Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Marth Maryam Basilica: A Jewel in the Universal Church.
Feb13

Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Marth Maryam Basilica: A Jewel in the Universal Church.

Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Marth Maryam Basilica: A Jewel in the Universal Church. Introduction   The ancient and beatific Kalloorkkadu Marth Maryam Church has been recognised as a Basilica. Champakualm Kalloorkkadu Church is a very ancient and important Syro Malabar church. It is one among the second-generation Mar Thoma Nasrani (Saint Thomas Christian) churches in Kerala. According to local traditions, this church was founded in AD 427 and originated from the Niranam church which was founded by Apostle Thomas himself. It was one among the only 7 Forane Churches in the southern Vicariate of Kottayam in AD 1887 when the Syro Malabar hierarchy was restored.  The Vicariate of Kottayam included the geographical area of today’s Arch eparchy of Changanacherry and parts of the Arch eparchy of Ernakulam-Angamali, the whole area south of river Periyar in Kerala. Today, this area is represented by 7 Syro Malabar Eparchies with Bishops however, the ancient church of Champakulam was neglected as only a Forane Church. Now, this Church has been recognised as a Basilica by the Pope of Rome. This means that this Church has a special relation with the Pope of Rome reflecting the Universality of Catholic Church and acceptance of the Primacy of Rome which the East Syrian Church always held. This new title is a recognition of this ancient Christian community of Champakulam from the Universal Church. Thus, Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Church has a global perspective today. Churches in the East and the Universal Church Churches in the East, especially the Churches in the East Syriac tradition had been alienated from the rest of the Christendom due to political reasons like the feud between the Roman and the Persian Empires and logistical reasons like geographical inaccessibility. The East Syriac Church took a Nationalistic strategy through the synods in AD 410, 420 and their Metropolitan of the Capital city assumed primacy and called Grand Metropolitan in presence of Western Fathers[i]. In AD 424[ii] the Synod of Markabta declared their Metropolitan of the capital city as a Catholicos.  Later, the Church of the East was wrongly accused of Nestorianism. The so-called Nestorianism seems to be a misunderstanding due to expression of the faith with certain ambiguous terms in Greek. 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[iii] .’ Adrian Fortescue further comments in ‘Lesser Eastern Churches’ that the so-called Nestorianism of East Syrians was only a vehement denial of the Monophysitism[iv]. We can see later in the Council of Chalcedon, Monophysitism was condemned. The Chalcedonian Doctrine...

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Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Marth Maryam Basilica and Poothara manuscript
Jan22

Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Marth Maryam Basilica and Poothara manuscript

1.Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Basilica Champakulam Kalloorkkadu Basilica is an ancient Syriac-Christian (Nasrani) church situated on the banks of Pamba River in Champakulam, Kuttanadu Taluk, Kerala, India. It is one of the oldest Christian churches in India. It belongs to the Arch eparchy of Changanacherry of the Syro Malabar Church (East-Syriac rite). It was the first church under the Niranom Church which is believed to be founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in AD 54. It is popularly believed that the first church at Champakulam was consecrated in AD 427 on the feast day of Holy Innocents. This ancient church has a unique place in the history of St. Thomas Christians and is the oldest church in the Arch eparchy of Changanacherry as well as the district of Alappuzha.  The  Forane churches at Alappuzha (Est. AD 1400), Pulinkunnu (Est. AD 1557) and Edathua (Est. 1810) were formed from the Champakulam Church. Champakulam and Kalloorkkadu Church rose into prominence under the Chempakassery kings when Kalloorkkadu Angadi (market) was a famous commercial centre on the way to the port of Porcca (Purakkad). Legend has it that Champakulam got its name from “Sambathkalam” – meaning it had huge wealth. On 27-Nov-2016, the Archbishop of Changanacherry, Mar Joseph Perumthottam declared Champakulam St Mary’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church as Basilica. This is the 23rd Basilica in India, 9th Basilica in Kerala, 4th Basilica in Syro Malabar Church and the first Basilica in the Arch eparchy of Changanacherry. 2.Poothara Manuscript This paper will discuss the history of the Kalloorkkadu Church with a primary focus on the historic events in and around Kalloorkkadu as recorded in the Poothara Tharakan Family History Chronicle (Nalagamam). The Chronicle was started by the renowned Priest Poothara Korah Cathanaar (born ~1675 AD) and later continued by Kurialacherry Valiya Thoma Cathanaar (born ~1825). This chronicle is being referred to as Poothara Manuscript in this paper. Poothara Tharakan family is a Syriac-Christian priestly family from Champakulam which had many Cathanaar (Syriac-Christian priests) since its founding. The priestly family Kurialacherry is the parent family of Poothara. The family was formed when Poothara Koshy Tharakan moved out from Kurialacherry Tharavadu to Poothara in AD 1540. Koshy Tharakan was primarily a trader by profession and was the recipient of Tharakan title from Chempakassery Devanarayanan King (Ambalapuzha Kingdom).Thumperchirayil family is another main branch of Kurialacherry which was formed few generations after Poothara. Poothara family and its ancestors were involved with Kalloorkkadu Church since the 12th century and played a key role in the periodic revival of Nasrani community and the church multiple times in history (AD 1145, AD 1544, AD 1730, AD 1885). The family gave birth to six...

