Sunday, February 3, 2013

Historical Validity of St Thomas tradition ( 5 ) B

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Malabar-mission of Saint Thomas: counter-arguments to the criticism of historians:

 Now let me present my explanations and counter arguments  to the objections raised by a section of  Kerala (Indian ) historians, against the historical validity of St.Thomas tradition -- those points, not included in the general explanation.
Who were the first converts of Apostle Thomas ? 
The first question is,who were the first people from Malabar, said to have been converted to Christianity, by St. Thomas, in the first century, A D.?   According to centuries’ old  Nazrani tradition and descriptions in the folklores like, Rampanpaattu (Thomaparvam), it is from Nambudiri Brahmin community. There were writers, who point out some Brahmin customs, rites and traditions prevailing among the Nazranis,  in support of this belief.. For example, secular historian, Nagam Aiya, author of ‘Travancore State Manuel’ says,  “There is no doubt as to the tradition that St. Thomas came to Malabar and converted a few families of Nambudiris, ……..  For, in consonance with this long- standing traditional belief in the minds of the people of the Apostle’s mission and labors  among high caste Hindu, we have it before us today the fact that certain Syrian Christian women particularly of a Desom called Kunnamkulom,wear clothes as Nambudiri women do, and will not marry, except perhaps in exceptional cases and but from among dignified families of similar aristocratic descent” ( T S M II / 122—123 ).( similar statements can be seen,in the book of L.K. Anantha Krishna Ayyar: Anthropology of Syrian Christians, p.122-131 ) . Besides,it is pointed out by  eminent historians, like Francis Day, Placid Podipara, etc. that, both Brahmins and the St.Thomas Christians have the patriarchal family system, while the matriarchal one was the widely prevalent in ancient Kerala. Rites of initiation like jathakarmam, annaprasanam, pulakuli  are common to both.  Remember, the native Christians, were prohibited from performing these ‘heathen practices’,upon pain of excommunication during the unauthorized, ‘Synod of Diamper’, called by Portuguese Latin  Archbishop, Menezis in 1599, through special enactments. ( See  Synod Decree No. XI ).( Church historians like Joseph Kolengaden, Z. M Paret, etc. give extensive reference about practices and customs , identical to Nambudiris and Nazranis.( See  ‘Malankara Nasranikal’ p.193-198 ).
But in the modern era, the theory of Nabudiri- origin, has been questioned by some  secular historians, on the ground that there is no evidence to establish the presence of  Arya-Brahmins in the first century Malabar. Instead, Kerala was inhabited by Dravidians only.
According to eminent historian, and former Chairman of ICHR, Dr. M.G.S Narayanan., the theory of Brahminical-origin of first century-Christianity, is not historically tenable, particularly as per the research findings of  Prof. Elamkulam P.N. Kunjan Pillai, about the early Nambudiri-Brahmin settlements in Kerala.For this,he claims  he has the in principle support of Some other historians like Kesavan Veluthat, Rajan Gurukkal, also. Referring to the first Nambudiri settlements in Kerala, M G S says “ It is evident that these prominent temple-centered Brahmin settlements of Kerala, counted among the 32 original settlements, were established only by 8th century A.D., at the earliest, when we consider this concrete evidence” ( Nambudiris: Migrations and Early Settlements in Kerala, p.85 , L R C publication. ).  According to him,this is  one positive out come of the newly discovered sources and findings of Elamkulam,, “ MGS added that,"The vested interests of communities and groups have been responsible for the persistence of certain traditions, like the myths of Parasurama, St.Thomas.Ceraman Perumal etc”  ( Ibid p.82). In fact, this argument is not without critics. For example,  eminent historian, Dr. Rajan Gurukkal is not fully in agreement with this view-point.He has disputed MGS's arguments to a great extent. According to him,the presence of Brahmins in Kerala,might go back to the closing centuries of the first millennium B C . In his own words :
Though the term Nampudiri is not very old, as the real name is Malayala Brahmanan, the presence of brahmins in Kerala will go back to the closing of first millennium B C. If we can relay on the tentative chronology available today for ancient Tamil poems, the antiquity of Brahmans can be pushed to 2nd century B C, if not a little earlier. Dr. Gurukkal quote the mention of Chellur in an Akam poem by a singer called Mamulanar of about 2nd century B C,  as an age old seat of Vedic ritual, points to the possible existence of Brahmin house-holds in some centers in Kerala. (Dr.Gurukkal, in St.Thomas Christians and Nambudiri Barahmins : a note, p.108, ed. Bosco Puthur ). The rational explanation of another veteran Kerala historian, Mr.A. Sreedhara Menon, about the first  converts of Saint Thomas, is as follows: the stand of William Logan ( and the present day historians like Elamkulam and MGs) that  large-scale exodus of Brahmins from from southern Karnataka, happened, by 8th century CE, may be correct. But he reiterates that, "there are evidences  in Tamil Sangam literature to the effect that Brahmin influence in Kerala society goes back to the early centuries of CE".(A.Sreedhara Menon : Kerala Charithram (Mal.), p.128.).
Arguments in support of Jewish origin :

 The assumption of a section of the historians that the early conversion St.Thomas was from Jewish diaspora, is also not tallying with the Nazrani tradition and history. According to Kerala Jewish historian S.S.Koder,it was after the destruction of of 2nd Jerusalem temple, in 3828 ( 68 A.D. ) that about 10,000 Jews migrated to Kerala coast, and settled in places like Kodungalloor, Paalayoor, Maala, and Pullur. As per Nazrani tradition, it was in 52,AD. There are references, to the effect that, in 2nd century, A.D., a Roman trader, during his voyage to Malabar coast, via Red Sea, reported to have visited a Jewish colony at Kodungalloor ( Muziris ), in Kerala ( Ref. History of Jews in Kerala. ). At the same time the opinion of Neill, " all that we can say is that the tapestry of India's religious life may have been enriched before the beginning of Christian Era, by the presence of a number of Jews, and of a  religion,  very different in character from those of Indian origin ", is a rational conclusion. ( Neill, History of Christianity in India, p.24 ). In the opinion of Francis Day, for the conversion, from Jewish diaspora is definite ( See description in the previous article ).

