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Without a Doubt

As much as any of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus Christ — as much as Peter, as much as Paul — Thomas has captivated the imagination of modern western Christians. They tend to identify with a doubter. They want to know him better. In modern religious art he is often depicted moving his hand (sometimes tentatively, sometimes boldly) toward the wound in Christ’s side. In the far east, however, and especially in India, Thomas has always been revered as the great apostle, the man who did for the orient what Peter and Paul did for the occident.

Thomas was a devout Jew who grew up in a unique vassal kingdom within the Roman Empire. There, children and young men learned their trades from their fathers. They learned the law in the synagogue. The rest of the world judged Palestinian Jewish culture to be strange, idiosyncratic, and intractable. Thomas and his countrymen saw it a different way: God had chosen them and given them a way of life that set them apart from other nations.

Into Thomas’s ordinary life came a rabbi named Jesus, who changed him, changed his life, changed his plans. Thomas experienced many adventures in Jesus’ company before traveling — as a rabbi himself — to the distant and exotic land of India, a climate and a culture quite unlike his own. Legend has it that India fell to him by lot when the apostles were allowing God to determine their future. Thomas drew the straw tagged for the very ends of the earth.

According to ancient traditions, Thomas voyaged along the trade routes; and, like Paul, he went first to the Jews of his adopted country. Over the course of many years in India, he preached, worked miracles, and inspired conversions, until a fateful final confrontation with the local priests of the goddess Kali.

A vibrant, distinctive Christianity grew from his gospel seeds. And the word spread. There is ample testimony from the era of the Fathers confirming Thomas’s apostolate in India: the Syriac Acts of Thomas describe it in detail; Clement of Alexandria mentions is, as do The Didascalia Apostolorum, Origen, Eusebius, Arnobius, Ephrem, Gregory Nazianzen, Cyrillonas, Ambrose, Gaudentius, Jerome, Rufinus, Theodoret, Paulinus, Jacob of Sarug, Gregory of Tours, Isidore of Seville, and many others.

And Thomas’s deeds were never forgotten in India itself, where Christianity has endured in spite of tremendous difficulties. There are pilgrimage sites related to the apostle’s life and death — they were popular destinations even in the time of the Fathers — and several epic poems about Thomas have been passed down by Christians for generations. (There are even popular Hindu poems about him!) Curiously, these ancient songs preserve certain telltale archaic forms of expression that we find in the Acts of the Apostles — referring to Christianity as “The Way,” for example. These, too, could be evidence of great antiquity.

Marco Polo heard the oral traditions when he visited India. So did the Portuguese traders who colonized the lands in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They made voluminous records of all they found. The traditions made their way, via missionaries, to the New World. There, the first generation of Aztec and Maya to convert to Christianity read Thomas back into their own history; and legends emerged of the apostle’s fabulous voyage to Central America. When those American tribes read the gospels and the histories of the church, they could imagine Thomas, alone of the apostles, coming to them with the good news.

Recent bestsellers often present Thomas in terms of so-called “gospels” that bore his name. Those texts are certainly ancient, and they are fascinating in an esoteric way. But they do not even pretend to be historical; nor do they present a character of any human warmth, a Thomas whom readers can come to know. Instead, “Doubting Thomas” appears as a useful peg on which to hang sectarian doctrine.

But Thomas was not the sort of seemingly disembodied spirit we encounter in the pseudonymous gospels that borrow his name. He was a particular man of flesh and blood who lived in a particular time and place. He took particular hardships upon his flesh (harsh travel, demanding asceticism, persecution and abuse) and he shed his blood at a particular moment, all for the sake of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pope Paul VI wrote a letter on the 1,900th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Thomas, in 1972 — an important papal acknowledgment of the Indian tradition. Pope John Paul II also made several references to Thomas’s life and death in India.

Some critical scholars (of course) dismiss the accounts of Thomas in India. But India’s historians have subjected the evidence to rigorous scrutiny in recent years, and even many Hindus have come to affirm its possibility and even probability. I’m definitely with them, and I hope to write a book on the subject in the not too distant future. I invite you to read a couple of books and study the matter for yourself. They’re not available in the United States, so you have to order them from India. (For such purchases I have received the best service from Merging Currents, a U.S.-based import company.) The books are A.M. Mundadan’s History of Christianity in India (Volume 1: From the Beginning up to the Middle of the Sixteenth Century) and George Menachery’s massive collection The Nazranies.

While you’re waiting for your books to arrive, please pray Thomas’s intercession for the Christians of India, some of whom have endured subtle (and not so subtle) persecution in recent years. The blood of the apostle is the seed of their Church. We can be certain it will flourish in peace in due season.

Oh, and one more thing: St. John’s gospel gives us no indication that “doubting” Thomas took Jesus up on the offer to explore the wound in His side. That’s an imaginative leap that many artists have been willing to make. But all we know from the New Testament is that Thomas made the leap of faith.

19 thoughts on “Without a Doubt

  1. Great news & inormation!

    But, to me, what is so wickedly cool is the fact that many non-Christian Indians are taking a sober, hard, look at what many so-called “Catholic scholars” sem all too eager t dismiss as “chldrens’ stories of St. Thomas in India, etc.”

    Keep up the good work…

  2. Great article.

  3. Thanks for the gripping and illuminating article.

  4. To me, faith in St. Thomas The Apostle and St. Thomas Aquinas is essential to begin to scope the full range of human potential from doubt, the source of all knowledge, to certitude, derived by the rules Aristotle prescribed 350 BC, for all that is in between up to true knowledge.
    St. Thomas Aquines defines Speculation as the human ability which most mirrors the devine, like “in the image of God.”
    Speculation leads us to the previously unexistent, which may be for the good, and the Glory and Honor of God, like medieval monks said, provided we use a measure of doubt, like St. Thomas the Apostle, to try to insure we have not been led astray by the influence of evil, or sin.
    Or, perhish the thought, our own limitations.

  5. I look forward to you writing a book on this subject!

  6. The best account I have come across. Excellent.At Kerala,South India, the Vincentians run the biggest Christian Retreat Centre in the world.

    Although Catholic it never features in any catholic News.How come? One wonders what St Thomas must think.

  7. I simply love anything about St Thomas.
    Please carryn giving us more.

  8. Who was the artist that made the imaginative leap and has his work at one of the side Altars in the Vatican? I love that painting. Anna

  9. If Thomas was the doubter why was he the only one to leave the upper room. Why wasn’t he afraid to to go and get food.Maybe he thought the others were seeing things because they were afraid?

  10. For Thomas in India may I suggest two chapters by Prof. George Menachery from “Kodungallur City of St. Thomas” alias “Kodungallur Cradle of Christianity in India”: They might be a little too long, am afraid. I dont know what length is allowed.

    Prof. George Menachery & Fr. Werner Chakkalakkal, CMI

    Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine 2000

    The impressive facade and the granite obelisk double-cross at Puthenchira, the seat of the last Archbishops of Kodungallur.

    Published by Fr. J.B. Puthur, CMI, Rector, Marthoma Pontifical Shrine, Azhikode – Kodungallur.
    Typeset by Ben Computers, Thrissur
    Printed at Ebenezer, Thrissur
    Released by H. Em. Joachim Cardinal Meisner on January 10, 2001 at Kodungallur, Price Rs. 75.00
    Copyright © 2000 by MPS


    Kodungallur, known as Musiris in the whole ancient world, and where St. Thomas the Apostle first landed in our India, was till the 15th century the “Rome” of India both as the centre of the Indian Church and as its gateway to world-trade through its famous harbour at the mouth of the river Periyar.

    Hence it was most appropriate to choose Azhikode-Kodungallur for the Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine to deposit the relic of the right arm of Apostle Thomas brought by Cardinal Tisserant in the year 1953.

    Although we do not claim to have presented all that could be said about Kodungallur or the Apostle’s visit to Kodungallur here in this brief study prepared at short notice, we hope that some of the new threads of thought traced therein could be the starting point for fresh studies on the Apostle and his mission to India and to Kerala. Our attempts to draw the attention of the reader to the vast body of resources on the topics dealt with we hope will be of special use in promoting research into the glorious past of the land and the people here and into the captivating story of the Church in India. Of especial use might be the many references to local sources from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, numismatics, customs, traditions, folklore, place-name studies, geography, trade and commerce, art and architecture, literatures…In this connection we are glad to inform our readers that many of the classical source books mentioned are now available in a reprinted form in such works as the Indian Church History Classics (The Nazranies), The Thomapedia, and various other such publications.
    May Thomas and his Master guide and protect our Church and Country.

    Ollur, Thrissur City
    Christmas 2000

    C O N T E N T S

    Chapter I

    Cranganore : Past and Present
    The Glory that was Cranganore
    Kodungallur Today
    Ancient Primacy of Cranganore
    Agreement of 20th Century Historians
    Ancient Indian, Greek, and Roman Authors
    Pepper : Yavana Priya
    Roman Coins
    Chapter II

    Special Problems of Indian History
    The “Thomas Question” in the course of centuries
    APOSTLE THOMAS IN INDIA : Early Testimonies
    Kodungallur as the See of St. Thomas
    Chapter III

    The Secular Story
    The Early Church of Kodungallur
    Metropolitan of All-India
    Mediaeval Church of Kodungallur
    Pattern of Society in Mediaeval Kodungallur
    Encounter with the Christian West
    Century of Transition
    Eclipse and the Dawn
    Chapter IV

    Veneration of the Tomb in India
    Translation of the Relics to Edessa
    From Edessa to Chios
    At Ortona
    Mylapore Tomb down the Centuries
    “Second Landing” of Thomas at Kodungallur
    Chapter V

    An Afterword
    Kodungallur : Mission Headquarters
    Kodungallur : Mission Successful
    The Seventy-two Privileges
    Incidents at Kodungallur
    The Cap – Bearer
    The Royal Couple
    Spread of christianity in kerala
    Coastal Expansion
    Geographical Dispersion

    Common roots of christianity in india





    K.P. Padmanabha Menon, writing at the dawn of this century, laments:

    The present condition of Cranganore is, indeed, deplorable. Having continued to be prosperous and important almost from pre-historic times till the middle of the 14th century, it has since fallen into complete ruin and decay.

    Cranganore was already on the decline when the Portuguese arrived in India. “Years ago,” says the Revd. Richard Collins, “by one of those strange vicissitudes which so often mark the progress of time, Cranganore was shorn of her glory. It was no Nebuchadnezzar, no Alexander, no Titus, that blotted out her name from history, and ‘laid her stones and her timbers and her dust in the midst of the waters;’ and made her ‘a place to spread nets upon’ – a mere village, as she is now, of a few fishermen’s huts. She fell a prey to the geological instability of the coast, before referred to. Like so many things of the earth, the very foundation on which she was built was insecure; the entrance to her harbour became choked up; the remorseless monsoon washed away her bulwarks, and, losing her trade, she lost also her inhabitants”.

    The opening of the Cochin outlet for the discharge of the monsoon flood of waters into the sea and the consequent choking up of the Cranganore outlet led to the forming of the present beautiful harbour of Cochin. That tolled the deathknell of the commercial prosperity of Cranganore. Deprived of its natural harbour, it gradually dwindled into insignificance. Its trade fled northwards to Calicut and southwards to the new harbour of Cochin, and with its trade its prosperity also. The subsequent efforts of the Portuguese to revive Cranganore were of no avail, and it now remains only a name in history.

    Pliny described Cranganore as primum emporium Indiae. Well did it deserve that proud distinction. Situated on the coast, eighteen miles to the north of Cochin, at a place where the great rivers that form the only means of comunication with the interior debouched into the sea, it attained an unrivalled prosperity from very early times.

    It was through this port that the Hindus received from the Phoenicians their art of writing; it must have been from this port that the shipmen of Solomon of Israel, ‘that knew the sea’, obtained their valuable cargoes of gold, ivory, sandalwood, etc.

    It was to this port that the Greek merchant and mariner Hippalos, that Columbus of ancient times, in his voyage for the discovery of a sea-route to India, was carried by the western monsoons.

    It was here, according to common tradition, that the Apostle St. Thomas landed first, planted the Cross and preached Christianity in the opening years of the first century of the Christian Era (52 A.D).

