Tag Archives: thiruvalluvar

1 – Archbishop Arulappa’s history project goes terribly wrong – K.P. Sunil;


“The Christian Church of India, considered to be amongst the oldest in the world, is believed to have been founded by St. Thomas in 52 A.D. Arulappa held the view that St. Thomas, before his martyrdom on a hill near Madras, now called St. Thomas Mount, met Tiruvalluvar and influenced the bard to the extent of converting him to the nascent faith. The theory had been propounded. What remained to be obtained was proof of such an occurrence.” – K.P. Sunil


St. Thomas and his Hindu assassin


The case has been closed. And the dramatis personae prefer to maintain a studied silence. For fear that a post-mortem would reveal hidden cadavers in their cupboards. For even a superficial examination of the fraud that shook the foundations of the Catholic Church in Madras in the late seventies and early eighties indicates that a lot of embarrassing details have been swept under the mat.

Reverend Dr. R. Arulappa, former archbishop of the Madras diocese, who claims to have been duped by one Acharya Paul, also known as Ganesh Iyer, is ill. Incapacitated by serious cardiac problems. In fact, it is his ill-health that forced him to retire from his post as head of the diocese. So the infamous scandal had to be pieced together from court records, police files and the ramblings of the main character – Ganesh Iyer.

It all began in the early seventies. Ganesh Iyer, who had adopted the Christian faith and was a self-styled Bible preacher known as John Ganesh, went to Tiruchi in the course of his evangelical journeys and met a Catholic priest Father Michael of the Tamil Illakiya Kazhagam (Tamil Literary Society). He is reported to have presented himself to the priest as Dr. John Ganesh, professor of philosophy and comparative religions at the Banaras university, and recently returned from Jammu and Kashmir where he was involved in research on Christianity in India. Michael put him on to another priest, Father Mariadas of Sriviliputhur.

John Ganesh impressed Mariadas with his mastery over Christian theology. He showed him copies of notices extolling him as a speaker. He reportedly produced letters written to him by various scholars in the fields of education and religion. He is also reported to have shown Mariadas photographs of palm leaf writings and copper plate inscriptions several centuries old.

These documents, he reportedly claimed, traced the origins and development of the Christian faith in India. Since further research on the subject required money which John Ganesh claimed not to have, Mariadas took upon himself the task of locating funds for the project the successful completion of which, he felt, would provide a shot in the arm for Christianity in India.

Mariadas gave John Ganesh something in the range of  Rs. 22,000 toward the research. And as his own funds were depleted, he introduced the researcher to the head of the Catholic Church in Madras, R. Arulappa.


Former Archbishop of Madras R. Arulappa


Arulappa was a Tamil scholar who also had the reputation of being a researcher. He had translated the New Testament into Tamil and set to tune the Book of Psalms. He had also rendered in Tamil the life of Christ, Ulagin Uyir (“The Life of the World”). He had learned Sanskrit and translated several Christian tenets into that language. He had also done extensive research on Tirukkural, the creation of the Tamil bard, Tiruvalluvar.

Tiruvalluvar is known to modern generations through his immortal literature. The exact time of his existence is lost in the mists of the hoary past. Some historians believe Tiruvalluvar to be a product of the early Sangam period in Tamil literature, several centuries before Christ. The Tamil Nadu government bases its calendar on the year of his birth. For this purpose, it is assumed that Tiruvalluvar was born exactly 2018 years ago [this article was written in 1987], i.e. in the first century before Christ. Some literary experts place Tiruvalluvar in the first century after Christ, others date him 300 years after.


Tiruvalluvar


Just as little is known about Tiruvalluvar’s origins, his religious beliefs are also shrouded in some mystery. Attempts have been made, going by the precepts contained in his verse, to speculate about his religion. While he is widely believed to have been a Hindu and the Tirukkural considered a revered Hindu scripture, other religions too have staked a claim on him. Since the Tirukkural enshrines the ideals of ahimsa, dharma and asceticism, many experts consider Tiruvalluvar to have been considerably influenced by Jain thought.

A recent paper presented by Dr. S. Padmanabhan makes Tiruvalluvar out to be a Hindu chieftain from the Kanyakumari district. Archbishop Arulappa felt that the Tirukkural was so profound and filled with compassionate sentiments that it must have been influenced by early Christian missionaries who came to South India in the first century after Christ, notably St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Christ.

The Christian Church of India, considered to be amongst the oldest in the world, is believed to have been founded by St. Thomas in 52 A.D. Arulappa held the view that St. Thomas, before his martyrdom on a hill near Madras, now called St. Thomas Mount, met Tiruvalluvar and influenced the bard to the extent of converting him to the nascent faith. The theory had been propounded. What remained to be obtained was proof of such an occurrence.

It was this that Ganesh Iyer, posing as John Ganesh, reportedly promised to unearth for the archbishop.

Since this suited the archbishop’s scheme and since Arulappa was convinced that Ganesh was in a position to ferret out the evidence necessary to prove his pet theory, he engaged him to take up the research. The archbishop was apparently lulled into complacency by Ganesh’s mastery of Christian theology and his apparent sincerity of purpose. As if establishing a nexus between St. Thomas and Tiruvalluvar were not enough, John Ganesh also informed the archbishop that he could bring evidence that the three wise men from the East who prophesied the birth of Christ were none other than the epic Hindu sages, Vasistha, Viswamithra and Agasthya.

In 1975-76, John Ganesh began his research. And the archbishop started funding the same.

