‘Origin of Christianity in India’ by Dr.Benedict Vadakkekara

‘Origin of Christianity in India’ by Dr.Benedict Vadakkekara 3.33/5 (66.67%) 3 ratings
'Origin of Christianity in India' by Dr.Benedict Vadakkekara

‘Origin of Christianity in India’ by Dr.Benedict Vadakkekara

Note about the Author

Dr. Benedict Vadakkekara is a research scholar at the Capuchin Historical Institute, Rome and a lecturer of Franciscan Mission History at the Pontifical University Antonianum. Dr. Vadakkekara is a member of the Saint Joseph Province ( India) of the Franciscan Capuchin Order and has to his credit several publications especially in the area of Franciscan history and spirituality and Saint Thomas Christian history.1

Origin of Christianity in India

When one speaks of the origin of Christianity in India one actually refers to the establishment of that pristine Indian Christian community which has through the vicissitudes of history got spiritually and historically fused into today’s various Christian fellowships. In other words, today’s Indian Christianity has its roots deep in the ancient Christianity of Malabar. This early Christian community, which is native to Malabar, is known in historiography as Christians of St Thomas precisely because of its communal belief that its origin goes directly back to Apostle Thomas.

The Saint Thomas Christians, over two millennia, have defended that their ancestors received the Gospel brought by St. Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ in the backdrop of the pronouncements by some 19th century Western historians who tended to dismiss this connection as myth. The lack of contemporary historical documents is often cited as the ‘evidence’ of non-historicity of the belief.

Dr. Vadakkekara points out the fact that the absence of written documents has ‘to be seen in the wider context of Indian historiography itself,’ which undoubtedly is a weak spot in the otherwise humungous literary achievements in the fields metaphysics, astrology, cosmography, poetry etc. There is, however, ample documentation of the history of this tradition available to the historian.

Vadekkakara examines in detail the scholarly opinion on Acta Thomae, the phenomenon of St. Thomas’s tomb at Mylapore, and the archeological findings regarding Parthian king Gondopharnes, during whose reign, the apostle is believed to have arrived.
However, as the author avers, there is no hope of additional historical evidence coming forth. The only way out is to ‘rationally explain the tradition of the Indian Christians regarding their community’s history,’ and that is what the book is about.

Historically, it has never been fully accepted that St Thomas landed near the Cranganore sea port in Malabar and introduced Christianity to the Indians. There is no material evidence to prove it. His bones were also not found at the Mylapore tomb in Tamil Nadu, and hence, even his martyrdom there is suspect. (A version about the Portugese excavating bone parts and a spear head at the tomb is also doubted.)

However, the traditions and practices of St Thomas Indian Christians, the descendents of those whom St Thomas supposedly converted, have pointed to his being there and attaining martyrdom. The tradition was true twelve centuries prior to the arrival of the western explorers, when there was no Marco Polo to report it, the author argues. ‘The Indian Christians wrote down their first history when the westerners asked them for it.’ The living tradition of the community provides the clearest pointer to the origin of the community.

Among various other things, he bases St Thomas case on:

a) The date of arrival 52 AD tying with the disappearance of the Kingdom of Gondopharnes in North-West India and the Council of the Apostles in Jerusalem two events which are now historically proven;

b) The 345 AD arrival of Thomas of Cana with a group of Christians and a bishop in India to bolster the Church of Apostle Thomas;

c) The passing interest in the visits of John of Monte Corvino, Marco Polo, Bishop David, Bishop Theophilus and the delegates of King Alfred among the then Indian Christians sworn already to the St Thomas tradition;

d) The consistent reference among Indian Christians to certain locations and certain families associated with St Thomas; and

e) The insistence of Indian Christians over centuries to visit the Mylapore tomb on the Coromandel Coast on July 3, when the Monsoon is at its peak

Contents

The book comprises three chapters, the first of which profiles early Christianity in India, namely, the community of St Thomas Christians by spelling out the constituent elements of its identity, its peculiar appellatives, and the sources available for the study of its origin. The several secessions it has suffered since the middle of the seventeenth century are also covered in this chapter.

