Hindu Traditions of St. Thomas –Thondacchan and the Four Silver Coins

50
Hindu Traditions of St. Thomas –Thondacchan and the Four Silver Coins
4 (80%) 6 ratings

The worship of Thondachan, a Hindu family deity, by a particular lineage of Nairs (native martial clan) of Malabar, Kerala, and especially the manner and ritual of this worship is noteworthy. Though a family deity, Thondachan is never worshipped within the Nair household. Nor has this deity been ever given a berth among the pantheon of Hindu gods at any of the Hindu temples presided over by the Brahman priests (called Namboodiris).

Thondachan has a special altar built outside the Nair family compound, where non-Brahmin priests perform rituals. While Chaamundi, Vishnumoorthy, Pottan, Rakteshwari and Bhagavathi became the non-Aryan non-Brahmin deities for the village folk of Kolathunaad (an ancient province of North Kerala) along with other primitive spirits and folk-heroes, Thondachan has an even smaller following among a select Nair clan.

It is believed, that up to the present day, altars for Thondachan’s worship exists in the Cherukunnu area in Kannur (Cannanore) district, especially in the lands surrounding old tharavad houses (ancestral mansions) of the Nairs.

When Thomachan (the apostle St. Thomas, – achan, signifying ‘father’) came ashore, landing at Maliankara near Moothakunnam village in Paravoor Thaluk in AD 52, (this village located 5 kilometers from Cranganoor (Kodungallur), Muziris, on the coast of Kerala), some of his followers as well as other sailors and merchants were suffering from a severe form of scurvy. Thomachan himself suffered from a sore throat which he chose to ignore, and which grew steadily worse, until no voice emanated from his lips for many days.A local Jew named Matan took the weary travelers to a local Nair tharavad (locally known as Kambiam Vallapil), in the province of Kolathunaad, a territory comprising the present Cannanore District and Badagara Taluk of Kerala State.

It is said that at the time of Thomachan’s arrival at the Nair tharavad, the Nair karnavar (landlord or head of family) lay injured from a grievous wound that had been inflicted upon him in a feudal duel. Upon seeing this, Thomachan sat beside the injured man and meditated, laying his hands on the man’s head, his throat, his chest and his groin. Immediately the karnavar felt relieved from pain, and his healing was hastened. Within a day he was up and about, his wounds nearly healed.

In return, the Nair household offered shelter to the strangers and called upon their family physician to cure the scurvy that the travelers suffered from, as well as Thomachan’s severely infected throat. Nellikaya (Emblic Myrobalan or Indian Gooseberry) based potions prepared by the tharavad was used to cure the sea-worn voyagers. In an act of gratitude, Thomachan is said to have blessed them, and gave them four silver coins saying, ‘May these coins bestow my guru’s blessings upon you and your household, for take heed when I tell you that the money I pay you today is anointed with the blood of my guru’.

This holy man, Thomachan, is believed to have related a curious story to the members of the tharavad, which has been passed down the ages.Before he set sail from a seaport in the region called ‘Sanai’ somewhere in the western seas, he had witnessed the persecution of his guru, who was tortured and nailed to a wooden cross and left to die. He spoke of how his guru returned from his ordeals three days later, fully cured. His guru handed him the silver coins saying, ‘my body was sold with these, and now they have been returned to me, all thirty pieces. Put them to good use, as I have. Though you shall choose to travel by sea, I shall meet you again in the mountains of the land where you will finally arrive.’

The Nair tharavad later migrated further north to the Cherukunnu area of present day Kannur. They referred to the four silver pieces as ‘rakta velli’ (blood silver) or ‘parindhu velli’ (parindhu for eagle, as one face of all these four ancient coins bear the figure of an eagle). They also decided never to utilize the silver as it was the custom then not to part with the gift of a guest.

Over time, and with the advent of Christianity, the significance of the four silver coins received by the tharavad was understood, but family history is still obscure as to whether Thomachan possessed, or what he did with the remaining twenty-six pieces of silver his guru gave him.

This Nair family never converted to the Christian faith as did many others in that region. Subsequent migrations of Nair clans continued throughout history, but the story of the four rakta velli pieces was passed down the generations, as did their veneration for the holi sanyasi Thomachan, (later called Thondachan, a nickname perhaps coined from the story of his sore throat, -thonda for throat. Another story goes that the name Thondachan was adopted in the early 16th century to avoid persecution by the Portugese).Thus by a curious turn of events, the apostle St. Thomas was transformed into a Hindu deity for an ancient Nair clan of Kerala.

A present day member of this family is still in possession of the four pieces of silver. i have seen the four pieces and have identified them as the Shekels of Tyre, a common coinage of Judea of the time of Christ. Please see the links to the pictures of four coins.

This article is Paraphrasing of the article by Ms. Paula Gruber in Fathersofthechurch.com website from a visitor Justine.

Acknowledgements

1.Published in ,Fathersofthechurch website 2.Shekels pic  –Esnips1 – Esnips2

You might also like More from author

50 Comments

  1. Chris says

    Interesting.Can you put some pictures of the coins to further research on ?

  2. Kuruvilla says

    This is indeed a remarkable story!
    If true, and if it can be proved that the
    4 coins were really part of the 30 silver
    coins that constituted the reward for the
    betrayal of the Messiah, it would constitute
    a very major archaeological find!
    But how did Apostle Thomas get this?!
    Would some responsible archaeological agency
    be looking into confirming the genuineness
    of these coins? These could create waves in
    the archaeological world if they are proved
    genuine….!

  3. nasrani says

    We all at NSC Network shares the same view of Chris and Kuruvilla. We are looking for volunteers from our fraternity in Kannur area who can verify this and provide pictures of the coin.

    1. John Kayamkulam says

      A lot more information is now out there after the first “Breaking News” upheaval caused by this lady Paula Gruber and her friend Justin regarding the four coin silver relics of St. Thomas back in 2007. This time I am following the story more seriously. I doubt it is possible for Paula to sit at her home in Germany and simply make up her story.

      Read all about her latest news on the subject based on her diary….or something. You’ll get to see some startling pictures too.

      http://www.historicmysteries.com/thomas-silver-coins-india/

      John

  4. Abraham Panicker says

    Hi,
    Very interesting story. I see four coins with front and back images and stamp. Are these the coins referred to in this article?

  5. Kuruvilla says

    These apparently are pictures of the four coins mentioned in the article!!!!
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/602a1d8c-7d11-49df-af08-388e6245d548/Four-Shekels
    and
    http://www.esnips.com/doc/4024ccd4-2d78-4d86-893d-56f475a6545c/Four-Shekels-Obverse
    These four Silver Coins were gifted to a Nair Tharavad by St. Thomas the Apostle.It has been identified by experts as a particular issue/mint of the Shekels of Tyre, a common currency in Jerusalem during the time of ChristAt the time when the Kambiam Vallapil Nair Tharavad received these four Silver Coins from St.Thomas, they were unaware of it’s correct origin or native name. They called it ‘Rakta Velli’(Blood-Silver) and ‘Parindhu Velli’(Eagle-Silver).
    Later they were identified as Shekels of Tyre, a common currency of Jerusalem.

    Very interesting, no doubt, but several questions need to be answered, beginning with: are they the real stuff?!
    If they are real, these should constitute one of the greatest archaeological finds.
    Would archaeological authorities be looking into verifying the genuineness of the pictures/coins?

  6. Jose Alanickal says

    Thanks Kuruvilla.If true, this is going to end the Thoma mystery forever !
    Even if its just a tradition, this shows the richness of heritage.

  7. Sujith Philip says

    The coins in the picture look quite well preserved to me. So genuiness to be check by experts. Anyway its very too interesting.

  8. Chacko says

    hi where did you get the pictures of the coins? Are they the very same coins??

  9. Kuruvilla says

    While searching the web for further information related to the story on ‘Thondachen and the Four Silver Coins’ I came across the links which showed the pictures of the coins. Their footnotes appeared to match very well with the story and therefore I thought of sharing the links and the footnotes with the rest of the community, through the earlier response (given above). These pictures and associated footnotes are not mine, and I have no means at present to verify and vouch for their authenticity. These, as well as the entire story of the four silver coins, should be worth investigating by concerned scholars / authorities, to verify and confirm their genuineness or establish otherwise.

  10. anon says

    Very very interesting.
    Please do update as and when new informations arrives.
    My naive mind tells me that it is one of the easiest thing in the world to verify the authencity of the whole story since we know much more than what is sufficient.
    I am startled by the realization that such an important historical evidence went unnoticed from our ‘western looking’ historians. As an nonspirtual Christian I think this is the latest proof against some of the basic premises of Pauline Christianity of west. I think time has arrived to revert back to original Nasrani tradition based on the life of Jesus.
    As a side note, we must appreciate the ‘Nair Tharavadu’ for preserving these coins for 2000 years. They deserve many many many accoldes and rewards. Another significance of these turn of events is that it help to prove/disprove many of the racial history of Kerala.

