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Jacobite Syrian bishop demolishes Kerala’s conversion myth – Thufail P.T.


“Thomashleeha (as St. Thomas is known in Kerala) is an imaginary thing. He is one of the apostles. He should be Christ’s contemporary. If he had come to Kerala, there would have been only forests in Kerala, let alone Brahmins,” – M.G.S. Narayanan


Bishop Geevarghese Mor Coorilose


The Metropolitan Bishop of Niranam Diocese, historically one of the oldest dioceses of the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church in Kerala, has criticized the upper caste tendencies among believers fuelled by a “mythical” belief that St. Thomas converted Brahmins to Christianity in Kerala.

It is also widely believed that St Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Christ, had converted members of top Brahmin families in Kerala to Christianity.[1] Though the Abrahamic faith is devoid of caste hierarchies, Christian families often hold get-togethers to celebrate their lineage and put out books proclaiming their Brahmin origin.

The Bishop, Geevarghese Mor Coorilose, however, in a Facebook post announced that he would not attend any such get-togethers, dubbing them as “programs to assert their artificially created upper caste identity and lineage.”

“They say their ancestors were Brahmins converted by St. Thomas. They even put out their family history in books proclaiming such false notions. These baseless, savarna caste-oriented and reactionary myths have to be busted,” read his statement in Malayalam, adding, “I did attend such events due to my personal intimacy with them. But, I regret it. I can’t (do it) any more”.

Syrian Christians are divided mainly into Syrian Catholic, Jacobite, Orthodox, Marthoma churches depending upon whether they owe their allegiance to the Pope in Rome, the Patriarch in Antioch, Catholicos in Kerala’s Kottayam or Metropolitan in Thiruvalla. Coorilose, who belongs to Jacobite Church, has mercilessly swung an axe at the root of the age-old belief that is pervasive across all the four sects—that their ancestors are Namboodiris who were converted to Christianity by St Thomas.


St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church at Malayattoor in Kerala


It also questions the existence of churches like Malayatoor that is famously believed to be the meditative halt of St Thomas during his Kerala leg of his sojourn.

Brahmins’ conversion to Christianity under St. Thomas had been a point of dispute for long. Historians such as M.G.S. Narayanan had earlier questioned the claim.

“Thomashleeha (as St. Thomas is known in Kerala) is an imaginary thing. He is one of the apostles. He should be Christ’s contemporary. If he had come to Kerala, there would have been only forests in Kerala, let alone Brahmins,” Narayanan told Outlook.

“Syrian Christians’ trade relations with Kerala started in 2nd and 3rd century. Brahmins came as a hegemonic community in Kerala only in 8th Century,” he said.

Pius Malekandathil, professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who is an expert on maritime history and church history, admitted that it is a matter of dispute however saying that the probability factor has to be taken into consideration.

“It is a matter of debate. But, many historians have seen it as highly probable and reliable. The earliest reference to St. Thomas preaching gospel to Brahmins is from St. Jerome of 4th century. Among the converts, the Brahmin converts seem to have been quite significant enough to attract the special attention of St. Jerome (ca. 347–420), who mentions that the apostle went “ut Christus apud Brachmanas praedicaret” (to preach Christ to the Brahmins),” he said.

“This needs more investigation. It is more nuanced and complex. Brahmin does not mean one single category of social group. There were different categories of Brahmins in Kerala. It was not a period where there was absence of Brahmins. It’s true they came as a hegemonic group only in 8th Century. But, there were Brahmins as scattered and fragmented community even before that. Duties and obligations of Brahmins under Chera empire are mentioned in Sangam literature, ” he said.

Melekandathil also said that there are written documents of maritime trade agreement between Muziris (in Kerala) and Alexandria from 2nd century obtained from Vienna archive in 1985.

Fr. Paul Thelakat, former Syro Malabar Church spokesperson, echoed Coorilose’s statement.

“In India we have bane that we irrespective of our religion have Manu sleeping within our consciousness. Everyone wants to establish one’s own upper caste glory. It is found in the ancient Christians of Kerala e.g certain families claiming to have been baptised from Brahmin families by St Thomas himself. St Thomas is supposed to have come to Kerala, it would be in the first century. Brahmins came to south India only in the 8th century. I am sorry to say upper caste mentality can be found also in Marxists in Kerala. Even though Marxism has a universal humanistic ideology, we find the upper caste surname kept, like Nampoodirpad, Menon, Pillai, Nair, etc,” he said.

Firm on his position despite the sharp and mixed reactions to his statement, Coorilos later wrote on the same post: “I am adding this after reading many comments to this post. Many of you are calling me‘Thirumeni’ ( a feudal honorific). That’s also a product of the savarna consciousness. You can call me a friend or Father. Or, if you want to make it more formal, you can call me Bishop.”

“(Writer) O.V. Vijayan had said that English is the best weapon to resist caste. We must change. Change is must,” he said. – Outlook, 13 april 2018


1. Historians do not agree about the date for the coming of Namboodiri Brahmins to Kerala. Marxist historians make their arrival as late as the sixth century AD. However with the identification of the Namboodiri priest Mezhathol Agnihothri (b. 342 AD), the date can be moved back to the fourth century. Namboothiri historians  themselves do not give a date for the arrival of their community in Kerala from North India.


St. Thomas by Georges de LaTour (1625-30)


See also


Koenraad Elst replies to David Green’s blood libel: Thomas the Apostle is murdered in India – Haaretz


“So your source is ‘common Christian tradition’? Fortunately, we are past the stage where we believe a story just because ‘tradition’ says so. Therefore, we don’t believe the blood libel against the Jewish people anymore, even though for centuries it has been supported by ‘common Christian tradition’. Likewise, we don’t believe the blood libel against the ‘priests of Kali’ either.” – Dr Koenraad Elst


Martyrdom of St Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens (1636)


72 CE:  Thomas the Apostle Is Murdered in India – David B. Green

December 21 in the year 72 C.E., is the day of the martyrdom of Thomas the apostle, according to the tradition of a number of Christian churches. Like all of the 12 apostles, or disciples, of Jesus, Thomas was a practicing Jew, and was given the mission by his mentor to spread his teachings, both among the Jews and the Gentiles.

