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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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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Saint Thomas Christians in the Shaping of Modern Kerala
Sep16

Saint Thomas Christians in the Shaping of Modern Kerala

Saint Thomas Christians in the Shaping of Modern Kerala: It is obvious that there were multiple players and actors cutting across the boundaries of caste, creed and gender who actually took Kerala to the threshold of modernity and generally speaking no community, party or collectivity can claim exclusive monopoly in taking up its leadership. Kerala got evolved as a model modern state of India thanks to the concerted effort of diverse institutions, people and movements, which were often inter-related and interlinked. The diverse socio-economic , educational and health care projects and programmes that the St. Thomas Christians implemented out of the inspiration from the message of love of Jesus have ultimately contributed to the building up of a literate, healthy and socially empowered state in Kerala. But in the recent historiography and narratives of Kerala’s modernity only the voice of the hegemonic group, dominant community or party is made to be excessively heard peripheralizing and at times swallowing as well as silencing the voices of other players including the minority communities and groups. This is a clever way of manoeuvring the historical past by the “majority” and the “powerful” for the exercise of domination by subverting and silencing what the “minority “ groups had done for the shaping of modern Kerala. It is against this background that now historians are trying to identify the different layers of the historical processes that went into the shaping of modern Kerala. All these layers are as important as the so-called ‘dominant layer’ and the fabric of modern Kerala got constructed out of the collectivity of these layers, the cohesive forces emerging out of which sustain its vitality in a remarkable way. In today’s lecture I would like to concentrate only on one of these layers, i.e., the St.Thomas Catholic Christians, whose contribution added certain unique meanings and content to the type of modernity that appeared in Kerala. Saint Thomas Christians in the Shaping of Modern Kerala I. Agrarian Surplus, Banking and the Evolving Christian Middle Class The St.Thomas Christians, who were often depicted in the Portuguese documents as the principal spice-producers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, emerged as the dominant social group in the agrarian sector of Travancore by the second half of the nineteenth century. During the period between 1850 and 1900, there occurred a large scale migration under the leadership of St.Thomas Christians to the central upland parts of Kerala, particularly to the slopes of small hills and hillocks, which were till then uninhabited for want of sufficient labour force to clear their bushes and trees. One of the major reasons that triggered the migration process was the unprecedented...

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Ikkako Kathanar -the forgotten martyr
Jul01

Ikkako Kathanar -the forgotten martyr

1.Introduction Ikkako Kathanar -the forgotten martyr: Centuries before, an incident shook both the land of Malabar and the Saint Thomas Christian community; the murder of one of their priests, Ikkako Kathanar, by European missionaries at the church in Verapoly (Varappuzha).This incident in 1771 AD resulted in long ramification in the turbulent history of the ancient community of Saint Thomas Christians whose existence was threatened by the colonisation of the Malabar Coast of south-west India by European powers beginning with the Portuguese. 2.History sets in The Saint Thomas Christians, locally known as Mar Thoma Nasranis, Suriyani Nasranis, Syrian Christians or simply Nasranis trace their origin to the missionary works of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who in Aramaic (East-Syriac) is known as Mar Thoma Sleeha. This community of Christians that existed in many parts of India were eventually restricted to the south-west Malabar Coast of India, encompassing the modern state of Kerala and nearby regions. They followed the ancient Aramaic (East-Syriac) tradition in worship and Aramaic was their liturgical language. Aramaic was the language of Jesus Christ and His disciples as well. The Nasranis were profoundly attached to the Aramaic (East-Syriac) language and their Aramaic heritage.1The Nasranis were a fiercely independent community under its head who was known as the Archdeacon (Jathikku Karthavyan) and he held the title of ‘Archdeacon and Gate of All India’. The Archdeacon also commandeered an army of his own. Each church had its own church assembly consisting of priests and laymen. The Archdeacon was guided by a General Assembly, known as the Palli-Yogam, consisting of both priests and laymen representing all churches. European missionaries marvelled at this and called the community as a Christian Republic.2Geographically, the Nasranis were located in territories ruled by local Hindu kings and vassals and ecclesiastically they were part of the (East-Syriac) Church of the East which sent Bishops from Babylon and Persia. The bishops for the most part exercised the power of order only and the Nasranis lived a peaceful community life for centuries this way.But things were about to change for them soon with the advent of the Portuguese Vasco da Gama in 1498.The Portuguese who arrived in the dawn of the 16th century attempted to forcefully westernise the Nasrani community and bring them under their political and ecclesiastical authority.These attempts culminated in the so-called Synod at Diamper (Udayamperoor) in 1599 and the Nasranis were placed under the authority of the Portuguese Padroado. The Padroado was an agreement between the kingdom of Portugal and the Roman Catholic Church according to which Rome delegated the administration of local churches to the kingdom (later republic) of Portugal. The king (or queen) of...

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Patriarchate Of India- An Appraisal Of The Evolution Of The Episcopal Hierarchy Among Thomas Christians Of Malabar
Jan19

Patriarchate Of India- An Appraisal Of The Evolution Of The Episcopal Hierarchy Among Thomas Christians Of Malabar

Patriarchate Of India- An Appraisal Of The Evolution Of The Episcopal Hierarchy Among Thomas Christians Of Malabar Christianity in India Thomas Christians of India are one of the most ancient Christian communities in the World. Apostle Thomas founded the Church in India in the first century itself. Tradition says that Apostle Thomas landed at Kodungalloor in AD 52 and founded 7 and half communities in the Malabar coast. Even though there is no solid historical evidence of this, considering the available historical, archaeological evidences and logical thought, many researchers and historians have concluded that the visit of Apostle Thomas is possible. There are solid grounds for believing that there was a Christian community that existed in Kerala in the very early period. The arrival of Apostle Thomas in North West India is now accepted as historical, especially after the discovery of coins with the name of the Parthian King Gondophoros in the region, which validate the story in the apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas.1 After a critical study about the apocryphal work ‘Acts of Judas Thomas’ J N Farquhar, who was a Professor of Comparative Religion in Manchester University argues that the legend of Thomas Apostle coming to Musiris where a large number of Jews, Greeks Romans and others lived and preached the Gospel and founded Christian communities among them, or in simple words, the Apostolate of Thomas in South India is on balance of probability, is distinctly on the side of historicity.2 The widespread presence of Pahlavi inscribed granite crosses in south India are the most ancient antiquities available about the history of Thomas Christians in the region. They denote the presence of a Christianity related to Persia. Eminent Pahlavi scholar B T Anklesaria has commented that the most ancient of these crosses, the one found at Alengadu could be of AD 340 or earlier but later than AD 302, (depending on the style of the letters and use of adjuncts, comparing to the styles seen in the ancient coins excavated, manuscripts and inscriptions). As the Pahlavi language died out by AD 650, many of the scholars put the age of these crosses as AD 650.3 East Syrian Connection Thomas Christians have always been under the jurisdiction of more advanced Christianity in Mesopotamia and Persia. There are hints from ancient literature that Apostle Thomas had sent letters to the Church in Edessa from India. Cureton in ‘Ancient syriac documents’ comments about Apostle Thomas’ letters received in the Church of Edessa. J N Farquhar, after critically analysing the possibilities, states that as there was a Bishop in Edessa from the time of Mar Addai, and there were no Bishops...

