.

Christian missionaries, who were concentrating on the poor and downtrodden sections, have now started focusing on the upper echelons of society. The employees in media houses, workers in cinema and small-screen industries, and Hindus working in Christian institutions have become vulnerable to conversion attempts. Of late, special attention is being shown to the Brahmin community.

Planting a Church near an ancient Temple and focus on Brahmins

Thiruvanmiyur is a beautiful place in Chennai, on the East Coast Road leading up to the southern tip of Tamil Nadu. Thiruvanmiyur is historically significant as the place where Vanmiki Maharishi (the Valmiki of Ramayana fame) did penance and worshipped Bhagwan Shiva; hence the name Thiruvanmikiyur (Thiru-Sri; Vanmiki, Oor-place), which later became Thiruvanmiyur. Shiva, worshipped by Valmiki, blesses the people from his magnificent and ancient Sri Marundeeswarar Temple. There is also a small temple for Maharishi Vanmiki opposite (slightly diagonal) to the Shiva Temple; both stand as testimonies to the ancient history of this sacred place.

Now, within hundred yards of the Shiva Temple, stands a huge ‘Advent Church’ which was started as a small prayer house just three years ago. On 5 August 2009, two digital banners, placed just above the compound wall of the Church, attracted the attention of passers by. They read, “Christian Brahmin Seva Samiti - First Year Anniversary” and announced, “Kathaakaalakshebam (Religious discourse) by Pujya Sri Bhagavathar Vedanayaga Saastrigal on Saturday 8 August evening by 5 pm – Entry free.”

Though churches claim they don’t practice casteism, the reality is exactly the opposite, as evidenced by conflicts between various castes within Christianity in various places. In fact, when evangelists convert gullible Hindus, especially Scheduled Castes, they always deceive them saying, “All are equal in the eyes of Jesus.” But once the conversion is over, the evangelists close their eyes and the converted group finds no change except in the god and the pattern of worship. Still, the “Christian-Brahmin” Samiti was a real shocker as Brahmins converting is a rare phenomenon.

Brahmins were, are and will always be a “Prize Catch” for Christian evangelists. For them, converting even a single Brahmin is a great achievement. A converted Brahmin becomes a great asset, for with one Brahmin convert they would be able to easily convert a hundred non-Brahmins. Of late, Christian missionaries have started targeting the Brahmin community, and in the last four or five years, they have been able to achieve some gains.

Although the ‘Christian Brahmin Seva Samiti’ seems to be new, the man behind this dubious organization, ‘Sadhu Chellappaa’ is a notorious figure, whose modus operandi is distortion of Hindu scriptures to advance Christianity. Before going into the happenings in Thiruvanmiyur, it would be better to have a complete picture about this imposter who masquerades as a sadhu, wearing saffron robes.

Saffron attired evangelist masquerading as Sadhu

Born in a Hindu family and raised in and around a temple, Chellappaa claims to have complete knowledge of the Vedas, Upanishads, Ithihasas and Puranas. As the temple priests and other scholars could not clarify his doubts on some questions, one day (15 May 1967) he decided to commit suicide by jumping from a running train. As he was about to do so, he claims to have heard holy verses of the Bible; he got down at the next station and went straight to the Church, where he claims to have seen Jesus and received answers for all his doubts through divine blessing.

As per orders of Jesus, he became a Christian and travelled throughout the state converting thousands of Hindus to Christianity. He became a full time evangelist in 1974 and founded the Agni Ministries. Since 1982, he has been running a Tamil monthly magazine, “Agni,” for Tamil people worldwide. As per orders of Jesus, he has been planting new churches since 1995, and has so far planted 27 churches and appointed 27 pastors for effective harvests. He has appointed four full-time evangelists and established a full fledged office with four faculty and other staff.

Sadhu Chellappaa has written over 28 books in Tamil and two in English. He claims his book "IS CHRISTIANITY A NECESSITY?" is always in demand and is likely to go into reprint for the fifth time. Another book, BIBLE AND BAGAVAT GITA, VARANASHRA DHARMA sells like hot cakes! He has travelled widely abroad, meeting evangelists and church leaders in pursuit of name and fame.

Chellappaa is believed to have met Dr. Billy Graham at the itinerant Evangelists Conference at Amsterdam in 1983; his life story appeared in "Challenge" magazine published by Campus Crusade, USA. But his ‘Sri Lankan connection’ is telling! A regular speaker at the Impetus Conference in Colombo for Third World Pastors and Evangelists, Sadhu is a close friend of Dr. Colton Wickramaratne, Senior Pastor of People’s Church, Colombo and his ministry has ‘saved’ numerous Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka.

Most Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus who are scattered as refugees through out the world have been converted to Christianity through his ministries. Rev. Colin Dye, Senior Pastor of Kensington Temple, London, the largest church in England, interviewed Chellappaa and his story appeared in "The Edge," a leading British Christian magazine, in its May 1996 issue.