  11. Shashikala Nambiar says

    I had heard of these coins some years ago. Paula Gruber interviewed an old Nair lady who related the story of these coins ( perhaps inadvertently / unguardedly) among other stories she had heard during her childhood. I believe this lady has since died. The coins have been in the possession of another person in the family who has already faced problems from some radical groups when Paula went rather overboard with this story some years ago. This group threatened him and tried to snatch the coins from him. He was unable to go to the police for fear of unnecessary litigation and also of losing the coins to some Government treasury. How different are today’s times as compared to a very similar harassment the family suffered during the Portuguese days. It is a shame. At least in the interest of Indian Christianity we should remove the threat hovering over these peoples’ heads just because they chose to preserve an important relic! Unfortunately, our laws don’t help people to act transparently. Today this man lives in fear of stirring up problems for himself every time the story of these coins hit the media.

  12. Tiffany Rothrock says

    This story is not going to die easily. If these coins are found, they will have a global impact on Christian thought and psyche. This story, if it is true (and I see no reason why it should not be) has three momentous aspects: (1) That these very coins set off the crucification which in turn led to the beginning of Christianity as the religion we know it now (2) That the very coins held by the hands of Judas, St. Thomas and perhaps Jesus himself is today in our midst in India! (3) It will also finally answer the mystery as to whether the ‘Thomas’ who came to India was indeed St. Thomas the Apostle. Unfortunately, even the life and legends of Thomas appear to be beleaguered with the kind of doubts he himself demonstrated so memorably in his lifetime. I see the hand of God even in this. However, the best justice we can do to both St. Thomas and Christianity is to research this story thoroughly. Believe me this is truly a hunt for the Holy Grail!

  13. Mathew George says

    Marvelous story indeed.
    Please do update as and when new informations about these coins discovered. If it is proved as the real coins for which Judas Iscariot betrayed our LORD, the history will change and the doubt prevailed in the mind of non-christians that St. Thomas did not came to Kerala will be banished.
    Thanks for this information
    Mathew (Aniyankunju)

  14. Joseph George says

    Dear All,

    It is never my intention to hurt feelings or be overly skeptical. However, as I have mentioned in my earlier comments, any tradition as long as it cannot be corroborated or supported by Bible or history or archeology should be dealt with carefully. If we keep our “Nasrani” house on faulty foundation, that house will have a big fall when the foundation crumbles down (courtesy Jesus of Nazareth).

    I too wish that story was a fact!!

    However there are a few holes in that story narrated above:

    First and foremost Thondachan (if he was the real Apostle Thomas) would have prohibited the said Hindu Nair family from making him a deity. (The attitude of the Apostles can be learnt from a parallel story from the Bible where Paul and Barnabas get agitated; Acts 14:8-18). In all the 20 years when Thomas was in India, news would have reached him that he was made a deity by his friendly Nair family. Forth with he would have reached there and settled the “blasphemy” the same way Paul and Barnabas settled it.

    Secondly, it is difficult to believe that Thomas who could heal the worst illnesses could not heal himself of a sore throat or his followers of scurvy! It is highly unlikely (if not impossible). At the same time he could cure the “karanavar” of the same Nair family from a severe illness!

    The Bible gives enough evidence that the 30 silver coins ended up somewhere else! Read the whole story in Matthew 27. When Judas Iscariot realized his terrible mistake he was gripped by severe conscience, repented and returned the same 30 silver coins back to the Jewish High Court which rejected to listen to him and free Jesus. Out of frustration and fear Judas threw these coins in the Temple and hanged himself!

    The chief priests took this money but did not put them in the Temple treasury since it was blood money but purchased the potter’s field known in history as “Akeldama” which means field of blood where strangers were buried. This was a fulfillment of the prophecy by Zechariah 11:12-13.

    This Akeldama was in the frightful “Gehenna” or Gai Hinnom or Valley of the sons of Hinnom. Gehenna for centuries was the site of burning rubbish of the city of Jerusalem. In ancient times children were sacrificed to god Molech in this valley. See 2 Chronicle 28:3, 33:6. In the first century during Jesus’ time, besides city rubbish, dead bodies of criminals and unclaimed strangers all were thrown into this valley to be burnt. And hence there was ALWAYS fire in this valley (comparable to the so called hell). Sometimes the dead bodies did not reach the fire and got decomposed forming worms that turned into moths which made Jesus comment on “Hell (hell is the translation of Greek word Gehenna or Gai Hinnom) …… where their worm does not die and the fire is not put out” (Mark 9:44,46,48). So Akeldama was part of such a disgusting area near Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:24).

    The above points will clearly show that none of the 12 disciples would go and collect any of the “accursed” 30 original silver coins first as the “price” of the precious blood of their Master and secondly as the price of the most disgusting place in Jerusalem. Anyway the seller who sold Akeldama would not have given up his money!

    True, the coins were identified as shekels of Tyre in the first century. But I read in nasrani.net (Muziris archaeology section) that so many old Roman gold and silver coins were missing from the archaeological sites by the time the Archaeologists reached there. The Kodungalloor area is famous for hundreds of ancient Roman and other coins. The locals claim anonymously that they saw several coins and pearls when they dug their “purayidom” for constructing houses!

    Agreed, Thomas definitely must have brought money with him (Luke 22:36). But that money included the 30 silver coins of Judas is highly improbable!!

    Dear Anon,

    I am curious to know what made you think that Pauline Christianity was pro-west and anti-nasrani?

    In fact Bible calls only Paul as the “ring leader of the Nazarene sect”(Acts 24:5). Bible does not call any other apostle with that title. There is a great difference between what Paul actually said and what the Western theologians “make” Paul say!!

    There are a lot of evidences to prove that Paul was 100% in agreement with all the other pro-Nasrani apostles. He believed “ALL things according to that having been written in the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) (Acts 24:14), was teaching Judeo-Christianity (Nasrani Christianity) to the Gentiles (1 Thessa 2:14), was preaching the same things to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 20:21, Rom 3:9, 1 Cor 1:24, 10:32).

    Apostle Peter when talking about Pauline epistles cautions that there are difficult things to understand in them and that people twist them around to prove their pet theories (2 Peter 3:15-16) just as these western theologians are doing!!

    Cheers!

  15. Philip says

    Here in this article mentions about Nair tharavad means there were Nairs in that period.

    I read one orkut debate says there wasn’t any Nairs that St Thomas converted.
    The presence of Nairs in Kerala only after 11th century.
    Probably Syrian Christian families having a lot of stories regarding Brahmins stories or Nair stories like this.

    One family in our community mentioned me that they are very courageous people that they are ksyathrias as Nair converts.
    I think it still hard to convince people about Jewish roots because of their strong belief in being Hindu converts by St Thomas Christians.

    I think NSC can be a good site for many people

    Thanks

  16. Dr. K C Jerome says

    THIS IS IN RESPONSE to Joseph George wrote on September 23rd, 2007

    Don’t be so confused between the Bible and Indian history. If the authors of the New Testament can be believed for carrying their story of Christ thus far into our times, so could a folk story survive amidst a section of Hindu Nairs as their version of the truth. It is but a simple tale of their own forefathers and an encounter with a strange foreigner called Thondachan! Mark, Luke, Mathew, John, Paul and others who contributed to the New Testament were not here in Kerala, or for that matter in India to record and include St. Thomas doings in this country. Neither was the Bible written for that purpose. To be sacrosanct about everything in the Bible is fine. But dismissing everything in local and regional history because it is not contained in the Bible is to wear blinkers! Being judgmental without due investigation amounts to trying to read the book blindfolded.

    Nowhere in Paula Gruber’s story does she say that the Apostle St. Thomas was deified by the Nairs within his lifetime. It could have happened many years later. Don’t we canonize exceptional Christians posthumously? And who is to know what upheavals- personal, political or religious that was experienced by this Tharavad more than 2000 years ago to place their faith in St. Thomas? I would assume that it would have been a swifter Hindu religious directive that would have attempted to thwart this family’s motive for deifying St. Thomas rather than the Apostle himself! It is a measure of the Hindu family’s faith that their belief in Thondacchan survived.

    I wish Paula Gruber had written- “St. Thomas stood astonished wondering how the Tharavad healed his sailors.” But she didn’t!

    If she had, it would have made good sense to wonder why St. Thomas could not heal his companions or himself. The so-called contradiction that has been pointed out by Joseph George would certainly have occurred to every Nair child hearing this story generation after generation for 2000 years! But remove the blinkers and consider this:- If a doctor falls off a flight of stairs in your presence and injures himself would you not offer any assistance, albeit as an act of courtesy? Would you not offer a cook food to eat?

    It is apparent from Paula’s story that the sailors had just arrived on the coast when they were taken to the local tharavad. The disease “scurvy” was well understood by the tharavad, well in keeping with Kerala’s seafaring and ayurvedic traditions. Again in keeping with tradition, if they proceeded to be good hosts to these weary travellers and offered to medicate and treat them, they could only have drawn St. Thomas’ appreciation. Were they, in that first encounter, to even know who he was? Why St. Thomas had a sore throat that he chose not to heal is as good as some of the mysteries in Jesus’s own life. Perhaps he didn’t care much about his discomfort or the loss of his voice for a few days considering what his own master had endured not very long ago! Neither has it been said anywhere that St.Thomas was NOT going to cure the sailors of their disease. What must have really astonished the tharavad was when they experienced the weary St. Thomas’ kindness and saw for themselves that he was himself a healer by a method of simply laying hands! They showed their gratitude in the best of tradition, and St. Thomas must have felt immensely pleased. A mutual exchange of skills and goodwill between a good host and a kind guest does not punch holes in the story nor challenge the Bible. In any case one cannot be instantly precise and judgmental about a tradition that has been a family folk tale of more than 2000 years without oneself bearing witness to what exactly occurred on that day! Neither St. Thomas nor the tharavad traditions appear to have ever complained about it.

