Syrian Christian History
The material for this article is collected largely from the Book on SYRIAN CHRISTIAN TRADITION published by the Author Mr. P.E.Easo first in 1992 and a second edition in 2001.This is published for the benefit of all the Syrian/Nazrani/Maliyankara or Malankara St Thomas Christians so that the younger generations might know their traditions as Christians particularly in Kerala or elsewhere. The information is based on the family traditions, family histories, historical books and Authors personal knoweldge.
An Extract/copy of this Article can be published with prior approval of the Author.
CHAPTER - 1
NAZARANI AND SYRIAN CHRISTIANS OF KERALA
The Nazrani Christians or Syrian Christians of Kerala have a unique unbroken tradition in Kerala. They are also called Malankara Christians because the first converted Christians by St Thomas had settled down in Mali Island near Musiris Port where St Thomas first landed in 52 AD. This Port is also called Muchiri because the Periyar branches out into three (In Malayalam these three branches were called Muchiri or three broken lips) before it joins the Arabian Sea. This was one of the oldest and busiest Port on the West Coast of India known to the world by more than twenty different names. In the biggest ever flood known in the history of Kerala, this Port was washed off in AD 1341and a new Island known as Puthu-Vipeen was formed near Kochi in the Vembanad Lake. Excavation in the Lake area might throw light on the lost traditions of Kerala and its people.
The Nazrani Christians from St Thomas time had a self-administrative set up with lot of privileges conferred on them by the Rulers. These Powers were almost equal to the King / Naduvazhis. The Archdeacon was the administrator of the church and the Church properties. He used to even train soldiers under the leadership of Panikers (Christians) just the same way the Nairs were trained by the Panikers (Hindus) under the King. At times, he used to help the King to fight the enemy. This tradition got a set back when the Portuguese landed in Kerala in 1498 AD and interfered with the administration of the Churches. In fact they forcibly ruled the church about 100 years till the Syrian Christian community was split up between Puthencore (Jacobites) and Pazhayakur (Syrian Roman Catholics), who continued to remain under the Roman Pope for fear of reprisal by the Portuguese. After this split, the old tradition of continuing the Archdeacon from Pakalomattom family as the custodian of the church properties was restored. The traditional Rule of the Archdeacon of Pakalomattam family continued from 72 AD (not sure about this year) to 1653 AD. In place of Archdeacon, Bishops Marthomma 1, 2, 3---9 were appointed from the same family, when that thread was also broken after the election of Marthomma ix in 1816AD. Presently the Catholicose is elected as the Malankara Metropolitan, to be the custodian of the properties of the Malankara Church. This is in fact a continuation of the traditional Rule of the church by the Archdeacon.
There was a second division of the Syrian church ie Puthencore, when the British started ruling Kerala from 1600AD. The Marthomma and the CSI churches came to existence as Protestant Groups during the British Rule. Another major split took place when the Methran Kashi under Catholicose (Orthodox) and Bava Kashi ( Jacobite) under Patriarch of Antioch were formed in 1912AD. This was the third major division. A fourth division took place when Malankara Reeth was formed by Mar Ivanios in 1930 AD. One would observe that there is no difference in faith among the Syrian Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Bava Kashi and Malankara Reeth. It is unfortunate that the Nazrani Christians of Malnkara that continued as a single body till 1500AD were splintered into different groups after the foreign Rule started in Kerala from 1498 AD.
KERALA Churches at a Glance
There are around 9 million Christians in Kerala as on 2001. Here are the approximate figures of Christians belonging to different denominations.
Orthodox Syrian Christians
Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite)
Church of South India (CSI) AND OTHERS
There is scope for unity among them even today. The question is who should be the Head of the Church in Kerala, Pope, Patriarch, Or Catholicose. All have their shadows of reasons to remain divided. The fact remains that none of them from St Thomas time had jurisdiction over the Nazranis/ Syrian Christians. None seems to have continuity of Bishops posted in Kerala from 52 AD. It is a fact that the Syrian Christians here were not having continuity of Bishops during the Rule of Archdeacon due to the political changes , persecution of Christians by Rome, the Muslims in the Middle East, want of communication facility in those days etc. Who so ever had come to Malankara were at the request of the Malankara Christians ; at times even Nestorian Bishops also claimed jurisdiction over Malankara ;some, like the Portuguese, ruled over them by force and destroyed all the original records in possession of the Syrian Churches in an attempt to prove that the Nazrani Christians in Malankara were under the Roman Pope and other Bishops who had come here from Antioch, Babylon, Persia etc did not hold true faith. Rome having a record of all the Bishops who had ruled the Roman church can make public the list of Bishops ordained to Rule Malankara from the the time the Roman Pope established his throne. It is relevant to state that Rome accepted without any change the faith and ordination of Mar Ivanios of Malankara Reeth who had Orthodox Christian tradition and faith. Such were the spirit of conversion and authority to rule over an unwilling people by foreign Rulers. Those responsible for the split of the community should make amend by repentance than adherence to their adamant attitude.
The Catholicose is the head of the Orthodox Church. The geographical areas under him within Kerala and outside are divided in to Dioceses. A Bishop is in charge of a Diocese. Under each Bishop there will be several Parishes. The Parishes are called Edavakas. A Priest is in charge of a parish. There were annual Edavaka meetings in which the trustees and secretaries of the parishes are elected. The elected members from each parish attend and vote in Synods when they are held, which is the General Body of the church. Major decisions affecting the Church as a whole were taken by the Synods.
Besides spiritual power, the Catholicose also has administrative Powers as Malankara Metropolitan, he being an elected representative of the Church -Synod as a Trustee in the position of Archdeacon of Pakalomattam Family. Before the Catholicate was formed in 1912 AD, this administrative Power was vested with Arkdeacon (Arch- deacon) from Pakalomattam family as already stated, the reason being that they were traditionally from this family. The ecclesiastical Rule by Pakalomattam family came to an end when Mar Thoma IX died in 1817AD. Till that time the Archdeacons were trustees of Malankara Church. One would observe that the election process of Trustees, Secretaries and the Administrative of Edavakas was a democratic setup existing much before democracy was known to the world and out lived all the outside interference.
The following is an excerpt from the book "SYRIAN CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS"
by Mr P E Easo,first published in AD1992
TRADE ROUTES TO INDIA AT THE TIME OF ST.THOMAS
There were mainly three trade routes in existence connecting India with the Middle Eastern & Western world. These routes were in existence centuries before St.Thomas traversed the Eastern Lands. They were used to a considerable extent by the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Arabs, the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians.
The first among these routes was the Persian Gulf route, connecting the mouth of the Indus to the Euphrates, to places like Antioch and the Levant ports. The cuneiform inscriptions of the Hittite Kings of Mittani in Cappadocia show the use of this trade route in 14th century BC. Logs of Indian teak wood have been found in the temple of the Moon at Muggier (the Ur of Chaldees) and in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar, both in the 6th century BC. It is well known that trades in teak, ebony, sandal wood, rosewood, cotton, etc. were flourishing between India and the rest of the world through these routes. By 694 BC the Assyrians monopolized this route. About 606 BC the Assyrians were overthrown and the Babylonians took the place of Nineveh, the city known for trade as Queen of West Asia. In the crowded market place of that great city met all the races of the world including Indians.
The second route known as "Silk Route" was by land through the Khyber and Bolan passes in India to Balk and from Balk either by river down the Oxus to the Caspian and from the Caspian to the Euxine or entirely by land by the Caravan route to Antioch. Since the land route through Hindu Kush Mountains to the Mediterranean ports was long and dangerous, commerce between India and other parts was carried on mostly by sea.
The third route from the mouth of the Red Sea to India, up the Arabian coast was the most important route; immense quantities of gold, ivory, silver and precious stones were shipped from Ophir and also from India to the West. These changed hands at Balkh, Aden and other places on barter basis on their way to ultimate destinations in European and other markets.
During the Persian period, Darius advanced upon India from Baktra (modern Balkh in Afghanistan) and reached the town of Kasyapura, a frontier city of Gandhara (comprising the modern districts of Peshawar and Rawalpindi). Darius was the first Greek to visit India and was also the first to make the Red Sea voyage. He made the Indus valley the 20th Satraphy (Province of a governor) of the Persian Empire. The Kharosti Script introduced as the official script in the Persian documents remained in use in the Northwest Frontier of India till AD 4.
In B C 327 Alexander the Great entered the Punjab (modern West Pakistan and the Indian Territory of East Punjab) through the Frontier passes of Khyber and Bolan. He opened trade depots all along the river Indus. Megasthenes the Greek traveller came to Pataliputra (Patna) by using these routes. Later the Mauryan Empire under Ashoka was responsible to develop and link various places in North India by constructing roads, canals etc. In the first century before and after Christ the land and sea-routes fell into Roman hands. Pearls, pepper and other spices were carried from India to the Roman markets. In the year A.D. 45 Hippalus discovered the monsoon winds in the Indian Ocean (Southwest monsoon). A ship from the mouth of the Red Sea to Musiris (other names: Muchiry, Kodungaloor, Cranganore, Maliankara etc ), took 40 days to reach the Malabar Coast. What is recorded in pages 46-47 of Cochin State Manual is reproduced below: "An extensive traffic sprang up in very early times between Mediterranean cities and the ports of Kerala. The Phoenicians were the first to make their way to these ports and came by way of the Persian Gulf and afterwards by the Red Sea. South India derived the Vattezhuthu alphabets from the Phoenicians. They were followed by the Jews in the reign of Solomon who had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram. Once in three years came the navy of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory, apes and peacocks. The striking similarities between the Hebrew and Tamil words for apes and peacocks indicate that these articles were obtained from Kerala. Ophir from which Solomon got his gold is identical with Beypore. After the Jews came the Syrians under the Seleucids and the Egyptians under Ptolemy, both of whom maintained direct trade with the Malabar ports". In BC 30 the Romans succeeded them by establishing a lucrative trade route with India. They took big quantity of pepper, ivory, pearl and silk in exchange of copper, brass, tin, lead etc. Annexure shows the historical developments from 4000BC.The Roman coins unearthed near Kodungallor recently, archeological findings in and around this place,the chinese fishing nest used in Kerala for fishing,the cheeni-chatti including various potteries used even today by people of kerala , show the presence of foreign trade from olden times.
The land of the Parthians, the Hyrcanians and the Bactrians were roughly the territory now occupied by the Persians, the Arabs and the Afghans. Mar Solomon who became the Metropolitan of Perath-Maishan (Modern Basra) in A.D. 1222 wrote "He (St. Thomas), taught the Parthians, the Medas and the Indians".
SYRIAN CHRISTIAN’S TRADITIONAL BELIEFS
The Syrian Christian Tradition is that St. Thomas first visited Gondophares in North India along with a Jewish merchant Habban, from the commercial centre of Alexandria in AD 48 and then traveled to Southern India in A.D. 52 from Socotra in the Persian Gulf to Kodungalor by ship possibly after his return from North India. Bardaisan of Edessa who lived during AD 154 to 222 had written a book titled ‘Acts of Thuma’, in Syriac, translated in Greek, Latin, Armenian, Ethiopian, Arabic and in a fragmentary form in Coptic. The Syrian version is regarded as the original one; it is perhaps the oldest book where reference to St. Thomas mission is mentioned in detail. The identity of ‘Gudnaphor’, or Gonophores and his brother Gad that had never found a place in the Indian History, is now established beyond doubt, when the inscriptions and coins during his period were unearthed in North Western India in recent times. The Malankara Syrian Christians by tradition, however, knew the mission of St. Thomas in North India. The Christian population there, however, due to persecution and invasion by other kingdoms migrated to the Middle East countries. It is believed that some of those Christians finally landed in Malankara along with Bishop David (Dawood) from Syria in A.D. 340. However at present there seems no trace of Christianity in North India from the conversion made by St. Thomas. Some historians point out certain secret groups still living in those areas, who refuse to be identified possibly due to persecution by other religious class.
It is unfortunate that the Malankara Nazaranis kept no authentic record of their past tradition ; whatever little was preserved were plundered and destroyed by the foreign invaders like the Portuguese. It may be noted that Malayalam developed as a language only during 800 to 920AD during the reign of Kulashekara Rajas. ( see page 188 of the survey of Kerala history by Mr. Sridhara Menon). Prior to that, the language used, was known " Nanam Monum" or Tamil. This could be one of the reasons that no documents were available in Malayalam about the Kerala history. Another reason is that printing had not developed during this period and the manuscripts kept were on palm leaves or copper plates. The copper plates were not commonly used. Whatever preserved on palm leaves were lost in the passage of time. Some families will be having certain records on palm leaves or copper plates. But no serious attempts are made at a central place to consolidate such type of records and preserve. Even the State government does not seem to have computerized the old records under its custody that could provide valuable information about the dark periods of Kerala during 3 to 7th centuries
The Syrian Christians know how their historical documents were collected by the Portuguese Bishop Alexis Menezes and were burnt in the Synod at Udayamperoor in 1599 AD. Some of the documents removed by the Portuguese about the Syrian Christians were also destroyed as a result of the big fire in the Lisbon library. The only way to establish the true origin of Syrian Christians, is therefore, to connect the oral traditions existing in ancient families, the copper plaque grants of Rulers, older churches in Kerala and also fragments of history by foreign authors about the Malankara Christians in other languages. Fortunately we have a combination of all these evidences, which are the unwritten records available today and speak volumes about the presence of Nazrani Christians in Malankara from 52 AD. The seven Churches founded by St Thomas himself up to 72AD, known as Seven Ara (important in Tamil) Pallys i.e. Palayoor, Kodungaloor, Parur, Kokamangalam, Niranam, Nilackal & Kollam, as also other Churches constructed from 300 AD onwards are valid evidences. Christians mostly converted Jews and locals known together as Nazranis were the only religion in Kerala till the Buddhist, Nambudiris, and Arab Muslims landed much later. This is based on the historical evidences available in Kerala from Temples, Mosques, Buddhist caves, Copper plate Cheppeds, Crosses with Phalavi writings available with the Christians etc. Their religious practices, names, customs and costumes are unique and are very much similar to that of the Jews and Nambudiris. Words like Pattamkuda, Thirumeni, Kathanar(Karthan -yar?) as also many names like Itty, Pappen, Thanka, Aanda, Kunjanda, Achi, etc used in traditional Nazrani Christian families speak of the unique nature of this community. Martial Art, Kalari -payatu, etc were compulsory training for all Nazrani Christians Some Christian families even today possess swords and sickles used for martial art training. It may be noted that in the Cheppeds given by the Rulers, the right to carry arms was given only to Christians.
An extract of the Cochin State Manual (pages 52-53), by Mr. C. Achuta Menon first published in A.D. 1911, is reproduced below: - "In the first centuries of Christian era, a number of Jews immigrated into Kerala and settled in that portion of it which afterwards became the Kingdom of Cochin and Christianity also made its way in to the country about the same time…steadily grown in prosperity and importance so much so that the local Kings by charters engraved in copper plates constituted them self governing communities. By these charters Joseph Rabban was made the hereditary chief of the Jews and Irvi Cottan that of the Christians and they were also given powers and privileges of Naduvazhi chiefs. Most of the privileges mentioned in the Jews deed are identical with those enumerated in the grant to the Christians but the latter were also given the right of "the Curved Sword", that is the right of carrying arms which was not granted to the Jews…". The copper plate grant to Irvi Cottan will be dealt with in a separate chapter.
Who are the Nazarani and Syrian Christians and who Ruled Kerala when
St. Thomas came to India
The Syrian Christians originated from Kerala and they are now scattered all over the world. The word " Syrian Christian" is derived from "Suraya Christians" who had migrated to Kerala (Malankara) in 340 AD under the leadership of a Bishop by name David (Dawood). This is recorded on the cross they had brought with them, which is preserved in Alangad church in Kerala. They migrated from a place called Suraya (Syria) now in Iraq to escape political persecution. Before the Suraya Christians came to Malankara (Kerala) there were already Christians in Kerala converted by St. Thomas. They were known as Nazarani Christians or Issanu Vadikal. They were mostly Christians converted from Jews, Nambudiris and Royal family (The Chera King Kuru Varman-1 also known as Vyakrasenan who ruled Kerala from 40 AD to 55 AD was a Christian 1 ). All the Christians up to the time of the Portuguese rule in Kerala are called Syrian /Nazrani /Malankara Christians. They remained unmixed with other religious class of people and kept their identity by adopting the religious practices of the Essenian Jews converted to Christianity when St Thomas first landed in Muzris port of Mali Island near Kochi. The Jew street in Kodungloor,the Palaces of the Chera kings in Kodungallor, Malankara-Nazrani name,etc are all evidences of the ancient tradition. We are not sure whether the Nambudiris were the first converted people. But my guess work is that they were the second lot, the first being the Jews and the Ruler family. The first priest ordained by St Thomas was from the Royal family. His name was Keppa and the leader of the first converted Christians. The Head of the Nazrani Christians was later called Archdeacons (Arch deacon) from the priestly class of Nambudiri. He enjoyed powers to rule the entire Syrian (Suriyani) Christian population.