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Major Arch Bishop Alencheril Mar Giwargis II Bava-The Patriarch of Syro Malabar Church and The Gate of All India-  A Discussion on The Historical Hierarchical Status of The Church of Saint Thomas Christians
Jun08

Major Arch Bishop Alencheril Mar Giwargis II Bava-The Patriarch of Syro Malabar Church and The Gate of All India- A Discussion on The Historical Hierarchical Status of The Church of Saint Thomas Christians

INTRODUCTION Major Arch Bishop Alencheril Mar Giwargis II Bava-The Patriarch of Syro Malabar Church and The Gate of All India- A Discussion on The Historical Hierarchical Status of The Church of Saint Thomas Christians :Syro-Malabar Church is an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Pope of Rome. It is an Apostolic Church founded by Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. Syro Malabar Church is the largest group of Saint Thomas Christians. The term Syro Malabar was coined by the Western Missionaries to denote ‘the Syrian Church of Malabar’- those catholics that follow the Syro Chaldean rite. Sui iuris Churches.1 These are the Eastern Rite Churches that are in communion with the Roman Pontiff, the Pope. They are Churches of their own particular law. Syro Malabar Church is one among the 21 sui iuris Churches in the Universal Catholic Church. They consists of 6 Patriarchal Churches, 4 Major Archi Episcopal Churches, 3 Metropolitan Churches and 9 other sui iuris churches. Patriarchal Churches are the fully developed particular churches with a Patriarch as the head with its own synod and territory. The synod elects the Patriarch and inform the Universal Pontiff, the Pope of Rome. Major Archi Episcopal Churches have a Major Arch Bishop as the head, slightly inferior to the status of a Patriarch. The synod elects the Major Arch Bishop, but needs confirmation by the Pope. Pope can reject the election. Patriarchal Churches in Catholic communion. 1. Coptic Catholic Church based in Cairo 2. Maronite Church of Lebanon 3. Syriac Catholic Church of Beirut 4. Armenian Catholic Church 5. Chaldean catholic Church 6. Melkite Greek catholic Church Major Archiepiscopal Churches of Catholic Communion. 1. Syro Malabar Church 2. Syro Malanakra Church 3. Romanian Church 4. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Metropolitan Churches in Catholic Communion 1. Ethiopian Catholic Church, 2. Ruthenian Catholic Church and 3. Slovac Greek Catholic Church Other sui iuris Churches in Catholic Communion 1. Albanian Greek Catholic Church, 2. Belarusian Greek Catholic Church, 3. Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church, 4. Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Krizevci, 5. Greek Byzantine Catholic Church, 6. Hungarian Greek Catholic Church, 7. Italo Albanian Catholic Church, 8. Macedonian Greek catholic Church and 9. Russian Catholic Church. THE SYRO MALABAR CHURCH IN THE CATHOLIC COMMUNION Thomas Christians were part of East Syrian Church. They came into direct communion with the Church of Rome through the Chaldean Patriarchate with the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa and Mar Elias in AD 1554. Historically, the title of the head of the Church of Saint Thomas was the ‘Metropolitan and the Gate of India’. Ancient documents vouches this.2 After the infamous Synod of...

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Nazrani Christians and the Social Processes of Kerala, 800-1500
Mar07

Nazrani Christians and the Social Processes of Kerala, 800-1500

[ This article deals with a part of Nasrani history, which was not properly studied by any other historian so far. The study is based primarily on the original Tharisapally copper plate and on the Portuguese primary source material. This article is included as chapter III in the book “Maritime India: Trade, Religion and Polity in the Indian Ocean” by Dr.Pius Malekandathil, published by Primus Books, New Delhi, 2010, pp.38-61 under the title “ Dynamics of Economy, Social Processes and the pre-Portuguese Christians of India, 800-1500”. The NSC team is grateful to the author, Rev Dr Pius Malekkandathil, for sending us this article for publication to a wider audience, who do not have access to the book.] The socio-economic processes of Maritime India began to undergo decisive changes by ninth century, when its vast coastal terrains were considerably influenced by the economic forces emitted by the long distance trade between the ports of Persian Gulf regions and of Canton in China. One of the most significant impact of this trade-route on Indian economy was that the long-distance traders, who had to temporarily break their voyage on Indian coast because of the adverse monsoon winds on the other side of the Ocean, became instrumental in identifying and developing port-sites near the mouth of various rivers, through which commodities held in high demand in other parts of the world could be obtained. Consequently a long of chain of ports of varying degrees of economic importance began to emerge on the east and west coast of India, making many consumption-oriented regional economies located closer to these ports start producing commodities needed by these foreign merchants. On the one hand the process of production oriented towards market began to get relatively intensified in some of these places, while on the other hand, there was a concomitant phenomenon of migration of mercantile communities to India to take maximum advantage out of the changed situation. The local rulers who noticed the advantages of using these economic changes for their political intentions began to extend support and patronage to foreign merchants and mercantile migrants reaching their ports, who were eventually transformed as their supportive base for the political dreams of expanding their territories. One of the most evident cases of this nature could be traced back to the set of commercial privileges granted by the ruler of Ay kingdom to the Christian migrant traders of Quilon like Mar Saphor and Mar Prodh from the erstwhile Sassanid Persia in the mid-ninth century. Though the purpose of the grant was to generate enough wealth so as to strengthen the hands of the ruler and to realize his political...

