Eparchy of Ujjain
1. The Erection of the Exarchate
Ujjain as an ecclesiastical unit in India came into existence when the 'Apostolic Exarchate of Ujjain' was erected by Pope Paul VI on 29th July 1968 with the papal bull "Apostolicum Munus" and entrusted it to the newly formed Missionary Society of St. Thomas the Apostle. Father John Perumattam, the first Director General of the Society was appointed the Apostolic Exarch of Ujjain and he was installed as the Exarch at Ujjain on 14th January 1969. The Exarchate of Ujjain was created by bifurcating the diocese of Indore. The three civil districts of Ujjain, Shajapur and Rajgarh formed the new ecclesiastical unit.
When the Exarchate was formed, there were just two Mass Centres where Sunday Mass was regularly celebrated; Ujjain and Nagda. At Ujjain there was a small church and a resident priest who cared for the pastoral needs of a handful of Christian families in Ujjain and Nagda. Three priest members of the Missionary Society of St. Thomas the Apostle under the leadership of Msgr. John Perumattam, formed the pioneer missionary team. Slowly several women religious congregations joined the Exarchate as collaborators. By the zealous missionary work of the priests and religious sisters, there came up many mission centers with real mission work through apostolic activities and direct preaching.
2. The Eparchy of Ujjain
The Apostolic Exarchate of Ujjain was erected as the Eparchy of Ujjain on February 26, 1977, by Pope Paul VI of happy memory with the Apostolic Letter "Qui Divino Consilio" and appointed Msgr. John Perumattam as its first Bishop. The Bishop elect was consecrated by His Excellency late Mar Sebastian Vayalil on May 15, 1977. The inauguration of the Eparchy of Ujjain and the installation of its new Bishop was performed by His Grace Archbishop Eugene DSouza of Bhopal Archdiocese on July 3, 1977. The Eparchy of Ujjain is ad instar under the Latin ecclesiastical province of Bhopal. Under the leadership and guidance of Bishop Mar John Perumattam, the Eparchy of Ujjain made great progress in the field of evangelization in its totality. On 5th June 1998, Holy Father accepted his resignation and Father Sebastian Vadakel was nominated the second bishop of Ujjain. He was consecrated bishop on 8th September 1998 and he took canonical possession of the See on the same day.
The Eparchy of Ujjain has, in the past 42 years of its existence as a separate ecclesiastical unit, succeeded, to a great extend, to reach the Gospel to almost all the corners of the eparchy. This has been achieved mainly by establishing mission stations in different parts of the eparchy and carrying out various apostolic activities from these centers to the neighbouring towns and villages. There are 40 such mission stations and many other institutions, where, with the help of resident priests and religious, the apostolates are carried out.
3. Land, People, Religion and Culture
Geographically the mission Eparchy of Ujjain is situated in the State of Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) in the central part of India. It is constituted of the three civil districts of Ujjain, Shajapur and Rajgarh. The city of Ujjain has a place of pride among the sacred and ancient places of India. It has a very ancient origin and it is not exactly known who set up this city first and when. Though the prosperity of this city is now a tale of the past, it reminds one of the great Indian heritage. It is a religious, holy and peaceful city, situated on the banks of holy river 'Kshipra'. It is considered the place of origin of Planet Pluto and the city of Lord 'Mahakaleshwar' - one of the famous "Jyotirlingam". It is the city of King 'Vikramaditya' who is well known for his wisdom, justice and power. Ujjain has proved its position in the field of culture and literature. The great poet and dramatist 'Kalidasa' hails from this city.
The total population in the Eparchy of Ujjain is 4,421,593. Over 85% of the population is Hindus. The rest are Muslims, Sikhs, Parsees and Jains. This is virtually a non-Christian area. The Christian population is roughly 0.2% of the total population. In the whole of the eparchy the Catholics number just around 4500 The Catholic families are 450. Most of the Catholics have migrated from other pats of India in search of job. There are a few new Christian families who have received baptism in the recent years. At present we have a few Christian families each, in almost all our mission centers and this nucleus of Christian communities serve as evangelizers.