In both the Book of John, one of the Gospels of the New Testament, and in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, Thomas is described as “Thomas, who is called Didymus,” a redundancy, since “Thomas” comes from the Aramaic word teoma, meaning “twin” (in Hebrew, it’s te’om), for which the word in Greek is didymus.

Priests of Kali

A late tradition sees Thomas as having carried the gospel of Jesus to the Indian subcontinent, first to the north-western kingdom of Gondophorus. Then, according to the third-century Acts of Thomas, in the year 52, the apostle sailed, in the company of a Jewish traveler named Abbanes, to the southern tip of India, to the port of Muziris, present-day Pattanam, in Kerala state.

Kerala was home, even at that time, to a Jewish community. A 17th-century work called Thomma Parvam (Songs of Thomas) says that he converted 40 Jews upon his arrival, along with 3,000 Hindus of Brahmin origin.

Modern historians believe that Christianity actually arrived in India several centuries after the era of the historical Thomas, with the arrival of Christians from Syria and from Persia.

The martyrdom of Thomas, however, took place not on western coast of India, but on the other side of the subcontinent, in the south-eastern city of Mylapore, near latter-day Chennai. There, Thomas came into conflict with the Hindu priests of Kali, who killed him for insulting their deity—or simply for converting many of their followers. (Marco Polo, in the 13th century, heard that Thomas had died, more than a millennium earlier, when an archer out hunting peacocks had accidentally shot him.)

His bones were then brought into the city of Mylapore and buried inside a church he had already built there, where in the 16th century, Portuguese explorers built the San Thome Basilica, which was rebuilt by the British in 1893.

Today, December 21 is still observed as the feast day of St. Thomas in some Protestant churches, and among traditionalist Catholics. In the Roman Catholic Church, however, the feast day was moved, in 1960, to July 3, so as not to interfere with the days leading up to Christmas, on December 25. – Haaretz, 21 December 2015


Koenraad Elst


REjoinder: The confabulated murder of Saint Thomas – Koenraad Elst

So your source is “common Christian tradition”? Fortunately, we are past the stage where we believe a story just because “tradition” says so. Therefore, we don’t believe the blood libel against the Jewish people anymore, even though for centuries it has been supported by “common Christian tradition”. Likewise, we don’t believe the blood libel against the “priests of Kali” either.

Nothing of this legend is proven. The only written source for it is already some 150 years older than this Thomas’s supposed martyrdom: the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. There, he is presented as coming to “India”, then a very large term (when Columbus landed in what he thought was Zipangu/Japan, he called the natives “Indians”, meaning Asians), in a part that was desert-like and where the people had Persian names. This describes Iran or western Pakistan well, but not the lush and rich tropical landscape of South India. When he has committed several crimes against society, the king asks him to leave, and only when he refuses this diplomatic solution does the king have him executed.

I first learned about the hollow, mythical nature of the Saint Thomas story while studying in Leuven Catholic University, from a Jesuit Professor of Comparative Religion, Frank de Graeve. Not exactly a “fanatical Hindu” source. More recently, Pope Benedict XIV publicly declared that St Thomas had come to Western India, and that from there, after an unspecified amount of time, Christianity (not Thomas) reached South India. I am aware that Indian Christians have raised hell against this scholarly assessment, and have pressured the Vatican into removing this statement from its website. But that is not going to alter the verdict of scholarly historiography: there is no evidence at all to support this story.

And when Christians did reach the coastal area of South India, probably as 4th-century refugees from the Persian empire that had turned hostile after the Christianization of its Roman rival, they were welcomed rather more cordially than any treatment given by Christians to Pagans. Far from being “murdered by the priests of Kali”, they were given hospitality and integrated into Hindu society, without any questions asked about the contents of their religion. Hindus have extended their hospitality more recently to Parsis, Armenians and Tibetan Buddhists; and more anciently to the Jews. That glorious record is the target of gross injustice in the fictional story of Saint Thomas.


Haaretz Logo


Nota Bene

Haaretz, headquartered in Tel Aviv, is known for its left-wing and liberal stances on domestic and foreign issues. Among Israel’s daily newspapers it is considered the most influential for both its news coverage and its commentary. The English edition is published and sold together with the International New York Times.

Haaretz did not publish Dr. Elst’s rejoinder of course. Ignoring correction of facts or criticism of content is typical of Leftist newspapers around the world (re The Hindu in India). Ideology always eclipses evidence in the Leftist world. – IS


 

 

About the St. Thomas reference in Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica – Poulasta Chakraborthy


“This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is—a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend.” – Poulasta Chakraborthy 


Shashi Tharoor


Page 280 of former minister and current Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica contains an interesting assertion.

“Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St. Thomas the Apostle (‘Doubting Thomas’), who came to the Malabar Coast sometime before 52 CE and was welcomed on shore, or so oral legend has it, by a flute playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christians well before any Europeans discovered Christianity.”

Although Tharoor identifies the incident of St. Thomas being welcomed to Malabar by a flute-playing Jewish girl as part of folklore, he states that the arrival of St. Thomas to the Malabar Coast as a historical fact.

The good news is that he’s not the first one to state that myth as a historical truth. The biggest of political leaders in India have obediently accepted this historical myth. In one of his works, the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote:

“Few people realise that Christianity came to India as early as the first century after Christ, long before Europe turned to it, and established a firm hold in South India…”

This statement was repeated in a different way by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in his St. Thomas Day speech at New Delhi, in 1955:

“Remember St. Thomas came to India when many countries in Europe had not yet become Christian and so these Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of the European countries. And it is a matter of pride for us that it happened….”

This famous legend as well as the assertion that Christianity came to India before it went to Europe is a tactic to make it a sort of indigenous religion, even if it came from the Middle East. The statements made by our great leaders are based on the following incidents:

St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ (itself a disputed fact), came to India in 52 CE. He landed at Maliankara (Cranganore/Kodungallur) in Kerala, preached the Gospel, produced miracles, and got many converts.

Then he went to Mailepuram (Mylapore), and from there to China, but after some time returned to Maliankara, and from there came again to Mylapore where he spent the rest of his life preaching, converting a large number of the low-caste Hindus.

