Bishop Kulendran

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The Right Reverend Sabapathy Kulendran (23 September 1900 – 14 February 1992) was the Church of South India’s first Bishop of Jaffna.

Kulandran, Sabapathy (b. Sri Lanka, 23 September 1900; d. Sri Lanka, 1992) 

Born in a Congregationist Christian family of Sabapathy, a public notary at Varany, and Annamma of Manipay, Sri Lanka, Kulandran was educated at the Mission School, St John’s College in Jaffna, and in Jaffna College. He graduated from the University of Ceylon and, in 1928, joined Serampore College for theological studies.

On completion of his theological studies at Serampore, he joined the ministry of South India United Church (SIUC) in 1931, and was posted to the church in Atchuvely, to that in Allaveddy in 1934, to Chavakachcheri in 1935, and to Araly in 1943. The Jaffna Council of the SIUC appointed Kulandran as its President in 1940. He was consecrated as the first bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India (CSI) on 27 September 1947. He had the task of converting the Protestant churches (Presbyterian and Congregational) into the new episcopal set-up. He was instrumental in sending the priests of these churches in India and the US for further studies and expansion of their knowledge. He also promoted Tamil and Tamil music. He made concerted efforts to introduce Carnatic music and liturgy in the churches, and initiated a revision of the hymn book three times. He insisted that the congregations should be well-versed in both English and Tamil. He affirmed the importance of Tamil in helping the church maintain its identity as a Tamil church.

In the political arena also, many changes took place during this period. The ‘Sinhala Only’ Act was passed in 1956. Mission schools were nationalized in 1960, which grieved Kulandran a lot since the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India depended heavily on its schools. Another blow to him as well as to the entire Christian community came in 1966 when the Government of Ceylon made Sunday a working day. However, Bishop Kulandran continued to provide leadership to his flock with his prophetic messages. His visits abroad, especially to Malaya, provided great encouragement to the churches.

Bishop Kulandran was of the strong opinion that the diocesan connection with India should not be severed. He insisted that the Church should continue to operate Jaffna College and Uduvil Girls’ College, and he supported the uninterrupted publication of Morning Star, which had been established in 1941.

Bishop Kulandran was both a prolific writer and a great thinker. He wrote twenty books in the fields of religion, church history, biography, and sermons. The Message and the Silence of the American Pulpit (1945), The Great Errand (Tamil, 1949), Life of R.C.P. Welch (1954), Christian Beliefs: A Research (Tamil, 1956), Facing a Renaissance (1957), ‘Christava Nambikaigal—Oru Aaraachchi’, (1958), Grace in Christianity and Hinduism (1964), History of Christian Tamil Bible (1967), Life of Canon SomasunderamLife of Sevak Selvaratnam (1979), History of Jaffna College (1981), Concept of Transcendence (1981), and Navajeevanam (1984) are some of his publications. He also contributed a large number of articles to several journals such as Morning StarJaffna College Miscellany, and Religion and Society.

Sabapathy Kulandran is honoured as a national leader in Sri Lanka, and is especially respected by the Christians in Jaffna as a pioneer leader of the CSI.

Church of South India (CSI) Bishop Sabapathy Kulendran, first bishop of the CSI Diocese of Jaffna, died Feb. 14. He was 91.

Bishop D.J. Ambalavanar, who succeeded Bishop Kulendran after his retirement in 1971, conducted the funeral service Feb. 17 at CSI Cathedral in Vadukkodai near Jaffna, about 450 kilometers north of Colombo.

Bishop Ambalavanar told UCA News that Bishop Sabapathy “was a man of faith and fought till the last for the downtrodden and for human rights, not caring for the reactions of the government or other powers.”

Bishop Kulendran was born Sept. 23, 1900. He became the first bishop of the CSI in Sri Lanka after the American Congregational Church in Ceylon, an American mission movement, joined CSI in 1947.

The CSI has 21 dioceses in South India and one in Sri Lanka covering 42 parishes in Colombo, Batticaloa and Jaffna.

Bishop Kulendran wrote seven theological treatises including “Grace in Hinduism and Christianity,” “History of the Tamil Translations of the Bible” and “Renaissance in Hinduism.”


  1. Kulandran, Sabapathy – Oxford Reference
  2. first church of south india bishop in sri lanka dies –

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