bilingual-greek-aramaic-inscription-of-ashoka-3rd-century-bc

The second chapter is dedicated to identifying and categorizing the various Interpretations given to the tradition of these Indian Christians regarding their origin. The proponents fall into two groups. the first of which consists of those who explicitly recognize as genuine the tradition. while the second group is composed of those who judge the tradition as of little value historically, or as something that cannot be scientifically ascertained. The framework adopted for setting forth the arguments is determined by the very nature of the subject matter. The chronological order is unsuited as there is no progression of ideas with the passage of time. Old ideas are often recycled and writers of former times are found cited time and again. Since the works are too many, it is unwieldy to analyze them individually. Hence the methodology chosen consists of identifying and collating in a logical sequence the ideas that make up the wide spectrum of arguments proposed for and against considering as genuine the tradition of the Indian Christians regarding their community’s origin. Even though some historians finally adopt irreconcilable positions, there is much on which they are in agreement. While some go a long way together before their path forks, a few use the same collateral evidence for drawing diametrically opposed conclusions.

The evaluation of the two groups of interpretations is carried out in the third chapter. It is in the light of the evaluation of the two groups that the question of the origin of Christianity in India is revisited. This reappraisal naturally conduces to a rewrite of the early history of Christianity in India, bringing into evidence the community’s social and religious structures that made it viable.

Chapter One

Early Christianity in India: Traits of Identity

I) . Identification of Early Indian Christianity
a. Constituent Elements of Identity
1.Origin
2.Way of Saint Thomas
3.Syriac language and liturgy
4.Social stratification
b. Appellations
1.Saint Thomas Christians or Mar Thoma Christians
2.Nasrani Mapila
3. Christians of the Serra
4.Syrian Christians
5.Chaldeans
c. Possible Sources
1. Expressions of Communal belief and experience
2. Tomb of the Apostle Thomas at Mylapore
3. Acta Thoma and Church tradition

II) Early Indian Christianity in today’s Ecclesial Fellowships
A) Catholic Thomas Christians
1) Syro Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Church
2) Syro Malankra Major Archiepiscopal Church
B) Other Fellowships of Saint Thomas Christians
1) Malankara ( Jacobite) Syrian Orthodox Church
2) Independent Syrian Church of Malankara
3) Marthomite Church
4) Saint Thomas Evangelical Church of India
5) Church of South India
6) Church of the East
C) Saint Thomas Christians outside official fellowships
Conclusion

Chapter Two

Origin of Indian Christianity in Historiography
1. Origin from Apostle Thomas : Arguments and Supportive Evidences
A) Tradition of Indian Christians
1) Fact of tradition
2) Uniqueness of tradition
3) Consistency of tradition
4) Unanimity of tradition
5) Simplicity of tradition
6) South Indiana and its accessibility
B) Tomb of the Apostle Thomas at Mylapore
1) Actuality of the Tomb
2) Consensus of tradition
3) Uniqueness of the tomb
4) Relics of the tomb
C) Gondaphorus, Acta Thoma and Church tradition
1) Gondaphorus and Acta Thomas
2) Acta Thomas and Church tradition
3) Ecclesiastical tradition and liturgy
4) Church tradition, relics and pilgrimage
5) Mention of Christian presence in Ancient in India

II) Origin not from Apostle Thomas : Arguments and Supportive Evidences
A) Tradition of Indian Christians
1) Lack of contemporary documents
2) Mythification of name Thomas
3) Acta Thoma as basis of tradition
4) Migration of tradition
5) Inconsistencies and Incompatibilities in tradition
6) Established by Nestorians
7) Foundation by Manicheans
8 ) Missionaries on trail of traders

the-cross-and-inscriptions-on-the-chineese-christian-monument-si-ngan-fu-779ad

B) Tomb of the Apostle Thomas at Mylapore
1) Lack of contemporary documents
2) Inconsistencies in accounts
3) Rival claimants of tombs
4) Discovery of tomb

C) Gondaphorus, Acta Thomas and Church tradition
1) Lack of contemporary evidences
2) Unreliability of Acta Thomas
3) Ambiguity of India
III. Conclusion

