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

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This paper has been published as a chapter in the book The Way of Life. 

M T Antony, Saint Thomas Cross: A Religio-Cultural Logo of Saint Thomas Christians, The Way of Life, a Festschrift in Honour of Prof. Dr Varghese Pathikulangara, CMI, pp. 237-270, Denha Services Publications 2011, ISBN 978-93-81207-00-0



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

Cross is a universal symbol of Christians all over the world.Primitive Christian groups used the image of fish as their symbol. Sign of cross was reported to be used by primitive Christians by Tertullian (b AD 160). Early in the third century, Clement of Alexandria mentions Cross as the symbol of the Lord. (( 1.Catholic encyclopaedia, Archaeology of Cross and Crucifix, accessed 10/10/2010 )) It was from the 4th century the cross was emerged as the public symbol of Christians. It is considered that Cross is a post Constantinian development after the “exaltation” of Holy Cross. (( 2.George Nedungatt, A Quest for the Historical Thomas Apostle of India, a rereading of Evidence,Theological publications in India, Bangalore, p 346 ))

Cross was an instrument of punishment before it became a sign of Christianity. Romans and Greeks executed people on crosses. Cross symbol was used by humans even from the Neolithic period. Swasthika was used by people of Indo Europen origin like Indians Persians Slavs, Celts and Greeks. (( 3.Wikipedia article about swasthika- archived on 11/09/2010. ))

There are different types of Christian crosses exist in the world used by different ethnic and cultural groups. Gaelic cross is such a religio- cultural symbol found among the Celtic people. Gaelic crosses are excavated in the places where Celtic people live.

St Thomas crosses are unique among St Thomas Christians only. These were named Crosses of Saint Thomas by the Portuguese missionaries as they found these crosses widespread in almost all of Saint Thomas Christian churches. Antonio De Gouvea and Duarte Barbosa give good account of the widespread use of these Crosses in South India.

This cross is the most ancient Christian emblem yet discovered in India. (( 4. ))

Cross in Thomasine Christian tradition

According to St Thomas Christian tradition, The Apostle Thomas planted crosses in the Christian communities he established. Acts of the Apostles doesn’t comment about any such acts by any Apostles despite the author of Acts of the Apostles, St Paul who himself being a champion of the power of Cross.(1 Cor.1:17, Gal.6:14)The early Roman catacombs have no symbolism of Cross.

The Syriac Christian tradition developed a rich symbolism and use of the Cross. (( 5.G Nedungatt, Quest for the Historical Thomas Apostle of India, a rereading of evidence, 2008, Theological Publications in India, Bangalore, p346 )) ”Acts of Thomas describes the Apostle performing miracles with a simple sign of cross. This may be a retrojection of later developments to the apostolic times. The Cross occupies a prominent place in the East Syriac tradition, especially in liturgy. Since the Syriac word for cross, sliba means both the cross and the crucified, there is ample scope for compressing multi level meanings in hymns on the cross. The syriac liturgy of hours is particularly rich in this. The symbolism of cross gained prominence in the Syriac tradition earlier than it did in the other traditions”. (( 6.G Nedungattu, A Quest for the Historical Thomas Apostle of India, a rereading of Evidence,Theological publications in India, Bangalore p387 ))

East Syrian Church had a great veneration of the cross. They even considered the sign of the cross as one of the sacraments . (( 7.Jacob Kollamparambil, The Persian Crosses in India are Christian, not Manichaen, Christian Orient, March 1994, p 29 citing Abdisho of Soba, Liber argaritae, tract IV, ch I and Tract T , ch 2 )) As far back as in even AD 250, East Syrians erected crosses at their tombs. (( 8.E Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran III, 2 Cambridge, 1983, p929, E E Herzfeld, Archaeological History of iran, London, 1930, pp 103-104, cited by Jacob Kollamparambil, The Persian Crosses in India are Christian, not Manichaen, Christian Orient, March 1994, p 30)) This shows that East Syrians venerated cross very early. St Helena was a Syriac Christian who discovered the wood of the true cross. This could have been due to the fact that her church venerated the cross. (( 9.Jacob Kollamparambil, The Persian Crosses in India are Christian, not Manichaen, Christian Orient, March 1994 p 30 ))

Mar Thoma Sliva- Saint Thomas’ Cross- A religio cultural symbol.

Saint Thomas’ Cross or Mar Thoma Sliva is the religio cultural symbol of Saint Thomas’ Christians. This cross was the only object venerated in the Churches of Saint Thomas Christians when the Portuguese missionaries arrived. The most popular and the most ancient model is that of the Cross found at Mylappore- the Mount Cross. This is an ancient cross discovered by the Portuguese in the ruins of the Church at Saint Thomas mount in AD 1547.

It is well documented that the Christians of St Thomas did not have anything other than their Cross in their churches. The only archaeological evidence left about the antiquity of St Thomas Christians is the number of Persian Crosses found scattered in South Asia. There are 6 such crosses found in Kerala. They are two in the Great Church of Kottayam- Kottayam Valiya palli of the Knanaya Diocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite Church), one each in Ruha d’ Qudisha Forane Church at Muttuchira and Garvasis and Proctasis Church, Kothanalloor under the eparchy of Pala and Saint Mary’s Church Alengadu, under the eparchy of Ernakulam- Angamaly all are of the Syro Malabar Church, one at St George Church Kadamattom of the Syrian orthodox Church (Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church). The others in the region are found in Chennai- the Mount Cross found in the Saint Thomas Mount at Mylappore, Agasim in Goa and three such crosses found in Sri LanKa, one at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanca kept in the museum of Anuradhapura, one at Kotte and another at Gintumpitiya (Saint Thomas’ Town), Colombo, both are lost now. (( 10 H Hosten, Antiquities from San Thome and Mylappore,1936 pp474, 477-478, 484 , cited by John F Butler, The iconography of the ancient South Indian incised Crosses, Indian Church History Review,Vol VIII, No 2, 1969 p87 ))

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This widespread distribution of similar crosses with lotus and dove in this region signify the common religio cultural heritage of the Saint Thomas Christians in the region.

Crosses in South East Asia

Similar Crosses are also found in South East Asia and China. All these show similar design with the empty eastern cross standing on lotus. (( 11. T P Elias, East Syrian Missions to Asia with special reference to Malabar coast from sixth century to sixteenth century AD and its influence on Indian religious Society and Culture, Thesis submitted to the degree of Ph D in Syriac studies, Mahatma Gandhi University, India, p200))

Monasteries decorated with East Syrian crosses dated seventh century and a coin with east Syrian Church cross set in a ring of pearls found in Samarqand. East Turkestan , Turfan, Dunhuang, are also places where similar crosses were found. (( 12 T P Elias, East Syrian Missions to Asia with special reference to Malabar coast from sixth century to sixteenth century AD and its influence on Indian religious Society and Culture, Thesis submitted to the degree of Ph D in Syriac studies, mahatma Gandhi University, India, p146 ))


Crosses are found in Buddhist monasteries in Tibet also. In Shatschukul, a cross with Tibetan inscriptions and a figure of Dove and in Lhasa, a large iron corn measure decorated with a Nestorian cross was found. (( 13. T P Elias, East Syrian Missions to Asia with special reference to Malabar coast from sixth century to sixteenth century AD and its influence on Indian religious Society and Culture, Thesis submitted to the degree of Ph D in Syriac studies, mahatma Gandhi University, India,pp154 ))

Malacca cross

A copper cross on marble tablet was dug up in Malacca before AD 1613. It was found in the ruins of an underground house of bricks, like a hermitage, and it was of the shape of the crosses of the knights of Calatrava-a Greek cross in gules with fleur-de-lis at its ends. It was supposed to have belonged to some Christians of Mylappore who had come to Malacca with merchants of Coromandel. The Malacca cross, suggested to the Portuguese a comparison with the cross of about AD 650 on St Thomas Mount, Mylappore. Doubtless, it was a Persian cross as at Mylappore. (( 14.KSP seriers 5 p 237 H Hosten))

In a cave at Kyanzittha, near pagan, Burma, in what is now a Buddhist shrine, there is a fresco with 9 crosses of a simple pattern: 8 crosses occupying the petals of an eight petalled lotus and the central cross lying in the cup. (( 15 Kerala Society Papers, series 5, Trivandrum, 1929, p 237 ))

Taxilla cross is a cross pendant found in Taxilla in Pakistan but there are arguments that it is a pre Christian symbol.Several pre Christian coins are found in the region with similar cross embossed. (( 16 Gunnar Myhlman, The hidden string between the Indus valley bead culture and the Buddhist bead culture, ))

Accounts of different authors

Gouvea – Cross of Saint Thomas

Antionio de Gouvea was an aide of Arch bishop Dom Alexis de Menesis. Menesis took notes of what he saw and heard during his visits to different Saint Thomas Christian communities. Compiling these notes, Antonio de Gouvea published a book in AD 1606 ‘Jornada of Dom Alexis De Menesis’ which contain a mine of information about sixteenth century Malabar. Gouvea was the first who named these crosses, ‘Crosses of Saint Thomas’.

Gouvea reports that the old churches of Saint Thomas Christians were built like the temples of the gentiles but all full of crosses like those of the miracles of Saint Thome ( Mylappore), which they call Cross of Saint Thomas. (( 17 Jornada of Alexis De Menesis: A Portuguse Account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, Ed. Dr. Pius Malekandathil, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2003, p244-245)) This is the most ancient account of Saint Thomas Crosses in Kerala. The original words used by Gouvea is “Cruz de Sam Thome”-meaning Cross of Saint Thomas. ((18 Jornada of Alexis De Menesis: A Portuguese Account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, Ed. Dr. Pius Malekandathil, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2003, foot note p 245))

Duarte Barbosa

Duarte Barbosa was a Portuguse traveller who came to India with Cabral in 1501. When Cabaral left Malabar with Joseph the Indian and others, Barbosa started exploring the country. Barbosa has written a lot about Christians in Malabar. He reports “ they say mass on altars like ours with a cross in front of them. And he who says mass is in the middle of the altar, and those who assist him are at the sides” (( 19 Duarte Barbosa, A description of the coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the beginning of Sixteenth century, p 162)) Again, Barbosa describes the ancient church at cape Comorin- “At this cape Comory there is ancient church of Christians, which was founded by the Armeninas, who still direct it, and perform in it the divine service of Christians and have crosses on the altars” (( 20Duarte Barbosa, , A description of the coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the beginning of Sixteenth century p 163))

These paragraphs clearly state the situation of Saint Thomas Christians just before the arrival of Portuguese. It is assumed that Barbosa completed his book by 1514-1517 period. He has clearly documented the crosses in our churches and our devotion to the cross. If you read this together with Gouvea, it is evident that these crosses are those of Mylappore. Barbosa also talks about the tradition of martyrdom of Apostle Thomas at Mylappore.

The narrations of Joseph the Indian

Joseph the Indian describes about the churches of Saint Thomas Christians in AD 1501 and reports that they have only crosses in their churches. The Latin text clearly states that there are no statues. Joseph also mentions about a big cross at the foundation of the churches- the open air rock cross. (( 21 Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD, Gorgias Press, pp166-167, 231))


A M Mundadan describes that the Portuguese missionaries of the 16th century found that the Churches of the Saint Thomas Christians had no statues, but only crosses, without the figure of Jesus. They had it in Gold, silver, wood and granite stones. The Our lady of Mercy Church at Quilon, where Mar Sabor was buried, had three altars, each having a cross on it , a golden cross on the central altar and silver crosses on the side altars. One of these silver crosses was given to Captain Albuquerque as a gift to King Manuel of Portugal in AD 1503. (( 22 Jacob Kollamparambil, The Persian Crosses in India are Christian, not manichaen, Christian Orient, March 1994, p 30 ))

Lotus, Dove and Cross

The salient feature of these crosses is lotus on the bottom and dove on the top on a decorative cross without the figure of Jesus. Crosses with the figure of Jesus- the crucifix became popular only by 12th century in the Latin Church. (( 23 Joseph Perumthottam, Circular 10 Ch 67-114, Vedaprachara Madhyasthan, September 2010, p7 )) The ancient Christian communities used the cross as an emblem without the figure of Jesus.

The emblem of cross has been considered very important by the primitive Christian community. The cross has been considered the sign of Jesus. ‘And then the sign of Son of man will appear in the heaven and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.( Matthew 24:30)

The East Syrian liturgy of hours says that the sliba will be held by Gabriel on the day of last judgement. The Latin church liturgy says the sign of cross appear in the sky on the day of second coming of Jesus. Mar Epharaim considered the sliba as a sign that appear before the second coming of Jesus. Luke says ‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”(Luke 24: 26) From these, we can see that the Cross is a sign of salvation in Mishiha. Cross reminds us about the victory of Jesus over death. It is the sign of eternal life. The whole theme of the Jesus’s incarnation was salvation- eternal life. It was the victory of Jesus and salvation- eternal life, not the death on cross was the central theme of the faith. That was the reason why crucifix was not used in the primitive church. Later, in Latin Church, by the influence of piety on the sufferings of Jesus, Crucifix was evolved. (( 24 Joseph Perumthottam, Circular 10 Ch 67-114, Vedaprachara madhyasthan, September 2010, p5 )) As all know, different statues and Crucifix came to India by Portuguese missionaries and they forcefully introduced these to Saint Thomas Christians replacing our religio cultural symbol, the Cross of Saint Thomas’ Christians. The proof for this is seen in the legitimate attempts of mutilation of many of the Saint Thomas Crosses.

Lotus has been considered as a symbol of Budhism and it became the symbol of India itself due the influence of Budhism especially during the time of Ashoka.It symbolises purity also. We can see many Indian Gods standing on lotus in various art forms.

Lotus and Cross is the main theme of most of the ancient crosses found in the Chineese provinces. (( 25 In one of the Chineese crosses, fire or a flame also seen on the top.

The dove depicts the Holy Spirit. Dove and cross is a popular design in the ancient church. A dove descending onto a cross is seen on the sarcophagus of Arch Bishop Theodore who died in AD 691, in Ravenna in Italy (( 26 Eckerhard Bickelmann, The saint Thomas Cross, An early example of the inculturation of Christian art in india, Indian Church History Review, Vol IV, No 2 1970p66, John F Butler, Further thoughts on South Indian Crosses, Indian Church History Review, Vol IV, No 2, p74)). In the Apse mosaic of Saint John Lateran, Rome, show an empty cross with a dove descending beak first onto it. (( 27 John F Butler, Further thoughts on South Indian Crosses, Indian Church History Review, Vol IV, No 2, p75 )) Professor Gensichen of Heidelberg suggests that the cross and dove iconographic tradition of south India conforms with the mainstream Christian tradition of that time. (( 28 Professor Dr D W Gensichen, Indian Church History Review, Vol IV, No 1 June 1970, p3 cited by John F Butler, Further thoughts on South Indian Crosses, ICHR, IV, No 2 p 76)) John F Butler discusses the cross and dove in his paper ‘Further thoughts on the South Indian Crosses’ he describes a 15th century orprey showing the father seated in a shrine within the top arm of the cross and a dove descending from his lap with the beak almost touching the INRI titulus which is immediately above the son’s head, in Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester. Another orprey shows a dove descending onto the titulus of the cross above the son’s head.kept in the At gallery of the Corporation of Burnley. These shows the dove as the Holy Spirit in the Trinity of Father, son and the dove. (( 29 John F butler, Further thoughts on the South Indian Crosses, Indian Church History Review, Vol IV, No 2 1970, p73 ))

Symbolism and Inculturation in the Cross of Saint Thomas

The Cross of Saint Thomas is the best example of Inculturation. This is a Cross evolved in Indian culture.

Symbolism of various elements

The elements of the Cross of Saint Thomas Christians have been analysed by various scholars. Rev Dr Varghese Pathikulangara, describes the Mar Thoma Cross with his immense knowledge in East Syriac theology, as a dynamic symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Indian context. It proclaims the theological, Christological, Pneumatological, Eschatological and ecclesiological specifications of Christian faith as the Thomas Christians practice in India. He considers this cross as an invaluable historical data of the living faith of authentic Saint Thomas Christians.

The empty cross in imitation of the empty tomb symbolises the resurrection of Jesus. The blooming buds at the ends of the four arms of this cross symbolises the new life that is restored to man in the resurrection of Jesus.

The descending dove symbolise the Holy Spirit. As Saint Paul teaches, Holy Spirit transforms Jesus’ flesh body into Spirit Body and thus vivifies the dead Jesus Christ. (Rom 8, 11)

The lotus on the bottom shows the Christian faith erected on Indian culture. The three steps on the bottom of the lotus signify the gogulta, the Calvary. (( 30 Varghese Pathikulangara, Mar Thoma Sleeva wall calendar, Denha Services, 2006 ))

Comparisons with Indian art

The Mount Cross shows two pillars on either side with a round arch on the top. Jyothi Sahi, a Christian artist observed that this arch belongs to the well known torana type, also found in Buddhist and Hindu art. This arch springs from the opened mouth of an aquatic monster known as makara. The proto type of the makara torana can be seen in famous Kailasanadha temple of Ellora. Here, in a pillared chamber, the three river goddesses Ganga, Saraswathi and Jamuna are exquisitely carved under a makara torana against the background of rich floral designs. (( 31 C Sivarama Murti, Indian, Kunst and Kultur, Frielberg, 1975 cited by Eckehard Bickelmann, The saint Thomas Cross, an early example of the inculturation of Christian art in India, Indian Church History review, Vol IV No 2 p64)) In Ellora, the makara are sitting on the capitals while in Mount Cross, they sit on an abacus(plate)which is laid on the cushion. This type of Cushion capital with abacus can be seen in Mahabalipuram and at Vaikuntha Permal and Kailsanadha temples in Kanchipuram which are assigned to the middle of the eighth century , being built by the pallava dynasty. (( 32 Persy Brown, Indian Archetecture, Budhist and Hindu periods, 6th edition, Bombay, 1971, pp 73-77, cited by Eckerhard Eckehard Bickelmann, The saint Thomas Cross, an early example of the inculturation of Christian art in india, Indian Church History review, Vol IV No 2 p64-65)) Thus, it is clear that the Saint Thomas Cross encircled by the makara torana is an early perhaps the earliest example of inculturated Christian art in India. (( 33 Eckehard Bickelmann, The Saint Thomas Cross, an early example of the inculturation of Christian art in India, Indian Church History review, Vol IV No 2 p64)) This is clearly an inculturated Christian monument of authentic Thomasine Christians of South India.

Iconoclasm by the Portuguese missionaries

The Portuguese missionaries tried to get rid of this ancient monument and traditions of Saint Thomas Christians to replace it with the Western Christianity. Despite their force and might, the Church of Saint Thomas Christians was successful in keeping their apostolic experience of Christianity handed down from their forefathers. It is evident that the Portuguese missionaries destroyed or abandoned these crosses in our community deliberately to keep the Catholic Syriac community away from their memories of their ancient traditions to make them in conformity with the Latin rite after the Synod of Diamper and were replaced by the Crucifix introduced by the Portuguese missionaries. We can see that the Saint Thomas Crosses at Goa and Muttuchira are found mutilated. The cross at Kothanallor was made invisible by covering it by plaster, (but it became visible when the plaster started falling away from the granite cross). The cross at Alengadu was just abandoned in the ground and was found accidentally. Surprisingly, the original Cross found at Saint Thomas Mount was preserved by the Portuguese as it has sweat blood and played miracles. It has to be noted that there were no Saint Thomas Christian community at Mylappore at that time and hence, preserving it would not cause any consequences for their proselitysation efforts where as in Malabar, it will cause the community to go back to the old East Syriac heritage. The crosses at Kottayam were preserved well in the altar as the Church there was not under the control of the Portuguese missionaries.

Saint Thomas’ Christians’ Cross or Manichaen Cross ?

There has been deliberate attempts from a section in the Syro Malabar Church to portrait the Saint Thomas’ Cross as Manichaen cross. I think these were part of the group politics in the church in the 1990s.

Manichaen theory and Burnell

The Manichaen theory came into the arena from A C Burnell who was an archaeologist. Burnell studied about the Pahlavi inscriptions in India. Burnell proposes that the earliest Christian settlements in India were Persian, not Syrian as Pahlavi was the language in Persia until AD 650. He argues that it was Gnosticism and Manichaeism that was prevalent in Persia not Christianity and hence he proposes that the so called early Christians in Kerala were Manichaens. He has based his arguments on certain references about Manichaen missions to Hind and Sin from Manichaen epistles, witness of Cosmas Indecapleutes in AD 6th century about presence of Persian Christians and Persian Bishop, presence of Pahlavi language in different crosses and Copper plates. In a nutshell, Burnell’s argument is that as the early so called Christians were Persian, they should be Manichaens as Christianity in Perisan empire was vogue during the period of Sassaninas. Burnell Published his article in AD 1874 in Indian Antiquary. There was a series of discussions in Indian Antiquary with different arguments from Col H Yule-Indian Antiquary Jan 1875 p8-10, Richard Collins – Indian Antiquary May 1875 pp153-155, Burnell’s reply in June 1875 pp181-183, Collins again in Oct 1875 pp 311-314. From these articles, it seems that Burnell disagree with the St Thomas’s Apostolate in India and accuses that it was the Roman Catholic missionaries who supported the local legends about Saint Thomas, the Apostle to make it a history. He agrees that the inscriptions on these crosses are not Manichaen but Christian itself and argues that those were made to convert the Manichaens. He interprets the inscriptions as “who is the true messiah and God above and Holy Ghost”. Burnell wrote, ‘This statement appears intended to contradict the Manichaen doctrine that the crucified messiah was the son of a poor widow, and not Jesus. If these Pahlavi inscriptions were Manichaean, they would be in a different character. It seems to me, not unlikely, however, that relics of the manichaens may yet remain to be discovered on the west coast of the peninsula where they once were very numerous’. (( 34 A C Burnell, On some Pahlavi inscriptions in South India, Indian Antiquary, November 1874, p314 ))

But even after 135 years, so far we have not seen any of those relics of Manichaeism yet. From these, Burnell agrees that these crosses were Christian crosses with Christian inscriptions meant to convert the earlier Manichaens to orthodoxy by the so called Nestorians who came later. He again argues that Nestorians would not have used Pahlavi language but the use here is meant for the earlier Manichaens!

Persian Christian monument- Collins

Collins argues against it and states that Burnell’s interpretation of the cross inscriptions itself are not Manichaen but Christian and they simply connect the Malabar Christians with Persia during some time in the Sassanian dynasty. There are Syrian documents which tell us that the Christians of Malabar were early connected to urrhoi or Edessa and those are enough to account for any amount of Persian antiquities now discoverable, without the supposition that the only Persian arrivals were manichaens. Collins also discusses about Burnells argument that manigramams were manichaens and declares that “there may indeed have been Manichaens in South India and in Ceylon; but I do not think we have found any certain trace of them at present, and we shall most certainly be mislead if we begin to look up all the word beginning with mani”. He concludes that the manichaen origin of Christianity in South India, then, is a thorough miserrimus dexter and we may safely shelve the subject till the ‘relics of manichaens’ actually do come to light. (( 35 Richard Collins, Manichaens on the Malabar coast, Indian Antiquary, May 1875, pp153-155)) Burnells’s main argument for Manichaen theory was that, as Manichaens were stronger and Christians were very vogue in existence in the Sassanian kingdom during the period, the Persian settlers should be manichaen. Fr Jacob Kollamparambil comments that Burnell’s understanding of Persian Christianity and its history is defective. (( 36 Jacob Kollamparambil, Persian crosses in India are Christian, not Manichaen,Christian orient, March 1994, pp24-35 )) Fr Kollamparabil writes that Christianity in the Persian empire from the early centuries was much different from what Burnell wrote. Under the Sassanian rule from 3rd century to 8th century, the East Syrian Church had gathered considerable strength in Persia proper, Khuzistan, Babylonia, Adiabene, and Mesopotamia. Towards the end of the Sassanian rule, , before the Isalmic conquest, in the middle of the 7th century, the Metropolitan Province of Riwardushir alone in Persia had grown into a super province having 18 suffragan eparchies. (( 37 Jacob Kollamparambil, Persian crosses in India are Christian, not Manichaen Christian Orient, March 1994, citing W G Young, Patriarch, Shah and caliph, 1974 Rawalpindi, pp 41-44, 98-99)) Even though Manichaeism was favoured in Sassanian rule under Shapor I (AD 240-273), it had lost the favour and under Bahram-I (AD 274-277), Manichaens were persecuted and Mani was executed.

After Burnell- Collins dispute in Indian Antiquary, the Manichaen theory was refuted and discredited and became dead among scholarly historians and many new articles were published from scholars the gave strong evidence of the presence of the Church of the East in Persia and its connections to India . (( 38 (Jacob Kollamparambil, Persian crosses in India are Christian, not Manichaen Christian Orient p 29 ))

Pahlavi- the language of Persian Christians

Church of Rewardashir of Fars was one of a definite stream of the East Syrian church with its own culture. The Indian church was under the Metropolitan of Fars until the time of Patriarch Timothy I . The Metropilitanate of Fars had some differences from the Patriarcate of Ctesiphon based on the usage of Pahlavi language, besides issues like ordination of Bishops and monasticism. The Church of Ctesiphon had Syriac as its liturgical language whereas Church of Fars (Persia) used Pahlavi as its liturgical language in the 5th century. (( 39 Richard N Fyre, Bahraine under the Sassanians, in Daniel Potts, Ed. Dilmun: New Studies in the Archaeology and early History of Bahrain, Berlin, 1983, p 169, cited by P Malekkandathil, Saint Thomas Christians; A Historical analysis of their origin and development upto 9th century AD , in Saint Thomas Christians, Nambudiris Jews and Sangam literature, Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2006p 42)) The Bishop Ma’na of Rew Ardashir had made a Pahlavi Bible in contrast to the Peshitta Bible, in AD 420 and a copy of it had been excavated in 1966in Turfan in China. And is now kept in Berlin. (( 40 Pius Malekkandathil, Saint Thomas Christians; A Historical analysis of their origin and development upto 9th century AD , in Saint Thomas Christians, Nambudiris Jews and Sangam literature, Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2006 p42 citing Gerd Gropp, Christian maritime trade of Sassanian age in the Persian gulf, p 85 and E schau, Vom Christentum in der Persis, pp 960 ff))

Thus, even when the East Syrian Patriarcate was based at Ctesiphon after AD 420, Church at Fars developed into a parallel ecclesiastical centre and during the period 554- 790, Metropolitan of Fars separated his diocese from the Patriarch of Ctesiphone and himself ordained the Bishops for the six Bishoprics under him. The six towns of Bet Qatraye/ Bahraine- oman, Socotora and coastal south west India were also under the Bishopric of Pars. (( 41 Pius Malekkandathil, Saint Thomas Christians; A Historical analysis of their origin and development upto 9th century AD , in Saint Thomas Christians, Nambudiris Jews and Sangam literature, Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2006, p;41 citing Gerd Gropp, Christian Maritime Trade of Sasanian age in the Persian Gulf, p 85, E Schau, Von Christnetum in der Persia, in Sitzungsberichte Preubischen Akademie der Wissenschdften, Berlin, 1916, p 965)) The Catholicose of East Syrian Church Isho Yab III (650-658) records that in his day, the Metropiolitan of Rew Ardashir was responsible not only for the dioceses Fars alone but also for India, a geographical concept in which he included the places between the maritime borders of the Sassanid kingdom to the country called Qal’ah in Malayan peninsula, covering a distance of 12300 parasangs. (( 42 Pius Malekkandathil Saint Thomas Christians; A Historical analysis of their origin and development upto 9th century AD , in Saint Thomas Christians, Nambudiris Jews and Sangam literature, Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2006p 41-42, citing O Braun, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium: Scrtptores Syri, Ii p 252; B E Colles, Persian Merchants and Missionaries, pp 20-21. Medleycote also quotes Assemani, a letter of Jesuab of Adiabene Patriarch of the Nestorians, a.d.650-660( Assemani, Bibilotheca orientalis) in which he mentions Kalah as the extreme eastern terminus of his jurisdiction in the direction of India and beyond India proper. ))

If Manichean, why only in India ?

Pius Malekkandathil also discusses the Manichean theory in his article Saint Thomas Christians;A historical analysis of their origin and development up to 9th century AD. He argues that it is true that some Manichaen texts speak of Manichaen missionaries travelling to India, if they were Manichaen crosses, it should have found in places, where Manichaen doctrines got wide acceptance. Since it had more lasting impact on the western church than on Indian church , these crosses should have been found more in Europe, but so far none is recovered from Europe or from the heartland of Manichaeism. (( 43 Pius Malekkandathil, Saint Thomas Christians; A Historical analysis of their origin and development upto 9th century AD , in Saint Thomas Christians, Nambudiris Jews and Sangam literature, Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Cochin, 2006, p 43 ))

Did Manicheans ever venerate a Cross?

Fr Jacob Kollamparambil asks, did Manichaens ever venerate a cross ? According to Manichaen principles, Jesus did not die on a cross but it was a substitute. Mani also did not die on a cross. Mani was imprisoned by Bahram I and died in the prison in chains. His corpse was pierced through with a buming torch and then mutilated. The severed head was hung up over the city gate of Bet- lapat. His remains were buries by his followers at Ctesiphon (( 44 Jacob Kollamparambil, The Persian Crosses inn India are Christian, not Manichaen, in Christian Orient, March 1994, p 34-35, citing G Widengren, Mani and Manichaeism, New York, 1965, pp41-42 and K Rudolph, Gnosis, pp330-331.)) So, cross is nothing important to Manichaens and then why would Manichaens venerate a cross?

Religious Symbol of Saint Thomas Christians

Rev Dr George Nedungatt certifies that “The Saint Thomas’ Cross has been dubbed by some critics as manichaen, but there is no valid reason for doing so…Neither Apostolic nor Manichaen in origin, the Saint Thomas’ Cross is a beautiful and meaningful religious symbol of the Thomas Christian tradition. (( 45 G Nedungatt, Quest for Historic Thomas Apostle of India, pp386-387 ))

Different Crosses

The Pahlavi inscribed Crosses found in the Indian subcontinent are grouped into two designs. Both the designs are displayed together at Kottayam valiya palli on the side altars for comparison. One with round upper border, well defined dove on the top and lotus on the bottom with pillars and arch encircling the cross where as the second group has pointed uppoer end, ill defined dove and lotus and no pillars and arch.

1 The Mount Cross- The Bleeding Cross

The Mount Cross- The Bleeding Cross
The Mount Cross- The Bleeding Cross

This is the first discovered Persian Cross. Mylappore has been considered as the site of martyrdom and the burial place of saint Thomas the Apostle . Saint Thomas’ Christians had a tradition of annual pilgrimage to Mylappore from ancient times.Marco Polo in AD 1293, wrote that the body of Saint Thomas the apostle lies in this province of maabar in a ‘little town’ , John of Monte Carvino AD 1292-1293 wrote that he stayed in the country of India wherein stands the church of Saint Thomas the Apostle for thirteen months and baptised people and buried his companion in the church of Saint Thomas. Yule’s Cathay reports Blessed Oderic (AD 1324-25) visiting Malabar,( he uses the term ‘Minibar’) and then another ten days journey to Mobaar where laid the body of Thomas Apostle. . And John De Marignolli in AD 1349 visiting Columbuim- Quilon and then proceeding to visit the shrine of the Apostle Thomas in Mirapolis . Nocola De Conti (AD 1425-1430) visited maritime city names Malepur situated in the second gulf of India- Bay of Bengal-where the body of Saint Thomas is honourably buried . (( 46 AE Medleycot, Apostle Thomas, pp69- 73)) Narrations of Joseph, the Indian (AD 1501)confirms that Saint Thomas’ Christians go to Mylappore on pilgrimage where the body of Saint Thomas is buried. (( 47 Antony Vallavanthara, India in 1500 AD Gorgias Press, pp214-215 and 259 )) Duarte Barbosa also reports the prevailing tradition in AD1514 that Mylappore was the site of martyrdom and the tomb of Saint Thomas the Apostle. (( 48 Duarte Barbosa, A description of the coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the beginning of Sixteenth century, Hakluyt Society, London, 1865, pp160-161, 174-175 )) This proves that the tradition about Mylappore was present even before Portuguese.

When the first Portuguese arrived there, there was no building, only foundation walls that rose above the ground about 1 cubit, stretching east to west. The first Portuguese missionaries built a small oratory on this foundation in AD 1523.Later, in 1547, they decided to build a larger church and when they dug found another foundation, also east to west on the Tuesday 23/03/1547 which was unknown. They continued digging down and at 3 cubic, they found the ‘Holy Stone’. This stone was of the size of a mile stone with the cross engraved on it, facing down with fresh blood stains on it. This narration was taken by a Bishop from the elders of the area and from the writings of Nuno Luis and from others and publish (( 49 Kerala Society Papers, TK Joseph, Series II 9 p 215 ))

The cross has raised edges and is round on the top. The Pahlavi inscriptions are on this round edge with a small cross in between two parts of the inscriptions. The cross inside is surrounded by two pillars and an arch surrounding it. The arch originates from the open mouth of something like an aquatic creature.

The cross has three steps on the bottom, three downward facing petals and upward facing floral petals looks like a lotus on which the cross is erected. The cross shows the arms ends in a bud pattern. The bottom arm a bit longer than the rest. A dove is seen facing downwards on the top arm. The entire structure is like a niche in which the cross and pillars are carved.

Kottayam Valiyapalli Crosses- 2 in number

Two similar crosses are found in Kottayam Valiya palli, on either side altars. The one on the south alter is exactly similar in design to the Mount cross but the one on the north alter is a bit different. These are the two different designs of Persian Crosses found in the Indian subcontinent.

2 Cross at north altar. (Left side)

Cross at north altar. (Left side)
Cross at north altar. (Left side)

This cross is smaller with a pointed border compared to the round upper border of the Mount cross. The pillars and arch are not seen.

The border around the cross is pointed, and the Pahlavi inscription is over the edge of the slab outside the border. The petals on the bottom of the cross is different from that of Mount Cross. They are mainly directed downwards with a small bud upwards on either ends. The arms of the cross are almost equal in length, but the ends show an additional button. The dove on the top is smaller, not very clear; it may be interpreted as a dove or even a flame.

This cross is considered to be the older one among the two.

3 Cross at the south altar.(Right side)

Cross at the south altar.(Right side)
Cross at the south altar.(Right side)

This is larger and the design is identical to the Mount cross. Four arms are almost equal in length but ends shows an additional tongue shaped structure besides the three button/bud design. In the centre where all the four arms meet, there is a circular floral design. The dove is well defined and clear. On the bottom, three steps are clear, the downward facing petals are more like concentric semicircles but the upward facing petals are similar to mount cross floral arrangement.

The Pahlavi inscriptions are on the raised round edges of the slab on the top. There is additional East Syriac inscriptions are also seen on the bottom raised edge of the slab. Below the syriac inscriptions, there are 5 or 6 floral design seen. Above this whole design, another small cross similar to mount cross with two peacocks kissing the ends of the side arms and a floral decocoration above it. This part is not well visible now as it is covered by the wooden decoration of the church altar but described by Joseph Vazhuthanappalli and other authors. (( 50 Joseph Vazhuthanapalli, Archaeology of mar Sliba, p17))

4 Kothanalloor Cross.

Kothanalloor Cross
Kothanalloor Cross

This is found at the Gervasis and Prothasis church at Kothanalloor of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church. This church was believed to be founded by Persian Bishops Mar Sabour and Afroath in AD 826. Mar Sabour and Afroath were two twin brothers. This cross was found on the northern wall of the church covered with plaster on 14/09/1987. (( 51 Joseph Vazhuthanapalli, The archaeology of Mar Sliba p16)) This seems to be a deliberate attempt to hide away the cross. Now, the cross is installed in a small chapel outside the church near the presbytery. It is believed that the original church was in Pallikkunnu and when they moved to the present site, the cross was installed on the side wall and probably someone deliberately wanted to cover it with plaster to remove the memories of Mar Sabour and Afroath. When the synod of Diamper declared Mar Sabor and Afroath as heretics and commanded all the churches dedicated to Sabour and Afroth should be rededicated to all saints. As the community was resilient to give up the twin saints popularly known as Kantheesangal, (syriac word kantheesangal means holy men) the missionaries found another twin saints from Milan – Saints Gervais and Prothasis who lived in AD 160-180 and were martyrs and renamed this church after them, but the name Kantheesangal continued. This seems that the people were tricked by installing a set of different twin saints in the same name Kantheesangal.

This cross is similar to the smaller cross at Kottayam Valiyapally with pointed upper border but no inscriptions. The three steps are seen, the petal arrangement below the cross is identical to the smaller Kottayam cross. Four arms are equal in length and ends show the additional bud on the three button arrangement which is projecting into the raised border. The dove on the top is not very clear, it is small and can be interpreted as a flame or fire.

5 Muttuchira Cross

 Muttuchira Cross
Muttuchira Cross

This was found in Ruha’D Qudisha Forane Church, Muttuchira of the Syro Malabar Catholic church. The history and details of this cross is well described on a granite slab in vattezhuthu which is lying neglected on the surrounding of the church!

This cross is similar in design to the smaller cross at Kottyam Valiyapalli and Kothanalloor crosses, but the border is not pointed, but rounded. There is no pillar or arch, the Pahlavi inscriptions are seen on the round edge.These inscriptions are seen partially mutilated raising the suspicion that it was also subject to destruction by authorities.

The design of the cross is similar to the Kothanalloor cross- equal arms, design of the petal arrangements below the cross, and the dove is inconspicuous, like a flame or fire.

The Muttuchira rock inscriptions in vattezhuthu tell us about installation of this cross in AD 1580 by Mar Simon, a Chaldean Bishop. It is not clear whether it was a re-erection of an old cross.

6 Alengadu Cross

Alengadu Cross
Alengadu Cross

This is found near Saint Mary’s Forane Church at Alengadu, of the Syro Malabar Catholic church. This cross was abandoned and was lying like a mile stone. It was identified only in AD 1931 and is installed in a roadside chapel near the church.

This cross is similar to the smaller cross of Koottayam valiyapally. There is no arch and pillars. The border is pointed and there are Pahlavi inscription on the border. The dove is small and inconspicuous seen like a flame or fire.

7 Kadamattom Cross

Kadamattom Cross
Kadamattom Cross

This cross is found on the south wall of the altar of the Syrian Orthodox Church at Kadamattom. This cross is in a niche with two pillars and arch surrounding the cross. Pahlavi inscriptions are on the raised edge of the niche as in Mount Cross. The four arms are equal in length. The dove does not show definite anatomy of a bird, it could be a fire. The petal arrangement on the bottom of the cross is similar to Mount cross. The steps are clear. On the bottom of the niche, where we see the syriac inscriptions in Kottayam valiyapalli cross, there are five vertical lines seen as five small pillars. There is an oblique grove connecting the second and third lines making it like N, make it read as INRI, but the R is not clear. If it is INRI, it may be a later addition after the arrival of Portuguese.

8 Goa cross- Agassim cross

 Goa cross- Agassim cross
Goa cross- Agassim cross

This was discovered by Fr Cosme Costa SFX, an archaeologist cum historian of the Pilar Society of Goa accidentally on 27th of April 2001. This was found in a mound of Rock in a thicket in the premises of Saint Peter’s chapel at Dandiin Agaism at the fag end of the old port of Gopakapattana. This was actually the base of granite cross of Latin design- plain cross- which had crumbled down around 1995 on a cyclonic storm and was neglected since then. This Persian cross was hidden inside the mound and had come out and was about to fall into the sea. This was a granite slab with a Persian cross similar to the Mount cross- the two pillars and the arch encircling the Persian cross in a niche carved in granite. The round edge of the upper part shows the same Pahlavi inscriptions. The cross is similar to mount cross with dove above, three steps and the petal arrangement as in mount cross, equal armed cross with ends like a bud.

There was a Portuguese inscription on the bottom of the niche. This cross was broken and only 4/5th of the cross were found. Hence half of the Pahlavi inscriptions are lost. The Portuguese inscriptions runs like this- ‘…A DE s.TOME…..DO R….ILEZ VS…..642…..’which has been interpreted as ‘A deS (Sao) Tome…do R(Regiao?) Ilez (Ilhas?) vs (Vizinhas?)…642(1642)’ It could be roughly translated as That which belongs to Saint Thomas’ (Christians?) from the region of (the neighbouring) islands (Tiswadi) 1642’ .

This cross is unique in that we can see the evidence that this Persian cross was destroyed and put in the mound and erected a Latin cross instead o the same site. (( 52 Rev Fr Cosme Jose Costa, Apostolic Christianity in Goa and in the west coast, pp75-80 ))

Other crosses

8 Kaduthuruthy cross

Ths is seen on the baptismal font at Kaduthurythy valiyapalli. It is of 9th century AD. I have not seen this cross personally. The information is from Fr Jacob Kollamparambil’s article in the Christian orient.

9.Changanacherry Cross

Changanacherry Cross
Changanacherry Cross

There are two crosses found at Changanacherry valiyapalli.

One at the open air rock cross and the other inside the oldest church, on the left side of the new church. The cross has four steps on the bottom, There is no figure of Jesus, and there is a dove on the top as descending down and on either sides, there are two doves kissing the ends of the cross. (( 53 Joseph vazhuthanappalli, Archaeology of mar Sliba, pp13-14)) There is a similar cross at Kottayam Cheriya palli also, on the front of the church, above the archdoor that opens into the portico. Here, instead of two doves on either side, we can see two peacocks on either side.

Above the larger cross of Kottayam valiyapalli also, we can see a similar design, with two peacocks on either side, but that is now hidden in the decorative wood work of the altar.

The story told by these Pahlavi crosses

On detailed analysis, we can see that these Pahlavi crosses reveal a mine of very interesting information. It tells us the tradition of saint Thomas Christians and their veneration of Cross. It gives a hint that these crosses were present in the past and revived 6-7 th centuries by putting the Pahlavi inscriptions around it and made copies everywhere. It also tell us the story of Iconoclasm by the Portuguese.

The Pahlavi crosses at Mylappore and Kottyam were kept and venerated in the church. The Pahlavi crosses in Syro Malabar churches all were seen neglected or damaged- Kothanalloor hidden in the wall covered with plaster, Muttuchira seen mutilated, Alengadu seen neglected and thrown away and found on the wayside. Only those churches which after 1663, remained with the Jacobite Syrians or under Dutch or British control like that of Mylappore could preserve the Pahlavi crosses intact. (( 54 Cosme Jose Costa, Apostolic chritianity in Goa and in the west coast, p88 ))

It is evident that all these Pahlavi crosses in South India bear same inscriptions and there are evidences that these inscriptions are unintelligent copies. CPT Winkworth has done extensive research on these Pahlavi inscriptions and concludes that the Mount cross is the original one and the rest must be copies of it. (( 55 Kerala Society Papers, Series 3, A new interpretation of the Pahlavi cross inscriptions of South India, p159))

He found that all these crosses bear Pahlavi inscriptions but with minor differences in the letters and on careful study, found that these are unintelligent copies. He argues that a series of rubbings on paper arranged in the order to reproduce the inscriptions and while doing so, many characters were not reproduced correctly as the sculpture was illiterate in Pahlavi and many characters were mirror images as he used the reverse side of the paper or medium used for rubbings At one part, the letter was upside down. By his studies, he argues that the smaller Kottayam cross was a reasonably intelligent copy of the Mount cross, from which the larger Kottayam cross was copied and the Kadamattom cross was a very unintelligent copy of the Kottayam larger cross. This shows that by 8-9 centuries, our leaders tried to copy this cross and spread over to the whole community.

CPT Winkworth’s interpretation of the inscriptions suggest that the Mount Cross was re erected by the inscriber. His interpreted the inscriptions like this:- (( 56 Kerala Society Papers, Series 3, A new interpretation of the Pahlavi cross inscriptions of South India, p159 ))

(a)‘ My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of Chaharbukht, the Syrian who cut this’

(b) My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of Chahrbukht, the Syrian who preserved this’

(c )My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of chahrbukht, the Syrian who put this around’

The interpretation (b) and (c) are amendments of (a) after studying the inscriptions on all replicas of these crosses well, analysing more clear pictures and discussing with other scholars in an international meeting which included scholars from Iran also.

On analysing the inscription itself, we can assume that these inscriptions were entered by Afras, son of Chaharbukht, the Syrian. It also says, Afras has preserved this/put it around. That means, the cross without any inscriptions was already there, and Afras found it and preserved it- put it up. Putting an inscription around a cross is not a meritorious act, but setting up a cross or preserving a neglected cross is definitely a meritorious act. (( 57 T K Joseph, Kerala Society Papers series 5 pp269-70)) This raises the possibility that the Mount cross was found by Afras and he preserved it in AD 650 period.

Famous Malabar Historian T K Joseph argues that ‘it may justify the supposition that the cross without inscriptions had been in existence on the Coromandel coast prior to the time of Mar Sabour Afroath who arrived in AD 825. We may also presume that on his visit from Quilon to the Mailappore tomb of Saint Thomas and the mount church or its ruins, Afras found the cross in a neglected condition and preserved it’. (( 58 T K Joseph, Kerala Society papers series 5 pp269-270)) Then he or the Christians of Malabar made copies of it in Malabar and that became our tradition from AD 825 onwards until the Portuguese found and witnessed the ‘Cross of saint Thomas’ in our churches.

Other interpretations (( 59 Joseph vazhuthanappalli, Archaelogy of Mar Sliba, pp10-11, Kerala Society papers, p269 ))

Several scholars have interpreted the Pahlavi inscriptions on these crosses. Burnell was the first scholar who interpreted the inscriptions.

A C Burnell– ‘In punishment by the cross (was) the sufferings of this one. Who is the true Christ and God above and guide ever pure.’

Martin Haug– ‘He who believes in the messiah and in God on high and also in the Holy Ghost is in the grace of Him who bore the pain of the cross’

E M West– (a) ‘what freed the true Messiah, the forgiving, the upraising from hardships
(b)He whom the sufferings of the self same messiah, the forgiving and upraising, has saved is offering the plea whose origin was the agony of this’

Harlez– ‘He who is the true messiah the reconciler, the resuscitator, for ever punished by virtue of the crucifixion’

Sanjana– (a) Such was the affliction of the wounding and spearing of him on the cross who was the faithful messiah is forgiver of superior dignity , the descendant of Chaharbukt’
(b) Messiah the merciful one, the descendant of the Great Abraham who was the descendant of Chahar bukht’
(c ) ‘He , of whom the faithful messiah was a foregiver was highly exalted. He was redeemed frommthe four regions of hell. This was due to the afflictions of the spearing and wounding of the messiah on the cross’
(d) ‘This was the affliction on the cross even of the messiah of jehova’

Modi– ‘ I, a beautiful bird from Nineveh, have come to this country . Written Mar Shapor I whom the Holy messiah the forgiver freed from the thorn’

CPT Winkworth– (a)‘ My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of Chaharbukht, the Syrian who cut this’

(b) My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of Chahrbukht, the Syrian who preserved this’

(c )My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of chahrbukht, the Syrian who put this around’

Gerd Gropp– ‘may our Lord the messiah have mercy on Gabriel, son of Chaharbukht, grandson of Durzad, who made this’ (( 60 Gerd Gropp, Die Pahlavi inschrift auf dem Thomaskreus in madras” Archaologisches Mitteilungen aus Iran, NF 3, 1970, pp267-271 cited by G Nedungattu, p386 ))

May our Lord, the messiah have mercy on Sabriso, son of Caharboxt the deft, who sculpted this’ (( 61 Ph Gignoux, “The Pahlavi inscriptions on Mount Saint Thomas Cross, South India”, Solving Riddles and untying knots: Biblical Epigraphic and Semitic studiesin Honour of J C Greenfield, Eisenbrauns, 1995,pp 411-422, cited by G Nedungattu, p386 ))


Saint Thomas Crosses are really inculturated Crosses of Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar and is the Religio cultural logo of the authentic Saint Thomas Christians. This glorious Cross is the living sign of Jesus’ victory over death, sin and sufferings. It is a symbol of risen Jesus. It denotes the tree of life, stem of Jesse, staff of comfort(Holy Spirit), Ark of Noah(Church), sign of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and that of Christian perfection- sum total of old and new testaments.

It is not a statue. It is a symbol of our tradition. Let us pray our Lord to guide us to keep the Apostolic experience of Christ received in our cultural milieu to pass over to our future generations and to become the authentic witness of our Apostolic heritage and the catholicity of the universal Church. (( 62 Mar Joseph Powathil, Church as a tradition, in ‘Church in its most basic elements’ Ed Paul pallath, Herder, Rome, 1995, pp 91-107 ))

Picture Credits.
Photograph of Agassim cross is taken from the book ‘Apostolic Christianity in Goa and in the west coast’ . Thanks to Rev. Fr. Cosme Jose Costa for permission to use the image in this article.

The Title picture of Saint Thomas Cross and illustrations of lotus, cross and dove are taken from Mar Thoma Sliba wall calendar published by Denha Services. Thanks to Rev. Dr. Varghese Pathikulangara for permission to use those images in the article.


Author M Thomas Antony can be reached by email at – m dot Thomas dot antony at

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  1. Annie says

    When I was young, I used to question my father about the reason why Catholics display Crucifix, while our churches don’t exhibit that. His explanation was that the basis of Christianity and its greatest strength is that Christ resurrected and ascended to heaven after he was crucified like a common criminal.

    The beauty of the St. Thomas Cross is that it depicts the ‘empty Cross’ and that holy spirit was sent to guide the Church after he ascended to heaven.
    But now, some people are trying to create a division in one or two of the Kerala churches in US; thereby shaming the Church and making it an object of ridicule because of their ignorance and narrow mindedness.

    I do hope that at least some of those people will read this well written article and stop belittling Kerala Churches…….

    1. Kunjethy Puthenpura says

      The St. Thomas Crosses are symbolic of the ancient tradition of Thomas Christians. The ancient Murals of many Thomas Christian churches also indicate the antiquity and cultural heritage of the Nazraneys. You may browse this page for a study of the Nazraney Mural School:

  2. Aji Mathew says

    The article regarding cross is a scholarly article without any doubt. The writer tried the best to tell the story and growth of cross worship. However the argument that Mylapore cross was a bleeding one was, either because of ignorance or because of the clever way to propgate cross worship and Antiochean connection. The Mylapore cross and the stories are baseless, absolutely. It was Siva temple. Catholics, as they throughtout the world made lies to get it to make a pilgrim centre. The recent studies by scholars reveal the truth regarding Mylapore corss has come out.

  3. varghese says

    Hi Annie

    There are many name sake Catholics and Christians who does not know much about Catholic Church or Christianity than giving open empty threats. Such people are only a very minute minority and are known for their ignorance, wickedness and empty threats. They cant and does not know how to talk intelligent. All they can do is to talk in lower standard in filthy language and give empty threats. Of course these anti social elements do that in the name of Christ and Christians. We have rules of land to take care of these people, when their abusiveness crosses the limit.

    The incident you are talking as division in a church is just the hype created by an abusive blogger from Chicago. The modus operand is to gather some unwitting souls to use discourteous language against church, church leaders and parishioners. Some self proclaimed individuals like Tom Varkey , who seizes this opportunity for his future Pentecostal cult, uses his own lower standard, to give empty threats to Bishop that “his days are numbered”. These are all part of the filthy tricks to attract attention. Humility is the sign of Christians. But when it gets in to senseless threats, it is time that legal matters take its due course. It is time that he learn the consequences of giving empty threats and abusiveness in US.

    Please don’t be mistaken by these elements, who are a shame to Christians with their character, language and knowledge of Christianity with the general people.

  4. Manikunju says

    Please enlighten me why Mani was a common name among us, and why nobody is giving that name to their grand children. (Jose K Mani, MP, should have been Mani K Mani, considering his father is K Mani Mani.)

    At least give the reason for posterity so as to prevent the future historians distorting the fact to their fantasy.

  5. Jiji says

    This is a scholarly article about the tradition of crosses and mar thoma cross. the author clearly states that ancient Christians in india used only mar thoma cross in their churches. this is not strange in comparison to other ancient Christian communities. Only after 12th century Roman Catholics has started using crucifix on altar. It was “Fish” the symbol used in ancient Roman Catholic Cathedrals and Churches. Even now it is “ Fish” not “crucifix” the symbol of Roman rite.

    Check this out. The GENERAL INSTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL by INSTITUTIO GENERALIS MISSALIS ROMANI. Liturgy Office . You can see “ Fish used as the symbol”.

    Roman Catholics has started using crucifix on Altar only after the second vatican council. This was brought out as one of the many changes in the latin rite with the Holy Mass to facing people. There are many Roman Catholic Churches where there are no crosses in altar.

  6. John Mathew says


    Thanks for writing this excellent article! A few days ago I wanted to re-open my studies of the Persian Crosses of Kerala and I found your article to be very useful.

    I know Fr. Varghese P. and others give an interpretation of this cross that suggests it is an Indian inculturation; however, I don’t think this is necessarily correct. I believe this design represents many aspects of general Eastern Christian decorative cross designs. The “Cross on lotus” motif seems to have been used by the East Syriac Church in China as well, as the so-called “Nestorian stele” illustrates and as your article mentions. So perhaps it is a general oriental inculturation? The peacocks are not necessarily Indian either: this motif is seen on Syriac artwork in the Rabbula Bible manuscripts. I think the peacock is a common motif in pagan Roman art as well, that may have crept into Eastern Christian art; that might be a channel for this motif (which would resonate in India as well, for obvious reasons). I’ve also seen the “two pillar” motif in the Rabbula manuscripts. Floral crosses abound in the Georgian and Armenian traditions too.

    But this is only an observation. I agree that these crosses should occupy a preeminent place in the traditions of the Syriac Churches of Kerala because they represent our oldest artifacts and likely are a link to the oldest traditions employed by our ancestors.

    I am interested in the theory that these crosses may have been pervasive from the earliest days, and were only re-installed later (6/8th c) with the Pahlavi inscriptions. I know Fr. Varghese P. goes to great lengths to convey this in “Mar Thoma Margam” and other works. And it would be nice to understand why these were covered up. I don’t think the Portuguese would have defaced and damaged crosses: they were Christians after all, and I don’t see how any Christian would do such a thing. They certainly didn’t deface the Mylapore cross. There may be something else at play here. I hope that more of these crosses get uncovered so that we can truly establish whether these crosses were universally employed by our ancestors in South India.

    There is an equilateral cross (with curved edges) that can be found near the tomb of Mar Abo in the Thevallakara Church. Perhaps this is another, later motif, that we may see throughout the old Churches provided the ill-considered renovations of the last century haven’t destroyed them.

  7. Devasia Panackal says

    Dear Antony

    Congratulations on this very well written scholarly article on Mar Sleeva.

    I am also very much interested in knowing about the theory that these crosses with out inscriptions existed in South India and the inscriptions were put when Mar Sabour Afroath had arrived in AD 825. I am hearing this theory for the first time. This is very interesting . Are there any other old Christian motif’s which has all- lotus, peacocks, dove found anywhere ?

    When was T K Joseph made this argument that this inscriptions where put on the cross later ? Sorry, I dont know about T K Joseph other than hearing somewhere that he was a great Kerala Church historian. When did CPT Winkworth published his interpretation ? CPT Winkworth, Modi, Gerd Gropp interpretation supports this theory . So are the arguments by T K Joseph as per your article. Are there any more details which supports this theory ?

  8. M Thomas Antony says

    T K Joseph has published several books and articles in various journals like Indian Antiquary and Kerala Society papers.
    KSP initially published as a series, from 1928-1933 as vol 1-2.

    Winkworth published his article in the Journal of Theological studies in 1929.

    As far as I know, lotus with Cross is seen in South India, South Asia regions only.
    Dove was popular in western Christianity also as I have mentioned in the article.
    Peacock, as John Mathew has suggested above, seen in Rabulla Bible manuscripts. But, Peacock is a sacred bird in Indian religious mythology also. Lord Murugan, the south Indian God is closely associated with peacocks. Peacock is related to Sabari mala Ayyappan also.

    Re. re-erection of the cross in Mylappore with added inscriptions on previously existed neglected cross. These are assumptions based on the interpretation of the inscriptions. As I have mentioned in the article, writing an inscription is not a meritorious act, but preserving or re erecting a neglected cross is definitely a meritorious act and worth describing it as an inscription.

    Winkworth has a very logical argument in presenting that all these inscriptions are copies from Mount Cross. We know that Kothanalloor Cross has no inscriptions. Kothanalloor Church is supposed to be founded by Mar Sabour- Afroath initially in Pallikkunnnu. Therefore, we have an example of Cross without inscriptions also.

    Muttuchira inscriptions talk about setting up of ‘uthira kurishu’ meaning ‘bleeding cross’( rudhiram in Malayalam = blood) in AD 1580. That means either it was a reinstallation of an old cross or the copying of Mount Cross started only after the rediscovery of it in AD 1547.
    If we take that the copying started only after AD 1547, all these crosses with inscriptions were erected after AD 1547.

    Gouvea talks about a famous cross at Cranganore in AD 1606 period. Arch Bishop Menesis celebrated a Pontifical Mass in front of it. This cross was in a chapel with one side open and there were rails. This was a miraculous cross also as per tradition.. There is no mention of any inscriptions on it. This cross is not seen anywhere now.

    Jacob Kollamparambil in his article in Christian orient proposes that one of the Kottayam Crosses were taken from Cranganore in AD 1524 itself. So, the Cross described by Gouvea must be a different one. Fr Kollamparambil also suggests that it was kept in Kaduthuruthy until AD 1550s. So, where is this Cranganore cross described by Gouvea now ? This might be destroyed of may be hidden underground somewhere in Cranganore.

    Definitely, one of the Kottayam Crosses is taken from somewhere else, as there is no logic in having two similar crosses in the same altar. Also it should be noted that the Kadamattom cross inscription is a copy of the Kottayam Valiyapalli south altar Cross. That means, when they copied, the only cross available in Kottayam was the South Altar Cross. Note that Kadamattom cross design also is similar to Kottayam South Altar Cross.. According to Winkworth’s theory, Kottayam South Altar cross inscription is a copy of the North altar inscription which is a more intelligent copy of the original Mount Cross.

    There is now, a possibility that when the South altar cross was erected, they copied it from the north altar cross which was erected somewhere else- Either Cranganore or Kaduthuruthy. Later, as Fr Kollamparambil suggests, it was taken over from Kaduthuruthy to Kottayam. Kaduthuruthy was one of the first churches succumbed to Menesis and the Portuguese might have removed it from there.

    So, the old cross at Kottayam valiyapalli- the south altar cross was copied from Mylappore itself. The rest of the local crosses are different in design- with pointed top.Therefore, the pointed tip may be the design of west coast whereas round top was the design of Coromandel coast as the decorations are similar to the similar contemporary art work of Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram temples which are near to Mylappore.

  9. Chavarapuzha Jamesachan says

    Mar Valah
    Dear Mr.M.T.Antony,
    I do really appreciate your sincere efforts behind this article. It is very informative and useful.
    May the Maran Valahan bless you.

    Chavarapuzha Jamesachan.

  10. Dr. Alex Eapen says

    Dear Antony

    There is a cross similar to Changanacherry Cross and Kottayam Cheriya Palli cross at Chengannur Church. The North Paravoor Church cross is also in similar model. I didn’t know that there were so many Mar Thoma Crosses found in Kerala. This article was very informative for a novice like me.

  11. Alex Eapen says

    Dear Antony

    Are there any more details about the Kodungallur cross available . You mentioned that “Gouvea talks about a famous cross at Cranganore in AD 1606 period. Arch Bishop Menesis celebrated a Pontifical Mass in front of it. This cross was in a chapel with one side open and there were rails. This was a miraculous cross also as per tradition. There is no mention of any inscriptions on it. This cross is not seen anywhere now.”

    In all the traditions Cranganore/ Kodungallur has a prominent place. I think that in all probabilities, this Kodungallur cross should also be a Mar Thoma Cross. Any more details on which Church Menesis celebrated the Pontifical Mass ? I was thinking if the church Menesis found the cross can be located, it will take as close to the missing cross .

  12. John Mathew says

    Poor terminology: “Mar Thoma Cross”

    Some are calling the Persian cross as the “Mar Thoma” cross which I think is an error. There is nothing that links this cross with Mar Thoma: that is Saint Thomas.

    As the article suggests and has been explained in the footnotes of Jornada, the Portugese called this cross the “Cross of Sam Thome”, where Sam Thome means the city of Saint Thomas: Mylapore.

    That is, they named this cross after the city where it was found: Sam Thome, which is what the Portuguese called Mylapore.

    But now, because of the confusion that they meant Saint Thomas (the person) as opposed to the city, we have the erroneous terminology of “Mar Thoma Cross” (or Saint Thomas Cross). Mar Thoma means the Saint Thomas the person, and does not reflect the usage of Gouvea. It is a modern error.

    I think calling this a Persian Cross is more accurate; it does not diminish the importance of this cross to the Saint Thomas Christians, because the ancestors of the Saint Thomas Christians and the first reported Christians in Kerala were *Persian* Christians.

  13. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Dr Alex Eapen,

    Thanks for reading the article and your interest in the subject.

    The so called Kodungalloor Cross described by Gouvea in AD 1606 was erected in the city. Gouvea talks about a Church which belongs to the fort at that time and comments that it was the church that the Christians had in olden times. He says, the Christians had a lot of affection for this church as well as a cross in the same city, the cross of Christians. He describes, the cross has been kept in the middle of a chapel which is open on one side with railings. Arch Bishop Menesis celebrated a solemn mass in this chapel on his visit to the city. Gouvea also witnesses that the gentiles also had a lot of affection for it. He describes that the gentile king, when he lost something precious, sent some oil to this cross and he found the lost thing. This shows that there was facility for burning oil in front of this cross. Was this an open air Rock Cross with facility to burn oil? .

    Kottayam Valiyapalli was founded in AD 1550 as per the tradition of the church. It seems that Christians from Kodungalloor had to migrate to south in the early 16th century because of the power struggle between Portuguese and the Muslims. As I have mentioned in the comment on 13/10/2010, Southists took their cross from Kodungalloor and migrated to Kaduthuruthy and later to Kottayam valiyapalli and erected the cross in the altar. Fr Kollamparambil writes ‘ The Kottayam Crosses are said to have been brought from Cranganore via Kaduthuruthy.The crosses were taken from Cranganore probably in AD 1524, when in a war with the King of Cranganore, Samoothiri of Calicut assisted by Muslim soldiers conquered, sacked and destroyed Cranganore. All the three churches of Cranganore- Saint Mary’s, Saint Thomas’ and saint Kuriackose’s were burned down. The Christians fled with the valuable relics they could take with them’. Fr Kollamparabil in Christian Orient March 1994,quoting Mundadan, The arrival of Portuguese in India and the Thomas Christians under Mar Jacob, pp99-100.

    Fr Kollamparambil says, the crosses were first brought to Kaduthuruthy and in 1550, they were moved to Kottayam due to another war between the King of Wadakkumkoor and the King of Cochin helped by the Portuguese where the King of Wadakkumkoor was killed by Portuguese commander Francesco Silveira de Menesis. The Wadakkumkoor army then formed chaver squads- suicide squads-attacked and killed the Saint Thomas Christians, the co religionists of the murderer.(Fr Kollamparambil in Christian orient March 1994 quoting C J Wicki, Documenta Indiaca, Vol III 796, G Schurhammer, Die Zeitgenossischen Quellenzur Geschichte Portugiesisch- Asiens, Rome, 1962, No 4530) .

    Fr Kollamparambil refers to the traditional songs of the Southist community like Kottayam valiyapalli paattukal to support this argument.

    It looks like the Cranganore Cross described by Gouvea is not one of the Kottayam valiyapalli crosses. It may be destroyed or hidden after the Coonan Cross oath. People who know Kodungalloor may be able to locate its site.

  14. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear John,

    I completely agree with you. This is not a cross founded by Thomas Apostle. It is the Cross of Saint Thomas’ Christians.

    Gouvea called it as Cross of Sam Thome- meaning Cross of Mylappore. He also called it Crosses of Christians meaning Crosses of Saint Thomas Christians.

    Gouvea also says about the Cross at Cranganore that the Christians believed that it was planted by Saint Thomas himself. We all know that it was all oral traditions.

    I did not mean it as Saint Thomas’s Cross but Crosses of Saint Thomas’ Christians- Mar Thoma Christianikalude Sliba. I initially planned to put the title also as Crosses of Saint Thomas Christians rather than Saint Thomas’ Cross, but used the current title as it is popular.

    ‘Persian Cross’ is an apt term, but make this cross foreign- of the Persians! This cross has lot of Indian inculturation as I have discussed in the article. The family of crosses in South India is unique and different from Chineese crosses or crosses in Persia, even when there are similarities. It is a locally inculturated Persian cross.

    It is an argument of the opponents of these ‘Crosses of Saint Thomas’ Christians’ that it is of Persians not ours, but in reality, it is a monument of our own religio cultural identity.

  15. Alex Eapen says

    Dear Antony

    Thanks for all the details. The gentile king sending some oil to the Kodungallor cross – it can also be a Mar Thoma Cross which has Nilavilakku in front of it. I have seen these type of Nilavilakku in Palayur and Kadamattam Churches. I have not seen any ancient open air rock crosses in the region other than North Paravoor. Of course, I don’t know the history but just mentioning what I saw in the region.

    As per your report, three churches were there in Cranganore which were ancient and all of them were destroyed by Samoothiri of Calicut with the help of Muslim soldiers.I have no idea about these three churches Saint Mary’s, Saint Thomas’ and Saint Kuriackose. Where only three Churches were in Cranganore ? Did any of these Churches belong to Knanaya ( Southists) ?. I understand you are talking about the period before 1530.

    Menesis was a great figure which changed the history. It make me sick in understanding why a cross where a person like Menesis did Pontifical Mass was destroyed when Menesis party had control. It can only be lost in burning downs and attacks.

    In Kodungallur and around Cochin, Thrishur, North Paravoor, Irinjalakuda region the oldest relic I am aware is the cross at Kottakava, North Paravur Church. I saw the picture of the cross in this site. Would it be that the Cranganore / Kodungallur Cross.

  16. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Dr Alex,

    Regarding oil burning in front of the cross.

    Three possibilities.

    1 A Mar Thoma cross with facility to burn oil in front of it.

    2 An open air Rock cross- which were ‘vilakkumaadams’ also- almost all open air rock crosses are on the wayside and many of them have facility to burn oil and lit all night to provide light and fire during the night.

    Gouvea has clearly mentioned that ‘even if it is in the most out of the way roads, which does not have its foot very well done, and inside it a place for the lamp which is lit throughout the night, having the care to provide it with oil, not less the Christians than many gentiles, which is not found in any other part of India, and much less in Europe’ .This description shows that these open air rock crosses were like a lamp post also on the wayside where the lamp it lit throughout the night. Rev Dr Pius Malekkandathil observes that these function as providing light for the community and also for providing fire for the ordinary people, particularly of the lower strata when fire making and fire preservation was a tedious task.( Jornada…. Pp187-188)

    3 A kalvilakku with a cross on it as seen in the front of churches like Karthikappalli and Chengannur- a) Chengannur Cross b) b) Karthikappalli Cross

    or like this indoor cross at Palayur. c) Palayur Cross

    As Gouvea describes this cross as indoor with one side open, this may not be an open air rock cross or Kalvilakku, both of which are outdoor generally. So, it could be a Mar Thoma Cross or the indoor cross seen in the link above from Palayur which is indoor.

