Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam

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The Mughals The Portuguese and the Indian Ocean
The Mughals The Portuguese and the Indian Ocean

Varthamanapusthakam (( 1. Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam(Malayalam), edited by Thomas Moothedan( An English translation of the book was brought out by Placid Podipara as a publication from Oriental Institute, Rome, 1971), Ernakulam, 1977.)), which was written in 1785 by Fr.Thomas Paremakkal as an account of his travel along with his friend bishop Mar Joseph Kariyattil to Madras, Africa, Brazil, Portugal and Rome and often hailed as the first travelogue in an Indian language, has been immensely used as a literary medium by the author to ventilate his dissent and anger against the hegemonic attitude and the colonial fabric which the European religious missionaries set up for the Church in India, particularly for the St.Thomas Christians of Kerala. Arguing vehemently that India should be ruled by Indians and not by foreigners, he goes on demanding as early as 1785 that Indian Christians should be ruled not by European religious missionaries but by Indians. Within the larger format of a travelogue detailing meticulously the socio-economic and political processes of the several countries he had visited in Africa, South America and Europe, he argues his case by showing how the foreign missionaries fearing reduction of the span of their power and authority did not want to have an Indian bishop for the St.Thomas Christians.

Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam

Fr. Thomas Paremakkal and Fr.Joseph Kariyattil made their travels to Portugal and Rome on the decision of the general body of the St.Thomas Christians taken at Angamaly for the purpose of informing the Pope and the Queen of Portugal of the various discriminations, sufferings and difficulties that this community experienced over a considerable period of time from the foreign Carmelite missionaries working in Kerala. As the general meeting of the representatives of this community at Angamaly was dominated by feelings of anger and animosity against the European religious missionaries and the European bishop working then in Kerala, the travelogue has anti-Europeanism as its basic thread, critiquing the hegemonic and colonial fabric of the Church set up by the European missionaries. Stressing the need for going back to the pre-Portuguese days when democratic institutions of yogams(representative body at the grass root-levels) mahayogams(representative bodies at higher levels) with jathikkukarthaviyan(head of the community) existed among this community for their administration, instead of one-man centered or European notion of bishop- centered administration, the travelogue challenges the notion of authority that the European missionaries had set up within the colonial fabric they newly created for the Church of the St.Thomas Christians.

Interestingly the narratives of this book, with copious accounts of hardships that the St.Thomas Christians had to face from the Church fabric set up by the European missionaries in Kerala, soon formed an inspiring literary device for this community in their later clamour for having Indian Catholic bishops for them instead of European bishops and also for reviving their age old liturgical traditions, customs and ritual practices. In the nineteenth century several copies of Varthamanapusthakam were made in hand-written form and circulated among the members of St.Thomas Christian community on a large scale inspiring them to work for their heritage preservation against the background of tamperings done by foreign missionaries. In the council of Verapoly that took place in the second half of nineteenth century, the missionary Church authorities even made an attempt to put this book on the Index in order to prevent the anti-missionary insinuations this book was then spreading ((2. It is being told that some of the pages containing highly critical comments about the foreign missionaries were removed from the book by the then church authorities.)). However somehow it escaped their wrath and continued to be read on a large scale almost as a precious literary corpus comprising the magna carta of this community.

The central purpose of this paper is to see how the European version of Christian experience and Church administration was challenged by Indians with alternative faith experience and administrative formats and also to see how the web of travel narratives was used as a powerful medium for getting ventilated and disseminated the spirit of dissent and meanings of Indian alternatives to larger collectivity of the community.

Historical Setting

The period from 1750 till 1830, which is often referred to as the period of revolutions and regime change all over the world was also a period of political fluidity in India, particularly in South India, where regime changes coincided with attempts for cultural appropriations and ethnic mutations. St.Thomas Christians, who usually trace back their origin to the preaching of St.Thomas and are often known as Syrian Christians or Nazarenes ((3. For details see Eugene Tisserant, Eastern Christianity in India, E.R.Hambye, Calcutta, 1957; Placid Podipara, The Thomas Christians, Bombay, 1970; A.M.Mundadan, History of Christianity in India, vol.I, Bangalore, 1989; Joseph C. Panjikaran, “Christianity in Malabar with Special Reference to the St.Thomas Christians of the Syro- Malabar Rite”, in Orientalia, vol.VI, 1926)), form a unique community in India that was increasingly subjugated to cultural and ethnic mutations because of the various processes of cultural grafting and colonial tampering that happened during this period. In fact the St.Thomas Christians who numbered about 60,000 and 75,000 ((4.Tome Pires, A Suma Oriental de Tome Pires e o Livro de Francisco Rodrigues, Armando Cortesão, Coimbra, 1978, p.180; João Teles e Cunha “De Diamper a Mattancherry: Caminhos e Encruzilhadas da Igreja Malabar e Catolica na India: Os Primeiros Tempos(1599-1624)”in Anais de Historia de Alem-Mar, vol.V, 2004,pp.283-368; João Paulo Oliveira e Costa, “Os Portugueses e a Cristandade Siro-Malabar(1498-1530),in Studia, 52, Lisboa, 1994)) in the beginning of the sixteenth century were estimated to be about 1,00, 000 by the second half of the sixteenth century ((5. Josef Wicki(ed.), Documenta Indica, vol.VI, Rome, 1948, p.180; vol.VII, p.475)). By 1830s their number increased to 3,50, 000 ((6. According to the account of William Horsely there were about 1, 74, 566 Syrian Christians (56, 184 Romo –Syrians and 1,18,382 Syrians) in Travancore in 1836. W.H. Horsley, Memoir of Travancore, Historical and Statistical , compiled from Various Authentic Records and Personal Observations, Trivandrum ,1838 reproduced by Achuth Sankar S.Nair(ed.), “William Henry Horsley’s Memoir of Travancore(1838): Earliest English Treatise on the History of Travancore” , in Journal of Kerala Studies, vol.XXXI, 2004, p.63. Almost the same number of Syrian Christians lived in the kingdoms of Cochin and Calicut. By 1891 the number of Syrian Christians in Travancore increased to 2, 87, 409. See George Mathew, Communal Road to a Secular Kerala, New Delhi, 1989,p.52 Now the number of St.Thomas Christians is about 4 million. )).

