HOME WRITE TO ME... REFERENCES

Neil's Website | Ajit's Website

 

 

IV

 

Local Traditions

 

  • Local traditions among the Christians include the Rambaan Paattu or Thomma Parvom - a song about the Acts of Thomas written around 1600 by Rambaan Thomas. Rambaan Thomas of Malyakal Family descends from the first Bishop whom St. Thomas is said to have ordained. The poem is the oral tradition handed down through generations. It is said to have been originally written by the Rambaan Thomas, the Bishop Bishop.

 

  • Margom Kali and Mappila Paattu are series of songs of the Acts of Thomas and the history of the Malabar Church. They are sung in consonance with dance forms that are typical of the Syrian Christians. Some of them are dance dramas performed in the open as part of the festivals of the church. These have no specific origin, but grew up in the course of history.

 

 

  • Veeradian Paattu is sung by a local Hindu group (called Veeradians) in accompaniment of Villu - a local instrument - during Christian festivals. This form of art also dates back to unknown period handed down through generations and modified in that process.

The tradition of Christians of Thomas is a much more reliable source of information than the Acts of Thomas. According to this tradition thousands of locals including Brahmins, Khathriyas and Dravidians were baptized by St. Thomas

 


Thoma Parvam

The Songs of Thomas

By tradition these songs were written by
Thomas Rambaan
the first Brahmin convert to Christianity
 Which is handed down through generations
and written down in 1601

 

I will sing of the way

in which our holy religion was introduced in Malankara..

The Apostle Thomas landed at Maliankara with the merchant Habban.

He performed miracles and in eight months
he established the Church of Jesus Christ in that city.

 

Then he went to Mailepuram (Madras)

where he preached the Gospel of the Lord
for four and a half months

and then took ship for China.

 

He stayed four and a half months in China

and returned to Mailepuram.

 

After he had been there for about a month,
 the son-in-law of the Rajah the king of Thiruvanchikulam came to him
and begged him to return to Malabar.

 

They took ship and came to Maliankara

where the apostle converted the Rajah and his family,
forty Jews and four hundred others in less than six months.

 

He preached to the people,

built a church with a cross,

and ordained priests.

 

One of the first whom he consecrated

was the Rajah’s son-in-law

and was called Kepha.

 

Accompanied by Kepha he went to Quilon

 where he set up a cross and baptized 2400 people.

 

From Quilon, he went on to Chayal, in the mountains,

Stayed there a whole year as he had done in Quilon,

Baptized 2800 people and set up a cross.

 

At the request of the rulers of Tripaleswaram,

he returned to that village.

But when he saw that the people had desecrated the cross

which he had set up,

he cursed that place.

Nonetheless, he remained there for two months.

He once more set up a cross

and instructed the people

so that they should no longer return to heathendom

and ordained as a priest Thomas,

one of the leaders who had remained true to his faith.

 

During these two months that he stayed in Tripaleswaram

He strengthened all the Christians in their faith

and converted two hundred heathens.

 

Not far from there, further south,

he built the church of Niranam

and ordained as priest

his first pupil Thomas Maliyekal

who had been born there.

 

Then he went to Kokkamangalam,

where he stayed for a year

and converted fifteen hundred people,

set up a cross

and taught the people how they were to worship God.

 

He again visited Kottakavu Parur,

stayed almost a year there

and converted 2200 people.

 

From there he went to Maliankara along the southern road,

and was pleasantly surprised

to see the flourishing state of the Christian community there.

He stayed there only two weeks

and went away to the north, to Palayur,

Where in one month

he baptized 1280 people

and according to his custom set up a great cross.

 

Towards the end of the year (59 AD)he returned to Mailepuram.

 

He went back once more to Malabar

and the angels protected him on his journey.

 

He stayed two months at Maleattur

and converted 220 people,

 

Stayed a whole year at Niranam

and was satisfied with the faith of the people

and the exemplary life that they led;

 

He gave communion to those

who had not yet received the sacrament.

Then he took his leave of the Christians

and told them that they would never see him again,

and set off for the land of the Tamils.

 

Thomas Rabban and Kepha the son-in-law of the Rajah

accompanied him for seven and a half miles

and then took their leave of him.