He assisted the king even in military matters by training his own people. Like Nairs, their group leaders were also called Panikkars (one who trains in the use of arms after physical training). Their life style, customs, church administration, marriage ceremonies, etc were identical with the practices of Jews/Nambudiri families. Unlike other Christians the Syrian Christians kept Biblical names as their official name and a Hindu name (local) as pet name suffixed with Achen for gents and Achi or Amma for ladies in most cases.
Mention was made in the previous paragraph about the Essenian Jews migrated to Kerala at the time of St. Thomas. In the year 53 AD, the church in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman kings. The persecution of Jews by Nero and Titus was around this period. During this period around 10000Jews (estimated) migrated to Kodungallore near Cochin where there were already Jews settled for trade even from the time of King Solomon (1000 BC). The Judakunnu (Jewish Hill) in Palayur bears testimony of the Jews who lived there from 600 BC.
When St Thomas arrived in Muchiri (other names: Musiris, Cranganur, Kodungalure etc) in Mali Island on the Alwaye coast in 52 AD, the Chera kingdom existing at that time was ruled by Udayan Cheran Athen-I (page 44 of Cochin State Manual).From the 1st century AD or before the most known kingdoms in South India were Chera, Chola, and Pandian. The capital of Chera was Vanji or Tiruvanchikulam and the most important port was Muchiri (Musiris). The capital of Chola Kingdom was Urayur and the most important port was Kaveri, where as the Pandian kingdom had Madurai as its capital and the most important port was Korkai. The area from Gokarnam (now in Carnataka towards Goa) to CapeComerin was ruled by the Chera kings and Kerala derived the name from Cheram, the traditional Dravida kings who ruled this area from 5th century BC to 11th century AD. Tamil and its adapted version was the language used till Malayalam evolved around 13th century AD.
There was also another ancient kingdom known as Ayr ruled by Vel (kings) in the High Ranges south of Pampa River (Baris) where Nilackal, one of the churches founded by St.Thomas, existed. They ruled this area more than 1000years from first centuryAD. When St. Thomas landed in Nilackal they were possibly the rulers. 3 Ptolemy in his writings in the second century recorded this place as Aioi.The family used to ordain the king and named him as Vel -Prebhu. Venadu is derived from Vel -Nadu. It seems that the name Ayr-oor and I-Appa had its root from this kingdom. The history of this kingdom requires research.
Ancient Settlements of Syrian Christians
The Christians (Jews) came with St. Thomas settled mostly in Cattukulangara (Kunnamkulam). The Arthattu Church in the name of St Mary in Kunnamkulam is believed to be one of the oldest churches from the time of St Thomas. The Christians at the time of St Thomas were called Nazaranikal. They were also referred to as "Issanis" in the epic poem of Manimekalai in Tamil by Mani around 3rd century AD
Syrian Christian Families in Central Kerala
An examination of the family histories of some of the oldest families in central Travencore ie Kollam, Kottayam, Niranam etc could very well establish their link to various places like Kuravilangadu, Palayur, Kodungallur, Nilackal etc. The family histories of Vadakkadathu in Thumpamon,Thazhamon and Thengumthottathil in Ayroor, Manjooran in Ernakulam, trace their origin in Kuravilangadu.The tradition of Kizhakkethalackal, Vadakkethalackal, Padinjarethalackal in Puthenkavu and Mavelikara claim 50 to 56 generations of continuous priesthood. The Plathanam and Kanikunnam in Ranny, Polachirackal in Mavelikara, Illampally and Polackal in Edathua,Thalakod in Chenganoor, trace their common origin to Chiraikal Royal family in Kodungallur. The tradition of Kelaparampil family in Niranam traces their origin from Nilackal; they had escaped through River Pampa to Niranam when Nilackal was plundered by Vikkram Puli Thevar and Paraya Pattam during AD1253 to 1299 after the Chera, Chola, war of 100 years came to an end in AD1085. The Vel (kings) of Ayr who ruled Nilackal area was completely displaced or destroyed with nobody to defend the place from enemy attack after the Chera –Chola war.
Migration of Syrian Christians
When the Chera kingdom was attacked by other kingdoms including the Arabs around 300AD the people in Kodungallure mostly Christians, and Jews migrated to other areas. Traditional families like Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, (Chiraikal), etc settled down in Kuravilangad, Kurichi, Changanacherry Niranam etc. The Rulers honoured those who migrated to Changanacherry by giving them the title of "Tharakan". The same family people again moved further to Champakulam, Pullad, Chengannoor, Mavelikara, Niranam, Ranny etc at different periods.During those times water transport was the only means of travel, hence the people had settled down mostly on the coastal areas of Arabian Sea, Kayal or rivers like Periyar, Pampa ete.
A traditional story of the conversion of the Shankarapuri family by St. Thomas in the year AD 53 is mentioned in the family histories of the Plathanam, Kanikunnam, Polachirackal, Ooramvelil and Polackal families which have a common root. This was about the miraculous saving of the life of a child. During those times (1st century A.D.), ‘Narabali’, or human sacrifice was popular in the Kali temple at Kodungaloor. Towards the end of every year, a child from one of the important families was selected for this sacrifice. It was chosen by a system of Narukku or lucky dip. The child selected for this sacrifice was to be below 5 years of age.
In the year A.D. 53, when St. Thomas visited this area, the King’s (nephew), Kunjan was selected as the lot fell in his name. The King was away to the Pandian kingdom on a pilgrimage during that time. The child’s grandmother and other members of their family were greatly disturbed and shocked at the outcome of the Narukkeduppu (lot). St. Thomas and his Jewish friends went to witness this Narabali. They were given seats of honour as they were foreigners. The grandmother of the child knowing the divine power of St. Thomas approached and requested him to save the life of the child. St. Thomas assured them that the child’s life would be saved if they believed and trusted in the power of the Living God. The other members present there challenged St. Thomas, but the boy’s grandmother declared that she and her family members would believe in his God if the child was saved. St. Thomas ordered the child to be brought in his presence; he then baptized the child and sent him to the Poojari to carry on the rest of the rituals. The sacrifice was supposed to be conducted in the inner chamber of the temple where the Goddess Kali was seated. The door was closed after the Poojari entered with the child to be sacrificed. After the sacrifice was completed the Poojari as usual would open the door. In this case the door was not opened for a long time. The people, who were present to witness the occasion, grew impatient. After a long time they forcibly opened the door and saw the child smiling and the Poojari missing from the scene. Around 200 people assembled there believed in the power of the living God and they got baptized there and then. The custom of Narabali was discontinued thereafter. Thus Kodungaloor became a Christian city.It is since then known as the city of Mahathevar (Mahodayapuram). In the meantime the king on his journey heard about the Narabali and got very angry. On his return to the palace and hearing what had taken place in detail he too got baptized by St. Thomas and became a believer in Christ. He was named Andrew. The king is believed to be Athen Cheran 1. The child who was baptized by St. Thomas later became a priest and he was named ‘Kepa’. It is believed that he also attended the Kabaradakam of St. Thomas when he was martyred in Calamina under the rule of King Mazda, (now in Persian Gulf).
Migration of Christians from the Middle East
During the period from 53 AD to 349 AD, the Nazarani Christians passed through difficult times, they lost many lives and properties due to war between different kingdoms and also due to natural calamities. They had settled along the coastal areas of North Kerala. It was in the year AD 340 that the Suraya Christians (now Syrian Christians) came to Malabar Coast under the leadership of a bishop by name Dawood. With his arrival the churches in Malankara were redeemed from destruction. Suraya is the place from where the Babylonian Christians came to Malankara. This place is now in Iraq.The Babylonian Christians had settled down in the coastal areas of North Kerala. Some of them had also settled down in Ceylon (Thambrobani). There is also a place called Kalyani on the coastal area between Mangalapuram and Vadakara about which Cosmos during his voyage between AD520 to525 had recorded on his study about the existence of Christians all over the world.
It is the Babylonian Christians (Suraya) who introduced chicken sacrifice in Kerala on the festival day of Geevarughese Sahada in keeping with the tradition of the Jews in Jerusalem Church. This was also a national festival for the Jews known as "Tamas". All the Syrian Christians of Kerala by tradition know the chicken sacrifice in Puthupally every year.
Incidentally, it may be mentioned that there were Christians in the Island of Socotra (near Persian Gulf) where ST Thomas is remembered as in Malankara.All the historians who wrote about Socorta had recorded this fact from 300 AD and had stated that all inhabitants of that Island are Christians. The church there was administered by Bishops sent from Baghdad i.e.Babylon.
Jacob (Yakoob ), brother of Christ was the Bishop of Jerusalem. It is his book (Thaksa) which was adopted by the Syrian Christians for HolyQurbana. This book was brought by the Babylonian Christians when they migrated to Malankara in Cheranadu in AD 340.This could be the reason why Malankara Christians since then are known as Jacobites or Syrian Christians since they adopted the system of worship of Suraya Christians which is still in vogue with the Jacobite churches.
The Suraya Christians also had brought with them Persian Crosses with Pahlavi inscriptions on them. One of the crosses is at Alangadu in the custody of the Jacobites. This is the only cross where the word "Suraya" is recorded in Pahlavi language. This inscription is similar to the one that existed during the reign of Narassahi Shah of Persia from AD293 to 302. It is believed that the following churches were constructed after the Babylonian Christians migrated to Kerala: 1) Palayur 2) Ankamali 3) Edapally 4) Karingachira 5) Kandanadu 6) Thalayolaparambu. These churches were named after Christian saints like Geevarughese Sahada, Kurikose Sahada,etc. The churches, which existed prior to their migration, were mostly in the name of St. Mary, St.Thomas or other Disciples of Christ. The Suraya Christians also had settled down in Ceylon (Thambrobani, Ezhanadu), and coastal area of Konkanum nadu (Ezhamalai) which was part of the Chera kingdom at that time. The next migration from the Middle East was that of Mar Sabor Easo and Porth in AD 822. This will be dealt with in the next chapter
Forcible Conversion of Syrian Christians by Tippu Sultan.
Tippu Sultan took an oath to convert the Malankara Syrian Christians to Islam. In AD1784 he attacked Cochin and surrounding areas, destroyed ancient churches and temples, and took 4 lakhs Christians and one lakh Hindus who were either forcibly converted to Islam or killed. Those converted to Islam retained their names and culture. The title "Mappila"used by the Muslims in Malabar belongs to the Christians. Names among them, Ummer (Oommen), Choyi (Kochoyi), etc are of Syrian Christian origin. During the attack by Tippu the Kozhikode Zmuthiri (Zamorin), Manorama Thampuratti accompanied by many Syrian Christians came for shelter under Travencore State ruled by Karthikathirunal. Such Christians were settled in places like Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikara, etc where there were already Christians. During the time of Ramayan Delava a census of such Christians were taken. Inorder to identify them their houses were named after the tree closest to their houses. Thus names like Plamood, Mammootil, Pulimootil, Alumootil etc were given which exist till today. The earlier Christians in those places had "Thalackal", "Oor", "kode"etc added to their house name; examples are Poovathoor, Thalakode, Kizhakethalackal etc. They were Christians settled down there from St.Thomas time.
The Iron Rule of Portuguese over Syrian Christians
The Portuguese took over the rule of the administration of all Syrian Christian Churches by force in the middle of 15th century and ruled over them about 100 years thus breaking the tradition of getting Bishops from Babylon, /Antioch/ Alexandria/Persia for the Syrian Church.The Portuguese rule of the Syrian Churches was a period of turmoil for the Syrian Christians which ended up with the Oath of Coonan Cross in AD 1653(Coonan Kurish Satyam). It was at
this historical moment the Syrian Christians got separated in to two divisions called Puthenkoor and Pazhyakoor. Incidentally it may be mentioned that those liberated from the Portuguese were called Puthenkoor though they retained the traditions prior to the Rule of the Portuguese in Kerala. The Pazhayakoor having remained under the Portuguese for over 100 years continued to remain under the Portuguese by accepting the changes brought by them in the Syrian Church. The Puthenkoor and Pazhayakoor are known today as the Syrian Jacobite and Syrian Roman Catholics respectively. Infact the foreign rule of the Portuguese was responsible for the division among Syrian Christians and a break in their traditional worship. The imposition of Latin tradition in the Syrian Church over the years particularly in North Kerala went with out any resistance. The architecture in the olden churches renovated by them in North Kerala is standing examples of their attempt to bring the Syrian Christians under their culture. With the exception of Kollam the Eastern tradition is preserved in almost all old churches south of Kottayam possibly because they were inaccessible to them for want of adequate transport system in the High Ranges of Kerala.1
The Churches Founded by Mar Sabor Isho
In the earlier chapter mention was made about the migration of Christians to Kerala in the year822 AD under the leadership of two Bishops by name Mar Sobar Isho and Porth.This took place due to persecution of Christians by Islam kings in Persia from AD717 through 822. A number of families under their leadership landed in Quilon in AD 822. They administered the Syrian church, Mar Proth by making his Head Quarter at Kodungalloor and Mar SaborEaso at Kollam. In AD880 Mar Sabor Easo and theChristians in Tharissa- pally- Church in Kollam were given two separate Chepeds(Copper Plaques) by Venadu king Ayyanadikal Thiruvadigal during the time of Chera king, SthanuRavi (Mallan Perumal Vijayaragan). These Chepeds in original are in the custody of the Orthodox and Marthomma Churches at Kottayam and Thiruvella respectively. These Bishops constructed churces at 1) Kurakkenikollam (Kyamkulam) 2) Chenganoor (Perasseri) 3) Thevalakara 4) Nilackal (Chayal) 5) Niranum 6) Kadamattam 7) Parur 8) Malayatoor.
It is possible that some of the old churches were reconstructed or new churches constructed at these places. These churches are now more than 1000 years old. All the existing churches during their time were known as Mother churches or Mampalli. In Kollam era 149 the Chera King, Vallabhankotha, had given Mampalli Sasanam to the
Chenganoor Church. With this Sasanam , Christians were called Mappilamar (Ma-pilla-mar) or Mathapallikar. The word Mappila was to be suffixed with the name of Christians as a title of honour after this Sassanam was given.
The Portuguese in their attempt to prove that all-Syrian Christians in the past were under the Roman Pope treated Mar Sabor Easo and Mar Proth as Nestorians. This was evident from the decisions taken by Bishop, Menesis at the time of Portuguese rule of Kerala. The historical evidences are that these Bishops were under the Patriarch of Eastern Orthodox Churches and were not deputed by the Nestorian Church in Persia. If they were Nestorians they would not have been allowed to rule over the entire Syrian Church in Kerala. On the contrary it proves beyond doubt that the Syrian Churches were never under the Roman Pope before the Portuguese Rule of Kerala.
The Persian Cross in Kadamattam Church was installed by Mar Sabor Easo himself. A translation of what is written on the Cross reads "We are saved from the thorns in Ninveh by Mar Sabor Easo". Mar Sabor Easo was responsible to save the life of about 300 families from the Muslim persecution of Christians in Ninveh, the city known for its trade relations from olden times. The Muslim atrocities on other religious class in Persian Countries and consequent problems faced by the Syrian church in Kerala are very well imaginable. All the migration of Christians to Kerala in the past was from Persian countries which also establish that the Malankara Christians were more known to Persian countries than to the West. The Roman Pope who keeps complete record of the bishops under his jurisdiction should be in a position to supply list of all the bishops deputed in Kerala prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in Kerala in AD1498 to prove his claim that Malankara Syrian Christians were under him. No such record in fact is available. The ‘Thubden’ read during Holy Qurbana of Orthodox Syrian Church keeps memory of the Patriarchs of Eastern Churches and none among them is a Roman Catholic Pope.
Towards the end of his life it is believed that Mar Sabor Easo spent his life in the Ahram that was establihed by him Known as Chayal Ashram near the Head Church at Nilackal also known as Thala-Pally (Nilackal is also known as Ara-Pally; "Ara" means Head, not half, as in the case of Aramana ). These places even today are known by these names. He died in the Chayal Ashram and his body seems shifted to Kadamattan, his Head Quarters; the hill where the Church stood was called Sabor Mala after his name, which is traditionally now the Sabarimala. The place where the Chayal church stood is now known as Pla-Pally or Thla-Pally (HeadChurch).It may be noted that the word Chayal is a Hebrew word meaning the place where bachelors stay .