    Why Portuguese destroyed the crosses? John Mathew has also raised this question. For Portuguese, their aim was to convert the Saint Thomas Christians to Latin rite. They were ready to do anything to keep the saint Thomas Christians away from any of their age old rituals and practices to make the conversion easy.

    The broken Goa cross was found in a mound over which the Latin cross was erected. Why did they do it when they celebrated the discovery of Mount Cross and venerated it on the altar in Saint Thomas Mount ?

    Initially, they were happy with the Christians of Saint Thomas and they glorified the crosses found in many places.We can see this on the Goa cross, they inscribed in Portuguese language ‘that which belongs to Saint Thomas Christians’ with a date AD 1642.But later, they realised the difference between Latin rite and Syriac rite. They tried to convert the saint Thomas Christians to Latin rite. That did not work well because of the resistance. After the Coonan cross oath in AD 1653, there were tensions between the Saint Thomas Christians and Portuguese. Fr Cosme Jos Costa, the author of the book ‘Apostolic Christianity of Goa and the west coast’, argues that breaking of these crosses were a warning to those who were still clinging on to the Syriac traditions. Thus they broke the Goa cross and dumped into the mound and erected the new cross on it.

    Fr Costa also argues that the Portuguese feared that the Saint Thomas Christians who were following diverse rituals and social practices could spread these errors among the newly converted Christians also which could lead to schismatic movements, quoting Joao Teles e Cunha, Socio cultural aspects of the catholic missionary works in India, in ‘The Portuguese and the Socio cultural Changes in India(1500-1800)’ Ed Dr K S Mathew, T R D’Souza and Pius Malekandathil.

    Similar may be the stories of crosses at Muttuchira which was defaced, Kothanalloor cross which was covered in plaster, Alengadu cross which was thrown away.

    Re the churches at Kodungalloor.

    I think one of them was Southist. The Southists claim that the Persian Crosses of Kottyam valiyapalli were moved from their church at Cranganore as per traditions and ritual songs.

    Kottakkavu Cross

    I haven’t seen this cross. I have seen only a very unclear picture of it on the net. Could someone provide more information about this cross ?

  17. Alphy says

    The lotus motif on the Persian cross was not exclusive to Indian culture. The below is from
    Flora Sinensis, one of the first European natural history books about China, published in Vienna in 1656. Its author, Michael Boym, was a Jesuit missionary from Poland. It is of a Nestorian cross found in China

    Flora Sinensis_Nestorian Stele_1656

  18. M Thomas Antony says

    ‘Lotus and cross’ is the main theme on the Persian crosses of Chinese provinces also.See this link. SFO University

    Chinese crosses, the lotus is clearly seen as three dimensional- we can see lotus petals on the front also. But in Indian crosses, the lotus petals are two dimensional- seen only on the sides. The statues of Budha found in India and South East Asia are seen sitting on on lotus. Some of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses are also seen on lotus. That means, the ‘deity on lotus’ pattern is spread throughout the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia and China with Budhism.

    Indian Crosses have the dove also. Dove is seen in Western culture also as described in the article. Some of the Indian crosses, the dove is not very clear but can be interpreted as a flame of fire.(see Joseph Vazhuthanappalli, Archaeology of Mar Sliba)

    Si-ngan-fou cross has a flame or fire on the top as seen in Indian crosses.

    This shows that the Indian crosses are a mix of inculturation from the east and west. Indian East Syriac Christians had close connections to Chinese Christians also. Joseph the Indian confirms that the Chinese traders in Calicut were Christians.
    This may show the influence of East Syrian trader- missionaries in the inculturation of our Christian art.

    The Cheena chatti- chineese pan, Cheena vala-chineese net and even the unique roof architecture of our houses in Kerala simulating Chinese architecture, might have been brought to Kerala by those trader -missionaries of the East Syriac Church.

    The modern name Chennai for the City of Madras may also points to the ancient Chinese trade. Col H Yule in AD 1875 written in Indian Antiquary – ‘Is there any evidence that Mailapur was frequented by by the Chinese traders ? Ritter cites the name Chinapatanam applied to Madras, as a trace of ancient Chinese traffic there. I have elsewhere objected to this statement that the name in question, properly Chennapatan or Chennappapatan, was bestowed on the site granted to the English in 1639 by the Naik of Chinglepat, in honour of that Chief’s father in law, Chennappa by name. But this may not be conclusive; for the Naik may have only modified an existing name as often happens’. (Indian Antiquary Jan 1875pp8-9)

  19. Devasia Panackal says

    Dear Antony

    A priest who has been studying about these Crosses told me the inscriptions might have been changed by patch work / embellishments by different engravers since 1547, who tried on filling up the illegible letters on the inscription.

    Could you please check- Asia in the Making of Europe, Volume III: A Century of Advance. Book 1: Trade, Missions, Literature by Donald F. Lach, Edwin J. Van Kley, University of Chicago Press, 1998
    Page- 298. The details also mention about the tradition that the cross was formed with Thomas own blood. Also about the blood sweating on Mount Cross until 1704.

  20. Devasia Panackal says

    Does Joseph the Indian gives more details about any Christian community in Calicut other than the Chinese traders ?

    I wanted to know which cross is the oldest Christian articraft in the world ? What are the oldest available Christian crosses in world comparing to Saint Thomas Cross ( 6th Century) ?

  21. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Mr Devasia Panackal,

    Thanks for your comments. Since the discovery, the Mount Cross was under the custody of the Portuguese. They have kept it sacred in there. They had also brought some interpreters to read it.

    After that, it was Burnell who studied about it seriously. Winkworth is the first person made an interpretation which was peer reviewed. Winkworth compared inscriptions on other crosses also. T K Joseph has worked a lot on these inscriptions and made a lot of correspondence with scholars abroad including sending pictures etc.
    None of these experts have commented anything about manipulating these inscriptions- especially Winkworth and T K Joseph, who have done very extensive study about these inscriptions. ( Winkworth has studied these inscriptions in such a very keen manner that he identified that the Kottayam Crosses are unintelligent copies of Mount Cross by taking an impression on some parchment to copy and while doing that they used the reverse side of it making some letters mirror images. If someone had tampered the inscriptions, he would have definitely identified it!

    As far as I am aware, it was Burnell (AD 1874) who identified these inscriptions as Pahlavi. How can we imagine people in AD 1547 filled up illegible letters when they did not know which language was it? If someone wanted to fill it in, they would be people interested in archaeology of these inscriptions and people with that mentality would not try to tamper it.

    I can see, on Goan Cross, the Portuguese inscriptons were damaged and people tried to fill it in (not on the cross, but on documents) and made an interpretation- see the article.

    Serious studies were conducted only after Burnell’s paper in AD 1874. I have a copy of Burnell’s article in Indian Antiquary, copy of J J Modi’s article in Asiatic papers, also Fr Joseph Vazhuthanappalli’s book Archaeology of Mar Sliba. I have read all the articles in Kerala Society papers about these Crosses and inscriptions. I have not found anything about possibility of tampering with these inscriptions.
    So, I doubt the authenticity of what the Priest told you.

    I don’t have access to the book you have mentioned in your comment. As you have read it, could you please share the information for everybody here which will be very helpful.

    Re Christians in Calicut.

    Joseph the Indian talks about Calicut well, but not specific about any Christian community in Calicut. In the court of the King of Calicut, there are four halls, one for the Moores, one for the Indians, the third for the Jews and the fourth for the Christians. That means there were Christians. He says that the Chinese traders believe in Christ. He talks about an annual fair in Calicut where people from Cathay, Persia, Media, Assyria, Syria, Turkey, Arabia and from Egypt participate.

    Aloysiaus Cadamastus has written in AD 1493 period about Christian community in Calicut with a Church and bells. Barbosa doesn’t seem to have commented about Christians in Calicut.

    Older Crosses.

    T K Joseph mentions about a statue found from Neelampeeroor with a cross like band on the chest and cross on the staff- believed to be of Pallivanavar, a King of Cranganore who ruled between 317-346 AD. It is not clear how this statue is related to Pallivanavar as there are no inscriptions or any other artifacts to identify the person.It is not clear when this statue was made. There are different arguments that this is not a Christian Cross. Budhists also used some form of Cross. This is not a cross but two wide bands crossing each other. I am searching for more information about this statue.

    Taxilla Cross is also a disputable cross- suspected to be a pre Christian sign on a pendant.

  22. Suriyani Malayali says

    I have recently developed an urge towards understanding the history and heritage of our Nazrani community.
    The articles and discussions/debates in this site gave me a lot of fresh persectives.

    However, one thing is not really clear to me.

    Can someone tell me if worship of Mother Mary (I don’t mean veneration), intercession to her and to other Saints was it something introduced by Portuguese into the Malankara church?

    I have read that in Malankara churches before 16th century there were no Statues and no other item of veneration except the Cross. So, were all these customs introduced by the Portuguese?

  23. John Mathew says


    I don’t know if a single human being on Earth since the dawn of the human race has *worshipped* St Mary. Catholics don’t, Orthodox don’t, Nestorians don’t. Some ignorant people like to claim the former do, but that is due to ignorance and a lack of any shred of rational logical analytical ability.

    Regarding veneration of St Mary, requesting the saints for intercession, prayers for the departed: all of these were *NOT* introduced by the Portuguese; they *DEFINITELY* were present in the preexisting Church of the Nasranis.

    If someone (e.g., a Mar Thomite) tells you otherwise, or if you want to know for sure and don’t trust me, then just do the following:
    1. Go to
    2. Find the “East Syrian Daily Offices” translated into English by Maclean (a Protestant!)
    3. Read it.

    You will find that the Church of the East (so-called Nestorians) have all of the above customs. They have different nomenclature for St Mary — Mother of Christ, not Mother of God — and that is due to their Christological formulation. But they are second to none in their devotion to Marth Mariam. They have feasts and dukronas for the Saints, they request the saints for intercessions, they pray for the departed, etc.

    This has been commented on by many scholars (you can read Sebastian Brocks introduction to Mary Hansbury’s translation of St James of Sarugs poetry on St Mary, in which Brock discusses the veneration of the East Syriacs as being no less than that of the Jacobites or the Catholics or the Orthodox). You can examine the rites of the East Syriacs (above) to confirm. In terms of praxis and dogma, there is almost ZERO difference between the Church of the East, the Orthodox and the Catholics (the ancient pre-Portuguese Nasranis were from the Church of the East).

    The use of 3 dimensional statues is a Western Christian representation; the Eastern Christians use 2 dimensional icons.

    In recent centuries, perhaps due to Islamic oppression, the Church of the East in the Middle East has stopped using icons, they only use Crosses. But scholars like Teule have found evidence that in better days, in ancient pre-Islamic times, the Church of the East (the Mother Church of Malankara/Malabar), may have had a tradition of using 2D icons. No statues though, since that’s a Western aesthetic.

    I don’t know about Malankara though because I believe the Church at Cheppad has a tradition that its murals are 600 years old, which would predate Portuguese dominance. Certainly both the pro-Portuguese and anti-Portuguese descendants of the original Nasranis had no problem with adopting 2D icons, since many of the 16/17th century Churches have nice paintings — I doubt they were forced to use these by the Portuguese because both the Puthen and Pazhaya koor have these.

  24. rl says

    it beleved that saint gee varghese sakadha story had happened in syria. There was an animal in a river let people to take the water unless one should become food for that animal. gee varghese sakdha killed that animal and saved the villagers. Saint gee varghese sakadha courage to kill this animal was he believed in jesus christ which he was one of the early christian believer. so this person considers as saint in kerala among nasranis., armenia, syria etc wherever the orthodox christianity exist. we see lot of jesus pic, mary pics we think someone draw in our small kerala is exactly similar to all those place even ethipia.

  25. Dr.K.J.Mathai says

    Cross is only a symbol of suffering. Why should we waste our resources on it? To know Jesus Christ and His teachings, and to obey Him is the most wanted thing at present. So let us seek Him. He is in us.

  26. Cyril Abraham says

    This discussion about the “Cross” appears to be veering towards the risk of “missing the forest for the trees” ! As those who are knowledgeable in this forum would know, “Cross” is a pre-Christian Pagan symbol (which the Church adopted) that meant a few things to a few different people including being symbolic of the phallus (to the Egyptians) for fertility purposes, not unlike the Siva Lingam. This clearly substantiates the cross-cultural Pagan influences that Chrisitanity borrowed and adapted from, a fact that appears to be lost on those who mistakenly see lobotomized zealotry as something virtuous.

    Again, to those to whom this may come as news, the essence of true spirituality taught by this promiment world teacher, unique to his time, was his unrelenting exhortion to “overcome all authority thinking”. Isn’t this antithetical to what today’s Church is all about!?!

    Jesus never claimed christological powers and authority for himself. As stated in ChristoPaganism (Higginbotham, J&R), “it is difficult to discern the voice of Jesus from the voice of the Church. Jesus identifies a “spirit person” who has vivid and frequent subjective experiences of another level of dimension of reality that involve momentary entry into nonordinary states of consciousness and take a number of different forms such as in visions or shamanic journeys” (p.41).

    I just wanted to draw a distinction to KJ Mathai’s statement “Obey” (with emphasis on) “Him”. To know his teachings is to know that “He” would want people to be more like him: with intellectual curiosity than sheepish obeisance.

  27. smc catholic says

    Dear Thomas Antony,

    What are we trying to prove here? Our Ancestors were using this Persian cross and Portuguese missionaries replaced it with Crucifix? So we need to throw away Crucifix and bring back the Persian cross? Whom are we living for? Tradition or Christ?

    There are many things our ancestors were using in the past…are we going bring back to all those? Give me a break….

    Cross got its significance just because Christ choose the death on it. So removing Christ from it and replacing him with Peacock, Lotus etc doesn’t make venerable in the altar. You very well know about Hosanna donkey and its reception after Good Friday!!

    There are many historically proven facts about the presence of Manicheans in south India. Until we know for sure that these are not Manichean related, why we would allow this Persian Manichean (Marthoma) cross in our churches? At least crucifix has Christ on it. You might be interested in the below history of Manichaeism.

    The earliest known account of St. Thomas visit to Malabar Coast is contained in a book written by Bardaisan, (154 to 222A.D.) of Edessa. He was initially a Bishop but was later removed from that position due to his teachings opposed to Christianity. He founded his own religion known as Bardaisanism, which was later followed by Mani whose philosophy was known as Manicheanism. Both of them had travelled extensively in India and had spread their Philosophies. Bardaisan was born in a Parsi family (Zoroastrian). He believed in Dualism i.e. there are two Gods, one God of virtue has soul, power and mind known to be God of good. The other God of bad things represented fire, light, water and air. Man is created with these seven elements. The first 3 are Christian principles; the latter 4 are those, which represent the origin of Parsi religion.

    Bardaisan during the last four years of his life again went back to Christianity but his follower Mani, modified Bardaisan’s teachings and continued with his mission. He believed in Christianity; but he mixed Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism with Christianity, suiting to the local requirements. He traveled in India and popularized his new religion. The new religion was popular in South India. He taught that there were only two worlds ultimately i.e. Darkness and Light. The light world is absorbed by the dark holes. The light world is represented by the Upper World and the dark world down below. Christ is the link between the two; a white dove represents the promised Holy Ghost or Paraclete by Christ, bringing light into this world through the Cross. 6 petals at the bottom facing downwards and 6 petals facing upwards symbolized his cross. The 6 petals facing downwards represented the dark world, and the 6 petals facing upwards represented the light world.. The dove on the top of the cross was believed to bring salvation from Heaven to those who lived in darkness. Due to the emphasis given by Mani to ‘Light as a life giving force’, he is popularly known as Subra (light) Mani. He is the one, who wrote the oldest Tamil Epic ‘Manimekalai’, which throws light on early Christianity in South India. He had also visited Tibet and China and mixed the local religions with Christianity. His philosophy is still known as ‘Manichaeism’, which met with a lot of resistance from Christianity and Zoroastrians (Parsi religion). It is said that he knew the art of changing himself into a peacock and flying in the air, which he taught some of his disciples in the last few years of his life.
    Towards the end of their mission, Bardaisan and Mani were opposed to each other and there are evidences that they met in Cheranadu. Because of the presence of Bardaissan in Cheranadu, Manichaeism could not take root in Malankara in the 3rd century A.D. Manichaeism was centralized in Kanchipuram (Pallava kingdom).

    Mani appointed 12 disciples, 72 bishops and 360 evangelists. They traveled to China, Tibet, North India etc. His mother’s name was also Mary, who along with his 12 disciples were buried in Kashmir at a place known as Baramulla. These tombs are misunderstood even today as being those of St. Mary, mother of Jesus and the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. Mani for all purposes was a follower of Christ. He was also known as Jesus Christ in Tibet and China, as he claimed to be the Paraclete promised by Christ. Since he mixed Buddhism with Christianity his visits to Buddhist strongholds in Tibet and North India were recorded as of Christ. Attempts were made by many historians to prove that Christ had visited Tibet and North India, in His earlier years. In the book titled, 40

    ‘The lost years of Jesus’, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, (first printed in 1987), it is mentioned in pages 346-357, that a group of people conducted an expedition to Tibet to see a Buddhist document known as “Issa document at Himig in Tibet”, which mentioned about Christ’s visit to this place for 17 years. They confirmed the existence of such a document. However at the entrance of the city they (the group) encountered the tomb of a holy man. The wall was studded with stones which say “OM MANI PADME HUM”. The writing clearly mentions about Mani and his religion, which had reached Tibet early in the 3rd century. The distortion of the history of Christianity will be very well understood if one looked at Mani’s teachings and religion which had spread in India, China, Egypt, North Africa and the Roman Empire in the 3rd century. His religion disappeared by the 10th century due to fierce persecution by Zoroastrians and also by other religions.

    The followers of Mani inTamilnadu were mostly Chettys. Being a business class people they enjoyed lot of favours from the kings. In fact they had a separate State known even today as Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. They had trade relations with Armenian Merchants. A good number of them had settled down in Kanchipuram, Mylapure and other trading centres in Tamilnadu for business and had business relations with local Chettys. They were followers of Mani and had constructed their own churches. The church in St Thomas Mount is believed to belong to them. The relevant portion from page 53 of the book ‘In the steps of St Thomas’ by Rev. Fr. Herman D’Souza states “The heap of ruins on St Thomas Mount spurred the religious curiosity of the Portuguese. Excavations conducted on the spot have led historians to the belief that the earliest church on the hill after the one built by the Apostle was that of the Armenians erected about A.D.530. These Armenians were in very long possession of the shrine.” The Portuguese for the first time in A.D.1523 constructed an oratory on the existing foundation (hardly one cubit from ground, laid from West to East). The Persian Cross-of Manichean also found a place in the oratory in the right place.

  28. John Mathew says

    I don’t think the Cross descends from pagan-era phallic symbols. The pre-Christian use of the cross seems to have been in the same vein as the swastika — a symbol of the Sun.

    This seems quite consistent with the later Christian use — to represent the Sun of Righteousness, the one who brought Light into the world.

    As well, the Cross was the instrument on which Jesus was crucified, and much meaning in Christianity came from that. But unlike Mathai above, who sees the Cross only as an instrument of suffering (which seems to indicate that Mathai subscribes to a quasi-Arian view of Jesus, i.e., as a human being who merely suffered and died on the cross), most Eastern Christians view the Cross as a victorious symbol: on which Christ trampled on death by his death. The instrument by which Christ saved the race of Adam (figuratively speaking).

    The protestants are overly simplistic in their view of the Cross. They shudder at the empty cross used by the Orientals (seeing the Cross as a Roman tool of torture and execution), and they go epileptic at the Eastern Orthodox/Roman Catholic crucifix. However, the Oriental and Byzantine view of the Cross is very positive. The Roman Catholic (Western rite) like to focus on the suffering of Christ, but this is a means to, as far as I understand, frame their repentance and penance.

    So either way, I don’t see what the big deal is with the anti-Cross folks.

    (1) It may have had pre-Christian uses, but what does that prove? We don’t see it as a phallic symbol (it has absolutely no connection to any phallic interpretation), and we don’t see it as a representative of a Solar deity. No, it’s a symbol of what Jesus did for the human race. It has a very definite meaning.

    (2) Recalling the suffering of Christ is not “anti-Jesus” in any way. It’s a mechanism to foster repentance.

    (3) Recalling the victory over “death” is not “anti-Jesus” either.

    Yes, as Mathai said, the important thing ultimately is to follow the teachings of Christ. And as Cyril said, blindly following dogmatic pronouncements from fallible clerics is not a teaching of Christ. But at the same time, I don’t see how the symbolicism behind the Oriental, Eastern and Western uses of the Cross is in any way negative or how it detracts from the teachings.

    Symbols and poetic imagery has a certain appeal to it, in addition to principles. If humans were perfectly rational and in perfect possession of their rational faculties at all times, I’m sure the latter is the only thing one needs (i.e., the Gospels, the sayings of Christ). But people aren’t like that; historically, these images, poetic interpretations, etc., have been what kept those principles alive in the hearts and minds of people. I.e., a channel to ensure those principles stayed alive.

  29. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Dr K J Mathai,

    There are three views.

    1 Cross is a symbol of punishment. It became a symbol of Christianity only after the crucifixion of Iso Mishiha.

    2 Cross can be viewed as a symbol of sufferings of Jesus for the mankind to save them from the sin. So, we have to love God simply because God suffered for us. They consider the Crucifix is the basis of their faith.

    3 There are other people who view the cross much beyond the sufferings of Jesus Christ. They view it as a symbol of the whole salvation by the Son of God. Jesus came to earth to save the mankind from the sin. This is the sign of fulfilment of the mission of the Son of God. It is a sign of victory over the sin. In this way, it is a sign of Glory.

    According to Gal. 6, 14 (which is seen encrypted under the Kottayam Cross), ‘but far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world’.

    Please read the headings in the article ‘Lotus, dove and cross’ and ‘symbolism of various elements’. Please read the book ‘Archaeology of Mar Sliba written by Fr Joseph Vazhuthanappalli published from OIRSI Vadavathoor Kottayam which discusses in very detail about the symbolism of Cross on Biblical, theological, liturgical and Archaelogical perspectives.

    I feel that most of the Christians do not view the Cross as a sign of punishment. But there are people who consider it as a sign of sufferings only and they love GOD because He suffered for us. I think that those are the people behind such immature allegations against the Cross of Saint Thomas Christians and consider only Crucifix as the basis of their faith.

  30. Dr.K.J.Mathai says

    Dear Antony,
    You say “So, we have to love God simply because God suffered for us”. God cannot suffer. Only man can. Isso the man had to suffer, because he stood for Truth and Justice, and he became Misiha. This is the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He knew what he was. (John 13: 3). So He did not mind the world and its comforts. For a christian, Jesus on the cross is an Ideal, Inspiration and all. Any number of pages can be written on this subject. But it is of no use to you.
    With love and regards,

  31. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Dr K J Mathai,

    With all respect, could I ask you to read my reply to your comment carefully once again. Did I say ‘we have to love God simply because God suffered for us’?

    I was commenting about your interpretation that Cross is only a symbol of suffering. Those who consider the Cross as only a symbol of sufferings will want to see the Cross only with a statue of Jesus to visualise his sufferings on it. They want to love God simply because of his sufferings for Mankind.

    I feel that we should view the Cross much beyond simply the sufferings of Jesus but as a symbol of the whole salvation, victory over the sin and as a sign of Glory.

    I still cannot understand why you commented ‘God cannot suffer. Only man can’. This reminds me about the so called Nestorian theory!

  32. M Thomas Antony says

    SMC Catholic,

    You are hiding behind a mask. Please come out of your mask. We can talk.

    You are talking a lot about Manichaeism. Have we got any single evidence to show the presence of Manicheans in Kerala ? The Godfather of Manichean theory, A C Burnell himself has concluded in his paper that we do not have a single evidence yet.

    “If my reading be allowed, the whole would run: Syriac- ‘Let me not glory except in the cross of our LordJesus Christ’. Pahlavi- ‘Who is the true Messiah and God above above and the Holy Ghost’ .This statement appears to be intended to contradict the manichaen Doctrine that the crucified Messiah was the son of a poor widow, and not Jesus. If these Pahlavi inscriptions were Manichean, they would be in a different character. It seems to me not unlikely, however that relics of the Manicheans may yet remains to be discovered on the west coast of the peninsula…..”.( Indian Antiquary Nov 1874 p316)

    Have we found any yet ?

    It seems that you are in a delusional state of thinking all the words with mani in it as evidences of Manichaeism. Read Richard Collins in Indian Antiquary May 1875 “I do not think we have found any certain trace of them ( manichaens) at present, and we shall most certainly be mislead if we begin to look up all the words beginning with mani”

    I have discussed my arguments against Manichean theory in the article. If you had read my article, you would have come with some counter arguments and that would have made this discussion healthier and enjoyable.

  33. smc catholic says

    Thomas Antony,

    I’m Robb and native of Manimala, Changanasserry. Does this make you comfortable enough to read and answer? I hope so…you better be my dear friend….

    On your reply, you are asking about ‘any single evidence to show the presence of Manicheans in Kerala ‘ ? Let me have your own quote from Collins answer that.

    “Collins also discusses about Burnells argument that manigramams were manichaens and declares that “there may indeed have been Manichaens in South India and in Ceylon;”

    So you also agree that there were Manichean presence in South India. Now may I ask you to read the Manichean history I have quoted on my orginal post? Would you be able to peek at ‘The lost years of Jesus’, by Elizabeth Clare Prophet or ‘In the steps of St Thomas’ by Rev. Fr. Herman D’Souza? Do you know anything contradicting to those by any Kaldaya devils?

    I believe in Jesus Christ and accepted him as my saviour. So I don’t need Peacoke, Lotus and Claver for praying to him. If you say that these are the symbols of risen lord, that is just bs. You can find the real meaning of those pedals in any Manichean books and I have listed them on my original post. There are many churches in Kearla having the statue of risen christ with five Sacred Wounds. If you hate to see crucifix, why don’t we have the real risen lord than the peacoke, lotus and claver especially when those are Manichean related? Isn’t that fair?

    I’m not a theologist and I don’t want our kids to rocket science assumptions to relate Persian(Claver) cross with risen lord. when I go to church, I would prefer to see Jessus than any of these symbols for him. Hope you are not afraid of seeing him. Where ever this Persian cross is imposed, there is no peace including those in USA. It is very sad that some Bishops are not obeying the Synod decisions or even their Major Arch bishop.

    So if I go back to my below original questions, would you be able to share your views?

    What are we trying to prove here? Our Ancestors were using this Persian cross and Portuguese missionaries replaced it with Crucifix? So we need to throw away Crucifix and bring back the Persian cross? Whom are we living for? Tradition or Christ?

    There are many things our ancestors were using in the past…are we going to bring back all those? Give me a break….


  34. Cyril Abraham says

    At the risk of sounding like one who crashed a party or a party-pooper, for the kind of intelligentsia that seems to give voice to this forum, there is something quite juvenile in pursuing a line of thinking that sees Jesus, a historical character (possibly), in the literal sense of the Bible. As a few of you might concede, the Bible itself is nothing more than a concoction from a potpourri of writings that were selectively chosen – edited and distorted – at (the Roman) Emperor Constantine’s discretion and pleasure to suit his agenda.

    Any reason why two of today’s most aggressive, conversion-seeking religions – Christianity and Islam – should have, incidentally, emerged from the Middle-East? Any reason why the story of “Christ” was a part of the human supernatural prescription and narrative across different cultures and geographical regions verbatim for thousands of years even prior to pinning it currently to the Gregorian calender time-frames? Any reason why the Easter narrative is along the lines of Pagan Spring Equinox celebrations (symbolic of the re-brith of the Earth), and the Christmas birth date that appears more contrived than factual,and thereby erroneous? What if there was no ressurection?

    To me the last question is what is most pertinent. If a man (Jesus) should have lived a life and did all that he is said to have done, he would have been just as inspirational as the other non-ressurected historical figures like Gandhi, Che Guevara, Mandela, M.King Jr. or even the fictional character Mariam of a Thousand Splendid Suns (by Khaled Hosseini), without the Bollywood-like make-believe drama, pathos and histrionics of a ressurection! If people would be believers only upon someone’s torturous death (and re-birth) – despite all the wonderous, loving and caring things that someone did while alive – then there is something quite disturbingly sub-human about those believers!

    What “sins” of the man did “God” sent his “son” to die for?? One cannot but be bemused about this overly masochistic and male-dominant ideolog that is typically representative of the Middle-Eastern mindset! For the kind of hollow authoritarianism the Christian Church represented and later fell into abysmal disrepute for (heliocentrism, the Andersen fable-like “Infallibility” and Limbo-State doctrines with the side-servings of torture meted out to scientists like Galileo and Copernicus, and a few frail women burnt at the stake in the name of God “the merciful”), what do you think has changed where “sin” is concerned? So then, remind me again, what was the original “sin” that this family (Father-Son) drama was played out for?

    Sweat all you want over a cross; make all the fuss you want over the fable of someone dying for some phantom sin that has the “guilt” mantra written all over it so far as to even indulge in the ultimate fantasy of demanding repentance from those yet to be born (spare none!), true merit lies in learning from the life of a great historical figure (as narrated) across several centuries and several continents where the “cross” and the “sin” and the “salvation” were but incidental props to story-telling – not unlike the colourful villians in Kathakali – repeatedly revealing the poverty of human comprehension that continues to repel the unglamorous goodness of “truth” (or the widow’s pennies) in favour of the glitter of the “30 shillings”! And this is the true story of Judas as played out over and over again where truth is betrayed and crucified daily by those who know not what they are talking about.

    By the way, that suppressed text – The Gospel of Judas – would have told you a different story if you ever got to read it.

  35. John Mathew says

    smc catholic:

    Although the crucifix is not strictly a part of my tradition (Orthodox), I strongly disagree with the opponents of the crucifix, and I personally prefer the crucifix.

    So I have no opposition to your statements regarding the use of the crucifix; I agree with you, especially with your statement that our ancestors may have had all sorts of customs and traditions, that we would likely not want to resurrect.

    However, you’re belief in the presence of manichaeans in Malabar is premature. Many have claimed this, but even the best of them (Burnell) have admitted that *evidence* of Manichaeanism in Malabar was lacking. The Persian Crosses of Malabar are not Manichaean; they are clearly of the East Syriac tradition, and are almost identical to the definitely-East Syriac motifs found on the Chinese Nestorian stele. More than that, the imagery (peacocks, columns, etc.) also has definite parallels with Cross imagery used by other Christian cultures, like the Georgians, Armenians, and the Romans.

    Other than conjecture and lose statements, lacking in evidence, there is nothing about the Pahlavi crosses of Kerala that suggests they were Manichaean.

    Now, as for the presence of Manichaeanism in India, I’m sure there were Manichaeans. And I’m sure that part of our Nasrani ancestry may have included Gnostics and Manichaeans. The ingredients are all there: presence of Persians in Malabar, the presence of Buddhists, the cultural affinity towards astrology, etc. Yes, the ingredients were all there in Malabar, but no one has uncovered a single shred of evidence indicating that there were Manichaeans.

    The *best* piece of conjecture in this regard is not even the Persian Crosses. The best piece of evidence was the notice in Whitehouse’s report, indicating a strange community that lived parallel to the Nasranis in Kayamkulam. The 1912 Encycl. Brit. refers to this when it states that as of the 15th c. there *may* have been Manichaeans in Malabar.

    But that is all. There’s no hard evidence in this regard; the Persian Crosses of Malabar are definitely no indicator of Manichaeanism: they are Christian in their motifs, imagery (not that I subscribe to the theory on the imagery presented above, I think that’s creative writing from the modern era; what I’m saying is that the imagery has parallels in other Christian Cross designs), and inscriptions.

  36. John Mathew says


    What you are saying is nothing new. Yes, there are plenty of views on who Jesus was and those views seemed to have evolved over time. I’m sure many of us here have read Gnostic texts, such as the Gospel of Jesus.

    But at the end of the day, this site is called “NSC” for a reason: we’re talking about the Nasranis and the discussions pertain to the religion of the Nasranis which was, for all intents and purposes, orthodox and not gnostic (before anyone quibbles: note the small “o” — that’s orthodox as in Nicene Christianity, not Orthodox as in a particular sect of Christianity). Occasionally people come here and state that we are all a bunch of fools because of this or that (e.g., we haven’t accepted Jesus as our personal savior, or we’re all a bunch of Paulists, when in reality Gnostic or Jewish Christianity is the One True Way). But in general those comments are misguided: the articles here are not about propagating the faith, converting peoples, etc. They are about understanding what the Nasranis were as a people.

    So when people discuss the cross, etc., they are discussing the cross as used by the Nasranis in Malabar.

    Now, you started to talk about “truth”, which gets you into sticky territory: who are you (or I) to claim that one stance (Gnosticism) is any better or worse than orthodoxy? The Gospel of Judas, and indeed many of the Gnostic texts, are fascinating to read. But there is no objective way one can state that one version of Christianity is any more or less true that the other. So let’s not go down that road. Was Jesus a man, a God, half-and-half? I don’t know, and you don’t know. And the purpose of NSC doesn’t seem to be on the lines of arriving at theological formulations (I’m not admin, so I don’t speak with any authority here). Rather it seems to be about uncovering facts pertaining to the faith, culture, history, traditions, etc., of the Nasrani people.

    (A lot of noise is made about the pagan origins of Christian feasts. Especially in the West where the Protestants like to criticize RC/Orthodox feasts and calendars as being pagan in origin. One must step back a bit and understand what the Orthodox/Catholic calendars are about. They are *not* about celebrating actual anniversaries of events. Rather they are structured to bring into the lives of the faithful a regime that helps one to understand the significance and meaning pertaining to the Christian faith. Sort of like how some people have a yearly plan to read the Bible. So does anybody think that the Annunciation actually happened on Mar 25 or the Birth actually happened on Dec 25th, etc? No, not at all. Sure, perhaps some feasts were set to coincide with pagan festivals. And some were set to revolve around Jewish festivals. This is all immaterial to the feasts themselves. The feasts are meant to explain various elements of the faith to people who are generally unconcerned with the technical explanations that theologians come up with. All of this has the ultimate goal of moving people to a more Christ-like mode of living. Of course, I personally don’t think that actually occurs anymore. I think the peripheral stuff that accompanies the feasts — fireworks, songs, dances, food — and the inability of clerics to execute their role in explaining things messes it up.)

    You claim that many of the theories, attitudes of Christianity are due to a masochistic Middle Eastern mindset. This is very strange because orthodox Christianity is really a Greek religion, and not a Middle Eastern one; even the Oriental Christians are inheritors of this Greek religion. The theories and interpretations that really underlie orthodox Christianity come from the Greek fathers (the vast majority of Christian Doctors of the faith were either Greeks, or Hellenized Orientals; the Judaism of the time was Hellenized). Any attempt to draw a parallel between the philosophical sophistication of Christianity and that major southern Semitic religion you’ve mentioned is on very tenuous ground. There is almost nothing similar between those two religions.

  37. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Robb,

    I am very sorry to see your response.

    You have quoted the following sentence as an evidence of presence of Manicheans in Kerala.

    ‘Collins also discusses about Burnells argument that manigramams were manichaens and declares that “there may indeed have been Manichaens in South India and in Ceylon;’

    Please Robb, where is the rest of that sentence? Please bring that also up, to understand what it is. (It is right there in the article.) I feel sad on your understanding that this sentence is confirmatory to the presence of Manicheans in Kerala. If you were honest, you would not have presented part of a sentence like this for your argument!

    Re. Crucifix, I have no hatred towards crucifix. I use Crucifix for my personal devotion. But, I consider these Crosses of Saint Thomas Christians as a ‘beautiful and meaningful religious symbol of the Thomas Christian tradition’. But you seem to have hatred towards the Crosses of Saint Thomas Christians. This is intolerance. Cross is an emblem. So, how can a particular design of cross is good and another bad?

    I have put a number of arguments in the article why these crosses are not Manichean. You have not come up with anything yet. Instead, you are producing someone’s fantasies as evidences. You are saying, if it is peacock, it is Manichean, if there is dove and lotus, it is Manichean! Can you present any evidence to show that these are Manichean in origin? Peacocks Doves, fish, dolphin etc were Christian symbols. You can see these symbols in Vatican also.

    Your question.
    “What are we trying to prove here? Our Ancestors were using this Persian cross and Portuguese missionaries replaced it with Crucifix? So we need to throw away Crucifix and bring back the Persian cross? Whom are we living for? Tradition or Christ?
    There are many things our ancestors were using in the past…are we going to bring back all those? Give me a break….”

    You are right. It is true that early Christians used only a plain cross without the statue of Jesus. Crucifix became popular only in 9-10 centuries in the west. It was the Portuguese who brought Crucifix to Kerala. You do not need to throw away crucifix. There is nothing wrong in accepting something good from others. But we do not need to throw away what we had for centuries. Crosses of Saint Thomas Christians have been with us for at least more than 14 centuries. You do not need to bring it back. Hatred and intolerance have no role among Christians whether they stand for ‘Christ or traditions’.

    About Christian tradition: It is not a collection of dead things of the past. Tradition is handing over or transmission of our faith. Christian tradition is the Apostolic Christ experience handed over to us. Apostles are the authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ. Church is a community of those who received Christ through the witness of the Apostles. We are receiving, living and communicating our faith experience handed over to us by the Apostles. So, our tradition is our Christ experience received in our own cultural milieu.

    Pope Benedict XVI explains in his book’ Principles of Catholic Theology’ that Church is the union of the historical context and communal character of the Christ experience.

  38. Admin says

    Robb: Next time will you care to mention Robb as your name rather than SMC Catholic. I am also a Syro Malabar Catholic. It’s not proper to read your unqualified remarks with the pseudo name “ SMC Catholic”. Some people have been trying to use psuedonym ‘SMC Catholic’ as well as ‘Paranko Catholics’ as a license to write abusive posts in Internet. I hope that they are aware of what happened to the abusive blogger, who was posting derogatory remarks against Nair Community.

    What you have posted in part as Manicheanism, is the creative junk material written by unqualified historians like PK Mathew. That the material is not even worth of the piece of paper it is printed on. One has to be honest when he uses subject expert’s names to support these mediocre literature found abundant in certain parts of Kerala, which are made exclusively for whatever reason. I hope you know that. I also hope that you won’t complain about the hardship your kids face when they have to learn Catholic teachings in Sunday school. Hate is too great a burden to bear and you have to try to stick with love before lecturing about Christianity.

    Thomas Antony’s article on Saint Thomas Cross, is one of the best in this topic written after a very thorough research. It has been very helpful and useful to me as well as to others who are genuinely interested in the subject. If you care, please read and try to use this as an opportunity to get yourself acquainted with hstory.

  39. smc catholic says

    Thomas Antony,

    If you do not understand the meaning of your own words, I just sympathizes with you and I can’t spend time on it.

    Anyone who reads Collin’s quote can understand that he is optimistic about Manichean presence, but just cautions that he doesn’t see any proof yet. But what about you? After doing a big research, do you still think that there was no Manichean presence in South India? Be honest at least in this. I’d leave the readers to decide who is being honest here.

    Books like ‘In the steps of St.Thomas’ – written by Rt.Rev.Herman D Souza explains who owns the Santhome church from 6th century onwards. We haven’t found any Persian cross dated prior to AD650. What does this tells you?

    Why the majority of the Syro Malabarians including their Major Archbishop doesn’t follow Persian cross? They think Crucifix and Risen Christ are more meaningful than Peacock, Lotus and Claver in the Altar. Don’t you agree? I don’t care if it is placed on the top of the church as a ‘logo’; but not certainly as a replacement for Jesus on Altar.

    Finally, if you don’t have a sensible answer, do not expect me to waste time here again.

  40. John Mathew says


    Could you tell us what ‘In the steps of St.Thomas’ – written by Rt.Rev.Herman D Souza says about the Mylapore Church? Who used it from the 6th c. onwards?

  41. M Thomas Antony says

    I feel very sorry for Robb’s understanding. He has posted several comments recently. But so far, he could not produce any evidence about presence of Manichaeism in South India. Only thing he could do was to present half of a sentence from my article omitting the rest and saying repeatedly that it is the evidence and also to present some fantacies!

    Let me repeat the same sentence he claims as evidence, again here. (Richard Collins, Manichaens on the Malabar coast, Indian Antiquary, May 1875, pp153-155)

    ‘Collins also discusses about Burnells argument that manigramams were Manicheans and declares that “there may indeed have been Manicheans in South India and in Ceylon; but I do not think we have found any certain trace of them at present, and we shall most certainly be mislead if we begin to look up all the word beginning with mani”. He concludes that the Manichean origin of Christianity in South India, then, is a thorough miserrimus dexter and we may safely shelve the subject till the ‘relics of Manicheans’ actually do come to light’.

    Now, see what Burnell, the godfather of Manichean theory said.(A C Burnell, On some Pahlavi inscriptions in South India, Indian Antiquary, November 1874, p314)

    ‘If my reading be allowed, the whole would run: ( Syriac) “Let me not glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”; (Pahlavi) “Who is the true Messiah and God above and Holy Ghost”. This statement appears to be intended to contradict the Manichean doctrine that the crucified Messiah was the son of a poor widow, and not Jesus. If these Pahlavi inscriptions were Manichean, they would be in a different character. It seems to me not unlikely, however, that relics of Manicheans may yet remain to be discovered on the west coast of the peninsula, where they once were very numerous’.

    Now, from these, what do you understand? Collins said, we may safely shelve the subject till the relics of Manicheans actually do come to light. Burnell concluded, if these Pahlavi inscriptions were Manichean, they would have been different and hence he confirms that these inscriptions proves that this is a Christian cross, but shows his expectation that the real relics of Manicheans are yet to discovered.

    Now, 135 years after his publication of the article, many different experts interpreted these inscriptions; many other crosses also found later with the same inscriptions which were also subjected to serious research by many eminent scholars, but not a tiny grain of evidence to support the Manichean theory has emerged yet!

    Collins put this theory in a coffin and nailed it. Now certain people have taken it with vested interests and proclaiming that these crosses are Manichean referring to the very old articles, by breaking the sentences and omitting parts of the sentences!

    I feel pity on those who are involved.

    Collins and Burnell had a series of debate in Indian Antiquary and Collins was strongly against Burnell’s theory.

    I have clearly produced different arguments by eminent scholars why Burrell’s theory doesn’t stand.

    One of Burrell’s arguments was a citation in one of the Manichean texts that Mani had sent his disciple Thomas to India. Chronicles of Seert mentions that Mani sent his disciples Addai to Yemen and Thomas to India, but they returned complaining that the people did not like to hear their discourse.( Patrologia orientalis IV 227 cited by J Kollamparampil, The Persian Crosses in India are Christian, not Manichean, Christian Orient, March 1994, p33).

    Regarding Mani’s mission to India, Prof G Widergren opines that this voyage might have taken him no farther than the Iranian provinces of Turan and makran as well as North Western India- Gandhara which is now in Pakistan. (G Widengren, ‘Mani and Manichaeism’, New York, 1965, pp28-29 Cited by J Kollamparampil, Christian orient, p 33). This was the opinion of Prof Kurt Rudolf also. (Kurt Rudolf, Gnosis, English edition from Edinburgh, 1983, p 330 cited by J Kollamparampil, Christian orient, p 33).

    Burnell’s another argument was that Pahlavi was the language of Manicheans. This is also not true. Among the ancient Manichean texts, most of them were written in eastern Aramaic closely related to Edessene Syriac, using a script employed in Southern Babylonia in the third century. Sahbuhragan is the only exception which is in Pahlavi just to please Shahanshah Shapur I. It has to be noted that Mani was not proficient in Pahlavi and hence he needed the service of Nuhzadag as an interpreter when he met Bahram I ( G Widergren, Mani and Manichaeism( New York, 1965, pp74-76 cited by J Kollamparampil, Christian Orient, March 1994, p 34).As Pahlavi was the court language of the Sassanian Empire, Pahlavi was the official religious language of Zoroatrians, but other religions also used it as their official language. We have enough evidence now that Persian Church translated the Liturgy and even Bible to Pahlavi. See my article heading ‘Pahlavi, the language of Persian Christians’.

    There is no evidence or citation about Mani erecting crosses or, Manicheans worshipping or venerating Crosses.

    We have to understand that when Burnell wrote the article, not much information was available about the strong connection between the Church of Saint Thomas Christians in Malabar and the Persian Church. Now a sea of evidence is available about it and if Burnell had information about it, he would not have presented this theory.

    Manichean doctrine had wide acceptance in Europe at some time and it influenced the Western Church teachings especially in the monastic way of life. Manicheans upheld the radical dualism of matter and spirit (principle of evil and principle of good) and taught that the devil, which was the evil principle created matter and human body. As a result, Manicheans condemned human marriage, which is attributed to the principle of evil and the formation of human body is presented as the work of the devil. The conception of children in their mother’s womb is viewed as something, which was brought about through the activity of the devil. So, the Manicheans forbade marriage to the “Perfect”. Till 13th century AD, Manichean perception of reality continued as a strong undercurrent in the heterodox monastic movements of the Western church. (Dr Pius Malekkandathil, ‘Saint Thomas Christians: A historical analysis of their origin and development up to 9th century AD’, in ‘Saint Thomas Christians and Nambudiris and Jews and sangam literature, A Historical Appraisal’ Ed Bosco Puthur, LRC, p42, foot note 110)

    We can see among Saint Thomas Christians, the Priests were married and celibacy among Priests was introduced by Western Church- the Portuguese, renouncing the influence of Manichaeism.

    Dr Pius Malekkandathil also argues that no historical evidence is discovered either from India, or from the heartland of Manichaeism in Iran, Central Asia, and the fringes of Mediterranean to link these crosses with Manichean community.

    I think people like Robb are trapped into the propaganda of certain vested interests and repeating their words without knowing what it is.

  42. John Mathew says

    Further to M. Thomas Antony’s thorough post, let’s refer to Logan’s Malabar Manual:
    “It would appear probably from the above facts that the Malabar Church whatever it may have been originally, was not latterly Manichaean as the late Dr. Burnell suggested on what seems to be barely sufficient evidence, but more orthodox Persian (Nestorian).”

    This stuff was brought up and refuted more than a century ago! Since then nothing has come to light that would indicate a Manichaean presence in Kerala, at any time.

    The only question mark, as far as I can see, is what was Whitehouse (and later, Germann) referring to when he mentioned the strange parallel community alongside the Nasranis of Kayamkulam that later merged with the Nairs. The 1911 Ency. Brit. infers this to be evidence of Manichaeanism (not of the Nasranis, but of a parallel community alongside the Nasranis in a particular location, Kayamkulam), but this is a tiny footnote in our history that no one has addressed further.

  43. George Mathew says

    Dear John Mathew,

    I thnk what I am presenting is related to your last comment. Hope it will be useful to you and all. While I will comment on your great readings, yet I must say that one should also ‘go out and meet with people’. One hour of reading and 1000 hours of talking/debating/discussing face to face with people, will get one nearer to the truth. Encyclopedia Britania is worthless, if it is not supported by leg work and pungent sweat. National Geographic is an extremely popular and well respected magazine all over the world for it’s leg work and pungent sweat, yet this magazine is nothing but garbage. Try to arrive as to why by your own effort!
    The below corresspondence is between me (Ashok) and my freind Mr. Thomas Kuruvilla based at Kattanam (6kms from Kayankulam). He runs a small educational school at Kattanam Junction.
    hi ashok,
    the christian community is known as Mayam somehting like Youga Mayam
    or the like.

    the founder of the sect or the chap who brought it here is supposed to
    be a Tamil Bhramin called oh i forget the name, shall remember and
    tell you the name later on.
    anyway, this chap’s teaching was completely spiritual in nature.
    Nothing changed when people were baptised or converted the
    Indian(hindu) names like Ayappen etc are retained, there is no church
    or any such building but congretated at people’s house. they are pure
    vegetarians and just hold worship by singing hymns and preaching the
    word of god. Even their hymns are of the carnatic order, one of the
    hymns i hear in the marthoma which goes as sthutekum sthutekum eshu
    devan e is sung by them in full carnataic style and v good to hear.

    unfortunately the sect is dying down cos the community is small as it
    is and with modern times many are going to pentacost etc. but there
    are still a good no of families. …………………….. and my grandmother from my mother’s side is
    also from the same sect……………………..


    On 08/12/2010, GEORGE MATHEW wrote:
    > Dear Achayan,
    > How are you all?
    > Some years ago, you had mentioned to me about a community in Kayankulam
    > which was not Nazerene but kind of leaning towards Hinduism. Please would
    > you let me know more information about this.
    > Thanks and Regards to all at home.
    > George Mathew

  44. John Mathew says

    George Mathew:

    Thanks for your post; however, I don’t think this is what Whitehouse was talking about in the 19th century. At that time there was a side community linked to Kadeesha Church in Kayamkulam that was basically in some form of service to the Nasranis. They started to resent this, and eventually left Christianity (or their connection to Nasranis) and joined the Nairs.

  45. John Mathew says

    RE: my post 25058

    It looks like Collins has already addressed Whitehouse’s report of “Manichaeans” in Kayamkulam. His take can be found in the article “Manichaeans on the Malabar Coast”. In it he specifically refers to the strange side-community of Manigramakar that existed parallel to the Nasranis in Kayamkulam and theorizes that they may have been a community of Hindus (possibly linked to the Nasranis via the ancient Kollam plates).

    So I suppose there is no good evidence for the existence of Manichaeans on the Malabar coast, with Whitehouse’s observations having some degree of explanation.

  46. M Thomas Antony says

    Thanks John Mathew for following the subject up.

    The so called ‘SMC catholic’ who posted a few comments here recently, has mentioned several times about a book ‘In the Steps of Saint Thomas’ wrote by Rt. Rev Herman D’Souza, claiming that it is supporting his arguments.

    I do not think he has ever seen this book. If he had read this book, he would not have made his comments. I strongly recommend him and his friends to read the book ‘In the Steps of Saint Thomas’ well. It is available free to download from the website of the Arch Diocese of Mailappore –
    There is another book also available free- ‘A saga of faith’ at the same website. Both are very good books. This will be a pious exercise for those who abuse the Cross of Saint Thomas Christians.

    For Christians, cross is a symbol. No Christian can abuse or burn a particular design of Cross. People may have different tastes. People can insist that they want a particular kind of cross but no Christian can say, ‘I do not want to see this cross in the Church’. That is what exactly is happening now from this group. This is nothing but intolerance and hatred. They are just uttering what is told by some vested interests without thinking what it is. God has created man with wisdom. It is a sin not using the wisdom.

    Everybody knows how this Manichean theory came up in the 1990s. After Collins – Burnell debate, this theory was refuted and discredited, but some vested interests dug this up as a tool in their propaganda against the move to restore the authentic rite of the Syro Malabar Church. They used it in personal levels also to undermine people and used it to promote certain political ideas in the Church politics. Once the leaders of the politics gained what they wanted, they just dumped it, but those ignorant supporters did not understand the tactics. Now, recently, these group of people are using the same for their benefits in their politics. People who are so ignorant are trapped into it.

    Untill 1960s, Syro Malabar Church was using the modified East Syriac liturgy in Syriac language in Kerala ad orientum. In 1962, with the extensive efforts of Rev. Dr. Placid Podipara, the liturgy was restored to its original roots as William MaComber certifies in his research papers as one of the most faithful liturgy even to the pre Chaldean Schism(AD 1552) liturgy of the East Syriac tradition, considering the facts that even the Assyrian Church of the East also underwent modifications to their liturgy owing to their 120 years of submission to Rome and then the influence of Anglican Church and even influence from Russian orthodox. (William Macomber, A History of the Chaldean mass, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol XI No 2 , 1997, pp70-81, originally published in Worship, Vol 51 No2 1977, pp107-120).Thus 1962 version of the Syro Malabar liturgy was authentic and was celebrated in Kerala in Syriac language facing the altar- ad orientum. Ad orientum was the norm of celebrating the Holy Liturgy at that time, even for the Latin rite.

    After the Vatican council II, a section of the leadership of the Syro Malabar Church, who were so ignorant about the real authentic identity of our Church, considered Syro Malabar church as an offshoot of Latin rite, wanted to forget our 2000 year old identity that our forefathers preserved against the might of the Portuguese, to make a new identity in the name of Indianisation. As Willaim MaComber rightly observed in 1977, their aim was to reform the Syro Malabar Church in terms of Indianisation, hoping to unite with the Latin rite of India, once they are also sufficiently Indianised. ( Willaim MaComber, A History of the Chaldean mass, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol XI No 2 , 1997, p81)

    It seems that some people are ignorantly supporting those who want to forget about the 2000 year old authentic Apostolic Christianity handed over to us from our forefathers for something new. This was what Menesis and the Portuguese wanted, and our forefathers resisted. The genuine children of the Church of Saint Thomas should be vigilant about this.

    We all should pray the Lord on this Great Feast day of Mar Thoma Sliba, to guide our leaders and to give insight to our people.

  47. Alvin Thomas says

    Dear M Thomas Antony,

    Did you really read the book ‘In the Steps of Saint Thomas’ from ? It seems that there is no Online version and you need to buy directly or request via postal. I think all of your comments are also just fictions like this…so sad !!

  48. John Mathew says


    Are you as incompetent as your post indicates? The book is easily available for download from that site. I got it from there after Antony informed me of the site.

  49. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Alvin Thomas,

    I feel pity to see your very derogatory comments above.
    If you could not find a link, accusing of fraud is not fair.

    If you find it difficult to get the free version of the books, please see the links below. Both books are available free. I filled the form on the links and they promptly replied to me with a link to download the .pdf version.

    Hope this helps you. Enjoy reading.

  50. P. M. Pathrose says

    I think I have an explanation for John Mathew.

    First of all, let me tell that the community mentioned by George Mathew is not what Whitehouse talk about. This community is” Yuyomayam” which is also known as “Anjara Vedam”. Yes, they are usually known as “Mayam” as an abbreviation. But this sect originated very recently by a Brahmin. During the British reign, he claimed to have received a divine revelation informing the date of Apocalypse. He even send a letter to British Queen! Many people believed him and they prepared for the second arrival of Jesus with prayers. Nothing happened, but he explained the second arrival of Jesus is not physical, but spiritual. His followers claimed to have received the second coming of Jesus in their soul. This sect shows strong Brahmanic cultural influence.

    Obviously the Parallel community discussed by Whitehouse is not this. They are “Manigramakkar” who declared themselves as part of Nair community during the Portuguese time. There are many other references of them, for e.g., Fr. Xavier Koodapuzha in one Book, (title not sure, I think it is Bhaaratha Sabha) mentions them. He also acknowledge that the senior members of this community believe that their ancestors were Christians. I think they were Manichaeans who existed ALONG WITH Nazranis. There is one tradition about a community known as Veeradiyans who were helpers of Nazranis. May be both these names refer to the same people.

    All the confusion occur due to the assumption that there were only one type of people with Syriac tradition. I think a better theory is, there were two groups, the Nazranis (St. Thomas Christians) and Manichaeans (Manigramakkar).

  51. John Mathew says


    Thank you very much for following up.

    Do you have any additional information, e.g., can you tell me what the other sources that discuss these people have to say?

    I’m curious, because I would like to know on what basis they are claimed to be Manichaeans. The term “Manigrammam” is controversial: some claim that “Mani” refers to the Manichaean founder (Burnell does this), others claim that Mani is derived from Sanskrit (jewel, I think) and was used to refer to a general cosmopolitan trading guild active in South India comprised of Christians and Hindus, and others claim that Manigrammam refers to a Christian community (as Anjuvannam refers to a Jewish one).

    So, based on my reading it’s far from conclusive as to what religion these folks were. Although, I think the statement that their priests wore caps similar to the modern Jacobites might possibly point to a Manichaean link … Manichaean priests wore cylindrical caps and white cassocks.

    So, any further info you could provide would be much appreciated!

    Do these folks still exist? Or are they fully absorbed into the Nair community of Kayamkulam?


  52. John Mathew says

    Veeradiyan Pattu

    Does anyone have any details of this? I saw it listed along wih Rabban Pattu and Margamkali. After Pathrose’s comments, I’d like to know what this song describes.

  53. John Mathew says

    For reference, for anyone curious about what Pathrose and I are discussing here’s the quote from Whitehouse about a strange side community of the Nasranis:
    “At this ancient Syrian settlement a family of the M^nigr^makar
    are stated to have located themselves more than five hunted years
    ago, and their descendants are still in K^yenkulum and its neigh-
    bourhood. Their connexion with the orthodox Syrians is a curious
    and well supported fact. When Knaye Thoma, the Syrian mer-
    chant, about A.D. 800, obtained some privileges which secured to
    them the services of certain of the low caste working class (as
    carpenters, goldsmiths, and blacksmiths) four familes of the Mdni-
    grdmaka/r — ^who seem to have been connected with native law
    courts — ‘Were appointed to regulate and manage all that related to
    the social position and caste questions of these artisans. It was
    one of these four families which settied at K^yenkulum. It is
    further worthy of observation that in another copper document,
    already referred to, granting land to A parish community called
    Tarisa-palli, the Mdnigrdmwm — ^possibly the headman of the
    Manicheans — is appointed, amongst others, a protector of the land
    and church so endowed ; or the Mdnigrdrnwrn may refer specially
    to the four families above named, or to their headihan, since a
    trusteeship of this kind would quite accord with the other duties of
    their profession.

    From close enquiries made in the neighbourhoodof EAyenkulum,
    by an intelligent, well educated native Mend, it appears that they

    IN A DARK LAND. 49

    maintained some kind of connexion with tlie Syrian church till
    within the last thirty years. When the M&nigramakar had a
    marriage, they paid a fee to the church , with a present of tobacco
    and betel leaves — ^the invariable dessert accompaniments of a
    native feast — thereby acknowledging old acquaintance, if not
    ancient fealty ; and in return a piece of new cloth was given by
    the church for the bride to wear on her head. Similarlv, when
    any of the Manigr^imakar died, a cloth was given by the church to
    invest the corpse. Their priests at this place used to go by the
    name of FadaMalawanf or captain. The corpse of the last priest
    who died at K^yenkiilum was burned by his relatives, in imitation
    of the customs prevalent among high caste Hindoos, and contrary
    to the former customs jof this people ; and no successor has been

    In the neighbourhood of Quilon, where they number about 30
    houses, their priest was usually called Naimar, or Najmar-Achchen.
    The Naimar used to wear a loose garment reaching to the feet, and
    a long beard like the Syrian priests. The tuft of hair, worn on the
    crown of the head by the rest of his caste, was forbidden to him ;
    nor was he allowed to dwell in the same house as other people.
    On the death of a Naimar his body was interred in a sitting pos-
    ture, just in the same manner as the Syrian Metrans are buried.
    He had a subordinate called Weertidaydnf who was sent to the
    houses of the low caste artisans on such errands as a /constable
    would be employed about in a rural district in England ; and oq
    such occasions this official carried with him a sort of weapon of a
    peculiar shape called by the natives Yamadhdda,

    These people were long dissatisfied with their social position ;
    but, in a country like In(ua, where an unyielding system of caste
    predominates, to alter it was no easy matter. The feeling of their
    hearts had been for generations, ** We will he as the heathen ;” and
    to become low caete heathen, or outcastea^ would have been no very
    difficult matter; but such a step was hurtfiil to their pride, for
    they wished to maintain as respectable a position in native society
    as their fathers had held. The Syrian Christians were generally
    considered to occupy much such a position as the >jair caste
    among the Hindoos of Travancore ; and their ambition was to join
    the Nairs, and become incorporated with them. Hence they took
    means to disconnect themselves as much as possible from the
    Christians, and to associate with the heathen Nairs ; in which they
    are said to have been ver^ materially assisted by an influential
    Syrian of K^yenkullum, who released them and their descendants
    nom all obligations to his church ; and fuiiJier expunged from the
    church records all statements bearing on their past history which
    mieht be prejudicial to their worldly interests.

    The Syrian Metrans have more than once, even within the
    memory of people still living, claimed them as wandering sheep,
    who ought to be brought back to their fold. When Colonel Munro
    Was President of Travancore, an effort was made to bring them



    under tlie jurisdiction of the Syrian bishops ; and it is stated that
    the present Metropolitan put in a claim for them some years ago,
    which filled the httle community with dismay ; and, in order to
    protect themselves and their descendants from similar attempts, at
    the Q-ovemment Assessment in 1837 they did their’ best to get rid
    of the name of Mdnigrdmahar^ and to be classed as one of the sub-
    divisions of the Nair caste.

    These unhappy people are not at their ease even among their
    new friends ; they have not found aU their carnal hearts wanted,
    and God grant they never may ; so that, after feeding on husks,
    they may be brought to consider their ways, and turn unto Him
    whom their forefathers forsook ! Though most of them occupy a
    respectable position — ^being very commonly employed about the
    local courts; and though they intermarry with Nair, and even
    Brahmin families, they are looked down upon by the people of
    their choice. Thus, if a Nair makes a feast, the males of the
    Manigramakar may be invited, but not the females ; and if the^
    make a feast in return, the Nair guests will not eat the food if
    cooked by any one of the same caste as their host. When the
    Nairs and they fall out, it is a very common thing for the former
    to upbraid them mth their mongrel origin.

    Some little of the ancient grandeur of their ancestry is still
    occasionally displayed by them, in particular at their weddings,
    the bridegroom being privileged, by royal patent, to ride on an
    elephant ; and the bnde to be carried in a palanquin ; whilst the
    priest and visitors follow on horseback. They are said, however,
    to have very loose ideas about the marriage tie; and do, when they-
    please, divorce their wives. Numerically they are a small body,
    and are supposed to be declining in numbers at the present time ;
    and the Hke process has probably been going on for centuries.
    ** Who hath hardened his heart against Him^ arid hath prospered ? ”
    (Job ix. 4.) “

  54. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear John Mathew,

    1) Manichaean religion is in fact a blend of Eastern Syriac Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. So it is hard to find any solid evidences for their existence.

    2) The “Mani” in Manigramam is more likely to mean Manichean identity. There is not point in relating with Sanskrit “Mani” which means either Jewel or Bell. If jewels were a major trade during that time, this theory could have been justified. But as we learn from history, the major products of ancient Kerala were spices, timber, sandal, etc. It is a general habit to relate every place-name and caste-name to Sanskrit words.

    3) At the time of Kulashekharas, it was pretty impossible for the merchants of different religions to have existed as a single community. It was a time when people were grouped together as communities so rigidly that each community had their own particular leaders, social orders and civil lifestyle.

    4) The castes system in Hinduism was strong enough to prevent any person from engaging in professions other than that which assigned for his community. This means that “Vysya / Chettis” were the only Hindus who were entitled to do trade. But the copper plates call them directly as “Chetti”, “Loka Perum Chetti”, etc and not by any dubious other names.

    5) Anjuvannam does not refer to Jews, but the Hindus themselves (i.e., the people who accepted the Brahmin religion). “Anju Vannam” means Five Varnas of Hinduism (including lowermost castes who were called Panchamas or the fifth caste). The reference in the copperplate is this ” .. This is granted for the knowledge of Anjuvannam and Manigramam, for the knowledge of Venad and Odanad, for the knowledge of Eranad and Valluvanad, ..” This simply means that the entire kingdom is supposed to know about this grand (in copperplate).

    6) There is no reason to think the ancient Nazranis were known as Manigramakkar. Various alternative names used to refer Nazranis were “Margakkar”, “Mappila”, etc. Each name has it’s own explanation. The term “Manigramakkar” has no such explanations, nor it was known to any Nazranis until the copperplates were studied by historians. But the senior generation of this Kayamkulam community called themselves so without even hearing about these copperplates.

    7) It may be hard to find the present members of these community, as their new generation may not have even heard this name. Don’t imagine a community of people living together like Konkani Brahmins or Tamil Brahmins, these families are scattered in a large region from Kollam to Kayamkulam. Nair community is a prominent and reputed one, so their grandfathers might have decided to be part of it.

    8 ) Veeradiyans are well known for their folk songs (Veeradiyaar Paattu) they used to sing in Nazrani houses. These songs are mentioned by many Historians as they form a major part of local tradition about St. Thomas’ arrival and his mission in India. Their songs have elaborate descriptions of St. Thomas and his journeys. But all the Historians unanimously state that they were not Christians and were never ready to convert to Christianity. That means, they belong to some Non-Christian religion which reveres St. Thomas. Is there any such religion? Yes, it is Manichaeanism!!


  55. John Mathew says

    Thanks, Patrose, for the detailled answer. Actually for a long time I’ve been intrigued by the possibility of Manichaeans in Malabar since, as you point out, the raw ingredients were all there. I think Burnell was similarly sure of Manichaeans there as well. However there is no direct evidence for this. Why wouldn’t there be? Though if Manichaeans didn’t have churches then perhaps that would explain it.

    I agree Mani as a Sanskrit work perhaps wouldn’t make sense in 9th century Tamil Malabar — however, since grammam is Sanskrit. perhaps it does make some sense in the compound term.

    The Manigramam were very active right? I believe they ran the trade between south india and southeast asia. Wiki reports a temple in Kanchipuram with an inscription to the effect that it was build by the manigramam. Are you claiming that the whole operation was a manichaean one? If so, then I think some trace of that religion should pesist, no?

    I recall reading a medieval kerala folktake (posted on a blog called Maddy’s ramblings) in which the manigramam looked like a more composite group: christians jews and hindus. I wish I had copied the tale. I’ll try to dig it up.

    A question: does the Rabban Joseph cheppad mention Anjuvannam as his community? I was under the impression that it did.

    I hope you can answer these issues as this is something that has puzzled me for a long time! I’m glad someone finally answered!

    Are there other historians who have discussed this? I must admit that apart from 1) whitehouse 2) collin’s response and 3) the encycl. Brittanica of 1911, I’ve not seen any references to these folks.

    Is fr. Francis’ work in english?

  56. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear John Mathew,

    If you are curious about the presence of Manichaeans and other such Gnostic cults in India, I suggest you should read the book “Emergence of Hinduism from Christianity” (Available online) written by M. M. Ninan. Even though some of his arguments are refutable, this book contains many valuable observations on how the Gnostic concepts (such as that of Manichaeanism) could have been adopted by latter Hinduism. Where we agree with him or not, the book is worth reading.

    When analyzing historical sources and their interpretations, we must be aware about the political interests associated with them. For e.g., the Tamil nationalism has played a major role in misinterpreting the history of south India. They diminish the facts that may weaken the “Tamil identity”. Kanchipuram is believed by some to be a Manichaean city and the Pallava dynasty was in fact “Pahlava” ie, of Persian origin. But the Tamil ideologists do not like this interpretation as they always showcase Kanchipuram and Pallavas as the pride of Tamil identity. They also wish the integrity of Hinduism should not be questioned, as others. So they are eager to identify anything found in India either as Hindu or as Buddhist.