However by mid-eighteenth century the community was literally fragmented into different pieces and groups by the foreign ecclesiastical administrators mutating thoroughly their identities. The Catholic segment of the St.Thomas Christians was fragmented into two sections: On the one side there was the Portuguese Church administrative system called Padroado Real, in which the king of Portugal was given the privilege of operating as the patron. The Portuguese claimed authority and power over all the Christians residing in India, including the St.Thomas Christians, despite the fact that the latter were in India long before the arrival of the Portuguese. In course of time the Padroado administrative system managed to subjugate a major chunk of Catholic St.Thomas Christians, particularly through the synodal proceedings of Diamper and finally brought them under its jurisdiction ((7.For details on Padroado system see Thomas Pallippurathukkunnel, A Double Regime in the Malabar Church, Alwaye, 1982, pp.3-4. See also Isabel dos Guimaraes Sa, “Ecclesiastical Structures and Religious Action “, in Portuguese Oceanic Expansion, 1400-1800, edited by Francisco Bethencourt and Diogo Ramada Curto, Cambridge, 2007, pp.255-80; João Paulo e Costa, “The Padroado and the Catholic Mission in Asia during the 17th Century”, in Rivalry and Conflict: European Traders and Asian Trading Networks in the 16th and 17th Centuries, edited by Ernst van Veen and Leonard Blusse, Leiden, 2005,p.71-88. The subjugation of St.Thomas Christians to the Portuguese Padroado system happened with the synod of Diamper held in 1599, with which their age old traditions were finally mutated and the Lusitanian and Latin cultural and liturgical traditions were grafted on to them. For details see Jonas Thaliath, Synod of Diamper, Rome, 1958. )), while the remaining Catholic fraction of St. Thomas Christians were controlled by a non-Portuguese Church administrative system called Propaganda Fide established under Pope in 1622 ((8. The defects in the functioning of the Padroado system later made Pope Gregory XIV to set up Propaganda Fide in 1622 and entrusted a major portion of Asia under the ecclesiastical administrative arrangement of Propaganda Fide. In fact Propaganda Fide was started to undertake evangelization work in areas and zones not controlled by the Portuguese. The Padroado system was suppressed by Pope in 1838, despite the severe opposition from the Portuguese crown, and the strained relationship between Rome and Portugal continued up to 1886. For more details see Dominic, “The Latin Missions under the Jurisdiction of Propaganda (1637-1838)”, in H.C.Perumalil and E.R.Hambye, Christianity in India, Alleppey, 1972, pp.102-103)). On the other hand there was an attempt from the West Syrian bishops to extend their jurisdiction over the non-Catholic segment of St.Thomas Christians by grafting the cultural elements of West Syriac liturgy and ritual practices onto them from 1748 onwards, when Mar Ivanios from West Asia reached Kerala ((9.The West Syrian ritual practices were grafted on to the non-Catholic fraction of the St.Thomas Christians with the arrival of Mar Ivanios, a West Syrian bishop, in 1748. He shaved the head of the priests and ordained priests without the consent of the indigenous bishop Mar Thoma V and also burned crucifixes and images of saints used in the churches. The second team of West Syrian bishops came under Mar Baselius Sakrallah in 1751, who introduced Jacobite ideology and West Syrian ritual practices. See also Paulinus Bartholomeo, India Orientalis Christiana, Rome, 1796, p.86)). The native bishop Mar Thoma VI from the Pakalomattam family was peripheralized and sidelined by the successive bishops (particularly Maphrian Baselius Sakrallah from 1751 onwards) from West Asia following West Syriac liturgy, causing a division to happen within the Puthenkur or non-Catholic fraction of St.Thomas Christians ((10.M.Kurian Thomas, Niranam Grandhavari, Kottayam, 2000, p.87; Pius Malekandathil, “Kothamangalam Roopathayude Charithra Pachathalavum Kraisthava Koottaymakalude Verukalum”(Malayalam), in Pius Malekandathil (chief editor) Anpinte Anpathandu: Kothamangalam Roopathayude Charitram, 1957-2007, Kothamangalam, 2008, pp.46-7; 86-88. E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, vol.III, pp.27; 51-64)), with 50 churches siding with the new liturgical practices introduced by the West Syrian bishops and 5 churches siding with the native Pakalomattam bishop Mar Thoma VI ((11. Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.369. The West Asian bishops who introduced West Syriac liturgy got the support of anti-Pakalomattam groups in Kerala , including that of Kattumangattu Geevargese Rabban , who opposed bishop succession happening from the uncle to nephew pattern in the Pakalomattam family. Ibid., p. 369. See also Pukidiyil Joseph Ittop, Malyalathulla Suriyani Kristhianikalude Charithram, Kottayam 1869, pp.123-4 )).

The new bishops following West Syriac liturgy ordained priests who were already ordained by the native bishop Mar Thoma VI, which suggests that they were skeptical about the validity of Sacraments administered by the Indian bishop. Very often these West Syrian bishops selected their own candidates and ordained them as priests without even consulting the native bishop Mar Thoma VI. They also insisted on removing from the churches of Puthenkur(the churches of non-Catholic fraction) crucifixes and statues of saints and Mary, which were kept and venerated in these churches ever since the coming of the Portuguese ((12.Paulinus Bartholomeo, India Orientalis Christiana, Rome, 1796, p.86. Even the name of Mar Thoma VI was changed by the West Syrian bishops into Dionysius E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, vol.III, pp.51-56. )). In the process of constructing a separate identity for non –Catholic segment of St.Thomas Christians based on West Syriac liturgy and theology, there evolved frequent conflicts between the adherents of new ideology and the old followed by division of churches between Catholic and the Puthenkur fractions of the St.Thomas Christians ((13.Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.371. As a result of heightened tensions between the two, churches and church properties that were till then commonly used and shared by them were partitioned between the Jacobites and the Catholics from 1760 onwards in places like Angamali, Akaparambu, Kothamangalam, Kuruppampady, Karakkunnam etc. See M.Kurian Thomas, Niranam Grandhavari, p.89; Pius Malekandathil, “Kothamangalam Roopathayude Charithra Pachathalavum Kraisthava Koottaymakalude Verukalum”, pp.46-8; 86-88)) and the increasing peripheralization of native bishop Mar Thoma VI who vehemently resisted the thrusting of new rituals and practices from West Asia. It was against this background of increasing fragmenting of this community into various smaller fractions that the native bishop Mar Thoma VI wanted to get all the segments of St.Thomas Christians united , for which he initiated moves for reunion with Catholic Church. Concomitantly the political union of Travancore realized during the period between 1742 and 1752 with Marthanda Varma’s annexation of smaller principalities of Quilon, Kayamkulam, Porcad, Thekkenkur, Vadakkenkur, Angamali and Alengadu , where the S.Thomas Christians till then lived in scattered way, had all the more convinced them of the urgent need to have unity and cohesion among themselves in consonance with the union that had already happened politically ((14.Nagam Aiya, The Travancore State Manual, vol. I, Trivandrum, 1906, pp. 343-51;Shangoonny Menon, History of Travancore from the Earliest Times, New Delhi, 1878, pp.135-55.)).

However the Carmelite missionary priests then working in Kerala were reluctant to receive bishop Mar Thoma VI into Catholicism saying that his intentions were not genuine ((15.Antoney George Pattaparambil, The Failed Rebellion of Syro-Malabar Christians: A Historiographical Analysis of the Contributions of Paulinus of St. Bartholomew, Rome, 2007, pp.241-3. Quoting the letter of Fr.Paulinus of St. Bartholomew, he says that Mar Thoma VI while trying to get reunited with Catholic Church secretly contacted the Jacobite Patriarch of Baghdad for assistance. Ibid., p.243. We do not know whether it was actually true or a biased view of Paulinus, who worked almost as a leader of the European missionaries opposing the admission of Mar Thoma VI to Catholicism. )). The author of Varthamanapusthakam and most of the Catholics of the St. Thomas Christians believed that the request of Mar Thoma VI to get reunited with Catholic Church was refused by the European missionaries fearing that if he were to become a Catholic, then all the St.Thomas Christians would get united and rally around this Indian bishop and consequently the European bishop and missionary priests would not have any influence or power over this community ((16.Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.334. He also says that the European missionaries did not want Mar Thoma VI to become a Catholic bishop as they did not want the St.Thomas Christians to be liberated from the ‘yoke’ of European missionaries. Paremakkel Thomakathanar elsewhere says that even a Monsignor working then in Propaganda Fide had also told him that “if an Indian became a bishop, then who (among the missionaries) could survive there?” Ibid., p.171)). In fact it was to convey to Pope the desire of Mar Thoma VI to get reunited with Catholic Church and to get necessary permission for the same, besides informing him of the various types of ill-treatment and discriminations that the community had to face from these missionaries, that Fr. Joseph Kariyattil and Fr. Thomas Paremakkel made their trip from Kerala to Europe in 1778. The book running into 78 chapters covers the details of their travel to Portugal and Rome. However in the process of giving us the information about the socio-economic and political processes that they witnessed during the period between 1778 till 1786 at Tuticorin, Madras, Cape of Good Hope, Venguela, Bahia, Lisbon, Catalonia, Genoa, Liberno, Pisa and Rome ((17. They left Madras on October 14th 1778. Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.68. In 1779, they crossed Cape of Good Hope and reached Venguela.Ibid. p.102. In the same year the delegation reached Bahia in Brazil and Lisbon in Portugal. Ibid., pp. 109; 118-9)), the author unveils the various aspects of conflicts that were happening between the European missionaries and the St.Thomas Christians in Kerala on matters related to the preservation of the age-old heritage and tradition of the latter and on the ill-treatments meted out to them by the European Carmelite missionaries.