Ganesh produced photographs of palm leaf writings and copper plate inscriptions at periodic intervals. When the archbishop asked to see the originals, he was informed that they were stashed away in the safe custody of the archaeological departments and museums all over the country. It would therefore, not be possible to persuade these agencies to part with the priceless documents. He, however, promised to get his photographs authenticated by the respective agencies themselves. Thereafter, all photographs produced by Ganesh Iyer before the archbishop bore seals of the museums and departments from which he claimed to have obtained them.

Using the funds provided by the archbishop, Ganesh Iyer made a pretense of travelling extensively. It was a well-orchestrated programme. He would first inform the archbishop that he was going to Kashmir in connection with his research.

Next, the archbishop would receive letters from some Christian and Hindu religious heads in Kashmir informing him that they had come across Ganesh Iyer or, as he now called himself, Acharya Paul. The letters spoke in superlative terms about his sincerity of purpose and his noble research.

Whatever doubts the archbishop may have entertained about his researcher vanished in the face of these letters from eminent personages. More money changed hands. Though he was quite poor when he first met the archbishop, by the time he was through, Iyer had his own house in Srirangam. He owned two cars. He had purchased considerable gold jewelery for his wife and daughters. He had substantial deposits in banks in his name.

Most of the funds for the research had come from individuals and organisations abroad. If Iyer is to be believed, the archbishop even made out his personal car in Iyer’s name for a nominal Rs. 25,000. Iyer himself claims that he had not paid anything.

Questions were being asked around this time about the large sums of money being given to Acharya Paul for his research. The sceptics demanded proof that something tangible, that would benefit Christianity in the long run, had indeed been achieved. Only the archbishop’s pre-eminence prevented a direct confrontation.

In 1976, Iyer obtained a passport in the name of Acharya Paul. In 1977, accompanied by the archbishop, he went abroad. To the Vatican, among other places, where he had a lengthy audience with Pope Paul VI. The duo then visited several religious congregations and spoke about comparative religions. Everywhere he went, he spoke about the origins of Christianity in India and about his “monumental” research while the archbishop displayed the evidence. Money was collected for funding further research.

During their absence from India, individuals inimical to John Ganesh had organised themselves into a powerful force. Even as he was relaxing in his home in Srirangam after his return, the archbishop was pressurised to file a complaint with the police. That he had been duped by Ganesh Iyer who had claimed to be a bachelor, but was in reality a married man. That he had defrauded the archbishop to the tune of around Rs. 14 lakhs in the name of research into Christianity.

Investigations into the sordid episode began. The police, led initially by Inspector Seshadri and later by Inspector Chandrayaperumal, searched Iyer’s residence. They unearthed the  originals of all the photographs produced by Iyer as proof of his research-writings on strips of brown paper cut to resemble medieval palm frond writings, pasted on sheets of white paper. The police learnt that the photographs had been taken at a studio in Tiruchi and this led to the seizure of all the relevant negatives.

The police discovered how the photographs had been authenticated by various institutions-seals and rubber stamps of all the concerned institutions were lying in Iyer’s home. Letter-heads bearing the names of various Hindu and Christian scholars were recovered. The letters purported to have been received by Iyer from these personages, which he allegedly used to dupe Mariadas and later the archbishop, were declared to be clever forgeries by the state handwriting expert Srinivasan. The writing on these and the writing on the brown paper, though cleverly disguised, compared favourably with Iyer’s specimen. Account books showing details of amounts received from the archbishop and the amounts spent by him were recovered.

Iyer’s antecendents were thoroughly investigated and it was proved that he was a middle school dropout, not having studied beyond standard seven. Further confirmation was obtained from the Banares university that they did not have Dr. John Ganesh on their staff either teaching or doing research into philosophy and comparative religions.

The police case was complete. On April 29, 1980, Iyer was arrested and placed under remand, while prosecution proceedings were instituted under sections 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 465 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 473 (making and possessing counterfeit seals with intent to commit forgery) of the Indian Penal Code and under section 12-B of the Indian Passports Act (obtaining a passport supplying false information).


Man with beard


Archbishop Arulappa testified against Iyer before the court. Iyer initially pleaded innocence, but later admitted to the fraud on all counts. He prayed that in view of his advancing age and critical family circumstances, he be shown leniency.

On February 6, 1986, P. Aruvudayappan, second metropolitan magistrate, Madras, delivered his judgment in case number 100087/82: “Taking advantage of the soft attitudes of public witnesses 2 and 3 (Father Mariadas and Father Arulappa),” he averred, “the defendant (Ganesh Iyer) had taken from them about Rs. 13.5 lakhs between 1975 and 1980. This has been clearly established. Taking into consideration the nature of the offenses, the defendant is being held guilty under various sections of the I.P.C. and has to undergo 10 months imprisonment and 5 month’s rigorous imprisonment under section 12-B of the Indian Passports Act. These sentences are to run concurrently. He had been arrested on April 29, 1980 and let off on bail on June 27, 1980. These 59 days of imprisonment are to be deducted from the total sentence as required under section 428 of the code of criminal procedure.”

The magistrate’s judgment notwithstanding, doubts still linger. Why were the archbishop’s suspicions not aroused until he had handed over a whopping Rs. 13,49,250 (according to records, though Iyer claims to have received far in excess of that sum) on a spurious research project? Why had the archbishop not bothered to verify the authenticity of the “documents” produced by Iyer with the museums and other institutions concerned, directly? Why did he not bother to accompany Iyer to the actual site of his “research” when he had found time to accompany him to Rome, the Vatican, Germany, France, Spain, the United States?

With the archbishop still indisposed, answers to these questions are not forthcoming.