    Another group of vested interests is Some US based internet users of Nazrani origin who have a leniency towards Zionist politics. They wish to establish that the Nazranis have Jewish origins. For the past few years they are very active in starting websites and blogs to propagate their ideology. They are spending hours to connect ancients Nazranis with Jews, to interpret Syrian customs and traditions as Jewish, to rename St. Thomas Cross as “Nazrani Menorah”, etc..etc. Their views are supported by only one Nazrani historian, one George Menachery, who have compiled their essays as books and published. They have even developed a Wikipedia article “Syrian Malabar Nasrani” (a Kerala based Nazrani may laugh reading which) as opposed to the article “St. Thomas Christians”. They dream of getting a better treatment in the country they live if they seem to be of Jewish origin.

    The blog you mentioned may be of this kind. This guy, Maddy from North Carolina (who looks like an Indian) may be one of them or has read them.

    The language in copperplates or Cheppeds is not so easy to translate. A word can be interpreted differently by different people. For example, take the phrase “VELAKKULA CHUNTHARAN” in Tharisappalli Chepped. We are not sure is it VELAKKULA or VELKKULA (the difference in Vattezhuth is a simple dot above letter LA). This phrase is translated by Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai as “Vaazhakkula Sundaran”. But some others read it as “Vellala Kula Sundaran” (Sundaran of Vellala caste) or as “Vel kula sundaran” (Handsome guy from the family of Lords [Vel – Lord/Knight]). Similarly “KON” means king. But it also means “Conqueror”. Therefore “VILLAVARKON” is either a king of Villavar (one among to them) or a Conqueror of them (from outside). I hope you get my point. My knowledge in Vattezhuth is limited. So I cannot say what is the exact wording in the Chepped that relates Rabban Joseph with Anchu Vannam. I am not even sure that “ICHUPPU IRAPPAAN” means Joseph Rabban.

    I have read from somewhere a Malankara Bishop’s opinion about Nazranis’ past. He says that there were a different group of Heretics whom we never followed. He calls them “Dhaariyaayi”. Interestingly, in the descriptions of foreign travelers, it is mentioned that a group called “Tharisais” exists in Malabar whose religion is very similar to Christians. Modern historians thought it is St. Thomas Christians thinking the Tharisapalli Cheppeds were given to them. But I think there is another possibility that Mar Sapir And Mar Proth were both Manichaean Bishops (Manichaeans had Bishops as well) and the Tharisappalli Cheppeds were given to Tharisais (Manichaeans), not our Nazrani grandfathers. I am not sure about this.

    Fr. Koodapuzha’s book “Bharatha Sabha Charithram” is in Malayalam and was published in Kottayam.


  57. rp says

    Another group of vested interests is Some US based internet users of Nazrani origin who have a leniency towards Zionist politics. They wish to establish that the Nazranis have Jewish origins. I would say no.

    None of the malayalees in here has no connection with Zionist groups. In TV we heard about these organization. Its more like this waking up of history automatically pop in many nasranis now days and its happening in india too. I would say that nasranis are heterogeneous in nature. Our love with Hindu in culture and love in India never going to end. Since our malayalees been exposed more to the international community and when some others are interpreting us some kind of middle astern people, it could began to think more about it. I don’t think that nazranis origin can just interpret to straight Jewish community but we can feel more like a Semitic origin than we think it Brahmin origin and that is it.

    Since I heard about knanaya stories and I m from a lot of knanaya community in my home town PTA, I m just searching history and proofs and what logic in it. Many of their claims and dates are not logic to the proof of actual evidence we got as a whole nasrani community. Some point these migratations came to Kerala in different times but they all mixed in some point in early times. Whatever the people left today say we know everything like yesterday is bogus. I even credits for Brahmins might have converted but few. These influences may give our people more kala or artistic nature being creating Christians classical music’s and we have these in our MTC traditional songs books. Since the presence of all these chances nasrani can be so talented from a Brahmin origin, or look meditterrian from lot of these intermarriage with from immigrants, because we cannot reject any of those. A Zionist influenced person cannot connect everything to Jewish without any logic and who is going to listen to it. Here we are meeting many Ethiopian they consider themselves as ancient orthodox people and we are sharing similarities. They even interprets nasranis as even Jewish in their perspective .

  58. John Mathew says

    Hi Pathrose:

    Yes I agree there are a variety of vested interests that are putting out “histories” that are more fiction than fact.

    The Persian cross as a “menorah” and all the associated paraphenelic silliness is perhaps the best example. But there is a kernel of truth: the Nasranis of Malabar may have indeed had some influence from the Hebrew peoples. Genetically, the presence of the Cohen Modal Haphlogroup is a testament to this. As is the Pesaha tradition that is unique to the Nasranis. So, while Menachery and others who propagate this alternative fiction, are introducing considerable noise into the discussion (the Persian Cross as a Menorahs!?), we can’t ignore the actually signal, that is, the facts that do indicate that a *part* of the Nasrani ancestors were Hebraic peoples. (Just as a *part* of our ancestors were Persians, and another *part* were Assyrians. And of course, the most significant part of our ancestry were the Dravidian/Aryan peoples who are the dominant ancestors of most people on the Indian subcontinent.)

    Now, for the Pallava as Persian Pahlava theory, this is quite controversial. There are overly nationalistic Tamils who diminish “Persian” influence, and there are over nationalistic Iranians who amplify the influence. Has any non-biased objective source discussed the possibility? I understand there are two camps, but it does not seem that there is clear consensus. Since you obviously have better knowledge of old Indian history than me, could you offer your informed perspective on the Pallava as Pahlava theory? Forgetting the simialar name, is there anything else? You’ve obviously seen the article by the Iranian researcher that’s online: does it have any merit? Is there anything about Kanchipuram that seems particularly Manichaean or Persian?

    I did a little more reading on Manigrammam in Tamil Nadu, and from the few things I’ve read it seems that the members of the guild over there were Hindus. The author of a book on Indian maritime merchantilism mentions that Manigrammam was Hindu everywhere except in Kollam. Now, if Ninan’s theory of Manichaean influence on Hinduism has merit that is a whole new dimension: then things and people were call “Hindu” may very well be Manichaean.

    But Ninan seems like a loopy individual with his own angle and, to be honest, a defective intellect. Should we really weigh his article that highly? If correct, that would be an odd sequence: Vedism influencing Buddhism influence Manichaeanism influence post-Vedic Hinduism. It’s a very tough sell, so I would like to truly understand what your informed perspective of this strange theory is.

    Now, discussing all of this has made me think some more about the Nasranis of old. Some things that stuck out are:

    1. I believe that the proceeds of Diamper talk about Nasranis believing in reincarnation/transmigration of the Soul. Perhaps this is a fossil of Manichaeanism that persisted in our community.

    2. Whitehouse discusses a strange custom of Nasranis in Mavelikara where they would provide offerings at a Hindu altar between the Puthicavu Chruch and the local Hindu temple. This has always struck me as strange. But given the Manichaean penchant for syncretism, perhaps it makes sense.

    3. Whitehouse also discusses Nasranis in Kadamattom, whose priests engage in “pagan” practices, sorcery, etc. Another fossil of Manichaean sorcery?

    4. The perunal at the Mar Sabor/Mar Aphroth Church is vegetarian. Another fossil?

    Here’s a possibility:

    1. Manichaeanism may have been a larger religion in Kerala in the past, coexisting with the known presence of Persian Christians (Nestorians, as mentioned by Cosmas). And coexisting with the Jews who also likely existed in Kerala.

    2. Isho-Dat Virai’s construction of the Kollam Tarsa-Pally and Mar Sabor and Mar Aproth’s arrival in the 8th century reinvigorated the Christian community. I don’t think they were Manichaeans, based on the names (although, like you said, if old Tamil is that hard to read and decipher, perhaps the names got mangled; or perhaps they were Manichaeans that honored Isho), and based on the Persian crosses that were attributed to them which are Christian. Also, their pally is called Tarisa Pally which I believe is a corruption of the Persian TARSA, which was used to denote Christians. That is Pally of the Tarsas (as opposed to the Pally of the Buddhists that were their neighbors). Also, starting from the 9th century we have a clear paper trail pointing to our strong intercourse with the East Syriacs.

    So the 8th century was a period of revival: a new influx of Christians, grants giving them power, etc. I think perhaps some of the earlier Manichaeans may have converted to Christianity, and fossils of their prior beliefs may have persisted (vegetarianism, belief in reincarnation, syncretism).

    3. As the Christians became more powerful, they may have attracted converts from the Hebrew peoples of Kerala, and fossils of that persist to this day (Pesaha, genes).

    I’m not proposing this as gospel truth, but rather as an integration of the facts as I see them, with some more rounded edges than the extremist positions taken by people like Menacheri and the “Menorah” crowd, Ninan, pseduo-Iraneologists, Indian Church “historians”, etc. Rather than reject all of these noisy sources outright, I’m applying a Kalman filter to extract the signal, to use an engineering analogy!

    I think it’s likely that we were a composite people, with a variety of different influences. Eventually a more dominating influence came along (Nestorianism) and that overwrote earlier influences, with fossils of the earlier influences persisting.

    We clearly have precedent: look at the shift of the SMC from East Syriac Nestorians to East Syriac Catholics. Or the greater shift in the Puthenkoor from East Syriac Nestorians to West Syriac Miaphysites. But in each fossils of our earlier identity remain.

    Your comments would be appreciated.

    (PS: The Manichaean theory also has extremists. I believe they are mainly in the Latin camp, and their angle is they want to diminish the prestige of the Syro-Malabar for some reason. So they invent fiction to advance this angle. Again, this is an example of high noise. But is there a signal buried beneath? Although the Persian Cross is not Manichaean, and although we’ve not found Manichaean artifacts, are there *any* fossils of Manichaeanism that persist in the Nasranis? Perhaps, as indicated above, there are.)

  59. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear John Mathew,

    I don’t agree with the claims of Jewish influence based on DNA project test results.
    Let’s have a look at this:
    “One source of early confusion was a widespread popular notion that only Cohens or only Jews could have the Cohen Modal Haplotype. It is now clear that this is not the case. The Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), whilst notably frequent amongst Cohens, is also far from unusual in the general populations of haplogroups J1 and J2 with no particular link to the Cohen ancestry.”
    “The frequency of J2 is higher in South Indian castes (19%) than in North Indian castes (11%) or Pakistan (12%).[37] Haplogroup J was found to be even more common in India’s Shia Muslim community, of which 28.7% belong to haplogroup J, with 13.7% in J2a-M410, 10.6% in J1 and 4.4% in J2b.
    A substantial presence of J2b is found in the Balkans and neighboring parts of Greece in the West, and in both tribal and caste populations of the Indian subcontinent to the East. The high variance of J2b2 in South Asia indicates a probable pre-Neolithic migration.”
    Take the case of Buddhism. Buddhism was a religion born among Hindus. So it adopted many cultural symbols from Hinduism. When the people of countries like China, Mongolia, etc embraced Buddhism, they adopted these cultural elements are as well. These aspects still exist. But it does not mean that the ancestors of Mongolians were Hindus.
    Similarly Christianity was born among Jews. We have absorbed many elements of Judaism. So, there is no wonder in the tradition of Pesaha which can be thought as a Eastern Christian tradition.
    I am not saying that no Jews converted to Christianity. Nominal conversions could have occurred, but the numbers were not large enough to bring a cultural influence.
    There is no role for “Iranian nationalists” in this context. Firstly, they are not in a position to influence historical researches in south India. Secondly, Iran being a nation of tremendous ethnic diversity, they do not resort their National identity in ethnicity. Instead, they base their nationality on Shiite Islam.
    I think you have mistaken Ninan as an Iranian researcher. He is a Malayali and a Nazrani like us (Read his name as Nai-naan). I don’t agree with all his viewpoints. For instance, his theory that concepts of Vishnu and Siva were developed from Christianity. There is no doubt that these deities are pre-Christian, but except these, his observations seem to be reasonable.
    We must also remember that the present definition of Hinduism is an invention of colonialists. Everything they could not identify as an already-known religion such as Christianity, Judaism or Islam, they branded as part of Hinduism. If you study in detail, you can find that the early Hinduism or Vedic religion is very much similar to the Zoroastrianism. The language in Vedas shows a striking similarity with the language in Zend Avesta. Also many of the Vedic hymns, for e.g., the famous “Asatoma satgamaya” presents dualism which is a key component of Zoroastrianism and later adopted by Manichaeans.
    The influence of Semiticism on Hinduism is so obvious. For example, “Brahma” and “Saraswati” are in fact “Abraham” and “Sarah”. As Swami Vivekananda righty observed, it is a habit of Indians to worship anything they respect.
    Indians were never been an isolated people. The Persian empire of Cyrus included some parts of India and as early as 3rd century BC, Greeks and Scythians were here. They were given Sanskrit names: Cyrus was called Kuru, Greeks were called Yavanas and Scythians were called Shaka. To understand the social scenario in the early centuries, I suggest you reading about Greco-Buddhism and Indo-Scythian empires. My opinion is, it will not be absurd to identify Pallavas as Pahlava.
    Also don’t imagine ancient Iranians as today’s Muslims. The term Iran itself came from the word “Aryan” and Vedic Aryans are alternatively known as Indo-Iranians. Some ancient Iranian deities have corresponding gods in Vedas. You already know that Pahlavi script is found in ancient crosses and copperplates from south India. One more thing, Bible says the soldiers of Ancient Media (Western Iran) used to wear ear rings (like Hindu warriors).
    I don’t think our ancestors believed in Manichaeanism. Instead, possibly there existed two groups of similar culture who were identified by foreigners as one group. For a foreigner, it may be difficult to distinguish a Manichaean from a Christian. Manichaeans also used Eastern Syriac, they also revered Jesus, they also had a similar church system with Bishops and priests like us.
    The decrees of Diamper also mention many other evil customs, which were possibly practiced by Manichaeans who were mistaken as Nazranis. This should be the case in Whitehouse’s description of Mavelikkara people also.
    Regarding the priest of Kadamattom who is popular as “Kadamattathu Kathanar”, I have a clue. I have seen some Mantras (hymns) used by him. Even though they contain many Syriac words like “Alaha” (god) and “Malaka” (Angel), they seem to be not belonging to the Christian faith, but a mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs. They may be Manichaean.
    The name “Isho” (Syriac of Jesus) does not indicate Christianity, because Manichaeans also revered Jesus like we respect John Baptist or other prophets. Also the term “Tharisa” appears to be related to Biblical “Tarshish”, as many historians have pointed out, rather than Persian “Tarsa”. Tarshish is believed to be the Hebrew name for Kerala. Old Testament has many mentions about the ships from Tarshish.
    I have come across another wild theory, that the Sabir Isho is the person whom today’s Hindus adore as “Sabareeshan” (Lord Ayyappa). If Manichaeans in Kerala revered one of their early leaders and later became part of Hindus, there is a possibility for that as well.
    NB: I am wondering if there is any evidences for the existence of Chaldean rite (whether Nestorian or not) in Malabar before the arrival of these four Bishops; Mar Yacob, Mar Yabellaha, Mar Thoma and Mar Danaha who were here in 1504 and were sent by Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Eliah. “Topographia Christiana” written by Cosmas Indicopleustes acknowledges that there are Persian Bishops in ‘Kalyan’ (Near Mumbai). But he does not seem to have mentioned about their presence in Malabar. Many others write about the use of Eastern Syriac language, but it does not imply Chaldean liturgy as we have seen.

  60. John Mathew says


    1. Regarding Hebrew influence. If you look at my earliest posts on NSC you’ll see I was very skeptical of the claims of Hebrew influence, because they were mostly loose connections that misattributed general Eastern Christian practices with Jewish ones. And most of the claimants had a very low level of knowledge of either Judaism or Christianity (the Nasrani Menorah concept being one of the most idiotic examples of this, same with the nonsense that we use OT names, Syriac, etc — all of this can be easily explained by our Eastern Christianity and does not require one to invoke Jewish ancestors).

    But Pesaha is in a different league. This is not a general Christian practice. It is something unique in Malabar. And hence it is a likely fossil of our partial Jewish origins. There is no parallel in either the East or West Syriac Churches. And there certainly would be no parallel in the anti-Jewish Manichaeans.

    Similarly the J2/J2 CMH results. When combined with the (1) known presence of Jews in Malabar and (2) the practice of Pesaha, it is likely that the CMH results are not noise but signal: they are likely to be remnants of some Jewish forefathers.

    Again, I dismiss every claim of Jewish origin, except for these two. These two are strong signals that can’t be easily dismissed.

    2. Regarding Iranian nationalists. I was not talking about Ninan. Ninan is obviously a Nasrani, albeit an intellectually handicapped one. I was referring to the article at:
    that makes the claim that the Pallavas was a Parthian community in India.

    Strong claims, scant evidence. Or at least evidence that can be refuted by “Tamil nationist” theories.

    I’m not saying either is wrong. I’m just saying both are controversial and make good cases.

    Personally, I believe in the Persian Pallava connection. But belief is not scholarly. I want to see proof.

    3. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    The idea that Brahma is Abram and Saraswati is Sarah is completely bizarre and far from obvious. I think a lot of what Ninan is saying is nothing more than “evangelical” propaganda. I’ve read Ninan’s book and the man is very sloppy; he fall far short of offering extraordinary proof.

    4. Manichaeans

    I don’t think they used Eastern Syriac, they used a variant of Syriac with a distinct script from Syriac. There are clear differences between Manicheans and Nestorians and I don’t think the two could be easily confused. What the Ports observed were Nestorians, not Manichaeans, although I admit that some of the Nasrani’s more pagan practices seem like fossils of Manichaeanism, or perhaps even Buddhism or Hinduism. It’s unclear.

    I agree the possibility is high, but *no proof exists*. I think further study is needed. What Ninan offers is mere fantasy.

    Could you report Kadamattom Kathanars mantras? Where did you learn of them? Any further info? Since Whitehouse reports Kadamattom as a place near a Manichaean community, I think this would be a fruitful area of study.

    The Manichaeans may have revered Jesus, but I think the simplest explanation is that Sabr-Isho and Isho-Dat were Nestorians — we have direct proof that those names were used by Nestorians, while we have zero proof of such usage by Manichaeans. I think the simplest explanation is the likeliest one.

    The fellow from Alackal who claims that Sabrimala is related to Mar Sabor seems to be like Ninan, a man living in fantasy. Such extraordinary claims require more proof than mere “it sounds the same”.

    Tarshish is far from “Tarisa”, certainly much further than “Tarsa”. The latter makes far more sense as well.

    The folks who claim to descend from the Mar Sabor immigration have a clear tradition of Christianity. The priests of Thulassery Manapurram report a 24 generation line of priests: this takes them right to the 9th century. It would be nice to see the evidence they have for this.

    I went to Mar Abos shrine in Thevelakkara and I saw an ancient cross inscribed on it in stone — I think it’s likely a Christian Church.

    Again, the simplest explanation as I see it was that the 9th century immigration was a East Syriac Christian one, and seems to have begun a long paper trail of contact with East Syriac prelates from the 9th to the 17th century — inclusive. Now, what happened before is another question.

    Cosmas reports Persian Christians — he himself was a Nestorian so I think we can assume he knows a Nestorian when he sees one. So we had Christians in India back then. Then there’s a dark ages, but we have the Pahlavi Crosses that establishes that our community was around. Perhaps coexisting with Manichaeans. Then the 9th century immigration which kicked off a long process of Church building and communication with the East Syriac Church.

    Ninan is exploiting people’s general ignorance and desire for prestige but introducing loopy theories to show that Thomas (who likely never even came to India apart from the NorthWest) was the ancestor of the major Hindu religion. He claims Sanskrit is young, that Latin was developed by the RC Church, etc. The man is dreaming. As is the Alackal person.

    Now, as for you, you seem to know a lot; so I’m surprised that you give Ninan the time of day.

    No matter — could you please report some more on Kadamattom Kathanar? I’d like to see that material.

    And of course, you opinion on my comment.


  61. John Mathew says

    On the blog Sharbtho there is an article about strange stuccos on Nasrani Churches with excellent pictures taken by Sujith Phillip that can be found at:

    In particular, the St Mary’s Church at Ennamavu is interesting to me for its moon sign.

    Compare that with the moon sign found in Manichaean art:

    Now, I’m no moon sign expert, and I’m not presenting this as if it’s proof of anything. Just an observation.

  62. George Mathew says

    Dear John,

    You wrote ‘…3. As the Christians became more powerful, they may have attracted converts from the Hebrew peoples of Kerala, and fossils of that persist to this day (Pesaha, genes)…’

    Add to the abvoe ‘Shabbath Keeping Judiazers’. We have Rev. Buchanan quote this as being said at the Synod of Daiamper. But I am not locating it being said by Bishop Menezes. What about the missing thousands of Malabari Jews? If there were 500 of them in AD 500, then what does math say should the number be in AD 1947?
    Prathap is wrong about his comment of the CMH Cohens. I am not CMH but am confirmed to be of a branch prior to CMH and from where CMH came out (later?). In the Cohen Admin’s (Debbie) database and contact list, there are Muslims in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere who are descendents of the Cohens.

    It is a known fact, that millions of Jews/Hebrews were forcibly converted to Islam and Christianity. This is an open secret which nobody wants to talk about because it is politically wrong.

    Is not there some saying somewhere which says ‘.. Truth is in the unsaid word..’?

  63. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear John Mathew,

    First of all, I don’t want to prove any of Ninan’s opinions, I just mentioned a possibility. Let us wait until we have reliable evidences. But my experience taught me not to write off even the dumbest theories.

    “But belief is not scholarly. I want to see proof.”

    I agree with you. But,

    1. Do you think the “Pesaha” tradition is solely enough to prove the Jewish connection? The term “Pesaha” is Syriac (Hebrew is Pesakh) and the practise resembles the Bread-breaking of early Christians rather than a pure Jewish Passover. The Jewish Passover is a seven-day festival. The emphasis in Christianity is “Sharing” or fellowship, while in Judaism, the “Purity” or “unleavenedness” is important.

    “Jews typically spend the weeks before Passover in a flurry of thorough housecleaning, to remove every morsel of chametz (leavening) from every part of the home. Even the cracks of kitchen counters are thoroughly scrubbed, for example, to remove any traces of flour and yeast, however small. Any item or implement that has handled chametz is generally put away and not used during Passover.”

    ” Jews do a formal search for remaining chametz after nightfall on the evening before Passover. A blessing is read and one or more members of the household proceed from room to room to check that no crumbs remain in any corner.

    It is customary to turn off the lights and conduct the search by candlelight, using a feather and a wooden spoon: candlelight effectively illuminates corners without casting shadows; the feather can dust crumbs out of their hiding places; and the wooden spoon which collects the crumbs can be burned the next day with the chametz.
    Because the house is assumed to have been thoroughly cleaned by the night before Passover, there is some concern that making a blessing over the search for chametz will be for naught if nothing is found. Thus, 10 morsels of bread smaller than the size of an olive are traditionally hidden throughout the house in order to ensure that some chametz will be found.”

    “On the morning of the 14th of Nisan, any leavened products that remain in the householder’s possession, along with the 10 morsels of bread from the previous night’s search, are burned. The head of the household repeats the declaration of biyur chametz, declaring any chametz that may not have been found to be null and void “as the dust of the earth”. Should more chametz actually be found in the house during the Passover holiday, it must be burnt as soon as possible.”

    “There is a Rabbinic requirement that four cups of wine are to be drunk during the seder meal. This applies to both men and women. Each cup is connected to a different part of the seder: the first cup is for Kiddush, the second cup is connected with the recounting of the Exodus, the drinking of the third cup concludes Birkat Hamazon and the fourth cup is associated with Hallel.”

    Are you sure all these rituals existed among Nazranis as well?

    Also, we don’t have evidence for Jews were here when St. Thomas arrived at AD. 52. The Jews seems to have come here only after the destruction of Second Temple in AD. 70.

    2. Isn’t it absurd to think that some shrine you visited was historically belongs to Christians only by seeing a cross inscribed. Manichaeans also used Crosses as a religious symbol. But I am interested to know why do you think Mar Sabir and Mar Peruz were Nestorians. Do you solely resort on the wild guess that these names belongs to none other than Nestorians or is there any reliable evidences for this exists?

    A letter written by four Chaldean Bishops who reached Malabar in 1503 addressing their Patriarch says there were no (Chaldean) Bishops here (in Malabar) for a long time. If the claim of Thulassery priests are genuine, how can we explain this?

    Cosmos, being a Nestorian himself could have reported their presence in Malabar if he found any. But he mentions only Kalyan. Why?

    3. As far I know, we have got historical remains of neither Manichaean script nor Chaldean Script from South India. Did I miss any? We have got enough evidences for Pahlavi, from St. Thomas Crosses and Copperplates. I would appreciate any evidence that can refute the claim of Latin camp that Syriac was not historically used in Malabar before 1500?

    4. Regarding the mantras, there are plenty of them, but we do not have any proof whether they were actually used by Kadamattathu Kathanar. How can we believe that they were not created recently?


  64. John Mathew says


    1. Yes, you’re right of course, my seeing a cross inscribed on the stone substructure of the Thev. Church proves nothing since I can’t date the cross.

    2. I believe the Pesaha observance in Kerala is an anomaly. You’ve provided a description of the Jewish custom of Pesaha, as practiced now in the modern era. As you may know, Judaism during the low BC/AD era was hardly uniform, with Pharasees, Saduccees, Essenes, etc., all as claimants. The Pesaha that is practiced in Kerala may be some fossil of something like that. Hillel is a post-Christian Jewish figure.

    I don’t know. All I do know is, Pesaha as practiced in Kerala is not the Syrian Christian Pesaha that one finds in the Fenquito or the East Syriac liturgical texts. There is no relation at all. It’s something different.

    Now, combine this with:
    a) the presence of the CMH
    b) the strange Namboothiri conversion story that members of families that possess the CMH have (where Namboothiri may have been a euphemism for Cohen, given that both were priestly castes)

    I think there is something more to it all.

    I don’t know what happened in India in AD 52. Whether St Thomas came, and when, and whether Jews came and when. I think we might need to reject those dates as they are totally unprovable. Very few — if any — cultures on Earth can say for certain what was done back in those eras. And the cultures that could, wrote on stone, papyrus, … things that persist or in climates where less robust materials could persist. So the Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Persians, etc., all have some pretty well established histories that could be dates back to those eras. In India, for a variety of reasons, we don’t have such records.

    Hence, the Nasrani story of AD 52, the Southist story of AD 345, the crazy Nasrani stories of Mani the Sorceror operating in the fourth century and converting peoples back and forth, the story of the refugees from Tamil Nadu (dated to the 4th century), the absurd claims of Kerala Churches being constructed in the fourth century — *ALL* of that is nuts, based on nonexistent evidence.

    3. You mentioned Syriac use in Kerala. I think the earliest we could date Syriac in India is the 13th century, the Vatican MSS that supposedly came from Malabar.

    But that doesn’t mean anything. If Syriac MSS were in India from an earlier date, they would have been destroyed in a matter of centuries, if not decades. When Perczel cataloged Syriac MSS in India, he found some that crumbled to dust in front of his eyes — and those were all relatively recent MSS. There are MSS from the 18th century that are in terrible condition due to Indian climate.

    The East Syriac Church used at least three different languages: Syriac, Pahlavi and Chinese. They were not ethnic imperialists. Their Church may have existed in India and may have used any number of languages. That we can’t date Syriac use in India to before the 15th century (14th at the earliest) doesn’t say much.

    4. Mar Sabor and Mar Aproth. Here’s my argument:
    a) Sabro-Isho and Isho-Dat have a definite documented history of use by Christians
    b) They arrived in Kerala in the 9th C.
    c) A solid paper trail of intercourse between the East Syriac Church and Malabar begins in the 9th century.

    Together, I think this is a solid case for the Christian affiliation of the Kadishangal. It’s not a wild guess.

    Can you come up with a counter argument to establish that they were Manichaeans? I don’t think so. If they were, then how did the Kollam area Christian stronghold emerge? When the Ports (Menesis) came to Kollam and environs he got strong support from the local Christians. He saw Christians, there, not Manichaeans. Although, let me go and reread Jornada to understand again what he said he saw.

    If Mar Sabor was the same Sabor whose name is inscribed on the Persian Cross, then that’s the coup de grace. The Persian Cross is Christian, and Mar Sabor’s name is inscribed on a Christian artifact. QED.

    Are there even any examples of Manichaeans with “Isho-” names? My cursory quick search on the internet yielded nothing. Of course, that is hardly rigorous! Are you aware of any such examples? Yes, they revered Jesus, but they revered Mani even more.

    5. Refuting the Latin camp.

    If they claim that Syriac was not used pre 16th century then they have obvious defective intellects: one can only really prove a positive statement in history.

    We can say:
    “The earliest Syriac MSS is from the 14th c”. That doesn’t preclude the possibility of earlier MSS that may have been destroyed.

    No one can prove the negative that there was *no* Syriac usage in Kerala pre-16th c.

    Is seems absurd though! How do they explain the documented interaction between the East Syraic Church and Malabar that goes to the 9th C? How do they explain the presence of East Syriac motifs in Malabar to the 6-8th c? (Pahlavi was used, but the design was an East Syriac Church design). Do they claim that the East Syriac Church in India started in the 16th c? That’s insane and can be easily refuted.

  65. George Mathew says

    Dear Pathrose,

    I am not at all surprised by the connection between Brahma and Abraham and Saraswathi with Sara.
    I belong to a strange group of believers who take Genesis 1 to 11 in the fullest literal unerstanding. That is man and all of this universe was created about 6000 years ago and that there was a terrible flood of un-imaginable size about 4500 years ago that covered the tallest mountain on earth by atleast 22.5 feet of water. When I look at world history through this reading glass, I see that we are all the children of Noah and that Noah was our father 4500 years ago. So the legend of Abraham would have come to North India as Brahma and Saraswathi does not surprise me at all. Abraham was born just about 500 years after the flood.
    I don’t care if the world laughs at us, but this is what we believe because the Scripture tell us so.
    Since the names Abraham and Sarah ryhmes with Brahma and Saraswathi, I am not against ruling out the connection. Our reasoning on not based on fiction but on the Scripture and Science.

    However, you do not seem to address the issue of us Nazerenes being accused ‘Shabbath Keeping Judaizers’ and you are also not trying to explain where the missing 1 million or more Malabari Jews disappeared since their appearance in AD 500 in Malabar. T here should have been 1 million are more by AD 1947 when they went on Aliyah but less than 1200 Malabari Jews were present for the Aliyah.

  66. JEEVAN PHILIP says


    Some of your points are excellent! But I want to put some information to your kind attention.

    There is no evidence that indicating Cosmos was a Nestorian. Some authors guessing about his allegiances, but nothing concrete have been unearthed.

    Before going in to details of these places please read what Cosmas Indicopleustes narrated in his book Christian topography, book 3.

    “”””””The gospel has been preached throughout the world. This I state to be definite fact, from what I have seen and heard in the many places which I have visited .Even in Taprobane there is a church of Christians, which clergy and body of believers, but I don’t know whether there are any Christians in the country beyond it. In the country called Maale where the pepper grows, there is also a church, and at another place called Kalliana there is moreover a bishop, who is appointed from Persia. In the island of Dios-Korides which is situated in the same Indian Seas, and where inhabitance speak Greek, having been originally colonists sent by Ptolemies who succeeded Alexander the Macedonian, there are clergy who receive their ordination from Persia, and are sent to the island, and there is also multitude of Christians…””””””” this quotation is from J.W. McCrindle

    There are many translations available based on the translators church allegiances but above stated narration seems to be more accurate. The subjects other than geographical information may not be accurate but it gives excellent ideas about Christians in different locations.

    Now Taprobane is correctly identified as Ceylon and Maale as Malankara (because it clearly states “where pepper grows”).But no historians were able to identify the place called Kalliana. Our stupid church historians (Kottayam-Kanjikkuzhi and Manganam) identified it as Kalyan near Bombay, Konkanam near Mangalapuram or Kollam because they were in search to prove their respective churches. These fools even do not thought of coastal formation through out these centuries or importance of Kurekkeni kollam in the History of Malankara.

    The placeDios-korides is already have been rightly identified by historians as SOCOTRA .Please read the link

    If you have still problem in identifying Maale please read this

  67. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear John Mathew, Jeevan Philip:

    1. I don’t find any reason to believe a certain group among Jews used Rice and Coconut milk instead of Wheat, Barley and Wine.

    2. The presence of CMH is not confined to the descendants of those eighteen families who claim Namboothiri heritage. So the theory that Cohens are later called Namboothiris seems far from possibility.

    3. Regarding the tradition that St. Thomas himself came to Malabar, I don’t have any reason to disbelieve. Nor the theory of Manichaean sorcerer. Regarding the Knanaya legend, if the Knai Thomman Chepped can be treated authentic, [All we got is a Portuguese translation, but the content of the Chepped is too natural and complex to be a forgery.] we can see that Thomas of Cana came here during the time of Kulashekharas, i.e., after 7th Century. It is sensible to believe the rise of Islam in the Middle East forced them to flee to Malabar.

    4. We don’t have evidence for the Syriac Manuscript kept in Vatican are from Malabar. We may believe so only if we have supporting evidences for the historical presence of Syriac in South India which we lack miserably.

    5. The Pahlavi we found here does not show the Nestorian presence. As you know, Pahlavi was used by many groups of Ancient Persia including Manichaeans.

    6. I am not sure on whether Cosmas was a Nestorian. I think it does not matter. Nor I have doubt to identify Male as “Malabar” or as you say “Malankara”. But what did he say? Look at this:

    “Even in Taprobane, an island in Further India, where the Indian sea is, there is a Church of Christians, with clergy and a body of believers, but I know not whether there be any Christians in the parts beyond it. In the country called Male, where the pepper grows, there is also a church, and at another place called Calliana there is moreover a bishop, who is appointed from Persia.”
    (From online version of Cosmas Indicopleustes, Book 3)

    According to this, there were Persian Bishops only in Kalyan, not in Malabar. He simply says there is a church in Malabar (i.e., there were Christians here – Nazranis). He DOES NOT SAY they were Nestorians, nor they have Persian Bishops.

    ‘Calliana’ strongly resembles ‘Kalyana’ rather than ‘Kollam’ or ‘Konkan’.

    7. Let us analyze in detail the so-called ‘solid’ paper trail of interaction between Malabar and Nestorian See.

    With the rise of Islam in Persia, many groups following other beliefs such as Zoroastrianism, Nestorianism should have migrated to North Western India. The North Western India lies close to Iran and such groups could have thought it as easily reachable. We still have Zoroastrians and Baha’is in India who obviously have come from Iran. So there is nothing abnormal with presence of Nestorians in Kalyan as Cosmas says, but they can hardly be related to the Nazranis of Malabar. The Kalyan was a settlement of Nestorian Christians and sometimes they had Nestorian Bishops sent either directly from Chaldean See or from Persia. All these “paper trails” talks about only Kalyan and not about Malabar. Even though the Nestorians went to that extent of naming the nominal group of Christians in Kalyan as “Ecclesiastical Province of India”, they again confess that during most of the times, this “Ecclesiastical Province” was not having Bishops. Nestorian provinces are enlisted many times in history, but India appears in these lists only rarely, this means that neither the presence of Nestorians in Kalyan, nor the existence of their so-called “Province of India” were consistent. Again, we do not find either Mar Sapir or Mar Peruz in the official list of Bishops kept by Nestorian See.

    8. We are not sure that the Persian crosses found from South India are Christian. Also, the reference of “Afras” in the cross do not mean “Sapir” as the inscription calls “Afras” as “son of Chehrbukht”. It is clear that Chehrbukht means “Cheraputha” or “Caelobothra” or “Keralaputhra” which is term used to refer ancient Chera Kings. I hope you won’t call Sapir, a son of Cheras.

    9. Having a small group of Manichaeans is Kollam does not mean that the Christians were totally absent there. As we learn from the tradition of Veeradiyans, later Manichaeans were a dependent group of Nazranis.

    10. Regarding the Manichaean identity of Sapir and Peruz. The name Sapir or Shapir itself is a Manichaean one. Shapur or Sapur was a king of Sassanid Persian Empire who was contemporary to Mani and was so tolerant to Mani’s doctrines that Mani himself wrote a book dedicated to him. (Shapuragan – a sacred book of Manichaeans.) Sapur used the title “Sha” like many other Iranian kings which means “King”. There is no doubt that he was widely respected by later Manichaeans whom they knew as “Sapur Sha”. Also it is possible that Manichaeans were named “Sabir Sha” or “Sabiresha” after him. The name “Sapir Isho” may be a variant of this name or it could have been spelt so when written in Vattezhuth. Again “Isho Ziwa” or ‘Jesus of Splendor’ was a deity in Manichaeanism, so the name “Isho” also is not far from possibility. Also note that the name “Maani” is still prevailing in Kerala.

    11. Of course we cannot prove negative, but it is the liability of claimants to prove the positive.

    12. I have a small advice; please do not misunderstand Eastern Syriac Tradition as Chaldean or Nestorian Christianity. Chaldeanism is just a part of it.


  68. Steven Ring says

    Dear John Matthew, Dear All,

    It is stated above in post 26664 that “Hillel is a post-Christian Jewish figure.”
    I don’t think that this statement is historically correct. The Jewish sage and spiritual leader of the Jewish people Hillel died at an advanced age in Jerusalem c. AD 10. See the following link for details:

    Hillel was the most important Temple teacher whom Marya Isho`a Meshiha would have listened to in Jerusalem as a young man, (Luke 2.46).
    Later in his earthly life, our Lord even quoted from Hillel’s known writings which have survived in the Shas (i.e. in the Babylonian Talmud).
    However, when these verses were translated into Greek, the translator omitted (censored) Hillel’s words, just as he also censored many other Jewish cultural references in the source text of the gospel.
    The full text of Matthew 7.12 is preserved only in the Syriac gospel tradition and I have published it with a translation:
    See page 4 onwards.

    The full text shows how Isho`a commented on the words of Hillel, adding his interpretation and demonstrating that he probably did meet Hillel earlier in his life.

    I invite you to look into this matter further and to draw your own conclusions. Personally, I think that the Syriac text of the gospels deserves to be thought of much more highly than it is presently in Christian circles.

    Best wishes,

  69. George Mathew says

    Dear Steven,

    You wrote ‘..I think that the Syriac text of the gospels deserves to be thought of much more highly than it is presently in Christian circles….’

    Well said and my salutations to you for saying this. Unfortunatly, the situation today is to look down upon Syriac as an inferior/irrelavant language. Amongst us Marthomites, Syriac is almost totally lost and the the vast majority of the Marthomites seem mighty pleased with this ill-development of throwing the baby out with the bath water. I have on several occassions stated to my fellow Marthomites that we need a second Reformation of bringing back Syriac. Be assured that there are still lovers of Syriac.
    For many, the problem lies in abondoning Syriac Culture to Western Culture and the lack of proper Nazerene leadership.
    I have also heard/read about Hillel being the person who said ‘.. do unto others, what you want others to do unto you…’ and I was told this by a Jew from Israel. Esho did not learn from Hillel, rather Hillel learned from Esho.

  70. George Mathew says

    Dearest All,

    Will someone here good at math, please calculate a ‘Population Projection’ of 10 Jewish men with a wife each with the starting date of AD 500. What would be the Jewish population in the year 1947?

    I picked up the below formulae from the web and ofcourse, it is not reliable. But will be something to start on. The formulae perhaps is relavant to the year 2010 where the life expectancy is higher than AD 500 (just perhaps only!)


    Nt = Future Population
    N0 = Starting population
    r = growth rate
    t= number of years.

    Note: e is a constant equal to 2.71828

    Read more:

  71. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear George Mathew,
    As you know, Claudius Buchanan was born 167 years after the Synod of Diamper. His book “Christian researches in Asia : with notices of the translation of the Scriptures into the oriental languages” was written two centuries after these incidents and we can see that he knew only what the Jacobite authorities told him. We have first-hand information in this regard such as the Decrees of Diamper and accounts of Menezes, Rose, etc. In any of these records, we do not find any ‘Shabbath Keeping Judiazers’. So obviously it is a later fantasy propagated by Antiochian church and Buchanan’s accord here cannot be taken authentic, as in many other things.
    I don’t take Genesis 1 to 11 in the literal sense. If I do so, many questions like “Whom did Seth marry? His own sister?” will arise. But I don’t want to question anyone’s belief. But “Abraham” is identified as “Brahma” not based on any beliefs, but by archeological estimations.
    We know that Aryans came from Siberia. Even though many have attempted to establish Aryans are indigenous, latest historical evidences such as a 4000-year-old Aryan city discovered in Siberia, proves that they came from outside. (Whether it was an invasion or just a migration is another question.) They came here via Iran from where they adopted “Abraham” and “Sarah” as a “father and mother concept”. They later started worshipping them, as Hindus are pantheists and they worship anything they respect. Again, this is just a possibility .


  72. John Mathew says


    1. You fail to see how our rice-based Pesaha meal corresponds to the wheat-based meal of the Hebrews? Does wheat, etc., grow in Kerala?

    2. Has anyone correlated the presence of CMH with the families that claim *priestly* status? The use of “Brahmin” to denote Priest in Malabar has precedent: one need only read Jornada to see that in the 16th c, “Chief Brahmin” was a euphemism used by St Thomas Christians and their Hindu neighbors to describe the Christian “Metran”.

    3. You don’t have any reason to disbelieve the un attested myths of Malabar that try to assign dates to the pre-9th century era? Are you kidding? None of that has even one shred of basis. AD 52, AD 70, AD 325, etc. … nothing even remotely close to those dates can be attested in Kerala with respect to the Christians.

    4. The Syriac MSS kept in the Vatican is reported by Syriac scholars as the earliest example of a Syriac MSS from India. It’s still late though: 13th c is not 52 AD! I think the colophon has some info placing it in Malabar. Perhaps Steven Ring has seen this MSS in his studies and could comment?

    5. The Pahlavi usage — on its own — does not indicate Persian “Nestorian” Christians. but the *content* of some of the inscriptions does indicate a Christian origin. Why would a Manichaean talk about the crucifixion of Christ, without mentioning Mani? Mani is higher to the Manichees than Christ was. And the inscriptions are on a Christian artifact — see below.

    7. “Official list of Bishops kept by the Nestorian See”. Sorry, but there are no such “official lists”. This is Asia, not Rome and/or Greece. The latter remained Christian from their conversion to this date; there is an abundance of information on their bishops, priests, etc. from ancient times. The Church of the East/Chaldeans today are a decimated Church that is only starting to come back. They’ve suffered constant persecution and destruction of their heritage, from the Mongol invasion to now. To suggest that there is an “official list” anywhere is a bit rich. They don’t even have MSS of their own liturgy that go back more than a few centuries. They don’t even recall their earlier traditions of iconography. If they couldn’t keep their prized possessions intact, what possible expectation could one have that they’d keep such trivia as lists of bishops around? But I’ll say this: of all the Eastern Churches, only the Nestorians have documents that indicate they were talking to people in India, our India. Now you can argue back and forth about where the actual locales were, but given that (1) they were talking about India, (2) when the Europeans arrived in the 13-16th c, they saw Nestorians in India — specifically Malbar — combine these two facts and there’s very high likelihood they were talking about Malabar. Higher likelihood than any other theory I’ve seen.

    8. The Persian Crosses are Christian. (1) At least one of them has a solid Christian inscription. (2) The motif is exactly identical to the motif used by the East Syriac (Nestorians) in China. This is the best theory that fits the evidence. Any other theory would have to overcome these two elements; the ones that posit the Persian Crosses are Manichaean do not even come close to offering an explanation for 1 and 2.

    9. Agreed.

    10. Shapur is a Persian name. The Manichees may have liked the name due to the friendliness of a Persian king Shapur towards them. But “Maruwan Shapr Iso” is not Shapur. Look at the compound as opposed to a singe element of the compound, and “Mar Sabr-Iso” makes far more sense than the alternative you presented. And there is a clear list of Nestorians named Sabr-Isho. Now, compound this with the other name, Iso-Dat, that is given to the builder of the Kollam Church. This also has great similarly (if not equality) to the known Nestorian name Isho-Dat. Now put these together: what possible precedent can you find in Manichee names that are similar to these compound names? I’ve shown you my cards; show me yours.

    Yes, Mani as a name exists in Malabar. It is probably a fossil of Manichaeanism, although the Christians revamp the name as being a version of Emmanuel. But we’re not talking about Mani — were talking about SabrIsho and IshoDat: Christian names.

    Speculation on Sabr/Sapr is fine. But when you add the compounds, the “Sabr” as “Shapur” theory evaporates.

    12. The Eastern Syriac Tradition is only Nestorianism and Chaldeanism. There is no other East Syriac Tradition. What else are you proposing?

    Manichaeanism is not an “East Syriac Tradition”; it’s a distinct religion.

    Could you please report the mantras of Kadamattom Kathanar?

  73. George Mathew says

    Dear John Mathew,

    You wrote ‘..Yes, Mani as a name exists in Malabar..’

    It is not a Malabarian name. It is a Jewish name. Please note that this very name was commented upon by me in ‘NJC’ just a few weeks ago. I have a Jewish freind in Calgary whose name is is also MannyMani and he is born and raised in Israel and is possibly atleast 10 generations deep into Israel, meaning his family on the paternal side has been in Israel since alteast 10 generations. Though he said his family has been there since the begining.

    The spelling he uses is ‘Manny’ and not ‘Manni’ but it is pronounced the same. As soon as I learned of this I commented in NJC. Check it out. ‘How to find missing links in Nasrani History’ dated 28 Dec. 2010.
    YOu may Google the name ‘Manny Hasson’. He is at Calgary and runs a painting and repairs firm. See it for yourself.

    Also Pathrose, YOur comment about whom did Adam’s sons marry is too basic. With all respect to you, may I in humility tell you that you are only at the novice stage in this matter. Ofcourse, Adam’s sons married their sisters. What is wrong with it? Their DNA were less mutated and far far far more vigourous than yours or mine, so there was nothing wrong if brother and sister married. Since you happened to scratch the surface of this fascinating subject, why not you enter it fully. Enter the world of Creation Science!

  74. Steven Ring says

    Dear George Matthew, John Matthew and all,

    Re: The earliest surviving Ms written in Kerala and now in the Vatican.
    Details: Vatican Syriac Ms 22. This is a lectionary of the Pauline epistles including Hebrews, in the Peshitta version. 94 folios of vellum written in Kerala, Malabar, India using the Nestorian script. Dated Haziran AG 1612 = AD 1301.
    References to places where this Ms is described: Assemani & Assemani 1759, volume 2, p. 174, Hatch 1946 p. 226 & pl. CLXXV, Van der Ploeg, “Syriac MSS of the St. Thomas Christians” p. 187.

    Re: Hillel,
    According to the gospels, our Lord learnt from Hillel and from John the Baptist. This does not make him inferior to Hillel or to John, rather he was demonstrating his lowliness of heart, which he also preached. This is a good example where interpreting events in an ancient oriental culture from a western cultural perspective leads to a misleading conclusion. I say we should bring back lowliness of heart as well as Syriac. If both were pleasing to our Lord they are good for us too.

    Re: The claim that the world is 6000 years old. The scriptures do not say this or imply it. This problem arises because we mistranslate the phrase where someone was ‘the son of’ someone else. In Hebrew and Aramaic, ‘Isho`a bar Dowid’ (one of the names of Christ) means that Isho`a was descended from David. No one would say that he was David’s immediate offspring because that would be chronologically impossible. Hence, it is not possible to estimate when creation happened by using the lines if ancestry found in the bible. Secondly, critics of the bible insist (rightly) that the world could not possibly have been created in 6 days. The bible does not say that the world was created in six earth days, it says it was created in ‘shat yoma’. True, yoma can mean normal days, but it can also mean epochs, (I invite you to check this in a Hebrew dictionary). Secondly, the meaning of yoma in Genesis 1 cannot mean sidereal days, because the Sun was not created until the fourth epoch. Hence, without the Sun, there can be no concept of a solar day and yoma in Genesis 1, must therefore mean epochs not normal days. Therefore the scriptures teach that the heavens and the earth were created in six epochs.

    Best wishes,

  75. George Mathew says

    Dear Steven,
    Thanks for your response. This forum will not acoomodate topic on Creation. But, let me be on record that your views are not acceptable to me and other Creationists who take Genesis 1 to 11 literally. What you say does not at all ‘threaten our belief’. We have strong answers for your criticism.

  76. M Thomas Antony says

    Re. AD 1301 manuscript kept in Vatican.

    The colphon of the manuscript itself tells the story. The translation is provided below.

    ‘This holy book was written in the royal , renowned , and famous city of Shingala in Malabar, in the country of India, in the church of the illustrious martyr Mar Cyriacus- May all the faithful be helped by this prayers ! Amen! – in the time of the great pilot and director of the Holy Catholic Church of the East, and its shining light which illuminates it in all directions , and first of all spiritual shepherds , the chief of chiefs, the head of heads, and the father of fathers , our blessed and Holy Father Mar Yahb Alaha V , the Turk, Catholicos Patriarch of the East, – may God prolong his life and lengthen his days for the good government of his church and the pride of its children! Amen!

    And in the time of the Bishop Mar Jacob, Metropolitan and director of the Holy see of the Apostle Saint Thomas , that is to say, our director and the director of all the holy church of Christian India. May God grant him strength and help that he may govern us with zeal and direct us according to the will of His Lord , and that he may teach us His commandments and make us walk in His ways, till the end of time, through the intercession of the Holy Apostle Saint Thomas and all his colleagues, Amen!
    This Holy book with all its rights and requirements was finished on a wednesday , in June , of the year 1612 of the Greeks( AD 1301) and Glory to God. May His pity and grace be with us. Amen! Amen!

    It was written by the weak scholar and the sinner, Zacharias, son of Zachariah, one of the pupils and relative of our above Father and director , and by name a deacon from the above mentioned town Shingala.’

    (A Mingana, Early Sperad of Christianity in India,The Bulletin of John Rylands University Library, Vol 10 p 501,)

  77. John Mathew says

    Thanks Antony!

    Is this “Shingala” the same as Shingly, the Jewish town in Cranganore?

    Does the Church of Mar Kuriakose still exist?

  78. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear John,

    I do not know if the Saint Kuriackose church still exist but this church has been mentioned in many documents. St Kuriackose Church existed untill AD 1524 when Samoothiri, the King of Calicut with the help of Muslim soldiers conquerred Cranganore and burned down the three Churches- Saint Mary’s, Saint Thomas’ and Saint Kuriackose and the Christians fled Cranganore.( Jacob Kollamparampil, Christian Orient, March 1994, p32)

  79. Mathai says

    There is a very strong group in India which proposes these Manichiean theories in the Puthencoor and the Pazhayacoor.

    In Puthencoor, these are primarily the people who are very disappointed in not finding any West Syriac connection before 17th century. So they turn against the East Syriac tradition despite being the fact that even Menezis could not find any such thing as Manicheans among the Christians in Kerala. There is also the Alexander group in Indian Orthodox which despise the Syriac heritage and argue that the Church has to adapt to Hindu culture. Some evangelicals also support them hoping that this can bring more converts in India.

    In Pazhaycoor, the Thrishur- Ernakulam latino lobby keep the Manichean stories alive. These help them in multiple fronts. 1) For creating trouble in Syro Malabar Church to get control in mission churches 2) To get adequate Bishop appointments from Thrishur and Ernakulam suggesting that there are trouble if Bishops and priests are not from these regions ( they are very active where ever the Bishops are ill or not very good in health like USA , done with the coordination of priests from Angamaly/ Thrishur area) 3) There is also a minority in this group who still dreams of One Catholic rite in India headed by some one from Ernakulam or Thrishur ( them being resemblent to latin rite and hoping that latin church will accept their leadership).

    Supporters of these groups has written many books in Malayalam language. Ninan or Alackal was just rendering those to English speaking people. The authors of these books are people with psychic powers who had vision of past, so as to state very uncertain things as fact. It has to be admitted that these people are very smart, smarter than Alexio Dom Menezis. Logically most of these arguments are baseless. Consider this example of how these theories are circulated. Christianity predates Islam in the fertile crescent. So you can claim logically some Muslims were Christians earlier and were converted to Islam. This proves the point that you can see glimpse of Christian tradition in everything Islamic . This is the way Manichean stories are circulated, that there Manicheans among Saint Thomas Christians and what ever you forecast can be thrown as glimpse of Manichean tradtion.

    1.Mani was a common Persian name. There were Bishops in Riwarddasir Church with the name Mani or Maani.( Persia). The name Mani seen in Kerala would have the same origin like other Syriac or Persian names.

    2. The prominent Churches in Kerala in 15th century were known as Katheesngal. If the people belonging to Katheesngal were Manicheans they could had the Church in the name of Mani . They would not be dedicating their churches in the name of Sapir and Proth. Consider that even Menezis was not successful in renaming many of these churches. The so called Saint Thomas Christians renamed these churches such as in Quilon, Paruvur as dedicated to Saint Thomas. They started calling them as established by Saint Thomas, the Apostle. When it suited the political need of Ernakulam Thrishur group, after marketing these Churches as established by Saint Thomas to the general public, , they started claiming that in whose name these Churches where dedicated earlier, ie Sapir and Proth, were Manicheans. What do you say about this Ernakulam/ Thrishur group who has put hoardings and board and advertise that these Churches were established by Thomas the Apostle and yet claim those whom the churches were earlier dedicated as Manicheans ? Is that you come and kiss me with money ?

    3. If there were any Manichean presence among Christians, it could have been seen in the reforms done by the Synod of Diamper. See the decrees of the Synod. It only talks about Hindu culture. Menezis did tried to convert many communities which resembled Christian and what is unknown is about these sub communities.

  80. M Thomas Antony says

    I think those who promoted the Manichaen theory were those who did not want to accept that the Christianity in Malabar was that ancient and Apostolic. They were looking for an alternativee theory and found that the Pseudo prophet Mani had two disciples Thomas and Thaddeus and found a couple of mentions in the history that Mani had sent his disciples to India. The same people who doubted Saint Thomas tradition by asking questions which India Saint Thomas came to? They doubted that the India mentioned by Syriac Christian documents are Ethiopia, Arabia and so on and not the present India. But they have no problem to believe that Mani’s desciples came to South India!

    This itself shows the vested interest in the argument.

    The Catholic Encyclopaedia explains the Manichean doctrine as ‘Manichæism professed to be a religion of pure reason as opposed to Christian credulity; it professed to explain the origin, the composition, and the future of the Universe; it had an answer for everything and despised Christianity which was full of mysteries. It was utterly unconscious that its every answer was a mystification or a whimsical invention; in fact, it gained mastery over men’s minds by the astonishing completeness, minuteness, and consistency of its assertions.’

    This is what we see from the propagators of ‘Manichaen theory’. They say that Manichaeism adopts everything from everywhere. They adopted Budhist principles,Hindu, Christian etc and hence there is no way we can define Manichaeism. Ninan claims that peacock is linked to Manichaeism. He is not mentioning the very fact that peocock is strongly connected to south Indian Hindu mythology and even early Christianity.

    Manichaen priests were ascetics. We know that celibacy of priests were imposed on us by the Portuguese. Our Cathanars were married and as per some European writers, they had concubines also, as the ordinary Nasranis had.

    While reading the recent comments, all I can see the arguments projected as evidences of presence of Manichaeism in Malabar are the following.

    1 Presence of Pahlavi crosses.

    None of the Pahlavi experts from AC Burnell(AD 1874) to BT Anklesaria AD 1958) see any Manichaen remnants in these crosses or inscriptions. They all confirmed these crosses are Christian. Renowned Pahlavi and Zoroastrian scholar B T Anklesaria doubted that Manichaens ever raised a cross. Pius Malekkandathil and Jacob Kollamparambil raises very strong arguments against the possibility of Manichaens ever venerated a cross. Why would Manichaens venerate a cross when Mani has nothing to do with a cross ? Mani was executed in prison and cut into two halves and hung on the city gates.
    Could someone show us some references about the use of Crosses by Manichaens ?

    2 Presence of Manigramam,

    Manigramam and Anjuvannam are considered as two commercial principalities. Meera Abraham has done extensive work on this and has published a book called ‘Two medieval merchant guilds of south India’. The copper plates also talks about the nature of these groups.

    Thomas Whitehouse seems to have confused between Manikkavachakar, Manigramam and Manes. He seems to have thought that Manikkavachakar was Manes. He himself comments that Manigramakkar were those converted by Manikkavachakar. Manikkavachakar was a Tamil sorcesor. As Whitehouse comments, Manigramakkar must be the reconverted Christians by Hindu sorcerer Manikka vachakar. That will explain their connections to Hindu temples and Hindu customs rather than of Manichaen origin. White house comments ‘they were connected to the native law courts’. ‘and they became trustees and protectors of lands and churches’, ‘ regulate and manage all that related to the social position and caste questions of certain artisans’. Why Manichaens only should be chosen for such positions ?
    Manikkavachavar is a common name among Tamils. Keralites also know common names Manikkan, Manikyam etc among people of Tamil origin. Manikka vachakar means jewel tonged. Collins concludes that’ therefore that neither manigramam, manikkavachakar nor the pahlavi records point with the least degree of probability to Manees and his followers.

    Collins also interprets the word manigramam, manava- child village of students.
    In Tamil, Manakkan or Manawakan means scholar – village of scholars.

    I think what is happening here is people who want to prove Manichaen theory is looking up all terms originating with the alphabets mani for evidence. That is why a very ignorant gentleman with name Mani as claimed by him, has made a comment here a while ago about the Syrian Christian name Mani (Mani as of Mr. K M Mani, the Syriac Christian Politician of Kerala )among Syrian Christian as an evidence of Manichean influence. I do not know if he aware that his own name Mani came from the name of the King of Portugal Manuel, when the Portuguese came to Malabar.The Syriac Christian name Mani is actually a shortened version of Manuel-Emmanuel.

    3 Magic and sorcery

    Sorcery was like a sin for Manicheans. Then how can we connect the presence of sorcery and magic found among certain Nasranis with Manicheans and report as an evidence of presence of Manichens in Malabar ? Richard Collins in Indian Antiquary May 1875 vouches that ‘I am not aware that Manichaens were ever given to sorcery. At least there is no hint of the kind in Bishop Archelaus’s disputation with manes himself, nor in the treatise of Alexander, Bishop of Lycopolis, nor in any subsequent description of the Manicheans I can find.’

    Someone has commented that Manichaens had Bishops also. Manichaens might have had priests and bishops. Saint Augustine has vouched this with his experience as a Manichaen in his past.
    We see Thomas Whitehouse’s report of Manichaen Priest at Kayamkulam, when he died, his corpse was burned like the Hinhoos. Whitehouse doesn’t mention about their liturgy or rituals. Was it in syriac ? If that was in syriac, definitely, it would have catched the attention of those so many European writers in that period.
    John Mathew has mentioned that Manichaen Priests wore caps like that of Jacobite Priests. Do we have any references about that ?
    Has there been any Manichean Bishops in Malabar ? It is well documented that our people were always depended on the Church of the East for Bishops.

    Re. Veeradiyans.
    Whitehouse reports that Veeradiyans were assistants of Manigrama priests. Many people have commented here about Veeradiyans. How many of them has seen a Veeradiyan ? I have personal experience. I was born and brought up in Kuttanadu in Alleppey District. During my school age, Veeradiyans come to our house every year, sing the veeradiyan pattu, receive some rice and money. Once, I bribed him by giving some special money to sing slowly for me to dictate the veeradiyan pattu. I dictated it fully to present in the School youth festival. I don’t think I will be able to find the hard copy now, but still I remember a significant part of it. It is all about the oral traditions of saint Thomas, legend of division of Southists and Northists, and so on and the song ends with the order of the Cheraman perumal to the Veeradiyans to go and sing and receive gifts from the Nasranis untill the sun and moon exists. I don’t think Veeradiyans come a sing in our houses because of their veneration to Saint Thomas, as Pathrose has suggested, but seems to be a modest way of collecting money.
    If Veeradiyans were Manichaens, their song should have given us some hints at least.

  81. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear All,

    It is historically not correct to call Chaldean script as Nestorian Script. Even though we call the Chaldean church as “Nestorian Church”, it is not completely correct. The history of the Chaldeans is dubious. Like Nazranis, the Chaldeans also don’t know what their church was before 1500. Presently there are two distinct groups: Catholics and Suraya (Nestorians). Each group claims their theology was the one existed historically in the church. (Again, like Nazranis). Historically some of the Chaldean Patriarchs were in union with Rome, while some were not. To make things complex some went back and forth between the theologies. So it is wrong to identify Chaldean church as perfectly Nestorian.

    “The East Syriac dialect is usually written in the Madnḥāyā (ܡܕܢܚܝܐ, ‘Eastern’) form of the alphabet. Other names for the script include Swādāyā (ܣܘܕܝܐ, ‘conversational’, often translated as ‘contemporary’), ‘Assyrian’ (not to be confused with the traditional name for the Hebrew alphabet), ‘Chaldean’, and, inaccurately, ‘Nestorian’ (a term that was originally used to refer to the Church of the East in the Persian Empire).”

    Pahlavi is not always phonetic. Most of the times it uses logogramic writing. Anyone with a basic knowledge about the difficulty to decipher the logograms can see how it is impossible to read the inscription doubtlessly. So we are not in a position to tell whether these crosses are Christian or not.

    Yes, we have. “Acts of Thomas”, an apocryphal work describe in detail about the St. Thomas’ arrival and mission in India. It talks about the Indian king “Gondophares”. This book was considered absurd when nobody heard about such a king in India. But modern historical researches found out coins of an Indo-Scythian king by this same name and same period as that of the Apostle. So there is nothing wrong in considering the book as a historical record forgetting the theology and fantasies presented by it.

    We have many collections of songs such as “Ramban Pattu”, “Veeradiyar Pattu”, etc all dealing with the tradition and history of Nazrani community.

    “Arabiyaayil Kappal Kayari
    Malyaankare Vannethiyithaa
    Arivin Paraven Mishihaakkaalam
    Ampathu Dhanuvam Raashiyathil”

    This is a portion from “Ramban Pattu” which says about the arrival of St. Thomas in Malabar.

    We have evidences, but the problem is whether we take them as reliable. This is mainly because of our prejudice and inferiority complex. Historians show a clear partiality towards Buddhism. They accept Buddhist works as historical records, while dismissing the Christian accounts. My question is, if we can assume “Mudra Rakshasam”, a Sanskrit play kept by Buddhists as historical record, why should not we recognize “Acts of Thomas” so? Also, we take the “Sangam literature” (which is merely a collection of numerous songs written by unknown poets) as a correct record of history and we enumerate the names of Chera kings based on them. Then why should not we treat the above mentioned songs related to Nazrani community in the same way?

    Even though wheat does not grow here, I don’t think is was totally unavailable. We know that ancient Malabar was not an isolated place. We had trade relations with rest of the world. The case of Wine is also the same. Or did the ancient Nazrani churches use coconut milk for holy mass instead of Wine?

    If Jornada talks about Brahmins, it means Brahmins. Portuguese people were more familiar with Jews and Judaism than Brahmins and Brahmanism. So there is no reason to believe they used some “euphemism” here. Jornada was written for Portuguese people, not for Indians. From where did John Mathew understand that this is a euphemism? Does Jornada say so? Or have you seen anything which suggests they could be Jews?

    You said Ninan is exploiting the general ignorance of people. Here, you are also doing the same. One who reads your comment will think Nazrani bishops were called “Chief Brahmins”. It is far from truth. The families such as “Shankarapuri” and “Pakalomattom” claim they were converted from “Chief Brahmin families” and were assigned by St. Thomas for holding hereditarily the positions of Archbishop and Archdeacon. I think this theory was fabricated by Marthomas who lead Puthankoor group for keeping themselves and their descendents in power.

    The Hindu scriptures also talk about Brahmins. Will you call these a euphemism as well? Like the “Menorahists” who try desperately to relate St. Thomas Cross with Jewish Menorah, you are trying to relate “Pesaha” with Jewish Passover and Cohens with Brahmins. (!!!)

    You are right, John. The Chaldeans do not have a complete list of their former Bishops. They are a group who struggles to find their historical identity. But they have (or claim to have) lots of historical evidences about many of their former Bishops and Patriarchs. None of these records mention Mar Sapir or Mar Proth. When talking about them, the Chaldean authorities escape by saying something like “Malabar Christians seem to have such a tradition”. If they had any claim, they would not have taken such a lazy stand.

    * THIS IS ASIA..!!!? *
    John, in one of your early comments, you said about some priests who can enumerate their 20 generations of succession. Are they in Rome?

    First of all, the Tharisapalli copperplate does not talk about a second person. It is simply our tradition. What we now have is a blend of two things. First, we had a tradition of two ancient Bishops, Mar Sapir and Mar Proth. We have churches in their name; we believed they were saints who came to Malabar. Secondly, when the historians analyzed the copperplates, they learned that they were given to some lord named MARUVAAN CHAPIRICHA. “Maruvan” simply means “foreigner”. So they theorized that “Mar Sapir” was actually “Mar Sapir Isho” and this “Sapir Isho” is what written as “Chapiricha” in Vattezhuth. The copperplates do not mentions the other one “Mar Proth” who was also called “Mar Peruz” to suit Western Syriac accent. But seriously, I have never heard the name “Isho Dat”. From where did it come? The copperplate calls the beneficiary a lord, I am not sure if it suits an oriental Bishop. Anyway, which one fits best: Chapiricha = Shapur Sha / Chapiricha = Sapir (with a proposed Isho)?

    It is the style in both Vattezhuth and modern Tamil to add extra “i” between two combined consonants. For example, “Varsham” will be written as “Varisham” in Tamil and “Varicham” in Vattezhuthu. This is a style of these scripts.

    I can explain this. Steven Ring, can you produce here this?

    |Codex Vat. Fondo Siriaco 204, ff – 154 – 160|

    John, Most of them are in Malayalam script. If you can read Malayalam, I shall post more. I am giving one here in Roman script.

    “Om chuthamana kurishe
    Varuvathe kathukko svaha..

    Om Pithamahan ravu vanthalum
    Iruttu vanthalum ramayanathile
    Orupishashu vanthalum
    Meleladi pedathe kathukko svaha..”

    * @GEORGE *
    Let me make it clear that I don’t want to enter your “fascinating” world. If you can read and understand Malayalam, you can see that this subject was discussed a hundred times in Malayalam blogosphere between evolutionists and Islamic creationists. So I better not scratch your science, let it remain intact.

    But your friend’s name “Manny” is a common western name which traces its origin from “Emmanuel” like modern Keralites redefine “Mani”.


  82. John Mathew says

    I agree, Antony, that the majority of these Manichaean stories are ridiculous. Certainly the attempt by various parties to throw the label of Manichaean on the Kadishangal and the Persian Cross is the worst form of distortion. And folks like Ninan and the Alackal person spout junk without even the slightest concern for even superficial accuracy.

    But still … given that we don’t have much knowledge of our community prior to the 9th century, I think it is worthwhile to at least consider whether there were Manichaeans in Malabar. I strongly believe that there is absolutely no evidence for this. None at all. But, since it’s a possibility, and since it keeps on popping up (even by people with vested interests), I’d like to study it better.

    Given that Burnell suspected it, and Whitehouse made some mentions of it, and given that Kerala was a place whether Buddhists and Syriac Christians both existed — possibly at the same time — I think there is at least some likelihood of Manichaeans and other Gnostics having existed in Malabar.