When they started their travel to Europe in 1778 , Fr. Thomas Paremakkel born on 10th September 1736 was 42, while Fr.Joseph Kariyattil, who had earlier done his priestly studies at Propaganda College of Rome, was only 36 years old. The money needed for their travel was raised from the members of the community by selling or pawning their jewellery and property. The Catholic fraction of St.Thomas Christians belonging to the Padroado and Propaganda Fide administrative systems contributed liberally for their travel ((18. Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.126)). Thachil Mathu Tharakan, who was the principal trader for the Travancoreans and the English in Trivandrum in the second half of the eighteenth century was one of the greatest sponsors who came forward to bear the major share of their travel expenses ((19. Ibid., pp.18-9)). Though 24 delegates of this community went from Kerala to Madras for boarding the ship to Europe, for want of sufficient fund to buy the tickets for their journey to Europe, the number was finally reduced to Fr. Thomas Paremakkel and Fr.Joseph Kariyattil , besides two seminarians ((20.The delegation consisted initially of 22 people; however for want of sufficient fund to pay the ticket charges only two, Joseph Kariyattil and Thomas Paremakkel (besides two seminarians) left for Europe. Ibid., p.65. The names of the seminarians are Brother Chacko Malayil from the parish of Neendoor and Bro. Palackal Panchasara Mathew, out of whom the latter died in Rome during the course of his studies. They had to pay 278 gold coins( 139 gold coins for two people) for the travel of four people from Madras to Portugal and later another 35 gold coins for their travel between Portugal and Rome. Ibid., pp.76; 219 . Fr. Joseph Kariyattil kept the rest of money( 43, 280 chakrams)for meeting other types of expenses of the group. Ibid., p.80.It shows the great amount of resource mobilization tat this community undertook for the purpose of carrying out this trip. )) ,.

The content of the book gives the impression that it was written to justify everything that they had done in Portugal and Rome for defending the cause of the community and in that sense it meant instant circulation and reading by the members of the community ((21.This is evident from the fact that on several occasions he says that he is narrating the developments so that the members of the community might know of it. Paremakkel Thomakathanar, Varthaanapusthakam, p.134)). The original Malayalam manuscript of the book was obtained from the descendants of Thachil Mathu Tharakan, who bore a sizeable chunk of their travel expenses (( 22.Ibid., pp.18-9)). Though it was printed for the first time in 1936, copies of the manuscript were already being made and circulated even before (( 23.There were at least 4 copies of Varthamanpusthakam in circulation in 1970s. One prepared by Fr. Ouseph Vezhaparambil in 1898, the second one was transcribed by the CMI priests in 1902 and the third one was made by Fr. Mathai Paremakkel in 1903. However the copy with the Tharakan family is considered to be the original work of Fr.Thomas Paremakkel. See Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam (Malayalam), edited by Thomas Moothedan, p.17. The first printing of this work was done in 1936 by Plathottathil Luka Mathai. However, the printing from the original was done in 1977 by Janatha books, Thevara. Nevertheless an English translation of the book was already published by Placid Podipara from Oriental Institute of Rome, in 1971. )). It should be here specially mentioned that Joseph Kariyattil and Thomas Paremakkel, who went to Portugal and Rome as priest delegates of the community, were not really dissidents of the Church, even though they were highly critical of the European missionaries. They were very much a part of the Church as Joseph Kariyattil was later made the bishop of Cranganore in Portugal in 1782 ((24.Fr.Joseph Kariyattil was appointed as a bishop on 16th July, 1782 and was consecrated a bishop on 17th February , 1783 . Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp. 265; 296)) and on his death in 1786 ((25.The group reached Goa on 1st May, 1786; however on 10th September 1786 bishop Joseph Kariyattil died of “mysterious reasons” and Fr. Thomas Paremakkel attributes it to the treachery of the missionaries. Ibid., p. 380. We do not know for sure whether Paremakkel’s version of the story is true or not. However, there are many local historians like M.O.Joseph who say that bishop Joseph Kariyattil was poisoned to death. M.O.Joseph, Suriani Kristhianikal, pp.46-440. )), Paremakkel became the governor of the diocese from 1786 till 1799 ((26. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.16)).

Grievances, Voices of Dissent and Protest.

The tone of the book is set in the very first page of the narrative, where the author depicts the way how the St.Thomas Christians were humiliated before the large crowd assembled for the burial of the bishop Florentius of Verapoly in 1773 ((27. Ibid.,p. 27)). The bishop actually belonged to ecclesiastical administrative system of Propaganda Fide and most of the St.Thomas Christians who went for the funeral of the bishop were from the jurisdiction of Padroado administrative system. On seeing them the Provincial superior of the Carmelites came out to them and told:

“What business have you got here? Your bishop is in Porcad ..This is our bishop and his burial is not something that matters you…Hence I want that you better leave the place and allow us to bury our bishop” ((28.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.27-8. Here I should also say that later the missionaries sent an envoy expressing their regret for having sent out the St.Thomas Christians from the funeral of the bishop and they expressed their readiness to do penance for it. Ibid., pp.33-4)).

The author and the members of the community were deeply pained by these words and equally by the denial of a chance to participate in the funeral rituals of the bishop for the simple reason that they belonged to a different administrative organ of the same Catholic Church ((29. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.27-28)). The community immediately called for a general meeting of the mahayogam consisting of representatives from 72 churches in 1773 ((30. Ibid., pp.27-8; 30 )). Despite the attempts of the European missionaries of Verapoly to prevent the St.Thomas Christian representatives from coming together ((31. Ibid., p.30)), a large number of priests and community members assembled at Angamaly. Since the representatives from various churches did not know as to how many days the meeting would actually last, they came with rice and food materials, while the local Christians of Angamaly gave salt, oil and firewood to them for cooking their food, as the meeting lasted for several days. Seeing the unprecedented flow of people to Angamaly the missionaries of Verapoly were said to have sent their own spies to keep a track of deliberations happening in the meeting ((32.Ibid., pp. 30;33 After the beginning of the meeting of the mahayogam( meeting of the representatives of 72 churches) , three European missionaries came to Angamaly to take track of the situation and they were secretly put up in the presbyteral house by the supporters of the European missionaries.. )).

The initial tempo of the meeting was dominated by spiritual readings, speeches, prayers and meditation, which were later followed by vociferous outburst of emotions ((33. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.31; 34)). The mood began to change with the enumeration of different types of discriminations and injustices that the St.Thomas Christian community had to face from the European missionaries ((34. Ibid., pp.28-9)). It should be here specially mentioned that a large number of saintly, pious, committed, selfless and zealous European missionaries worked in India and contributed remarkably to its socio-economic betterment at different time points; however the bitter anger and the attacks of this community and the Varthamanapusthakam were turned not against them, but against those who maintained a craze for power and the colonial attitude of racial superiority. The representatives from Edappilly narrated the way how the European missionaries put their Indian parish priest to death. Here it is to be specially mentioned that the account is in the language of Fr. Thomas Paremakkel and unfortunately we do not have any other source material to cross-check the details given by him ((35.Commenting on the incident cited by Fr.Thomas Paremakkel, E.R. Hambye says that some misdeeds were committed by the European Carmelite missionaries to defame the local clergy. E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, vol.III, p.28 )). Paremakkel writes:

‘On the feast-day of Theresa of Avila there was a 40 hours adoration at Verapoly. Fr.Jacob Puthenpurackal, the parish priest of Edappilly church also went for the adoration and returned to his parish church along with other people. The European Carmelite missionaries forgot to lock the church after dinner and on the next day the gold monstrance was found to be missing. Suspecting Fr. Jacob to be the thief he was taken by force to Verapoly by the missionaries and was denied food for several days. He fell ill and died. His last request before death for receiving Holy Communion too was denied. He was also denied a church burial, as his body was wrapped up in a mat and buried near a pond ((36.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.36-8. For having killed Fr. Jacob, later the Travancorean government is said to have punished two European missionaries, viz., Fr. John and Fr. Paulinus. However Paulinus of St.Bartholomew, a Carmelite missionary (John Philip Vesdini) from lower Austria( present day Croatia) then working in Kerala viewed Thomas Paremakkel as the cause for disorders among the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala. See Antoney George Pattaparambil, The Failed Rebellion of Syro-Malabar Christians, pp.244-5)).

Citing the incident Paremakkel says that this happened because of the “helplessness of the people of Malankara (Kerala) ” and “the might and power of the missionaries and their bishop” ((37. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.38-9;61)). He refers to this incident repeatedly in his travelogue, whenever he felt that the missionaries were obstructing the moves of the delegation of the St.Thomas Christians in Europe to obtain an Indian bishop.