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The Story of Joseph, the Indian; A Historical Appraisal of the Affairs of St Thomas’ Christians in the Pre Portuguese period
Jun05

The Story of Joseph, the Indian; A Historical Appraisal of the Affairs of St Thomas’ Christians in the Pre Portuguese period

The Story of Joseph, the Indian; A Historical Appraisal of the Affairs of St Thomas’ Christians in the Pre Portuguese period 1 INTRODUCTION Joseph,the Indian is a famous character in the History of Medieval India. He was a Christian priest from Malabar who had travelled to Mesopotamia, Europe, visited the Holy Patriarch of the East and ordained as a Priest by Him, and also visited the Holy Patriarch of the Western Church- the Pope of Rome and declared the identity and ecclesiology of the St Thomas’ Christians to western Christianity. Joseph was interviewed by the Signoria of Venice and his accounts were written by an unknown European and have been published as 25 editions in seven different European languages. These accounts are considered as jewels in the history of that time period. The narrations of Joseph, the Indian throw light into the history of St Thomas’ Christians in the immediate pre-Portuguese period. The pre-Portuguese history of St Thomas Christians is not well documented. Many accounts have been found from various writings; letters of Patriarchs and Prelates, inscriptions and oral accounts. Many books have been written about the history of early Christianity in Kerala in 16th and 17th centuries but all of them are Western in origin. The narrations of Joseph are the only available account from a native source who was a Prominent Priest at the period and hence these accounts are historically very significant. Many authors have cited the narrations of Joseph, the Indian in their books. Rev. Fr Antony Vallavanthara C. M. I. has done a very unique research on narrations of Joseph, the Indian and their original publications. He has traced all the available texts and versions of narrations and has conducted a critical study about its contents, the authorship, and the original text and published a book “India in 1500 A D, The narrations of Joseph, the Indian.” published by Gorgias Press, USA. He has presented the initial sources of the narrations in Italian, Latin and Dutch with English translations in the book with his detailed analysis. 2.THE HISTORICAL JOSEPH THE INDIAN We see Joseph in a number of different occasions in history. Authors like Germann and Mathias Mundadan have identified and connected the different citations about Joseph from different sources with logical arguments and made the story complete. 2a.Joseph’s first jouney to Babylon in AD 1490 Joseph was a member of the delegation of St Thomas’ Christians who went to the Patriarch of Babylon to bring Bishops for Malabar. St Thomas’ Christians did not have Native Bishops, for unknown reasons. They depended on the Church of the East for Prelates. There are periods where...

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Letters of St. Thomas the Apostle to Edessa from India
Sep20

Letters of St. Thomas the Apostle to Edessa from India

Letters of St. Thomas the Apostle to Edessa from India The definite statement that Apostle Thomas sent letters from India, which were preserved and read in the Church services, occurs in the Syriac Doctrine of the Apostles. It can be read in W. Cureton’s “Ancient Syriac Documents” , p.32. “And after the death of the apostles there were Guides and Rulers in the churches, and whatsoever the apostles had committed to them, and they had received from them, they taught to the multitudes all the time of their lives. They, again, at their deaths also committed and delivered to their disciples after them every thing which they had received from the apostles; also what James had written from Jerusalem, and Simon from the city of Rome, and John from Ephesus, and Mark from the great Alexandria, and Andrew from Phrygia, and Luke from Macedonia, and Judas Thomas from India: that the epistles of an apostle might be received and read in the churches that were in every place, like those Triumphs of their Acts, which Luke wrote, are read; that by this the apostles might be known, and the prophets, and the Old Testament and the New; that one truth was preached by them all, that one Spirit spoke in them all from one God, whom they had all worshipped and had all preached. And the various countries received their teaching. “ The passage seems to have stood originally in “The Doctrine of Addai”: see F.Nau, La Didascalie des dovze Apôtres, Appendices, 230. Does it seem too bold to postulate that Thomas wrote a letter from Taxila and or from Malabar to the Church in Edessa ? J N Farquhar in the books “The Apostle Thomas in North India” and “The Apostle Thomas in South India” has critically examined the possibilities. This brief write up is based on these two books. There is one very definite statement in early Syriac literature to the effect that he sent letters from India; and there is abundance of indirect evidence that such a letter as we have described lay in Edessa until the close of the second century at least. In all references to Thomas in literature arising from Edessa, the Apostle is called Judas Thomas; and it seems clear that the double name comes from the Apostle’s letter. In writing the letter he would inevitably use his own name, and would naturally add to it the word for “twin,” which had been so universally used instead of his real name. There are two possibilities of Thomas the Apostle writing to the Church in Edessa from Taxila and from Malabar. Lets briefly...

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Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD
Jun21

Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD

Prelates of Nasranis till the Synod of Udayamperoor- List of early Bishops till 1599 AD Both history and tradition testify that St. Thomas one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ came to India, preached the Gospel and founded a Church here. The origin of the Indian Church is an apostolic one. There are lot of opinions, views coupled with lack of documentary evidences which creates confusion about the early Nasrani Prelates proceeding the Apostle. This article focus on the prelates and missionaries of Nasranis continuing the Apostle, till the Syond of Diamper (Udayamperoor) convened on June 20, 1599 citing a number of sources.1 1. St. Thomas Christians & Church of East “Doctrine of the Apostles” states that, “India and all its countries . . . received the Apostle’s hand of priesthood from Judas Thomas….” Due to the common Apostolic origin and a number of socio cultural factors, from a very early period the Church of St. Thomas Christians came in to a life long relationship with the Church of Persia. According to early Christian writings Church of Persia was also established by St. Thomas the apostle. Primate or Metropolitan of Persia consecrated bishops for the Indian Church of St. Thomas Christians. Church of the East traces its origins to the See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, said to be founded by Saint Thomas the Apostle. Other founding figures of Seleucia-Ctesiphon are Saint Mari and Saint Addai as evidenced in the Doctrine of Addai and the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari. Church of Persia traces its origin to the missionary activities of St.Thomas the Apostle. There are documents which indicate that the Syrian Church of Malabar was dependent on the Church of Seleucia or better Seleucia-Ctesiphon, later on called the church of Babylon or Church of East. We do not know for certain when and how this dependence began. It appears that, through the Church of Persia, the Malabar Church was subject to Seleucia, which was under Antioch, which in turn was under Rome.2 Since the relations of the Malabar Church with the Church of Seleucia were done away with, only at the end of the 16th century, it will be useful to refer briefly to that Church, which had its headquarters in Seleucia and Ctesiphon, the chief cities of the Persian Empire.3 We shall now briefly examine the history of the Eastern Church, in order to see whether and how far the course of events that affected the history of this Church, produced corresponding results in the Indian Church which was united to it even from early times. According to many ancient authors, the Bishop or Metropolitan of Seleucia used...

