PARADISE FOUND

Armenian Street, MadrasArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm

Armenians merchants had been settling in Southeast India since the 16th century. In the mid-17th century, they were fighting alongside the Indian communities against the Portuguese colonists, and in 1662 Armenian Marcus Erezad became the Governor of Mylapore. The Armenians of Madras (now Chennai) established a printing house in 1772, publishing books and the first Armenian periodical, “Azdarar” in 1794.

An Armenian Church was founded in Madras in 1712, but the British destroyed it after three decades. The present church was established in 1772 on Armenian Street. Masonic symbols are visible on the front of the church, which means that the Madras people were interested in Masonic lodges as early as in the 18th century.. St. George fortress, known as the oldest Armenian building, is the current Admirals’ home. The Marmalong Bridge (Maraimalai Adigal Bridge) was originally constructed by the Armenian merchant Coja Petrus Uscan in 1726-1728 at the cost of 100,000 rupees.

The Armenian community of Madras is famous for its patriotism. Wealthy merchant Shahamir Shahamirian appealed to Catherine the Great, the Queen of Russia, to liberate Armenia from under the Persian yoke, promoting the vision of an Armenian state and publishing the first ever draft of the Constitution of Armenia in Madras.

Armenian Ghat, CalcuttaArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm

The Armenians were established in Bengal in 1646. After the foundation of Calcutta, the Armenians settled here, and in 1707, founded the Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth. Now there are three Armenian churches in the city. In 1821 the Armenian Humanitarian Seminary was founded in Calcutta, which still functions. It played a major role in the education of the Armenians. Among the Armenian communities in India, Calcutta became the largest, and a small Armenian community exists today.

As in many cities where Armenians settled, there is an Armenian Street. The Armenian presence in Calcutta was very obvious in the early twentieth century. Edifices including Galstaun Park (now the Nizam Palace), Galstaun Mansion, Stephens Court, Park Mansions and the Grand Hotel (now the Oberoi Grand) reflected the wealth of individuals from Isfahan such as J.C. Galstaun, Arathoon Stephen and T. M. Thaddeus.

The Armenian Ghat is of special mention, built by Manvel Hazaar Maliyan in 1734. This elegant construction made of cast iron stands on the Hoogley River bank, in vicinity of the flower market. It maintained its significance until the construction of a bridge over the river in 1874. Unfortunately, this magnificent building is now almost forgotten.

 

Armenian Church, DaccaArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm

Armenian merchants from New Julfa settled in (modern) Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka in the 18th century and made their fortunes in the jute and leather trade. The Armenian district of Armanitola lies at the heart of Dhaka and became the city’s center for trade.

Armenians in Dhaka have made a number of contributions to the development of Dhaka’s urban life. G. M. Shircore introduced the Ticca-Garry, or horse carriage, which became a popular mode of transport in the city and Armenian merchants opened western-style shops trading in European and British goods. In 1848, Armenian merchant and zamindar (landowner) Nicholas Pogose opened the Pogose School, the first private school of the city, which operates to this day as one of the most prestigious schools in Dhaka.

The Armenian Apostolic Church of the Holy Resurrection was built in 1781 on the site of a wooden vicarage near the cemetery on Armenian Street, in the district of Armanitola. After the Church's construction, a clock tower was erected. The clock could be heard four miles away, and people synchronised their watches with the sound of its bell. Unfortunately, it does not exist now, but the Church remains one of the most culturally significant sights of Dhaka.

Armenian Church, RangoonArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm

The first Armenians settled in Myanmar in the early 16th century. They were shipbuilders, merchants, traders in precious stones (especially rubies) and exporters of non-ferrous metals. Armenians were a trusted community and were granted permits to build bridges and other major infrastructure. Sarkies Manook, Khodja Grigor Ayvazian, Captain Khodja Simon, Royal Treasurer Nikoghayos Aghazariants, Minister Ishkhan Grigor Manukian, engineer Arakiel Martin, Governor of Pegu State Mkrtich Hovsep Minasian were among the prominent Myanmar Armenians.