    With regard to how St. Thomas received those very thirty pieces of silver that were believed to have been used to “betray” Jesus, the truth is slowly emerging as clear-thinking Christians look for clues outside the “standard version” of the Bible. The National Geographic Society has been part of an international effort, in collaboration with the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery, to authenticate, conserve, and translate a 66-page codex, which contains a text called James (also known as First Apocalypse of James), the Letter of Peter to Philip, a fragment of a text that scholars are provisionally calling Book of Allogenes, and the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas.

    The Gospel of Judas gives a different view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who “betrayed” Jesus. Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor, this newly discovered Gospel portrays Judas as acting at Jesus’ request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities. The Gospel provides an alternative view of the Jesus-Judas relationship and evidences the diverse theological beliefs that circulated among early Christians.

    As the evidence emerges who knows what the story of the thirty coins might be and how it wound up with St. Thomas? Perhaps what sounds hard to believe in an ancient Nair folktale may well serve as a starting point of research for Indian Christianity. While some of the best of Christian brains in the world are painstakingly picking out fragments of truth by corroborating archaeology, tradition and folklore, it would be foolish to dismiss something on our own soil without proper verification by sounding an immediate and premature clarion call of- “Highly Improbable.” Don’t worry, neither St. Thomas, Jesus our Lord nor their teachings will in any way be tarnished by the truth.

    Dr. K C Jerome
    New Delhi

    1. Ajay Joshi says

      Well said !

  17. Roselene Kristu Rao says

    I dont agree with Joseph George’s comments on Nair folktale. This is the very attitude with which the Portuguese imposed “Papal” Christianity to Kerala. I can hear the Portuguese say – “ I’m sorry, it doesn’t say so in our book. So it never happened!” This is exactly what the fundamentalist Islamists are doing today around the world with the Koran under their arm.
    If one was to carefully examine the state of the papacy during Vasco da Gama’s time in India ( 1498CE to 1524CE ) after the Portuguese rediscovered the route to India, it is clearly seen as a “Church in disorder”, wrought by upheavals and lack of control over their followers. This was because of misinterpretation, misrepresentation and incomplete history that the Portuguese of that time meted out to the world in the name of Christianity. It does not do the “ultimate truth” any justice. It is now evident to the whole world that the neo-Christians led by Vasco-da Gama were imposing their own rules on the Indian sub-continent, being intolerant to accept that Jesus’ teachings (through the Apostle St. Thomas) had arrived here hundreds of years before their own country.

    I am sure I have heard the story of these four coins in my childhood. (Sadly I just cannot recall from whom). All I can say is, but for their martial spirit and their tenacity, I can understand what the terrible plight of the Nair tharavad would have been if the Portuguese had got their hands on those coins.

    In my opinion, Dr. K C Jerome has taken a very logical view. Why (mis-)use the Bible as a “bench-mark” to evaluate all happenings around the world. The New Testament was written many years after Jesus’ own lifetime, and we believe the gospel to be the best effort of the writers Mark, Luke, Mathew and John to record the teachings of Jesus. But the source of their writings were confined to a region, limited by the availability of witness accounts, limited by the fact that Jesus never wrote down his teachings/doctrine, etc.. To denounce something that might have happened in India (without investigation} as “highly improbable” because the edited and later version of the Bible has no mention of it is rightly a case of “blinkers”.

    Westerners on their quest for new colonies 500 years ago found it hard to swallow that the gospel in its original form was being practiced by a peaceful community created by an apostle of Christ on the coast of Kerala.

    Roselene Kristu Rao

  18. Joseph George says

    “I too wish that story was a fact!!”

    Dear ROSELENE KRISTU RAO,

    The above “quotation” is from my first comment. My only intention was to address caution so that a thorough study be conducted on the above story so that we can establish it as fact explaining all the logical problems I have raised in my comment.

    I am a firm believer in St. Thomas’ Apostleship to India. I am ever eager to collect as many evidences as possible to support this. Naturally I will be more than happy to accept this Nair story as one more proof if we can establish it. Otherwise it will get blasted by skeptics tomorrow.

    Please be informed that I am not a Portuguese Inquisitor. I am not a fundamentalist Christian extremist who goes around with Bible in one hand and a sword(or AK47) in the other. Neither am I a believer in “grandiose” West.

    I am sure if I need to study about India’s Freedom Fight, I will not study the Bible for that. I may be a fool but I am not that dim to state that I will not believe in India’s Freedom Struggle because it is not mentioned in the Bible!

    However, in the same way if I need to study about St. Thomas, I will not go to history of India’s Freedom Struggle for that. I referred to Bible because the story was about Thomas, one of the key figures in the New Testament and not because I insisted everything should be in the Bible.

    If you want to learn about Mahatma Gandhi, which history you will study; Indian history or American history?

    If I sounded to be skeptical, that is in positive spirit so that we can close all the gaps in that story and make it believable. I prefer not to have blind faith in fundamental things in my life. I do not want to have blind faith even in the existence of God just because my church teaches me so.

    That is why I make it a point if I read 5 articles supporting the Bible I find and read 5 other articles that oppose the Bible, a painful experience but worth the try.

    Dear DR. JEROME,

    Appreciate your well written comment.

    Initially I thought of discussing your comment point by point.

    For example, you wrote “It is apparent from Paula’s story that the sailors had “just” arrived on the coast when they were taken to the local tharavad”. However I see from the article that it is “until no voice emanated from his (Thomas’) lips for MANY DAYS” that the local Jew Mathan took them to Nair family. True, the Nair family offered them shelter but that is because they traveled a long distance from Maliankara to Cannanore and not because they came from Middle East the same day.

    But I do not want to discuss on a point by point basis because that will automatically put you on the “pro” side and me on the “anti” side of the above story. I want to be objective so that tomorrow if this story is established as a fact I can immediately accept it.

    At the risk of deviating from the topic of this article I have the following observation.

    Your comment on the Gospel of Judas is interesting. I am aware of the National Geographic’s effort in that direction. I just wonder since when the National Geographic Society has started to be the “authenticator” of the canonical books of the Bible!

    Not only Gospel of Judas, there are in fact a lot many apocryphal books out there from the early centuries. For example, the “business men” behind DaVinci Code controversy, now want to “authenticate” the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. This gospel also “provides an alternative view of the Jesus-Magdalene relationship”.

    I do not have any problem with people who want to make a living by selling controversies.

    If we can study about Christianity from the paintings of artist Leonardo DaVinci (artists are prone to use the so called “poetic licenses”) we may very well study about Hinduism from M. F. Hussain’s paintings on goddess Saraswati!

    I quote two of your related sentences; “the truth is slowly emerging as clear-thinking Christians look for clues outside the “standard version” of the Bible”. “Unlike the accounts in the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which Judas is portrayed as a reviled traitor,…….”

    This is very interesting Doctor. It is an irony that Christianity, a religion that HUGELY claims to be based on “nothing else but TRUTH” and personal “WITNESSES” was started by history’s greatest liars like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and others. So the foundation of Christianity itself is a big lie. Better to be a Buddhist now!

    I liked your last comment. “Don’t worry, neither St. Thomas, Jesus our Lord nor their teachings will in any way be tarnished by the truth”.

    I am least worried about that. I never considered it “my” responsibility to establish the Christian Faith or to maintain the sanctity of the Bible. I am not the author of both. I don’t have the power to do so. But there is One who is bothered about it all. It is His responsibility to establish and maintain and He knows very well how to do it. He does not need a Joseph George to worry about the same.

    When Darwin’s theory of Evolution shook the faith of the Bible in the 19th century, an unknown event had already taken momentum in the Middle East; Biblical Archaeology. The approximate timing of the two makes me personally believe that there was an Intelligence behind it.

  19. BGfromNZ says

    Thondachan

    As mentioned by Joseph George some are so fervent to accept as true what ever they perceive as a faith, folklore or hearsay so as to justify the origin of Christianity in kerala. I have no idea about a particular lineage of Nairs who has any link to Thondachan myths. But how did Thondachan turn to Thomachan and vice versa. The author himself defended the existence of thondachan among nayar tharavads. Existence of Nairs during this age is still a matter of discrepancy.

    There are many Myths among the ancient aborigines.
    Malakkari is a god worshipped by ‘Kurichiyar’ and ‘Atiyar’. This deity is the daughter of Parameswara and parvathi while they were living in the woods.

    In the myth regarding the origin of ‘Suvani’ of Atiyans, there is reference to the origin of the world. The deity originated after the creation of the sky and the earth. Subsequently two deities called Siddhappan and Mallappan were created. Then came man and vegetation.

    There are myths behind theyyam performed by the tribals of Wayanad too. They were deities like Elavilli, Poovilli, Murikkanmar, Malayakkarinkali and so on.