Chapter Three

Historiographical critique on Origin of Indian Christianity
1) Evaluation of sources
a) Lack of Contemporary written sources
b) Examination of traditions contents
1) Tradition as concrete reality
2) Individuality of tradition
3) Identity of Apostle Thomas
c) Tomb of Apostle Thomas at Mylapore
1) Tomb as concrete reality
2) Tomb of Apostle Thomas in tradition
3) Relics of Apostle Thomas
d) Acta Thoma and Ecclesiastical tradition
1) Convergence of evidences
2) Liturgical references
e) Evaluation- Physical possibility

II) Physical possibility and Historical Actuality
a) Viability Structures of Early Indian Christianity
1) Social Structures
a) Archdeacon
b) Local Assembly
c) General Assembly
2) Religious Structures
a) Metropolitan
b) Local Clergy

B) Indian Christians and East Syriac Church
C) Indian Christians and other Churches
D) Indian Christians and their Compatriots

III. Conclusion
A Conspectus
Bibliography
1) Documentary Sources
2) Studies
Index of Names

This book is published by the New Delhi YMCA.

It is a work of history that has the backing of scholars and church leaders such as Dr K N Panikkar, Prof Scaria Zacharia, Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana (Vatican Embassy) and Major Archbishop Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil (Syro-Malabar Church).

Footnotes
  1. http://www.db.ofmcap.org/pls/ofmcap/v3_s2ew_CONSULTAZIONE.mostra_pagina?id_pagina=938 []

Author: NSC- Admin

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30 Comments

  1. Thats some cool info. thanks. i wonder though was there ever a church of thomas established in india? if so where, are there any remains. it would be cool to take a visit.

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  2. Hello, when I read Nilesh’s comment, I come to realise that when we say Apostle Thomas established churches in India, people expect a church building to be constructed by the Apostle and none of the historians bother to explain that this is not the case. The word “church” comes from Greek “ekklesia” meaning “called out ones” i.e., from the world. It is a group of called out ones and not a building. If we bother to study the Acts of the Apostles we learn that Apostle Paul established so many churches throughout Asia and Europe but we never read that he ever constructed any church building. It was always a group of people that he established as a church.

    It is also anachronism to say that Thomas established crosses at various places because as Dr. D Babu Paul says correctly cross was NEVER a part of Christian life in the first century. On the contrary, veneration of the cross or any such physical object on behalf of the true God was considered as idolatry by all the apostles of Christ.

    We can establish from the Bible that Thomas came looking for the jews who were in Malabar in AD 52 because the Bible says categorically that the gospel in the first century was to be proclaimed FIRST to the jews and then to the gentiles. This was a clear instruction to them from none other than Jesus Himself(Matt.10:5-6)! Even Paul who was the famous Apostle for the gentiles first went to the synagogues to announce the good news to the jews and then to the gentiles. So we can see that it was the presence of jews in Kerala that drew the Apostle Thomas to India. This fact, that there were jewish diaspora in Kerala too, is ONE of the strongest historical evidences to establish that one original Apostle of Christ came to India because that was the charge given to them by their Master: “but you will receive POWER, ……. and you will be witnesses of Me ………….. TO THE END OF THE EARTH”(Acts 1:8). The desciples never took this as a joke but as a serious authorisation.

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  3. I’d love to read this book as I am engaged in re-writing my doctoral thesis.
    Thanks,

    JTM

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  4. Hi!
    My wife Joyan and I visited all the 7 churches in Kerala ( October 12-22, 2007). It was fabulous! 1/2 church was not a priority for us at this time-maybe later.