The other Christians mainly belong to the Church of North India, a united protestant group who started the evangelization activity before Catholics. They have their churches and pastoral ministry in the cities of Ujjain, Nagda, Tarana, Agar and Mehidpur. Besides, there are also some families who belong to Orthodox Syrian Church, Syrian Orthodox Chruch and Marthomite Church. As these churches belong to the non-Catholic St. Thomas Christians our relationship with them is more cordial and these Churches are permitted to conduct their liturgical celebrations in our churches.
b. Culture and Language
The Eparchy of Ujjain comes under the ancient Malwa Kingdom in central India. This is an abode of ancient culture dating back at least to 2nd century B.C. The antiquity of Malwa and especillay of Ujjain is proved by many references to this region in the holy books of Hindus like Vedas, Puranas and Epics. This ancient culture has its influence on the mode of dressing, food habits and architecture. The martial art form Akhada and Hingot are Malwa specialties. Kalidasa, the writer of the great epic 'Meghadoot' is associated with Ujjain, the capital of Malwa. Ujjain was also the Capital of Emperor Vikramaditya. Besides Malwa is believed to be one of the first republics in the world and had given birth to great people like Dhanvantari, Ksheknak, Amarsigh, Shanku, Vetal, Ghatkrpar, Varahmikir, Varunchi, Patanjali, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta and Bhoj.
Ujjain is a 'holy city' for the Hindus. In the Hindu Scriptures this city was known as 'Avantika' and it is counted one among the seven holy cities in India. The Hindu temple of 'Mahakal' is the centre of religiosity in Malwa and the great fest of 'Sinhast' or 'Kumbha mela' takes place once in Twelve years near Mahakal on the bed of the holy river Kshipra. The next 'Sinhast' is to take place in the city in April 2016. It is expected that at least 3 million devotees will visit and take a dip in the holy river Kshipra during the one month 'Sinhast'. During this period all the holymen of Hinduism belonging to all the sects will stay in Ujjain and give talks and instruct the millions who come for the feast. This is one way of keeping the Hindu religiosity alive in the country and we have the challenge to preach the gospel to these people.
The language spoken in this area is mainly Hindi. But the village flock speaks Malwi, which is a local dialect of Hindi. Besides Hindi and Malwi, Urdu also is prevalent especially among the Muslims. Gradually the people have started studying pure Hindi and the students are also picking up English, at least in the big cities.
d. Economic Condition of the People
The main occupation of the people is agriculture. The land in Malwa region is mostly fertile, black cotton soil. However, since few years there is a serious shortage of rainfall in the whole of Malwa and people are unable to cultivate their land. The rivers and even the deep wells have dried up and the economic situation of the people is miserable.
There are a few rich people in the area and they thrive exploiting the poor. Business is mostly in the hands of these big money lenders and businessmen. The effort of the missionaries is to free the poor from these moneylenders and make them self-dependent as best as possible. But this is a big task, which often meets with stiff opposition from such powerful persons.
e. Caste Equation
The population in the eparchy mainly consists of caste Hindus, although there is a sizable number of scheduled caste people who are considered 'low caste' people and are discriminated against. As there are no tribal groups within the eparchy evangelization work does not meet with much external success as far as numbers are concerned. Still the missionary does not lose any opportunity to share the Good News with people in the area.
f. District vice Description
i. UJJAIN: Ujjain has a population of about 1,708,526 lakhs. Majority of the population live in villages, engaged in the traditional farming and animal husbandry. However, due to the shortage of rainfall agriculture, drinking water, animal rearing etc. have become very difficult for the people. So many people are migrating in search of work. Previously it was a good industrial centre with lots of cotton mills. But today they have been closed down and people have become unemployed. Because of this situation, life has become very difficult for the people. Politically the district forms a parliament seat, with seven state legislative seats.
ii. RAJGARH: Rajgarh is one of the most underdeveloped districts of M P. The district has a total population of about 1,345,085. According to the previous census, the literacy in the district was 37.76%. Hinduism and Islam are the main two religions in this area. The main occupations of the people are agriculture and animal husbandry. Since a considerable number of people are deprived of land, they have to work for the daily wages. The water resources in the area also are limited. As a result the crops do not yield much. So a good portion of the people finds it difficult to earn their daily bread. More than 60% of the people in the district live under the poverty line.
iii. SHAJAPUR: Shajapur is a rather backward district with a population of about 1,367,982 people in 6154 Sq. kilometers. As in the whole state, the people are mainly farmers and depend on agricultural products for their sustenance. The vast majority of the people is illiterate and still cling on to traditional customs and practices. Since illiterate, the people do not understand the need and value of education. As a result the children are not sent to the school either. Many of the social customs and practices like caste system, untouchability and child marriage are also hindrance to the development of the people.
Patron of the Diocese : St. Paul
Area : 18,255 sq. kms
Total Population : 4,729,571
Catholics : 3,648
Languages : Hindi, Malwi, Urdu