Sunday, 13 May 2012

Pakalomattom family

Pakalomattom family

The Pakalomattam or Pakalomattom family is an ancient Suriyani (Syrian) Christian family in Kerala, India. They are popularly known as Syrian Christians in view of the Syriac (classical form of Aramaic) liturgy used in church services since the early days of Christianity in India and not for any Syrian migration. They are also known as Nazaranis (followers of Jesus the Nazarene).[1][2]


Palayur St.Thomas Monument
There is a local legend that St. Thomas, the apostle visited Kerala in A.D. 52, as part of his missionary work in Persia, North India and Afghanistan.[3]It is believed that pakalomattom family was evangelized by Thomas the Apostle.[4] There is no direct contemporary evidence for Thomas being in the subcontinent, though it definitely would have been possible for a Roman Jew of the time to make such a trip. The earliest known source connecting the apostle to India is the Acts of Thomas, written in Edessa likely in the 2nd century.[4][5] The text describes Thomas' adventures in bringing Christianity to India, a tradition later expanded upon in early Indian sources such as the "Thomma Parvam" ("Song of Thomas").[6][7] According to a Malabar tradition that he ordained Bishops and priests from the Pakalomattom family. [8][9][10][11][12]

The Legend

Palayoor was one of the places near the port of Muziris, where St. Thomas established church. The place is referred as Palur in some old documents. At that time, according to tradition, Palayoor had a Brahmin village of 64 families. It is believed that in one of the Temple Ponds in Palayoor St. Thomas performed a miracle. Some Vaidik Brahmins were performing Vedic ritual called Tharpanam in which they devote Lord Sun by the symbolic submission of water in their palms along with vedic recitation. St. Thomas was attracted to the ritual and queried the logic of their submission since the water thrown above was not accepted and returned to earth. Thus St. Thomas got an opening to present his subject before that Brahmin community. St. Thomas threw water in the name of Jesus and it stood still in the air and glittered like diamond. By this "Experience" many Brahmins accepted Christianity while the other Brahmins cursed the place and left the place with their families saying that they would bathe their next bath at Vembanattu.[13] Nedumpally, Madeipur, Koykkam, Muttodal, Pakalomattom, Panakkamattam, Sankarapuri, Kalli, Kallikavu, etc. were among the families who were Baptised in Palayoor.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Supporting Facts

Even today the place is known as Sapa-kadu or Chavakadu which means Cursed Forest. The unhappy Brahmins ran away to Vembanattu and settled down there. This place is still called Pudumanassery or the “Place of the new Mana( Illam ).It is stated that a Hindu temple that was abandoned by the Brahmins was converted into the present church. Temple remnants in the form of broken idols, sculptures and relics of the old temple can also be seen near the precincts of the church, in addition to two large tanks near the west and east gates of the church.[25][26]
It is also stated that the conversion of Brahmins has resulted in such an aversion among the Nambudri Brahmins that they do not even accept cold water or tender coconut water anywhere in the vicinity of the Church. In Vembanattu there is a brahmin illam of Kalatt, which according to tradition is one of the families that ran away from Palayoor.[27] Furthermore, a document called ‘Grandavariola’ kept by a local Brahmin family (who had moved out from Palayur during the preaching ) testifies to the date of the gospel work of St. Thomas. The document states:
"Kali year 3153 (52 AD) the foreigner Thomas Sanyasi came to our village (gramam) preached there and therby causing…"
In Margam Kali song - one of the ancient round group dance of Kerala practiced by Saint Thomas Christians, a brief description of this tradition is portrayed. A relevant part of the song is translated below :
"He then heard about Kerala and went there, arriving at Malankara, preaching to the Brahmans of Cranganore and ordaining two of them priests. Then he went south, erecting crosses at Quilon, Niranam, Kokkamangalam, Kottukkayal, Cayal and Palayoor. The King sent for Thomas and inquired him of the completion of Castle's work. The King put him in prison when told he must wait till after his death to see the new palace, and was so mortified by the deception that he wanted to abdicate.However, his brother died at that time and saw the palace in heaven. He was resuscitated and told the King of its glory. The king, his brother, Habban and others were baptized, and the faith spread apace arousing the Brahmans’ jealousy......"

Historicity of Brahmanical Origin

Some historians argue that the Brahmin arrival to Kerala happened much later. However, prominent Kerala historians like A. Sreedhara Menon are against this argument. Aryan religions like Jainism and Budhism had already made inroads to Kerala in the 4rth and 3rd centuries BC. The consensus of opinion among scholars is that the Aryan Brahmin immigration to South India had started as early as 1000 BC, though there are differences of opinion. Some of the poets of Sangam period were Brahmins, and there are references to the Poojas and Yajnas conducted by Brahmin priests in the court of Chera Kings. [32]

Medieval History of Palayoor families

Thus Christianity gained a foothold in Kerala well over 300 years before it succeeded in obtaining official recognition in Europe, or in becoming the established religion of Rome. This community, though a minor one, was aligned in the social crystalline structure with a respectable orientation. The respect and toleration shown to this faith, found expression in the fraternal treatment extended to its adherents, who were accorded and retained for themselves an honoured place, in the social and economic life of kerala. They succeeded in doing this because they were Christian in faith only, but in all else, they were Indian. They were no doubt staunch in their adherence to their faith, and proud of the apostolic origin of their church. But their primary concern was to live in harmony and requite the hospitality and toleration shown to them by the Hindu kings and princes.[33]
Some of the Palayoor Christian families relocated as early as 2nd century AD. Pakalomattom and Sankarapury include in this list. Others stayed in Palayoor until Tippu Sultan(1749–99) attacked Kerala.

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