The aforesaid points make St. Thomas appear as socio-religious reformer who aimed to ameliorate the woes of local residents—specifically those suppressed under the caste system. As every tale of reformers goes St. Thomas was also disliked by the orthodox elements (which in the Indian context are the Brahmins) of the land that were determined to finish him. This risky situation made Thomas take refuge in a cave at a mountain located near the present St. Thomas Mount. Unfortunately the great Saint was murdered by one of those zealous Brahmins at St. Thomas Mount. His body was brought to Mylapore and buried in 73 CE.

This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is—a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend.


Syrian bishop with Pope Benedict


Now let’s see what some historical, and even Christian religious texts have to say about this tale:

D. Burnell, in an article in the Indian Antiquary of May 1875, writes,

“The attribution of the origin of South Indian Christianity to the apostle Thomas seems very attractive to those who hold certain theological opinion. But the real question is, on what evidence does it rest? Without real or sufficient evidence so improbable a circumstance is to be at once rejected. Pious fictions have no place in historical research.”

Prof. Jarl Charpentier, in St. Thomas the Apostle and India, writes,

“There is absolutely not the shadow of a proof that an Apostle of our Lord be his name Thomas or something else—ever visited South India or Ceylon and founded Christian communities there.”

Rev. J. Hough, in Christianity in India, writes,

“It is not probable that any of the Apostles of our Lord embarked on a voyage … to India.”

Cosmas the Alexandrian, a theologian, geographer and merchant who traded with Ethiopia and Ceylon, visited Malabar in 520-525 CE and provided the first acceptable evidence of Christian communities there as noted in his Christian Topography. There is no mention of any Thomas in his works.

Regarding the fabled Apostle of Jesus, Thomas, early Church Fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Eusebius had stated outright that Apostle Thomas settled in Parthia, and established a church in Fars (Persia). This is supported by the 4th century priest Rufinus of Aquileia, who translated Greek theological texts into Latin, and the 5th century Byzantine church historian, Socrates of Constantinople, who wrote an Ecclesiastical History, the second edition of which survives and is a valuable source of early church history. None of those sources speak of St. Thomas visiting India.

Bishop Stephen Neill who had spent many years in South India examined the St. Thomas story as late as 1984.

“A number of scholars,” wrote Neill, “among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medlycott, J.N. Farquhar and Jesuit Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what can only be called Thomas romances, such as reflect vividness of their imagination rather than the prudence of historical critics…. Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than the apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with a confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.”

And to top them all, in September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI himself declared that Thomas never came to India. But his declaration was toned down after a complaint from the so-called St. Thomas Christians who still believe Thomas came to India and converted their ancestors. Now the question: where did it all begin?

The chief source of this tale is a Gnostic Syrian fable, Acts of Thomas, written by a poet named Bardesanes at Edessa around 201 CE. The text says the apostle went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people are “Mazdei” [a term used for those who worship Ahura Mazda, Zoroastrians] and have Persian names. The term “India” in Acts is used as a synonym for Asia.

The Acts identifies St Thomas as Judas, the look-alike twin of Jesus, who sells him into slavery. The slave travels to Andropolis where he makes newly-weds chaste, cheats a king, fights with Satan over a beautiful boy, persuades a talking donkey to confess the name of Jesus, and is finally executed by a Zoroastrian king for crimes against women. His body is buried on a royal mountain and later taken to Edessa, where a popular cult rises around his tomb. Even in this story, it is clear that St. Thomas never visited India.


Thomas of Cana


There is another popular fable among Indian Christians about one Thomas of Cana, a merchant who led a group of 400 Christians from Babylon and Nineveh, out of Persia in the 4th century CE, when Christianization of the Roman Empire motivated the Persians to persecute their Syriac-speaking Christian minority. These Christians apparently landed in Malabar around 345 CE.

Based on this tale, a section of St. Thomas Christians believe Thomas of Cana to be known as St. Thomas.

And so it is clear that nothing much is known about St. Thomas beyond these stories which have been refuted by historical evidence.

Even after reading the refutation of this tale of St. Thomas by strong historical evidence, the likes of Tharoor will claim that these “fables” are historical facts, in no less than a full length book of the genre Pax Indica belongs to. The reason is not far to seek: Tharoor’s parroting of the St. Thomas myth arises from the Indian secularist template for keeping the secular fabric of India intact.

But there are deeper, more fundamental reasons why the St. Thomas myth must be debated and re-debated.


SRG


The reason is given in detail by Sita Ram Goel in his Papacy: Its Doctrine and History.

“Firstly, it is one thing for some Christian refugees to come to a country and build some churches, and quite another for an apostle of Jesus Christ to appear in flesh and blood for spreading the Good News. If it can be established that Christianity is as ancient in India as the prevailing forms of Hinduism, no one can nail it down as an imported creed brought in by Western imperialism.

“Secondly, the Catholic Church in India stands badly in need of a spectacular martyr of its own. Unfortunately for it, St. Francis Xavier died a natural death and that, too, in a distant place. Hindus, too, have persistently refused to oblige the Church in this respect, in spite of all provocations. The Church has to use its own resources and churn out something. St. Thomas, about whom nobody knows anything, offers a ready-made martyr.

“Thirdly, the Catholic Church can malign the Brahmins more confidently. Brahmins have been the main target of its attack from the beginning. Now it can be shown that the Brahmins have always been a vicious brood, so much so that they would not stop from murdering a holy man who was only telling God’s own truth to a tormented people. At the same time, the religion of the Brahmins can be held responsible for their depravity.

“Fourthly, the Catholics in India need no more feel uncomfortable when faced with historical evidence about their Church’s close cooperation with the Portuguese pirates, in committing abominable crimes against the Indian people. The commencement of the Church can be disentangled from the advent of the Portuguese by dating the Church to some distant past. The Church was here long before the Portuguese arrived. It was a mere coincidence that the Portuguese also called themselves Catholics. Guilt by association is groundless.”