Varthamanapusthakam also refers to the discussions that the mahayogam made about the arrogant and the lead roles that the European missionaries always wanted to appropriate in the churches of St.Thomas Christians. One among them was the case of festal processions in their churches, in which the European missionaries used to lead the procession without allowing the indigenous priests to take the lead with monstrance or cross, even if the latter were the celebrants ((38. Ibid., p.41)). In the mahayogam of Angamali held in 1773 the European missionaries tried to pacify the members of St.Thomas Community, who were almost on the verge of revolting against the missionary authorities, by conceding some of their demands and assuring redress of their grievances ((39.See E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, pp.28-9; Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.42)).

However Thomas Paremakkal says that some of the European missionaries did not keep their word and continued their wrong doings and discriminations to humiliate the Indian clergy. Varthamanapusthakam speaks of the way how Fr. John de Santa Margarita, one of the missionary signatories of the document, got Fr.Vargese Panachikal from Malayattoor church arrested in the midnight for having taken the cross to lead the festal procession. Paremakkel writes:

‘ Fr. Varghese Panachickal was arrested with chains and tied to a cot and was beaten by the Vadukas employed by the missionaries and was then carried by force to Verapoly, which was then the seat of the European Carmelite missionaries and Vicar Apostolic in Kerala’ ((40. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam , pp.42-3; 54)).

Quoting the documents of Propaganda Fide E.R.Hambye admits that at that point of time some of the European missionaries resorted to the ‘punishments ‘ by imprisonment with chains and torturing for the purpose of taming the “quarrelsome priests” of the St.Thomas Christian community ((41. E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, p.28)). However Varthamanapusthakam refers to the strong resistance that the community of St.Thomas Christians staged against Fr. John de Santa Margarita for these ruthless atrocities and humiliation meted out to their priest Fr. Varghese Panachickal for such a silly reason of having taken lead in the festal procession. The St. Thomas Christians of Parur en masse blocked Fr. Santa Margarita in retaliation and prevented him from celebrating Holy Mass in their church ((42.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.54-55)). Paremakkel congratulates the yogam( the representative body of the parish church) for having taken such a bold decision against the erring missionaries and views that the abuses of European missionaries could be checked only by strengthening the power of the yogam ((43. Ibid., pp.54-55)). Varthamanapusthakam refers to the intense conflicts that broke out by this time between some of the European missionaries and the St.Thomas Christians, who consequently declared nine of the European missionaries as ineligible for preaching in their churches and prevented them from entering their parishes ((44.Ibid., p.54. Later when Fr. John de Santa Margarita, who had arrested and tormented the priest of the St.Thomas Christians for having taken the lead in festal procession, was made the bishop(Vicar Apostolic) of Verapoly , Fr. Thomas Paremakkel and Fr.Joseph Kariyattil informed the Roman authorities about the atrocities he had earlier done to the native priests of Kerala and his appointment as bishop was finally cancelled in 1780.Ibid., pp.145; 204)).

Meanwhile the indigenous bishop Mar Thoma VI of non-Catholic fraction of St.Thomas Christians, who was opposed and sidelined by the West Syriac Jacobite bishop Mar Gregorios and his Kerala allies like Kattumangattu Rabban, wanted to get reunited with Catholic church along with 80,000 of his followers (( 45. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.125)). However, the missionaries refused to accept him to Catholicism saying that his intentions were not genuine and his emissary Kallarackal Tharakan, who was a Christian minister in the principality of Thekkenkur, was vehemently abused and humiliated ((46. Ibid., p.61)). On hearing about the abuses that the European missionaries showered on him Paremakkel writes:

‘If a white carpenter or a cobbler come before them(missionaries) they receive these guests with respect and offer them chairs, while the emissary from the bishop was humiliated and abused and this is happening because of the helplessness of our community and because of the might and evil of the European missionaries’ ((47. Ibid.))

The author empathizes with the community and translates its feelings of helplessness and emotions of anger into his travelogue, which are later developed as a significant layer of his travel narrative with certain arguments for indigenization.

Fr. Thomas Paremakkel attacks vehemently the European missionaries for their high-handedness, racial superiority and arrogance. He writes: ‘When you (European missionaries) come to our church we and our yogams accept and respect you so much; but in turn you give back to us suffering thrashings and atrocities and we used to bear it in the name of the Lord without complaining to anybody ((48. Ibid., pp.329-330)). Though he generalizes the term missionaries all through his travel account and gives the impression that he was attacking the entire category of European missionaries, the truth was that he was not criticizing any single missionary or the larger category but attacking the evils that some of them perpetrated in the name of religious activity. The missionaries frequently attacked in his travelogue are the European Carmelite missionaries working under Propaganda Fide. However, they were not monolithic in composition; they had different layers. Most of them were from Italy, as a result of which they were not obedient to bishops and authorities from other nationalities, as it happened in 1775, when the Italian missionaries refused to collaborate with the new German bishop appointed by Propaganda Fide. As the bishop Francis de Sales was a non-Italian, the Italian Carmelite missionaries started writing denigrating and slanderous letters about the bishop to Rome. Since the bishop was not of their choice the missionaries wanted that he should leave Kerala. The bishop sought the help of Fr. Joseph Kariyattil who was a Professor in the seminary at Alengad narrating in tears the injustice being done to him by the Carmelite missionaries. On the initiative of Fr. Joseph Kariyattil and Thachil Mathu Tharakan, who had by this time become the principal trader for the Travancorean ruler and the English, the St.Thomas Christians took him in a solemn procession to Alengad ((49.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp. 49-51)). However, later the missionaries of Verapoly complained about it to the Diwan of Travancore, who siding with the European missionaries punished the St.Thomas Christians with a fine of 12,000 kalipanams (( 50. Ibid., pp.62-3)). The German bishop Francis de Sales, however, not desiring to antagonize the missionaries any further did not divulge the truth, which made the St.Thomas Christians pay the fine. Commenting on the fine of huge amount of money that the community had to pay because of the European missionaries, Paremakkel says:

‘…. the drum gets the beatings while the drummer gets the money…, we pay the money while they are there only to occupy positions; they alight the palanquins, while we are there to carry it..’ ((51. Ibid., p.64))

On another occasion in the same mood Paremakkel writes that for all the blunders that the European missionaries committed in Kerala, the St.Thomas Christians had to pay the penalty. Thus he says that the church of Malayattoor had to pay fines to the local ruler for a European missionary priest for releasing a robber arrested by the local ruler. On another occasion a missionary priest kicked a faithful (Koonan Varkey)in the church while the bishop Francis de Sales was listening to the account of the church of Malyattoor and the St.Thomas Christians were made to pay fine for this atrocity as it was in their church ((52.Ibid., p.329. The church of Malayattoor had to pay a fine imposed by the local ruler for having released a robber by a European missionary called Padre Clemis. Actually he was tied there in the vicinity of church by the local ruler on the feast day of Malayattoor church and for the arrogant behaviour of the missionary the faithful had to pay the fine. )). This anti-missionary tone in the travel narrative is highly reflective of the intensified tension happening between the St. Thomas Christians and some of the European missionaries. The German missionary Fr. Paulinus of St.Bartholomew , who had frequently been among those who were criticized and attacked by Fr.Thomas Paremakkel in his travel account, gives a different version of the story saying that it was Fr.Thomas Paremakkel and other church leaders of the St.Thomas Christians who actually engineered these troubles ((53.Antoney George Pattaparambil, The Failed Rebellion of Syro-Malabar Christians, pp.244-5; See also Paulinus a S. Bartholomaeo, India Orientalis Christiana, Rome, 1794; Paulinus a S. Bartholomaeo, Viaggio alle Indie Orientali, Rome, 1796.)), which again attests to the nature and scale of conflicts and restlessness that permeated among the adherents of the same belief system.

“India for Indians” and Discourses on Nationalism

“India for Indians”, emphasizing the demand that India should be ruled by Indians , is the title of one of the still unpublished works that Fr. Thomas Paremakkel had written in 1780s ((54.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.12)).