2 (a) Destruction of Nilackal and other churches in the high ranges of Kerala
The Syrian Christians used to go on pilgrimages to Nilackal Church and Chayal Asram on the festival days of the churches till the place was completely destroyed by AD1341 due to floods and frequent attack by the Pandians from Tamilnadu.The information conveyed traditionally in old families near Nilackal is that two groups of plunderers under VikramPuli Thevar and ParayaPattam (Nick named VakraPuli and Perumpatta) plundered the temples, churches, and looted houses in the High Ranges during AD1253 to 1299.This was after the period the Chera –Chola war of 100 years from AD 985 to 1085 During this period, the male population of Kerala particularly Syrian Christians and Nairs who fought for the Chera kings, was practically wiped out. The biggest ever known great floods in Kerala also wiped out what ever life left after the Pandian plunder of the Eastern Ghats of Kerala as the place was left with out any defense after the war. It is believed that even Puthu-Vipeen in Ernakulam is formed during this flood after the sweep of Musiris Port on the Alwaye coast. A good number of people from Nilackal abandoned and escaped to other regions mostly by water transport and through hill tracks during those periods. The family histories of many such people in Thumpamon, Ayroor, Kanjirapally, Niranam etc claim their origin from Nilackal.
2 (b) Importance of Nilackal and reconstruction of Nilackal Church.Rulers of Nilackal Area:
Mention was made about the Ayr kingdom ruled by the Vels in Nilackal. (See Chapter-2.1) There were established trade routes via Nilackal connecting Kerala’s coastal areas to Pandy, Madurai etc in Tamilnadu.Ranny under which Nilackal falls now was known as the Queen (Rani in Tamil) of High Ranges. Transportation from Nilackal to Ranny in olden times was through river Pampa (Old name was Baris; Pampa is the name of a Queen of a king who had ruled this area).
The Pandalam Raja whose palace is now in Pandalam is historically believed to be a representative of the Pandian Kings of Tamilnadu who had conquered the High Ranges of Kerala after the Chera – Chola war. He was responsible to rule Nilackal and surrounding areas. However, the Kovilakam representatives of the Chera kings in Karimala-kotta near Sabarmala did not accept the authority of Pandalam king.This again resulted in fight between them ending up with total destruction of Karimala. Infact Nilackal area was left without any protection from the Pandalam King. This was one of the reasons why Nilackal was exposed to plunderers resulting in total destruction of the area by AD1341.
2(c)Reconstruction of Nilackal Church
The present church constructed at Nilackal is quite away from the actual spot where the original church was existing. This was done so to avoid dispute and confrontation with Ayappa followers in Sabarmala.
The existence of the old Nilackal Church on the side of Nilackal Kulam (pond) was known to many of our forefathers.
It is believed that there was one more church little away from the Nilackal Church. This could possibly be Chayal church constructed by Mar Sabor Easo. Since the remnants of the
churches were seen by many who had visited this place till end of 19th century, it was most likely to have found a place in the Great Survey of India Records. Further research in this direction is required.
The Nilackal Temple at the present site near the Nilackal Pond was reconstructed when Sir C.P. Rama Swamy Iyer was the Devan of Travencore State before Independence. However the Shivalinga Prathishta of the Temple was abandoned thrice, since each time the ‘Oorali’ (a person who shakes his body and prophesies in ecstasy during a temple function) objected to it by saying that the Prathishta could not be done unless the church in the name of St. Mary was reconstructed. In spite of the objection, the Prathishta was forcibly done on the third occasion. The Shivalinga broke into two and the Prathishta was abandoned thereafter. A last attempt was made in the AD 1950’s when the investigation division of Sabarigiri Hydel project was being done in the area when one Mr. George who represented KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board), was present during that time. This time also the Oorali objected to the Prathishta. Mr. George then asked him to show the site of the old church. The Oorali then ran towards the spot and thrust his shoolam (trident), at the very site. Mr George, being a member of the Orthodox Church informed Bethany Ashram in Perunad.One Fr. Thomas O.I.C. was sent to the place. He even constructed a maadam (a hut on the top of a tree), and stayed
there for a long time. At the same site, there were many graves covered with granite slabs. The author during his childhood had visited this place and seen whatever is mentioned above. However due to objections from the Forest Department of Kerala Government Rev. Fr. Thomas shifted his residence from Nilackal to Angimuzhi where there were many Orthodox Christians. In order to build a church close to Nilackal, the late
Mr. P.E. Easo, Alackal, Ranny gave half an acre of land to the Orthodox Church out of the agricultural land allotted to him at Angimuzhi by the State Government. This land in Angimuzhi was used for paddy cultivation during the famine that followed the Second World War. The gift of this land to the church was published in the Malayala Manorama late in the 1950s. However, when the land was sold in the 1960s to a Syrian Christian Mar Thoma family, they took over this land too; and the church was not constructed. This plot of land is still in their possession. The above narration is given so that the facts should not vanish in the passage of time and the coming generations should have a record of the same. There is also a story about the destruction of the Nilackal church, which the author had heard from family members like grandparents (More than 100 years now).
It was traditional with Syrian Christians to build churches near temples to signify unity and co-operation between Hindus and Christians. Whenever there was a religious festival both the sections used to participate and co-operate. On the day of the Nilackal Temple ulsavam an elephant of the festival group ran amuck causing fear and panic among the crowd that had assembled. In the stampede that followed a child belonging to the royal family (Koyickal family) was killed. There is a place
even now called Kochu Koyickal near Nilackal, which signifies their family name. An enquiry was ordered into the stampede which resulted in the death of the child, following which two soldiers were kept as guards in the church at Nilackal so that Christians going to the church who committed the offence could be questioned and identified. The vicar in charge of the church was also questioned about the person, who was responsible for the death of the child. However the priest said that he was unable to reveal any confessional secrets, but he gave an indication to the persons who inquired that anyone who committed such sins had to do penance in the church whereby he would pray for a longer time in the church after the Holy Qurbana. Anyone found praying in like manner in the church could be questioned. One day the soldiers saw one man kneeling down and praying for an unusually longer time after the church service. They having got the clue approached him and started questioning him. Realizing the danger and also the death penalty for such crimes he called on Mother Mary aloud and fell down immediately and died in the church itself. It is believed that this incident was the cause of the destruction of the church that followed and a new church would not come on the very same site till the end. This almost came true since the present Church at Nilackal is not anywhere near the site of the old church i.e. on the side of the Nilackal Pond common to the temple and the church. It is also believed that when Nilackal was destroyed the various movable articles of the church such as the Cross, Bell etc. were abandoned in the Nilackal pond close to the Nilackal temple near Sabarimala.
Several searches were made by our family members who had migrated to Ranny since 1780AD, for the original site; but only towards the middle of the 20th century, when the forest areawascleared for cultivation and subsequent development in the area of Nilackal Ambalam an alternative place was given by the Government to build the present Nilackal Church on the Thever Mala which is quite far away from the original site of the Nilackal Church. This was accepted by the Bishops of all the Syrian Churches to avoid further disputes with the Temple Authorities in Sabarimala.
3. Identifiable Families migrated from Nilackal
The author had visited Niranam and met elderly persons from Kelaparampil family who confirmed that their fore fathers had escaped from Nilackal about 650 years ago. There are many such families on the coastal line of Pampa River, which was well known from ancient times for water transportation by Kettuvallam, boats, Chengadam etc. This was obviously an escape route at the time of Nilackal destruction. Since Periyar and Pampa Rivers originate from both side of the same hill near Sabrmala and surprisingly meet at Ernakulam via the Vembanad lake there could be many such families along the coastal routes of both the Rivers and also the Vemband lake.
From the above traditions the following facts are clear:
- The history of the Syrian Christians in Malankara could be traced from the first century AD itself.
- In 190 AD, at the request of the Christians in Malankara, the celebrated philosopher Pantaneus was sent to Malankara by Demetrius Bishop of Alexandria in order to counter the attack of Mani against Christianity. Pantaneus brought back those who left Christianity under the influence of Mani. The early Christians of that time were called Essana Vadikal or Nazaranikal. In the 4th century, with the arrival of the Suraya Christians all the Christians in Malankara were called Syrian Christians since they followed the Syrian liturgy in all churches
- The churches constructed by Mar Sabor Easo are more than 1100 years old (One thousand one hundred years). Most of the Churches in South Kerala were not influenced by the Portuguese. Their attempt to bring these Churches under the Roman Pope also did not succeed. After a lapse of about 100 years misrule by them a major section of the Syrian Church returned to the Patriarch of Antioch
The Syrian Christians in South Kerala had mostly migrated from North Kerala at different times and had settled there even before Mar Sabor Easo and others migrated to Kollam in AD822. The tradition of the churches in this area also makes it clear that they were Jacobites following the Eastern traditions unique to Syrian Christians.
The customs and practices now existing among Syrian Christians are similar to that of Nambudiri Brahmins. The Syrian Christians are considered and held in great esteem by other communities in Kerala as would be evident from the Cheppeds given to their leaders by the Rulers at various periods. Such privileges were equivalent to that of Naduvazhis (next below the king).
The Portuguese in their attempt to discredit churches not under them, i.e. under the Pope of Rome treated the Syrian Christians as Nestorians, Protestants, etc. This was clear from the proceedings of the Synod at Udayamperoor, where the Portuguese Bishop Menizis treated Sabor Easo and Proth as Nestorians. The list of Bishops sent by the Nestorian Patriarchs did not however mention the names of the two Bishop Mar Sabor and Proth. The Nestorin bishops came to Kerala in later years could not influence the Syrian Christian faith which in fact was accepted in toto by the Roman Catholic Pope while giving permission to Mar Ivanios of Bethany Ashram to form Malankara Reeth.
The copper Plate (Arthattu Chepped) which is now preserved in the Trivandrum University Library in the Oriental Manuscript Section rejected Rome, Antioch, Babel or any foreign bishops having authority over the Syrian Christians. This shows that this church maintained the original faith traditionally coming from St Thomas’time and could not be influenced by any foreign rule.
The Nambudiri and Syrian Christian Tradition
1) The traditional belief among Syrian Christian families in Kerala is that they were originally converted to Christianity from Namboodiri families, but the large number of Syrian Christians present in Kerala as compared to the Namboodiri population gives rise to strong doubts about this claim. It is possible that some of the Namboodiri families might have accepted Christianity in the very early ages of Christianity in Kerala. It is also true that because of the rigid religious practices followed by the Namboodiris their population had come down though their offspring in other castes increased.
2) Many of the customs and family traditions existing in the Syrian Christian community are common with those of the Namboodiris. Because of the classification of the society based on caste, like Anchu-varnam, Manigramam-Chettys, Brahmins etc it seems that each caste maintained its identity even after conversion to Christianity.This is evident from the present day society in Kerala. The possibility of the Namboodiri converts mixing up with Christians of other castes is very remote. That is why we have today in Kerala Christians claiming their origin from Pakalomattam family as a priestly class.Since the initial conversion to Christianity were mostly Jews of Naphtali origin, Namboodiris, and Ruler families they must have had inter marriages leading to common origin and culture. Syrian Christians are often referred to as Surya Vamsajor i.e. sun worshippers. The Nambudiris like the Persian Magis were sun (Surya) worshippers i.e. Indran the sun God as referred to in
the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles Chapter 14: verses12-13). They were descendents of the Naphtali family tree, one of the twelve sons of Jacob. They were the lost tribe of Israel referred to in the New Testament. St. Thomas was sent to India to save them and also the Jews who had settled in India as the lost Tribe of Israel. When the property of Jacob was divided among the twelve sons the land where the sun rises (Persia) and the East went to Naphtali’s ie Magis. The Indo –Iranians or Aryans who had migrated to (In B.C 1500) India were of Magi origin. Christ sent his disciples not to the gentiles but to the lost sheep of Israel (Mathew 10:5). St Thomas first came to Gondophares in Taxila.They were known as fair skinned Indians (Naphtalis) from Aryana i.e. Iran.
3) Parasuram, who reclaimed Kerala from the sea, by throw of his Axe, as the legend goes, gifted the homeland (Kerala) to Nambudiris. There are evidences that the Arya Brahmins under the leadership of a person by name Parasuram from central India migrated to Kerala around 500 BC. Unlike the Aryan invasion in North India by force, their migration in South India was peaceful. There are historical evidences that a Kashmir King, by name Lalidadityan conquered various places and finally landed in Kerala around 7th century AD. He converted Kerala in to a prosperous place. He constructed many Temples. It is believed that the Namboodiris along with Nairs were brought from Kashmir to look after the Temples. The customs of Nairs and Nagas, presence of "Sarpakavu" in Kerala suggest their common origin as a warrior class.
When the Syrian Christians quarrelled over the church in Kunnamkulam (Arthattu church) between the Portuguese supported Pazhayakur Syrian Catholics and Puthenkur
Syrian Jacobites the Cochin king Sakthan Thampuran mediated. In his decision the Puthenkur Syrian Christian(Jacobites) were referred to as Surya Vamsajar and Pazhayakur ( Roman Catholics) as Puranka (Portuguese)
The system of writing horoscope, marriage ceremonies, Common names like Itty, Thanka, Kunjanda, Thirumeni, names with Mana, Illam,dowry systems, etc are common to Syrian Christians and Nambudiris.
The above facts and many other common practices would support the the claim of the Nambudiri origin of some Syrian Christians and hence it cannot altogether be set aside.
Traditional Seven Churches Founded by St Thomas
It is traditionally believed that St Thomas founded seven and a half Churches. They are 1) Cranganore (other names are Kodungalore or Maliyankara) 2) Quilon (other names are Kavulam, Kollam,Kurakkeni Kollam) 3) Niranam or Nelkynda. 4)Nilackal or Chayal 5)Kokkamangalam, Gokkamangalam or Pallipuram 6)Parur, Paravoor or Kottakavu 7) Palur or Palayur.
Except Nilackal all the Churches are on the coastal line between Palayur and Kollam at a distance of about 230 miles. Nilackal Church was known as Arapally.As already explained earlier the meaning of Ara in Tamil like Aramana in old Tamil means Head. So Nilackal Church was known in other words as the Head Church. There is a place called Plapally also known as Thlapally (meaning Head Church) very close to Nilackal which signifies the existence of a Head Church there.
A brief description of the above churches are stated below:
1) Kodungalore Or Cranganure
This place is close to the oldest port on the Malabar coast near to Alwaye known as Muchiri meaning three branches of Periar River before it joins the Arabian Sea.Muchiri is also known by dfferent names. Musiris, Maliankara, Anthropolis, Santhrok, Moyrikotta etc are some of them. Trade flourished between this Port, Middle East and East European Countries even from Solomans time in1000BC.
St Thomas first landed in 52AD in the port of Mali Island better known to Syrian Christians as Maliyankara on the Coast of Periyar near Alwaye. The Syrian Christians are also called Malankara Christians since they originated from this place. The first converaion done by St Thomas as per the traditional belief is mentioned in Chapter –2 under "Family Traditions". The city was also called Mahodayapuram or City of Maha - Thevar which was destroyed due to floods or water. This city was complelely wiped off due to floods in AD1341 (see page 5 of the book Published by the Aarcheological Survey of India on Mattancerry Palace in 1997 )2) Paravur, Kottakavu or Kottakayal
From Kodungalore St Thomas went to Paravur. This place is close to Ernakulam towards North on the coastal side in Paravur near Kodungalur. With in the fort (kotta) there was a Temple (Kavu). So it is called Kotta-kavu. In AD 70 the Jews migrated in large numbers tothis place. The remnants of the Juda-pally are still seen here. The Church founded by ST. Thomas is only two furlongs away from the old Jewish Street. The original church is completely destroyed by Tippu Sultan. Many Christians and Hindus from this place were killed by him or converted to Islam. The remnants of the old Church including the Altar after destruction by Tippu are still seen at this place. The traditional belief is that the entire Temple people accepted Christianity; so the Temple itself was converted to a Church. The present church wall with images, engravings etc is believed to be the wall of the old Temple. Today there is a Roman Catholic Church at this place. The place is of historical importance to Christians as well as others.
3) Palayur or Palur
This church is in Trichur district, North of Trichur city, and also near to Kunnamkulam Arthattu church and Guruvayur. This place was a business centre in olden times. Besides Nambudiris, there’re also Jews and Chettys settled down here for business. Traces of ‘Juda-Kunnu’ abandoned by the Jews are still seen at this place.
Syrian Christians traditionally believed that the four Nambudiri families Kalli, Kaliyankal, Sankarapuri & Pakalomattam were converted at this place. The Nambudiris, while taking bath in their pond used to throw water skyward during their prayer. When St. Thomas visited this place they accepted a challenge from him that they would accept his religion if he could suspend the water thrown up by them in the air without falling down. St. Thomas not only did this but also showed the mark left in the water after the same was thrown up. After this miracle they believed in his religion and were baptized. The local temple deserted by rest of the Brahmins was converted to a church. The people who had left the temple cursed it; so the place is still known as Sapakadu (cursed place). There are many relics, which speak about the history of this church. Pieces of broken idols and remnants of the old temple are seen around the church.
