‘Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage’ by Prof George Menachery

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‘Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage’ by Prof George Menachery
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'Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage' by Prof George Menachery
‘Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage’ by Prof George Menachery

Notes about the Author

Prof. George Menachery is a freelance Indian Journalist and Editor of the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India and the Indian Church History Classics. After teaching university classes for thirty years, he gave up the job as Head of the Department of Post-Graduate Teaching in order to concentrate on research and publication. SARAS (South Asia Research Assistance Services) provides information and research assistance for topics dealing with India in particular and South Asia in general. He has to his credit a large number of publications, research papers, articles, radio talks and TV programmes. His research activities and lectures have taken him to more than 20 countries in 4 continents.

Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage

This is a book on essays on Nazraney culture and heritage. Many of the Menachery’s articles which are quite very famous are part of this book. This well written essays covers the 2000 years old history, tradition and heritage makes an excellent reading. It is highly relevant in today’s nuclear family set up of Syrian Christians where many kids are not fortunate to learn about the tradition from Grand parents.

Extract from the essay – Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala

Even much before the nineteen-seventies historians were fully convinced that Vedic Hinduism and the Brahmins must have arrived in Kerala only much later than the first centuries B.C./ A.D. The extensive studies made by Dr. M. G.S. Narayanan, the then head of the department of history at the University of Calicut, and at present the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) together with Dr. Veluthat Kesavan, now in the department of history, Mangalore University, shed much light on the beginnings of the Brahmin community in Kerala. Here it is important to note what Dr. Narayanan says concerning the new trends in Kerala Historical studies, Historical research had a delayed start in Kerala in the absence of History Departments in the University until the sixties of the last century. This gave the opportunity for interest groups to popularize their pet ideas and pass them on as authentic history. They had come to associate these myths with their own status and privileges.

Once the community leaders and political leaders published their theories about ancient history, their followers developed a frame of mind that resisted interpretations based on evidence. With the establishment of History Departments in the Universities it was possible for the present writer and his colleagues to build upon the foundations laid by Professor Elamkulam, sometimes extending and modifying the conclusions, sometimes demolishing and re-building too. This introduction becomes necessary because it is often found even today that the discussion of problems in ancient history are cluttered and obstructed or vitiated by earlier legendary notions which have been thrown out and exposed long ago with the availability of contemporary evidence.

To understand the origin and spread of Brahmins or Namboodiris in Kerala let us go through the words of Dr. Kesavan Veluthat in some detail:The Brahmans of Kerala are known as Nambudiris. Historical evidences as well as their own traditions suggest that they came from North India and settled down in Kerala, migrating along the West Coast. It is clear that they constitute links in a long chain of migration along the West Coast of India, carrying with them the tradition that Parasurama created their land and donated it to them. In fact, one sees this tradition all along the West Coast from Sourashtra on; and the Brahmanical tradition in the Canarese and Malabar Coasts is nearly identical to one another. According to that tradition, Parasurama created the land between Gokarna and Kanyakumari and settled Brahmans there in sixty-four gramas or villages. As a result, the Brahmans of Kerala share several common features with the Brahmans of the Canarese coast; this also distinguishes them from their counterparts in the rest of South India. In a historical inquiry, this is extremely important. What is necessary is not to look for the place of their origin or the identity and date of Parasurama but to ascertain the social function of such a tradition and examine the extent of linkages between the two regions and their cultures. It is stated that thirty-two out of the sixty-four gramas are in the Tulu speaking region and the remaining thirty-two in the Malayalam speaking region in Kerala. Recent historical research has identified these settlements on either side of the border.

Many of the earliest existing documents in Kerala history deal with the Christians or Mar Thoma Nazranies of Kerala often called the Syrian Christians. The half a dozen Pahlavi crosses are one set of such records. The kinayi Thoman copper plates, the Thazhekkad Rock inscription, the Tharisappalli copper plates, are another set of records. All these belong, certainly, to the first millennium C.E.

The oldest places in Kerala are connected with the encient christian community of kerala. Palayoor, Parur,and Kodungalloor are instances of this. It may be remembered that these three places, which occupy a place of pry in the St.Thomas Apostolic stroy are all on the oldest and bigest geoliliogical plate underground, so that generally these places were never affected by earthquekes.

By the reverse projection of Keralas population we may arrive at a figure like 300,000 for the population of Kerala in the Ist century.If the stories of convertion of people by St.Thomas has anycredibility the majority of people in Kerala, mostly inhabitting the 7 places where the apostle worked, must have become Christians-and the types of political and social systems and institutions of the Sangham age were perhaps very much influence by this huge and powerful Christian Community.

The large of Ist century BC/AC Roman Gold coins of Agustus, Tiberius and Nero discovered from the Palayoor and Parur belts indicate the close contact these areas had with conuntries and cultures on the western side of the Arabian Sea.

They are recods from practically every century, every civilisation, every church, and in every language, not only about Kerala and her products but also about the begainings and developments of christianity in Kerala and India.All that can be done here is to give a short list of these writings:

Just two more paragrphs: One about the status and social possition of the christians in the early centuries. Only hundred and fifty years back when women in Kerala tried to cover the upper part of their body there was a huge commotion which resulted in the Channar Lahala or the mutiny of the Channar caste. But then 1500 years back christians in Kerala were wearing silk gowns, silk turbans, gold ornaments above their head and on their body. Even today the gold business in Kerala is mostly in the hands of Nazranies: Alappatt, Palathingal, Josco, Thottan, Alukkas..etc.The 72 privileges enjoyed by christians even before the different copper plate grants reassured their right to continue to enjoy those privileges indicate that the christians were the predominant and ruling community of Kerala before the Brahmins gained dominance towards the end of the first millennium. The marriage customs of the christians described here yesterday will throw considerable light on the royal privileges and aristocratic status of the christian community in Kerala during the past well-nigh 1900 years.

Opinions about Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage

According to Cyril Mar Baselius, Archbishop of Trivandrum this book deals with important matters of current and long term interest provokes thought, provides knowledge, and awakens experience.

On the occasion of the book release T. N. Jayachandran, former Addl.Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, and Vice-Chancellor of the Calicut University popped out this million dollar question. Why are the Kerala Christians of today reluctant to use the time honored term ‘Nazraney’ although it is a most poetic, simple and sweet expression.

More Essays and Information

Please check using the following links for more essays,

Prof. Menachery Papers and Articles

Book can be ordered through the order form at IndianChristianity.com

You might also like More from author

27 Comments

  1. Varghese says

    This is a beautiful book about the traditions through essays.I think it has good relevance in the nuclear family set up.

  2. Joyal says

    Didnot know that there is this much of history, tradation behind Nazraney.I hate to see that there is an organised effort to hide the Nazraney culture from us.

  3. Captain, Mathews Pathisseril says

    6.Mar Sapir Iso & Mar Proth

    Much of the customs practiced by Kerala Christians during their festivities and marriages could be traced back to a person who lived in the ninth century and two sets of copper plates the then ruler had granted to his community.

    This man is known variously as Maruvan Sabariso, Maruvan Sapir Iso or Mar Sapir Iso. Some historians say he was a Syrian merchant, while others believe he was a missioner. He was invited to Quilon, present Kollam, probably for business in AD 825, the year that port city was built.

    This is the beginning of “Kolla Varsham” or Kollam Era of the Malayalam calendar.Sapir probably headed a mercantile organization and built a church — Tharisappally (St. Theresa’s Church) — as he rose to the level of a local aristocrat over the years.The first set of Tharisappally copper plates to St. Thereas’ Church, was issued around AD 849.

    Ayyan Atikal Thiruvadikal, the king of Venad (southern Kerala), granted the plates.Among other things, the king granted the Church the custodianship over weights and measures.
    These rights were granted and then renewed on a set of second plates. It shows the trust Sapir and his community enjoyed with the local rulers.

    The privileges

    People often mix Canai Thomman privileges with the privileges awarded to Sapir Iso. These are different and Mar Sapir Iso was not part of the Southist group. He and his group amalgamated with the Northist group popularly known as Nasranis or Syrian Christians.
    Relaxed import duty and exemption of slave tax were among the privileges the Church enjoyed.

    The plates also allowed Christians to be among the officials, who inspected the quality of the commodities in the market and fixed customs duty.

    The plates speak of another 72 privileges but do not enumerate them, may be because it was taken for granted that every one concerned knew about them.

    But the plates speak of ten privileges specifically.
    They are the privileges: to have a day lamp, spread cloths, use palanquin, umbrella, drum (chenda), bugle, locked gate, arch, arch decoration and arrows.
    These were obviously the marks of aristocracy of the time.Even today, ornamental umbrellas, traditional drums and arch decorations are part of most Christian church festivals in Kerala.
    Other privileges included the use of seven musical instruments and permission to speak equally with the king and walk and ride like him.

    The use of language and roads were restricted in that highly caste-classified society.Christians alone were allowed to use gold ornaments, especially during marriage. They could sit on carpets and enjoy other honors denied to others.
    They were also allowed to use umbrellas, apply sandal paste, ride on a palanquin, ride elephants and use.
    The king also allowed them to erect pandal — a make shift thatched shed made of bamboo and coconut leaves — to accommodate people on special occasions. Pandals were common in all Christian marriages and parish festivals until some 20 years ago when parish auditoriums and banquet halls began to replace them. Some erect pandal even now.

    The Quilon (Tharisappally) plates and Thevalacara plates are probably the same, according to modern historians. Portuguese Archbishop Menezes is said to have discovered the Thevalacara plates during his visit to Kerala in 1599.Thevalacara, also spelt Thevalakkara, is a village some 20 kilometers north of present Quilon town. Another account says the so-called Quilon Plates are actually different from the Quilon plates and Thevalacra plates. They are now preserved in Kottayam Old Seminary of the Syrian Orthodox Church and in Tiruvalla (both in central Kerala).

  4. John Mathew says

    Has anyone been to Tharisapally in Kollam? Is it really “St Theresa’s Church”? I’ve heard that “Tharisapally” is a corruption of “Threesai Subaho Pally” — the first two terms having a meaning similar to “orthodox” (i.e., canonical or “true faith”) in Syriac.

    Even better: any pics of this Church? Or Kollam’s Kadeesha Church?

  5. jogy mathew says

    hi john,

    tharisa pally chepped is dated around AD.700-800.So for sure it makes sense to think that it is derived from syriac/local languages like old tamil/sanskrit. THERESA is a western european usage and it is not probable as we see the rome created the uniate caldean patriarch in around 1550 AD. so there were no connection with rome at that days.then how can it be theresa church. it is merely a twisting of the roman biased historians.
    how the name derived is a question and and those who know much about syriac may be able to help in this matter.

  6. jogy mathew says

    hi mathews,
    //Portuguese Archbishop Menezes is said to have discovered the Thevalacara plates during his visit to Kerala in 1599.//

    Is this ur own words or from some history books?is it makes sense to think like this.
    it was a pride for the syrian christians and they kept it safely to keep their self esteem
    a latin metran ! who destroyed all our syrian history and tradition discovered it ?????
    so we syrian christians in kerala were good for nothing? this is only a part of propaganda writings created by some pro latins

  7. John Mathew says

    Jogy:

    You really have some severe problems with studying history without prejudice. (Congratulations, however, on your recently new found understanding of the East Syriac Church.)

    The concept that the Latin bishops “destroyed” our heritage is false. If that was correct, why do:

    1. We have several thriving Syriac Churches in Kerala, two of which (the “Chaldean” Church of the East and the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church) actually maintain the very same (or similar) rites that were in use back in the old days.

    2. We still have many of the old books from the past.

    3. We still maintain many of the old traditions from the past.

    Regarding point 2, it is fashionable among Kerala historians (of all stripes, Catholic or Orthodox) to simply dismiss the lack of our understanding of the past to the “destruction” of our old books by the Portuguese. Did they in fact do this?

    Perhaps Menezes and his ilk did burn some books. Certainly their “corrections” to our rites have left no original complete copies of our liturgy (although scholars have pieced together our form of the liturgy of Mari and Adai from what remains). However, many of the “heretical books” that we possessed are *still* around. In fact, some of the books that have been lost in the Middle East have been happily found in Kerala — is this possible if the Latins *destroyed* everything?

    Again, to dispel your manifold ignorance, do yourself a favor and check out SRITE which catalogs what remains. (This will do us a favor as well; as you learn more, you’ll stop adding useless noise to the forums.)

    History is not so simple. You have to go past your simplistic propaganda books which dismiss the lack of evidence as “Oh the Latins burned everything.” Again *NO* they did not.

    I’m not a Latin-sympathizer, but I’m not blindly against the Latins either. In some ways, the Portuguese did help our people; this is something you may start to realize as you read the proceedings of the Synod at Diamper more and more (while forgetting the bogus propaganda that I used to read as “history”).

  8. jogy mathew says

    hi john,
    I was in kerala for 38 years from 1969. i know much about the syro malabar and orthodox liturgies . my wife is a nestorian.you are talking much about adai mari liturgies..you konw all these things through papers(theoritical). i know these things from my experience(practical). that is it.

  9. jogy mathew says

    Mr.John Mathew,

    u really made some comments with out touching thepoints. if latin metran menesis found out these chepped ….means they would have been with syro malabar church or in vatican museum. is it makes sense or nonsense. but its still in kerala with the st.thomas syrian christians.thats why i made the above comments.

  10. John Mathew says

    Jogy:

    1. Ancient history is necessarily *theoretical*, since it deals with topics which we can not have any experience — the distant past. Moreover, at the rate that people have shifted allegiances, and adopted new practices, exploring the old texts is probably the best way to gain a proper unbiased understanding of history (compared to following what people do in India, which may have come from the British, Portuguese, or their own innovations).

    It’s clear from the way that you write that from all of your “experience”, you still have very little understanding of fact. If you spent those 39 years listening to propaganda from clerics without any understanding of history, what’s the good in that? I’ve heard all the speeches. No point in listening to the same bogus historical garbage. I’d rather “discover” what I can from more authoritative sources.

    2. The St. Thomas Syrian Christians *includes* the Syro Malabar Catholics (in fact, the SMC supposedly constitutes the single largest group in the Nasrani community); your statement seems to suggest otherwise. (In fact, if I’m not mistaken, this entire website was developed by a Syro-Malabar Catholic.)

    3. Over the last four centuries properties, texts, relics, churches, etc., have transferred between communities. Many Syriac Orthodox items are in the possession of the Syro-Malabar and Chaldean groups, and vice versa (ref: SRITE, which shows how many documents in the various collections span the various theological positions). The Syriac Orthodox “enthronement chair” of Mar Thoma I, is in the possession of Protestants (Mar Thomites). And so on. So I don’t take it as very surprising or indicative of anything vital that the Cheppads now rest with the Orthodox and the Mar Thomites.