Long before the debates on nationalism shaking the intellectual circles of Europe Asia and Africa, Fr. Thomas Paremakkel vehemently argued that foreigners should be kept away from India and that it should be ruled only by Indians. In Varthamanapusthakam Fr.Thomas Paremakkel speaks of a golden thread of national feeling that binds all the Indians together. The discourse on nationalism is set against the background of ill-treatment that Paremakkel and his colleagues experienced from the European missionary priest of Veerapandianpattinam on their way from Kerala to Madras in 1778. The missionary priest did not permit Fr.Joseph Kariyattil and Fr. Thomas Paremakkel to celebrate Holy Eucharist in the church of Veerapandianpattinam, near Tuticorin. On hearing this, the parishioners and the faithful were very sorry about it and later came out to the St.Thomas Christian delegation saying that the church actually belonged to them and not to the missionary priest and they offered every possible help to the delegation. On seeing the generosity of the local people Fr. Paremakkal writes in his book:

’…. these believers were sad not because they had known us, nor because we had done some good things to them; but because we all belong to one nationality; that is we are all Indians. It is this love for people of the same nationality that actually moved their hearts.” ((55. Ibid., p.71))

Fr.Thomas Paremakkel proudly maintains that even though Indians were under foreign rule, there was a type of intimacy and emotional linkage that bound all the Indians together. The idea of nationalism that Fr.Thomas Paremakkel propounds at this time comprises the feelings which create unity among the diverse Indians and the special uniqueness and commonality that make every Indian an integral part of India. The love that one shows towards the people of the same nation , the concern and the movement of the heart that one experiences on seeing their suffering and helplessness are the ingredients of the rudimentary nationalism that Fr. Paremakkel had envisaged ((56.On reaching Rome both Fr.Joseph Kariyattil and Fr.Thomas Paremakkel did something reciprocating the help that they had received from these people. They prepared a short life history of Devasahayam Pillai( Neelakanda Pillai) in Latin and submitted a request to the Congregation for Canonization for the purpose of making him a saint. The Nair officer Neelakanda Pillai , who embraced Christianity in 1745 and took the name of Devasahayam Pillai under the influence of Lannoy , the commander-in-chief of Travancorean army, was martyred in 1752. Fr.Joseph Kariyattil and Fr.Thomas Paremakkel traveling through Thakla almost 26 years after his martyrdom (1778) came to know of his heroic suffering and death and on the basis of the information thus gathered from the region that they prepared his biography and requested for his canonization. This was the first case when an Indian submitted a request to Rome for the purpose of canonizing an Indian. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.197. See also E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, vol.III, p.86; J.B.Buttari, Devasagayam Pillai’s Conversion and Martyrdom, tran. by P.Dahmen, Trichy, 1908.)).

Varthamanapusthakam postulates that the foundation of Indian nationalism rests on the basic principle that India should be ruled by Indians. In 1783 when the Portuguese Padroado authorities in Lisbon tried to make Fr.Joseph Kariyattil as the bishop of Cranganore in Kerala, the European missionaries then working in different parts of Kerala started sending of lot of complaints against him saying that “Keralites do not know how to rule” , “Keralites would not submit themselves to a bishop from their own jati”, “ even the noblest in Kerala would not be ready to accept Fr. Joseph Kariyattil as their bishop” and “ if an Indian were to become a bishop then there would be severe conflicts and divisions among the Christians of Kerala”. These were the major accusations sent to Portugal by the Portuguese carmelite missionary Joseph de Solidade ,the then bishop of Cochin, for the purpose of not making Fr. Joseph Kariyattil a bishop ((57.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.305-307; see also Francis Thonippara, Saint Thomas Christians of India: a Period of Struggle for Unity and Self-Rule( 1775-1787), Bangalore, 1999, pp.222-3)). However Joseph de Solidade himself was considered to be a problem figure and he had been in frequent conflicts with the Franciscans friars, who had grater influence in the court of Travancore ((58.Antoney George Pattaparambil, The Failed Rebellion of Syro-Malabar Christians, pp. 244, 248; E.R.Hambye, History of Christianity in India, vol.III, pp.55-9; 68-70; 75-77, 89, 136)). Against the attempts of European Carmelite missionaries to sabotage the moves for ordaining the Indian priest Fr. Joseph Kariayttil a bishop, his language in Varthamanapusthakam takes an extra-ordinarily sharper and piercing tone.

Paremakkel views these allegations as racial aspersions and humiliation to Indian pride. He writes: ‘… you say that Keralites do not know how to rule… don’t say that…. our king(evidently referring to the king of Travancore) would not tolerate this, as he is also a Keralite ((59. Ibid., p.321)). Again, referring to the allegation that Kariyattil’s bishop position would bring division within Christian community of Kerala, Fr. Paremakkel retaliates:

.’…it is you and your ancestors who brought division and conflicts to Kerala, which now nobody can solve… ((60. Ibid., p.327)) …… You take the hand of one to beat the other and take his hand the beat the first person. You make us fight among ourselves so that we may always remain subjugated to you. ((61. Ibid., p.315)) …. You divide the Christians of Malabar into Mundukar, converted Christians, kuppayakar and put them into different groups, and thus people of Malabar who form one flesh and one blood are divided into different groups in such a way that nobody can ever rectify it ((62.Ibid., pp.327-8)).

Paremakkel maintains that these foreigners intervene in such a way that the unity and national feelings prevalent among them get perpetually destroyed. Criticizing the arrogance of the European missionaries and refuting their allegation that the noblest among the Keralites would not accept Kariayttil as their bishop, Paremakkel writes:

‘.. .you wrongly think that you (European religious missionaries) are much nobler than us because when you come to our churches we stand with respect and obey you and carry you on palanquins and our priests and the people walk in procession before you and you wrongly think that we show this respect and obeisance to you because we are less noble than you…. We are showing this respect not because of the fact that we are less noble nor because of your superiority, but because we have learnt from our parents that the priests and religious teachers are to be respected and revered in the name of almighty God’ ((63.Ibid., pp.318-9)).

Fr. Paremakkel sees in the argument of Joseph de Solidade that Keralites would not accept Joseph Kariyattil as their bishop but only European missionaries a certain amount of colonial arrogance which some of the European missionaries also imbibed by this time. He retorts: “…..We have priests among us, who administer and manage things thousand times far better than you people..” ((64. Ibid.)) In fact these discourses in the book are meant not only to justify the candidature of Fr. Joseph Kariyattil as the bishop of Cranganore, but also to defend and uphold the national pride of Indians, which Joseph de Solidade was immensely hurting with colonial arrogance and haughty language.

Some of the European missionaries, who wielded spiritual power over the St.Thomas Christians, turned out to be arrogant and extremely domineering and Paremakkel says that this happened mainly because this community was made to remain powerless by depriving them of the right to have a community/spiritual leader of their own from themselves. He writes:

‘ The foreign missionaries do not respect the feelings of the community, as it now does not have its own leader ((65.The reference is to jathikkukarthaviyan or Archdeacon. For details on the institution of Archdeacon see Jacob Kollaparambil, The Archdeacon of All India, Kottayam, 1972; Joseph Thekkedath, The Troubled Days of Francis Garcia S.J., Archbishop of Cranganore (1641-59), Rome, 1972.)). Earlier when it had its own leader, no foreign missionary dared to do any injustice or evil to this community’ ((66. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamana Pusthakam, p.32. )). ….In Europe, in Italy, France, England and Portugal, the kings and ecclesiastical heads are made from their own nationality. Even the Christians under the Turks have got their own rulers and bishops. In Kerala too, except in the case of St.Thomas Christians, the leaders of different communities are from their own communities ((67. Ibid., pp.32-3)).