The original church was burnt to ashes by Tippu Sultan . The Christians and Hindus who resisted him were over powered. Many Christians who did not accept Islam were killed. Those who accepted Islam were given the property of those killed. The heroism of the Arthattu Christians in adhering to their faith requires special mention in this connection.
After the Portuguese assumed authority over the Syrian Church, the old church was demolished and a new church was constructed in AD1607 by enclosing the wooden structure supposed to be part of the ShivaTemple originally converted in to a church. This change was protested by the local Christians (pages25&26of "In the steps of St Thomas by Rev.Fr.Herman D’Souza M.A., Med., Phd. Published on 31st July1952 from SanThomChurch Mylapore). Fr.Fenicio who had supervised the demolition of the old structure reported it to Rome.
4)Quilon,Kavulam or Kurakkenikollam
After his gospel work in North Kerala St Thomas went to the second best known Port in Quilon in Kerala for his Mission.This Port city at that time was the Capital of Venadu kings (underChera kingdom).
The church founded by St. Thomas was destroyed in later years by sea erosion. Restoration of the original church was not possible. There are historical evidences to show that the Mani followers called Tharisaikal migrated to this place from Thiruvithamkode in the 3rd centuary AD (page 53 of Christian Churches in Kerala by Mr K.U. John). During Migration of Mar Sabor Easo and Mar Porth in 822AD, Kollam city and a Church known as Tharisapally, were established under Tharisapally Cheppeds. These are still in existence.
5) Niranam or Nelcynda
From Quilon St. Thomas travelled to Niranam, an important trading centre and a port known at that time. The port seems to have been destroyed in the big flood in AD1341. He converted many to Christianity, prominent among them were four Nambudiri families called Manki, Madathilan, Thayilan and Pattamukkan.The church founded by St Thomas is in the name of St Mary. It was renovated four times. The church previous to the present one was renovated in1259AD as per the writings on the wall. There are many ancient wooden carvings, metalic and granite objects which speak about the age of the Church. There is a granite cross about 30 feet height infront of the Church presumed to have been installed in the 12th century AD. The upper ceiling of the Madbaha of the old church is etimated 1800years old. There are many carvings on this ceiling, one among them being Crucified Christ with St Mary.
Most of the ancient families in Champakulam, Changanacherry, Kallupara, Thiruvella,etc were once up on a time members of this Church.
This is perhaps the only Church which still exists as a monument and link to St Thomas time in central Kerala and speaks about the tradition of the Syrian Christians. It is under the Syrian Orthodox Church and also the seat of the Niranam Diocese of the Orthodox Church.
6) Nilackal or Chayal
From Niranam St. Thomas travelled towards the East in Nilackal. This was a flourishing trading centre connecting the West Coast of Kerala to Madurai, the capital of Pandy.When St. Thomas visited this area, it was ruled by Vel kings of the Ayr kingdom. Names like Ayroor confirms this thinking. Vel-Nadu must have become Venad. Most likely this kingdom had its borders along the Southern side of Pampa River up to Thiruvella which later became part of Venadu. Please see Tharisapally Sasanam No.1 witnessed by Vel-Kula-Sundharam.
Kochu-koyikal, Karimala-kotta in Karimala ruled by representatives of Chera Kings etc also show that this area was under Chera rule in later years. The hill where the present Nilackal Church is situated is known today as Thever-mala. 33
‘Thever’ is a word used to signify respect to people of Royal Status. Kovilakam families were representatives of Chera kingdom. Please see Tharisapally Cheped number 2 where the Kovilakam representative of Chera kings in Kollam Viya-Rakha-Thevar, who was a party to Sasanam was referred to as "THEVER". The Christians to whom the Sasanam was given were also referred to as Thevar i.e. both were given equal status. The Christians were also some times addressed ‘Devar’. It shoud there fore be concluded that Thevar Mala near Nilackal is the place where either the Ruler family stayed or both Royal family and Christians had stayed. Nilackal being on the High Ranges and also a flourishing business centre must have attracted business people for spices, timber, Ivory etc, which were exported to other countries.
After the Chera -Chola war came to an end in AD 1085 this place came under the rule of Pandy kingdom. The Pandalam Raja,was a local representative of the Pandians who had ruled Nilackal area from AD1102. The Pandalam kings originally from Pandy had ‘Sastha’ as their family God. Their period of rule is already covered in paragraph 2(b) of Chapter-3.
There are a number of house sites, sarpa- kavu, graveyards etc in Thever-Mala and surrounding areas in Nilackal, which require excavation and research. At present, this place is in the midst of forest with only the Nilackal- Ambalam and a farm owned by the State Government in the neighbourhood. The new Nilackal Church constructed on the side of ‘Thever –mala’in recent times as already stated earlier is far away from the original church. The destruction and reconstruction of Nilackal Church is covered in detail in paragraph 2(a) of Chapter-3. After destruction of this place in 1341AD the people migrated to near by places like,Niranam, Palai, Kanjirapally, Ayroor, Thumpamon etc.
7) Kokkamangalam, Gokamangalam, or Pallipuram
From Nilackal St Thomas reached Kokkamangalam via Niranam. This place is about 20 miles South of Kochi and was inhabited by Nambudiris and Nairs. St Thomas converted some of them. Mischief mongers had removed the original cross installed by St. Thomas at Kokamangalam and the same reappeared in Pallipuram as the tradition goes. The Portuguese and the Dutch had fought war in this place. The Portuguese fort still exists at Pallipuram.
8) The St. Mary’s church at Kuravilangad
Besides the above 7 churches there are many other old churches in Kerala, which are of importance to the Syrian Christian community one among them is the St Mary’s Church at Kuravilangad.This Church is more than 1500 years old. The Kapela on the Southern side of this church is believed to have been made in AD335 There is also a St.Mary’s Statue above the Kapela which is very old.
Due to the fights among kingdoms and attack by the Arabs, a good number of Christians North of Kochi migrated to the Southern side around 300AD. They were mostly Christians originally converted by St Thomas from Palayur and Kodungalore, prominent among them were members of the Royal family, Kally, Kaliyankal Sankarapuri, & Pakalomattam. Since the Royal family memmbers were originally worshipers of Kali and others priestly class holding respect in the society, they were treated with honour by the Rulers and auhtorities of Mahadevan temples in Ettumanoor. The Temple authorities allotted them land near Kalikavu which was in keeping with the tradition of their Royal status. The church was constructed in this land. Many of the Christian families migrated further south of this area, like Kottayam, Chenganacherry, Thiruvella, Chenganoor etc claim their origin from this Church. There was trouble in this church after the oath of ‘Coonan Cross’ in AD1653.The Portuguese supported Pazhayakoor Syrian Roman Catholics retained the church after a big fight over the church properties. The Puthenkoor Syrian Christians had to leave Kuravilangadu for fear of reprisal by the Portuguese. A majority of such Christians migrated to South Kerala.
(a) INFLUENCE OF BARDAISAN AND MANI ON CHRISTIANITY IN INDIA AND ABROAD
The earliest known account of St. Thomas visit to Malabar Coast is contained in a book written by Bardaisan, (154 to 222A.D.) of Edessa. He was initially a Bishop but was later removed from that position due to his teachings opposed to Christianity. He founded his own religion known as Bardaisanism, which was later followed by Mani whose philosophy was known as Manicheanism. Both of them had travelled extensively in India and had spread their Philosophies. Bardaisan was born in a Parsi family (Zoroastrian). He believed in Dualism i.e. there are two Gods, one God of virtue has soul, power and mind known to be God of good. The other God of bad things represented fire, light, water and air. Man is created with these seven elements. The first 3 are Christian principles, the latter 4 are those which represent the origin of Parsi religion.
Bardaisan during the last four years of his life again went back to Christianity but his follower Mani, modified Bardaisan’s teachings and continued with his mission. He believed in Christianity; but he mixed Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism with Christianity, suiting to the local requirements. He travelled in India and popularized his new religion. The new religion was popular in South India. He taught that there were only two worlds ultimately i.e. Darkness and Light. The light world is absorbed by the dark holes. The light world is represented by the Upper World and the dark world down below. Christ is the link between the two; a white dove represents the promised Holy Ghost or Paraclete by Christ, bringing light into this world through the Cross. 6 petals at the bottom facing downwards and 6 petals facing upwards symbolized his cross. The 6 petals facing downwards represented the dark world, and the 6 petals facing upwards represented the light world.. The dove on the top of the cross was believed to bring salvation from Heaven to those who lived in darkness. Due to the emphasis given by Mani to ‘Light as a life giving force’, he is popularly known as Subra (light) Mani. He is the one, who wrote the oldest Tamil Epic ‘Manimekalai’, which throws light on early Christianity in South India. He had also visited Tibet and China and mixed the local religions with Christianity. His philosophy is still known as ‘Manicheanism’, which met with a lot of resistance from Christianity and Zoroastrians (Parsi religion). It is said that he knew the art of changing himself into a peacock and flying in the air, which he taught some of his disciples in the last few years of his life.
Towards the end of their mission, Bardaisan and Mani were opposed to each other and there are evidences that they met in Cheranadu. Because of the presence of Bardaissan in Cheranadu, Manicheanism could not take root in Malankara in the 3rd century A.D. Manicheanism was centralized in Kanchipuram (Pallava kingdom).
Mani appointed 12 disciples, 72 bishops and 360 evangelists. They traveled to China, Tibet, North India etc. His mother’s name was also Mary, who along with his 12 disciples were buried in Kashmir at a place known as Baramulla. These tombs are misunderstood even today as being those of St. Mary, mother of Jesus and the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. Mani for all purposes was a follower of Christ. He was also known as Jesus Christ in Tibet and China, as he claimed to be the Paraclete promised by Christ. Since he mixed Buddhism with Christianity his visits to Buddhist strongholds in Tibet and North India were recorded as of Christ. Attempts were made by many historians to prove that Christ had visited Tibet and North India, in His earlier years. In the book titled, 40
‘The lost years of Jesus’, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, (first printed in 1987), it is mentioned in pages 346-357, that a group of people conducted an expedition to Tibet to see a Buddhist document known as "Issa document at Himig in Tibet", which mentioned about Christ’s visit to this place for 17 years. They confirmed the existence of such a document. However at the entrance of the city they (the group) encountered the tomb of a holy man. The wall was studded with stones which say "OM MANI PADME HUM". The writing clearly mentions about Mani and his religion, which had reached Tibet early in the 3rd century. The distortion of the history of Christianity will be very well understood if one looked at Mani’s teachings and religion which had spread in India, China, Egypt, North Africa and the Roman Empire in the 3rd century. His religion disappeared by the 10th century due to fierce persecution by Zoroastrians and also by other religions.
The followers of Mani inTamilnadu were mostly Chettys. Being a business class people they enjoyed lot of favours from the kings. In fact they had a separate State known even today as Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. They had trade relations with Armenian Merchants. A good number of them had settled down in Kanchipuram, Mylapure and other trading centres in Tamilnadu for business and had business relations with local Chettys. They were followers of Mani and had constructed their own churches. The church in St Thomas Mount is believed to belong to them. The relevant portion from page 53 of the book ‘In the steps of St Thomas’ by Rev. Fr. Herman D’Souza states "The heap of ruins on St Thomas Mount spurred the religious curiosity of the Portuguese. Excavations conducted on the spot have led historians to the belief that the earliest church on the hill after the one built by the Apostle was that of the Armenians erected about A.D.530. These Armenians were in very long possession of the shrine." The Portuguese for the first time
in A.D.15232 constructed an oratory on the existing foundation (hardly one cubit from ground, laid from West to East). The Persian Cross-of Manachean also found a place in the oratory in the right place.
The Mani Chettys in Chera Nadu were assigned the job of collecting taxes and maintaing accounts of such collections on behalf of the King.Those migrated toThiruvithamkode around 3rd centuary had a church presently under Jacobite Church.In cities the Mani Chettys were accommodated in separate streets known as Manigramam. Their Chief was appointed by the king. That ceremony was known as "Pattomkoda". Their chief was called PerumChetty.
They followed Christian way of worship, but were not accepted by Christians. They were in Nilackal, Kollam, Kodungallor and other Cities in Kerala. When Knai Thomman landed in Kerala, the Chettys received him. In Kodungaloor, the Mani Chettys after the arrival of Knai Tomman were called Northerners and the people migrated with KnaiThomman were called Southerners; possibly they stayed on the North and South side of Manigramam. After Mani’s religion lost its importance by 10th century A.D, many of the Northerners, accepted Hinduism and the rest accepted Christinity.The Southerners who had accepted Christianity remained separate. They are today known as the Knanaya Christians.The Northerners who were assimilated with the Syrian Church lost their identity, however some families who had retained, surnames like Pilla etc with their names are still identifiable.
(b) Pantaneu’s Visit to Malankara
At the request of Malankara Christians bishop of Alexandria1, Demetrios, sent Pantaneus, a learned preacher of Christianity to Malankara in AD190. He visited Malankara to meet Mani’s challenge to Christianity and to bring back those who had joined Mani’s new religion. He represented Christians in Tamil Samgam (Kerala was aTamil speaking area till 13th century AD) and many who had left Christianity were brought back by him.
(c) ROYAL GRANTS AND PRIVILEGES GIVEN TO SYRIAN CHRISTIANS
It is a fact that no authentic records are available to prove the existence of Christians in Kerala from the time of arrival of St.Thomas in 52AD. It is possible that any record preserved in Tamil in the first few centuries on palm leaves as was the practice at that time must have been lost. The earliest known documents available are from second century AD that too by foreign authors. "Acts of Judas Thuma" by Bardaisan in the second century, Visit of Pantaneus of Alexandria in AD190, Cosmos’ & Ptolemy’s writings about Malankara, are examples. To suppress the Connection of Nazrani or Syrian Christians with Babylon, Antioch, and other Persian Countries from the beginning of 1st century, the Portuguese (Arch Bishop Menezes) burnt and destroyed in the Synod at Udayamperoor, all the original records which had come in their possession as Rulers of Syrian Christian Churches for about hundred years. Attempts were also made by them to distort the history of Syrian Christians even by manipulating original records which had come in their possession,
(d) Cheppeds, Copper Plate and other privileges granted to the Syrian Christians
The Rulers gave the Syrian Christians various rights and privileges written on copper plates. These are known as Cheppeds, Royal Grants, Sasanam etc. There are a number of such documents in the possession of the Syrian Churches or the Kerala State. Some of the important such documents are discussed below:
(1) Tharisappalli Cheppeds
In AD 822 two bishops, Morn Sabor Easo and Porth along with several families had migrated to Kollam consequent to Muslim persecution of Christians and other religious class of people in the Gulf countries. The two bishops administerd the whole of the Syrian Church, with Moran Sabor Easo keeping his head quarter at Kollam and Moran Porth at Kodungalur respectively. Their presence revitalsed the Syrian Christian community at that time. They were responsible for the construction of churches at 1)Kollam (Tharissapally) 2) Chenganoor 3) Thevalakara 4) Nilackal 5) Niranum 6) Kadamattam 7) Paravoor 8) Malayattoor. (It is possible that some of the then existing Churches were either reconstructed or renovated at the old sites.)
In AD 849 Mar Sabor Easo and the people in Tharisapally church were given two separate Cheppeds by the Ruler of Venadu, Iiyyanadikal Thiruvadikal (Ravi Varma). These Cheppeds are also known as Tharisapally Sasanam No 1 and 2. The original in Tamil as also a Malayalam translatoin of these Cheppeds are given as Annexure –D
The term Manigramam used in the Cheppeds require some explanation.
Due to persecution by the Chola Kingdom many Vellala Chettys who were followers of Mani had migrated to Kollam from AD 293. They were expert business men in gold, silver, etc which were supplied to the palace during those days. The Mani Chettys were given separate streets or villages to stay. A leader among them was appointed by the King. He was called Perum Chetty (big Chetty). This act of appointment is known as "Manigrama Pattam". The Mani Gramam people with Perum Chetty as their leader were made responsible to collect taxes and levies for the king in cities like Kollam and Kodunglloor. They were custodians of state exchequer and were responsible to maintain accounts of the treasury with royal seal/stamp. Reference to Manigramam and Perum Chetty in the Cheppeds may be read in the light of the above explanation.
Tharisapally Sasanam No.1
Sthanu Ravi Varma gave this Sasanam or Chepped on copper plate to the people of Tharisapally(church). This was given in consultation with his officers, Manigramam, Anchuvannam, and Punnathalapathi in the year 849 AD. The rights given were mainly tax concessions, servants to work, and trade within the fort and outside (Angadi). Various preveliges and authority to administer justice for criminal offence by the servants attached to the Church were also conferred The last leaf of this Chepped was lost. Out of the remaining two, one is with the Orthodox Church in Kottayam and the other with the Marthomma church in Thiruvella.