    Also, as far as I can see, the arrival of the Kadishangal seems to be the major watershed moment for the Christians in India. That’s where our real history starts, it seems. Before that we have Cosmas and some small mentions of us by Patriarchs of Babylon — a prehistory. But with the Kadishangal, we have the major construction of Churches throughout Kerala, artifacts, references, etc. It makes me wonder what was going on before they came. As I’ve said plenty of times, I disbelieve the AD 52 story and every other myth that ascribes Church founding dates, etc, to such early dates.

    I think you’re right about the sorcery thing — sorcery in Malabar probably has more to do with (a) native influence and (2) Nestorian influences, than Manichaeans.

    I was wrong about the Jacobite cap thing… I misread Whitehouse. Yes, Manichaean priests wore white cylindrical hats, according to some images on the web taken from MSS. No, the Naimar Achen Whitehouse observed did not possess these hats. They wore long dress … not hats. Sometimes illiteracy plagues me … Too bad Whitehouse didn’t pursue the matter.

    I reread Jornada recently, and it seems that Menesis also observed a parallel community — the Amukos (Chavers). It looks like they were Hindus (Nairs). I’m sure if Menesis was uncomfortable over Nestorians in India, he would have gone maniacal if he saw Manichaeans!

    The one thing that gets me, though, is in Whitehouse’s description of the Naimar Achen in Kollam — with the long vestments. Do you know what this may be referring to?

  83. joseph says

    M Thomas Antony:

    You mentioned that the Northist / Southist divide is described in Veeradiyan pattu, if you have time could you please post some more information about that either here or on the Southist thread? Thanks.

    I understand that Panan Pattu also describes Southist and Knai Thomman and the 72 privileges Southists claim. The Panan i believe are a caste that sings for a living, and they also receive money or rice in exchange for singing just like the Veeradiyans you described. Is Panan just another name for Veeradiyan? and is the content of the songs the same?

  84. rp says

    Dear Pathros
    There is an elder from a family i talked to, he said that around 10 th century, brahimns more came to kerala and established temples and assigned to pojas. So there was a kavalayail temple, few brahimns understood the truth of chrsitianity and converted . So these decendents also have this family name. So there could be these brahimn converts on later centuries? is not it?

  85. Spinoza says

    Wow !

    interesting information here. I’m fascinated about the story of St Thomas coming to India (52 AD) and establishing a group of Nazarenes (ha-notsri) based on the teachings of Yeshua ha-notsri (branch of David) (Jesus the Nazarene)

    I’m doing some research on the origin of the Kerala Nasrani “Varghese” family name.
    And I stumbled across some interesting Aramaic connections.

    In Mark 3:17 it says …..

    And James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James, and he gave them the name Boanerges, which is Sons of Thunder.

    Jesus surnames the brothers James and John to reflect their impetuosity. The Greek rendition of their name is Βοανηργες (Boanērges).

    There has been much speculation about this name. Given the Greek translation that comes with it (‘Sons of Thunder’), it seems that the first element of the name is ‘bnê’, ‘sons of’ (the plural of ‘bar’), Aramaic (בני). This is represented by βοανη (boanê), giving two vowels in the first syllable where one would be sufficient. It could be inferred from this that the Greek transliteration may not be a good one. The second part of the name is often reckoned to be ‘rğaš’ (‘tumult’) Aramaic (רגיש), or ‘rğaz’ (‘anger’) Aramaic (רגז). Maurice Casey, however, argues that it is a simple misreading of the word for thunder, ‘r`am’ (due to the similarity of s to the final m). This is supported by only one Syriac translation of the name as ‘bnay ra`mâ’. The Peshitta reads “bnay rğešy,” which would fit with a later composition for it, based on a Byzantine reading of the original Greek.


    בורגזה or בןרגזה

    The 1st letter Bet is also pronounced Vet…. So could be pronounced Var-Ghese (Son of Thunder)

    בורגזה Var-ghese Bet Vav Resh Gimel Zayin He (Hebrew letters)
    בןרגזה (angry) Sons of Irritated (angry) or Boanerges from the Peshitta Aramaic. Bet Nun Resh Gimel Zayin He (Plural)

    Boanerges (Βοανηργες)

    Singular is bar rğešy = בורגזה or VaR-GZH

    בו (where)
    רגזה (irritated)
    בןרגזה (angry) Sons of Irritated
    Bet Nun Resh Gimel Zayin He

    בורגזה Varghese Vet Vav Resh Gimel Zayin He

    If the Vav is changed to the plural Nun ….

    בןרגזה (angry) Sons of Irritated = B’nei-rges from the Peshitta Aramaic. Vet Nun Resh Gimel Zayin He

    Perhaps Varghese is not a family name (meaning George) but a name taken from Mark 3:17
    Sons of Thunder ???

  86. Mathai says

    One characteristic of the Manichean theory is that it is “SEASONAL” . This theory comes in circulation for the empowerment of general public, whenever there is a chance of the head of Syro Malabar Church position becoming vacant. After achieving its purpose, it will go to lukewarm mode waiting for the “next seasonal trigger”.

    1) There were no Manichean stories until 1998. Earlier the discussions happened with scholars such as Burnell in scholarly publications in 1890’s. The propaganda started for the first time when the position of head of church in Syro Malabar became vacant in 1998.

    2) After the appointment of new head, a priest who was made Bishop Vithayathil, suddenly the theory become void. We were not hearing these stories for a long time. Now, the present head Bishop Vithayathil is not in good health. There is going to be a new leadership and the Manichean stories have started circulating again in 2010.

    From both of the above you can find parallels,

    a) In 1999, it was the Ernakulam group who circulated this propaganda in the diocese publications such as Sathyadeepam and other publications such as Assissi and Shalom Times. It was used as a tool to create trouble for the political aspirations of few priests in Ernakulam and Thrishur with the blessings of some bishops from the same region. Finally Rome appointed an outsider as the head of the Syro Malabar Church.

    b) Now after Bishop Andrews Thazhath became Thrishur bishop and Bishop Bosco Puthur became the curia bishop, you can see Manichean topic in circulation where ever people from Angamaly are there . Eg. Coppel Church in USA , issues are created by people from Angamaly. ( The most abusive blogs in internet are run by Angamaly lay and priests. I don’t know if there is something basically wrong with the people from there ). I don’t know if these people who run abusive blogs has any links with the above mentioned two bishops but I know that they claim that they have the support of these two bishops and that no one can touch them as these Bishops will block legal action against the abusers. So these Angamaly people claim they can abuse anyone from Palai, Changanasherry, Kanjirapally etc
    So this “SEASONAL” phenomenon traverse between Ernakulam and Thrishur when ever the position of Syro Malabar Church head become vacant. Do these guys know only these route ?

  87. Mathai says

    In 2009 we saw the same “ SEASONAL TRIGGER” being used by priests from Thrishur and Ernakulam in their effort to conquer Syro Malabar dioceses outside India in Chicago. Thrishur, Ernakulam lobby wants the next Chicago Bishop from their group and they have handpicked few Angamaly people to abuse the present Chicago leadership with the hope that the same strategy will help them this time too. What they forget is the effort taken by the Chicago leadership in setting up a Syro Malabar diocese with around 60 churches from nothing. If Bishop Thazhath wants to become the head of Syro Malabar Church let him be. Why does the Angamaly people has to abuse Chicago Bishop and the Chancellor ? Is it by the hope of getting someone as Chicago Bishop to add one vote in the synod for the election of head of Syro Malabar Church ? Its very cheap politics.

    Thrishur and Ernakulam diocese in Syro Malabar Church market Malayattoor and Palayur as churches established by Saint Thomas the Apostle. Both these places had no historical value even in 16th century. Malayattoor stories are more suited to Manichean theory than Katheesngal which had history. Why don’t you abusers forecast about Malayattoor and Palayur with Manichean stories ?

  88. John Mathew says


    Interesting derivation. I believe, however, that ‘varghese’ is a shortening of ‘Geevarghese’ which is a slight mod of ‘Gewargis’ which is a syriacization of Greek Georgios (right down to the parallel alphabetization of each).

    If someone with better knowledge of malayalam could quickly confirm that the first part is clearly derived (Ie are the malm letters for geevarghese and varghese congruent?).

  89. John Mathew says


    1. Regarding the Pahlavi Crosses.
    Yes, reading Pahlavi is difficult for the reasons you’ve indicated. However, the translations of the Pahlavi Cross inscriptions were not done by random hacks: they were done by Pahlavi scholars.

    But let’s even ignore the inscriptions. Let’s look at the motif itself: it is almost identical to the East Syriac cross design that topics the Nestorian Stele in China. And looking more broadly, similar motifs are used by the Armenians, Georgians, and even the Romans.

    So there is ample evidence backing up the Christian nature of the Crosses. Is there even one thing that backs up the “Manichaean” claim?

    I’ve read that some make a big deal of the Dove pointing downwards, as something blastphemous to Christianity. That is absurd: the Dove pointing downwards design is also used in Syriac Orthodox Church altars in the Middle East. Malankara Orthodox designs use it too. So there is nothing inherently blastphemous about the Dove pointing downward that would somehow bolster the Manichaean claim.

    2. RE: Wine for Mass. Actually, prior to the Portuguese arrival, I believe the Nasranis used “raisin juice” instead of wine for the Qurbana. The Puthenkoor continued to use that until the last century when wine became available. So the use of substitutes is not unfamiliar in Malabar.

    Remember one more thing: the feast is called “Pesaha” which is the Syriac term used for Passover. However, the “Pesaha” that one finds described in the ecclesiatical texts is definitely not what is celebrated in Malabar. The official Church service for Pesaha is something entirely different — it is Christian.

    So … where did this other “Pesaha” celebration come from? It bears no resemblance to the Christian Pesaha service, it has no parallel in other Eastern Christian culturs. What is it then?

    3. RE: the term Brahmin as a synonym for priest/priestly leader. This is not my own invention. I found this reported in Jornada. Menesis talks about native lingo in which the “Metran” of the Syrian Chritians was sometimes refered to as the “Chief Brahmin”. This has nothing to do with the Pakallomattom, Kaliankal, etc. myths. This is the native reference to the foreign bishops (Syrian or Latin) whom the Nasranis took as their leaders: the natives referred to these as the Metrans or the “Chief Brahmins”. It’s there in Jornada; it’s not some story I’m inventing to bolster the “Cohen” claim.

    And, if I haven’t said so already, I’m incredible skeptical of the “Jewish Nasrani” claims. However, I must admit that (1) Pesaha in Malabar and (2) the presence of the CMH are two facts that need to be reconciled.

    Your simple dismissals are premature. One can dismiss the “Nasrani Menorah” as fiction; but these two facts above are not so easily dismissed.

    4. RE: “This is Asia”. Enumerating 20 generations is not impossible in Malabar. 20 generations is only 400 to 700 years, and there are families in Kerala that have histories that go that far. One finds this in Kollam especially since the families there have been there for a long time with little major migration (as for example one sees in the North).

    My skepticism is regarding dates back to the pre-9th century. We don’t have records like that. And any “historical work” that claims with certainty that this or that occured back then is likely only speculation.

    Speculation is fine, but it must be labeled as such and not given the grandiose label of “history”.

    5. Regarding copper plates. Okay, I have to defer to you. I don’t know any of the languages that are on the plates. I thought that the translations of the plates were done by experts like Gundert, etc., and that they were straightforward. Do you claim that this is not the case? Have any modern experts supported this?

    I’m aware that the “Iravi Kothan” translation has been criticized by a modern scholar in an academic publication; he claimed that “Iravi Kothan” was not a Syrian Christian but a Hindu. But that was the Iravi Kothan cheppad … I haven’t seen any modern counter to the Tarisapally Cheppad.

    6. Kadamattam Kathan. Yes, please post more. I can’t read Malayalam, but my wife can. Plus, I’m sure many here would be interested.

    What is the source of these mantras? A book? Tradition?

  90. M Thomas Antony says

    Whitehouse met a group of Hindus in Kayamkulam who keep some connections to the Christians. In Kerala, Hindus and Christians lived in harmony. As most of the Kings were Hindus, Christians honoured them and their temples. The Hindu Kings also helped and honoured the Christian Churches. The story behind Champakulam Moolam Boat race is also nothing other than this historical harmony.(read the Champakulam Church article)So, this cultural connection is not a surprise in Kerala at all. Similar is the story John Mathew mentions in Mavelikkara also. Again,the Jesuits in Kerala propagated many stories connecting many of the christian saints as brothers and sisters of Hindu Deities to trick and attract the Hindus to Christianity. Hindu Goddesses are portrayed as sister of Mother Mary, Saint Sebastian is the brother of Sabari mala Ayyappan etc are similar tricks. Even now, Hindus on pilgrimage to sabarimala, go to Arthunkal Church. So, Whitehouse’s account of Hindus keeping relation to Christians is not a proof of Manichaeism.

    About the term Naimar Achans

    Richard Collins give explanations to Whitehouse’ claims, in Indian Antiquary May 1875 p154.. Collins concludes that the strange community in kayamkulam that burned the corpse of their Priest shows their reversion to Hindu traditions. He thinks that community could have been Brahmin converts reverted back to Hinduism. He also mentions that the term used to denote the Priests of this community- Naimar Achan- is also quite a Hindu appellation. It is true, we call the senior in a section of the Nair community-Kaimals as Kaimal achan. Naimar Achan may be a varied pronunciation of Kaimal achan. Ezhuth Achans are a similar community in Kerala related to Nairs. I cannot comment about the long vestments. Whitehouse says ‘loose garment reaching to the feet’, he has not confirmed it as cassocks which he is very familiar. It could be anything from a white cloth ( white mundu) wore around one shoulder as some Hindu Priests do.

    Surprisingly, the propagators of Manichaen theory have not seen quoting Burnel or Whitehouse-showing their ignorance in the subject.. All they quote is Ninan’s book where Ninan cites a newspaper report as his reference ridiculing the common sense of readers! (Read from Ninan’s book- The Manichaen cross “was brought to Kerala by Mani himself. Abandoned during the sixth century it surfaced as Marthoma Cross” (45) ; Reference 45) Indian Express, Friday April 24, 1998 )

    Another comment is that Cosmas mentions about a Christianity in Malabar but no Bishops, all he is mentioning about a Persian Bishop in Kalyan and hence refutes that all the documents of East Syriac Church is about Christians in Kalyan and not of Malabar and try to show that there was no evidence of East Syriac rite in Malabar before the arrival of the famous four Bishops in AD 1504. He also commented that the four Bishops had written that for long period, there were no Bishops in Malabar.

    These things are well documented. We have clear documentary evidence of a Bishop Jacob connected to East Syriac Church, at Cranganore in AD 1301 from the Vatican Document. This document confirms that the Mar Jacob is the head of the Christian India. Patriarch Timothy I( AD 779-823) also mentions about Archdeacon, connecting to Malabar. Patriarch Isho Yahb III (AD 650-660) in his letter confirms the jurisdictional area of the Metropolitan of Fars upto Kala in Malay Penninsula confirms south India also in the jurisdictional area.

    Just before the arrival of Portuguese, we did not have any Bishops for about 40 years. European Missionaries have documented this as it was due to some differences among us. It is not clear if it was Northist- Southist differences or something else. When we settled the differences, we sent a deligation to Babylon to fetch Bishops. Joseph, the Indian was one among them who travelled to Babylon to meet Mar Simon, the Catholicose Patriarch of the East and brought two Bishops- Mar John and Mar Thomas in AD 1490. Joseph again travelled to Babylon with Mar Thomas to present the offerings of Saint Thomas Christians to the Patriarch. Mar John stayed in Malabar. Joseph then travelled to Europe and then on the way back, visited the Patriarch of Babylon again and returned with Mar Thomas and three new Bishops-Mar Jaballaha, Mar Denha and Mar Jacob. They are the famous four Bishops who sent letter to the Catholicose Patriarch of the East in AD 1504. Among these, Mar Denha was involved in the erection of the Rock Cross in Muttuchira and his name is mentioned in Muttuchira inscriptions.

    Before the period of Patriarch Isho Yahb, we haveseveral documents connecting East Syriac Church and Indian Church from Bishop David of Basra in AD 295, but no clear evidence to say that it was Malabar.
    But, Chronicles of Seert mentions translation of Syriac liturgical texts to Pahlavi and sending to Church of India and Islands by Bishop of Fars in AD 470. If we read this with our Pahlavi inscriptions on our crosses, we can assume that the Malabar Christians were connected to the Metropilitan of Fars during that time.

  91. Steven Ring says

    Dear Pathrose,

    Re: Post 26914 & the title * EUROPEANS SAW NESTORIANS, NOT MANICHAEANS. WHY? *
    You mentioned, “Codex Vat. Fondo Siriaco 204, ff – 154 – 160”

    On these folios in Vatican Ms 204 the history of three Christian men from India is related. The Syriac text has been edited with a Latin translation on pages 590 – 599 in volume 3, part 1 of the following book available on-line:

    Assemani, Joseph Simon 1719. ‘Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-vaticana bin qua manuscriptos codices Syriacos, Arabicos, Persicos, Turcicos, Hebraicos, Samaritanos, Armenicos, Æthiopicos, Græcos, Ægyptiacos, Ibericos, & Malabaricos, jussu et munificentia Clementis XI. pontificis maximi, ex Oriente conquisitos, comparatos, avectos, & Bibliothecæ Vaticanæ addictos recensuit, digessit, & genuina scripta à spuriis secrevit, addita singulorum auctorum vita, Joseph Simonius Assemanus’ Clementino-Vaticanae, Volumes I, II & III/1 & III/2 Rome.

    Link to on-line book:,111852

    I will summarize the beginning of the story rather than translate it: Three faithful Indian men came to Gazarta (on the Tigris, north of Mosul) in the AG 1801 = AD 1489 or 1490 to visit Mar Shim`un, Catholicos patriarch of the East. One of the three men died on the way, but the two who arrived alive were named Gewargis and Joseph. The patriarch made them welcome and he ordained them both as priests because they were learned men. The patriarch then sent for two solitary monks from the Monastery of Mar Awgen and ordained them as bishops with the names Mar Thoma and Mar John. He then wrote letters of recommendation for them and sent them back to India with Gewargis and Joseph. All four of them arrived safely in India. Mar John remained as bishop, but Mar Thoma returned to the patriarch after only a short time. In the meantime the patriarch Shim`un had died in the year AG 1813 = AD 1501 or 1502 and was succeeded by Mar Eliya as the new Catholicos. The following year, Mar Eliya ordained a metropolitan called Mar Yaw-Alaha and two bishops called Mar Denha and Mar Jacob and sent them to India as well. They arrived safely and met Mar John. Etc.

    I remember reading a translation of this narrative somewhere, possibly by Mingana?

    Best wishes,

  92. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear John,

    ‘Chavers’ are suicide squads in the army. We all know that Nairs and Nasranis were the army of the Kings of Malabar. this is well documented. It has nothing to do with Manichaens.

    Naimar Achens and their vestment- see my comment above.

    As far as I know, varghese is Gheevarghese. Varkey, Varu, Varunni, etc are also Gheevarghese. Giwargis is a common name among Iraqi Christians. There were many East Syrian Patriarchs with name Giwargis.


    The Veeradiyan pattu describes the Saint Thomas tradition, Thomas Cana, Cheraman perumal divides the community as Thekkumbhagar and Vadakkum bhagars- Southists and Northists. It doesn’t say what was the reason for the division. No claims as Southists and Northists boasts!

    I will sit down soon to write down the lines that I can remember. Anyone else has any experience with Veeradiyans ? Any documentation of Veeradiyan pattu ? I am sure there will be some available.

  93. Steven Ring says

    Dear Pathrose,

    Continuing my previous post about the story of Indian Christians found in Vatican Syriac Ms 204.
    Please have a look at section 9 in the following paper published on-line by Heleen H.L. MURRE-VAN DEN BERG:

    There are some interesting details and comments in her paper. Also, she references the translation by Mingana, (Mingana 1926, p. 468 ff.) but I don’t have this book with me at present.

    Best wishes,

  94. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Steven/ Pathrose

    This is from the famous letters of the three Bishops in AD1504.

    This is about Joseph, the Indian. This story is well mentioned in several documents.

    See section 2 under heading ‘THE HISTORICAL JOSEPH THE INDIAN’ in the article about Joseph, the Indian in this forum.

  95. John Mathew says


    Whitehouse also reports that the priests of the “Manigrammakar” were buried in a seated position. Is that a custom among Hindus? Yes, Collins explains the cremation to demonstrate that those people revered Hindu traditions — but Whitehouse said so himself as well, since he reports that the community was trying to join the Nairs. Hence, I don’t think they were Nairs, since their object was to join the Nair community. Moreover, I don’t think that (apart from individual Amukos) Nairs would have been in a subservient position to the Nasranis, as this side community seems to have been.

    The priests of this community were described as having long beards as the Nasrani priests. Now, I don’t know about this. Don’t Hindu priests have long beards? Or is it just the ascetics? Perhaps this is a non-issue.

    As well, Whitehouse mentions that the community was described by the Nasrani Puthenkoor metropolitan as “lost sheep”. So they may have had some compatible, or vaguely similar religion to the Nasranis. I don’t think that Nairs would qualify for such a term.

    I agree that there is not one shred of evidence for the “Manichaean” theory. And I agree that people like Ninan, Easo from Alackal, etc., have nothing real to contribute.

    My pursuit of this is not due to those sources. You know that my personal bias is towards understanding Persian Christianity in Kerala, not making cases for pseduohistory for other groups (whether my own post 17th c Syriac Orthodox Church in India, or heterodox groups).

    But still, I can’t simply wipe away Whitehouse/Germann’s observations. The Ency. Britannica of 1911 used that as a source for their article on Manichaeanism to report that it existed in Malabar up to the 15th c (though, it longer exists in the more modern Ency. Brit. issues).

    Collins made a good case in the Burnell/Collins debate; but he didn’t completely wipe out the Whitehouse observation due to the above issues, in my opinion.

    I think Whitehouse may have spoken too quickly in terming these folks “Manichaeans”, since he provides absolutely *zero* evidence to describe the creed of the Manigrammakar.

    But the question remains: what were those people?

  96. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear John,

    Pathrose has produced information about Yuyomaya.
    “This community is” Yuyomayam” which is also known as “Anjara Vedam”. Yes, they are usually known as “Mayam” as an abbreviation. But this sect originated very recently by a Brahmin. During the British reign, he claimed to have received a divine revelation informing the date of Apocalypse. He even send a letter to British Queen! Many people believed him and they prepared for the second arrival of Jesus with prayers. Nothing happened, but he explained the second arrival of Jesus is not physical, but spiritual. His followers claimed to have received the second coming of Jesus in their soul. This sect shows strong Brahmanic cultural influence.”

    I do not know much about this community. This community seems like a Pentacostal group possibly created from the Jacobite group and hence, the Jacobite Metropolitan would have commented that these are lost sheep.

    I think Whitehouse was looking for evidence of Manichaeism during his field study in Malabar and got totally confused between manigramakkar and manichaeism.

    There are other ancient documentation about Manikkavachakar in Malabar but no mention about Manichaenism or manigramakkar.
    Niranam Grandhavai comments about Manikkavachakar. A palm leaf document found with Karuthedathu family of Mavelikkara- Keralathile Maargga vasikalude Avastha- reports,

    ‘AD 293- The vellala converts to Christianity in the Kaveri poompattanam (the famous puhar on the mouth of the northern branch of river Kaveri on the coromandel coast) were persecuted by the King. So 72 families embarked on a ship and came to Korakkeni (Kollam).
    AD 315 A sorcerer called Manikkavachakar came to Kollam and converted back to Hinduism, 116 persons belonging to 8 of the 72 families of Puhar, 4 of about half a dozen families subsequently came from Coromandel coast and 20 families of local christians.’ (T K Joseph, Kerala Society Papers)

    These are really lost sheeps.

    Please note that this is a palm leaf document and it clearly states the Christian Era. They were sure about this year. That may means, this document is copied form some other much ancient document. This document is not talking about manigramam or manichaens.

    Whitehouse and M Kurian Thomas in his research paper also talks about this. Those who resisted and remained in Christianity were called Thariakkal/Dhariakkal.

    The word Thariakkal is similar to the word ‘Tharisa’ of Thareesa palli.

    B T Anklesaria, the noted Pahlavi and Zoroastrian expert also mentions about a persian word Tarisaikan means Christian. He reports that the word Trisaikon is used for Christians in ‘Datastan i Dini written in about AD 881 AD. Anklesaria also mentions about Dr E Saachu’s translation of Albiruni’s work ‘Chronology of Ancient Nations’ to support this fact.(B T Anklesaria, The Pahlavi inscription on the Crosses in Southern India, The Journal of K R cama Oriental Institute, 1958, p 87).

    Whitehouse seems to be totally confused here with Manichaens, Manigramam and Manikka vachakar. It seems that Whitehouse was really looking for evidence of Manichaeism and thought that Manigramams were Manichaens as Burnell did.

  97. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear All,

    First of all, let me tell that I believe historically Nazranis were neither Nestorians nor Manichaeans. We were Chalcedonians instead. I think Manichaeanism influenced the Hindus here, not the Christians. I always believed that these two were two distinct groups whom the Europeans erroneously identified as one. We have no evidences that suggest Nestorianism existed in Malabar. It seems like the general ignorance of Europeans towards eastern Christianity that lead them to a conclusion that it is Nestorian heresy. As Francis Rose observed correctly, they did not understand anything that is not of Latin rite. In addition, they could have misinterpreted the term “Nazrani” as ‘Nestorian”. We see none of the Latin authorities has branded Nazranis as Manichaeans. Therefore, the allegation of Manichaean connection is not from Latin camp. The very notation “heretic Nestorianism” is enough to them. Then who are behind this propaganda? Before looking into it, let us examine what is their theory.

    There is a kind of “Manichaean-Nazrani Theory” which says Nazranis were Manichaeans until they were converted by some Chaldean or Persian Bishops to Christianity. According to this theory, Nazranis do not have any connection with St. Thomas. They say St. Thomas never came to India and the “Thomas” from whom Nazranis claim their origin is a disciple of Mani, who converted them to Manichaeanism. For supporting their claims, they try to relate the possible Manichaean presence in south India with the history of Nazranis. This theory is absolutely a hoax.

    The major sponsors of this theory are the Chaldean See and the Chaldean lobby among Nazranis. Let us find what their motive is.

    As we know, Nazranis have the heritage of St. Thomas. The Archbishop of Nazrani church is the successor of St. Thomas. We can consider him even as a Patriarch – The Patriarch of India. He holds the right for “Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas”, because the Apostle died in India.

    However, the Chaldean Patriarchs seem to claim the apostolic succession of St. Thomas. They identify him as their first Patriarch. This is absolutely against history and tradition. St. Thomas is believed to have preached in Syria along with his disciples Mar Addai and Mar Mari, but it does not mean that they have his succession. I believe the apostolic succession of Seleucia – Ctesiphon Patriarchate is solely that of St. Bartholomew, not of St. Thomas.

    If Nazranis seem to have their own apostolic throne and patriarchal succession, the right of Indian church to exist as an independent individual church can hardly be questioned and it is obviously against the interest of Chaldean See and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. They want to see Nazrani church as merely as a province of Chaldean church. This is the reason behind portraying the Indian Christians as a branch or rather as a ‘mission’ of Persians or Assyrians.

    As a theory, I believe Manichaeanism existed in India, but we were never its followers.

    I know there are people who panic when they heard of Manichaeans in India. They seem apparently affronted by the above-mentioned “Manichaean-Nazrani theory” which tries to reject our Thomasine legacy.

    So, as a defense mechanism, they try to dismiss everything that suggest the Manichaean presence in India. They fail to identify the possibility of Manichaeanism influenced the South Indian Hinduism. They blindly believe that Hinduism remained the same all the time. In fact, We do not find any mentions of “Subramanya” in Vedas or early Puranas. We find Subramanya only in the later Puranas that were written after 3rd Century. As Buddhists venerate “Suprabuddha”, it is possible that Manichaeans venerated “Supramani” who was later Sanskritized as “Subramanya”. Peacock is revered in Hinduism only in connection with Subramanya and during Vedic age, the bird had no significance other than its beauty.

    The “Manichaeanphobiacs” again get irritated by the remark “Manichaean Cross” by those who oppose the imposition of St. Thomas Cross.

    One of the major reasons for the conflicts in Syro-Malabar church is the immense “Chaldeanisation” being implemented by the Bishops of Changanassery province. As part of it, they try to modify our church customs to meet to Chaldean standards. This is one of the reasons for them not promoting Rosary. (Although the Chaldean Catholics themselves use it.) The Chaldean tradition does not allow the use of statues or sculpture inside church. This is an influence from Islam and Judaism. Therefore, to synchronize Nazrani church with that of Chaldeans, they try to take out all those so-called “idols”. St. Thomas Cross may be permissible because the Chaldeans also revere cross. The hasty and arrogant behavior of church authorities that condemned the widely venerated crucifix as idolatry and imposed St. Thomas Cross in its place lead to chaos in the church. We are still not sure if these Crosses are Manichaean or not. Even if it is not Manichaean, but our tradition, the church authorities should consider educating people before compelling them to use it. Also, we should live by our faith, not by our tradition. Bullock-carts are our tradition, but we prefer to use cars. That is, there is no need to follow tradition always and a Crucifix symbolizes passion of Jesus Christ better as we actually ‘see’ Jesus crucified rather than resorting on any theological explanations (if any).

    Again, even if they were proven Manichaean, we can redefine its meaning and find new-new explanations for implementing them. [This is not a new thing in Kerala church, we use phallicist “Nilavilakku” in church as symbol of ‘light’ and “Arati” of Devi cult as symbol of Indian culture.]

    It seems more reasonable to suspect that Mani was crucified, and that the “Christian Reporters” of 5th century purposefully got it wrong. The 5th century Christian Ecclesiastical Historians who followed Eusebius claimed that Mani was not crucified but rather skinned alive. However the oldest manuscripts appear to assert otherwise: that the 3rd century Mani was crucified following Shapur II death, and a change in political power in Persia. We already know that Jesus was not the only one crucified.

    No. Have a look at ancient Egyptian Ankh. They were later adopted by Gnostic communities. Gnostics including Manichaeans had other types of crosses as well. Also note that Eusebius, his contemporaries and his continuators asserted Mani as a “Christian heretic”.

    What are logograms? Suppose you want to write “LEAVE”. If you directly write it, it is called phonetical writing. But instead of it, suppose you draw a “LEAF” which sounds like “LEAVE” when pronounced. This is called logogramic writing. Another example. You want to translate “Citizen of Ivory Coast” to Malayalam. You divide it as “City+Son+of+I+Worry+Cost” and translate it as “Nagaram Makan inte Njan Dukham Vila”. Even though we may think it as absurd, this was the style of writing in Pahlavi. Later if a person sees your above translation; can he understand what you meant?

    Those who translated the Pahlavi inscriptions do not agree each other. You can understand this from the above various translations which are completely different from each other.

    I don’t know about whether it is used here. But the use of raisin juice is more justifiable compared to coconut milk, as it is made from grape. Again, why they did not use it (Raisin Juice) for Pesaha?

    “Thirumeny” means “Your Majesty” or ‘Your Holiness” in Malayalam. Most respected Brahmins were called by Hindus as “Thirumeny” while they refer inferior Brahmins as “Poty”. Christians, on the other hand, use this term to refer their Bishops. So, if you are a foreigner and you hear local Christians call their Bishops as “Thirumeny”, you will definitely inquire about the meaning of the word. You learn from some other source that this word is used to refer ‘Chief Brahmins”. So you conclude that local Christians call their Bishops as chief Brahmins.

    I do not think it is impossible to have such records. I was just referring to John Mathew’s groundless assertion that it is possible only in Rome or Greece.

    Vattezhuth is not an unknown script in Kerala. Many people can read it perfectly. I can read it even though I am not an expert in it. Kindly read my comment #26538 above for more on it.

    No. it means “one who preaches ‘Manikkam’”. “Manikkam” may also mean “Manikyam” (Jewel), but if “Manikkam” was the Tamil word for “Manichaeanism”, this name can mean a “Manichaean missionary”.

    It of course goes with Manichaean belief. According to Manichaean philosophy, everything physical is evil including human body. This is one of the reason they practiced celibacy. At the same time, they considered fire as the symbol of light and goodness. Therefore, the Manichaeans could have preferred to burn their dead bodies with fire rather than burying them.

    The title Achan does not have any connection with Hinduism. The Hindu title “Ezhuthachan” is actually “Ezhuth+Asan”. It is common to use “cha” and “sa” interchangeably. E.g.: Asari = Achari (carpenter); Nambeesan = Nambiachan (a Hindu Title). The Malayalam word “Achan” came from “Achchhan” which simply means “father”. It is a common Malayalam word used in Kerala to address Christian priests.

    No. We Christians hardly engage in any sorcery. It is because we believe in a god who is omnipotent. We don’t feel it as our duty to fight against evil powers because we know that god will be the ultimate winner. On the other hand, Manichaeans believed good and evil as two equal powers. The material world including human beings is the battle field where the beings of light (goodness) and the beings of darkness (evil) fight each other. This is why the Manichaeans found it as their duty to stand by the beings of light and to battle with those of darkness. So they engaged in many magical rituals that we generally call as sorcery.

    I am also from Kuttanad (Pulinkunnu), but I have never seen a Veeradiyan. I shall consult this matter with my family-members and relatives there.

    Thanks for the links. I am on them.


  98. John Mathew says


    Hold on a second. Pathrose said that the parallel community in Kayamkulam was *not* the Yuyomayam folks. That community (Yuyomayam) was from the late 19th c, whereas Whitehouse was referring to a side community that converted to the Nair community in the early 19th c, and was living alongside the Nasranis for centuries.

    These people are not the Yuyomayam. They are also not Pentecostals either, or any other modern cult. If they were, they wouldn’t be joining the Nairs. And they wouldn’t have an ancient history behind them (Whitehouse claims they have a 500 year old presence).

    They don’t seem to be Nairs either because they are reported to having converted *to* the Nair caste.

    These are the Manigramam, according to Whitehouse. And these are people that have existed along with the Nasranis while not being Nasranis, since they seem to have had an less-desirable position.

    Now, let’s forget about Manichaean claims. I agree that the Manigrammam were not necessarily Manichaeans — they are reported by historians to be Hindus everywhere in South India: except for Kollam. And as for what they were in India, there’s no conclusive proof of that either.

    My question is: what exactly were these peoplem, if they weren’t Christians and they weren’t Hindus.

    I’ve reproduced Whitehouse’s quote above in Post. 26500. This was taken from‘s copy of Whitehouse (the spelling mistakes in that post are‘s problem!). I don’t think Whitehouse was a Manichaean hunter: he was a typical Protestant missionary, and his text shows an awareness of the East Syriac heritage of the Nasranis.

    Regarding that palm leaf document that cites AD 293 for the Vellala community. I’m not so sure the date is correct. I think they messed up ME with AD. I have strong doubts that anyone in the 17th/18th century would be able to report a historical occurance that occured in Malabar in the 3rd century. It doesn’t make any sense. If they could, then the whole period from the 3rd century to the 9th would be bright and we’d have reports about the inclusive era. We don’t. So I think that migration happened in the 12/13th century.

  99. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear John,

    As I have mentioned in my post, I do not know much about Yuyomayam. I agree with you, they were Christians, not Hindus. They were created by An Anglican Priest in AD 1881. Whitehouse has mentioned that the community he found at kayamkulam has a 500 years history.

    I remember there is a sect of christians who use Hindu names and some Hindu customs. I need to dig it up.

    The information from Karuthedathu palm leaf document, even if the year is ME, still, their migration to Kerala could be in around AD 1110 period and the mission of Manikkavachakar to convert them back to Hinduism could be in around AD 1130 period. They are Hindus, they are lost sheep for Nasranis and they have about 500 year history. They are well documented in our History.

    These are called as manigramam by Whitehouse, but our own historians who wrote Niranom Grandhavari and Karuthedathu palm leaf document did not mention that name even when they knew about manigramam well. So, the authors of our history did not connect them to manigramam.

  100. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear John / Thomas,

    Yuyomayam is not related with Manichaeanism or Manigramam. You can have more information about them from their website:

    If you can read Malayalam, see this also:

    Regarding Manigramam, it is possible that they were the same group called “Dhareyáygul” or “Dhariyais” or “Tharisais”, although Whitehouse thinks otherwise. He says that this group whom he calls as ‘Confessors” wear Kudami (Kuduma – Tuft of Hair) which Nazranis reject as a badge of heathenism. He continues how they fell into heathenism (i.e., Hinduism) due to the lack of priests or scriptures. I don’t take the claim that they were those who stood against the Manichaean faith. Instead, they may be those who followed it. Again it is possible that they were those who called “Southists” as they resided in southern parts of the region. The present “Southists” may be those who converted back to Christianity.

    Now, let us put the pieces together: Mani’s contemporary Persian King Shapur and his brother Peroz, legend about two Syrians with the same name, Tharisapally, Tharisai, Dhariyayi, Quilon, Southist, Manigramam, Manichaenism, tuft of hair, burial and other Hindu-like customs, attempts to join Nair caste, Act VIII / Decree 6 of Diamper and final lapse to heathenism.

    Does this look like a theory?


  101. John Mathew says

    The theory linking the kollam nasranis to the “side community” would break down in my opinion because the people around Kollam who claim to descent from the 9th c Persian immigration (Muthulaly, Thul. Mana., Tharakan) have some of the oldest Christian traditions in Kerala. And a stron case can be made for Tarisapally being Tarsapally — ie a Persian Christian pally.

    But the connection of the thiruvithamcode community, the Kollam/kayamkulam “manigrammam” perhaps makes sense.

    Also Whitehouse reports that the burial customs were originally similar to those of the Nasranis. The adoption of cremation was a late introduction according to him to help them gain admission to the nairs.

  102. George Mathew says

    Thomas Christians of Malabar : Through the Ages’ and the Author is ‘N.M. Mathew’. and the Publisher is ‘Christava Sahitya Samithy, Tiruvalla.
    Distributed by C.S.S. Book Shop, Tiruvalla. Phone: 0473 -2630389.

    In the above book, Tarshish in the Scripture is said to be Tarisapally in Kollam.
    I do not support most of what is written in the book.

  103. George Mathew says

    Dear Johh,

    The above author livein Canada – British Columbia. I can give you his contact details if you want.

  104. Michael Varghese says

    Interesting conversation fellas. I have no clue about most of the stuff you guys were talking about, but it’s very informative. I got a question, what percentage of Nasrani Catholics have Portuguese dna? Do you need a Portuguese name to have Portuguese dna? It’s hard to believe there were that many Portuguese people that settled in Kerala. I know they brought Catholicism to Kerala and that led to the split of the St. Thomas Christians into two denominations. I know that the people in Cochin have their own Catholic community and they only marry within. They talk about their Portuguese ancestors so much, like they are proud of it.

  105. P. M. Pathrose says

    Dear Michael Varghese,

    What percentage of Nazrani Catholics has Portuguese DNA?

    Answer: 0%

    Aristocratic Nazrani families were so adamant about their ethnic purity, due to their high position in the society as well as the intercourse with upper-class Hindus. They even shifted to interior parts of the country to prevent such intermarriages. A lot of intermarriages between Portuguese and indigenous people have taken place, and possibly with Nazranis as well, but the children born were not considered as Nazranis. They are called “Topaz Christians”.

    These people were very much proud about their “European ancestry” and tried to live as Europeans rather than Malayalis. Imitating their European fathers, they used to wear Hats and spoke a language which is a mixture of Portuguese and Malayalam. They were called by Malayalis as “Thoppazi” or “Thuppai” (Hat-wearers) and by Portuguese as “Mestiço” (Mixed race). They lived around port towns and worked as labours in Portuguese and other ships. Later they were referred by British as “Topaz Christians”. They were employed in British Indian Navy. Still the “Cleaner/safaiwala” post in Indian Navy is called as “Topaz”.

    The descendants of these people are among the Latin Christians.


  106. Aji Matthew says

    Those who want to know the history of Mulanthurthy church can write me. I have the recent souvenir they published which includes all stories related to the church. I met with one of their priests and discussed it with him.

    The founder of yuyomayasabha was Vidwankutty Achan. He was from Brhamin community. He was a great revival poet. He could make more than 500 Brahmin families to take water baptism. He made a revival at that time. He wrote the famous “Sthuthuppin Sthuthuppin Yesudevane”song; even today at Maramon convention they sing this song. Parumala Gregorios was much angry with the revival, visited churches and spoke against him. But unfortunately in the last days Vidwankutty Achan was dragged into prophecies and drifted away from faith. Anyhow one thing we can assume that the theory Brhamins accepted Christianity is not mere fabric because Vidwankutty Achan could convert five hundred families to Christianity. Fore more details visit

    Aji Matthew

  107. Steven Ring says

    Dear All,

    I was alerted to a record in Eusebius’ ecclesiastical history notified in the following interesting article on the commemoration of the evangelists:

    The reference which caught my eye was to Pantaenus who was a missionary to Eastern lands as far as India, between about AD 160 and 170. I have located this patristic reference in the sources available to me and written up the aspects relevant to the history of the Syriac gospel here, (see under AD 180):

    According to this ancient contact between Indian Christians and western missionaries in AD 160 ~ 170 recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea, the Indian Christians told Pantaenus that their Christian community existed because of the preaching of Bar Tolmi, one of the apostles, (***not Mar Thoma***). What do the other interested people on this list make of this report?

    For reference, Pantaenus also has his own wikipedia page here:

    Note: Although Eusebius refers to Matthew’s gospel as written in Hebrew writing, the language used was almost certainly Aramaic. This meaning arises because Jerome writing around AD 391 also called the script of Matthew’s gospel which he found in Bethlehem ‘Hebrew’, but he explains this was the ‘Chaldaic language’ = Aramaic and his citations from this gospel consist of Aramaic words. I have developed this theme in a brief study on another page here, (see under AD 391):

    Best wishes,

  108. Steven Ring says

    Dear All,

    FYI: My previous post is also closely related to the following NSC Network article:

    Best wishes,

  109. Kevin Eapen says

    Dear Michael Varghese,

    %%What percentage of Nazrani Catholics has Portuguese DNA? %%

    Answer: We don’t have the DNA of people from Syro Malabar Church from parts of Ernakulam, Angamaly, Chalakudy etc.

    What PM Patrose mentioned is partly correct that Nasranis moved to interior parts but not everyone. I think significant portion of Ernakulam, Angamaly, Chalakudy Syro Malabar Catholics are offspring of union with Portuguese. The descendants of Topaz Christians are among the Syro Malabar Catholic in these regions. You can study this yourself by taking the history of many churches there. Also, the Topaz in Syro Malabar Church has historically taken significant role in latinisation of the Church.

    %%It’s hard to believe there were that many Portuguese people that settled in Kerala. %%

    There were many who settled in Kerala. There were even some orders from the King of Portugal allowing them to marry and settle in Kerala. The 500’s and 700’s of the latin rite has different history.

    I can explain this with a social situation. If you ask latin rite Christians to put Saint Thomas Cross in their churches, may be very less population would go to streets and burn the Mar Thoma Cross. They will also hold street protests and abuse whom ever they see supporting this. This is same thing happened in Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Ernakulam, Angamaly, Chalakudy etc. In fact many of them still say the cross is even not Christian, which shows their bias. This clearly shows that many of them Portuguese offspring’s. As you know knowing 300 year family history is not a big deal of latin or syro Malabar Catholics. In fact in US also, it is the same people the Topaz generation who creates trouble. Of course some people uses them for their political ambitions.

  110. John Mathew says


    Regarding Pantaneus, I doubt he was talking about the real India, but rather probably somewhere in the Southern Arabian peninsula or Northeast Africa, places where westerners like Eusebius often confused for India.

    This is sort of like people like A. Fortescu, F. Day, etc mentioning Jacobite bishops visiting India in the 6th c, when it was really Zachariah Rhetor of Militene making a geographical era and calling Ethiopia “india”. Yet there are Jacobites in india who quote this as proof of their “ancient” contact with miaphysite Antioch. Ridiculous.

    But … I think the Goans or the northwestern indians (bombay) have some traditions that refer to Bartholemew as their historic evangelizer. This sounds like a stretch to me since Bartholemew was held to be the evangelizer of places closer to Armenia. But who really knows.

  111. P. M. Pathrose says

    @ Kevin:

    Either you do not have a clear idea about Kerala Catholics or you are pushing your own POV for some vested interests. There are *NO* Topaz Christians among the Syro Malabar Christians. If you don’t know about them, please learn from those who know before commenting. They are not an extinct group. I am from Alleppey district and I have close connections with Ernakulam as well. I have lot of friends who are *actually* Topaz Christians. They are Latin Christians. They claim to be Anlgo-Indians even though the real Anglo Indians do not consider them so. They neither use Malayalam names such as Eapen, Pathrose, Kurian, Mammen, etc which other Latin Christians usually use, nor do their women wear the “Chattayum Mundum” which is seen among other Latin Christians who apparently adopted it from Syrians. Instead, they use Western names such as Kevin, Linda, Margret, Alfred, Williams, etc. They show a clear leniency towards western culture.

    Latinization or the protest against St. Thomas Cross has nothing to do with the ethnicity. It is associated with a person’s religious, political or social views. Americans support Zionism not because they have a Jewish origin. Ahmadi Nejad, the President of Iran, on the other hand, is against Zionism and Israel, although he is a Jew by origin. Nazranis in Marthoma church are strong supporters of Anglicanization. It is not because they are British offsprings.

    Regarding 500’s (Anjoottikkar), 700’s (Ezhunnoottikkar) and 300’s (Munnoottikkar). Of course, they have different history. But they do not relate themselves with any Portuguese settlers, but they seem to claim other theories such as a conversions from Nair army, etc. 500’s are considered as most backward group and the government has exempted them from “Creamy Layer Act”. The dioceses of Alleppey, Cochin and Quilon respectively belong to 500’s, 700’s and 300’s.

    Another interesting thing is some Latin Christians (mainly from 500’s and 700’s) claim a Thomasine heritage. There is an organization of Latin Christians called “Nazrani Bhooshana Samajam”, the headquarters of which is at Arthunkal, near Cherthala. In a Souvenir published on the Consecration of Dr. Stephen Athipozhiyil (Bishop of Alleppey diocese), there is a research article written by Martin Eeresseril, which is re-published in “Mukharekha” (an official publication of the same diocese). I don’t agree with most of his views, but he claims that there were St. Thomas Christians who lived without being baptized (due to the unavailability of priests) who were later baptized by Portuguese missionaries admitting them to their Latin church. I don’t know whether it is a false claim. But Whitehouse also seems to have mentioned something like this. But they became Latin Christians, Do you understand? LATIN CHRISTIANS, not Syrians. I am sure that none of the Nazranis has a Portuguese heritage.

    @Steven / John Mathew:

    Some people argue that we were under the power of foreign bishops historically. They put forward the arrival of some Bishops here as an evidence for it. They should learn from the story of Pantaenus. He was from Alexandria, but neither a deputation from India to Alexandria nor an Alexandrian churchman’s visit here implies we were under the Alexandrian yoke. One can present it as an evidence for the “historical relation” with Alexandrian church and claim that we belong to Alexandrian rite historically. But nobody is doing so. I am saying this as a reply to those who say we were under either Chaldean or Antiochian Patriarchs by pointing out the historical presence of such Bishops here.

    Regarding St. Bartholomew, I support the opinion of A. C. Perimalil and Dr. G. M. Moraes that he came to “India Felix”, i.e., Kalyan aka Calliana.


  112. John Mathew says


    Perhaps you have some problem with the Malabar Church being under a “foreign yoke”; however, regardless of your personal distaste for such arrangements, you should not taint history to suit your aesthetics. At the end of the day, Christianity is a religion foreign to India, so no matter what historical distortion you choose to present, you will unable to surmount that fact. Does it really matter than an Indian follows a foreign Semitic religion? Does it matter that a European similarly follows a foreign religion? Is ethno-nationalistic rewriting of history, whether by the Indian nationalists or by similar groups such as the British Israelites really necessary?

    First, there is no “yoke”. Being under a foreign bishop, whether in Rome, or in Babylon (or, for those who want to believe the fiction, Antioch) is not the same as being under a foreign political ruler. The latter has true power, whereas the former is merely a “spiritual head” having zero control over one’s actual life. The latter is deserving of the terminology “yoke” that you employ, while the former hardly holds a yoke over it’s subjects.

    Second, the actual evidence shows otherwise. It is not merely a “visit” that East Syriac bishops made to India. In the letters of East Syriac patriarchs, one can clearly see that India was within the sphere of influence of the East Syriac Patriarch. It was at various points under various metropolitan Sees of the Church of the East (either Fars/RevArdashir, or under direct control of the Patriarch, or under a metropolitanate of India — these are all documented). No other foreign Church has such documentation to substantiate it’s affiliation with India.

    Some nationalists make the claim that various bishops from the west merely “visited” India. This has no substance. First, the only documented foreign visitors were from the East Syriac Church. Even if you deny Cosmas’ Nestorian affiliation, that is only *one* sample point.

    Even if you choose to accept the fantasy that Pantaneus came to India, that’s a second sample point.

    Two sample points versus the the documented history of the Malabar Church’s affiliation with the East Syriac Church.

    You believe that the Indian Church was Chalcedonian; people in my Church make the claim that the Indian Church was historically non-Chalcedonian. Both claims are fantasy. Do you have even a shred of evidence to bolster that claim?

    The only Chalcedonians in the East were the Orthodox/Catholic Melkites and the Maronites.And then much later the Chaldeans. That’s all. The first two have no history of contact with India. The last one had contact with India only by virtue of the fact that it inherited the legacy of its non-Catholic parent, the non-Ephesian East Syriac “Nestorian” Church. Are you proposing a new Chalcedonian Church in the East? Did Assemani miss something? (And for the Puthenkoor, the furthest that the non-Chalcedonians penetrated into the East was probably Mosul, with some modern incursion into Afghanistan. Definetely no India, at least not that we can substantiate with evidence).

    Let’s be reasonable; or if we choose to invoke fantasy, let’s at least cite some evidence.

  113. John Mathew says

    Yet another example of a decorated Christian cross motif that is reminiscent of the Pahlavi-inscribed crosses of Kerala.

  114. Steven Ring says

    Dear John Matthew, Pathrose,

    One of Pantaenus’ most eminent disciples was Clement of Alexandria. His Stromata books have been edited on-line with English translations here:
    I went through all 8 books of the Clement’s Stromata using the browser’s word search feature to search for the word ‘India’. (This took only a few minutes.)
    It is very clear from Clement’s comments, that he did not confuse India with Arabia Felix or N.E. Africa. Also, he quotes from histories of India (now probably lost) which go back to the 4th century BC to the time of the Seleucid Greek kings and Alexander the Great’s expedition to India. These same sources about India were accessible to Clement’s master Pantaenus, so the idea that Pantaenus would have confused India with some other place is very unlikely in my view.
    Anyway, I have heard that India is a big place 🙂 Is it not possible therefore, that Mar Thoma Shleeha and Mar Bar Tolmi Shleeha evangelized different parts of India?

    Dear Kevin,
    I read your posts and recognise the scenarios you describe because there are similar problems in western churches as well. The main thing, in my opinion, is not to confuse your faith with the approval of any particular church. In other words, if a church decides to abuse you, this is not the same as God doing that! Your faith is more precious than the finest jewel, so do not surrender it to anyone.

    Best wishes,

  115. P. M. Pathrose says

    @ Steven:

    I totally agree with you that Pantaenus came to nowhere other than India. Also, I think it is more reasonable to think St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew evangelized different parts of India. As you say, India is a large nation and it was never politically a single unit until the British rule.

    @John Mathew:

    You are right. They were not visitors. Then what were they? They were refugees. We know that after the rise of Islam, Christians were persecuted in the Islamic world. These hounding lasted until the end of Crusades. (Actually, they are still going on.) So it is very likely that the Christians in Persia and Assyria fled to nearby regions including India (with their Bishops). Again, as Steven said, India is not a small country like Malta or Cyprus. So it is possible that in different parts of the subcontinent, different communities of Christians existed without dominating one another. I have already explained my view in this regard and I don’t like spending time repeating the same thing. All your “documented evidences” talk about only Kalyan, not Malabar. As far as I know, the earliest evident Assyrian presence in Malabar is after AD. 1300 (if the Syriac MSS kept in Rome is authentic), i.e., after the arrival of “John of Monte Corvino”, a member of the “Societas Peregrinantium Pro Christo” in Quilon in 1291. So who came first in Malabar? The Roman Catholics or Assyrians? I say Roman Catholics.

    If you know both Mathew and Thomas are Keralites, will you say “Mathew is an Indian and Thomas is a Keralite.”? No. You will say only “Mathew and Thomas are both Keralites.” right? So if you know there are Persian bishops in Malabar and Kalyan, will you say “there are Christians in Malabar and moreover there are Persian Bishops in Kalyan”? Just think impartially.

    As you know, Nestorianism was not the doctrine of Church of East originally. Nestorianism originated at Constantinople. After the Council of Chalcedon, many of Nestorius’ supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Slowly Nestorian doctrine became popular there, leading it to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church. But in the case of Malabar, We have not found any traces of Nestorianism here. You yourself seem to be surprised about the presence of statues of St. Mary and St. George in Malabar as opposed to your Nestorian theory.

    Fernando De Paz, the Rector of Franciscan Seminary in Cranganore, in a letter written in 1557 January 10th to the Portuguese King informs about a Nestorian Bishop who arrived in Cochin. He again elucidates that he has never seen this heresy (Nestorianism) among Thomasines, although there were many “errors” such as marriage of priests and mode of confession, etc.
    [SILVA REGO, Documentacao, VI, 247 – 50]

    Yoke is not a bad word:

    “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
    (Matthew 11:29-30)

    NB: Kevin’s comments deserve no reply.


  116. John Mathew says


    You continuously mention Kalyan. You do know that Cosmos is only one of the many sources that describe our connections with the East Syriac Church, don’t you?

    If you are unaware of the references beyond those of Cosmos, then perhaps you should dig further in the literature; Mingana is a good source, and if you know Syriac (or Latin) you can look at Assemani’s texts which are online. I and others have discussed these other mentions of India by the East Syriac Church on NSC in the past; there’s no point in repeating it.

    I agree that a portion of our community may come from 12-14th century Roman Catholic missionary activity that either supplemented or refreshed our Church. But if you are claiming that our Church was “Roman Ctaholic” from the earliest era, that seems like a stretch.

    I use the term “Nestorian” loosely; I don’t mean to suggest that the East Syriac Church was Nestorian. But they did honor Nestorius, and their Christological formulation was not strictly Chalcedonian. They weren’t even “Ephesian”!

    When you say no one has found any trace of Nestorianism in Malabar, you are absolutely incorrect. Let’s forget about the Christological theory called Nestorianism — let’s use it in the looser sense as describing the Church of the East (which honors Nestorius and other “heretics”) which didn’t subscribe to any council past (and including) that at Ephesus. In that case, the same faith that one calls “Nestorian” in West Asia (that is, the Church of the East) was present in India. (1) India was under the “Yoke” of the Patriarch of the Church of the East, (2) the earliest examples of our liturgical texts are *all* of that Church. There is nothing else. Sure, anything is possible, but only *one* of those possibilities has a shred of evidence.

    The same honor that was given to Nestorius in the Church of the East in West Asia, was given to Nestorius in India — according to the liturgies and prayers that were in use when the Europeans first came to India. This is in the procedings of Diamper, so regardless of what De Paz said, there are others who did indeed observe “Nestorianism” (that is, the faith of the Church of the East, whether it was truly Nestorian or not). In fact, the majority of references to our people by the Portuguese observed that we were “Nestorian” heretics. Probably the fact that we used his Anaphora, and mentioned him in our prayers gave that away.

    I’m open to other possibilities; however, no other theory has even an ounce of evidence to substantiate it. Apart from the following outlier observations that I would like to better understand:

    1. The reports of statues used in Nilackel. Does anyone know more about this?

    2. The reports that greco-roman inscriptions were found at the ruins of Nilackel. Does anyone know more about this?

    Does anyone have pictures of the ruins at Nilackel?

  117. M Thomas Antony says

    Kevin’s comments are totally absurd. We had this discussion a while ago in this forum. ‘Sixteenth Century Churches……..’ . and ‘The catalogue of Nasrani Churches….’ articles are the outcome of those discussions. I do not think Kevin is a Syro Malabarian, even though he poses one. I think he has certain vested interests.

    The Anglo Indian Community are very proud of their identity. They would never join Syro Malabar or any other Syrian Church.

    When Syro Malabar Hierarchy was created for the Catholic Syrians, actually, Syro Malabar church has lost some of her members to Latin Church. The Carmelites who were based at the Catholic Syrian Communities continued their proselitysation and the communities they created were kept under the Arch Diocese of Verapuzha, separating the Catholic Syrians in Trichur and Changanacherry vicariats. During this separation, some of the Syriac Catholic communities were lost to the Latin rite. There are several examples. Arthunkal church is an example. More over, those priests who were ordained by the Latin prelates without the desakkuri of the Syrian parishes were not accepted by the Catholic Syrian community. They and their families also had to join the Latin rite.

  118. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Pathrose,

    With all respect, I would like to point out that many of your arguments are ridiculing the common sense of the ordinary reader.

    1 You have said, The Manichaen theory is sponsored by Chaldean lobby and Chaldean Patriarchate.
    “Therefore, the allegation of Manichaean connection is not from Latin camp”
    “The major sponsors of this theory are the Chaldean See and the Chaldean lobby among Nazranis…….”

    How absurd your arguments are ?

    As I have already mentioned before, The Manichaen theory was put forward by those European writers who did not want to agree the antiquity of Indian Church, looked for an alternate theory. We all know that Manichaen theory which was nailed down by Richard Collins in AD 1875 resurfaced in 1990s by certain people for getting momentum in the dirty politics by a section in the SMC related to the restoration of the liturgy and related politics. After 1990, once their aim was fulfilled, it went into darkness again. Now, it is again used by certain people for some other reasons.

    Can you please point any evidence to show that the Chaldean lobby promoting the Manichaen theory ?

    Please look who is behind these propaganda. It is the Latinising lobby in our church who promote the Manichean theory just for denying the Syriac heritage of Syro Malabar Church and to oppose the restoration of our identity. They are the people who portrait the Crosses of Saint Thomas as Manichaen Crosses.

    I am happy that you have said that the propagators of Manichean theory are those who oppose the Thomasine origin of our Church. ‘The propagators of Manichaen theory are doing it even at the risk of the apostolic origin of our church’. (Jacob Kollamparampil, Christian Orient, March 1994 p35)

    None of the scholars who proposed the Manichaen theory claimed that there is any evidence of Manichaeism in Kerala, even Burnell!

    Could you show us any solid evidence of Manichaeism in Kerala ?

    Could you show us any reports showing Manicheans ever venerating a cross anywhere ?

    Could you show us any reference showing Mani was crucified ?

    2 You seems to be confused with the term Southists also. Southist -Northist division is not about Nasranis of South Kerala and North Kerala. It is about endogamy and claims related to Thomas of Cana legend and traditional division of settlement in Kodungalloor. There was a historical division among Nasranis as Kollam and Kodungalloor.The nasranis used to use this affiliation of Kollam Nasranis and Kodungalloor Nasranis untill recent past. This has nothing to do with Southist- Northist division.

    3 Manichaenphobia or is it Chaldaicophobia ?

    You said, it is the Manichaen phobia is the problem here. No. I would say, it is the Chaldaicophobia is the main problem in here. As you have mentioned above, our own leaders- the native leaders when they got power and position, were very anxious if we contuinue to follow our age old Chaldean rite, the Chaldean Patriarch might take claim over our church and we would be subjugated as a mere province of the Chaldean Church. Hence, our native leaders tried to find a new identity to our church. When Rome realised the mistake in Latinizing our liturgy, they tried to correct it, but our hierarchy resisted the correction of mistakes, claiming that we have been using this mutilated liturgy for a while and we are happy. Our leaders were competing each other for pleasing the masters in the west by showing their obedience to get better positions. They tried to make our church in more conformity to the Latin rite. The best example is moving from ad orientum( Qurbana facing the altar) to ad populum( Qurbana facing the people) by a section in SMC in AD 1968 period. When the Latin church moved from ad orientum to ad populum, a section in SMC also followed it. None of the other Eastern Catholic church adopted this reform. Some of the Syro Malabar dioceses started using even Latin vestments also. Now, the western Church is showing signs of moving back to ad orientum.

    Those leaders considered the SMC as an offshoot of the Latin church, forgetting our Apostolic origin and millennia old culture and traditions. Eminent Researcher and a Latin rite priest, William Macomber observed this even in 1970s itself and commented in his papers that the SMC hierarchy is aiming to merge with the Latin Church. ‘The hierarchy seems to be aiming at a modernized liturgy that will be open to Indianization and to ultimate unification with the local Latin liturgy, once that, too, will have become Indianized’. Willaim MaComber, A History of the Chaldean mass, Worship, Vol 51 No2 1977, pp107-120, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol XI No 2 , 1997, p81)

    The Indianisation move was originated in the Latin Church of India and our native leaders jumped on it. Now, the Latin church has dumped it. Still we are after it. Our liturgy was already Indianised. Even when we were using East Syriac Liturgy, we had adopted lot of Indian Cultural elements into it making it Indo Chaldean. I think the argument for Indianisation was also a trick by a section in the church who were chaldaicophobic.

    Our forefathers resisted the Latinisation attempts of the Portuguese. Our laity was so strong to oppose any action to dilute our identity. When the name Syro Malabar was introduced to denote the Catholic Syrians in AD 1895 period, our forefathers resisted it- laity and Priests sent letters to Rome against it. See an example below:-

    “ That we who have been known from time immemorial as Malabar Chaldeic Syrians and belonged to the same rite, are now called by the vicar apostolic as Malabar Syrians and an address to this effect has been sent to the Holy See and a reply is said to have been received under the new appellation. This change of our national name is quite contrary to the apostolic letter addressed to us by Your Holiness on the 30th of November 1894 headed ‘The Glory of the Oriental Churches’ which we received with the greatest submission and hold in great veneration and besides such a change is contrary to the missal printed and given to us in 1874 for the use in our churches.

    Under the foregoing circumstances and in consequence of the daily increasing schism in Malabar especially in this vicariate we make our last prayer with the deepest sentiments of veneration and filial love that Your Holiness will be graciously pleased, in the plentitude of Your Holiness’s Paternal wisdom and solicitude, to give us a Bishop of our own nationality from the Patriarcate of Babylon, and thus put an effectual end to the strifes and dissensions that have for a long time, been characterising the existence of the Catholic church in this part of Christendom” ( An account of a very important period of the history of the catholic Syrian Christians of Malabar- Rt Rev Mgr. Aloysius Pareparambil, DD, 1920, p 199-200)

    It is to be noted that in 1953, when the diocese of Thalassery was established for the Syro Chaldeac migrants to Malabar state, the bull from Vatican used the term Ecclesia Ritus Chaldaici Malabarensium.
    Note, when the term Chaldeac was removed from the title of our church, our forefathers resisted it and convinsed the masters in Rome. Now, the Chaldaicophobic leaders should be reminded about this.

    4 Patriarchate of India and Throne of Saint Thomas.

    I am very much interested in your theory of Patriarchate of India and throne of saint Thomas. I would like to know, why we need a Patriarchate of India ? Is it just for jurisdiction? If we want to have a separate Patriarchate, we have to have an identity. What is our identity ? We have no identity other than the so called Indian in culture, Chaldeo Syrian in worship and Christian in faith. The Syro Malabar hierarchy was created for those who were practicing Syro Chaldean rite in India. The syro chaldean rite was automatically assigned to us centuries ago due to the historical connections to the East Syriac church. The problems in SMC is due to the move in a section of the leadership to identify a new identity to SMC. That too mimicking the Latin rite in the name of Indianisation. I think, before thinking about Patriarchate and Throne of Saint Thomas, our church need to show enough maturity to impliment the synodal decisions in the proper terrotories.

    5 Manichaen- Manikkavachakar.
    Meaning of Manikkavachakar. Richard Collins give an example also .
    Manikkavachakar- jewel tongued.
    Chini vachakar- sugar tongued.

    How can you so confidently say that it means one who preaches Manichaeism only ?
    but if “Manikkam” was the Tamil word for “Manichaeanism”, this name can mean a “Manichaean missionary”. Yes, I agree. But are there any evidences, references for the meaning of manikkam means Manichaeism ?
    Burning dead body and Manichaeism. This is a Hindu tradition. Are you going to say that this is adopted from Manichaeism ?
    Achan- It is the pronunciation, not the spelling that Collins commeneted. Kammal achan may be Kaimal assan or Kaimal achan, both are used to honour him as the elder of the clan.
    What about Paliath achan and Mangatt achan ? It seems that Achan is a sub caste among Nairs. That is why Collins said, it is a Hindu appellation.

    6 About the Historical East Syriac Connections.

    I am so disappointed that even when several people have produced many documentary evidences and arguments, you seem to be adamant to stick on to your denial without reasons, clinging on to certain flimsy arguments to show that we were not part of East Syriac Church, we had connections to Roman church even before the connections to the Church of the East, to promote Manichean theory to cause confusion among the ignorant laity to win certain interests in the church, to renounce the Crosses of Saint Thomas which were part of our forefathers’ spiritual life and our heritage, to portrait that those who support the restoration of our tradition are trying to bring our church under the Chaldean Patriarchate, and so on.

  119. Steven Ring says

    Dear All,
    I do not know the Malayalam language, but I have heard that it is influenced by the Syriac language and contains some Syriac loan words. I was wondering whether someone skilled in Malayalam could comment about how old this language is, perhaps some dates for the earliest known uses of the language and provide some examples of Syriac loan words in Malayalam?
    The reason for my interest, concerns the differences between Eastern and Western Syriac pronunciation. For example;
    1) in West Syriac, an abbot is called a Rīsh-dayro, whereas in East Syriac the same words are pronounced Resh-dayrā.
    2) in West Syriac a church is called `Ito, whereas in the East Syriac dialect it is `Idtā etc.
    Do any of these differences in Syriac pronunciation surface where Syriac words are also used in older examples of written Malayalam?
    Best wishes,

  120. John Mathew says


    In general, almost all Syriac loan words in Malayalam are done as approximations (sometimes bad!) of the East Syriac pronounciations. Examples:

    1. “Mamoodeesa” (baptism)
    2. “Qurbana” (self explanatory)
    3. “Mar”
    4. “Sleeba”

    Of course, in the “West Syriacized” Churches (the Malanara / Syriac Orthodox, Syro-Malankara) the clerics use the West Syriac versions of the above (“Qurbono”, “Mor”, etc.) especially when the services are done in pure Syriac. But these are all late modifications, many of which can be dated to the 20th century.

    The “old” pronounciation (East Syriac) is clearly heard when Malayalam services are done, even in the Orthodox Churches.

    Amongst the masses, even in the “New Rite” segment of the Nasranis (those that use the West Syriac language), the old East Syriac pronounciation persists to this day.

    Other loanwords: “Malakha” (angel).

    I’m sure others can complete the list.

    I’ve noticed that in Malayalamized Syriac, the “th” of the final tau letter is pronounced as “s” (Mamoodisa). And sometimes the “b” of beth becomes a “v” sound (Sleeva as opposed to Sleeba).

