Palayur and the Story of Syrian Christians

On one cool morning last year, we some of the members of Marthoma Church, Karimba, gathered at the Parsonage. After coffee at 6 am we started for Palayur (an important pilgrimage center of Syrian Christians) in a hired Bus. Shortly before 8 am we reached, as planned, at the Ravi Varma orphanage at Trichur run by our church. We had free breakfast with the inmates, wash our plates ourselves and gave donations to the institution. And go around and saw the institution and talked to some of the inmates.


Ravivarma Orphanage

How to reach Palayur?
Palayur is a part of Trichur District and is located on the west Cost of Kerala. By road it takes 28 Km to reach Palayur from Trichur. It is on Trichur – Chavakkad route, via Pavaratty. To travel by train catch Trichur – Guruvayur train (24 Km). From Guruvayur to Palayur take a bus or a taxi/auto rickshaw (2 Km). Nedumbasserry International Airport is only 80 Km from Palayur.

We then started to see many ancient churches on our way to Guruvayur where we had Lunch at another old age home run by our Church. Here I had talked to some of the inmates who expressed their anguish at their children leaving them to this old age home, while they long to be with their children and grand children as it was in their younger days. (Money is not what they expect from their Children). I then decided that it will be better to be in the jungle of concrete in Delhi along with my children than in the God’s own Country. Soon Kerala will become a geriatric asylum as the youngsters will leave Kerala.


Old age home


Ancient Church


Kananaya Kaldian church


Well maintained Ancient cemetery

Before I Go to Palayur let me tell the story of Syrian Christians of Kerala.

Definition of Syrian Christian

Syrian Christians are not a particular Christian Denomination. It is a high cast name for all Christians now found in many Kerala denominations who claim their origin to Brahmins converted by St. Thomas and later intermarried with the Christian families migrated from Palestine etc. They were known as Nazraneys (ey pronounced like money) to the local people, and to the out side world as St. Thomas Christians. Only after the arrival of Portuguese they are known as Syrian Christians.

Throughout Kerala, one can find Christian families that claim their descent from Brahmin ancestors who were baptized by Apostle Thomas. St. Thomas Christians were classified into the caste system according to their professions, in accordance with the Hindu tradition, with special privileges for trade granted by the benevolent kings who ruled the area. Syrian Christians had a king of their own. After the eighth century when Hindu Kingdoms came to sway, Christians were expected to strictly abide by stringent rules pertaining to caste and religion. This became a matter of survival. This is why St. Thomas Christians had such a strong sense of caste and tradition. Local rulers had given them 172 special privileges including right to own Slaves; right to have special architecture for their houses, right to use 2 Plantain leaves at public feast, use of Palanquin etc.

Thus, Most of the Kerala Churches are Hindu in culture, Christian in religion, and Judeo-Syro-Oriental in worship.

History
Even before Christian era, Arabs had trade with Kerala for spices mainly Pepper, Ivory and sandal wood. Even King Solomon got wood from Kerala for making the first Jewish temple. Many Jews settled in Kochi and Palayur before St. Thomas came to Kerala in AD 52.

It is believed that St. Thomas came in one of the boats with the trading Jews.

Christianity in India
It was one of the early eastward movements that first brought Christianity to India. According to tradition it was brought in the first century by one of the twelve apostles, St. Thomas. This has been the constant tradition of the Syrian Christians of Malabar, and it has been widely believed in the West also that this apostle’s sphere of work was in India.

The Tradition
Palayur was the stronghold of the Namboodiri Brahmins (the super class people in Indian communities). When St. Thomas arrived from Kodungallur, Israelites had a settlement at Palayur, two thousand years ago. Ruins of an ancient Jewish Synagogue are still seen outside of a Brahmin temple about a furlong away from the Church.
“When Thomas came to the great Brahmin centre of Palayur, a leading Brahmin Gramam (Village) among the 64, he came across some Brahmins doing the Pithru Yajna or Pooja to the manes or ghosts of deceased ancestors. They were throwing water into the air (Tharpan) while reciting manthras. The Apostle learned from them the meaning of this ritual and remarked: ‘If your performance is acceptable to the gods they could keep the water suspended in the air without allowing it to fall again and again’. “The Brahmins said that this was unthinkable as it was opposed to the laws of nature. Then Thomas asserted that the One true God he worshipped could do it, and he proceeded to perform a miracle on condition that the Brahmins accept his faith if he is successful. The Apostle, invoking the Holy Trinity, made the sign of the Cross and threw a handful of water up into the sky. After reaching a particular height the water stood still in the air, the particles glittering like diamonds. Looking down the Brahmins could see the cavity made by the removal of the water still there in the pond. Most of the witnesses were baptised on the spot. However those Brahmins who did not accept the faith called the place ‘Shapa Kadu’ or Cursed Place and left the place immediately promising to take the next bath only at Vembanattu, unpolluted by the new faith. Even today, true to the oath taken by their ancestors, the Brahmins do not eat or drink in the vicinity of Palayur or Chowghat (Shapa Kadu).” Palayur church is one of the seven churches established by St. Thomas in Kerala.
Subsequently a series of Migration took place by Christians of Palestine Syria etc. At first Nazraneys do not intermarry with tem, but later intermarried with them.

The following pictures are taken from the compound of Palayur Church depicting the Story of St. Thomas and his Martyrdom at Mylapore in madras. The church was a temple before St. Thomas Converted the Brahmins. The oil lamp used in the temple is still there. Tippu sultan burned down this church. But later it is reconstructed with the Persian cross established by St. Thomas and the oil lamps of the temple.


Kind of boat in which st. Thomas came to Kerala


This pond and statues at the Palayur church represent St. Thomas baptizing the Brahmins


Palayur Church


The Persian Cross planted by St. Thomas and the Oil lamps used in the Temple


The cave representing St. Thomas martyrdom at Mylapore, Madras

Till 16th century the Syrian Christians were not fully aware of the Bible and the Christian Theology. They were following the Mesopotamian liturgy (Worship order or Chanting) in Syriac language understood only to a few. Following some rituals of the Eastern Churches of Mesopotamia. (Not Roman Catholic rituals as in Rome)

They follow many Hindu rituals like Shaving head and keeping a tuft of hair in the middle, applying Sandal wood paste on Forehead and on arms and Chest like Brahmins. They also worship their own deity in the form of Idols. In marriage, they tie a mangal sutra by the groom to the brid’s neck.

When Portuguese came to Kerala they saw these strange Christians and wanted to make them civilized like the Catholics. By using Bribes to leaders, using force and frightening the local king, they succeeded in convening a Conference by all bishops and lay representatives and made to follow the Catholic rituals and Liturgy. In effect all were made Catholic for about 50 years. In the conference they burned most of our old liturgy and other historical records.

Their bishop who came from Mesopotamia was put to jail by Portugese. There was a big protest by many to release him. But Portugese turn their canon on them so they have to retreat and make a vow that they have nothing to do with Rome. So the new denomination came to be known as Jacobites. Later when British came and started printing Bible and started teaching bible, Marthoma Church also separated from them.

Present day Marthoma church had a broad outlook. Their metropolitan, Head of the Church, often use to say “I believe in one and only one God. There is no Hindu God, Muslim God or Catholic God. It may be that their understanding of God is Different. My mother’s understanding of my father and my brothers understanding & my understanding of my father may differ. But there is only one father. No wonder L.K Adwani and Aryasamaj leader Acharya Agnivesh have much to say in favor of the Marthoma church as true Indian Church.

Now in fact Hindus, Christians and Muslims in Kerala are culturally alike and so there is no communal trouble in Kerala. Each community influences the others. There are innumerable stories and traditions that this space is not sufficient to include all. Before I finish I am giving two more photos showing a Syrian Christian (or Nazraney) dance form called Margam Kali and elephants of Guruvayur.


Margam Kali Dance of Syrian Christians


Temple elephants

After visiting the Chavakkad beach nearby we returned home. While returning we saw the Elephant keeping yard of the Famous Guruvayur Temple where more than hundred Elephants are maintained for the temple. It was a very thrilling experience.

59 Comments

  • Nomadic Matt says:

    Syrian Christianity as well as sect that (was) big in Iraq is most closely related to the christianity of Jesus, especially in their worship of St. John.

  • Philip Mathai says:

    I do not know what you meant by Christianity of Jesus. Jesus was a Jew and he died as a Jew. He didn’t baptize a single person in to Christianity not even his disciples. His only command was love your neighbor as thyself. So any one who can do that is a believer of Christ or follower of Christ. Had he been born as a Brahmin he would have worn a sacred thread and still reprimand the Brahmins for their hypocrisy and would have said the same thing to them “Love your neighbor as thyself”. Only his disciples and followers started different sets of Christianity. Had Jesus be alive today he would have reprimanded them also.

    Philip

    • Sam Joshva says:

      Well I am curious why Jesus said this,
      18. And Jesus came, and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and upon earth.
      19.Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28 18-19

    • kumaran says:

      WELL SAID !!!

    • Premanand John says:

      Philip Mathai says, “Throughout Kerala, one can find Christian families that claim their descent from Brahmin ancestors who were baptized by Apostle Thomas. St. Thomas Christians were classified into the caste system according to their professions, in accordance with the Hindu tradition, with special privileges for trade granted by the benevolent kings who ruled the area. Syrian Christians had a king of their own.” Who were the Brahmin ancestors when there were no Brahmins at the time of the arrival of St.Thomas? Philip Mathai says about 172 privileges, plantain leaf, palanquin etc., Kerala history says that all these privileges were given to all foreigners visisting Krala, including Arabs, Chinese and Jews. Arabs marrying lowest untouchables known as Cheumars were also given these privileges, children born out of cherumars, known as moplahs, were also allowed to enjoy these privileges, although they were untouchables. That is how Christians and their childreen, although from lower castes, were allowed to enjoy these privileges. There were no Christian Jews in Kerala, but there were white Jews and Black Jews in Kochi and Kodungalloor, who were followers of Judaism and not Christianity. Palayur Christians, therefore, were converts, mostly from lower castes, by Persian missionaries. As in Sri Lanka, these Persian missionaries did not marry the locals, but stayed for a few years and left for Persia when new missionaries came from Persia. This system of arrangement was only for a few years. After the coming of European powers, Persians cease to come to Kerala.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    What a detailed and thorough note on Syrian christians, history of the faith and the customs. Very informative and educative. Well done sire.