In this context, the relevent question is, can we consider the above statement of Prof. Elamkulam  (and Dr.M.G.S.Narayanan), about the origin of Nambudiris in Kerala, as a  settled conclusion or dogma, so far as historical research is concerned ? Let us discuss the matter in a bit more detail, since the latest Pattanam excavation results proved , beyond doubts that there were hectic trade between this port and the Mediteranean  (and other ) countries, right from 500 B.C. This provides sufficient authority and reliability to the St.Thomas tradition, as a historical probability. 
How Pattanam excavation, vindicates the tradition of St.Thomas Christians ?
According to eminent historian and  J N U Professor, Dr.Pius Malekandathil, two important happenings, in the recent past, in the field of history, viz. the Discovery of Vienna Papyrus (1985) and Archaeological excavation  at PATTANAM / MUZIRIS, in historical research, revolutionised the so called 'settled' conclusions and disproved  the arguments against  the St.Thomas Tradition. In fact the excavation result is  a great blow to the prejudicial and dogmatic approach of some historians of eminence, from Kerala. In his own words:                                         
Recent researches ( by implication, Pattanam excavation ), provided historical sanctity to the tradition about the arrival of St.Thomas, and the trade relation between coastal Western India and Red Sea ports on the one hand and coastal Western India and the  ports of Persian Gulf on the other. The physical presence of about 6 million St.Thomas Christians, claiming their origin to one or another place of the 7 initial Christian settlements, set up by St.Thomas, as per their tradition, often serves as ethno-historical evidence, adding significantly to the historical claim of their oral tradition. From 3rd century on wards  the written sources from West Asia and the Mediterranean world started mentioning about the Christians of India and the Apostle, who had preached among Indians….
At a time when 120 vessels were playing between coastal Western India and ports of Roman Egypt every year, there is no reason, whatsoever, to doubt about the veracity of  their accounts. (  From his Seminar paper ‘A commonwealth  of Christians in Indian Ocean’,p.8 )
Referring to the  discovery,  ‘Vienna Papyrus’, ( a voluminous trade agreement  entered between a  seller in Muziris and a buyer in Alexandria, for regular supply of merchandise ), Dr. Pius says, this together with Muziris findings, provided historical status to the coming of Pantaenus to India ( "to preach Christ to Brahmins and Philosophers"), as reported by Eusebius and Jerome. Also, without any ambiguity we can conclude  that the part of the world, he visited, is our India, the scholarly conclusion reached  by eminent historian William Logan, 100 years back. ( See detailed discussion of the topic, in article # 3 of this series.). These archaeological and epigraphic evidences give sanctity and historical status to the descriptions of Eusebius and Jerome , not only about the visit of Pantaenus, but also to the mission of St.Thomas  and the tradition about the first people converted  by the Apostle.
Remember, the visit of Pantaenus, is a subject of reference by another Church historian, Clement of Alexandria ( 150 –215, A D. ), too. He provides some more details about the people he visited., by saying, ‘the philosophers and gymnosophists’, with whom Pantaenus came into contact, and mentions Brahmanas  and “ Sarmana who are also called Hylobii ; and neither inhibit shave roofs over their heads , and know not marriage and begetting of children”, referring no doubt to  Bramanas in India, in the second century A D. On the other hand, no doubt penetrated to Parthia; and it was probably in the valley of Indus that Pantaenus went. ( See, Madras Dist. Gazetteers—Syrian Christians ---C. A.Innes I C S,( 1915 ), Vol. I / Ch. III / 301 ). 

Reply to M G S Narayanan and others
In the preceding paragraphs we have seen how two important incidents in the recent past viz. 1 ) discovery of  Vienna Papyrus  ( 1985 ) and 2 ) Pattanam ( Muziris ) research findings, are capable of disproving  the  assertion of  historians like M.G.S.Narayanan, that the origin of Nambudiries and the visit of St.Thomas, to Kodungalloor, as a sheer myths.
 Though, most of the main-stream historians from Kerala, toe the line of thinking of Prof. Elamkulam ( and MGS ), there are historians who totally disagree with the dogmatic approach about the origin of  Malayala Bramanan  മലയാള ബ്രാഹ്മണന്‍  ) (Nambudiri). For them, contrary to the conclusion of  Elamkulam,there were migrations of Brahmins from  North-West India, to Kerala coast, was long before 8th C, A D.
According to veteran Sanskrit-scholar and historian, Arthrassery Agnisarman Namboothiripad, the  Malayala Brahmanan ( that is the original name for Nambudiri ), has a history of 5000 years. After years’ long study of  Vattezhuthu,( Tamil ) inscriptions, (numbering 17), in the Thrikkakara Temple, one of the oldest temples in Kerala, well-known epigraphy scholar, V.R.Parameswara Pillai and writer, V.T.Induchudan, opined that, the Thrikkakara temple was built, some time in 2500 BC.(Though the theme of the Thrikkakara inscription is, different, it contains information about the establishment of the temple at Thrikkakara., also.). If at all  there is any element truth in it, the temple was consecrated   by a Nambudiri - priest only.  Another inscription, in the same temple, dating the reign of King, Kulasekhara, headquartered at Mahodayapuram. ( See, Mahakshethrangalude Mumbil, by Nalankal Krishna Pillai, p.660 ).
The recent excavation at Pattanam / Muziris , ( explained in the preceding paragraph ),  too is capable of proving that the conclusions of  MGS, about the first Nambudiri- settlements , on the sole strength of Elamkulam’s research, are not the ‘last words’ for historians..
Yet another evidence to negate the arguments of ProfElamkulam  and MGS , is the out come of the Scientific research conducted by DrRajan Chungath, a social anthropologist with the help of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Trivandrum.It has been proved, beyond doubt that, a piece of wood  obtained from Vemanjeri Mana ( an old Nambuthiri household, in North Kerala ), belongs to late 5th century, A D or earliar. ( The wood was subjected to Radio Carbon testing by Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow. ). As we know, the old Vemenjeri Mana, trace it’s roots, to the Mezhathol Agnihothri Nambuthiripadu, eldest of the 12 children, in the legend of Parayipetta Panthiru Kulam. ( Ref: report about the research, in Times Of India, Kochi dated 24th  July,2012. )
On the basis of the facts enlisted here, especially the collateral  evidences obtained from the recent excavation, at Pattanam, historians cannot but accept the veracity  of the points,

        1 )  Pantaenus, visited India in 180 A D and it was our India
        2 )  A flourishing  Christian community , existed here ,in the first centuries. and,
        3 )  there were Nambudiri Brahmins, in Kerala, during the period under reference.