    It was here, not long after, that the Jews arrived after the destruction of the second temple and the final desolation of Jerusalem (A.D. 69) and founded a colony.

    It was at this port, that the Romans had, according to one version of the Peutinger Tables, set up a temple of Augustus and stationed a garrison to protect their trade.

    It was here that Thomas Cana landed from Syria, when he brought with him a fresh colony of Syrian Christians.

    It was here that the early Chera Kings had their seat, and the Chera king Chenkudduvan held his prosperous court, and ruled over the Chera Empire in the first century of the Christian era.

    St. Thomas stamp brought out by the Government of India in connection with the Bombay International Eucharistic Congress and the visit of Pope Paul VI to India in 1964.

    Government of India’s St. Thomas 19th death centenary stamp released on 3rd July 1973.

    It was here that the great Cheraman Perumal, Bhaskara Ravi Varma, lived and ruled over Kerala prosperously for thrice the period of his allotted term. It was here that he was visited by certain Muhammadan pilgrims, who, according to tradition, succeeded in inducing the Perumal to turn Muhammadan and undertake the Haj; it was here that the Perumal, on the eve of his renunciation of religion and empire and embarkation for Mecca, is reputed to have distributed Malabar among the many princes who own it even now; it was here that his emissaries from Mecca founded a Muhammadan colony and built the first mosque in Malabar.

    The Portuguese, the first European nation to arrive and to found an empire in India, had seriously thought of making Cranganore their seat of Government, but preferred Cochin, as that place offered, since the formation of the harbour there in the year 1341, a better site. Nevertheless, the Portuguese fortified Cranganore and made it the seat of the first Roman Catholic Arch-bishopric in India. The Dutch ousted the Portuguese, and were of opinion that Cranganore was the key of Malabar. Verily it proved to be too, when Hyder and Tippu led the Mysorean hordes to the west coast. The purchase by Travancore of the fort of Cranganore and its destruction by Tippu led to the third Mysorean war, at the close of which Malabar passed into the possession of the English, who had, as early as 1616, established a factory there, and entered into a treaty with the Zamorin, perhaps the very first treaty between the English and an Indian sovereign.

    At present, the site of the fort is a wilderness which is being gradually cleared and brought under cultivation. Where once the noble Cathedral walls resounded to the sonorous prayers chanted by the Roman Catholic priests, the jackals now keep up a chorus of monotonous howling. The old fort is no more. It is in utter ruins. Even its very site is soon changing its configuration. Its old moat is a haunt of crocodiles and paddy birds. The solitary tower that had for years withstood the corroding influence of the dashing waves has at last succumbed and fallen into the backwater.

    “The solitary stranger”, says Day, “perhaps disturbs a snake in his path or an owl in the dense overhanging trees, but rarely a mortal will meet his eye.” What strange tales would history unfold if only the gift of speech were allowed to the stones and pebbles that lie embedded in the bosom of the river that flows by the once famous fort of Cranganore! (History of Kerala , I)


    The city of Kodungallur, known variously by Muziris, Shinkli, Cranganore and by many another name1 down the centuries, stood at the meeting-place of different trade routes connecting the East with the West and the North with the South. These trade – routes, which carried the bulk of the traffic passing by sea between India and foreign parts, played an all important part in the history of Cranganore, for it must have been mainly to them that the city owed its initial existence as well as its subsequent prosperity and greatness, and it was due to their diversion or decline, when trade contacts with foreign countries were interrupted, that Cranganore sank eventually into insignificance. 2

    Oceanic Trade Routes to the West, North and the East

    While the monsoon route connected Muziris (Cranganore) directly across the Arabian Sea with cities in the west (e.g. Alexandria, Aden) the West Coastal route gave its ships ready access to the Indus (leading to Taxila) and Ctesiphon by land and beyond to Ormuz and Mesopotamia. a third route, hugging the coast of East Asia linked the Imperial Capital of the Cheras with the Mouth of the Ganges and with China. 3


    A chain of backwaters/lagoons running parallel to the sea receive the drainage of the rivers flowing down from the hills and meet the sea at Cranganore and nearby Chettuvai. These backwaters with their subsidiary canals stretch to Trivandrum, almost at the Southern end of Kerala, and to Ponnani in the the North and have numerous branches leading towards the interior. Almost throughout their length they are navigable for all sizes of country boats throughout the year.4 They are affected by flood tides twice in every 24 hours, except during the monsoon months, when the frequency is according to the volume of the freshes. 5 The accessibility of Cranganore, by sea and by the backwaters, made it the foremost trading station of Kerala and India both for internal and foreign commerce. 6


    Kodungallur was in the administrative Taluk of Kodungallur in the Trichur District of the erstwhile Cochin State. The Trichur District of Kerala which is identical with the central region of Kerala is rich in history and cultural tradition. Of all the administrative divisions of Kerala State this district holds out the greatest fascination to the student of ancient history, archaeology and culture.

    After the birth of the new Kerala State of the Indian Union on November 1, 1956 a number of changes have been effected in the administrative division of the District and Revenue Division of Trichur making comparison of demographic growth/decline figures somewhat complicated. At present Kodungallur Taluk consists of 9 villages with Kodungallur as headquarters. 7

    This coastal town, situated 40 Kms. to South-West of Trichur lies in 10o 100 North latitude and 76o 10o East longitude. 8 According to the census of 1931 (Cochin State) Christians were 6% of the population in the Taluk compared with 29% in the Trichur Taluk, 32% in the Mukundapuram Taluk and 40% in the Cochin – Kanayannur Taluk.

    The Marthoma Political Shrine, Azhikode is 46 kms, from Thrissur 45 kms, From Ernakulam and 6 kms, From Kodungallur

    Industries and Institutions

    The main industries of the area are connected with the manufacture of coir, mats and handloom clothes. The Government have set up a fishing centre at Azhicode and plans are under way to develop Cranganore as a major fishing harbour on the west coast. There are today a number of educational institutions and Government offices at Kodungallur. The nearest big town is Irinjalakuda some 16 Kms. away. Cochin is at a distance of 25 Km. by road after crossing a ferry(1984).


    Azicode is the present harbour area near Kodungallur at the mouth of the river, which recalls the ancient Muziris harbour. This was what prompted the Shrine to receive the Relics of St. Thomas to be built in Azhikode. The area of Azhicode Village in 1971 was 18.27 Km2 with a population of 12580. according to a very recent survey made in 1987 by Marthoma Social Mission which covered 1021 families (6275 pop.), the religious break-up is as follows:

    Hindus-37% (High Caste 7%, Ezhavas 75%, Other backward communities 18%)

    Christians-11% (Latin Rite 90%, Syrian Rite 10%)


    Almost 80% of the families live by fishing, mat weaving or doing coolie-labour.

    Temples and Mosques

    Kodungallur is famous for its ancient temples which are among the worthy specimens of the Kerala style of architecture. One of the earliest is the Siva Temple at Tiruvanchikulam in Cranganore Taluk, which is said to have been founded by the Saivaite saint Sundara Murthi Nayanar and his royal friend Cheraman Perumal Nayanar.

    The Kiztali Siva Temple, one of the 18 Tali Temples of Kerala, is situated very near to the Tiruvanchikulam temple. Moreover in Cranganore, there is also the famous Kurumba Bhaghavati Temple supposed to have been built in the Sangam age to commemorate the martyrdom of Kannaki. Kannaki is depicted as the ideal wife in the celebrated legend of Kovalan and Kannaki, presented in the Tamil epic Silappathikaram. Chenkuttuvan enshrined her as the goddess of Chastity.

    It was mentioned earlier how the first mosque in India was founded here in 629 by the followers of Cheraman Perumal, believed to have been converted to Islam. The present Cheraman Masjid stands on the site of the original mosque built in Kerala style.

    Oldest of the existing Christian churches is the Kottapuram Church near Kodungallur, further up the mouth of the river, where the Portuguese built a fortress. More about the history of the churches will be dealt with in later chapters.



    Almost all historians who have written about South India are uniformly of opinion that for considerable periods of time Cranganore was the pre-eminent trading station of India, at least as far as seaborne commerce was concerned.

    K. P. Padmanabha Menon : “Of all places in Malabar, Cranganore is perhaps the most important from a historic point of view. We catch glimpses of its early glory through a long vista of misty antiquity. Situated on the western sea-board at a point where the river system that afforded untold facilities for communication with the interior opened its mouth into the sea, Cranganore formed a great emporium of trade from very early times. The Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, each in turn, carried on commerce with the East.”9

    V. Nagam Aiya : “Varaha Mihira, the great Hindu astrnomer (who lived about the year 550 A.D.) notices in his Brihtsamhita both the country and the people by the names of Kerala and Kairalakas, and mentions Baladevapattanam and Marichipattanam as important towns in Kerala. Kern, Varaha Mihira’s translator, identifies these places with the Baliapattana and the Muziris of Ptolemy and other Greek geographers respectively.” 10

    T.K. Velu Pillai : “Muziris was in ancient times the most important seaport in the east. From the Chera country was exported to the nations of the west, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and other spices. This commercial intercourse drained the gold of Europe into India to such an extent that, so far back as the first century A.D., Pliny calculated that fully a hundred million sesterces were withdrawn from the Roman Empire to purchase ‘useless’ articles from the east.” 11

    K.M. Panikkar : “The great hoards of Roman coins discovered in Kerala bear ample witness to the extensive character of this trade.

    “The main port in Kerala which was the centre of this trade, as Pliny says, was Muziris or Cranganore. It was known in Kerala as Muyirikkodu – it is so mentioned in the so called Christian plates. The earlier Tamil poets allude to it as Mucciri. Periplus mentions that Muziris is a city at the height of prosperity frequented as it is by ships from Arriake and by Greek ships from Egypt. The exports of Kerala consisted mainly of ‘pearl in considerable quantity and of superior quality; pepper in larger quantities and gems of every variety’”12

    A. Galletti and The Rev. P. Groot : “………….. Vypeen, which stretches from the Cochin to the Cranganore passage from the sea to the backwater. The spot is one of great historic interest. Cranganore (Kudangalur) said to have been formerly Muyiricodu, has been confidently identified with the Muziris of the ancients, the greatest emporium of India according to Pliny the Elder, which stood ‘on a river two miles from its mouth’, according to the Periplus Maris Erythraei, the river being known as the Pseudostomos or False Mouth, a correct translation of Alimukam, as the mouth of the Periyar is still called. The Greek or other traders of the Roman Province of Egypt were probably as familiar as the Portuguese with the low land or islands fringed with cocoanut trees to the water’s edge of the river and lagoons about Cranganore. These lagoons were the first settlement of the Portuguese when they re-discovered India and established themselves almost simultaneously at Cochin near one passage into the backwater and near Cranganore at Palliport, where the well-preserved remains of their small three-storied octagonal castle built in 1507 A.D. are still to be seen. At Ayacotta, near Palliport, Van der Meyden met the heir of the Zamorin of Calicut and the King of Cranganore and later on the Zamorin in person, and it was agreed to attack the Portuguese forts of Palliport and Cranganore, to divide the loot if the attack should be successful, the Dutch to keep Christian captives, all Portuguese priests to be expelled, the forts to be pulled down, expenses to be shared, the land revenue and other taxes to be shared, the Dutch to administer justice, the Dutch to have all pepper at a fixed price except one-third which the native chiefs or their merchants should keep for their own trade.”13

    Col. Yule : “It is to Cranganore that all Malabar traditions point as their oldest seaport of renown; to the Christians it was the landing place of St. Thomas the Apostle. The tradition is that the Apostle landed on Malankara, a small island in the lagoon or backwater close to Cranganore in A.D. 52., and planted Christianity for the first time in India; and it is significant that the Metropolitan of the Jacobite Syrians in Malabar still takes his title Bishop of Malankara from that little island.” 14

    Erakkaddur Thyankannanar : The early Tamil poet Erakkaddur Thyankannanar describes Muchiri (Muziris) or Kodungallur (Cranganore) situated near the mouth of the Periyar as follows: “The thriving town of Muchir – where the beautiful large ships of the Yavanas, bringing gold, come splashing the white foam on the waters of the Periyar, which belongs to the Cherala (Chera or Kerala) and return laden with pepper.” 15

