Mangalore: Fr.Odoric Devanand - The Snake ’GURU’

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By Ivan Saldanha-Shet
Bellevision Media Network

Mangalore, 05 Nov 2013 : Services of Catholic priests in rare spheres abound the world over.  Here in Kanara one can come across rare doings, one such is a simple, serene and humble Capuchin Franciscan, very fitted to his dedication in the mould of St.Francis of Assisi the legendary Saint.


It was merely a chance and  a compassionate naturalist, Charles Paul of Mission compound Mangalore, that brought on my curiosity and search - the  casual  remark that a ’Monk’  was the earliest person to guide and channel his interests in wild life, the name surprised me since I was familiar with this monk ’brother’ in the 1950-60s.  In those times there were people who served the cause of the lesser creatures in committed terms while serving human causes.  Around Mangalore, this Franciscan Capuchin Friar, with the religious name Fr. ODORIC DEVANAND (1924-2002)  is a little known figure and yet there are many people who have admired and benefited from the great  service of this great human. He was a dedicated religious monk, perhaps the fact that his Franciscan order was in the foot steps of the great animal lover and saint of the 14th century who had the reputation of conversing with animals St Francis of Assisi, brings a significant added value. This humble and simple Capuchin  Friar, Odoric  hails from Bajpe born at Shimoga in September 1924 and was named ’Joseph William Goveas’. After his basic studies he joined the historical Capuchin Friary at Farangipete (known as Monte Mariano). This area as most of Kanara and the Western Ghats is blessed with  luxurious flora and fauna with all sorts of  reptiles in particular. Young Odoric according to accounts of his contemporaries and shishyas like Charles, swear that his gift of understanding and knowledge of  animals and snakes was unbelievable. His compassion for hurt and injured creatures was something divine.

After his religious vows in 1944, he decided to serve his Lord and Master as a ’brother’ and not a priest such was his siplicity and he served in many places of old South Kanara, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bombay and also in North India in humble capacities and making many human and animal friends where ever he went in a great spirit of service. Only after 1967 it was that he went in to full scale involvement with snakes it is said, after he came across some rare episodes while at Brahmavar now in Udupi district. Here, made a study with help of Manipal Medical College of the use of snake venom and their effects on humans and so on.  While serving in the North he realized that there was reason for him to seek full priesthood due to the shortage of priests. He took up studies at a Seminary in Nagpur under the guidance of his superiors and was ordained at the unusually advanced age of 67 years in 1991. There after he served a major stint at Mallandur and lastly Hosanagar. He was bitten by snakes often, and had saved hundreds of people from snake bite, but paradoxically he died due to a serious snake bite at Hosanagar on May 30, 2002 as the specific anti-venom was not on hand. He was brother to all even to birds,animals and poisonous reptiles. His life was an exemplary dedication in serving the poorest of the poor. His remains are interred at picturesque nature blessed Monte Mariano overlooking the winding Nethravathi river and western ghats, just in front of the historic church one of the oldest from ancient times and which played an important role before and after the captivity era of  1784-99.  Fr Odoric’s heart always was perhaps close to this spot which was infested with many species of reptiles and was the cradle of our early agriculturist Konkani ancestors.   The GURU, Fr Odorick, has inculcated a deep love for nature in many many people over the years and will always remain a shining example of a human. Though I had almost forgotten this unassuming person, a vague idea of his mission with reptiles and his death was at the back of my mind and has given me the reason to delve into the past.  





Comments on this Article
B.r.joshi, Brahmavar/bangalore Mon, September-9-2019, 12:29
I still remember brother odoric of early 1960s in brown robe,with a flowing beard,extremely lively and always ready to help.he used to pass on lots of ireland s own issues full of comics,witty jokes.i owe my happy childhood to this true messenger of God.
John Francis D Souza, Mangalore/Texas Thu, July-14-2016, 1:56
Fr. Devanand was a very close friend when I was a teenager. He was in St. Anne frary. He with another Br.Germik from St. Aloysius both encouraged me on my passion as electrical engineering. I have seen his snakes in Faringipet and then also in Bramavar. Ilost contact with him after 1989 when he was in the seminary in N. India. I despirately tried to find him. This article I accidently got when I was surfing. I am very sorry that he passed away. The in this article remind me vividly of his smile and confident, ways. Thank you for this article. Did you also know he was also very well versed with Electricity? God Bless John F. D Souza
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