MUTTUCHIRA SLIVA AND LITHIC INSCRIPTIONS- LANDMARK MONUMENTS OF SAINT THOMAS CHRISTIANS OF INDIA.
Nov01

MUTTUCHIRA SLIVA AND LITHIC INSCRIPTIONS- LANDMARK MONUMENTS OF SAINT THOMAS CHRISTIANS OF INDIA.

Author : Dr. M Thomas Antony The ancient Christians of the Malabar Coast of India are known as the Saint Thomas Christians. They are also known locally as ‘The Nasranis’. They were ecclesiastically connected to the Church of the East, also known as the East Syrian Church which at its peak extended from Mesopotamia to China through Arabia, India and Central Asia.. The Eastern Church was separated from the rest of the Christendom from time of  the Synod of Ephesus. This was mainly due to political reasons but  doctrinal differences like ‘Nestorianism’ was also accused on the Eastern Church. The so called ‘Nestorianism’ seems to be a misunderstanding due to the expression of the faith using certain ambiguous terms in the Greek language. Dr Adrian Fortescue writes ‘we saw that Greek words used in the Nestorian controversy are sometimes ambiguous and add to the confusion by the fact that we are not always sure what the people who use them mean .’1 With the works of Babai, the Great of 6th century2 and  the visit of Patriarch Ishoyahb II (628-643 AD) to Antioch in the 7th century3 , the doctrinal differences became  reconciled, but due to geographical and political reasons, the Church of the East continued to be alienated from the rest of the Christendom. Interference with the Christianity of the West With the Crusades in the medieval period, the Churches in the East caught attention of  the Religio political interests of the European Christianity.  Missionaries from the Europe were sent to Babylon and the rest of the East. Their tactic was to begin a friendly relationship with the native Churches and then subjugate them. This resulted in divisions and revolts.  Eventually, in Babylon, the Church of the East( The East Syrian Church) was divided into the Chaldean and Assyrian Churches whereas in Malabar, India, the Church of Saint Thomas Christians divided into several fragments due to the interference of multiple colonial forces. The ancient Church at Muttuchira in South India  portrays certain landmark monuments describing the early friendly phase and the  later subjugation phase of these relationship- the Muttuchira inscriptions and the Muttuchira Sliva. Muttuchira Muttuchira is a village in the Kottayam District located  in the South Indian State of Kerala. Muttuchira was called Nayappalli  in ancient records4 . According to local tradition, the Christian settlement of Muttuchira was established in the sixth century.5 Antonio Gouvea, the Portuguese traveller who accompanied Alexis De Menezes, the Archbishop of Goa, documented  Menezes’ visit of  Muttuchira in AD 1599. Gouvea used the term Nayapili to denote Muttuchira.6 In the British Museum Sloanne MS 9907, probably written in around 1676 AD, mentions...

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Alengad Sliva- The Neglected  Jewel of the  ancient  Christian settlement in Alengad and the most ancient Christian artefact of Malabar.
Feb15

Alengad Sliva- The Neglected Jewel of the ancient Christian settlement in Alengad and the most ancient Christian artefact of Malabar.