    Paranar : “Fish is bartered for paddy, which is brought in baskets to the houses; sacks of Pepper are brought from the houses to the market; the gold received from ships, in exchange for articles sold, is brought on shore in barges at Muchiri, where the music of the surging sea never ceases, and where Kudduvan (the Chera king) presents to visitors, the rare products of the seas and mountain”. 16

    Vincent Smith : “The Tamil land had the good fortune to possess three precious commodities, not procurable elsewhere, namely, pepper, pearls and beryls. Pepper fetched an enormous price in the markets of Europe………… Thamil States maintained powerful navies and were visited freely by ships from both east and west, which brought together merchants of various places eager to buy the pearls, pepper, beryls and other choice commodities of India, and to pay for them with the gold, silver and art-ware of Europe”.17

    Bjorn Landstrom : “From the ports around the Bab el Mandeb Straits it was now possible to sail in a fortnight with the Hippalus winds to Muziris (Cranganore) in India , where the vessels were loaded with pepper, drugs, dyes, and precious stones-many of these goods coming from countries and islands in the East which Europeans were still almost wholly ignorant of. Indian ambassadors came to the Emperor Augustus at Samos as early as 20 B.C with gifts of various kinds including a tiger and a python”. 18

    K. V. Krishna Iyer : “In the first three centuries of the Christian era Kodungallur was the centre of the world commerce …………The Roman settlement was called Yavanacheri. Most probably the temple for Augustus dominated it with the characteristic Roman games and festivals ………..A peculiar feature was the hetaera, handsome women skilled in music, dancing and ancillary arts, for the out-of-wedlock companionship of kings and nobles…Kodungallur was not only the hub of the world commerce but also a studium generale or university. Teachers and students flocked to the mantapas or discussion halls of the numerous pandits or Professors , vying with one another for superiority.”19


    “As is generally the case in India, there has been no regular or continuous record kept of the kingdom of Kerala, its origin and progress, its peoples or its ancient administrations. As Bishop Caldwell justly remarks, ‘It is a singular fact that the Hindus though fond of philosophy and poetry, of law, mathematics and architecture, of music and the drama, and especially of religious or theosophic speculations and disquisitions, seem never to have cared anything for history’. Its history therefore remains to be written. There are, however, ample materials for a good and reliable account lying scattered about all over the land.” 20

    The Antiquity of Kerala

    Believed to have been reclaimed from the sea by the mythical sage Parasurama, Kerala was really formed by the annual deposit of silt brought down by the rivers from the slopes of the Western Ghats. It is one of the smallest states of India with an area of 37940 square kilometers (14820 square miles). Hemmed in between the mountain and the sea, it is but a ribbon of land 580 kilometers (360miles) long, with a width ranging between 8 and 122 kilometers (5 and 76 miles) 21. Recent archaeological evidences indicate that Kerala had become the home of man at least as early as 4000 B.C.

    Geographical Factors

    As the mountain-ranges to the north and the seas to the south have decisively influenced the history, culture and character of the peoples of India, so also the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west have influenced the political, cultural and economic life of the people of Kerala. “This land itself was a secret, shared between the sea and the mountain, an illegitimate child of the two natural forces, protected by and provided for by them in a special way. Therefore there was an assurance of plenty and of peace.”22


    Kerala is as old as any Puranic Kingdom referred to in the ancient Indian epics. In Valmiki’s Ramayana Sugriva the king of the monkeys commands his messengers looking for Sita devi to; “Seek and search the southern regions, rock and ravine, wood and tree . Search the empire of the Andhras, of the sister nations three , Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas dwelling by the Southern sea.”

    Again Hanuman jumps over to Sri Lanka from the Mahendragiri, a lofty peak in South Kerala. The Chera king is said to have supplied provisions for the belligerent armies in the field of Kurukshetra besides furnishing large contigents of fighting men. Katyayana (4th century B.C.) appears to have been acquainted with the geography of Kerala.The second and thirteenth edicts of Asoka (3rd century B.C.) refer to the territories of Keralaputra as the ‘Pratyantas’ of the imperial dominions. The vivid description of the enchanting land in the Raghuvamsa of Kalidasa and its mention in Srimad Bhagavatha and the Vayu, Matsya, Padma, Skanda and the Markandeya puranas show that Kerala was not an unknown land at the time of their composition. 23

    According to Megasthenes (303 B.C.) its King Cheraman had only sixty elephants while his neighbour the pandyan had as many as five hundred . In the Arthasastra (300 B.C.) Chandragupta’s minister, Kautilya, mentions the pearls of the Churna or Periyar and the ivory of the elephant forests of Mahendragiri in the erstwhile Travancore among the precious articles brought every year to the Mauryan treasury. He says also that South India is richer than North India and its roads better and easier to travel. So Chandragupta’s successor, the warlike Bindusara Amitraghata (297-272 B.C.) invaded the south in 278 B.C., and slaying the king and ministers of sixteen capitals, attempted to enter Kerala by levelling the Aramboli route for his war chariots. But the Tramiradesasanghatam or confederacy of Tamil states drove the Vampa Moriyas or arrogant Mauryas back to their homes. 24

    The second and thirteenth rock edicts of Bindusara’s son, Asoka (272-232 B.C.) as already mentioned, give clear evidence of Kerala, one of the border-lands of his empire. Kerala was the kingdom of the Chera King who was known as ‘Keralaputras’ at the time of the edicts of Asoka. The ‘Colobotras’ of Pliny, the ‘Keprobotras’ of The Periplus, the ‘Kerobotras’ of Ptolemy were Greek equivalents of the Keralaputra of the Asokan edict of 257 B.C. The ‘Limurike’ or the ‘Damurike’ of the Greek writers of the centuries before and after Christ seems to be identical with Kerala. 25


    Pliny : Pliny the Elder (Caius Plinius Secundus, A.D. 23-79), Roman naturalist has left us in his Encyclopedic Natural History, in 37 books, a prodigious collection of second hand information. In his description, given below, we have accurate accounts of the journey to India and to the Malabar coasts in the first century.

    “To those who are bound for India, Ocelis is the best place for embarkation. If the wind, called Hippalus happens to be blowing it is possible to arrive, in forty days at the nearest mart in India, Muziris by name. This however, is not a very desirable place for disembarkation, on account of the pirates which frequent its vicinity, where they occupy a place called Nitrias, nor in fact, is it very rich in articles of merchandise. Besides, the road stead for shipping is a considerable distance from the shore, and the cargoes have to be conveyed in boats, either for loading or discharging. At the moment that I am writing these pages, the name of the king of this place is Caelobothras. Another port, and a much more convenient one, is that which lies in the territory of the people called Neacyndi, Barace (Porakkadu) by name. Here king Pandion used to reign, dwelling at a considerable distance from the mart in the interior, at a city known as Modiera (Madura). The district from which pepper is carried down to Barace in boats hollowed out of a single tree, is known as Cottonara.” 26.

    Concerning the return journey, Pliny thus continues; “Travellers set sail from India on their return to Europe, at the beginning of the Egyptian month of Tybia, which is our December, or at all events before the sixth day of the Egyptian month Mechir, the same as our Ides of January; if they do this they can go and return in the same year. They set sail from India with a south-east wind, and upon entering the Red Sea, catch the south-west or south.”

    The Periplus : The author of the Periplus speaks in admiring terms of the chief Malabar ports of Muziris (Cranganore) and Barace (Porakkadu). “There is exported pepper, which is produced in only one region near these markets, a district called Cottonara (Kuttanadu)27.

    It has been said that the Romans lacked interest in geography, that they merely counted the mileposts along their roads, whereas the Greeks attempted to map the world. And true it is that one of the most important geographical documents from Roman times, the Periplus Maris Erythraei – Navigation of the Red Sea (i.e. the Indian Ocean) – was written by an Egyptian Greek. He wrote his navigational manual for the benefit of others in 90 A.D., and we are still able to read it in transcription today in the Codex Heidelbergensis. The interest evinced by Pliny and the author of the “Navigation of the Red Sea” in Kerala and in her exports was however only the culmination of trade relations that existed for many centuries before the commencement of the Christian Era between India in general and Kerala in particular on the one hand and African, Arabian and European ports on the other. Consequent to the invasion of India by Alexander the Great geographical and cultural aspects of India became widely known in the west. Perumalil S.J. in his work already mentioned 28 has collected a large number of references to India from or based on Arrian, Strabo, Plutarch, Herodotus, Diodorus, the Periplus, Pliny, Ptolemy, Megasthenes, Deimaches, Dionysios and others. 29 Considering the nature and occasion of the present volume and also limitations in the matter of time, it is not possible to make more than passing references to the great store of Indian information possessed by the ancient writers. However perusal of even a few of these authorities will completely shatter the notion that the ancients when talking about India did not really know what they were talking about. 30

    Traces of trade along the Persian Gulf route are to be found in the 14th century B.C. cuneiform inscription of the Hittite kings of Mittani in Cappadocia 31. In the Moon Temple of Mugheir in Chaldea and in the palace of Nebuchad Nezzar, both of the 6th century B.C., the teak-wood of Malabar has been discovered. Malabar teak has been discovered at Ur and king Solomon’s fleet had contacts with Kerala. 32

    The Adventures of Eudoxus : Eudoxus from Asia Minor was one of the first private explorers we hear mention of. He made his very remarkable journeys about 110 B.C. He was a relatively rich man willing to sacrifice his fortune at the altar of high adventure. There is an Indian, who plays an important role in this adventure story. Now it so happened, so the story goes (Strabo/Poscidonius), that a certain Indian was brought to the king by the coast guards of the Red Sea who said that they had found him half dead and alone on a stranded ship, but that they did not know who he was or where he came from, since they did not understand his language; and the king gave the Indian into the charge of men who would teach him Greek, and when the Indian had learnt Greek, he related that on his voyage from India he by a strange mischance mistook his course and reached Egypt in safety, but only after having lost all his companions by starvation; and when his story was doubted, he promised to act as guide on the trip to India for the men who had been previously selected by the king; and of this party Eudoxus, also, became a member.

    “So Eudoxus sailed away with presents; and he returned with a cargo of perfumes and precious stones………… But Eudoxus was badly disappointed, for Euergetes took from him his entire cargo”.

    Hippalus : Today it is believed 33 that Hippalus the pilot accompanied Eudoxus on his voyage to India, and that the route, which the Indian pilot showed them in gratitude for their saving his life, was the monsoon route. The Arabians and Indians must, of course, have known and made use of the monsoon winds for centuries. These winds blow over the Indian Ocean from the north-east in winter and from the south-west in summer; if a man knows the right season to choose, they will carry him straight across the sea in reasonable comfort. When direct passage from India to Egypt became more common, it was these winds that were used, and they came to be called the Hippalus Winds.

    After the records of the early Greek authorities mentioned earlier, there appears a break in the western accounts of Malabar and India, perhaps due to the rise of a new Parthian Empire which formed a sort of barrier between the Greeks and the Indians.

    Then Rome started to absorb the remnants of the Empire of Alexander. Syria had fallen; Egypt became a Roman province in 30 B.C. 34 After Actium Augustus settled down to organise and regulate his vast possessions. Already at the time of Augustus, about 5 A.D., Strabo speaks of noticing about 120 ships sailing from Myos-Hormos to India 35. These ships must have gone to the coast of North India along the coastal waters of Arabia and the Indus mouth. The Romans were not satisfied with such a circuitous route to South India. We read in Strabo (15-1-4) of the South Indian king, Pandion sending an embassy to Augustus; and in Pliny, 6.22 (24), of the king of Ceylon, impressed by the unheard of justice of the Romans whose denari were all of equal weight, despatching to Nero’s Rome 4 ambassadors of whom the chief was Rachis (Raja). It was in Nero’s reign that the Arabs first came under Roman dominion, and Aden and Socotra became Roman colonies. By this time not even the routes to China were unknown. When the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. many Jews emigrated and many arrived in India, and even to China according to Hebrew and Chinese inscriptions.

    When, as seen earlier, the Romans finally established a direct searoute to India, Muziris was the chief port they touched, not only because it was the nearest and most accessible port, but also because Muziris and Porakkad could provide them with the commodities which they most valued.