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Hymns of Saint Ephraem (Ephrem) the Syrian, on Apostle Thomas and India
May20

Hymns of Saint Ephraem (Ephrem) the Syrian, on Apostle Thomas and India

Hymns of Saint Ephraem (Ephrem) the Syrian, on Apostle Thomas and India The earliest author of the Eastern Church, is Saint Ephraem (Ephrem) , the Great Doctor of the Syrian Church. Known us Deacon, monk, musician, inspired poet and profound commentator of sacred Scripture, this church father is beloved by all branches of Christ’s Church. This fourth-century saint was so admired and influential that a great many of his writings were among the first works after the Bible to be rendered into many parts of Christendom. He was a native of the city of Nisibis, and had lived there up to A.D 363, when the surrender of that town by the Emperor Jovian to Sapor, the King of Persia, took place after the death of his predecessor, Julian the Apostate, and the partial defeat of the army under the same. The Saint then retired to Edessa, which had become the frontier town of the Empire1. As the Relics of the Apostle Thomas had been treasured in that city from an early period, and as Ephraem had lived there for fully ten years till his death, which occurred in the summer of 373, it certainly seemed strange that in the numerous published works of prolific writers the direct evidence from St. Ephraem hymns are missing about the Apostolate. Relics of the Apostle Thomas are so specially venerated in the very city in which Ephraem resided, the city which, largely owing to his influence, became the general centre of Syrian literature. It was not until past the middle of the nineteenth century that such evidence was forthcoming. Bishop A E Medlycott has collected some of the Saint Ephraem hymns and published those in “India and the Apostle Thomas” .This article is an extract from the relevant pages dealing with St. Ephraem hymns. 1. First Three stanzas from Hymn 42 The first writing of Ephraem which threw clear light on this subject appeared in 1866. It is No. 42 of his “Carmina Nisibena”, so styled by the editor Bickell, because they refer chiefly to the city of Nisibis. The hymn in question consists of ten strophes, and is composed in form not unlike that of Greek and Latin odes, with a ‘refrain’ to be sung after each strophe. Ephraem composed most of his hymns that they should be sung at the public services of the Church.2 Bickell, the Editor of “Carmina Nisibena” remarks : “These refrains which always contain a prayer, or a doxology, were undoubtedly sung by the people in chorus, while the hymn was sung as a solo by a cleric.’ This style of singing took its origin in the...

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Thomas-Malabar Connection & The Jewish Heritage, A Biblical & Analytical Approach
Dec30

Thomas-Malabar Connection & The Jewish Heritage, A Biblical & Analytical Approach

Introduction  This short article is an attempt to view the Thomas tradition from a Biblical perspective with an analytical lens. Hence this should not be treated as a stand-alone article but must be read in conjunction with other historical information which are not stressed or cited in here.  I. Why is it so Difficult to Believe in Thomas-Malabar Connection  The apostle Thomas found it difficult to believe the Resurrection of his Master from death until he saw Him personally. Today modern “scholars” find it even more difficult to believe in the apostleship of Thomas to Kerala. Why is it so difficult to believe in the Kerala Christianity as started from the first century? Even today after so many archeological evidences have come up to corroborate the Middle East connection of Malabar Coast from the BC period, so many skeptics still adamantly deny this historical fact as hoax.  It is true that tradition as such is not to be trusted unless otherwise proved to be fact supported by the other branches of knowledge. In this article I try to see the Thomas tradition analytically from the point of view of the foundation of all knowledge; the Bible. The Biblical historical facts together with the latest archeological evidences strongly point to the Thomas tradition as a fact.   When the Problem Started? It has become a modern scholarly fashion to deny anything and everything in the fields of literature and history. This tendency takes the force of a tornado when it comes to religion and Bible. Whatever was established as absolute truth in the past centuries have become suddenly the object of much disputation and doubts. Hence we hear great scholars claiming that Moses never existed, Joshua never existed, Isaiah never existed, Hittites never existed, gospels were not written by the apostles etc, etc.  Even in modern times one hears that Shakespeare never wrote the plays which are credited to his name throughout the previous centuries! This is the modern scholarship! When one considers this “modern” phenomenon, one gets to know the real cause BEHIND this development and can pinpoint it as ……the theory of evolution!! Yes, it has revolutionized the modern scholarship so thoroughly that today whoever opposes this “theory” is considered as “uneducated”.  This theory (which works BEHIND the modern scholarship) in history and literature goes something like this: that the modern human beings are at the latest stage of advanced evolutionary spectrum and the ancient people were not as “evolved” as we are in intellectual faculty and hence we cannot depend on their statements and historical records.  In the Biblical textual criticism, one scholar named Julius Wellhausen changed all the previously held concepts....

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Role, Characteristics, List and Tomb of Archdeacons (Arkadiyakons) of Saint Thomas Christians
Jun14

Role, Characteristics, List and Tomb of Archdeacons (Arkadiyakons) of Saint Thomas Christians