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Sadhu Chellappa’s ‘Agni Ministries’ (AM) are governed by “Evangelical Action Team of India” (EATI), founded by him in 1980 in Coimbatore, with 20 persons in the Board of Directors; he is the ‘Managing Director’. EATI concentrates on conversion activities in the guise of services in Education and Health. The main objective of EATI and AM is to Plant Churches and Harvest Souls, for which purpose they recruit Pastors and Evangelists and conduct training courses for them. They teach distorted versions of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh scriptures and other books relevant to those Indigenous religions and train recruits how to use those scriptures (by comparing with Christian concepts and Bible stories) for converting the gullible sections from those faiths. They send trained recruits to set up ‘Prayer Cells’ to facilitate planting of new Churches in predominantly Hindu areas. The recruits also teach at Bible schools and colleges. EATI and AM have tie-ups with international missionaries, mainly for fund raising, which makes harvesting easier.

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Sadhu Chellappaa audaciously claims, “Diwali, the festival of lights, is a Christian Festival; Animal Sacrifice is a Christian culture adopted by Hindus and Gayatri Mantra actually glorifies Jesus. The Vedas, the ancient Indian sacred writings had anticipated the coming of Christ to take away the sins of man. They call Him Purusha Prajapati the creator God who would come as a man to offer himself as a sacrifice. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Vedic quest of the Indian people, because the Vedhas are incomplete without Him, just as the Old Testament was fulfilled at the coming of the Messiah”. He waxes eloquent on ‘You Tube’ on “Hinduism came from Bible” (

Thiruvanmiyur episode

It is said Sadhu Chellappaa has a few Brahmin families in his kitty since the launching of this Christian Brahmin Seva Samiti. He uses the services of another convert Vedanayagam, who brazenly calls himself ‘Bhagavathar’ and ‘Sastrigal’ with a title of ‘Pujya Sri’. Both of them organize evangelical sessions in the guise of “Kathaakaalakshebam” and hoodwink gullible Hindus. They focus on poor and lower middle class Brahmins, who are ignorant and have poor knowledge of their religious scriptures. Most have personal and financial problems, which make them vulnerable to the Chellappaas and Vedanayagams.

As the two were making preparations for a huge show on 8 August, the news spread and some concerned citizens called up senior police officials to ban the proposed event; there was absolutely no response. Details about the proposed event were sent to the only Brahmin MLA of the Dravidian Assembly, who took up the issue with higher authorities, but didn’t get the desired results, possibly because he neither belonged to the ruling coalition nor to the opposition ranks, having been recently dismissed by AIADMK. Other leaders of Hindu organizations were busy with bi-elections and Ganesh Chaturthi arrangements. The so-called Brahmin Association (TAMBRAS) was nowhere to be seen!

It was left to a few individuals (some cadres of Hindu organizations and freelance writers, editors and journalists numbering around ten) who went to Thiruvanmiyur Police Station on 6 August and complained to the Inspector, who immediately got the banners removed and warned the Church not to host the event. The banners sprang up again on 8 August morning, without the title ‘Christian Brahmin Seva Samiti’, which portion was covered with a cloth. A ‘panthal’ (shamiana) was set up at the entrance to the Church and two plantain trees and a bunch of fresh tender coconuts tied on both sides of the entrance to give the Church a typical Hindu look!

Though the title was covered by a cloth, other terms such as ‘Pujya Sri’, ‘Bhagavathar’ and ‘Sastrigal’ were not removed from the banner; despite repeated phone calls and personal calls the local police didn’t take further actions and the “Kathaakaalakshebam” of “Vedanayagam Sastrigal” went as planned, with police protection! If the police thought they acted neutrally they were wrong; what happened in the church was a blatant violation of law.

The organizers deserve stringent punishment

How can a Christian evangelical session be named Kathaakaalakshebam (religious discourse)? How can evangelists call themselves Sadhus, Bhagavatars, Sastrigals and keep the title ‘Pujya Sri’? Claiming to be a casteless religion and a society sans caste discrimination, how could they start an organization exclusively for Brahmins? What have Brahmins to do with Christianity? From when is Christianity having a separate Brahmin sect?

The Vedas, Upanishads, Ithihasas and Puranas are religious treasures of the Hindus. No other religionists have the right to touch them. Distorting and using them to market Jesus and Christianity is shameless and clearly establishes that there is nothing of value in Christianity since its god and bible need Hindu scriptures to succeed. By thus misusing the Hindu scriptures, the Chellappaas, Vedanayagams and other imposters should be booked under Sections 153A, 295A, 298 and other sections of the IPC and punished.

In Thiruvanmiyur Church, the so-called Sastrigal marketed the Christian god as “Purusha Prajapati” of the Rig Veda! Evangelists are like sales representatives and they cannot be allowed to use Hindu scriptures to sell their religion and god; one company’s sales rep cannot use other company’s merchandise to sell his product. This can only create conflict in society and law and order problems, with disastrous consequences.

The subterfuge, also called inculturation, has grown to dangerous proportions. The deep slumber of Hindu organizations (social, cultural, religious, spiritual, et al) is disturbing and it is high time they woke up and put an end to this ugly business by the church and the missionaries.

The author is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai

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