    About Europe in general and England in particular which was the last western power involved with India it has been said, “the history of Modern Europe and emphatically of England, is the history of the quest of the aromatic gum, resins and balsams, and condiments and spices, of India etc. 36”

    “it should not escape notice that gold and silver, after circulating in every other quarter of the globe, come at length to be absorbed in Hindustan.37” When Persia and Egypt fell beneath the power of the Arabs one of the spoils of their victory was the Indian Trade. 38 Herodotus tells us that India is the wealthiest and most populous country on earth. As Sir George Birdwood has remarked. “The entire record of the intercourse between countries of the west and India from the very earliest times to the present day may be said to be the story of the struggle for the Indian trade”. 39


    The chief commodity exported from Cranganore was pepper and the fair reputation of Malabar pepper had already reached the four corners of the known world from the earliest centuries B.C. So much so it is called Yavana Priya (beloved of the Romans). We have already seen the description of the hillocks of pepper bags at Muchiri (Puram 343). In addition to what the periplus has to say on the area where pepper is produced in Malabar (56. Vide infra note 26), we also have there a list of ports(viz. Thundis, Muziris, Nelcynda and Barace) from which pepper was exported. Cosmas Indicopleustes in the 6th century speaks of ‘Male where pepper grows’ and of ‘Male which has fine marts that export pepper’ (b.3).

    Pepper was in great demand in Rome at the time of Pliny. “It is quite surprising that the use of pepper has come so much into fashion, seeing that in other substances which we use, it is sometimes their sweetness, and sometimes their appearance that has attracted our notice; whereas, pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation to either fruit or berry, its only desirable quality being in certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India. Who was the first to make trial of it as an article of food? And who, I wonder, was the man that was not content to prepare himself by hunger only for the satisfying of a greedy appetite?”40.

    Yet, in spite of Pliny’s complaints this demand for pepper continued in Roman circles. The continued use of it in cooking raised its price to 15 denarii a pound for long pepper, 7 for the white, and 4 for the black pepper. 41.

    This vigorous trade in pepper and other spices of India began to drain the Roman Empire of its wealth. Pliny is stupefied at the thought of this drainage. He says; “The subject (of setting forth the whole route from Egypt to India) is one well worthy of our notice, seeing that in no year does India drain our empire of less than five hundred and fifty millions of sesterces, giving back her own wares in exchange, which are sold among us at fully one hundred times their prime cost”. and elsewhere: “At the very lowest computation, India, the Seres, nd the Arabian peninsula drain from our empire yearly one hundred million sesterces; so dearly do we pay for our luxury and our women”. What infuriates him further is that, “Both pepper and ginger grow wild in their respective countries, and yet here we buy them by weight like gold and silver”. 42

    [Some 300 years later pepper was still valued highly in Rome, Alaric the Goth we find, asking for 3000 pounds of pepper as an important part of the ransom to raise the siege against Rome. (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, XXXI)] Pliny minces no words when speaking out against that inordinate and costly fondness of Roman women for the luxury goods from Muziris:

    “Our ladies glory in having pearls suspended from their fingers, one, two or three of them dangling from their ears, delighted even with the rattling of pearls as they knock against each other; and now, at the present day, the poorer classes are even affecting them as people are in the habit of saying that ‘ a pearl worn by a woman in public is as good as a lictor walking before her: Nay even more than this, they put them on their feet, and that not only on the laces of their sandals, but all over the shoes; it is not enough to wear pearls, but they must tread upon them, and walk with them under foot as well”. Again, “I once saw Lollia Paulina, the wife of the Emperor Caius – it was not any solemn ceremonial, but only at an ordinary betrothal entertainment – covered with emeralds and pearls, which shone in alternate layers upon her head, in her hair, in her wreaths, in her ears, upon her neck, in her bracelets and on her fingers, and the value of which amounted in all to 40,000,000 sesterces; indeed she was prepared at once to prove the fact by showing the receipts and acquittances”.


    Large numbers of Roman coins have been discovered on the Malabar coast (e.g. from Eyyal between Cranganore and Palayur, and from Kottayam in North Kerala). Just two years back more than a thousand Roman gold coins were found buried in Parur, also not very distant from Cranganore. What is interesting is that the majority of these coins belong to a period of some 80 years from Augustus to Nero (B.C. 27 to A.D. 68).

    The Periplus has this remark, “There are imported here (the Malabar Ports), in the first place a great quantity of coin, ….” The Roman could, it is believed make a profit on the sale of gold coins in India, perhaps because these were not only used as currency but also for ornament as is evidenced by the fact that many gold coins found in Kerala have been pierced through. 43

    Roman silver coins of 1st Century B.C / A.D from Eyyal between Kodungallur and Palayur.

    Exports from Muziris included, according to various authors, Pearl in considerable quantity and of superior quality; Pepper in large quantities; Gems in every variety, Diamonds, Amethyst or ruby and a variety of other commodities.44

    Other aspects of Cranganore, especially as the capital of the Chera Emperors have already been dealt with.

    Thus we can see from the foregoing accounts that Muziris or Cranganore was the most important city of South India, at least for considerable periods of time, that it was the capital of the Cheras, that it was prosperous on account of its trade relations with the East and the West.

    It was to this city that St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have come at the beginning of the second half of the first century A.D.

    Notes :

    1. Cranganore was variously called Muziris, Muchiri, Mahodayapuram, Mahadevapattanam, Makotaipattam, Muyiri Kodu, Tiiruvanchikulam etc. in the early periods.

    Mediaeval travellers refer to the place under various forms (Cfr. K.P. Padmanabha Menon, History of Kerala, I, p.313. Also Hobson – Jobson: Glossary of Anglo-Indian Colloquial Words and Phrases by Yule-Burnell, 1886, P. 627):

    Al Biruni… 970 A.D. …Jangli

    Benjamin of Tudela 1167 …Gingaleh

    Friar Odoric 1287 …Cyngilin

    Roman gold and silver coins unearthed around the Palayur-Kodungallur-Parur belt at Eyyal (1945) and Valuvally (1984) Shown above are some gold coins of Tiberius Caesar, Nero and from these collections.

    Chinese Annals 1286 …Shinkali

    Rashiduddin 1300 …Chinkli/Jinkali

    Shemseddin Dimishqui 1320 …Shinkli

    Friar Jordanus 1328 …Singuyli

    Abulfeda 1330 …Shenkala

    Marignolli 1349 ….Cynkali

    Nicolo Conti 1444 …Columguria

    Barbosa 1505 …Cranganore

    Assemani 1510 …Chrongalor

    Colonel Yule thinks that the name Shinkalai or Shigala was probably formed from Tiruvanchikulam. He points out that the data to identify Cranganore with the Gingaleh of Rabbi Benjamin are too vague, though the position of that place seems to be in the vicinity of Malabar.

    2. A factor that led to the ascendancy of Cochin over Cranganore is thus narrated by K.P.P. Menon (History of Kerala, Vol. I, p. 161):

    The town of Cochin is situated on the southern side of a natural harbour. It was formerly the capital of the Native State which took its name after it. Previous to the year 1341 A.D., a small river flowed by Cochin having a narrow opening into the sea, the main outlet for the discharge of the waters that came in torrents down the Ghats, being at the well known opening at Cranganore, some twenty miles to the north of it. In the year 1341, an extraordinary flood occurred which brought down from the Ghats such a large volume of water that it converted the land-locked harbour of Cochin into one of the finest and safest ports in India.

    A local era called the “Putu Vaipu Era” was commenced in commemoration of this event in 1341 A.D.

    3 . A clear idea of the most important trade routes touching Muziris (modern Cranganore) can be gathered from the map given by Bjorn Landstrom. The Quest For India, Stockholm, 1964(Doubleday’s English Edition pp.52,53) Also see the Atlas section by G.M., in Menachery, George (Ed.) STCEI, I especially the maps dealing with the “Journeys of Apostle Thomas”, “Marco Polo’s Voyages,” “Journeys of Francis Xavier,” and “India in the 17th & 18th centuries”.

    4. A. Sreedhara Menon (Ed.), Kerala Gazetteer for Trichur District, 1962, p7.

    5. Id., Ibid.

    6. Pliny describes it as “primum emporium Indiae”

    7. Census of India 1971, Series 9, Kerala, Part X-A and X-B

    8 . Ptolemy has E. Long. 117.00 and N. Lat. 14.00 for Muciris Emporium and 117.20 and 14.00 for the Azhimukham (Pseudostomas) See K.V. K Ayyar, A Short History of Kerala, Ernakulam, 1966, Appendix II, pp. 193, 194, 195 for some two score and ten places in the area mentioned by Greek and Roman authors of the century between c. 50 and 150 A.D.

    9 . K. P. Padmanabha Menon, History of Kerala, vol.I, Ernakulam, 1924, p.297.

    10. V.Nagam Aiya, The Travancore State Manual (in 3 volumes), Vol I, Trivandrum,1906, pp 231-232.

    11 . T.K Velu Pillai, The Travancore State Manual (in 4 volumes), Vol. II, Trivandrum, 1940, p.10.

    12 . K.M. Panikkar, A History of Kerala, Annamalai Nagar, 1959, p.3.

    13 . Galletti, The Dutch in Malabar, Madras 1911, p.9 (Introduction v)

    14 . Yule-Cordier, Cathay and the Way Thither, London.

    15 . Akam, 148. Quoted in K.P. Padmanabha Menon , op.cit., p.307

    16 . Puram, 343. Quoted Id., Ibid. The following note by Menachery, George, appears in one of the papers presented by him at the First World Malayalam Conference, Trivandrum, 1977: ” The passage in 343 which says that the gold (gold ornaments) brought by ships arrive on the shore in boats, (thonis) corroborates what Pliny mentions in 6.23 (26): ‘besides, the road-stead for shipping is a considerable distance from the shore, and the cargoes have to be conveyed in boats, either for loading or discharging’. A better rendering of the Puram passage would appear to be, “The heaps of paddy procured in exchange for fish make the boats ( carrying the paddy) and the houses indistinguishable from each other. further, spectators would be put to hardship to distinguish the pepper bags piled up in the houses ( which thus mislead the onlookers ) from the land that is noisily busy’. The prosperity and commercial bustle of the thriving seaport of Muchiri could hardly be better described or in fewer lines”.

    17. Vincent Smith quoted in T.K. Velu Pillai, op-cit., vol.II. p.10

    18 . Bjorn Landstrom , The Quest for India , Stockholm, 1964, (Double day English Edition). p.48

    19. K.V. Krishna Iyer, Kerala’s Relations with the Outside World, pp. 70, 71 in “The Cochin Synagogue Quatercentenary Celebrations Commemoration Volume” , Kerala History Association, Cochin, 1971.

    For a discussion of a Roman harbour and its arrangements see ‘Caesarea Maritima”, The National Geographic, 171/2, February, 1987.

    Roman coins discovered in Kerala c. 1942 are discussed in Coins of Kerala, Archaeology Dept., Trivandrum.

    For Megalithic remains of Kerala visit the Archaeological Museuem, Trichur and cf. Ancient India,1952(8) and other issues.

    20 . Nagam Aiya, op.cit, p.43

    21 . Krishna Iyer, op.cit. p.65

    22 . M. G. S. Narayanan, Cultural Symbiosis in Kerala, 1972, p. vii

    23 . Nagam Aiya, op. cit. and T. K. Velu Pillai, op. cit.

    24 . Krishna Iyer, op. cit., p.67

    25 . For a scientific but short discussion and proofs of early Greek and Roman knowledge of India and Kerala nothing better can be suggested than “The Apostles in India, Fact or Fiction ?” by A. C. Perumalil S. J. first published in 1952 (Patna). The quotations there from the Greeks and Romans are often in the original languages, fully corroborated by competent translators. Perumalil appears to have been at great pains to clearly and accurately bring out what the Greek and the Latin writers have said.
    Also cf. Pliny, 6.23 (26); Schoff, H. Wilfred, The periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Longmans, 1912, p. 232; McCrindle J. W, Ancient India as described in Classical Literature, Westminister, 1901, p.111.