    In this context, it is illogical and uncharitable, on the part of Dr. M G S Narayanan, in  branding St.Thomas tradition of  Kerala / India , as a myth,as good as Parasurama .
By doing so, he is treating a  mythological hero and a historical character, in the same plain. If he says that there is no archaeological evidence from Kerala, to support the mission of apostle Thomas in  Malabar, it is understandable, to a certain extent. Further, even if it is established, beyond doubt ,that  there was no Brahmins in Kerala, in the first century , the next logical conclusion must be, the people said to have  been evangelized by St.Thomas, in the first century, A D , belongs to some other (viz. Dravidian / Jewish ) communities. Instead of doing so, out of his over enthusiasm, he come forward, to brand  it as a myth !. This is illogical and irrational.
Also, M G S claims that, his conclusion is in tune with the stand of Prof. Elamkulam, by implication, Elamkulam said some thing against the visit of St. Thomas. This is not correct. The following statement from Elamkulam will prove the fallacy of this claim:
It reads as under: Prof.Elamkulam P.N.Kunjan pillai,who has done extensive research in Kerala history, , is,  however, inclined to respect, the tradition ( St. Thomas ) as being worthy of acceptance.( See, Trichur District Gazetteer ( History ), Ch. II / p.100. )
This means, though Elamkulam , who has done extensive researches about the first Namboodiri settlements and reached in a definite conclusion, has never made an assertion, either  “ St.Thomas tradition of Malabar is a myth, or St.Thomas had never made a visit to India”,as claimed by MGS.
At the same time, the doubts made by MGS and Rajan Gurukkal, against the traditional belief that, Apostle Thomas, built seven churches, as apart of his Missionary work, are genuine.Since  building churches of the present model, was started ,even in the Middle East or Europe ,in the later centuries only, there is an element of exaggeration in it..Here,  it need be taken in the figurative sense only, ie.  churches means, Christian settlements.

Pope’s reference about St.Thomas:
Yet another serious argument, leveled against (by, Dr.Rajan Gurukkal), is that: ‘even Pope is said against a personal visit of Apostle Thomas, to Southern India / Kerala ( Malabar )’.( This argument seems to be out of a misconception about the statement made by the pontiff, in the recent past.).
In his weekly lecture on Apostles of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI  made the following ( controversial ) reference about St.Thomas,  “ In his name then written  The Acts and; Gospel of Thomas,  both apocryphal , still important for ‘ study of Christian origins’. Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia and then penetrated, as far as Western India, from where Christianity reached also South India”. First of all, it was a statement, referring to the North Indian tradition about St.Thomas, with special reference to Gnostic/ apocryphal works. Despite this fact, the statement looks a bit ambiguous, and negative, capable of confusing innocent readers, due to the following reasons: 1 )  Western India , mentioned by the Pontiff, is now, in Pakistan, not in India  2 )  At the same time, South India, or Malabar, not included in the list of places christened  by the Apostle himself ,and 3) there is an implication  that South India was  not evangelized by  St.Thomas, but somebody else. If this statement is taken in the literal sense, St.Thomas can hardly be called ‘ Apostle of India’.
The furor over the statement of the Pope, from Kerala ( India ) and elsewhere, and the subsequent correction made by the Vatican, ( with the addition of the sentence, ‘ from where Christianity reached also South India’ ) may be evaluated in this special context only.
Here, Dr.Rajan Gurukkal, as a secular historian, before making a hasty conclusion, should realize the following points:
             1There is no authority for a Pope, to make a ruling on an issue which is the prerogative of the historian. .
2 ) Moreover , it is illogical to count it  as a statement with authority ,rather than a casual statement. .
In my personal opinion, whatever be the intention of the Pontiff, he should not have made such a statement., which seems to have a negative sense, for statements of persons in high office, Prime Minister of India or Pope, that are primarily,  personal, political or pastoral opinions, may be mistaken as official, at least by many pious Catholics. In a secular point of view, since it is about ‘historical Thomas’, no one has ‘infallibility’ to give ruling about this.
But the under noted statement by Pope Benedict, in the past, will be helpful for understanding his real intention in the matter.
“ ….The Chaldean liturgical family, goes back to Apostle Thomas and to Addai and Mari, disciples of Apostles . There is no doubt that it has preserved very ancient traditions and the tradition that The Apostle Thomas was a missionary in India definitely has to be taken seriously at the historical level” ( The Spirit of liturgy—Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger- p. 161 and 162 ) .
 Dispute about the age of  Rambanpattu ( Thomaparvam ) and other ballads :
As mentioned in the beginning of this series, the objections raised by secular historians, against the antiquity of  the Folklore, Rambanpattu, and authenticity of it’s elaborate description about the Indian ( Malabar ) mission of St.Thomas are reasonable and logical.Examining the type of language ( Malayalam ), used for the available copy of this ancient song, literary scholars like Vallathol Narayana Menon, Chummar Choondal opined that it has a comparatively recent origin, say 15th century, however it looks unique and a replica of local tradition of Malabar embedded in.
As per one version,even though the previous copy of the Ballad, in prose, was written by  Thomas Ramban, Maliekkal, a disciple of Apostle Thomas ( ? ), the present copy ( 1601 )  ( as a lyrical ballad ), was ( re ) written version by another Ramban  with the same name     ( of 48th generation, of Maliekkal family ), for the use of Niranam church.  ( See Barnard Thoma, p.78—79.) Dr. P.J.Thomas ,confirmed that even today, we can see a family property in the name of Maliekkal family , in Niranam . ( See,  Malayala Sahithyavum Kristhyanikalum,p.61 ). Though authors’ name , is mentioned in the Song itself, as Thomas Ramban, he may possibly be compiler of the centuries old oral tradition, about St.Thomas, circulated among the people ; in the present, manuscript form., and not the first author. ( See related reference , in Joan Pet. Maffeus :  ‘Hist. Indiae’ Lib. II. P.210, quoted by Bernard Thoma, p.98 )
Italian version of the song was given in the book, Legendi de St.Thomas, by Fr.Rocco, Rome.( 1938 ). ( See Brown, p.49-50 ).The copy about which, Barnard Thoma, referred, in his book, is available in Mannanam Monastery.According to historian, T.K.Joseph, it was known to have been sung by one Varghese of Palayoor, in 1892.
In an age, when local history, in the form of folklores,legends, etc. has more importance in modern historiography, they are sufficient for us, to reconstruct many incidents with historical certitude, the journey, apostolate , miracles , and death of the Apostle in India . ( eg, statements like ‘ apostle landed in Maliankara, in 50 AD., in the month of Dhanu’ ( Dec. – Jan. ), ‘after a short stay,  apostle went to Mylapre and China’ , ‘returned to Maliamkara at the invitation of the King of Thiruvanchikulam’, ‘ in 59 A D, in the month of Kanni ( sept-Oct. ), was called back to Mylapore by king Cheran’, ‘ after 2 ½ yrs. returned to  Malabar, reached ‘Malyaattur’, then  ‘revisited the 7 churches founded’, ‘ in 72.AD, the apostle was Martyred at Mylapore’ ,and so on.( See Bernard Thoma, Ch.III & V.C.George, p.181 . ) As material expression of very ancient local tradition existed for centuries, the contents of these folklores of this genre, like Margamkalippattu ,Veeradiyanpattu, Pananpattu etc.can be used as collateral evidence for historical studies.