Archdeacon or Arkadiyakon in Malayalam was “the prince and head of the Christians of Saint Thomas” and had such titles as “Archdeacon and Gate of All India, Governor of India.” Under the Metropolitan of Saint Thomas Christianity send by the Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon , there existed from ancient times the office of the Archdeacon (Arkadiyakon). The temporal administrations of the church of St.Thomas Christians were conducted by Archdeacons (Arkadiyakons) who were very influential in the society. With the arrival of Portuguese in Kerala, the Church in India in the Sixteenth century began to undergo many changes of different type. After the Syond of Diamper, under the Latin prelates from the beginning of the Seventeenth century, the competence and the office of the Indian Archdeaconate ( office of Arkadiyakon) gradually diminished. Finally after a century, after a series of deception the office itself was left unprovided. These changes were not a natural progress in the Indian Church. On the contrary it was a coerced change executed under the missionaries. It was an aberration- a deviation from the genuie structure of Church of Thomas Christians. Those who  are thinking of restoring the genuine form of Church of Saint Thomas Christians, could also restore the glorious institute of Archdeaconate, adapting it of course to the exigencies of our time. Among the Catholic Syrians, the last Archdeacon was Mathew who was the nephew of the first indigenous Bishop Mar Chandy Parampil of Kuravilangad. He was nominated in 1678 (1694) under the Portuguese Padroado. He died on 1706 and since then the office was left un provided. Among the Malankara Syriac Orthodox, after the Coonan Cross Oath, Archdeacon Thomas became the Bishop as Mar Thoma I in 1653. Thus the role was changed from Archdeacon to Bishop . His line continued in the Malankara Syriac Orthodox until it was replaced by Mar Dionysios II in 1815 . From the available records, Archdeacon was a hereditary position from the Parambil family of Kuravilangad. Some say it was from Shankarapuri and Pakalomattam families earlier. In this way the See of Archdeacons existed at Kuravilangadu. This article briefly outlines the 1) Role of Archdeacons, 2) Distinct Characteristics of Nasrani Archdeacon, 3) List of known Archdeacons 4) Tomb of Archdeacons at the Archdeacon Nagar Kuravilangadu 5) Efforts to restore Archdeaconate of India and 6) Summary. 1. Role of Archdeacons (Arkadiyakon) in Saint Thomas Christian Community Archdeacon was “the prince and head of the Christians of Saint Thomas” and had such titles as “Archdeacon (Arkadiyakon) and Gate of All India, Governor of India.” According to the traditional structure, the Indian diocese of the Church of the East was governed by a Metropolitan sent by the...

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The Tiger and the Syrian Christians: Tipu Sultan’s ‘Padayottam’
May06

The Tiger and the Syrian Christians: Tipu Sultan’s ‘Padayottam’

The invasion of kerala by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan of Mysore in the latter half of the 18th century left a deep impact on kerala polity and society. This invasion of the mysoreans and Tipu in particular is called the ‘Padayottam’. Much of it’s effects are visble deep down in the keralite psyche even today. To understand what effect this incursion into kerala had on the syrian christian community, we need to  study the timeline of events during those tumultous times between 1766 and 1790 in kerala. 10 Feb 1766: Hyder Ali along with a formidable force is welcomed into kerala by the Ali Raja of Cannanore. The Mysorean army guided by Ali Raja and his brother seize the palace of the Raja of Kolathiri at Chirakkal. The Raja and his family flee south to take refuge at the English trading station in Tellichery. 15 Mar 1766: Hyder enters the Kottayam (North Kerala) Raja’s territory where the Raja’s moplah subjects desert him and join their compatriots withy the mysoreans. The kadathanad territory is sacked after Hyder’s forces rout the keralite forces. The Zamorin is helpless in Calicut where Hyder rushes to meet him. Hyder demands 1 crore gold mohurs from the Zamorin, which he refuses to pay. Desperate and feeling humiliated, the Zamorin commits suicide in his palace. Calicut is stripped of all it’s wealth by Hyder. Hyder sends missives to Cochin and Travancore asking them to submit to Mysore. Cochin,  agrees to pay an annual subsidy of two lakhs of rupees and eight elephants. Travancore, defies Mysore. Hyder is now determined to enter Travancore. However the monsoon sets into kerala. June 1766: Hyder retires to Coimbatore, and taking advantage of this, the keralites come out of their refuges and retake what they lost to Hyder. The mysorean strongholds of Calicut and Ponnani are besieged by the keralites. General Raza Saib leaves Mudukarai to quell the rebellion in Malabar where he is trapped by the torrential rain that traps him between the rebellious keralites and the swelling Ponnnani river. Hearing about this grave situation Hyder dashes to kerala with 3000 cavalry and 10000 infantry. The keralites are unable to face this vast army and flee with much loss of life and carnage. To crush the martial spirit of the keralites, especially of the Nairs, Hyder declares that the keralites are forbidden to carry arms. Hyder marches back to Mysore to confront the British alliance which was marching to Seringapatam. 1771: Sardar Khan with his army marches through Cochin and takes Trichur.  However the East India company now actively come to the keralites rescue and retake Calicut. Sardar Khan is dead....

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Raja Thoma Villarvattam – King of the Nasranis
Apr15

Raja Thoma Villarvattam – King of the Nasranis

There is an interesting tradition cherished by the Syrian Christians that they possessed their own king at Valeyadattu or Villarvattom near Udayamperur. Tradition records that the first king was named Baliartes or Beliarte, which may be a corruption of the Malayalam Valeyadattu. The kingdom of Villarvattom comes into prominence twice in the course of Nasrani history. While the first is a part of our folklore the second instance has been documented with some concrete evidence. The Villarvattom Estate was a vassal of the Chera kings and extended from the coastal islands of Chennamangalam, Maliankara and others to the north of and south of Udayamperoor. The capital of this kingdom was at Mahadevarpattanam in the island of Chennamangalam and later it was shifted to Udayamperoor when the Arab invaders attacked the island. The Udayamperor Church was built by  in A.D 510 during the time of Mor Abor and Prodh but it is also believed that the Raja of Villarvattom was instrumental in getting it constructed. It may have been the fame of this christian dynasty that  caused Pope Eugene in 1439 to send envoys to this king with a letter, which in Wadding’s Annales Minorum commences as follows: ”To my most beloved son in Christ, Thomas, the Illustrious Emperor of the Indians, Health and the Apostolic benediction. There often has reached us a constant rumour that Your Serenity and also all who are the subjects of your Kingdom are true Christians” The envoys bearing this letter did not reach India, though. It is believed that at the death of the last king without issue, the kingdom lapsed to the Cochin royal family. However the local christians preserved the royal sceptre, which was a red rod probably made of wood, tipped with silver, having three small bells at the upper end. The sceptre was presented to Vasco da Gama when he came to Cochin for the first time. There has been no trace of this sceptre since then. When Archibishop Alex de Menezes sailed to Cochin in 1599, he deplored the inability of the catholic clergy to baptise at least one of the Rajas of Cochin to Christianity inspite of the temporal might of the Portuguese over the local Rajas for over a century. He also visited Udayamperur, Chennamangalam and the Syrian seminary at Vapicotta. On his way to Udayamperur, he was jeered at by a few Nasranis who obviously took offense to the Portuguese interference in their lives. Enraged at this, Archbishop Menezes stopped at the Cochin fort and visited the Cochin Raja who was in his palace at Calvetti adjacent to the fort. He held the Raja responsible for instigating this incident and also...