    26 . However Pliny appears to confuse certain other ports with Muziris when he condemns it as “not a very desirable place for disembarkation.” Because, the author of the Periplus, who had been to Muziris in the same year (A. D. 77) in which Pliny published his book says: “Muziris, of the same kingdom, abounds in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia, and by the Greeks” (Periplus, 54) and again he adds that Muziris and Nelcynda are now of leading importance (Id. 53). Actually Nitrias was the town situated quite some distance from Muziris on the Netravati river in South Kannara and the pirate coast lies north of Mangalore and south of Bombay. The port of Barace, thus spelt both in the Periplus and by Pliny, is Bakare or Porakadu, some 10 miles south of Alleppey. Cottonara is the present Kuttanadu. Ullur, “Which was the Chera Capital?” article published in 1939 in the journal of the Pan Kerala Literary Academy.

    27. Periplus, 56

    28 . A. C. Perumalil, S. J., The Apostles in India.

    29 . Arrian: 2nd Century A. D. Greek author; Anabasis-Famed Greek prose history by Xenophon of “Retreat of the Ten Thousand from Persia” (c. 399 B. C.).

    Strabo : (Born around ) 63 B.C. and died after A. D. 21). The only extant work of this Greek geographer and historian, a geography in 17 books, is a rich source of ancient knowledge of the world.

    Plutarch : Greek biographer and essayist (c. A. D. 46-120): “The Lives” have charm and historical value. There are 46 paired Greek and Roman biographies and 4 single biographies in it.

    Herodotus : (484? – 425? B. C.) Greek historian, called ‘Father of history’. The rich diversity of his contemporary secular narrative history makes it an important source book on ancient Greece.

    Diodorus Siculus : Died after 21 B. C., Sicilian historian. Author of world history in Greek, ending with Gallic Wars; of its 40 books I – IV and XI-XX are fully preserved.

    Ptolemy : Greco-Egyptian astronomer, mathematician and geographer born around 100 A. D., fl. 127 to 147or 151- Geographike Hyfegesis.

    Megasthenes : He was sent in 302 B. C. by Selukos, king of Syria as ambassador to Chandragupta and remained for some time with the Indian kings, and wrote a history of Indian affairs, that he might hand down to posterity a faithful account of all that he had witnessed.

    Deimachos : Sent to Bindusara by Antiochus Soter, the successor of Selukos. He also wrote a book about India.

    Dionysios : Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt sent him to Pataliputra as ambassador “to put the truth to the test by personal inspection”. He also wrote a book on India.

    30. Maggy G. Menachery, Roads to India, STCEI, II, 1973, pp. 14, 15.

    31 . Rawlinson, “Intercourse Between India and the Western World”; Maggy G. Menachery. “Roads to India”, STCEI, Vol. II, p. 14.

    32 . See T. K. Velu Pillai, op. cit., p.9: “According to Mr. Howitt the Assyriologist, teak-wood which was found in the ruins of Ur must have been imported by sea from the Malabar Coast. This takes back Malabar commerce by sea to so early a date as 3,000 B. C. About 2,000 B. C. cotton cloth from Malabar appears to have found its way to Egypt. The Phoenicians visited the coast of Malabar about 1,000 B. C. in search of ivory, sandalwood and spices. About the same period king Solomon sent his commercial fleet to Tarshish and Ophir.”

    For these ships of Solomon see II Kings, X, 22. The Hebrew Bible mentions apes, peacocks, and ivory by names derived (?) from the South Indian words for these: Kapi, Tokei, Habh. For the extensive use of other Malabar products by Hebrews see Exodus XXXV, 1-24. Also cfr.STCEI II, 26, 27. Also see M. J. Koshy’s article in the Journal of Kerala Studies on the Religious Policy of the Portuguese…(II, Part III, Sept. 1975, p.407-9).

    33. Bjorn Landstrom, op. cit., gives this possibility although most writers give A. D. 44, 45, or 47 as the date of the Hippalus discovery. If Landstrom’s view is correct, then the Malabar trade with the west must have been even more considerable than is usually supposed, and from a much earlier date.

    34. Rawlinson, op. cit., p. 101.

    35 . Strabo, 2.5.12

    36 Prof. Jevonns’s letter in the London Times (April 19, 1879) quoted at length by Sir George Birdwood, The Modern Quest and Invention of the Indies, 1891. We must not lose sight of the thriving Chinese trade also. For Kerala’s foreign trade see also: Panikkassery, Velayudhan, Sancharikalum Charithrakaranmarum, Kottayam, 1971.

    37. Francis Bormer, Tr. Rock, 1826. This appears to be the case even today, to look at the heaps of gold biscuits captured by the customs departments of Indian ports almost everyday. The price of gold also appears to be comparatively higher in the Indian Market.

    38. Edward Farley Oaten, European Travellers in India, 1909, introduction, p.14. Oaten continues, “And so between Cosmos indicopleustes and Marco Polo all the well known travellers in India were Mohummedan.”

    39. Sir George Birdwood, op. cit. p. 101; E. F. Oaten, op. cit., p.8. P. Thomas, Christians and Christianity in India and Pakistan, George Allen and Unwin, London 1954, pp. 6,7 (notes): “It is interesting to speculate on the part the humble pepper creeper of Malabar has played in shaping world history. As is well known Columbus was on the look-out for pepper when he stumbled on America. it was pepper that brought Vasco da Gama to Malabar; the subsequent interest the nations of Western Europe took in Indian affairs and its far reaching effects on world civilisation are too well known to deserve mention here.”

    40 . Pliny, 12.7 (14).

    41 . Id. Ibid.

    42 . Pliny, 6.23 (26); 12.18 (41); 12.7 (14).

    43. Further details could be obtained from the records of the Archaeological Museum of Trichur, the Trichur Museum, the Trivandrum Museum and the Archeaeological publications of the erstwhile Cochin and Travancore States. The kerala Archaeological Department’s monograph “Early coins of Kerala” throws a good deal of light on the numismatic evidences for Kerala’s Roman connections. Also see Thomas P. J., Roman Trade Centres in Malabar, Kerala Society Papers, II, p. 260; and James Hough, The History of Christianity in India, I, p. 28.

    44. K. P. Padmanabha Menon, op. cit., I,305.


    ST: Thomas And Cranganore Special Problems of Indian History


    Special Problems of Indian History

    Every scholar who essays an historical topic related to the pre-Portuguese or pre-Mughal India is seen expressing from time to time a complete sense of helplessness in the face of the paucity, often tending to non-existence, of reliable indigenous documentary or even other sources, apart from fables or legends, to base their studies on or to test their conclusions by. Even after the latest developments in the various branches of philology, geography, numismatics, and archaeology, and the accessibility today of the writings of travellers, historians and others in many languages and from many countries, many periods, persons and events in Indian history and in the histories of the different regions of India still remain shrouded in darkness.

    Although this is a condition common to all ancient civilisations and countries, in the case of India much fault has been attributed to the so-called lack of interest in history supposed to characterise Indians in general and Hindus in particular. Leaving this aside as something that cannot be helped now, we must not lose sight of certain other human factors and tendencies which also have contributed to the present state of affairs. The Asoka known to us from the Buddhist Chronicles and legends, for instance, bears very little resemblance to the Asoka of the edicts. No one knew the great Mauryan emperor who built the Sanchi and Sarnath stupas, and whose concern for man and animal is renowned today, before 1838 when james Princep deciphered the Brahmi and Karoshti scripts. The part played by the chronicles in keeping the real Asoka hidden or distorted is ably discussed by J. Talboys Wheeler in his History of India.1

    In India the existence of the followers of various religions as parallel societies, each functioning in its own separate exclusive compartment, has resulted in many a writer passing over information concerning those of other religious persuasions. Rivalry between religions, castes, factions and denominations has been the reason for writers ignoring, suppressing, qualifying, corrupting or outright refuting historical realities.2

    The case of the Malabar Christians is to the point. Although one of the early (many believe the earliest) inscriptions in Kerala is the one granting aristocratic privileges to Christians, and although Kerala’s oldest granite sculptures are perhaps those in Kerala churches, and although definite information is available regarding the location and condition of more than a hundred churches and thriving Christian communities in Kerala by 1599, all pointing to the existence of a strong and influential Christian community in Kerala at least from the 7th century onwards, the great and prolific literature of Kerala even after the 15th century (for ex. the works of Ezhuthachan and Kunjan Nambiar) give hardly any indication even of the existence of such a community!

    The “Thomas Question” in the course of centuries

    Apart from the difficulties peculiar to the historical study of any ancient Indian event, the Thomas question presents some problems of its own. A. E. Medlycott, the first ‘bishop’ of the Syro-Malabarians in modern times and the person whose painstakingly exhaustive pioneering work has inspired or assisted, directly or indirectly, practically all the 20th century studies of the Thomas question even up to the present day, has truthfully remarked:3 “The Apostle who had stood in the full light of the public life and miracles of Our Lord was nevertheless capable of doubt when His resurrection was announced, so also the field of the same Apostle’s labours has been shrouded with unnecessary doubt.” There are those who say that the Apostle never came to India, others who say that he went to Taxila only, or only to Mailapur, or to Mailapur and Malabar only, and so on, reminding one of the story of the blind men and the elephant.4 Works have proliferated dealing with various questions5 connected with the Apostle Thomas and his Indian mission, perhaps “owing to contentious discussions”.6 This considerable body of literature go to make “the tale of the Apostle Thomas (as it stands today) a sea unspeakably vast” 7 to which these few pages can hardly do justice.

    What is most astonishing about the researches into the historicity of the Apostle’s Indian mission is the agreement of newly discovered data almost without exception with details known earlier. It gladdens the heart of the student when it is found that whenever a bit of new, authentic knowledge, is forthcoming that concerns the supposed fields of the Saint’s apostolate it has a tendency to invariably fall into place in the jig-saw puzzle, and to help untie the tangle of uncertainties. Even today there is divergence in the views held by scholars concerning the authenticity of the traditions linking St. Thomas with India. During this (20th) century, however, the degree of divergence has diminished considerably and very few scholars today dare to assert that St.Thomas never came to India at all. This has resulted in the Government of India bringing out two stamps in commemoration of the Indian apostolate of St. Thomas, one in 1964 and another in 1973, and the Holy See proclaiming St. Thomas ‘The Apostle of India’ and in Cardinal Tisserant bringing his bones to India and Kerala in the year 1953.8

    As historians, archaeologists, geographers, philologists and numismatologists have made advances in their respective fields, critical opinion has tilted more and more in favour of an Indian and Malabar Apostolate than against such a possibility. Some information concerning the views of historians about the mission and life of St. Thomas in India in general and about the North-Western and South-Eastern traditions in particular is indispensable for properly appreciating the Apostle’s relationship with Kodungallur. Traditions and testimonies regarding the Tomb of the Apostle Thomas at Mylapore on the East Coast of India (in Tamilnadu) and the story of the relics are narrated in Chapter IV of this book (Kodungallur: City of St. Thomas, 1987)

    Apostle Thomas In India

    [See Picture above of the Relics of the right arm of Apostle St. Thomas brought and enshrined by Eugene Cardinal at Kodungallur in commemoration of the 19th century of the landing of saint in India.]

    Most unprejudiced historians today believe that St. Thomas planted the seed of the gospel on Indian soil. This is the general trend of their thinking: During Apostolic times there were well frequented trade routes, by land and / or water, connecting North-West India (today Pakistan), the West Coast and the East Coast, with North Africa and West Asia. Thus Alexandria, Aden, Socotra, Ormuz, Ctesiphon, Caesarea, Taxila, Broach, Kodungallur (Muziris) and even Rome were inter-linked. The witnesses of different authors belonging to different places, Churches, cultures, centuries and races ( and often speaking different languages) supporting the Apostle’s Indian mission provide an almost unassailable bulwark of evidence, along with the South Indian tradition that is woven into a myriad details of folklore, place names, family traditions, social customs, monuments, copper plates, ancient songs, liturgical texts etc………….

    The following are some of the early references to the Indian sojourn of St. Thomas in foreign sources: (All these testimonies are of a date prior to the commencement of the Malayalam or Kollam era, i.e. A. D. 825. Many of these belong to centuries immediately following the first Ecumenical Council of 325.)