  11. jogy mathew says

    dear john mathew,
    you did write mant things with out touching the point.
    what i questioned is the discovery of the cheppeds and i pointed out some bases for that.

    as u agree, history is a history ;it can be true or not because it involveve an element of imagination.

    you say about the propogandas of the church clergies..it is true…. youmight have blindly belived things and later repented.but its not a general case. and even thomas antony quotes some answers of an episcopa to to believe what he like. so it means all are not propogandas as u say. there are many many loopholes and twistings and imaginations in these projects. and its not a final word or authority as u claim. forsure its gladly appreciated the effort and pain taken to formulate this.even then a lot of things has to be discussed widely and should be kept open…

  12. enarsea says

    Nazraney Heritage:Tharisappalli Grants on copper plates.
    Those who want to read the plates pl. cf. M. G. S. Narayanan, Cultural Symbaosis, 1972. There is a full discussion from a historical point of view, and a transcription.The plates were given in 24 ME i.e. 849 CE

  13. Captain, Mathews Pathisseril says

    9th century Migration from West Asia to Kollam
    Tharissapally Copper Plates
    Mar Sabore and Mar Proth

    1- 9th century Migration from West Asia to Kollam

    References:-
    1. Aiyya, V.V Nagom, State Manual p. 244
    2. Pillai, T. K.Velu, Travancore State Manual p. 52
    3. Ibid, p.14
    4. Narayan, M.G.S, Cera- Pandya conflict in the 8th – 9th centuries which led to the birth of Venad : Pandyan History seminar , Madurai University , 1971
    5. Narayan M.G.S., Cultural Symbiosis p33

    V.V Nagom Aiya in his state manual states “ In 822A.D. two Nestorian Bishops Mar Sapor and Mar Peroz settled in Quilon with a following .Two years later the Malabar Era began (824A.D.) and ws called after Quilon which was undoubtedly the premier city of malabar including Travancore and Cochin” 12

    T.K.VeluPillai in the Travancore State Manual writes, “ Gopinatha Rao who assigns the latter part of the 9th century as the period of the reign bases his conclusions on he assumption that Kollam era was started in the memory of the coming of Maruvan Sobor Iso and a colony of foreign traders .”13 T.K.VeluPillai in the Travancore State Manual “tradition says that St.Thomas preached there( in Syria) and in after times a party of Christian immigrants from Syria landed in the neighbourhood of the modern town( Quilon) a place now engulfed in sea just a similar party did at Crangannore ( in 3rd century under Thomas of Cana).Whether they came for purpose of trade or driven to seek shelter from the sword of Mohammed or for other reason cannot now be determined”14

    M.G.S.Narayan in his paper on Cera_pandya conflict in the 8th – 9th centuries which led to the birth of Venad writes, “ It is not surprising that the Chera king who was contemplating the development of the new harbour town at Kurakeni Kollam welcomed the foreigner and permitted him to settle down at the new harbour site .This was the period when th e Cera-Pandya conflict was developing in the south. Subsequently Vilinjam was retained in the Pandyan sphere of influence while the Vel country with new headquarters at Kurakkeni Kollam became a division of Cera kingdom. The foundation of Kollam in 825A.D. must have coincided with this victory of Cera in the Vel province. Therefore it is easy to understand the anxiety of the Ceria king to please foreign merchants and settle them at Kollam so that the harbour might grow quickly and compete effectively with Vilinjam further south which had passed under the control of the Pandya.This incident reveals the practical wisdom of the rulers and throws light on the economic –political motivations of men who promoted ideas of religion and culture. The Syrian Christian merchants who took advantage of the situation were equally clever and resourceful .In the absence of materials for a detailed history, it is difficult to ascertain whether Mar Sapir Iso was a merchant or a (priest) missionary. Perhaps he was both at the same time and there was no inherent contradiction between the two roles.15

    Narayan M.G.S, writes in Cultural Symbiosis that “ By the time of the Syrian Christian Copper Plates of the 9th century the foreign Christians and the Christians of Kerala had become part and parcel of the local village community.” This means that the migrant Christians did not remain as a separate group but rather they intermarried the Christians of Kerala and accepted the local cultural idioms. “The deity of the Tarsa Chruch was refered to the tevar. An important offering to the tevar was the sacred oil lamp as in the case of contemporary Brahmanical temples, is an indication to the fact that their conception of religion was shaped by local culture.”16

    The members of Valiyaveetil family, the root family of Thulassery Manpurathu Tharavadu, a migrant Syrian Christian family worked as commanders of Venad kings. Tharissapalli Chepped promulgated by the ruler entitled them to a fairly large extent of tax free land as well as social position. The Church and its body had full authority over the land, i.e. authority included all kinds of investigations, settlements of the disputes, taking disciplinary actions, collection of taxes, (goods reaching through Sea and Land). They were authorities to make new rules, regulations and fixing the prices of the goods in the land. The King prohibited the local Governmental authorities on interfering in any matters of this village. They were also present in the advisory board of the King’s Government. (Travancore Archaeological series Volume 11) The King had given Seventy Two special privileges for marriage and other festivals, such as ELEPHANTS, PALLECK- VENCHAMARAM- FIVE INSTRUMENTS MUSIC- CARPETS- COLORED UMBRELLAS- MANY KINDS OF LAMPS- MANY KINDS OF ORNAMENTS, ETC. The king provided seventeen low casts slaves like Carpenter, Vaaniyanmar, Washer man, Barber etc: to Vallyaveettil to do the routine works. Also it was their duty to provide oil and do all other maintenances of the Church.

    According to one tradition, the Malayalam Calendar era (Kolla Varsham) started with these holy fathers of Mor Shabor & Mor Proth who settled at Kollam in AD 825. (Theresa Church Copper Plates 1& 2).

    2- Tharissapally Copper Plates

    References
    17. Aiyya, V.N.Nagom , Travancore State Manual p.244
    18. Pillai,T.K. Velu, State Manual ,vol1,p 53.
    19. Ibid, p55
    20. Ibid,p.94
    21. Rao Bahadur LK Ananthakrishnayyar, Anthropology of Syrian Christians, p.53
    22. Mundadan A.M. History of Christianity in India p.167.
    23. M.G.S.Narayan, Cutural Symbiosis in Kerala p34
    24. Ibid .p.36.
    25. Ibid p.37
    26. Sri Trikkakaa temple inscriptions,T.A.S. 35,36 and 40 pp 161-71,178, Ulliyannur Temple Inscription,TAS VII.II No.15.p.98
    27. Writings of John D.Marignole (who visited Quilon in 1348AD)
    28. Narayan M.G.S., Cultural Symbiosis in Kerala p.36.

    V.N.Nagom Aiya in Travancore State Manual states, “In the same year(A.D.824)King Sthanu Ravi anxious to secure the pecuniary assistance from Christian merchants in efforts to repel the invasion of Malabar by Rahakas granted the Copper Plate” In this the king gave permission to mar Sapor to transfer to the …church and community at Quilon a piece of the land with near the city with the several families of low caste attached to it…” 17

    TK Velupillai,in his State Manual states, “ Taking the copper plate as a genuine document it is seen that at the time Quilon was a place of great commercial importance.The guilds ,the Ancuvannam, and Manigramam possessed considerable privileges. It was in such a city that the grant conveyed a fresh hold to Christians .The authority of the Church were also invested with power of settling disputes among them and taking disciplinary actions in cases of malfeasance and misfeasance .The headmen of the castes and local governmental authorities were prohibited from in interfering in such matters. These concessions attest the spirit of religious toleration and cosmopolitan sympathy which characterised the acts of the ruling house of Travancore from the earliest times”.18

    “The grant was made with the consent of two of his chieftains and the members of the Six hundred” who formed the Parliament of the land.”19

    The copper plate grant made by Ayyan Atikal Thiruvadikal, the King of Venad, to the Tharissa Church was signed and delivered by him from the palace at Quilon.20

    Rao Bahadur LK Ananthakrishnayyar in his book Anthropology of Syrian Christians writes,“ The second charter was granted in 824 A.D. to Christians of St.Thomas with the sanction of the palace major or commissioner of king Sthanu Ravi ,who is belived to be Cheramman Perumal .It is a legal instrument which confers a plot of land with several families of heathen castes on Mruvan Sabor Iso who transfers the same with due legal formality to the Tharisa church and community.” 21
    “There was a political necessity for giving this remarkable position for the Christian community .At the respective dates of the Christian charter the Perumals had to fortify themselves against external enemies. There were fears of invasions .At such times the Perumals might have been in need of large sums of money either to bribe or fight the invaders and it would not be an improper inference from these facts that the trading foreigners may have satisfied Perumals wishes, and then have secured for themselves a higher standing in the land of their adoption”.

    Mundadan A.M. History of Christianity in India states, “In South India any grant of privileges ,perquisites or land made by rulers was usually recorded on copper plates as these were more durable and permanent record than palm leaf strips”22
    M.G.S.Narayan, Cutural Symbiosis in Kerala , “A plot of land and a few families of settlers ,Tachars(carpenters), Vellalars(apriclturists), Ezhavars(toddy tappers),Vannars( washermen) and vaniyars( oil mongers) are handed over to the church this time. It is interesting to note that the same method of handing over families to foreign settlers continued in Kerala in the later periods also ….In the case of the Syrian Church of Kollam also, it was according to the feudal principal, proprietor of the land and master of settlers on land .The first set of plates clearly states that the governor had relinquished al rights to collect taxes from these settlers on church land. 23.

    There follows the stipulation that when market commodities are inspected for fixing customs duty, and when other official work like estimating price etc. are undertaken, the church people are ot be associated with all such activities. This means that the church is treated as an important institution of the headquarters sharing powers of government on par with the Arunuruvar, Ancuvanam and Manigramam. Only the first item of seventy tow privileges .i.e. earth and water on elephant back at the time of marriage , finds mention in the copper plates probably because it was taken for granted that everybody knew what the privileges were. Therefore it may be assumed that the rest of the privileges were also belonging to the same category. The church fathers were accorded the same status of military political chiefs of the country and evidently hey were prepared to accept such a position.24

    The final passage of the second set of plates brings out more clearly the relationship between Mar Sapir Iso, the church of Tarsa, Ancuvannam, Manigrammam against the backdrop of the newly established city of Kollam. Noteworthy are the different concessions given to the church and the association of the church in government functions in Kollam along with the two mercantile corporations. These furnish an idea as to the organization and activities of the church outside the field of religion. And the status the churchmen commanded .First they were exempted from one sixtieth duty on incoming articles and also engaged in trade.This is not surprising in a country where temples where engaged in banking and agricultural activities. The church is exempted from payment of slave tax for the slaves they purchased .This goes on to show that slave trade were common in ancient Kerala.25

    The Hindu temples are known to have been owning and transferring Pulaya serfs along with land, indicating that serfdom must have been very common.26 The Church was given the custodianship of weights and measures and permitted to enjoy weighing fee. These rights were granted earlier and renewed in the second set of copper plates.27 This shows the trust native rulers had in the church because these privileges were enjoyed exclusively by the Hindu temple corporations

    Only the first item of the seventy two privileges i.e. Earth and water on elephant back at the time of marriage finds mention in the copper plates because it is taken for granted that everybody knew what the privileges were.The Church fathers were accorded status of military – political chiefs of the country and evidently they were ready to accept such aposition.Therefore it may be inferred that in the days of Aiyyan Atikal mar Sapir Iso and Christianity was indianised to a large extent.28 Therefore the new west asian migrant community must have gave up their foreign practises.

    Adv.TK VeluPillai, State manual writes, The kings of venad were excersising authority in such distant places like Chenagannur, Thiruvalla, Udeyamperoor and Punjar”.This might be a reason why the migrant familes recived special privileges from the local rulers of these regions when they migrated to these places in later times.29 The three sets of signatures represented Jewish, Arabic and Persian groups respectively and it is possible that they included Jews, Muslims, and Christians respectively as indicated by their personal names. This is again proof of the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of different creeds in anceient kerala.

    3- Mar Sabore and Mar Proth

    References:-
    30. LK Anantha krishanayyar, State Manual, p50, 52
    31. Thoma kathanar, Bernard, Marthoma Christyanikal, lines 23, 24
    32. Z.M. Paret, Malankara Nazranikal, vol.1
    33. The Viswavijnanakosam (Malayalam) Vol.3, p.523, 534

    “In 822AD migrants under Mar Sapor and Mar Peroz , the Nestoran Persians settled in the neighbourhood of Quilon ,they made a deep impression on the rulers of the land .These two immigrants says Dr. Milnae Rae from the historical grounds… are probably the last of the from the mother church in high Asia to South India”.30

    On both sides of the cross in the alter of Kadamattom Church which is 76cm long and 51 c.m. wide is written in Pahlavi script 2 big sentences and on the centre a small sentence Pahlavi linguist, Jamshed modi translated it as follows, “I have come to this nation from Ninevah as a bird.Mar Sapur writes ,the forgiving Miseha( God Jesus) who saved me from persecution”. The language is Persian while the place Nineveh belongs to modern day Iraq which has been under the control of Persian, Mesopotamian and Greek and Roman rulers in different periods of history. This clearly denotes the migrants were from Persian area.

    Details about Churches established by Sabariso’s and the miracles he perfomed are found in Thomma parvam which is also called Rambanpaattu .It is said ramban paatu was written after the arrival of Portuguese and the Synod of Diamper as evident from lines 23 and 24 of Thomaparvam or ramban paattu.31 The Synod of Diamper proclaimed mar Sabor and Mar Proth as heretics to which Carmelite priest Bernard Thoma kathanar protested and proclaimed the act as a great sin.

    As in those times in Persia and Babylon the nestorain heresy was in vogue these two saints mar Sabor and mar Proth who build many churches in malankara( Kerala) were considered to be Nestorian heretics .The Synod of Diamper changed the names of the churches named after them as All Saints churches and changes the festivals and prayers and offerings conducted in November 1st in their names as the All Saints festival and offerings.As these two saints Mar Sabor and Mar Proth came from Persia /babylonia which was under the influence of Nestorian heresy they were considered by the Synod of Diamper as Nestorian Heretics. Though the invalid Synod of Diamper proclaimed the holy men Mar Sabor and Mar Proth as heretics the Christians of mlankara (Kerala) respected these saints and continued to receive blessings from them.

    “According to decisions of Synod of Diamper these saints (Mar Sabor and mar Proth) of malankara Nazranis were considered as schismatics and the churches the established were wrongly proclaimed to be established by St.Thomas .32

    The Viswavijnanakosam (Malayalam) Vol.3, mentions the follows about the history of the kadamattom church and Mar Sabore also known as mar abo “kadamattokm church was founded by mar Sabor also called mar Abo who was a holy man with knowledge of medical sciences and powers to perform miracles established the church in the forest regions of kadamattom in the 40th year of kollam Era .He stayed there at first in a small home with a mother and a son .Afterwards he gained the rights of the local ruler of kadamattom to buid a church there .He later made the son of the home the priest of the kadamattom church .Afterwards he left for Tevalakara and converted to Christianity a hindu vaidyan family who were tradtitional opthalmologists and then established a church there.It is said Mar Abo( Mar Sabor) died in Tevalakara.Mar Sabor is considered as Marvan Saboriso who got the rights from Venad ruler to build the church at tarsa 33

    1) Tharissapalli Copper Plate
    2) Inscriptions
    3) Kolla varsham/ Kollam Thonri/ Malayalam Er

    1) Tharissapally Copper plates

    The copper plate grant made by Ayyan Atikal Thiruvadikal, the king of venad, to the Tharissa Church was signed and delivered by him from the palace at Quilon. V.N.Nagom Aiya in Travancore State Manual states about it as , “In the same year(A.D.824)King Sthanu Ravi anxious to secure the pecuniary assistance from Christian merchants in efforts to repel the invasion of Malabar by Rahakas granted the Copper Plate” In this the king gave permission to mar Sapor to transfer to the …church and community at Quilon a piece of the land with near the city with the several families of low caste attached to it…”This is considered to be the first dated document in Kerala history.