Historical validity of St.Thomas Tradition : final conclusion.
Through the foregoing five articles, the author was making a sincere effort to analyze, whether the St.Thomas Tradition, builtin-belief among 6 million, ancient Christians of Kerala, about twenty centuries, has any historical value or rational basis. At last, I too agree with the unbiased, in principle, positive  stand of eminent Foreign historians (like Vincent Smith, Edgar Thurston, Francis Day, Alphonse Mingana,,) and Indian historians  (like K.P.Padmanabha Menon, Sardar K.M.Panicker, A.Sreedhara Menon, and Mrs. Romila Thapar and others ) ; church historians of repute,( like Barnard Thoma, Placid Podpara, A. M .Mundadan, Benedict Vadakkekkara etc),that  the legacy of St.Thomas and personal visit of the Apostle to Kerala coast of South India in the 1st century,A.D.,  is a ' historical probability', as good as history.
In a purely academic sense, even-though the author possess a Masters Degree, in history, is not  an expert in the subject-matter. Then there arise the question,what prompted me to undertake such an 'adventure'. It is simple,the interest in history,particularly St.Thomas research, with the back-ground of the knowledge acquired from various sources especially authoritative English and Malayalam, with a critical approach. Though I have a clear view point and  weltanschauung, tried to make the study objective and rational.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Historical Validity of St. Thomas Tradition ( 5 ) A

Arguments against the Saint Thomas tradition : how far they are valid ?

Authority for the St. Thomas tradition of Malabar Nazranis, i.e. its historicity, is a matter of dispute among the historians, to a great extent, for want of sufficient, direct archaeological evidences or backing of contemporary written documents. Being a protagonist of the historical value of the Malabar tradition, about the mission of the Apostle,  through the preceding four articles, I was trying to present the existing, direct, indirect and circumstantial evidences, especially the opinion of World historians  and others. The author will never deny that some of them are from secondary sources such as  local traditions, folklore and liturgical texts  to establish my stand. Now let me present the arguments against the Tradition, of foreign and Indian / Kerala writers, and my counter arguments (exposition and refutation. ).
Opponents of Saint Thomas Tradition and their arguments:

There are a good number of historians and writers, from all over the world, are questioning the Indian apostate of St.Thomas and the validity of the arguments of its proponents. In fact, what they dispute is, (except in the case of a minority of authors.), not the existence of historical-St. Thomas, as such, but whether he visited and evangelized South India. This list includes, LaCrose, Hough, Tillemont, Trevor, Geddes.M, Whitehouse, Rae.C.M, Dr.J.M.Neale, Dr.Burnel, Campbel, WilliamLogan, C.M.Augur, T.K.Joseph,  RationalistJoseph Edamaruku, Dr. M.G.S.Narayanan, Dr. Rajan Gurukkal, and so on.
Now, let us have a close look at their arguments.
Among the European writers, La Croze and James Hough, with the backing of ‘no mean’ arguments, not only doubt and dispute the Malabar (South Indian) tradition about St.Thomas, but also prefer to treat whole story as a legend or myth. Renowned writer and Anglican Chaplain, Hough,( in his book, ‘The History of Christianity in India’ p.30. ),asserts that, ‘ considering the tedious mode of communication, with that country and the ancient’s limited knowledge of it’s inhabitants, until towards the close of the 1st c, it is not probable that any of the Apostles of our Lord, embarked on such a voyage’. Endorsing this viewpoint, La Crose, and Tillemont, say that, the name ‘India’ was applied to many places, other than Indian Peninsula hence without further evidence, we cannot attribute apostolic-origin to Malabar Church.
The eminent Orientalist, Dr. Burnel, doubted the tradition that Saint Thomas founded this Church; instead, the Church had a Gnostic (Manichaean) origin. (Indian Antiquity, III / 311.)
As per the opinion of another English Chaplain, Trevor, ‘there is better evidence, that the Light of Christianity extended from Egypt, where it was kindled by St. Mark, through Persia, towards the Northern confines of India, and that the Syrian Churches appear to have been planted in the 4th C, by THOMAS a monk, from that country, whose name has been confounded with that of the Apostle’ (Quoted by C.M. Augur, in ‘Church History of Travacore’,p.6.).In fact he was quoting to prove his own conclusion that it was none other than the Syrian Colonist, Thomas of Canai ( who, with 472 families from Baghdad , Nineveh, Jerusalem ,migrated to Malabar, in 345 A.D. ) .
Reviewing the available, written evidence on Thomas, some writers say, all the ancient Churches are keeping the belief, ‘Apostolic origin’, hence no special merit to the claim of Malabar Christians”.( Hough, History of Christianity, p.36-37).
Eminent British historian of Colonial India, C.M. Augur, in his famous book, (Church History of Travancore, p.8-12), indicates the names of three distinct Missionaries, all possessing the name Thomas, are, associated with his research. In his opinion, this fact created utter confusion, about the identity of Apostle Thomas, among people and writers of later years. Hence, different theories:
  1. Christianity was introduced by Apostle Thomas, who entered the Malayalam country, in the year 52 A D.
  2. Second Thomas, Thomas the Manichaen. ( A Persian heretic, who labored among Syrians of Karukkanikulam ( Quilon ). Manigramam, according to Dr .Burnell, is the village of Manes.
  3. There is yet a third legend, which describes the conversion of India, to the Armenian merchant ‘ Thomas of Canai ’ ( supposed to have arrived in Malabar in 345 or 745 AD.) and established a Christian group, Knananites Subsequent generations confused ‘ Thomas the Armenian’ with ‘ St.Thomas, the Apostle’. (Ibid, p.8 to 12.)
Reviewing the opinions of contemporary writers, he concludes that Christian Church was established in Southern India, before the beginning of the sixth century, from the Nestorian Patriarchate on the banks of the Tigris ,(not from Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome or Constantinople).Not by way of Red Sea, but by way of the Persian Gulf. Not in the 4th century, nor until the beginning of the 6th century. In short, not by Apostle Thomas. ( Ibid, p.17-18 ) .
Willian Logan, despite his unambiguous, positive stand, saying, ‘there is no inherent improbability, in the tradition that the Apostle Thomas was one of the earliest immigrants from the West’, he is equally emphatic in saying, ‘but of direct contemporary proof that he did come to Mouziris and found churches in that neighborhood, there is absolutely, none so far as researches have yet gone’.( Malabar Manual, p.235. )
But the categorical account of Pantaenus of Alexandria, in the 2nd century, A D , met with Christians in India ( which since proved as Malabar coast ), who claims Apostolic origin , negate the arguments against St.Thomas (Refer detailed description of this author, in other chapters ). " In AD190, the great Gnostic Pantaenus, a Professor of Theology, in the School of Alexandria, set sail from Bernice in the Red Sea, and landed after the tedious voyage of those days, in one of  the Cochin-port, where he found a colony of  Christians...."( Lux Evangelli: Pantaenus India Apostolieus, Ch 86,,p, 627 : qtd. by L.K.Ananthkrishna Ayar ' AS C, p.6)
However,C.M.Rae, an authority on the subject, holds the uncompromising view that St.Thomas, could never have visited India.( Syrian Churches in India,p25 ).
Critically evaluating the points in favour and against the ‘Kerala tradition’, historian, German concludes that nobody can prove or disprove the presence of Christians in Malabar, in the first three centuries. (The St.Thomas Christians,p11. ).