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Revival of the Syriac language in worship  from the grass root level : a new model of liturgical reformation in the Syro Malabar Church.
Oct26

Revival of the Syriac language in worship from the grass root level : a new model of liturgical reformation in the Syro Malabar Church.

  Introduction. Kerala, the south Indian state on the Malabar coast of India is known as the cradle of Christianity in  India. Saint Thomas Christians of India are one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world.  The ancient Christianity of Kerala was founded by Saint Thomas the Apostle, who is considered the Father of Syriac Christianity[1]. Along with the Churches of Edessa, Seleucia Ctesiphon and Fars, the Church in India also used Syriac Aramaic as the language of worship. It was in the East Syriac dialect of Syriac Aramaic that the worship and spirituality developed in these regions. Hence, it is called the East Syriac rite. It is highly likely that the early Christianity in India developed in the Syriac rite. The abundance of loan Syriac words in South Indian languages like Tamil and Malayalam, and the lack of local ecclesiastical words in these languages point towards a Syriac origin. The Tamil word for the cross -Siluvai- a corrupted pronunciation of Sliva is the best example. If the origin was in a South Indian language, such ecclesiastical words would have developed in the local languages. There is a lot of evidence to show that traders from Mesopotamia settled in the Malabar coast as early as the 10 century BC[2] and we could assume that the Apostle Thomas came in search of them. Recent excavations in “Pattanam” also support this theory[3]. Western colonial Missionary Enterprise and the Saint Thomas Christians.   In AD 1498, Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese traveller arrived in Kerala. Following the traders and soldiers, Missionaries also arrived to India. They started with a friendly phase[4] with the local native Christians but later began to subjugate them. The Portuguese Roman Catholic Missionaries used all their might to subjugate the native Syriac Christians and to convert them to Roman Catholicism of the Latin tradition. The Synod of Diamper in AD 1599 gave an accelerated framework  for suppressing the Syriac tradition and promoting latinisations.[5] This caused revolts and divisions. On January 3rd, 1653, almost the entire community of native Saint Thomas Christians took an oath called the Coonan Cross Oath at Mattancherry and declared that they would not have any relation with the Jesuit Roman Catholic Missionaries[6]. This great revolt stunned the Roman Catholic Church. Subsequent interventions by Rome[7] to pacify the situation and certain religio[8] political[9] circumstances lead to the majority of Saint Thomas Christian returning  under the Portuguese Padruado rule. A section of the community evolved into an independent local church which later joined the West Syriac Church of Antioch. Those Saint Thomas Christians who returned under the  Portuguese Padroado rule, however, did not want...

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The Pahlavi inscribed Processional Cross of Herat, Afghanistan and the Pahlavi Crosses of South India: A comparative Study of the Religio Cultural Traditions of the Churches of India and Parthia.
May16

The Pahlavi inscribed Processional Cross of Herat, Afghanistan and the Pahlavi Crosses of South India: A comparative Study of the Religio Cultural Traditions of the Churches of India and Parthia.