  • lakshmi says:

    what interesting legends ..

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Beautifully written post, highly informative and educative and supported by some excellent pictures too.

    Though I was aware of the arrival of St. Thomas, the Apostle, on the coasts of Kerala in the first century, I wasnt sure about the mode of transport he used. Your post says that during those days the commercial ties between the Arabs and the traders from the Malabar region were strong and hence the revered saint might have come through one of the ships. This appears highly plausible. Accordingly, one can assume that the Christianity arrived in India during that period. Based on this assumption, kindly advise us whether the onset of Christianity happened in India earlier than the European countries.

    I am deeply touched by your comment on the old age homes, the inmates and their emotions. Unfortunately, with the breaking up of the joint family system, the problem is becoming more acute.

    Right from my young days, I had a feeling that the Christians, Hindus and Muslims in Kerala are very strongly bound by the cultural heritage and the language and literature and hence there are hardly any communal problems in Kerala. I wish this was true about other regions too.

    Coming back to the Orthodox Syrian Christians, I think I have visited a couple of Orthodox Syrian Churches in Delhi which show their allegiance to the Malankaran churches, which I believe have a headquarter in Kotayam.

    In any case, after reading your post, I feel much closer to Palayur, which I would endeavour to visit during my next trip to Kerala.

    Thank you for sharing this excellent information.

  • Philip Mathai says:

    Yes Dear Ram Dall,

    Kerala was a Christian Country along with the earliest Christian countries like Jerusalem, Rome and other Middle Eastern countries. This was due to the work of Apostles like Peter, Paul etc. In the beginning it was a sect of Jewish community. They were severely persecuted by Romans and the Jewish community. Emperor Nero has put them to lot of inhuman torture. When Constantine become emperor of Rome the persecution ended and Christians had a safe period on the patronage of Constantine. Only centuries after Rome captured Britain, they become Christians. Kerala Jews and Christians had no persecutions in Kerala. According to Former president Ranjendra Prasad there were Christians in Kerala much earlier than most European countries. According to Jawaharlal Nehru Kerala Christians were as old as Christianity itself.

    I want to clear that there is no conclusive historical evidence to prove that St. Thomas ever came to Kerala. But there is a strong Tradition of St. Thomas coming to India. Even though some western historians conclude that St. Thomas comes to North India and not to Kerala. This is based on a second century Letter from a traveler. Name of the Book is Acts of Thomas. It states that St. Thomas reached the King Gundaphorus an Indo Parthian King of first Century. But there was no evidence to show that there was such a king in history. In 19th century Coins with inscriptions of Gundaphorus was discovered in North India. Thus westerners want to prove that Christianity and Thomas came to North India. South Indian historians Dispute this by stating that the Traveler mistook the name of King Pandya of South India as Gundaphorus. And there was a strong tradition in Kerala. So the south Indian apostolate of St. Thomas must be true. They also ask the question how the Christianity of St. Thomas vanished without any trace in history in the north and how the Kerala Christians originated without such an apostle. Many of the legends may be untrue but the truth of St. Thomas coming to India must be true to the tradition. There may be embellishment in the tradition of Brahmins converted to Christian etc. When the Portugese came there were only 30,000 Nazraneys (Now called Syrian Christians). They all become Catholics for almost Half a Century. Afterwards Jacobites separated from them. They renewed their ties with the Antiocian Patriarch.
    I want to explain this. In the beginning there were Bishops in Christian churches in Jerusalem, Rome etc. They all were equal in rank looking after different regions. But in due course A bishop in Rome declared he is supreme head and his name become Pope (Father). Jerusalem and other eastern Churches do not agree with this. They made their head as Patriarch (Father) thus formed the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox including Russian Orthodox Church and the Kerala Nazraneys. After 50 years under Catholic, Jacobites renewed their allegiance to the patriarch. But unlike in middle east the Metropolitan (Chief Bishop) of Kerala was supreme in all temporal maters. The allegiance was only nominal. Unfortunately some misunderstanding happened in that church and two groups took place. The other is known as Malankara Orthodox Church. They want to give more powers to The Patriarch of Antioch. The case is still pending in various courts.

    About 200 years back again their was splits in the Jacobites Church. Some Priests after learning from British Theologians wants to make more radical changes in the Theology and Liturgy of the Worship. They separated and called themselves Marthoma Church Under the supreme head of Metropolitan without any connections with either Pope or Patriarch. But they keep the Syrian tradition of Worship.

    At the Same time Some Jacobites and others contacted The CMS Missionaries of Britain and formed an Anglican church in Kerala. They were originally called CMS Church and now known as Church of South India. They Merged with Other churches of South India to Form the Church of South India. They follow the Anglican style of Worship. Recently many new Pentecostal and other churches also formed in Kerala. There are Syrian Christians in all these communities.

    There is no Cast system in Christianity now. But no Christian who claim their Origin to Brahmins of Palayur (Proudly Called themselves Syrian Christians) never intermarry with a Christian recently converted from low caste communities. In some places they have even Separate churches for Low caste Communities

  • C. M. Paul says:

    ” I want to explain this. In the beginning there were Bishops in Christian churches in Jerusalem, Rome etc. They all were equal in rank looking after different regions. But in due course A bishop in Rome declared he is supreme head and his name become Pope (Father).”
    Hi buddy,
    This is too simplistic an explanation…
    CM Paul

  • manish khamesra says:

    Philip Sir,

    I am spellbound reading such a nice write-up.For the first time I know what Syrian Christians mean and how christianity started in India. I would be looking forward to read more from you. I am very happy to have you among us – giving scholar angles to the ghumakkari.

    I am happy that you decided to live with your children in Delhi, though I can understand that living in concrete jungle cannot be so easy. These days the jobs are taking us far from our native places but we the young generation also look forward to the blessings from our parents. When our parents(mine or my wife’s) are here with us, I must say that those are one of the best time of the year :)

    I will be looking forward to more write-ups from you.

    Yesterday only I showed your story on rubber to my mother and told her that how rubber is made :)

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Great article, of immense help in demystifying the legend of syrian christians(SCh) to curious ignorants like yours truly. I have always fallen short of asking my SCh colleagues about their mythology and history and this article so lucidly delineates the ancestry, so interesting.

  • nandanjha says:

    In the latest edition of Outlook magazine, there is a story on Kerela by William Dalrymple. It touches some of the things which Phillip has mentioned.

    Outlook Story on Kerela by William Dalrymple

    Read when you guys get time.

  • Philip Mathai says:

    Yes Nandan jee,
    Mannarkkad is only 10 K. M. from Karimba There are so many stories like that in Kerala.
    Pilgrims going to the Sabarimala Temple Go to the Mosque of Vavar swamy. Vavar swamy was a friend of Ayyappa the son of Shiva and (Vishnu as mohini I think)

    There are also stories about Jeasus mentioned in rigveda. I am giving a story from the net below)

    JESUS CHRIST IN HINDU SCRIPTURES

    BY

    Dr. N. Sharath Babu, M. A., M. Phil., D. Min

    God is the father of all the human beings. Some human beings may not know him as their own father. Since God is the creator, he is the father of all.

    Bible presents clearly that God is love (1 John 4:8). He loves with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3). For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The loving God does not want any one to perish. So he revealed himself in various ways including as the incarnate God called Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1, 2). Since God does not want anyone to be lost, he lightens every human being who is born into this world (John 1:9). So the loving God has graciously revealed himself through the Hindu scriptures in order that the teeming millions of Hindus may not be lost in the total darkness of sin. It is so amazing to see the Hindu scriptures bear witness to Jesus Christ by name and his vicarious death. I have gleaned the following scriptural references from Hindu scripture books about Christ. These Hindu scriptural passages show clearly that Christ was born to a virgin, is holy and blameless, he suffered and died, and redeemed the sinners by shedding his holy blood.

    All the Hindu scriptures which are referred are written in Sanskrit language and the Vedas quoted here are written between 2000 and 1500 B.C. The Upanishads are written between 10th century and 2nd century B.C.

    References to the Birth of Christ

    The following quotations speak clearly about Jesus Christ. The second quotation even mentions the name of Jesus.

    After creating the sky, waters, and the earth, the supreme spirit of the Lord almighty thought I created the worlds. Now to provide for and to save these worlds I have to create a savior. Thinking thus He gave birth to a man from himself. (Ithareya Upanishad 1.1.3)

    The Puranas explain the Vedic truths in the form of stories. The Bhavishya Purana1 is the ninth in this set of eighteen sacred books. Its third part is entitled Bharath khand, and the second chapter in the third part is entitled Pratisarg. This chapter has thirty-four verses that clearly tell the story of Jesus Christ and His incarnation. The following verses show the main parts.

    Verse 31:

    Yeesh moorti parapta nitya shuddha shivakari:

    Yeesha masih itticha mam nama prathishtatham

    Translation:

    The revelation of God who is eternal, Holy, Compassionate and giver of salvation; who dwells within our heart is manifested. His name is yeesha Masih [Jesus Christ].

    Speaking of this Savior and God incarnate, the sages call Him Purusha shubham (blameless and Holy person), Balwaan raja gaurang shweta vastrakam (sovereign king in a holy person robed in white) Yeesh putra (Son of God ), Kumari garbha sambhavam (one who is born of a virgin), and Satya Varatha Paraayanam (one who is the sustainer of the path of truth).

    Rigveda, the first scripture, also presents Christ without mentioning His name, but referring to Him as the Word who is God.

    This man is all that has been, all that is and all that has to be. He controls the eternal life and it is for the redemption of mankind. He surpasses His immortal sphere and descends to the mortal sphere. He comes to give every one reward as per their deeds.

    Venerable words from the Vedic scriptures affirm:

    The word is the indestructible God. (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 4:1, 2).

    The Supreme Leader who is the cause and governor of all creation who to protect and save sinful mankind, Himself appeared upon the earth wrapped in a body that is Holy and without sin. (Rigveda 10.125)

    References to the Suffering and Death of Christ

    Christ underwent immeasurable physical and mental pain when he was crucified. The Hindu scriptures highlight his physical suffering. Some of these statements seems to refer to Christ because there was no Hindu god or goddess who bore such suffering on behalf of sinners.

    The crown of thorns was placed on his head: The sacrificial victim is to be crowned with a crown made of thorny vines (Rigveda 10.90.7, 15).