    We are hoping to organize a Study Tour of the 7 churches in 2008. If interested, please contact me 705-522-3454 and/or ([email protected])

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  5. keep up the good work lest the children forget their past as did the israelites in their exodus from egypt, my suggestion is that you publish a news letter in english & hindi so every one can know of the history of christians in india

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  6. My family is basically from puthampally trichur and our family is settled in nayar ambalam (St.Mary’s Church)in ernakulam the tharavad is munjely (moonjhely) if any one has the history of our family please kindly post it to me. [email protected] or augustine sebastian keleston shimla H.P. India 171001

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  7. I am very pleased to go through the details giving the history of Syrian Christians in Kerala. The history of the origin of Christianity in Kerala through the coming of St.Thomas in 52AD is more clear to me now. I am interested in ancient History and am a student of World History. I am born into a Mothallaly Family from ,Chattennoor, Quilon,Kerala.My mother is from the Thondapurathu Vaidyan Family, Thevallakkara,Quilon, Kerala. I have only a small information of our ancestary. My forefathers were Nambootheries from Adoor and mothers family were also from the Nambboheries of Shsatamkotta Amballem. Both families were converted into the Syrian Christian faith during 52AD. I have heard that we even had Jewish people married to our families in Chathennoor. My great Grand mother from Chathennoor had maritime trade with Srilanka, she owened a sailing ship. One of the grand fathers was responsible in saving the King Sri Marthanda Varma. The Ammach Plavu incident took place in our family. Hence the Royal Title ,’Mothalally’. My great grand father onthe maternalk\ side was the “Kannu Vaidyan”, to one of the kings of Kerala, hence the Royal Title Vaidyan.

    It is a surprising thing to imagine that these Namboodiries gave up all their high cast privilages, temple lands, produces, wealth, position and power to become the first Syrian Christains in Kerala!

    Try this to-day and see if anyone with their great wealth will accept Christianity, the way those great people did. What attracted them? They must have seen Jesus Christ in St.Thomas, when he preached to them and showed them his powers that J4esus Christ had bestowed on all his deciples.

    Glory to GOD on high in the name of His only Son JESUS CHRIST. P.J.Thomas

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  8. Dear Mr. P.J. Thomas,

    I will be as polite as one can be, if I have failed then forgive me for it is not intentional. While respecting your belief in your ‘brahmin heritage’, I must point out that most of us here in this forum were also told by their famiies that they are of ‘brahmin heritage’. But we have learned from various sources that we have been misadvised and misinformed.

    A good freind of mine was sent a ‘NSC article about our Hebrew heritage. He angrily returned back to me saying ‘no comment’. He did so as he was of the staunch belief that he is of Namboodhiri heritage. I only want you to go through all the writings and comments and debates here and come to your own conclusion. In other words, I want you to reconsider your views.

    I don’t mean to belittle you for I know this ‘change of air’ may be a minor shock that can hurt you. You will ask me the question ‘Do you mean to say that my forefather’s were liars or idiots? We all went through this phase. Best Regards,

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  9. My understanding too is that the Muthalali families (of Kallada) are descendents of immigrants from West Asia.

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  10. Dear Kuruvilla Cherian Amprayil,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I read about this on an interesting blog on Syrian Christians (http://sharbtho.blogspot.com/) in which the author states that Leslie Brown’s book talks about the Muthalali families of Chathanoor/Kollam. The blog also gives an interesting theory about why us Nasranis have a lot of stories pertaining to Brahmanic origins.

    Could you please tell me your source regarding the origins of the Muthalali families? Are you from the area?

    I would think (and desperately hope) that one of these families in Kallada/Kollam have some documentary evidence—maybe even a grave—to substantiate this belief, especially since the Syrian migration to Kollam occurred relatively recently (9th century). If you have any info on this, I’d love to hear about it.

    By the way, I have a question that’s been bugging me for a while. It seems that the history of Syrian Christianity in Kerala (from what I’ve seen) is mainly centered about the north end of our domains (Angamali, Kodungalloor, etc). But what about the south? There is a thriving (and relatively old, since St. Mary’s in Kallada is about 700 years old, according to local stories) community in the south — was it dependent on the north or did it function independently? Moreover, if someone (perhaps a Syro-Malabar Catholic) could provide some info on the extent of the East Syriac tradition in the south, I would also appreciate it. I’d like to know why whenever I drive around Kollam district, I mainly see Orthodox Churches and Syro-Malankara Catholic ones. The only other Catholic Churches I see are (from what I can gather) Latin Catholic and not Syro-Malabar. Is there a reason for this? Or am I just missing the Syro-Malabar Churches in the south?