The Pahlavi inscribed Processional Cross of Herat, Afghanistan  and the Pahlavi Crosses of South India: A Comparative Study of  Religio Cultural traditions  of  the Churches of India and Parthia Dr. M Thomas Antony and Mathew Mailaparampil Introduction A Pahlavi inscribed  processional cross conceivably dated from  the 8th century AD was found recently from Herat in Afghanistan. This cross has similarities with the Pahlavi inscribed granite Crosses of South India and other crosses of Church of the East (East Syriac Church) in China.   It bears Pahlavi inscriptions which proclaims a theological formula to defend the accusations made by the growing new religion of Islam in the region . This processional cross witnesses the importance of liturgical processions prevalent in the East Syriac tradition. Herat Herat is the third largest city of Afghanistan and is the capital of the province of Herat. It is situated in the valley of river Hari. During the time of Achaemenid Empire 550-330 BC the area was called ‘Haraiva’ in Persian.1 It is situated in Khurasan north west region of modern Afghanistan. Khurasan or Khorasan is a historical region comprising a vast area of north eastern Iran, Southern Turkmenistan and Northern Afghanistan.2 Prior to the Sasanian rule, the region of Khorasan was called Parthia3 and was the homeland of the Parthian Emperors. Khorasan comprises the cities of Balkh and Herat now in Afghanistan, Mashhad and Nisapur now in north eastern Iran, Merv and Nisa now in southern Turkmenistan, and Bukhara and Samarkand now in Uzbekistan.4 Christianity in Herat and Central Asia Christianity penetrated in to central Asia in the very early period itself. Bardaisan in AD 196 commented about Christians in Gilan, the southwest of Caspian and Bactria, the kingdom between Hindukush and Oxus (Amu Darya).5 In AD 549,  the Hephthalites in the Bactria requested Patriarch Mar Aba I to consecrate a Bishop for them and  an anonymous Syriac Chronicle describes Mar Elias, the Metropolitan of Merv converting an entire nomadic population to  Christianity by a miracle in AD 64.6 .Herat was a Metropolitan Province of the Church of the East. It was mentioned as a ‘hyparchy’ in the Synod of the Church of the East in AD 585. Herat had a Bishop since AD 424.7 Synodicum Orientale  mentions that three of the four cities of Khurasan , Herat, Merv and Nisapur (Abrasahr), were represented by Bishops in AD 424 .8  Herat was elevated as a Metropolitan province of the Church  of the East in the Synod of Isho Yahb in  AD 585.9  Synodicum Oriantale mentions a Bishop Yasdoi  in the synod of Dadisho in AD 424, Bishop Gabriel  in Synod of Akak in AD...

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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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Christian Communities of St. Thomas Tradition in Maharashtra and its Neighbourhood in Mid-Sixth Century
Jan21

Christian Communities of St. Thomas Tradition in Maharashtra and its Neighbourhood in Mid-Sixth Century

( This paper was originally presented in the National Seminar on The Identity of the St. Thomas Catholic Migrants held from 12th to 15th September 2013 at Animation and Renewal Centre, Panvel, Diocese of Kalyan, in connection with the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Kalyan Diocese) Christian Communities of St. Thomas Tradition in Maharashtra and its Neighbourhood in Mid-Sixth Century All through Indian history the geographical region of Konkan in general and Maharashtra in particular has been located as the mid-point between the commercially vibrant maritime zones of Kerala and Gujarat and it is the junctional point where the trade circuits from Gujarat and Kerala used to converge and intervene in different ways. Interestingly this region has also been the midpoint of two geographies, Kerala and Northwest India , which were connected by historians and folk traditions with the apostolic work of St. Thomas at two different points of time. The discovery of first century coins bearing the name of Gondophares from Northwest India from mid-1830s onwards and inscription of Gunduphara from Takht-i-Bahi near Peshawar in 1872, made many scholars view that Gondophares mentioned in these coins as well as Gunduphara of this inscription were the same person as Gondophoros of Acts of Judas Thomas , who was mentioned in this work as the ruler of the kingdom which St. Thomas reached for preaching gospel in India. Against this background they argue that the part of India to which St.Thomas came first for preaching gospel must have been North-West India and its historical probability is now attested to by many. However, the oral traditions of St.Thomas Christians, principally Margamkali Pattu and Rabban Pattu, say that St. Thomas reached Kerala, where he preached gospel and laid foundation for seven Christian communities. For a long period of time, historicity of this oral tradition was debated by scholars arguing pro and contra; however recent researches have highlighted the historical probability of the arrival of St.Thomas in India, particularly against the background of intensified maritime trade happening between coastal western India and Red Sea ports on the one hand and coastal western India as well as the ports of Persian Gulf on the other. The physical presence of about four million St. Thomas Christians, claiming their origin to one or another place of the seven initial Christian settlements of Kerala set up by St. Thomas as per their tradition, often serves as ethno-historical evidence adding significantly to the historical claims of their oral tradition. A lot has been written on the origin and growth of Christian communities of these two regions and historians now generally maintain that St. Thomas must have come first...