    2) Inscriptions

    As its engraved on the Persian cross set up by Mar Sapor in Kadammatom Church that the place from which he migrated was Ninevah. On both sides of the cross in the alter of Kadamattom Church which is 76cm long and 51c. m wide is written in Pahlavi script 2 big sentences and on the centre a small sentence Pahlavi linguist ,Jamshed modi translated it as follows, “I have come to this nation from Ninevah as a bird.Mar Sapur writes ,the forgiving Miseha( God Jesus) who saved me from persecution”.

    3) Theory of Kolla varsham/kollam thonri( Malayalam era):

    There are various theories behind the origin of the Kollam era but the most accepted is associated with the arrival of Persian migration of 9th century A.D. Kollam thonri: This theory states that Kollam era started with the arrival or Persian Christian merchants under the leadership of Sabor Iso and the establishment of kollam town. When GovardanMarthandan became king of Venad the Saptarshi calender was implemented I Venad .But the calender system got greater acceptance when the king accepted the months in the Greek calender which was used by the Persian merchants who migrated in 825A.D .For example first month of Malayalam calender year – Chingam is derived from Simham which is the Malayalam equivalent for Leo which is the first month in the Greek calendar. Second month Kanni is derived from Virgin or Virgo in Greek calender…….etc.

    Literary sources:-
    1) Ramban Paatu
    2) Writings of foreigners – Friar Jordanus and John D.Maringole
    3) Diaries/ Letters

    1) Ramban Paatu

    Details about Churches established by Sabariso’s and the miracles he perfomed are found in Thomma parvam which is also called Rambanpaattu .It is said ramban paatu was written after the arrival of Portuguese and the Synod of Diamper as evident from lines 23 and 24 of Thomaparvam or ramban paattu.

    2) Writings of Foreigners

    Mirabilis Description written by Friar Jordanus of Service gives a vivid account on the prestigious position enjoyed by Syrian Christians in Kollam and neighbouring places in 1324 A.D.Writingsof John D.Marignole (who visited Quilon in 1348AD) tells us that the Church was given the custodianship of weights and measures and permitted to enjoy weighing fee .These rights were granted earlier and renewed in the second set of copper plates.

    3) Diaries/ Letters

    The handwritten diaries of by Pulikottil Mar Dionyius ( former supreme head of Malankara orthodox church) and Chitramezhuthu KM Varghese explains the history of the Kallada Thulaserrymanapurathu Marthamariyam church as follows – this church was destroyed by internecine feud between the Karthas of east Kallada and west Kallada and how a matriarch of Thulassery Manapurathu family recovered the cross of the destroyed church from the river and prevailed on Avani Rajni (queen of west Kallada) to allot some land for the church. She was won over by handsome gifts of precious stones.

    Diaries and writings of Mathai Kathanar (the 24th generation priest of Thulaserry Manapurathu family) give insights and information on the Church, Tharavadu and its architecture, trade, priesthood, Pallimeda, Kuthirakulam, Kettukazhacha, Anthrayos Bawa, Pathemari, Pandakasala etc. Diaries and writings Diary shed light on the history of Mar of Alummoottil Ommommen Kathanar’s Anthrayos bawa

  14. John Mathew says

    RE: Capt. Pathisserril’s statement: “The members of Valiyaveetil family, the root family of Thulassery Manpurathu Tharavadu, a migrant Syrian Christian family worked as commanders of Venad kings.”

    It would be interesting to learn more about this root family “Valiyaveetil” from Kollam.

    Does it still exist? Do other family’s trace their origin to Valiyaveetil? Are there old cemeteries where the old patriarchs of that family are buried?

    Christianity in Kollam is poorly documented, as far as I can see. Most accounts of the Nasranis are based in the north. However, the Syrian Christians of Kollam are a significant community with dispersion throughout that district. It would be nice if more could be learned about Valiyaveetil in Kollam, and other families that claim to descend from the Persian migrations of the 10th century.

    By the way, in general I think the family website of Capt. Pathisseril is very interesting, and informative overall (although, I don’t fully trust the references). However, it suffers from the same old tired error of claiming “Jewish Christian” origin. If one claims Jewish Christian origin, then one can *NOT* appeal to one’s Syriac or Persian heritage because the latter were definitely not Jewish Christians.

  15. RP says

    I would say it not the matter of caste. If some say its all about Brahmin and
    pride, but there is also another side of Nasranis Semitic side need to highlight. That what we thinking Semitic cultures or practice among Nasranis exists to say it also a judo Christianity.
    It also a matter of understanding what were the immigrations took place, what existing proofs we have, what is our church traditions compared to our history as nasranis origin all that take in to considerations.
    I think one can possibly come up a fact that St Thomas came to Malabar look of Jews or Israelites, he would have converted them a lot.
    I think some families names has the history originated from Brahmin origin . But not generally we heard St Thomas walk around just see lot of Brahmins and converted instead some families have proofs .
    Even before the cast system and Namboothiris in kerala there might some other Vedic Brahmins were in Kerala and some of them converted by St Thomas may be true.

    The sincere attitude towards Christianity Jews or Israelites did not keep any identity themselves instead melt in the Christian community.
    Instead they adopted the family names they married . For ex when those Jewish background man married to a Brahmin women but he adopted her family name as pakkomattom shankara puri.
    But we need to consider Nasranis from a melting pot that
    lot of Jew converted
    then there is some Brahmins
    then knanaya Thommen group of northist,
    the Nestorian ,
    the chaldeans from Babylon ,
    then Mar sabor iso and Mar proth mass immigrants in Quilon,
    then some noted Armenian immigrants ,
    some small Syrian immigrant noted past few centuries are among the crowd.
    There can be Tamil Christians migrated to Kerala because of persecution are melted now we are Nasranis today .
    Therefore we need to consider all in melting pot but lot of Semitic presence almost there and very well reflecting in even today who we are as Nasranis

  16. student of history says

    1) Are the comments / debates aimed at creating some kind of sensationalism ? I would like to say that as an independent moderate person the kind of discussions going on now are not interesting .

    2) Has the website helped in identifying lost family branches or has it helped to bring together various branches of -indigenous priestly families like Pakalomattom , Sankarapuri and west Asian migrant families with priestly traditions like Thulasserymanapurathu etc

  17. Mathew T. George says

    I found it quite surprising that Mr John Mathew referred to Mar Thomites as ” Protestants”, which we are not. From my childhood I was taught that we are neither Catholic nor Protestant. Most of my non-Christian friends, especially North Indians, found it difficult to grasp this statement. They were taught that there can only be two types of Catholics and Protestants. Yes, the Mar Thoma Church is a part of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, but it is NOT a protestant church.

  18. John Mathew says

    Mathew,

    These are the divisions of Nicene Christianity (note: the MTC follows the Nicene Creed):
    1. Church of the East (follows first 2 ecumenical councils)
    2. Oriental Orthodoxy (follows first 3 ecumenical councils)
    3. Eastern Orthodoxy (follows above + Chalcedon + others upto 11th c)
    4. Catholic (follows above + Chalcedon + others past 11th c)
    5. Protestant (split from 4 based on Martin Luther’s error)

    The Mar Thomite Church uses part of the liturgy of 2, modified in light of the teachings of 5. That is, they used Protestantism as a basis to modify their originally Oriental Orthodox rites. The basis of the MTC is Protestant.

    According to the five classes above, the MTC fits in #5. The MTC now likes to invent pseudo-history to claim that it is not a Protestant Church, but that is fiction. Your leaders and the majority of your lay people are ardent Protestants. Only a minority of your people — perhaps due to an inferiority complex, not wanting to be viewed as the product of British colonialism — try to stress your flimsy connections to Oriental Orthodoxy.

  19. George Joseph says

    It is interesting to debate the nature of Mar Thoma Church. A point blank question like “Is Mar Thoma Church Eastern or Western” will get an answer YES & NO. True, in essence, this Church is Eastern, but in practice it is Western. They have adopted a lot of things from western Culture, but the non Catholic aspects. And they have pushed behind many aspects of Eastern tradition. Yet, many feel and consider themselves as Eastern because of the blood in them. Even a Mar Thoma Bishop admitted in a private talk that it was a mistake that they had left off the Eastern beliefs and practices. (To avoid controversies, I am not naming the Bishop). There are many who are willing to get back to the Eastern tradition, but not possible in reality.

  20. B.George says

    I find it very interesting reading Mathew T George on M.T. church.Post 36699.
    This is a common experience. No one in the north knows about our history and traditions. I have lived in the north for well over 50 years. I have faced this problem many times and find little change in all these years. Whenever they see my name George they ask the question Christian? I say yes. Next question Catholic? I say no Then protestant? I say no. Then you cannot be a christian!. Occasionally I explain but few are ready to think that Christianity could have existed in India prior to the colonial rule. That is embarrassing enough. But sample this. Are you a Christian? I say yes. Which orphanage brought you up?I say I was brought up by my parents. The next question. Who sponsored your education? I say my parents. Total disbelief! Even when I became a very senior government official the same type of responses were there I regret to say. One went to the extent of exclaiming” How is it that you are so intelligent.?” I worked mostly under north Indians and have not suffered any discrimination in spite of all these foolish responses I am Syrian Orthodox.(SO). But MT and SO are in the same boat as far as this issue is concerned..

  21. John Mathew says

    This notion of “Eastern” and “Western” is artificial and ambiguous.

    What makes something “Eastern”, and where is the “East”?

    To a Protestant in Western Europe, the home of Protestantism, a Roman Catholic in Rome is in the East.
    To a Roman Catholic, an Eastern Orthodox in Greece or Jerusalem is Eastern.
    To a Greek, Russian or Slav, the Oriental Orthodox in the Middle East are Eastern.
    And to the Oriental Orthodox, the Church of the East is Eastern.

    And none of the customs of the Church of the Eastern, nor the Oriental nor the Eastern Orthdodox are particularly Eastern. Almost all of their practices — especially the ones that the Protestants and the Mar Thomites find objectionable — are in common with the western Roman Catholics.

    This notion of “Eastern practices” is fake. Everything the Mar Thomites obliterated in their “reform” is found in the Church of the East *and* the Oriental Orthodox *and* the Eastern Orthodox *and* the Roman Catholics. That is: veneration of saints, remembrance of the departed, the honor given to Saint Mary, etc., all of these are found in Eastern and Western Churches.

    The basic problem with the Mar Thomites was that they and their founders were fundamentally ignorant of Christianity and its history and heritage. They were unfortunately influenced by Low Church Anglicans, who were radical in their hatred of Rome and anything they thought was “Roman” — which includes the majority of “eastern” practices. This was paired in Malabar with the stupid attitude of the Jacobites of the time, who due to their inferiority complex, hated anything that had to due with Rome due to the political problems that Malabar Christians had with the Portuguese. Both mixed in the Malabar Puthenkoor, and due to the poor education of Puthenkoor priests, made it very easy for the so-called “reformation” (i.e., removal of any practice that seemed to be “Romish” — whether or not it was a general Christian custom in both the East and West) to occur.

    The Mar Thomite Church exists due to a historical error. Some ignorant “Malpans” swallowed the bogus propaganda of the Low Church Anglicans, and gave birth to a mistake.

    Maybe that’s why we slowly start seeing some of the more educated Mar Thomites starting to adopt more Orthodox practices. I see a handful Mar Thomites who come to our festivals in the Orthodox Church, as well as some who come on the death anniversaries of their ancestors. Of course, this is a tiny minority, and it’s unlikely that the generally protestant majority will follow since it’s been several generations of protestant indoctrination.

  22. George Joseph says

    Basically, I do agree with Mr John Mathew on his observations on the Mar Thoma Church. The east /west issue need not be considered in too much of a geographical sense. The origin of Christianity was centred in Jerusalem and hence any where east of Jerusalem would have been EAST and anywhere west of Jerusalem would have been WEST. The earth being round, we can now consider Europe on the West of India or on the East of India. But basically, the split in original Church commenced with the Chalcedonian synod which separated the Church as East and West, which is now differentiating theologically too. Thus majority of Catholics and entire Protestantanism got identified as Western, whereas Orthodoxy including Greek, Russian etc got identified as Eastern. Even among Catholics, Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara claim Eastern parentage though they accept Western supremacy. Praying for the departed or honoring saints were not a matter of dispute till reformation and hence this is practced in East and West among those who believe it.

    Whatever I have stated is based on my limited knowledge and Mr John Mathew or anybody else who can furnish more detais and authentic information are welcome.

  23. John Mathew says

    Dear George:

    The East/West split was not at Chalcedon. If it was, then the Eastern Orthodox would be considered a Western Church by your logic, since the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox were one at Chalcedon.

    Non-Jewish Christianity first split into “East” and “West” because the Easterners were in the non-Roman Persian Empire. That Church was the Church of the East. I believe they only learned about the council at Nicea after the council of Ephesus was completed!

    The next split was due to Chalcedon. The Easterners here were the ancestors of the Oriental Orthodox (Copts, Jacobites, Ethiopians), and the Westerners were the Romans/Greeks (modern Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox). Then the latter split in the 11th century.

    Now, this East/West thing is only a geographical thing. Internally, each group considers themselves to be *the* Universal Church.

    So the Eastern-rite Catholics of India are not adopting “Western” supremacy: no, they are under what they call the *Universal* head of Christianity (Catholic means “Universal”, I believe). The Greeks also consider their head to be the *Universal* head (the Greeks call their Church the Catholic Church). The Syriac Orthodox also consider their leader to be the true Catholic leader. And the Church of the East similarly considers their Catholicos/Patriarch to be the head of the Catholic Church.

    The Catholics in India are not like the Mar Thomites. The latter are following truly western ideas formed in the West. The former are believers of the Universal Church, who, according to them, is headed by the Bishop of Rome.

  24. kunjethy says

    Concerning the St. Thomas Cross these words might be illuminative i.e. if these have not already appeared on your valuable pages.
    GRANITE OBJECTS IN KERALA CHURCHES: An Investigation into their Distribution, Antiquity, and Significance.
    Paper presented by Prof. George MENACHERY, LIRC, Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, October 19-21, 2004.

    Indigenous advances in archaeology , numismatics , anthropology , epigraphy , geography and ocean studies , geology , art, architecture,culture, literature , folk arts, place name studies , etc. in recent years have shed considerable new light on the origins and situation of early Christianity in Kerala and as such serve scholars as meagrely used but excellent resource tools for Kerala historical studies in general and Thomas Christian studies in particular . Perhaps this is the place where we might once again stress the importance of the study of local history , and the necessity for following an interdisciplinary approach, and for publishing scholarly findings in Malayalam and in the popular media for the ordinary Nazraney who is only too eager and extremely enthusiastic to learn about one’s own roots, and stress also the compulsions of modern Kerala society where it is necessary and even essential to collaborate with secular scholars even in the investigation of matters relating solely to Church History, Art, or Culture .