    His clothes were divided among those who offered him. After death, His clothes are to be divided among the offerors (Ithareya Brahmanam).

    The person tied to a wooden cross: His hands and legs are to be bound to a yoopa (a wooden pole) causing blood shed (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.9.28).

    While the victim was at his greatest agony on the cross, he was given a herbal drink which had an intoxicating effect: Before death, He should be given a drink of somarasa [an intoxicating herbal juice] (Yajur Veda 31).

    Though the victim was hung on the wooden cross, none of his bones were broken: None of His bones be broken (Ithareya Brahmanam 2.6).

    The Hindu scriptures point to the efficacy of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses from sin.

    If you want to be delivered from the sin which you commit through eyes, mouth, ears and mind, bloodshed is necessary. Without shedding the blood, there is no remission for sin. That must be the blood of the Holy one. God is our creator. He is our King. When we were perishing, He came to save us by offering even his own body on our behalf. (Maha Brahmanam 4.15)

    God is the ruler of people. He will offer His body as a sacrifice, for His people; for the remission of their sins (Sama veda, part 2, Thandiya Maha Brahmanam).

    These statements clearly describe the suffering and the death of Christ. No one else qualifies. These Hindu scriptural references will be a great help to present Jesus to the orthodox Hindus. As a second step Jesus can be presented as the true incarnated God, meeting their full expectations by using Hindu scriptures themselves. ma

    These scattered but clear-cut references to Christ led some Hindu seekers of the truth to the Bible and Christ. Such people have openly embraced Christianity through baptism and witnessing marvelously for Christ.

    1Bhavishya purana is one of the eighteen puranans. Bhavishya means future. It contains a number of future events, including the information about the virgin birth of Christ and his name. It is the only scripture book which contains the name of Jesus. See Krishna Dwaipuayana Vyasa, Bhavishya Purana (Mumbai: Kemraj Shrikrishnadas, 1959).

    Philip

  • nh24 says:

    Dear Philip,
    Thnanks a whole lot for these references.

    My little brain always wonders, if god is one and every religion accepts it so, why religeous authorities invite/encourage people to undergo those formal rituals of change of faith? Would it not be a better world if people just bowed their head at all places of worship they pass by, irrespetive of their faith, because they all lead to that one. Why my God Your God, when it is only one God. Can we not have a mutual admiration society of Religions, when all religions gradually converge into a best of all, by a process of assimilation of the best of the others.

    I wish it were that simple, but still…

    Regards
    Rajeev Tivari

    • Anita says:

      Rajeev
      Even though the Hindu Scriptures mention Jesus, Jesus is still one other holy man to the Hindus. In Christianity He is seen as the messiah, who was both human and divine and with whom we can have a personal relationship. Whereas Hinduism and other religions require that we do things to get God’s approval/to reach God, in Christianity God comes down to man because God knows man cannot do anything to save himself from sin. It is Jesus who is the bridge between God and man.
      I felt compelled to write this as I am myself from a Hindu background and discovered a personal relationship with Jesus a few years ago.
      If you have any questions, please email me.
      Regards
      Anita

  • I am a seventy year old. I am writing my first book on St. Thomas. I will appreciate if you permit me to use with acknowledgement the following three photos of (1) The Palayur Church (2) The Cross Inside the Church and (3) the Pond. If any of the pictures are used, I will send a complementary copy of the book to the author
    Philip Mathai, provided his mail address is given to me. Please let me know in a week. Thank you.

  • Josh says:

    What is wrong with the syrian christians(catholic and protestant alike). I find a sick feeling when I go to thier web sites and home pages. They take great pain in establishing a farce that they are all brahmins. This is shear inferiority complex. As a historian, I can state that if it was in first century AD that st.Thomas the apostle of christ came to Kerala, there were no brahmins for him to convert. History(and not fiction) states that brahmins either from Tulu land or Tamil nadu came here only from seventh century AD. Does all these rubbish matter to the followers of christ, whose Lord told them to preach to every corner of the globe the good news! He never told them to look for jews or brahmins first. The zeal of conversion is lacking in this 2000yr old church. Just to name an example, 2000yr old syro-malabar catholic church is trying to create in-roads into kollam this decade while her sister church the true Roman catholic(Latin rite) church has saved lakhs and lakhs of converts to christ. Does it matter if the church saves brahmin or non-brahmin souls. I did’nt remember Christ exhorting his disciples to look for so called high-castes first. Correct me if I am wrong.

  • Yours Truely says:

    Nomadic Matt :
    hey ,I understood your comment.you were confusing between the christians of a middle eastern country called Syria.
    Matt ,
    this kerala syrian christians are -Syrian as in Following their Liturgy services in “Cyriac” Language.although ,the common belief of Syrian Christians are that of Native Hindu Namboodiris(Ultra orthodox kerla brahmin) by St.Thomas converted them to be Nazrani(the term christianity was not even coined at that time!) ,The Blood DNA test being carried upon by familytreedna project shows definite traits of Jews.these Syrian Christians are Middle Eastern Jews who Fled long back and from around BC 700 was settlers in Kerala.

    While there is sure “Syrian” Christians called Kananites who are Syrian immigrant Christians who are now part of Syrian Christian(catholic) diaspora.

    One thing I am still confused is ,if they are completely jewish ,then what Happened to Namboodiris?they are now around 1 lakh in numbers only!what Happened to the Namboodiris?I learned Namboodiris might have been in Kerala for very Long time much before their claiming of coming to Kerala in 4 th century.
    Good Luck.
    ==
    There are same kind of History about other Forward Cast Population of Kerala.In parts of Kottayam,there are syrian christians who were assimilated into Hinduism during a shaivaite revival of Hinduism.Some People make it a Point to share the common features of Nairs from Kottayam who are looking similar with Sharp Features unlike the Other Nairs of the state like in thrissur or palakkad.
    PS: Nairs are claimed to be immigrants from Present day Uttar-Pradesh State and Nepal(Newaris).
    while Muslims of Kerala- Maappila were many a Hindus including Namboodiris,Syrian Christians(whole community in malabar was wiped off to Islam by Tipu Sultan in Ponnani Islam centre),Thiyya and obvious arab ,middle east blood.

    • Premanand John says:

      @ yours truely — This comment by ‘Yours truely’ is not correct. There was no Shaivite conversion. Physical features are Syrian Christians and their color are not due to intermarriage with Nairs or Namboodiris. There is no evidence for such marriages. But evidences are contrary because Syrian Christians were clubbed with lower castes and they had to do oozhiyam service in Nair agricultural lands and menial service in Namboodiri cattle-sheds. Travancore History archive says: Dewan Peishcar Reddy Row was appointed Dewan in Kanni 993 M.E. (September 1817 A.D). Having attained the object of his ambition, he with the help of his master Col. Munro tried to distinguish himself in his new office. Several enactments were passed in the form of Royal Proclamations relieving the people from obnoxious imposts and restrictions. Chief among them were:- The Christian ryots were relieved from their Oozhiyam service of all description connected with the Hindu religious ceremonies. They were also exempted from attending to public work on Sundays.
      So till 1817 all Syrian Christians had to do oozhiyam service like other lower caste Hindus.
      How did the Syrian Christians get good color and physical features? It was all because of Albuquerque. The Portuguese ruled Kochi not for ten or fifteey years but for 150 years. They were the masters of Kochi and the Masharajah was only a feudatory. Albuquerque introduced the policy of mixed marriages. Any Hindu women could become a Christian by marrying a Portuguese. Untouchables and other lower caste women married Portuguese soldiers and other employees in large numbers to escape from caste cruelty and other disabilities. Soon there was a sizable Christian population of mixed marriages came into existence. Initially children of mixed marriages looked like Anglo-Indians. It was a long process of 150 years (one and a half century). Although those Christians were Roman Catholics, there were also marriages between them and Syrian Christians. This procreating process continued even after the Portuguese left Kerala because only Christians could intermarry. They did not prefer Hindus and the Christian population multiplied. As years rolled by the rosy Anglo-Indian (Portuguese-Indian) features gradually disappeared and marriages only among local Christians have developed into the present color and physical features of Syrian Christians. This has been the situation in Goa also and untouchable converts look today with white color and aristocratic features.

  • Norburt Vakayil says:

    This is very nice.

  • K. C. Thomas says:

    I want to add a brief note about Syrian Christians :

    It is generally believed (with some evidence) that Syrian Christians in Kerala are descendants of migrant Christians and of local people who accepted Christianity in early years. The word Syrian originated with the name Cyrus the liberator of Jews from captivity in biblical times, and as result, many Jews of the period took pride in associating themselves with that name. [The returning Jews called themselves Cyrian (Syrian) Jews]. The early Christians of this region continued this association by calling themselves Syrian Christians, Christ being the liberator as Cyrus had been for the Jewish people. The name Syrian therefore has nothing to do with the country of Syria or the language Syriac. Today there are four denominations of Syrian Christians in Kerala Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Jacobites, Syrian Catholic and Syrian Marthomites.
    As in Europe, Christianity in India adopted and Christianized some of the traditions of the prevalent religions of the area. As an example two Hindu traditions are taken into Christian wedding services, the minnu ceremony and the manthrakodi ceremony.
    Even in the West wedding ceremony is often referred to as tying the knot. The minnu ceremony is a literal tying the knot, and is the most important part of the wedding. The minnu is a small gold pendant (equivalent to the mangalsoothram in a Hindu wedding ceremony) with a tiny cross made of nine small dots embedded on it. The minnu is deliberately kept small (about 2 grams). The nine dots that make up the cross represent the nine fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). The groom ties the minnu around the brides neck using threads taken from brides manthrakodi. After the wedding the thread is usually replaced with a gold chain. The minnu is never reused or handed down. The woman wears it until the end of her life, whereupon it is usually donated to her church.
    The final step in the wedding is the manthrakodi ceremony. The manthrakodi is a folded sari that the groom places briefly on the brides head, symbolizing that she has now left her family and is entering into a new family.

  • Biju says:

    interesting article and some good references but as far as some references quote there is no clear evidence of the points mentioned that there were brahmins during that period ad 52……

    so how come many have made claims to a particular time frame and lineage records….