    I. The Acts of Judas Thomas Century: 2nd/3rd (c. 180-230) Church represented: Syrian Sources : Dr. Wright (Ed.), Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, London, 1871 (Syriac Text in Vol.1, English translation in Vol. II); Rev. Paul Bedjan, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, Vol. III, Leipsic-Paris, 1892. Other Syriac texts, Greek, Latin, Ethiopic, Arabic, Armenian versions are discussed in A. E. Medlycott, India and the Apostle Thomas, London 1905, (hereafter Medlycott). Appendix, pp. 221 -225. Gist of Testimony : The Apostles cast lots as to where they should go, and to Thomas, twin brother of Jesus, fell India. Thomas was taken to king Gondophoros as an architect and carpenter by Habban. The journey to India is described in detail….After a long residence in the court he ordained leaders for the Church, and left in a chariot for the kingdom of Mazdei. There, after performing many miracles, he dies a martyr. 20th Century Discussions : Medlycott, pp. 1-18, and Appendix, pp. 213/298. A.C. Perumalil, S. J., The Apostles in India, Patna, 1952, (hereafter ‘Perumalil’) Appendices 5 and 6, pp. 126-134. A. F. J. Klijn (Ed). The Acts of Thomas, Leiden, 1962 J. N. Farquhar, The Apostle Thomas in North India, reprinted in booklet form from the Bulletin of J. R. Library, which is a discussion of the first part of the Acts (hereafter ‘Farquhar’). See also the many autographed articles and exhaustive bibliographies and/or notes in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, (Ed.) George Menachery, Trichur, vol. II (1973), Vol. I 1982, hereafter Menachery, Stcei I, II, especially the following: William G. Young, ‘Christianity in Pakistan’, Vol. I, pp. 133-135. A. Porathur, ‘The Acts of Thomas’ II, pp. 24-26. A. M. Mundadan, ‘The First Centuries’, I, pp.4-8. V. Vithayathil, ‘Mission and Life of St. Thomas in India’, II, p.2 ff. A. Podipara, ‘The Indian Apostolate of St. Thomas’, II, p.7 ff.

    II. Clement of Alexandria Century: 3rd (d.c. 235) Church represented: Alexandrian/Greek B

  11. I’m honored to have you post here, Prof. Menachery. I’ve recommended your books to many people. Thank you for sharing two chapters!

  12. I came across this site when the article on Ancient Kerala History in was being revised. I observed that the so called churches of St. Thomas (it will be better to call them villages where Christian faith was preached by an ancient man) lies along a trade route starting from eastern sub port of Muziris at Chettuva lake (Palayur church is located on the shore of this lake), then Maliyankara (it is doubtful whether Maliankara existed at that time. It does not matter at all as it could be at Kottuvallykad or Kuriapilly which are parts of Maliyankara township) on the southern shore of river at Kodungallur, Paravur a few Km west of Kuriapilly, inside the ancient Muziris port, Kokkamangalam on the shore of Vembanad lake which has connection with Kodungallur lake, then Niranam on the outskirts of Ancient Melkinda Trade Centre of Pandia Kings and Nilakkal near Sabarimala on the Melkinda-Madurai land trade route. This man must have gone to Madurai and then to the Chozha Kingdom. He must have gone from Kodungallur to Kalady and Malayattur (nearby places) in search of the Chera King. But it does not prove that this man was ST. Thomas!

    If I can get proof St. Thomas will appear in the article.

  13. I don’t think you’re going to get the “proof” you’re looking for. But tradition should count for something, and the Thomas tradition is as well attested as some events that are standard in our history books, and they are accepted (in bare outline) by many academic historians, both Christian and Hindu. If you’ve been researching the matter, you know that by now. It seems to me that you won’t accept Thomas’s role in history until you place your hands in his wounds. Now, where have I read that before?



    The worship of Thondachan, a Hindu family deity, by a particular lineage of Nairs (native martial clan) of Malabar, Kerala, and especially the manner and ritual of this worship is noteworthy. Though a family deity, Thondachan is never worshipped within the Nair household. Nor has this deity been ever given a berth among the pantheon of Hindu gods at any of the Hindu temples presided over by the Brahman priests (called Namboodiris). Thondachan has a special altar built outside the Nair family compound, where non-Brahmin priests perform rituals. While Chaamundi, Vishnumoorthy, Pottan, Rakteshwari and Bhagavathi became the non-Aryan non-Brahmin deities for the village folk of Kolathunaad (an ancient province of North Kerala) along with other primitive spirits and folk-heroes, Thondachan has an even smaller following among a select Nair clan. It is believed, that up to the present day, altars for Thondachan’s worship exists in the Cherukunnu area in Kannur (Cannanore) district, especially in the lands surrounding old tharavad houses (ancestral mansions) of the Nairs.

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

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

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

    This holy man, Thomachan, is believed to have related a curious story to the members of the tharavad, which has been passed down the ages.

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

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

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

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

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

  15. My sincere request to all traditional Christians of Kerala is that you should ensure that you locate these coins and enshrine them. Build a church over them. It is the best possible way to preserve them for posterity. Otherwise it will go the same way the the sword of Tipu Sultan went.Into someones private collection overseas.

  16. Catching up on last week’s Saints…

    Last Tuesday was the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. The Way of the Fathers has an interesting post on Thomas and the traditions and facts known about his ministry in India after the death of Christ. I always felt……

  17. A large number of scholars (and others) have time and again alluded to the great sense of friendship that existed among the three communities of Brahmans, Jews, and Thomas Christians or Nazranies. This religious harmony exists even today. In this context it might be interesting to note the large number of similarities in the customs and traditions of the Namboothiri Brahman, Jews and Syrian Christians in the matter of their attitude to Pollution, Untouchability, or the idea of “Clean and Unclean”.

    Aspects of the Idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala

    Prof.George Menachery


    Comparison is often made between the customs and traditions of the Thomas Christians and the Jews1 on the one hand, and between those of the Thomas Christians and the Brahmins (i.e. the Nampoothiri or Malayalee Brahmins)2 on the other.


    This paper attempts, adhering to the spirit of the theme of this conference, viz. “Indian Society and Culture : An Encounter with Christianity” , to outline aspects of the idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians or Nazranies as they are often designated, and to examine the common traits in these three sets of customs and beliefs regarding the idea of “Clean and Unclean”. The overriding concern for “Cleanliness” -more importantly the desire to avoid pollution -dominates, or used to dominate, the ritual and daily life of all these three communities to the detriment of comfort, convenience, and even the unhampered pursuit of the common activities of the vast majority of people around them, and even stands frequently in the way of showing consideration, nay even common courtesy to others.


    To study the prevalence of ideas of “Clean and Unclean” (Shuddham and Ashuddham) among the Brahmins the writer has mainly depended on the works and precepts of the sages3 and elders of the community and of kindred communities as well as on the few works of an anthropological nature that exist independently or as part of general historical works4; for the Jews the OT, the NT and the various commentaries were chiefly made use of; and for the Thomas Christians in addition to the few scattered remarks that deal with the matter in well-known works5, the personal experience of the writer and the knowledge gathered from parents, grandparents, and other elders, and from the observation of the conscious and unconscious behaviour of the members of the community have been made use of. There is a vast fund of material that deals with these issues scattered in a plethora of works which aught to be systematically tapped, not just in a paper like this, but at least by way of a doctoral thesis or two6, and the earlier such detailed studies are undertaken, and more scientifically, the more will be the material available to investigate, both in the form of documents and living customs, and in the form of personnel in the know who are still in our midst.


    Before launching into a study of the ideas about “Clean and Unclean” among these communities it will be profitable to take a quick look at the similarities that exist in their other more well known customs, practices, and beliefs. As this assembly is made up of Christians mainly, and as we are meeting in a predominantly Hindu locality let us commence by comparing the Christian customs and Brahmin customs first, bearing in mind the special relationship Kerala Brahmins have always had with west coastal Brahmins of the Konkan Coast, rather than with Paradesi or Tamil Brahmins7. The similarities in the customs of Kerala Brahmins and Bengali Brahmins also have been noticed by certain scholars.8 The following are only a few of the points of comparison between the general customs of the so-called Syrian Christians9 or Thomas Christians and the customs of the Kerala Brahmins. As the consensus among modern scholars of Kerala history, like Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan and Dr.Veluthatt Kesavan is that the Nambuthiri Brahmins arrive in Kerala only many centuries after the existence of Christian communities there it is quite possible that many of the customs and manners of the latter were imitated or borrowed by the former.10 The similarities outlined below are only indicative, and not exhaustive.


    In both communities, i.e. Kerala Christians and Kerala Brahmins, women wear only predominantly white dress. Among Brahmins of the East Coast only widows use white dress. 2 & 3 Otherwise dark reds, blues, greens etc. are used by Brahmin women outside Kerala.


    For both communities, Kerala Christians and Kerala Brahmins, piercing the nose for nasal ornaments is taboo. For all Brahmin women elsewhere nasal ornaments are customary. 2 & 3


    Architecture of residential houses of Upper Caste Hindus and Christians was almost identical, both residing in Nalukettu and Ettukettu houses, respectively having one inner courtyard surrounded by four (nalu) halls (cf. Span. courtyard – patio -; Ital. cortile; Rom. Atrium), and having two inner courtyards surrounded by eight (ettu) halls.11


    Architecture of churches and temples was alike. Cf. Temple Architecture of Kerala, Dept. of Archaeology, Govt. of Kerala, Trivandrum, and Andrews Athappilly, “Church Architecture of Kerala”, STCEI, II, 1973, as also id. James Menachery, “Thomas Christian Architecture”. Remember how Vasco da Gama and company mistook a temple for a church and worshipped Kali or Bhagavathy thinking it was Our Lady (BVM). To avoid the similarity between the temple and the church the Portuguese introduced the “facade”in Kerala churches as an extension of the wall separating the nave or Hykala from the portico or Mukhamandapam of the church. Also see the hundreds of photographs by this writer – in the STCEI II (1973)and the Indian Church History Classics, Vol. I, The Nazranies (1998).


    Both in front of many churches (e.g. Kallooppara, Niranam, Kundra, Chengannur), and the majority of temples there are rock (granite) lampstands [photos by the present writer in The Nazranies & STCEI II & Pallikkalakalum Mattum; the Trichur (Arch)diocesan Centenary Volume (articles and pictures by the present writer) and the CBCI 2004 Trichur Volume (articles and pictures by the present writer).


    In front of both the churches and temples there are flagstaffs. (See 2.05)


    Both communities are patriarchal, unlike the family system of the Sudras (Nairs) who follow the matriarchal system.


    Both communities hold menstruation and delivery to be occasions of pollution, demanding elaborate ablutions and purificatory ceremonies.


    Both communities have many customs connected with child birth ( e.g. feeding the babe with powdered gold and honey). In the eleventh month the child is ceremoniously fed with rice for the first time. Mangoose teeth and panther toes worked in gold were part of the children’s ornaments.


    Ceremonies connected with marriage like ceremonial baths, Manthrakodi or Pudava (bridal cloth or veil), Thali or Minnu – the gold ornament signifying marriage tied by the groom adorning the bride’s neck until “death do them part” – are all to be found among the Brahmins and the Christians in an identical style. Similarly death and funeral ceremonies like Pula, keeping legal defilement for a certain number of days, Shradham or the several feasts in memory of the dead were common to these communities.

    There are several more customs, common to these two communities of Christians and Brahmins alone, which we are not enumerating for fear of exceeding the time and space limits prescribed by the organizers.


    Similarly there are a number of general customs and manners common to the Judaic and Thomas Christian traditions. Here one must note the existence of a particular community of Syrian Christians or Thomas Christians who trace their descend to Thomas Kinai or Cana or K’nai and his party. Naturally Jewish customs are more prevalent in that community of Knanaya Christians than among the vast majority of Thomas Christians. However as many Jewish and Old Testament customs are to be met with in Christianity all over the world here one might be content merely to enumerate a few customs found commonly among the Jews and the Thomas Christians in general.