    Rock Objects in Kerala Churches:
    The present paper is an attempt to survey examples of rock-work in the art and architecture of the churches of Kerala in the light of recent studies and surveys, and to essay their significance for the study of Kerala history and culture. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India , Vol.II, April 1973, (hereafter STCEI II), and the Indian Church History Classics , Vol.I (i.e. The Nazranies), January 1998, (hereafter ICHC I) may be consulted for some one thousand illustrations, a large number of which bearing on Christian art and architecture in India . In those volumes there are scores of pictures of rock objects from churches. Rock art in churches, represented by the Nazraney Sthambam or rock obelisk cross, the rock Deepa Sthambam, or lamp-stand, rock pedestal of the copper-sheathed Dwaja Sthambam or Kodimaram /flagstaff, are all found in front of the typical early Nazraney churches. There is also the exquisitely carved baptismal font or Mammodisakkallu in the baptistery, often situated at the west end of the nave, immediately after the portico or Mukhamandapam, beyond the main door called in Malayalam Aanavathil, which last often with granite doorposts and architraves. (However of late, especially in the west-Syriac tradition of Kerala, the baptismal fonts are to be seen near the altar to the right of the congregation, in keeping with the universal trend,where more and more Churches are allowing unbaptised persons to come near the altar.) True, these objects will only cover the front courtyard of the church and just take us beyond the threshold of the nave into the baptistery; but then we must stop with that for the present; although there are also a few statues, doorposts, Gopurams, pillars and tablets with reliefs, and architraves all in stone which deserve our attention.

    Flights of Rock Steps:

    Places of worship in Kerala as in many other climes were generally constructed on hilltops or the highest available spot in a locality, except of course those on the sea-coast and river banks. It is found that the reputedly earliest churches were on the sea shore, or on the shore of the lakes or Kayals and rivers. Later churches were constructed in the interior at High Places. People reached these places of worship navigating the steep slopes, afterwards replaced by granite steps. The Thrissur Vadakkunnathan temple of Pooram fame is still reached by climbing the slopes,
    but most churches today have constructed granite flights of steps and side roads leading to them. The churches at Ollur, Kuravilangad, Uzhavoor, Parappur, Ramapuram, Kaduthuruthy (both churches), Kottayam (Valiya Palli), Palai (Old Cathedral), Parel, and Changanassery are reached by going up the flight of rock steps or Nadakkallus. There are many churches with Sopanams with balustrade like handrails on either side or without those handrails, all carved out of rock (e.g. at Parur and Kothamangalam. By the way the Parur Sopanam, at least one of the carved hand rails, was seen last week in a broken condition!)

    There are three striking objects of significance in front of the typical Malabar churches, either inside the courtyard or just outside it: the open-air granite (rock) cross which the present writer has christened Nazareney Sthambam; the Dwaja Sthambam or flag-staff made of Kerala’s famed teak wood (e.g. at Parur), and often enclosed in copper sheaths / hoses or Paras (as at Changanassery, Pulinkunnu, or Chambakkulam), or made out of some other timber or other material; the Deepa Sthambam in granite as at Kundra, Kallooppara, Chengannur, and Niranam. Sthambams or pillars of some type or other are to be found among the Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, etc. in India. Such pillars and structures were part of the Christian heritage of Kerala much before the ascendancy of Vedic Hinduism in these parts, although James Fergusson either did not
    know or did not care about these .

    Rock Crosses:
    The open-air rock-cross of Malabar is an obelisk, a tall stone column, with four, sometimes decorated, but without inscriptions,slightly tapering sides, with arms added. Rome has many obelisks (from Egypt and the East) which have been sometimes made into cross-bearing structures decorating the piazzas and squares (e.g. in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Others are near the Lateran , in the Piazza dell’ Esquilino , in Piazza dei Cinquecento , in the Piazza del Quirinale , near the Piazza di Spagna ( near the Propaganda Fide) , near the Piazza del Popolo , near the Piazzo di Montecitorio , and in the Piazza Minerva .

    London has one on the banks of the Thames (Cleopatra’s Needle) as one gets down from the Houses of Parliament; Paris has one at the place d’ la Concorde; and even New York has one in the central park. Many memorials like the Washington Memorial are obelisk-shaped. The Asoka Pillar and other such Indian pillars must have been inspired by the Graeco-Parthians, under Egyptian-Persian influence. The Nazraney Sthambam is a direct descendant of the obelisk, and much closer to it than the other Indian pillars – in shape, method of construction and transportation, method of erection, function, and solar symbolism. The Roman obelisk, bearing crosses today, have been converted to Christianity, while Kerala’s cross-shaped obelisks were born Christian . The obelus and the double-dagger reference marks in printing may be profitably recalled here. The Celtic rock crosses with their peculiar shape and intricate carvings are in another category.

    The three-tier gabled indigenous architecture of Kerala churches , which lacked facades until the coming of the Portuguese, immensely gains in richness, symmetry, and beauty because of the open-air rock crosses, some of them more than 35 feet in height including the intricately carved pedestals, and monolithic shafts. No other community in Kerala has such a huge monumental stone structure, and no other Christianity has such a universal and huge emblem in front of the churches, except the obelisks of the Vatican and Rome which of course were not originally Christian symbols, but were later Christianized by the addition of crosses at their top . The indoor counterparts of these open air crosses have the earliest carvings in Kerala of the national flower lotus and the national bird peacock. Perhaps even the national animal tiger is first depicted in Kerala art in church sculpture. It has been said that there existed no rock carving in South India prior to the period of these indoor crosses . The motifs, message, and images on these crosses and their pedestals display a remarkable degree of Indianness and Malayalee Thanima or identity. Vedic Hindu Gods and Goddesses like Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Sapthamathas, Jeshta etc. appear in the art of the central Guruvayoor/Palayoor-Quilon part of Chera country only after the 11th-13th centuries, and even in the Salem-Erode section, and the Trivandrum-Cape Comorin section Vedic Hindu deities appear in art only as late as the 9th century A.D.

    The rock open-air cross employs three sets of sockets and cylinders. The base with a socket (cavity), the monolithic square and slightly tapering shaft with cylindrical terminals to fit the sockets, the horizontal piece forming the arms with a double socket (one cavity above and one below) in the middle, and the capital with a cylindrical bottom end are the four members of the open air cross . They are so well chiselled and
    proportionate that when put together the socket and cylinder arrangement enables the cross to stand all by itself. However for the bigger crosses, pedestals – in the form of sacrificial altars or Balikallus – are found, often carrying exquisite reliefs of the flora and fauna of the land in addition to scenes from the daily life of the early Keralites and biblical scenes. The cross representing the supreme Bali (sacrifice) or Mahabali appearing on the Balikkallu most appropriately represents the Calvary events and sheds plenty of light on the ideological, historical, theological, cultural and technological bent of mind of the forefathers. Compare with the base of the Obelisk of Theodosius, Constantinople, A.D.390.

    The Obelisk and the Rock Cross:

    The obelisk is a ray of the sun – here a ray of Christ (of Horus – Xt. the sun-God). This ray helps the lotus near – universally depicted on such crosses to blossom forth representing in a typical Indian poetic conceit the grace received by the sin – bound human soul (panka – jam) from Christ. Lotus, representing the sun is found in other early Indian art also. The Buddhist Padmapada concept also comes to mind. The half dozen
    interior Pehlevi inscribed crosses, some of them undoubtedly of at least pre 7th century origin, which were mostly tombstones before they were put up on the altars , have generally the dove (Holy Spirit) depicted on top of the clover or flower tipped equal-armed Greek cross, in addition to the lotus at the bottom .

    In the three piece (Thri-kanda) Pehlavi cross one might, perhaps, with considerable effort read the lotus represented Brahma (Father), Vishnu, and Shiva. The arrangement to hold wicks found on the open air crosses may be related to the preservation of fire, and the effort to make it available to the common people in the dim past, when Homakundams were rare in Kerala or beyond the reach of the common folk. It is perhaps in connection with the need to preserve fire that the oil-Nerchas and oil Araas of the churches, and the compound – wall rock lamps are to be evaluated.The oil related objects in the churches also indicate the connection of this Christianity with the trade of the land, especially oil-trade. The bell like arrangement on some crosses also is noteworthy. Veneration of the cross, angels, Adam and Eve… and of course the Indian Cross itself are some of the notable religious carvings on these structures.

    Deepa Sthambam:

    The square or polygonal shape of the individual pieces in the granite or rock lamp stands at Kallooppara, Kundra, and Chengannur indicate the antiquity of such lamp stands in the churches. Unlike in the churches, in the temples, the tradition of these lamps continued and thus developed into the present-day round shape of the pieces. In art history generally the simpler forms make their appearance first, and refinements and complications indicate a later date. Even when the tradition of lampstands declined in the churches, many open-air crosses had wick holders incorporated into them, with the advantage that wind and rain do not put off the flames. Church walls still display rows of rock lamps (Kanjoor, Angamaly, Ollur). Inside the churches the tradition of bronze lamps continued vigorously, many churches still displaying rows of bronze lamps, representing a variety of shapes and types, and some lamps having even hundreds of wick holders, e.g. the Aayiram Aalila lamps at Arthat, Akapparambu, or Angamaly. The lamp, be it in bronze or rock, represents Christ who is light, as does the rock cross which is a ray of the Sun or Christ shining from the East.

    Dwaja – Sthambam:

    In front of the church the third interesting object is the flagstaff, sometimes covered with copper Paras. Every festival is announced with the Kodiyettu or flag-hoisting, a tradition going back to early Buddhist times at least. The flag-staff at times has a carved rock pedestal. All these three objects in the courtyard of the church have a variety of liturgical functions associated with them, into which we are not entering at present .

    Granite / Stone Baptismal Fonts:

    Let us now climb and go across the portico and enter the Haikala or nave beyond the Aanavathil to look at the rock baptismal font in the baptistery. As we enter the church the huge doorways flaunting Aanavathils or elephantine doors or door for elephants have Architraves and doorposts displaying good examples of south Indian rock-carving. (E.g. old Kayamkulam, Chengannur, Kanjoor). But the rock-baptismal fonts are the real pride of many an old church.

    There are interesting rock baptismal fonts at Edappally, Kanjoor, Mylakkombu, Muthalakkodam, Changanassery, Kothamangalam, Kadamattom etc. The similarity of these baptismal fonts with illustrations of the fonts used for the baptism of Constantine (4thC.) and Clovis (Rheims c.496) is remarkable. All the old baptismal fonts are of granite or very hard laterite. They are all huge in size indicating that baptism by immersion could have been the order of the day. Most of the old baptismal fonts depicted in the STCEI II & the ICHC I were probably of a date prior to or very near the promulgation of the decrees of the Synod of Diamper which made permanent fonts more or less compulsory. Although most of the old baptismal fonts/ baptisteries are found near the west end or middle of the nave on the northern side – Kaduthuruthy (Big), old Edappally, old Kanjoor, Changanassery (Southern side), in many churches, mostly Jacobite/Orthodox they are found today close to the sanctum sanctorum e.g. Angamaly (Middle-church), Kallooppara. They are exquisitely carved with reliefs of the baptism of Christ, Mary feeding the Child, angels, Indian crosses, etc. There are also wonderful motifs of leaves, the basket pattern, coir pattern, etc. engraved on these stones. By the way the very Malayalam word Mammodisakkallu indicates a font made of stone. Another term is Mammodisath-thotti. The Holy Water Font is called Annavella Thotti also often in stone.

    [Here permit us by way of digression to mention a word about Asoka the Great and Taxila the major source of Indian sculptural tradition, other than Mathura. Alexander the Great and his general Selucus both westerners were in Takshashila or cut stone (Taxila) in Gandhara, the land of Gandhari and Shakuni on the banks of the Indus, before the architect and builder Thomas arrived in those parts. The daughter of Selucus supposedly married Chandra Gupta Maurya. Their (?) son Bimbisara was the father of Ashoka the Great. Was Ashoka a foreigner? Until James Pincep deciphered the writings on an Ashoka Pillar in the 19th century, our knowledge even of this great Indian emperor was minimal. Compared to this our knowledge of Apostle

    Thomas’ Indian sojourn must be considered quite
    adequate. But that is another story.]

    The national emblem of India is derived from one of the Ashoka pillars. One can see this emblem of four lions and the wheel on any Indian currency note in one’s pocket. Those lions of Ashoka roared not in hostility but in love. The roar of these four lions for love we next hear from the amazingly attractive ancient rock baptismal fonts of Malabar, at Edappally, Kanjoor, and elsewhere. These four lions support the hemispherical basin of the font, as the Ashoka lions were supporting a globe, in the very same manner in which the Egyptian obelisks were supporting the shining disk of the Sun. But in the midst of our other interests we failed to give our ears to these voices and to preserve these great Malabar lions, an endangered species, indeed, in our own midst. For at Edappally e.g. the stone baptismal font was dismantled into three pieces and strewn about the courtyard of the church, at the mercy of the innumerable pilgrims and pick-pockets frequenting the spot. At Angamaly one could still see (i. e. before the huge new church was built) the old baptismal font in many pieces near the priests’ kitchen. In Punnathra the font is used to collect rain-water, a euphemism this writer has been using for a salty human out – pouring. At Kudamaloor in 1970 to photograph the font once used to baptize the Blessed Sr. Alphonsa this writer had to rescue it from the many layers of plaster on the wall. This list it is not necessary to prolong. Cry, the beloved country. font>

    Antiquity and Significance

    Although to investigate the antiquity of art objects in Kerala is a complicated exercise, and a discussion of their significance is even more tricky, let us proceed with some observations here in this regard, most of which have already been made from time to time, in one form or other, by the present writer, hoping that others would travel farther along these and other roads, and would indeed find better paths…… As the time and space allotted this paper have long been overrun we will have to be content with a few pointers only.

    A schoolboy definition of philosophy is “the contemplation of the unknown”. And theology thus becomes the contemplation of (the unknown) divine. What follows is merely some stray thoughts on the antiquity and significance of the rock objects in the churches of Kerala.

    The Unique Place of the Cross in Kerala

    The ubiquitous cross of Malabar churches is best represented by the rock crosses, mostly outside the churches. This open-air granite cross is the central point of many liturgical observations and ceremonies and processions. Festival related and liturgical processions in Malabar are of at least four kinds: certain Pradakshinams or processions starting near the altar end at the Mukhamandapam or portico of the church; many others, importantly, enter the courtyard and go round the rock cross, others go round the church, still others wind along the valley-roads and Angadies surrounding the church-hill, commencing and concluding at the foot of the rock-cross. In every procession processional crosses occupy places of honour. In funeral processions also the cross is at the forefront of the procession.

    The Kerala Christian gets up in the morning making the sign of the cross, and goes to bed making the sign of the cross. Not only that. The night prayer before going to bed “Yudanmarude Raajavaaya Nazraayakkaaran Ishoye” is a translation of the INRI on the cross of Jesus. The sign of the cross is made at the four ends of the bed before retiring at night. The sign of the cross is made on doors and entrances with the ash on Ash Wednesday, now Ash Monday. The Way of the Cross is a favorite devotion of the Malayalee.

    St. Thomas is the Old Man of the Cross or Kurishumuthappan. Wayside chapels are Kurisu Pallies. There are large numbers of crosses in gold and silver and other metals and in wood and cloth and paintand ivory and every other imaginable medium in every church. There are crosses adorning the triple facades of the churches or triple Monthayams. The cross and the crucifix are to be seen everywhere in the churches. The cross is the symbol of Christianity in Kerala, especially when it is recalled that there were no images other than the cross in Kerala churches before the advent of the Portuguese.