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Arrival of Thomas of Cana ( Bishop Thomas of Cana ?), History and references about Southist Community (Thekkumbhagar – Knanaya )
Feb17

Arrival of Thomas of Cana ( Bishop Thomas of Cana ?), History and references about Southist Community (Thekkumbhagar – Knanaya )

A merchant or Bishop named Thomas of Cana ( also known as Knanaya Thommen or Thomas of Knanaya this being a recent addition) is connected with the history of the community of St. Thomas Christians. The details about this merchant or bishop are shrouded in mystery and there is no agreement on the year/period of his arrival, or from where he arrived, or on what grounds or whether he was a Bishop or merchant. There exist a division among the Christians in Malabar as Northists (Vadakkumbhagar) and Southists ( Thekkumbhagar). The Northists (Vadakkumbhagar) are known as Christians of Saint Thomas. The latter, ie, the Southists ( Thekkumbhagar) are today known with the name “Knanaya”. This division as it seems, has started very late after many centuries after the arrival of Thomas of Cana in 9th century. The earliest Portuguese accounts are silent about such a division and we get some information only by the end of sixteenth century. All of the early Portuguese accounts mentions that there exist Christian community before the arrival of Thomas of Cana in Malabar. This article examines 1) Arrival of Thomas of Cana ( Bishop Thomas of Cana ?), 2) About the name , 3) About the year of Arrival,4) Southist Version of the tradition ,5) Tekkumbhagar ( Southist)/ Knanaya 6) Bishop Thomas of Cana ,7) About the Northists and Southists division, 8 ) About the Churches at Cranganore 9) Summary 1. Arrival of Thomas of Cana ( Bishop Thomas of Cana ?) Scholars like Dr. Mingana has been very critical on the legendary nature Kerala Christianity assigns to Thomas of Cana since eighteenth century. There is a tendency especially among Southists to exaggerate the events associated and contributions of Thomas of Cana. There is no general agreement concerning the traditions associated with the arrival of Thomas of Cana. Some assign him as a merchant, and others assign him as a Bishop ordained by Patriarch Timothy 1 in 9th century. Scholars such as J S. Assemani ( 1728) , Lequien ( 1740), S. Giamil ( 1902) , A Mingana ( 1926), Tisserant ( 1957), Hambye etc dates the arrival of Bishop Thomas of Cana in 9th century. According to many scholars Thomas of Jerusalem, a merchant and the Bishop Thomas of Cana are two persons who arrived in Malabar at different times in history. a) Portuguese references about Thomas of Cana Some reference about Thomas of Cana, can also be seen in sixteenth century Portuguese writings of Penteado (1518), Dionysio (1578), Correa (1564), Antonio Monserrate (1579), Antonio de Gouvea (1604), Chaldean Bishop Mar Jacob Abuna ( 1533) and on the report of the Bishop Franics...

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Arrival of Mar Sabrisho and Mar Piruz, Earliest Reports, Copper Plates, Katheeshangal,Christians & Churches at Quilon
Feb16

Arrival of Mar Sabrisho and Mar Piruz, Earliest Reports, Copper Plates, Katheeshangal,Christians & Churches at Quilon

The Christian community in Kerala and those especially at Quilon are intimately attached to the memory of two Bishops, known as Mar Sabrisho and Mar Piruz. They are  generally presented as two saintly brothers, who came to India some time between 8th and 9th century from the parts of Chaldea or Persia. The foundation of City of Quilon is claimed as the work of Christian immigrants in A.D. 825. It is the year from which the Malayalam era ( Kollavarsham ) is reckoned. There exist consistent traditions about this settlement of Christians at Kollam.These two pious Saintly brothers were known as Church builders and a number of Churches built by them were known as Katheeshangal or Quadisagal. Most of the Portuguese accounts of Sixteenth Century mentions about the existence of Christian community before the arrival of Mar Sabrisho and Mar Piruz in Quilon. The spellings of the names of these Prelates are written differently such as Mar Sabrisho and Mar Piruz, Mar Sapor and Mar Prodh, Mar Xabro and Mar Prodh etc. The name which appears in the Copper plate granted in AD 880 is Marvan- Sapir-Iso. A local Syriac document written in eighteenth century by a Mathew, states that the Bishops Mar Sapor and Mar Parut (Piruz) came with the illustrious Sabr’isho to India. It is not clear if Sabr’isho was a merchant or one of the names used for the two saintly brothers. This article analysis the 1) Earliest Reports about these Bishops, 2)About the name of these two Saintly brothers, 3) About the year of arrival4) Copper Plates granted in AD 880, 5) Katheeshangal (Quadisagal) , 6) About the Christians & Churches at Quilon , 7) Summary 1. Earliest Reports about these Bishops- Two Saintly brothers Testimony Year Bishop Mar Jacob Abuna 1533 Correa 1564 Dionysio 1578 Gouvea 1604 Bishop Francis Roz 1604 Mathew ( local document) 18th century 1.Bishop Mar Jacob Abuna The earliest report about these two Bishops  seems to be the testimony of the ChaIdean Bishop Mar Jacob Ahuna, in 1533. About 700 years ago, (i.e, in the course of the 9th century), according to Mar Jacob Abuna, two saintly brothers, natives of Armenia, came to Quilon. They went to Cranganore and thence to Ceylon from there. One of them was named Xaor and the other named Aproits. They brought from Ceylon big logs of wood belonging to a temple. They brought these to Quilon and made use of them for building a church in some ground they obtained from the king of the place. The church stood there when Mar Jacob Ahuna gave his testimony in 1533 AD. 2.Correa ( 1564) According to Correa ( 1564) these two saintly...