What is even more curious is that even as criminal proceedings against Iyer were in progress in the magistrate’s court, a civil suit for a compromise had been filed in the Madras high court. The compromise decree was taken up immediately after the conclusion of the criminal case. Since Iyer had admitted the offense, his jail term was reduced to a mere two months imprisonment. And since he had already served 59 days of remand, this period was adjusted against the sentence.

In other words, Iyer, who had defrauded the archbishop to the tune of about Rs. 14 lakhs, was let off without any further punishment. He was ordered to forfeit all claim on the money given to him by the archbishop. Accordingly, the ornaments and money seized from him by the police were returned to the archbishop. As part of the compromise, Iyer was allowed to retain the large bungalow he had purchased with the archbishop’s money.

“I agreed to this compromise because there was nothing else I could do,” says Iyer. His viewpoint in understandable. For, going by the lower court’s verdict, he would have not only had to serve 5 months of rigorous imprisonment, but would have automatically had to forfeit all his properties including the house. Why the archbishop agreed to the compromise is not understandable.

Today Ganesh Iyer lives on the first floor of his house in Srirangam—the lower portion is let out on rent, enabling him to receive a monthly income. He is by no means affluent, but is certainly a far cry from the penury to which his family and he would have been consigned, if it were not for the compromise. Father Arulappa is convalescing, recovering from a major surgery. He has handed over the mantle of archbishop to Reverend G. Casimir on health grounds .

And the case, though officially closed, remains in many minds, an unsolved mystery.[1]

Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese


1. Originally published under the title “Hoax!” in The Illustrated Weekly of India, April 26 – May 2, 1987, Bombay.


 

2 – Archbishop Arulappa sends his document forger to jail – Ganesh Iyer & K.P. Sunil


“When some celebrations were held in Kerala over two decades ago, Jawaharlal Nehru, our then prime minister, who attended the functions, asked the learned priests who had gathered: “Is it really true that St. Thomas came to India?” Nobody answered him. They merely smiled. They were unable to answer his query because they had no proof.” – Ganesh Iyer


Forger with beard (for illustrative purpose only).


His frame is sparse. He looks older than his 67 years. His white attire is crumpled and dirty. It is torn in a few places, indicating obvious paucity of finances. His long, flowing white beard gives him an ascetic look.

He speaks in spurts. In fluent Tamil and faultless English, unexpected in one who did not even complete his schooling. He is a great accumulator of books on a variety of subjects. From philosophy to religion, law to communism, in addition to complete sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Americana. He is capable of speaking at length on any subject. An ability that endeared him to several persons, notably the Archbishop of Madras.

Ganesh Iyer, Paul Ganesh, John Ganesh, Janakiram Ganesh, Paul Gouthaman, Acharya Paul …

Iyer was initially hesitant to talk to The Weekly about how he allegedly defrauded the Catholic mission in India of Rs. 14 lakhs. “The case has only now come to an end,” he explains. “My opponents tried everything to crucify me before coming to a sort of compromise. I do not wish to tell you the truth of the whole affair. Because that will infuriate them further and they might renew their attacks on me. And I am financially in no position to defend myself, leave alone retaliate.”

On his background

I have not had much by way of formal education. Only up to standard seven. My father was very poor and could not afford to educate his children much. He moved from his native village of Kannadikaathan in Ramnad district to Ceylon. It was there that I came into intimate contact with a college professor, A.H. Williams. He taught me English. He also introduced me to Christianity. I became so proficient in English that very soon, on my return to my native village, I was giving tuitions to some students.

On his association with Christianity

I read a lot of books on Christianity. I became convinced that Christ was the almighty God – the saviour of the world. I voluntarily converted myself to Christianity. Nobody forced me or compelled me. I changed my name to John Ganesh. I started addressing prayer meetings and preaching. I gained so much knowledge on the subject of Christianity that I was the main speaker at several conventions. The people so loved my talks that when it was advertised in newspapers, they just thronged to hear me.

On one occasion, authorities even ran a special train to carry people coming to one of my meetings. My relatives did not object to my close links with Christianity because I was bringing in money. Though I was married, I was away most of the time and for the best part of 20 years, I had little contact with my family.


Former Archbishop of Madras R. Arulappa


On his introduction to the Archbishop of Madras, Father Arulappa

I reached a stage when I knew Christian theology better than most priests. I knew the Bible word for word. During my travels, I met some Catholic fathers in Sriviliputhur. They were quite taken aback by my knowledge of Christian theology. One of them took a fancy to me. It was he who introduced me to Father Arulappa. This was around 1973-74.

On how he became a religious pioneer

For the first three months Archbishop Arulappa treated me very nicely. I never even dreamt that one day he would misguide me. He used to frequently say: “Despite being Christians we do not have knowledge equal to yours on the subject. We are in a situation in which we have to learn Christianity from you.

I was perpetually short of money those days. And he used to give me some cash off and on.

One day, he told me: “You have tremendous knowledge. Now I want you to do something for me. I have a long-standing desire which you alone can fulfil and in the process, you will be able to do a tremendous service for the cause of Christianity as well.

I asked him what he wanted me to do.

Christianity, he said, was in India right from the beginning. But the general impression is that it had been brought here by foreigners. “I want to prove to the world,” he said, “that lots of evidence exists in our country to prove that Christianity was here all along. I am not interested in spreading this finding among Indians. But I want it to be taken to the Westerners. It is they who are perpetuating the theory that they brought Christianity to India. I want you to do something in this connection.”