    Thondachan found among Thiyyas
    ———————‘VAYANATTU KULAVAN’.
    ———————KATHIVANNOOR VEERAN
    This myth gives the origin of Thiyyas. Majority of the Theyyams worshipped at present were from the Thiyya/Billava community.

    Thondachan’ found among Pulayars.
    ——————–“PULIMARANJA”
    Among pulayars the thondachan is in the form of Animals. The animal can transform itself in any shape..

    This is another defining moment about the evolution theory. From beef eating to cremation of religious heads the bonds and associations with many aboriginal communities are a great deal apparent within the community from centuries. Any way an initiative in this regard has to be taken like the DNA project to further excavate the possibilities of evolution.

  20. BGfromNZ says

    “grievous wound that had been inflicted upon him in a feudal duel”

    A silent revolution of a structured civilization was found during the last
    phase of Samgam Age in kerala. The advent of Brahmanism (can be between 3rd and 8th century) initiated the methodical cultivation of land which in turn rendered an controlled socio political environment to the phase of kerala. Also this paved the way for a political separation of kerala from the Tamil country. Brahmins gradually formed the elite of the society. They succeeded in raising a feudal fighting class and ordered the caste system with numerous graduations of upper, intermediate and lower classes (Shudras or present Nair). Most anthropologists are of the view that the Nair caste is an amalgamation of various warrior classes during the post-Sangam era, which is considered as the most politically unstable period in Kerala history. Dr.P.K.Gopalakrishnan (A scholar, policy advisor and one of the few outstanding personalities who played an important role in the establishment of many advanced institutions of research and learning in Kerala during 1970-80) is of the view that Nairs were a transitioned group of people from among the Keralites itself. According to him no historical evidences are seen about the existence of Nairs before 8th century AD. Feudalism is of course a later phenomenon in any count.

    By common consent among the historians, the earliest inhabitants of Kerala were the Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas and a later drift to Thiyas . My view points and facts of theyams, thondachans and deities more appropriately fit into this class rather than a much later class like nambootiri or nair. The contradictions in the threads of this story do not hold any place in a normally intelligent intellect or in this website, since it may flatten many of other well crafted articles. I personally feel such folklores should be removed with immediate effect.

  21. G.Daniel Johri says

    I have been following this Thondachan debate for many years, even before Paula Gruber’s story was published, and I am quite disturbed and overwhelmed by the frog-in-a-well attitude most of us Christians display whenever interesting revelations or new archaeological discoveries delve into our faith. The effort often appears not to “research” but to “remove” anything that seems capable of shaking our comfort in traditional belief.

    Whoever “BGfromNZ” is, he/she has done just this by his/her sweeping declaration – “I personally feel such folklores should be removed with immediate effect.”

    Can you throw a copy of the Bible into a trash-can to bring about the end of Christianity?
    A folklore that survived more than 2000 years cannot be erased by simply taking it off your pet website. There is an equally ancient folklore in north India that believes Jesus died in Kashmir. Another that believes St. Thomas never set foot in India. What is the difficulty with examining the evidence over time before rejecting it? Like the ostrich who buries its head in the sand in the face of truth, that “normally intelligent intellect” which you spoke of appears to be seriously retarded in this respect!

    Another classic example of BGfromNZ’s reasoning is-
    “By common consent among the historians, the earliest inhabitants of Kerala were the Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas and a later drift to Thiyas .”

    “Common consent” need not necessarily be right. “Common consent” need not necessarily be the truth. If there is such a thing as common consent it is in the fact that new evidence has continuously reversed established consent and belief. This is what history is all about. It is rewritten every time new evidence emerges. The city of Troy was believed to be a myth perpetrated by Homer’s Illiad, until excavations revealed that such a city actually existed! True justice is being done to the Shroud of Turin (believed for long to be a fake) until new technology and science now appears to be bringing it closer and closer to being the actual shroud that wrapped the body of Christ.

    In fact eventually it is difficult to find two historians who even concur to consent!

    Since knowing the opinion of so many historians, I wish you could name one single historian who has actually examined these “rakta-velli” coins or researched the folklore, partially or conclusively, before you came to your own conclusions about historians and their “common consent.” Yes, name me one historian before this folklore is weeded out of this website.

    In short, my only plea is, why not let the debate continue? You are entitled to your opinion, but wait till the truth emerges before beginning to flay it and running it off the website. Many Christians such as myself would like to know how this story eventually unfolds.

    G. Daniel
    Jorhat

  22. NJ says

    I don’t know about the validity of this story and neither I have heard about any historians rejecting this outrightly.

    Having said that, I support G.Daniel Johri against removal of this folklore.

    The best example from history I can quote is the Act of Thomas and King Gondophares. Till King Gondophares coins were discovered no one was ready to believe that such a king ever existed.

    .BGfromNZ’s common consent is from the set of ten or so people whom RSS has entrusted writing history of Kerala a decade back. When they started realizing that it is Buddhism and Christianity which holded sway during ancient times in Kerala they started this inhabitant story. It does not need any consideration.

  23. BGfromNZ says

    Dear NJ
    The best example from history I can quote is the Act of Thomas and King Gondophares. Till King Gondophares coins were discovered no one was ready to believe that such a king ever existed
    The Acts of Thomas, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924

    “And when he had thus prayed he said unto the soldiers: Come hither and accomplish the commandments of him that sent you. And the four came and pierced him with their spears, and he fell down and died. And all the brethren wept; and they brought beautiful robes and much and fair linen, and buried him in a royal sepulchre wherein the former (first) kings were laid.”

    Indo-parthian areas comprising Arachosia, Seistan, Sindh, Gandhara, and the Kabul valley, but it does not have any territory east beyond the Punjab. Gondophares was the first king of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom and ruled from 21 CE for at least 26 years. So the death of St.Thomas should be before AD 47 according to Acts of Thomas. Let us come to the mylapore version. St. Thomas spent the last years of his life in a cave on this hill. Tradition states that Thomas was assassinated by a shot of an arrow in AD 72, by persons hostile to him (some accuse a Brahmin). Dear NJ the contradictions are enormous and discovery of Gondophares coin do not prompt us to think that “wow that’s history”. Or do you mean he died twice, one some where in Indo-parthian territory before AD47 and another in Mylapore in AD 72? Besides the mylapore tomb did not reveal any royal sculptures of former kings as stated in Acts of Thomas. Please don’t state the last phase of the act was written by a RSS chap to deceive.

    A folklore that survived more than 2000 years……………………………..

    A much polished interpretation of the above statement gives an impression that some one was auditing the transmission of this folklore for the last 2000 years. If the story has a mention of St. Thomas does it stand for a first century creation?

    The earliest inhabitants of Kerala were the Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas. It is at a much later time that migratory Aryan populations from the north landed. This is kerala history and not endorsed by Pariwar but by educated historians who are unaware of the reality that a few in NSC don’t acknowledge their credibility. Honestly I speculate some members as mentioned by NJ are ***domestic schooled***.

    Can you throw a copy of the Bible into a trash-can to bring about the end of Christianity?.

    What a sarcastic and irrational comparison. Bible and the Thondachan folklore!

  24. BGfromNZ says

    I have seen the four pieces and have identified them as the Shekels of Tyre

    In Jesus’ time, the most universally recognized circulated coin was the Greek silver tetradrachm, which literally means “four drachms” (pronounced DRAMS) for almost 200 years; the historic coin was minted in Tyre by the Phoenicians. From 126 B.C. until 70 A.D., the silver tetradrachm became the universal currency accepted throughout the Roman Empire. Individual Tyre shekel coins contain about 14 to 14.5 grams of mostly 95% pure silver. Current estimates indicate that less than 1% of the total Tyre shekels minted over time have ever been recovered. This is another key attraction for collectors of Tyre shekels, because coming across even one, much less a small cache, is such a rare experience. One numismatist has even acquired a private collection that included around 160 Tyre shekels. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) The world’s largest rare coin grading services has guaranteed the authenticity of these coins. According to NGC, this is the largest group of Phoenician Tetradrachms that they have ever received for certification at one time.

    One has to know that from 126 B.C. until 70 A.D., the silver tetradrachm became the universal currency accepted throughout the Roman Empire, as well the trade associations of Rome and south India during this century. Perceptibly the only scientific probability of these coins are that it might have transferred from first century traders of that time for any sort of barter and during later stages moved hands to these Nair tharavad. Since Acts of Thomas do not substantiate any place in south India and the kingdom of Gondophares and death of St. Thomas portrays an unreasonable chronological succession we can’t agree upon the authenticity of this story.

    Why shouldn’t I get reply for this: the reason being?
    “society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson.

  25. Alex McPhee & Dr. L Radhakrishnan says

    As numismatists, let us inform you that the case of the Shekels of Tyre does not end with what (an apparently well informed) “BJ from NZ” has written, or what historians have been able to deduced so far about their history.

    We dread the day that the “Rakta Velli” is actually brought out by this alleged Nair family holding them, and allowed public viewing. For, like the Turin shroud and many other biblical relics, these coins will definitely see the “trial by fire’ in the hands of both serious researchers and sceptics for years to come.