Alengad Sliva- The Neglected Jewel of the ancient Christian settlement in Alengad and the most ancient Christian artefact of Malabar.  1.Introduction. Alengad  Sliva1 is an ancient Persian Cross discovered in Kerala in 1931. It is a granite plain bas relief Cross with Pahlavi inscriptions. There are a number of plain Crosses of  similar design with three bud like arrangements at the ends of the arms with a floral design on the base and a descending dove on the top. This family of plain Crosses are called Persian Crosses, on account of the inscriptions in Pahlavi, a middle Persian language. These Crosses denote the strong connection of the Christians of Malabar coast with the Christianity in Persian Empire- the Church of the East and a definite Pahlavi phase of the East Syrian Christianity of Malabar. Alengad is a village in Ernakulam District in the South Indian State of Kerala, 7 km from Aluva and 19 km from Kodungalloor . Saint Mary’s Church at Alengad is an ancient church established in the 14th century AD dedicated to Saint Mary, the Mother of the Lord Isho Misiha.2 In ancient accounts, Alengad was called Mangate.3 Discovery of the Alengad Sliva Alengad Cross was discovered by Rev. Fr. Joseph C  Panjikaren in 1931 found lying on the wayside unrecognised. (20 January 1931) This was thought as a milestone. This Cross was then placed in a wayside shrine near the Church at Alengad. Alangad in the Nasrani History Alengad is the birthplace of Mar Joseph Kariattil who was consecrated as the Archbishop of Kodungallur (Cranganore) in  1783  A D for the Catholics of the Syro Chaldean rite in Malabar but who died in Goa  in dubious circumstances before arriving in his See  in Kerala.4It was in Alengad,  the Archdeacon5 Thomas Parambil was “consecrated” by 12 Cathanaars6 as the Bishop for Saint Thomas Christians -Mar Thoma I,  after the famous Alengad yogam7- the Synod of the Saint Thomas Christians- the Catholics of the Syro Chaldean rite in Malabar. This event, along with the Coonan Cross oath, was a Great revolt against the Portuguese Colonial Missionary enterprise in India, mark a milestone in the history of Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar. (This could be the very first rebellion against the European Colonial powers from native Indians.)  Even though canonically this act was not correct, it showed the great courage and self esteem of the Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar.  In 1598 AD, having no ecclesiastical authority over the Church of Saint Thomas Christians, the Portuguese Archbishop Alexis Dom Menezis of Goa, visited Alengad, as part of his visitation to most of the Saint Thomas Christian Churches in...

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MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India
Apr07

MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India

1. Introduction MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India : There are many documents available from 14th century onwards which gives precise information about the Indian Christian community and the Bishops of India. Some of these were copied locally in South India. Amongst these, the MS Vatican Syriac 22 and MS Vatican Syriac 17 are the most well known Syriac MS from India. MS Vatican Syriac 22, the oldest known Syriac MS from India,  contains a lectionary of the Pauline Epistles according to the Peshitta version. It was copied in 1301 AD ( 1612 A Gr) in Estrangelo Script at Cranganore, South India by a deacon named Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya at the Church dedicated to Mar Quriaqos . MS Vatican Syriac 17 was completed on 6th March 1510 AD (1821 A Gr) and copied by Mar Jacob “ Bishop of Hindo”, who arrived in South India in 1504 AD. According to the colophon, this was copied in the blessed and famous place Cranganore, South India at the Church of Saint Thomas. It contains the complete Estrangelo Script New testament. This is the oldest extant locally copied New Testament in India.  MS Vatican Syriac 22 & MS Vatican Syriac 17: Syriac Manuscripts copied in South India 1. MS Vatican Syriac 22 Folios Dimension Lines Columns Language Copied by Copied at 94 35 ½ X 24 ½ cms 22 2 Estrangelo Script Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya Church of Mar Quriaqos, Cranganore, South India   a)      About the MSS This MS is a volume of 94 folios, of these 1 folio is from a rebound of 16th century. According to the colophon of the MS Vatican Syriac 22, this was copied on 1301 AD in Cranganore ( 1612 A Gr) at the Church dedicated to Mar Quriaqos . This MS is written in Estrangelo Script by a very young decon named Zakharya bar Joseph bar Zakharya  who was just 14 at the time of writing. This is the oldest known Syriac MS copied in India. Though from the manuscripts it is evident that the scribe Zakharya knows Syriac very well, Zakharya is very apologetic about his knowledge of Syriac in the MS.1 According to Levi della Vida, the first leaf was added to the book in 16th century as part of a rebounding done. A European hand in Italian has written about the contents of the book in the first leaf as “The epistles for the Sundays of Saint Paul for the whole year in Chaldean characters and language”. This is followed by a note in small Estrangelo script attributed by Levi...