He told me that he had written a book in Tamil, Perinba Villakku, in which he had propounded the theory that Tiruvalluvar was a Christian. I later found out that the book was not a popular one at all. That even today copies of it are gathering dust in bookstalls all over the country. He wanted me to do some work based on the contents of that book. Though Tiruvalluvar and St. Thomas, one of Jesus Christ’s twelve disciples, had lived in different periods, he wanted me to unearth evidence to the effect that the two great personages had indeed met and that St. Thomas had converted Tiruvalluvar to Christianity and baptized him. He assured me: “If you do this successfully, both of us will become internationally famous. We will also get a lot of money. It will be very useful to you.

I had misgivings about the whole project. Because I knew that in India there were no ancient documents or monuments on Christianity. Some documents are there, no doubt, to the effect that St. Thomas came to India. But doubts still persist whether the person mentioned in those documents is indeed apostle Thomas or his disciple.

In fact, when some celebrations were held in Kerala over two decades ago, Jawaharlal Nehru, our then prime minister, who attended the functions, asked the learned priests who had gathered: “Is it really true that St. Thomas came to India? Nobody answered him. They merely smiled. They were unable to answer his query because they had no proof.

When I told the archbishop all this, he said: If that is so, then we will have to concoct evidence to prove our point. Evidence like palm frond writings, copper plate inscriptions and all that. I did not like the plan one bit. But I wanted money. And this he promised to arrange for me. So I went along with him.

On his modus operandi

The archbishop had planned minutely how this was to be done. It was simple but ingenious. Simply brilliant, if perverted. He made me cut brown paper into long strips—irregular and uneven like ancient palm frond scrolls. I then wrote whatever he asked me to on these strips. I adopted a scrawl that was similar to ancient writings—often indecipherable. And the style of language was also lifted from the past. Laborious and involved.

These strips of brown paper were then pasted with glue on white cardboard and then photographed. The photo print looked exactly like a photograph of ancient palm frond scrolls. The archbishop intended to pass these off to unsuspecting people as the real stuff. I was still hesitant. But a friend, Santiago, who used to work in a bank, advised me to go ahead and comply with the archbishop’s request.

I made several such photographs. Hundreds, thousands. Entire portions of Tirukkural were written this way and interspersed with Christian thought. He used to give me money for expenses. Five thousand. Four thousand. Ten thousand. Whatever was left, he told me, I could keep for myself. And make myself comfortable. The money, he told me, came from abroad. It was for the specific purpose of my research. And so there was no necessity to account the same to the Church.

On his growing intimacy with the archbishop

I had informed the archbishop that I was a married man. Because of financial problems, I am roaming around looking for some money, I said. I do not wish to get involved in something illegal. I do not want to get into trouble. And my family should not suffer on that account.

Whenever I used to voice such misgivings, the archbishop used to reassure me: “Don t worry. I ll stand by you. No government or police will do anything against you. I will see to that. And no one in this diocese will dare do anything against my will.” He repeated this to me several times, holding my hands in his.

He also used to consult me on several other matters. In the archbishop’s residential complex in Madras, there is an ashram called Shanti Ashram. This was actually constructed under direction from me. He used to tell me that I was to him what St. Paul was to Jesus Christ.

To drive home the point he even began calling me Paul. He began introducing me to others as Acharya Paul. He told me that he had informed everyone that the research on Tiruvalluvar and St. Thomas was being done by Acharya Paul, a bachelor—a brahmachari. He requested that I keep up this pretence before others. But he gave me enough money to keep my family happy.

On the material benefits he derived out of this association

This house in Srirangam in which I am still staying was bought with money given by the archbishop. I also purchased some jewellery for my wife and two daughters. I had an Ambassador car at that time. In addition, the archbishop gave me the car he was personally using. I did not pay him any money for this. But he showed in his books that he had sold it to me for Rs. 25,000.

His constant refrain was: “You have whatever you want. But fulfil my life’s mission. You will not have any problems. I must have benefited to the tune of over Rs. 14 lakhs during my association with the archbishop.

On the first rumble of trouble

Many individuals in the Church resented my intimacy with the archbishop. I used to visit Madras frequently and on these occasions used to stay in some of the leading hotels there. The archbishop used to bear all these expenses.

There were rumours at that time that some like Father D’Souza and Father Francis (the archbishop’s personal assistant) were likely to file a complaint against me before the police. But again, Father Arulappa assured me that no one under him would dare to breach his authority and file a complaint. He has even sent me letters which were seized by the police, to this effect.

On his trip to the Vatican

In 1977, the archbishop and I went to Rome. We visited the Vatican. And there I was presented to the Pope. The archbishop introduced me to the Pope as Acharya Paul, a great researcher who had done a lot to get at the roots of Christianity in India. He showed the Pope copies of some of the “documentary evidence” I had unearthed.

Let me tell you one thing. The Pope, great man that he was, was not impressed. Though he was saying “very good, very good” all the while, he took the photographs in his hands, glanced at them and then just let them fall out of his hands.

He did not care for them. Nor did he pay much heed to what the archbishop was saying. But he was very kind to me. Despite the fact that several dignitaries including heads of states were waiting for an audience, he spent about 20 minutes with me.

On how he was finally exposed

From the Vatican, we toured several places in Europe and finally returned to India. I straight away went to my home in Srirangam. Since I did not hear from the archbishop for a number of days, I went over to Madras to meet him. It was then that he told me that during his absence, things had taken a turn for the worse. Someone had filed a complaint before the police, he informed me. “But there is no cause for worry. When the matter comes to court, I only have to say a word and the case will be dropped.” I worried a lot, nevertheless.