  • Priya says:

    Without understanding the role a Cambridge trained Scottish theologian, Rev Dr Claudius Buchanan, played in the creation of the various non-Catholic groups, who call themselves Syrian Christians, since his visit to Malabar Coast in 1806, it is pointless to draw conclusions about the claims by non-Catholic groups.

    Why did the non-Catholic groups suddenly start to write books in recent years and are all eager to claim to come from Palayoor? After all Palayoor has been around since time immemorial and Apostle Thomas came in 52 AD.

    There has been a lot of identity theft by European groups, aka colonial traders, who came to Kerala (Malabar Coast) since 1500. First the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. Until the British provided English education and offered study of Syriac in the CMS College in Kottayam starting 1806, such false claims didn’t exist. Locals Christians of Chavakkad Taluk were ignored because this is a very backward area which did not attract the attention of money minded European traders. Now they are trying to win fame, fortune and money by identifying with a tradition of which they have no part. Dutch conquered Kunnamkulam in 1693, and settled Dutch traders there. They are not locals! They simply borrow all the local traditions and call it their own. They use the press to spread propaganda. Just like communists.

  • Priya says:

    There are several groups of foreigners in Kerala from 1500 who are involved in identity theft of locals, who have no voices in their churches which are all controlled by powerful outsiders. The Portuguese came first in 1500. They had their center in Cochin but they had trading posts also in Kannur, Kollam, Pallipuram and Cranganore (Kodungallur). On reading the history of Portuguese in Goa, Brazil and Sri Lanka, one would find out they usually intermarried with locals. So where did all the Malayali-Portuguese go? They merged with the locals using local names! Similarly many Dutch in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Africa, stayed on, after their countries had lost the colony or trading posts. Where did the Dutch in Kerala go? The Dutch had taken over from the Portuguese in 1658 and by 1663 had made Cochin their center. They lost to British only in 1795. Where are the Dutch, known as Boers in South Africa, Burghers in Sri Lanka, etc? Where are the mixed race peoples of these European colonial traders who lived in Kerala from 1500 to 1947, the Portuguese from 1500-1663, Dutch from 1658-1795 and British until 1947? And the Dutch and British had their trade posts along Malabar and Coromandel Coast long before they actually captured the Portuguese and Dutch settlements.

    It was Rev Dr Claudius Buchanan who came along in 1806 and declared all non-Catholics, who had lived happily under Dutch from 1663 – 1795, Syrian Christians. He provided them with Syriac Bibles, Syriac Liturgy from the Middle East and thus minted for them a brand new identity. CMS missionaries provided them with English education and thus they became a successful community under British Raj.

    And now that many of them have been rich for four or five generations, they want antiquity and nobility, so they come and borrow the traditions of locals, of which they have no part. The fact that English writing skills makes it possible for them to concoct tales that they borrow from natives makes it horrible. They are particular to publish their stuff far and wide. Whereas the locals, whose traditions they are borrowing from, have not written any books!

  • Priya says:

    Arab Muslims who came as traders to Kerala and intermarried with locals are honest enough to admit their mixed race origins. The same goes for Moghuls in North India who came through the Khyber Pass and intermarried with Hindus.

    But we see no such admission about intermarriage and mixed race among the European colonial traders in Kerala. Portuguese, Dutch and British.

    The Dutch origin colonial traders have always settled in exclusive locations like Jews in Mattancherry, Cochin. They are not natives. They have just borrowed native names. Jews are known to borrow local names no matter where in the world they settle. But in Kerala, European Christians have done the same.

    This makes it a terrible nuisance for authentic locals to distinguish a foreigner. The traders mentality seen in some Christian community reflects the attitude of European traders, not locals.

    People wonder why many Christians in Kerala are so business and money minded. If they knew that it actually comes from colonial traders of Europe, they would not be surprised. All of them were good at politics and had the Hindu kings like puppets on a string.

  • kumaran says:

    I’ve some points here. As far as nambudiris population decline is concerned that is because of their sambandam practice where only the eldest son marries and younger sons were allowed only to have sambandams with nair and other caste women, in which case, the younger ones were automatically deprived of legitimate children. Their children became nairs,nambiyars,nambidis,so on…. which was the effect of matrilineal practice called marumakkathayam. Thats the reason for nambudiri population decline. And in order to get rid of this weird practice, in 1920s ems nambudiripad along with other nambudiri elders formed yogakshemam movement.

    And somebody had stated that nairs came from UP or nepal.
    There can be only one answer as far as the nairs or syrian christians are concerned. They dont belong to any race. They are the result of a pattern of crossbreeds or conglomeration of people. Of course more certainly a lot of malayalis have brahmin nambudiri blood but not alone that. There could be syrian , semitic blood as well among the syrian christians. But still they have the blood of converts from other people as well since there were a lot of conversions into syrian christian fold.

    As far as nayars are concerned , they are the utmost cross bred people in kerala. Generally in kerala, almost all of the castes has a tamil division. Among Nayars, Tamilpadam and padamangalam. Among ezhavas, pandi(pachila and malayalam being other divisions). Mukkuvans are said to have had come from pandyan madurai during a flood. Then there are asaris or vishwakarmas where there are tamil speaking section still exists. Then there are chettys like gupthan,mannadiar whose origin is from various places including tamilnadu. In palakkad , there are menon nairs whose gotra would be like veera saiva vellala whose origin was from tamilnadu.

    There are tamil vellala pillais, pattaryas , veera saivas , saliyas to this day speak malayalam as their mother tongue and identify themselves as pillais and mix with nayars .

    so there is no race called nayar or syrian christian any more. They are jus a pattern of cross breeds.In those days anobody who was educated or had money were managed to become menons.

    The claim of brahmin ancestery of syrian christians is similar to anglo-indians’ claim for english ancestry and their choice to speak english as their mother tongue. The anglo-indians have more indian ancestry than english , yet for the sake of claiming superior status emphasised english ancestry. and similiar is the case of Syrian christians.

  • walnut says:

    Those who are interested in Syrian Christian history please see http://www.nasrani.net . This website tries to demystify many legends (including brahmin stories) through articles, discussions and even science

  • lonappan says:

    I am currently now outside India,even though there are many churches here including Catholic church,inspite of be being Syro Malabar,I am not getting the feel of palli which I used to go in home.I think there should be an awareness among all the NRI Syrian Christians to be aware of their own responsibility in keeping up their tradition.Its very easy to join some other church and forget all our roots.But its we ourself who should be developing a self conscience to protecting our tradition.

  • kariachen says:

    You can also google” Cochin Jews”. Gives some more intesting views.

  • Palayoorian says:

    This is an interesting article.Somebody can point out the origin of – “Protestants and Pentecostals”

    Thanks

  • M.K Cherucheri says:

    I read all the article there are lots of confusions , and lots of questions, but still got anwer to many of my doubts. I need to add somthing that The link between the creator (God) and the Creation (Man) that is Christ. Who ever realy follow and adopt the teachings and the life of Christ will be saved. we are calling them Christian in that sense Mahathma Gandhi also a Christian.

  • Alex says:

    A lot of mis-information on Syrian Christians and the Indian (Syrian) Orthodox Church is contained in the above article (Philip Mathai) as well as in the comments of many readers. For a well-researched history of Syrian Christians, the best source in my opinion, is the book written by the late David Daniel, titled, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF INDIA, PRINTAID, NEW DELHI, 1986. It is the only book that I have come across which includes citations even for items of questionable nature so that the reader can go to the source the author has used and make up his or her mind about the authenticity of the claims. It is a pity that this scholarly book has not been revised and re-printed by the Malankara Church since it is almost impossible to get a copy of this book unless one goes to the library of a Christian Seminary!

    There is no credible evidence that there were Brahmins in Kerala when St. Thomas is alleged to have come to India. But, it is historically proven through copper plate engravings that one Cherman Perumal invited Arab (Syrian) Christian merchants to establish a trading post in Kerala in competition with the Jews who were monopolizing Malabar’s trade with the Middle East. The Arab(Syrian) merchants intermarried with local women and established the Syrian Christian churches. As to the claim, that Syrian is derived from Cyrus, there is not a shred of historical evidence in the literature that I could find.

  • A.Yeshuratnam says:

    There was a steady influx of Middle Eastern immigrants, Arabs, Persians, Syrians and others from Central Asia, long before the birth of Christianity and Islam. A very extensive trade and economic link existed directly between Kerala and the Middle East since time immemorial. The Jews claim that the first Jew arrived in Kochi in King Solomons merchant fleet (970B.C.). Logan assumes: Perhaps as early as the time of Moses, the great Jewish law-giver, this commerce existed, for cinnamon and cassia played a part in the temple services of the Jews. The Chinese and Arabs were among the prominent foreign nationals who traded with the Zamorin of Calicut. The Chinese had a small-fortified colony of their own in Calicut and it was known at that time as Chinakotta or Chinese fort. The immigrants were given the status of higher caste and they were allowed to enjoy the privileges of higher castes by the Zamorin and other kings of Kerala. St. Thomas would have converted these immigrants. When Ibn Batuta visited the Malabar Coast he found merchants not only from Arabia and Egypt, but also from Zanzibar and Ethiopia and even Tunis. It is likely St.Thomas would have converted many of these immigrants. In a caste-ridden, superstitious and conservative society, it was impossible to get higher caste Hindus to marry the immigrants. The wives and concubines of the immigrants were from untouchable castes such as mukkuvas, pariahs and Ezhavas. Kerala rulers allowed the wives and children of immigrants to enjoy the privileges of higher castes. Christian and Muslim immigrants and their native wives and their children were called Mappi;;ais and Moplahs by the local people. Conversion of the families of immigrants by St. Thomas is wroingly interpreted as conversion of Nambbooditris, although there were no Namboodiris at the tine of his arrival. Earlier texts such as Thomma Parvam are all not contemporary accounts of Ist Century A.D. but later accounts after a lapse of several hundred years, and therfore, are mere exaggeration, fabrication and imaginary. But it is a historical fact that, before the arrival of European powers, Christian immigrants and their native descendants of Kerala had links with Eastern Christianity that flourished at that time in Mesopotamia, Assyria, Syria (Aramea), Phoenicia and Egypt. The contact was only occasional due to difficulties in travel and political anarchy that prevailed in the Middle East. Syrian church in Kerala had heretical and Nestorian doctrines. The arrival of Thomas of Cana with 400 men increased Christian population when he and his companions married local women belonging to untouchable castes. He is portrayed as a Jew by some Syrian Christian families, but Armenian records and Portuguese accounts categorically say that he was an Armenian merchant.. Indias links with Persia and Mesopotamia go back to a very distant period. In 327 BC, Armenians are believed to have come to India, when some Armenians joined the auxiliary elements of the forces under the command of Alexander the Great when he crossed Armenia en route to India. Armenians were well aware of land routes to reach India, as also the general and political geography, socio-cultural milieu, and economic life of the Indian subcontinent. Flourishing Armenian settlements existed in Madras for several years. It is said that Armenians in Madras guided the Portuguese to St. Thomas tomb in Mylapore when the first Portuguese reached Madras. Armenian records say that an Armenian merchant-cum-diplomat, known as Knayi Thomman or Kanaj Tomma, meaning Thomas the merchant reached the Malabar Coast in 780 using the overland route. Thomas Cana was an affluent merchant dealing chiefly in spices and muslins. This migration of Christians, in the view of Firth, cannot be treated as historical fact. “No deeds of copper plates in the name of Thomas of Cana are now extant,” writes C.B. Firth in An Introduction to Indian Church History, “… (and) it would be rash to insist upon all the details of the story of Thomas the merchant as history. Nevertheless the main pointthe settlement in Malabar of a considerable colony of Syrians – may well be true. It is also probable that Thomas of Cana came to Kodungallor from Mylapore when there was persecution.
    Most studies of social change in Kerala have focused on the institution of caste and the extent of social mobility of various castes. Syrians at the time of the arrival of colonial powers were landless and they were not even peasant cultivators. Political and social exigencies of the period compelled them to increase Syrian Christian population by large scale conversion of lower castes, outcastes and slaves by Metrans and church leaders. Syrian Bishop Mar Coorilos met Grant Duff, the Governor of Madras, at Calicut in January1882 and gave him a lengthy account of Syrians in Kerala. He told him, This Christian community subsisted and gradually increased, both by its intrinsic elements and by the admission of new converts, from the people living in the neighborhoods of Syrian churches. (Logan, Malabar Manual, p.197). So, even before the arrival of European powers, native Syrian church had converted many local people who were not Brahmins or Nairs but only lower castes (mainly coastal mukkuvas and Ezhavas) who were known as untouchables. Syrian Christian church was the only church in Kerala before the arrival of European powers. So all untouchables who had become Christians were kmown as Syrian Christians at the time of the arrival of the Portuguese. In a traditionalistic, diehard and caste-conscious society only untouchables who were working in the churches, homes and store- houses of immigrants were available to become Christians. Nairs were a ruling class and jenmis who forced Christians to do oozhiyam service in their fields.

    • Liju Varghese says:

      Jew Immigrants from the middle east ,got converted in to Christianity -this theory seems to have a very high probability.This in various aspects from the phenotypic resemblance to the activities of trade involved by the Syrian Catholics in Kerla like banking ,finance , jewelers (as in trichur) and agriculture in the south eastern part of kerala.As in any scripts ,banking and agriculture are the predominant activities at which jews are involved world wide.

  • uditpune. says:

    Human beings are known to interact and learn from each other when they live togather in any society. There is also bound to be certain section that will be orthodox in nature . It is also known that some covert from one faith to another when they find it has something that they like or can relate to. The statement that only lower caste people become christians in the past is rubbish. Any person at any point in time in the past present or future was,is andwill accept new faith which he or she likes. Men and women have accepted new faith when they have liked it in any part of the world, irrespective of die hard society, traditionalistic and caste-conscious these factors have not been able to prevent it in totality. whether from brahim background or from lower cast background or from other faiths.

    The Syrian christians trace their origin to jewish ancestory as they came from middle east and settled in kerala during the time trade was well known between India and the middle east. later when St Thomas came to India (kerala)he converted them to christianity as he did with others like brahmins and so on and being part of one fold christian faith there was exchange of traditions, knowledge and culture and so one sees all this in the rich architure, artifacts , dress and other marterials that are clearly noticed if one were to travel and visit Syrian churches and museums. The examples of thali (the matrimonial thread tied by the bridegroom onto the neck of the bride as symbol of marriage )and saree are all part of the hindu culture which became part of syrian christians tradition along with the orthodox jewish following of sabbath where on sundays in traditional syrian christian homes in the past there would be no cooking on sabbath day or sunday as it was the seveth day or the day the lord rested as is mentioned in the bible.

  • Marthuma says:

    There are some errors in it. The church shown as Kananaya Caldean church and Well maintained cementery is represented wrongly. The Church is St Marys SYRIAN ORTHODOX Cathedral and its Cemetery which is considered the true Palayoor Church by many. The Present Palayoor Church is said to be a Kurusupalli of this ancient church. The present Playoor church was built in 17 th or 18 th century.

  • Joe says:

    These brahminic origin is not a history and just a fabricated legend. In 1st century there were no caste system or not even Hindus. Brahmin as a religion established after 7th Century only. It might have been mistaken ,as early Christians in Kerala already enjoyed some higher status ..they might be from the budhists ( as kerala was a strong budhist country on those days) religion .. and they budhists monks enjoyed high social status. Moreover teachings of Jesus and budha had similarities, so it wouldnt be an issue for them to convert to Christianity. But suppose Naboodiri’s existed.., their lifestyle ,especially ancient brahmins were different. Brahmins lived a lazy life style, and all possible dirty things. They don’t have any reason to change their religion ( which would be alien and a taboo definitely for them as they were highly religious ) But Early christians were known ( still so ) hardworking people who worked in uninhabitable lands and made their fortune and the tradition. Brahminical origin is a fabricated lie created just for survivig the catse descrimination introduced by brahmins in 8th century.

  • Alex says:

    Both in the ancient Christian historical writings of the West and Middle East as well as ancient Malayalam references to “Syrian Christians”, these groups are referred to as Nazarenes (in the west and Middle East) and Nasranees in Kerala. In the West and Middle East such references started after 400 CE. Thomas of Cana is said to have landed on the coast of Kerala in the latter part of 400 CE. In the Middle East, the Nazarenes were the so-called Jewish Christians. Was that also the case reg. Nasranees of Kerala?

    The Genome Project (National Geographic Society with labs all over the globe including India) has done some pioneering work in the spread of genes across continents and time periods! It should be easy to scientifically test as to whether the Nasranees (Syrian Christians) and the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala have identical chromosomal patterns.

    These tests are easy to do: can be done with a swab of the cheek and mailing it to a lab run by the World Genome Project.

    http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=2001246&gsk&code=SR90002

    In India, it may not cost around $ 200.00 since I am told that the lab that does this work in India is located in Madurai. The funds raised by the National Geographic Society goes for research.

  • Premanand John says:

    Contemporary Jews comprise an aggregate of ethno-religious communities whose worldwide members identify with each other through various shared religious, historical and cultural traditionsHistorical evidence suggests common origins in the Middle East, followed by migrations leading to the establishment of communities of Jews in Europe, Africa and Asia, in what is termed the Jewish DiasporaThis complex demographic history imposes special challenges in attempting to address the genetic structure of the Jewish people. But only few Jews settled in Kerala, especially at Kochi and Kodungalloor. They remained Jews and they did not become either Christians or Hindus. There were White Jews and Black Jews but there were no Christian Jews in Kerala. Jewish historians of Kerala, mainly Koder, is emphatic on this point. Thomas of Cana was not a Jew. Even his arrival is now doubted by historians. His name was used by some Syrian Christians to make a false claim that they were descendants of Thomas of Cana. According to tradition he married two local women, untouchables.
    In those days all Christians were called Nazarenes or Syrian Christians. Nazarenes were treated contemptuously by higher caste Hindus and they were calssed with untouchables. You have assumed the name of Nasrani without realizing how in the past other castes linked the name with untouchables. Abbe J.A. Dubois, a missionary in Mysore, in his letter dated August 7, 1815, writes: The Jesuits, on their first arrival in India, hearing of them, in one way or other converted the greatest part to the Catholic faith. Their liturgy is to this day in the Syrian language, and in the performance of their religious ceremonies they use this ancient dead tongue. There remains still among them large congregations, consisting of 70 or 80,000 Christians, of whom two-thirds are Catholics, and a third Nestorians. They are all designated under the contemptuous name of Nazarany, and held by the pagans in still greater contempt than the Christians of this part of the country. The Nairs chiefly keep them at a greatest distance, and they form a separate body in society. (Dubois, Abbe J.A., Letters On The State of Christianity in India, New Delhi:Associated Publishing House, (1977),p.12).

  • Premanand John says:

    @ yours truely This comment by Yours truely is not correct. There was no Shaivite conversion. Physical features are Syrian Christians and their color are not due to intermarriage with Nairs or Namboodiris. There is no evidence for such marriages. But evidences are contrary because Syrian Christians were clubbed with lower castes and they had to do oozhiyam service in Nair agricultural lands and menial service in Namboodiri cattle-sheds. Travancore History archive says: Dewan Peishcar Reddy Row was appointed Dewan in Kanni 993 M.E. (September 1817 A.D). Having attained the object of his ambition, he with the help of his master Col. Munro tried to distinguish himself in his new office. Several enactments were passed in the form of Royal Proclamations relieving the people from obnoxious imposts and restrictions. Chief among them were:- The Christian ryots were relieved from their Oozhiyam service of all description connected with the Hindu religious ceremonies. They were also exempted from attending to public work on Sundays.
    So till 1817 all Syrian Christians had to do oozhiyam service like other lower caste Hindus.
    How did the Syrian Christians get good color and physical features? It was all because of Albuquerque. The Portuguese ruled Kochi not for ten or fifteey years but for 150 years. They were the masters of Kochi and the Masharajah was only a feudatory. Albuquerque introduced the policy of mixed marriages. Any Hindu women could become a Christian by marrying a Portuguese. Untouchables and other lower caste women married Portuguese soldiers and other employees in large numbers to escape from caste cruelty and other disabilities. Soon there was a sizable Christian population of mixed marriages came into existence. Initially children of mixed marriages looked like Anglo-Indians. It was a long process of 150 years (one and a half century). Although those Christians were Roman Catholics, there were also marriages between them and Syrian Christians. This procreating process continued even after the Portuguese left Kerala because only Christians could intermarry. They did not prefer Hindus and the Christian population multiplied. As years rolled by the rosy Anglo-Indian (Portuguese-Indian) features gradually disappeared and marriages only among local Christians have developed into the present color and physical features of Syrian Christians. This has been the situation in Goa also and untouchable converts look today with white color and aristocratic features.