    Thanks to all who can help answer my q’s!

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  11. Dear P. J. Thomas,

    I read your recent post regarding ur family tree. U have mentioned that your mother’s family is from Thevallakara, Kollam and has Brahmin origin claims. If you understand genetics then you have some work.

    There is a DNA sample in the Syrian Christian DNA project of a person called ‘Thomas Thevallakara’ who is tested and confirmed to be of R1a1 haplogroup and has many Levite (priestly) Jewish matches. I don’t know if his ‘Thevallakara’ is his family name or his native place. If you are interested u can search for, if your mother’s family is related to his paternal family or even if they are from the same place ‘Thevallakara’.

    U may get some help if you are related or from same native and it will indicate your ‘Brahmin origin’ claim to be nothing else but a Jewish priestly Levite ancestry for your mother’s family. Let me also state that almost all such Brahmin-origin claimers from our community are proving to be Jewish Priestly class people (Cohens or non-cohen Levites) based on their own DNA. Hence thought of providing you some info on above. Get in touch with Mr. Jacob the project administrator on the Syrian Christian DNA project website (below) he will guide you to the other person for contacts with the other person.

    http://www.familytreedna.com/public/SyrianChristiansOfIndia/

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  12. Dear Jackson (or any genetics expert),

    Pardon my ignorance, but I just just a cursory search on R1a and R1a1 haplogroups on the internet and I found references to the Vikings (e.g., getting R1a1 is enough to be certified a “Viking” according to one website), other European peoples, and Brahmins.

    Am I reading things wrong? There must be something I’m missing.

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  13. Dear Jackson,

    For your information, Thevellakara is the name of a place/village/small town in Kollam district. There are many old Nasrani famiies there.

    Since you are from the North/Malabar side, you may not be familiar with these Kollam/Southern Nasranis. As you reach Kayamkulam from the North to the South, the Nasrani culture/famlies become less and less when compared to Palla or Kottayam where it is the highest.

    Strangely Kayamkulam and Mavelikara has many Nasrani churhes, perhaps much more than Kottayam and Palla, yet, Kayamkulam and Mavelikara are not considered as Nasrani heartlands because there is the strong peresence of other faiths/communities there like the Muslims, Nairs, Ezhavas etc.. The clout that the Nasrani has in Palla is not there in Kaymkulam/Maveliara.

    As you enter Kollam district, you do not expect Nasranis there as it looks and feels too HIndu/Muslim but suprisingly, areas like Thevallakara/Kallada/Kollam city in Kollam district have presence of old Nasranis families. .

    Generally speaking, a guy from Tiruvalla or Palla sees the world only through Nasrani eyes, but a guy from Kollam/Kollad/Thevallakara/Kayamkulam sees the world in a different way because of his more exposure to other faiths and castes.

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  14. Dear Jackson,

    The more and more I think about the ‘Levites=Namboodhiries/Brahmins theory, the more it makes sense to me.

    When the ancient Malabari Nasrani’s were staying ‘put’ in one place, they would have proudly identified themselves as Hebrew but once they lost their original land and had to migrate to other places, they would have chosen to go by an identity commenly understood by the local natives/habitants.

    The word ‘Hebrew’ makes no sense to a Nair/Namboothiri/Ezhava. If our forefathers were ‘Esseenes’ then probably the Hebrew=Namboothiri/Brahmin theory is correct.

    So it appears that what our forefathers said was a ‘white lie’ and this can be forgiven/understood.

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  15. Dear John Mathew,

    The missing links is R1a is of further different types based on the numerical values we get from the test result. So one particular community has a common set of values unique for the community. Thus based on these values we have a Levite Jewish type R1a, Brahmin or North Indian type R1a, General European type R1a, etc.. what is important is not just the haplogroup result but the individual values in the result and to which community/place does this matches in studying ancestries. And the R1a samples of our community in the project are perfectly/predominantly matching the Levite R1a and is very different from the other R1a types esp. Indian R1a’s. Thus the conclusion is based on the matches.