Immediately after, the police came. They raided my house and searched all over. They seized all documents and letters pertaining to the case. And they arrested me and placed me under remand. They seized my bank accounts and interrogated my family members.

I was made out to be a cheat, and a fraud. They even made out a case against me that I had taken a passport using a false name and a false address. In the passport my name was Acharya Paul, the name given to me by Archbishop Arulappa. The application had been made out by him and he had given my address as care of the archbishop’s residence in Madras.

So what wrong have I done? But who would listen to me? Who was there to talk on my behalf? No one. Why? Because everyone had been heavily bribed. That is why. I understand that they gave away as much as Rs. 15 lakhs by way of bribes.

In the metropolitan magistrate’s court, they convicted me to 10 months imprisonment. Later, in the high court, acting on a compromise petition filed, the sentence was reduced to 2 months. As I had already been under remand for nearly that period, I was let off. As part of the compromise, I had to forfeit all that I had earned through the archbishop—my money, jewellery, everything except my house which I was permitted to retain. I have no complaints about all that.

What I feel sad about is that I had done all this at the instance of the archbishop who had held all along that he would help me out at the time of trouble. But he himself came to court and testified that I had duped him and defrauded him of money. That was the last straw.[1]


1. Originally published under the title “What Wrong Have I Done?” in The Illustrated Weekly of India, April 26 – May 2, 1987, Bombay.


Madras Metropolitan Magistrate's Court


 

Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese plans blockbuster movie on St. Thomas – Ishwar Sharan


“I therefore on behalf of Hindus and those others who proudly acknowledge that their ancestors are Hindus, warn this karunanidhi-sonia duo to desist from trying to patronize the falsification of history about the presence in Tamil Nadu of Saint Thomas, to legitimize the Portuguese destruction of the Shiva temple to build the Santhome Church. ” — Dr. Subramanian Swamy


Portuguese shipsFrancis XavierRoberto de NobiliPope John Paul II & Archbishop Arulappa in 1986 at San Thome Cathedral: The Pope didn't believe Arulappa's fabricated evidence for St. Thomas in Mylapore.Syrian bishop with Pope Benedict in RomeArchbishop of Madras-Mylapore A.M. Chinnappa: Promoting the St. Thomas tale by Dravidian politics and cinema.Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi & San Thome Bishops: Promoting the St. Thomas tale at the expense of Indian history.


The silence of Pope John Paul II on St. Thomas during his visits to India in 1986 and 1999, and the categorical statement of his successor Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 that St. Thomas did not visit South India, put the cap on the St. Thomas fable for all time to come – except in India. In India the Church operates rather like the European Church operated in the Middle Ages: the Pope in Rome may say what he likes but the bishop in his Indian diocese will do what he likes in connivance with the local government so long as he can deliver the Christian vote to the state’s politicians. When Dr. Koenraad Elst, an agnostic “cultural Catholic” scholar from Belgium writes in the foreword of this book that “in contrast with European Christians today, Indian Christians live in a seventeenth century bubble, as if they are too puerile to stand in the daylight of solid historical fact, … at the command of ambitious “medieval” bishops who mislead them with the St. Thomas in India fable for purely selfish reasons”, he has understood the Indian Christian and the Indian Church exactly. Therefore it is not surprising that The Indian Catholic, Kochi, reported on 12 June 2008 that:

The Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore is planning to produce a 300 million rupee movie on St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, revered as the Apostle of India.

Archbishop A.M. Chinnappa, who heads the archdiocese, presented the 30 crore project before a meeting of Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council seeking their support this week.

The project, scheduled to be inaugurated by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, is expected to match Hollywood big-budget movies such as Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments in budget and in quality.

Church officials plan to launch the project on July 3, the feast day of St. Thomas, in the San Thome Basilica campus in Chennai. The 70-mm, two-and-half-hour feature film would have the bigwigs of Indian film industry on the credit line.

Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of Faith, supports the project along with the bishops in Tamil Nadu, media said quoting Archbishop Chinnappa.

St. Thomas is believed to have arrived in Kerala in 52 AD and established seven churches on the western coast. Tradition also holds that he was martyred in 72 AD in Mylapore. Hence the churches in Kerala and Tamil Nadu have special importance for the movie, said the archbishop.

The archbishop also hoped that a film on the life of St. Thomas would have spiritual consolation for people of all walks of life as it evolved around the theme of human equality and dignity for all.

The film will be made in Tamil first, then in Malayalam and Hindi and later dubbed into various other languages, including English and French, according to Church officials.


Plaster idol of Thomas on the fake tomb in San Thome Cathedral.


In response to this announcement, we wrote on The Ishwar Sharan Archive website that Roman Catholic bishops in India, rather than making a movie on a fictitious first century Christian missionary, owe Hindus an abject apology and crores of rupees in reparations for the Church’s crimes in India over the centuries. But if they insist on the Rs. 30 crore movie, are they going to tell the public the following facts about Judas Thomas as recorded in the Acts of Thomas, that:

  • Thomas was the look-alike twin brother of Jesus;
  • Jesus sold Thomas as a slave for thirty pieces of silver;
  • Thomas deceived the kings of Parthia-”India” who gave him respect and hospitality;
  • Thomas was a thief;
  • Thomas abducted and locked-up women;
  • Thomas engaged in various forms of black magic; and
  • Thomas was executed by a Zoroastrian king who had initially shown him mercy and asked him to repent of his crimes and leave the country.

Are the bishops going to tell the public this ancient apocryphal story? Or are they going to twist the tale as their Portuguese predecessors did and make Brahmins the villains of the piece and a Hindu king the assassin of a Christian saint?