Objections raised by Kerala( Indian ) historians.
Remember, I have hinted, in the 1st part of my article, about the divergent views of two noted scholar historians from Kerala, about this puzzle, Dr. M G S Narayanan and Rajan Gurukkal. Their opinions, representative in character, can be summerised as under:
  1. There is no contemporary evidence, in support of the belief that Apostle Thomas visited Kerala, in the first century, A.D, and converted Namboodiri Brahmins (by performing miracles).
  2. Before the Portuguese period, (16th c), St.Thomas Mount has no such name and importance. ( This is incorrect. I have already described the fallacy of this notion, citing facts and figures . See  article No.4 para. 1 to 8 . )
  3. The visit of the Apostle at Maliankara (Kodungallur / Muziris ),and his martyrdom in Mylapore, are sheer myths. (Dr. Rajan Gurukkal is not sharing this view point. For him, the coming of Saint Thomas, is historically probable, though he has some reservations about the first converts. Unlike, MGS, he argues, the existence of isolated Brahmin settlements, even in 2nd century B.C. But, he maintains that, being a priestly class, conversion, from Namboodiri community, is difficult, if not improbable )
  4. Mr. M G S, further says, after extensive reference of all the available literature, in Syrian and Latin, languages, Fr. Benedict Vadakkekkara, (in his ideal research work, ‘Origin of Christianity in India’) admitted that there is no contemporary evidence , to show that St.Thomas visited Kerala’. According to Mr. Rajan Gurukkal, the prime weakness for St.Thomas studies is the lack of contemporary evidence and has backing of tradition only. ( That too of 5 centuries ).
5 Mr.MGS alleges that, the archaeological excavation, conducted by Fr. Hambi ( with the co-operation of Tamilnadu Government) was not in a free and fair and transparent way. Hence, it’s findings are not acceptable to historians. (I am also sharing this viewpoint to a certain extent-- the Mylapore- excavation of the Portuguese with the leadership of Fr. Hambi , can be taken at a discount only. Please read my explanation, in article No. 4 ,para 7. )
6 Referring to the seven churches, believed to have been founded by the Apostle,
M.G.S, and Gurukkal, maintains that building technology was not developed in Kerala, in the 1st c. A .D. No churches or buildings were there, even in Persia or Middle East.. The antiquity of the folklore ‘Rampanpaattu’, referring the Malabar Mission of St.Thomas, as per the nature of the language, used, not looks, ancient ; written in the 16th century or after.
7 There was no mention about St Thomas, in the historical Udayamperoor ( Synod) documents. Nasranis started giving importance to Thomas, after the coming of the Portuguese, only. ( He made this statement without properly referring the ‘Synod documents’. The term St.Thomas appears at least in Session No.III , Decree No.4, Session No. IV , Decree No.4, Session No.VIII , Decree No.5 , 10, and 17 – See, 'The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Diamper' , By Scaria Zacharia ,1994.)
8 MGS and  Gurukkal, further argues that ‘even Pope, Benedict XVI, recently asserted that Apostle Thomas, had not gone beyond Syria, Persia, Iran, Beluchisthan, etc. (India not included.)
9 It is ‘belief about the apostolic origin of Malabar Church, and not the name, Thomas that was transferred by the immigrants from Mesopotamian region, to India, Mr. Gurukkal endorse the opinion of Dr.Neale.
10 St. Thomas tradition is the result of mistaken identity of Thomas the Manichean or the Persian Migrant, Thomas of Cana. ( The  argument that the ancient Malabar/ Indian  Church had a Gnostic/ Manichaean origin, was contested long back, on the ground that 'the Syrian Christians themselves have a tradition to the contrary that the  infant Church was  persecuted by Manichaeans' ... Ninety six families( by implication, in Quilon) yielded to Mani, and eight families stood fast. Manigramakkar, lived in a village near Quilon, until recent times.In his famous Syriac letter, Mar Gabriel, the East Syrian bishop, referred this in detail, while reviewing all important incidents happened in Malabar Church of Saint Thomas, right from 52 AD.( See Visscher: Letters from Malabar: Ed.K.P.Padmanabha Menon, p.44.).
Evaluation of the arguments, counter arguments and conclusions.
The methodology I adopted here, is first of all, find out the main arguments of the Foreign and Indian writers, and present my reply to them. Also ,give specific reply to the arguments leveled against by Kerala writers, more particularly by Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan and Rajan Gurukkal.
It is a plain truth that the tradition about St.Thomas, prevailing in this part of India (Malabar Coast), right from antiquity, has no, direct, epigraphic or archeological evidence.
It is also, a truth that, despite this glaring limitation, majority of the historians, including eminent Oxford historian Vincent Smith, who had studied this matter several years, British Ethnographer Edgar Thurston, Dr. Mingana, Indian ( Kerala ) historians ,K.P.Padmanabha Menon, Sardar K.M. Panicker, A. Sreedhara Menon, and a long list of persons of eminence, ( mentioned in my article No.1.), holding a categorical view, that, on the basis of the circumstantial evidence ,this tradition, should be deemed as a historical truth. (This point I shall elucidate later.)
The second, vital objection, againt the Apostolate of Thomas, is that, even if, the (plethora of), references, in  Patristic texts, Travelogues, Martyrology, Liturgical texts, apocryphal works and legends, in various languages like Hebrew , Syriac, Greek, Latin , English, referring Apostle Thomas and India, are proved genuine and authentic, they are not acceptable for the historian , on the ground that, they are not contemporary. They belong to the succeeding centuries. This also, is a prima face valid objection, in the eyes of a historian.
But in the case of, St. Thomas, it has the backing very strong supportive evidences. As per the expert opinion of many historians, these evidences should not be thrown away, for the simple reason that they are not contemporary. Instead, renowned Kerala historians, like, K.P.Padmanabha Menon and Prof. Elamkulam Kujan Pillai who have done extensive research in Kerala history ‘inclined to respect’ assert the tradition, as being ‘worthy of acceptance’. (See, Trichur District Gazetteer, .II / 100) ( This is, just opposite to the recent utterances of MGS, targeting Christian historians, quoting Elamkualam’s findings !) . K.M. Panicker, also find it difficult to deny, ‘the truth’ in the St.Thomas tradition. As he says, ‘We have the recorded statements of, Pantenus, the head of the Alexandrian School., who visited India, in the 2nd century. that he found a flourishing Christian community here’. (Ibid, II /100).
The argument, that, in the first century, ancients have no proper information about the Indian subcontinent, including it’s geography, inhabitants, means of transport & communication etc., as opined by writers, like Dr. James Hough, has no takers, in the modern era. There are clear evidences from history (See, article # 1, for authority) and from archaeological findings in the recent past (at Pattanam), to prove that there were hectic trade through sea routes starting from Alexandria to India, right from 500B C or even earlier.
To refute these points, many of the other points, I have to present a bit elaborate description, from heather to history and the latest discoveries and archaeological findings from that of MUZIRIS / PATTANAM, by Kerala Council for Historical Research.
Muziris ( Kodungallur ) and Indian Ocean Exchanges:
Trade links and maritime contacts between the sea-faring peoples like Phoenicians, Jews and Arabs and the resource-rich Indian subcontinent existed in the centuries, before Christ. Some historians, believe that it can be traced back to the days of King Solomon, on the basis of evidences in comparative philology ( Kings,9.28 & 10.11 ) ( Biblical reference to a port called ‘Ophir’ ,situated some where on the west coast of India, too is cited as evidence for the maritime relations ).
As per the extensive references from the following historical and literary sources, for at least three centuries, Muziris (Kodungallur) was a prime center, for Mediterranean, North African, West Asian and Chinese Maritime contacts and one of the four important Indian ports:
Sources of information:
  1. Strabo’s Geography 1C BC Geographical encyclopedia. (Greek historian)
  2. Periplus Maris(unknown author) 40-70AD About 40 Ports, incuding Muziris.
  3. Pliny, the Elder 1st C, AD Natural History
  4. Ptolomy’s Geographia 150 AD
  5. Muziris Papyrus 2nd C AD Trade contract between a Merchant from Muziris and a Banker / agent, Alexandria.
  6. Carition (escape of 2 lovers) 2nd C AD Comedy play/mime with Indian characters & reference from Indian Trade.
  7. Cosmos Indicoplatus Has references about Syrian Christians, ( Dealing 5 Ports; Muzris not mentioned)
  8. Puti table (TabulaPeutingeriana) 4th C AD, Among the Ports , Muziris shown with a Temple of Augustus, in the vicinity.
Indian sources:
  1. Classical Tamil sources like Sangam (2nd BC-4th AD );clear description of Muziris, is seen in the Akanaanooru, in the Sangam Literature.
  2. Epic poems-----Chilappathikaram. ,,
  3. Legends on cultural transmissions like St.Thomas& Knayi Thoma traditions.(Early Christian Era..)
  4. Very limited Archaeological evidences from Western coast.—only Iron Age burials & few Roman coin hoards. No evidence for habitation.
    1. Indian Pottery from Berenike—Shred with Tamil Brahmi Script.
    2. Arikkamedu: Roman coins -1st, 2nd & 3rd c AD.
    3. Archeological evidence from Pattanam ( Muziris )