    And scientifically speaking R1a samples cannot be labelled/certified as those of Vikings (please check the authenticity of the website those may be stray hypothesis) or any specific group/country, it is all based on the numerical values as said. Finding a haplogroup is the first step only. Then comes the matching part and further steps which indicates ancesrtry of a person taking the test.

    And Sir, still I’m no expert, it’s ‘only a part’ of my profession and studies. And because I can understand to an extent what the project means combining tradition, history and science I am presenting the same to others who may not know this field of genetics and science so that we together solve our community mysteries.

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  16. Dear George,

    If you and I and all who can understand recent developments then the ‘Brahmin’ origin theory is just a translation for the term ‘Levite’ (Israelite Priests) who are ‘Brahmins’ in the Indian context. Thus as u said it seems to be a translational concept. And this theory seems to turn factual by each passing day. I’m not concluding.

    Two days back one of my Nasrani friend mailed me saying he had taken the test. His results are R1a with many perfect Levite Jewish matches. So another sample is proved to be a Levite match recently in addition to already existing R1a samples of our community.

    Thus this Levite=Brahmin mystery is resolving, no doubt and I guess those famous Brahmin-claimer families need to take this (those who can) test and further help resolve the community mysteries for once and all. Pakalomattam, Shankarapuri, Kali, etc..guys are you listening ! If yes you are the first people who can really help to prove/disprove theories. Only a pretty large sample size can help us conclude. So also there may arise few ‘namboothiri’ matching DNAs also in future which is not impossible but for the truth is not yet seen.

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  17. Dear Jackson,

    Thanks! Please try get your freinds full test results and details of the test place/lab. As Joseph said we should also docuement every small thing in plus as well as in minus. Be in coordination with Jacob. I suggest you also keep seperate data base. NSC Admin be also given copy.

    We Nasranis are known to be shy and invward looking but now we cannot anymore be like that. We have to be pro-active as we have reached the end of the rope. As John will agree, our traditional church leadership has failed in giving us a sence of our heritage.

    I hate to say this, but I think it is because our bishops are bachelors. There are plus points and minus points when bishops become bachelors. I scream from within when I see the pragmatic culture in the Americas and vow that I will try all I can to give my son a better world. I can easly take a ‘laid back attitude’ (In fact I am known to many as a very laid back person) and say to myself ‘what will happen will happen’, but I refuse to do so. I want to give him a deserving heritage and a future. If not for this driving force, I will not spent valuable hours on this matter.

    In all humililty and respect may I say that there are certainly bishops and preists who are bachelors and have done enormous things for the good of the people and for God, but in certain areas they may miss out, our heritage is one such area.

    We can’t lay back with this attitude. We have to get our preists and bishops also involved. They can if they want to, enormously acheive things. But I suspect that their hands are tied with church traditions, but yet we should try.

    I have sent a Catholic Achen back to India with a new belief in his heritage. He is my relative and is about 65 years. Tragically, he did not even know that Jews ever lived in and around Malabar/Cochin. If the shepherd is such, then what about the folk? I have ‘poisened’ the minds of two other of our Marthoma Achens. None of them ever responded. But strangely it was the Catholic Achen who showed the greatest interest.

    Can you post your freinds DNA results on this forum so that we can all begin to study. Please may I repeat an important point that the ‘Beni Israeli’ of Maharashtra did not call themselves as Jews or even as Hebrews but simply called themselves as ‘Shaniwar wallahs’ or ‘Saturday People’. But when DNA test were actually done, it showed that the worlds highest concentration of Cohen DNAs to be amongst them. They were short, roundfaced, pan chewing, cricket loving, folks and their women wore the extra long Marathi saree.

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  18. Dear George,

    I have got my friend’s test results with me in detail as he asked me to have look at it to see for matches and I did the same. He also is in touch with Mr. Jacob. And his results are as I said earlier in brief (R1a with many Levite Jewish matches). His results are far from Indian/Brahmin samples. He got it tested at ‘Genebase’ and he may probably upload/pool them onto the syrian xian database. As of now since he hasn’t yet uploaded it for public display I also cannot do the same to respect his privacy. Once he makes it public then can I do the same. As of now I can just mention his results as I did earlier. Hope you understand this and thanks for your concern.