The St. Thomas in India legend was invented to vilify Hindu priests and malign the Hindu community. It adds insult to injury as Hindus were and are today its real victims, not Christians and their apostle Thomas. It is a vicious communal tale created by a ruthlessly colonizing Roman Catholic Church, and it has no place on the modern Indian cinema screen. That Catholic bishops should even consider such a production tells us a lot about the Catholic Church in India today.

But what we and the historians of the last two hundred years may say and think about St. Thomas doesn’t matter in today’s racist Dravidian Tamil Nadu state. Peer Mohamed in the Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, reported on 24 June 2008:

Call it the Dasavataram impact. A Rs. 50-crore-plus mega production in silver screen on Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who had spread Christian faith in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, is underway.

A period film on St. Thomas spanning continents is to be made in Tamil first with the help of technicians from Hollywood, Bollywood and Kollywood. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi is launching the ambitious project of the Catholic Archdiocese of Mylapore on July 3, 2008.

“We are not looking for a superhero like Kamal Hassan or Vijay to play the lead role of St.Thomas. When Mel Gibson made Passion of the Christ, he chose James Caviezel, a look-alike of Jesus to play the lead. We are searching for someone who resembles St.Thomas,” said Dr Paulraj Lourdusamy, the chief researcher and script-writer of the film.

Though the film is a tragedy, ending with the killing of St. Thomas in Chennai, it will have enough entertainment with nine songs.

The blueprint of the film says, “In the two songs that Saint Thomas sings in Kerala, 22 types of dances of Kerala with their distinct music will be included. In a song that St. Thomas sings in Tamil Nadu, we will present 12 types of dances of Tamil Nadu and their special music as the background to the songs.”

The story begins with the journey of the apostle to Edessa, a town in Syria around 29 AD. Thomas’s travel through Persia to Taxila in modern Afghanistan (sic) and return to Jerusalem is also covered. He reaches Kerala by around 52 AD and the next 20 years of preaching Christian faith in the continent is the major part of the film. St. Thomas’s meeting with Tiruvalluvar is an interesting part of the story.

His encounter with the “reported animal and human sacrifice in the Chennai of first century” may create some controversy once the film is ready for release in 2010.

The Deccan Chronicle, it should be noted, is a popular pro-Christian, pro-Congress newspaper. It could not resist the last line about animal and human sacrifice in Mylapore, though in fact there are no records at all for first century Mylapore and the records that do exist for later centuries are moneylenders account books. Tamizhchelvan wrote to the newspaper two days later on June 26th:

This is with reference to the report Rs. 50 crore film on St. Thomas (DC, June 25). It has been proved beyond doubt by historians that the St. Thomas history propagated by Christians of South India is a myth. Even the Christian records talk about different Thomases at different periods and the Vatican has not upheld even one! The so-called encounter between Thomas and Tiruvalluvar is also a concocted one to give a Christian colour to Tirukkural and draw a parallel between Bible and Tirukkural. The South Indian Christian community has lost its foundation after the categorical statement of Pope Benedict, which demolished the myth of St. Thomas, and this attempt of making a film on Thomas is just to reinvent the myth and establish it again in the minds of the gullible masses, and it is unfortunate that the chief minister is helping such a dubious cause.


Tiruvalluvar


Tamil scholars agree that the Tamil saint and cultural icon Tiruvalluvar lived before the Christian era, dating him ca. 100 BC with some scholars dating him as early as ca. 200 BC. Whatever the exact date, he could not have been a contemporary of St. Thomas. He lived his whole life in Mylapore and the Tamil year is dated from his birthday in January. His samadhi shrine is believed to have been close by or in the courtyard of the original Kapaleeswara Temple on the Mylapore sea front. Tiruvalluvar’s shrine and the Shiva temple were destroyed by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. The Deccan Chronicle, continuing its report on the mega-movie project, said on July 2nd:

Superstar Rajinikanth may play the role of ancient Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar in the Rs 50-crore-plus movie St. Thomas being produced by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chennai-Mylapore. The film will also have actors like Ajith, Vijay and Vikram in guest roles, according to the film crew.

“The film is to be launched by chief minister M. Karunanidhi on Thursday. We are in discussion with Hollywood actor James Caviezel who played Jesus in Passion of the Christ. He may act in our film as Jesus. Some other Hollywood actor will play St. Thomas,” said Dr Paulraj Lourdusamy, chief researcher and scriptwriter of the film.

“An important part of the film is St. Thomas’s meeting with sage poet Tiruvalluvar. We thought Rajinikanth would fit that role perfectly. We are trying to discuss the subject with him,” Paulraj added.

Dr. Paulraj who has three doctorates earned from various foreign universities, spent one year in libraries across the world to find the existing literature on St. Thomas. Well-versed in French, he did the script in French first and then in English.

“The script is currently being translated simultaneously into Tamil and Malayalam. The film will be made in Tamil and Malayalam first. The shoot will be conducted in Idukki and Munnar region in Kerala which still preserves the 2,000-year-old biodiversity intact,” said Mr. Sekar, production manager of the film.

The film is to be produced in the name of St. Thomas Apostle of India Trust which has Archbishop A.M. Chinnappa, Deputy Archbishop Lawrence Pius, Treasurer of the diocese Mr. Ernest Paul and Dr. Paulraj as office-bearers.

And finally the day after the famous launch of the infamous film project by an Archdiocese known for its criminal bishops, the Deccan Chronicle reported on July 4th:

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has asserted that the DMK-led alliance would sweep the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state.