    Another Significance

    Tree worship, characteristic of pre-historic, primitive, and aboriginal communities must have been common at the time of the arrival of St. Thomas in India. Sangham literature has many descriptions of kings, especially the Moovarachars – the Cheran, the Cholan, and the Pandyan – planting, nourishing, and celebrating their own dynastic trees, and of cutting down and destroying the sacred trees of the enemy . The tree, like the pole and the tower represents the axis mundi and connects heaven and earth, and sometimes even hell . The sacralisation of a spot was often achieved by the planting of a tree like Arayal, or the setting up of a stone, or the building up of a tower – as the means of communication between man and the divine, between earth and heaven. This idea is perhaps well represented in the obelisk and in the open-air rock cross of Kerala. Before a place could be inhabited it must be created and the establishment of the cross creates sacred space, around which people could stay and live. Was this the meaning behind Thomas the Kurisu Muthappan, and Sapor and Proth the Kandeesangal planting crosses all over the place, initiating Chrstian places of residence and commencing Christian Congregations and Communities.

    Certain other ideas which could be read into the rock objects have already been mentioned in this paper, and as such are not being gone into again.

    Procedures for assessing Antiquity

    How old are the rock objects in the Kerala churches? Have their antiquity been measured scientifically? What are some of the means at our disposal to measure the antiquity of these objects? These are a few questions which ought to be discussed.

    As the maximum possible age of Christian artefacts cannot be more than two millennia, and will be in most cases only 1500, 1000, or even less years, certain kinds of scientific tests could not be conducted with any hope of obtaining reliable results even were the necessary facilities available here for conducting such investigations. The possible lack of the presence of organic material (such as wood, bone, charcoal) on these objects has been pointed out by certain archaeologists and associated scientists as reasons for the inability to precisely fix the dates of such objects . However it may be possible to get better results in the future if experiments could be conducted with international collaboration. However the State and Central governments and departments of archaeology must have a positive approach to these studies.

    One of the methods used today is based on typology. Using this method Kerala archaeological departments and archaeologists and historians associated with the study of Kerala artefacts have come to the conclusion that the Pehlevi crosses are most probably of a period between 3rd and 7th centuries, although some of these crosses are replicas of the earlier crosses and hence might belong to the 9th or 10th centuries. While a member of the Archaeology Advisory Board of the Government of Kerala (1975 – 1982) this writer had many opportunities to discuss these matters with archaeologists from India, and also with archaeologists in Britain, Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere during wanderings abroad, and their views have helped to formulate these tentative conclusions, although final conclusions could be arrived at only after more systematic consultations.

    The history of the royal Sassanid language provides another clue. The Sassanid,the dynasty that ruled Persia from 226 to 641 CE. had Pehlevi (Pahlavi in Parthian) for their official language. Since the language itself ceased to exist soon after the decline and fall of the Sassanid dynasty around mid 7th century original objects with the script could not be later than say 4th or 5th century CE. Hence the Pehlevi crosses could not be later than the 7th century at the latest.

    There are listed in the Diocesan Directories and elsewhere the accepted dates for the establishment of the various churches in Kerala. Choosing only the pre-Diamper (i.e. 16th C. and earlier) churches mentioned in the Malayalam records of the Synod and Gouvea’s Jornada , the churches founded in different centuries could be chronologically classified . Also each Malabar church acknowledges a mother church; by going from mother church to mother church until arriving at the first seven churches the chronological position of a church could be decided vis-à-vis other churches . This will help decide the approximate date of the church.

    The copper plate grants, the rock inscriptions, the wooden beam inscriptions, the Granthavaris, the statements of missionaries and travellers, folklore, the Song of Thomas Ramban , Margam Kali Pattukal , Pallippattukal , Kurishinte Pattukal etc. also have clues to the establishment of churches, and directly or indirectly to the establishment of the Rock Crosses &c. All these aids must be intelligently utilized to decide the dates of the rock objects in churches.

    The tools are there, the persons are there, only our firm will is required to compile an authentic history of our land and our Church. Let us wish ourselves Good Luck!

    ==============================
    Dates of Churches: from those dates, Contents page of Pallikkalakalum Mattum, KHA paper repro. In PalliKK…, Shadabdhi Smaranika..

    Kurishu and kurishumuthappan,
    Typology…
    Pehlavi Crosses….
    Diamper and Baptismal fonts…
    72 privileges…
    In every metal, wood, clothe, ….
    Kurishupalli, kurishadi, kurishu Varakkuka, Edges of bed, INRI at bed time prayer,
    Axis Mundi, Centre of the world, Hierophany, Sacred space, Near sacred space, Eliade, Coomaraswamy, Eluvathingal,…
    Jyothi Sahi..
    Theology of the cross..
    Mahabali..
    Panka-Jam..
    Veneration of the cross everywhere…
    ======================================

    A recent instance is the discovery of a large selection of artefacts such as a Chera coin with elephant, ankusha, bow & arrow of the 1st. century CE, a portion of an amphora, shards of pottery, bricks used in construction, ringwells, beads, rouletted ware, b&w ware… all from the early historical layer during excavations conducted by Dr. Shajan and Dr. Selvakumar at Pattanam near Parur on the south bank of the present Periyar river, a few miles to the south of Kodungallur. Roberta Tomber of the University of Southamton, Dr. M.G.S Narayanan, Dr. P.J.Cherian and many others believe that this was the site of the ancient Muziris of the first century Greek and Roman writers. Cf. their papers presented at the seminar conducted by the Kerala Historical Research Society, Sahitya Academy, Trichur. Also see the Administration Reports of the Royal Cochin Archaeologists, Rama Pishariti and Anujan Achan for pre-independence years, reprinted in George Menachery, ed. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Trichur, 1973, left col.,p.53 to right col., p.159. Cf. “Numismatics at the Service of Historical Research,” papers presented by G. Menachery at the Madras and Karur congresses of the Numismatic Society of Tamilnadu and at the Thrissur, Kanyakumari, and Veliyanad conferences of the Numismatic Society of South India. Some of these papers may be read in the issues of the HARP, Kottayam (Ed. Dr. Jacob Thekkepparambil); The St. Thomas Christians Journal,Rajkot (Ed. Bp. Gregory Karotemprel); and the many issues of the electronic journal ‘Light of Life,’ 2003 – 2004, New York, N.Y. One such work is the ‘Anthropology of the Syrian Christians’, L. K. Anantha Krishna Ayyar, 1926, Ernakulam portions from which have been reprinted in ICHC I, pp. 485 et. sq. The excellent translations of the Tharisappalli Christian plates of 849 CE and the Jewish plates in Cultural Symbiosis, M. G. S. Narayanan, Kerala Society Papers, 1972 are essential tools for all students of Early medieval Kerala history and culture. See “Roads to India,” article by Maggie G. Menachery in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, II,Trichur, 1973, Ed. G. Menachery. This topic is elaborately treated in Chapter I of Kodungallur:.. G. Menachery and W. Chakkalakkal, 1987,(reprint 2000), Azhikode. A. C. Perumalil SJ, The Apostles in India, Fact or Fiction?, 1952, Patna elaborately deals with the first century Roman and Greek contacts with India and Kerala. K. S. Matthew and collaborators have much on early and middle second millennium ocean trade. The tectonic plate below the area from Palayoor to Parur is supposed to be the largest one in Kerala and as such earthquakes &c. were quite rare in this area, helping the development of a continuous civilization here, giving birth to the growth of Muziris and other famous international trade centres down the centuries. Cf. Menachery, notes to Chapter I of Kodungallur: above. The Malayalee ought to study the Sangham literature with some enthusiasm as it is the common heritage of all South Indians. The reluctance of certain historians and authors, especially of the secular historians and scholars of Kerala , to refer to the Sangham literature is somewhat beyond one’s comprehension. The neglect especially of the beautiful lines of the Aka-nanooru, the Pura-Nanooru and the Pathittuppathu has no justification except the prejudices of such persons. How come the avoidance of passages from the Sangham literature in the text books of Kerala? The mysterious loss of the first and tenth Pathu of the Pathittuppathu must be more vigorously investigated. Each of the place names in the Palayur area f.i., such as Chowghat (Shapakkadu), Orumanayoor, Puthumanassery, Arthat, Chemmanur carry some historical significance and as such ought to be scrutinized by the student of Kerala history. Cf. G. Menachery, Aashamsa, in Chemmannur Kudumba Charithram by Major Cherunny, Guruvayur, 1999. The many efforts to throw light on Kerala historical problems from an investigation of local history and folklore must be enthusiastically encouraged. See “Introduction,” G. Menachery, in George Emmatty, “Kuttikalkku Kerala Charithram,” 2003, H & C Publishing House, Thrissur.

    For more thoughts on these aspects of Syrian Christian historical and cultural studies the curious may refer among other sources the many end-notes by this writer in Chapters I and II of George Menachery & W. Chakkalakkal, Kodungallur: City of St. Thomas, 1987 (reprinted as Kodungallur: Cradle of Christianity in India, 2000), Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, Azhikode. Certain efforts have been made to utilise the expertise of secular scholars and institutions in these fields by conducting seminars, workshops, courses of lectures &c. on related areas by the Institute for Lay Leadership Training, (Estd. 1967) Thrissur; LRC, Kakkanad; Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, etc. For more references also see “Introduction” by the present writer in ‘Angamaly Rekhakal’(Malayalam, = Angamaly Documents) by Varghese Angamaly and Jomon Thachil, Merit Books, Cochin, 2002; “Introduction” by G. Menachery, in Dalitbandhu N. K. Jose, “Adisthana Keralam,” Vaikom, 2001; introductory article “Kerala Patanathinu Oru Kaivilakku” by G. Menachery in The ‘Naalagamam of Palakkunnel Valiachan,’ Alleppy, 2001 &c. The museums set up / being set up at Mt. St. Thomas, Kakkanatt; Bishop’s House garden, Cochin; Jeevass, Alwaye; Palai; Ernakulam as well as the exhibits from the Christian Cultural Museum of Trichur (1980) now being displayed at the Palayur Museum could shed considerable light on these aspects of the question. The lists of exhibits at the Christian Cultural Pavilion, Kanakakkunnu, Trivandrum (First World Malayalam Conference), 1977; Christian Cultural Exhibition, Trichur Pooram Exhibition, 1978; Christian Cultural Exhibition, Malankara Golden Jubilee Celebrations, SEERI, Kottayam, 1980 also may be helpful here (Pallikkalakalum Mattum, G. Menachery, Eiffel books, Trichur, 1984).
    Including historical and even quasi-historical studies, works, “souvenirs” &c. on families (e.g. Kudumba Charithram), churches (e. g. Palli Mahathmyam), parishes, places (e. g. Sthala Puranam), persons (autobiographies, biographies), institutional and organizational commemoration volumes.
    The popularity of the many Christian historical and cultural museums and exhibitions is an indication of this.The huge crowds of lakhs and lakhs of people who enthusiastically assembled and exuberantly cheered the 1983 Cultural Rally and the 2004 CBCI Conference Historico-Cultural Programme at Thrissur were quite heartening. As these ideas have more than once been expressed from this very platform it is not perhaps necessary to go into that again. And the good news is that already substantial steps have been taken in this direction at least in a few quarters. Cf. f. i. the LIRC publications Ed. Dr. Bosco Puthur containing the proceedings of the Pre-Diamper Seminar and the Seminar on Brahmins, Jews, and the Sangham.

    Published from Trichur,Ed. G. Menachery.
    Published from Ollur, Ed. G. Menachery.
    The Diocesan Centenary Celebrations Volume of Trichur “Shadabdhi Smaranika” (1987-91) has some two hundred related pictures. The Kanjirappilly Diocese has published an interesting volume of text and pictures. The Kottayam Diocese has a number of publications in the field to its credit. The Ollur Forane Church St. Anthony Octingenary Celebrations Souvenir (1996) has dozens of pictures. Of late many other dioceses and parishes have published useful works with quality visuals. Naturally, concerning recent works, one could speak of only those works which have come to one’s attention.
    “Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala,“ paper by G. Menachery, World Syriac Conference, SEERI, 2002, published in the HARP and afterwards in the St. Thomas Christians Journal and recently in the Light of Life.
    James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern
    Architecture, London, 1876, passim.
    135 ft., brought from Heliopolis in 37 A.D. Sixtus V ordered its placement before the basilica, employing it is said 900 men, 150 horses, and 47 cranes for the operation.
    Oldest obelisk in Rome ( from Thebes, 15th C. BCE) brought by Constantius II,357.
    Set up here by Sixtus V in 1587. 48 ft.
    Incorporated into the monument for the 500 Italian soldiers fallen at Dogali.
    Shifted to this spot by Pius VI in 1786 only. 47.5 ft.
    The hieroglyphics were incised after bringing to Rome.
    78.5 ft. Augustus brought it to Rome from Heliopolis and was dedicated to the sun. Most obelisks have various sun connections.
    72.5ft. high. Brought to Rome by Augustus to celebrate his victory over Cleopatra.
    The hieroglyphic on this small obelisk relates to the last
    of the independent Pharaohs, ally of Zedekiah the last king of Judah in the Bible.
    G. Menachery,1975 & 1978 in the course of
    interviews at Rome broadcast by Radio Vatican.
    Cf. Article “Kerala Church Architecture” by Andrews Athapilly in the STCEI II, 1973; and “Thomas Christian Architecture” by E. J. James Menachery in the same.
    With their typical three tiered gabled roofing, which is the harmonious blending of the Kazhukkol, Vala, Sheelanthi, Thulam, Monthayam,and Pattika, reflecting the great skill of the Kerala Moothasari or carpenter.
    Vide notes 17 to 26 supra.
    The Pallava rock carvings of Mahabalipuram are either posterior to or contemporary with the Pehlevi crosses. In any case in Kerala no rock carvings have been noticed before these Pehlevi crosses.
    K. V. Soundara Rajan, Art of South India: Tamil
    Nadu and Kerala, Delhi, 1978.
    Aja – Eka Paada: – Thonda Mandalam, 8th C.; Chola
    Mandalam, 11th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 13 th C.; Kongu –
    Chera Nadu, -.
    Ananthashaayi:- Thonda Mandalam, 6th C.; Chola
    Mandalam, 5th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 8 th C.; Kongu –
    Chera Nadu, 8th C.
    Ardhanaari:- Thonda Mandalam, 7th C.; Chola Mandalam,
    9th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 13 th C.; Kongu – Chera Nadu,
    9th- 10th C.
    DakshinaaMoorthy:- 7; 9; 9; c.8.
    Ganesha:- 8; 8; 7; c.8.
    Harihara:- 8; -; 8; 11.
    Jvarahareshwara:- 10; -; 9; 13.
    Jeshta:- 8; 9; 8; 11.
    Lingotbhava:- 8; 8; 8; after 11.
    Sapthamatha:- 8; 9; 8; 14.
    Thrimoorthi:- 8; -; 8; 8.
    This socket and cylinder arrangement of the rock crosses can be easily studied if one examines the recently discovered pieces of the rock cross at the Changanassery Cathedral Cemetery or the pieces in the Eastern church compound at Angamaly. In spite of requesting the church and convent at least a dozen times from 1971 to 2004 the pieces of the rock cross at Angamaly are still in a discarded condition there, approachable only in the hot summer when the grass withers away or when the snakes take a holiday.
    In 1980 while establishing the Christian Cultural
    Museum, Lourdes Cathedral, Trichur the present writer
    came across all four pieces of a granite open
    air cross underground in the sandy compound surrounding the
    Enammavu Church (c. 500 CE). This was taken to the Cathedral on the eve of the inauguration of the Museum. Other office bearers of the Museum Committee, including its
    chairman who was the V.G. of Trichur then, waited with many bags of cement and two masons and helpers to put up the
    cross in front of the Museum. But when the four pieces
    were unloaded from the truck and put in place
    utilizing the sockets and cylinders carved out on the
    pieces the cross stood by itself sans aid of mortar or mason! Such experiences enabled the writer, when he was shown three pieces of the fallen cross collected at the Changanassery Cathedral Cemetery a few years ago by the Cathedral Vicar, to request him to look for a fourth piece, which was eventually discovered as a result of the old vicar’s search. The discovery by this writer of pieces of a cross submerged in mud at Kalpparambu (1978?) led to its re-erection, once again providing the writer a chance to study the techniques employed in carving such crosses.
    These are the aspects which should have been discussed in detail in connection with the significance of the rock objects had we not already hugely exceeded the allotted time and space. The discovery of the St. Thomas Mount ‘bleeding cross’ while digging the premises is well known. The Alangad cross (see picture and description in ICHC I, Ollur, Jan. 1998, p. 576 reproduced from the Light from the East, Chicago Bi-Monthly, 1953 with the caption: ‘Persian Cross on tomb of Mar Jacob, Alangatt, India’.) remained for very long in the cemetery. The size and inscriptions on the other such crosses also show that they were tombstones before they were removed to the altar / wall. The ‘Tree of Life’ theory and the ‘Great Rivers’ theory can hardly hold water archaeologically and sculpturally in the case of the vast majority of rock crosses where the lotus or the Pookkallu of the Kerala sculptor is only too well depicted, and finds comparison with the lotus on the Balikkallus of temples. But in theological and theoretical interpretations such ideas can perhaps help. Cf. unpublished doctoral thesis “Thomas Christian Architecture,” by Dr. E. J. James, Calcutta University, 1980. Also his article on the same topic in the STCEI,II, 1973 and the unpublished doctoral thesis on Nazraney culture submitted by Ms. Joicy James Menachery, Mysore University, 2004. In Pathittuppathu, Second Pathu, Pattu One, the tree of protection of the enemy Poonkkadambu is cut off at the king’s command. In his introduction to Pathittuppathu G. Vaidyanatha Iyer speaks of this custom, p.xvi (Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1961).Similarly in his introduction to Puranaanooru P. R. Parameswaran Pillai also speaks in detail of this custom, p.xxxii (Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1969). The tree of protection or the tree of victory was generally Venga, Punna, Veppu, etc. Also cf. James Fergusson, Tree Worship.