    Regarding the Bene Israelis of Maharashtra, I would like to correct you politely that they are called as ‘Shaniwar Thelis/Telis’ and not ‘Shaniwar wallas’. ‘Teli’ means oil-pressers in local language. And their profession was oil-pressing and the only day they abstained from work was Saturday. hence the name ‘Shaniwar Telis’. The probably one and only Judaic custom they followed was the Sabbath rest on Sat. which led to their community been discovered by the other Jews and they were restored. They were/are perfectly locals in all respects. They never were even aware of their Hebraic heritage till then.

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  19. Syrian Christian communities exisited in Kollam as also in Kodungallur from early centuries of the Christian era. Both Kollam (Nelcyndis) and Kodungallur (Muziris) were flourishing ports on the Malabar coast in ancient times.
    The Tarasappali grants recorded on Copper plates belong to the 9th century AD. These grants or privileges given by the Venad ruler Ayyan Adikal, allowed the Syrian Christian prnce/ruler? of Kollam, Mar Sabor, to enjoy princely privileges. It was in 822 AD that the Bishop of Persia sent two Syrian Christian Bishops Mar Sabir Iso and Mar Peroz (Proth) to the Malabar coast to administer and serve the Syrian Christian community of Kollam and Kodungallur.
    The Tarasarappalli copper plate refers to ‘Tarasa Palli’ –the church or community of Syrian Christians in Kollam in the 9th century. Mar Sabor’s tomb is found in the Martha Mariam Orthodox Church in Thevalakkara, near Karunagapalli, Kollam. This church is said to have been built in the 4th century AD.
    The descendants of Mar Sabor or Prince Sabor of the Syrian Christians of Kollam call themselves ‘Muthalalis’ and are centered around Karunagappalli, Kundara and nearby places and are either Orthodox Christians or Catholics.
    With the advent of the Portuguese in 1502, a fort was established in Tangasseri and the Portuguese latinized the Catholic community in Kollam and surrounding areas. The ancient church was said to have been destroyed in the clashes between the Portuguese and the Dutch and the clashes with the Attingal kingdom.
    In brief, the Christian communities in Kollam are one of the most ancient Christian communities in Kerala. There are historical references to the community in various historical records (Refer: Kollam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kollam ).

    This is also true of Niranam (which was also an ancient port of call through the backwaters from Kodungallur to Kollam).

    Many of the Christian communities and families got dispersed with the division of the ancient communities into various Christian denominations: Latin, Orthodox, Syrian Chatholic, Marthomite etc). This all happened after the Udayamperoor Synod of 1599 and the Koonan Kurisu Sathyam of 1630).
    -Joseph Ponnoly

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  20. Dear All,

    For most of last night I was listening again and again to the ‘Lord’s Prayer in Syriac’ by Father Tony Kasih, a Syrian Orthodox priest in Zaidal, Syria. I got the recording very easily from the web.
    It was truely moving and solemn.
    Admin. had sent also in Syriac but I seems to have lost it.
    I recommend all readers to go to
    If there are Psalms also in Syriac, would someone kindly let me know.

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  21. Dear John Mathew,
    Sorry I missed replying to your query about my source regarding the origin of the Muthalali families. No, I am not from the Kollam/Kallada region, but several years (20+?) ago a very close female relative of mine was married into one of the Muthalai families; prior to the marriage, there were the usual procedures of verifying family backgrounds and compatibility etc., during which we learnt about the tradition of the origin of the Muthalai families…I also learnt later that two of my friends – a Marthomite and a Jacobite/Orthodox – had married from the Muthalali families, and they too confirmed the tradition.

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  22. Dear Evertime,

    Me think you are wrong! The possibility of our J2 being of Brahmin or Hebrew/Jewish has been discussed in this forum and elswehere. It is water under the bridge.