  • Alex says:

    A lot of these speculations about the ancestral(genetic) origins of various subgroups of Syrian Christians, viz, Knanaya, Jacobites, Chaldean etc can be easily settled by sending cheek swabs to the National Geographic’s Genome Project, as I had previously indicated on this site.

    But, the writers on this site seem to be more interested in advancing their pet theories than confront scientific facts. What a pity? Reminds me about the skeptics of evolution, global warming as well as those who still believe that this earth is no more than 10,000 years old!

    I will also not be surprised if the Moderator of this blog does not publish this comment as he expunged a previous comment of mine arguing for the application of scientific methods to settle issues of this nature rather than encourage un-verifiable speculations.

  • Premanand John says:

    @ Alex
    Even before the coming of CMS missionaries, the Syrian church converted lower castes. This is proved from the fact that there were some 30,000 Christians at the time of Coonen Cross Oath. With no Nambudiri or Jew willing to be converted, and with Nambudiri and Jewish population lesser than Syrian population, it is a clear demographic proof that Syrian Christians before the coming of the Portuguese and CMS Missionaries were from lower castes. This is confirmed by the official and authoritative statement of the Syrian Bishop Mar Coorilos when he waited, by special request, on Mr. Grant Duff, Governor of Madras, at Calicut, in January 1882, and presented to him the position of Syrian Christians in Kerala. In the memorandum submitted by him, it was narrated: In order to understand better the progress of the Catholic mission in this country, it must be noted that the present Syrian community, now composed of Catholics and Jacobites, was, at the beginning, one and the same congregation, founded in the earliest times of the church, as the bishops, who subsequently came from Persia into Malabar, communicated to them their own liturgy(which was the Syrian rite), for that reason the above-said Christians were usually called Syrians; they were also designated by the name of Thomas Christians, according to the tradition handed down from their forefathers that they had really been converted from paganism by that holy Apostle. This Christian community subsisted and gradually increased, both by its intrinsic elements and by the admission of new converts from the people living in the neighbourhood of Syrian churches. In some localities, those neophytes were very numerous, and having from the day of their conversion, resided amongst Syrians, were considered as belonging to their race. Even now, amongst those who are baptized at Verapoly, the greater part settle in Syrian parishes.It is crystal clear from the official memorandum of the Syrian Bishop Mar Coorillos that before the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in 1542, the Syrian Church baptized lower castes who alone resided in the neighbourhood of Syrian churches. We know from Kerala history that Nambudiris and Nairs resided in separate farm areas, away from churches and only mukkuvas of the coast and Ezhavas lived there. The Syrian Bishop has specifically mentioned Verapoly. Verapoly is a fishing area and fishermen assembled at the time of Coonen Cross oath. Later Portuguese priests brought them back to Roman Catholic Church. The conquest of Portuguese territories in Malabar and Cochin in 1663 by the Dutch and the expulsion of Catholic Missionaries from their territories by Dutch threatened the existence of the Vicariate of Verapoly. But the Church survived under the Indian Prelate Parambil Chandy (Alexander De Compo) whom Bishop Sebastiani had consecrated as his successor before his departure in 1663. The name Chandy is a common Syrian name now. But Mukkuvas were having this name and this Parambil Chandy kept Verapoli church under the Latin rite. So, if DNA sampling is taken today it can be scientifically proved that Syrians are not from Jewish or Nambudiri stock.

  • Alex says:

    My interests in the “Syrian Christians” and the arrival of Thomas of Cana in ?400 AD, & the presence of Knanaya and Chaldeans are purely based on my scientific interests in the study of chronic diseases which have hereditary origins.

    I am a physician and an epidemiologist with much familiarity with the Genome Project and a great deal of respect for the credibility of the “science” behind the Genome Project’s work. I am interested in encouraging as many Syrian Christians as possible to submit themselves to get an analysis of their genetic spectra. It is unfortunate that there has not been much interest either individually or collectively to get at least 100 Syrian Christians to get themselves submit to genome analysis. Perhaps, cost of testing is an issue.
    Instead, what I have seen is countless speculations, for and against the arrival of Thomas of Cana and the subsequent alleged migration of a larger group of Syrian men and women from the old Mesopotamia.

    Of the handful (less than a dozen to my knowledge) of Syrian Christians,who all live overseas and have gotten their DNA analyses done, at least 3 of them (that I know) have evidence of middle eastern origin in their maternal DNA components!

    There is no doubt in my mind that there is a reason why many forms of thyroid dysfunctions, mediterranean-types of anemia, pancreatic calculi are “allegedly” being reported by physicians in Kerala as more common among Syrian Christians than others. As an epidemiologist, two or three sparrows do not make a summer. That is the only reason, I am pitching for those who claim to be Syrian Christians to get their cheek swabs submitted for a genome analysis through the National Geographic Laboratory.

    I am told (but not sure) that there is a lab in Madurai, TN which does the cheek swab test at a lesser cost than what is charged for such tests in US, UK etc.

    The smartest and most scientifically credible method to settle this issue is thro DNA analyses and not through resorting to “history”. I know of no “history” that is written without a bias of one kind or another. I live in the US and have been to North Vietnam. There are at least six different versions of who won that war and a plethora of estimates of casualties!

  • Premanand John says:

    @Alex
    The earliest notice of the existence of Christianity in Ceylon is that of Cosmos Indoplustes, an Egyptian merchant, and afterwards a monk, who published his Christian Topography in the reign of Justinian, in order to vindicate the cosmography of the OT from what he believed to be the heresies of the Ptolemic system. Cosmos, who was himself a Nestorian, tells that in Taprobane (The ancient Greek name for Ceylon) there existed a community of believers, with an Episcopal form of discipline, priests, deacons, and a liturgy. Cosmos expressly declares that the members of the Church in Ceylon were Persians, and merely sojourners a portion, no doubt, of that concourse of merchants and travelers who then resorted to the northern parts of the island as the great depot and emporium of Eastern trade but that the natives and their kings were of a different religion. Christianity in Ceylon, Sir James Emerson Tennent, London, John Murray, 1830, p.3.) From this eyewitness description, we can understand the position of Christianity in Kerala. Persians also came to Kerala at the same time and the churches in Ceylon and Kerala were contemporaneous. Persians did not come to marry local women but to preach the Gospel and carry on trade. Most converts were the people with whom they had daily contacts, such as fishermen and women who sold fish, washer- men who washed their clothes, barbers, laborers belonging to Ezhava and other untouchable castes. But, as Cosmos has categorically said, the Persians were sojourners, merchants, and travelers. There were periodical transfers of Persian priests and the church was managed by Persians. Later when the arrival of Persian priests stopped, converted Christians managed the churches. There is no consensus about the arrival of Thomas of Cana. Some historians and researchers dispute that he actually existed at all. One thing is certain Thomas of Cana was not a Jew. Kerala Jewish history does not say a single word about the arrival of Thomas of Cana. On the contrary, some folk stories , bloated family histories like Niranam Granthavari and songs like Margamkali Pattu etc., refer to fake claims of Nambudiri or Jewish descent. But they were all not contemporary accounts, published after several centuries. The reasons for such claims were— after the Portuguese elevated Christians to superior status by appointing them as army commanders, planters, commercial agents, brokers (Tharakans) and supervisors, Christians started to make such spurious claims as Nambudiri or Jewish descant because Christians were controlling even Nairs and Nambudiris with the backing of the military power of the Portuguese.
    You are suggesting DNA analysis.But population analysis is a scientific process to know the caste of the people. According to Portuguese writers 300,000 Christians assembled at the time of Coonen Cross episode. There would not be even 5000 Nambudiris and 1000 Jews in and around Mattancherry at that time. It is a clear evidence that they were all lower caste converts. Subsequent events led to the formation of Jacobite Syrian, Syrian Catholic, CMS, Mar Thoma, Malankara and Pentecost denominations. But they all belonged to the original stock that existed at the time of Coonen Cross. But. DNA sequencing errors occur quite often while cloning and sequencing uncharacterized genes from genomic DNA.

  • Alex says:

    @Premanand John

    “But. DNA sequencing errors occur quite often while cloning and sequencing uncharacterized genes from genomic DNA.”

    With all due respects sir, I was not referring to cloning, but rather direct DNA sequencing of those who claim to be Syrian Christians.

    I am hopeful that my plea for more “science” about this “debate” will encourage more “Syrian Christians” ,at least those living in US, UK, Australia, New Zealand etc., to avail themselves of the Genome Project’s DNA analysis at a modest cost. And, if Middle Eastern origins are evident in any of the donors’ DNAs, I would like to encourage them to get registered in the Syrian Christian registry maintained by the National Geographic’s Genome Project.

    Sequencing errors in DNA studies are far, far less common than in “historical” narratives about the origins and or exploits of peoples by race and ethnicity. The selective recounting of so-called “facts” by historians is commonplace!

    The classic example pertaining to India and US is the descriptions of the performance of General Cornwallis who was roundly defeated by George Washington’s forces in the US in 1781, but was knighted by the British in 1786 for his “brave” performance and sent to India as Viceroy! British texts refer to the American Revolutionary War of 1776 as the Rebellion of the Colonies! Is’nt the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny now called the First War of Indian Independence?

    I would much rather rely on genomic studies to trace the origins of peoples than on historical accounts.