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Saint Thomas Cross- A Religio Cultural Symbol of Saint Thomas Christians
Oct09

Saint Thomas Cross- A Religio Cultural Symbol of Saint Thomas Christians

Introduction Cross is a universal symbol of Christians all over the world.Primitive Christian groups used the image of fish as their symbol. Sign of cross was reported to be used by primitive Christians by Tertullian (b AD 160). Early in the third century, Clement of Alexandria mentions Cross as the symbol of the Lord.1 It was from the 4th century the cross was emerged as the public symbol of Christians. It is considered that Cross is a post Constantinian development after the “exaltation” of Holy Cross.2 Cross was an instrument of punishment before it became a sign of Christianity. Romans and Greeks executed people on crosses. Cross symbol was used by humans even from the Neolithic period. Swasthika was used by people of Indo Europen origin like Indians Persians Slavs, Celts and Greeks.3 There are different types of Christian crosses exist in the world used by different ethnic and cultural groups. Gaelic cross is such a religio- cultural symbol found among the Celtic people. Gaelic crosses are excavated in the places where Celtic people live. St Thomas crosses are unique among St Thomas Christians only. These were named Crosses of Saint Thomas by the Portuguese missionaries as they found these crosses widespread in almost all of Saint Thomas Christian churches. Antonio De Gouvea and Duarte Barbosa give good account of the widespread use of these Crosses in South India. This cross is the most ancient Christian emblem yet discovered in India.4 Cross in Thomasine Christian tradition According to St Thomas Christian tradition, The Apostle Thomas planted crosses in the Christian communities he established. Acts of the Apostles doesn’t comment about any such acts by any Apostles despite the author of Acts of the Apostles, St Paul who himself being a champion of the power of Cross.(1 Cor.1:17, Gal.6:14)The early Roman catacombs have no symbolism of Cross. The Syriac Christian tradition developed a rich symbolism and use of the Cross.5 ”Acts of Thomas describes the Apostle performing miracles with a simple sign of cross. This may be a retrojection of later developments to the apostolic times. The Cross occupies a prominent place in the East Syriac tradition, especially in liturgy. Since the Syriac word for cross, sliba means both the cross and the crucified, there is ample scope for compressing multi level meanings in hymns on the cross. The syriac liturgy of hours is particularly rich in this. The symbolism of cross gained prominence in the Syriac tradition earlier than it did in the other traditions”.6 East Syrian Church had a great veneration of the cross. They even considered the sign of the cross as one of the sacraments .7...

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Analogical review on Saint Thomas Cross- The symbol of Nasranis-Interpretation of the Inscriptions
Feb29

Analogical review on Saint Thomas Cross- The symbol of Nasranis-Interpretation of the Inscriptions