It would be impossible to relate

 all the wonders which our  saint performed

by making the sign of the cross

with the hands that had touched the wounds of the Lord.

 

He raised 29 dead men to life,

Freed 250 who were possessed by devils,

Healed 330 lepers,

Restored their sight to 250 blind people

And the use of their Limbs to 120 cripples,

And their speech to 20 deaf mutes.

 

He healed 280 sick people

 who had been given up by their physicians.

He converted to the Christian faith

17,490 Brahmins;

350 Vaisyas (merchants) and farmers,

and 4289 Sudras.

He ordained two bishops and seven priests,

Of whom four were called Rabban

And appointed 21 deacons.

Ramban song does not mention Taxila mission and hence this must have been an earlier mission.  Since Thomas landed in a ship in Kodungallur in 52 AD we could assume the Taxila mission was somewhere in 40 – 52 AD during the time of Gondaphores.  He might have made his first mission trip to China during this 12 year period, for which we have no mention positively.     The song  mentions the mission trip to China by sea which might have been a follow up mission as he seems to have done in South Indian areas also.

Among the first converts there were forty members of the Jewish community including Rabbi Paul of the Cranganore Synagogue where every Saturday the Apostle used to go and read and explain the Old Testament for the Jewish congregation. Though Rabbi Paul received baptism and became a Christian, a good number of the Cranganore Jewish community continued to stick fast to their ancestral religion and gave the Christians the name "Nazaranis ", meaning followers of the man from Nazareth i.e.; Jesus Christ.


Cochin Jews
The "Black Jews" settled in the Malabar coast during the times of King Solomon of Israel, and after the Kingdom of Israel split into two.

 

                       

A massive migration came soon after the destruction of temple in 70 AD. These Jews are called “Paradesi Jews” or “White Jews” A chieftain by the name of Joseph Rabban was granted a principality over the Jews of Cochin by the Chera Emperor of Kerala, Bhaskara Ravivarman II. Rabban's descendants maintained this distinct community, which was called Anjuvannam. ).  C. Achuta Menon (A.D. 1911), says:

"In the first centuries of Christian era, a number of Jews immigrated into Kerala and settled in that portion of it which afterwards became the Kingdom of Cochin and Christianity also made its way in to the country about the same time…steadily grown in prosperity and importance so much so that the local Kings by charters engraved in copper plates constituted them self governing communities. By these charters Joseph Rabban was made the hereditary chief of the Jews and Irvi Cottan that of the Christians and they were also given powers and privileges of Naduvazhi chiefs. Most of the privileges mentioned in the Jews deed are identical with those enumerated in the grant to the Christians but the latter were also given the right of "the Curved Sword", that is the right of carrying arms which was not granted to the Jews…". 

During the first five centuries three powers ruled over today’s Kerala. They were Aay Rajas in the southern side, Ezhimala Kings in the northern side, and the first Chera kingdom comprising most of the present central Kerala. The capital of Chera was Vanji or Tiruvanchikulam and the most important port was Muchiri (Muziris). The capital of Chola Kingdom was Urayur and the most important port was Kaveri. The capital of Pandian kingdom was Madurai and the most important port was Korkai. The area from Gokarnam  to CapeComerin (the land created by Parasu Rama and given to Brahmins) was ruled by the Chera kings
The Chera kingdom existing at that time was ruled by Udayan Cheran Athen-I (page 44 of Cochin State Manual). In Cochin State Manual (pages 52-53)

South India in the First Century AD

They were ruled by a large number of local rulers controlling few villages.

Kodangallor Evangelization

Besides Jews, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Nairs, and Chettiars were among the earliest converts to Christianity. The first Brahmin convert was a young member of a Niranom Brahmin family that had settled down in Cranganore engaged in some business. The young man's conversion was not liked by his father, who decided to cast him away from the family. The Apostle called the young convert and asked him to live with him. The young man, who had received the Apostle's name in baptism agreed to live with him and came to be known as Thomas Maliyakal, in recognition of his Brahmin family name. Subsequently he was raised to priest hood, and after sometime was given the title of Ramban or Arch-priest. In course of time a Jewish Synagogue as well as a Hindu temple at Cranganore were transformed into Christian churches. Accompanied by Prince Kepha, who was consecrated as the Bishop of Cranganore and Malabar, St. Thomas left Cranganore to preach the Gospel elsewhere.