    The most recent British study (see The Hindu: Dec 10, 2012, “Europe’s first Indian immigrants”) shows thro DNA analyses that the Romani Gypsies of Europe “started out from India 1500 years ago”! The original article is in Current Biology, Dec 2012: vol 22,4,2842-49
    http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(12)01260-2?…

    I have had my final two cents’ worth on this topic and I have no interest in furthering any debate on this issue as to which is more reliable to identify the racial origins of people: DNA analyses or rifling through historical accounts. I believe in DNA analyses completely and without reservations. That is my last word on this topic. Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

  • Pattom Radhakrishnan says:

    St. Thomas visited Kerala and introduced Christianity .After St. Thomas other missionaries from Persia came to Kerala and converted many people.. The early converts in Kerala belonging to different grades in society on the basis of occupation were commonly called Christians But the name Christian was changed to Nasrani when the Arabs (Moplahs) came to Kerala. Muslims used the word Nasrani in a contemptuous and derogatory manner. Christians and Jews were hated by Muslims in the Middle East and so they used the word ‘Nasrani’ in a derogatory and spiteful manner, as the Greeks called others ‘barbarians.’ Muslims quote the Koran to call Christians and Jews as ‘Nasranis.’
    This is the basis of the verse. ” Jews say: ‘Uzair is the son of God’ and the Christians say: ‘The Messiah, son of God’. Such is their saying with their mouths; they imitate the infidels saying earlier. Allah has cursed them, how are they to turn? “(Surat al-Tawbah: 30) By this interpretation, Muslims regard Christians and Jews infidels and collectively call them Nasrani.
    Even today all Christians are contemptuously called Nasranis in the Middle East by the Arabs. In Kerala also, after the Arabs gave the derogatory name ‘Nasranis’ to Christians, Brahmins and Nairs also used that word in a derogatory and insulting manner till the arrival of colonial powers. Vrahnins and Nairs made Christians work as coolies, agricultural labourers in their farmlands and compulsory service called oozhiyam. The true economic and social condition of the Christians who were ridiculously called Nasranis was recorded by a missionary when European powers were slowly establishing their authority; Abbe J.A. Dubois, a missionary in Mysore, in his letter dated August 7, 1815, writes: The Jesuits, on their first arrival in India, hearing of them, in one way or other converted the greatest part to the Catholic faith. Their liturgy is to this day in the Syrian language, and in the performance of their religious ceremonies they use this ancient dead tongue. There remains still among them large congregations, consisting of 70 or 80,000 Christians, of whom two-thirds are Catholics, and a third Nestorians. They are all designated under the contemptuous name of Nazarany, and held by the pagans in still greater contempt than the Christians of this part of the country. The Nairs chiefly keep them at a greatest distance, and they form a separate caste.
    When the Portuguese and the British educated these hapless Christians and appointed them as soldiers, businessmen and planters, Christians ascended to top position in the fields of education, business, plantations, and commerce making Brahmins and Nairs inferiors. Gradually the contemptuous name Nasrani was given up and the words, Christians and Syrian Christians became common usage. But in Arab countries Christians are even today called in a vulgar form, Nasranis. In a recent riot in Cairo, the Huffington Post dated August 17, 2013 reported an incident
    Naguibs home supplies store on a main commercial street in the provincial capital, also called Minya, was torched this week and the flames consumed everything inside.
    “A neighbor called me and said the store was on fire. When I arrived, three extremists with knifes approached me menacingly when they realized I was the owner,” recounted Naguib. His father and brother pleaded with the men to spare him. Luckily, he said, someone shouted that a Christian boy was filming the proceedings using his cell phone, so the crowd rushed toward the boy shouting “Nusrani, Nusrani,” the Quranic word for Christians which has become a derogatory way of referring to them in today’s Egypt.

  • Thomas says:

    Nasrani is not a muslim invented word, its meaning is a follower of “Nasrayan” ie Jesus of Nazareth. If Muslims, naris or brahmins used the word contemptously, what Christians can do? For Christains, it is a proud word. Also “Syrian Christianism” and Christianity are two different things. Syrain Christianism is more concerned with brahmin ( or jewish as some claim) aristocrasy than with Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Pattom Radhakrishnan says:

    @ Thomas
    Your statement, “Syrain Christianism is more concerned with brahmin ( or jewish as some claim) aristocrasy than with Jesus of Nazareth,” is outrageous, to say the least. It is a well established historical fact that Brahmins were not in Kerala when St. Thomas visited the malabar Coast. The arrival of Nambudiri Brahmins can be traced from the date of the introduction of Sanskrit language. Probably Tamil was the lingua franca when St. Thomas was here in Kerala. Manipravalam was a literary style used in medieval liturgical texts in South India, which used an admixture of Tamil and Sanskrit. Manipravalam is termed a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil. Robert Caldwell, in his book A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Languages opines that Malayalam branched from Classical Tamil that over time gained a large amount of Sanskrit vocabulary and lost the personal terminations of verbs. Either way, it is generally agreed that by the end of 13th century a written form of the language emerged which was definitely different from Tamil. Nambudiris came to Kerala in the 7th or 8th century and Sankrit first appeared in Kerla along with Nambudiris. Malyalam enriched with Sanskrit was born only in 13th century. With this historical evidence, it is stupid to claim Brahmin connection for lower caste converts.
    Kerala History records the presence of Jews in Kochi, Mattancherry, Kodungallor and Kollam. They remained Jews and it is recorded that there were Black Jews and White Jews. Their religion was Judaism and they worshipped in their synagogues. History does not tell abour Christian Jews in Kerala. Thomas of Cana was not a jew but a merchant-adventurer either from Persia or Armenia. It is alleged that he married two lower caste women. So the Jewish claim is out of vanity and pride. Be proud of your original identity like all Christians. Why should you borrow the identity of others, when God has elevated you above all these people?

  • Thomas says:

    @Pattom Radhakrishnan

    I am not a Syrain Christain or a brahmin Christain or a jewish Christain . I am just a Christian who is not at all interested in Syrian Christains or their religion so your accusation against me is out of misunderstanding. I am not one who can authentically say about the anscestry of Syrain Christains and it bother me least whether they are brahmins or jews or syrains or any other class.But all people can boast about their heritage,culture, traditions, aristocrasy etc wheter true or false. In this way I find no wrong with Syrian Christians but equating Kerala Christianity with Syrain Christains is totally wrong as 50% of Kerala Christains do not make any brahminic or syrianic or jewish claims

  • Rajan Rajiv says:

    In Kerala history there is absolutely no evidence of Nambudhiris or Jews becoming Christians. But Syrian Christians quote some customs and marriage rituals of Brahmins to claim Brahmin ancestry. The claim of Syrian Christians that tying of thali is a proof that they are descendants of Nambudhiris is not correct because untouchables such as Parayas, Pulayas, mukkuvas, vannans and others tie thali. Paul Roche gives this account of Paraya Catholic marriage: The priest, though of higher caste, does not treat the Paraiya couple as untouchables. He blesses the couple and says Mass for them. The symbol of the wedding union is the thali. The thali is a gold medal on a yellow thin string. It is yellow because it is dyed with turmeric (Manjal). During Mass the priest blesses the thali and hands it over to the bridegroom who ties it around the neck of the bride. The priest also blesses two flower garlands and hands one each to the bridegroom and the bride who garland each other.
    Quite surprisingly, Syrian Christians also claim that Church built on the model of a Hindu temple is another proof for their Nambudhiri ancestry. But Paraya and Pulaya temples are also like Nair temples. Lamp, especially oil lamp, Kuthvilakku. Is lighted on all impotant occasions of Parayas, and this practice is also prevalent in some Syrian houses. What separates Syrian Christians from Nambudhiri Brahmin and links them to lower castes is their lifestyle and food habits. Syrian Christian settlements were seen on the coastal area and thick jungles. But Nambudhiri settlements were inside villages, near temples and tanks.Syrian Christians like Parayas eat beef and pork. But Nambudhiris are vegetarians. Jews do not eat pork. Christian Jews in Israel and Europe do not eat pork. But for Syrians, pork is a favorite dish. In convents, sisters rear pigs to supply pork to Christians on important occasions such as Christmas, Easter and Anniversaries. Another important factor that separates Syrians from Brahmins is, Nambudhiris wear a sacred thread (poonool) which is conspicuously absent in Syrian Chrisdtians. Nairs followed matrinelial system but Syrian Christians like Parayas follow patrilineal system and their surnames are generally inherited from the father and property passes to the sons. To camouflage this, people like Gigi Thomson claim, ”We are supposed to have been part of the Hindu nobility before St Thomas converted us, so many consider themselves a cut above the rest. Gigi Thomson lives in a fantasy world thinking St.Thomas converted Nambudhiris to claim nobility status without realizing the historical fact that there were no Nambudhiris when St Thomas came in the Ist century A.D. There is also no reference to the conversion of Chera kings. Nairs were also not converted, for Kerala history has recorded that Nairs used Syrian Christians to do free labour (oozhiyam) in their farmlands. So it is quite transparent that only lower castes who alone were available for conversion, were singled out for conversion. Those lower caste converts got superior status in society because during the 150 year rule of the Portuguese, the Portuguese elevated them by appointing them as soldiers, police. Brokers, accountants in their factories, planters of estates, merchants and traders, priests, teachers and trustworthy messengers and thereby elevated their economic status. The British opened schools and colleges for the lower caste converts and made them culturally superior to Nambudhiris and Nairs. Albuquerque policy of interracial marriage by which the Portuguese married Hindu women produced a race white in colour with good physical features.The Portuguese and the British elevated the Syrian community financially wealthy and educationally cultured far superior to Nambudhiris and Nairs.of today.