    The idea of axis mundi as understood by various peoples is elaborated by Mircea Eliade in his Encyclopaedia of Religions and elsewhere in his Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (trans. from the French , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959 &c.) and in his Sacred and the Profane : The Nature of Religion, (trans. from the French , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959 &c.)and his many other books and articles such as Pattern in Comparative
    Religion (trans. Rosemary Sheed, Sheed and Ward, London and New York). Mircea Eliade’s thoughts were unknown to me, and
    his works could not be found in the libraries of even some major seminaries. However after being introduced to the wealth of his thoughts by Fr. Elavathingal I have become an addict of his works. I find Jyothi Sahi and others greatly influenced by these thoughts ( e.g. Holy Ground, Jyothi Sahi, Pace, 1998). Another writer who should be the constant companion of the student of Indian and Indian Christian art is Ananda Coomaraswamy (e.g. Art and Swadeshi, Ganesh and Co., Madras). There are a number of old editions of books by Coomaraswamy in the Public Library, Trichur and elsewhere in many of the major seminaries.
    Finally the attention of the listener is drawn to Anthony Kalliath, “Paths of Contextualising Indian Spirituality”
    in Christian Contribution to Nation Building: A Third Millennium Enquiry, Ed. S. Ponnumuthen, CBCI-KCBC, Alwaye, 2004, esp. pp. 193-194 and related notes.
    Vide note 40 above.
    See note 40 above. Space does not permit us to go into the details of these observations. May be another time.
    Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years—i.e., half the amount of the radioisotope present at any given time will undergo spontaneous disintegration during the succeeding 5,730 years. Basically this means that half of the original amount of C14 in organic matter will have disintegrated 5730 years after the organism’s death; half of the remaining C14 will have disintegrated after another 5730 years and so forth. After about 50,000 years, the amount of C14 remaining will be so small that the fossil can’t be dated reliably. Under optimum conditions it has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.
    In f.i. Scaria Zacharia, Udayamperur Soonnahadosinte Kanonakal, Edamattam, 1998; Samuel Chandanappally,
    Christian Culture (Mal.), Kottayam, 1979.
    Gouvea, Jornada, Coimbra, 1606; in English Geddes, London, 1694 (fully reproduced in ICHC I, 1978). Recently LIRC has published a new translation of the Jornada by Pius Malekandathil.
    Cf. the paper on “Sculptures of Kerala”, G. Menachery,
    Kerala History Association, Ernakulam, 1983 where churches founded in each century from the Ernakulam area are listed: Akapparambu (16th Century), Kudavechoor (15th C.), Koratty (14), Chendamangalam (13), Chowara (12), Kanjoor (11), Vadayar (10), South Paravur (9), Moozhikkalam (7), Udayanperur (6th C.), Angamaly (5th Century), and Ambazhakkad in the 4th Century.

    Another approach is seen in G. Menachery, Kodungallur… 1987 (p. 41 ff. of 2000 reprint): Take one particular instance: The church at Ollur near Trichur used to be one of the wealthiest in the whole of Kerala. This church was founded only in 1718, one of the first important churches established after 1599. Before 1718 the people of Ollur used to go to Pazhuvil church for Mass, which Church was founded in 960. Before that, tradition Goes they used to go to Enammavu church founded in 500. The nearby Vadakkan Pudukkad church was founded in 400, separating from the Palayur church of 52 AD. What is important is that the people of all these places unanimously subscribed to the truth of the Chronology, although time has brought about great changes in the status of each place, and yet the traditions concerning the origin of each church is recognised by all the churches unanimously… “Thus these traditions have no less value than documents written on paper or stone.” The Shadabdi Smaranika of Trichur Diocese has a similar approach in one of the articles by G. Menachery, 1987, where the 19th section closes with the remark: That the followers of various faiths and castes of a land unanimously accept certain historical realities increase the credibility of such tradition based beliefs.

    A 1926 English translation of the Song, by T.K. Joseph, has been published in 1931 by Fr. Hosten s.j., reproduced in the Nazranies, p.520 ff. Fr. Bernard T. O. C. D. gives the Malayalam version, Pala, 1916.
    Excellent English translations of many of the songs are given by Anantha Krishna Ayyar in his famous Anthropology of the Syrian Christians, Ernakulam, 1926. This portion is reproduced in the ICHC I, pp. 485–508. For the Malayalam see P. U. Lucas, Kottayam, 1910, reprinted in Purathanappattukal by Jacob Vellian and Cummar Choondal, Kottayam, 1980.
    Ibid.

  25. kunjethy says

    GRANITE OBJECTS IN KERALA CHURCHES: An Investigation into their Distribution, Antiquity, and Significance.
    Paper presented by Prof. George MENACHERY, LIRC, Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, October 19-21, 2004.

    Indigenous advances in archaeology , numismatics , anthropology , epigraphy , geography and ocean studies , geology , art, architecture,culture, literature , folk arts, place name studies , etc. in recent years have shed considerable new light on the origins and situation of early Christianity in Kerala and as such serve scholars as meagrely used but excellent resource tools for Kerala historical studies in general and Thomas Christian studies in particular . Perhaps this is the place where we might once again stress the importance of the study of local history , and the necessity for following an interdisciplinary approach, and for publishing scholarly findings in Malayalam and in the popular media for the ordinary Nazraney who is only too eager and extremely enthusiastic to learn about one’s own roots, and stress also the compulsions of modern Kerala society where it is necessary and even essential to collaborate with secular scholars even in the investigation of matters relating solely to Church History, Art, or Culture .

    Rock Objects in Kerala Churches:
    The present paper is an attempt to survey examples of rock-work in the art and architecture of the churches of Kerala in the light of recent studies and surveys, and to essay their significance for the study of Kerala history and culture. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India , Vol.II, April 1973, (hereafter STCEI II), and the Indian Church History Classics , Vol.I (i.e. The Nazranies), January 1998, (hereafter ICHC I) may be consulted for some one thousand illustrations, a large number of which bearing on Christian art and architecture in India . In those volumes there are scores of pictures of rock objects from churches. Rock art in churches, represented by the Nazraney Sthambam or rock obelisk cross, the rock Deepa Sthambam, or lamp-stand, rock pedestal of the copper-sheathed Dwaja Sthambam or Kodimaram /flagstaff, are all found in front of the typical early Nazraney churches. There is also the exquisitely carved baptismal font or Mammodisakkallu in the baptistery, often situated at the west end of the nave, immediately after the portico or Mukhamandapam, beyond the main door called in Malayalam Aanavathil, which last often with granite doorposts and architraves. (However of late, especially in the west-Syriac tradition of Kerala, the baptismal fonts are to be seen near the altar to the right of the congregation, in keeping with the universal trend,where more and more Churches are allowing unbaptised persons to come near the altar.) True, these objects will only cover the front courtyard of the church and just take us beyond the threshold of the nave into the baptistery; but then we must stop with that for the present; although there are also a few statues, doorposts, Gopurams, pillars and tablets with reliefs, and architraves all in stone which deserve our attention.

    Flights of Rock Steps:

    Places of worship in Kerala as in many other climes were generally constructed on hilltops or the highest available spot in a locality, except of course those on the sea-coast and river banks. It is found that the reputedly earliest churches were on the sea shore, or on the shore of the lakes or Kayals and rivers. Later churches were constructed in the interior at High Places. People reached these places of worship navigating the steep slopes, afterwards replaced by granite steps. The Thrissur Vadakkunnathan temple of Pooram fame is still reached by climbing the slopes,
    but most churches today have constructed granite flights of steps and side roads leading to them. The churches at Ollur, Kuravilangad, Uzhavoor, Parappur, Ramapuram, Kaduthuruthy (both churches), Kottayam (Valiya Palli), Palai (Old Cathedral), Parel, and Changanassery are reached by going up the flight of rock steps or Nadakkallus. There are many churches with Sopanams with balustrade like handrails on either side or without those handrails, all carved out of rock (e.g. at Parur and Kothamangalam. By the way the Parur Sopanam, at least one of the carved hand rails, was seen last week in a broken condition!)

    There are three striking objects of significance in front of the typical Malabar churches, either inside the courtyard or just outside it: the open-air granite (rock) cross which the present writer has christened Nazareney Sthambam; the Dwaja Sthambam or flag-staff made of Kerala’s famed teak wood (e.g. at Parur), and often enclosed in copper sheaths / hoses or Paras (as at Changanassery, Pulinkunnu, or Chambakkulam), or made out of some other timber or other material; the Deepa Sthambam in granite as at Kundra, Kallooppara, Chengannur, and Niranam. Sthambams or pillars of some type or other are to be found among the Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, etc. in India. Such pillars and structures were part of the Christian heritage of Kerala much before the ascendancy of Vedic Hinduism in these parts, although James Fergusson either did not
    know or did not care about these .

    Rock Crosses:
    The open-air rock-cross of Malabar is an obelisk, a tall stone column, with four, sometimes decorated, but without inscriptions,slightly tapering sides, with arms added. Rome has many obelisks (from Egypt and the East) which have been sometimes made into cross-bearing structures decorating the piazzas and squares (e.g. in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Others are near the Lateran , in the Piazza dell’ Esquilino , in Piazza dei Cinquecento , in the Piazza del Quirinale , near the Piazza di Spagna ( near the Propaganda Fide) , near the Piazza del Popolo , near the Piazzo di Montecitorio , and in the Piazza Minerva .

    London has one on the banks of the Thames (Cleopatra’s Needle) as one gets down from the Houses of Parliament; Paris has one at the place d’ la Concorde; and even New York has one in the central park. Many memorials like the Washington Memorial are obelisk-shaped. The Asoka Pillar and other such Indian pillars must have been inspired by the Graeco-Parthians, under Egyptian-Persian influence. The Nazraney Sthambam is a direct descendant of the obelisk, and much closer to it than the other Indian pillars – in shape, method of construction and transportation, method of erection, function, and solar symbolism. The Roman obelisk, bearing crosses today, have been converted to Christianity, while Kerala’s cross-shaped obelisks were born Christian . The obelus and the double-dagger reference marks in printing may be profitably recalled here. The Celtic rock crosses with their peculiar shape and intricate carvings are in another category.

    The three-tier gabled indigenous architecture of Kerala churches , which lacked facades until the coming of the Portuguese, immensely gains in richness, symmetry, and beauty because of the open-air rock crosses, some of them more than 35 feet in height including the intricately carved pedestals, and monolithic shafts. No other community in Kerala has such a huge monumental stone structure, and no other Christianity has such a universal and huge emblem in front of the churches, except the obelisks of the Vatican and Rome which of course were not originally Christian symbols, but were later Christianized by the addition of crosses at their top . The indoor counterparts of these open air crosses have the earliest carvings in Kerala of the national flower lotus and the national bird peacock. Perhaps even the national animal tiger is first depicted in Kerala art in church sculpture. It has been said that there existed no rock carving in South India prior to the period of these indoor crosses . The motifs, message, and images on these crosses and their pedestals display a remarkable degree of Indianness and Malayalee Thanima or identity. Vedic Hindu Gods and Goddesses like Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Sapthamathas, Jeshta etc. appear in the art of the central Guruvayoor/Palayoor-Quilon part of Chera country only after the 11th-13th centuries, and even in the Salem-Erode section, and the Trivandrum-Cape Comorin section Vedic Hindu deities appear in art only as late as the 9th century A.D.

    The rock open-air cross employs three sets of sockets and cylinders. The base with a socket (cavity), the monolithic square and slightly tapering shaft with cylindrical terminals to fit the sockets, the horizontal piece forming the arms with a double socket (one cavity above and one below) in the middle, and the capital with a cylindrical bottom end are the four members of the open air cross . They are so well chiselled and
    proportionate that when put together the socket and cylinder arrangement enables the cross to stand all by itself. However for the bigger crosses, pedestals – in the form of sacrificial altars or Balikallus – are found, often carrying exquisite reliefs of the flora and fauna of the land in addition to scenes from the daily life of the early Keralites and biblical scenes. The cross representing the supreme Bali (sacrifice) or Mahabali appearing on the Balikkallu most appropriately represents the Calvary events and sheds plenty of light on the ideological, historical, theological, cultural and technological bent of mind of the forefathers. Compare with the base of the Obelisk of Theodosius, Constantinople, A.D.390.

    The Obelisk and the Rock Cross:

    The obelisk is a ray of the sun – here a ray of Christ (of Horus – Xt. the sun-God). This ray helps the lotus near – universally depicted on such crosses to blossom forth representing in a typical Indian poetic conceit the grace received by the sin – bound human soul (panka – jam) from Christ. Lotus, representing the sun is found in other early Indian art also. The Buddhist Padmapada concept also comes to mind. The half dozen
    interior Pehlevi inscribed crosses, some of them undoubtedly of at least pre 7th century origin, which were mostly tombstones before they were put up on the altars , have generally the dove (Holy Spirit) depicted on top of the clover or flower tipped equal-armed Greek cross, in addition to the lotus at the bottom .