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  23. Dear Mr. ‘Evertime’,

    From your comments, on what you have understood says you will have to start really ‘knowing’ and reading much and also researching (if further interested), besides contacting the DNA project admin, from ‘Scratch’. Because u have got the project/result details wrong though not 100 % wrong. The project admin and the researchers will be the best person to get u right on track of what the results are meaning besides reading blogs. Genetics and this specific area of science cannot be comprehended by reading blogs alone which may provide just generalized information. Besides we have had a very elaborate discussion on this forum earlier, on the thread/article… ‘lifestyle of kerala syrian christians’ and few other threads as to what is the outcome of the project and the results. Kindly take time to read that too if interested. Any other help/clarifications still please ask before self-concluding.

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  24. Mr. Evertime,

    Also, that blog mentions about the genetic study done and data on the ‘Brahmins’ and other Hindu upper castes from India and not of Syrian Christians of India. So here we cannot take it for granted and apply the same data for Syrian Christians because no worthy study has been done/completed for the latter community and first of all Syrian Christians are not a “Hindu upper caste group”. And linking the above to communities atleast genetically till then is scientifically not sound. Just haplogroups alone are like the tip of the iceberg in geneaological genetics !

    So also, if you have read the abstract of that article u have provided, it says that besides Central Asia (more or less the ‘seat’ of early Aryans); West Asia and Middle-east are also major contributors to the Indian gene pool. So that explains some commonalities (like haplogroup J2) between Indian upper-castes and others with largely middle-eastern heritages who ‘may not’ be largely from the Indian castes. But again it is not difficult to trace the ‘source’ of such influences due to specific marker studies been done. Marker/sequence-matches have the final say in ancestry and geneaology studies and not just haplogroups. But one think is clear that ‘native Indian influence/contribution’ to the paternal Syrian Christian gene pool is less, and largely indicates ‘foreign’ influences, of which a middle-eastern (Assyrian, Hebrew/Jewish/Israelite, Persian, etc..) contribution is prominent.

    Anyways Im not debating much on this. Kindly contact Mr. Jacob Manakalathil, the DNA project head for clarification if samples indicate any ‘Indian Aryan Brahmin’ links. You said it right, ‘let US not jump to conclusions’. And do let us know if he supports your present understanding of the results so far. Thanks for your inputs.

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  25. Dear Jackson,
    Upon Bonnie’s request (Jacob’s boss in the Syrian Christian DNA matter – she is a Jewess), I have just arranged for the ‘Deep SNP Test’. It cost me further Dollars 99. . I am told that the results will be relavent to all other J2s who are close to me.
    Let us wait for the results

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  26. Dear George Mathew,

    Thats a good effort for further studying what that ‘J2′ (M172+) of urs means. I had elaborately commented on this via. mail to your account. Hope u got my mails becoz I dont seem to get replies ;-)

    And some out there are still desperate to link the Nasrani J2 and R1a guys with ‘Indian Brahmins’ of which you are a part. So u have some work up your sleeves for brain-racking. Dont know if they really have understood what the results say. You should be helping them with more data as and when available, I guess. Whatever its always good to learn new ‘theories’ put forth for existing facts. Lets see what your J2 has in store…

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  27. Is there any one from Meenachil Taluk of Kottayam District, Kerala who has had his DNA tested?

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  28. Dear Joy,

    If Meenachil means the river flowing through Malappally, then I got my DNA tested which may be of interest to you. My paternal roots are there in Malappally (I often confuse the river with either Manimalai or Meenichil, it may be interesting for you to know that I had a small coffee farm high up in Peerumade where a drop of rain would split into two, one half going to Manimalai and the other half to Meenichil).

    Almost all or all of the Cohens tested so far are from the Pamba Valley.

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  29. There is one man alive (I really really hope so) He lives in Ottawa Canada. Fr. Thekedath. He must be very old. He is a scholar and knows a great deal about Muthalali’s. He comes from a very ancient family ” Thekemattom” Thekedath.

    It is quite interesting to note that many of the old syrian christian family members look quite different to the general public of Kerala. Kerala has such an interesting history.

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