The author is asking as to how come that the St.Thomas Christians are denied of the right to have a spiritual leader from the community. He persuades the reader to think as to why in India the church leadership was given to European missionaries instead of Indians. Paremakkel writes: ‘The Portuguese would never like to have an Italian ruler over them, and the Italians never would accept a Portuguese ruler, a German ruler would never be accepted by the French and a ruler from France would never be accepted by the Germans. Why it is that these countries accept rulers only from their nationals and why it is not permitted to happen in the case of India. ((68. Ibid., p.323))’

At such an early stage, when Fr.Thomas Paremakkel speaks of nationalism, he brings in mostly issues and institutions related to the domains of Church, where Indians and Indianness should be preferred to rather than the Europeans. Paremakkel argues that the community of St.Thomas Christians would make progress only if the person who rules it would be from the same community and nationality ((69. Ibid., p.322)). Finally, when Joseph Kariyattil was made the bishop of Cranganore, he writes: ‘With the appointment of a bishop from among them, the Keralites have secured freedom from the yoke of the Europeans and he wants this liberation to be perpetuated by ensuring continuous bishop succession from among the Keralites. ((70. Ibid., p.299))’

In order to understand the various dimensions and layers of Paremakkel’s notion of nationalism, one should analyze the channels that he traveled and the contexts that shaped his perceptions. It was during the time span of the travel of Fr. Thomas Paremakkel and Fr. Joseph Kariytattil to Europe( 1778-1786) that the American War of Independence broke out for the purpose of expelling the British from America(1775-83). When these two Indian priests reached Brazil, Portugal, France and Rome, the major issues of debate and intellectual discussions in these places were in fact the wars of American revolution. Interestingly sufficient resources and fighting forces to fight against the British forces in America were mobilized by the colonists with the help of Churches and Church leadership of Congregationalists, Baptists and Presbyterians ((71.William H. Nelson, The American Tory, 1961, p.186; Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Cambridge, 1967, pp.273-4, 299-304)). The endeavours of the Church leadership of America to throw away British colonial yoke did really influence the anti-European thinking and writing of Paremakkel and many others who happened to collaborate with him.

Four Goan priests, who collaborated with Fr.Thomas Paremakkel and Kariyattil in Lisbon and Rome later spearheaded a revolution in Goa to expel the Portuguese from India(1787). The leader of this group was Fr. Cajetano Vitorino de Faria , who was supported by Fr.Cajetano Francisco do Couto, Fr.Jose Antonio Gonçalves and Fr. Jose Custodio de Faria alias Abbe Faria, who, as founder of modern hypnotism , was a world famous psychologist and a leading thinker during the time of French revolution. Cajetano Vitorino de Faria was married and had two children and then he went for priestly studies. On becoming a priest he went to Portugal and using his closeness to the king of Portugal, he wanted to become the Archbishop of Goa, and pulled the strings to make his friends Fr.Cajetano Francisco do Couto as the bishop of Cochin and Fr.Jose Antonio Gonçalves as the bishop of Mylapore ((72. J.H.da Cunha Rivara, A Conjurção de 1787 em Goa e varias Cousas desse Tempo Memoria Historica, Nova Goa, 1875, pp.13-4;42-56. Fr.Thomas Paremakkel met these Goan priests in Rome and Lisbon in 1780s and he refers to the details of the entire project of these three Goan priest. See Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.119, 222,280,282-6. Fr. Thomas Paremakkel, who was along with these priests in Lisbon, mentions in detail about their plan to make Fr. Cajetano Vitorino de Faria as Archbishop of Goa, Fr. Cajetano Francisco do Couto as bishop of Cochin, Fr. Jose Antonio Gonçalves as bishop of Mylapore and a Franciscan Friar as bishop for Malacca. For details see Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam , pp.247-8)). However their efforts did not find any fruit. Finally when Joseph Kariyattil was made the bishop of Cranganore, these Goan priests got estranged from their Malayalee counterparts and turned against Kariyattil, saying “ either all the three whom we have suggested should be made bishops or nobody from India should be made a bishop. ((73.Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam , pp.277, 280))”

Later these Goan priests under Fr. Cajetano Vitorino de Faria planned a revolution in Goa against the Portuguese hegemony , in which about nineteen Goan priests made preparations to participate. Concomitantly the highest officers of Goan army under Manoel Cajetano Pinto, the lieutenant of Ponda division of the army, and his cousin Manoel Pinto from Saligão also joined the conspiracy for the purpose of expelling them from Goa ((74.J.H.da Cunha Rivara, A Conjurção de 1787 em Goa, pp.10-23)). As the Pintos of Candolim holding important positions in the Church and the military force operated as the key figures of the conspiracy, mobilizing the military regiments of Ponda and Bardez this was often called Pinto Conspiracy or Pinto Revolt of 1787 ((75.J.H.da Cunha Rivara, A Conjurção de 1787 em Goa , pp.10-2; See also Charles Borges, Goa and the Revolt of 1787, New Delhi, 1996.)). However the main brain that brought the various disgruntled elements of Goa for a failed revolution in 1787 was Fr. Cajetano Vitorino de Faria, who had spent several years in Rome and Portugal along with Fr.Thomas Paremakkel for the purpose of getting Indians appointed as bishops for India, instead of the European bishops. But the revolution did not happen as the news about it got leaked out on 5th August 1787( five days before the planned outbreak) and about 47 people including fifteen Catholic priests were arrested and put in jail. In 1788 fifteen of the lay people were executed, while fourteen priests were deported to Portugal ((76. J.H.da Cunha Rivara, A Conjurção de 1787 em Goa , pp.36-8)). Fr. Jose Custodio de Faria ( popularly known as Abbe Faria), who was the son of Fr.Cajetano Vitorino de Faria and was accused as one of the conspirators was one among those who were deported to Portugal. On reaching Europe Abbe Faria (1756 -1819) devoted his time to the study of psychology and became one of the pioneers of scientific study of hypnotism and a leading figure in the intellectual circles of France during the time of revolution. ((77.For details see Hannes Stubbe, “Jose Custodio de Faria in the History of the World of Psychology: A Dialogue between Indian and European Psychologies”, in Pius Malekandathil and Jamal Mohammed (eds.), The Portuguese, Indian Ocean and European Bridgehead: Festschrift in Honour of Prof. K.S. Mathew. Fundação Oriente, Lisbon/ IRISH, Tellicherry,2001,pp.337-53. Egas Moniz, O Padre Faria na Historia do Hipnotismo, Lisboa, 1925. Abbe Faria was born of Cajetano Vitorino de Faria out of a legitimate marriage. Fr. Thomas Paremakel says that Cajetano Vitorino de Faria left his wife and his two children to become a priest and later took his son Jose Custodio de Faria (Abbe Faria) to the Propaganda college of Rome for his priestly studies. Paremakkel Thommankathanar, Varthamanapusthakam , p.119. See also J.H.da Cunha Rivara, A Conjurção de 1787 em Goa ,p.88)).

One can find somewhere a common thread that links Fr.Thomas Paremakkel , who vehemently argued for the transfer of ecclesiastical positions from the Europeans to Indians, with the leading Goan priests who spearheaded a revolution in Goa to expel the Portuguese from India and Abbe Faria , who moved to Paris , the heartland of French Revolution for continuing his further academic and intellectual pursuits. Bishop Joseph Kariyattil died in Goa on 10th September, 1786 ((78. Paremakkel Thommakathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.24; 363)). It was almost 11 months later that the priests of Goa initiated moves for expelling the Portuguese from India and were arrested on 5th August, 1787 on the leakage of information about conspiracy ((79. J.H.da Cunha Rivara, A Conjurção de 1787 em Goa, pp.10-38)). Consequently Fr.Thomas Paremakkel was appointed as the governor of the diocese of Cranganore and on 1st February 1787 he convened a mahayogam at Angamaly , which took decisions to revolt against the European missionaries if they were to object to the appointment of Fr.Thomas Paremakkel as the next bishop. The entire representatives of the St.Thomas Christians under Paremakkel decided to throw away the yoke of the European missionaries and to invite a bishop from West Asia for his Episcopal consecration if their requests to make Paremakkel a bishop was not agreed upon by the Portuguese ruler, who was the ecclesiastical patron under Padroado system ((80. Paremakkel Thommankathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, p.380)). Was it quite accidental that the people who shared their ideas together in Europe were seen in three different contexts of revolutions? Obviously the timing of rebellious gathering of the representatives of St.Thomas Christians of Kerala and their decision to turn towards non-European bishop from West Asia cutting ties with the European missionaries and the moves of many priests of Goa to expel the Portuguese from India (1787) shows that these incidents were not totally isolated; but were somehow linked at the inspirational level. The leaders of both the incidents during their stay and activities in Europe seem to have considerably been influenced by the victory of Congregationalist, Baptist and Presbyterian Churches of America in throwing away the colonial yoke of the English ((81.The leaders and ministers of these Churches used to preach revolutionary themes in their sermons; however the ministers of Anglican Church stood with the British. William H. Nelson, The American Tory, 1961, p.186; Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Cambridge, 1967, pp.273-4, 299-304)). It seems that the lead actors of these dramas who were woven together in Europe by the early ideas of nationalism responded differently in different places, exhibiting it variously depending on the exigencies.