To reword a phrase used by the famed novelist S.L. Bhyrappa, “Secularism can never be strengthened by projecting historical lies.” Hence it is imperative for students of history as well as those claiming to be historians to challenge these distortions in our public discourse. – India Facts, 1 August 2014

References

  1. Ishwar Sharan: The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple
  2. Sandhya Jain: Merchant Thomas to Saint Thomas
  3. Tejasvi Surya: The Mylapore St. Thomas myth that just doesn’t seem to die – Part 1 & Part 2

 

The question of the St. Thomas origin of Indian Christianity – C.I. Issac


“The Thomas origin of Christianity in the Dravidian South was the outcome of the missionary schema against Hindu religion and culture.” – Prof C.I. Issac


St. Thomas, Vasco da Gama & Marco Polo


Speech by Prof. C. I. Issac, Former Head of Department of History, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, on the occasion of the release of the book Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan, in Chennai on February 3, 2011.

First of all I would like to congratulate Mr. Rajiv Malhotra and Mr. Aravindan Neelakandan for their painstaking endeavour of the book Breaking India. Most of our intellectual community conveniently bypasses the contemporary realities that are chasing the Hindu society in their mother land.

The respected authors of Breaking India have shown enough courage to unwrap the vanity of the pseudo-secularist and democrats of contemporary India. The book gives us a thumbnail picture of how far the missionaries misused the word “dravida” and “arya” in order to balkanize and Christianize India since the days of British Raj.

The fabrication of South Indian history is being carried out on an immense scale with the explicit goal of constructing a Dravidian identity that is distinct from that of the rest of India. It is factual that term dravida is derived from the Greek tongue. They used dhamir and dhamarike respectively for Tamil and Tamizakaom. Similarly they introduced our arasi and inchi in the West as rice and ginger.


Anglican Bishop Robert Caldwell: He invented the Dravidian race!


But Bishop Caldwell, with his missionary zeal, misused the Greek derivative of Tamil and Tamizakaom and had given an anthropological representation. It was started in the 19th century with specific designs.

Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1890-1977), a renowned linguist, was of the opinion that Friedrich Max Muller, by the middle of 19th century, introduced Aryan-Dravidian dichotomy. Subsequently Bishop Robert Caldwell (1814-1891) followed the same foot-steps and in 1856 published the book A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages.

This book epitomized distinctive anthropological status to the South and pictured as linguistically separate from the rest of India with an un-Indian culture. There is no definite philological and linguistic basis for asserting unilaterally that the term dravida. His work was influenced with the defunct Aryan-Dravidian race theories proposed by Max Muller the German linguist. Thereupon the term dravida became the name of the family of a language.

During the early days of Common Era (CE) Greeks used dhamir damarike for Tamil / Tamizakaom. Ancient Sri Lankans used dhamizha for Tamil. Sanskrit also used dramida dravida for Tamil long before the birth of Common Era, probably between 1500 to 1000 BCE.

Brahmins of India broadly divided themselves into two groups Pancha Gauda (Gaudam / Bengal, Saraswatam, Kanyakubjam, Utkalam, Kashmeeram) and Pancha Dravida (Gurjara, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra, Dravida includes Kerala and Tamilnadu). Thus it has no anthropological base (Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Dravidian, Annamalai Nagar, 1965, passim).

In the light of the said Aryan-Dravidian dichotomy it is better to make an enquiry into the contemporary attempts to transform Tamil identity into the Dravidian Christianity. The advocates of this venture are striving to baptize Saint Thiruvalluvar through re-writing history.  For instance Chennai Archbishop Arulappa once hired Ganesh Iyer alias Acharya Paul for re-writing the history with the said end. Such vicious endeavours targets to transform even Saint Thiruvalluvar, the pride of Mother India, as the disciple of Saint Thomas. (Anyhow their rationality failed to depict Saint Thiruvalluvar as the disciple of Jesus).

They are reducing Saint Thiruvalluvar’s greatness by making him as the disciple of Thomas who never visited India. Thomas’s mission to India is rejected even by Vatican also.  Thus, I think, it is genuine to peep into the futility of apostolic origin of the Indian Christianity.


Lord Parshuram with Brahmin settlers commanding Lord Varuna to make the seas recede to make the Konkan.


First question to be discussed here is the question of the arrival of Saint Thomas and subsequent conversion of Hindu aristocracy, particularly the Namboothiris / Brahmins, to Christianity.

Second one is the date of the question of the origin of Christianity in Kerala, the gateway of Christianity to India.

Third is the European interest behind popularization of generating aristocratic (savarna) feeling among the native Christians.

Before the arrival of Europeans in India, a nominal Christian presence was seen only in the Travancore and Cochin regions of Kerala. According to Ward and Conner, even after two centuries of the birth of Christianity, the number of Christians on the Malabar Coast shrank to eight families (Ward and Conner, The Survey of Travancore and Cochin States, Trivandrum, 1863, p. 146).

The antagonism that was generated amongst the Christians and Muslims due to the Crusades of 11th, 12th and 13th centuries prevented Christians from planting their roots in the Malabar region where Muslims got roots quite earlier.

The Christian population altogether in Travancore and Cochin during the early decades of the 19th century CE was 35,000 with 55 churches (Ward and Connor, The Survey of Travancore and Cochin States, Trivandrum, 1863, pp. 146 & 147).

C.M. Augur says that from the arrival of Portuguese till the early decades of the nineteenth century here in Kerala there were only less than 300 Christian churches for of all the denominations (C.M. Agur, Church History of Travancore, Kottayam, 1902, pp. 7, 8, 9).

G.T. Mackenzie observes, Christians prior to the arrival of Portuguese, did not form the part of Travancore aristocracy (G.T. Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore, Govt. Press, Trivandrum, 1901, p. 8).

Pope Nicolas IV sent John of Montecorvino, a missionary to convert India and China into Christianity and thus he wrote to pope in 1306 that “There are very few Christians and Jews (in India) and they are of little weight”. (See G.T. Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore, Govt. Press, Trivandrum, 1901, p. 8). Cosmas Indicopleustes comments that Christians are not masters but slaves (N.K. Jose, Aadima Kerala Christavar, Vechoor-Vaikom, 1972, p 127).

The center of the present savarna feeling of Syrian Christians of Kerala is the upshot of the wealth, which they had acquired through enhanced spice trade of the European period and the Portuguese pre-eminence in the Church. Above all the Christian-Muslim antagonism of West Asia was the real cause of the birth of Christianity of Kerala as seen today. To escape from the Muslim persecution several Persian, Syrian, etc. regions Christians secured refuge in India and thus it resulted in the birth of Christianity here. It is evident from the above mentioned pre-European period Christian-Muslim settlement pattern of Kerala.