  121. John Mathew says

    One thing … as far as I can tell — and I’m not fully sure, I’m basis this on what I’ve heard from family members who read the Bible in Malayalam — I believe the Malayalam pronounciation of Old Testament characters is done according to the Hebrew pronounciation, and not the Syriac.

    e.g., Aharon for Aaron, Moshey for Moses, Noahah, etc.

    I don’t know whether this is a fossil of something from antiquity (i.e., true Hebraisms that transfered to Tamil/Malayalam by purported Jewish ancestors), or whether this is a late phenomena due to the fact that H. Gundert, the famous malayalam scholar of German origin, translated the Bible to Malayalam from Hebrew.

    Perhaps some of the Malayalam speakers could comment, especially from the Catholic tradition who likely use Malayalam Bibles translated by Catholic scholars.

  122. George Mathew says

    Dear Pathrose,

    You wrote ‘..where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Slowly Nestorian doctrine became popular there, leading it to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church.,,,;

    From my reading, I believe you are mistaken above. Nestorius did not convert any CoE into Nestorinism or brought about any change. The CoE alway had belief similar to Nestorius. I suspect, that the West did not want to give recognition to CoE of being doctrinally advanced, so they named CoE as ‘Nestorian’.

    I further strongly believe that today, no CoE member would ever acknowledge the they are ‘Nestorians’ but would admit that they share the beliefs of Nestorius.

    You may label me as ‘Christian’ but I reject that label and call myself ‘Nazerene’, though I share much doctrine with Christians. The same applies to CoE when you put the ‘Nestorian’ label on them.

    To understand me better, please get to read the book ‘Nestorians, the Lost Ten Tribes’ by Dr.Asahel Grant.

  123. George Mathew says

    Dear Pathrose,

    You had pointed out that the ‘CoE’ was Nestorian. I beg to disagree. Based upon my understanding, the CoE never did call herself ‘Nestorian’ but it was a label that the West had put upon her. The CoE practised the views which Nestorium propogated. Nothing else.

    For a better understanding of what I write, please do read ‘The Nestorians, The Lost Ten Tribes’ by Dr. Asahel Grant.

  124. Kevin Eapen says

    Dear Steven

    Thank you. It is a very difficult situation as you become very confused in the whole process. I wish if people understand the pain an abused suffers from these tortures. I stand firm on my faith.

    Antony: With all due respect, please don’t call my blogs as absurd. I have blogged about many points including the Vettinirthal in Syro Malabar Church. The Topaz in Ernakulam, Thrishur is only one of the issue I mentioned. I was abused. I came to know that the abuser was a Topaz. This is a fact I got by investigation. Do you need any evidences ?

    There are people who even blogged here saying Saint Thomas Cross is not Christian. There are people who tried to expand the Manicheanism to Qadishnagal. Manicheanism is brought out as a topic by Trichur and Ernakulam gang in Syro Malabar Church for a particular reason for the post of Major Archbishop. Do you think people violently abuse others just for a cross ? Do you think few Angamaly people violently abuse anyone including women and children with out the support of some priests and bishops ? One lie to another they will continue they the abuses until they complete the Vettinirathal in Syro Malabar Church.

    Admin: I don’t see my earlier blogs now. Why was it removed ? What do you expect the abused to do ? Shall they march on the street, protest or start a similar abusive blog. Do they also need to hold protest march in Palai against the Angamaly abusers ? Please let people share the abuses they faced because of these propaganda on Manichaeism done for Vettinirathal in Syro Malabar Church.

    Patrose: People were not responding to some of your lies for the same reason. You will understand what I am talking about when you get abused and are in my shoes.

  125. Steven Ring says

    Dear Kevin,
    You are right, it is very difficult for people who have not experienced spiritual abuse to understand. I wrote from painful experience over many years. It was deeply confusing for me, especially at first, because one naturally assumes that others in a church context are there because they all believe in Christ and want to follow him. This is not so in UK churches, in fact it is only a small minority of people who are sincere. When I started to investigate the reasons for this, I found that there are many ways that the teaching and practice of modern churches contradict scripture. Then I went even deeper. I have now been studying Syriac for many years and I am amazed to find that even our western bible translations have departed from the ancient Hebrew, Syriac and Greek texts. One infamous verse in the English version is found in Hebrews 13.17. In the Greek this verse says, ‘Give credence (or listen) to your leaders’, but in the English mistranslations it says, ‘Obey your leaders and submit to their authority’. In the original text, Paul insists that we should use our minds when listening to leaders, but in the English versions this been twisted, to mean something very different!
    This is one reason I think it would be a good idea to use Syriac more in churches. This is not going to happen anytime soon in the UK, but nevertheless using the older languages more would help us avoid this sort of problem.
    Best wishes,

  126. Steven Ring says

    Dear John Matthew,
    Interesting, may we hear some more contributions from Malayalam experts please?
    The Syriac OT uses the Hebrew names for people, Moshe, Isho`a bar Nun, Isha`a etc.
    The v sound in sleeva is authentic Syriac grammar where b changes to a v sound when the beyth letter is found at the end of a syllable. This happens in both the eastern and western Syriac dialects.
    The th to s transition in Mamoodeesa from the east Syriac M`amuditha meaning baptism is not a classical Syriac feature, so perhaps it arises from Malayalam. However, the east Syriac origin of Mamoodeesa is clear from the final long a vowel. In West Syriac this would be M`amuditho, i.e. a long o sound at the end.

    Dear George Matthew,
    According to Mar Audisho, east Syrian metropolitan of Nisibis (+ 1318) writing in his treatise called the Pearl, a definitive text of the beliefs of eastern Christians, you are right. According to him, ‘Nestorian’ is a label dishonestly used to try and smear eastern Christians, however he also says that the easterners do revere Nestorius as a saint. IMO, it is better to see the 5th century splits as political rather than strictly along the lines of belief. Judging from the Syriac texts I have read, Syriac Christianity is and always was fairly diverse and tolerant of different points of view. At various times, some bishops moved in either direction, and some easterners wrote things agreeing with the Miaphysite view and vice versa.

    Best wishes,

  127. George Mathew says

    Daer Steven Ring,

    Thanks for your comments. May I make a humble comment?

    The name ‘Mathew’ amongst the Malabar Nazerenes has almost always only one ‘t’ in it. Not ‘Matthew’. The UK and US Mathew has two ‘t’s in it. I notice that the English Bibles have two ‘ts’ in their Mathew. I know of only one Malabar Nazerene who spells his name as ‘Matthew’.

    Until as recent as 50 years ago, the Hebrew/Syriac name style ‘Mathai’ was popular. Mathai became Mathew only during the past few decades due to Western influence. My grandfather was ‘Mathai’ but he name spelled his son (my father) as ‘Mathew’ under Brtish influence.

    I take no offense in you writing the way you want it. No problem at all!! Just thought I can share some small matter with you.

  128. Steven Ring says

    Dear George Mathew,
    My apologies for my mistake! I had not noticed the single t in the name Mathew, as fould in Malabar.
    Best wishes,

  129. Kiran Samuel says

    Hi author,

    Are these photos copyrighted?

    I was reading a book on the presence of Romans in ancient Tamil kingdoms. It seems like some of you can clarify if the Tamil title “Ceral” means “Cyril” as the book says. Is it possible that Cherra kings were Romans who later became Christians? Any further info on this? Do Nasreney Christians use “Cherry Anne” as a name? If they do, what is the meaning? Is it connected to Cherra dynasty?

  130. Steven Ring says

    Dear George Mathew, Dear All,

    As you may know, a digital facsimile of the book George Mathew mentioned above, the one by Dr. Asahel Grant which was published in 1841 on the lost ten tribes of Israel is available on-line. The book is in PDF format and it is about 15 MBytes in size:

    I dipped into several chapters, especially part II, chapter VI and Appendix A. For an author writing about 1840, i.e. well before Syriac studies had really got going in the west, he writes well. IMO this book is a useful source of information. It contains first-hand observations about the life, culture and religions of different peoples who lived in Northern Iraq and NW Iran at about that time. His description of the Church of the East and the patriarchs, bishops and people he met is a fascinating study.

    However, the references to Indian Christianity are all second hand. In part II, on pp. 195 – 198 there are references to the Indian “Nazaranee” based on the researches of Claudius Buchanan and on p. 375 there is a reference to an Indian mission in the 8th century AD initiated by, and during the see of Timothy I, Catholicos patriarch of the Church of the East and led by a bishop called Thomas. The source given for this missionary work information is Assemani 1719, B.O., vol. 3 part II, pp. 444, 478, 483. However, reading Assemani’s account and his sources, his account does not look to be very convincing or reliable. It looks to me that he has confused two people called Thomas who lived at different times.

    A digital facsimile of Assemani’s book of 1719 is also available on line at:,111852

    Best wishes,

  131. George Mathew says

    Dear Steven Ring,

    Many of those Assyrian’s mentioned in the book got massacred in the ‘Syrian Genocide’. It was not just the Armenians who got ‘Genocided’ but also many of the Urmiah CoE Assyrians (ie. our blood) who got killed. Yet, little is known of this massacre outside the Syriac world. I have been active in Facebook putting up graphic photos of the massacre. Terrible to look at.
    Thanks for the comment about Assemani. I will check it up.

  132. Steven Ring says

    Dear George Mathew,

    The Assyrian genocide you mentioned occurred in 1915 during world war 1. The Assyrians were caught between the Ottomans and the Tsarist Russian advance. Terrible as you say, and someting denied to this day.

    But there was also another one, very little known which occurred in the 1840’s, The Assyrians were massacred in large numbers by the Kurds I believe.

    In 1915 there was a mass exodus of Assyrians fleeing the fighting. They walked from northern Iraq and Iran all the way to Lebanon. Many died on the way. Of those who survived, some stayed in Lebanon and they are still there today, but most took ships and fled as refugees to the USA

    So this book by Grant records a snapshot of Assyrian life, just before these trajedies began.

    Best wishes,

  133. Xavier says

    Dear Steven Ring

    There are several Syriac loan words in Malayalam. Some of them are even part of daily life. I am reporducing below some of the words from a book “Malayalathhile Parakeeya Padangal” (‘Loan words in Malayalam’) by Dr P.M Joseph published by Kerala Bhasha Instiute (Kerala language Institute) 1995 edition. This is not an exhaustive list of Syriac words in Malayalam.

    Some Non-Ecclesiastic Terms
    Sösanna = Lily
    Yavana = Greek
    Mäläkha = Angel
    Ösana = Hosanna (Idiom ‘sing osana to’)
    Saith = Olive
    Kabar = Tomb
    Maskiämma = Wife of a priest
    Käppa (kannäppa) = Ladle

    Ecclesiastical terms

    Kanteela = Candle
    Bäva (from Ava) = Father (God the father/Patriarch/Catholicose etc.)
    Dëvassia = Sebastian
    Mär = Title to Bishops
    Hannän…. = Holy (water)
    Kapyär = Sexton/Sacristan
    Kassïssa = Priest
    Meträn = Bishop
    Meträpölïta = Archbishop
    Sammäsan/Msamsana = Deacon
    Ramban (from Rabban) = Monk
    Urära = Stole = Stole
    Kottïna = equivalent to Alb in Lain rite
    Käppa = Cape like vestment equivalent to chasuble in Latin rite
    Cäsä = Chalice
    Peeläsä = Paten
    Misiha = Christ=Messiah
    Ïsö = Jesus (Yesu by Antiocheans and all non catholics)
    Rooha (Rooha-da-qudisa) = Holy Ghost
    Nivya = Prophet
    Mamdäna = Baptist (John)
    Sahadä = Martyr
    Shleeha = Apostle
    Qoodäsa = Sacrament
    Qurbäna = Mass
    Mammodeesa = Baptism
    Anneeda = Office for the Dead
    Räsa = Most Solemn form of Mass
    Sronos = (thronos) = Altar
    Dukräna = Remembrance
    Pessahä = Passover = Passover
    Häsa = Passion (of Christ)
    Evangalion = Gospel
    Taxä = Liturgical Text
    Parudeesa = Paradise
    Bespurqäna = Prugatory
    Maharon = Excommunication
    Malpän = ‘Guru’ for an aspiring priest

    It is not easy to transliterate the Malayalam words into English. Long vowels have been marked with two dots above (I don’t know what it is called). Some long vowels are given in the English convention (e.g. long I as ‘ee’). Many of the ‘s’ are not the English sibilant but a semi-dental closer to the retroflex ‘sh’. (eg. as in Isho, Osana, qudasa, samsana). You will see that all these words are derived from East Syriac. There are many words which are not recognised as being Syriac in origin. Fricative /th/ is absent in Malayalam. Hence it has changed to /s/ in Malayalam. Some Syriac scholars are of the opinion that original pronunciation of /thau/ with diacritic was also pronounced as /s/. They point out examples like “Assur”. I don’t believe that.

  134. John Mathew says

    Isn’t kapiar from the portuguese?

    Also, has anyone noticed the similarity between the syriac word for tank, well and the malayalam?

  135. John Mathew says

    Isn’t kapiar from the portuguese?

    I doubt “yavana” came to malayalam from syriac. The term is used in many indian languanges to denote greeks, turks, arabs, any west asian foreigner.

    Also, has anyone noticed the similarity between the syriac word for tank, well and the malayalam? I just happened to come across the work a few days ago in my copy of ‘a compendious syriac dict.’.

  136. M Thomas Antony says

    Kiran Samuel,

    All these pictures are copyrighted/or have permission from the copyright holder.
    Please read the section ‘about’ on the navigation bar to know more.

  137. M Thomas Antony says

    Re Syriac words in Malayalam.

    I think the most important word is ‘Isho’ , the name of our Lord. ‘Isho’ is an East Syriac word. Whatever is the denomination, this is the word which comes out automatically from the mouth of any Kerala Nasrani if he sneezes or is about to trip down etc.

    Churches of East Syriac rite still use the word ‘Isho’ and ‘Isho Mishiha’ in their liturgy but the West Syriacs changed it into ‘Yesu Mishiha’ under the influence of their West Syriac Prelates.

    The name ‘Isho’ was used commonly to name individuals,but ironically, people of East Syriac rite don’t use it anymore, but it is still used among people of the West Syriac rite even though it is an East Syriac word.

    Gouvea has reported it in AD 1606 that when Arch Bishop Menesis visited Champakulam Kalloorkkadu church, he changed the names of many people ‘Isho’ which was very common especially in the Southern Kerala. In the Synod of Diamper, using the name ‘Isho’ to name people was banned out of reverence of such a Holy name!

  138. Steven Ring says

    Dear Xavier,

    Thank you for your efforts to post these Syriac loan words in Malayalam.
    I have sifted through the non-ecclesiastical loan-words you have provided to see what I can find and here they are:

    The Non-Ecclesiastic Terms
    Sösanna = Lily : ܫܘ̇ܫܲܢܵܐ = Shoshanā where the West-Syrians would pronounce it Shushanō.
    Yavana = Greek : ܝܲܘܵܢ = Yowān where the West-Syrians would pronounce it Yowōn
    Mäläkha = Angel : ܡܲܠܲܐܟܵܐ = Malaḳā where the West-Syrians would pronounce it Malaḳō.
    Ösana = Hosanna (Idiom ‘sing osana to’) : I think this is from the Hebrew verb Sho‘a meaning “to call out” (see Psalm 5.2) which verb is Hosho‘a in the hophal conjugation meaning “to make cry out”, then adopted into Aramaic as two idiomatic words ܐܘ̇ܫܲܥܢܵـܐ Ōsha‘ nā. meaning “I cry out”.
    Saith = Olive : ܙܲܝܬܵܐ = Zaythā where the West-Syrians would pronounce it Zaythō.
    Kabar = Tomb : ܩܲܒܪܵܐ = Qavrā where the West-Syrians would pronounce it Qavrō. The equivalent classical Hebrew noun is pronounced “Qever”.
    Maskiämma = Wife of a priest. I don’t know this word, but it may be related to the Syriac title Bnāth Qyāmā which means “Daughter of the covenant.”
    Käppa (kannäppa) = Ladle : ܟܵܦܵܐ = Kāphā where the West-Syrians would pronounce it Kōphō.

    It would be interesting to find out whether Malayalam contains any traces of archaic Syriac words and Palestinian Aramaic words. If it does, this would be evidence of very early contact between Malay-ala culture and Judeo-Christian Aramaic culture. For example, a nicely attested Palestinian Aramaic word is found in Acts 1.19. This is the word meaning a field: ܚܲܩܠܵܐ = Ḥaqlā, where the later East-Syriac equivalent is ܩܪܝ̣ܬܵܐ = Qrīthā. Of course, the probability that either of these Syriac words occurs as a loan in Malayalam is very small, but if for the sake of argument, one of these two words is related to the Malayalam equivalent word, then it would tell us something about the earliest date Malayalam and Aramaic encountered each other.

    Best wishes,

  139. John Mathew says

    re: Isho being an east Syriac “word”

    Lets not make a big deal about the difference between east Syriac and west Syriac. Essentially, the two differ in terms of 1) pronunciation of certain vowels (as Ring indicates in his post), and 2) the shapes of the letters.

    Now as for the name of Jesus, Isho/Yesu are merely Syriac equivalents of the actual Aramaic name. Syriac is not Aramaic, it is a latter development. Moreover, sorry to those who believe that Syriac/Aramaic are “holy” language, but they are nothing more than pagan languages, the language of the early conquerors of the Hebrew peoples: the language of the foreign gentile occupiers. Hebrew is the language of most of the OT. So Jesus’s name is not Isho or Yesu but the Hebrew name from while all derive. You can wiki it to find the proper prounciation.

    Aramaic is obviously an important language as it became the lingua franca of Palestine, and so many Scriptures are written in it, and it may have been the language Jesus spoke. Syriac is important because it became the language of the christianized Gentiles of Mesopotamia and so it contains a wealth of Christian literature, as well as those fossils of early scriptures as Ring has seemed to identify.

    But to claim that Isho is an east Syriac word, denies the reality that it is rather just the east Syriac pronunciation of the original Hebrew name of Jesus/Joshua.

    And a minor point, although east Syriac is more archaic than west Syriac (due to its isolation and freedom from the Greek influence that characterizes west Syriac), it does seem that Yesu is more faithful to the Hebrew original than Isho. How that came about, I don’t know.

  140. udayam says

    Hi Everybody,

    Syriani and Malayalam

    The word mala (mounain) in malayalam, malankara etc probably comes from Aramaic. Malaoula is a place in Syria where Aramaic is still spoken, The equivalent Syriac word is Tour (Tour Abdeen). Many words like Appa, Amma, Ayya have Aramaic origins. Ayyappa is Lord the father. Yelayya is The lord who is light (god). Halleluiah probably came from Hallelyelayya ( praise the lord who is light. Sammasha was a priest of the god Baal.
    In Abraya the God’s name is Yhwh (tetragrammaton). Since it was considered too holy to be pronounced they used either Yah or Yehowa. Christ’s name in Abraya is Yeshuwa. The early Christians used the fish symbol to represent Christ. When Christianity was illegal in the Roman empire christians identified themselves like this. One Christian drew half of the fish and if other person could complete it he was welcomed. Icthus (fish) comes from Iseous Christos Theos Huios Soter. Greeks and Copts use the term Iseous. Therefore Isho probably came from Greek.

    These are some more examples of Syriani words in Malayalam
    Mashiha, mar, marrya. martha, malpan, maraanaya, madbaha, masmoora, Mamdana, mooron, margam, mavurba
    Koodasha, kaadeesha, kaasa, kappa, kyamtha, kahna, kasheesha, kabar. Kauma, kurbana, krobenmar

    Sosappa, suwaha, semmasha, skeepa, skeepoosa, sleeha, sleewa, sahada, srophenmar, sathan, soothara, sedra
    Dukhrana, danaha
    Eetha, ethra, eerenmar
    Haikkala, hasha haylavosenmar, habeebai,
    Ooraitha, ophertha, oosana, oyar
    Aalaha, aaneedhe. Akalkarussa, ahai
    Bawa, Beema,bar, barek, bovoosa, bashmaya,
    Ramban, raza, rooha, rooshma
    Nivia, niviyoosa

    parudeesa, peelasa
    tablaitha, teshbuhtha

  141. Binu C Cletus says


    This is for the first time I am commenting on this site. It is not true that only Syrians are Nasranies. The word Nasrani is an Arabic word which simply means Christians. It can be used to designate any Christian in the world regardless of his Rite. I agree with John Mathew that Syriac is a pagan language. It was mainly used by only Manichaeans and Nestorian heretics.

    Dear Thomas Antony, the reason of Synod of Diamper prohibited the use of name Jesus is that it is something ought to be revered the most. Nestorians had no problem with using this name as they did not consider Jesus as god. According to them, Human Jesus and divine Word or Son are two distinct persons which resides in one another. They thought Jesus as only a temple in which holy word resides. So for them, Jesus is just another human being whose name can be given to anyone.

    “Seeing that by our Lord Jesus Christ and his death, we are passed from the old law to the new law of grace, it is therefore reasonable, that we should in all things be ingrafted into the same : and whereas in this bishopric Christians do take several of the names of the saints of the Old Testament, as also several of the names of the country, insomuch that there are but very few called by any of the names of the law of grace ; wherefore the Synod doth command the priests to do all they can to have the names of the law of grace given in baptism, but chiefly those of the holy apostles, and of the saints that are most celebrated in the church, not intending hereby to take them from any devotion that several among them may have for some of the saints of the Old Testament, whose names have been hitherto very common in the diocese, such as Abraham, Jacob, Zacharias, and others; nevertheless from henceforward they shall not presume to take the name of Hijo, which has been very common among them, neither shall the priests ever give it to any, it being the most sweet name of Jesus, to which that respect and reverence is due, that none ought to take it upon them; for that in the naming thereof, ” all knees both in heaven and earth, and under the earth, ought to bow themselves, and every tongue ought to confess, that it is from that Divine name that we desire all the good things that we enjoy on earth;” commanding all that are called by that name, to change it for another when they come to be confirmed; and as for the common names of the country, they may still retain them, if they are such as have been used only among Christians, but not among the heathens, for as to those names which the heathens have in common with Christians, the Synod will not have them to be given in baptism, charging the vicars and priests that baptize, to take care thereof.”
    (Session IV/Decree xvi)

    Btw, the Synod of Diamper was a milestone in the history of Kerala Christians and it was a Revolution against Castes system and untouchability, for the first time in Kerala, if not in India.

    Please do not propagate hatred. There are many Syriac /Aramaic loan words as well as Latin/Portuguese loan words. All Malayali Christians use all of these words despite their rite. There is no distinction between Syrians, Latin Christians or Dalit Christians when using these words. In fact Non-Christian Malayalis also use these words. The words ‘Isho’ or ‘Qurbana’ are used by Latin Christians also. It is a strategy of Syrian Bishops to “divide and rule”.

    The word “Maskiamma”: It is actually “Baski Amma”. “Amma” is ‘mother’ in Malayalam. “Baski” is Syriac which is used by Syrians to denote the wife of a Syrian priest. They respect her although she is just one among the laity. The whole practise is against Christian concept and as St. Paul says in 1 Corinth 7:32-35, undesirable.

    The Malayalam word Yavana came from Sanskrit. It is again from Greek Iona. No Syriac connection.
    The word “Kabar” came from Arabic and is extensively used by Muslims. E.g. Kabarstan (Graveyard). Again no Syriac connection.
    The word “Bava” or “Baba” came to India from Persian during Islamic rule. This word is used more by Hindus and Muslims than Christians. Not Syriac.
    The term “Osana” came from its biblical usage. (Jesus entering Jerusalem city).
    The Malayalam words for a field are “Vayal”, “Paadam”, “Kandam” and “Kalam”. The word for “well” is “Kinar” (‘n’ pronounced as in ‘burn’). The English word “Tank” is used in Malayalam also, I don’t know any Malayalam equivalent. Which are your proposed Syriac Etyma?

  142. George Mathew says

    Dear All,

    John wrote ‘.. So Jesus’s name is not Isho or Yesu but the Hebrew name from while (which) all derive…’

    I read a book published by the ‘Readers Digest’ which dealt with the lives and times during Esho’s years. It said that Hebrew was a ‘no no’ language and the locals in Judea did not speak it (out of fear). Esho’s family spoke Gallilean Aramaic. In which case it was not the Hebrew ‘Yeshua’ It must have been the one used in ‘Gallilean Aramaic’. What was the equalant in Gallilean Aramaic?

    We are aware that Syriac is not a holy language. But, the fact that it was the court language of one of the greatest human beings on planet earth makes it exceedinly lofty. Emperor Kuroosh, Law Giver to the Greeks, Father to the Persians and ‘ANOINTED OF GOD’ TO THE JEWS. Kuroosh is the only Goyim whom Adonai has anointed in the Scripture through the prophet Isaiah. It was not just the Jews who were liberated by Kuroosh, but also every other Ephraim and Goyim. Does this not explain the loyalty to Syriac? Rarely can any man surpass Cyrus, after whom Syriac is named. As Cyrus is considered the Father of ‘Human Rights’, I think, Syriac is fit to be ‘The International Language’ for all mankind. There is challenging language anywhere in sight.

  143. Michael Varghese says

    I agree that there was no language called Hebrew during the time of Jesus because he spoke Aramaic. Syriac and Hebrew came from Aramaic, they are just dialects. Aren’t the first Christians in the world Jewish people? In most countries when people first converted to Christianity, they were for the most part Jewish or half Jewish. I’m assuming that the first Assyrian Christians were of Jewish descent. There were many Jews that were taken in as slaves during the Assyrian persecution, which created many half Jewish people.

  144. Xavier Kalangara says

    I appeal to the writers in this forum to use discretion. Let us not write authoritatively about things in which we are not authorities. Let us not be influenced by our beliefs or bias in judging facts.

    Let us avoid sweeping statements like “Kabar is from Arabic” just because it is found in Arabic.
    Etymologists do research before they make a statement. I just quoted from their work. They are circumspect when they are not absolutely sure. Let me clarify on a few points that cannot be let off without clarification although it is not possible to comment on all the points. I am no expert in these subjects. It just interests me.

    1. Comments on Binu’s posts: Yavana, Kabar, Osana, Bava. We are discussing here where the words came into Malayalam from. The original word is Greek just like Ghivarghse (giorgos). But these entered the language through Syriac (cf. Chandy is Alexander but we could not have got this word directly from Greek.)
    Kabar/Bawa: Muslims use the word “khabar” not “kabar”. Remember that Arabic too is a semitic language with the similar or same words that occur is Syriac. You are quick to assert Arabic origin. If the word ‘Nazranee’ were Arabic how could that be used by Christians in Kerala to call themselves while a similar Syriac word is more easily at their disposal? Just because a word is found in Arabic or Persian that cannot become the source. Malayalam had no direct contact with Persian or Persians. There is a marked effort on your part to discredit Syriac source. You are quick to join the chorus that ‘Syriac is a pagan language’ without trying to understand what John Mathew meant by it. You are bringing in other issues not related to the topic at hand like ‘politics of divide and rule.’ My appeal to you is not to take a stand that some people within the Syrian Catholic community are taking for political reasons. Knowing and acknowledging one’s history and roots is the first step to know and respect others’. There is nothing divisive about it. On the other hand it will help us to understand others. “Diamper was a milestone in the history of Kerala” (indeed). The black Afro-Americans descend from the captured and enslaved people of Africa. Today they lead a decent life. That doesn’t make their slavery a milestone in their history to boast about. Many people in India were happy under the British Raj. Similarly many of Syro-Malabarians would be happier under the Portuguese.

    Maskiamma is from “Bath Qiama” it has no connexion with “Amma” in Malayalam. (See note 3 below).

    2. Comments on Udayan’s post: ‘Mala’ is a Dravidian word. Let us not get confused with similar sounding words. “Ayyappan” is “Ayyan+Appan”. ‘Ayyan’ is derived from Sanskrit “Aryan” through Prakrit “Ajjan” from which “Achhan”, the word for ‘father’ in Malayalam used by Hindus. It also means ‘respectable (person)’. (‘Appan’ is the correct Malayalam word for father. It is found in all Dravidian languages. Just because Hindus use a word that does not become the standard word. :”Appan’ is used by even many Hindus and found in as an appellation to Hindu deities like ‘Ayyappan’ and words like ‘Appooppan’ , ‘Apphan’, ‘Ammayi Appan’ etc.) It appears you have not read the list properly. You have repeated the words again as “some more examples of Syriani words.”

    3. Comments on Steven Ring’s post: ‘Maskiamma’ is, as you rightly guessed, from “Bath Qiama” meaning ‘daughter of the covenant’ a term used, I presume, for what is today known as ‘nun’ in English. (I suggest you use either Estrangela or East Syrian script in your posts. I am not familiar with West Syriac script). I will post some interesting words revealing similarities between Malayalam (and other Dravidian languages) and Syriac as soon as I learn how to type them out. (I have installed the fonts but I am not able to get them displayed on the page. May be someone can help me).

    4. Syriac is a sacred language because Jesus spoke Syriac, although it is a beautiful language on its own merit. It is sacred because of the sacred writings in it, that the gospel was proclaimed in it (Let us not play into the hands of those who want to discredit Syriac by saying that Aramaic is a different language. Aramaic and Syriac are like English of Shakespeare’s times and that of today. No one should have the notion that any language is favoured by God as some people tend to believe. (I have read in a newspaper article that Arabic is spoken in heaven!).

  145. Binu C Cletus says


    I mentioned the narrow-mindedness and power politics of Syrian bishops since the entire problem arose from it. All problems in Kerala Catholic church started when a group claimed themselves to be distinct from others due to their aristocracy or antiquity. A person is judged on his own faith in god and his own deeds, not on how many generations of his ancestors were Christians. The Syrian Catholics say “we are different, we will pray in our own way”, despite they share the same creed with rest of the global Catholics. What will you think if the Dalit Christians claim that they need a separate church with their own liturgy which resembles the customs and rituals of their Hindu grandfathers?

    This post is about Persian crosses, not Syriac words in Malayalam. Now who is bringing unrelated issues? Why do you people discuss such superficial matters? Why do you keep mum on more serious issues? What is your opinion about the identity of Persian crosses? Are they Nestorian or Catholic? If they are Nestorian, why do you keep them in Syro-Malabar churches? If they are Catholic, why they are kept in Jacobite and Orthodox churches? If these crosses are your tradition, then you are Pahlavi Christians, not Syriac Christians, because it contains no Syriac writings, but Pahlavi writings.

    Your example of African Americans does not suit here. Will you pray to a Hindu god because your ancestors were Hindus? Will you walk nude, if you know your forefathers wore nothing in stone ages? Will you go for hunting because it is our tradition? A Syrian Catholic is born as a Catholic; he must be loyal to his Catholic belief. Knowing that his grandfathers were Nestorians will not make him follow that creed.

    If you think Synod of Diamper was bad, go and read the decrees first.

    If Aramaic and Syriac are same, why do you use Syriac? Just drop it and start using archaic Aramaic.

    Kindly understand the term “Yavana” is used in ancient Sanskrit literature as well as Tamil literature of Sangam age.

    Neither “Khabar” nor “Kabar” is correct. It is actually “Qabr”. In Malayalam we don’t have a letter to denote the actual pronunciation of this letter; hence we use “Kh”. It is same as “Malakha” which is actually “Malaqa” in Syriac. There is no difference between Muslims and Christians when saying “Khabar”. People use more common form regardless of their religion. For example, although “Malak” is Arabic for angel, Muslims use Syriac originated “Malakha”. Different people and different religions brought many new words, all of which we accepted without discrimination. “Janal”, “Casera”, etc are Portuguese, but all Malayalis use these words.

    There is something interesting. Tamil word for cross is “Siluvai” which came from Syriac, although there are no Syrians among Tamilians. On the other hand “Curiz” which came from Latin is more common in Malayalam than “Sleeva”.

    There is nothing wrong in using “Amma”. It is an honorary word in Malayalam, as you know. The Jacobites near Diamper and PuthanCruz do not even use this, they call her simply “Ammaayi”. But how can a married woman with children be called a “Nun” or is it again Syrian tradition that Nuns should marry (as the priests)?


    How did you type Syriac? I can type Malayalam using Google IME. Is there any such input method for Syriac?

    മലയാളം വായിക്കാന്‍ അറിയുന്നവര്‍ ശ്രദ്ധിക്കുക. ഇവിടെ മലയാളി പേരുകളില്‍ കമന്റ് ഇടുന്ന പലരും മലയാളികളോ കേരള ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികളുമായി ബന്ധമുള്ളവരോ അല്ല. ചിക്കാഗോയിലെ നെസ്തോറിയന്‍ പാത്രീയാര്ക്കീയസിന്റെ കീഴിലുള്ള, അമേരിക്ക, ബ്രിട്ടന്‍, കാനഡ തുടങ്ങിയ രാജ്യങ്ങളില്‍ താമസിക്കുന്ന ഇറാനി, സിറിയ, ഇറാഖി വംശജരായ അസീറിയന്‍ ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികളാണ് പലരും. അവരുടെ വാദഗതികള്‍ മുഖവിലയ്ക്ക് എടുക്കുന്നതിനു മുന്പ്ന‌ ചിന്തിക്കുക, നിങ്ങള്‍ നെസ്തോറിയന്‍ വിശ്വാസത്തില്‍ പെടുവാന്‍ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നുണ്ടോ എന്ന്. ഇത് ഞാന്‍ മലയാളത്തില്‍ എഴുതുന്നത് മലയാളി ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികള്‍ മാത്രം മനസിലാക്കാനാണ്.

  146. John Mathew says

    Binu, your post was ridiculous.

    1. Jesus is a very common name. Anyone named Joshua is using the name of Christ. There are plenty of RCs in this world named Jesus. If I’m not mistaken a Syriac Orthodox bishop had the name as well. And many East Syriac prelates used the name in their compound names.

    2. I mispoke. Aramaic, the historic root of Syriac, was a pagan language. Syriac, which is not the same language although it is very similar, is mainly a Christian language since the majority of its literature since its inception was Christian.

    Cyrus was an Aryan, a Persian. His language was Persian. The language of his empire was Aramaic (due to legacy reasons; the world he conquered spoke aramaic), and Persian. It’s unlikely syriac, a language with zero relation to King Cyrus, would be named after him directly. I’ve seen a meme on the web to that effect; it has no basis. There are 500 years separating Cyrus and the language Syriac.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Syriac and its literature. So much so, that I put effort into learning it to some degree. But I can’t stand people with superficial knowledge making insane claims. The syriac peoples are worse than us in this respect; some of them make statements like “God spoke Syriac to Abraham” ignoring the two millenia gap between Syriac’s birth and the era of Abraham. It would make more sense to invoke akkadian or even hebrew in that unprovable statement than a late language like Syriac.

  147. rp says

    As I heard from an expert said. There were many believers witnessed Jesus Christ resurrection and heard from apostles and converted. Good news also speeded to Rome and there were also roman Christians. but their evil side of Romans kept on persecuting Christians at the same time lot of Jewish or Israelites either joined with Rome or fled to Antioch and live as a part of Eastern Christianity. Since lot of Jews itself joined Rome, many mixed with the Romans and eventually Romans barbarism began to change. Nestorian or Anthiochan Christianity can be a non Jewish one but many of them were from Jewish and the Antiochean.

  148. John Mathew says


    What are you even talking about? No language called Hebrew during the time of Jesus?! What have you been reading to come up with such a ridiculous statement?

    Perhaps you are talking about alphabets. If so, then yes, the Aramaic alphabet became the prototype for the quasi-cursive Syriac alphabet, and the square script used in *modern* Hebrew. But the Hebrew language itself is far older than the modern square “Assyrian” script it uses. And it had a script as well: the paleo-Hebrew alphabet (which, AFAIK the Samaritans still use today), which is what the oldest Hebrew inscriptions are written in. It looks like the father of all alphabets: the (pagan) Phoenician alphabet. You can even find Bibles (OTs) that are written in it. If you look at the websites of peoples who advance belief in the holy NAME of God, which I won’t reproduce out of respect (Y…H), more often than not, they write the holy NAME in the paleo-Hebrew alphabet, and not the square script.

    The OT was written in Hebrew. It is a real language — an ancient language — the language of the ancient Hebrew peoples. Aramaic was the language of the pagan neighbors of the Hebrew peoples. When pagan Aramean-speaking peoples conquered the Hebrew nation, they imposed the new language. And much like Indians speak English nowadays, due to being under the British empire, the Hebrew peoples spoke Aramaic in the low centuries BC/AD. Hebrew is no more a dialect of Aramaic, than Sanskrit is a dialect of English. Both languages are, respectively, members of the same family (the former being Semitic, the latter being Indo-European), but there is no parent-child relationship.

    As Xavier said (but in a more diplomatic, Christian manner): get your facts straight before spouting.

    And yes, former Jews formed many of of the first Christian communities. But don’t forget the New Testament: the peoples many of the epistles were directed at were peoples North and West of Jerusalem (in fact, none of the epistles were directed eastward!)—Greco-Romans (pagans as well as Hellenized Jews) who adopted Christianity. As well, other early nations who adopted Christianity were the Egyptians (which included Greeks, Hellenized Jews, and pagans), the Assyrians/Arameans (ditto as above), the Armeneans (pagans), etc. It was a mix of ex-pagan, and ex-Jew. Not the uniform ex-Jewish communities that some seem to be describing.

  149. John Mathew says

    Fr. Placid had in some articles mentioned some interesting similarities between Syriac and Malayalam. For example, the words for “I”, “mother”, etc., are similar. I don’t have article on hand, so can’t reproduce right now.

    I think the theory was that the ancestors of the Dravidians and the Akkadians may have had very close contact back in the Indus Valley Civilization era (assuming the Dravidians were indeed a part of that civilization).

    To Binu:
    Is your knowledge of Catholicism so limited that you believe that the easterners must follow the Latin Rite to be considered Catholic? If so, then what were your Patriarchs thinking when they allowed the Maronites, the West Asian Syrian Catholics, the West Asian Chaldeans, the Melkites, the Greek-rite Catholics, etc., to enter into communion with very little change to their faith?

    Even the Chaldeans maintain the vast majority of their “Nestorian” practices, liturgy, etc. All use the same artifacts, songs, lectionaries, liturgical calendars, etc., as their non-Uniate counterparts (sorry to the “anti-Uniate” crowd, but the term is easy to type and very descriptive, hence I use it).

    Rome was a great supporter of Syriac studies; it was certainly not a heretical language to them.

    There is no Christology that is expressed by the Pahlavi-crosses in Kerala; why should they be abandoned by the children of the fathers who brought/carved those crosses? Rome doesn’t demand it. The Maronites and the Syrian Catholics and Chaldeans were never asked by Rome to stop using the prayers of their fathers, even though those fathers were considered “heretics” by Rome.

    Or are you more Catholic than the Pope, and the scholars at the Vatican?

  150. Steven Ring says

    Dear All,

    Regarding Syriac computing: Please only attempt the following set-ups if you know your way around computers. If not, I would strongly advise you to find some young person in your house who is good at setting up computers and ask for some help! 🙂

    The way I write Syriac words and include them in these posts, is to write my post first in Open Office using the Estrangelo Edessa font included with the “Meltho” font distribution and freely downloadable from the following site by Dr. George Kiraz:
    Open Office is a free office software available on-line from:

    After installing the Meltho fonts, you will also need set up the Windows language bar and select one of the two Syriac keyboard layouts included in the Meltho font distribution. I have set up the language bar so I can select UK English or Syriac, but many other languages can also be added to the language bar if you so wish. In Windows, you can access the language bar set-ups through the Control Panel using the Regional and Language Options application. Click the ‘Keyboards and Languages’ tab and go from there.

    The key thing with using non-English fonts in these news group posts, is to use a UNICODE font, like the Estrangelo Edessa font just mentioned. Then write your post in Open Office Writer or MS Word etc. including English text and sections of text in other languages, changing the language selected on the language bar to switch between languages as you write. When you have finished writing your post, just copy and paste it into the NSC Network window and click POST.

    Your machine is now set up to write Syriac, or other languages and you are almost there.

    If you cannot see the Syriac texts in my posts in your Web Browser, you will also need to adjust your Browser to handle UNICODE fonts. You should then be able to read any language posted here using a UNICODE font.

    Finally, on my machine the Syriac text renders correctly in my posts, but the font size is too small. To solve this problem, you can also copy posts into your word processor and enlarge the Syriac text a bit.

    Best wishes,

  151. Steven Ring says

    Dear All,

    Regarding Syriac computing, Part II.

    Assuming you have set up your machine to write in some other languages like Pahlavi, Syriac or Malayalam, I would also recommend including Roman font TRANSCRIPTIONS of the Syriac words just after the Syriac text. You can also write these languages entirely using a transcription font. This approach has many advantages. It is easier to write and you will instantly help many people who want to read your post, but who do not know the Syriac or the Malayalam alphabet and it will enable you to include the pronunciation of the Syriac or Malayalam words more easily.

    I only know one font which is quite good for transcribing Syriac text. I can recommend using the ‘Gentium basic’ UNICODE font because this font includes most of the diacritics you will need to transcribe Syriac:
    For example, here are the lower case letters from the ‘Gentium basic’ font:
    The 22 ordinary lower case Syriac letters: a b g d h w z ḥ ṭ y k l m n s ‘ p ṣ q r sh t
    The lower case spirant (softened) Syriac letters: v gh ḍ ḳ ph th
    The most important Syriac vowels: a ā e ī o ō ū
    The shewa (i.e. the very short e vowel) can also be written if needed: ě
    The upper case letters are also available in the same font.

    Best regards,

  152. Steven Ring says

    Dear All,

    I have been sifting through the Syriac loan words into Malayalam posted by several people to this list, so thank you for posting these. Most of these are unremarkable Syriac words from an East Syriac source. However, there is one potentially very interesting word that caught my eye as posted by Udayam above, (see post 27500). The word in question is “tablaitha”. I may be mistaken but this looks the same as the Syriac word ܛܒܠܝܬܐ pronounced ṭbelāytā. It would be interesting to know what this word means in Malayalam? In Syriac it means several things, but importantly it is a specialist term for a portable altar-table-top which was consecrated by a bishop and used only as a surface to place the Mysteries of the cup and the bread and the book of the gospel. As soon as a ṭbelāytā was brought into any tent or a building, it sanctified that space as a place of worship. The use of a ṭbelāytā is known until the 7th century when it was used by the wandering Christian-Arab tribes of Iraq and Syria as a means to sanctify a tent for their use as a place of worship during their yearly migrations. After the 7th century, many Christian Arabs ceased their migrations and started to live settled lives around cities (including Aleppo in Syria and Al-Ḥira, now Kufa in Southern Iraq). So the use of this word to denote a portable altar dates from that early period. It is also a distinct probability that any missionary work done in India would have required the use of a ṭbelāytā to celebrate the Mysteries whilst travelling and on the move by sea, or overland.

    So, what meanings does ṭbelāytā have in Malayalam?

    Best wishes,

    PS. Christian-Arabs formed a very important part of the Church of the East. They spoke Arabic every day. They were the earliest people to use Arabic to write poetry, but they used Syriac in their sacred literature and liturgy. They even had their own Christian kingdom from the 4th to the 7th century AD. They were ruled by the Lakhmid kings of the Tanukhayé Christian-Arab tribes. These Arab kings had the full recognition of the Persian Shahs until AD 602.

  153. John Mathew says


    As a former acolyte in the Syriac ortho. Church, I can confirm that the tableetha is the term used for the portable altar you described. But since the Syriac orthodox in india is a pretty faithful copy of the west Asian church, there is no surprises here. The tableetha is an integral part of syriac orthodox worship and so it must be present in India. The question is when it was brought here; if the church of the east does not use this, then it is likely the tableetha was brought with the Jacobite missionaries of the last few centuries.

    I must apologize for my tone, because it was you who brought out the most remarkable fact in this discussion: the Tamil word for cross. Regardless of your other points which are debatable, this is one fact that deserves investigation.

    Since Malayalam is a young language, I believe steven’s search for syriac or Aramaic fossils in Malayalam will be pointless … If looking for fossils to demonstrate ancient contact with the Syriac church, looking for such fossils in a young language like Malayalam makes little sense. Rather Tamil should be the starting point, archaic Tamil to be precise, for any investigations of this nature. Malayalam is only six or seven centuries old, right? Syriac loanwords in Malayalam do not prove anything interesting since we already know that contact with the syriacs dates to at least the period of existence of malayalam. If you want to find something really fascination, Tamil will have to be investigated.


    Does anyone know the history of the name “Yesudas”. If I’m not mistaken this is the malayalam equivalent of Abd-Isho, servant of Jesus, right?

    I’m not claiming that this name came via Syriac, but I would like to know if anyone has details of its actual history.

  154. George Mathew says

    Dear John,
    Ofcourse, I am not a Syriac scholar. But I will stand by what I wrote that Syriac is a direct offshoot of Cyrus’s Court language at Babylon.
    By BC 539, Cyrus conquers Babylon. He liberates all slaves, Judha, Ephraim and Goyim. He is certainly Persian/Aryan but his court language is Aramaic and that particular court language which was classical/legalistic leaning that was used in his court came later to be known as ‘Syriac’. I do not know when the word Syriac came to be used by the year BC 500, but by the 2nd Century AD, the word was certainly used.
    By around BC 332, Alexander conquered Babylon and soon after it fell into the hands of his general Selucid. I believe that Selucid ‘transported’ the entire Old Babylonian population to his ‘New Babylon’ which came to be known as ‘Selucia’ (which is so famous in Syriac Christianity). When Selucid shifted the population from Old Babylon, the art, language and culture also got shifted. Along went the Aramaic court language of Cyrus. There was no King or Emperor in Babylon, who had been as magnificient as Cyrus and though Cyrus was Persian, his court language came to stay because of his personality. The language easily survived the ‘transportation’ to Selucia and Selucia is East of the Eurphrates. And you know what Josephus told about what is East of Euphrates? He said that there were so many of the Northern Israeli tribes, that they can not be counted.
    Who gave these Northern Israeli tribes and the Jews their freedom from slavery? It was Cyrus! Who were the backbone of the CoE and the other Syriac Churches? It was the Jews and the Northern Israeli tribes. These Isarelis would have certainly used the classical Aramaic language which was familiar to them and to which they owed immense loyalty (No Cyrus, No Israel and No Israel, No Esho). Daniel the prophet stayed back at Babylon along with many other Jews, meaning that not all Jews returned to Jerusalem with Ezra and Nehemia to rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem. Being Magis, the descendents of Daniel were close to the Babylonian court and of-course very close to the court language which reached the pinnacle of it’s glory under Cyrus.
    I simply mean to say that the early Nazereans and Christians along with the Babylonian and Neo-Babylonian Jews would have leaned on the court language of Cyrus, which later by AD 200 came to be identified as a ‘dialect of Aramaic’ called ‘Syriac’. Earlier, the Jews, Nazereans and the Christians shared Syriac, but today, the language lives only amongst the Nazereans and the Syriac Christians.
    I do not know for shure how the dialect got the name ‘Syriac’. Whether it has anything to do with it’s rhyming with the name Cyrus or Assyria. But it is certainly heavily linked to a very great personality, without whom even Esho could not have appeared on earth. Not that Cyrus was greater than Esho, but that Cyrus was crucial and played a leading center stage role.

  155. Dr.Paulose Nellikattil says

    Dear Steven Ring

    These are few more Syriac loan words in Malayalam. Similar words are used in Malayalam books /notes written in 19th century. This is a better source as Malayalam is relatively very young language .

    Malpan Pattam- Doctorate
    Rnasure- Confession
    Oprushma- Confirmation
    Kantheesngal- Saints
    Kranthaperunnal- Resurrection festival
    Kaura- cremation
    Thenyan Namosa- Avarthana pustakam
    Nasrani- Christian ( Suriyani Christiani)
    Praksenna- Act of the Apostles
    Martha-Saint (F)
    Mesren- Egypt
    Sahada- Martyar
    Saha- Chapter
    Hagmasa Rabsa- Book of Wisdom
    Haikala- Church inside
    Urahaya- Ephesus

    May be you are aware that until 1970’s, these Indian Churches used Syriac, as the liturgical langauge for the Qurbana. So many daily words in church use are a mixture of Syriac and Malayalam like, Kodiyum Sleeva ( Possession outside the Church) .

  156. Dr.Paulose Nellikattil says

    Dear Binu

    Have you seen pictures of Pope John Paul praying in front of the Saint Thomas Cross ? That was from a Lathin Church in India. Why do they keep Saint Thomas Cross ?

    There is a Syriac inscription also in one of the crosses. Speaking authoritatively about things you don’t know is not a good habit as Xavier noted . “ Syriac” after all is the most ancient liturgical language known in India. The Cross you are talking about is the most ancient symbol of Christianity in India.
    Even if you don’t respect, the hatred aint nice. It was priests from Syro Malabar Church ( who had “Syriac” as their liturgical language), made up some 65% of the priests in Latin rite in India. This was the scene in India till 1990’s. You happen to think that “ Syro Malabar Church” was created for aristocracy and antiquity. Thats funny. I think this is a confusion by seeing the common scene of 2008 Birla Cement erected churches with board as established by Thomas the Apostle. Why don’t study about Catholic Church before lecturing on “Sui iuris” churches ?

    On the Malayalam Cliche you posted: Can you be sensible ? Do you think that the Indian Christians lack intellectual ability to engage in conversations to study about them faithfully ?

    “Nasrani” means “ Suriyani Christianikal” in Malayalam. This meaning is clearly given in the old dictionaries in Malayalam.
    1) Benjamin Baily Dictionary gives Nasrani meaning as “Syro Roman Christian”
    2) Gundert Dictionary gives Nasrani meaning as “Syrian or Syro Roman Christian” also “Mappila”
    3) Shabtha Tharavali gives Nasrani meaning as “Suriyani Christiyani”
    4) Shabtha Sagaram gives Nasrani meaning as “Suriyani Christiani”
    5) Malayalam Lexicon gives Nasrani meaning as “Followers of Christ”

    “Kabar”- Kabar was very common among Syriac Christians use. Even for the cremation of latin bishops of 17th,18th century, the records say “Kaura”- meaning cremation- again Syriac word.This was the influence of Syriac in Kerala Church.

    “Yavana” is also from “Syriac” .In ancient Sanskrit ( Yapana) meaning “food”..

  157. Xavier Kalangara says

    You said ‘the entire problem arose from politics of Syrian bishops’. Confront ideas with ideas. If you have a valid reason to believe what you believe, stand for it. It will be respected if you have an open mind. But don’t resort to remarks like this to support your views. John Mathew has given an apt reply to the mindset of people who think what is proper to Latin rite is what is proper to Catholicism. These people will probably benefit from reading the “Varthamanpusthakam”. One needs to understand the deep spirituality and theology in the Eastern Rites to appreciate it. It is not because “we are different” but we have a treasure to safeguard and hand over to the posterity. These are not “superficial matters”. When it comes to conforming to Latinised customs even if it is superficial spirituality, it is a grave matter and when it comes to Eastern Spirituality things are “superficial” and intended to stir up trouble! It is because the ghost of Menezis still haunts our leaders.

    You need to have a proper understanding of Nestorianism. I think there were posts before on this subject. For your sake, however please be informed that the Catholic church does not regard any church as Nestorian past or present. There never was a heresy called Nestorianism. It existed in the imagination certain people who wanted to belittle the Church of the East. If you are still not convinced take it from the horse’s mouth. Read the Joint declaration by the “Nestorian” Patriarch and the Catholic Pope from the Vatican web site itself.

    It is not Malakha but Malaka with a soft /k/. There are no aspirates in Syriac, there are only fricatives. /Q/ cannot be transliterated as the aspirate /kh/ in Malayalam as even some scholars in Malabar do. If at all aspirate can be used we can use it only for “heth” to write words like Yokhannan or Denakha.

    There are no Syrians among Tamilians now. But there were. They all migrated to Malabar and those who remained became Latin. This happened all over India. Fr. Thomas Nangachiveetil gives details in his book “Asiayile Marthomma Sabhakal”. I think ‘Siluva’ would be the vestige of the old Syriac in Tamil.

    Your fear that Assyrians are trying to usurp this forum is unwanted. Who is afraid of the truth?

    John Mathew
    The word ‘Kapyar’ is from Syriac. It is derived from “kabura” meaning one who digs graves (the same root as “kabar”). That was perhaps one of his duties!

  158. Steven Ring says

    Dear Binu,

    Your question about the wives of priests and the term Bnāth Qyāmā or ‘Daughters of the Covenant’.
    This term is old, even by Syriac standards. It originally referred to female ascetics who lived and served the churches in the community. They were not nuns in the RC sense. (The Syriac churches had more kinds of ascetic than the RC church and practised asceticism before Anthony the Great went out into the deserts of Egypt in the 3rd century.) The Bnāth Qyāmā lived simply, often in very basic accommodation attached to a church building.

    Your point that we are off topic talking about Syriac loan words in Malayalam. On the surface you are right, but this thread about the Mar Thoma Sleeva is really about the identity and origin of Christianity in India, (the cross being an obvious symbol indicating the presence of Christians). I think Syriac loan words in languages like Malayalam and as you also pointed out, older languages like Tamil and Sanskrit might be able to shed some light on that question.

    Dear John Mathew,

    If ṭbelāytā or ‘altar table’ is West Syrian and younger than the 17th century, I wonder how it grew East Syrian vowels? Perhaps all Syriac words were changed into their Eastern form on contact with Malayalam, in which case you might be right about there being little point investigating these loan words any further. What do other people think? Binu’s suggestion about the Tamil word for cross is interesting. Are there other Syriac loan words found in Sanskrit and Tamil?

    Best wishes,

  159. Binu C Cletus says


    Thanks for your comments regarding Syriac computing. Computing in Indian languages is comparatively easy. You don’t need to know the keyboard layout. You can type in Roman script and the software will automatically convert it to corresponding word. We can also convert from one script to another automatically. That is, if you cannot read Malayalam but can understand it, you shall convert an entire webpage in Malayalam to Roman script or some other script using tools like Google Script Converter. This is so useful that I can read Tamil and Telugu blogs in Malayalam script. I wish there were any such tools available for Syriac also.

    Unfortunately there is no word “Tableetha” in Malayalam. Some Syrian churches may be using it as an Ecclesial term, but they use it as a Syriac word, not Malayalam word. You can’t find this word in any Malayalam dictionary.


    From where did you learn Malayalam is only six centuries old? According to “Antiquity of Malayalam: Recent epigraphical evidences” published by Dravidian Linguistic Association, Veerakkal inscriptions (Theni District, Tamil Nadu) that date back to BC 2nd Century are in Malayalam. This is a disputed issue, but everyone agrees that Malayalam is at least fourteen centuries old even though Tamil continued to be used as an intellectual language until 17th century.

    I don’t know any Roman Catholic with the name Jesus. The names Joshua and Jesus may have come from same root, but they are not same. It is like Jehova and Eve are different, although both came from “Haya” (life). As you say, the names of Eastern Syrian prelates are not simply “Jesus” but either Abd-Isho or Abd-Mishiha which mean “Servant of Jesus” or “Servant of Christ”. Malayalam names “Yesudas” and “Kristhudas” also mean the same. There is nothing wrong in using these names. It is like a Muslim can be named “Abdullah”, but not “Allah”.

    Of course my knowledge is limited, as god is only omniscient. But, is your knowledge in your own church history so limited that you think everything was alright before Synod of Diamper? Do you think the implementation of Latin liturgy was the only thing happened in SoD? Are 200 decrees and discussions of these many days needed for that? Do you think Nestorianism is a culture? Are the tunes of the songs sung or embroidery of cassocks that make somebody Nestorian? Is this what you learned from your historical connections with Persians and Assyrians?

    If Roman Catholic Church promotes Syriac language, it shows their broad-mindedness. But what is the attitude of your Syrian bishops towards other languages? Do they support learning other languages such as Latin or Greek? Syriac is of course a great source of errors. If it is not a pagan language, it is at least a heretic language. It is like Sanskrit, most of the writings of which are Pagan although some recent Christian writings are there. Most of writings in Modern Syriac (I am not talking about archaic Aramaic) are either Manichaean or Nestorian. Vatican is tolerant to even Sanskrit. For other eastern Christians such as Greeks, Maronites, Armenians or Assyrians, they knew the languages they use. So it was safe to allow them to use those liturgies and books, because they can wisely reject anything they come across if it is against Catholic belief. But for Kerala Syrians, they cannot understand Syriac, but only read it. They were saying the Syriac prayers like today’s Hindus who utter Sanskrit hymns without understanding them. So the safest thing to them for not falling again to heresy was to implement Latin liturgy. Unlike the eastern churches, Catholics give importance to Creed, not rite.

    You people seem to make new theories to relate Malayalam with Syriac. So I am giving here a list of similar words in English and Malayalam:

    Kill = Koll
    One = Onn
    Cry = Caray
    Eight = Ett
    War = Por
    Holler = Alar
    Fight = Payat
    Way = Wazhy
    Am, Are = Aan
    All = Ella
    Nation = Nat
    Take = Etuk
    Petal = Etal
    Iron = Irump
    Speech = Pech
    Tell = Choll
    It = Ith
    That = Ath


    Let me tell you the same: Speaking authoritatively about things you don’t know is not a good habit.

    tasyaa hu.mkaarato jaataah kaambojaa ravi sannibhaah |
    uudhasah tu atha sa.njaataah pahlavaah shastra paanayah ||
    yoni deshaat ca yavanah shakri deshaat shakaah tathaa |
    roma kuupesu mlecchaah ca haariitaah sa kiraatakaah ||

    [“From the ‘hums’ of her mooing Kaambojas similar to sunshine are born, from her udder Pahlavas wielding weaponry are born, from the area of her privates YAVANAS, likewise from her rectal area Shakas, and from her hair-roots Mlecchas, Haariitaas along with Kiratakas are issued forth.”] [Valmiki Ramayana: 1-55-2, 3]

    taih aasiit samvritaa bhuumih shakaih yavana mishritaih ||
    prabhaavadbhirmahaaviiryairhemaki.njalkasannibhaih |
    yadvaa prabhaavadbhih mahaaviiryaih hema ki.njalka sa.mnibhaih |

    [“Then the earth was pervaded with the Shakas associated with YAVANAS, who have effectuation and bravery in overcoming their enemy forces, and who are golden in bodily colour similar to the golden pistils of flowers which complexion is outlandish.”] [Valmiki Ramayana: 1-54- 21, 22]

    Yavanas are also mentioned in Sangam work “Paṭṭiṉappālai”.

    Muslims in Kerala refer to their graveyards as “Kabarstan”. No Syrians use this word. This means that the term “Kabar” came from Arabic, not Syriac. If it was from Syriac, Syrians would have related words. Also it would have been pronounced “kavar” rather than “Kabar”.

    You yourself are giving the proof for meaning of Nasrani:

    5) Malayalam Lexicon gives Nasrani meaning as “Followers of Christ”

    It is simply common sense to think the word “Nasrani” is the Malayalam equivalent for “Nazarene”. There is no wonder it was initially used to refer Syrians when no other Christians were here.

    I am sure Indian Christians are sensible, that is why I urged them to think before believing something.

    Syriac on Persian Cross:

    “There is a local tradition at Kottayam that the larger cross is the more ancient of the two, the smaller cross being a late copy of it. But this tradition is entirely discredited by the archaeological evidence. For not only is the larger cross representative of a younger and more eclectic art, but it bears, as an integral part of its design, an additional inscription, a quotation from the Syriac Peshitta version of Galatians vi 14, written in a hand that cannot be older than the tenth century.”
    – C. P. T. WlNCKWORTH.

    Is this what you are talking about? It can be a later addition. Again, I don’t want to prove anything. I am not saying they are either Nestorian or Catholic. But you Syrians should make it clear to which creed it belongs, because you claim it is your “Religio Cultural Logo”.


    “No Cyrus, No Israel and No Israel, No Esho!”

    Can I put something similar?

    No Romans, No Crucifixion and No Crucifixion, No Christianity!!

  160. Xavier Kalangara says

    You say “If Roman Catholic Church promotes Syriac language, it shows their broad-mindedness” ………….. So the safest thing to them for not falling again to heresy was to implement Latin liturgy. Unlike the eastern churches, Catholics give importance to Creed, not rite”.

    What an ignominy!! Who gave you these preposterous ideas? First of all you equate “Catholic Church” with Latin church. You mean to say that It is the broadmindedness of the Latin church that is tolerating Syriac, that the Syrian and other Orientals are second rate Catholics who are at the mercy of the Latin church? You also mean to say that all that is Latin is sublime and all that is in Syriac is heresy? I am forced to say that you ought to learn your catechism well if you have these ideas. Catholic church is Catholic encompassing all rites of early Christendom. It is just a coincidence that the Pope, is the bishop of Rome, a Latin diocese. There is no condescending attitude by one rite to another.

  161. John Mathew says

    1. Regarding the Syriac tradition, I think it was the Pope who said that the Catholic Church breathed via two lungs, the Greco-Roman West, and the Syriac East. So your opinion seems to be heterodox.

    Further, if you believe that it is only Manichaeans and Nestorians (“heretics”) that used Syriac, then perhaps you’re forgetting the Maronites and the Jacobites. The former are Catholic and the latter has a Catholic counterpart which uses the exact same liturgical texts, with very little modification. You are also ignorant of the fact that Mar Ephrem, a Syriac writer, is a saint of the Catholic Church. As is Mar Isaac of Nineveh, who was, by affiliation, a “Nestorian heretic”. I believe Mar Jacob of Sarug is also considered a Saint by the Catholics, and he was (despite the ridiculous arguments put forth by revisionist Maronites) a Jacobite.

    2. Regarding the name Jesus.

    Are you serious? You’ve never met a Roman Catholic named Jesus? I’m not talking about Indian RCs, but globally? This is a very common name amongst Latin American and Spanish RCs. There are Maronites/Melkites who use the name Issa (Jesus in Arabic). This is not forbidden by the Christian Church. I don’t understand why Diamper forbade it, since they were Ports. and must have been familiar with Spanish use of that name.

    Jesus, Joshua, Isho, Yeshu, Koshy, Iesus: these are all equivalent. They don’t come from the same “root” as you seem to be proposing, rather they are different forms of the same underlying name by different cultures. Joshua is an anglicization of the Hebrew. Jesus is an anglicization of the Greek Iesus which was a Greacization of the Hebrew name. If you look at the Septuagint, you’ll see the Graecization of Joshua is Iesus — the same name as Iesus bar Sirarch (in English, Jesus bar Sirach).

  162. John Mathew says


    Until you get the opinions of others on this topic, here’s mine.

    You wrote: “If ṭbelāytā or ‘altar table’ is West Syrian and younger than the 17th century, I wonder how it grew East Syrian vowels?”

    You don’t need to wonder too hard here. This process is very well documented (see Istvan Perczel’s work, for example, for a non-native assessment). Before the hardcore Antiochianization of the Puthenkoor in the 19th century, the West Syriac liturgical texts were copied into *East Syriac* by local scribes. That’s how many West Syriac words grew East Syriac vowels, and still retain that vocalization amongst the masses of the West Syriac Christians today. For a long time, it was only amongst the hardest-core Jacobites would you have heard “Qurbono”. For most people in the Jacobite/Orthodox Churches, it was always Qurbana. And ditto for the other ecclesiastic terms.

    A cursory look at the catalog of the Buchanan collection at Cambridge will show this to you: many (though not all) West Syriac works were written in East Syriac script.

  163. Kiran Samuel says


    Can anybody tell me how far the languages Syriac, Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic are mutually comprehensible? Can someone with a thorough understanding comment?

  164. Binu C Cletus says


    When I say “eastern church”, I mean schismatic and heretic churches that are not in communion with Rome. I don’t mean the different rites inside Catholic Church.


    I am not a Malabar Syrian to Copy+Paste from Persia or Syria. So if South Americans use name “Jesus”, it does not affect me. I don’t follow them. I said only I have not seen anybody. I personally believe that it is like naming a person “God”. It is same as you don’t use the word “Jehova”. May be Jesus and Joshua are the same name, but both Malayalam and English Bibles use these name as distinct. So you won’t feel clumsy when you call someone Mr. Joshua or Dr. Joshua, although calling someone Mr. Jesus or Dr. Jesus is really weird. I am not seeing it as any “sin”, but a psychological issue.

    Both Maronites and Jacobites use western Syriac. It was mainly used by Catholics or comparatively less-harmful monophysites. On the other hand, eastern Syriac is a channel for serious errors. I hope you know that Catholic church Canonize a person based on his life and belief, not the language he spoke. I don’t know much about “Jacob of Serugh”, but I am sure that Catholic church will not Canonize a Jacobite. If you don’t know already, ‘Jacobite’, ‘Nestorian’, etc are not rites, but distinct theological doctrines which Catholic church cannot allow.

  165. Admin says

    Binu C Cletus: I am sure that you don’t have any information to state that the participants in this forum are non Keralite Christians. Most of us are proficient in Malayalam but prefer to post comments in English as it is easy to do so. Also, none of us here uses the forum to propagate any faith. People are genuinely interested in the topics discussed here. 98% of the comments are from genuine people who have interest in Christian history of India. Of course, recently there are some like ‘SMC Catholic’, whose only agenda is to abuse and he likes to pose as someone from Manimala, where in reality he is from another place.

    Dr.Paulose Nellikattil: Will you please post a scanned image of the picture you mentioned, if possible. I have heard about this too.

  166. Steven Ring says

    Dear Kiran,

    Syriac is a Middle Aramaic dialect. At the time of Christ there were many Aramaic dialects, (for example Palmyrene, Nabataean, Judean, Syriac) which were similarly structured and mutually intelligible. Little more than an accent to overcome in most cases.

    Classical Hebrew was in use before the Babylonian exile, but after that it was used only for religious texts. Classical Hebrew is quite different to Aramaic. There is a famous episode in the scriptures which makes clear they were not mutually intelligible, see Isaiah 36.4 – 22.

    Arabic and Aramaic are not mutually intelligible. I remember reading an account of a Syrian monastery threatened by Muslim raiders in the early years of Islam which was reprieved because one of the Monks knew Arabic and could speak to their attackers. I cannot remember any more where I read it, but it may have been Mar Thoma of Marga’s Book of Governors (9th century).

    Classical Hebrew and Arabic probably did overlap, (Arabic is very old) but I am not aware of any recorded encounters between the two. I doubt they were mutually intelligible.

    Best wishes,

  167. Steven Ring says

    Dear John Mathew,

    On reflection, I think you’re right about the way Syrian Orthodox words would have been pushed into East Syrian guise, but this is beside the point I was trying to make. If some Syriac loan words in Malayalam (or Tamil or Sanskrit) turn out to be archaic Syriac words in use prior to a certain date, or Aramaic words or idioms only found in a Judean context then that would say something about the period of earliest contact. If the loanwords in question are only mercantile, then that would tell us more. And so on.

    I am collecting some archaic Aramaic words. I intend to post a selection.

    Best wishes,

  168. John Mathew says


    For a Catholic you take an incredibly strange position of favoring the “Monophysite” Jacobites and the “Monothelite” Maronites (to use the ancient bywords) over the Dyophysite Nestorians — since, according to the first group, Catholics and Nestorians are both essentially Dyophysite heretics! Of course, with the good work of Pro Oriente, none of that really matters anymore. In what era are you living?