“Mr Peter Alphonse wished me success in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls. His wishes will come true,” he said while speaking at the launch of the film St.Thomas here on Thursday.

“I am proud of being referred to as the head of a “minority” government as my government has always toiled for the welfare and well-being of the minorities,” said Mr. Karunanidhi.

Donning the believer’s mantle, the normally atheist chief minister said, “Whether I am accepted by God is more important than whether I accept God. I have to help humanity for being accepted by God. The audience applauded when he said this statement, which he had also made in the presence of Sai Baba last year.

The chief minister said the martyrdom of St. Thomas had inspired him in many ways. Drawing a parallel to King Pari of the Sangam age, who was also killed by the conspiracy of several kings, he said, “History remembers those who were killed by conspirators. St. Thomas was also a victim of conspiracy.” Mr Karunanidhi launched the film by operating the movie camera.

State electricity minister Arcot N. Veerasamy, Archbishop A.M. Chinnappa of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chennai-Mylapore, Dr. Paulraj Lourdusamy, chief researcher and scriptwriter of the film, were present at the function.

And finally The New Indian Express, usually the first newspaper to report on St. Thomas and his Indian trials, did not have anything to say until the day after the function on July 5th:

The life of St. Thomas, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, who lived in India, preached the Gospel and died a martyr at Mylapore, is soon to be made into a feature film. The project will be funded by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chennai, Mylapore and the script has been written by Dr. Paulraj Lourdusamy.

Launching the movie on Thursday at Santhome Church, where St Thomas’ grave is located, chief minister M. Karunanidhi said history chose who to highlight, and St Thomas was one such a noble soul. “We remember the man who was murdered, St. Thomas, but not the one who killed him. History shows us who is to be remembered,” he announced.

On a lighter vein, he added that it seemed fit that an atheist like him should be attending the launch of a movie by a “minority community”, because his government has been hailed a minority government in the recent past. “By asking me if I’ve accepted god, would only degrade your god who is so great. On the contrary, let’s strive to be good people for god to accept us,” the chief minister added. The movie, said Archbishop Dr A.M. Chinnappa of Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, would be made in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and English, and later, in all languages of the world “It is not an attempt to convert people to our faith but to convey the message of this great saint,” he added. Profits from the movie will be used to establish the Archbishop Chinnappa’s Educational Fund, that will provide higher education to a least 5,000 poor students.

The industry, meanwhile, is rife with rumour that leading stars like Ajith and Vikram have been approached for special appearances in the movie.


Subramanian Swamy


Lastly, in a strongly worded statement Dr. Subramanian Swamy, President of the Janata Party, said on July 8th:

The recent announcement that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi will patronize screening of the mega budget movie on Saint Thomas and his fictitious missionary activities in the first century in Tamil Nadu, read with the Union Government’s decision to cancel the allotment of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board intended for creating facilities for housing and parking Hindu pilgrims, are a part of the pernicious and sinister attempt to put the Hindus under siege, about which I have been warning the nation for the last three years.

Around the mid sixteenth century, two anti-Hindu brutalities were committed by foreigners. The first was the demolition of the Sri Rama Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya by an agent of the invading, plundering Babar and the second was the destruction of the hoary Shiva temple by the invading Portuguese barbarians. The Hindu society was not prepared for these uncivilised hordes, and hence remained mute witness to the destruction and sacrilege.

But no more. The Hindu has now stood up. Hence there is now a Ramjanmabhoomi movement in the country with a determination to re-build the temple. The Karunanidhi-Sonia duo attempt to demolish the Rama Setu by implementing the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project was challenged, and despite the duo being in power in Chennai and Delhi, the duo was unable to marshal arguments in the Supreme Court. The Hindus carried the day and the project has gone back to the drawing board.

I therefore on behalf of Hindus and those others who proudly acknowledge that their ancestors are Hindus, warn this duo to desist from trying to patronize the falsification of history about the presence in Tamil Nadu of Saint Thomas, to legitimize the Portuguese destruction of the Shiva temple to build the Santhome Church. The church will have to go, and the Kapaleeshwara Temple re-built on that site. Hindus will do it with the help of sane and civilized Christians if possible, without them if necessary, and despite them if forced. When 83 percent Hindus unite, let those who are seeking to debase Hindu icons by bogus history realize that a religious tsunami will wash them away.

And this was the last we heard of the mega-movie project till today in July 2010. We are told that the project was shelved because of the negative response from Tamil scholars who were very unhappy with the idea that Tiruvalluvar, Tamil Nadu’s famous sage and cultural icon, was to be baptized a follower of Jesus — there was no Christianity as such in the first century and Judas Thomas was himself a practicing Jew. But there is no telling what cultural surprises the Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese might spring on the Tamil people, and even tomorrow a movie with nuptial actors wrapped in wet see-through saris, jiggling their wide fertile hips, may be presented to the public by the present archbishop, with a prayer to Jesus that he may forgive the historical deceits and save the heathen soul of the Dravidian race from the machinations of the heathen Aryan race and its wicked Brahmin priests who are still camped in Mylapore even after so many thousands of years.


 

Tamil scholars condemn Christian author for misrepresenting Tiruvalluvar as St. Thomas’s disciple – R.S. Narayanaswami


“Dr. R. Nagaswami, eminent archaeologist, who had done some excavations at Santhome Church along with a Jesuit, quoted profusely from the writings of Jesuits and exploded the myth of the visit of St. Thomas to India.” – R.S. Narayanaswami


Dr. M. Deivanayagam: Inventor of the heretical 'Dravidian Religion' of Christianity.