Path breaking discoveries from Pattanam ( Muziris ) Excavations.

It is, in this back ground, that, Kerala Council for Historical Research (K C H R) undertook a challenging, ‘multi-disciplinary’ archaeological research, in 2007, at Pattanam, a small village at North Parur, comprisingf ancient Kodungallur (Muziris ) port.
The artifacts and materials unearthed from the area have shown the maritime activity there to be as old as 500 B C. ‘The artifacts recovered from the excavation site suggest that Pattanam, with a hinterland port and multicultural settlement, may have had links with the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the South China Sea rime, since the Early Historic Period of South India’, according to P.J.Cherian, Director of K C H R .
The five samples including charcoal samples from the Iron Age Layer, parts of wooden canoe, and bollards (stakes used to secure canoes ), recovered from the site. Samples subjected to Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), radiocarbon dating. Their mean calendar dates fall around 500 B C. The wood ( of the Canoe ), was identified as Anjily ( Artocarpus hirsutus ) and Teak ( Tectona grandis.). The 14 C date range of the canoe is 1300 BC to 100 BC. Other finds include pottery,metals,objects of personal adornment, botanical samples, and a broken rim with Tamil Brahmi script( 1stcentury BC) , one expert described as ‘exiting discovery’, providing sufficient archeological evidence to the enquirers.( Iravatham Mahadevan,a specialist in Tamil epigraphy, confirmed the inscription, of 1st century BC. )

