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Cuttack Diocese Partnership

Cuttack Partnership

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 Rt Rev S K Nanda, Bishop of Cuttack, CNI
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The Church of North India (CNI), the dominant Protestant denomination in northern India, is a united church established on 29 November 1970 by bringing together the main Protestant churches: Anglican, Congregationalist and Presbyterian, Baptists, Methodists, Brethren, and Disciples of Christ.

India’s population – 1.3billion. Over 26% are Dalit or Tribal

Orissa is one of India’s 7 seven poorest states - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh – which together are home to more than half of India’s poor.



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Places we visited that I could identify with their general location.

About 2% of the population of Orissa (estimated at 45m) are Christian – so approx 900,000 Of that number, between 95 and 98% are Dalit and Tribal people.

The Diocese of Cuttack, Church of North India, is the oldest of the three Dioceses in Orissa.

This is an area which retains a heavy Baptist influence from the work of the Baptist Missionary Society.

Bhubaneswar has now replaced Cuttack as the political capital of Orissa, whilst Cuttack, a city over 1000 years old, remains the cultural capital.


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The Diocese includes the large urban populations of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, as well as the tourist resort of Puri – seen here with its historic Hindu temple, 100s of visiting pilgrims, and markets. Further along the coast from Puri are numerous coastal villages and fishing communities.

Away from the coast, the area is predominantly rural, mountainous, forested and remote.


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 This is Pentakota, fishing village – the population of roughly 15000 Telegu speaking people (of whom 80% or so are fishermen) is inflated between November and January by fishermen from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Many of them live in thatched huts on the sand as you see here, very vulnerable to the cyclones which are regular on this part of the coast. CNI supports a Telegu-speaking church here witha school for primary age children.


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Inland are remote forested areas – these are people from Dengaambo in the Gadjapati District. The challenges here are the scarcity of water, poor soil and erosion, lack of opportunity for education and work.   Poverty leads to numerous socio-economic and socio-cultural problems, including alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

The families derive most of their income from daily agricultural labour, but only 5% of the population possesses their own land. The remainder rely on share cultivation and usually find only 60 days a year manual labour on farms. People are also involved in collecting firewood. Some people migrate to cities in search of work; however, without relevant skills, work is difficult to find. Women also work as agricultural and daily labourers to augment their family income.

Tribal people, Schedule Castes and Tribes and Other Backward Classes and General Castes are also found in these areas. Social differences among the people of the area are evident in that the villagers have been segregated according to their caste and live separately. It is also observed that the higher caste people hold a majority of agricultural lands and thus control the total economy and social life of the villages.


The Diocese is divided into groups of pastorates, or a pastorate union under the care of a superintendent, within which are a varying number of pastorates under the care of pastors.

Gajapati Pastorate Union

Ganjam Pastorate Union

Puri Pastorate Union

Cuttack Pastorate Union

About 80% of the population of the Diocese is made up of scheduled caste people (Dalits) and scheduled tribes (Adivasis).

The preparation period for Baptism is lengthy, so the number of worshippers (as opposed to communicant members) is a far greater number. Women’s fellowship groups have an important role.


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Women’s groups are involved with the same issues as our own UK groups – they visit the sick; meet for Bible studies; serve their communities as permitted – e.g. They hand out glasses of water to pilgrims to the Car Festival centred around the Jagannarth Temple in Puri. (They used to hand out Christian tracts, but this is no longer permitted).


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The youth officers and some of the congregation at Puri


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This very old Christian village in Padripalli which the District Team visited in January 2018, is extremely remote.

The pastor was proud to tell us that a Roman Catholic missionary converted the village from cannibalism in 1849. We had an amazing welcome with dancing, flower petals, foot washing and singing, and tea afterwards with many young people.

The original Stewart School in Cuttack was founded in 1882 by Dr William Day Stewart whose aim was to establish education in English.  They are fee paying schools, with a Christian ethos, for any child irrespective of caste or religion.  The Diocese helps to fund places for the poorest children.


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Stewart School Cuttack -



Being able to speak good English is prized.



Stewart school children, Bhubaneswar



Science College



Statistics state that 94% of children have access to elementary education. However, the dropout rate remains high - at the national level, it is at 51%; and only 40% of Indian adolescents attend secondary school (Grades 9-12). If you look at further education, this figure drops to 10% of the total population. (21% China / 54% average for developed countries)

Whether education is taken up or not will depend on various factors: accessibility, social status, economic needs of the family, recognition of the value of education.

Walking long distances to access education puts girls at risk of attack and trafficking.

Hospital one of oldest hospitals in the state, originally for treatment of women and children, now open to all.  150 beds – offering free or concessional treatment for poor socioeconomic group

The Health Clinic was opened in 2012 to serve the tribal people of the rural villages in Gadjapati district.



Dr Nanda, Director, Christian Hospital Berhampur. As well as Director, Dr Nanda is one of the hospital’s surgeons who specialise in child/maternal/ gynacological health. There are 120 beds, and doctors see between 150 and 300 patients in a day. There is encouragement for more mothers – particularly from the rural villages - to deliver in hospital to try to reduce mother and infant deaths.

Parts of the hospital had to be rebuilt after Hurricane Phailin in October 2013.



Across India many states record an imbalance regarding the female/male ratio.

The Population Census of 2011 revealed that the population ratio in India is 940 females per 1000 of males. In some of India's states, the number of girls is decreasing, and causing serious concern. The major cause of the gender disparity in India is considered to be female foeticide and infanticide, neglect or violent treatment of girls, and the downtrodden status of women, exacerbated by poverty, lack of education, healthcare and basic amenities.