Tharisapally Sasanam No.2
This Chepped was given to Moran Sabor Easo by allottingig area of land for construction of a city (Kollam). The land given is bounded by Vayalkadu including Kayal (lake) on the East Side, South East is bounded by compound wall of Cheruvathukal, and West bounded by Arabian Sea, North bounded by Thorana Estate and North East by Andiban Estate.
Salient features of the Chepped:
1) Manigramam and Anchuvannam were made responsible to look after the land and the church for which taxes and levies could be imposed and the accounts of which were to be maintained by them on their daily basis as in the cases of palace.
2) 72 special rights were given to Moran Sabor Easo and his people.
3) Civil and criminal administration over the people, servants under them, were given to Moran Sabor Easo and the people with him.
4) Manigramam and the city were given to Moran Sabor Easo.
The following facts are relavent to be noted in this connection:
a) The people with Mar Sabor Easo were addressed as ‘Devar’ and the Kovil authorities (rulers) as ‘Thever’.
b) Manigramam and Anchuvannam were responsible to lookafter the new city and they were to be protected by Mar Sabor Easo.
c) Mar Sabor Easo was the owner of the city with vast powers for the administration of the city and the people under him.
In the Eleventh Century AD the Chola king, Raja Cholan attacked Quilon and destroyed the city (Mhodeyapuram) and the Kulasekhara Dynasty. The Kollavarsham started in 1096 AD with a new chapter from this period (The Chera, Chola war started during the reign of Bhaskara Revi Varma (962- 1019 AD) and lasted for about 100 years. The capital of Chera kingdom in Kodungallur and the city of Mahodeyapuram were completely destroyed. There after Kollam became the Capital.
Tharisapally Sasanam No2 was on four separate leaves of copper plates. The first leaf was lost. Out of the remaining three, two are with the Orthodox Church and one with the Mar Thomma Church.
In Kollavarsham 149 (AD1051) the Chera king Vallabhan kotha had given a Chepped to the Chengannoor Church conferring the title Mappila to all the Syrian Chrstians. The Syrian churches existing at that time were known as Mother Churches. After this Chepped was given, members of those churches were given the title ‘Mappila’ or children of Mother Churches and they suffixed Mappila with their names as a title of honour.
(3) Iraviikothan Chepped (Copper Plate)
The period when this Cheeped was given is not clear but estimated around 1225AD.Veera Raghava Chakravarti gave this Chepped to Iravikorthan(Iravi Kodai) Perum Chetty of Mahotheyar pattanam in Kodungallur. It is now in the possession of the Orthodox Church at Kottayam.
i) The title given Iravi Kothan was referred to as "Manigrama Pattam". He was in charge of the village where the Chettys (followers of Mani) used to stay. It was already explained in Tharisapally Chepped that the Manigramam was given the right to collect all levies from the city and to keep custody of the treasury and render accounts. They were there fore called "Tharians". The street where they stayed was called Thariya Theruvu (street). When the Mani Chettys migrated from Kollam to Kodungalloor the previleges and rights to collect taxes were given to Iravikorthan by giving him "Manigrama Pattam"for Kodungalloor city where MahoThevar and Devar had stayed. ii) Since the Chepped is in the possession of the Orthodox Church many writers projected him as a Syrian Christian by interpreting his name differently. From the usages made especially "Perum Chetty" and reference to Manigramam it would be clear that he was a follower of Mani and leader of Manigramam people in Kodungalloor. Possibly when Mani followers became Christians by joining Jacobite Church around the period when the Portuguese landed in Kochi in 1500AD or before, this Chepped was surrenderd to the Jacobite Church in the same way the Manachean Cross at Mylapore (The bleeding Cross at St Thomas Mount ) and the KnaiThomman Chepped were surrendered to the Roman Catholics (Portuguese) when they were admiitted to the Catholic Church.
This Chepped was issued with the knowledge of a) Venadu
b) Eranadu c) Vellunadu d) Panniyur and Chovara villages.
(4) Knai Thomman Chepped.
In AD 745 (period not defnite) Knai Thomman along with many people (about 400) landed in Kollam. He and his followers stayed in a street still known as Thariya Theruvu. They were expert business men in gold, silver etc which were supplied to the palace during those days. In AD825 the Tharisaikal (KnaiThomman and others) who resided in Manigramam were given special rights by the Ruler of Venadu Iyyandikal Thiruvadikal. The Tarisaikal being followers of Mani had adopted the Christian way of worship with Cross and Bible (Acts of Thuma) like the Chettys in Manigramam. The religion founded by Mani was crushed by the Parsees and Persian Kings around 9th century. The rise of Islam from 7th century onward also forced migration of other religious class of people like Parsees, Christians and Armenian merchants to the West Coast of India like Kerala, Gujarat etc The period when the Knai Thomman Chepped was given and its authenticity is very much in doubt. Experts put the date as AD 825. However all distortions are made about his arrival ie Kodungallor instead of Kollam. Most of the writers even among Syrian Christians consider him a leader of the Christian community.The one book which brings out the true origin of Knai Thomman and his connection to Mani’s religion is the book written by Mr. P.V. Mathew titled "Sugantha nadu Nasrani History". This book reveals the history about the origin of Knanaya Christians. It is a valuable contribution to the history of Syrian Christians as well.
Portuguese custody of Knai-Thomman-Chepped.
The original KnaiThomman Chepped along with the St. Thomas Cross at Mylapore went in the hands of the Portuguese possibly in Kerala when the Mani followers tried to prove before the Portuguese that they were the original Christians in Kerala. Since many of them joined the Roman Catholic Church attempts were made by the Portuguese to manipulate this Chepped to project Knai Thomman as a Syrian Christian which he was not. It is claimed that the original Chepped was written in Tamil, Arabic, and Syriac. The Portuguese Governor got it translated in to Portuguese language and sent the original to the King of Portugal. It is said that the Portuguese version is preserved in the British Museum. Nobody knows the where abouts of the original. One thing is clear that if such a Chepped exists it should be only in Tamil,for it is not likely that the Chera or the Venadu Kings gave it in any other language. It is also not likely that during the Chera Rule such a Chepped was given in foreign languages.
Moran Sabor Ishow and Aphroth who had migrated to Kollam along with many families in AD 822 had ruled over the Syrian Christians with their head quarters at Kollam and Kodungalloor respectively;Please see the history of Akaparampu Church in their name in Alwaye Taluq as also the inscription on the Aluvilakku made in Kollavarham 53(AD 876) preserved in that Church.
The 72 wicks Aluvilakku
made in 53 kollavarsham
This lamp can hold 72 wicks representing 72 disciples of Christ; but we do not know anything about the Bishops or Priests presumed to have migrated with Knai-Thomman having held any position in the Syrian Church nor the date of their arrival in Kerala. We have records to show many churches having built by Sabor Ishow but none by Knai Thomman or by his people from the period they arrived in Kerala coast.
If Knaithomman and the people with him were Syrian Christians they would have been referred to as "Devans"as in Tharissapally Chepped; we on the contrary see that Knai Thomman and his followers were referred to as "Perum Chettys"and "Manigramam Nivasikal";the priests and Bishops believed to have accompanied them, had no place in the Syrian Church.
Kochera Perumal, the Ruler of the Chera country while conferring various rights to KnaiThomman addressed him as "Thomman the Nasrani". Since KnaiThomman was a foreigner and Nasrani is used only for Malankara Syrian Christians, the usage of the word "Nasrani’ in the Chepped creates doubts of manipulation.
In the third sentencein the Chepped, following the above, KnaiThomman is again addressed as "Thomman Mapilla". Mapilla is a title given to the Syrian Christians in AD 1051 under the Mampalli Sassanam. Addressing Knaithomman as ‘Mapilla’ in the Chepped given in the 8th centuary is not only disproves its authenticity but also a clear indication of an attempt to project him and the people with him as Syrian Christians which they were not. It is also indicative of the fact that either the origin of the Chepped itself was after 1051AD or the Chepped was manipulated to conceal the identity of Knai Thomman as a "Chetty", follower of Mani.
(5) Thazhakattu Sasanam
KulaSekhara Chakravarthi (King) Raja Simhan (1026 to 1043 AD) gave this Sasanam to Chathan Vdukan and Eravi Chathan of Manigramam conferring rights for construction of two shops.
During the reign of Bhaskara Ravi Varma between 962 and 1019 AD, the war between the Chera and Chola kingdoms started which lasted for 100 years up to 11th century. The capital of the Chera kingdom, Mahotheyapuram was destroyed in this war. After destruction of Mahotheyapuram, Quilon bacame the capital. Some of the Mani followers migrated to Irinjalakuda while others
managed to stay in Mahotheyapuram itself. The leaders of those who migrated to Irinjalakuda were Irvi Chathan and Chathan Vadukan. (He was called Vadukan because he had a kudumi). Raja Simha Kulashekaran gave certain rights to these people by way of this Chepped which is preserved in Irinjalakuda in Thazhakattu Church. This Chepped made it clear that the beneficiaries were from Manigramam; hence they were not Syrian Christians. Their name "Chathan", and "Vadukan", suggested their origin as Mani followers.
Migration of Mani followers to Kodungalure
During the Chera-Chola war lasting for 100 years, upto the 11th century, the followers of Mani (Chettys) migrated to Kodungaloor, Irinjalakuda etc. After the war, small kingdoms appeared in Kerala, main among them being Venad, Kozhikode, Chera Perumal (Cochin). There were also powerless palaces like Chempakasseri, Vettathundu, Kayamkulam, Vadakkamkur, Thekkamkur etc.
The Knai-Thomman group from Kollam migrated to Kodungaloor.They had Thomman Kinan as leader of the northern group; he became the ruler of Vypeen and the surrounding areas under the banner of Villarvattam rulers. This kingdom continued from 1342 to 1492 AD. and had their jurisdiction from Chennamangalam in North Parur to Puthen Vypeen Island on the West. The last king (all named Thoma), handed over the Crown to Vasco De Gama in 1500 AD. After the Villarvattam rule came to an end, the Dutch appointed Palliyathu fathers. They had peacocks engraved in front of their palaces, churches, crosses etc., which indicated their origin as Mani followers. (The Kottayam Valliyapalli and St. Thomas Church at Mylapore had their crosses engraved with peacocks on them, which proves their origin from Mani). Most of them joined the Portuguese as Roman Catholics in the 15th century AD. The Southist group of Knai Thomman had migrated to Kaduthurithi, Kottayam etc. and agood number of them joined the Jacobite Church by surrendering their crosses (Manichean origin), around 1500AD. Those who migrated to Kottayam subsequently constructed the Kottayam big Church in 1550 AD.
In this connection it is very pertinent to note that the Knanaya Churches, whether Jacobite or Catholic, are not more than 500 years old. The exception possibly is the Jacobite Church in Thiruvithamcode. If one looks in to the history of this Church the facts about Mani followers would be revealed. This also proves that most of the Mani followers became Christians around the perod 1500 AD only. The Cheppeds given to the Chettys though in the custody of Syrian Churches, were not given to the Syrian Christians nor to their leaders. Out of the Cheppeds mentioned above only Tharissapally Cheppeds and Mampally Sasanam belonged to the Syrian Christians. All other Cheppeds belonged to the Knanaya Christians. The Cheppeds given to the Chettys in Manigramam revealed that they were a trading community with powers to levy taxes and render accounts to the Rulers, where as the privelages given to the Syrian Christians (Nazranis) were equivalent to that of Naduvazhis(Next below the King).In fact the Chettys of Manigramam in Kollam city were under the Rule of Sabor Easo as seen from the Tharissapally Chepped.a good number of them( Northerners) were absorbed in the Syrian churches,while Southerners remained as Knanaya Christians.
The historical developments in the tradition of the Syrian Christians (Orthodox) are shown in the chart as Annexure B. The Syrian Christians up to the time of the Portuguese were governed by Archdeacon from Pakalomattam family who had vast powers to rule over them. In fact he had even soldiers under him trained by
Panikers of Syrian Christian families. During a crisis he used to help the king by providing trained Syrian Chritians in Kalari fight. After the oath of the Coonan Cross in 1653 AD the Syrian Jacobite
Church was ruled by Mar Thomma 1 to 10 mostly from Pakalomattam family) till the church was again divided between Baba Kakshi (Patriarchal group) and Methran Kakshi (Orthodox) in 1912 AD
Martyrdom of St. Thomas
In "The Acts of Judas Thuma", Bardaisan had described St. Thomas’s death. While St. Thomas was travelling for his Gospel work in the land of king Mazdai, a lady by name Magdonia, who believed in Christ, came in a chariot to see him. She was the wife of a close friend of the King. St Thomas baptized her. On a complaint filed by her husband with the King, St Thomas was arrested and put into jail so that he might repent. While in jail he converted the Queen, Theresa, to Christianity (Thersamma is a common name among Christians). This made the King more angry. He ordered that St Thomas be killed. Four soldiers took him half a mile away from the palace and killed him by piercing on the back with a spear made up of pinewood. He was buried in a tomb near by that had been prepared to bury kings. The place where he was buried is known as Calamina.
It is believed that the mortal remains of St Thomas were removed from this place to Edessa in 232 AD as evidenced by the writings of many historians. During the life time of St Ephraim (300 to 373 AD) he wrote that there had existed in Edessa a church named after the Apostle St Thomas, which enshrined his relics. This is evident from various hymns. The relics remained there until the Turks attacked the city in AD 1144.
In order to know the burial place of St. Thomas, it is sufficient to know the place of king Mazda whose Queen was Theresa and also the place of burial, Calamina. Those names appear in many historical records including Catholic Encyclopedia. Evidently they are not Indian names. The land of Mazda including Calamina confirms these names and they still exist as historical facts in Persian Gulf.
Reasons disputing Mylapore in Madras as the kabaridom(Tomb) of St Thomas
There was no king by name Mazda whose Queen was Theresa in Madras when St Thomas was martyred.
Had St Thomas been buried in Mylapore the Christians in South India would have thronged to his tomb from 1st century onward.This had never happened till 16th century when the Portuguese made it important
History does not speak of any traditional Christians from Mylapore claiming their origin from StThomas time
In 1522AD when the tomb at Mylapore was excavated by the Portuguese a full skeleton of a body with an earthern pot was found This was contrary to the belief in all the ancient churches that the holy relics were removed to Edessa in 232 AD
The name of the place where St. Thomas was buried is Calamina according to various records available with us as on date. There is no such place in Madras . Calamina does not mean any thing in Tamil, where as Mylapore means place of peacocks. An extract from page 279 of the Cochin Manual by Mr C. Achutha Menon on this subject is very relevant. "Two of these writers Dorotheas, Bishop of Tire and St. Jerome make Calamina a town in India, the scene of the Apostles martyrdom. This town is identified with Calama mentioned by Nearchus on the coast of Gedrosia, which was under the rule of Gondaphorus; though this identification is disputed, it cannot be identfied with any town in South INdia with an equal show of reason.
The tomb at Mylapore is in North South direction as opposed to the Christian tradition of East-West direction. It was the practice of Mani followers to bury their death in North-South direction, facing the Northern Star according to their faith.
The Mar Thoma Cross (Bleeding cross), installed in St. Thomas Mount at Mylapore bears all the characters of a Manichean cross; i.e. a white dove on the top, six petals facing downwards and six petals facing upwards at the bottom of the cross signifying light world (petals facing upwards), and dark world (petals facing downwards). These are evidences that this cross is not the one used by St Thomas. Moreover the writings on the cross are in Pahlavi language (Persian), which is neither the language spoken by St. Thomas nor the local language (Tamil). The decoding of the language on the cross speaks about Mani’s philosophy and origin, the dove bringing pure light into this world.
There are two such crosses of similar description in the custody of Jacobites in the Kottayam Valliyapalli, which are supposed to have been surrendered by the Knanaya Christians in Kerala when they joined the Jacobite church after giving up the religion preached and practiced by Mani. The similarity of these crosses proves their common origin.
When the tomb at Mylapore was excavated in 1522AD, a statue similar to that of Mani’s description was unearthed with a cross and a Babylonian Bible in his left hand. These types of statues are common in churches founded by Mani and his followers.
The heap of ruins on St. Thomas mount spurred the religious curiosity of the Portuguese. Excavations conducted on the spot proved that the church on the hill was of Armenian origin constructed about 530AD. The Armenians were in possession of the shrine for a very long period. These Armenian merchants in Madras were not Christians of St Thomas origin.
On clearing up to a depth of sixteen spans of the grave in July 1523AD, some bones of the skull and some of the spines were found with an earthen vessel at the foot of the tomb. The Cathedral of Ortona where the relics of St. Thomas were shifted from Edessa in 1144 AD bear testimony of a silver bust of St. Thomas which contained his skull. This skull of the Apostle enclosed in a silver casket was exposed for public veneration during the feast of St. Thomas, (Pg. 74 of the book, "In the steps of St. Thomas"). There is also another casket of his relics kept separately. Hence they cannot be excavated from the tomb at Mylapore in 1522 AD. If the relics of St Thomas were removed in the 3rd century AD to Edessa, how can the skull remain intact in the tomb at Mylapore in the 15th century? This proves beyond doubt that the tomb at Mylapore is not that of St. Thomas.