One of the world’s first female diplomats, Diana Apcar, who was appointed Honorary Consul of Armenia in Japan in 1920, was born in Myanmar.

Armenian merchants were often employed as officials by the Burmese Kings, who granted the community permission to build churches. In 1862 the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. John the Baptist was built in Merchant Street in the center of Rangoon (Yangon). This replaced an earlier Armenian church. Other churches once existed in Pegu, Moulmein, Mandalay, Maymo and Syriam.

 

Armenian Street, GeorgetownArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 54 cm

The Armenians came to the island of Penang, Malaysia, at the end of the 18th century. Today the city’s Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian), which is located within the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a popular tourist destination.

The small number of Armenians in Penang were mainly merchants and hoteliers. The well-known Sarkies brothers established the Eastern and Oriental Hotel (The E&O) and later they ran the Crag Hotel. Dr Thaddeus Avetoom founded the Georgetown Dispensary, and Anthony A. Anthony established an export firm, whose name still exists, as does the E&O and the Dispensary.

The Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Bishop Street was established through the efforts of philanthropists Carapiet Arackell and Catchatoor Galstaun. The Church was demolished in 1909 and a monument was erected to commemorate it. In the 1930s, it too was demolished and the remains of Armenians buried in the cemetery were re-interred in a special plot in the Western Road cemetery.

Armenian Church, BataviaArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm

The Armenian community in Indonesia has a 300-year history. In 1747 the Armenians were granted equal rights with the Dutch. In 1880 a General Board was established in Batavia (now Jakarta) to look after the religious and cultural assets of the community. Apart from Batavia, Armenians settled at other trading centres such as Bali, Malang, Ceribon Makassar, Semarang and Surabaya.

The Armenians were successful planters, ship-owners and merchants and amassed large fortunes. One merchant, Hovsep Amirkhanian, was so wealthy that in 1830 he made an offer to the Russian emperor to purchase or rent the region of Artsakh (Karabakh) and the city of Baku, Azerbaijan.

Wealthy benefactor Jacob Arathoon paid for a church to be built in Batavia in 1831 and in 1855 this was replaced by the Church of St. John paid for by Gevorg Manook. It was demolished in 1961. In 1927 St. George’s Armenian Church was established in Surabaya.

During the Second World War, the Japanese interned those Armenians who were naturalised Dutch subjects: those with Persian citizenship were exempt. Some died in camp of hunger and disease. After the war, others were killed when Indonesians fought for independence. Most Armenians moved to the Netherlands, USA, and Australia.

 

Armenian Street, SingaporeArarat Sarkissian, 2018, oil on canvas, 65 x 46 cm

In 1819 Singapore was established as a British trading post. Armenian merchants from around the region soon recognised the prospects of this port and established a small community, which has never exceeded 100 residents. Though small, the Armenian community has had a great impact on Singapore. In 1835 the community erected the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator; it is the oldest Christian church in Singapore and was designated as a national monument in 1973.

The world’s first cultivated orchid hybrid was bred by Ashkhen Hovakimian (Agnes Joaquim) in the 1880s and carries her name. In 1981 the VandaMiss Joachim Orchid was proclaimed as Singapore’s national flower.

Today, Singapore’s Raffles Hotel is a part of a large chain of Raffles international hotels. The hotel was opened in 1887 and was managed by Tigran Sarkies. The Sarkies brothers - Martin, Tigran, Aviet, and Arshak, originally from Isfahan in Persia, became the leading hotel owners in the East with properties in Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Straits Timesis currently the most widely-read newspaper in Singapore and one of the oldest English-language newspapers in the region. It was established in 1845 by Catchick Moses (Movsessian).

Armenians were significant landowners in Singapore and constructed many buildings in the city such as Stamford House which still stands. Singapore has an Armenian Street as well as three other streets named after Armenians: Galistan Avenue, Sarkies Road and St Martin’s Drive.