Arciwean, which received papal ratification two years later. Its existence was the cause of tensions and disruption within the Armenian community, because its members were still officially counted as part of the Armenian millet and hence under the jurisdiction of the patriarch of Constantinople.


The first stable Armenian community was founded on the subcontinent in the sixteenth century as merchant networks fanned out from Armenian centres, such as Julfa, around the same time as the Portuguese reached India. The first Armenian church in the Moghul capital of Agra dates from 1562, and other early communities were established in Delhi, Bombay, Surat and Calcutta, and along the Coromandel coast of Madras, where the first Armenian church was built in i7i2.

The Armenian community in India grew as a result ofthe economic decline of New Julfa and maintained commercial contacts with such distant centres as Amsterdam. Most importantly, its members' knowledge of languages and familiarity with the local market rendered it a crucial intermediary for the East India Company. These international contacts prepared the groundwork for Madras to become the catalyst for major new advances in Armenian social thought in the 1770s and 1780s. There a group of likeminded thinkers formed, comprising the New Julfa pearl merchant Agha Sahamir Sahamirean, the tutor to his sons Movses Balramean, and the soldier adventurer Yovsep' Emin. They offered a modernist explanation of the loss of Armenian statehood, explaining historical events not in terms of divine intervention by way of either miracle or punishment for communal sin, but through the autonomy of human agency.43 Moreover, in their appeal to youth, they boldly reinterpreted the image of the religious martyr giving his/her life in defence of the faith in terms of zealous patriots actively engaged in building their country, relying on lay initiative rather than ecclesiastical diplomacy. Similarly, they argued that the church should lose its primacy in local community affairs. Poor relief was to be regulated by a set of byelaws providing for the election of an executive committee to administer a fund based on annual dues. It was to be outside the control of the clergy, whose involvement was limited to the purely spiritual realm.44

43 This view was expounded in the work Nor Tetrak (New Pamphlet) of 1776, on which see Oskanyan, Haygirk's 1512-1800 t'vakannerin, 489-91.

44 These byelaws are contained in the pamphlet Nsawak (Target) of 1783, on which see ibid., 541-3.

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