The spirit of Christianity can be explained with reference to cross. Cross is the most common symbol of Christianity, intended to represent the redeeming martyrdom of Jesus when he was crucified on the True Cross in the New Testament. This article is an attempt to look Thomasine Christianity through St. Thomas cross with reference to early Christian writings, traditions of Nasranis, archeological evidences and interpretations of the inscriptions. 1. Cross in Early Christianity, 2. Cross in Early Thomasine Christianity , 3. St. Thomas Cross , 3.1 Tomb of St. Thomas, 3.2 Re-Discovery of St. Thomas Cross at Mylapore , 4. Antiquity of the cross & Interpretation of the Inscriptions, 4.1 Antiquity of the cross, 4.2 Interpretation of the Inscriptions,5.Symbolism in St. Thomas Cross, 6. General Observations , 6.1 Government of India Centenary Stamp, 6.2 Indian heresy a myth , 6.3 Influence on Indigenous art, 6.4 Link with the Apostle , 7. Locations of the Cross , 7.1 Locations, 8. Some Similarities , 9.Conclusion 1. Cross in Early Christianity A sign stood above the Cross of Jesus, indicating “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19-20) in Greek, Latin (two international languages of the time) and in Hebrew (the language of the Chosen People). In the beginning of Christianity cross may have appeared in Christian homes as an object of religious veneration, although there is no such monument of the earliest Christian art has been preserved. This is partly due to the persecution, Christianity had to face in the initial centuries. It appears with archeological proofs that Fish was another widely used secret symbol of Christianity during those haunted days. The initial letters of the Greek phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” forms the Greek word ICHTHUS, which means “fish.” This symbol was used by believers in the early days of persecution as a secret sign of their shared faith. The discovery of a beautiful third century church in the northern Israeli town of Megiddo, near the biblical Armageddon shows archeological proofs on usage of Fish as a symbol predating the cross. One mosaics inside the church has fish symbol engraved.The Church was built in third century, decades before Constantine legalized Christianity across the Byzantine Empire. It was ransacked during the persecution years and was excavated in 2005.Public display of Fish as a symbol of Christianity during persecution days definitely shows its wide usage.1 The punishment on the cross remained in force throughout the Roman Empire until the first half of the fourth century. In the early part of the reign of Constantine, he continued to inflict the penalty on the cross to those guilty of denouncing...

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The Syrian Christian Church – An Architectural Overview
Jan26

The Syrian Christian Church – An Architectural Overview

Architecture is that great living creative spirit which from generation to generation, from age to age, proceeds, persists, creates, according to the nature of man, and his circumstances as they change. That is really architecture.” —Frank Lloyd Wright,  In the Realm of Ideas The Church in Kerala has always been a central source which has preserved the continuity of faith and tradition from one generation to the  next, through the mists of time. This article which references sevaral sources sheds light on the architecture of the Syrian Christian Churches found across Kerala. We will also discuss the possible reasons behind the choice of those particular  architectural characteristics. The traditional Kerala form of architecture has buildings with low walls, sloping roof and projecting caves. The rooms had numerous openings by way of windows and apertures on the walls through which the houses could breathe in and the hip gables (mokappu) placed on the roofs allowed the hot air that rose up to flow out. If there were false ceilings below the roofs, the mokappu allowed the air to flow freely in and out of the air space thus allowing the roofs to breathe. This design mostly evolved from climatic considerations – for protection from excessive rain and intense solar radiation. The setting of the building in the open garden plot was again necessitated by the requirement of wind for giving comfort in the humid climate. The natural building materials available for construction in Kerala are stones, timber, clay and palm leaves. Timber is the prime structural material abundantly available in many varieties in Kerala – from bamboo to teak. Perhaps the skilful choice of timber, accurate joinery, artful assembly and delicate carving of wood work for columns, walls and roofs frames are the unique characteristics of Kerala architecture. Clay was used in many forms – for walling, in filling the timber floors and making bricks and tiles after pugging and tempering with admixtures. Palm leaves were used effectively for thatching the roofs and for making partition walls. Another noticeable feature of Kerala Church architecture is the preference for Laterite instead of  Granite which is seen in Stone Structures across the rest of India. Granite is a strong and durable building stone; however its availability is restricted to the Northern regions of Kerala. Laterite on the other hand is the most abundant stone found as outcrops in most parts of Kerala. Soft laterite available at shallow depth can be easily cut, dressed and used as building blocks. It is a rare local stone which gets stronger and durable with exposure at atmospheric air. Laterite blocks may be bonded in mortars of shell lime, which has been the classic...