    In the three piece (Thri-kanda) Pehlavi cross one might, perhaps, with considerable effort read the lotus represented Brahma (Father), Vishnu, and Shiva. The arrangement to hold wicks found on the open air crosses may be related to the preservation of fire, and the effort to make it available to the common people in the dim past, when Homakundams were rare in Kerala or beyond the reach of the common folk. It is perhaps in connection with the need to preserve fire that the oil-Nerchas and oil Araas of the churches, and the compound – wall rock lamps are to be evaluated.The oil related objects in the churches also indicate the connection of this Christianity with the trade of the land, especially oil-trade. The bell like arrangement on some crosses also is noteworthy. Veneration of the cross, angels, Adam and Eve… and of course the Indian Cross itself are some of the notable religious carvings on these structures.

    Deepa Sthambam:

    The square or polygonal shape of the individual pieces in the granite or rock lamp stands at Kallooppara, Kundra, and Chengannur indicate the antiquity of such lamp stands in the churches. Unlike in the churches, in the temples, the tradition of these lamps continued and thus developed into the present-day round shape of the pieces. In art history generally the simpler forms make their appearance first, and refinements and complications indicate a later date. Even when the tradition of lampstands declined in the churches, many open-air crosses had wick holders incorporated into them, with the advantage that wind and rain do not put off the flames. Church walls still display rows of rock lamps (Kanjoor, Angamaly, Ollur). Inside the churches the tradition of bronze lamps continued vigorously, many churches still displaying rows of bronze lamps, representing a variety of shapes and types, and some lamps having even hundreds of wick holders, e.g. the Aayiram Aalila lamps at Arthat, Akapparambu, or Angamaly. The lamp, be it in bronze or rock, represents Christ who is light, as does the rock cross which is a ray of the Sun or Christ shining from the East.

    Dwaja – Sthambam:

    In front of the church the third interesting object is the flagstaff, sometimes covered with copper Paras. Every festival is announced with the Kodiyettu or flag-hoisting, a tradition going back to early Buddhist times at least. The flag-staff at times has a carved rock pedestal. All these three objects in the courtyard of the church have a variety of liturgical functions associated with them, into which we are not entering at present .

    Granite / Stone Baptismal Fonts:

    Let us now climb and go across the portico and enter the Haikala or nave beyond the Aanavathil to look at the rock baptismal font in the baptistery. As we enter the church the huge doorways flaunting Aanavathils or elephantine doors or door for elephants have Architraves and doorposts displaying good examples of south Indian rock-carving. (E.g. old Kayamkulam, Chengannur, Kanjoor). But the rock-baptismal fonts are the real pride of many an old church.

    There are interesting rock baptismal fonts at Edappally, Kanjoor, Mylakkombu, Muthalakkodam, Changanassery, Kothamangalam, Kadamattom etc. The similarity of these baptismal fonts with illustrations of the fonts used for the baptism of Constantine (4thC.) and Clovis (Rheims c.496) is remarkable. All the old baptismal fonts are of granite or very hard laterite. They are all huge in size indicating that baptism by immersion could have been the order of the day. Most of the old baptismal fonts depicted in the STCEI II & the ICHC I were probably of a date prior to or very near the promulgation of the decrees of the Synod of Diamper which made permanent fonts more or less compulsory. Although most of the old baptismal fonts/ baptisteries are found near the west end or middle of the nave on the northern side – Kaduthuruthy (Big), old Edappally, old Kanjoor, Changanassery (Southern side), in many churches, mostly Jacobite/Orthodox they are found today close to the sanctum sanctorum e.g. Angamaly (Middle-church), Kallooppara. They are exquisitely carved with reliefs of the baptism of Christ, Mary feeding the Child, angels, Indian crosses, etc. There are also wonderful motifs of leaves, the basket pattern, coir pattern, etc. engraved on these stones. By the way the very Malayalam word Mammodisakkallu indicates a font made of stone. Another term is Mammodisath-thotti. The Holy Water Font is called Annavella Thotti also often in stone.

    [Here permit us by way of digression to mention a word about Asoka the Great and Taxila the major source of Indian sculptural tradition, other than Mathura. Alexander the Great and his general Selucus both westerners were in Takshashila or cut stone (Taxila) in Gandhara, the land of Gandhari and Shakuni on the banks of the Indus, before the architect and builder Thomas arrived in those parts. The daughter of Selucus supposedly married Chandra Gupta Maurya. Their (?) son Bimbisara was the father of Ashoka the Great. Was Ashoka a foreigner? Until James Pincep deciphered the writings on an Ashoka Pillar in the 19th century, our knowledge even of this great Indian emperor was minimal. Compared to this our knowledge of Apostle

    Thomas’ Indian sojourn must be considered quite
    adequate. But that is another story.]

    The national emblem of India is derived from one of the Ashoka pillars. One can see this emblem of four lions and the wheel on any Indian currency note in one’s pocket. Those lions of Ashoka roared not in hostility but in love. The roar of these four lions for love we next hear from the amazingly attractive ancient rock baptismal fonts of Malabar, at Edappally, Kanjoor, and elsewhere. These four lions support the hemispherical basin of the font, as the Ashoka lions were supporting a globe, in the very same manner in which the Egyptian obelisks were supporting the shining disk of the Sun. But in the midst of our other interests we failed to give our ears to these voices and to preserve these great Malabar lions, an endangered species, indeed, in our own midst. For at Edappally e.g. the stone baptismal font was dismantled into three pieces and strewn about the courtyard of the church, at the mercy of the innumerable pilgrims and pick-pockets frequenting the spot. At Angamaly one could still see (i. e. before the huge new church was built) the old baptismal font in many pieces near the priests’ kitchen. In Punnathra the font is used to collect rain-water, a euphemism this writer has been using for a salty human out – pouring. At Kudamaloor in 1970 to photograph the font once used to baptize the Blessed Sr. Alphonsa this writer had to rescue it from the many layers of plaster on the wall. This list it is not necessary to prolong. Cry, the beloved country. font>

    Antiquity and Significance

    Although to investigate the antiquity of art objects in Kerala is a complicated exercise, and a discussion of their significance is even more tricky, let us proceed with some observations here in this regard, most of which have already been made from time to time, in one form or other, by the present writer, hoping that others would travel farther along these and other roads, and would indeed find better paths…… As the time and space allotted this paper have long been overrun we will have to be content with a few pointers only.

    A schoolboy definition of philosophy is “the contemplation of the unknown”. And theology thus becomes the contemplation of (the unknown) divine. What follows is merely some stray thoughts on the antiquity and significance of the rock objects in the churches of Kerala.

    The Unique Place of the Cross in Kerala

    The ubiquitous cross of Malabar churches is best represented by the rock crosses, mostly outside the churches. This open-air granite cross is the central point of many liturgical observations and ceremonies and processions. Festival related and liturgical processions in Malabar are of at least four kinds: certain Pradakshinams or processions starting near the altar end at the Mukhamandapam or portico of the church; many others, importantly, enter the courtyard and go round the rock cross, others go round the church, still others wind along the valley-roads and Angadies surrounding the church-hill, commencing and concluding at the foot of the rock-cross. In every procession processional crosses occupy places of honour. In funeral processions also the cross is at the forefront of the procession.

    The Kerala Christian gets up in the morning making the sign of the cross, and goes to bed making the sign of the cross. Not only that. The night prayer before going to bed “Yudanmarude Raajavaaya Nazraayakkaaran Ishoye” is a translation of the INRI on the cross of Jesus. The sign of the cross is made at the four ends of the bed before retiring at night. The sign of the cross is made on doors and entrances with the ash on Ash Wednesday, now Ash Monday. The Way of the Cross is a favorite devotion of the Malayalee.

    St. Thomas is the Old Man of the Cross or Kurishumuthappan. Wayside chapels are Kurisu Pallies. There are large numbers of crosses in gold and silver and other metals and in wood and cloth and paintand ivory and every other imaginable medium in every church. There are crosses adorning the triple facades of the churches or triple Monthayams. The cross and the crucifix are to be seen everywhere in the churches. The cross is the symbol of Christianity in Kerala, especially when it is recalled that there were no images other than the cross in Kerala churches before the advent of the Portuguese.

    Another Significance

    Tree worship, characteristic of pre-historic, primitive, and aboriginal communities must have been common at the time of the arrival of St. Thomas in India. Sangham literature has many descriptions of kings, especially the Moovarachars – the Cheran, the Cholan, and the Pandyan – planting, nourishing, and celebrating their own dynastic trees, and of cutting down and destroying the sacred trees of the enemy . The tree, like the pole and the tower represents the axis mundi and connects heaven and earth, and sometimes even hell . The sacralisation of a spot was often achieved by the planting of a tree like Arayal, or the setting up of a stone, or the building up of a tower – as the means of communication between man and the divine, between earth and heaven. This idea is perhaps well represented in the obelisk and in the open-air rock cross of Kerala. Before a place could be inhabited it must be created and the establishment of the cross creates sacred space, around which people could stay and live. Was this the meaning behind Thomas the Kurisu Muthappan, and Sapor and Proth the Kandeesangal planting crosses all over the place, initiating Chrstian places of residence and commencing Christian Congregations and Communities.

    Certain other ideas which could be read into the rock objects have already been mentioned in this paper, and as such are not being gone into again.

    Procedures for assessing Antiquity

    How old are the rock objects in the Kerala churches? Have their antiquity been measured scientifically? What are some of the means at our disposal to measure the antiquity of these objects? These are a few questions which ought to be discussed.

    As the maximum possible age of Christian artefacts cannot be more than two millennia, and will be in most cases only 1500, 1000, or even less years, certain kinds of scientific tests could not be conducted with any hope of obtaining reliable results even were the necessary facilities available here for conducting such investigations. The possible lack of the presence of organic material (such as wood, bone, charcoal) on these objects has been pointed out by certain archaeologists and associated scientists as reasons for the inability to precisely fix the dates of such objects . However it may be possible to get better results in the future if experiments could be conducted with international collaboration. However the State and Central governments and departments of archaeology must have a positive approach to these studies.

    One of the methods used today is based on typology. Using this method Kerala archaeological departments and archaeologists and historians associated with the study of Kerala artefacts have come to the conclusion that the Pehlevi crosses are most probably of a period between 3rd and 7th centuries, although some of these crosses are replicas of the earlier crosses and hence might belong to the 9th or 10th centuries. While a member of the Archaeology Advisory Board of the Government of Kerala (1975 – 1982) this writer had many opportunities to discuss these matters with archaeologists from India, and also with archaeologists in Britain, Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere during wanderings abroad, and their views have helped to formulate these tentative conclusions, although final conclusions could be arrived at only after more systematic consultations.

    The history of the royal Sassanid language provides another clue. The Sassanid,the dynasty that ruled Persia from 226 to 641 CE. had Pehlevi (Pahlavi in Parthian) for their official language. Since the language itself ceased to exist soon after the decline and fall of the Sassanid dynasty around mid 7th century original objects with the script could not be later than say 4th or 5th century CE. Hence the Pehlevi crosses could not be later than the 7th century at the latest.

    There are listed in the Diocesan Directories and elsewhere the accepted dates for the establishment of the various churches in Kerala. Choosing only the pre-Diamper (i.e. 16th C. and earlier) churches mentioned in the Malayalam records of the Synod and Gouvea’s Jornada , the churches founded in different centuries could be chronologically classified . Also each Malabar church acknowledges a mother church; by going from mother church to mother church until arriving at the first seven churches the chronological position of a church could be decided vis-à-vis other churches . This will help decide the approximate date of the church.

    The copper plate grants, the rock inscriptions, the wooden beam inscriptions, the Granthavaris, the statements of missionaries and travellers, folklore, the Song of Thomas Ramban , Margam Kali Pattukal , Pallippattukal , Kurishinte Pattukal etc. also have clues to the establishment of churches, and directly or indirectly to the establishment of the Rock Crosses &c. All these aids must be intelligently utilized to decide the dates of the rock objects in churches.

    The tools are there, the persons are there, only our firm will is required to compile an authentic history of our land and our Church. Let us wish ourselves Good Luck!

    ==============================
    Dates of Churches: from those dates, Contents page of Pallikkalakalum Mattum, KHA paper repro. In PalliKK…, Shadabdhi Smaranika..

    Kurishu and kurishumuthappan,
    Typology…
    Pehlavi Crosses….
    Diamper and Baptismal fonts…
    72 privileges…
    In every metal, wood, clothe, ….
    Kurishupalli, kurishadi, kurishu Varakkuka, Edges of bed, INRI at bed time prayer,
    Axis Mundi, Centre of the world, Hierophany, Sacred space, Near sacred space, Eliade, Coomaraswamy, Eluvathingal,…
    Jyothi Sahi..
    Theology of the cross..
    Mahabali..
    Panka-Jam..
    Veneration of the cross everywhere…
    ======================================

    A recent instance is the discovery of a large selection of artefacts such as a Chera coin with elephant, ankusha, bow & arrow of the 1st. century CE, a portion of an amphora, shards of pottery, bricks used in construction, ringwells, beads, rouletted ware, b&w ware… all from the early historical layer during excavations conducted by Dr. Shajan and Dr. Selvakumar at Pattanam near Parur on the south bank of the present Periyar river, a few miles to the south of Kodungallur. Roberta Tomber of the University of Southamton, Dr. M.G.S Narayanan, Dr. P.J.Cherian and many others believe that this was the site of the ancient Muziris of the first century Greek and Roman writers. Cf. their papers presented at the seminar conducted by the Kerala Historical Research Society, Sahitya Academy, Trichur. Also see the Administration Reports of the Royal Cochin Archaeologists, Rama Pishariti and Anujan Achan for pre-independence years, reprinted in George Menachery, ed. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Trichur, 1973, left col.,p.53 to right col., p.159. Cf. “Numismatics at the Service of Historical Research,” papers presented by G. Menachery at the Madras and Karur congresses of the Numismatic Society of Tamilnadu and at the Thrissur, Kanyakumari, and Veliyanad conferences of the Numismatic Society of South India. Some of these papers may be read in the issues of the HARP, Kottayam (Ed. Dr. Jacob Thekkepparambil); The St. Thomas Christians Journal,Rajkot (Ed. Bp. Gregory Karotemprel); and the many issues of the electronic journal ‘Light of Life,’ 2003 – 2004, New York, N.Y. One such work is the ‘Anthropology of the Syrian Christians’, L. K. Anantha Krishna Ayyar, 1926, Ernakulam portions from which have been reprinted in ICHC I, pp. 485 et. sq. The excellent translations of the Tharisappalli Christian plates of 849 CE and the Jewish plates in Cultural Symbiosis, M. G. S. Narayanan, Kerala Society Papers, 1972 are essential tools for all students of Early medieval Kerala history and culture. See “Roads to India,” article by Maggie G. Menachery in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, II,Trichur, 1973, Ed. G. Menachery. This topic is elaborately treated in Chapter I of Kodungallur:.. G. Menachery and W. Chakkalakkal, 1987,(reprint 2000), Azhikode. A. C. Perumalil SJ, The Apostles in India, Fact or Fiction?, 1952, Patna elaborately deals with the first century Roman and Greek contacts with India and Kerala. K. S. Matthew and collaborators have much on early and middle second millennium ocean trade. The tectonic plate below the area from Palayoor to Parur is supposed to be the largest one in Kerala and as such earthquakes &c. were quite rare in this area, helping the development of a continuous civilization here, giving birth to the growth of Muziris and other famous international trade centres down the centuries. Cf. Menachery, notes to Chapter I of Kodungallur: above. The Malayalee ought to study the Sangham literature with some enthusiasm as it is the common heritage of all South Indians. The reluctance of certain historians and authors, especially of the secular historians and scholars of Kerala , to refer to the Sangham literature is somewhat beyond one’s comprehension. The neglect especially of the beautiful lines of the Aka-nanooru, the Pura-Nanooru and the Pathittuppathu has no justification except the prejudices of such persons. How come the avoidance of passages from the Sangham literature in the text books of Kerala? The mysterious loss of the first and tenth Pathu of the Pathittuppathu must be more vigorously investigated. Each of the place names in the Palayur area f.i., such as Chowghat (Shapakkadu), Orumanayoor, Puthumanassery, Arthat, Chemmanur carry some historical significance and as such ought to be scrutinized by the student of Kerala history. Cf. G. Menachery, Aashamsa, in Chemmannur Kudumba Charithram by Major Cherunny, Guruvayur, 1999. The many efforts to throw light on Kerala historical problems from an investigation of local history and folklore must be enthusiastically encouraged. See “Introduction,” G. Menachery, in George Emmatty, “Kuttikalkku Kerala Charithram,” 2003, H & C Publishing House, Thrissur.