In 1816 CE there were, in the Travancore State (now the part of Kerala), 19,524 temples and 301 churches for all denominations. But in 1891, that is after 76 years, the number of temples had shrunk in to 9,364 and the number of churches had burgeoned to 1,116 (C.M. Agur, Church History of Travancore, Kottayam, 1902, pp. 7, 8, 9).


John Munro of Teaninich (1843)


Under the recommendation of Diwan (Col. John Munroe, a British subject) in 1812 Queen of Travancore nationalized 378 wealthy temples. The villain Diwan tactically awarded a natural death to the temples with insufficient resources. Considering the geographical area, the number of the temples set ablaze or knocked down or tactically buried down in Travancore (a princely state of modern Kerala) was proportionately much higher than that of temples demolished by the Muslim rulers of Northern India or Mysore Sultans.

In the year 1952 CE, the native Catholic Church approached the Papacy in Rome for pontifical approval to celebrate 1900th year of proselytism of Thomas. The Papacy declined the request of the Kerala Catholics on the ground that the claim has no historicity. Pope Benedict XVI had also declined the Thomas’s arrival and mission in the peninsular India. Only after the Portuguese Christianity in the South became a notable religious sect.


Tharisappalli Copper Plates (849 CE): Oldest documents to attest the presence of Christians in India.


St. Theresa Church Copper Plate Grant (Terisapalli Cheppedu) executed in 849 CE by Ayyan Atikal Tiruvatikal of Venadu during the reign of Emperor Sthanu Ravi (844-855) is the available oldest historical document linking to Christianity of Kerala. That the grant holders were not native Christians is a notable fact.

Kottayam is the Rome of India. First church of Kottayam (Valiyapalli or Big Church) was built by a Hindu raja (Thekkumkur dynasty) in 1550 CE for the Persian Christian merchants (Knanaya Christians) who settled here (A. Sreedhara Menon, A Survey of Kerala History, Kottayam, 1970, p 43).

The quality of missionaries to India until early British period was also remarkably very low. Missionary urge for Christianization of India was fermented in England long before the 1813 Charter Act. In 1793 William Carey reached in Bengal, at Serampore, with missionary spirit without proper permission from the Company. Originally he was a cobbler by profession and turned out to be a Baptist missionary and became instrumental to the general missionary spirit that prevailed over England during this period (R. C. Majumdar & Others, An Advanced History of India, Madras, rpt. 1970, pp. 810, 811).

It is the fact that several of the much applauded missionary families of the colonial period were failed business men or opportunity seekers.

Christian population became decisive power only after the European intervention in the socio-economic structure of Kerala. Robert De Nobili, an early 17th century Catholic Missionary of India, who lived in the attire of a Hindu hermit and established a monastery in Madurai to convert Brahmins. His attempt was to present Christianity in India as an aristocratic and Vedic offshoot. Thus the Thomas origin of Christianity in the Dravidian South was the outcome of the missionary schema against Hindu religion and culture.


St. Thomas Icon


The construction of Dravidian identity and induction of Saint Thomas myth is a calculated affair by the European Church which is now facing the extinction syndrome. The fragility of Christian base in the West is a well attested factor. In this changing scenario the Church cast its eyes in the third millennium over a highly spiritualistic society, the Hindu, for its survival. To a certain extent missionaries of the South succeeded to construct and politicize the Dravidian illusion. The need of the hour is to prepare the society to counter all such disguised and overt anti-Hindu accomplishments.

Nota Bene

See the comment below regarding the origin of the Terisapalli Cheppedu Copper Plate Grant.


 

India and the Syrian Christians of Kerala – Pradeep Nair


“It was the Syrian Christians called St. Thomas Christians of the East by the Europeans, who brought Vasco da Gama to Kerala shores, beginning the colonisation of India. … They had offered to the Portuguese, French and British support to evict the local kings, Zamorins, who gave them refuge.” – Pradeep Nair


Vasco da Gama


“Kerala Virus Spread to Kutch” was the title of an article that appeared in Organiser around fifteen years back. Then a Malayali working in Gujarat I was curious, it talked about the Christian missionary activity in Kutch. Spear headed by the Kerala Christians, who start schools, help the poor and “salvage” the people in myriad ways. I remembered this after seeing an article written by one Dr. C. I. Issac, a Syrian Christian from Kerala, on the history of the Syrian Christians. It so happens that Dr. Issac is now an established RSS leader and is Secretary of the RSS outfit Bharateeya Vichara Kendram founded by the veteran P. Parameswaran in Thiruvananthapuram.

Here was yet another attempt, as shrewd as it can be, trying to shield a community which did enormous harm to Kerala and India. Till the British left they were allies of the British, “our Christian brethren in Malabar” as innumerable British documents narrate, and enjoyed all privileges. Even today they are spear-heading all the conversion initiatives across India and pool in international church funds for the purpose. Several organisations in Kerala do just this. Have budgets mounting to billions. Seeing the tilt in India they are now trying to be good boys. Quite normal with them, till 1947 they called Mahatma Gandhi Mr. Gandhi, just as the British did. Their news paper Malayala Manorama is evidence. Later they said they are freedom fighters, Congress men. Now they rule Kerala.

Going back historians have talked about them, one time refugees to Kerala from Syria. After religious persecution, like the Parsees. But recent studies have come up with shocking data. Like Sanjay Subrahmanyam in Lisbon taking Portuguese documents (Career and Legend of Vasco Da Gama), they have said that it was the Syrian Christians called St. Thoma Christians of the East by the Europeans, who brought Vasco da Gama, beginning the colonisation of India, to Kerala shores. That they had offered to the Portuguese, French and British support to evict the local kings, Zamorins, who gave them refuge. Obviously the early Syrians were here for centuries, came as refugees, later more coming in. The same fact is also there in the Dutch history of Travancore, also in the French sources. That the Syrian Christian refugees of Kerala wanted the Europeans to help them to have “Thy Kingdom Come”.