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Save Syriac
Nov10

Save Syriac

At a time in history Syriac was synonymous with Nasranis. This article analyze the present situation of Syriac, considering the various factors which influenced the Kerala social sphere. 1. Syriac Language Syriac is an Eastern Aramaic language that was once spoken across much of the Fertile Crescent. It was a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the second to the eighth century AD.1 At its broadest definition, Syriac is often used to refer to all Eastern Aramaic languages spoken by various Christian groups; at its most specific, it refers to the classical language of Edessa, which became the liturgical language of Syriac Christianity. During the first centuries of the Christian era, South India had commercial relations with Mesopotamia and other countries of the Middle East where Aramaic was spoken. Aramaic was the’ Lingua Franca’ of oriental Christianity. Language is not a mere vehicle of abstract ideas, it is really the authentic expression of a way of life, the living manifestation of a culture.2 It became the vehicle of Christianity and culture, spreading throughout Asia as far as Malabar and Eastern China and was the medium of communication and cultural dissemination for Arabs and, to a lesser extent, Persians. Primarily a Christian medium of expression, Syriac had a fundamental cultural and semantical influence on the development of Arabic which replaced it towards the end of the eighth century. 2. Syriac influence in Malayalam Malayalam prose of different periods exhibit various levels of influence from different languages such as Tamil, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Hebrew, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Portuguese, Dutch, French and English. The Vatteluthu alphabet, which is the ancient Tamil and modern Malayalam script, shows a close Phoenician influence in South India.3 The Vatteluthu rounded writing is an abugida writing system used to write some Dravidian languages of South India and Sri Lanka. The earliest written record of Malayalam is the Vazhappalli inscription(ca. 830 AD). Numerous Syriac words are in use even today in Kerala, e.g., Misiha (Christ), Easo (Jesus), Sleeha (Apostle), Mar (holy), Sleeba (cross), Qurbana (sacrifice), Qudasa (sacrament), Skasa (chalice), Mad’baha (sanctuary), Asan (teacher), became current from very ancient times. Aboon, Alaha, Almaya, Ameen, Ba’utha, Barekmar, Bukhra, Dayara, Denha, HaikIa, Hannan, Hosanna, Husaya, India (Hindu), Kaldaya, Karozutha, Kasa, Keepa, Madbaha, Mahron, Malakha, Malpan, Mamodeesa, Mar, Maranaya ,Maraneshomeshiha, Marth Mariyam, Maudiyana, Mauthbenmar, Mazmura Methran, Mhaimneenan, Mhshiha, Nasrayan, Parudeesa, Peelasa, Pes’ha, Preeshen, Qabar, Qadisanmar, Qnuma, Qudasha, Qurbana, Ramban, Ramsha, Raza, Resh Pathriyarkees, Ruha, Ruha d’ qudsa, Rushma, Sahada, Samaryan, Sapra, Sedra, Shemmasenmar, Shleeha, Skeepa, Sleeba, Subara, Thakhsa, Uraha, Urara, Yakobaya, Yeerenmar etc..are some of the Syriac words which are in common use in Malayalam language.4 3. The...

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What Every Nasrani Needs to Know–And Doesn’t
Aug06