It is all the more interesting to note that Fr.Thomas Paremakkel and bishop Joseph Kariyattil returned to India in the same ship in which the Goa priests, who later planned the revolt against the Portuguese, also traveled. ((82.Paremakkel Thommankathanar, Varthamanapusthakam, pp.355; 359)) . On their way back to India they reached Bahia in Brazil in the month of July , 1785 and lived there for a couple of days till their ship got repaired ((83. Ibid., pp.356-63)). Now some scholars argue that the Mineiro revolt of Brazil spearheaded by the priests in 1789 against the Portuguese hegemony in South America was connected with these Indian priests at least at the inspirational level ((84. Philomena Sequeira Antony, The Goa-Bahia Intra-Colonial Relations , 1675-1825, Tellicherry, 2004, p.40)). There was in fact a great amount of connectivity among these otherwise isolated events. This is discernable mostly by the fact that these events had something in common because of the thread of early nationalist movement and freedom struggle that appeared in different parts of colonial world among the like-minded people in the last quarter of the eighteenth century probably imbibing adventurous lessons from American war of Independence, where British colonial masters were thrown out by the colonists.

Indian Alternatives

Thomas Paremakkel opposes the European ecclesiastical structural formats and develops arguments for Indian alternatives for Church administration not only because of anti-Europeanism but also for reasons of strengthening the foundations of nationalism. He views that the national identity should be based on its cultural uniqueness, heritage and rich traditions. He was concerned more about the cultural traditions of St.Thomas Christians, which the European missionaries were increasingly tampering with for the purpose of establishing their hold over this community. He views that there were three institutions which should be preserved and strengthened at all costs in order to handle the arrogant and haughty segment among the European missionaries and to uphold the dignity of Indian Christians. They are (a) Jathikkukarthaviyan( Archdeacon or the leader of the community), (b) yogam ( the representative body of families at the level of parish churches) and (c), mahayogam ( the representative body at the apex level consisting of elected members from individual churches). The representatives of mahayogam who met at Angamaly in 1773 ((85. Ibid., p.45)) and in 1787 ((86. Ibid., p. 382)) earnestly argued for the age old institution of Archdeacon to be reinstated. Paremakkel writes:

‘ The foreign missionaries do not respect the feelings of the community, as it now does not have its own leader.’ Earlier when it had its own leader ((87.The reference is to jathikkukarthaviyan or Archdeacon. For details on the institution of Archdeacon see Jacob Kollaparambil, The Archdeacon of All India, Kottayam, 1972; Joseph Thekkedath, The Troubled Days of Francis Garcia S.J., Archbishop of Cranganore (1641-59), Rome, 1972)), no foreign missionary dared to do any injustice or evil to this community’ ((88. Paremakkel Thommankathanar, Varthamana-pusthakam, p.32. )).

At a time when the overassertive segment of the European missionaries was handling the Church administrative affairs, Varthamanapustakam gives the message that the identity, heritage and cultural tradition of this community could be better be protected only by having a community leader of Indian origin ((89. Ibid., pp.32-33)).

Paremakkel was also highly critical about the one-man –centered or bishop-centered Church administrative system that the European missionaries introduced in India. He was a staunch supporter of the democratic institution of yogam or palliyogam which formed an important ingredient in the church administration of the St.Thomas Christians. He projects yogam as the Indian alternative to Church administration. The administration of the St.Thomas Christians was carried out by Jathikkukarthaviyan (community leader) in agreement with the yogam and mahayogam. This type of administration provided space for getting the individual initiatives of the leader strengthened by the wisdom of the representatives. Moreover such an administrative system accommodated the grass root level demands and aspirations of the members. The Jathikkukarthaviyan, however, could not act independently of yogam or act against the yogam, as he was bound by the majority decision of the representative body. The representative body of yogam operated among this community as an institution with republican form of power. It used to decide as to who should celebrate the Holy Mass and who should not, who should be accepted in the church and who should not be ((90. Yogams blocked some 9 missionary priests from entering the churches of the St.Thomas Christians. Ibid., pp.51-2)). Elaborating on the power of yogam Paremakkel writes:

‘.. Our churches were built not by you nor by your ancestors; nor did we sell ourselves nor our church people to you. If our yogam, is willing to accept you, we would accept. If our yogams do not want to accept you, you cannot forcefully make us accept you ((91. Ibid., p.331)).

However the importance that this representative body had in the administration of Church affairs of this community was not incomprehensible for the western world. Even the administrative head of such supreme institutions, like Propaganda Fide, rebuked Fr.Thomas Paremakkel and Fr.Joseph Kariyattil for bringing two seminarians to Rome for priestly studies as sent by the yogam. He says: ‘If yogam sends somebody, then we have no responsibility to accept them.. Those who have come uninvited do not get space here…. ((92. Ibid., p.163))’ However, later they were taken for studies; but not because the yogam had sent them there- but because Fr.Joseph Kariyattil, the former student of Propaganda Fide had taken them there ((93. Ibid.,p. 170)).

The decisions pertaining to this community were taken jointly by the bishop and the yogam and hence both the institutions were vital unlike the European perception of Church , where bishop was the ultimate authority and decision-taker since the time of Feudalism. Paremakkel is battering the western notion of single person exercising hegemonic control over the community, without allowing space for the voice of community to be heard through their representatives.

The third institution which Varthamanapusthakam projects as vital for the maintenance of the autonomy of this community was mahayogam or the highest representative body of elected members from various churches. The mahayogam formed the highest platform to find solutions to the administrative, social and communitarian issues that used to crop up time to time. It was a mahayogam(1773) that decided that Fr.Thomas Paremakkel and Fr. Joseph Kariyattil should go to Rome to get concrete solutions from the Pope and the same mahayogam made arrangements for mobilizing resources for their travel ((94. Ibid., pp.18-19; 27-46; 65; 76.)) . The decisions of the mahayogam , often known as padiyola, were inviolable and were considered as serious and binding on all members of the community as canon law in the Western Church. Those who violated them were considered as cheaters of the community and it was against this background Fr. John da Santa Maria was blocked from entering the church of Parur, saying that he violated the decision and agreement being made in the mahayogam of Angamaly. (1773) ((95. Ibid., pp.54-55)). It was in the mahayogam of 1787 the representatives from 81 churches of Kerala decided that this community should stand alone breaking ties with the European missionaries if their request to make Fr.Thomas Paremakkel was not accepted. It also decided that except for ordination and for getting holy oil , no other relationship ship should be maintained with other churches and church leaders ((96. Ibid., p.380)).

However some of the missionary authorities were not happy with the assertions that mahayogam used to make, as its decisions at times clipped the wings of their power. There were several occasions when they indirectly tried to convey the message that participation in the mahayogam was a sinful or a rebellious act. Thus in 1773 when the representatives of St.Thomas Christian Churches met at Angamaly, there was a great amount of criticism and commotion against the European missionaries from the representatives. Finally when a missionary priest stepped in without being invited to give the final blessings, he made all the participants in the mahyogam to recite the prayer of repentance “ mea culpa.. . mea culpa’, giving the impression that their meeting of mahayogam and its entire deliberations were sinful and rebellious. Paremakkel vehemently criticizes the way how the entire participants were made to say the prayer of repentance by the European missionary ((97. Ibid. p.46)).

Thomas Paremakkel realized that self-reliance is the foundation of freedom and national pride. He maintained that the Church of St.Thomas Christians should be self-sufficient and should not depend on the Europeans for any help. In 1787 the mahayogam that met under his leadership decided that the churches of this community should invest their surplus money for productive ventures, wherein the money should be given on interest in four different parts of Kerala and with the interest deriving out of it the expenditure of Church administration had to be met ((98.Ibid., p.382)). He maintained that freedom and the pride of being an Indian will come only when the running of Church affairs was done without any foreign help. He viewed that foreign help, however insignificant it was, would bring in a feeling of dependence and subordination. Paremakkel writes:

‘Don’t think that the two bottles of Mass wine and three quarter kilogram of wheat that you(European missionaries) supply to priests for making host for Mass would be sufficient to get the priests of St.Thomas Christians subjugated to you ((99.Ibid., p.324)). If we can sustain ourselves and our churches with our own efforts and with our hard work, we can raise money from our own efforts for the bread and wine for Mass ((100. Ibid., p.324)) … Before your coming to Kerala, our churches, bishops and priests were maintained not by your subsidy but with the donations that we and the yogam used to make ((101. Ibid., p.325)).