Tinicherian: Wikipedia Mafia Boss


Syrian Christians of Kerala: They are now called St. Thomas Christians though the designation originally referred to low caste Hindu converts to Catholicism.


They are now exposed, despite Syrian Christians in control of Kerala, despite the backroom boys of Sonia Gandhi being Syrian Christians of Kerala there are demands from within Kerala that the Syrians go back to Syria. Why Dr. C. I. Issac is taking the mantle of an RSS leader in Kerala, is “fighting for the Hindus” against “minorities”. Too clever that, as the weapons go against the diluted “minority” more to the Muslims. These are a shrewd people and the worst sufferers were the Nairs and the Brahmins, formerly the Kerala warrior caste like Rajputs and the priestly caste, the so-called upper castes. On whom the British spat venom, made the others enemies of them. They also converted the lower castes and tried to liquidate the Hindu leadership, ruining Kerala.

Once called the richest nation in the world by the world traveller Marco Polo (13th century) Malabar, present day Kerala, is today a suicide capital. There are armies of the Hindu unemployed roaming all Indian cities, the only people wallowing in luxury are the Syrian Christians, with their international church funds and vote bank politics. The other rich in Kerala are the Muslims who have oil money from the Gulf. It is a sin to spread this lie about the Syrian Christians. Their core beliefs, language of worship (Syriac) and totems are all from West Asia, to this day. They came from old Syria, today part of Iraq, Turkey and modern Syria is well established. Most of them are still under the Christian Church of Antioch, now in Muslim Turkey. It is also well established in world history that there were exodus of people Jews, Christians and Parsis from that region.

It is futile for Dr. Issac, how so ever shrewd he is, to cover up history written through a few centuries, in many countries, in many languages. The question is this, the Syrian Christians who came as refugees have now captured Kerala. They own all major establishments, own up to 85 percent of educational institutions, 80 percent of media, most of the banks, financial institutions and the Hindus, once ruling Kerala, slave it out as workers. Impoverished they commit suicide in thousands. What began during the British regime, continued with the secular communist phase. Why go elsewhere, see Kerala now ruled by a Christian-Muslim coalition, has no Hindu political party worth the name in the state. It is branded communal by the predominantly Christian media. The chief minister, chief secretary, police chief, majority IAS officers, why even the sportsmen are all Syrian Christian.


Vellappally Natesan


P.K. Narayana Panicker


Capital-starved, cornered, the Hindus suffer in silence. But at last there are many who talk out, like the Ezhava community leaders Vellapally Natesan and now the NSS leader Narayana Panicker. They are not afraid anymore, they were. Many groups are now asking that the Syrian Christians, who came as refugees and captured Kerala be driven out. Why this new explanations from people like Dr. Issac. But it will not help, truth is known to the people and the Syrian Christians may have to own up at last. A people given refuge eventually destroying a place is unusual in world history. It is what the Syrian Christians are guilty of. They could cover up the truth so far with the British in power and later naive pro-west groups in charge. Today an awakened India understands what is the truth. – Christian Aggression, Tiruvananthapuram, March 3, 2005


 

2 – Legend of a slain saint to stain Hinduism – Swami Tapasyananda


Swami Tapasyananda, the author of this article, was an erudite Indian scholar sannyasi and vice-president of the Ramakrishna Order from 1985 to 1991. He wrote this article when he was president of the Ramakrishna Math in Mylapore, Madras, in 1989. A comment by the equally erudite Hindu yogi scholar and Samkhya philosopher Ram Swarup follows this article. – IS


Swami Tapasyananda

The Vedanta Kesari


This article has been provoked by two write-ups in the Madras edition of the Indian Express. The first of these is “In Memory of a Slain Saint” by C.A. Simon in the Express Weekend of the Indian Express of 30 December 1989, and the second, a rejoinder to it by Ishwar Sharan in the “Weekend Post” of the Express Weekend of 13 January 1990.

The first write-up, C.A. Simon’s, whether based on facts or fiction, is highly derogatory of Hinduism, which is, even to this day, highly tolerant of other religions. The chief items of information contained in C.A. Simon’s writings are as follows: (1) St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ (a disputed fact), came to India in AD 52 with Habban, a foreign trader. (2) He landed at Maliankara (Cranganore) in Kerala, preached the Gospel, wrought miracles, and got many converts. (3) Then he came to Mailepuram (Mylapore), then went to China, after some time returned to Maliankara, and from there came again to Madras where he spent the rest of his life teaching, preaching and drawing a large number of the oppressed and the suppressed into his fold. (4) He performed miracles which made the local king Mahadeva offer him a place near the seashore where the old church of Mylapore now stands. (5) His conversion activities incensed the orthodox and enemies from their rank vowed to finish him. (6) He had therefore to hide himself in a cave at the Little Mount near the present St. Thomas Mount (about five km away from Mylapore). (7) Finally, he was murdered there, i.e., at St. Thomas Mount, by those fanatical enemies, and (8) his body was brought to Mylapore and buried in AD 73 at a spot which was forgotten for many centuries.

But the greatest miracle was to occur in 1523, nearly fifteen hundred years after the saint was supposed to have died. That was the rediscovery of the tomb and remains of the murdered saint by the priest in charge of the Mylapore church for building a new church—pieces of bones, a skull, a vessel containing mud supposedly from the place where the saint’s blood was shed, and a spearhead of the shape of an olive leaf fixed on a wooden shaft.

Wonder of wonders! Even after about fifteen centuries these remains, including the stick, had not become fossilized or crumbled into dust, but could be got intact and buried at an undisclosed place in the church. That church was damaged beyond recognition in the course of the battles waged round it during the rivalry between the Dutch, the French, and the British and Hyder Ali. (Strangely, the Portuguese are not said to be involved in it, perhaps because they were the heroic defenders!) At last in 1893 the present Santhome Church with Gothic architectural excellence was built. (It must be by the Portuguese and none else.) The papal seal over this whole story was stamped in 1956 when Pope Pius XII gave it recognition as a Minor Basilica, all the four major ones being outside India.