    For, there already exists remarkable confusion over the Shekels already unearthed in the middle-east. The problem is that there have been several “moulds” and “dyes” used over centuries (both before and after Jesus’ time) that apart from the image of Malquarth and the eagle, we still have difficulty distinguishing a true Shekel (used in the Biblical era) from a recent fake. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the Jerusalem priests themselves were forging their own (several versions) of the Shekels of Tyre. “Fakes” you might call them. But they could have constituted the Biblical 30 pieces of silver . In which case the four silver coins could be among some of the “Jerusalem fakes” of Biblical times!

  26. john says

    it is believed that four of the original 30 pieces of silver used by judas to betray jesus, was in the possession of st thomas, who later presented them to a hindu family, in gratitute for their assistance to him….could these relices be traced……

  27. Sunny Alan says

    Dear John,
    This is a new amazing info to many of us that St. Thomas or any of the Apostle collected cursed coins of Judas from the “Field of blood”.
    1. It imply/accuse that Thomas is co-betrayer with Judas/ or with the conspirators
    2. and he was so greedy to pick-up or keep the bloody coins, the price of his beloved master.
    3. I afraid it is yet another lie by those persecute Christians in India.
    4. Wonder what will be the response of true Hindu brothes.
    5. Where is it mentioned, any authentic proof ? Aren’t you spreading a malicious lie against Thomas Christians ?

  28. Malika says

    If we Christians were not as crazy and argumentative about everything in the Bible and in history, I am sure the Nair household or owner of these coins would have shown up sooner. One Ranjith Perimpulavil, in a comment above, carpet-bombs the whole story as a hoax without an iota of evidence that he himself has examined. This is the kind if Christian reaction that discourages any real truth from coming out.
    Why don’t we encourage the damn thing to surface. And examine it properly. Do a serious archaeological study of the relic. Carbon date the coins if necessary. Use Numismatic experts to scrutinize the evidence. Then, by all means condemn it as a hoax if it turns out to be so.

    Until then, please don’t kill the issue. Christianity is under attack from all quarters, be it the Al Quaida, the Taliban or the Bajrang Dal.

    We need historical evidence as surely as we need our Bible. It is our legacy and our right to existence.

    Please wake up to this realization. The more we Christians sound like a threat to the possessor of these coins, the less likely that they will surface.

  29. Abbey Das says

    How right you are, Malika! At a time when the Christian religion is being perceived in India as a threat! When our religion is being condemned as a “recently imported” faith by the less informed and the ignorant. When fundamental Hindu groups are spreading propaganda that Christianity is a legacy of British Imperialism!
    What better proof of the antiquity of Christianity do we need than these four coins and a folklore from a Hindu household?
    I too have heard my grand-parents mention the existence of these coins with reverence. It is not a recent story. I must have heard of these coins in the mid 1970s. Over 30 years ago. I personally don’t believe that people simply make up stories with such detail just to entertain their grand-children unless there is some truth to it. I believe they exist somewhere. Paula Gruber must have seen them.

    The four coins are true relics. The Christian community ought to seriously ponder over the preservation of this important evidence of our 2000 year old roots in India.

  30. Ranjith says

    Kerala in 1st century A.D. was part of Ancient “Tamizhaka”(Tamil Land). There were no Namboodiris or Nairs at that time. St. Thomas story was fabricated by Portuguese in 16th century. “Marthomma Nasranis” were the Christian community brought to Kerala by a Syrian Christian called “Mar Thomma”. Until 16th century Kerala Christians saw this merchant as their forefather. Later this Syrian merchant was “converted” by Portuguese to “St Thomas”, the 12th Apostle.

  31. Benney says

    The Namboothiri conversion Story may be cooked up by the Namboothiris itself . Because the Namboothiris have a tendency to claim paternity of genius persons of kerala in the ancient times .t For that they make stories ( Ithihyams) .example Parayi petta panthirukulam, ezhuthachan , perunthachan stories,etc . Nasranis dont have Sambanthams with Namboothiris so its difficult for them to claim paternity of Nasrani genius guys . For that they may cooked up Namboothiri conversion Story .

  32. DJ says

    The Namboothiri conversion Story may be cooked up by the Namboothiris itself .
    This shows how genious your are, so sad!

    K.M. Panikkar, Malabar and the Portuguese. Bombay, 1929.
    ===============================================
    The Hindus of Malabar were the first to see Christians arriving in their midst. They were mostly refugees from persecution in Syria and later on in Iran. Christians in Syria were persecuted by their own brethren in faith. They had become suspect in Iran from the fourth century onwards when Iran’s old adversary, the Roman Empire, became a Christian state. They suffered repeated persecutions in both countries. As most of them were heretics in the eyes of Christian orthodoxy, they could not go west. So they fled towards India and China, which two countries were known for their religious tolerance throughout the ages. Later on, they were joined by refugees from Armenia flying from Christian heresy-hunters.

    The record that has been preserved by the Christian refugees themselves tells us that they were received well by the Hindus of Malabar. Hindu Rajas gave them land and money grants for building houses and churches. Hindus in general made things so pleasant for them that they decided to stay permanently in Malabar. No Hindu, Raja or commoner, ever bothered about what the refugees believed or what god they worshipped. No one interfered with the hierarchs who came from Syria from time to time to visit their flock in India and collect the tithes. In due course, the refugees came to be known as Syrian Christians.

    The significant point to be noted about the Syrian Christians, however, is their sudden change of colour as soon as the Portuguese arrived on the scene. They immediately rallied round the Portuguese and against their Hindu neighbours, and when the Portuguese started pressurizing the Hindu Rajas for extraterritorial rights so that their co-religionists could be “protected”, the Syrian Christians evinced great enthusiasm everywhere. They became loyal subjects of the king of Portugal and pious adherents of the Roman Catholic Church. Was it the demonstration of Portuguese power which demoralised the Syrian Christians and made them do what they did? Or was it the Christian doctrine which, though it lay dormant for a long time, surfaced at the first favourable opportunity? The matter has to be examined. Looking at the behaviour of Syrian Christians ever since, the second proposition seems to be nearer the truth

  33. Anoop says

    Hi DJ,
    You tend to think of migration as something that can happen only once.Instead,it is a continuous process.You just cant pinpoint just one community as the progenitors of the Christian community in India.There are many(Copts,Armenians,Lebanese,Syrians,the natives(who might have been Budhist not Hindu as you say).
    There is no need to be combative.

  34. RP says

    Dear Ranjith, i thought knanaites are syrians but st thomas christians are hindu converts. is it?

  35. Ranjith Perimpulavil says

    The following is an essay writen by Prof. C. I. Issac about Christianity in Kerala.