  • Rajan Rajiv says:

    SYRIAN CHRISTIANS AND JEWISH DIASPORA
    There are some attempts without any inscriptional or literary evidences to establish the fact that St. Thomas converted Jews in Kerala. It is claimed without any evidence that there were Jewish settlements in Kerala from the days of King Solomon It is true that Solomon’s ships came to India but it was not for bringing Jews to settle in Kerala but for the purpose of trade. Guided by Phnician pilots, manned by Phnician sailors, Phnicians and Jews sailed forth together on their distant voyages, into the southern seas. They sailed to India, to Arabia and Somaliland, and they returned with their ships laden with gold and silver, with ivory and precious stones, with apes and peacocks. It was a trading mission and Jews were not brought in the ships for staying permanently in India. In those days when the Jews were living in all comfort and luxury in their own country there was ne need for a Diaspora
    Another claim of St. Thomas Christians without any basis is that they are the descendants of the Jews who came to Kerala during Diaspora. In their fanatical bid to disown their original caste of their own country and to appropriate for themselves the Jewish link they have been propagating the view that they are the progeny of the Jews of Diaspora. But the historical events of the period and the significance of Jewish Diaspora will prove their cunning attempts are nonsensical. The first Diaspora of the Jews in recorded history is the Baylonian exile. The Jewish Diaspora actually began in the year 597 BC with the seige and fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Known as the Babylonian Captivity, a significant portion of the population of Judea was deported to Babylonia, not to Kodungalloor in Kerala. A second deportation began in 587 BC when the First Jewish Temple was destroyed. In approximately 582 BC, the Babylonian governor of Judea was assassinated and many Jews fled to Egypt and a third deportation most likely began. Many of those Jews never returned to Israel.The Diaspora continued with the Great Jewish Revolt, otherwise known as the First Jewish-Roman War, which began in the year 66 AD and ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Jews during this diaspora fled to Babylonia, Persia, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and the United States. They did not come to India.
    SHEPHERDIC JEWISH DIASPORA
    After the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 ce, the Jews spread throughout the Mediterranean world. A major community eventually formed in the towns of the Iberian peninsula. The Sephardim, from the Hebrew for Iberia (Sepharad), played a prominent role in the culture and economy of both Muslim and Christian Spain and Portugal. But in 1492, Spain’s monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, also ordered the nation’s Jews either to convert to Christianity or to leave the country under pain of death. At least 50,000 Jews–some believe as many as 300,000–were banished from Spain. Known as Sephardim from the Hebrew word for Spain , the banished settled in the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, Yemen, Italy and they did not flee to Kodungalloor in Kerala, India. A website of Syrian Malabar Nasrani makes a fake claim that during Shepherdic diaspora Jews from Yemen who came to Kodungalloor are the ancestors of Nasrani Christians. The foolishness of this argument is quite obvious in view of the fact that the Shepherdic diaspora occurred because the Jews wanted to avoid forcible conversion to Christianity. Unlike other countries, only few Jews had come to Kerala. They (White and Black Jews) did not become Christians but remained Jews and worshiped in their synagogues and not in Christian churches. How foolish it is to claim phony genealogy for the Syrians from these Jews! Dr. M. Vijayalakshmi, in a paper presented at the South Indian History Congress, has, after examining the Geniza documents of the Jews, pointed out that the Jews of Yemen who came to Kodungalloor were involved in trade and had depots in Kollam and Pantalyani Kollam. So they were not Christians but Jewish traders.
    Why some haughty Syrian Christians are struggling hard to usurp the caste of others? Before Internet became popular, they used fake family history such as Niranam Granthavari and manipulated dance songs to expropriate Namboothiri and Jewish caste. They were not contemporary accounts but produced in the 18th century. When Kerala historians such as William Logan, Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai, Keasavan Veluthat and M.G.S. Narayanan pointed out that there were no Namboothiris in the 1st century in Kerala, Syrians gradually gave up Namboothiri descent. Now the new infatuation is about Assyrian and Jewish descent. At the time of persecution, the Assyrians migrated to Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Persia and not India. Even 5th century B.C. migrations of the Sakhas, Bacterians and Huns are recorded in Indian History. But there is absolutely no reference to Assyrian migration. It is a new distorted invention of some Syrians. CMS Missionary diaries and Reports tell us about largescale conversion of untouchables and slaves in Kottayam, Mallappally, Mundakkayam, Kochi, Alappuzha, Kodukulanji, Chengannur, Mavelikara and other areas. At the Coonen Cross episode there were 200,000 people to take the pledge. Was it possible to get 50 Jews or 1000 Namboothiris from Mattancherry.?So they were all lower castes. And yet, manipulated DNA is produced to show that a descendant of an Ezhava converted by Norton has Jewish blood. What a shame!

  • Alex says:

    Rajan Rajiv’s essay here, cites no references to which a reader can turn to assess the validity any of Sri.Rajiv’s assertions. Even to read all the above “stuff” on Syrian Christians is a waste of time.

  • Premanand John says:

    Historical events in Kerala show that Syrian Christians were local converts, especially from Mukkuva and Ezhava castes. In the Synod of Diamper, Archbishop Menzes gave equal freedom and status to out-caste converts such as Parayas and Pulayas. This was opposed by Ezhava and Mukkuva St. Thomas Christians who formed the majority of congregation. So in a compromise formula of the Synod, Pulayas and Parayas were allowed to sit in the portico of the church. There is no historical proof that St. Thomas converted Nambudhiris. M. G. S. Narayanan says: This situation helps us to confirm that the ancestors of present day Nambudiris established their temple-centred Gramas in the span of the 8th-9th centuries. As the Brahmins in the historical epochs have always been clan-conscious and conservative, they must have been Brahmins by birth only. They are found to have followed the laws of Dharmasastra texts according to the internal epigraphic evidence. There is no question of conversion of non-Brahmins or the recruitment of non-Brahmins as Brahmins into the Brahmin fold, as these practices are foreign to Dharmasastra literature. It is clear there were no Nambudiris when St. Thomas visited Kerala in the 1st century. There was also no Assyrian Christian migration to Kerala. The 200,000 strong crowd at Coonen Cross pledge site did not consist of Nambudhiris or Assyrians or Jews but converts Mukkuvas of the coast and Ezhavas who alone could be collected by Archdeacon George.

  • Siva says:

    What is this discussion?

    The christian religion is fake. What evidence is there of jesus or
    Mary? None. It’s all fairy tales like Cinderella.

    You people hypnotised the Kerala kings and converted them. Then
    you made them sign various documents.
    Hypnosis techniques were published by missions as early as 16 th century.
    You can just search archive documents.

    You went to North east India and used same hypnosis on the local
    tribes. You ruined the 10,000 years culture and heritage of those
    people. I assure you they are now going back to the native
    traditions. It will take time no doubt. But they are now rediscovering their roots.

    Do you think we don’t know these tricks and techniques? You use
    the same mass hysteria type of techniques with poor people in
    Tamil Nadu. Have you no aukaad? Have you no humanity feelings?

    You fooled people for 2000 years. This is the internet age. Your lies
    will now be exposed.

    India gave you protection and a safe place to have a family. Now
    you do this namak haraam?

    I am from hubli. I see your fake priests everyday doing pseudo
    magic in my city and surrounding villages.

  • Devaprathap Raja says:

    According to Syrian Christian tradition St. Thomas came to Kerala in 52 A.D., and converted some Nambudiri Brahmin families such as Kalli, Kaliankara, Sankarapuri, Madapur, Vyampalli, Muttedal, Kottakara, Panakamattom, and Pakalomattom . These names of Nambudiri families are fictitious and cannot be traced in any of the records of Nambudiri Brahmins. Besides, this tradition evolved at a much later date and was not a contemporary account. These fictional names are being maintained to legitimize fanciful claims. Syrian Christian tradition and many other legends found in ancient Christian songs like the Veeradian Pattu, Thomma Parvom, and Margom Kali Pattu, claim conversion of Nambudiri Brahmins by St. Thomas. But all these songs originated after more than thousand years or much later, and not composed in the first century when St.Thomas was in Kerala. Conflicting dates, AD 1601 and AD 1792, assigned to these works give room for suspicion about their authenticity. Even the composers name, Ramban Thomas, alleged to be a Nambudiri Brahmin, is highly doubtful as there was no such person in Nambudiri records. The notable document concerning St Thomas is the Acta Thoma attributed to a Syrian named Bardasanes , an apocryphal work bearing transparent signs of its Gnostic origin. It was preserved with some modifications in Greek and in Syriac. It also tells about the missionary activities of St. Thomas and his martyrdom. But this work too was of a later origin and different dates are given by scholars, AD 220 or AD 400. According to another Syrian Christian tradition four Nambudiri families of Niranam, Tayyil, Pattamukkil, Manki and Madathilen of Thiruvalla were converted by St.Thomas. But there is no historical evidence about these Nambudiri settlements in Thiruvalla in the 1st century AD. It is probable that some fugitive St Thomas Christians of Mylapore or lower caste converts would have used these fabricated names with the false claim they were Nambudiri converts to avoid persecution by caste-Hindus. None of the Nambudiri records has also any reference to the existence of converted Nambudiri settlements in Thiruvalla in the 1st century AD or the conversion of their community members. Even in the Brahmin tradition found in Keralolpatti there is no reference at all to the conversion of Nambudiris, although it tells about a certain Thomman, an opponent of all Vedas, came to Malabar and converted many prominent people in the land, including the reigning king, Bana Perumal. But Keralolpatti, embellished with myths and legends, was a compilation of 18th century to bolster the superiority and authority of Brahmins in Kerala and not a contemporary narration. It is likely that the Mylapore migrants and local converts, mostly untouchables such as Ezhavas and other outcastes, who moved into Thiruvalla from other areas coined new family names or adopted locality names of Niranam, Tayyil, Pattamukil, Manki and Madathilen and claimed for themselves superior status to hide their past. It must be borne in mind that the converted untouchables and slaves were fleeing from their original places to other areas to escape persecution and punishment. With no Nambudiri or Nayar available for conversion in Thiruvalla and nearby regions, the emergence of a large Syrian population in that region is a clear proof that they were all from lower castes.
    The claim for the existence of Nambudiri Christian settlements in Thiruvalla was a mixture of fable, hearsay and calculated false propaganda which has made even foreign writers think that it was a fact of history. It is a stark reality that it was due to large scale conversion of untouchables, especially Ezhavas that Christian settlements arose in those areas. Logan points out that the Nambudhiri settlements were mostly in the Calicut, Ernad, Walluvanad and Ponnani taluks of Malabar, and in the Cochin territory in North Travancore. No Nambudiri family of pure birth had settled to the south of the Kollam River in the 1st century AD. Francis Day and Samuel Mateer also affirm that the Travancore Rajas have in vain tried every means in their power to induce them to reside there. It is quite improbable, therefore, that Nambudiri settlements existed in Thiruvalla area when St. Thomas or at a later period when Thomas of Cana came to Kerala. Missionary records give us an idea of how new settlements of lower caste and untouchable Christians came into existence in different places and how those converts were tutored to assume for themselves the status of higher castes just to escape persecution by upper caste Hindus. As S.N. Sadasivan, an eminent research scholar who has gone through missionary records, points out: From the beginning it was the practice of the converts to leave their native village and settle down in a place normally few miles away or as a distant station as possible and to take up avocations other than that of their caste for intelligible reasons. It has enabled them to conceal their past, sever from their close relations and claim a status better than that of their unconverted brethren still struggling to stand up against their neighbouring caste-Hindus, in the new environment they had chosen. The first missionary who understood this social value of this mobility and anonymity was Joseph Peet who always for the safety of his converts from slave caste sent them to other places where they could make new claims and build up a better image for themselves.

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