What Every Nasrani Needs to Know–And Doesn’t

There are huge wooden doors and spacious door-ways at the front and side entrances to the naves and in the gate houses in Kerala Churches. To protect the front and side doors from inclement weather there are pillared porticoes, which have benches inside to sit down. The three sided gabled roof of the portico has a Monthayam in front at the junction of the three sloping sides which often has exquiste wooden carvings. The porch Columns, rafters, and beams display the skill of Kerala’s carpenters. The Mammoth pillar-less roofs of the churches are skillfully crafted from Kerala’s renowned timber varieties like Teak and rosewood. Many Churches are vertiable museums of old glass lamps, Chandeliers, Candelabras, Colourful mercury globes and prisms. There are also many varieties of bronze lamps in the churches such as the bird lamp, the Peacock lamp, the Hanging lamp, the many-storeyed floor lamp, the Kuthuvilaku, the Kolvilakku and the Kindivilakku. The Elephant Lamp of Kanjoor and the hanging lamp of Ramapuram are famous. The four lions of the Asoka Stampa are to be seen again on the pedestals of the baptismal fonts at Edappally and Kanjoor. The huge stone baptismal fonts of Kaduthuruthy, Changanassery, Kadamattam,Kalluppara, Kottayam, Chengannoor, Mylakombu and Muthlakodam have depictions of leaves, flowers, creepers and biblical scenes in addition to basket and coir patterns. The balconies have huge gold coated beams supported by highly realistic wooden Elephants. The Wooden railing separating men from women in the nave and the Bhandarams in wood, metal or stone have remarkable artistic distinction. The wooden pulpit or rostrum is called Puzhpam meaning flower. The wooden stem or Stalk of the flower-like pulpit proceeds from the mouth of a Lion, an Elephant or a Dragon. There are interesting Puzhpams at Ollur, Thrissur, Chungam, Palai, and Kanjoor. The 40 foot wooden pulpit of Ollur is perhaps the tallest in Asia. The Evangelists and Saints carved on the pulpits are both beautiful and inspiring. Heaven is represented by the chancel or Madbaha where the Altar is located. There are 3 Altars inside the Madbaha in the West Syrian tradition of Kerala while in the East Syrian tradition the 2 side Altars are found outside the Madbaha. The Altar, the reredos or Altarpiece, and the ceiling of the Madbaha are glorious examples of wooden Sculpture. To prevent the ceiling panels from bending they are coated with mud and some herbs. The Mammoth Altar-pieces are made of wooden blocks joined together without the use of metal nails. They have gold encrusted carvings of Flowers, leaves, plants and creepers. There are also apostles and Saints in wooden relief, in addition to pillars, pilasters, and...

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SRITE- Project for Preserving the Manuscripts of the Syrian Christians in India
Mar01

SRITE- Project for Preserving the Manuscripts of the Syrian Christians in India

Kerala is home for many thousands of Syriac, Malayalam, Malayanma, Kolezhuttu, Vattezhuttu manuscripts of older and more recent date belonging to the autochthonous communities of the St Thomas Christians. Because of the humid, tropical climate and other factors, these manuscripts are greatly endangered. SRITE is a complex international project, based on cooperation between Indian, German, Hungarian and American institutions, which aims at saving these manuscripts both in their content and in their physical reality. SRITE project is aimed in preserving the thousands Syriac, Malayalam, Malayanma, Kolezhuttu, Vattezhuttu manuscripts of older and more recent date. The project estimate is to cover over 1,000 heavily endangered Syriac manuscripts in Kerala. The key difference of this project is unrestricted “open access policy” that is, they will make the entire digitised material freely available via the internet, provided with the appropriate catalogue descriptions. At the same time, the benefits resulting from the publications are returned to the proprietors, on the condition that they spend the proceeds on the conservation of the original manuscripts, in their physical reality. The collections are mixed; they contain Syriac, Malayalam and pre-Malayalam material, the whole belonging together. The manuscripts are written on paper or palm leaves. Besides manuscripts proper, we also have a rich collection of archival material in Syriac: documents pertaining to the relations of the Syrian Christians of India with their mother Churches in the Middle East, such as letters sent to and fro, official documents issued by Middle Eastern hierarchs, etc. Some of these are available in the original, others in copies, often in letter books. This documentation begins in the early seventeenth century and ends in the twentieth century. The manuscripts proper often contain new texts, unknown from elsewhere. This material, once collected and processed, will permit us to write the hitherto unknown history of indigenous Christianity in southern India. Project website SRITE Project Team Head of the Project in Tübingen: Prof. Dr. Stephen Gerö, Orientalisches Seminar Head of the Project in Budapest: Dr. István Perczel, CEU Center for Hellenic Traditions Technical Director and IT Manager of the project: Attila Baticz Technical Associate in India: Yesudas John Chovokkaran Website Manager: Tivadar Feczko The digital library Digital Library Presentation about the Project Please check this link for the presentation titled History of Kerala Christianity on the Basis of Newly Found Documents: Methodological Challenges and Possible Answers by István Perczel. Brief overview of the collection Konat collection: The library of the Konat family in Pampakuda (Malankara Indian Orthodox Church) Koonamackal collection: Private manuscript collection of the Koonamackal priestly family (Syro-Malabar Church) Kuruvilassery: The library of the CMI (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate) Fathers at Kuruvilassery, Thrissur (Syro-Malabar...