The Syrian Christians of Malankara realized the importance of Mylapore only after the Portuguese constructed a church in the 16th century AD. How can such place of importance remain unknown to the traditional St. Thomas Christians from the 1st century AD?
The Catholic Encyclopedia points out that the translation of the body of St. Thomas from his tomb to Edessa took place in the year 232 AD and on that occasion were written Syrian Acts of the saints. The Roman Martyrology assigns the memory of the saint’s martyrdom to December21st and that of the translation of the body (to Edessa) to July3rd. These dates surprisingly coincide with the main feasts of the saint as celebrated by the Syrian Christians of Kerala.
There are five crosses similar to the one at St. Thomas Mount, Mylapore, two in Valiapally Church, Kottayam, one at Kadamattam, one at Muthuchira, Malabar, and the fifth at Anuradhapura, Ceylon. The three crosses i.e. one at St Thomas Mount Madras and two at Valiapally, Kottayam bear Sassanian Pahlavi inscriptions almost identical. The Pahlavi inscriptions on these crosses were one, which existed during the rule of NarassahiShah in Persia (293-302AD). This is not evidently the language that could be used by St Thomas in the 1st century as claimed in the case of StThomas Cross at Mylapore.
The History written by the Portuguese and others, that the Bleeding Cross at St. Thomas Mount is one carved by St. Thomas himself, is a distortion to cover the identity of Manachean Christians who had joined hands with the Portuguese to establish their claim as original converts by St. Thomas. Pahlavi was the language used by the people who had migrated from Persian Gulf from the 4th century AD. This is further supported by the similarity of alphabets on the Alangad Cross and the Manachean Crosses. Though the alphabets are the same, the Crosses are different in appearance, which again signifies people of two different faiths, unified in a common language.Incidentally it is worth mentioning that St.Thomas in Mylapore is connected with a peacock and the Bleeding Cross itself shows carved images of peacock. It was Mani and his disciples who knew the art of transforming themselves into peacocks and fly in the air. Hence Subhra-Mani (light- Mani) was always associated with a peacock . It was Mani’s chief disciple Ammon while attempting to fly as a peacock was shot by an arrow by a hunter and he died. He was buried in Mylapore, which in olden times was a trading centre known for export of peacocks and peacock feathers. The Armenian merchants who used to trade with Middle East countries were followers of Mani and had long established trade connections with the Chettys in Tamil kingdoms, like Chola, Chera and Pandy.Their head quarter was Kanchipuram; In the 3rd centuryAD they had established a Church in Mylapore, which was later destroyed due to persecution of Mani followers by Hindu and Muslim Rulers. The Portuguese excavated this area in the 16th century and hit history when they found remnants of an Armenian Church and a cross. They proclaimed them as of St. Thomas origin though the evidences unearthed clearly pointed towards Manachean origin. Even the sacred relics of St. Thomas were not spared from the heresy of Mani, which the Roman Catholics had added to the list of venerated relics.
The Cross as a Symbol of Salvation
The cross is a cube (6 faced three-dimensional object that has same length, width, height of any unit value) unfolded. There are six faces for a cube ;when it is unfolded, fours square units on the horizontal bar and three on the vertical bar make 4+3=7 units. These represent esoteric symbols of the Universe. Four is the symbol of matter, which requires spirit (3) the abstract triangle, to quit its one-dimensional quality, and spread across the matter thus forming three-dimensional space, in order that the Universe should manifest intelligibly. This is achieved by the unfolded cube. Hence the cross is the symbol of man, generation and life.
The foundation stone of a church is prepared in the form of a cube to signify its importance related to a cross.
The number 3 (male) and 4 (female) represent spirit and matter; their union is the emblem of life eternal in resurrecting element by procreation and reproduction. The spiritual male line is vertical; the differential matter line is horizontal, the two forming the cross. The former 3 are invisible and the latter 4 are visible. This is why all the matter in the universe when analyzed scientifically reduces to 4 elements viz. Carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen.
- The Pagoda of Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna was built in the form of a cross.
- The cross was used in Egypt as a protecting talisman and a symbol of saving power. Satan is actually chained and bound to the cross.
Thor is said to smite the head of the serpent with his hammer in the form of Swastika or four footed cross.
In the primitive sepulchre of Egypt, the model of the chamber had the form of a cross. The above facts and philosophy show that the concept of the Cross-was in existence before Christ. The symbol of salvation (cross) was later used for chaining Satan and we see it during the Roman Rule through crucifixion
6) The tree is the cause and sustainer of all forms of life. In the Garden of Eden, eating the fruit of the forbidden tree caused death. The Son of Man also brought salvation by crucifixion on the wooden frame in the form of a cross. It is thus part of life both as life giving force by chaining evil and also the resurrecting power by divine intervention. The two robbers who were crucified along with Christ represented mankind i.e. all sinners. One section of the mankind repented sinners, accepting suffering in this world as part of life without denying God’s gift. The other section does not repent and denies the divine gifts in life. The three qualities represented by the three crosses are thus the central part the Divine Grace ever ready to accept the repenting hearts, as seen in theRight side Robber while the Left the unrelenting. The One side turns away from God, the other looks towards God for mercy and blessings.
If a rectangle is constructed with a width of 3 units and length of 4 units, its diagonal will be 5 units and the perimeter of the right angled triangle with sides 3, 4 and 5 will be 12 which indicate the importance of these numbers. The digits of 12 are the first two numbers of the natural series 1,2,3,4…. When 12 is multiplied by ‘9’ one gets 108. The alphabets of Gayatri mantra when decoded adds to 108. When 108 is multiplied by 4, 100, 1000 etc, it proceeds to more secret numbers like 432, 43200, 10800 which are linked to the number of breaths (10800), the number of pulses (43200) for a 12 hour period of a healthy person. The number 432 X 1000 also represents the Hindu secret number which is a multiplying factor to decide the elliptical path of solar bodies. 720 is also used as a multiplying and dividing factor to calculate distance and time of Sun Moon and Earth ( 72X6=432;720)
CHAPTER - 9
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MAJOR DENOMINATIONS UNDER WHICH SYRIAN CHRISTIANS ARE NOW DIVIDED
1. The Roman Catholic Church
For the purpose of administration of believers in Christ, the Synods held by the disciples and later by representatives of the ancient Churches had decided to appoint four Patriarchs viz Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch. These four Patriarchs were appointed to represent the Four Corners of the world. Accordingly the Patriarch of Rome better known as the Pope was supposed to be in charge of the Western World. The three other regions were East, North and South of Jerusalem. However in the later years the Pope declared authority over all other Patriarchs, established churches all over the world, the reason being that the seat of the Roman Pope was that of St. Peter who held the key to the kingdom of heaven. Christ appeared to St. Peter after resurrection and reinstated his faith in Him consequent to St. Peter’s denial of Christ thrice before crucifixion. It is this faith proclaimed by St. Peter, which is as strong as a rock on which Christ laid the foundation of the Church. The claim of the Pope assuming spiritual and administrative powers over other Patriarchs, was not accepted by others. The existence of Roman Catholic Churches all over the world are standing examples of the imposition of authority in the areas of other Patriarchs by Rome.
The Portuguese who landed in Kodungaloor around AD 1498 were baffled by the presence of Christians in large
numbers in Malankara. In fact Vasco De Gama was received by the Kodungaloor Syrian Christians and the Villarvattom Rulers
(Knanaya Christians) who surrendered their sceptre and crown to the Portuguese, seeking their help to rule over the Christians (Syrian). The Malankara Christians never imagined that the Portuguese who came as conquerors whose help was sought by them as protectors would turn to become dictators of the Syrian Church. The character of the Portuguese as church builders rather than political power mongers surfaced when they attempted to rule over the Syrian Christians and their churches. In fact many of the old Syrian Christian churches were forcibly brought under them, which were renovated or reconstructed with Portuguese achitecture. The Roman Pope through the Portuguese, for the first time, started appointing Bishops in Malankara from Rome which till that time was from the Persian countries like Babylon and Antioch. The attempt to get bishops from Persian countries by the Syrian Christians was completely blocked and in their places Roman Catholic Bishops started administering the Syrian Christians under the patronage of the Portuguese. The last such attempt of the Syrian Christians to bring a Bishop for them from Antioch or Babylon ended up with the Oath of the ‘Coonan Cross’ held at Mattancherry in 1653 splitting the Syrian Christians into two groups viz. Puthenkoor and Pazhyakoor. The Pazyakoor Syrian Christians continued to remain under the Pope, while the Puthenkoor Syrian Christians went back to the old traditions existing prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. They started getting Bishops from Persian countries (Babylon and Antioch), and followed the Malankara tradition of worship, as opposed to the Portuguese Latin Rites imposed on them. Though the Syrian Catholics who remained with the Portuguese were not in majority at the time of the oath of the ‘CoonanCross’, to day (1999) they are in majority as the Puthenkoor Syrian Christians again split into Jacobites, Marthomites, CSI, C.N.I., etc. after the British took the seat of the Portuguese in the 18th Century. The foreign rulers were responsible for sawi seed of disintegration and splitting the Syrian Christians into various religious denominations.
2) The Jacobite church under the Patriarch of Antioch (Baba Kakshi)
and Syrian Church (Methran Kakshi) under Catholicos from 1912 AD.
As already mentioned, the Patriarch of Antioch had administrative jurisdiction all over the Eastern Churches.The Malankara Christians fall under his jurisdiction. However due to frequent wars and attack by Muslim countries, there was a break in getting bishops from Antioch. Permission was granted later by the Patriarch of Antioch to install a Catholicos in Malankara in 1912 AD. In the year 1895 a Patriarch by name of Abdulmessih took over the throne of as Patriarch of Antioch. Though he was a shrewd and efficient Patriarch, the Bishop and the priests under him were dissatisfied by his rule. They took a decision to remove him from the throne, which required the approval of the Turkish Government. This authority of the Government is known as Ferman. Another Patriarch by name Abdulla was appointed in his place; however he proved to be a worse administrator. This resulted in a fight between the two Patriarchs. During this period the Jacobite church in Malankara also faced administrative problems. Abdulmassih, Patriarch of Antioch, during his visit in Malankara, issued a Kalpana in September 1912 authorising the installation of a Catholicose in Malankara. The Catholicose would have the same powers of
Mapriana of Tigris or Catholicos of Seleucia, i.e. the Bishops would have the rights and powers to elect a new Catholicos when the Catholicos retires or expires. After these orders were issued Abdulmassih returned to Antioch and expired in AD1915. He was buried in a Jacobite church reserved for Patriarchs. When Abdulla Patriarch came to know of the visit of Abdulmassih and the appointment of a Catholicos in Malankara, he became very furious and issued a Kalpana invalidating the appointment of the Catholicos and the powers of the Bishops to appoint or elect a new Catholicos. This again made a division in the Syrian Jacobite Church into two groups viz. Baba Kakshi and Methran Kakshi. Those who remained directly under the Patriarch of Antioch were called Baba Kakshi (Patriarchal Group) and those under the Catholicos came to be known as the Methran Kakshi (Syrian Orthodox).
(b) Special rights, privileges and administrative set up of Syrian Christian Churches
The Chera Perumals and their successors had conferred various rights and priveleges by royal grants to the Syrian Christians as a self ruling community. They were therefore a powerful community having civil and judicial autonomy and rights to administer the people under them. Since the Archdeacon was in charge of the entire church and also had trained soldiers under him the king took his help when there was external aggression. After the destruction of the Chera Empire the male population of the Syrian Christians and other communities in Kerala drastically depleted in the 12th century AD. Afterwards the Villarvattom rulers of Udayamperoor
(Adopted later into the royal family of Cochin) came into power and gave protection to the Syrian Christians.
When the Portuguese landed in Kerala they surrendered the administrative power to them. In the matter of religious administration the Syrian Bishops and the native Archdeacon of the Pakalomattam family continued to enjoy more or less the same priveleges as at the time of Chera Rule. The Patriarch of Antioch or Babylon appointed the Bishops. They had final say in liturgical or canonical matters. The Archdeacon was all powerful since he was
the trustee and custodian of all assets of the church. He was the general administrator in matters of civil and criminal matters involving Syrian Christians. He used to represent Christians before the king; his consent was necessary before the local kings could impose any taxes on the Christians or enlist Christian soldiers in the army (military training was compulsory for all youngsters in the Syrian community).
Normally a priest was in charge of a parish (Edavaka). The Edavaka Yogam(meeting) decided matters pertaining to the parish; matters of regional interest were decided by the elected members from different parishes under the supervision of a Bishop or Archdeacon. Affairs of general nature were decided by a Synod where representatives of all parishes would be deputed. In matters of birth, baptism, thread ceremony, marriage, dowry, burial, etc the Church followed age-old customs similar to those existing in Namboodiri families. Dowry was a voluntary contribution from the girl’s side to the new family. In fact the fathers side contributes more by way of share. This system was adopted so that the family assets are kept in tact avoiding control of property by members outside the family. Feast on memorial days of the departed, anniversaries, etc were
also similar to that of high caste Hindus. The average layman knew enough to participate in liturgical celebration and able to pass on the traditional songs, dances etc. to the next generation.
The Syrian Bishop used to reside in Kodungaloor till 1524. When there was a break in getting bishops during the Portuguese rule, the Syrian Christians approached the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Babylon etc. On certain occasions even Nestorian Bishops had come to Malankara. However the Syrian Orthodox faith was always protected by the Malankara Christians till the Portuguese came in 1498. The Portuguese tried different methods to
take over the administration of Syrian Churches; one method was to offer financial assistance to bishops and subsidies to repair churches. The Portuguese Missionaries tried forcible methods to get rid of Syrian Bishops. They deported Mar Abraham in 1559 to Portugal; on the orders of the Portuguese, the Bishop of Cochin, Mar Elias left for Syria and Mar Joseph left for Europe in 1563.HoweverMar Joseph returned in1664 with the Royal endorsement from Portugal. Rome then indicted him and he died in 1569. The Syrian Christians were upset over the way in which the Portuguese treated their Syrian Bishops.The second Provincial Synod of Goa in 1575 had in fact made a resolution that in future the Syrian Christians should be governed by Bishops sent by the king of Portugal and not by the Syrian Patriarchs.
The Archdeacon of the Syrian Church had written letters in AD1648/1649, to the Chaldean Patriarch, (East Syria), and the Patriarchs of Mesopotamia, Antioch, Coptic, Alexandria, the three Oriental Churches and Middle East requesting them to send Bishops. In response to this, Cyril Mar Ahtallah, a Bishop of Syrian rite, was sent by Patriarch, Ignatius. The Portuguese
however did not allow him to land in Mattancherry. The news about his deportation/drowning by the Portuguese spread which ultimately resulted in the Oath of the Coonan Cross on 3/1/1653 (Friday). In a Yogam that followed at Edapally, Archdeacon, Thomas was to function as the Ecclesiastical Governor of the Archdiocese helped by four councilors.In the meantime on 7/1/1663, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese in Cochin and ordered all the foreigners to leave Malabar. This brought an end to the Portuguese intimidation of Syrian Christians
In the year 1665AD Mar Gregorious, Metropolitan of Jerusalem arrived inMalabar. With the oath of Coonan Cross the resolution the Syrian Christians had taken to keep their identity and
to re-establish autonomy of their church succeeded. However the unity maintained till that time broke. A vast majority of the Syrian Christians and a minority of the Knanaya Christians came back to the Patriarch of Antioch while a minority of the Syrian Christians and a majority of the Knanaya Christians remained with the Roman Church. The Syrian Catholics who remained with the Roman Church had a separate Bishop from the year 1887. The Latin and the Knanaya Catholics also had separate Bishops for administration.