    An enquiry into the colonial and missionary interest.
    Prof. C. I. Issac
    An historical narrative of Indian Christianity would not be complete without the study of Christianity in Kerala. Christianity is believed to have reached the shores of Kerala in the first century of Common Era [C.E.], though this is not supported by documentary or authentic evidence. The emergence and spread of Christianity in Kerala is shrouded in such myths and legends. Kerala’s Christian past is essentially pivoting on the stories popularized by the Church on the fragile foundations of theology and belief. Therefore, historians encountered many problems in deconstructing its past. First is the question of the arrival of Saint [St.] Thomas and subsequent conversion of Hindu aristocracy [particularly the Namboothiris] to Christianity. Second is the date of the origin of Christianity in Kerala. Third one is the European interest behind popularization of generating aristocratic [savarna] feeling among the native Christians. Finally, how far these missionary activities mutilated the national life?
    The centre of the pre-colonial phase of history is the question of savarna origin of Kerala Christianity and the role of Thomas, a disciple of Jesus. This savarna origin theory of Indian Christianity was firstly constructed and popularized in Kerala by Fringies [Portuguese Catholic Missionaries] in the sixteenth century for the fulfillment of their colonial ends1. It is true that before the arrival of Europeans in India, a nominal Christian presence was seen only in the Travancore and Cochin regions of Kerala. The antagonism that was generated amongst the Christians and Muslims due to the Crusades of 11th, 12th and 13th centuries prevented Christian proselytism enterprises from planting their roots in the Malabar region where Muslims got roots quite earlier. It is only during the British period that the Christian society came into being in the Malabar region. It is true that the Christians in Travancore and Cochin regions were only a marginal community confined to a few port towns before the arrival of Europeans. For that reason during this period the churches in Kerala were very few in numbers and could be counted on fingers. Hence, since the arrival of Portuguese till the early decades of the nineteenth century here in Kerala there were only less than three hundred Christian churches of all the denominations2. According to Ward and Conner, even after two centuries of the birth of Christianity, the number of Christians on the Malabar Coast shrank to eight families. The Christian population altogether in Travancore and Cochin during the early decades of the 19th century CE was 35,000 with 55 churches3. Thus the native Church’s claim of the story of St. Thomas and the early origins of Indian Christianity is not a universally accepted fact. In the year 1952 CE, the native Catholic Church approached the Papacy in Rome for Pontifical approval to celebrate 1900th year of proselytism of Kerala since the arrival of St. Thomas on its shores. The Papacy declined the request of the Kerala Catholics on the ground that the claim has no historicity. In spite of this denial, the Savarna Catholics, the Syrian descendants of those said to have received baptism from disciple Thomas, celebrated the 19th centenary of the arrival of Thomas with much pomp.
    Behind the building of such a story of apostolic and savarna origin of Indian Christianity there was a willful plan of destabilizing the foundations of Hinduism through the conversion of higher castes of India. It means the total conversion of Hindus. Robert de’ Nobili, [hailing from Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy]4 was the brain behind the savarna origin theory of the early Indian [Kerala] Church. It was the part of his ambitious programme of converting the Brahmins to Christianity. Because of his zeal to convert the Hindu aristocracy to Christianity; he adopted their mode of life, mastered in Sanskrit and so had to cut himself off completely from intercourse with his fellow missionaries. He worked in Madurai, Mysore, and the Carnatic till old age and almost complete blindness compelled him to retire to Mylapore5. Through him the cultivation of savarna feeling amongst then wealthy sections of the Christian faith started. A section of the Church en-cashed this new feeling for their missionary ends. His labour in this direction may further encouraged building the story of Thomas’ christening of the Namboothiris of Kerala. Another derogatory step that follows from the missionary interest in India is the recasting of the traditional Hindu symbols to suit the Church’s purpose of conversion. The pioneer in this line was Robert De Nobili, an early seventeenth century Catholic Missionary of India, who lived in the attire of a Hindu hermit and established a monastery in Madurai to convert Brahmins. He attempted to place Christianity within the Vedic tradition which would appeal to the upper jatis. The old Nobilian legacy is still continuing. 6.
    . The only historical record pertaining to the arrival of Saint Thomas is the book ‘The Acts of Thomas’. But this book does not mention the Malabar Coast. “Acts of Saint Thomas is a historical romance written in Syriac towards the end of second or by the beginning of third centuries.”7 In the history of social formations of ancient Kerala, it is interesting to see that up to the fourth century CE this land was occupied by the pre-Vedic settlements only8. So Nambootiri as a Hindu jati was seen only after the fourth century of CE. The Terisapalli [St. Theresa Church] Copper Plate Grant [Terisapalli Cheppedu] executed in 849 CE by Ayyan Atikal Tiruvatikal of Venadu during the reign of Emperor Sthanu Ravi (844-855) is the available oldest historical documentation linking Christianity to Kerala. But this grant was obtained by the foreign Christian merchants9. The first Christians of the Kerala may be the merchant community hailing from the new faith who settled here temporarily or permanently for business purposes. The Persian Christian migration was the prime reason of the growth of Christianity in Kerala. In addition to it the threat posed by the religion of Islam in the Persian region since 7th century CE onwards through its Christian persecution caused the influx of Christian refugees to this land, supplemented to the Christian population of Kerala. Even after the Persian Christian migration the Christian population remained here as a marginal group/jati in this tiny region until the European occupation of this land. Several travelers’ accounts and British documents are referring to the emaciated conditions of the native Christianity. Only after the indiscriminate conversion of native jatis from sixteenth century CE onwards by the European Christian missionary bands resulted in the enhancement of the Christian population of Kerala to the present level10. Further more G. T. Mackenzie observes, Christians prior to the arrival of Portuguese, did not form the part of Travancore aristocracy. Pope Nicolas IV sent Monte Corvino, a missionary to convert India and China and he wrote to pope in 1306 that “There are very few Christians and Jews [in India] and they are of little weight”.11. Thus the earliest migrant Christian population was numerically a negligible section. The natives regarded Christianity as another path, as well as an upasana system12. Therefore it functioned here as an offshoot of Hinduism till the arrival of Portuguese. Even the names of the Christians were Hindu.13
    After the arrival of the Portuguese, a large-scale aggressive proselytizing movement started in Kerala under the stewardship of a padre called Francis Xavier. His eight-year stay in South India changed the entire course of its history. In a short period, he was able to enhance the numerical strength of Kerala’s Christian population. He was no different from Mohammed Ghazini or Aurangazeb in the space of proselytizing enterprise. Francis Xavier was the man solely responsible for the establishment of the Inquisition Court in Goa in 1560, under which Hindu women were raped and burnt alive and Hindu temples were demolished14. The wrath of the Catholic Church that was started with Francis Xavier in Goa did not spare even innocent children of Hindu origin. This notorious religious court functioned in Goa till 1812. Francis Xavier once remarked, “I told the new Christians to demolish the shrines of the idols and saw to it that they crushed the images into dust. I could not express to you the consolation it gave me to watch the idols being destroyed by the very hands of those who so recently used to worship them”15. No doubt Francis Xavier was a mentally debased bigot. Thus the history of temple annihilation in Kerala starts with Francis Xavier in Travancore-Cochin. The first prey was the temple at Thevalakkara in Quilon district and Palluruthi near Cochin16. Another church demolished by the Christian fanaticism during the said period was the Church at Palayoor near Guruvayoor. Until the day of the collapse of the disputed structure at Ayodhya, the Palayoor Church authorities kept a board in front of the church which reads: “The church was constructed by St. Thomas after demolishing a temple”. [Now the board has been removed]. The last one of such demolitions took place in 1950, by setting fire to the famous Sastha Temple at Sabrimalai. In the Malabar region it continued unabatedly until the resistance movement organized in 1969 under the organizational umbrella of Kshetra Smrakshna Samiti by the renowned freedom fighter K. Kelappan [Kelappajee]. De Souza, the Portuguese governor, made a futile attempt to plunder the shrine at Thiruppathi is also to be remembered in this context. The Portuguese did not spare the Muslims of Malabar. The Sixteenth Century Muslim Arabic scholar of Kerala [Ponnani], Shaik Zainuddin, in his work Tuhafat-ul-Mujahiddin, mentions their plunder and destruction of mosques. They did not spare the Kerala’s Jews either: to escape the Portuguese persecution, in 1565 the Jews of Crangannoor escaped to places of Hindu dominancy such as Paravoor, Mala, Chennamangalam, Ernakulam, etc.
    It is important to consider the information available from the work of C. M. Augur, an English Missionary cum the Resident of Travancore, to pencil in a correct picture of the Christian intolerance from the days of Padre Francis Xavier. According to Augur in 1816 C.E there were, in the Travancore State [now the part of Kerala], 19,524 temples and 301 churches for all denominations. But in 1891, that is after 76 years, the number of temples had come down to 9,364 and the number of churches had burgeoned to 1,116. [17]. It really a testimony to understand the depth and extent of extermination of Hindu culture during the colonial phase. While the Portuguese used force to the spread of the ‘faith’ British moved with education and legislation. The British insisted several native kings to nationalize rich temples in order to enhance their revenue. This resulted in the withering away [mercy killing] of several temples having less income which was once supported by the nationalized temples.