The problem is so serious across India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn foetus in order to prevent gender-selective abortions.

Part of the reason Indians favour sons is the expense involved in marrying daughters. The practice of giving dowries still continues, particularly among rural communities and among Hindu people, which puts considerable pressure on poor families. On marriage, a girl will leave her own home and often live with her in-laws. (It is significant that there are Cruelty by In-laws and the Dowry Act intended to protect a married woman from a life of cruelty and virtual slavery. Many women become so desperate that they attempt or commit suicide to escape from their suffering.)

A boy, on the other hand, will one day bring home a bride and dowry. Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light their parents' funeral pyres.



A few of the children from the Asha Jhoti project – school and feeding programme. The children come from Pentakota, and are mainly fishing families.



This is the CDC at Khanditar, one of the oldest Christian villages. The pupils come from surrounding areas for daily education.

Khanditar Child Development Centre (KCDC), one of two CDCs in Orissa, run as a partnership between CNI and ‘Compassion East India’. The Khanditar CDC provides children from the surrounding tribal communities with quality childcare and education, focussing on the holistic development of both the children and their communities, irrespective of caste, creed, gender and religion.

Endeavour to provide a normal life for the children. Primary purpose of centre is that the children become good citizens.

248 children, only 23 are Christian.

Apart from local schools, hostels are an important way to educate – in remote areas where schools are either non existent or poorly managed.

The benefits of hostels are that children reside outside their local community, receiving opportunities and a broader view of what their future could look like.

Up until 3 years ago, many of the Christian organisations throughout Orissa were able to run ‘homes’ which looked after children from the poorest communities, providing them with accommodation, education, healthcare, clothing, food, and effectively, a future which might look different from the future they would have had without this opportunity. However, in Orissa, the state government ruled that ‘homes’ could no longer operate in this way – drawing on a specific interpretation of a UN ruling intended to protect children. This has led to the closure of many RC and AOG Christian run children’s homes.



One such ‘Home’ was this one:

Rev Mohanti and his wife, who founded the organisation CODE (Christian Organisation for Development and Education) directed the children’s home at Puri supporting 40 boys/20 girls. Orphans, semi-orphans from tribal villages, children were sponsored through individuals. Born into a poor family himself, Rev Mohanty and his wife, have dedicated their lives for the economically deprived children of his area, to give them skills and prospects of a future.

The communities themselves ultimately benefitted to a great extent: when the children went on vacation to their respective villages they influenced the other children about personal hygiene, cleanliness of their house and village at large. They also influenced them regarding the benefit of education. The villagers could see the change in the children of their village and that itself was an encouragement. Education is recognised as the basis of any improvement in the lives of the Dalit and Tribal people.

Puri Children’s Home was forced to close two years ago, and return all the children to their villages. Mohanty and his wife – although devastated by this – have reopened as a Nursery School for the Slum Children of Puri... (photo following)


Rev Mohanty’s English speaking nursery school for slum children in Puri.



Traveller people from Andre Pradesh photographed in Puri with Rev Mohanty – they were living on the pavement - travellers from other states have no rights to any kind of aid or assistance.



Bishop Surendra Nanda, his wife Jyotrimayee, Sasulati, Amkita

The District Synod of May 2017 agreed that our renewed partnership would be based on Prayer, Learning and Friendship, and identified some ways we might take this forward:

  • to set aside one day each year in the District for each church to acknowledge and celebrate the partnership, possibly using worship resources and information produced to assist the leaders of worship
  • to nurture pastor-pastor prayer links, initially perhaps for one year, so that we have the opportunity to learn about each other's local situation, and to support one another through informed prayer
  • to develop links between the English-medium schools in the Diocese and our Methodist Schools in this District
  • to begin to explore the possibility of exchange visits

There is much more that could be said about the challenges for the Dalit and Tribal people, particularly women, and the challenge for Christians in an increasingly intolerant Hindu country. Please contact a member of the District World Church committee for more information, or to arrange a speaker.

The following resources were produced for Cuttack Sunday.   Click on the following links to access the resouces. 

Links with Cuttack Resources background information




One of the most well-known statements from the Edinburgh Conference of 1910 came from Bishop Azariah of India, one of the 30 or so delegates from the then developing world, who said to the 1100-strong audience of missionaries and church leaders: 'You have given your goods to feed the poor. You have given your bodies to be burned. Now we ask you for love. Give us friends'.

You will know that this District has been involved for some time in developing the fledgling partnership between the Plymouth and Exeter District and the Diocese of Cuttack, Church of North India. Cuttack is located in the state of Orissa.

The Synod of May 2017 agreed four proposals on which this partnership would be based, and the foundations of learning, mutual support and prayer which would be our shared commitment. In practical terms this could mean pastor-to-pastor or church-to-church prayer partnerships, the linking of our 5 Methodist Schools to the 5 English-medium 'Stewart Schools' in the Diocese, and visits to and from the Diocese by groups who want to learn about and work with one another.

In other words, we are committed to getting to know one another as friends. And in order to see what that could mean in terms of a future visit by a group from this District, a team comprising Rev Graham Thompson, Mr David Clitheroe, Rev Alison Richardson, and me, travelled to the Diocese of Cuttack in January to meet with the Bishop and Diocesan Officers to explore possibilities.

Full report can be found here