Mar Gregorious of Jerusalem on his arrival at Malabar in 1665, consecrated Mar Thoma-1, as Bishop. The Malabar Church thus re-established spiritual contact with the Patriarch of Antioch. Before Mar Thoma-1 died he consecrated Mar Thoma-11 jointly with Mar Gregorious. Mar Thoma-1 was buried in the Syrian Orthodox Church at Ankamali. Mar Gregarious died in 1671 and was buried in Paravoor (Parur) church. During the period of Mar Thoma-11, Mar Andrew, Mar Baselious and Mar Ivanious arrived in Malabar. When Mar Thoma-11 died, he was buried in Kadambanad Church. Mar Thoma IV belonged to Pakalomattom family and was consecrated by Mar Ivanious in 1688. In the year 1694, Mar Ivanious died and he was buried at the Mulanthurithy Church. Mar Thoma 1V, consecrated his nephew as Mar Thoma-V in 1728. Mar Thoma-1V died in the same year and was buried at Kandanad Church. Mar Thoma-V, tried to get a Syrian Bishop. Soon a group arrived which included Mar Gregorious. Due to a dispute for non-payment of passage, Mar Thoma-V was jailed in a Dutch fort in Cochin, but was later liberated by Syrian Christians. Mar Thoma V died in 1761 and was buried in Niranam Church. Mar Thoma-V1, known as Dionysius was appointed. However Mar Gregorious without the knowledge of Mar Thoma-V1, consecrated one Ramban (Kurien), as Mar Coorilos in December 1772 in Mattancherry Church and set him as a rival Bishop.This gave rise to a dispute which ended in favour of Mar Thoma-V1. Mar Coorilos then went to British Malabar and established an independent Syrian Church known as Thozhiyur Sabha. Mar Gregorious died in 1772 and was buried in Mulanthurithy Church. When Tippu Sultan of Mysore invaded Travancore and Cochin during the period 1780-92, his troops set fire to Kunnamkulam and Ankamali Churches. When the troops of British India threatened to attack Mysore, the invaders retreated. Due to this unsafe conditions it was decided to shift the headquarters of the Syrian Church from Ankamali to Kottayam and since then it is at Kottayam.(2) ( c ) Vattipanam
The British Resident in Travancore and Cochin, Colonel Macauley received a sum of Rupees 10500/-(3000Puvarahan) in 1808 from Mar Thoma VI as a Trust Fund for investment carrying interest at 8 percent per annum. Colonel Macaulay invested the amount initially with the Madras Government/East India Company as permanent fund for the benefit of the Syrian Christians (Jaobite Church). This fund was later transferred to theTtravencore Government. It had become a source of dispute between the Jacobite Church and others who had left the church in later years. The events that took shape in the Jacobite Church after the investment of this fund are mentioned below:
After the investment of the fund, Mar Thoma VI died in 1808AD and was buried in Puthencavu Church. MarThomaVII who succeeded him also died in 1809. He was buried in Kolencherry Church. He was succeeded by MarThommaVIII. A group led by Joseph Ramban of Pulikottil and Philipose Ramban of Kayamkulam had opposed him. Joseph Ramban wanted to start a theological seminary for education of the deacons. For this purpose he claimed from Colonel Monroe, the British Resident the accumulated interest of Vattipanam, from 1810-1819. The Resident gave him interest for four years disregarding the claim by Mar Thoma VIII. Joseph Ramban also persuaded Rani Parvathi Bai to give him a plot of land at Kottayam for a seminary. The benevolent Rani not only gave him tax-free plot but also Rupees 8000/ for the seminary. Joseph Ramban completed the seminary in 1815 and it is known today as the Kottayam old seminary (Theological Seminary). The Madras Government questioned the Resident for payment of interest to Joseph Ramban. To justify the payment to him Joseph Rambhan was consecrated as Mar Joseph Dionysius 11 in 1815 by Mar Philexinos of Thozhiur church in Malabar. Mar Thoma V111 opposed him, but the Resident decided the case in favour of Mar Joseph Dionysius11. Mar Thoma V111 consecrated Mar Thoma 1X and died at Niranum church in 1816. Mar Thoma 1X had to submit his Episcopal office to Mar Joseph dionysius11. Mar Thoma 1X died in 1817 and was buried in Kadamattam church. Thus the ecclesiastical rule of Pakalomattam family came to an end. This family had provided the Metropolitans and Archdeacon till 1817.
Mar Philexinos of Thozhiyur consecrated George Kathanar of Punnathara as Mar Dionysius 111 in 1817 and the latter died in 1825. He was buried at Kottayam Cheriyapally. Dionysius 1V of Cheppad succeeded him. It is during his time that the English Missionaries tried to introduce Protestantism in the Syrian Church through Abraham Malpan of Palakunnathu. This came to a stop in 1836 after the resolution known as the Mavelikara Padiyola Declaration.
Till 1836 successive Metropolitans of the Syrian Church received the interest on Vattipanam. Dispute arose between Dionysius 1V and the CMS Church at Kottayam. However it was settled in favour of the Syrian church. Dionysius 1V died in 1855, he was succeeded by Dionysius V. The interest of Vattipanam was paid up to 1884, when a second dispute arose between him and Mar Thoma Church (Mar Thomas Athanasius and Dionysius V), as towho should receive the interest. The dispute was settled in favour of Dionysius V.He died in 1909;he was buried in the old Seminary Church in Kottayam. Vattaseril Mar Geevarghese was consecrated in Syria in 1908 as Mar Dionysius V1 by Mar AbdullaIII, Patriarch of Antioch. During this period there was difficulty in getting Bishops for the Syrian Church in Malabar. As already stated earlier when Mar Abdulmessih the deposed Patriarch of Antioch came to Malankara, he issued necessary Kalpana authorizing a Catholicose in Malankara from Sept1912. This was not accepted by the rival Patriarch Mar AbdullaII. The first Catholicose was installed at Niranam in AD1912 and his followers were called Methran Kakshi (Bishop’sParty-Orthodox) and those who stood with Patriarch of Antioch were called Bava Kakshi (Patriarch group). The dispute over Vattipanam again started between the two groups in AD 1913 and was finally decided in 1928 in favour of the Orthodox Church (Bishop group). The first Catholicose, Mar Baselius, died in AD1914 and was buried at Pampakuda near Muvattupuza. He was succeeded by Mar GeevargheseI who died in 1928. The third Caholicose Moran Mar Baslius GeevarugheseII was consecrated in 1929.
Patriarch Mar Elias III came to Malabar in 1931 to settle the dispute between both the groups, but the negotiations failed. Mean while court suites about church properties continued. Finally the Supreme Court on 12/ 9/ 1958 decided the case in favour of the Catholicose party (Orthodox Church).
On 16/12/1958, letters were exchanged between the Patriarch Moran Mar Ignatious Yakub 111 and the Catholicose, Moran Mar Baselius Geevarghese 11, accepting each other. The latter died in 1964 and was buried besides the Catholicate Chapel at Devalokam, in Kottayam. The church elected Mar Ougen Timotheos to succeed him as Catholicose. He died on 8/12/1975 and was buried beside the Catholicate Chapel at Devalokam, Kottayam. In the meanwhile an alternate Catholicose was appointed by the Patriarch to rule over Malankara (Bavakashi). Again a series of court cases erupted about church properties between the two groups. Patriarch Ignatius Yakub 111 died in 1980 and Mar Ignatius Zakka 11 became the new Patriarch. He came to Kerala in 1982. The Malankara Church was of the opinion, that if the new Patriarch like his predecessor believed that St. Thomas, the Apostle, did not have the fullness of priesthood, the Indian Church would not want any relationship with the Patriarch. On 20/2/1982, he made conciliatory statements in Kottayam for a peaceful settlement for which the Catholicose also agreed but so far there is no response from the Patriarch in writing. On 29/4/1991, H. G. Mar Coorilos of Quilon Diocese was enthroned as Catholicose Moran Mar Baselius Thomas Mathews 11.
The Syrian Christians of Methran Kakshi number about 1.2 million and Baba Kakshi about 1.3 million; they follow the Antiochian West Syrian tradition. After the oath of the Coonan Cross the Knanaya Christians got split in to two. Those who remained with Antioch number about 0.85 lakhs and with the Roman Catholics about 1.15lakhs.(3) The Marthoma Church
Just as the Portuguese armed with political power tried to bring the Syrian Christians under the Roman Catholic faith, the British also tried to bring them under the Protestant faith. As a first step they influenced the Jacobite Bishops and took permission to preach in all the Jacobite Churches; the result was that they influenced many to protestant faith. Though as rulers they helped
the Jacobite Church during the time of Colonel Macauley in acquiring places for constructing a seminary in Kottayam etc their entry in to the church for preaching, distribution of Protestant Bibles, teaching the deacons etc was in fact injecting Protestant faith among the Jacobite people. The one who was most influenced was Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan. He was born in AD1796; was ordained as a Jacobite priest in 1815AD by 8th Marthoma of Jacobite Church. However after some years he doubted the authority of the 8th Marthoma to ordain him as a priest. He there- fore got his ordination redone through another Bishop by name Athanasios Abdamsih who had visited Malankara from abroad in AD1826. The 8th Marthoma made complaint to the local Government for this insult and Abraham Malpan was Punished and imprisoned for some time. He was later used by the Protestant Missionaries to propagate Protestantism in Jacobite Churches.They modified the Thaksa of Jacobite Church and conducted Holy Qurbana in Jacobite Churches with the modified version. When it came to the notice of the Jacobite Bishop, Abraham Malpan and his followers were excommunicated from the Jacobite Church by Cheppad Mar Divannasios. Thereafter the group with Abraham Malpan as leader attempted to introduce Protestantism by modifying the Jacobite Thaksa and other prayer books.Their next attempt was to get a bishop. For this purpose deacon Mathews, Abraham Malpan’s brother’s son was sent to Antioch in AD 1841. He stayed with the Patriarch of Antioch for two years. During his stay over there an application signed by some Malankara Christians stating that their Bishop had expired was received by the Patriarch of Antioch. So Mathews was ordained as a priest and then a Bishop and sent back to Malankara in AD1843. This created further trouble since the requisition for a Bishop from Malankara Christians was proved false. The existing Bishop, Cheppad Mar Divannasios objected to the new Bishop’s entry in to Malankara. He reported against Mathews Mar Athanasios to the Patriarch of Antioch and also to the Maharaja of Travancore. The Maharaja with the British patronage (Protestants) ordered that Mathews Mar Athanasios had full powers to administer the Malankara Church. This was in the year AD1852. He there fore ruled the Malankara Church up to AD1875 for 23 years till another Patriarch, Mar Peter took over the throne of Antioch. He came to Malankara in AD1875fully armed with orders from the British Government and reversed the orders issued by the local Government. Mathews Mar Athanasios was excommunicated for the illegal way he obtained his ordination as a priest and bishop. The Patriarch then called a Synod in Mulanthurithi and formed seven Dioceses and appointed seven Bishops. He then left for Antioch in 1877 after setting right the turmoil in the Malankara Church.
After losing all his powers Mathews Mar Athanasios went back to his home parish in Maramon and died in 1877. During his tenure as a Bishop for 23 years, he had already ordained his brother’s son, Thomas Mar Athanasios as Bishop of Malankara Jacobite Church. This again created a dispute. Pulikot Mar Divanasios of the Malankara Church therefore filed a case in Allepey court against Thomas Mar Athanasios, for relinquishing his power and authority to rule over Malankara Church and handing over all the church properties administered by him to the authorized representative of the Malankara Church. The case was decided in favour of Pulikot Mar Divanasios in 1881. However the aggrieved Thomas Mar Athanasios appealed in the High Court at Trivandrum, there also he lost the case in 1886. Finally he went in appeal to the king, which was also rejected in 1889. Thus the entire property of the Jacobite Church controlled by Thomas Mar Athanasios was handed over to Pulikot Mar Divanasios, as representative of the Jacobite Church and authorised Bishop by the Patriarch of Antioch. With the above decision there was no other alternative for Thomas Mar Athanasios but to leave the Jacobite Church. A reformist Protestant group with ideas dressed up in Jacobite tradition was formed in 1890. Many persons in Central Travancore particularly relatives of Palakunnathu family joined the new faith. The Marthoma Church which expanded initially in and around Kozhencherry, Ayroor, Ranny etc later spread all over Kerala and outside. As on 1997, there were 1029 parishes, 651 priests with a total membership of 8,75,000 spread over 11 dioceses (8 in Kerala and 3 outside).(4) The Malankara Reeth (1930AD)
Next to the Portuguese and the British the one who played a key role in further splitting the Syrian Jacobite Church was Mar Ivanios, Bishop in charge of Bethany Ashram, of the Jacobite Church in Perunad, till 1930 AD. The oral tradition recorded below is based on what is heard from parents, relatives and grandparents who were members of Bethany Ashram from its inception in 1918 AD.
Mar Ivanios was the most qualified among all the bishops in the Orthodox Church. He corresponded with the Pope of Rome and made attempts without the knowledge of the Church authorities to bring the entire people of Bethany Ashram (Bishops, Priests, nuns and common people), under the Pope. The Bethany Ashram and the parish members had great faith in his leadership, since he demonstrated his abilites as a capable Bishop. What prompted him to leave the Orthodox Church is still shrouded in mystery even to the people close to him. As a result of his secret attempt the Roman Pope ultimately gave him permission to form the Malankara Reeth, in the year 1930 AD. Along with him another Bishop from Bethany Ashram Mar Theophilos (mentally unsound), also left the Orthodox Church. They were followed by a third Bishop, Mar Severios in the year 1937. Two dioceses were formed; one south of the Pampa River and the other north of the Pampa River with headquarters at Trivandrum and Thiruvella respectively. Mar
Ivanios became Archbishop of Trivandrum and Mar Theophilos Bishop of Thiruvella. However due to his mental ill health Mar Theophilos was replaced by Mar Severios.
After leaving Bethany Ashram Mar Ivanios made another indirect attempt to forcibly occupy Bethany Ashram, Convent and Church which was thwarted by physical resistance by local people and parish members of the Ashram church, predominantly from the author’s family (Plathanam). This time the plan laid by him was by prompting the Syrian Roman Catholics to purchase 105 acres of Bethany Ashram land offered for sale. The Ashram authorities agreed to sell the land due to the acute financial problem faced by them and also to utilize the money for the purchase of paddy fields. The land agreed to be given was different from what was actually transacted. The Church, Convent, and Ashram had fallen in the area of the sale deed, executed with three Roman Catholics from Kanjirapally. This was because the Ashram authorities were ignorant about the boundaries of the big area of the land in their possession and Mar Ivanios under whose instructions the land in question was purchased through a third party knew everything in detail under various survey numbers. The Roman Catholics came one night to occupy the Church and Ashram forcibly, along with the land mentioned in the sale deed. Without notice they entered the Church and the Ashram area. However they were challenged and driven out with physical force. Finally the land area, agreed with mutual consent only, was given, thus avoiding the loss of Ashram to Malankara Reeth. The prolonged litigation there after ended in1957 in favour of the Bethany Ashram. Towards the end of his life Mar Ivanios had regretted about his action and harm done to the Syrian Orthodox Church. The Malankara Reeth was and still is a trap to bring the Syrian Christians under the Roman Pope. Many Syrian Jacobites and Marthomites joined the Malankara Reeth initially for financial reasons.
In this connection it is very relevant to state that the Roman Catholic Church had characterized Jacobites as Nestorians but accepted in toto the ordination of Mar Ivanios and his faith in Jacobite Church as unquestionably valid. The Malankara Reeth is not having any difference in faith from Jacobite Church except that they accept Roman Pope as head of the Church instead of thePatriarch. The total membership of Malankara Reeth is about 3.5 lakhs. Those interested to know more about Malankara Reeth formation may refer to The Apostolic delegation of the East Indies Port. N. 2025/30 from the Roman Pope.
5. Roman Latin Catholics
They represent the Portuguese converts in India. The Roman Latin Rite was introduced in Malabar in the 16th century with Goa as the Head Quarters from AD1558. The Latin Rite Christians of Malabar were under the King of Portugal and the Roman Pope. In Kerala they number about 10 lakhs in 1994.
(6) Other Protestant Churches
Besides the Mar Thoma Church there are numerous Protestant Churches and Groups in Kerala, which had their origin in USA or other European Countries. Chief among them are CSI, Assemblies of God, Ceylon Pentecost, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventist, Church of God, Luther Mission etc. Most of these Churches have their origin after the 16th century when the Protestant Church broke off from the Catholic Church.
If one looks impartially at various denominations it would be difficult to know the true faith. However a deeper analysis would show that the faith handed down by Church Fathers from Christ’s time is definitely retained in the traditional Churches like the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Syrian Jacobites. The fusion of common faith is the need of the hour and will pave the way for a platform for unity among Christians.Infact position, property and power among church leaders come in the way of this unity. The youngsters of tomorrow might pose this question to their leaders for an answer.
This book is made possible by gathering information from various sources. Chief among the books and authors who greatly helped in formulating ideas and supplying information are mentioned below: -
1 Christian Church by Rev.Fr.Inchackalody, Trivandrum !954.
2 In the steps of St Thomas by Rev.Fr. Herman D’Souza,M.A.Med.Phd,
3 The secret Doctrine Vol.1&11,Theosophical UniversityPress,
4 The lost years of Jesus Christ by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, 1987
5 Sugandha Nadu Nasrani History by Mr P.V.Mathew, Cochin, 1984.
6 The Christians of Kerela by Mr Antony Korah Thomas, Malaysia, 1993.
7 Kanikunnam -Plathanam family history by Rev Fr. Iduculla
M.A, BD, GST, BEd.Menayathil, Ranny, 1993
8 Family Histories of Vadakedathu, Thumpamon by Mr Jose (Alexander Jacob), I.P.S, and also Thazhamon family, Ayroor by Mr. Cherian Kurunthottiyathu.