    Now, you’re correct that those terms apply to Christological positions, but they also entail the entire rite and culture that produced, and lives, those rites. Prior to the Uniate movements of the modern era, the “Jacobite” rite was followed by Jacobites, and vice versa. And ditto for the Nestorian rite. The creed, the rite, the vestments — all of that came hand in hand. Especially in the Syriac Churches where the doctrines saturate the liturgical texts. For the Jacobites, for example, the Sedre of the year are drenched with the Christological positions of that Church. And you know what? When the first Syriac Catholics of West Asia started to publish their liturgical texts, they didn’t have to change much. There is a thesis from SEERI on this topic by Fr. Stephen OIC (Syro-Malank.), and his conclusions are very interesting. There was nothing heterodox in the Jacobite prayers — Mar Clemis (the compiler of the Fenqito of Mosul) at most removed some of the ambiguous components and phrased them in line with Greek thought. So your comment that there is some major difference between the “Jacobite faith” and the “Jacobite culture” is utterly wrong. A West Syriac Catholic (whether in West Asia or in Malankara) is essentially a Jacobite in communion with Rome, because there is nothing of substance that separates the two in terms of faith. Recent accords between the Patr. of Rome and Antioch pretty much alighn with this observation.

    You seem to be thriving on some old polemic literature written ages ago by defunct and misguided missionaries of the Latin rite.

    And you seem to have a real hard spot for the Nestorians. A bit of self-hate, perhaps? Or are you Latin rite under some over-eager McCarthyite heretic-catcher? Or is it just ignorance that they were the first, after the fence-sitting Maronites, to join with Rome. And what did Rome find? Apart from their honor of Mar Nestorios and Theodore the Interpreter, they were pretty much Catholic. How much really separates the “Nestorians” of today (meaning the Church of the East) and the Chaldeans? Not very much.

    So your incredibly misguided statement that “Syriac is a channel for heresy” has absolutely no foundation. In fact, if I’m not mistaken it was the other major language of Christianity — in fact, *THE* vital language of Christian thought — Greek, by which many of the so-called “heresies” were specified.

    The Syriacs get a bum rap for being heretics. Apart from Bar Daisan and Mani, what heresies were authored by the Syriacs? Those two weren’t the first (you can look at the NT for the older heresy of Simon Magus), and they weren’t the last heresies of Christianity.

    To claim Syriac is somehow a magnet for error is founded on nothing.

  169. George Mathew says

    Dear Binu,

    You wrote ‘..No Romans, No Crucifixion and No Crucifixion, No Christianity!!
    Ha! Ha! I like that and you are right from your perspective and partially from mine too!
    May I please modify it my style!
    “No Romans, No execution stake, No Execution of Esho, No Nazerene, No Nazerene, No Christianity”
    I have a feeling, you may not understand me. But this is not terribly important, though important.

  170. George Mathew says

    Dear Binu,

    When convineint, please would you let me know as to the source of ‘Hermann Gundert’s’ definition of a ‘Nasrani’ as ‘Syrian/…..’ I would be obliged.
    It is important for us, for we were under the belief that Hermann’s definition of a ‘Nazerene’ was different from the one you have stated.

  171. Dr.Paulose Nellikattil says

    Binu: “Kabar”- Kabar was very common among Syriac Christians use. Did you read what I wrote ? The word used for cremation of latin bishops of 17th,18th, century as the records say is “Kaura”- meaning cremation. This is about the latin bishops at Varapuzha ! “Kaura” is Syriac for cremation and it was used in Malayalam denoting even “Cemetery”. Read “Varthamanapusthakam” when you get a chance, you will see “ Kaura”,”Kavar” etc there. What need to say more as it was even copied by the Varapuzha fellows !. Such was the influence of Syriac in Kerala Church.

    What was mentioned earlier is Yavanas in use in Kerala is from Syriac. The route might have been Syriac-Tamil- Malayalam. What’s wrong if its there in Sanskrit.

    Have you heard about Ephrem the Syrian ? Have you heard about “the Doctors of the Catholic Church” ? How many of them are there from Syrian tradition or ethnicity ? Any idea about the Doctors of Syro Malabar Catholic Church ?

    Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory, Augustine, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Ephrem the Syrian, Isaac the Elder, Pope Leo I, John of Damascus, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius of Salamis, and Gregory of Nyssa. How many of them are from Eastern tradition and Syriac tradition ? Any idea about the Popes from these tradition ? Your comments on “Syriac” were insane. Is it the “ Paranki hatred” than anything else.

    Did you read the joint Read the Joint declaration by the “Nestorian” Patriarch and the Catholic Pope which Xavier posted ?

    “Malayalam”: Malayalam is very young language. If you assemble one each from Thrivanthapuram, Kottayam, Thrishur and Malapuram and then a Tamilian and read some of the so called “Malayalam” texts of 17th or 18th century, the Tamilian will comprehend more than the “Classical language” Malayalees. There are some very disputed inscriptions which Malayalam claims as two alphabets or words are from Malayalam for now getting the “ Classical language” status. But facts has to be facts, irrespective of any Malayalee bias.

  172. Dr.Paulose Nellikattil says

    “Nasrani”: Do you mean the latin rite and other Christians came in to existence in 1970 ? See, Benjamin Baily Dictionary , Gundert Dictionary, Shabtha Tharavali and Shabtha Sagaram etc for the meaning of “Nasrani” from a dictionary perspective. It gives Nasrani meaning as “Suriyani Christiani”. Only Malayalam Lexicon which gives Nasrani meaning as “Followers of Christ” in a more generic nature. I posted all dictionary definitions, as nothing has to be biased !! This does not mean that other Christians in Kerala came to existence in 21st century !! Anyway here the term is beyond any argument as there are many historical records about the usage of name. It is not just in dictionaries.

    Syriac on Persian Cross: So what ? The same C. P. T. WlNCKWORTH as mentioned in article concluded the Pahlavi was a later addition. This proves nothing but beyond doubt that the crosses were in existence much before the inscriptions further substantiating the Sleeva’s position as the proof of early existence of Christianity in India.

    What is the creed you are talking ? Scholars has maintained that, you cant find any creed in this cross. Of course there are symbolic meanings if you are interested. Your view of Catholic Church is mundane. Isn’t it very clear when people say this is the religo cultural logo of Saint Thomas Christians ? Why is the lathin rite Chinglepet diocese still holding on to this ? What about Pope John Paul II ? What is this “creed” of Cross which even the supreme pontiff of Catholic Church “Pope” himself was not aware ?

    “Nasrani Deepika” : Did you misspell “Sathyanadam” as “ Nasrani Deepika” on your story ?

    Synod of Diamper was a deliberate attempt to capture the Indian Church by Lathins. How many Lathins were there in Kerala, other than few Kuppayakar in 16th century ? The 250,000 strong Saint Thomas Christians “ Gate of All India” “ Metropolitan of India” titles where robbed by the lathins. A patriarch who was in communion with Rome was anathamized by a misguided and robber Arch Bishop of Lathin rite. A hype was created in the west to appear that the notorious Menezis was doing something great .

    Admin: The picture came in the diocese publication commemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit to the shrine on 5th February 1986. I don’t have it now as I have sent that page along with a letter to “Sathyadeepam” ( Ernakulam diocese newsletter) . I did this in 1998, when they started publishing stories about Saint Thomas Cross. Ironically, they ignored my letters to the editor and photograph of John Paul II at the Sleeva ! They had other intentions in running their lies on Saint Thomas Cross !!

  173. Kiran Samuel says


    Thank you for your valuable comment. What I understood from it that only Aramaic and Syriac are mutually intelligible and others are not. Also thanks for indicating this verse:

    “Then said Eliakim and Shebna and Joah unto Rabshakeh, Speak, I pray thee, unto thy servants in the SYRIAN language; for we understand it: and speak not to us in the JEWS’ LANGUAGE, in the ears of the people that are on the wall.”

    Btw, is there any connection between “Serra” (Portuguese name for Kerala) and the presence of Syriac Christians there?


    I agree with you that it is really strange to name a person as Jesus. If a person named so stands for elections, we will see hoardings saying ‘Vote for Jesus” and again if he wins, we will have “Minister Jesus” or ‘President Jesus”. If he is not welcomed somewhere, we shall see placards which read: “Jesus Go Back”!!!

    But what attracted me the most is your list of similar words in Malayalam and English. It is the first time I come across something like this. Can you please let me know how this likeness occurred?


    “Jacobite” is purely a Christological designation. I guess by “Jacobite culture”, you mean Antiochene or West Syrian rite. Both Catholics and Jacobite people use it.

    The major difference between Nestorians and Catholics is that Nestorians do not believe in “Mother of God” concept. According to Nestorian faith, St. Mary is the mother of only human personality in Jesus, not of the divine personality which is part of Holy Trinity.

    Maronites were not Monothelites. A number of historical and modern sources claim that the Maronites were once Monothelites, and that they converted to Catholic beliefs in the 12th century. The principal source of this claim appears to be William of Tyre, a contemporaneous historian who mentions a mass conversion of Maronites in 1182 that involved both clergy and laity. Some scholars, on the other hand, have speculated that the event was a public profession of faith, rather than an abjuration of heresy.

    Another source is Dionysius Tal Mahri, a ninth-century Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, who writes that the monks of the Monastery of Marun had adopted Monothelitism in the years 629-630, at a time when Byzantine Emperor Heraclius imposed Monothelitism on the people of Syria. The Maronite Church, however, has always denied these accusations and has repeatedly affirmed its embrace of Catholic teachings and its union with the Pope, as have the official declarations of Popes over 900 years, which have consistently praised the Maronites for their constant union with Rome.

    Although there appear to be writings of individual Maronites speaking favorably of Monothelitism, there is no indication that the Maronite Church, its patriarchs or its bishops, have ever taught Monothelitism. In addition, in condemning Monothelitism, the Council of Constantinople did not mention any Maronites on its list of those who spread the heresy.

    Further supporting the claim that Maronites have always been adherents to the faith of Chalcedon is a letter written in 517 and sent to Pope Hormisda. Signed by clergymen from Syria Secunda and by the abbot of the Monastery of Marun, the letter charged Severus, patriarch of Antioch and Peter, bishop of Apamea, with the massacre of 350 monks from the Monastery of Marun due to their adherence to the faith of Chalcedon. This is in addition to several other letters, addressing the same matters that were submitted in 536 to the council in Constantinople.
    [Courtesy: Monothelitism – Maronite History Website]

  174. Binu C Cletus says


    “If you assemble one each from Thrivanthapuram, Kottayam, Thrishur and Malapuram and then a Tamilian and read some of the so called “Malayalam” texts of 17th or 18th century, the Tamilian will comprehend more than the “Classical language” Malayalees.”

    I take this challenge.

    I am giving here the original Malayalam version of a decree of Synod of Diamper of 1599.

    “ചെലടത്ത നസ്രാണിമാപ്പിളമാരിടെ കൊളം എംകിലും കിണറ എംകിലും കമ്മാളരതൊട്ടു എംകില്‍ മലയാളര ചൈയുന്ന ക്രിയ ചൈതെ പുണ്യമാകുമാറ ആകുന്നത പട്ടാങ്ങക്കും മാര്ഗ് ിത്തിന്റെ വെടിപ്പിനും മറുത്ത ആകുന്നു എന്നതിനെക്കൊണ്ട അങ്ങനെ ചൈയുന്നവരെ പള്ളിക്കും പള്ളിക്ക അടുത്ത വസ്തുക്കളീന്നും പൊറത്ത നിറുത്തണം. പട്ടക്കാരന്‍ അപ്പഴക്ക ആ നിറുത്തിയവനെ കൈകസ്തൂരിയും കൊടാതെ നിക്കണം. കൊറെ ഒരാണ്ടെക്ക അങ്ങനെ വെണംതാനും. ചൈയുന്ന ക്രിയകള്ക്ക തക്കവണ്ണം ഒള്ള കുറ്റപ്പാടുകളെക്കൊണ്ട കുറ്റപ്പടുക്കയും വെണം.” (Session: IX / Decree: 3)

    Can you comprehend this? Or may I call some Tamilians for help?

    But, even after the development of Malayalam, it was a rare habit to use it for writing. Most of the times, people considered Malayalam as a spoken dialect of Tamil and when wanted to write something, they used the “standard register”, i.e., Tamil. Thus Tamil was continued to be a language of elite class. This is why most of the copper plate inscriptions are in Tamil. However the Tamil used in Kerala was not the same as in Tamil Nadu. This version of Tamil is called “Malabar Tamil”. It is more comprehendible to a Malayali than a Tamilian due to the rich Sanskrit vocabulary used. This is usually considered as a form of Malayalam rather than Tamil. Now you know I am not talking about those “Palpuli thananthakari” or “Oorppaava”.

    Example for Malabar Tamil:

    1) Eravi Korthan Copper Plate original text (transcribed in Malayalam script):

    ശ്രീഭൂപാലനരപതി വീരകേരളശക്രവർത്തി ആദിയായി മുറമുറൈയേ പല നൂറായിരത്താണ്ടു ചെങ്കോലു നടത്തായിനിന്റ ശ്രീ വീരരാഘവശക്രവർത്തി തിരുവിരാജ്യം ചെല്ലായിന്റ മകരത്തുൾ വ്യാഴം മീനഞ്ഞായററു ഇരുപത്തൊന്റു ചെന്റ ശനി രോഹിണിനാൾ പെരുംകോയിലകത്തിരുന്നരുളെ മകോതൈർപട്ടണത്തു ഇരവികോർത്തനായ ചേരമാൻ ലോകപ്പെരുംചെട്ടിക്കു മണിക്കിരാമപട്ടം കുടുത്തോം. വിളാപാടയും, പവനത്താങ്കും, വെറുപേരും, കുടത്തുവളെഞ്ചിയമും, വളെഞ്ചിയത്തിൽ തനിച്ചെട്ടും, മു(ൻ) ച്ചൊല്ലും, മുന്നടയും, പഞ്ചവാദ്യമും, ശംഖും, പകൽവിളക്കും, പാവാടയും, ഐന്തോളമും, കൊററക്കുടയും, വടുകപ്പുറയും, ഇടുപിടിത്തോരണമും, നാലുചേരിക്കും തരിച്ചെട്ടും കുടുത്തോം. വാണിയരും ഐംകമ്മാളരെയും അടിമക്കുടുത്തോം. നഗരത്തുക്കു കർത്താവായ ഇരവികോർത്തനുക്കു, പുറകൊണ്ടളന്തു നിറകൊണ്ടു തൂക്കി നൂൽകൊണ്ടു പാകിയെണ്ണിന്റതിലും എടുക്കിന്റതിലും ഉവി(പ്പി)നോടു ശർക്കരയോടു കസ്തൂരിയോടു വിളക്കെണ്ണയോടു ഇടയിൽ ഉള്ളതു എപ്പേർപ്പെട്ടതിനും തരകും അതിനടുത്ത ചുങ്കമും കൂട കൊടുങ്കല്ലൂർ അഴിവഴിയോടു ഗോപുരത്തോടു വിശേഷാൽ നാലു തളിയും, തളിക്കടുത്ത കിരാമത്തോടിടയിൽ നീർമുതലായി ചെപ്പേടു എഴുതിക്കുടുത്തോം. ചേരമാൻ ലോകപ്പെരുച്ചെട്ടിയാന ഇരവികോർത്തനക്കു. ഇവൻ മക്കൾമക്കൾക്കേ വഴിവഴിയേ വേറാകക്കുടുത്തോം. ഇതറിയും പന്റിയൂർ കിരാമമും(ം) ചോക്കിരിക്കിരാമമും അറിയേകുടുത്തോം. വേണാടും ഓടനാടുമറിയക്കുടുത്തോം. ഏറനാടു വള്ളുവനാടുമറിയക്കുടുത്തോം. ചന്ദ്രാദിത്യകളുള്ള നാളെക്കു കുടുത്തോം. ഇവർകളറിയ ചെപ്പേടെഴുതിയ ചേരമാൻ ലോകപ്പെരുന്തട്ടാൻ നമ്പിച്ചെടയൻ കൈയെഴുത്തു.

    2) A portion from “Cartilha, Germano Galhadro” printed in Roman script in Lisbon on 11th Feb 1554.

    “Agasamum búmium parachevan çarvamum ánavane: pidáve tambiráne vizváçam. Avvanám ennare cartáve iesu christo avvanare putrane oruvane…Caniastri mariatil perandavan. Pontio piláto vidita vidicondu vecena pattu..”


    If “Nazrani” does not mean “Nazarene” or the “disciple of one from Nazareth”, then narrate me the etymology. I am eager to learn it. Do you know that among Latin Christians, there is an organisation called “Nazrani Bhooshana Samajam”? How did it come? Why are you ignoring live and apparent evidences and resort on some foreign guys? This word is still used commonly in Arabic to mean “Christians”.

    From your list, please show how many of them are from Eastern Christian or Chaldean tradition. Don’t act like “Ettukaali Mammoonju”, OK?

    “Yavana” came from Sanskrit-Tamil-Malayalam, not the other way. We have Greek presence in India since at least 3rd Century BC. Syriac language came here only much later.

    Regarding “Kabar”, use of this word by some bishops is not an evidence for its Syriac origin. If a word is already present in a language, anybody can use that word regardless of its origin. When I speak Malayalam, I use Sanskrit, Arabic, Syriac and Portuguese words. My Hindu friends and Muslim neighbours also use the same words. I have heard many priests quote from Sanskrit hymns when they give a speech. My Brahmin boss speaks to me in English using hundreds of words with Latin or Greek origin.

    If Persian Crosses have no creed or theology connected with them and they are just an ethnic or nationalistic symbol, then why do you people insist to replace Crucifixes with them? They should be used out of church. (On some Flags or something like that.)

    If Pope John Paul II prayed before this cross, I am ready to do the same because I am an obedient Catholic. I have never said anything to insult this cross. I doubt it was just a visit made by Pope that you guys purposefully interpreted as praying. I can’t be sure about this until I see any such photos. If you are genuine, kindly produce it and also publicize it by putting everywhere, your blogs, websites, magazine, etc to make all Catholics aware about the validity of these crosses, which I doubt you can. Also explain the reason why these crosses are called “St. Thomas Cross”? How they are connected with the Apostle?


    “You need to have a proper understanding of Nestorianism.”
    “There never was a heresy called Nestorianism. It existed in the imagination certain people who wanted to belittle the Church of East.”

    Now you are saying both. You say there is nothing called “Nestorianism”, but I must learn about Nestorianism. How can I learn about some that does not exist? First you arrive at a conclusion. Also, try to know which are the Books prohibited by Synod of Diamper and why. You will need this information in future debates also.

    Regarding Nasrani Deepika, I was just kidding. I have never heard about such a family. But these guys seems to have taken it seriously and give a detailed story about Deepika’s yellow journalism! But why did you think it can be “Sathyanadam”? Have you seen any such article in it?


    I did not mean to say that you are off-topic. I was just replying someone’s argument that talking about the tug of war between Syrian bishops is off-topic. Most of such unchristian chaos arise from issues like Persian cross, so it is not off-topic to talk about them.

    Regarding Bnath Qyama, I think you are right because I saw the following from an Orthodox website.

    “Later the delegation was introduced to Fr Boby Varghese, instructor of the Icon School and to Matushka Santhi, wife of Fr Benoy John who is also a student at the Icon School. In the local Malayalam language a Priest’s wife is addressed as ‘ Kochamma’ , especially in Central Travancore area, where as here they are addressed by the term ‘Ammayi’. ‘Baskyammo’ is the Syrian term used for Priest wife. The delegation were lead to the icon School which functions on the first floor of the Bishop’s House.”


    All the Europeans including Gundert learned Malayalam from local Malayalis.


    How do you know the percentage of genuine commenters? Have you conducted any survey on it?

  175. George Mathew says

    Dear Binu,

    One of the popular defintion of ‘Malabar Nazerene’ doing the rounds in the many websites is ‘Jewish follower of Jesus’ and Hermman Gundert is always quoted as the author of this definition and he is considered to be a Malayalm scholar who put out the first Malayalam Bible.

    I have been trying to dig more into the word ‘Nazerene’ but have not made any progress, until you come along with the definition ‘Syrian/Malabar Roman Catholic’. Dr. Asahel Grant has given a similar definition for the word ‘Nazerene’ as yours, including ‘Syrians’ in general.

    I too agree with the you and Grant. But wonder if there is really any truth in ‘Jewish followers of Jesus’ as in many websites (including a popular Wikipedia) claimed to be defined by Gundert. Thanks for your reply.

  176. George Mathew says

    Dear Binu,

    I find the need to clarify more. Dr. Grant has defined ‘Nazerene’ as any one from the 12 Israeli tribes who is a follower of Esho and not limited to the Jews alone (who constitute only 3 tribes out of the 12). The web/wikipedia information says that Hermman Gundert limits ‘Nazerene’ to only the Jews.

  177. Dr.Paulose Nellikattil says

    Binu: “Nasrani”: What are you trying to say ? Do you mean “Nasrani” does not mean Syriac Christians of Kerala. First you said, Syriac Christians were known with that name since no Christians were here earlier. Benjamin Baily , Gundert etc did not come to Kerala when there were only Syriac Christians in Kerala !!

    Are you now claiming that there are other Christians in Kerala known as “Nasranis” !!! I think there is lot of revisionism required for such claims. The name is so synonymous with Saint Thomas Christians. Lathins does have the habit to copy as so many things were copied from Syriac Christians. There was a time when the three hundred, four hundred and seven hundred claimed they were Saint Thomas Christians. I have never heard anyone calling lathins as “Nasrani”. These kind of appellations were coined with historical evidence, past and present usage. The dictionary just reflects that.

    “Malayalam”: I do not think a Malapuram, Kottayam and Thiruvanthapuram Malayalee is going to comprehend better than a tamilian the old Malayalam writings. I have seen people struggling with this !

    “Yavana”, “Kabar”- Syriac origin is based on evidences. It is not something few people are saying here that these words are from Syriac. Which other languages has epigraphical evidence to associate with ancient Kerala ? Yes people use many loan words in today’s environment. The ecclesiastic and community usage back in 16th century and today are different.

    Saint Thomas Cross: Did I say Saint Thomas Cross has no theology ? Why don’t you read this well written article. I think you repeat the “creed” as you don’t understand the “creed”. How does this “creed” work ? If a Catholic make a cross, then is that called Catholic Cross. Is it Orthodox, when an Orthodox makes such a cross ? By the way, are all the crosses displayed in Catholic Church “ Catholic creed “ ? Do you usually also ensure if the workers are “Catholic”. Funny naming convention though !! What is that about replacing crucifix ? Haven’t you read this article which says where the Cross was kept until parankis took control in Syriac Churches and why it is known in Apostles name etc.

    Pope John Paul II- If you happen to go to Saint Thomas Mount do verify this. I already mentioned what happened to the photo I had. The picture came in the diocese publication commemorating Pope John Paul II’s visit to the shrine on 5th February 1986. I don’t have it now as I have sent that page along with a letter to “Sathyadeepam” ( Ernakulam diocese newsletter) . I did this in 1998, when they started publishing stories about Saint Thomas Cross. Ironically, they ignored my letters to the editor and photograph of John Paul II at the Sleeva ! That was my experience with “Sathyadeepam”. Now you are saying I should promote the picture !. If you are talking based on the abuses, all know the reasons behind those activities.

  178. Dr.Paulose Nellikattil says

    “Obedient Catholic”- do they exist? I see them in stories ! I think Catholic Church needs Catholics who have some basic understanding of Church than the so called “obedient” and more Catholic than Pope gang. I have browsed through many Catholic abusers in Internet from Kerala. These Catholics only abuse either fellow Catholics or Orthodox and other Christians !!! Many of them seems to have a specific agenda. I believe they are there for a reason. It will change after a decision is made on the Major Archbishop post in the Syro Malabar Church. You were saying the issues in Catholic Church are because of Saint Thomas Cross !! Please don’t humor me more !! We do hear about what’s up in the lathin rite in Kerala, though I have not seen many abusers in internet !!

    Nestorianism: I don’t know why the Obedient Catholic is hesitant to read,

    “Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting “one and another”, the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.

    Christ therefore is not an “ordinary man” whom God adopted in order to reside in him and inspire him, as in the righteous ones and the prophets. But the same God the Word, begotten of his Father before all worlds without beginning according to his divinity, was born of a mother without a father in the last times according to his humanity. The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour”. In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of God” and also as “the Mother of Christ”. We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.

    This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord’s Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.
    Whatever our christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we might become children of God by his grace. We wish from now on to witness together to this faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, proclaiming it in appropriate ways to our contemporaries, so that the world may believe in the Gospel of salvation. “

    “Very often we read the term “Nestorian Church.” Since the Church of the East has never considered a “Nestorian Christology,” as it has since the Middle Ages always stressed themselves, and Nestorius has never been their patriarch or spoke their language, the term “Nestorian Church” in more ways than one false and should disappear from the history books. (

    Synod of Diamper: Are you talking about the books which are added in Wiki ( ) pulled from Hough and Ferroli. The destruction is not about what is mentioned by Ferroli. Its about what is not mentioned in the justification report of Jesuits !! So many records and manuscripts were destroyed and burned by Parankies.

    If you think Synod of Dimaper was for correcting the manuscripts, then in the present situation Indian Catholic Church definitely need another Synod. Can we advertise whoever correct the books and burn will become the Latin Rite Bishop Conference head! This is an ideal replication, if it can be done by some other Catholic rites who wants to enter India ! They can convert all the latin rite diocese to their parishes too !!

    Nasrani Deepika : . I know Deepika is no more Nasrani Deepika, its now known as Catholic Deepika. Have they also started abuses with these changes ?

    Do you know the etymology of defamation ! To be a Christian everyone has to be baptized and does it matter to the baptized if they were Pulaya or Paraya. But putting a tag on someone else family name is defamation. Using a news paper for that is also defamation. Have you read such stories in Catholic Deepika. I

    George : Two of the old Malayalam dictionaries gives the meaning as below ( consult the dictionary) ,

    1) Benjamin Baily Dictionary gives Nasrani meaning as “Syro Roman Christian”
    2) Gundert Dictionary gives Nasrani meaning as “Syrian or Syro Roman Christian” also “Mappila.

  179. Binu C Cletus says


    Regarding the meaning of “Nazrani”, my points are clear.

    1. “Nazrani” means any Christian. This is an Arabic/Syriac word borrowed to Malayalam. For many centuries, this was the ONLY Malayalam term for “Christian”. The term “Kristhyaani” was not there before arrival of Europeans.

    2. When there were no other Christians, this term was used almost synonymous with St. Thomas Christians.

    3. After the arrival of Knanaya Christians, they too were called Nasranis.

    4. When Portuguese came here, a new group of Christians emerged in Kerala. All were called in Malayalam as “Nazranis”.

    5. After the split in Syrian community, this term was stressed mainly by the Catholic side while the ‘Puthankoor’ group stressed the designation “Malankara’.

    6. The historical use of “Nazrani” to denote Syrian Christians as well as the specific stress given to it by Catholic side, resulted in a wrong impression that this term is specifically connected to either Syrian or Roman Catholic identity. This is what reflects in the later dictionaries. We can see many of such dictionaries associate “Nazrani” with Roman Catholic church even though Catholic identity has nothing to do with it. This is same in the case of Syrian or Thomasine connections. They are erroneously assigned to this term.

    7. The particular term which is used to distinguish Syrians from other Christians is “Mappila”, not “Nasrani”. We see in many places references such as “..Mappilas as well as New Christians”, which clearly means they are two different groups. But we never see anything like “..Nasranis and Portuguese..” or “..Nasranis and New Christians..”

    8. The same word is still used in many languages of the world such Malay, Arabic, Indonesian, etc.

    9. In Malay and Indonesian, it denotes all Christians generally and Portuguese people particularly.

    10. Nazrani Bhooshana Samajam is an organisation that operates among Latin Christians since 1898. [ ]

    11. I have never heard any Latin Catholics claiming Thomasine tradition. If a Latin Catholic claims Syrian heritage, that is so cheap. Because Latin Christians have a proper church system with no conflicts while Syrians are scattered in numerous denominations who fight each other and many of their churches are under police protection.

    On the other hand, there is nothing wrong in claiming the name “Nazrani” as it simply means “Christian”.

    If you think the decree I quoted can be comprehended only by a Tamilian, and not by a Malayali, you are terribly mistaken. A person who is educated in Malayalam and can read Malayalam newspaper can easily understand these decrees. It is not a matter from which district he comes. If you doubt, ask a Tamilian some Sanskrit words. Most of the common Sanskrit words used in Malabar are not intelligible to average Tamilians and this is the major reason that a Tamilian cannot understand modern Malayalam. We, on the other hand, can understand both.

    What epigraphical evidences do you have to support your claim that “Kabar” and “Yavana” came from Syriac? The Ramayana hymns I quoted have already disproved your argument that “Yavana” means food in Sanskrit. I hope you won’t say Valmiki learned it from St. Thomas Christians.

    I am not against the use of Persian Crosses. You can use them in your community flags or even inside churches. But they are hardly an alternative to Crucifix. I have heard many fanatics Syrianist call crucifixes as idolatry and they must be taken out of the Syrian churches. I can’t agree with them.

    You seem to have a misunderstanding that Portuguese were against these crosses and they taken all of them out of the churches. This is simply not true. Many of today’s Persian crosses are discovered by Portuguese and they placed them in newly built churches.

    “Mount Church Cross was discovered by the Portuguese when they were digging in 1547 the foundation for a new Church, the Mount Church on its present site. They came across the ruins of old Christian buildings, and in these ruins, they found, the Cross with the Pahlavi inscription. This they installed in their new Church where it now stands. According to Dr. Burnell, miracles were believed to have been worked with this Cross. This Cross was soon unhesitatingly identified with the one which the Apostle St. Thomas is said to have embraced while on the point of death and its miraculous virtues specially obtained great fame.”
    [Asiatic Papers – Jivanji Jamshedji Modi]

    Nestorianism: We are talking about Malabar Syrians, not Assyrians. Do you know that it is something more than a “mother of god” and ‘mother of Christ”?
    Do you believe in these? :

    1. Joseph had another wife and children before he married Mary.

    2. When Mary brought forth with pain, these children went for a midwife.

    3. Jesus went to learn from Rabbis when he was a child.

    4. Matrimony is not a sacrament. It may be dissolved for the bad conditions of the parties.

    5. St. Joseph, suspecting Mary of adultery took her to priests, who gave her the water of jealousy to drink; that Mary brought forth with pain, and parting from her company, not being able to go farther, she retired to a stable at Bethlehem.

    6. None of the saints is in heaven, but are all in a terrestrial paradise, where they should remain till the Day of Judgment.

    7. When St. Thomas put his hand into Christ’s side, and said, “My Lord and my God!” he was not speaking to Christ as God, but it was only an exclamation made to God on such a miracle.

    8. The Eucharist is only the image of Christ, and is distinguished from him, as an image is from a true man.

    9. The fire of hell is not real, but spiritual.

    Whether the Assyrians were heretics or not, this was the belief existed in Malabar. Don’t you think it as heretic? You can call it by any name. But it remains heretic.

    If you have not seen my comment on Nasrani Deepika issue, let me repeat:

    [Are you guys always like this? I was just kidding. And I thought everyone here would have enough neurons to understand it is a teasing. But you guys seem to have taken it seriously and build up stories on it. I have never heard about such a family, nor seen a newspaper older than me. But seriously, why being a Pulaya convert is so shameful? Do you guys believe in “Manu Smriti”?]

  180. George Mathew says

    Dear Binu,

    You can have your views about the meaning of the word ‘Nazerene’ or ‘Nazrani’.. May I humby opine that you may not be exposed to Nazerene heritage studies. There are lots of history to be read, much falsehood to be rejected.

    I do not blame you at all for your views. YOu are stating what 99% of the Keralites are stating.. But just be assured that there are 1% Keralites who totally reject our paternal heritage being HIndu or Buddhist. These 1% are pretty sure that our paternal heritage is Semetic, either Judha or Ephraim and to us, Nazerene means something very different from your definiton.
    I do not want you to agree with me. But just be informed that your perspective and views are very different from ours.
    I have nothing more to say.
    Shalom and God Bless!

  181. Steven Ring says

    Dear Binu,
    Where did the 9 ideas in your post come from? Would you supply a reference please?
    Best wishes,

    “Joseph had another wife and children before he married Mary.

    2. When Mary brought forth with pain, these children went for a midwife.

    3. Jesus went to learn from Rabbis when he was a child.

    4. Matrimony is not a sacrament. It may be dissolved for the bad conditions of the parties.

    5. St. Joseph, suspecting Mary of adultery took her to priests, who gave her the water of jealousy to drink; that Mary brought forth with pain, and parting from her company, not being able to go farther, she retired to a stable at Bethlehem.

    Etc. Etc. “

  182. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Binu :

    1.“Nazrani” definitely means Christian. This is a Syriac /Arabic/Hebrew word borrowed to Malayalam. For many centuries, there were ONLY Syriac speaking church Christians in Kerala. Syriac speaking Churches retained Nasrani, while the name ‘ Christians’ replaced Nasrani, as the designation of the Greek and Latin speaking Church. Similar way “Nasrani” means “ Suriyani Christianikal” in Malayalam. Christians were known in other appellations also such as Tharisa.

    [The term “Kristhyaani” was not there before arrival of Europeans:] Yes as there was no Latin or Greek churches in Kerala until the arrival of Europeans.

    2. Before 16th century and after wards the appellation is synonymous with St. Thomas Christians .

    3. [After the arrival of Knanaya Christians, they too were called Nasranis:] I do not know about such arrivals or what where they called. Few decades after the arrival of Portuguese there are records of “Northist” or “Southist”.

    4.[When Portuguese came here, a new group of Christians emerged in Kerala. All were called in Malayalam as “Nazranis”]: The new group emerged as members of Latin speaking church and as it goes the designation used is “Christians”. The five hundred of lathin rite were baptized by Fr. Gasper in 1583 with the initiative of Chaldean Metropolitan Mar Abraham at Arthungal. That was the beginning of the five hundred community in Kerala latin rite. Because of the existing caste system people were known based on the ethnic background. There are people from Syriac speaking churches who joined Lathin speaking church. They may have known as Nasranis. There were also other high castes who joined Lathin church. Latins were known in so many sub names such as “Kuppayakar”, “ five Hundred”, “Seven hundred’, “ Three Hundred” etc.

    5. [After the split in Syrian community, this term was stressed mainly by the Catholic side while the ‘Puthankoor’ group stressed the designation “Malankara’.] It was more commonly used among the “Pazhayakuttar”. “ Puthenkuttor” also used the appellation but numerically they were less than “Pazhayakuttar”. Malankara is a different term. It was used to represent “ Christian Kerala”. The historic use of “Malankara” is similar to “ Church of Rome” or “Church of Seleucia- Stephen” or “ Armenian Church”. It represented in a broad level, the entire Christian state. You can see “ Malankara” used by Lathin Bishops who were the head before the “ Coonan Cross Oath”. After the division, when Mar Chandy was the head of Catholics ( both lathin and syriac) he used to address “Malankara Christians”. It was used by Catholics until 19th century. Check the numerous records available. They abandoned the term when they got their own hierarchy in Catholic Church !

  183. Paulose Nellikattil says

    [6. The historical use of “Nazrani” ….stress given to it by Catholic side, resulted in a wrong impression that this term is specifically connected to either Syrian or Roman Catholic identity. This is what reflects in the later dictionaries. We can see many of such dictionaries associate “Nazrani” with Roman Catholic church even though Catholic identity has nothing to do with it.]

    It is the term used to represent Christians of Syriac speaking Church. I don’t know form where you got this. Dictionaries underline the fact that Syriac speaking church members are in two churches in Kerala ie, Catholic as well as Jacobite. No dictionary associate it with Roman Catholic Church. By Syro Roman Christian, it only associate it with the Syriac speaking church in Roman Catholic Church. As you can see these dictionaries were from Benjamin Baily and Gundert and hence the stress “Roman” in “Syro Roman Christian”.

    See the dictionary meaning again,

    1) Benjamin Baily Dictionary gives Nasrani meaning as “Syro Roman Christian”
    2) Gundert Dictionary gives Nasrani meaning as “Syrian or Syro Roman Christian” also “Mappila”
    3) Shabtha Tharavali gives Nasrani meaning as “Suriyani Christiyani”
    4) Shabtha Sagaram gives Nasrani meaning as “Suriyani Christiani”
    5) Malayalam Lexicon gives Nasrani meaning as “Followers of Christ”

    Of these Malayalam Lexicon was printed in 1970. As you know Syriac speaking churches in Kerala became Malayalam speaking Churches soon. No where it is associated with Roman Catholic Church. The dictionary definitions simply denote the Syriac speaking church in Roman Catholic Church. That’s the same thing given by the popular young Malayalam dictionaries Shabtha Tharavali and Shabtha Sagaram as “Suriyani Christiani”.

    [7. The particular term which is used to distinguish Syrians from other Christians is “Mappila”, not “Nasrani”. We see in many places references such as “..Mappilas as well as New Christians”, which clearly means they are two different groups. But we never see anything like “..Nasranis and Portuguese..” or “..Nasranis and New Christians..”]

    Mappila is a honorary title, which is still used by some families. There are many references. Consult archive information and you can see all these usages.

    [8. The same word is still used in many languages of the world such Malay, Arabic, Indonesian, etc.]

    This is not surprising. Syriac speaking churches had very extended influence before things changed completely in Middle East. There were Bishopric in many nations in Asia,
    In Indonesia a 12th Century Christian Egyptian record of churches suggest that a church was established on the west coast of North Sumatra, a trading post known to have been frequented by Indian traders, and linked therefore to the Indian Saint Thomas Christians.

    [9. In Malay and Indonesian, it denotes all Christians generally and Portuguese people particularly.]

    Significant evidence of Christian activity came with the arrival of Portuguese traders in the 16th century there but as mentioned Syriac Christians had their influence earlier and the term might have stayed after their disappearance.

    10. [ Nazrani Bhooshana Samajam is an organisation that operates among Latin Christians since 1898. ]

    Thanks for the picture. It is at Arthungal. I hope you know the history of latin rite Christians there. Those who were baptized by the efforts of Chaldean Metropolitan Mar Abhraham. There was an already existing Christian community which joined latin rite there beside the five hundred. Some even say there were Saint Thomas Christians in the initial five hundred.

    11.[ I have never heard any Latin Catholics claiming Thomasine tradition. If a Latin Catholic claims Syrian heritage, that is so cheap.]

    Please consult older copies of “Sathyanadam” as well as various old books by latin rite writers. There is nothing cheap in that. There is some truth in it.

    [ Because Latin Christians have a proper church system with no conflicts while Syrians are scattered in numerous denominations who fight each other and many of their churches are under police protection.]

    When did they get a hierarchy in India. That happened just one year before the “ Pazhayakuttar” in 1886. It took so many more years for a proper one ! There were lathin rite churches which joined the Chaldean bishop Mar Melus in 19th century. Aren’t you aware ?

    It took many years of Syro Malabar to get a proper hierarchy. This had historical reasons as well. The proper hierarchy was created in 1992, through the constitution “Quae Maiori”, when Pope John Paul II raised the Syro-Malabar Church to the status of a Major Archiepiscopal Church and Cardinal Antony Padiyara, the Archbishop of Ernakulam was appointed the first Archbishop Major and was given the title Archbishop Major of Ernakulam-Angamaly with the two Metropolitan Provinces of Ernakulam and Changanacherry as his “territorium proprium”. (

    The earlier bishops of Saint Thomas Christians did not had any See assigned to them as they wandered in Malabar and that caused the delay in taking the decision !

    [There is nothing wrong in claiming the name “Nazrani” as it simply means “Christian”.]

    I agree. There is nothing wrong. What I tried to emphasize is that it is a term denoted to represent the people of Syriac speaking church and hence known as “ Suriyani Christianikal” in Kerala. Extension of Syriac Churches influence in Kerala is a welcoming sign. It should not be limited to peripheral.

  184. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Syriac words: “Kabar” “Yavana”- I have already given you so many usage of “Kaura” “ Kabar” etc from Syriac in Malayalam. For Yavana see this :

    “സഭ നിച്ചയിച്ച കാലങ്ങളില് നോമ്പ് നോല്കുന്നതും വിലകപെട്ട യവനകുട്ടങ്ങളെ തിന്നാതിരികുനതും ”

    പണ്ടത്തെ കല്പനകള് പഠിച്ചിട്ടുള്ള ആള്കാരുടെ അടുത്ത് ചോദിച്ചു നോക്ക് സഭ ഗ്രീക്ക് കാരെ തിന്നരുതു എന്നാണോ പടിപിച്ചത് എന്ന് ?

    Saint Thomas Cross: Do we need to repeat the same thing which is written very well in this article ? Anway’s it is the same Portuguese writers who have maintained that the Churches here had only Saint Thomas Cross. Those Churches withstood the challenges of time and contributed much to Christianity in India. See the growth lathin rite achieved in India with Syro Malabar priests. It is the same so called “ creed” and “obedient” catholic who propagate the propaganda that crucifixes is idolatry. Those who venerate “Sleeba” knows how to respect any cross even if its not crucifix.

    Belief of Malabar Syrians : Malabar Syrians were part of the Chaldean Church when Portuguese plundered on them. They had a hierarchy. There were several Bishops appointed by the Patriarch of this Church in Malabar for decades after the arrival of Portuguese. Portuguese initially even took permission from this Chaldean Metropoliten for missionary activities !

    They were Christians, who had their Bishop who was appointed by the Patriarch of the Chaldean or Church of East . Do you still have any confusion about their belief ?

    Their belief is the belief of their Church. That is of the Chaldean Church or the Church of East . Is it difficult to understand ? If there belief was heretic why was Fr. Gasper needed Chaldean Metropolitan Abraham’s approval and permission to baptize the five hundred at Arthungal in 1581 ? If the Bishop was heretic what are those baptized by this permission ? Does it make the lathin rite Christians of Kerala heretic ?

    It is extreme stupidity and faking to present what is printed in four of five books out of the hundreds Christian books available in Malabar as someone’s belief who were hierarchically part of a particular Church. I wonder even the Jesuit Ferrolie would have claimed this as belief of Saint Thomas Christians !! The popular tantrum of Portuguese is ” correction” of few books out of the available hundreds of books !!

    In the same tone, I can show you books printed by Lathin rite Christians in India, which has prayers begin with “OM” and so many Hindu mantras which are prayers to Hindu gods. Does this make the belief of all Lathin rite in India heretic ? Is there any opportunity for another Catholic rite to enter India and anathamise the lathin hierarchy and bring all under their subordination ?

    Forget about books, lathins even has introduce new form of Qurbana with readings which were taken from the Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagvad Gita. Priests having tilak applied to their foreheads. Some priests wear a saffron shawl instead of a cassock and sit on the ground at a table surrounded by small lamps rather than stand at the traditional altar. The entrance procession for the Mass has cheer girls ( like the IPL) dancing the Bharatnatyam, kirtans and bhajans are sung at Communion. Priests who celebrate Ganesh-visarjan (immersion) and Raas Lila etc. I wonder if this make the belief of Lathin rite Christians “heretic” in India. Some of the hindu mantras violate the ten commandments !!!

    The “ Pazhayakuttar” even today has the same Qurbana they had earlier. Anyways it is astonishing that Portuguese only got few sentences from six or seven books out of the hundred in circulation to conquer Indian Church to their subordination and get a “ Patriarch of East” title to their new diocese in Goa !

  185. Binu C Cletus says


    1. “Syriac speaking Churches retained Nasrani”

    No. The Malayalam language did. Nowhere else in the world Syrians are called “Nazrani”. Usual Syriac term for “Christian” is something else. [I don’t know exactly, something like “Mshih__”

    2. “The five hundred of lathin rite were baptized by Fr. Gasper in 1583 with the initiative of Chaldean Metropolitan Mar Abraham at Arthungal. That was the beginning of the five hundred community in Kerala latin rite. Because of the existing caste system people were known based on the ethnic background. There are people from Syriac speaking churches who joined Lathin speaking church. They may have known as Nasranis.”

    So you say some Syrian Bishop urged Portuguese to convert his Syrian laymen to Latin church? Why should he do so? Was he that eccentric?

    3. “Latins were known in so many sub names such as “Kuppayakar”, “ five Hundred”, “Seven hundred’, “ Three Hundred” etc.”

    Yes. And this is where the Syrians should learn from Latin Christians. Even though there were different groups among Latin Christians, all such group now have dissolved into one. This is called Christianity. On the other hand, even though the Thomasines were initially one, now they have spilt into many rival groups.You may blame Portuguese for Puthankoor / Pazhayakoor split, but what about others? What do you say about Orthodox – Jacobite war? What about pinky churches like Thozhiyoor, Marthomite, etc?

    4. “Malankara” is similar to “Church of Rome” or “Church of Seleucia- Stephen” or “ Armenian Church”. It represented in a broad level, the entire Christian state.

    Read again what I wrote. Have I told otherwise? I said this term was STRESSED MAINLY by Puthankoor. There is no doubt that this term denotes both groups. But only those with Western Syriac rite emphasise this title. This is why “Syro Malabar” and “Syro Malankara” named so. In fact both terms are applicable to both.

    5. “As you can see these dictionaries were from Benjamin Baily and Gundert and hence the stress “Roman” in “Syro Roman Christian”.”

    Yes. And this is the fact that I was trying to show you. The Dictionary makers describe things based on their understanding. Benjamin Baily thought Nazrani means only Catholic Syrians, hence he wrote so. Gundart thought Nazrani means Syrians in general and Catholic Syrians in particular. All these assumptions were based on their understanding. They can hardly be trusted.

    6. “Mappila is a honorary title, which is still used by some families.”

    Are you saying this title was used to designate some Syrian families only? What a nonsense? Have you not seen the decree I quoted above which starts with “ചെലടത്ത നസ്രാണിമാപ്പിളമാരിടെ കൊളം എംകിലും കിണറ എംകിലും..”? The term “Nazrani Mappila” is used everywhere in SoD decrees to denote Syrians. Other groups such as Jews, Muslims, etc also were called “Mappila”. Please ask someone who know things before putting forward such absurdities.

    7. “a church was established on the west coast of North Sumatra, a trading post known to have been frequented by Indian traders, and linked therefore to the Indian Saint Thomas Christians.”

    So what? There were Thomasines in Indonesia? Or the Indonesian learned this word from them? Do you always say these kinds of Joke? If there were Thomasines in Indonesia, (I don’t buy this) how come the Indonesians call the Portuguese PARTICULARLY as “Nazrani”? Please don’t tell me they are Syrians who later became Portuguese.

    Instead, it is reasonable to believe this term came from Arabic as these countries are Muslim countries.

    8. “Thanks for the picture. It is at Arthungal.”

    So what do you say? There is a Syrian group among Latin Christians and NBS is their organisation? Do you have any idea what are you talking about?

    9. “Please consult older copies of “Sathyanadam” as well as various old books by latin rite writers.”

    I don’t have access to any such old materials. Could you please scan and upload any of them?

    10. “When did they get a hierarchy in India. That happened just one year before the “Pazhayakuttar” in 1886.”

    Please do not argue on matters you don’t know. Latin Bishops are appointed directly by Holy See. Therefore Latin dioceses in India can function pretty well without a separate hierarchy. Since the establishment of Latin Church here it was under Portuguese Padroado and there were enough dioceses and churches that time itself. The Latin churches were never come under any kind of conflicts or schism. They always had enough churches, priests and all machinery. Their dioceses were never vacant without a Bishop. They were never misguided by any Archdeacon or their church never witnessed a split. They never had confusions about the liturgy or crosses they use. They never had identity crisis. They were simply better.

    11. “There were lathin rite churches which joined the Chaldean bishop Mar Melus in 19th century.”

    Which are these churches? Did they come back? What is their current status? Any referances?

    12. “It took many years of Syro Malabar to get a proper hierarchy. The proper hierarchy was created in 1992”

    As far as I know, Syro Malabar is a Syrian church.

    13. “The earlier bishops of Saint Thomas Christians did not had any See assigned to them as they wandered in Malabar and that caused the delay in taking the decision !”

    Totally agreed.

    14. “I have already given you so many usage of “Kaura” “ Kabar” etc from Syriac in Malayalam.”

    You have not given any. You just vaguely said some later Latin and Syrian bishops used this word; hence it is Syriac, so and so.

    15. “For Yavana see this : “സഭ നിച്ചയിച്ച കാലങ്ങളില് നോമ്പ് നോല്കുന്നതും വിലകപെട്ട യവനകുട്ടങ്ങളെ തിന്നാതിരികുനതും” ”

    ROTFL. Is this your “Epigraphical evidence”? Are you serious? Do you know what is epigraphy?

    Epigraphy (from the Greek: ἐπιγραφή epi-graphē, literally “on-writing”, “inscription”[1]) is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; that is, the science of identifying the graphemes and of classifying their use as to cultural context and date, elucidating their meaning and assessing what conclusions can be deduced concerning the writing and the writers.

    Your above sentence seems like taken from some Catechism book of 1970’s.

    You said the word Yavana came from Syriac and in Sanskrit the corresponding term means only “food”. I refuted you by quoting a portion from Ramayana which is apparently written much before Syriac came here. It also shows that Yavana is an ethnic group (Greeks), not food. You claimed that your accord is reached from many epigraphical evidences. So show me that. Please do not come forward again with these kinds of silly claims.

    16. “I can show you books printed by Lathin rite Christians in India, which has prayers begin with “OM” and so many Hindu mantras which are prayers to Hindu gods. Lathins even has introduce new form of Qurbana with readings which were taken from the Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagvad Gita. Priests having tilak applied to their foreheads. Some priests wear a saffron shawl instead of a cassock and sit on the ground at a table surrounded by small lamps rather than stand at the traditional altar. The entrance procession for the Mass has cheer girls ( like the IPL) dancing the Bharatnatyam, kirtans and bhajans are sung at Communion. Priests who celebrate Ganesh-visarjan (immersion) and Raas Lila etc. I wonder if this make the belief of Lathin rite Christians “heretic” in India. Some of the hindu mantras violate the ten commandments !!!”

    Firstly, the use of “OM” is not against Christianity. Praying in Sanskrit, applying Tilak, using Safforn, Bharatnatyam, Kirtans, Bhajan, etc all these are neither heretic nor anti-Christian. Latin Christians are converts from Hindus. So these are simply their cultural tradition. If there is anything pagan in it, you may indicate.

  186. Binu C Cletus says

    Dear Steven:

    Thank you for asking this. In fact, I was waiting for someone to ask this. I am sure none of the Syrians here will ask for it as they know their position is really weak. The following is SESSION III / DECREE XIV of Synod of Diamper. If you doubt, you can refer anywhere else. This is a list of books that are to be prohibited and why. Hundreds of heretic and blasphemous book were there in the world. But the Synod talks about only these. So it is obvious that these books were actually used in Malabar. You decide whether they are heretic or simply “Eastern Christianity”.

    “ The purity of the faith being preserved by nothing more than by books of sound and holy doctrine ; and on the contrary, there being nothing whereby the minds of people are more corrupted, than by books of suspicious and heretical doctrines ; errors being by their means easily insinuated into the hearts of the ignorant, that read or hear them : wherefore the Synod knowing that this bishopric is full of books writ in the Syrian tongue by Nestorian heretics, and persons of other devilish sects, which abound with heresies, blasphemies and false doctrines, doth command in virtue of obedience, and upon pain of excommunication to be ipso facto incurred, that no person, of what quality and condition soever, shall from henceforward presume to keep, translate, read or hear read to others, any of the following books.

    The book entitled, ‘ The Infancy of our Saviour,’ or, ‘ The History of our Lady;’ condemned formerly by the ancient saints, for being full of blasphemies, heresies, and fabulous stories, where among others it is said, that the annunciation of the angel was made in the Temple of Jerusalem, where our Lady was, which contradicts the Gospel of St. Luke, which saith, it was made in Nazareth ; as also that Joseph had actually another wife and children, when he was betrothed to the holy virgin ; and that he often reproved the child Jesus for his naughty tricks; that the child Jesus went to school to the rahbins, and learned of them, with a thousand other fables and blasphemies of the same nature, and things unworthy of our Lord Christ, whereas the Gospel saith, that the Jews were astonished at his wisdom, asking how he came by so much learning, having never been taught; that the devil tempted Christ before his fast of forty days, which is contrary to the Gospel; that St. Joseph, to be satisfied whether the virgin had committed adultery-, carried her before the priests, who according to the law gave her the water of jealousy to drink ; that our Lady brought forth with pain, and parting from her company, not being able to go farther, she retired to a stable at Bethlehem; that neither our lady, nor any other saint is in heaven enjoying God, but are all in a terrestrial paradise, where they are to remain till the day of judgment, with other errors, too many to be related : but it is the Synod’s pleasure to instance in some of the chief errors contained in the books that it condemns, that so all may be satisfied of the reason why they are prohibited to be read, or kept upon pain of excommunication, and that all may avoid and burn them with the greater horror, and for other just and necessary respects.

    Also the book of John Barialdan, wherein it is said in divers places, That there were two persons, a divine and human, in Christ, which is contrary to the catholic faith, which confesses one only divine person : it is also said. That the names of Christ and Emanuel are the names of the human person only, and for that reason that the most sweet name Jesus is not to be adored ; that the union of the incarnation is common to all the three divine persons, who were all incarnated ; that our Lord Christ is the adopted, and not the natural Son of God ; that the union of the incarnation is accidental, and is only that of love betwixt the divine and human persons.

    Also the book entitled, ‘ The Procession of the Holy Spirit;’ wherein it is endeavoured to be proved at large, that the Holy Spirit proceedeth only from the Father, and not from the Son, which is contrary to the catholic truth, which teaches, that he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

    Also the book entitled ‘Margarita Fidei,’* or ‘The Jewel’ The Syrian title of this book is, Chtobo of Margmitho : The book of the pearl of great price. The author of it was Ebed Jesu, a Nestorian prelate, who died about the beginning of the 14th century, and is therefore to be distinguished from the author of Catalogue of Syrian Authors. of Faith ; wherein it is pretended to be proved at large, That our lady, the most holy virgin, neither is, nor ought to be styled the mother of God, but the mother of Christ; that in Christ there are two persons, the one of the Word, and the other of Jesus ; that the union of the incarnation is only an accidental union of love and power, and not a substantial union ; that there are three distinct faiths, which is divided into three professions, the Nestorian, Jacobite, and Roman ; that the Nestorian is the true faith that was taught by the Apostle, and that the Roman is false and heretical, and was introduced by force of arms, and the authority of heretical emperors, into the greatest part of the world ; that to excommunicate Nestorius, is to excommunicate the Apostles and Prophets, and the whole Scripture ; that they that do not believe his doctrine, shall not inherit eternal life ; that they that follow Nestorius, received their faith from the Apostles, which has been preserved to this day in the church of Babylon of the Syrians, that matrimony neither is, nor can be a sacrament ; that the sign of the cross is one of the sacraments of the church instituted by Christ; that the fire of hell is metaphorical, not real; that the Roman Church is fallen from the faith, condemning it likewise for not celebrating in leavened bread, according to what the Church has received from the Apostles, for which it is said the Romans are heretics.

    Also the book of the ‘ Fathers,’ wherein it is said. That our lady neither is, nor ought to be called the mother of God; that the Patriarch of Babylon of the Nestorians, is the universal head of the Church immediately under Christ; that the fire of hell is not real, but spiritual; that it is heresy to say, that God was born, or died ; that there are two persons in Christ.

    Also a book of the Life of Abbot Isaias, commented by a Nestorian, wherein it is said, That the union is common to all the three persons; that St. Cyril of Alexandria, who condemned Nestorius, was an impious heretic, and is now in hell, for having taught, that there is but one person in Christ; whereas, as often as Nestorius, Theodoras and Diodorus are named, they are styled saints, and blessed; by whose authority it is there proved, that the saints shall not enjoy God before the day of judgment; and that till then they shall be in an obscure place, which they call Eden, near to the terrestrial paradise ; and that by so much the worse as any one has been, he is tormented the less for it in hell, by reason of his greater conformity and friendship with the devils ; that the Word was not made Man, and that it is blasphemy to affirm it; that Christ conquered all the passions of sin by a power derived from God, and not by his own strength ; that St. Cyril was a heretic in teaching, that there was but one person in Christ; that the divine and human nature were united in Christ accidentally by love ; that the whole Trinity was incarnated ; that God dwelt in Christ as in a rational temple, giving him power to do all the good things he did ; that the souls of the just will be in a terrestrial paradise till the day of judgment; that the wicked when they die in mortal sin, are carried to a place called Eden, where they suffer only by the sense of the punishments they know they are to undergo after the day of judgment.

    Also the book of Synods, wherein there is a forged letter of Pope Caius, with false subscriptions of a great many other Western Bishops, directed to those of Babylon, wherein it is acknowledged, that the Church of Rome ought to be subject to that of Babylon, which with all that are subject to her, are immediately under Christ, without owing any reverence to the Roman Bishop; they say likewise, That the Roman Church is fallen from the faith, having perverted the canons of the Apostles, by the force of heretical emperors’ arms ; and that the Romans are heretics, for not celebrating in leavened bread, which has been the inviolable custom of the church derived from our Saviour, and his holy Apostles ; that all the Bishops that followed Nestorius, ought to be much esteemed, and when named, to be styled saints ; and to have their relics reverenced : That matrimony is not a sacrament, that it may be dissolved for the bad conditions of the parties : That usury is lawful, and there is no sin in it.

    Also the book of ‘ Timothy the Patriarch,’ where, in three chapters, The most holy sacrament of the altar is blasphemed; it being impiously asserted in them, That the true body of our Lord Christ is not there, but only the Figure thereof.

    Also the letter which they pretend came down from heaven, called the ‘ Letter of the Lord’s-day,’ wherein the Roman Church is accused of having fallen from the faith, and having violated the Domingo, or Lord’s-day letter.

    Also the book called ‘ Maclamatas ; ‘ wherein the distinction of two persons in Christ, and the accidental union of the incarnation are pretended to be proved at large, and are confirmed with several false and blasphemous similitudes.

    Also the book entitled ‘ Uguarda, or the Rose ; ‘ wherein it is said, That there are two persons in Christ; that the union of the incarnation was accidental; that our lady brought forth with pain ; and the sons of Joseph, which he had by his other wife, being in company, went for a midwife to her, with other blasphemies.

    Also the book entitled ‘ Camiz ; ‘ wherein it is said, That the Divine Word, and the Son of the virgin are not the same ; and that our lady brought forth with pain.

    Also the book intituled ‘ Menra,’ wherein it is said, that our Lord Christ is only the image of the Word; that the substance of God dwelt in Christ as in a temple; that Christ is next to the divinity; that Christ was made the companion of God.

    Also the book of Orders; wherein it is said, that the form, and not the matter, is necessary to orders ; and the forms therein are likewise erroneous ; that there are only two orders, Diaconate and priesthood; that altars of wood, and not of stone, are to be consecrated ; there are also prayers in it for those that are converted from any other sect to Nestorianism, in form of an absolution from the excommunication they had incurred for not having followed Nestorius, and of a reconciliation to the Church.

    Also the book of Homilies; wherein it is said, that the holy eucharist is only the image of Christ, and is distinguished from him, as an image is from a true man ; and that the body of our Lord Jesus Christ is not there, nor any where else but in heaven ; that the whole Trinity was incarnate ; that Christ is only the temple of the Divinity, and God only by representation ; that the soul of Christ descended not into hell, but was carried to the paradise of Eden; that whosoever affirms the contrary, errs, and that we therefore err in our creed: there are therein likewise some letters of some heretical synods, in which it is said, that the Patriarch of Babylon is not subject to the Roman Bishop ; with an oath to be taken to the said patriarch, as the head of the church, wherein people swear to obey him, and him only, and not the Bishop of Rome.

    Also a book entitled, ‘ An Exposition of the Gospels;’ wherein it is everywhere pretended to be proved, that there are two persons in Christ, and that Christ as a pure creature, was obliged to adore God, and stood in need of prayer ; that he was the temple of the most holy Trinity ; that Christ’s soul when he died, descended not into hell, but was carried to the paradise of Eden; which was the place he promised to the thief on the cross : that our lady, the Virgin, deserved to be reproved for having vainly imagined, that she was mother to one that was to be a great King; looking upon Christ as no other than a pure man ; and presuming that he was to have a temporal empire, as well as the rest of the Jews: that the evangelists did not record all Christ’s actions in truth as they were, they not having been present at several of them ; which was the reason why they differed from one another so much : that the wise men that came from the East, received no favour from God, for the journey they took ; neither did they believe in Christ; that Christ was the adopted Son of God, it being as impossible that he should be God’s natural Son, as it is that just men should be so ; that he received new grace in baptism, which he had not before; that he is only the image of the Word, and the pure temple of the Holy Spirit; that the holy Eucharist is only the image of the body of Christ, which is only in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and not here on earth: that Christ, as pure man, did not know when the day of judgment was to be : that when St. Thomas put his hand into Christ’s side, and said, ” My Lord and my God! ” he did not speak to Christ; for that he that was raised was not God; but it was only an exclamation made to God upon his beholding such a miracle: that the authority that Christ gave to St. Peter over the church, was the same that he gave to other priests ; so that his successors have no more power or jurisdiction than other bishops: that our lady, the Virgin, is not the mother of God : that the first Epistle of St. John, and that of St. James, are not the writings of those holy Apostles, but of some other persons of the same name, and therefore are not canonical.

    Also the book of Hormisda Raban, who is styled a saint, wherein it is said, that Nestorius was a saint, and martyr, and suffered for the truth ; and that St. Cyril, who persecuted him, was the priest and minister of the devil, and is now in hell: that images are filthy and abominable idols, and ought not to be adored; and that St. Cyril, as a heretic invented and introduced them: there are also many false miracles recorded in this book, which are said to have been wrought by Hormisda in confirmation of the Nestorian doctrine, with an account of what he suffered from the catholics, for being obstinate in his heresy.

    Also the book of Lots, into which they put that they call the ring of Solomon, with a great many more superstitions, for the choice of good days to marry upon, and for several other uses; wherein are contained many blasphemies, and heathenish observances ; as also all other books of Lots, and for choosing of days, the Synod prohibits under the same censure.

    Also the book written after the manner of Flos Sanctorum, wherein are contained the lives of a great many Nestorian heretics, who are there called saints; and not only that entire book, but also any of the lives contained therein, which may be current separately ; namely, those of Abraham, styled the Great, of George Abbot Cardeg, whom they call a martyr; Jacob, Abban, Saurixo, Johanan, Gauri, Raban, Sabacat, Ocama, Daniel, Barcaula, Raban Nuna, Jacob, Rabai the Great, Dadixo, Jomarusia, Schalita, Ihab, Abimelech the ex- positor, Abraham, another Abraham Natpraya, Jobcarder, I11John, Ircasca, Nestorius, Jaunam, Barcurra, Raban Gabarona, Schabibi, Barcima, Titus, Raban Sapor, Gregory the Metropolitan, George, Monach, Xahucalmaran, Joseph, Nathanael, Simon Abbot Chabita, Zinai Abbot, Audixo, John Crascaya, Barcahade, ItalaaU, John Sahadui, Aha, Xalita, Joanacoreta, Xari, another John, Elias, Joadarmah, Ananixo, another John, Barhetta, Rabai Simeon, Narsai Naban, Raban Theodoras, Rabai Doctor, Abda, Abolaminer, Rabantarsaha of Cadarvi, Xuuelmaran, Sergiududa, Xuuealmaran, Dadixo, another Abraham, Ezekieldasa, Rabai Perca, David Barnutar, Hormisda, Pition, Salomon Abbot, Raban Machixo, another George, Muchiqua, another Abraham, Apuimacan, Xaurixo, Ixosauran, Josedec, Raban Camixo, Bardirta Abbot, Abraham Barmaharail, George Raban, Zliva Abbot, Guiriaco Rabanbaut, Joseph Abbot, Zaca, Nasbian, Jesus Abbot, Aaron Bucatixo, Ascan, another Abraham, Xonxa Abbot, Amanixo Gasraya, Sahedona Bishop, Joseph, Azaya, Isahaha Bishop, Jacob, whom they call a prophet, Ixaiahu, Eunuco Ramain, Jobar Malchi: who were all Nestorian heretics, and the chief followers of that cursed sect, as is evident from their lives, which are full of heresies, blasphemies, and false and fabulous miracles,’ with which they pretend to authorize their sect.

    Also the book called Parisman, or the Persian Medicine, which is full of sorceries, teaching certain methods whereby one may do mischief to their enemies, and may gain women, and for a great many other lewd and prohibited purposes ; there are likewise in it strange names of devils, of whom they affirm, that whosoever shall carry the names of seven of them about him writ in a paper, shall be in no danger of any evil: it contains also many superstitious exorcisms for the casting out of devils ; mixing some godly words with others that are not intelligible; and with the invocation of the most Holy Trinity, oftentimes desiring the doing of lewd things, and enormous sins, joining the merits of Nestorius and his followers, many times, in the same prayer with those of the blessed Virgin, and those of their devils, with those of the holy angels; all which is very common in this diocese; most curates having this book, and making use of it to this very day; all which sort of books the Synod prohibits in this diocese under the fore-mentioned censures ; and whosoever from henceforwards shall be found to have any of them, besides the censure they have incurred thereby, shall be severely punished by their prelate. ”

    (SESSION III / DECREE XIV, Synod of Diamper)

  187. John Mathew says


    What’s your problem? If you are a Latin-Rite Christian, then good. But why mess around on a Syriac Christian board? We have no common basis for discussion, since this is not a site that discusses Christianity, but rather the Nasranis — i.e., Syriac Christians — of Kerala.

    The Nasranis of Kerala were of the East Syriac Church — “Nestorians”. That means we used the literature of that Church. We had various infancy gospels floating around. Who cares? They were not heterodox, per se. Just non-canonical works that attempted to tell a story (true or not) of Jesus’ life that is not accounted in the Bible. I’ve read these several times : they are a good read, very interesting. But they don’t lead to any error.

    Eastern Christians includes a whole plethora of Churches, Catholic, Orthodox, Miaphysite, Monothelite, and Dyophysite. Perhaps others too. Each group considers the other to be heretical; so your casual throwing around of that term means nothing. I’m a Jacobite and so you may consider me to be a heretic; in my younger days I’d consider you to be a dyophysite Latin heretic.

    But now, with the work of Pro Oriente, I think many are discovering that the controversies of that old era (where many of the “fathers” were less than saintly people it seems) were in large part due to ego, mistranslation, bigotry (mutual; East v West v Oriental), etc.

    If there was a major diff between the “Nestorians”, “Jacobites”, “Byzantines” and “Latins” then Pro Oriente would have come to zero. But it hasn’t. Rather, the fruits of that have been very encouraging.

    You bringing up Infancy Gospels as a sign of major heresy is ridiculous. In fact, it was the Catholics who helped to publish those lost Syriac works in the last two centuries.

    And the “sorcery” of that era was the harmless sorcery that exists in all oriental Churches. Even today people will bring their tests, government papers, etc., to the Church, touch the altar, write the holy name, annoint it with oil informally, etc., to somehow “charge” it with “Goodness”. Do you think that’s heresy? Or is it just folk piety.