    In the place of every demolished temples churches were sprang up. One such famous church was established in 1938 was at Malayattoor, near Adi Sankara’s birthplace. It was earlier a Siva temple. The revenue records of the old princely state of Travancore admit this fact. The temple was known to the locality as “Kurinchimudi Temple” [hill peak temple]. After the Christian occupation the name of the place was slightly changed to “Kurissumudi” [Mount of cross]. During the Sangam period the entire South India was topographically divided into five regions. The regions contained hills and mountains were called “Kurinchi“. Really the temple name was associated with its topography was conveniently changed with the ’sign of faith’ by the Christians after their occupation of the temple site. Considering the geographical area, the number of the temples set ablaze or knocked down in Travancore was proportionately much higher than that of temples demolished by the Muslim rulers of Northern India.
    The Portuguese’s over enthusiasm to generate a Christian population in India was not born out of their ecclesiastical interest but of their political ends. It is very clear from their Latin American experiences. To generate a section that supports their political interest in India was the need. Hence the early Christians of Kerala fell in their trap. Earlier they supported them and later clashed with them. Their objectives well reflected in the subsequent disguised reform measures.
    1. It is to create the way smooth for the establishment of Portuguese domination over Hindustan.
    2. To establish Roman ecclesiastical authority over Kerala’s Christianity;
    3. To destroy all its Hindu practices, rituals and traditions that were retained by the native Christians;
    4. To extend the Latin Christendom to the soil of the Hindus.
    All this intended to de-Hinduize the Malabar [Kerala] Christianity resulted in the Synod of Damper [Udayamperoor], 1559, and it was the graveyard of Syrian Christian Hindu morphology18. Thus the native Christian community reacted against their villainous designs and it resulted in the “Oath of Coonan Cross”19. It was a delayed response so it didn’t produced any desired results.
    During the British period missionaries followed the policy of education and modernization of the natives. Missionaries and indologists together popularized the notion of ‘modernity’ and presented colonialism as the synonym of modernity. It was in the light of the history of this land. They realized the fact that to proselytize a Hindu is a quiet difficult task. To the Hindu, “every religion is a path that leads to God-realization. There is only one God which is called by various names and which is attainable to genuine seeker by sincerely following his own path. All the Hindu scriptures have upheld this view”.20. That is why to a Hindu the question of conversion is immaterial. The obsessive eyes of the English missionaries were always in search of the weaker aspects of the targeted society and people. This is an observable fact that operates from the first century to the present day with some morphological difference only.
    On the other hand it is easy to make a Hindu a non-committed Hindu through his schooling. Missionary enterprises through ages moved in this direction. Educational vision of the missionaries in pagan lands not only confined to modernization of its social fabric but to “get acquainted with the person of Jesus Christ and His Gospel” by the youths outside the Christian faith21. This is nothing different from the ‘Pauline’ strategy of the first century that successfully experimented in Athens. It can be made clearer by quoting St. Paul, “For I walked through your city and looked at the places where you worship, I found an altar on which is written, ‘To an Unknown God’. That, which you worship, then, even though you do not know it, is what I now proclaim to you”22.
    The colonial and subsequent missionary activities are not finishing with mere change of faith but its far reaching consequences are still confronting by the Hindu populations particularly of Kerala and North Western regions. No doubt, the history teaches that any small change in the demographic pattern will be a threat to the national integrity. The number of Muslim population in India in 1901 was 2,91,02,000, but thereafter in 1941 this population got a growth of 68.24 percent and reached it at 4,26,45,000. So they demanded an exclusive state for the Muslims. In 1940s Muslims has only 13.38 percent share in the Indian population but it established that it was sufficient to demand a separate state for them. Regions like the Northeast secured an upper hand to the Christian population in the 1960s [1961 Christian population: 52.97 % & in 2001: 85%], hence demands their severance. Like wise any slight regional imbalance due to the changes in the religious equilibrium will endanger the nation.
    Before the political and economic strength of the organized religions of Kerala the divided Hindu is subjected to the extinction syndrome. Even though Hindus are numerically predominant, the vote bank politics kick them out of the political processes of Kerala. Religious minorities vote is very decisive to all political parties of the state and are very particular to sacrifice the Hindu interest before the religious minorities vested interest. From much applauded land reforms to the educational reforms the Hindu interest were sabotaged. Now the 55 percent of the Hindus population of Kerala controls 11.11 % of the total bank deposits. On the other hand 19 % Christian community commands 33.33% and 25% Muslim population retain 55.55 percent.
    Non Resident Keralite [NRK] remittances as well as the income from commercial crops cultivation are the main source of the income of the state. The number of the NRKs during the period 2005-06 was 3, 65,293. Of which, the 82.5% are in the Gulf countries. Of the total Gulf country workforce during the reported period, 49.5% were Muslims and 31.5% were Christians. The Hindu share in this sector is only 19% only23. 60.5% of the total NRK remittance is the contribution of the minority communities24. Again the total NRK remittance is 184.65 billion rupees and it is equivalent to seven times of the state government receipts as centre budgetary support or fifteen times of the earning from the cashew export or nineteen times of the states marine export. The annual average remittance per house hold is also shown wide imbalances. A Marthomma Christian share is Rs.26, 098/-, a Muslim is Rs.24, 000/-, a Hindu is Rs.6, 134/- and a Hindu SC is Rs725/ [25]. On the other hand the average land holding of a Christian family of Kerala is 126.4 cents and of Hindus and Muslims are 69.1 and 77.1 cents respectively26.
    In the industrial sector 30% and 35% are under the control of the Muslims and Christians respectively. In the agriculture sector Muslims holds 23% and the Christians hold is 40%. The trade and commerce sector Muslims and Christians correspondingly holds 40% and 36%. Conversely the whole jatis of Hindu’s hold in the segments such as industrial is 28%, in agriculture is 24%, and trade-commerce is 22%. Don’t forget the fact that certain weakest Hindu jatis shares in the above sectors may be zero27. The Hindu population of Kerala as per the 2001 census is 56.2%. Of them 5.5% are farmers and 18.3% are farm labours. The Muslim population as per the latest census is 24.7% and among them 6.1% is farmers, 11.8% is farm labourers and one among the three families has an overseas employed person. The 19.1% Christians are the most blessed and 12.8% of them are farmers and 11.2% agricultural labourers. The numbers of BPLs are too high in Hindu jatis. It is 39.3 lakhs amongst the Hindus. On the other hand it is 24.7 lakhs and 8.2 lakhs respectively amongst the Muslims and Christians28.
    Before the growing strength of Semitic religions the Hindu identity itself is in danger at certain parts of the country. This situation further advances to several new states by taking advantage of the changed political situation of India. Under the shield of certain constitutional rights the minority religions labouring to enhance its numerical strength by ignoring the fact that all other sections has the right to protect their religions, faith and cultural identity. If this trend continues unabatedly for another half a century the Hindu nation may shrink to be a concept of the past.
    End notes
    1. V. Balakrishnan, History of Syrian Christians of Kerala, Trissur, 1999, pp 75, 76
    2. C. M. Augur, The Church History of Travancore, 1902, Kottayam, pp 7, 8, 9.
    3 Ward [Lieut.] and Connor, The Survey of Travancore and Cochin States, Trivandrum, 1863, pp 146, 147
    4. Catholic Encyclopedia on CD-ROM, http://www.newadvent.org
    5. Ibid
    6 Titus George, Why must it be Vedic identity? The New Indian Express, Kochi, 25 September 2000.
    7. The date of the journey of Saint Thomas is not mentioned in this book. The book tells us that Thomas started from Jerusalem spent a few time in Syria and reached Afghanistan. Its ruler was Gondophernes. Thomas converted the ruler and his brother. Thereafter his journey was to Mazda where there he became martyr. See The Saint Thomas Christian Encyclopedia of India, Vol. 2, Trissur, 1973, p 3. Three fragments of the Gospel of Thomas in Greek, dated about 200 CE, were found in Oxyrhyncnus, Egypt, at about the turn of the last century and a full text in Coptic, dated 350 CE, was found near Nag Hammadi, Egypt. See New Theories in Bible Research, John Dart, Indian Express, dated 9th April 1978.
    8 P. K. Gopalakrishnan, Kerala Samskarika Caritram, 1991, Trivandrum, pp 206 –211
    9. This Copper Plate contains a land grant to Christian community of Quilon for the construction of Teresa Church. A. Sreedharamenon, Survey of Kerala History, Kottayam, 1970, p100.
    10. C. M. Agur, Church History of Travancore, Kottayam, 1902, pp 7-9
    11. G.T. Mackenzine, Christianity in Travancore, Trivandrum, 1901, p 8
    12.P.K.Balakrishnan, Jati Vyavstituoum Kerala Charitravoum, Kottayam, 1983,
    p 345 ff
    13. See Thazhakadu Church Inscription of Chera King Rajasimha, [1028-1043 C.E]
    14.Kanayalal. M.Talreja, Holy Vedas and Holy Bible, New Delhi, 2000, p 170.
    15. Francis Xavier in a letter to the Church authorities in Portugal explains his joy and consolation while Hindu idols were destroyed. See V. Balakrishnan, op cit, p 105 & Kanayalal M. Talrej, op cit, p 18.
    16.T. K. Velupillai, The Travancore State Manual, Vol. II, [1940] Trivandrum, rpt. 1996, pp 174,175 & A. Sreedharamenon, op cit, pp 228, 229.
    17. C. M. Augur, Church History of Travancore, Kottayam, 1902, pp 7, 8, 9.
    18. P. Cheriyan, op cit, p 68 & Missionary Register from 1818 to 1817, pp 101-115
    19. It is because of the pull caused through the coir rope the Cross curved down. In Malayalam Coonan mean curved or bent. The meaning is “Oath of Bent Cross”.
    20. Rg Vedic messages of “eakam sat vipra bahutavatanthi” the centre of Hindu religious approach. See, P. Parameswaran, Hindutva Ideology – Unique and Universal, Chennai, 2000, p 7.
    21. “Education is an integral part of our mission to proclaim the Good News to every creature”. See C.M.I Vision of Education, [A policy statement published by Carmelite of Mary Immaculate] Cochin, 1991, pp 1, 6.
    22. Paul, the Apostle of Christ, The Acts of the Apostles, New Testament, Chapter XVII, Aphorism: 22.
    23. See Economic Times, 19 May 2003
    24. See K.C. Zachariah & others, Study, report published in ‘The new Indian Express’, Kochi, 22 July 2003.
    25. K. C. Zachria & S. Irudayarajan, CDS Study, New Indian Express, Kochi, 16th July 2004
    26. Kerala Padanam, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, Kozhikode, 2006, p 54. [Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad is a Marxist party organization.].
    27. K. C. Zachariah, CDS Study, report: The New Indian Express, Cochin, 16th July 2004.
    28. Kerala Padanam, op cit, p 54