- The Cochin State Manual by Mr. C. Achutha Menon, Government of Kerala,1995.
10 Mattancherry Palace by the Director General of Archiological Survey of India,New Delhi, 1997.
11 The Christian Churches in Kerala by Mr. K.U. John, November1995.
|Periods of Biblical Imortance Before Christ|
|Important kingdoms, Races, Empires, etc that were existing during this period were Hebrews, Egyptians, Mesopotomians, Etruscans, Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Armenians (Syrians), Hittites and Iranians.This period is known as Chalcolithic Age. Important developments during this period were cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia, early Minion civilization on Crete (3400BC) in Greece, Age of Patriarchs for Hebrews.|
|3000—2000 BC Early Bronze Age.||The great Pyramids were constructed by the old Egyptian kingdom s (2700- 2200Bc --Dynasty of Urs. 2800BC 2400). Akkadian Dynasty established Sargaon (2300AD). Third Dynasty of Ur in Mesopotamia. Tribal Migration of Indo European Hittites to Asia Minor started during this period.|
Abraham’s time, Assyrian independence, and Amorite invasion. Mesopotamia was divided into Babylon and Assure. The kingdom of Mari established the first dynasty of Babylon( Amorite). Hittite sculptures started during this period.
Hyksos invaders ruled Egypt.
Ahmos I Liberated Egypt (1580). Hittites conquer Babylon. Indo-Aryan and Armenian migration from the desert.
Moses received the Ten Commands. Exodus 1290BC Conquest of Canan 1250 BC. Assyrian supremacy over Babylonian Empire (Mesopotamia) was established in 1300BC. Assyrian empire continued up to 625 BC. Hittites used iron weapons.
Hebrews divided in to Israel and Judah (952 BC) Solomon’s temple was constructed during 925-961 BC. Libyan Dynasties 710- 961BC. Sheshonk raided Palestine in 925 BC.
Etruscan invasion of Italy in 800BC.First Olympic games started in 776BC. Damascus was devastated by Assyrians in 805 BC
Israel and Hittite States fallen to Assyria in 721BC. Last of Aramean states fallen to Assyria.
Battle of Megiddo in 609BC. Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion and fall of Jerusalem in586 BC. Assyrians were defeated and New Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire and Mesopotamia established. Cyrus conquered the Hebrews in 539 BC.Jerusalem Church was rebuilt by him during 515-520BC.
The Roman Republic was established in 509BC.Mesopotomia and Syria came under Persian rule from 392-532BC.
Persian rule of Egyptians, Mesopotamia, and Syria from 539-392BC. Decline of Athens.
Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia and part of North India. He ruled Greece from 323-336BC.
Mesopotamia and Syria came under Seleucid kingdom from64-321BC.
Antiochus-I from 261-280BC
Antiochus-II from 245-261BC
Seleucus-I from 280-312BC
,, -II from 226-246 BC
,, III from 223- 226
War with Rome by Mesopotamia started from 189-192BC.Persia was divided into Parthian and Bachtrian Kingdoms (170-226BC). Roman conquest and expansion started.
Revolt of Maccabees in 167BC. Roman domination continued.
Birth of Christ 5BC.
Herod Antipas 4BC-39AD.
Herod the Great 4BC-37AD.
Greece (Alexander’s Empire) had fallen to Rome after the Macedonian wars. It was merged with Rome after the third Punic War. During 146-149BC. Phoenicia and Syria were annexed to Rome by Pompy in 64BC. Egypt was also made a Roman Province in 30BC.After the Roman conquest only Palestine and Persian Empire continued. Palestine was under the Roman Procurators from 63BC.
Who Ruled Palestine?
Pontius Pilate ruled from 27-37AD (during Crucifixion of Christ in30 AD). Afterwards Herod Agrappa I (41-44AD). Herod AgrappaII ruled Palestine from 50- 100AD. StPaul was imprisoned during 58-62AD. Jewish and Roman war started during 66-73 AD. Jerusalem was destroyed in70AD. Mazda had fallen to Rome and Procurators rule was reestablished in Palestine. The Jews were expelled from Jerusalem in135AD after theBar Cochba revolt by them during 132-135AD.
Who Ruled Rome?
Augustus ruled Rome from 27BC-14AD;Tibrius from 14- 37AD; Claudius from 41-51AD; Nero from 54- 68AD.Christians were persecuted by Nero from 54AD. Jewish Roman War started from 66ADand lasted up to 73AD.
Rome (Trojan war 114-117AD) invaded the Parthian Empire (Persia).
(1)Palestine and Parthian Empires remained as different entities under Rome on 1stADwhile Egypt and Phoenicia merged with Rome.
(2)The Cochin Jews migrated from 605BC or even earlier from Solomon’s time for trade in Kodungalor(Muchiri)
(3)Cyrus the Great conquered Gandhara (Hindu belt) and annexed it to his kingdom in 530BC.
(4)Alexander the Great conquered Persia and North India in 330BC.Taxila was the capital of North India under Persian Rule. The earliest information we have on ancient India comes from Megasthenes, an Ambassador of Selukos Nixator to the court of Chandra Gupta Maurya and also a Former General of Alexander the Great whom he succeeded in 306BC as Ruler of Alexander’s Eastern Empire.The book written by Megasthenes titled "Indica" is in Greek. However the complete book is lost. Fragments of his book are available from other writers. From 700BC Taxila was a centre of learning where people from all countries met. The fierce invading White Huns finally wiped it out in the middle of the fifth century AD. India as known to the Middle East Countries from 300BC to 100AD covers North India including Pakistan and Part of Persian Gulf. This was Known as Greater India. It was ruled by the successors of Alexander (Greek). Moga conquered North India later.
ST.Thomas and Indian Christians
The history of Antioch began when Alexander the Great conquered Syria in 333BCand his General Selucas Nicatur built the city of Antioch in 311BC and named it after his father Antiochus. St Peter preached Gospel in Antioch and stayed there for 7years from 34 to 41AD. When St. Peter and Paul left Antioch they appointed two Bishops, Ignatius and Illumintor, The church of Antioch was most ancient and was widely known after the destruction of Jerusalem in70AD by Titus and the Roman Emperors. It was from Antioch the disciples went to different parts of the world. It was here the believers in Christ were called Christians from 41AD. Antioch remained as Head Quarters of Christian Churches till 518AD It was transferred to different places due to endless persecution of Christians by Romans and later by the Muslim rulers. When Antioch was the Capital, Syrian Orthodox Church was known as the oldest Church. With the changes in political authority over Syria, Antioch lost its entity and changed territorial locality for safety reasons. Today it is a desolate and ruined place in Turkey.
|40AD||St. Thomas visited the Palace of Gondaphorus along with Habban|
|48AD||St. Thomas returned from North India to Jerusalem at the time of ascension of St Mary.|
|52AD||St Thomas arrived in Kodungalure(other names: Muzris, Muchiry,Maliankara,Santrok,Antropolice,Moyri Kotta) via Socorta. There is one section of people whe believe that he came to Kodungaloor in 68AD along with Jews when Jerusalem was attacked by the Roman kings. However the tradition of Syrian Christians is that he came to Kodungaloor in 52 AD.The Jews migrated along with St Thomas were believed to be those settled in Chattukulangara(Kunnamkulam). Those People constructed the Kunnamkulam Arthattu Church.|
St Thomas was killed in 72AD at Calamina in the land of Mazda(Masdai) on the coast of Persian Gulf in Arabia. This place was part of Greater India as already stated earlier. There is a StThomas Dayara and also church in the name of StMary at Calamina. This place is a port between Oman and Behrain in the island of Muhrak(Aruthus or present Arath). This is the place where King Mazda had his palace on the Arabian Coast in Persian Gulf. Bar Ebraya Catholicose of Persia and India (1225-1286AD)who was on the throne of StThomas for 22years recorded " Mar Thoma was killed on the hill near Calamina. The dead body was buried in Calamina itself". Alexander Severesus writes "St Thomas was killed with a spear made up of pine wood at Calamina. He died out of the wound at abdomen and was buried at the same place." Calamina is a Persian word.
Bardaisan of Edessa and Mani
Bardaisan was a Bishop in Edessa. He was removed from that position due to his teaching opposed to Christianity. He traveled in India, China, Tibet etc. But during the last 4 years of his life he came back to Christianity. But he had a strong follower Mani by name who carried on his new religion. Both were opposed to each other. They met in CheraNadu and South India. When Mani wrote "Manimekalai" in Tamil Bardaisan wrote "Acts of Thuma" in Syriac. Because of the presence of Bardaisan in Chera Nadu, Mani’s religion could not take root there, but Mani had many followers in Tamil Nadu. They were mostly Armenian Merchants and Chettys from Tamil nadu. His followers had their own kingdom, known as Kanchipuram. They had churches and crosses like Christians.Since Mani knew the art of changing himself to peacock and fly his name was associated with peacock. Mani had appointed 12 Apostles, 72 Bishops and 360 Evangelists to spread his religion by mixing the local religions with his faith. His religion was very popular in China, Tibet and other countries. His mother’s name was Mary. All his Apostles including his mother were buried in Kashmir at a place called Barmulla.Those tombs exist till today. This place is being confused that of St. Mary’s and those of disciples of Christ.
|190AD||Panthenus, a learned person from Alexandria on Christian teachings visited India at the request of the Indian Christians in AD 190 to counter the onslaught on Christianity by Mani and his followers in South India (Sangam period). He succeeded in bringing back most of those who had gone back from Christian faith.|
|340AD||Many Babylonian Christians under the leadership of a Bishop by name Dawood (David) migrated to Kodungalure.On the festival day of Gevarghese Sahada it is they who introduced chicken sacrifice as in Puthupally. This was in comparison to the traditions of the Jews in Jerusalem Church and also in Babylon. This was a national festival of the Jews known as, (Tamas). When Bishop David and others first arrived in Malankara they had installed a cross which is now in Alangadu Church. This is the only cross where the word, "Suraya", is recorded. The Pahlavi inscription on the cross is similar to the one existing during 293 to 302, when Narassahi Shah ruled Persia. With the arrival of these Christians the Nasarani Christians were also called Syrian Christians. (Suriyani Christians).|
|745 AD||The arrival of Knai Thoma along with 400 people landed at Kollam in AD 745, (most of the historians put the date as 345 AD). They stayed in Manigramam in Mahodayapuram and were given special rights by way of Chepped by Venadu King Iyyandikal Thiruvadikal in AD 845. Similar rights were also given to Mar Sabor Easo in the year AD 849, who had migrated along with many families at Kollam in AD 822.|
|822 AD||Arrival of Mar Sabor Easo and Proth along with several families at Kollam. Iyyandikal Thiruvadikal gave them Tharasapalli Chepped in AD 849. Mar Sabor Easo and Proth ruled over Syrian Christians with their headquarters at Kollam and Kodungaloor respectively.|
|1051 AD||Mampalli Sasanam was given to Chenganoor Church by Chera king Vallabhan Kotha in 1051 AD. (Kollam Era 149). The Syrian Christians were addressed as ‘Mapilla’, from this period.|
|1225 AD||Irvi Korthan Chepped was given by Virarakhava Chakravarthy to Irvi Korthan Perum Chetty in Kodungaloor city in AD 1225. The rights and privileges were as usual with those given to Manigramam people. It is possible that Knai Thomman also received a similar Chepped.|
|1028-1043 AD||Kulasekra Chakravarthy Raja Simhan (AD 1028-1043) had given Chepped to Irvi Chathan and Chathan Vadukan, who had migrated from Manigramam in Kollam (Mahodayapuram), to Kodulangure. This is perserved in Thazhakkattu Church and known as, "Thazhakkattu Sasanam".|
|1096 AD||In the 11th century the Chola King Raja Cholan destroyed Mahodayapuram and Kollam. Kolla Varsham ie. Malayalam Era started with this from AD 1096.|
Vypeen island was formed after the great flood. Syrian Christians and Mani followers settled in Vypeen. The North group of Knai Thoma (Mani followers) became rulers known as Villarvattam. (AD, 1341-1498).
Note: Following Chera Chola war Chera kingdom was completely destroyed. A number of small kingdoms came up during this period.
|1341AD||Nilackal Church was plundered by the Parapattam and VikramPuli Thevar. The people there migrated to Kanjirapally, Thumpamon, Niranam, Ayroor etc|
|1490||Mar Yuhannan from Baghdad came and ruled Malankara Church.|
|1498||The Portuguese landed in Calicut.|
|1500AD||The Villarvattam surrendered their crown to Vasco De Gama in Cochin. The Syrian Christians also requested for protection from him.|
|1550-1653AD||The Portuguese Ruled over the Syrian Church|
|1653AD||The Oath of Coonan Cross at Mattancherry took place. The Syrian Christians who were one body all the years in the past got separated into Puthencore (Jacobites) and Pazhayakur (Roman Catholics) for the first time.|
|1653-1912AD||Mar Thoma I to 10 ruled the Syrian jacobite Church. In AD 1912 the Jacobite Church again split in to Methran kakshi(Orthodox) and Baba kakshi (Patriarchal group).|
|1890AD||The Mar Thoma Church( Navikaranam) separated from the Jacobite Church.Various Protestant group of Churches came in to existence after this period.|
|1930AD||Mar Ivanios of Bethany Ashram of the Orthodox Church, Perunad, Ranny, formed Malankara Reeth and left the Orthodox Church.|
|1912-1999AD||Catholicose (1-6) of the Syrian Orthodox Church assisted by Bishops continue to administer the Church.|
Important Mile Stones in the history of
|POLITICAL STATE||YEAR||HISTORICAL EVENTS|
Chera –Chola – Pandian Rule of South India in Tamil Region
Birth of Christ
Crucifixion of Christ
St. Thomas visited the palace of Gondophores in North India (Gandhara) which was at that time part of Greater India (India and Persian Gulf).
St. Thomas returned to Jerusalem from North India.
St. Thomas landed in Kodunagaloor via Socorta Island (Near Arabia).
St. Thomas was killed in Calamina in the kingdom of Mazda.
Bardaissan’s new religion and his visit to Cheranadu (Kerala).
Mani’s spread of Bardaissan’s modified religion in South India.
Pantheneus from Alexandria visited South India to counter Mani’s religion.
Babylonian Christians (300persons) under the leadership of Bishop David lands in Kodungaloor.
Arrival of KnaiToman along with 400 people in Kollam
Moran Sabor Easo and Mar Porth along with many families landed in Kollam.
MoranSabor Easo and his people were given two separate Cheppeds by the Ruler Iyyanadikal Thiruvadikal, known as Tharisapally Cheppeds I and II.
Chera King Vallabhan Kotha gave Mampalli Sasanam to Chenganoor Church in AD 1051. Syrian Christians were called Mapilla with their names after this Sasanam was given.
Kulasekara Chakravarty Raja Simhan gave Cheppeds to Iravi Chathan and Chathan Vadukan who had migrated from (from Manigramam) from Kollam to Kodungaloor during Chera-Chola war.
The 100 years war between Chera-Chola kingdoms came to an end. Mahodayapuram was completely destroyed. Kollam became the capital city. Kollam Era started from 1096 AD.
Portuguese, Dutch and British rule
Northist group of Knanaya Christians (Mani followers), settled down in Vypeen island. Villarvattom Kings (Thoma), ruled Vypeen from1341-1498.
Mar Yuhanan from Baghdad came to Malankara and ruled over the Syrian church.
The Portuguese landed in Calicut.
Villarvattom Rulers (Knanaya Northists) surrender their crown to the Portuguese (Vasco-De-Gama) at Cochin and joined the Roman Catholic Church. They also surrendered their Cross(Manachen Cross) to the Portuguese to establish their identity as the original Christians of Malankara.Knanaya Southist group(Those migrated along with Knai Thoma) joined the Jacobite Church by surrendering their Cheppeds and other crosses(Manachean) to Jacobite Church at Angamali. They remained independent as Knanaya Christians.The Cross surrendered to the Portuguese by the Northist group appeared in Mylapore and those surrendered to the Jacobite Church are preserved in Kottayam JacobiteChurch.
The Portuguese Ruled over the Syrian Church for about 100 years up to 1653AD.
The Oath of Coonan Cross. The Syrian Christians separated into Puthenkoor and Pazhayakoor.
Travencore Marthanda Varma to Chithra Thirunal
Marthoma 1to10 Ruled till 1912AD.
Marthoma Church (Protestant) separated from Jacobites.
Free India from1947. Kerala State
The Jacobite Church separated in to Methran Kakshi (Orthodox) and Baba Kakshi (Patriarch)
Catholicos Rules Malankara Orthodox Church.
Copies of Cheppeds