    The Thomas Christians abstained from work on feasts and on Sundays. This abstention may be compared to the Jewish abstention from work on the Sabbath. Maffeus says:” When the sun sets they [Thomas Christians] could work on Sundays, because Monday is then begun.” 12 Again Fr. Jerome: “In the same way, also on Sunday evening they can work”.13 Gouvea’s words are similar: “They may work after sunset (on Sundays), because it is already Monday”.14 Fr. Paolino of St. Bartholomeo writes: “The feast began at the first vespers of the feast, in such a way that in that hour they used to close all the shops and end all day’s work. They do not start them again until after the second vespers.”15


    The similarity in the celebration of the Pascal feast between the Jewish customs16 and the Kerala Christian customs is noteworthy. In this there was very little difference between the Knanaya community and the other Thomas Christian communities. “Though a Pascal lamb is not used, certain elements of this meal allude to the Jewish Passover, as, for instance, the unleavened bread, the wine [“milk”], the time of the meal, the ordinary supper preceding, the standing position, the respect and reverence pervading the scene, the annual commemoration of the wonderful works of God, the bitter herbs, almsgiving, and the singing of hymns.”17


    Both communities are seen to use mostly biblical names for their children. Names from the Old Testament are quite common, such as Abraham (Avara, Avarachan), Issac (Ithakku), Jacob (James, Chacko, Chakkunny,Chakkappan, Yakkob) and Joseph (Ouseph).18 According to Ludovico di Varthema, “They use four names, John, James, Matthew, and Thomas.”19 However today George is the most popular Christian name among the Nazranies.20


    Leaving aside for the moment the consideration of common GENERAL customs among these three communities of Jews, Namboothiries, and St. Thomas Christians let us take up the study of a few specific customs related to the idea of “Clean and Unclean” and find out how far these customs were prevalent in the said communities and with what degree of universality, and variations, if any.


    This is all the more relevant in the light of the accusation at times made against modern day Christians of Kerala by Caste i.e. “high caste” Hindus of Kerala that the Christians are not sufficiently conscious of cleanliness – in their eating habits, dressing habits, and even in the matter of keeping their body and habitat clean. It would be interesting to examine the validity of this accusation and to note who was responsible for this decline in the Cleanliness – Fad among the Christians, which is so very characteristic of the Kerala Brahmins, and what led to this decline if any.


    There are a very large number of customs and practices connected with “Clean and Unclean” among the Nampoothiries, and a good number of such among the Jews. Among the Thomas Christians in times gone by, most of such customs and practices among the Nampoothiri Brahmins and those among the Jews were both in vogue together, making them perhaps the most “Clean” community in the whole world.


    In note 3 below are listed the 64 special rules for Kerala Brahmins, most of which dealing with the practice of “cleanliness”, Shudham. In addition to these there are ever so many other customs given sanctity and sanction and the status of law as a result of long and strict practice. In fact the very life of the Kerala Brahmin is made “Hell”21 literally by these rules, regulations, and conventions regarding “Clean and Unclean”. In addition to this there is the strict observance of Ayitham 22 which is much more than mere untouchability. All these codes of behaviour were more or less strictly adhered to by the Syrian Christians also23.


    The occasions on a single day when the Nampoothiri Brahmin must necessarily wash oneself or bathe are innumerable. And this bathing has to be performed not by standing under a shower, or by pouring water over oneself with a mug, but only by immersing oneself in water – in a pond, a tank, or a river. The Brahmin must bathe before cooking. Braahmanans, desirous of purity (“Suddhi”)[“Cleanliness”] shall bathe if they touch a “Soodran”, etc. And it must be remembered that Soodran (a member of the fourth caste – the Soodras) denotes not outcastes, but caste Hindus like Nairs, Menons, and all or at least large portions of Pillais, Panickers, and even Ambalavasis or Temple-Castes like Variers, Pisharatis, Marars etc. The duty of the Sudra community was to serve the other three castes of Brahmins, Kshathrias, and Vaisyas. In Kerala these services extended to domestic help in the houses of upper castes by both the men and women of this fourth caste, and even the performance by Soodra women of the duties of a concubine in the unique sexual relationship prevalent in Kerala euphemistically called Sambandham.24

    There are many other occasions when the Brahmin must ritually and otherwise bathe. It would be tedious to describe the dozens of occasions and circumstances that would necessitate bathing by the Kerala Brahmin, for example as a result of touching or seeing, or coming near people belonging to lower castes.25


    Bathing, especially ritual bathing is found often prescribed for the Jews in the Old Testament.

    “Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the Tent of my presence, and tell them to take a ritual bath.” (Ex. 29.4)

    “ The person shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and have a bath; he will then be ritually clean…on the seventh day he shall again shave his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and all the rest of the hair on his body, he shall wash his clothes and have a bath and then he will be ritually clean.” (Lev. 14.8-9)


    Thomas Christians were always as much addicted to washing their bodies as the Brahmins or the Jews or even more so. In spite of the decrees of the Synod of Diamper and the efforts of the missionaries the Thomas Christian could hardly reconcile himself to any laxity in the matter of cleanliness. All Christians in the villages continued to observe the strictest rules that obtained among the Brahmins in matters of cleanliness and caste distinctions even till very recent times, as this writer could assert from his own experiences in and about the inhabitants of the villages of Kattur, Meloor, Chalakkudy, Ollur, Mala, Kallettumkara, Edakkulam, Chengalur, & present day revenue districts of Thrissur and Ernakulam.

    The following Decree of the Synod of Diamper(Action VIII, Decree XIII. Cf. The book of Geddes in the ICHC, Ed. George Menachery, p.91) throws much light on how far the Christians adhered to ritual cleanliness:

    “ The Synod doth very much condemn what some…imagine, viz. That if they do not wash their Bodies betimes in the Morning on a Fastday, their Fast will be of no worth; and that if they happen to touch any of a base Race, or a Naires , they must wash themselves to make their Fast to be of any Merit; and declares that all such Washings and Superstitious touches, are commanded neither by God nor the Church…”

    However the old customs died first in towns and townships, as the result of English education and contact with Westerners and their ways. The habit of taking bath for various reasons and of washing legs, hands, etc. quite often was fully prevalent during this writer’s childhood and even boyhood, and was a big headache and nuisance and even a burden. There were ponds or huge wells with steps leading down in the compound of all notable families, where the river was far away. A number of Kindies or a vessel with a spout or nozzle-like side tube to pour water was always available which was used to wash one’s feet whenever climbing into the corridor or verandah of the house after walking outside. The latrines were separate structures during my childhood always a great distance from the house.


    Ayitham or untouchability, a sort of total segregation of a member of the lower caste, from a Brahmin in the form of Thottukoodayma and Theendikkoodayma was one of the strongest practices that has now more or less – only more or less – disappeared from Kerala, but after a very long and bitter struggle. Seeing the extreme forms Ayitham or untouchability, “unseeability”, and unapproachability as practised in Kerala took, Swami Vivekananda was forced to call Kerala a “Lunatic Asylum”.


    The custom of Ayitham or untouchability or segregation among the Jews is evident from these words of Peter.

    He (i.e. Peter) said to them, “ You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not al-

    lowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles”. (Acts 10.28)

    Paul also concurs:

    And so the Lord says, “You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean, and I will accept you”. (2Cor 6.17)

    And Paul goes on to add:” So then, let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean”.

    In the same chapter v.14 says: “Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners?” More scriptural verses it is not necessary to cite in this assembly.


    The practice of Ayitham as it existed among the Thomas Christians, and as it continued to exist even in my youth with some intensity, can be understood from the enactments of the Synod of Diamper of 1599. Allow me to quote a little extensively:

    “The Synod being informed, that in some parts when any one of the baser sort do but touch the Cisterns of Christians, that Christians do Disempolear or Purify them, by performing certain Ceremonies…(the Synod) with great rigour command those that make the said Disempoleamento or Purification, be thrown out of the Communion of the Church, and to be denied Casture…and to be punished with the Penalties…” (Act IX, Decree III of the 1599 Synod of Diamper)26

    For Christians as to the Brahmins Nairs being Sudras was an untouchable caste, though some European writers have described the Nairs as Noblemen and so on.27 Cf. Decree II of Act IX of the said Synod fully and may I request you to go through it most car fully to understand how expediency and profit often comes first with Archbishop Menezes, and how His Grace advises tricks to combine religion with material benefit. He allows Christians to practise untouchability or Ayitham and to pretend to go by the existing customs of segregation, but not to perform the ritual bath after the pollution caused by going near or touching Nairs and lower caste persons if it will not come to the attention of the king and the elite! “Therefore the Synod doth command all that shall be found guilty of forbearing to touch such [Nairs], or having touched them, shall wash themselves, to be severely punished as Superstitious followers of the Heathen Customs, and commands the Preachers and Confessors to admonish them thereof in their Sermons and Confessions.”

    In the same Decree when the Synod is advising the Christians not to shun or steer clear of others who are Christians it is also indirectly pleading the cause of the Yavanas who were often considered Mlechas by caste Hindus and were untouchables for the native Christians too.


    As the paper has already gone beyond the allotted length hereafter we shall restrict ourselves to a consideration of a few more related practices prevalent among the Christians and to draw some parallels between those and the Jewish or Brahmin customs.


    The Synod doth condemn the Custom, or abuse that has obtained in this Diocess of the new-married couple’s not going to Church till after the fourth day after their Marriage, when they use to Wash themselves, which is according to the Judaical Ceremonies condemned by the Law of Christ…” (Action VII, Decree XVI, Geddes, ICHC I, Ed. Menachery, p.89)


    Heathen Musicians to be kept out of the church. Hence Kottupuras as at Kuravilangad and Palai(?).Geddes, Ed. Menachery, p.74.


    “Faithful Christians must not only avoid the Ceremonies and Superstitions of the Heathens, but the Judaical Rites and Ceremonies also,..the Synod, tho’ it doth very much commend the Holy Custom of carrying Children to Church forty days after they are born,…; nevertheless it condemns the separating of Women for the said forty days after the birth of a Male, as if they were unclean …and eighty days after the birth of a Female; both which are Jewish Ceremonies, that are now abrogated…” (Geddes, Ed. Menachery, ICHCI, p.96, Decree V)


    “Whereas the Synod is informed, That the meaner sort of People are much better disposed to receive the Faith than the Naires, or Nobles, and being extreamly desirous to find some way whereby such well disposed People may be made Christians, so as to assemble together with the old Christians, as why should they not, since they all adore the same God,…and conferred about the most proper methods for the effecting of it…we have not been able to find any that are effectual…” (Decree XXXVI, Geddes, Ed. Menachery, ICHCI, p.95). It is suggested that this is not done in order not to displease the Heathen Kings, “who would correspond with us no longer to the loss of the Trade and Commerce we do at present maintain with them”. To overcome such problems the Synod suggests that “and the Prelate shall be advised thereof, that he may give order for the building of distinct Churches for them” (i.e. the meaner sort of People), “and in case they have not a church to themselves, they shall then hear Mass without doors in the Porch,” etc. Geddes, p.95.


    As has been shown here again and again the overriding concern for “Cleanliness” dominates, or used to dominate, the ritual and daily life of the three communities of Thomas Christians, Kerala Brahmins, and Jews from the earliest times. Many more examples could be given from the Holy Scripture (for the Jews), from works by Hindu scholars (for the Brahmins) and from tradition and practices (for the Christians). But I suppose enough is enough. There is much to be said about the similarity in the attitudes of these communities with regard to clean and unclean animals, uncleanness as a result of death, corpse, and funeral, dirts like mildew, cleaning of pots and vessels, skin diseases, bodily discharges including wet dreams and bowel movement and urination, sexual practices, and so on and so forth. But now let us look into some implications of these findings.


    There is a young niece of mine, a medical doctor, working at the Jubilee Mission Medical College of Thrissur, who has been doing research on the DNA of various communities on the West Coast and Middle East, testing the blood at Hydarabad and abroad. She tells me that the Nampoothiries, the Jews, and the Thomas Christians all have the same DNA components. I merely suggest that this thought might be investigated.


    It has been often suggested that the West Coast Brahmins were the result of conversion from Dravidian Stock or Semitic Stock. The deep-rooted common customs about Clean and Unclean found in these three communities surely indicate something more than meets the naked eye, especially when we remember that Brahmins are found in Kerala much later than the Christians, and they attain predominance in Kerala only around the 9th-10th Century CE, after decline of the power of the Christians. (Cf. My essay, “Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala”, in Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage and elsewhere.


    The theory that the caste Hindus of Kerala separate themselves from Christians only at the time of the Syrian Christian Copper Plate Grants of Tharisappalli (849 CE) put forward by my dear departed friend M. J. Morris of Quilon deserves a little more attention.