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Glimpse from History-Gondophares, Roman and Venetian gold coins in India
Feb20

Glimpse from History-Gondophares, Roman and Venetian gold coins in India

Glimpse from History-Gondophares, Roman and Venetian gold coins in India : Foreign coins discovered from many sites in modern India are many and varied. This include the Persian and Greek coins discovered from North India ( modern Pakistan ) and the vast number of Roman coins from South India in Malabar coast highlighting the trade relations between Roman ports and the Indian ports in Malabar coast. What is interesting from the numismatics is the attestation of the early literature confirming the mission of St. Thomas the Apostle in India. It also corroborates the trade relationship modern Kerala had in ancient times shedding lights on the origin of Nasranis. This article discuss about some of the coin found and the significance of numismatics with the mission of St. Thomas in India. 1. Gondophares coins Gondophares is connected to St Thomas in early Christian traditions embodied in the Acts of Thomas. The Acts of Thomas describes St.Thomas embarking on a sea voyage to India, thus connecting Thomas to the west coast of India and his martyrdom with a king in South. Though the Acts are usually considered to be moral entertainments of a legendary nature, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is a surviving roughly contemporary guide to the routes commonly being used for navigating the Arabian Sea. At the times the Acts were analysed, and until the discovery of his coins in the region of Kabul and the Punjab, there was no reason to suppose that a king named “Gondophares” had ever really existed. Till 1834, questions on St. Thomas mission were around the historical figure King Gondophares. Did a king of the name of Gondophares reign over any portion of India? Was he a contemporary of the Apostolic age? Where was his kingdom situated? Was it practicable for the Apostle Thomas to have had access to it? In 1854 General Alexander Cunningham, writing in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol.xxiii. pp.679-712), was able to say that in the preceding twenty years no less than thirty thousand coins bearing Greek and Indian legends, and extending over a period of more than three centuries, had been found in Afghanistan and the Punjab. A large, if not the greater, number belong to Greek princes who ruled over the country as inheritors of and successors to the conquests of Alexander the Great. Another portion bear the evidence of Scythian conquerors, confirmed also by other authorities, and of Parthian kings and rulers who had become masters of these territories. The coins of Gondophares, the king with whom we are concerned, belong to the latter category. Gondophares, is a Parthian king, who,...

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The Edicts, Copper Plates and Privileges- Quilon (Tarisapalli) plates, Thazhekad edict, Iravi  Kortan plate and Cana Thomman plate
Feb16

The Edicts, Copper Plates and Privileges- Quilon (Tarisapalli) plates, Thazhekad edict, Iravi Kortan plate and Cana Thomman plate