 

Kodungalloor is believed to be the ancient Muziris of Pliny, and the Periplus, on the north bank of Periyar River today. It is also known as Maliankara in ancient times.  It is  now known as Pattanam, is near Cochin


The Mar Thoma Church, Kodungaloor, Kerala

Athen Cheran I

The story starts with a a human sacrifice in the Kali temple in Kodungallur. It was the practive to select a male child under 5 years old from one of prominent families by lot.  The lot that year fell on Kunjan, the nephew of King Aten Cheran I while he was on tour to the Pandyan empire.  The family of Kunjan came to the new divine person recently arrived from abroad for help.  Thomas and his Jewish friends were present at the ceremony and promised the family that they will save the child if they will believe in Isa.  Before delivering the child for sacrifice the child was baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and sealed him with the Holy Spirit.  The Brahmin Priest took the child into the inner sanctuary of Kali and the door was shut.  However the door was never reopened announcing the fulfillment of sacrifice.  When the waiting crowd finally forced opened the door, Kunjan was standing there smiling and the Priest was not to be found anywhere.

“The whole city which was present accepted Jesus and were baptized in a repetition of Pentecostal day. The custom of Narabali came to an end. Thus Kodungaloor became a Christian city. It is since then known as the city of the Great God, city of Mahathevar viz., Mahodayapuram. The king on his return himself became a Christian under the name Andrew.  Kunjan being saved from Narabali became ‘Kepa’.”
P.E.Easow

 

Kollam Evangelization

Quilon was the next scene of the labors of the Apostle. The majority of the people of Quilon belonged to the Chettiar caste, the recognized trading caste of the time. A good many of them accepted the Gospel attracted by the preaching of the Apostle and the miracles performed by him. Many inhabitants of Quilon hated the new religion and migrated from Quilon to Nanjinad to keep themselves away from the influence of the new religion; After erecting a cross for the worship of the converts who numbered about one thousand and four hundred, the Apostle left Quilon.

Kollam Kadisa Pally

 

Nironam Evangelization

The Apostle and Prince Kepha proceeded from Quilon in a northeasterly direction and arrived at Thrikapaleswaram, near Niranom. Thrikapaleswaram had Hindu temples at that time, and to provide a place of public worship to the Christian community, the Apostle planted a cross a few furlongs away to the west of one of the temples. The non-Christian people in the locality did not like this and they pulled it out and cast it into the nearby river.

This desecration took place sometime after the Apostle had left the place for Chayal or Nileckal. Two Christians from Thrikapaleswaram went there and requested the Apostle to re-visit their place and set matters right. The cross that had been thrown out into the river moved downwards floating on the waters for some distance, and eventually rested on a strip of land on the opposite bank of the river. Here at Niranom a new site for a church was secured. During this second visit, the Apostle stayed at Niranom for two months and during this period two hundred persons were baptized by him giving new vigor and strength to the Christian community. Local tradition is that most of the Nambutiris having been made Christians by St. Thomas, left the place after giving the boxes containing the documents relating to their landed properties to a Kymal or Nair chieftain, who has since been known as Niranam Petti Kaymal. Of the various miracles performed by St. Thomas at Niranam, the most remarkable was the restoration of life to a child of a barber put to death by anti-Christian families, who wanted to throw the responsibility for the crime on the Apostle. The present building, supposedly the fourth, was constructed in 1912 and was reinforced during the year 2000. Among the attractions at the church are a huge Cross made of granite, relics of St. Thomas, remnants of the old church, the golden cross etc

The St. Mary's (Orthodox) Church, Niranam, Kerala.

Nileckal Evangelization

The Apostle returned from Niranom to Chayal or Nileckal. According to the Ramban song the Apostle worked here for one year and during this period one thousand and one hundred persons were converted to Christianity. It was ruled by Vel kings of the Ayr kingdom. Names like Ayroor confirms this thinking. Vel-Nadu must have become Venad. Most likely this kingdom had its borders along the Southern side of Pampa River up to Thiruvella which later became part of Venadu.