  36. Benney says

    This theory ( for converting brahmins ) is absolutely wrong . Because in Goa portughese convert lot of brahmins without forged stories .

    Terrorism in northeast is not due to reliogion , if yes then why in assam and Manipur where majority are hindus .

    The Argument about economy is correct the Majour Tax Payers (Revenue earners for state ) in Kerala are Christians and Muslims but majority of government employees (Revenue eaters )are hindus .

  37. Anoop says

    Actually Benney,
    these are worthless arguments.Theres no need to denigrate other beliefs.Because theres not a single
    belief or religion that doesnt include falsified data.Every religion is impure.

  38. Admin says

    Dear DJ

    I have not read K.M. Panikkar’s Malabar and the Portuguese. But I still doubt your quotation is as verbatim from K M Panikkar. It has the flavor of a propaganda, with out any historical consideration similar to the postings done by a friend earlier here.

    The first paragraph, as you might have read many times, is very much debated. Different possibilities, therories were/are being circulated about who was here in first century Christian era in Kerala and its certainly not like what your quotation says.

    Secondly, just because people don’t talk much about persecutions doesnot mean that there weren’t any. I know the source of your quotation ( which are actually some Pariwar books) give a different picture. The persecutions of Christians in Kaveripattanam in 293 AD and their subsequent movement to Quilon, Thiruvancode etc is very much recorded as tradition.

    I don’t know if you are aware of the demand of Zamorin of Calicut after defeating the ruler of Cochin in the fifteen century.

    The Nasranis were especially preferred in Cochin and the Raja of Cochin relied very much on their military and commercial power. Aftter defeating Raja of Cochin in fifteen century,Zamorin of Calicut demanded that Christians should be driven out of Cochin and should be denied the right to participate in trade in Cochin. He also wanted the same right to be conferred up on Muslims of Calicut. ( The Kunjalis: Admirales of Calicut by O K Nambiar- Asia Publication House, London Page 40 ).

    A great part of the Army of Vadakkenkur King consisted of Nasranis and in 1547 he offered about 2000 soldiers from Saint Thomas Christian community to the Portuguese for the defence of Diu.

    Any way, You should realize that if there was no gain for the local cheftians or kingdoms, they wont be protecting or bestowing privileges upon Christians. It was done for the ruling classes own benefit.

    A seventeenth century writer says that the Carpenters, metal smelters,blacksmiths,goldsmiths were under Christian protection ( The Four Copper Plates of the Malankara Nasranis, T K Joseph pp 41-44, The MS refered is in the British Museum). This relationship was in force only in the neighbourhood of Christian centers, not over the whole country.

    One reason the Christians gave for adhering to the Portuguese, was that the local Rajas were letting their privilages fall in to desuetude whenever they could. The Muslims were gaining prominecne, so naturally Rajas could play it to suit the changing times for their own benefits.

    It is the Hindu King of Purakkad who was sworn in as Brother in arms of the King of Portugual . I just wish if these Pariwar propagandist cared to learn history, then it would have helped people like DJ who look up to them for quotations to use against Nasranis.

    Also, the Kings of Malabar never encouraged conversion to Christianity. They used to take away the properties and jobs of the new converts. This practice was specifically started after the arrival of Portuguese, first in Kingdom of Cochin and then to other local kingdoms after 1540 AD. Even the Portuguese had to take permission from the local Kings, for the Churches they constructed for new converts. These kind of rules were not laid for Nasranis as they were there part of this Culture long before even these kingdoms took shape. They were free to construct churches with out permission.

  39. BVT says

    Refer this legend also:From Chaldean catholic archdiocese of Urmia-Salmas site.

    From the book of Martyrs of the East.

    it has written that while the Holy Spirit descended on the Jesus disciples, the majority of the disciples traveled to the different parts of the world to preach the Bible, but Thomas stayed in the Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the King of the India decided to build a palace for his kingdom; therefore he was looking for the architecture. Hence he sent his ambassadors to the Jerusalem to find some one for his project. The ambassadors met a man(Jesus?) who told them; I do have a servant which is a skilled architecture. Afterward Thomas has been introduced to them. .

    Thomas understood that he is his Lord and Master. First he refused to accept the offer and travel to the India, because the India’s name meaning the end of the world. Nevertheless his lord ordered him to go and said to him:”at this moment you have to preach the bible in that region[India?]. Consequently he was sold by 20 coins to the Indian client .And also the man told him: your Master was sold by 30 coins. Are you more valuable than him? Thomas honored the order and started his journey to the India.

  40. B.George says

    Post 38267. Martyrs of the east. etc.

    The idea that Thomas came to Kearlam with a bible and a cross to preach Christianity requires to be considered in the light of available historic truths. The Christian Bible was not even thought of during that era. What could have been available to Thomas as a religious book a.Tanakh a written version of the Jewish bible Torah b. Septuagint again a Greek translation of the Torah c.Hebrew gospel of Mathew that was reportedly found by Pantaenus an Alexandrian theologian who visited Keralam around CE190( He seems to have taken it to Alexandria.)and d. A roll of Gospel of Thomas.
    Regarding the cross it is said that it became a religious symbol much after the Thomas mission to Keralam. Reasonably correct historical evidence is available in various parts of Wikipedia.
    Regarding his Visit to a king named Gondophorus for building a castle etc there is a view that the said king ruled NW India of ancient time later than Thomas. I am not able to give a reliable reference right now. I read it in somewhere but did not keep the reference. If I come across it again I will present it.
    The Gondophorus reference as it stands here is from Acta Thoma a book describing Thomas journey to India. I learn that a copy of this book may be available in an Israeli library. But it is not available for reference to people like me who cannot travel to Israel.
    No harm in looking at history with an open mind.

    B.George

  41. BVT says

    The idea that Thomas came to Kearlam with a bible and a cross to preach Christianity requires to be considered in the light of available historic truths.

    Actually preaching bible means preaching the word of god ,:)

    There is a tradition among the east Indians that St. Bartholomew left a copy of Gospel of Matthew(in Hebrew?) in Kalyan.

  42. BVT says

    “”Regarding his Visit to a king named Gondophorus for building a castle etc there is a view that the said king ruled NW India of ancient time later than Thomas. “”

    The Gnostic Apostle Thomas: “Twin” of Jesus? by Herbert Christian Merillat

    Chapter 1. Go Ye Into All the World

    Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. Acts of Judas Thomas (AJT), as “twin” of Jesus in Syriac culture. Thomas goes to India with an agent of King Gundophorus.

    Chapter 2. Passages to India

    Where was “India”? Trade between the Roman world and India.

    Chapter 3. The True Wedding

    Introduction to Christian Gnostic movement through episodes of AJT: Role of female Wisdom (Sophia/Hakhmuth) in creation. Valentinian rite of the Bridal Chamber: symbolic spiritual union.

    Chapter 4. Beyond the Law

    Antinomianism: tendency to go beyond the Law, in asceticism or license; parallels with Paul; example of Augustine as a Manichean. Some libertine Gnostic sects: Simon Magus, Naasenes, Carpocratians.

    Chapter 5. Land of Five Rivers (Punjab)

    AJT account of Thomas at court of Gundaphorus; Gundaphorus in history at Taxila (Punjab), a major center of Buddhism; Conversion of Gundaphorus; More on Gnostic beliefs and rites; Motif of twin in AJT and elsewhere.

    Chapter 6. A Saintly Rival

    Apollonius of Tyana: pagan rival to Jesus/Thomas; his travels in India.

    Chapter 7. Twinship

    Acts 3-6 of AJT; Gnostic touches; three secret words spoken by Jesus to Thomas. Twin motif in Indian and Iranian myths and art.

  43. BVT says

    Thomas goes to India with an agent of King Gundophorus.-From the book The Gnostic Apostle Thomas: “Twin” of Jesus? by Herbert Christian Merillat

    “Meanwhile, the King of the India decided to build a palace for his kingdom; therefore he was looking for the architecture. Hence he sent his ambassadors to the Jerusalem to find some one for his project.” -from the official site of Chaldean’s in Urmia .

  44. BVT says

    The Twelve, says the Acts of Judas Thomas, gathered in Jerusalem to decide how to carry out their master’s injunction to “teach all nations.” They divided the world (so far as they knew it) by lot, to determine which part each should evangelize. Thomas drew India. He resisted the mission. Indians, he said, were too hard-hearted to receive the message, and besides, he did not speak their language. Jesus appeared in a vision to reassure him: “Fear not, Thomas, because my grace is with you” Thomas still balked: “Send me, Lord, wheresoever you will, but to India I will not go.”

    At that time a merchant named Habban — an emissary from Gundaphorus, a great king in India –arrived on the scene. He was looking for someone to build a palace for his ruler. Jesus pointed out Thomas to him, as a skilled carpenter and a slave whom he was willing to sell. The deal was closed, the price paid in silver, and Thomas summoned. Pointing to Jesus, Habban asked the apostle, “Is this your master,” and Thomas, of course, acknowledged that Jesus was indeed his master. Thereupon the Indian informed him that he now had a new owner. The two set sail for India.

  45. Steven Ring says

    Dear B. George,

    The Syriac Acts of Yehuda Thoma are available on-line with an English translation. The following edition by William Wright is embedded with other texts in a book he published in 1871. The bibliographic details and the links are as follows:

    Wright, William 1871. ‘Apocryphal acts of the apostles’ 2 volumes, London & Edinburgh. Reprinted by Georg Olms, Verlag, Hildersheim, Zürich, NY 1990.

    Volume 1: Syriac text:
    http://ia700400.us.archive.org/0/items/apocryphalactsa01wriggoog/apocryphalactsa01wriggoog.pdf
    Volume 2: English translation:
    http://ia700400.us.archive.org/2/items/apocryphalactsa00wriggoog/apocryphalactsa00wriggoog.pdf

    Sincerely,
    Steven Ring.

  46. B.George says

    Dear Steven Ring,
    Thanks for the reference on Yahuda Thomas.Although I had heard the stories I had no chance to read the original. Thanks Once again.
    Sincerely
    B.George.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.