    We get it, you have a chip on your shoulder and don’t like Syriac Christians. Good for you. Join the club. I’m sure there’s a forum somewhere where your rants would be a very positive contribution.

    Here? They’ll just be refuted by people with a far more ancient Christian heritage than you. Does that make us better? Not necessarily. But it’s a fact, and it’s a fact that we like to emphasize because that’s our heritage.

    I’m sure peoples of other heritage take pleasure in discovering and presenting their history.

    I agree with one thing that you say: that just because our ancient fathers had accomplishments, that does not transfer to us. Right you are. But this site seems to be more than about merely that. We’re trying to uncover aspects of our heritage that have been covered, hidden, overwritten, modified, distorted, etc.

    (And regarding the latter, I don’t blame the Portuguese. Personally, I’m not against the Portuguese. I think they made solid contributions, that helped us in some ways. I think the destruction of Nasrani heritage has been more due to Nasrani pseduo-historians, than any foreign source).

    So — yes, we were Nestorians before we united with Rome. So what? The Nestorians were the largest Christian Church for a long time, and spread the Gospel far and wide.

  188. Steven Ring says

    Dear Binu, Dear All,

    Amongst others I did not immediately recognise, this list of literature condemned at Umdiampur in 1599 contains the following well-known books of the Church of the East with their approximate dates of composition. These books may not be to the taste of Catholics, but IMO everyone else should be free to study them and make up their own minds:

    John Bar Qaldun, biography of Rabban Joseph Busnaya, c. 979 AD.
    Mar Awdisho of Nisibis, The Pearl – a treatise on the truth of Christianity, late 13th century.
    Dadisho` Qatraya, Commentary on the Book of Abba Isaiah, c. AD 690
    The synodicon of the Church of the East, 8th century.
    Giwargis Warda, A hymn-book bearing his name. 13th century.
    Khamis Bar Qardahi, A hymn-book bearing his name. 13th century.
    Isho`dad of Merv (?), Commentary on the gospels, 9th century.
    The history of Rabban Hormizd, 7th century.

    A few of these books have been edited and translated and some editions and translations can even be downloaded. If anyone would be interested I would be happy to supply this list with further details…

    Best wishes,

  189. John Mathew says


    I’m sure many would like you to point out where we can acquire the translations of the texts used by our forefathers. Links please!

  190. Steven Ring says

    Dear John Mathew, Dear All,

    Then it is my pleasure to partly undo the fires started on 20th June AD 1599 at Umdiyampur by Alexio de Meneses, the Catholic archbishop of Goa. Many more books burned by him are nevertheless now available in print, but describing that forbidden library is a much larger study that I may write and publish one day, (no promises). However, as you will note below, many editions and translations have been published by the Catholic church, so one wonders whether Alexio de Meneses had any real authority for his violent acts?

    John Bar Qaldun, biography of Rabban Joseph Busnaya, c. 979 AD. A French translation has been published by Jean Baptiste Chabot in Revue de l’Orient chrétien and this is available on-line in several installments:

    Mar Awdisho of Nisibis, The Pearl – a treatise on the truth of [eastern] Christianity, composed AD 1291 or 1292. There is an English translation available on line by Percy Badger 1852, volume 2, p. 380 ff. See links for Badger’s book listed below under the Warda. The Syriac text of the Pearl is also available on-line:
    By Jenks 1898 but these are only short extracts, see pp. 34 ff:
    By Cardinal Angelo Mai 1838, see part 2, pp. 317 – 341, (facs. pp. 744 – 780):

    Dadisho` Qatraya, Commentary on the Book of Abba Isaiah, c. AD 690. Edited and translated into French by: Draguet, René 1972. ‘Commentaire du livre d’Abba Isaïe (logoi I – XV) par Dadisho Qaṭraya (VIIe s.)’ Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 2 volumes. These volumes are in print and can be ordered on-line from Belgium, see links to publisher’s website:

    The synodicon of the Church of the East, 8th century. Edited and translated into French by: Chabot, Jean-Baptiste 1902 ‘Synodicon Orientale’ Paris. Out of print. Not available yet on-line. A copy may be obtainable from a public library near you.
    Giwargis Warda, A hymn-book bearing his name. 13th century. Not edited. However, English translations of numerous extracts from the Warda can be found published by Percy Badger, see volume 2:
    Badger, George Percy, 1852 ‘The Nestorians and their Rituals’ 2 volumes, Masters, London.
    Volume 1:
    Volume 2 copy 1:
    Volume 2, copy 2:

    Khamis Bar Qardahi, A hymn-book bearing his name. 13th century. Not edited. However, English translations of numerous extracts from the Khamis can also be found published by Percy Badger, see volume 2, (see links provided for the Warda above).

    Isho`dad of Merv, Commentary on the gospels, 9th century. Edited and translated by:
    Gibson, Margaret Dunlop 1911. ‘The commentaries of Ishoʿdad of Merv’, Horae Semiticae: 3 volumes, Cambridge University Press.
    —. 1911 Volume V, English translation of the whole gospel commentary:
    —. 1911 Volume VI, Syriac text of the commentaries on Matthew and Mark.
    —. 1911 Volume VII, Syriac text of the commentaries on Luke and John.

    The history of Rabban Hormizd, 7th century. Edited and translated by:
    Budge, Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis 1902 ‘The histories of Rabban Hormizd the Persian and Rabban Bar Idta’ 3 volumes, Luzac and co, London. The 2 volumes containing English translations:

    One word of caution; The links provided above should all work OK today, but there is no guarantee that they will still work in the future. Hence, if these books interest you, it might be as well to download them immediately for later study.

    Happy reading.

    Best wishes,

  191. Xavier Kalangara says

    About “Yavana” in Sanskrit meaning “food and drink”: Dr Paulose, could you please investigate this a bit further? I think you are referring to the word “yaavana” with a long vowel /a/ after /y/. If that is so that word is a corruption of “Yaapana” meaning food and drink (remember the Malayalam phrase “kaala-yaapanam”). Yaavana is an archaic word seen used in Malayalam in this sense.

    About Binu’s argument that it was not ‘Nazrani’ but ‘Mappila’ that was used for Syrian Christians: The latter is a title, the former is the name of the religious community. In a way Binu is right. Nazrani though refers to Syrian Christians of Kerala, that was the original name for a Christian. That again is a linguistic pointer to the fact that Christianity in Kerala was untouched by Western influence in the early centuries (Greek influence included). If Binu wants to use this “primitive” name to denote his faith let him do so. After all, Latins have copied copiously from Syrians. For instance they have no proper Latin originated names for several names like “Qudassa” for sacrament. There is nothing wrong in borrowing a word from another language. Malayalam has borrowed from Syriac, Sanskrit and lately from English. English now boasts of the largest vocabulary only because it borrowed heavily from other languages including Malayalam. (Words like ‘Ginger’, ‘Pariah’, ‘Jackfruit’, ‘Betel’, ‘Curry’, ‘Mango’ ‘Coir’, ‘Copra’, are some common words in English borrowed from Malayalam-some are common to other Dravidian languages but English got many of them from Portuguse who got them from Malayalam). A language becomes rich by borrowing. English is not ashamed of borrowing. The attitude here is that when a word is borrowed from Indian languages it is okay. I don’t see why Binu has to staunchly deny any Syrian origin of words when all logic point to the possibility of Syriac origins to words like “Yavana’ and Kabar.

    Binu has a good research on Oriental Christian heresies. It is like missing the trees for the woods. Does the existence of apocryphal writings mean that the Magisterium of the Church subscribes to the views? You long words are only intended to put the Syrian Christians in bad light.

    It is strange that Binu has not heard of certain Latins claims that they were originally Syrians. Fr Placid in his book “The Latin Rite Christians of Malabar” deals at length with the claims of Latin Christians’ claims of Syrian Nazrani origin. Latins have been, as he points out, trying to imitate the customs of Syrians encouraged by their patrons. Those who had fewer such customs have justified their position in a strange way. Rather than deny Syrian ancestry they say that they have abandoned their Syrian customs which seemed to them to be superstitious in relation to their ‘pure catholic faith found in the Lain rite’. If you talk to a Latin he is only eager to either trace his ancestry to Syrians or to recount his family ties with Syrians. But I would appreciate the stand of Binu if it were borne of true spirits. One should be proud of his roots. Anyone, if he is to be respected, should learn to respect himself. Without self-respect he cannot also respect others. We Syrians are proud of our ancestry. That does not mean we look down on others (some may do so, but that is a human trait not specific to Syrians. It is a human trait in every ethnic group). I am not denying that there are Syrian Christian families who have fabricated fantastic tales about the ancestors and about the titles/positions they enjoyed. They try to obscure negative aspects of their family history. When a nazrani stands up and wants uphold his heritage it is not a threat to Latins or any other community. I always feel that a Latin Christian in Kerala should be proud of the Syrian Christians in his midst. He should feel that there, in his homeland, he has neighbours who belong to one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world.

  192. Jacob John says

    Dear Xavier,

    U have written well. The old sage Simeon in the Temple held the baby Jesus and said ‘.. A light for revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of thy people Israel…’ (Luke 2:32). The Latin and the Nasrani are both important to God, provided both fulfill their mandate.

  193. udayam says

    Dear All:

    Nanum Monum

    In the mountains of Kerala there existed a language called ‘Nanum Monum’. This could be a proto language of Malayalam closely related to Tamil or a transitional language in between Tamil and Malayalam. Anybody who knows more may please post.

    Pre Christian Aramaic influence.

    Dear Xavier:

    Appreciate your comments. I have to admit that I didn’t go through your list before I posted my list. Please accept my apologies for repeating of some of your words. I agree fully with you that those words I mentioned are Dravidian words. My intention in highlighting those words was to point out that these words in Dravidian languages probably came from Aramaic. The exact word our Mashiha used to address His Father was “Appa”, not Abba/ Abo or Awa. The general agreement among scholars is that He spoke the Palestinian dialect of Aramaic. If ‘Appa’ is not an Aramaic word, He probably picked this when He had some schooling in a Harappan (Dravidian) University before his public ministry(just kidding). Other words that probably have an Aramaic origin are Makan, Makal, Kanya, Akka, Thara etc. Ara is the commonly used word for half or to denote a human body part. But if we look at words such as Arachan (King), Arasankam (politics), Aramana (house of the head), Arrack (a popular liquor of poor people), the word Ara takes meanings such as main, major important and significant. When you say Ezharapally it doesn’t mean 71/2 churches, but means seven main (major) churches. In the saying ‘Arayum thalayum murukkuka’ ‘ara’ comes ahead of ;thala’. So we have to think Dravidans gave more importance to ‘ara’ than ‘thala’. ‘We have hundreds of places that end in ‘Athur’ or ‘Oor’. We have also words such as Elam/ezham, Ezhava etc. Even the present day metropolis Kochi had a parent near Selucia with the same name. These all point to the probable Elamite/ Athurian origin of Dravidians. Elam was a region of Persian Empire located somewhere in the south western part of present day Iran. Dravidians are a displaced population. Their conquerors hijacked their land, culture and language and portrayed them as a subhuman species, demonized their beliefs and deities. Let’s look at the plight of a sect called ‘Mandeans’ in Iraq who rever Yohannan Mamdana, abhors Jesus and take frequent baptisms. They also use a cross which is covered with a white cloth. Their population before Iraq war was around 80, 000. Now there are only 5000 Mandeans in Iraq. Dravidian probably faced a similar plight.


    It is a Sanskrit origin word. Look at ‘Om thatva savidur varenyam. Bhargo Devassya dheemahi’.

    Athurian Syrian transformation

    When the Athurian kingdom extended westward, the people there used ‘s’ instead of ‘t’, thus making it Aashurian. Then Aashurian became Assyrian and finally A was dropped and it became Syrian. The ‘y’ in Syrian, Kyrie are pronounced ‘u’ and hence Suriani and Kurie in Malayalam.

    Orign of Syriac as a Christian language

    The language Syriac came out of the Edessan dialect of Aramaic. The King Abgar Ukama who wrote a letter to Mashiha requesting him to come to his Kingdom and heal him of a sickness, when gotten converted to Christianity following a cure of his illness the Christians of Edessa enjoyed religious and political freedom. This gave rise to several schools of Christian thoughts and the Edessan dialect of Aramaic language was Christianized with development of new literature and script which was designated as Syriac to differentiate from non Christian Aramaic.

    Anticipatory bail:

    These are just opinions of a sadha malayalee. Nothing authoritative. And opinion is not an Iron pestle (abiprayam irumpulakkayalla).


  194. Binu C Cletus says


    1. “it was not ‘Nazrani’ but ‘Mappila’ that was used for Syrian Christians: The latter is a title, the former is the name of the religious community.”

    Why are you repeating this lie again and again? Why then, the decrees of SoD use the term “Nazrani Mappila”?

    2. “that was the original name for a Christian. That again is a linguistic pointer to the fact that Christianity in Kerala was untouched by Western influence in the early centuries”


    3. “After all, Latins have copied copiously from Syrians. For instance they have no proper Latin originated names for several names like “Qudassa” for sacrament.”

    It was not “copying” but a cultural exchange and it is a two-way process. Syrians have borrowed many things from the Latin Christians. If you call this a “Copying” or “Imitation”, then I can prove the Syrians have copied more from Western Christians than vice versa.

    You talk about the use of “Qudassa”, right? What about more basic words like Christian, Cross, etc? The usual Malayalam word for a Christian is “Kristhyaani” and for cross, it is “Kurish” rather than “Sliba”. These words are borrowed from western languages by not only Syrians, but all Malayalis. Do you have a Syriac word for confession? Don’t you Syrians use words like Kumpasaaram (Confession), Osthi (The Host – Eucharistic bread), Loha (Cassock), Cappela (Chapel), Althaara (Altar), Veenj (Wine), Vikaari (Vicar), Venjarippu (Sanctification), Appastholan (Apostle), etc? There are many secular words as well. Casera, Janal, Lelam, Veeppa, Vijaagiri, Laayam, Lunki, Ronth, Tuvaala, Isthiri, Borma, Mesthiri, Vaara, Shodathi, Piraakk (Curse), Paliyam, etc. All came from Latin or Portuguese.

    Regarding culture, do you celebrate Christmas? From where did the popular elements of Christmas come? Western or Eastern Christianity? Christmas cake, Crib, Christmas Tree, Carol, Stars, Santa Claus, etc? Use of Rosary? What about your name, Xavier? Is it from Latin or Syriac? Even non-Catholic Syrians of Kerala use Catholic names. They never use many of Syrian names such as Abdulla.

    I think “Kalangara” in your name is your family name. How come it as a Last name? Traditionally Syrians use family names at the beginning like “Parambil Chandy”, “Anjilimoottil Thoma”, etc. It is an imitation of Western Christians that Syrians shifted their family name to the end. What does a Syrian groom today wear on his wedding? Jubba and Mundu? Or, a Suit? Now tell me, who imitates whom?

    Fr. Placid Podipara and his followers like Fr. Xavier Kodappuzha, through their books, played a major role in propagating “Latinophobia” among Syrians.

    4. “I don’t see why Binu has to staunchly deny any Syrian origin of words when all logic point to the possibility of Syriac origins to words like “Yavana’ and Kabar.”

    What are these logic points? We have evidences of “Yavana” used in Sanskrit at least since 3rd century BC and in Tamil since 1st century BC. Malayalam is developed from Tamil. Then I don’t know why you people insist to believe that ancient Keralites waited until the spread of Syriac Christianity here to use this word.

    5. “We Syrians are proud of our ancestry.”

    I don’t think Malabar Syrians have much to be proud of. There are many ancient Christian communities all over world, such as Armenians, Alexandrians, Greeks, Romans, etc. All these ancient communities have their own unique Liturgies in their mother tongues, their own Patriarchates, their own Christian kings and Empires, their own philosophical and theological streams, their own thinkers and great personalities throughout their history. Malabar Syrians have none of these. All they have is an artistically designed cross, a copperplate and a few random accounts of arrival of some Syrian bishops from foreign countries to rule them. They were never a decisive power here. There were always at the mercy of Hindu kings. Can you name a single INDIGENOUS Syrian before the arrival of Portuguese?

    @John Mathew:

    1. “If you are a Latin-Rite Christian, then good. But why mess around on a Syriac Christian board? We have no common basis for discussion, since this is not a site that discusses Christianity, but rather the Nasranis.”

    Not my denomination, but my words count. And as far as I am talking about the Malabar Syrians, I can comment here. I never come up with general Christianity topics like “Did Jesus appoint Bishops?” Right?

    2. “We had various infancy gospels floating around. Who cares? They were not heterodox, per se. Just non-canonical works that attempted to tell a story (true or not) of Jesus’ life that is not accounted in the Bible.”

    If these books have something that are against what holy Bible say, then they are not simply non-canonical, but blasphemous. One of these says:

    a) The child Jesus went to school to the Rabbis, and learned of them, whereas the Gospel says, that the Jews were astonished at his wisdom, asking how he came by so much learning, having never been taught.

    b) The annunciation of the angel was made in the Temple of Jerusalem, where our Lady was, which contradicts the Gospel of St. Luke, which says, it was made in Nazareth.

    Still you think these books are harmless? There were Ramayana and Mahabharatha here. But the SoD never cared about them. Why? Because Christians did not follow these books. Then why did the Synod eagerly banned your “Non-canonical” books? Because Syrians here believed in them and children were taught the same!

    3. “If there was a major diff between the “Nestorians”, “Jacobites”, “Byzantines” and “Latins” then Pro Oriente would have come to zero. But it hasn’t. Rather, the fruits of that have been very encouraging.”

    There are many other churches who tolerate contradictory Christologies, but Roman Catholic Church never allows this. We believe in one faith. Catholics believe in “It is this”, not in “it may be this or that”.

    4. “In fact, it was the Catholics who helped to publish those lost Syriac works in the last two centuries.”

    I am a Catholic and I am planning to translate these books into Malayalam and publish them. It is not because I follow them. I am doing this to show why Catholic Church considers these books as heretical and how SoD was right in prohibiting them. All Catholic authorities think like this. They bring those books to light for research and analytical purpose, not to use in Sunday schools.

    5. “Even today people will bring their tests, government papers, etc., to the Church, touch the altar, write the holy name, annoint it with oil informally, etc., to somehow “charge” it with “Goodness”. Do you think that’s heresy?”

    No, of course. But it is not the case. The sorcery mentioned here is looking for good days for marriage, using many dubious hymns for curing deceases, etc. One book is even called “Persian Medicine”. The Syrian even had custom of “purifying” their wells if a lower-caste person takes water from it. Is it your “folk piety”?

    6. “I’m not against the Portuguese. I think they made solid contributions, that helped us in some ways.”


    9. So — yes, we were Nestorians before we united with Rome. So what?

    These books are clearly against Catholic beliefs. So, if they are Nestorian, then it will disprove your early argument that “Nestorian” is just a cultural term and their Christology was exactly same as that of Catholics. I am not interested in giving any names. My question is whether these books are “heretic” in Catholic and Jacobite view or not. It is obvious they are. So there is no point for a Catholic or Jacobite to say SoD was wrong in banning them. Many have even commented that Nestorianism is just an imagination of Westerners. Now you are refuting yourselves. Nice.

    7. “The Nestorians were the largest Christian Church for a long time, and spread the Gospel far and wide”

    You are free to have your own day dreams.

    8. “But this site seems to be more than about merely that. We’re trying to uncover aspects of our heritage.”

    This site has infinite possibilities. But you are not exploiting them. You can bring all the Syrian Christians under one roof; you can bring back bygone cultural symbols like “Chattayum Mundum”. See what happens in the Muslim community. They are rediscovering their identity. They are no more afraid of wearing hijabs in public. But what about the Christians? Only the old people wear such dresses and they will soon be a museum piece. I dream of a day when a teacher teaches in classroom wearing “Chattayum Mundum”.


    Thank you for the links. Can you dig the other books also? I am especially interested in the first and last books. The last book “Parisman” or “Persian medicine” seems to be not Nestorian. I think it was either Zoroastrian or Manichean? What do you think?

  195. Steven Ring says

    Dear Binu, Dear All,

    After some more digging, I have managed to identify the first book in the list of books condemned at Umdiampur, (see details below). In my view this one is easily the most interesting book in the list because some of the non-canonical details mentioned in the decree are also found in other Syriac texts. For example, even the Greek translation of Matthew’s gospel hints that Christ learnt from the Rabbi’s, but the connection with Hillel the most important Jewish sage, is much clearer in the oldest Syriac layer of Matthew’s gospel. I published some research in an article in 2009 on the original Syriac of Matthew’s gospel which develops this theme and a number of others, link: The title is: ‘The historical context of Syriac Matthew’.

    The history of the blessed virgin Maryam in Syriac is found here. The author’s introduction explains the diverse list of sources used to compose this Syriac work. Some of these underlying sources are important windows on the past, but others are more than likely spurious. Some careful work would be required to identify and separate the good fish from the bad fish. Fortunately, some of the underlying sources have been edited since Budge published his edition…
    Bibliographic information: Budge, Sir Ernest Alfred Wallis 1899 ‘The History of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The History of the Likeness of Christ : which the Jews of Tiberias made to mock at’ 2 volumes, Luzac and co, London. Volume 1: Syriac text, Volume 2, English translation.
    Syriac text metadata:
    Syriac text download:
    English translation metadata:
    English translation download:

    I don’t know where to find the last book on the condemned book list. If you could do some more work to tidy up the English translation of the description, that might help. Ancient medicine is not my field, but perhaps someone else may know?

    I noticed you are bandying about allegations of blasphemy, heresy etc. In my view and this is only my opinion, these notions are an obstacle to finding the truth. If something is true, then it is robust and it can withstand any amount of research and enquiry, (because his word is like a house built on a rock). In fact, I think research and enquiry are healthy things. However, if something is false, it will readily succumb to enquiry, (like the house built on sand will succumb to a flood, Mt7.24 – 27).

    Best wishes,

  196. George Mathew says

    Dear All,

    For further understanding of the Nazerenes/Suriyanis of Malabar, please would you care to read/refer to the writings of ‘Reverend Claudius Buchanan’, the person who played a very important role in removing/minimizing Syriac from our lives. The Book was written by about AD 1810.
    Pleas read from Page 106 onwards ‘Christian Researches – Syrian Christians of India – By Reverend Claudius Buchanan’
    I wish you to particularly study his quote ‘.. there were many amongst the Christian Clergy , who were perfect masters of both the languages (Syriac and Malayalam), having spoken them from their infancy..’ (Page 119). Dr. Ashahel Grant quotes Buchanan in his book ‘The Nestorians – The 10 Lost Tribes’.
    You don’t have to agree with the book, but is a must read for those who want to study the the Malabar Nazerenes and their Syriac heritage.

    Buchanan being Anglican does not like the Roman Catholic Church. Remember, the matter in the book are his views and not mine. I am not at all a fan of Buchanan, though I value his writings for study.

  197. George Mathew says

    Dear Steven,
    For further understanding of the Suriyanis of Malabar, please would you care to read/refer to the writings of ‘Reverend Claudius Buchanan’, the person who played a very important role in removing/minimizing Syriac from our lives. The Book was written by about AD 1810.
    Pleas read from Page 106 onwards ‘Christian Researches – Syrian Christians of India – By Reverend Claudius Buchanan’
    I wish you to particularly study his quote ‘.. there were many amongst the Christian Clergy , who were perfect masters of both the languages (Syriac and Malayalam), having spoken them from their infancy..’ (Page 119). Dr. Ashahel Grant quotes Buchanan in his book ‘The Nestorians – The 10 Lost Tribes’.
    You don’t have to agree with the book, but is a must read for those who want to study the the Malabar Nazerenes and their Syriac heritage.

  198. Binu C Cletus says

    Dear Udayam,

    “Nanam Monam” is not a language, but a writing scheme. It was used by the elite class, not tribes. It is simply the technique of using Grantha letters with Vattezhuthu. In Vattezhuthu, many letters are not there such as “Sa”, “Ba”, etc. If you use only pure Dravidian words, it is not a problem. But if you use Sanskrit words, you will need many extra letters. So the Grantha letters were used in line with Vattezhuthu letters. This is called “Nanam Monam”.

    For e.g. if you look at Tharisapally copperplates, the word Tharisappally is written like this. “Thari” and “Pally” are written using pure Vattezhuthu letters, while “Sa” is written using Grantha letter. This is how Grantha letters gradually infiltrated into our writing system, until one day a brave guy threw away all the Vattezhuthu letters and started writing with only Grantha letters. His name was Ramanujan, from a family called Thunchathu and he was an Ezhuthachan by caste. 🙂

    If you want to know more about transitional languages, read about Kaanikkaran language and Malabar Tamul. The latter was even printed.

    Regarding the connection between Aramaic and Dravidian languages, you seem to be more reasonable than those Syro-maniacs out here. But it is not an “influence”. There is a proposed Elamo-Dravidian linguistic family which groups the ancient Elamite language and present Dravidian languages as a single family. They believe that the ancient Harappans spoke a Dravidian dialect and the language spoken by ancient Mesopotamians closely resembles it.

    If you are interested, please look at the possibility for the ancient Dravidian language to be of Semitic origin. The earliest deity of Dravidians is “Kotavvai”, a mother goddess. “Kot_” means “Great” in Dravidian languages (E.g.: Kotakkuda). So we can assume that “Kotavvai” means “Great Avvai”. We all know that “Avvai” is a common Tamil feminine name (E.g.: Avvai Shanmukhi). We can relate this name to “Havva” or Eve.

    “Kov” usually means “Lord”. It is used t o denote Kings.But in early Dravidian language, “Kov” means “God” (E.g.: Kovil). It may be a variant of “Yahova”, the biblical god. Then it is not surprising the similarity between “Satan” and “Chathan”. Sanskrit word “Siva” came from Tamil “Chevvan”, both means “Good Man” and almost all agree that he is a Dravidian deity. I think he is “Adam”. Remember Siva is also known as “Muthappan” or “Great Ancestor”.

    Sanskrit origin of “Devassia”: I strongly disagree. If so, then “Thoma” is also Sanskrit, because we see in Sanskrit “Asa Thoma Sath Gamaya”!! In fact, both these names are clearly Christian / Jewish and they have no Sanskrit connection. Devassia came from, I think “Sebastian”. In “Gayatri matra” (the one you quoted), “Devasya” is used in a meaning “of gods” and Hindus never have used this word as a name.

    NB: “Kochi” came from “Kochira”, which is again from “Kurishu Chira”. This is a Christian name and it is still a Christian-majority City. 🙂 [Some people falsely claim that it came from “Go-Sree” to make it seem like a Hindu name which is absolutely hoax.]

  199. Binu C Cletus says


    “If you are interested, please look at the possibility for the ancient Dravidian language to be of Semitic origin..”


    Read it as “ancient Dravidian Religion”. I meant Proto-Dravidian religion is of Semitic origin.

  200. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Binu: In your argument based on some Malayalam version of Synod of Diamer decrees, maniac ALEJIO DE MENEZES could have called “ Nasrani Mappila” and “New Nasranis” if ever “Nasrani” was used to represent lathin rite converts ! Your source ( unknown to us) mentions as “Nasrani Mappila” and “New Christians” not “New Nasranis” !!

    Similarly any historical documents which calls “ Kuppayakar” ( Topaz) as “Kuppaya Nasranikal” ( Topaz Nasranikal” , “Ezhunuttikar” ( Seven Hundrad) as “ Ezhunnuru Nasranikal” ( Seven Hundrad Nasranikal), “ Anjuttikar” ( Five Hundrad) as “ Anjuru Nasranikal” ( Five Hundrad Nasraniklal) etc… ? So your arguments even does not have any base !!!!

    Can you give proper reference to your source of the Synod of Diamper decrees ? Anyone can make any vague arguments based on some version of decrees of the most catholic maniac in Indian Christian history ALEJIO DE MENEZES ? Tell us from where you pasted the Malayalam synod decrees and the English version ?

    Varapuzha, Goa diocese has many documents on what the lathin rite were called and so is at Rome ! So you might extend to your arguments to include the documents at Varapuzha, Goa, Rome, the old dictionaries, new dictionaries, history books all LIE !

    When Portuguese came here, there were ONLY Syriac speaking church Christians in Kerala. Syriac speaking Churches retained Nasrani, while the name ‘ Christians’ replaced Nasrani, as the designation of Latin speaking Church. Even though “ New Christians” ( “ Puthu Kristhianikal) represented them vaguely, they were known in history and even today in their caste name individually. “Nasrani” means “ Suriyani Christianikal” in Malayalam. This is something which no sensible person can deny !

    Being a Nasrani, I can tell you that no Nasrani will be offended if some Lathins wants to call them “Nasrani”. If you think the route of diminishing the contributions of Syriac Christians in Kerala, forgetting all the help lathins got from Syriac etc will help in these ‘ acquisitions’ you are terribly mistaken.

    There is one single fact you need to keep in mind. Internally there is no single division in the Saint Thomas Christians. That’s why here you see, Catholics, Orthodox, Jacobities, Protestants , Assyrians, Chaldeans etc discussing their history in a familial way. This betrays the Caste system in Kerala/ India and is something which you can not see in any other community in Kerala. This is an added corroboration that there nucleus is so ancient in origin as to antedate the rigidification of caste system in India. For centuries , irrespective of financial strength members address each other in familial style employing colloquial terms. Here you see Catholics, Orthodox, Jacobite and Protestants calling each other whom they even don’t know as “dear”.

    When the Caste System got consolidated and the pecking order was determined the Thomas Christians had the strength to exclude themselves from that division ! It could not have been possible with heathens if they were not powerful !

    Consider the Lathin, Muslim, Protestants, Sikhs communities in India. Saint Thomas Christians stands out in contrast with these communities ! Lathin, Muslim, Protestants, Sikhs communities in India still have the caste label sticking to sections of them precisely because their religious formation had come in to being after they had been stereotyped in to caste system .

    Consider the new ( not so new) communities Lathins or the CSI in India. Despite being centuries that have elapsed since their progenitors embraced these acknowledgedly egalitarian religions , the members caste background has refused to scale off, while Saint Thomas Christians remains internally distinctive on the basis of caste !

    Consider another ancient community in Kerala “ the Jews”. Unlike “ the Jews” which suffers from “ black jews” and “ white jews” , the Saint Thomas Christians present themselves as a native born social entity of co equality commonly known as “ Nasranis’, ‘ Suriyani Christianikal’ . That’s why and what we are proud of .

  201. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Dear Xavier

    You are right. Yes, it has a long vowel. So it seems to be a corrupted word in Malayalam, meaning “ food and drink”. Lathins will copy but deny the origin of words and syriac source.

    Latins in India will take time to change. They are very slow in this. It was always the tantrum of Lathins to project Synod of Diamper as the greatest contribution of Portuguese Padrado in India. They think that they are the inheritors of colonial might ! They have started looking at correct history. Slowly they will get corrected from the junk created by pseudo historians. Binu talks about Syond of Diamper as some heretic book burning not as something which lathins earlier claim as bringing Saint Thomas Christians to Pope obedience !

    Dear Steven

    Thank you very much for the link to these books. I think you are aware that even in Vatican the first Syriac manuscript collection is from Malabar.

    The ecclesiastical language of Saint Thomas Christians were East Syriac and all their ecclesiastical books – biblical, liturgical, spiritual, canonical, theological, patristic, hagiographical, historical, – ALL WERE WRITTEN IN THAT LANGUAGE. When Portuguese captured Mar Joseph accusing him as heretic and send him to Rome in 1568 ( basically to keep him away to take control in Kerala), they send him with 18 Syriac books. These are the first Syriac collection in Vatican library. No one has published this in Malayalam or English so far. Since it happened in 1568, these MSS got saved from the burning done by maniac MENEZES in 1599.

    ALEJIO DE MENEZES collected all the Syriac manuscripts and burned them at the Churches in pontifical dress claiming the order of POPE with Portuguese military help ! His successors Ros and Stephen Brito also did the same. Binu, knows that the every Saint Thomas Christians curse this. The history of a community was burned by a maniac claiming fake authority with fake orders. Very few historic as well as patristic literature has survived this destruction.

    Binu, is just trying to white wash this by his talks of few books from Session III- decrees 4 to 10.
    The decree 16 ordered that all SYRIAC MSS in Kerala need to be handed over to ALEJIO DE MENEZES for correction ( for maniac MENEZES , correction means burning ). Even if we accept the handicapped knowldge of MENEZES in Christianity what was there to correct in church history books !

    Decree 15 is most interesting as it correct the liturgical text from so called “ Nestorian errors”. With the initiative from the same ROME, Syro Malabar Church has brought back the erased parts ! May be this is something Binu is yet to learn !

  202. Steven Ring says

    Dear Dr. Paulose Nellikattil,

    Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, I agree with you that there can be little doubt based upon the Syriac loan words in the Malayalam language and the assemblage of books the Portuguese condemned, that prior to their arrival the Nasrani community came within the East Syrian sphere.

    The details you shared about Mar Joseph Metropolitan of India are interesting, and I can add a few more. The Mss you mentioned which are now in the BAV, Rome contain some interesting colophons. The colophon of Vat. Syr. Ms 128 and Borgia Syriac Ms 52 indicate that Mar Joseph copied a number of Mss himself, whilst he was in India and detained by the Portuguese at a place called Baṣaḥin, (where is that?). He dated these two Mss in December AD 1556. In the colophon of Vat. Syr. Ms 128, he also describes the Portuguese religious infrastructure he saw around him at some length. This text by Mar Joseph has been edited at least twice, see for example Assemani B.O. 1719, volume 3, part 1, pp. 332, (I gave the link above in post 27414). I would be grateful for a reference detailing his journey to Rome in 1568 as I would like to add this to my Syriac chronography. That date would put Mar Joseph in Rome at the same time as the Jacobite patriarch Mor Ignatius Nimat-Allah, who fled there as a refugee. Mor Ignatius was a major contributor, and signatory to the mathematics behind the Gregorian calendar.

    Regarding your comments about Ms ‘correction’. I recently published a catalogue describing a Jacobite Ms collection in Malabar. This collection did contain a few East Syrian patristic works including a complete copy of the Sughīthā by Mar Narsai on our Lord and one of the others crucified with him and a ‘corrected’ portion of Mar Audisho’s catalogue of Syriac authors and works. In this case the ‘correction’ took the form of deletion of every patristic work, leaving only the books of the bible!

    Regarding your comments about the East Syrian liturgy. I don’t know if you have already heard, but a book containing the East Syrian liturgy of Addai and Mari has been digitized by the University of Bonn. The text is entirely in Syriac. Link:

    I also need to admit and correct a few errors in my earlier posts:
    1. The Syriac computing posts 27542 and 27545. I have re-edited these details with some corrections, see the following web page: NB: Press the page refresh button on your browser to pick up the latest version.
    2. In my list of Syriac books condemned in 1599 in post 27841. The biography of Rabban Joseph Busnaya has been published in French translation, but there are more instalments than I first thought. More complete details can be found by looking at the entry for AD 979 on the following web page of my Syriac chronography: NB: Press the page refresh button on your browser to pick up the latest version. A link is provided there for each part of this biography.

    Best wishes,

  203. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Dear Steven

    Thank you for all the details you are sharing. It is Bassein Fort ( It was established by the Portuguese as the headquarters of their Indian operations in 1534.

    Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Metropolitan of India, was the brother of Patriarch Joseph Sulaqa of the Chaldean Church. It is one of most ironical story of a Metropolitan of India who was harassed, tortured, detained by Portuguese. The irony is that he was ordained by a Patriarch who was in communion with Rome. In the Papel Bull of the reception of Patriarch John Sulaqa in Catholic Church proclaimed by Pope Julius III in 1553, it is explicitly mentioned that the territories under the Patriarch are “WHOLE OF INDIA”. Portuguese per see had no role or jurisdiction in the territory. Under Portuguese custody in Goa and Bassein he was forced to celebrate Qurbana in latin rite. There are some details about Mar Joseph Sulaqa in an NSC Network article,

    “As a prelate of the Syrian Rite sent by the Chaldaean Patriarch, Mar Joseph refused to ordain the students of the seminary at Cranganore who belonged to the Syrian Rite, but who had not been taught the Syriac language.[26]

    This refusal lost him the favour and earned the ill-will of the Portuguese, who, from that time forward, never ceased to persecute him and his successors. Finding no reasonable grounds to send him out of the country, they had recourse to their favourite weapon a weapon, as we shall see, so often used with such disastrous effects that the Bishop taught the Nestorian heresy.[27].Before long, he was taken to Goa and thence deported to Portugal. On the voyage he spent his time in copying out portions of Syriac liturgy and the Carmen of Ebed-Jesus. A volume of his work dated Mosambique the 8th. July 1556 is in the Vatican Library.[28]There he made so favourable an impression on Queen Catherine, Cardinal Don Henry and others, that he was naturally sent back to govern his people.[26]

    The Portuguese authorities at Goa, however, did not allow him to proceed to his diocese, but detained him at Bassein. This was done on the groundless suspicion that he deceived the authorities at Portugal and was only permitted later to return to his diocese when Mar Abraham made his appearance in Malabar.The aim of the Portuguese in doing so was purposely to make a division among the Syrians as it really turned out. The Portuguese again, on the charges made against Mar Joseph, as they afterwards did also in the case of Mar Abraham, arrested him and he was thus sent to Rome through Portugal in 1568.[29]

    In Rome, by the order of Pope St. Pius V he was closely examined in which it was found that his faith was orthodox and Catholic and that he had no heresy in his teachings, as he had been caluminated and he was thus declared to be innocent .In order to reward his great patience, sufferings, and injuries he bore for Christ Pope St. Pius V revealed his mind to raise him soon to the Cardinalate, but his enemies left no stone unturned to make this scheme an utter disappointment and the fact he died very soon after, was hailed as a victory by his enemies.Even the author of the Oriente Conquistado (Part II. Conqui. I. Divi. II) admits the truth of these statements and says that Mar Joseph would have soon been raised to the purple, had he lived.”

    Mar Joseph Sulaqa was accused as a Nestorain by Bishop Geroge Temdo of Cochin and indicted by Pope Pius V. He was first captured and send to Portugal, impressed by him and having find no fault, the Portuguese queen send her back to govern his people. The Portuguese did not allow him to go to Malabar. They detained him illegally again at Bassein fort. Then when Mar Abraham came from Persia as the Bishop of India, Portuguese released him to Malabar to cause a division. When they did not see any division among the Syriac Christians here, they captured Mar Joseph Sulaqa again and send him to Rome in 1568. He took with him 18 Syriac MSS to prove his orthodoxy. Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Metropolitan of India, died at Rome in 1569.

    After his death this became the first Syriac collection in Vatican library and the full set of MSS from Mar Joseph Sulaqa are ( So the 128, he copied in Portuguese Custody and 52 may be another MSS he copied in Portuguese custody),

    1. Complete set of Bible ( Vatican Syriac Codex.2,3,4.17,22)
    2. Pontificals, Missals and Rituals ( Vatican Syriac Codex.45,46,66)
    3. Set of the liturgy of the Hours (Vatican Syriac Codex.62,85,86,87,88,99)
    4. Liturgical text and Calendar ( Vatican Syriac Codex,65)
    5. Nomocanon of Abdhisho ( Vatican Syriac Codex 128)
    6. Homilies and devotional hymns ( Vatican Syriac Codex 186,188)

    These manuscripts also included historical narrations. If you get a chance please do share any historical narrations about the Syriac Christians in India which are included in these MSS in addition to what you mentioned.

  204. Binu C Cletus says

    Dear Steven:

    The last book is mentioned as “Parisman”. In Malayalam it is given as “Parsimaan”. It may be anything like “Parsma”, “Prashema”, “Fars_***”, etc. Even though it is named “Medicine”, it has nothing to do with medical field. It is a collection of hymns and chants which were used to cure deceases. It was basically a sorcery/black magic book. If you have access to early Zoroastrian / Manichaean works, it may help. It is believed to be in Syriac, so you may be interested.

    You mentioned the house built on rock and house built on sand. It is a perfect usage. Roman Catholic Church, even after many protestant revolutions, stand as a Rock House with more than one billion members. On the other hand, what is the state of Eastern churches? Look at the present state of Syrians in Kerala as well as in Assyria.

    The so-called “Church of East” is now split into three different churches that fight each other. The Malabar Syrians also face the same fate: Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara, Jacobite, Orthodox, Marthoma, Chaldean (Nestorian), Thozhiyoor, CSI, St Thomas Evangelical Church, Syrian Brethren, blah, blah, blah. Even in these numerous churches, you can see Southists and Northists brawl with one another. The Orthodox and Jecobite people fight each other like the Serbians and Bosnians. Each group captures churches using their muscle power and it is a common thing that two groups quarrel each other even when the holy mass is going on. This is the reason why many of their churches are under police protection and there is no doubt that they are a shame to the entire Christian community. There is a saying in Malayalam “Vaal eduthvar ellam velichappad” means “all who took a sword became oracles”. This is the real phase of Syrian community. You can compare this community to Afghanistan were different groups fight each other to became masters of all.

    What really funny is the consensus between Syrians. Call a Syro Malabarian from Changanassery, a Syro Malabarian from Cochin, a Syro Malankarate, a Jacobite and an Orthodox. Ask what their tradition was. Orthodox man will say they were independent church with Antiochian rite. Jacobite will say they were always under the Patriarch of Antiochia, Syro Malankarate will say they were always Catholics with Antiochian rite, Syro Malabarian from Changanassery will say they were Catholics with Chaldean rite. The Syro Malabarian from Cochin will say they were Catholics, but not under Chaldean Patriarch.

    The CSM (Changanassery Syro Malabarians) propagates that the books banned and destroyed by SoD had nothing against Catholicism, because they claim that the Thomasines were always Catholics. The CSM camp says it was just a “Latinization” not a “Catholicisation” took place. This is simply untrue. I am specifically using the words like “heretic” or “blasphemous” to show that these books were really against catholic belief and these people were not Catholics traditionally. The TSMs know the fact that they were NOT Catholics and they had beliefs, prayers and customs which are against the Catholic creed. But they try to diminish this fact. They quote only the decree which says to “correct or destroy” the “Syriac books”, but will not mention what are these books. They try to make people believe that these books were simply Chaldean Catholic prayer books. They will again quote the decree which says to “translate the Latin mass to Syriac”, but they will never talk about the decrees which abolish POLYGAMY, UNTOUCHABILITY, MARRIAGE OF PRIESTS, etc. Anyone who reads these decrees can understand which are the prohibited books, then why they are not trying to bring these books back? This is what called cheating.

    If they genuinely think SoD damaged their tradition, why they are not trying to bring back everything the Synod abolished, such as Polygamy, married priests, transmigration of souls, untouchability, burned books like “The Infancy of our Savior”, Parisman, Camis, ‘Exposition of Gospels”, etc.

    Why then they are not throwing away everything Menezes “imposed”? Such as catechism, confession, requirement of at least one priest and a kapyar in every church and many others things? Why do they remain Catholics?

    Dear Paulose:

    1. “Anyone can make any vague arguments based on some version of decrees of the most catholic maniac in Indian Christian history ALEJIO DE MENEZES ? Tell us from where you pasted the Malayalam synod decrees and the English version”

    This shows your ignorance in this matter. There are no multiple ‘versions’ in Malayalam. Because, the SoD decrees were prepared in both Malayalam and Portuguese. So the Malayalam decrees are not any later translations. Each decree has only one Malayalam ‘version’ which is prepared by one Yakob Cathanar in the supervision of Fr. Francis Ros who knew Malayalam. What I produced is this original Malayalam text, older than 410 years. This is taken from “Udayamperur Sunahadossinte Canonakal” (Malayalam) by Dr. Scaria Zacharia, published by Indian Institute of Christian Studies (IICS), Edamattom in 1994. The English version is taken from “The history of Christianity in India” by James Hough (Available online here: )

    2. “Ezhunuttikar” ( Seven Hundrad) as “ Ezhunnuru Nasranikal” ( Seven Hundrad Nasranikal), “ Anjuttikar” ( Five Hundrad) as “ Anjuru Nasranikal” ( Five Hundrad Nasraniklal) etc”

    You are really a funny guy. “Ezhunnuru Nasranikal” means “700 Christians”. It cannot be used to denote a community because in Malayalam it means any group of Christians whose number is 700. It can be used in other situations. You can say “Erekkure EZHUNNURU NASRANIKAL yogathil pank eduthu.” (More or less SEVEN HUNDRED CHRISTIANS attended the meeting.) You can put any number with “Nasranikal”. “Randu Nasranikal” (Two Christians), “Nooru kanakkinu nasranikal” (Hundreds of Christians), etc. So people with common sense will not use “ Ezhunnuru Nasranikal” to designate “Ezhunuttikar”. Similarly all other names.

    3. “Here you see Catholics, Orthodox, Jacobite and Protestants calling each other whom they even don’t know as “dear”

    Wow! From which planet you are! Have you not seen any other forums? No emails? No letters? Don’t you have the common sense to understand it is a general etiquette which can be seen everywhere? Do you think only a Syrian call another Syrian as “Dear”?

    4. “Internally there is no single division in the Saint Thomas Christians.”

    Yeah, I have heard about it. The Syrians are so united with each other that the Orthodox Syrians are not even allowing Jacobites to build a second church in Parumala.!!! You can see how sweetly Syrians address each other here:

    5. “This betrays the Caste system in Kerala/ India and is something which you can not see in any other community in Kerala.”

    Yes. The basic concept of a Caste System is that, inside one particular caste, there will be unity. In the case of Syrians, They do not have unity even inside their caste. So, as you said, it betrays the Caste system in Kerala/ India and is something which you cannot see in any other community in Kerala. 🙂

    6. “Consider the Lathin, Muslim, Protestants, Sikhs communities in India. Saint Thomas Christians stands out in contrast with these communities ! Lathin, Muslim, Protestants, Sikhs communities in India still have the caste label sticking to sections of them”

    Wonderful observation!! The Latin Christians and Muslims were initially classified into certain castes because of their origin, but now all these caste names and divisions have dissolved into a single identity. So you cannot distinguish a Topaz Chrisian, and a Anjoottikkaran as well as you cannot differentiate a Brahmin converted Muslim and a Pulaya converted Muslim. Even though these communities were initially identified with corresponding Hindu caste names, they reject such namings and prefer to be called as simply Latin Catholic, Muslim, etc. One the other hand, although there is no evidence to identify Syrians with any particular origin, they put forward so many absurd theories such as Brahmin conversion, Jew ancestry, Canaanite immigration, etc.

    If Syrians were that egalitarians, why did they performed “purification” of their wells if a member of any backward caste took water from it?

    7. “Latins in India will take time to change. They are very slow in this.”

    If you look at the present social scenario in Kerala, you can easily understand who is really “slow” to change. The Latin Catholics, who were once among the most backward castes, have now gone very much forward in socially and economically. But what did the Syrians make? They are still at the same position they had centuries ago when they were generously sponsored by those wicked Kings in return of obediently wagging tails. They will question even their own Bishops if they propose some modification in prayers. Why? They cannot withstand changes.

    8. “Binu talks about Syond of Diamper as some heretic book burning not as something which lathins earlier claim as bringing Saint Thomas Christians to Pope obedience.”

    Of course it was SoD that brought the Thomasines to Papal obedience. Do you think otherwise? The best way to bring them to Catholic belief was to burn the heretic books. So, both are same.

    9. “The ecclesiastical language of Saint Thomas Christians were East Syriac and all their ecclesiastical books – biblical, liturgical, spiritual, canonical, theological, patristic, hagiographical, historical, – ALL WERE WRITTEN IN THAT LANGUAGE.”

    But only on the CROSSES, they used PAHLAVI!!! How strange.

    10. “Syro Malabar Church has brought back the erased parts !”

    This is a much repeated lie. As Syro Malabarians claim that they were Catholic since the time of St. Thomas, they also propagate that today’s “Catholicised” Chaldean liturgy is what existed in Malabar historically. They even do not agree to the fact that the original Chaldean anaphora had no “words of consecration”, the most important part of mass according to Catholic creed. Even though Rome has declared “Anaphora of Addais and Maris” as valid, they do not dare to exclude the “words of instituition” from their present liturgy. It is because, despite their Orientalist and Ritist propaganda, most Syro Malabarian laymen value Catholicity more than a liturgy. So if they omit it from liturgy, their own laity will revolt against them.

    “The Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari is the only ancient Mass ritual still in use that does not explicitly contain Words of Institution. This Anaphora is used for part of the year by the Assyrian Church of the East and (often in adapted form) by the Chaldean Catholic Church (which is one of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church), and (WITH THE WORDS OF INSTITUTION ADDED) by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (another of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church).”

    11. “He took with him 18 Syriac MSS to prove his orthodoxy.”

    Why he did not take any of the books mentioned in the decrees? He knew that they were against Rome’s Christology and he will be charged of heresy. So cleverly he left all such books behind him and took only those “harmless” manuscripts. It is even possible that they were purposefully made up by him to convince the Holy See. If you look at the earlier incidents, we can see that it is his nature to say yes to anything for saving his chair. For e.g. HE AGREED TO THE DEMAND OF PORTUGUESE TO USE WINE, THE HOST (EUCHARISTIC BREAD) AND CLERICAL CLOTHINGS ACCORDING TO THE LATIN NORMS. Why did he do so if he was a confident Catholic?

  205. Binu C Cletus says

    I am still waiting for following from Paulose:

    1. “Epigraphical” evidences that show “Yavana” came from Syriac.

    2. Scanned images of older copies of “Sathyanadam” that claim Latin Christians have Syrian heritage.

    3. References that show some Latin rite churches joined the Chaldean bishop Mar Melus in 19th century.

    4. The Hindu Mantras used by Latin Christians that violate the Ten Commandments.

  206. Kurian says

    Wow guys u ppl know a lot abt Syriac. But are there any efforts in Kerala to spread syriac? I heard a couple of months that Angamaly Diocese of Jacobite church was planning to teach Syriac in Sunday schools. Is there any information available on that? Conducting Qurbono in Syriac during Perunnals( as done in some Syro Malabar Churches) is of no use, since no one understands anything. Its better to add more Syriac words, phrases in the beginning and then move onto complete Syriac Qurbono.

    They had shown a jacobite Qurbana from Kottayam valiya pally in Shalow tv last week, and it was a great to see Syriac being used a lot. eg: Lords Prayer in Syriac

    Well, its going to be a pity if no can actually experience our sacred language!

  207. George Mathew says

    Dear All,

    May I make one point. I notice renewed interest in Syriac. But I must caution, that to sustain this interest, there must arise strong belief that Syriac is not a foreign language but our own language. Blood of our blood, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
    The moment we adopt the West imposed propaganda that we are Hindus/Buddhist/Jains converted to Nazerinism, then we have lost Syriac.
    I do not know more than 30 words in Syriac and my church the ‘Marthoma Suriyani Sabha’ is increasingly leaning away from Syriac in order give herself a ‘Progressive Look’. But the disaster is that 1000s of Marthomites are leaving the churhc and joining the Evangilicals and Pentecostals, who are indeed ‘more progressive’. The matter is backfiring and our church is not able to correctly identify the cause of the exodus. Instead, she believes that to stem the exodus, more ‘progressiveness’ must be imposed, with the result, more are leaving as the ‘Evan.’s and the Pen.’s’ are still offering more ‘progressiveness’. Our church is close to the Anglicans in many respects and is officially in ‘Communion’ with them. The Marthomites has not even responded to the crisis that is happening in the Anglican Church today. Response is simply beyond her. She is dazed, confused and seeing stars.

    The lesson we have to learn is that to stay orthodox, less we drift and Syriac is one of the main pillars of our orthodoxy. I claim Syriac not just in our liturgy, but as our vernacular too! Out goes Malayalam and English as our primary languages! In comes Syriac once again!

  208. Thomson says

    Dear Kurian

    Paurasthya Vidyapeetam Vadavathoor conducts a diploma course by correspondence with monthly contact classes in Syriac. The course is going to be affiliated to Indira Gandhi National Open University. There will be University Diploma at the end of the course.

    Course Coordinator is Fr Pauly Maniatt of Vadavathoor Seminary.

    Centres: Classes are being organized at major centres in Kerala like Kottayam Ernakulam, Thalassery etc. Ernakulam Centre: Ephrem Centre, Opp: Vincentian Generalate. VP Marakar Road, Edappally Toll. Coordinator at Ernakulam. Prof. Sebastian Parakkal (Mob.9961671191)

    You can also check for West Syriac classes.

    The Syriac Qurbana is conducted in Syro Malabar Church during perunnal is because people want that. It has been of use to keep the ancient patrimony and very welcoming approach. Liturgy is understood by those who study that if its in Syriac or other language. Some of the churches which still has the Syriac qurbana had it even from 1970, when Malayalm was introduced. Many of the colleges in Syro Malabar Church has Syriac studies as an option in second language .

  209. Steven Ring says

    Dear Binu,

    Thank you for the link to the English version of the decrees etc. A reference is always useful. Modern Christianity (without exception as far as I know) has lost the plot completely, but I am interested to recover that plot from obscurity. The best primary sources I have found containing the original plot, exist in Syriac. Hence my longstanding and keen interest in Syriac, early Syriac texts and in Syriac culture.

    I had a look through the Harvard, Houghton Library Syriac Ms collection which is described on-line. This has a good selection of East Syrian Mss. The only book I saw there, which might (and I stress only might) resemble the description is the Syriac Nuṭara d-ʾnasha, literally ‘Protection for people’ or as it is usually called, ‘The Book of Protection’. This book contains charms and talismans, but the title of the book is not ‘Parisman’ (unless ‘Parisman’ is a typo error for ‘Talisman’) and the contents do not necessarily match the description in the decree from Umdiampur, but I have not studied this text myself so I don’t know. See the descriptions of Harvard Syriac Mss 156, 158, 159, 160, 162, 163 & 165.

    For example, Harvard Ms 156 will “magically” appear at the top of the list using the following link and the others can be found listed not far below, or by changing the number at the end of the following link:

    By the way, the whole Harvard Syriac Ms collection can be listed using the following search string:

    The Book of Protection in Syriac has been edited & translated 99 years ago:
    Gollancz, Hermann 1912. ‘The Book of protection’ Henry Frowde, London.
    I cannot find the complete text on-line, but the contents table and many chapters of this book are accessible here:

    Otherwise, if this book of protection isn’t the book condemned in the decree, then the book might have belonged to another (as yet unidentified) community. However, this sort of book does not interest me personally, even if it is written in Syriac!

    Best wishes,

  210. Steven Ring says

    Dear Dr. Paulose Nellikattil,

    Thanks for the link to Bassein Fort page and for the list of Mss copied by Mar Joseph, much appreciated.
    I am gradually reading my way into the history of Syriac Christianity in India and our conversations on this list are a good encouragement to do that.

    Dear George Mathew, (or should I say, Shĕlāmā wa-shaynā Gīwargīs?)

    SEERI definitely want to encourage Syriac as much as they can. As well as the Syriac classes mentioned by Thomson, I know they also publish books in Syriac and books in Malayalam including books designed to help people learn Syriac. From time to time SEERI also run Syriac conferences.

    Best wishes,

  211. George Mathew says

    Dear Steven and All,

    You are deep into Syriac and I giving you a link which may interest you and other Syriac lovers.

    I suspect, that the matter in the link may be ‘too basic’ to you, but just in case you are not, this will help.

  212. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Binu: I think now you are now crystal clear on Nasrani and why the “Ezhunuttikar” ( Seven Hundrad), “Anjuttikar” ( Five Hundrad) etc are not Nasranis. Your situational talks are nonsense. As you see lathins were not mentioned as Nasranis anywhere in your so called quote from the decrees of Synod of Diamper or anywhere else. There are simply still known with their caste names and even have dioceses divided between them based on caste. You are a typical lathin who has grudge against Nasranis but still want to copy them. You started your argument with a decree of Synod of Diamper which was from an MSS which was written some 150 years after the Synod which calls only the Syirac Christians as “Nasranis”. That’s all about your baseless argument about Nasrani.

    On Lathin Churches and Hierarchy: I already know you have very vague knowledge of Catholic Church. Have you not even have sufficient idea about your own rite ? Have you have any idea how many court cases Lathin churches in Kerala fought before they got a hierarchy ? Try to learn the lathin history first and how the lathins are segregated based on their caste. Aren’t you aware of the internal fight between Alapuzha, Cochin etc dioceses ? “ Sathyanadam” copies you can try to get from Cochin diocese.

    “Fakeisation” ( Indianisation) activities in the Lathin Church in India are going in different directions. Remember the inquisition from Saint Francis Xavier, now even an inquisition can not save them !!
    These discussions have no relevance in a Syriac forum. What I want to stress is people are aware of the issues in Lathin Church in Kerala and India. There was a time 65 % of the priests in Lathin Church in India was Syro Malabar. Even now there are some 23 Bishops and Archbishops in Lathin Church from Syro Malabar. 9 bishops are from Pala, 5 bishops are from Changanaserry, 3 bishops are from Kothamangalam and one bishop are each from Kottayam, Irinjalakkuda, Thrissur and Ernakulam diocese of Syro Malabar.

    Changanassery diocese- Why don’t you read Changanassery diocese from their website,

    I know you have a vested agenda. FYI: This is not something we have to learn from a lathin or one who fakes as a lathin. May be your small world is around the Synod of Diamper decrees. But you don’t even have sufficient knowledge in that, which we shall see.

    Have you heard about Second Vatican Council ? It was not conducted at Changanassery . The conciliar directive of the council is primarily concerned with the recovery and preservation of authentic genuine traditions of Eastern Churches. This is something beyond the comprehension of a vested Kerala Lathin, who even have not learned Catholic teachings.

    Saint Thomas Cross- Yes, it has Pahlavi as well as Syriac. Pahlavi was the language of Persian Church for sometime. Is it something difficult to comprehend ?

    Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari- Syro Malabar people don’t need a copy from Wikipedia on the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari. Are you equipped to talk about this ? Do you know why you say “LIE” many times. That’s because you don’t understand what you are talking !

    Mar Joseph, the Metropolitan of India: Are you so wicked ? What I wrote was about the MSS from a Metropolitan of India. Did your lathin bishops carry the kind of things you were expecting ( I heard there was a bishop at Cochin who had some and even did something at bishop house !).

  213. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Dear All

    You might have noticed that Binu has relied on Hough for the Synod of Diamper decrees on the 6 books ( which he claimed as he wish to publish) and used a Malayalam version for his quote about Nasrani and other decrees. He has done that purposefully !

    His earlier talks of Malayalam written in Tamil was also purposeful during the conversations on Syriac as we used Malayalam written in Syriac scripts !!

    Even though its quite natural for any ancient community to have infancy gospels there are no proof that such gospels existed here. There is nothing wrong even if it was there. Anyway this Lathin has no interest in many of the surviving manuscripts and his intention was to find something which he can present as “ Manichianism” or something else. So much hatred to an ancient Christian community whom the lathin rite India owe !!

    But this gives us an opportunity to evaluate the decrees of the Synod of Diamper.

    Of course we curse the Synod of Diamper for burning our history, books. We curse Menezis for robbing our ancient Church. We curse Menezis for stealing the titles we had and so many other things….. Of course we accept the genuine contributions of pious Portuguese missionaries too..

    There is a big confusion regarding the authentic decrees of Synod of Diamper. Some people say the original decrees were in Portuguese ! Others say its in Malayalam and Karsuni ( Malayalam written in Syriac Script) !

    The Malayalam and Karsuni ( Karshuni or Garshuni ) Syond of Diamper decrees are different form the Portuguese decrees IN CONTENT OF EACH DECREE ! Apart from that there are 35 ADDITIONAL decrees in the Portuguese version. These are known as MENEZIS Acts ( This was for his personal purpose to publish in west as happened ).

    Antonio Gouvea published the Portuguese version. This was translated in to Latin by John F Raulin. Mansi also published this. Hough’s Syond decrees are taken from this.Basically from MENEZIS ACTS !!

    According to Scaria Zacharia, it was the Malayalam version where the participants put their signature and it clearly represents the syondal acts, while the Portuguese text represents “Menezis acts”.

    This Malayalam text was made out in two scripts then in use,

    1) Malayalam ( Vattezhuth)
    2) Karsuni ( Malayalam written with Syirac script) .

    Signatures were appended to both Karsuni and Malayalam. These signatures were detached from the text and only signatures were send to Rome !!! The Malayalam and Karsuni texts were not transmitted to Rome !!! These texts in Malayalam and Karsuni got lost after the Synod ! Even if we take Malayalm and Karsuni text as authentic, the earliest MSS available to us is 150 years after the Synod !

    Jonas Thaliath who has examined the Malayalm and Karsuni different versions has written that the content of the Portuguese version is TWICE as that of Malayalam and Karsuni.

  214. Paulose Nellikattil says

    Let me also share some interesting reports from the assistants, eye witness and other Catholic priests about Menezis at the Syond of Diamper,

    1) Francis Ros SJ ( who was later made the Bishop ), He participated in the Synod. This is from his letter to Jesuit General at Rome, Claudio Aquaviva on 20 November 1603,

    “ His excellence ( Menezis) wrote to me asking the signatures of the above said synod to be sent to Holy Father… I request your paternity for the love of our lord, on receiving this information to use your influence in the court of Rome so that this, ruinous to souls, may be averted and LET THE HOLY FATHER BE INFORMED OF IT, LET NOT THESE CHRISTIANS SAY THAT WE HAVE DUPED THEM, for to tell you the entire truth, some of the CANONS OF THE ABOVE SYNOD THE ARCHBISHOP HIMSELF ADDED AFTER THE SYNOD WAS OVER : NOT A SINGLE CANON WAS DISCUSSED OR ALTERED, so much so that there was no form of a SYNOD…and it can not be said to contain anything more…. ..”

    Source- Archivium Romanum Societatis Iesu, Goa- Mal, 15, f,155-156

    2) Same Francis Ros SJC wrote two more letters asking to INFORM THE HOLY FATHER, that Menezis duped the Christians of Malabar. Rome never approved such a synod.

    Letter dated 26 December 1603

    “… the above said Archbishop made by himself, even after the Synod was over, some CANONS WHICH HE ADDED TO THE BODY OF THE SYNOD”

    Source- Archivium Romanum Societatis Iesu, Goa- Mal, 15, f,176-177

    3) Another letter written to John Alvarez on 27 December 1603

    “ …It was NO SYNOD as no consultation was made and the Christians were unaware of what’s being enacted. IF THEY PUT THEIR SIGNATURES, IT WAS DUE TO MY IMPORTUNITY…..…..”

    Source- Archivium Romanum Societatis Iesu, Goa- Mal, 15, f,179

    4) John Campori, who was present at the Synod of Diamper and an eye witness wrote to John Alvarez, assistant to Jesuit General at Rome in 1664

    “ the Archbishop of Goa came to visit Malabar, he conducted a council, TO TELL THE TRUTH with little form and order of a council and of HIS OWN ACCORD EVEN AFTER WARDS added some things WHICH WERE NEVER READ IN PUBLIC…”

    5) Albert Laerzio, Vice Provincial of Malabar in 15th January 1604 to Rome

    “ Since the synod which the Archbishop of Goa convoked was NOT READ TO THE CONVOKED and since the assembled DID NOT UNDERSTAND what had been settled in it, as the Archbishop added MANY THINGS OF HIS CHOICE…”

    Now you decide whether maniac “Menezis “ was ” a duper” and why our fellow, Binu tried to bring the Synod of Diamper to this discussion ?

  215. Steven Ring says

    Dear Dr. Paulose Nellikattil,

    Your detailed comments on the ‘Synod’ above are very interesting.
    Even if the Malayalam version of this fiasco has not yet been fully studied and edited in print, I would be interested to read the list of Syriac documents banned according to the Malayalam version.

    Best wishes,

  216. Binu C Cletus says

    Dear All,

    You might have noticed the wile of Paulose. Instead of standing on his own words, he is purposefully diverting subject. I have asked him references for many of his claims. But as he is unable to produce any, he is resorting on some Jesuit archives to prove something else. If he was genuine on his arguments he should have produced the references for his early claims before putting forward new things. But he does not have any such, so he runs off to somewhere else. This is a usual habit I have seen from many of the self-appointed “church historians”. Many people like Paulose find themselves in this pathetic condition because they learn church history from the highly biased and prejudiced books written by people like Podipara, Perunthottam, Koodapuzha, etc.

    Paulose has claimed that he has “Epigraphical” evidences that shows the Syriac origin of Malayalam word “Yavana” which I am sure to have come from Sanskrit. I asked him to produce those Epigraphical evidences if any. The fact is that, he does not have any such evidences to support his baseless claim. So he changes subject.

    He had also made serious allegations on Latin Catholics such as they once joined a Nestorian Bishop, they have prayers that violate Ten Commandments, some of them claim that they have Syrian origin, etc. All these are just the imagination of his fanatic mind and so he cannot produce any evidences to support. It is common manners to give references or proofs when you make any allegations on another community. If you read my comments above, you can see that all my above assertions are sufficiently supported by evidences. This deceitful attitude of Paulose shows his real nature. Instead of confronting facts with facts, he is employing a language of hatred as if it is a war between Syrians and Latins. His bad mouthing behaviour has been correctly noticed by the Syrians themselves who replied him in another thread that “Bad mouthing is a sign of loosing wickets”.

    Paulose now talks as if the presently available manuscripts of SoD are not authentic. If one thinks this version is not authentic, what one should do is to produce the ‘original’ version. He talks about the script used to write, whether the Syrians signed on Vattezhuthu (In fact, it was not Vattezhuthu, but ‘Nanam Monam, or Vattezhuthu with Grantha admixture) or Karzoni (ܘܿܠܲܩܹܕܐ ܡܘܼܕ, Karzoni was introduced by later Jacobite prelates who knew no Malayalam script), difference between Malayalam version and Portuguese version, etc. The funny part is, the same versions are used by the Syrians to show Menezes has implemented Latin rite replacing their existing liturgy. Paulose himself tries to prove the Latin Christians were not called Nasranis by referring the same Malayalam version of decrees which he doubt of authenticity. This is what called double standard. When the decrees are not against our interests, it is authentic. When they are against our interests, it is later made-up. Wow!!

    Paulose’s citation of Decrees of SoD to prove the Latin Christians were not called Nasrani seems childish. This is a new chapter of his early presenting of some Catechism text as epigraphical evidence. We all know that SoD decree are about Syrian Christians, so such a document is not an authentic proof on what the Latin Christians were called. These decrees were prepared by the Syrians themselves, so it uses the term “Malamkare Nasrani Mappilamar”. It never uses the word “Malabar Nasrani” or “Marthoma Nasrani” or “Suriyani Christiani”. But this does not show the Syrians were not called by these names. I have given solid evidences to prove the term Nazrani is used among Latin Christians. I have given photograph of the office of a Latin Christian Organisation. This is a strong evidence that suggests Latin Christians use this designation even today.

    “There are simply still known with their caste names and even have dioceses divided between them based on caste.”