The nationalist pride and his refusal to submit himself to the arrogance of foreigners made him develop self-reliance as the basis his Church administrative and economic system, which the St.Thomas Christians continue to main to a certain extent even now.

Thus though Varthamnapusthakam is a travelogue by its literary feature, it reflects the intensity of conflicts and dissent that had got shaped among the St.Thomas Christians in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. Paremakkel representing the dissenting voices puts them in black and white and adds them as a substantial layer of his narrative of travel. While attacking the paradigms of the European missionaries, Paremakkel attacks not from outside as a heretic or a schismatic, but writes from inside as an administrator of the church, both as a reformer suggesting Indian alternatives and as a patriot bringing Indianness to the domains of church. However the words and the language of attack that Paremakkel uses against the European missionaries are sharper than those of critics and enemies of missionaries; however it should be said that they flow from the fire of suffering that this community was made to undergo during the period of colonial interventions and cultural mutations. From the same fire of suffering and tribulations emerged his notions of nationalism and arguments for India to be handed over to Indians.

About the Author

Dr.Pius Malekandathil, Professor at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi hails from Muvattupuzha parish of Kothamangalam eparchy, Syro Malabar Church, Kerala. He has earlier worked as Lecturer in History, St. Thomas College, Pala, Reader in History at Goa University and Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady. He has authored Ten books and more than hundred articles in various international journals, seminars and publications. His areas of specialization include Indo-Portuguese History, Transmarine Trade, Maritime History of India, European Expansion and Urbanization in Asia, Socio-Economic History of Medieval India, Culture and State of South India, Studies in Indian Ocean Societies and Religion and Society in South Asia.

Some of Dr Pius Malekandathil’s publications are: The Germans, the Portuguese and India (1999); Portuguese Cochin and the Maritime Trade of India: 1500-1663 (2001); Jornada of D. Alexis Menezes: A Portuguese Account of the Sixteenth Century Malabar (2003); The Portuguese, The Portuguese and the Socio-Cultural Changes in India: 1500-1800 jointly edited with K.S. Mathew and Teotonio R. de Souza (2001); The Kerala Economy and European Trade jointly edited with K.S. Mathew (2003); Goa in the Twentieth Century: History and Culture jointly edited with Remy Dias (2008).

About the Book

This is originally published as the eighth chapter in the book “The Mughals, the Portuguese and the Indian Ocean: Changing Imageris of Maritime India”, Primus Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 160-184.

This volume explores the changing meanings that maritime India acquired during the early modern period owing to the frequent efforts of the Mughals and the Portuguese from two different fronts to control its vast resourceful enclaves and profit-yielding neighbourhoods. By analyzing the highly nuanced socio-economic processes and addressing the themes that have not been explored before, this volume creates a new framework for understanding the changing nature of maritime India.

The ten research papers in this book delve into many complexities of Indian history and try to look into a wide range of issues such as the political meanings of religious dialogues between Akbar and the Jesuits; the role of circulatory processes in the creation of south India as a region; the economic and political processes that prompted the shifting of Mughal capital from hinterland to the vicinity of the major maritime trading centres of northern Konkan; voices of dissent in Christianity and discourses on early nationalism; and the social manoeuvrings of the English.

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  1. Mathai Varghese says


    Talking about Nasrani history and the Portugeese, here is something I wish you to read and let me please have your criticsm.
    Jewish Virtual Library

    “…Abraham Zacuto (c. 1452-1515), a historian and astronomer, who wrote his major astronomical work, Ha-Hibur ha-Gadol, in Hebrew under the patronage of the bishop of Salamanca, served as court astronomer to kings John II and Manuel I of Portugal, where he took refuge after the expulsion from Spain. Zacuto prepared the charts used by Vasco da Gama on his successful journey to India, but his high position and contribution to Portuguese imperial expansion availed him little when, in 1497, the Jews in Portugal were forced to convert, and he was forced once again to flee. In Tunis, in 1504, Zacuto completed his historical narrative, Sefer ha-Yuhasin, in which he claimed: “My astronomical charts circulate throughout all the Christian and even Muslim lands,.”
    Strong tradition (history?) tell us that when Vasco da Gama arrived at Malabar, he was met by our forefathers and given the ‘Scepter of the Nazerene King’ and we further learn that this new bond between the Nazerenes and the Portugeese saved us from possible defeat under the hands of the Moors (who were supported by the Calicut Zamorin).
    We know that Vasco da Gama was not Jewish, but did we know that the cartographer ‘Abraham Zacuto’ was a Jew? Without Abraham’s knowledge, Vasco da Gama would not have made the incredible long journey to India… travelling west to Europe, then south to Africa and then north to Malabar. He was well known as ‘anti-Muslim’ and he effectively challenged Muslim power in Malabar.
    If Abraham Zacuto did not provide the ‘Navigational knowledge’ to Vasco da Gama, would you and me still be ‘Nazerenes’ today?
    Has the above question ever been asked by anyone in India? Yet, we say that the ‘Malabar Nasranis’ are a highly educated bunch of people, with a literacy level rivalling Western Europe!

    Why do we not acknowledge the great contribution by the Jews to our heritage?

  2. Bala Menon says

    Hi Mr. Varghese,

    While it is true that Abraham Zacuto’s maps helped Vasco da Gama round the Cape of Good Hope, western scholars say he was a little lost when he reached Mombasa. It is said that it was Ahmad -ibn_Majid, an Omani sailor (from modern-day Ras Al Khaimah), who piloted Gama to Calicut in 1498.

    Ibn Majid was a frequent sailor between the Gulf of Oman/East Africa/Malabar route and wrote many books on oceanography, including the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean which were useful to sailors.

    This is not to detract from your argument about the contributions made by the Jews to the world at large.

    Bala Menon
    (incidentally, this blog is listed in the Jewish Virtual Library).

  3. Mathai Varghese says

    Dear Mr. Bala Menon,

    Thanks for the information, whether it is right or wrong. Will have to study more when time permits.

    While it was Abraham Z. who made significant and more contribution for the arrival of the Portugeese in Malabar, it is also a fact that the arrival of the Portugeese was the decline of the Jews in Malabar and the initiation of the dreadful ‘Inquisition’. Deeper understanding of the effects of the arrival of the Portugeese on our Semitic heritage should be had.
    Earlier, I had erred in using the word ‘Moors’ for Muslims. The Portugeese were very familiar with the word ‘Moors’, for those Muslims of Libya etc.. but as far as Malabar is concerned, the word ‘Moor’ is out of place. Arab Muslims and Malabar Muslim Mappilas opposed the Portugeese in Malabar.

    I suspect that soon after the arrival of the Portugeese, many Malabar Jews became Nazerenes to escape the sword of the Muslims or to escape the Portugeese Inquistion. . I further suspect that the Knanai Nazerenes are of this stock (sadly, some in here are very anti-Knanai). Either way, the very ancient Israelite presence in Malabar changed in it’s chemistry. They became more ‘goyim/gentile’. But now, at the very edge of ‘identity ruin’, they (a small remnant) seem to have stepped back from falling down.
    The Article “Nazrani History and Discourse on Early Nationalism in Varthamanapusthakam’ focuses on ‘nationalist pride’ of around AD 1785, but fails to define who is a ‘Nazrani’. Because of this, then what nationalist pride?
    Jai Maveli Raja Thampuran? Jai Sanskrit? Jai Hinduism? Jai Villarvattom?

    By AD 1785, the Malabar Nazrani had almost lost his identity and so there was very little of a real ‘nationalist pride’. He was far too removed from his pre-Portugeese period to claim any pride.

    For a ‘nationalist pride’ study, the very important question as to how the Nazrani of the 1400s (period before the Portugeese came) saw himself is abscent in the article. Was he a Hindu nationalist? Or was he a Judeo-Suriyani nationalist?


  4. Joseph Tharamangalam says

    Very interesting. Want thread the original, but in English since my Malayalam is not good enough. Where can I get an English copy?