    For more thoughts on these aspects of Syrian Christian historical and cultural studies the curious may refer among other sources the many end-notes by this writer in Chapters I and II of George Menachery & W. Chakkalakkal, Kodungallur: City of St. Thomas, 1987 (reprinted as Kodungallur: Cradle of Christianity in India, 2000), Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, Azhikode. Certain efforts have been made to utilise the expertise of secular scholars and institutions in these fields by conducting seminars, workshops, courses of lectures &c. on related areas by the Institute for Lay Leadership Training, (Estd. 1967) Thrissur; LRC, Kakkanad; Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, etc. For more references also see “Introduction” by the present writer in ‘Angamaly Rekhakal’(Malayalam, = Angamaly Documents) by Varghese Angamaly and Jomon Thachil, Merit Books, Cochin, 2002; “Introduction” by G. Menachery, in Dalitbandhu N. K. Jose, “Adisthana Keralam,” Vaikom, 2001; introductory article “Kerala Patanathinu Oru Kaivilakku” by G. Menachery in The ‘Naalagamam of Palakkunnel Valiachan,’ Alleppy, 2001 &c. The museums set up / being set up at Mt. St. Thomas, Kakkanatt; Bishop’s House garden, Cochin; Jeevass, Alwaye; Palai; Ernakulam as well as the exhibits from the Christian Cultural Museum of Trichur (1980) now being displayed at the Palayur Museum could shed considerable light on these aspects of the question. The lists of exhibits at the Christian Cultural Pavilion, Kanakakkunnu, Trivandrum (First World Malayalam Conference), 1977; Christian Cultural Exhibition, Trichur Pooram Exhibition, 1978; Christian Cultural Exhibition, Malankara Golden Jubilee Celebrations, SEERI, Kottayam, 1980 also may be helpful here (Pallikkalakalum Mattum, G. Menachery, Eiffel books, Trichur, 1984).
    Including historical and even quasi-historical studies, works, “souvenirs” &c. on families (e.g. Kudumba Charithram), churches (e. g. Palli Mahathmyam), parishes, places (e. g. Sthala Puranam), persons (autobiographies, biographies), institutional and organizational commemoration volumes.
    The popularity of the many Christian historical and cultural museums and exhibitions is an indication of this.The huge crowds of lakhs and lakhs of people who enthusiastically assembled and exuberantly cheered the 1983 Cultural Rally and the 2004 CBCI Conference Historico-Cultural Programme at Thrissur were quite heartening. As these ideas have more than once been expressed from this very platform it is not perhaps necessary to go into that again. And the good news is that already substantial steps have been taken in this direction at least in a few quarters. Cf. f. i. the LIRC publications Ed. Dr. Bosco Puthur containing the proceedings of the Pre-Diamper Seminar and the Seminar on Brahmins, Jews, and the Sangham.

    Published from Trichur,Ed. G. Menachery.
    Published from Ollur, Ed. G. Menachery.
    The Diocesan Centenary Celebrations Volume of Trichur “Shadabdhi Smaranika” (1987-91) has some two hundred related pictures. The Kanjirappilly Diocese has published an interesting volume of text and pictures. The Kottayam Diocese has a number of publications in the field to its credit. The Ollur Forane Church St. Anthony Octingenary Celebrations Souvenir (1996) has dozens of pictures. Of late many other dioceses and parishes have published useful works with quality visuals. Naturally, concerning recent works, one could speak of only those works which have come to one’s attention.
    “Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala,“ paper by G. Menachery, World Syriac Conference, SEERI, 2002, published in the HARP and afterwards in the St. Thomas Christians Journal and recently in the Light of Life.
    James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern
    Architecture, London, 1876, passim.
    135 ft., brought from Heliopolis in 37 A.D. Sixtus V ordered its placement before the basilica, employing it is said 900 men, 150 horses, and 47 cranes for the operation.
    Oldest obelisk in Rome ( from Thebes, 15th C. BCE) brought by Constantius II,357.
    Set up here by Sixtus V in 1587. 48 ft.
    Incorporated into the monument for the 500 Italian soldiers fallen at Dogali.
    Shifted to this spot by Pius VI in 1786 only. 47.5 ft.
    The hieroglyphics were incised after bringing to Rome.
    78.5 ft. Augustus brought it to Rome from Heliopolis and was dedicated to the sun. Most obelisks have various sun connections.
    72.5ft. high. Brought to Rome by Augustus to celebrate his victory over Cleopatra.
    The hieroglyphic on this small obelisk relates to the last
    of the independent Pharaohs, ally of Zedekiah the last king of Judah in the Bible.
    G. Menachery,1975 & 1978 in the course of
    interviews at Rome broadcast by Radio Vatican.
    Cf. Article “Kerala Church Architecture” by Andrews Athapilly in the STCEI II, 1973; and “Thomas Christian Architecture” by E. J. James Menachery in the same.
    With their typical three tiered gabled roofing, which is the harmonious blending of the Kazhukkol, Vala, Sheelanthi, Thulam, Monthayam,and Pattika, reflecting the great skill of the Kerala Moothasari or carpenter.
    Vide notes 17 to 26 supra.
    The Pallava rock carvings of Mahabalipuram are either posterior to or contemporary with the Pehlevi crosses. In any case in Kerala no rock carvings have been noticed before these Pehlevi crosses.
    K. V. Soundara Rajan, Art of South India: Tamil
    Nadu and Kerala, Delhi, 1978.
    Aja – Eka Paada: – Thonda Mandalam, 8th C.; Chola
    Mandalam, 11th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 13 th C.; Kongu –
    Chera Nadu, -.
    Ananthashaayi:- Thonda Mandalam, 6th C.; Chola
    Mandalam, 5th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 8 th C.; Kongu –
    Chera Nadu, 8th C.
    Ardhanaari:- Thonda Mandalam, 7th C.; Chola Mandalam,
    9th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 13 th C.; Kongu – Chera Nadu,
    9th- 10th C.
    DakshinaaMoorthy:- 7; 9; 9; c.8.
    Ganesha:- 8; 8; 7; c.8.
    Harihara:- 8; -; 8; 11.
    Jvarahareshwara:- 10; -; 9; 13.
    Jeshta:- 8; 9; 8; 11.
    Lingotbhava:- 8; 8; 8; after 11.
    Sapthamatha:- 8; 9; 8; 14.
    Thrimoorthi:- 8; -; 8; 8.
    This socket and cylinder arrangement of the rock crosses can be easily studied if one examines the recently discovered pieces of the rock cross at the Changanassery Cathedral Cemetery or the pieces in the Eastern church compound at Angamaly. In spite of requesting the church and convent at least a dozen times from 1971 to 2004 the pieces of the rock cross at Angamaly are still in a discarded condition there, approachable only in the hot summer when the grass withers away or when the snakes take a holiday.
    In 1980 while establishing the Christian Cultural
    Museum, Lourdes Cathedral, Trichur the present writer
    came across all four pieces of a granite open
    air cross underground in the sandy compound surrounding the
    Enammavu Church (c. 500 CE). This was taken to the Cathedral on the eve of the inauguration of the Museum. Other office bearers of the Museum Committee, including its
    chairman who was the V.G. of Trichur then, waited with many bags of cement and two masons and helpers to put up the
    cross in front of the Museum. But when the four pieces
    were unloaded from the truck and put in place
    utilizing the sockets and cylinders carved out on the
    pieces the cross stood by itself sans aid of mortar or mason! Such experiences enabled the writer, when he was shown three pieces of the fallen cross collected at the Changanassery Cathedral Cemetery a few years ago by the Cathedral Vicar, to request him to look for a fourth piece, which was eventually discovered as a result of the old vicar’s search. The discovery by this writer of pieces of a cross submerged in mud at Kalpparambu (1978?) led to its re-erection, once again providing the writer a chance to study the techniques employed in carving such crosses.
    These are the aspects which should have been discussed in detail in connection with the significance of the rock objects had we not already hugely exceeded the allotted time and space. The discovery of the St. Thomas Mount ‘bleeding cross’ while digging the premises is well known. The Alangad cross (see picture and description in ICHC I, Ollur, Jan. 1998, p. 576 reproduced from the Light from the East, Chicago Bi-Monthly, 1953 with the caption: ‘Persian Cross on tomb of Mar Jacob, Alangatt, India’.) remained for very long in the cemetery. The size and inscriptions on the other such crosses also show that they were tombstones before they were removed to the altar / wall. The ‘Tree of Life’ theory and the ‘Great Rivers’ theory can hardly hold water archaeologically and sculpturally in the case of the vast majority of rock crosses where the lotus or the Pookkallu of the Kerala sculptor is only too well depicted, and finds comparison with the lotus on the Balikkallus of temples. But in theological and theoretical interpretations such ideas can perhaps help. Cf. unpublished doctoral thesis “Thomas Christian Architecture,” by Dr. E. J. James, Calcutta University, 1980. Also his article on the same topic in the STCEI,II, 1973 and the unpublished doctoral thesis on Nazraney culture submitted by Ms. Joicy James Menachery, Mysore University, 2004. In Pathittuppathu, Second Pathu, Pattu One, the tree of protection of the enemy Poonkkadambu is cut off at the king’s command. In his introduction to Pathittuppathu G. Vaidyanatha Iyer speaks of this custom, p.xvi (Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1961).Similarly in his introduction to Puranaanooru P. R. Parameswaran Pillai also speaks in detail of this custom, p.xxxii (Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1969). The tree of protection or the tree of victory was generally Venga, Punna, Veppu, etc. Also cf. James Fergusson, Tree Worship.

    The idea of axis mundi as understood by various peoples is elaborated by Mircea Eliade in his Encyclopaedia of Religions and elsewhere in his Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (trans. from the French , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959 &c.) and in his Sacred and the Profane : The Nature of Religion, (trans. from the French , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959 &c.)and his many other books and articles such as Pattern in Comparative
    Religion (trans. Rosemary Sheed, Sheed and Ward, London and New York). Mircea Eliade’s thoughts were unknown to me, and
    his works could not be found in the libraries of even some major seminaries. However after being introduced to the wealth of his thoughts by Fr. Elavathingal I have become an addict of his works. I find Jyothi Sahi and others greatly influenced by these thoughts ( e.g. Holy Ground, Jyothi Sahi, Pace, 1998). Another writer who should be the constant companion of the student of Indian and Indian Christian art is Ananda Coomaraswamy (e.g. Art and Swadeshi, Ganesh and Co., Madras). There are a number of old editions of books by Coomaraswamy in the Public Library, Trichur and elsewhere in many of the major seminaries.
    Finally the attention of the listener is drawn to Anthony Kalliath, “Paths of Contextualising Indian Spirituality”
    in Christian Contribution to Nation Building: A Third Millennium Enquiry, Ed. S. Ponnumuthen, CBCI-KCBC, Alwaye, 2004, esp. pp. 193-194 and related notes.
    Vide note 40 above.
    See note 40 above. Space does not permit us to go into the details of these observations. May be another time.
    Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years—i.e., half the amount of the radioisotope present at any given time will undergo spontaneous disintegration during the succeeding 5,730 years. Basically this means that half of the original amount of C14 in organic matter will have disintegrated 5730 years after the organism’s death; half of the remaining C14 will have disintegrated after another 5730 years and so forth. After about 50,000 years, the amount of C14 remaining will be so small that the fossil can’t be dated reliably. Under optimum conditions it has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.
    In f.i. Scaria Zacharia, Udayamperur Soonnahadosinte Kanonakal, Edamattam, 1998; Samuel Chandanappally,
    Christian Culture (Mal.), Kottayam, 1979.
    Gouvea, Jornada, Coimbra, 1606; in English Geddes, London, 1694 (fully reproduced in ICHC I, 1978). Recently LIRC has published a new translation of the Jornada by Pius Malekandathil.
    Cf. the paper on “Sculptures of Kerala”, G. Menachery,
    Kerala History Association, Ernakulam, 1983 where churches founded in each century from the Ernakulam area are listed: Akapparambu (16th Century), Kudavechoor (15th C.), Koratty (14), Chendamangalam (13), Chowara (12), Kanjoor (11), Vadayar (10), South Paravur (9), Moozhikkalam (7), Udayanperur (6th C.), Angamaly (5th Century), and Ambazhakkad in the 4th Century.

    Another approach is seen in G. Menachery, Kodungallur… 1987 (p. 41 ff. of 2000 reprint): Take one particular instance: The church at Ollur near Trichur used to be one of the wealthiest in the whole of Kerala. This church was founded only in 1718, one of the first important churches established after 1599. Before 1718 the people of Ollur used to go to Pazhuvil church for Mass, which Church was founded in 960. Before that, tradition Goes they used to go to Enammavu church founded in 500. The nearby Vadakkan Pudukkad church was founded in 400, separating from the Palayur church of 52 AD. What is important is that the people of all these places unanimously subscribed to the truth of the Chronology, although time has brought about great changes in the status of each place, and yet the traditions concerning the origin of each church is recognised by all the churches unanimously… “Thus these traditions have no less value than documents written on paper or stone.” The Shadabdi Smaranika of Trichur Diocese has a similar approach in one of the articles by G. Menachery, 1987, where the 19th section closes with the remark: That the followers of various faiths and castes of a land unanimously accept certain historical realities increase the credibility of such tradition based beliefs.

    A 1926 English translation of the Song, by T.K. Joseph, has been published in 1931 by Fr. Hosten s.j., reproduced in the Nazranies, p.520 ff. Fr. Bernard T. O. C. D. gives the Malayalam version, Pala, 1916.
    Excellent English translations of many of the songs are given by Anantha Krishna Ayyar in his famous Anthropology of the Syrian Christians, Ernakulam, 1926. This portion is reproduced in the ICHC I, pp. 485–508. For the Malayalam see P. U. Lucas, Kottayam, 1910, reprinted in Purathanappattukal by Jacob Vellian

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