Unearthed from PATTANAM :
  1. Amphorae---Wine container ( Big storage jar, made of stony type of clay)
  2. Indian Pottery ( Non Roman 2nd grade.)
Other items
    • Eurocentric perspective – Indo-Roman perspective.
    • Nationalist historiography – Later studies & New perspectives.
    • Need for searching for West Asian evidence in Indian sites (Gogte VD,1991)
    • Pattanam site-Location is a hamlet in Vadakkekara revenue village-Area 45 hectare—Life started here 1000 BC—Iron age.---Early Medieval—Late Medieval.
According to Bishop Francis Roz, there is a place called PATTANAM, inhabited by Syrian Christians.
1) T.G.P.(Turquoise Glazed Pottery, indicating Mesopotamian links ( Parthian/Sassanian),2 Nos. )(Pattanam Excavation 2007 ) confirmed by Durban University, UK
2) Shreds of West Asian Torpedo Jars
3) Amphora Shreds (South Italy ) ( Excavation 2008):largest assemblage of Roman pottery in India, showing Roman role in Indian Ocean trade.
Other items ( Multicultural ).:
Roulette Ware –1 ;Indian Pottery—Large quantity; Semi-precious Stone/Glass Beads numbering 10,000 unearthed in 2008; Beryl Beads(2009) Pachaswarnam, local name; Cameo Blanks( Raw material from Kerala coast); Fragments of Roman Glass Terracotta lamp ( Roman ? );Ferrous Artifacts ;Early Chera copper coin (40Nos)— a clue for monetization; Gold ornament (Claiming Italian origin); Gold string; Gold bar,Bender; A huge Indian Pottery; Pottery with Post firing ( Ex.2007 ) Brahnmi script with a Cross(10mm) ;Chinese Ceramics(Broken) — showing East connection.; Maritime (VANCHI )boat -6meter length; Wharf with Canoe ( Jesus vessel-nick name);Botanical remains (including Frankincense) (Kunthirikkam) Items, such as BRW shreds, an exquisite ornament, 1.89 gm golden felling axe, show, metallurgy begun here, in the Iron Age phase itself.
These exiting discoveries, provided abundant material evidence, to what was described by the Western authors and Tamil Sangam poets about the flourishing trade between Muziris port in the Malabar coast and Rome ( via the Red Sea ports ),centuries before the beginning of Christian era.
The huge quantity of artifacts unearthed and the radio-carbon analysis, they are subjected to, put the antiquity of Pattanam, to first millennium B C. It provided valuable collateral archeological proof to Malabar mission of St. Thomas.
Pattanam ( Muziris ) Findings : Vindication to St. Thomas Tradition
The ancient Syrian Christian community, inhabited, mostly in the Malabar coast (Kerala State ) of Indian Subcontinent, inherited a concrete, constant and consistent tradition , for over 2000 years . As per this tradition, they became Christians, by the evangelization work of no less a person than, St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, in the year AD, 52, at Kodungallur ( Muziris ) port. Apart from oral tradition, there are some ancient folklores, ‘ cultural remnants with Christian Symbolisms and some structures in the specific spots, where seven communities ( churches, Pallikal, in local language ) believed to have been established by the Apostle, and his traditional tomb at Mylapore, no direct, contemporary evidence from Kerala, available, to substantiate this belief. Though there are clear literary references can be seen, in various ancient languages, they are not contemporary as per the norms of the secular historians.
It is in this back ground that Kerala Council for Historical Research, a State Government body of secular historians, in collaboration with Archaeological Survey of India ( A S I ), conducted an Archeological Excavation using all modern techniques at Kadungallur ( Muziris / Pattanam ) , the Port of St.Thomas. The excavation results, proved beyond doubts that there were hectic trade between this port and Mediterranean ( and other ) countries , right from 500 B C.--- providing authority to St. Thomas tradition.
How this vindicates the tradition of St.Thomas Christians?
According to eminent historian and J N U Professor, Dr.Pius Malekandathil, two important happenings, in the recent past, in the field of history, viz. the Discovery of Vienna Papyrus ( 1985 ) and Archaeological excavation at PATTANAM / MUZIRIS, revolutionized the historical research and disproved the antic-arguments against the St.Thomas Tradition, branding it as a myth. Also, a blow to the prejudicial and dogmatic approach of some historians of eminence, from Kerala. In his own words:
Recent researches ( by implication, Pattanam excavation ), have high lighted the historical probability of the arrival of St.Thomas, in India, particularly against the background of intensified maritime trade happening between coastal Western India and Red Sea ports on the one hand and coastal Western India as well as the ports of Persian Gulf on the other. The physical presence of about 6 million St.Thomas Christians, claiming their origin to one or another place of the 7 initial Christian settlements, set up by St.Thomas , as per their tradition, often serves as ethno-historical evidence, adding significantly to the historical claim of their oral tradition. From 3rd century onwards, the written sources from West Asia and the Mediterranean world started mentioning about the Christians of India and the Apostle, who had preached among Indians….
At a time when 120 vessels were playing between coastal Western India and ports of Roman Egypt every year, there is no reason whatsoever, to doubt about the veracity of their accounts. ( From his Seminar paper ‘ A commonwealth of Christians in Indian Ocean’. )
Referring to the next, discovery ‘Vienna Papyrus’, ( an voluminous trade agreement entered between a seller in Muziris and the buyer in Alexandria, for regular supply of merchandise ), Dr. Pius says, this together with Muziris findings, provided historical status to the coming of Pantaenus to India, as reported by Eusebius and Jerome. Also, without any ambiguity we can conclude that the part of the world, he visited , is our India., the scholarly conclusion reached by eminent historian William Logan, 100 years back.( See the detailed discussion of the topic, in Article No. 3 ) These archaeological and epigraphic evidences give sanctity and historical status to the descriptions of Eusebius and Jerome not only about the visit of Pantanus but also to the Apostolate of St.Thomas and the first converts of the Apostle.
Reply to other arguments :
The argument ( of Dr. Burnel ),that the Church of St. Thomas, had a Gnostic