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Jakhs of Kutch-Were they Jacobites?
Dec29

Jakhs of Kutch-Were they Jacobites?

By Mr. P.I. Abraham The Eastern Christian church came in contact with India from the very beginning of the Christian era. We know the St.Thomas origin of the Malankara church and the subsequent immigration and settlement of Thomas of Kana. Several similar settlements were said to have existed in several parts of India, such as Thane in Bombay and Bharuch in Gujarat.Of these settlements, that of Malankara coast is one that is marked by its survival to this day. Almost all others vanished from the face of the earth, either due to invasions or due to persecutions of the rulers. Some of them exist in historical records or folklores. Story of Jakhs of kutch is such a folklore which points to the existence of a Christian church in ancient times at that place. Jakhs of Kutch Before dealing with the story we should know a little about the geography and history of kutch. Kutch is a peninsular area on the northern end of the western coast of India .It is the largest district of Gujarat .Tropic of cancer passes through Kutch. As such it experiences severe heat in summer and severe cold in winter. More than half of the district is desert.  It is said that in ancient times the river Sindhu flew through Kutch and fell in to the Arabian sea As a result the soil was very fertile and the area was very prosperous. A rich culture existed in kutch even in ancient times. This fact has been established by the excavations made in Indus valley civilization sites viz. Dhola vira and Lothal. The peoples were very industrious and sea faring. They had trade relations with countries far and wide. Kutch was ruled by the Indo Parthian dynasty in the first century A.D. Indo Parthians ruled the territory from Sindhu river in the north to Narmada river in the south. That means that the whole of Gujarat was in their sway. King GONDAPHOROUS was one of the kings of the Indo Parthian dynasty.(Gondophorus or Gondophernes was perhaps a title used by Indo Parthian kings) As we know, St.Thomas the deciple of Lord Jesus Christ had visited the palace of Gondophorous during his journey to India. This fact has found a place in the history text books of primary schools in Gujarat. Historian George Mark Moraes in his “History of Christianity in India” makes mention of a community called followers of Thumma Bhagat which once lived in the Kutch-Sindh area. It is believed that Thumma Bhagat was none other than St.Thomas. Now let us come to the story about JAKHS. They are also locally called Yakshas, which means...

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Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam
Jan28

Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam

Varthamanapusthakam1, which was written in 1785 by Fr.Thomas Paremakkal as an account of his travel along with his friend bishop Mar Joseph Kariyattil to Madras, Africa, Brazil, Portugal and Rome and often hailed as the first travelogue in an Indian language, has been immensely used as a literary medium by the author to ventilate his dissent and anger against the hegemonic attitude and the colonial fabric which the European religious missionaries set up for the Church in India, particularly for the St.Thomas Christians of Kerala. Arguing vehemently that India should be ruled by Indians and not by foreigners, he goes on demanding as early as 1785 that Indian Christians should be ruled not by European religious missionaries but by Indians. Within the larger format of a travelogue detailing meticulously the socio-economic and political processes of the several countries he had visited in Africa, South America and Europe, he argues his case by showing how the foreign missionaries fearing reduction of the span of their power and authority did not want to have an Indian bishop for the St.Thomas Christians. Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam Fr. Thomas Paremakkal and Fr.Joseph Kariyattil made their travels to Portugal and Rome on the decision of the general body of the St.Thomas Christians taken at Angamaly for the purpose of informing the Pope and the Queen of Portugal of the various discriminations, sufferings and difficulties that this community experienced over a considerable period of time from the foreign Carmelite missionaries working in Kerala. As the general meeting of the representatives of this community at Angamaly was dominated by feelings of anger and animosity against the European religious missionaries and the European bishop working then in Kerala, the travelogue has anti-Europeanism as its basic thread, critiquing the hegemonic and colonial fabric of the Church set up by the European missionaries. Stressing the need for going back to the pre-Portuguese days when democratic institutions of yogams(representative body at the grass root-levels) mahayogams(representative bodies at higher levels) with jathikkukarthaviyan(head of the community) existed among this community for their administration, instead of one-man centered or European notion of bishop- centered administration, the travelogue challenges the notion of authority that the European missionaries had set up within the colonial fabric they newly created for the Church of the St.Thomas Christians. Interestingly the narratives of this book, with copious accounts of hardships that the St.Thomas Christians had to face from the Church fabric set up by the European missionaries in Kerala, soon formed an inspiring literary device for this community in their later clamour for having Indian Catholic bishops for them instead of European bishops and...

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