The above legend, that is dexterously built into a mighty balloon to boost Christian fanaticism, is neatly pricked in the rejoinder by Ishwar Sharan, published as a letter to the editor in the “Weekend Post” of the Indian Express of 13 January 1990. The points mentioned by him are as follows: In his book Papacy: Its Doctrine and History, Sita Ram Goel writes:

Some Catholic scholars have been busy for many years marshalling literary and archaeological evidence in an effort to prove that St. Thomas came to India in 52 AD, converted some Hindus in the South and was killed by the Brahmins in Mylapore in Madras. Suffice it to say that some historians have seriously doubted the very existence of an apostle named St. Thomas. Distinguished scholars like R. Garbe, A. Harnack and L. de la Vallee-Poussin have denied credibility to the Acts of Thomas, an apocryphal work on which the whole story is based. Some others who accept the fourth century Catholic tradition about the travels of St. Thomas, point to the lack of evidence that he ever went beyond Ethiopia and Arabia Felix. The confusion, according to them, has arisen because the ancient geographers often mistook these two countries for India.

He further refers to Stephen Neill’s book History of Christianity in India: From the Beginnings to 1707 A.D. published by the Cambridge University Press, England, in 1984, as follows:

A number of scholars, among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medlycott, J.N. Farquhar and the Jesuit J. Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what may be called Thomas romances, such as reflect the vividness of their imaginations rather than the prudence of rigid historical critics.

Pained by the spread of this spurious history among large sections of Christians, he observes:

Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with a confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.

Stephen Neill was a bishop who had spent long years in India.

To these we want to make ensuing comments to disprove these assumptions of pious Christians. Further absurdities in Thomas legends are revealed in S. Muthiah’s Madras Discovered published by Affiliated East-West Press. The following are the facts gleaned from it: Thomas shunted between St. Thomas Mount and Mylapore, separated by about five km, doing his preaching work and converting thousands. He lived in a cave at Little Mount in Saidapet, three km from St. Thomas Mount. There is, to the east of the cave, an opening which is said to have opened in those days into a tunnel from the Little Mount to St. Thomas Mount. The saint is supposed to have fled from his persecutors through this cave. He was however murdered by them at St. Thomas Mount. Mylapore has only the honour of being the place where his dead body was brought and buried. From there his remains were taken to Edessa in Syria where every July a great festival is held to commemorate his reburial. From Edessa they are said to have been moved to the Greek island of Chios, thence to Ortona on Italy’s Adriatic coast where they remain to this day. But each resting place still has some relic of Thomas—Madras has a small hand bone and the head of a lance in the St. Thomas Basilica crypt.

More miracles in proof of this legend of murder are yet to come. In 1547 the Vicar of Mylapore during excavation at St. Thomas Mount discovered a “bleeding” cross with old Pahlavi inscriptions. It had spots that looked like blood stains which, it is claimed, reappeared after being rubbed away. This cross is built into the wall behind the altar of the church on the mount dedicated to Madonna of the Mount. The tradition about this cross is that it was chiseled from a rock by the apostle himself. It is said that it used to bleed periodically. The first publicly noticed bleeding was on 15 December 1558 and the last in 1704.

Apart from these fanciful anecdotes about St. Thomas in Madras, Christianity of a brand which had nothing to do with Western Christianity had come to the Malabar coast very early. Sometime about AD 450 (sic) one Canai Thomas with seventy-two Syrian families arrived in Kerala and whatever traces of early Christianity there were got mixed up with this Syrian brand of it. So these Christians, known till then as Nazaranis (Nazarenes), got also the name Syrian Christians.[1] Their connection to this day is with the Orthodox Church of Syria. The grafting of this powerful group with the existing fragmentary Christian groups must have led to the identification of Kerala Christians with the Thomas tradition, to which they hold steadfastly to this day. The St. Thomas of their fancy must really be Canai Thomas of Syria. The members of this community were adventurous traders with business connections with many countries abroad, and through commerce they brought much wealth to the country. They therefore enjoyed the patronage of the local kings. Their numbers increased not only by the absorption of the existing fragment of the Christian community but the influx of many Hindus from highly aristocratic classes owing to the rigorous rules of excommunication that prevailed among them. Such excommunications were common among them for breach of caste rules, and these excommunicated individuals, men or women, had no other course than to join this new community. This crossbreed Christian community of Kerala is distinguished from the converts by later Catholic and Protestant missionaries both in appearance and talents. In modern India they are everywhere found to occupy high positions in the professional and business life of the country. Their names too are usually different from the European names by which most of the later converted Christians were known till very recent times.

Now to go back to the legend of St. Thomas in Madras. It is clearly the fabrication of the Portuguese to camouflage their destruction of the Hindu Temple of Kapaleeswara which was situated on the seashore, probably at the very place where Santhome Church now stands. The great Saivite saint of sixth century AD, Tirujnanasambandar, sings in the 6th Poompavai Padikam Thevaram:

The Lord of Kapaleeswaram sat watching the people of Mylapore
A place full of flowering coconut palms
Taking ceremonial bath in the sea on the full moon day of the month of Masai.

In the same strain sings Arunagirinathar, who came to Mylapore in 1456, in his Tirumayilai Tiruppugazh:

O Lord of Mailai (Mylapore) temple, situated on the shores of the sea with raging waves …

This clear and indisputable evidence gives the lie to the legend that the Portuguese invented to hide their nefarious work. The Portuguese domination of Mylapore was from 1522 to 1697, by which time the British had established themselves in the Fort St. George and adjoining territories, and the Portuguese had to withdraw to Goa where their empire lasted till 1962. In Goa their rule was noted for a spree of destruction of Hindu temples and persecution of the Goanese, so much so that large sections of them had to flee that territory and settle all along the west coast of India. They are the Gauda Saraswats. The fate of these Goanese would have overtaken the temples and the people of Madras also, a foretaste of which contingency they got in the destruction of the holy Kapaleeswara Temple. Thanks to the British domination of the region and the consequent elimination of the Portuguese, this tragic fate did not overtake them. The British had more political maturity and diplomatic perception, which helped them perceive that trade was more important for themselves than religious propaganda. And so they kept an attitude of indifference towards the religion and religious edifices of the people in whose midst they carried on their trading activities, which eventually led to the establishment of a political empire.