The book titled Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppu Ayvu, written by one Deivanayakam,[1] was published in 1985-86. It attempted to compare Bible, Tirukkural and Shaiva philosophy and concluded that Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of St. Thomas and that his sayings were only sayings from Bible. The writer had attempted to distort and misinterpret the Shaiva Siddhanta to suit his conclusions that all these works emanated from the preachings of St. Thomas who is said to have visited India in the first century AD.

It was given to the Dharmapuram Math to issue a refutation. In spite of refutations from scholars through personal letters, Deivanayakam was unrelenting. Hence the Dharmapuram Shaiva Math had a book of refutation called Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppaayvin Maruppu Nool prepared by its very able Tamil and Shaiva scholar, Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar, and released it at a function.


Vidwan Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar


The function organised by the Shaiva Siddhanta Sabha, was not very well publicised yet it had a gathering of over three hundred Tamil and Shaiva scholars.[2 ] The hall was packed to capacity. Justice N. Krishnaswami Reddiar, retired high court judge, presided.

Tamil and Shaiva scholar M.P. Somasundaram, who made the opening speech, deplored that in independent India freedom and rights were being misused to such an extent that books denigrating the ancient religion of the land were allowed to be written. He said the Christian book was a bundle of distortions, misconceptions and misinterpretations of Tirukkural verses and Shaivite philosophical works to suit the conclusions of the author—namely that Christianity had influenced Tiruvalluvar and the Nayanmars. The book was mischievous in content and aim, he asserted. He commended Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar and the Dharmapuram Math for bringing out a refutation.


Justice Krishnaswami Reddiar


Justice Krishnaswami Reddiar strongly criticised the modern tendency of publishing trash in the name of research. He said research must have an aim, a purpose, to get at the truth. Research was not meant to find evidence to denigrate an ancient faith. Research should not start with pre-conclusions or prejudices. Here the author’s motive was to show the superiority of Christianity. Religion was based not only on facts but also on faith and beliefs. The book had hurt Hindu beliefs.

Justice Krishnaswami Reddiar quoted from the works of Sita Ram Goel and Ishwar Sharan and asserted that the visit of St. Thomas to India was a myth. He wondered how could such a book be published by [the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Adyar, Madras] set up by the Government. It was a crime that such a book had been written and published and awarded a doctorate degree [by the University of Madras], he said.

If such books were not refuted our progeny would find fault with us; and such books would pass as source material for future researchers. If there was no refutation, then such books would be accepted as telling the truth and would be used for further religious propaganda. He praised the Dharmapuram Math for taking pains to release the book of refutation.

This book by Tamil and Shaiva scholar Vidwan Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar is the refutation of Deivanayakam’s spurious doctoral thesis Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppu Ayvu. Mudaliar’s refutation called Viviliyam, Tirukkural, Shaiva Siddhantam Oppaayvin Maruppu Nool was published in 1991 by the International Shaiva Siddhanta Research Centre, Dharmapuram, Tamil Nadu, India.

Sarojini Varadappan released the book of refutation. Swaminatha Thambiran of Dharmapuram Math said the math head had, by personal correspondence with Deivanayakam, tried to put the facts straight. But he was unrelenting. Then a conference of scholars was held at Dharmapuram to which Deivanayakam was invited. Though he was present, he stood his ground. Then only, the head of the math decided to prepare this book of refutation and release it.


R. Nagaswamy


Dr. R. Nagaswami, eminent archaeologist, who had done some excavations at Santhome Church along with a Jesuit, quoted profusely from the writings of Jesuits and exploded the myth of the visit of St. Thomas to India. It was a Portuguese ruse to spread Christianity in India. He said Deivanayakam had taken the visit of St. Thomas to India as an established fact and, based on that, built his theory and conclusions. The fact was St. Thomas had not visited India at all. According to the evidence available, and books on St. Thomas, he had visited only Parthia, Dr. Nagaswami said. He said it was a sad reflection on the Institute of Tamil Studies which had published this book. It was shameful that Madras University had awarded a doctorate for this book without going into its merits.

Vidwan Ambai Sankaranar said that the award of doctorate to the author of the book must be withdrawn as the author had not adduced any evidence as to how Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of St. Thomas. Vidwan Sundara Murthi pointed out how the Tirukkural verses were misinterpreted by Deivanayakam.

T.N. Ramachandran said chronology had not at all been taken into consideration by Deivanayakam while comparing the works. Had he been a student of St. Thomas, Tiruvalluvar would have mentioned it, he said.

Vanniyar Adigal said such books were being published taking advantage of the tolerance of Hindus and the liberty and rights given in the Constitution. He said a book by a Muslim showing the superiority of Koran over Tirukkural had also been published some years back. It was time for the Hindus to take cognizance of attacks on their doctrines, beliefs and sacred books.

Eighty-five-year-old Arunai Vadivelu Mudaliar, the author of the book of refutation, who was honoured with a silk cloth and cash presentation, said that an attack on his faith was like an attack on his mother and that compelled him to refute the book of Deivanayakam.[3]


1. Dr. M. Deivanayakam (he now spells his name Deivanayagam) and Dr. R. Arulappa have worked together on the christianization of Tiruvalluvar and the Tirukkural. In 1975 they co-authored the book Perinba Villakku in which Tiruvalluvar is represented as being Christian.

2. That this important conference of Hindu scholars was not reported in the Madras editions of The Hindu and Indian Express is very revealing of the biased editorial policies of these newspapers.

3. This article was originally published under the title “Tamil scholars assail Christian bid to misrepresent Tiruvalluvar as St. Thomas” in Organiser, November 7, 1991, New Delhi.