Nilackal Church founded by St Thomas is situated on the side of the pond opposite to the present Nilackal Ambalam as per the tradition of St Thomas Christians.  This monument is near the original Church site.

 

Kokkamangalam Evangelization

 

The St. Thomas (Catholic) Church Kokkamangalam, Kerala.

Kokkamangalam, far to the north of Quilon, Niranom and Nileckal, was the next centre of the missionary activities of St. Thomas. The Ramban song says that the Apostle spent one year at Kokka-mangalam and baptized one thousand and six hundred persons to Christianity. After planting a cross and opening a church there the Apostle left the place. During the absence of the Apostle unknown hands removed the cross from its site and threw it into the nearby backwater lagoon. The cross moved with the water current and reached Pallipuram. The believers at Pallipuram installed the cross solemnly at a suitable place and a church was opened there.

Kottakuvu Evangelization

Kottakuvu near Parur was the next centre where the Apostle preached the Gospel and founded a church. According to the Ramban song the Apostle succeeded in receiving into the Christian fold one thousand seven hundred and seventy persons at this center.

The St Thomas (Catholic) Church, Kottakkavu, North Paravur, Kerala.

Palayur Evangelization

From Kottakavu the Apostle proceeded to Palayur, one of the strongest Brahmin centers in Kerala.

 


 

Built 1607

The St. Thomas (Catholic) Church Palayoor, Kerala

 

Palayoor is near Guruvayoor/Kunnankulam

 

Palayur was the stronghold of the Namboodiri Brahmins. Ruins of an ancient Jewish Synagogue are still visible the Church. “When Thomas came to the great Brahmin centre of Palayur, a leading Brahmin Gramam (Village) among the 64, he came across some Brahmins doing the Pithru Yajna or Pooja to the manes or ghosts of deceased ancestors. They were throwing water into the air (Tharpan) while reciting manthras. The Apostle learned from them the meaning of this ritual and remarked: ‘If your performance is acceptable to the gods they could keep the water suspended in the air without allowing it to fall again and again’. “The Brahmins said that this was unthinkable as it was opposed to the laws of nature. Then Thomas asserted that the One true God he worshipped could do it, and he proceeded to perform a miracle on condition that the Brahmins accept his faith if he is successful. The Apostle, invoking the Holy Trinity, made the sign of the Cross and threw a handful of water up into the sky. After reaching a particular height the water stood still in the air, the particles glittering like diamonds. Looking down the Brahmins could see the cavity made by the removal of the water still there in the pond. Most of the witnesses were baptised on the spot. However those Brahmins who did not accept the faith called the place ‘Shapa Kadu’ or Cursed Place and left the place immediately promising to take the next bath only at Vembanattu, unpolluted by the new faith. Even today, true to the oath taken by their ancestors, the Brahmins do not eat or drink in the vicinity of Palayur or Chowghat (Shapa Kadu).”

 

Syrian Christians traditionally believed that the four Brahmin families Kalli, Kaliyankal, Sankarapuri & Pakalomattam were converted at this place.

 

 

 

Persian Cross at Palayur.

 

Palayur replica of St.Thomas cave in St.Thomas Mount

 

Sankarapuri Family Tradition

Sankarapuri was among the families who received Baptism in Palayoor. The families of Shankarapuri, Pakalomattom, Kalli, Kalikavu, and Kolath.were given Priestly Status by St. Thomas

Migrations of Our forefathers from Palayoor to Etamanoor:

In the 2nd Century AD all the four Family migrated from Palayoor via Angamali, Kadathuruthi to Ettmanoor. The Devasom of Ettmanoor did not allow them to stay there and sent them to a place 5 Km. away which was the Forest of the Goddess Kali. In those days the Forest of goddess Kali was believed to be full of Witches and Devils and people, were scared to stay in such places. The people who came from Palayoor stayed there without any fear not knowing about these facts. To prove this there are documents. The entire house names, house numbers, survey numbers are there in the Government Records. Survey 460/5, 460/6, 519/8 belonged to these Families. During those days there was no place for worship or Burial and the families worshipped at home and used their own property to bury the dead. Where these 4 families stayed they established a Chapel. There still exists 5 Graves near the famous Forest of Kali (Kalikavu) Grotto. It is believed that these are the graves of 5 important members of these families. This cemetery was just next to the Shakutirikal Family. Right now it is in the procession of Claratu Bhavan Seminary.