    Paulose, do you think there are separate dioceses for Anglo Indians, Dalit Catholics, Nair converts, Ezhava converts? This is a Western church sir, not an adamant oriental church. You can see such craps if you go to Kottayam or Changanassery were the southists have Kottayam diocese and northist have Changanassery. If a southist marries a northist, he will be excommunicated from his parish and diocese. You cannot see these kinds of racism in Latin churches, even if you wish to. There is no “internal fights” as you dream. If you want to see such fights, go to Ernakulam and Changanassery Archdioceses. Both Alleppey and Cochin dioceses are formed for the development of Anjootikkar and Ezhunnottikkar respectively, but they were not for these groups alone. It was like the formation of Malappuram and Wayanad districts for the Development of Muslim and Scheduled Tribes. This does not make these districts solely for these communities. You can see Anglo Indians and Dalit Catholics in these dioceses and those people from Alleppey who migrate to Cochin become the members of that diocese and vice versa. If an Anjoottikkar boy marries an Ezhunnoottikkar girl or an Anglo Indian girl he will not be excommunicated from his diocese, like the maniacs in Kottayam diocese do. Latin Catholics cannot even think of such a tribal behaviour.

    What if the Latin Catholics tried for a hierarchy? I have already explained how the Latin Christians can exist pretty well without any particular hierarchy.

    “Indianisation activities in the Lathin Church…These discussions have no relevance in a Syriac forum.”

    I agree. It was you who made such baseless allegations first. If you cannot produce any proofs, turn back from such nasty statements.

    “May be your small world is around the Synod of Diamper decrees. Why our fellow, Binu tried to bring the Synod of Diamper to this discussion?”

    It was actually the Syrian historians who emphasised the SoD and Coonan Cross oath so that they can diminish their dubious (and shameful) history before it. It was your churchmen who placed SoD as the reason for all the problems in their church. If you don’t want to hear about SoD, that means that you are aware of the truth, the truth that the Synod made the Syrians true Christians.

    Your forums revolve around Syriac and Assyrian rite, fake Jewish heritage, etc. You think yourselves to be the tail of Assyrians or some other West Asians. You try to obliterate you local traditions. I wonder why you people never talk about Syrian art forms other than Margam kali. You do not want to preserve Ramban pattu, Veeradiyar Pattu, Kalyana Pattu, Marthoman Pattu, etc. You are planning to protect Syriac by using it in Qurbana while you are not interested to record your folk songs and local customs. This is the direction of your community reformation. All you want to know is the Syriac loan words in Malayalam. Do you know the Latin Christians are rediscovering their cultural identity? They are seriously taking actions to preserve their art forms like Chavittu nadakam, Annavi Pattu, Slama Carol, Devastha Vili, Paricha Muttu Kali, Kadal Pattukal, etc instead of thinking about preservation of Latin language, which they are sure someone else will do.

    “Have you heard about Second Vatican Council ? It was not conducted at Changanassery.”

    Wasn’t it? I thought so.

    “Saint Thomas Cross- Yes, it has Pahlavi as well as Syriac. Pahlavi was the language of Persian Church for sometime”

    Yes and this is why it is called Persian Cross. Please don’t call it St. Thomas Cross, he had not even heard of it.

    “Syro Malabar people don’t need a copy from Wikipedia on the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari.”

    Be sensible with your language. Please convey your opinion, if you have any. Make it clear whether the “words of institution” were there in the original mass or not. If there were not, why do you keep them in your mass? If there were, why did the Holy See particularly excuse this liturgy?

    “Mar Joseph, the Metropolitan of India: Are you so wicked ? What I wrote was about the MSS from a Metropolitan of India.”

    If he was genuine, he would have taken one copy of each Syrac MSS existed in Malabar to show the Pope what he (and his people) believes. He would have taken “Parisman”, “Fathers”, “Infancy”, “Camiz“ and all such literary works. He also would not have yielded for the pressure from Portuguese to use Latin Clerical clothing.

    “I heard there was a bishop at Cochin who had some and even did something at bishop house.”

    If you are talking about “John Thattunkal”, don’t you have heard that when found guilty, he was suspended immediately? Latin dioceses never protect criminals like one of your Archdiocese do in a most notorious nun-murder case.

    The primary reason for the synod of Diamper was to bring the Syrians to the Papal obedience. The implementation of Latin rite was also just a way for it, not the ultimate aim. Menezes was able to impose the Latin rite without any Synod, but his aim was not that. He wanted all Syrian churches to be peacefully separated from Nestorianism and brought to union with Rome. That was why he took a decentralised approach of a Synod. In fact there were no other Bishops in Malabar. So there was no point in organising “a Synod”. He was able to implement anything simply by a Pastoral letter. Portuguese were ruling here that time. He could have achieved anything by muscle power. But he did not try so.

    Anyway his dream was accomplished and the Syrians (or at least majority of them) were brought to Roman Catholicism. Even the Syro Malabar Bishops who condemn him now never questions Roman authority, nor do they keep any connection with Assyrians. Mar Joseph Perunthottam has written Menezes was wrong when he prohibited, on his visit to Vyppikkotta, the mentioning of Chaldean Patriarch in Syriac Mass. Today even the same Perunthottam does not mention the Chaldean Patriarch in his mass.


    Your calling of the Synod a Fiasco shows either your ignorance or your bias. I you have time and genuine interest in learning about the Synod, try to read the decrees with an unbiased mind. Also I have noticed that you repeat a mistake. It is not “Umdiampur”, it is either “Udayamperoor” in Malayalam or “Diamper” in English. It is a place near Cochin.

    But why did the Syrians protest against Menezes and attempted to kill him thrice? You want to know? Ask me.

  217. Xavier Kalangara says

    Dear All
    I think this discussion is going in the wrong direction. Binu has undoubtedly started changing the tone of this discussion. I request him to limit to facts. Let us not be provoked into taking the discussion the way he wants.
    He has not presented any proof for any of his claims. It is known around here that a Latin lay organisation has used ‘Nazrani’ in their name. That is no proof at all. Nobody can stop a presumptuous usage of a name. Proofs he has paraded are of the similar nature. Today you can name an dalit child ‘Namboothiri’ nobody can question that. He has not proved that ‘Yavana’ came from Sanskrit. He has just said that the word exists in Sankrit. Binu is vehemently showing his hatred of Syrians and their heritage. Let us not reply to him in the same coin. I request him to keep out of a discussion of Syrian Christians if he has nothing to say good about them. He has contempt for great sons of Syrian community like Fr Placid and Fr Koodapuzha. They didn’t find favour with him because they loved their mother church.

    This person Binu cannot be a genuine person. Nobody who has a sense of history or knowledge of a language like Syriac can write what he writes. (What Syriac word has he typed here? I can only read it as Malayalam deprecating word). He is only interested in disparaging the Syrian Christians of Kerala. Today when nobody even wants to bring up a sore issue like Synod of Diamper, he is out to prove that it was milestone in the history of Kerala. He is repeating what the missionaries propagated in the West, that they converted a Nestorian community to Catholicism. It requires more than fantasy to imagine that a Catholic prelate could convene a synod and make the members of another church attend it and convert them!

  218. Paulose Nellikatti says

    Dear Xavier

    This is a dimension of Intolerance. Some people are so afraid of Saint Thomas Cross, Syriac, Oriental discussions etc. It seems for that reason they launch propaganda here. It can also be because some of their favorites like Manicheanism has been nailed to coffin and they need something else !

    I completely agree that his interest is disparaging the Syrian Christians of Kerala. It seems there are some in Cochin, who have not yet educated themselves about Catholic Church. Binu, was trying to change the course of an interesting discussion on Syriac with his posts !

  219. Paulose Nellikatti says

    Binu: You could have come here with your propaganda after doing some home work. At the least after getting clarity on some basic things. That’s the reason why you are very easily teard apart, as has happened with other propagandist here. That’s the reason why you are not being focused on the arguments but resorting to a very vague verbal ambushement covering different areas. My interest is not to ridicule the lathin church in India. I have also no interest to lower the standard of this forum to your level. Hence I am once again trying to limit my comments only to tear apart the hollowness in your basic arguments ! Finally, not interested in chit chat on non Syriac related topics, how ever hard you provoke !

    Paulose has not claimed what you bark on the “Epigraphicall” evidences that shows the Syriac origin of Malayalam word “Yavana”. Go back and read my comments and get some help in improving your comprehension ! I had only asked which other language has epigraphicall evidence in Kerala when you were saying about Greek presence in South India.

    If you cannot accept these words as from Syriac based on your biased mindset, do copy all these – Yavana, Kaura, Kabar, etc as the same way Lathins in Kerala copy Syriac Christians denying the origin !

    If you are not yet clear, I can repeat once again. But I am not going to help you further in your objective of diverting the discussions here,

    1) Satyanadam copies and Books published by Lathins claiming Saint Thomas Christian heritage: You can find in Satyanadam old copies at your Cochin diocese. If you are a lathin and if your claim is true, why do you need to ask me this ?. Articles on claims on Saint Thomas Christian heritage can also be find there. I don’t need to upload this in a Syriac forum as these are works of no relevance here. As most of these claims are absurd with out even doing a proper home work.

    2) Lathin churches following Chaldean Bishop Mar Mellus: Sweat and try to find that yourself. Isn’t better to learn something your community, before doing propaganda on another community ?

    3) Prayers that violate Ten Commandments- It is an interesting discussion on the “ Fakeisation” activities of Lathins in India. I don’t care.Let another Saint Franics Xavier deal with it.

    4) Nasrani: Now you are taking a U turn and claiming that the “ New Converts” ( Puthu Kristhinigal”) in some documents of Synod of Diamper does not mean Lathins of Kerala !!. This is what I said earlier. First do your home work before starting propaganda. You don’t have any evidence that Lathins were called anytime as Nasranis. They are so much segregated based on the caste even today . They are NOT A HOMOGENEOUS COMMUNITY LIKE THE SYRIAC CHRISTIANS. This is mostly due to the problems I explained earlier as their religious formation has happened after they were stereotyped in caste. They are always known and even today with their caste names such as “ Anjuttikar”, “Kuppayakar”, “ Munnuttikar” . They are also known with hindu caste names in some places. The photograph you gave as of an organization does not prove anything as Lathins were not a homogeneous community. There are so many documents and archive information on what they were called. So this is a stupid claim.

    5) Lathin diocese in Kerala: As I said my interest is not to ridicule the lathin church in India. It is not Allapuzha, Cochin, Wayanad, the reservation dioceses in Lathin hierarchy in Kerala. There is so much segregation based on caste system. There were many uprisings also as some diocese like Vijayapuram which are on the lower strata in a caste system feel they are marginalized in the Lathin system in Kerala. That’s something the Lathins has to handle and why discuss that in a Syriac Christian forum ! In the present Syro Malabar Church, majority of the Bishops are appointed by Pope. No need to gimmick that they can function without a hierarchy !

    6) Podipara, Perunthottam, Koodapuzha : I can understand your hatred ! I think people here take your mudslinging on Fr. Podipara, Mar Perunthottam, Fr. Koodapuzha as a credit. But if you think that only these three wrote about “ true” history behind the Portuguese and Synod of Diamper or about Syro Malabar Church, you do lack the homework and basic understanding . Even today, Fr. Placid is known as the best Church historian of India, Mar Perunthottam is the Metropolitan of Changanasherry, Fr. Koodapuzha is known as one of the best theologist in India. These three people are known as best in three spheres on their vacation. Catholic Church is represented by Fr. Koodapuzha in many theological dialogues outside India. It seems that you haven’t heard about others ! Lathins lack scholarship and the books, arguments by Lathins is so cursory with out doing the hard work. That’s why they have been considered as part of the “junk” material created by so called stupid church historians of Kerala. Your readings on Synod of Diamper has the same problem. It’s a problem with outdated 18th century style study material issue ! It can only be resolved by advancing scholarship with an open mind !

    7) Synod of Diamper: Let me assure you that after the discussion on Synod of Diamper, you will think twice before starting propaganda somewhere else. You deserve that . So many propagandist has tried their bit here. You have taken that to another level with your hatred even suggesting what to discuss ! I think this is the way stupid propagandist who have even not done their home work need to be treated. You need to provide clear references for any claims you make on Synod of Diamper. There is no point in writing an essay with out any substantial point as am not interested in a chit chat with you here

  220. Paulose Nellikatti says

    Dear Steven

    From the signatures which are in Rome, it is clear that it was either the VATTEZHUTH (the early script used to write Malayalam) or the KARSUNI ( Malayalam written in Syriac alphabets) version was the “real” decrees.

    However, we have not yet identified this VATTEZHUTH or KARSUNI version so far. As I mentioned earlier, the earliest MSS is a copy made 150 years after the Synod of Diamper. There are some three MSS in Rome and two at Mannanam Monastery ( Mannanam was the center for Syriac Catholics when Lathins dominated the church) which are written in MALAYALAM VATTEZHUTH and KARSUNI. We can not reconstruct completely from these MSS as they differ and are late. There are some studies done by scholars in identifying the original version and on re construction. I don’t know at what stage it is now.
    They use so many archive information available on what happened here from 16th century onwards in different reports, letters etc. These can be used to validate the claims of the decrees. So it’s a painstaking effort for a qualified researcher to do this .

    Houghs book is copy from the Latin version of the “ Menozidial Acts” ( fake degrees) . This is what Antonio Gouvea published as Portuguese version. This was translated in to Latin by John F Raulin. Mansi also published this. Hough’s took it from there. These are for the imperialistic motive of ALEJIO DE MENEZES. ( This was his correct Portuguese name).

    Regarding the book banning, this decree is in the Portuguese version which Menezis made for his own use ! There are some 35 decrees which are only in the “ Menozidial Acts”. As Hough reproduced this from the Latin version . All these are from “ Menozidial Acts” which can not be taken as valid !

    The Portuguese version decree 16 ordered that all SYRIAC MSS in Kerala need to be handed over to ALEJIO DE MENEZES for correction. This “correction” was done as burning which was conducted in many Churches with the help of Portuguese army ! These references are there in the reports in archives which mentions this activity done by Portuguese in many Churches after their rampage at the Syond claiming the order of “POPE” !.

    The other corrections are there in the Portuguese Decree 15 which correct the liturgical text from so called “ Nestorian errors”. ! These corrections were very gradual done over a period of time.

    Something which might interest you is in a manuscript written by Fr. Francis Ros SJ in 1586-1587.He was the accomplice of Menezis, whom I quoted earlier (“LET NOT THESE CHRISTIANS SAY THAT WE HAVE DUPED THEM”)who had send letters to Rome in 1603 and so many other people saying that Menezis duped the Christians of Malabar. He was made the Bishop later. This is published by Irenee Hausherr in “Orientalia Christiana” 1928, Rome, Pontifical Oriental Institute, page numbers are from 15-36. I don’t have this now. As you might rightly guessed, these are about the books on teachings of Nestorius, Diodore of Tarse and Theodore Mopsuestia.

  221. Paulose Nellikatti says

    Dear All

    John Mathew, has given earlier a very good explanation on historical Nestorianism. Even though in Kerala historical Nestorianism had and still has the habitat, understanding of it is not known. In Catholics, the common declaration ( 1994) of John Paul II and Patriarch Mar Dinkha is still unknown !

    The Catholic as well as Orthodox understanding of historical Nestorianism has changed profoundly from that of 16th century. It has been recognized in non official as well as official ecumenical statements by Catholics and Orthodox that both historical Monophysitism and historical Nestoriansim have professed the same true faith as contained in the Christological dogmas defined by the ecumenical councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, in spite of differences in terminology and theological expressions which caused the misunderstandings and did give rise to mutual anathemas.

    An official common declaration was signed on 11 November 1994 by Pope John Paul II representing the Catholic Church and by Patriarch Dinkha IV of Assyrian Church of East. This common declaration recognizes the orthodoxy of the faith of both of these Churches, though expressed in different theologies.

    See the declaration:

    As a follow up to this in 1997, it was decided to publish COMMON CATECHISM BOOK, COMMON LITURGICAL PRAYERS, INSTITUTE for formation of priests between the Assyrian Church of East and Chaldean Church.

    With this declaration the Catholic Church has officially recognized that the true faith in Christ was preserved in historical Nestorianism all through the past centuries. By “ Historical Nestoriaism”, it is meant Nestorianism as professed and explained by its own adherents and theologians and synods.

    Both historical Monophysitism and historical Nestorianism ( Dyophysitism) have been redefined more objectively.( See Sebastian Brock : “The Importance of the Syriac tradition in Ecumenical Dialogue and Christology” published in Christian Orient, Kerala).

    One is delighted to have established that despite all the difference, conditioned as they are culturally and intellectually the great regions of the orbis christologicus, whether Eastern or Western, are one in their faith in Christ. ( See Aloys Grillemeir : “Christ in Christian tradition, 1985”)

    Recent scholarship questions whether Nestorius was himself a “ Nestorian” and maintains that his position was Orthodox and that his differences with his great rival Cyril of Alexandria, are to be explained more by the confusion of terminology from which both suffered, particularly the failure to distinguish clearly between “person” and “nature” rather than from any departure from the Churches faith on Nestorius part ( See: The New Dictionary of Theology edited by Joseph Komonchak)

    Nestorius was in fact more sinned against than sinned. He declared that his own position was well expressed by Pope Leo the great, and “he quite often affirmed even that Christ is “in two natures” or a “ sole prosophon in two natures”. ( See: Luigi Scipioni: Nesorio e il Concilo di Efeso”)

  222. Paulose Nellikatti says

    It has even been said that Nestorius was not a Nestorian ! In order to affirm that Jesus Christ is truly and fully God and truly and fully man, against the Arians and the Apollinarians misleading his flock in Constantinople, Nestorius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, speaks of the prosopon of God and the prosopon of man but in the sense of complete divine and human natures, which are manifested only though a prospon. His objection to the Marian epithet Theotokos ( literally: “God bearer”- Mother of God) was not dogmatic but pastoral, not to seem to sanction its Apollinarian abuse. Unfortunately he could not anticipate the post Chalcedonian precession in the use of the three key terms physis,hypostasis and prosopon and he lost his case at the Council of Ephesus owing more to the wily ecclesiastical politics of Cyrial of Alexandria than to any deviation from Orthodoxy ( See: Edward Farrugoa, “ Nestorianesimo” Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome)

    According to the latest competent critical comment to date, it is in fact difficult to find Nestorians who have really upheld what their adversaries have attributed to them as their doctrine, namely that there are not only two natures in Christ but two persons, one divine ( logos) and the other human, united in a sort of moral union. ( See: Geevarghese Chediath: “ The Christology of Mar Babai the Great, Rome, 1952).

    Seemingly more for political than dogmatic reasons, the East Syrian Church embraced Nestorianism since 486, but as expounded by its patronymic teacher Theodore of Mopsuestua ( 428) , the Exegete, who was condemned posthumously at the Second Council of Constantinople (553) on the basis of interpolated texts, a victim of imperial politics !

    The Christology of Babai the Great ( 551- 628) the premier theologian of East Syrian Church, comparable in this regard to Thomas Aquinas of Lathin Church, professed and defended the same true faith in Christ as the Catholic Church, albeit using different terminology .

    Barhebraeus declared in the thirteenth century that after much study and experience of Christological dialogue he was convinced that the three traditional church division around Christology ( Chalcedon, Monophysite and Dyophysite/ Diphysite) preserved and expressed the same true faith in Christ, true God and true man right through their polemics. ( See: Sebastian Brock: : “The Importance of the Syriac tradition in Ecumenical Dialogue and Christology”. )

    It took seven more centuries to come to the same realization for the divided churches. In short the Christological faith professed by the East Syrian Church ( Chaldean Church, Persian Church, Assyrian Church of the East etc) was misunderstood in the past and was condemned unfairly as heresy although it coincided essentially with the Ephesian orthodoxy of the universal church.

    It seems there are certain Catholic writers who still carry on dutifully beating the carcass of Nestoriansim in Kerala among the Lathin Catholics and they also seem to have generated some ignorant followers !

  223. Steven Ring says

    Dear Dr. Paulose Nellikatti,

    I’ve no time right now to do proper justice to your posts, but essentially I agree with you that the 5th and 6th century ecclesiastical splits were politically motivated with all opposing sides inventing false caricatures of their opponents to underpin their political hostility. From this point of view, it is possible to see all synods of that late antique era in a very different, less charitable light: because of the deceptions which went on and the huge damage done to so many people and to the reputation of the faith in general.

    This is certainly where I am coming from theologically anyway.

    More on your other points will have to wait until later. Thank you for sharing so many ideas.

    Best wishes,

  224. Steven Ring says

    Dear Dr. Paulose Nellikatti,

    Concerning the identities of the Syriac books burned during the synod of Udayamperoor and in the years following that. Even if the ‘Menezes acts’ published by Hough in 1839 are not a reliable record of the matters discussed at the synod, (and given what I have read already and the letters you quoted, I agree with you about that): Do you not think that the ‘Menezes acts’ if they were really written by him or by his accomplices are likely to contain reliable refrences to the Syriac books they wanted to get rid of?

    Most sources have their uses. The essence of historical research it to work out where each source is likely to be reliable. Given Menezes’ hatred of Eastern Christianity, anything written by him is likely to contain vitriolic denunciations of Eastern Christian books, customs, traditions etc. All of which he wanted to eradicate. In my opinion, these decrees could be quite useful sources for the Nasrani books, customs and traditions in place when the Portuguese arrived. Clearly though, his descriptions and opinions of those East Christian books, customs and traditions are likely to be very misleading and so skewed from reality as to be completely worthless. However, if we know what was there when the Portuguese arrived and we can find those books, customs etc. published or described in other, more reliable sources, we will be in a good position to work out what Nasrani Christianity and Nasrani communities were like in mid 16th century Malabar.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Best wishes,

  225. M Thomas Antony says

    Synod of Diamper was definitely a forceful illegal invasion of Portuguese Missionaries into the affairs of Saint Thomas Christians. The Arch Bishop of Goa had no jurisdiction over Saint Thomas Christians. Without any special mandate from the Roman Pontiff, he forcefully entered the Arch Diocese of Angamaly and convened the Diocesan Synod of Diamper and proclaimed that he reunited the saint Thomas Christians who were living outside the Roman Communion for thousand years, in a matter of few months by the efforts of the zealous Arch Bishop and his team of missionaries to triumph in Europe. (Jonas Thaliath, The synod of Diamper, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 152 Rome 1958, cited by Rev Dr Paul Pallathu, Was Saith Thomas Christians nestorians ? Ephrem’s theological Journal, vol 5 March 2001, p 36)

    It is clear that Saint Thomas Christians were not in explicit communion with the Church of Rome for centuries. But there are certain hints in the history about some loose contacts and communion. Church of the East had several short lived communions and relations with the Church of Rome in the past before the formation of the Chaldean Patriarchate.

    Pope Saint Gregory III ( 731-741) was a Chaldean from the province of Syria. ( Guriel Elementa Linguae Chaldaicae, 168 cited by G T Mackenzie in foot note 116 based on the manuscript submitted by Nidheerickal Mani Kathanaar). Mar John, the Arch Bishop of the Syrians and afterwards Patriarch, went with his suffragans to Rome and received the pallium from Pope Callixtus II( AD 1119-1124) in the twelfth century. (Gesta Callixti , Papae. Vetera analecta Mabilloni 468 cited by G T Mackenzie foot note 116 based on the manuscript submitted by Nidheerickal Mani Kathanaar) . In AD 1250, Iso yahb bar Malkon, Metropolitan of Nisbis, sent a profession of Catholic faith to Pope and made some minor changes in the Taksa that he used calling Mary, the ‘Mother of Christ, who is our God’ (History of Chaldean mass, Macomber, JAAS p76). When Pope Julius III, on April 6th, 1553 confirmed John Simon Sulaqa as Patriarch of the Chaldeans, confirmed that the discipline and liturgy of the Chaldeans had already been approved by his predecessors, Nicholas I ( AD 858-867) and Leo X ( AD 1513-1521) and Clement VII, ( AD 1523-1534) This papal letter also mentions the former Patriarch Simon Mamma, of good memory as Patriarch of the Christians of Malabar.( GT MacKenzie, foot note 116)

    There are reports in the history about reception of John Marignolli in AD 1346, letter of Pope Eugine IV to the Christian King of Malabar in AD 1439, as examples of contact with the Church of Rome. But after AD 1554, with the arrival of Mar Joseph, The Saint Thomas Christians became in Catholic Communion.

    In AD 1551, under the leadership of Patriarch John Simon Sulaqa, a section of the Church of the East entered into full hierarchical communion with the Church of Rome. John Simon Sulaqa was consecrated and confirmed as the Catholic Patriarch of Mossul in Assyria and received pallium from Pope Julius III in AD 1553.In the Papal Bull, the Pope had confirmed his jurisdiction over Malabar Christians also.

    . (“..Postmodum vero ecclesia patriarchali de Muzal et insulae Tigris ac caeterarum civitatum et terratum orientalium eidem Patriarchae subjectarum, necnon monasteriorum ejusdem in Sui Massin et et Calicuth ac tota India existentium eidem etiam Patriarchae subditorum dum vivert praesidebat….”S Giamil, Genuinae Relationes… 17-18, Subsidium ad Bullarium Patronatus Portugalliae, 4 cited by Rev Dr Paul pallath, Were Saint Thomas Christians Nestorians ? Ephrem’s Theological Journal, Vol 5 March 2001 No 1 p 42 foot note 24)

    The Patriarchate was supported by a Papal Nuncio for the East, Bishop Ambrose Buttigeg, a Maltese Dominican and his companion Fr Antonius Sahara.

    Patriarch Sulaqa was murdered in AD 1555 and Mar Abdisho was consecrated as the next Patriarch under the supervision of the Papal Nuncio, Bishop Ambrose Buttigeg. In 1562, Mar Abdisho received pallium from Pope Pius IV. The next Patriarch was Mar Yahballaha ( AD 1567- 1579) and then Mar Simon Denha ( AD 1579- 1600). Mar Simon Denha received pallium from Pope Gregory III (1572-1585). It was this Mar Simon Denha was the head of Saint Thomas Christians who was in explicit ecclesiastical and hierarchical communion with the Church of Rome was condemned by the Synod of Diamper!

    Thus, the synod itself become an act of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff.

    In AD 1555, Patriarch Mar Abdisho sent two Bishops to Malabar, Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the brother of Patriarch John Simon Sulaqa, as the Bishop for Saint Thomas Christians, Mar Elias, as the representative of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate along with the Papal Nuncio for the East Bishop Ambrosius Buttigeg, and his companion Fr Antonius Sahara. This four member team itself proves the authenticity of Mar Joseph and his hierarchical communion with the Roman Pontiff. ( The two Chaldean Bishops were arrested and detained in the Franciscan monastery at Bassein near Bombay and Bishop Abrosius and Fr Sahara were allowed to come to Goa.)

    In 1558, all were allowed to come to Malabar because of the arrival of Mar Abraham, another East Syrian Bishop but not of the Catholic communion. They used Mar Joseph to keep the Malabar Nasranis away from the Non catholic East Syriac Church. Mar Joseph converted Mar Abraham to Catholic communion, but the Portuguese deported him to Babylon. Mar Joseph was arrested again in 1562 and sent to Portugal and Rome where he was cleared from all accusations and was even nominated to be elevated as a Cardinal.

    Due to the request of the Malabar Nasranis, the Patriarch Abdisho appointed Mar Abraham as the Bishop of Malabar and sent to Rome where he received pallium from Pope Pius IV in 1565.The Pope Pius IV gave him three letters, one for the Patriarch Abdisho and the others to the Arch Bishop of Goa and the Bishop of Cochin.

    In these letters, the Pope confirms the jurisdiction of the Chaldean Patriarch over the Saint Thomas Christians and apologised for the inconveniences caused by the Portuguese Missionaries. The Pope also warns the Arch Bishop of Goa that it would be detrimental to the Pope himself and to the Apostolic See, if he would hinder the jurisdiction of the Patriarch and orders that his jurisdiction must remain untouched and intact. The Pope in his letter to the Patriarch permits to maintain ‘your customs and rites’, recognizing the ancient rite.

    Thus, the Arch Bishop of Goa, who had no jurisdiction over the saint Thomas Christians, without any special mandate from the Roman Pontiff, forcefully entered the Arch Diocese of Angamali with the help of the non Christian Kings invalidly convoked the diocesan Synod of Diamper, under the threat of excommunication contrary to the norms of the canon law.( Rev. Dr.Paul Pallathu, The Synod of Diamper valid or invalid, cited in Were Saint Thomas Christians Nestorians ? Ephrem’s Theological Journal, Vol 5 March 2001 No 1,p 54-55) The word excommunication is also to be noted carefully. If saint Thomas Christians were not in communion with the Catholic Church, how can the Arch Bishop Goa excommunicate them? They would not have afraid of excommunication and the threat of excommunication would not have any use.

    What was the aim of the synod ?

    1 Latinisation.

    It was not for correcting the doctrines of saint Thomas Christians. The above mentioned letters categorically confirms that the rite and rituals of Saint Thomas Christians were accepted by the Roman Pontiff. If for argument sake, if we take that there were several books found in the community which contains errors, the synod would have only made actions to correct them. Instead, it was a strategical approach to make changes to the rite and customs to conform the saint Thomas Christians to latin rite to effect suppression of law of Thomas- and to introduce Latin Rite among saint Thomas Christians. See below a few of the synodal decrees which explicitly order conformity to Latin rite.

    ‘admit and receive all the customs rites and ceremonies recieved and approved in the Roman Church’ Session II decree I.
    Images painted after ‘our manner’ are to be placed in all churches…session III decree I Ch IX.
    The Syriac lectionary is to be replaced by The Vulgar latin edition made use by Holy Mother Church-Session III decree II.
    prohibition of the east Syrian baptismal formula and prescribed that which is followed by the Roman Church- session IV decree I.
    baptismal water shall be blessed by the Holy chrism according to the Roman ceremonial-session IV decree XIX.
    separated confirmation from baptism in harmony with the roman tradition- session IV confirmation.
    Forty changes in the eucharistic liturgy to conform with the latin rite-words of consecration was added to the Liturgy of Addai and mari, creed was modified, introduction of extreme unction, abolished optional celebacy to obligatory celebacy to the priests, latin vestments, the synod being desirous that the church of the serra should in all things be conformable to the latin customs, or Holy Mother Church of Rome….’session VIII decree XXXVII.

    From these, we can understand that the real aim was not the correction of errors but to eradicate and exteminate the east Syriac rite and Law of Thomas to replace it with latin Rite.

    2 To suppress the Jurisdiction of the Chaldean Patriarch and to bring the Saint Thomas Christians under the Portuguese Padruado and patronage of the King of Portugal to control the Saint Thomas Chriastian community and thereby to control the spice trade.

    There are several reports in the history that the Portuguse needed help from Saint Thomas christians to beat the Arab merchants. In 1920s, the Portuguese sought help from Mar Jacob Abuna to persuade Saint Thomas Christians to trade their pepper to them. ( Antionio da silva Rego, Documenta cao para a Historia das Missoes do padruado Portugues do oriente, vol II Lisbon, 1948 p 357 cited by Pius malekkandathil Jornada of Alexis De Menesis:A Portuguese account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar, pXXIX )

    Now, it is obvious that it was not to convert the Saint Thomas Christians to Catholicism, but to Latinise them, and to subjugate them under the Portuguese padruado. It was a cultural invasion to change their religious rite and rituals to control the community on the religious perspective and politically also for the colonial interests of the Portuguese.

  226. John Mathew says

    Dear Antony:

    I have two issues with what you wrote:

    1. First, a petty one: I don’t think it’s accurate to label members of the East Syriac Church, prior to its 15th c communion with Rome, as “Chaldeans”. The latter term was an innovation (not the term itself, but it’s application to the Catholic East Syriac Church) made to distinguish the Rome-affiliated East Syriacs from the non-Roman East Syriacs. So Pope Gregory was a Syriac, or an Aramean, or an Assyrian—but never a Chaldean. Such a term for his community did not exist back then.

    2. Second, a slightly more critical one: I don’t see how the Synod of Diamper was just a colonialist ploy to get the Nasranis on the side of the Port. for economic/trade reasons. Why? Because when the Port. came to India, the Nasranis were only too keen to welcome them. Even when it resulted in their own destruction at the hands of their enemies (e.g., witness how the Church of Kollam was burned down by Muslims because the local Christians were harboring Port. soldiers who attacked the Muslims).

    So I don’t think Diamper was just something to get the Indians onside — for that, the Port. did not need to do anything significant as the Indians were already bending over backwards to be friends of their militarily co-religionists.

  227. John Mathew says

    Holy Name of God as an Icon in Malabar.

    In the modern Church of the East the Hebrew name of God (abbreviated as YAH, yod-he) is used “iconographically”. You can see this on many CoE Churches, books, etc. Does anyone know if this was historically used in Kerala too?

    I know the modern “Kaldaya” in Kerala use this — the church at Trichur has it on the arch. But that may just be due to modern-day uniformity. What about in antiquity?

    I say a syriac letter written by St. Gregorios of Parumala, and there it was on the top — in West Syriac script. It looked like it was there in isolation, as an icon. My question is: was this a vestige of historic use of “YAH” as an icon in Malabar, or was this due to his connections with the West Syriac Church.

    Regarding the latter: the West Syriac Church doesn’t seem to make extensive use of YAH as an icon, but it does do it occasionally. There is a Shhimo (ferial hours) online, where I can see the yod-he icon interspersed. However, apart from that, I’ve not come across iconographic use of the name of God in West Syriac texts or Churches.

    So … does anyone have pictures, MSS, etc. from old Malankara that have YOD-HE used iconographically?

  228. M Thomas Antony says

    Regarding the recent comments of Binu,

    Binu seems to have an agenda to show that the Syriac tradition and heritage is nothing but some heresies and blasphemies and there is nothing to be proud of being a Syriac Christian. He has all the rights to have his own views. There are a large number of people who consider our Syriac heritage and tradition as Great and they are so proud of being part of this tradition. His comment ‘syriaco maniac’ is regrettable and I feel sorry for his ‘syriaco phobia’. He has also presented some information to show that Saint Thomas Christians before Portuguese arrival were Nestorians and heretics. He argues that it was the Portuguese who converted them to the true faith.

    First, he has to understand what is true faith. It is relative. A Roman Catholic will say his faith is the only true faith. An Oriental Orthodox will consider a Roman Catholic as a heretic.

    I think he is totally ignorant about the history. Before AD 1554, the Malabar Nasranis were part of the Church of the East, the so called Nestorian Church. But after AD 1554, with the arrival of Mar Joseph Sulaqa, the Malabar Church came in communion with the Roman Catholic Church through the Chaldean Catholic Church(AD1552). There are clear documentation available to show that the Chaldean Patriarchate had jurisdiction over Church of Saint Thomas and the Chaldean Patriarchate was in full ecclesiological and hierarchical communion with the Church of Rome as I have mentioned in my previous comment. Also, Pope Pius IV had confirmed that he has accepted the rite and customs of the Chaldean Church. The Pope had even warned the Arch bishop of Goa not to hinder activities of the Chaldean Patriarchate and his bishops in Malabar and actually apologised for the inconveniences caused by the Portuguese Missionaries especially for Mar Abraham and Mar Joseph, in his letter to Mar Abdisho.

    There were many local practices and rituals prevalent among the Malabar Nasranis which can be viewed as wrong today. Binu talks about the marriage practices, supposed sorcery, etc. Many Portuguese writers have reported that concubinage was prevalent among Nasranis and even the Cathanaars. What about the rest of the Kerala community ? In the middle ages, this was the normal cultural situation in Malabar. Nasranis were also part of that culture. Hence considering those as an evil is wrong. Yes, those are not acceptable in todays society. Accusation of sorcery is also similar. The whole society accepted certain rituals in the middle ages when they had some illnesses as there were no medical facilities available, they looked for certain signs from the nature for doing certain things like starting a business of marriage etc. This can be viewed as black magic and sorcery today. These are not Nasrani customs but the customs for the whole Malabar people. Those people who have certain vested interests project these as evidences for heresy, blasphemy, manichaeism etc.among Saint Thomas Christians.

    Portuguese missionaries accused sorcery among Saint Thomas Christians. See the decrees of Synod of Diamper-introducing exorcisms of the church, for the people possessed with devil. session VIII decree XXII

    In the middle ages, the Roman Catholic Church also held a lot of weird beliefs. They taught that the earth is the centre of the Universe and persecuted Galileo. Binu should understand, as time passes and as humans get more knowledge, everybody undergo changes. Roman Catholic church has changed a lot. East Syriac church also has changed.

    There were many books found in the community which were not acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church. These are well known facts. That doesn’t necessitate us to undergo a whole change over to Latin rite. If we did that, no one would have thought about our past. Look at the picture in Goa. 50 years ago, no one would have thought about the East Syriac past of the Goa. Now, after the discovery of the Pahlavi cross at Agassim, the Latin rite priests have started doing research and proclaiming their East Syriac past. Now, it is getting clear that the Portuguese did not create Christianity in Goa, they just created the Latin rite.

    I think our forefathers were very brave and were very confident in their identity. They resisted the Latinisation attempts of the strong Portuguese Colonialist Missionaries. Look at the argument Law of Thomas vs Law of Peter. I feel so proud to be part of this rich tradition and identity.

    If Binu and many of the so called Syro Malabarians would want to know why we are trying to study our past, they should learn what is a tradition and what is the importance of a tradition in Christian faith.

    Binu has commented,

    “‘the use of “OM” is not against Christianity. Praying in Sanskrit, applying Tilak, using Safforn, Bharatnatyam, Kirtans, Bhajan, etc all these are neither heretic nor anti-Christian. Latin Christians are converts from Hindus. So these are simply their cultural tradition. If there is anything pagan in it, you may indicate.”

    This itself is the answer why we want to use Saint Thomas Cross in our churches and worship. We are not against the crucifix. We do not throw away crucifix. Binu himself said, he wouldn’t mind keeping Mar Thoma Sliba in a flag etc but not in the Church. But there are certain corners who want to promote crucifix and to throw away Mar Thoma Sliba. They would not allow Mar Thoma Sliba in the Church. This attitude is not Christian. It is simply intolerance. Are they really Jesus’ army?

    I would like to remind Binu about the result of the attempts of the so called Indianisation of Syro Malabar Liturgy. Rome categorically discouraged the use of sacred books of Hindus in the Holy Liturgy and prohibited the use of the so called Indian mass and experiments of abusive Indianisation. When Cardinal Joseph Parekkattil raised objections to this decision, Rome wrote again in strong words ‘The use in celebration of any text or liturgical composition lacking proper and due authorisation on the part of the Bishops Conference qua talis as in the case of the so called ‘short mass’ and ‘Indian mass’ is to be strictly prohibited.( Antony Nariculum, The Holy See, The Syro Malabar Bishops Conference and the Syro Malabar Bishops Synod on the inculturation of the Syro Malabar Liturgy- a study, Ed. Bosco Puthur, pp71-72).

    That means, whoever does these without the decision of the proper body are heretics.

    Re Binu’s arguements of diaphytism, as Xavier and Paulose already explained, the East Syrian Church was wrongly accused of the so called Nestorian heresy. As Pro Oriente says, it is all interpretations by others who does not know the East Syriac church. The ‘Mother of God vs Mother of Christ controversy itself is a misunderstanding. As I have read, the term ‘Mother of Misiha’ was the term used to denote the Mother Mary by the early Church. When Arianism denounced Misiha as God, the churches where Arianism had influence, created the term Mother of God. But the East Syriac Church which did not have much influence of Arianism continued the term Mother of Misiha.( Rev Dr Charles Paingott,The life of the Thomas Christiansin the light of the newly discovered documents- Malayalam book published by Denha services, p 241) Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W. Winkler wrote, “Nestorius himself was no Nestorian” in terms of doctrine.( Baum, W. & Winkler, D., (2000, 2003[tr.]) The Church of the East, London, RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 4-5 cited in Wikipaedia)

    Babai the Great, a monk of the so called Nestorian church (551-628) developed the Christology of the Church of the East. Babai in his book of Union, clarified the accusation of the so called nestorianism on the Church of the East by using the term qnome-two qnome which are unmingled but everlastingly united in a single person of Jesus.

  229. Steven Ring says

    Dear M Thomas Antony, Dear All,

    Thank you for your interesting and learned series of posts on the history of Nasrani Christianity.

    However, from my own experience I do not think that Rome is as enthusiastic about the Syriac tradition as may be suggested by several posts on this list. Of course it is true that some of the Syriac traditions are aligned with Rome, (for example the Maronites, Syrian Catholics, Chaldeans etc.) and joint declarations have also been made by Rome and the Church of the East quite recently etc. But equally well, do you really think that Rome will accept every aspect of the East Syriac tradition? For example the right of clergy and ascetics to marry if they wish, the RC view that the Greek NT & Hellenistic liturgical forms take precedence, the RC insistence on sacraments and festivals unknown in the east, etc. etc. I don’t know whether the Nasrani community really wants to recover its East Syriac tradition, but if so, I think Rome will resist that effort in many areas of East Syrian faith, tradition and practice.

    Real life is very complex and absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. For example, wanting to find Manichaeism in the Syriac tradition of the Nasrani people is ironic, because gnostic ideas which attached moral evil to all material things and to sexual relations, have more than likely influenced Catholic teaching. For example, the Catholic (and later Protestant) doctrine of ‘original sin’ appeared no earlier than the 4th century AD, but this dubious doctrine is not known at all in the East Syriac tradition. In his treatise on the truth of Christianity called Margānīthā which was burnt by Menezes in AD 1599, in the 2nd chapter of the 2nd mēmrā about the first sin, Mār Audisho metropolitan of Niṣibis († AD 1318) wrote about the tree of knowledge, (Genesis 2.7 – 17):

    “And he decreed that all, whilst eating from it dying, they will die. And by this he made known about free will, for if it were not so, he falsely oppressed them.”

    Reference to the Syriac text: Mai 1838, part 2, p. 322, column 1, line 23, (facs. p. 749): Link to on-line facsimile:

    Reference to an English translation: Badger 1852, volume 2, page 389. Link to on-line facsimile:

    I agree with Mār Audisho on this point. We have free will, and so we are capable of moral good as well as bad. Otherwise we would not be accountable to God for the good and bad things we do in our lives. I will leave it to the experts on Catholic doctrine to mention on this list if they will, how many other Catholic beliefs, traditions and practices are influenced by the idea of ‘original sin’ I have just questioned. It think it is quite a few!

    This is just one example. The point I am making is that fundamental differences do exist between the Catholic tradition and the East Syrian tradition which was present in India before the Portuguese arrived.

    Best wishes,

  230. George Mathew says

    Dear All,

    In one of my earlier comments, I had quoted Rev. Buchanan refering to us as ‘Sabbath Keeping Judaisers’ based upon the Portugeese allegation of the same upon us.
    Another commentator opined to my above that Rev. Buchanan’s quote is insufficient to establish the fact that the Malabar Nazerenes were indeed honouring the 7th Day Sabbath. In other words, he implied that the Synod of Diamper is silient about the 7th Day Sabbath.

    Now here below is something which I place before you,
    “The Synod doth declare, That the Obligation ………….lasts from midnight to midnight, beginning at the midnight of the prohibited day, and ending at the midnight of the day following, ………………………., and the Obligation of ceasing from labour begins at the midnight of the said day, and ends at the midnight of Monday: being to understand that in beginning the Feasts and Festivities on the Evening of the former, and continuing them to the Evening of the latter day, they do conform themselves to the Customs and Rites of the Jews condemned by Holy Mother Church, in which days and their observances are reckoned from Evening to Evening, but from midnight to midnight.”

    – The Synod of Diamper (1599) Action VIII; Of the Reformation of Church-Affairs Decree XVI:
    The only people on earth who consider their day to start at sunset and close at the next sunset are the Jews (and possibly his prodigal brother Ephraim). Some Christians, in order to be politically correct, may have considered Saturday and Sunday as Holydays/their form of Sabbath days/Rest Days/Worship Days. But the counting of hours of the day from sunset to sunset is surely and positively Jewish alone.

    The Synod is attacking such a Sabbath and Rev. Buchanan is not wrong.
    I will repeat again, that what had happened in Malabar was very unique. Tiny Ephraim from the CoE had baptized larger Judha into Nazerenes. All of us missed this for too long.

  231. John Mathew says


    Regarding: “The only people on earth who consider their day to start at sunset and close at the next sunset are the Jews”

    All Syriac Churches, whether in India or in the Middle East, observe this method of reckoning the day. If you look at the Syriac prayer books of the so-called “Nestorians”, “Jacobites”, and other allied Churches, the prayers of day X begin wit the “Ramsho” (evening) and “Sootoro” (prayers for protection prior to going to bed) of day “X-1”.

    I believe this method comes from the Bible, or it’s a Semitic method. Either way, Jews and Syriac Christians both follow this method of reckoning. It does not prove anything.

    (Note: I’m not denying that the Nasranis have Jewish inputs. I’m just contesting your conclusions drawn from the observation of how the hours are reckoned.)

  232. John Mathew says


    I’m not so sure that Rome has the perspective you’ve outlined.

    For example, as far as I understand, priestly celibacy is not enforced on either Byzantine Uniates nor Oriental Uniates, except in cases of Latinization. For example, I think Syro-Malabar Catholic priests do observe celibacy due to the influence of Latin prelates. But Syro-Malankara Catholic priests are not necessarily celibate. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

    Does anyone have deep knowledge of the Chaldeans? As far as I understand, they pretty much use their rite verbatim, except where the Christology is “ambiguous”. I know that is the case with the “Jacobite” Catholics (i.e., the West Syriac Catholics — who use their rites unmodified, except as noted).

    The Maronites willingly Latinized themselves during the post-Crusades era, and now Rome is telling them to resurrect their Oriental rite.

    So, I don’t think that Rome is at all opposed to the Syriac rite. In fact, it was Rome that did the hard work of publishing the Oriental liturgical texts. In the case of the Syriac Orthodox, very little of their rite is published: they rely on Xerox copies of MSS which they distribute. The Shehimo, for example, is only published in a complete form by Rome, and republished by the Orthodox in India. The Syriac Orthodox Church (via Bar Hebraeus press) only publishes a heavily abbreviated version of this text.

    The Nasranis of India are very interested in resurrecting their ancient “Margam”. Although I’m Orthodox, I admire the Syro-Malabar Catholics of India who, along with the small Church of the East in India, are the only two Churches in India that keep the East Syriac rite alive. And via Denaha Services — a Catholic enterprise — efforts are being made to translate and disseminate and encourage the increased use of the East Syriac rite (e.g., they publish liturgical texts, such as the Hudra, for popular use).

    Your view of Rome in this regard is overly-pessimistic; do you have anything to substantiate it?

    Is there any evidence that Rome pushes extraneous theories such as that of Original Sin (which is not a fundamental dogma of the Church) or the Filoque clause on the Uniates?

    From my experience with the West Syriac rite (Uniate and Orthodox), I can say I’ve found no trace of either.

  233. George Mathew says

    Dear John,

    You wrote ‘.. the prayers of day X begin wit the “Ramsho” (evening)..’

    I may see a Jewish input into the above Jacobite prayers. But it is entirely a different matter to labelled ‘SHABBATH KEEPING JUDAIZERS’ whose Shabbath starts at sunset and ends at next sunset. The one you have stated about the Jacobites is on ‘paper’ and ‘lips’ while what Bishop Menezes stated is in daily living, with the various complexities like work, leisure, prayer, fellowship, play, education, travel, war etc.. revolving around the 7th Day of Rest.

    If you tell me that the Jacobite prayer book contains reference to Shabbath from sunset to sunset, then I will agree to the possibility that my claim of the Malabar Nazereans being of Jewish heritage with this reference is not strong. You once mentioned to me that circumscion is the strongest case for Jewishness. I do disagree, because in the Scripture there is good reference to Greek Jews being uncircumcised. Ofcourse, if a Jew is Greek, it does not mean that he is gentile (though in the Scripture Greek is sometimes equated to being Gentile).

    I may even contest circumscion. When Ellohim was angry with Moshe and moved to kill him, Zephora ran and circumcised their son and produced the flesh to Ellohim. Ellohim’s anger subsided. I do not believe that Zephora would have done a circumcision as done today (too deep and too traumatic and too dangerous). She just had time to do a minor token snip and nothing more, or else she would have lost her son too to death. Circumcision itself is token, and hence there is no need to make it ‘realistic surgical removal of the foreskin’.
    John! this evidence alone is conclusive and there are others too! Bishop Menezes has issued us our ID card, well! he renewed it. Viva Bishop Menezes! Good Man!

  234. George Mathew says

    Dear John,

    I wrote ‘..But the counting of hours of the day from sunset to sunset is surely and positively Jewish alone.

    I should have been clearer and have written ‘.. But the counting of hours of the “Shabbath day” from sunset to sunset is surely and positively Jewish alone.

  235. George Mathew says

    Dear John,

    Note: , they do conform themselves to the Customs and Rites of the Jews condemned by Holy Mother Church,

    What does ‘Shabbath Keeping Judaizers’ involve. It means/involves those who honour the 7th Day of Rest and the word ‘Judaizers’ involve/mean those who have the customs and rites of the Jews.

    Is this not exactly what Bishop Menezes accuses us of? I have been reading most of your comments during the past years. You do agree that we had connections with the CoE. YOu do also state/imply that we did not have an eccelestial setup of bishops etc.. but rather had ‘Jaathi Moopans (arch deacons in English). Yet, not even once have I heard you say that ‘we were by and large an independent’ lot of believers, much removed from the Christian eccelesetial world of the West and the Middle East.

    When writers like Cosmas and others state that they saw ‘Christians’ in the Malabar/Male, they would have just used the word ‘Christians’ in the absence of the knowledge of knowing any other better word suited to us. Perhaps, in the original writings, they would have used ‘Nazerenes’ but upon translation into English, the word Nazerene would have become Christian.
    Have you not noticed that Rev. Buchanan in his entire writings about us, uses the word ‘Nazerene’ just once (and that too, upon saying that is what we call ourselves) and at all other times, used the word ‘Christian’. Rev. Buchanan seems to want to suppress any rising of the name ‘Nazerene’ for it is a name that is a religious threat/challenge to them.

    In religion and politics, there are often ‘hidden agendas’. As you were raised in the West, you think straight-forward. I can see Rev. Buchanan’s subtle game, but you don’t.

    In the subtle way of substituting the word ‘Christian’ for ‘Nazerene’ in the many overseas writings about us, our enemies (intentional and non-intentional) have made you believe less in our Hebrew heritgage.

  236. M Thomas Antony says

    Dear Steven Ring and John Mathew,

    I agree with John. Rome has changed, especially after Vatican Council II. Obligatory Celibacy of Priests is not observed in many Eastern Catholic Churches like Ukrainian, Maronite and Chaldean. Syro Malabar has been under Latin Prelates for a few hundred years and were effectively functioning as a few dioceses with a different rite. That is why Syro Malabar Church observe obligatory celibacy. Syro Malankara opted to observe Obligatory celibacy when they were reunited. Now, both Syro Malabar and Syro Malankara are sui irus churches and the synods of the churches can decide othervise.

    Rome has accepted the Liturgy of Addai and Mari without the words of institution. The Chaldeans can receive sacraments from Church of the East and vice versa. Syro Malabars can receive sacraments from Jacobites and Indian Orthodox and vice versa. The Chaldean Catholics in their recent reformation, returned to Nicean creed omitting the filioque. Syro Malabar church has started the ancient practice of baptism and confirmation together.

    I can understand Steven’s views about the RC church. I am a Syro Malabar Catholic. If you study the history of Syro Malabar Church, we were under Latin prelates until 1896.What we can see is the love for the syriac heritage started deteriorating since the native bishops took over the charge. We, the laity and the clergy were fighting for preserving our tradition and identity when we were under Latin prelates. When the native Bishops took over, they started fighting each other to get power and positions by pleasing the masters in Rome!

    I agree with you. There is fundamental difference exists between the Catholic tradition and the pre Diamper tradition existed in Malabar. But, now, Rome has realised the fact that Malabar Nasranis were a particular rite and it was their expression of authentic Apostolic faith, Rome itself asked us to revert back to the roots.

    After the reformation of Vatican council II, Rome has been persistantly asking us for reverting to pre Diamper liturgy and practices, but our prelates were resistant. There are two schools of thought among the Bishops and clergy. One group is for preservation of Pre Diamper rites and customs- to recapture what was lost. The other party accuses this as Chaldeanisation and subjugation to the Chaldean Catholic church and they, want to reform the Church in the view of Indianisation, but all their arguments are proving that they are really Latin trained prelates who do not want to change the hybrid practices already in the Church.

    Rev Dr Placid Podiapra, the eminent Liturgist from Syro Malabar Church was in Rome for about 25 years as a Consultant in Rome for the Oriental Congregation, professor of the Oriental Institute and the Propaganda College, member of the Pontifical Commission for the renewal of the Syro-Malabar liturgy and was a member of the Pontifical Commission for preparing the agenda for Vatican Council II. I think with his work and influence, he had made a lot of changes in Rome towards Eastern Churches, with Cardinal Tisserant.
    When Latin Church was presented as the Universal Church while the Eastern Catholic chuches were mere rites with territorial restrictions, Rev Dr. Placid argued that Universal Church is the communion of 22 individual churches in five different traditions and Latin Church is only one among them. He insisted that each particular church is an expression of faith of that community and should be treated as an individual entity and should enjoy equal dignity, privileges and freedom. When the Latin prelates in Kerala opposed the plan to set up Saint Thomas Apostolic seminary in Kottayam for the clerical formation of Syro Malabarians in the Syriac tradition, he raised the question, why we need to ask the permission of the Latin prelates to set up a seminary ?

    His influence made changes to the Syro Malabar Church also. Syro Malabar faithful were able to erect churches north of river Bharathapuzha and South of river Pampa in Kerala. Before that, whoever moves out of the territory restricted by these rivers, had to join the Latin rite.

    Rome realised the mistake of Latinising the Syro Malabar Church. Rome started asking the Syro Malabar Church to return to its roots- the pre Diamper rite. But our own prelates who had their clerical formation in Latin seminaries could not understand this and they resisted. Still, Rome restored the Syro Malabar Liturgy in 1962, which, as William Macomber observed, was one of the most faithful liturgical texts even to Pre Chaldean Schism (1552) liturgy of the Al Qosh Patriarchate. When the liturgy of Syro Malabar Church was vernacularised in 1968, our own Bishops synod translated this into Malayalam language and reinstated several Latin elements in it.!

    About the question, whether the Malabar Nasranis want to go back to the original roots- the pre Diamper rite, the answer is complex. The Syro Malabar and the Church of the East in Trichur are the only groups using the East Syriac liturgy now. Jacobites/Indian Orthodox and the rest have become West Syriacs and last few hundred years of rivalry supported by different Colonial churches from Europe, they have rewritten their history. The ordinary Jacobite/ Orthodox still believes that they were West Syriacs from time immemorial. It is impractical to revert back to East Syriac rite. For Syro Malabar, a section of Bishops and clergy are resistant. I think there is an element of group politics also. The laity is ignorant.

    Dear George Mathew,

    Are there any references in the decrees that clearly says that the Nasranis were celebrating sabbath on saturday ? Are you not stretching your imaginations ?

  237. Steven Ring says

    Dear M Thomas Antony,

    Thank you for your interesting sketch of the popularity, or otherwise of the East Syrian Nasrani roots amongst various groups in Malabar. I don’t know if they have a sense of humour, but if they do, choose a nice silent period in a sombre meeting to suggest this; Perhaps the best thing to do would be to ask the SMC clergy whether they would like their translated Malayalam books ‘corrected’ to remove all traces of the Latin rite? 🙂

    Dear George Mathew,

    The day’s beginning and ending at sunset is simply biblical, both OT and NT. It also shows the continuity between the early Nāṣrāyē believers and all forms of later Syriac Christianity. It comes from the formula in Genesis 1 ‘and there was evening and morning’. The same reckoning was still being observed during the crucifixion, where the body of Māran Īshoʻā was removed from the cross just before the beginning of a Sabbath which was about to begin at sunset, Mt27.57, Mk15.42, Jn19.39. The work needed to bury him would not have been allowed on the Sabbath, hence the urgency of Yoseph Ramthāyā and Nicodemos who went straight to Pilate to request his body.

    Best wishes,

  238. John Mathew says

    Dear Antony:

    I think there is another dimension to all of this.

    Steven’s presumptions seem innocent enough: why don’t the Nasranis wish to go *back* to the “pure” pre-Diamper era?

    But when you look at it more deeply, you realize that this is likely fueled by some anti-Catholic bias on his part. The armchair Syriac scholarship of Ring aside, there is no basis whatsoever to believe that Rome’s sponsorship of Syriac studies, and it’s cultivation of the Oriental rites in it’s flock, is anything other than genuine. I think we should look at the deeds of Rome, and weigh those more highly than the misguided faith of Rome’s detractors (whatever the reasons of their bias).

    Now, rant aside, back to my point.

    Was the pre-Diamper era pure? Should we go back to it? I would say not. The Nasranis of that era, were in a very questionable state. Those in proximity to the administrative centers (and on that note: do we really want to go back to the non-canonical hereditary administration of old?), were probably quite orthodox. Those far from the centers were probably lapsed Christians. We already know of the polygamy, and the emphasis on trade (over religion) that our priests of old engaged in. Would we accept those priests nowadays?

    Would we accept the various tests of faith that our ancestors used to engage in? Jornada talks about these — I would not appreciate living in a Church where such absurdity would be allowed to occur.

    Now, forget all of that. Who is to say that the pre-Diamper CoE was pure? In West Asia it was demolished by the Muslims, and was a tiny, ignorant shadow of its former self. It lost its iconography traditions, a large swath of its literature was destroyed, etc. It was hardly the glorious CoE of old. And so the bishops who came to India from West Asia were likely mired in that condition. No wonder they swapped affiliations frequently!

    And what about the CoE of old? They, in their own Synod, threw away the diverse rites that they must have had (Persian rites, Central Asian rites, etc), and adopted the “Western” rite of Edessa, and made that uniform. Moreover, many of the Patriarchs of that Church were less than savory people. They toed to the line of the Zoroastrian rulers, allowing non-celibate monks of all things. Is this the kind of “strong” ancient Church that we want? One that swapped and modified and reinvented itself?

    Pseudo-scholars who are enamored by the possibility of a non-greco/roman version of Christianity — a primitive, more “real” Christianity — love the CoE, and amplify the absence of Hellenisms. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The CoE had no problem with Greek Malpans (whom they honor), or the Greek thought of Nicene. No problem with allowing Greek influence in, via Maruta. Forget that — they honor Nestorius and Theodore as “Teachers”: Greeks. There’s nothing wrong with admiring Greek teachers; but there’s a lot wrong about claiming that the CoE is some kind of pristine, isolated fossil of prehistoric Christianity. That’s bogus, and it’s done by diverse peoples: fanatic Assyrians (e.g.,, pseudo-scholars, and our own people basking in some romantic fantasy.

    Don’t get me wrong: I love the Syriac rites, West and East. But I’m under no illusions as to how “pure” or “perfect” they are. Let’s not allow the eagerness of coverts to introduce new illusions.

    So what does the SMC have? It has progress. They start from the core beliefs framed according to the East Syriac liturgical ethos, and they, via the immense resources of Rome, use that to grow a real Church that is thriving.

    Not a museum piece — which is what was seemingly suggested — but a real Church. In fact, even the Puthenkoor do the same: the Jacobites, the Orthodox, the Syro-Malankara Catholics. All take a kernel from our heritage (whether it be via Syriac, or the Syriac aesthetic which all rites in Kerala keep alive), and use that to grow a new Church. It’s organic and it’s real. Too bad they rewrite history while doing so; but despite that, what they have is still beautiful and living.

  239. George Mathew says

    Dear Mr. Anthony and Mr. Ring,

    “..Are there any references in the decrees that clearly says that the Nasranis were celebrating sabbath on saturday ? Are you not stretching your imaginations ?

    Our forefather’w were not practising or mainstream Jews at the time of Synod. They were ‘Nazereans’ and were baptized so by the CoE missionaries. The CoE of Persia did not honour the 7th Day as Shabbath and I do not believe that the Malabar Nazereans fully honoured the 7th Day as Shabbath. The 7th Day of the Judha Nazereans became diluted with CoE beliefs that the 7th Day is no more important and what is more important is the day of ‘Ascension’ of Esho, ie. Sunday. The Judha Nazereans possibly had Saturday and Sunday as days of rest.

    The Synod document states that ‘.. they do conform themselves to the Customs and Rites of the Jews condemned by Holy Mother Church..’. This means exactly what it says that there were in existance close resemblance to Jewish ways.

    Mainstream Jews would abstain from all work/travel on the Shabbath, but Nazereans would not have abstained from doing good work/travel., like bathing his neighbour’s cow, or travelling to visit a sick relative. Esho had very stated that doing good on the Shabbath is acceptable. Chacko Kurien would not have bought a piece of paddy-land on a Sabbath. His Judha heritage would not have let him do so. This is one such example of a ‘no no’ on a Shabbath and there would have been more. Reading from the Torah and the Shabbath would have continued (though modified) and it was such ‘Customs and Rites’ of the Jews that the Synod was attacking.

    Mainstream Jews of then and today and not sufficiently enlightened as to the true meaning of the Shabbath. Only some of the Nazereans and the Christians of today can fully understand that Esho is the Lord of the Shabbath. What I am trying to say is that you must not expect the Malabar Judha Nazereans to behave exactly like the mainstream Malabar Jews. Judha Nazereans would have been flexible when it came to Shabbath but yet rigid on it so as to be attacked by the Synod. Please note that the Synod does not use the word ‘Sabbath’ but ‘..prohibited day..’. If the word ‘Sabbath’ was used in the Synod, then it would have implied that the Judha Nazereans are none other than those who truly follow the original Apostolic Faith’. The usage of the word ‘Sabbath’ in the Synod would have changed the chemistry of the attempted ‘moral and spiritual’ domination. The Synod’s claim for interference was that we were ‘wayward Christians’ and needed reformation which the Synod is so gracefully extending. It was as if they were doing us and the the Lord Jesus a great favour. Rev. Buchanan was frank and he used the word ‘Sabbath Keeping Judaisers’ and not ‘Prohibited Day Judaisers’ as the Synod did.

    There is a good quote from King Solomon which I am trying to get my hand on and it is from Ecce. and it goes like this ‘.. One thing, I have noticed and it is that people of today have no knowledge of their past history/heritage, they have forgotten all things that has happened in the past’.

    We Malabar Nazereans have a mindset and is strongly leaning towards ‘herd mentality’. I am realistic enough to believe that the above matter would not get a fair chance to be studied.

  240. Steven Ring says

    Dear George,

    Regarding King Solomon, see Ecclesiastes 1.11.
    The following on-line concordance is quite useful to locate such verses:

    Coincidently, I just posted something about Mk2.27 – 28, the Peshiṭta and the Sabbath on TC list:

    This saying in the Peshiṭta shows how Māran Īshoʻā interpreted the Sabbath laws as subordinate to the needs and the will of man. IMO, the interpretive method he used for this halakhah teaching is just as interesting as his actual teaching on this one point.

    Best wishes,

  241. George Mathew says

    Dear John,
    You wrote/quoted : ‘… why not go back to the pre-Diamper days?’
    If so, what do we call our religious leaders?
    1) Archdeacons?
    2) Jaathi Moopans?
    3) Heriditary Priests?
    4) Coheno? (It being the Syriac word for Priests)

    We know for sure that atleast one of these families were in the religious leadership of our community by around the early AD 1600s (and perhaps much earlier) viz: Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, Kalli and Kalliankavu. These families were the ‘hereditary priestly families’ of our community and those were the days when Syriac ruled.
    Don’t you agree that it is time we got rid of the word ‘Archdeacon’ from our usage and instead use our very own Syriac word ‘Coheno’?

    Why should we use an English/European word, when we have the appropriate word with us for the past 4000 years? I also wonder why I have never ever seen the Syriac word ‘Coheno’ in any of our writings or comments or books?
    If anyone tells me that hereditary priesthood is over with Esho, then I have this to show them of things yet to happen, “Exekiel 43:19 – And you shall give to the Levitical priests who are from the offspring of Zadok, who draw near to Me to minister to Me, declares the Lord God, a young bull for a sin offering”
    The young bull is of-course Esho and it possibly relates to the Qurbana Service in our churches. It is also important to understand that the office of the High Priesthood (sole Intermediary) alone is complete in Esho, but the duties of a Coheno, to lead his people in worship of the One True God is always continuing. Ahron had the duties of both ‘Intermediary’ between man and God and also in a role to lead his people in worship to God.
    What are your views about using the word ‘Coheno’ over ‘Archdeacon’?

  242. Xavier Kalangara says

    Dear John Mathew

    There is always a tendency look back and think that everything was hunky-dory in the past. Your effort to balance that view with pragmatism is certainly a sensible thing. However even there we would tend to be biased by the present. Democracy was never an idea in the olden days. Hereditary lines were never thought to be bad. Nobody could in their wildest dreams think of democratic society in the biblical times. Human society evolves and moral standards are set based on better understanding of the divine law. We need to apply the divine law to the society’s moral questions of the times. When we talk of returning to pre-Diamper Christianity we are not talking about returning to the pre-Diamper society. There is a fine strand of pristine Christianity which we may be the focus on. We can attempt to revive the theology of that Church, reinstate those institutions and traditions that are desirable. We may think of re-establishing the post of Arcadiacon(Arch-Deacon) or Jathikku Karthavyan as he was earlier called, remove hybrid elements of liturgy and traditions and borrow good elements in line with the spirit of the Liturgy and theology and that too only where one is lacking. We had for instance a great tradition of a democratic ‘palliyogam’ (a governing council from parish level to diocesan level) in those days. (The West has only now thought of a ‘parish council’- that too a body that has no real authority).

    Return to the pre-Diamper may be the only common minimum programme that can unite all Malankara Nazranis.

    Dear George a Priest is called ‘Kassissa’. I think “Cahane’ only means a celebrant in a liturgical function (someone please correct me if I am wrong). Our priests were called ‘Cathanars’ and the holy order was called kassissa order. Archadiacon (arch deacon) was a later title for the head of the church who was called Jathikku Karthavyan. Bishops never ‘ruled’ the church in Malankara. They were spiritual heads only. But today we have modelled our church structure on the Latin church or the Greek Church. We have a ‘Curia Bishop’ today. They think it is an Oriental thing. We were never Orientals. Today there is a distinction between ‘Oriental’ and ‘Eastern’. Oriental is applied to Byzantine tradition. Persian Church was the only ‘Eastern’ church.

  243. John Mathew says

    Cahena/Coheno: is an ancient semitic word for priest. If you look in the syriac liturgical texts, coheno is used to denote the sections the priest reads.

    Kaseesa: is a syriac word for elder/presbyter, I believe. A more senior priest.

    There is also periodeutes, a greek term which is also used by the syriac churches to denote a senior priest, like a chor bishop. This term, periodeutes, was used historically in malabar to denote the senior priest that headed a parish (according to fr. Cheeran).

    And then there is arkadiakon, which was a position of the syriac church. It is not a western term; it may be greek, but it was used by the syriacs (including the CoE; ref maclean’s east syrian daily offices).

    There are all separate positions and grades. A cohen is not an archdeacon is not a kaseesa is not a chor bishop. Cohen is the general term for priest.

    George you may never have seen this because, no offense, you are a Mar Thomite and the syriac core of the church you split from has been, to be honest, overwritten by protestant accumulations. Most orthodox/jacobites who have access to liturgical texts are very familiar with cohen as used to denote priest.