    There are a number of other matters connected with this topic that one would like to mention but there is neither space nor time for that. In any case the intention of the author of this paper has been to solicit the valuable opinions of the learned participants assembled here. It would be highly rewarding for the writer if some meaningful discussion could take place on this matter here or hereafter.

    1. Vide Vellian, Jacob, “A Jewish Christian Community”, The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery, p.73 ff.; Mathew, E. P., “The Knanaya Community of Kerala”, id., ibid.; id.,”The Malankara Syrian Knanaya Christian Community”, Jacob Stephen; Koder, S., “History of the Jews of Kerala”, id., pp.183 – 185. All the above articles have been reproduced in the Thomapedia, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, Ollur, 2000. Also cf. the many related papers in St. Thomas Christians and Nambudiris, Jews, and Sangam Literature: A Historical Appraisal, Ed. Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Mt. St. Thomas, Kochi, 2003.
    2. Cf.: Placid Podipara, “Hindu in Culture, Christian in Religion, Oriental in Worship”, in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery, pp. 107 – 112; “Malabar Christian Customs and Manners”, reproduced in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery, pp.126 -127 from D. Ferroli, The Jesuits in Malabar, Vol.I, Bangalore, 1939; STCEI, II, “Culture and Traditions of the Thomas Christians”, Joseph Kolengaden, pp.127 – 131; STCEI, II, “Character and Life Style of Thomas Christians” by Alexander Cherukarakkunnel, pp. 131 – 133. [The writings mentioned in notes 1 & 2 contain much bibliographical information for the topics dealt with, q.v..]
    3. Listed below are, e.g. the 64 practices and customs (“Anaachaarams”) believed to have been established by Sankaraachaaryar (788 – 820 AD) specially for the Malayaala Braahmanans or the Namboothiries of Kerala. Since these are not followed anywhere else, they are called “Anaachaarams” or non-conventions. The following list has been chiefly copied from the Nampoothiri website for convenience, the # sign and the ~~~ signs have been added by the present writer, as also a few English words in parenthesis inside square brackets in order to make the meaning a little clearer perhaps. Also cf. the list appearing in the three volume Travancore State Manual edited by V. Nagam Aiya, Trivandrum, 1906, at pp. 267 – 271, Vol. III, Ch. IX, where under “Caste” Keralaacharams as distinct from East Coast customs of Brahmins are listed with annotations and discussed. Recently Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan has observed that these Anaacharams and caste observances could have been prescribed by some later Sankaraacharyar (“Introduction”, Menachery, George, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur, 2005):
    # Do not use twigs (a common practice elsewhere) for brushing teeth.
    # During the daily bath, do not bathe with the clothes worn till then.
    # Do not use the clothes worn till bath for wiping the body after bath (as a towel).
    # Do not bathe before sunrise.
    # Do not cook before bathing.
    # Do not use water stored (drawn from well) on the previous day for the next day’s use.
    While performing daily rites, do not seek any results, be detached.
    # Excess water after “Soucham” [washing after using the latrine], “Aachamanam” (“Kaalukazhukal”) [washing the feet], etc. shall not be used for other purposes.
    # Braahmanans, desirous of purity (“Suddhi”)[“Cleanliness”] shall bathe if they touch “Soodran”, etc.

    # Bathe if lower caste persons come close.
    # Bathe (in a different pond), if the water in a pond is touched, if the same has been touched earlier by a lower caste person.
    # Bathe upon stepping on the ground which has been swept with broom, but has not been sprinkled with water.
    “Bhasmam” (ash), etc. are to be smeared first vertically once and then horizontally in three lines.
    # Braahmanans while performing rituals, shall chant “Manthrams” themselves.
    # Do not use previous day’s food.
    # “Echil”(leftover food) of even children shall not be eaten by pious Braahmanans.
    Food items (“Nivedyam”) offered to Lord Sivan are not to be consumed.
    # Food served with hand shall not be eaten.
    # Buffalo milk and ghee prepared from it shall not be used for religious rituals.
    # Rice shall be eaten only in the form of balls (“urula”), but such balls shall not be kept in the leaf as leftover.
    # If one is polluted in any form (“Asudhham”) [defiled, polluted], even betel-chewing is prohibited.
    A “Brahmachaari” (boy during the period between Upanayanam and Samaavarthanam) shall observe “Nishthha” and “Vratham”.
    “Gurudakshina” (appropriate offerings to the teacher) must be given after completing the study of Vedam.
    # Vedam shall not be recited on the streets.
    # “Shodasakarmams” shall be performed during the prescribed periods.
    Girls shall not be sold.
    “Vrathams” shall not be observed with the expectation of any results in mind.
    # Women who touch another woman in period, shall have to bathe before eating.
    Braahmanans shall not spin thread.
    Braahmanans shall not do the work of washermen.
    Only Braahmanans are permitted to perform Siva Pooja on “Rudraaksham” (seed of the plant Eloeocarpus ganitrus), etc.

    Braahmanans shall not receive “Sraadhha Dakshina” (ritual offer on the death anniversary) from a “Soodran”.
    Braahmanans shall perform “Sraadhham” of their father’s and mother’s parents.
    Sraadhham shall be performed on every “Amaavaasi” (new moon) day.
    Upon the father’s or mother’s death, one shall observe “Deeksha” for one year.
    At the end of Deeksha on the 12th month, “Sapindi” shall be performed.
    If “Pula” or Asoucham comes during the Sapindi period, wait till Pula is over.
    Sraadhham day is reckoned based on the star of the month (“Nakshathram”).
    Children after being given for adoption to another family, shall perform Sraadhham of their own parents.
    Cremation shall be in own land.
    “Samnyaasi” (Saint) shall not look at women.
    “Samnyaasi” shall not perform Pindam nor Sraadhham.
    No ritual is performed when a Samnyaasi dies.
    A Braahmana woman shall not look at any man other than her husband, father, grandfather or their brothers on either side.
    Antharjanams (Namboothiri women) shall not move out of the house without a maid.
    ~~~They shall wear only white dress.
    ~~~They shall not pierce the nose.
    “Bhrashtu” (excommunication) is imposed on a Braahmanan who consumes alcohol.
    “Bhrashtu” is imposed also if he sleeps with any other Braahmana woman.
    “Pretham” (spirit) [ghost] shall not be consecrated in temples.
    # The idols in temples (“Deva Prathishthha”) shall not be touched by “Soodrans”, etc.
    # Offerings made to one god shall not again be proffered to another god.
    Marriages and other “Karmams” shall not be performed without “Homam”.
    Braahmanans shall not bless each other, for, they are equals.
    They shall also not prostrate before each other.
    Do not sacrifice cows.
    Saiva, Vaishnava and other such distinctions shall not exist.

    Only one “Poonool” (Yajnopaveetham, sacred thread) should be worn by Braahmanans even after marriage.
    Only the eldest son in the family shall marry an Antharjanam.
    # Sraadhham shall be performed only using rice.
    Non-Braahmanans are not eligible to enter into Samnyaasam.
    “Kshathriyans” and others shall perform Sraadhham for maternal uncles, since they follow matrilineal system.
    A woman whose husband is dead, shall enter into Samnyaasam.
    Braahmana women shall follow “Paathivrathyam” (chastity) strictly, but are prohibited from performing “Sathi” (immolation on husband’s funeral pyre).
    These are the primary customs prescribed by Bhaargavan. But Bhaargava Smruthi contains a large number of less important practices (“Aachaarams”). ”

    4.Vide, e.g., the lengthy and detailed study by K. P. Padbanabha Menon, History of Kerala, Vol. I, Ernakulam, 1924, Ed. T. K. K. Menon, Notes on Letter 1, (5) “Descent of Namburi Brahmins”, pp.20 -22; (8) “Advent of Brahmins”, pp.76 -83. Also cf. entries in the two editions of the Travancore State Manual, one edited by Nagam Aiya in three Volumes (Trivandrum, 1906), and the other by T. K. Velu Pillai in four Volumes (Trivandrum, 1940).
    5. Such as the works mentioned in note 3 supra.
    6. The writer is not forgetting the few theses that already exist on related topics.
    7. Reference may be made to the doctoral thesis of Dr. Veluthatt Kesavan and his recent paper for a seminar at Mt. St. Thomas, Kakkanad, “The Nambudiri Community: A History” , reproduced in St. Thomas Christians and Nambudiris, Jews, and Sangam Literature: A Historical Appraisal, Ed. Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Kochi, 2003. Another paper, by Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan , on the Nambudiri migrations also is printed in the same volume. Both papers refer to the special relationship that existed and exists between the Konkan Brahmins and the Kerala Brahmins, i.e. the Nambuthiries.
    8.Vide, e.g., the lengthy and detailed study by Dr. L. A. Ravi Varma, “Castes of Malabar” in the Kerala Society Papers, [General Editor: T. K. Joseph] Series 9, 1932, alias Vol. II, 1997 reprint, Thiruvananthapuram, Gazateers Dept., Govt. of Kerala, pp.171 – 204.
    9. Syrian Christians of Malabar or Kerala are Christians who use East Syriac as the language of their liturgy (the Syro Malabarians), or later on commencing with the arrival of Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem (1665?) West Syriac also (the Orhodox, the Jacobites, and now the Syro-Malankarites). The term does not carry any biological connotation except perhaps for the Knanaya Christians.
    10. For a detailed discussion cf. Essay One : “Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala”, in George Menachery, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur, 2005. This essay may be read with slight variations in the Satna Diocesan Jubilee Seminar Papers, 1999; in the World Syriac Conference 2001 papers, reproduced by SEERI in the HARP, Kottayam; in the Journal of St. Thomas Christians, Rajkot, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2004, pp.33 – 42; in the Light of Life, New York, N. Y.; and now in the Souvenir of the Seminar Conference on the History of Early Christianity in India, Concordia University, New York, 13th – 16th Aug., 2005.

    11. “Thomas Christian Architecture”, Menachery James (Dr. E. J.) in STCEI, II, Ed. G. Menachery, 1973, see section Domestic Architecture pp. 148 – 149; Menachery, George, Pallikkalakalum Mattum, Trichur, 1984; Menachery, George, Pallikalile Kala, Mathrubhoomi Weekly, March 28, [with forty illustrations], Kozhikode, 1978; for plans of Thomas Christian Naalukettu (Ollur) and Ettukettu (Kattur) see Thanima, September, 2005, Alwaye.
    12. Joseph Pascal Neelankavil, “Feasts of the Thomas Christians,” article in STCEI II, Ed. George Menachery, Trichur, 1973, p.113, rt. col.; alias The Thomapedia, Ollur, 2000, 113 >g.
    13. Id., ibid.
    14. Id., ibid.
    15. Id., ibid.
    16. “The feast of the Passover is celebrated by Jews in memory of their deliverance from Egypt in the time of Pharaoh Rameses II. It is a feast lasting a week in the spring, and during that time the only bread Jews can eat is Matzah, or unleavened bread. Matzah was the bread baked by the Hebrews in the Sinai desert during the Exodus. Wheat flour is mixed with water but without the addition of yeast. When the mixture is baked the loaf is flat, or unleavened.
    The Passover celebration begins with a meal which is called the Seder. This is an important meal, and Jews bring out the best silver, china and glass. Care is also taken with the choice of wine.
    During the meal the family reads from a special book, the Haggadah, or Passover book. This is a kind of play in which members of the family take parts, and the story is the story of the original Passover.” The Wonderful Story of the Jews, Plantagenet Somerset Fry, Purnell, London, 1970, p.15.
    17. Jacob Vellian, “A ‘Jewish Christian’ Community”, article in STCEI II, Ed. George Menachery, Trichur, 1973, p.74, rt. col.; alias The Thomapedia, Ollur, 2000, 74

  18. CHANNEL4 Documentary: Secrets of the 12 Disciples
    In connection with the various opinions, doubts, hypotheses expressed on this site concerning the arrival and sojourn of Apostle St. Thomas in Kerala, a part of ancient Thamilaham, and concerning the credibility of the Thomas Story of India vis-a-vis the Peter Story of Rome the March 23 2008 documentary SECRETS OF THE 12 DISCIPLES on Channel4 of the UK might be looked at.

  19. please send me the latest email address of
    fr john chakkalakkal osj to the below mentioned address by post or by mail
    richard karippat

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