( Manichaean ) origin, was contested , long back, on the ground that the ‘ Syrian Christians, themselves have a tradition to the contrary , that the infant Church was persecuted by Manichaeans’…..Ninety six families ( by implication , in Quilon ), yielded ( to Mani ), and 8 families stood fast.Manigramakkar, lived in a village , near Quilon until recent times. ( Quoted in Travancore State Manual, p.138 ).
A clear reference in the matter can seen in the Syriac letter, of an East Syrian bishop,Mar Gabriel, ( Quoted by Vissicher ) about ‘the antiquity of Syrian Christians’ ( part of this letter I have already quoted in Article No. 3 ) like this : ‘ In the course of a few years, all priests in Hindostan and Malabar, died; and many years afterwards, a Tovenaar called Mamukawasser, an enemy of Christian faith , arrived at Mylapore, performing many miracles to hinder its progress. And many of the principal Christians giving heed to him, forsook Christianity and followed this false teacher, Mamukawasser. In those days, certain persons came from Hindowy or Hindostan, who were not disposed to abandon the people of Malabar and who allied themselves with the believers , that is Christians , who had remained constant, in number about 160 families , or tribes’..
Another argument , St. Thomas tradition is originated from the mistaken identity of 4th century, from the Armenian ( Babylonian ) migrant , Thomas of Canai, also is against clear historical facts. The Knanaites ( Southists ), the endogamous group of Christians, regard themselves as descendents of Knayi- Thomman ( 795- 824 A D ), have never confused him with the Apostle Thomas of 1st c. According to them, their leader, on reaching at Cranganore,'found sixty four families of Christians who had remained steadfast in the faith from the days of the Apostle'.( See T S M ,p II /138 ). Hence,this argument is only a fanciful hypothesis of some foreign writers, with no historical support.
Referring to this theory, (of Trevor and C.M.Augur ), first colonial bishop of Nazranis, Francis Ros says,
… It is clear, how ill informed that author…attribute the origin of all the Christians of St. Thomas in Malavar, to the said Thomas of Cananeo…..most ancient tradition and certain conjectures of Christians of St. Thomas in Malavar, dating before the said Cananeo, the Olla of Xeram Perumal gives clear witness to it…….Therefore, it is clear and certain that there were Christians of St.Thomas in Malavar , and this the other Christians who descend from Thomas Cananeo also admit. ( Quoted by G. Nedungatt, in ‘ Quest for the historical Thomas’ p.138. ). Besides, the Kananites , the Jewish-Christian community in Kerala,,preserves a clear tradition as descendants of  Christians, belonging to 7 stocks and 70 ( 72 ) families , ( including a few priests, deacons ,and a bishop ) led by Merchant migrant Thomas of Kana, from Middle East landed at Kodungalloor in  345 A D . 
The next argument, the origin Malabar Christianity from,the Nestorian Missionaries, too is illogical.It is a historical truth that, as a result of the persecution by king Sapor ( 309 – 379 A D ), a good number East Syrian ( Nestorian ) Christians from Persia, fled to India.
The first mention of Christian presence, ie., of the immigrant Persian ( Nestorian, is the favorite nick- name coined by Western writers to call this oldest, apostolic Church, on account of some misconceptions ), is by Cosmos Indicopleustes , a World traveler, who himself, a Nestorian Christian ( 6th c A D ) : he mentioned and located Malabar Church, in 572 A D, in Male ( India ), where pepper grows and he adds the Christians of Taprobane ( Ceylon )whom he specifies as Persians, ( the latter he leaves unspecified , so they must have been natives of the country ) , had a bishop residing in Calina ( Kalyan ), ordained and sent from Persia. ( Christian Topography,p. 503.). By the time , when this group of Christians reached in India ( Malabar ), the original ( early ) converts of St.Thomas, were there. According to Syriac scholar A. Mingana, ‘ The persecution of Sapor gave a stimulus to the emigration of more Christians, from Southern Persia to India,…it is possible that a Christian community, of a comparatively important size existed before that time in India, and that it was more the existence of this community that attracted co-religionists from Persian in the time of the persecution than the bare sword of Sapor…….’ ( A. Mingana , ‘ Early spread of Christianity in India’ p.436.) He reiterated the fact that right from it’s inception, Indian Christianity has hierarchical dependency with Persian / Babylonian Churches / Seleucia-Ctesiphone , thereby the See of St.Peter. In a purely liturgical point of view, the version of Mr Augur can be accepted ( except the first part, about the origin) . The Chaldean ( East Syrian Missal of Mar Addai & mari etc. ) was ‘ established in South India before beginning of 6th c., from the Nestorian Patriarcate, on the banks of Tigris’ , is correct. So far as first introduction of the faith in India, it is not correct." It must be noted forthwith that the Nestorians ( Chaldeans ), themselves have not yet at any time laid claim to the introduction of Christianity into South India " ( D'Souza, In the Footsteps of St.Thomas, p.27 ).
In his famous Syriac letter, Mar Gabriel , the East Syrian bishop, reviewing all important incidents happened in Malabar Church of St.Thomas, right from 52 A D. ( Quoted by Dutch writer Vissicher , in his book , ‘ Letters from Malabar’, translated by K.P.Padmanabha Menon, p.44 ). The relevant part of the narration is as under:
Many years afterwards, a Tovenaar, called Mamukawasser, an enemy to Christianity, arrived……performing miracles to hinder it’s progress . And many of the principal Christians giving heed to him …….followed this false teacher……….This caused second apostasy ; so that out of the 160 families,96 adopted the heathen superstitions , 64 only adhering to the true faith. ( This is the state of affairs, when Nestorian missionaries came here.)Referring to the coming of Merchant migrant Thomas of Kanai,too he has given a similar description. ( See previous paragraph of this article.).
From these evidences, we can rightly conclude that the origin of Malabar Christianity is not from  Thomas, the Manichaen, Thomas of Canai or Nestorian missionaries, but from Apostle Thomas, in the first century itself.

Note : For remaining part of the article, refer Historical Validity of St.Thomas Tradition - 5 b.