It is believed that the above said 4 families and the Kadapoor family, which came from Palayoor, joined together and established the Kuravilangattu Church. The Kalli and the Pakalomattom Families stayed on the Northern side of the church and the Shankarapuri, Kalikavu and the Kadapoor families stayed on the Southern side of the Church. So it came to be that Sankarapuri Family got the house name Thekkedethu meaning Southern Side, and Pakalomattom Family got the house name Vadakaedethu meaning Northern Side. 

From there one family moved to Chengannur.  From Chengannur one family moved to Kozhenchery in Plamoottil.  From this came the Chennattu family out of which came Madathilparampil Family.

Thiruvithamcode Half Church

 

Thiruvithamcode Arappally: St. Mary's Orthodox Church, was founded by St.Thomas in AD63

 

Apostle founded another church at Malayattur which is accorded the status of half church. Another traditioon claims this half church as the one founded in Thiruvithamcode. When the christians in east coast sufferred persecution St.Thomas took 64 families with him across the ghats over Aruvamozhi Pass into Venad. These were mostly converts from Chettiars of Nagercoil. The King of Thiruvithamcode offerred them refuge. The traiditon says that when the King offerred them sacred ash (Vibhuthi) they refused and so these Christians came to be known as Vibhuthi Dharia Chettkal.  ("A History of Christianity in Kerala" by Dr. C.V.Cherian)

Except Nilackal all the Churches are on the coastal line. In some records Nilackal Church is termed Arapally not meaning half church byt as Head Church.    There is a place called Plapally also known as Thalapally (meaning Head Church) very close to Nilackal  today.

The Church of the Thomas Christians was one of the four great "Thomite Churches" of the East. The three others were the Edessan, the Chaldean (of Mesopotamia or Iraq) with Seleucia-Ctesiphon as its center, and the Persian (of Persia proper or Iran). These four Churches were "Thomite" in the sense that they looked to St. Thomas as to their direct or indirect Apostle.

 

Syriac Christianity did not originate in Antioch, but in Nisibis and Edessa.It was Apostle Thomas who sent Addai to Edessa who started the church there.   Mar Addai ordained Mar Aggai to succeed him. This is the origin of the Catholicate of the East.


The Church in Antioch was founded by Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as other Apostles.

China Evangelization

Founding of the Church in China by the Apostle St. Thomas between 65 and 68 AD according to the archealogical evidences. It is more likely that it took place between 40 and 52 AD.  If this dating AD 65-68 AD is true, this took place soon after the first tour of Kerala ministry. ”Such a discovery rehabilitates the tradition of the Chaldean Church (Iraq) and of the Church of the Syro-Malabar rite in Southern India called the “Christians of St. Thomas”, who have always considered the apostolate of the Apostle and the Christian establishment in China in the first century of our era as facts. In the Chaldean breviary, for example, one can read: ”By St. Thomas, the Kingdom of Heaven took wings and flew all the way to the China. ”” Kerala tradition indeed speaks of  two tours if mission in Kerala with a break in between and after.

According to the tradition of the Church in India, the Apostle finished his mission there in 64 AD., and left from Meliapouram (near Madras) for China at the beginning of… 65 AD. The Indian and Chinese sources agree. There is thus a strong possibility that the two figures of Kong Wang represent the Apostle himself with, at his side, his acolyte-interpreter. "       

China and Japan claim that St. Thomas personally brought Christianity to China and Japan in 64 and 70 C.E., respectively. This view is promulgated by the Keikyo Institute.

 

 

 

 

The upper portion of the Nestorian Stone (Hsian monument), discovered by Jesuit missionaries in 1625 AD in the province of Shensi in China. The title of the stone reads,

"A monument commemorating the propagation of
 the Ta-Chin luminous religion (Christianity)
in the middle kingdom".

 

From China he returned to India and continued his ministry with his head quarters in Mylapore.