The destruction of the seashore Temple of Kapaleeswara is said to have taken place in 1561. The new temple at its present site, about one km to the west, was built by pious Hindu votaries about three hundred years ago, i.e., about two hundred and fifty years after its destruction. When the Santhome Church was repaired in the beginning of the current century, many stones with edicts were found there. Among them one mentions Poompavai, the girl whom Tirujnanasambandar is said to have miraculously revived from her ashes kept in an urn.

These are all matters of the forgotten past. Both the Kapaleeswara Temple and the Santhome Church are now thriving and catering to the spiritual needs of the Hindus and the Christians. In such a situation it is better not to rake up the memories of these unpleasant facts. According to forward-looking people many things of the past are better forgotten than remembered and ruminated upon. The history of the Kapaleeswara Temple and Santhome Church belongs to this category.

But the priests of the Santhome Church will not allow this. They want to keep the flame of fanaticism bright. It is distressing to note the following passage in C.A. Simon’s write-up in the Indian Express of 30 December 1989:

Today Santhome has in its possession only a piece of bone and the metal spearhead with which the saint was assassinated at Madras. These are under the safe custody of the priests. It is exposed for public veneration during the annual solemn novena for the feast of St. Thomas on July 3rd every year.

What is still more threatening is the concluding sentence:

Fr. Charles, assistant priest, further informed this writer that there may be celebrations on the 3rd of every month, starting from January 1990 onwards, with the help of the parishioners.

This attempt to keep up the fanaticism of the minority may inflame the fanaticism of the majority too, and lead to situations like the Babri Masjid controversy. All right-thinking men should foresee and avoid the occurrence of such a contingency.

Postscript

This article appeared in the June 1990 issue of The Vedanta Kesari, published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math in Mylapore, Madras. It had been submitted three months earlier to the Indian Express, Madras, but had elicited no response from the “fearless” newspaper—though, as will be seen, the resident editor was fully aware of its existence in his office.


Ram Swarup


Ram Swarup of New Delhi, on reading the article, sent a letter to The Vedanta Kesari editor on June 27th:

Reference Swami Tapasyananda’s piece, “The Legend of a Slain Saint to Stain Hinduism”, in your journal of June 1990. I beg to point out respectfully that a most excellent article has been marred by a bad ending. Can’t we in all veracity speak of Semitic iconoclasm without first accusing ourselves of fanaticism? And where is the much feared Hindu fanaticism in the so-called Babri Masjid controversy? Does it consist in our remembering that fanatic forces destroyed our temples and that we must do something about it? But must we start indulging in self-condemnation even before we have started doing anything and the issues have joined? In the language of the Gita, this state of mind comes from hridaya-daurbalyam and karpanya-dosha and can achieve little.

The psychological disarmament of Hinduism has been going on for a long time and we have learnt to pull down our defences even before we have built them. Unfortunately, it has been often preached by some of the best minds of Hinduism.

This letter was not published in the magazine. The Vedanta Kesari does not publish letters to the editor.

We had also sent copies of Swami Tapasyananda’s article to C.A. Simon, the Archbishop of Madras at Santhome, and the Indian Express editor. C.A. Simon was the only one to respond with a letter on August 9th. He had learned from the Express Weekend editor that we planned to include his article in the appendix of a book, and though he had not yet been informed of the project, he wrote:

Thank you for sending me the xerox copies of the articles written by Swami Tapasyananda and published by Vedanta Kesari.

My interest in that article is purely academic as I am not championing anybody’s cause. Also I was not aware of the version given in your letter or in the article.

Main sources for my article was two books:

  1. In the Steps of St. Thomas by Rt. Rev. Herman D’Souza.
  2. St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia edited by Sri George Menachery.

A few of the leaflets were also referred for the article. A facsimile of postal stamp released by Govt. of India during the occasion (said to be) of the 19th centenary in 1972 also was seen. The speech given by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, former president of India, “Remember St. Thomas came to India …” was also referred.

I am trying to say that the article was not written with any malafide (sic) intention, and I was not aware of the controversial version given by Sri Sita Ram Goel. Since I am aware of it now I note to honour the other version also.

I learned that you are going to publish a book and intend to include my article as the Christian version. As I do not stand for any religious sect or group you may desist from doing so. Instead you may refer to more authoritative works of this subject if you feel so.

Being a scholar of great understanding about the subject, I hope, you may take this in proper spirit.

You may bring this to notice of Swami Tapasyananda in order to clear any misunderstanding.

Kindly acknowledge this letter. You may feel free to write to me.

We did indeed acknowledge this letter and replied to it on August 14th as follows:

This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of August 9th.

My essay on the myth of St. Thomas has been written in reply to your article which appeared in the Indian Express of 30 December 1989.

Considering this, and that you and the Indian Express initiated the controversy by publishing the sly communal tale as Madras city history, you can hardly ask me to desist from reprinting it.

Your article is the subject of public discussion and a necessary reference, and is being reproduced as an appendix to my reply.[2]

It is difficult to believe that your interest in St. Thomas is only academic. You have not named any unbiased scholar nor given any credible academic reference.

In fact you have written an excellent piece of Roman Catholic propaganda—in the steps of Rt. Rev. Herman D’Souza who went to great lengths to manipulate Indian history and vilify Hindus in his work—and I must congratulate you on your success.

As you quote Marco Polo and Rajendra Prasad as proof that St. Thomas came to India, so Indians will now quote you and the Indian Express as further proof that St. Thomas came to India.

Your letter amounts to a disclaimer and should really be directed to the editor of the Indian Express, but if you wish to communicate further with me you are of course welcome to do so.

This was the end of the correspondence. C.A. Simon did not communicate further with us and as no disclaimer appeared in the Express Weekend, it may be assumed that neither he nor his editor regretted the publication of the “historical” communal tale in Indian Express columns.


1. Thomas of Cana and the seventy-two Syrian families arrived in 345 CE. They were the first Christians to arrive in India. Swami Tapasyananda has made an error here and identified the Jerusalem merchant with a later migration from West Asia. All early Christian groups in Malabar, whether called Nazaranis (Nasranis) or Nestorians, were of Syrian or Persian origin. They were divided into two basic groups: those who married Indians and those who did not.

2. In the first edition of this book, published in February, 1991, where Simon’s article appears in the appendix.