The Rulers gave the Nasranis various rights and privileges which were written on edicts and copper plates. These are also known as Cheppeds, Royal Grants, Sasanam etc. The languages of these Copper plates are Tamil, Pahlavi and Vattezhuthu. Though differences of opinion exist among the exact dating of each copper plates, there is a consensus that some of these are dated from 9th century. It is possible that any other record preserved in any other languages in the first few centuries of Saint Thomas Syrian Christian history might have been on palm leaves as was the practice at that time. This could have lost in the humid climate in Kerala. These are evidences to substantiate the fact that there were a number of Christians both migrated from the Coromandel regions and from West Asia, along with the local Christians in the ninth century in Malabar, actively involved in overseas and internal trade. They were highly respected by the local rulers who gave them several social and economic privileges. The presence of these Christians in Kollam, Cranganore etc which were well known ports having commercial contacts with various parts of the world buttresses the argument that they were engaged in trade and commerce and had close contact with West Asian regions. The rights granted to them by the local rulers permitted them to collect taxes, administer justice, fix the prices of commodities, retain the share of taxes until grievances are redressed. They were thus invited to participate in the governance of the area along with the officials of the King.1 There are a number of such documents in the possession of the Syriac Churches or with the Kerala State. At present some of these Christian copper plates and edicts are kept at different ecclesial jurisdictions of the denominations of Saint Thomas Christians. The topics covered are, 1) Edicts and Copper plates in detail,1.1) The Quilon plates ,a) First set of Copper plates ,b) Second Set of Copper plates ,c) Languages ,d) Further history of Quilon and Iravi Kortan plates ,e) Preserved at, 1.2) Thazhekad Sasanam- edict, a) About the edict,1.3) Iravi Kortan Cranganore (Copper plate),a) About the plate, ,b) Preserved at, 1.4 Thomas of Cana plates, a) About the plates, 2.)Conclusion 1. Edicts and Copper Plates in detail Some of the most important historical edicts/plates and privileges are known as Quilon Plates , Thazhekad Sasanam, Mampally Sasanam, Iravi Kortan plate and Cana Thomman plate etc. Of these the Quilon plates, Thazhekad sasanam edict, and Iravi Kortan plate are still extant. Cana Thomman plate is shrouded in mystery. 1.1 The Quilon plates Two of the three Copper plate sets issued by...

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Surviving MSS-  Old Testament Manuscripts, Psalms and New Testament Manuscripts of Christians of Saint Thomas
Feb16

Surviving MSS- Old Testament Manuscripts, Psalms and New Testament Manuscripts of Christians of Saint Thomas

This is a list of surviving MSS of Christians of Saint Thomas, pertaining to the Bible excluding Biblical lectionaries and commentaries of Holy Scripture. The list is based on the catalogue compiled by J P M Van Der Ploeg. Cor-episcopica Vander Ploeg is a Dominican, who has studied and examined the sources in Kerala and libraries in Europe. He is an internationally well known scholar who has published many books. 1. Old Testament Manuscripts According to Van der Ploeg, the collection of Syriac MSS of Old Testament is not very big in Kerala. This is partly due to the arrival of printed edition in 1823 ( Syriac OT- Lee) which made the old MSS superfluous, there by causing its disappearance in the last one and half centuries. The books of Old Testaments were certainly copied in Malabar before Sixteenth century, but no MSS of that time has been preserved. According to Van der Ploeg, Kerala Syriac MSS belongs to an authentic Syriac ( mostly East Syrian) tradition which enhances the value of manuscripts which are copied in a remote part of the Syriac tradition. 1. Codex. Vatican Syraic 4 This was completed on 16.02.1556, and this contains the texts of the Prophets. This was copied by a Priest, who was the disciple of Mar Jacob, the Metropolitan Bishop, in the Church of Mar Sabor and Mar Prodh in the village of Parur. 2. Codex. Vatican Syriac. 2&3 This contains many books of the Old Testament. Both the Volumes were copied in 1558 AD. This was copied at Angamali, in the Church of the blessed Virign Mary, “ Mother of light and life” by the priest and monk named Geevarghis. 3. Cambridge Bible This is the oldest known Biblical MSS someway connected with Kerala. This is preserved at Library of Cambridge (U.K.) University. It contains both Old and New Testaments, the Old Testament part is described in the List of Old Testament Peshitta Manuscripts, 1961 and also in Wright, Catalogue of the Syriac Manuscripts. (1037 -1043). The handwriting is identified by FC Burkitt as “the Estrangela of the Tur-Abdin”. According to Burkitt, the text is thoroughly Jacobite; for this reason it cannot have come to India prior to 1665.1 It was presented to Dr. Claudius Buchanan in 1836 by Mar Dionysios 1 (+1808) and it may safely be dated from the end of the l2th century. This is also known as Buchanan Bible. According to J P M Van der Ploeg, it may have been the cherished possession of one of the Jacobite Bishops who came to the country from the Middle East. It may also have been brought to...

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