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Early references about the Apostolate of Saint Thomas in India, Records about the Indian tradition, Saint Thomas Christians & Statements by Indian Statesmen
Feb16

Early references about the Apostolate of Saint Thomas in India, Records about the Indian tradition, Saint Thomas Christians & Statements by Indian Statesmen

Tradition says that at the dispersal of the Apostles after Pentecost, Saint Thomas was sent to evangelize the Parthians, Medes, Persians and Indians; he ultimately reached South India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” The Apostle is believed to have speared to death in Mylapore (Madras). His feast day is July 3rd and is the patron of architects. The earliest record about the apostolate of St. Thomas is the apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas, written in Syriac in Edessa. A number of fragmentary passages in other writings of the third, fourth and the following centuries speak about the Indian apostolate of St. Thomas. The Indian traditions of the Apostolate of Saint Thomas consist of a combined tradition of Kerala, Mylapore/ Coromandel, and the East-Syrian Church. The Portuguese in early sixteenth century has recorded the tradition. This article examines, 1) Acts of Thomas, 2) Early references about the Apostolate of Saint Thomas in India, 3. Which India meant ? 4) About the Indian Tradition of Saint Thomas and Records of the tradition, 5) Further references about Saint Thomas Christians, 6) Statements of prominent Indian Statesmen, 7) Statements of Religious Leaders . 1. The Acts of Thomas The earliest record about the apostolate of St. Thomas is the apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas, written in Syriac in the Edessan circle (Edessa, today called Urfa, in eastern Turkey), about the turn of the third century A.D. Even though this work has been acknowledged as apocryphal, Gnostic in touch, and romantic in style, several scholars find in it a historical nucleus, which represents the second century tradition about the apostolate of St. Thomas in India. The Syriac text is published by P. Bedjan, Vol. III (1892), W. Wright, (1871), A.F.J. Klijn (1962) gives an English text: A.E. Medlycott, (1905), pp. 221-25, indicates different versions and editions of the Acts, and pp. 213-97, provides a critical analysis of the same. J.Farquhar’s articles are also useful. Act of Thomas Contents– King Gudnaper ( Gundapar) of India sent Haban to get an architect to build a palace. Habban took with him Thomas, who was sold to him by Christ. Both landed in Sandroqmaboza ( Andropolis in the greek version) . Thomas there converted the royal couple after performing a miracle. Both went to Gudnapar. Thomas got money to build the palace, but spent it for the poor. Thomas was imprisoned. Gudnapar’s brother Gad saw in heaven the palace built by Thomas. Thomas was released and the royal brothers baptized. Thomas went to the kingdom of Mazdai: baptized the queen: was imprisoned for...

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Kerala Syrian Christian, Apostle in India, The  tomb of the Apostle, Persian Church, Syond of Diamper – Coonan Cross Oath, Subsequent divisions and the Nasrani People
Feb13

Kerala Syrian Christian, Apostle in India, The tomb of the Apostle, Persian Church, Syond of Diamper – Coonan Cross Oath, Subsequent divisions and the Nasrani People

The origin of Syriac Christianity in India is closely connected with the evangelization of India by the Apostle Saint Thomas. This Apostolate is asserted both by literary and local ancient traditions. This article examines 1) Kerala Syrian Christian, 2) Saint Thomas the Apostle in India, 3) St Thomas Mission in India, 4) Who were the converts in First Century ?, 5) The Liturgy used by Saint Thomas Christians , 6) The tomb of the Apostles at Mylapore, 7) The transfer of relics to Edessa, 8 ) Hierarchical dependence on the Persian Church, 9) Syond of Diamper-Coonan Cross Oath, 10) Subsequent divisions in the Community, 11) Few Indian Origin MSS prior 16th century, 12) The Nasrani People, 13) Nasrani People Today.1 1. Kerala Syrian Christian The ancient Christians of India were known as Christians of Saint Thomas. They are also known as Syrian Christians, since they have been using Syriac for liturgical purpose with or with out admixture of Malayalam.2 Anybody who is born in a Kerala Syrian Christian family are generally termed as Syrian Christians or Nasranis or Nasrani Mappilas Those who belong to the churches which follows East or West Syrian rite for their worship are generally termed as Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians or Nasranis. Syriac Christianity is a culturally and linguistically distinctive community within Eastern Christianity. It has its roots in the Near East, and is represented by a number of Christian denominations today, mainly in Kerala, India and in the Middle East. The Church of Saint Thomas Christians was hierarchically dependent on the Church of Seleucia or better Seleucia-Ctesiphon, later on called as the church of Babylon or Church of East. The Christians of Saint Thomas were under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon ( known differently as Church of Babylon, East Syriac Church, Church of East, Chaldean Church, Assyrian Church ). Till the year 1597, these Christians were governed by the Bishops send by the Patriarch of this church. ( first Persia proper and then Patriarch of Seleucia- Ctesiphon).After the celebration of Syond of Diamper in 1599, the Church was made subject to the jurisdiction of Latin Bishops under the Patronage ( the Padroado) of the Portuguese Crown. The response of the Church from the part of the Archdeacon, the Kathanars and the faithful at large towards the policies of the missionaries and the Latin prelates was that of great opposition. Thus, there was a revolt and consequently a division followed in the Church with the historic Coonan Cross Oath in 1653 and subsequent happenings. Until the middle of the XVII century, the Thomas Christians were all one in faith...

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Mission of Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India
Feb13

Mission of Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India

Mission of Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India Mission of Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle in India: Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew in India. These are of Eusebius of Caesarea ( early forth century) and of Saint Jerome ( late forth century). Both these refer to this tradition while speaking of the reported visit of Pantaenus to India in the second century. 1. Mission of Pantaenus in India Hundred and Twenty years after the traditional date of the martyrdom of Saint Thomas the Apsotle, a second Christian mission is reported to have reached India. According to Saint Jerome written in the fifth century, the great Church in Alexandria, which is the center of Egyptian Christianity sent its most famous scholar, Pantaenus, head of the theological School in that city, “ to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there”.1 A deputation from India reached Alexandria some time in 179 or 189 AD. Because of the knowledge and learning of Pantaenus, according to Saint Jerome, they asked Demetrius to send him to India for discussions with their own Hindu philosophers. Demetrius decided that the Christian world mission is in higher priority then the advancement of Christian learning. So without hesitation he sent his most famous scholar from the theological school as a missionary to the East. Eusebius also gives an early account of this mission. Both Eusebius and Saint Jerome has reported that Pantaenus found Gospel of Mathew reported to have left there in India by Saint Bartholomew. Some writers has suggested that having difficulty with the language of Saint Thomas Christians, Pantaenus misinterpreted their reference to Mar Thoma ( Bishop Thomas) as Bar Tolmai ( the Hebrew name of Bartholomew). Some others say Eusebius and Saint Jerome confused India with Arabia or Persia as was done by some other classical writers. Interestingly, the pupils and successors of Pantaenus, Clement and Origen, write about India as if they know more of that land than passing myths and in no way confused it with Arabia and Persia. They may have heard this from Pantaenus himself. They speak of “Indian Brahmans” and “gymnosophists” and Clement writes discerningly of the difference between “Sarmanane” and “Brahmans” describing the former in terms that suggest the “hermits” or “holy men of India”.2 2.Mission of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle in India Two ancient testimonies exist about the mission of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle in India. These are of Eusebius of Caesarea ( early forth century) and of Saint Jerome ( late forth century). Both these refer to this tradition while speaking of the reported visit of Pantaenus to India in the second century. According...

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Population Statistics and Demography of Saint Thomas Christians, Churches with historical references
Feb13

Population Statistics and Demography of Saint Thomas Christians, Churches with historical references

Population Statistics and Demography of Saint Thomas Christians, Churches with historical references Introduction This article analyze the Population statistics and demography of Saint Thomas Christians with historical references. There are few statements about the Population statistics of the Saint Thomas Christian community from the beginning of sixteenth century onwards and about each of the individual churches before and after the respective division. Until the middle of seventeenth century all the Nasranis were one rite and one Church. The first part of this article make a note of the available statements about Population statistics in the undivided Church of Saint Thomas Christians. This is followed by the statistics in Seventeenth and Eighteenth century among the Catholics ( Syro Malabar) and the Syriac Orthodox ( Jacobites & Orthodox). The other groups which are formed in later centuries are also discussed. The Population statistics of the earlier centuries are not based on extensive survey and this together with the number of Churches will give a fair idea about each Church and the demography. 1. Historical Reference about Population of Saint Thomas Christians 1.1 The Undivided Church of Saint Thomas Christians One of the earliest reference about population of Saint Thomas Christians is from the Chaldean prelate Mar Jacob. In 1504, the hierarchy of Church of Saint Thomas Christians consists of a Metropolitan and three suffragan Bishops. Mar Yahballaha (Jaballaha) was the metropolitan and Mar Denah, Mar Jacob and Mar John were the Bishops. In 1504, they send a letter to the Patriarch, and it is mentioned that there were some 30,000 families under their care spread around some twenty towns and a great number of villages.1 Until the middle of sixteenth century, there are multiple statements about population in Cranganore, Quilon etc from Portuguese missionaries such as Thome Lopes (1502), Barros ( 1502), Goes, Empoli, Mathew Diaz ( 1550) etc. According to Antonio de Gouvea ( Jornada) there were some 75,000 warriors in the community. Fr. Dionysio, the rector of the Jesuit college at Cochin, mentions in 1578, that the Thomas Christians numbered about 80,000.2 Fr. Valignano mentions that they were as many as 100,000. In 1583, he wrote that they were more than 100.000.3 According to the letters send by Archdeacon George de Cruce, to Rome in 1629, there were 250,000 Syrians in Malabar with 100 priests and clerics divided among 120 churches. ( Letter dated 1st Jan 1629. Another letter of 4th Jan 1534). Archdeacon Thomas Parampil, in his letters to Pope and to the Cardinals of Propaganda, claimed that the Thomas Christians were more than 200,000.4 Bishop Sebastiani ( first Latin Vicar Apostolic of Malabar), also in his report...

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Divisions and Rite of the Churches- Syro Malabar Church, Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church ,Malankara Orthodox Syriac Church, Thozhiyur Church, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro Malankara Church, Chaldean Syrain Church.
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Divisions and Rite of the Churches- Syro Malabar Church, Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church ,Malankara Orthodox Syriac Church, Thozhiyur Church, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro Malankara Church, Chaldean Syrain Church.

Divisions and Rite of the Churches- Syro Malabar Church, Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church ,Malankara Orthodox Syriac Church, Thozhiyur Church, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro Malankara Church, Chaldean Syrain Church: The objective of this article is to provide a brief outline about the divisions and to provide some details about the rite of each individual churches. This is a revised article. Please also read the discussion where some of the arguments are better explained. Saint Thomas Christians Churches The topics covered are as follows, I. Church of Saint Thomas Christians until the arrival of Portuguese II. About the Siant Thomas Christians early Liturgy III. About the name of the Church IV. After the arrival of Portuguese in Malabar V. After the death of the Chaldean Metropolitan Mar Abraham Syond of Diamper, Changes in Liturgy after the Syond, Coonan Cross Oath VI. After the Coonan Cross Oath VII. Succeeding centuries among the Catholics- Syro Malabar Church VIII. About the Syro Malabar Church in India Division in Syro Malabar Church, About the Syro Malabar Church name, About the Syro Malabar Church Liturgy, IX. About Chaldean Syrian Church About the Chaldean Syrian Church name, About the Chaldean Syrian Church Liturgy X. Succeeding centuries among the Malankara Syriac Orthodox XI. About the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church in India Divisions in Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church, About the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church name, About the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Liturgy XII. About the Thozhiyur Church (Anjoorians) About the Thozhiyur Church name, About the Thozhiyur Church Liturgy XIII. About the Syrian Anglican Church XIV. About Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church About the Malankara Mar Thoma Church name, About Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church Liturgy XV. Split among the Malankara Syriac Orthodox XVI. About Syro Malankara Church About the Syro Malankara Church name, About Syro Malankara Church Liturgy XVII. Summary and Demography Divisions and Rite of the Churches- Syro Malabar Church, Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church ,Malankara Orthodox Syriac Church, Thozhiyur Church, Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro Malankara Church, Chaldean Syrain Church. I. Church of Saint Thomas Christians until the arrival of Portuguese The Church of Saint Thomas Christians was hierarchically subordinated under the Patriarch Seleucia- Ctesiphon, which was known differently as Church of Seleucia or better Seleucia-Ctesiphon, later on called as the church of Babylon or Church of East or Chaldean Church or Assyrian Church. The Indian Church was raised to the rank of a Metropolitan Church in 714/728 AD. The evidences from the available ancient documents associate following East Syrian prelates with India. David of Basrah ( ca.295 AD), John of Persia and Greater India ( 325 AD), Mar Komai ( 425 AD), Ma’na of Riwarddasir...

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