Ancient History

The idea of United Bharatam is seen in Mahabaratha by Vyasa. In the beginning of the Mahabaratha itself Bharath was seen as different small countries. In 1947 when India got independence, it was divided and one part was called as Pakistan. So the concept of a united India was seen only in the Mahabaratha. Parasurama, the incarnation of Maha Vishnu made Keralam, is a popular myth stated in the book Keralolpathi. This book is considered to be written in 17th Century and the author of it was not yet confirmed by anyone till today. Herman Gundart found that work and published in 1843. The myths of Keralolpathi was not recognized as a history book. Kerala was also divided into different provinces at that time. But in 1956 November 1 United Kerala was formed.

Ancient Kerala had trade relations with Rome and Greece and other western countries. Jews had trade relations with Malabar form 10 country BC. The spices of our land attracted them. The presence of the Jews in India attracted the attention of the apostle St. Thomas to reach India. The seven church centers he established in India were all commercial centers of that time. It was believed that Aryans from North India reached Kerala in BC 3rd or 4th century. In AD 52 St. Thomas visited seven main centres in Kerala, and converted Hindus to Christianity which is recorded in historical books. These Brahmin centers were the commercial places of the Jews. The place Palayung is still called Yudakunnu. It is believed that the Hindu Temple there is converted to a Church and its evidences are still visible. The Brahmins here first joined Christianity. According to a popular myth the Brahmins who did not join Christianity cursed the place and went to Vembanad . So this place is called Chavukkad. In the history book kept in Vembanad Kulathoor Mana Brahmin family, states that in Kaliyuga 3153 a foreigner, Thoma Monk made their village unholy and they left the place. The places where St. Thomas converted Hindus to Christians are seven in numbers.

  1. Malayinkara (Kodungallur)
  2. Chavakkadu
  3. Paroor (Near Aluva)
  4. Gokul Mangalom
  5. Niranam
  6. Nilakkal (Chayal)
  7. Kollam (Kalliyana)

It is believed that in places like Kally, Kalayankav, Koyikkara, Mattupura, Sankarapuri, Pakalomattom etc, 32 Brahmin families accepted Christianity first.

In A.D. 345 nearly 400 Persians with Kanaya Thomas, the prominent commercial trader reached Malabar. He was known as Knayi Thoman. In A.D 825 a trader named Marwan Sabriso,  arrived with two bishops, Mar Sapro and Mar Prodh, at Quilon. They were welcomed by the Kshatriya King of Quilon, Cherman Perumal and offered them all help. The king gave them copper deeds (Chempu Pattayangal) or ‘Thaampra Rules’ that were written in copper sheets and were known as Cheppeadukal.

Nasrani Mappilakal

In the beginning Kerala Christians were known as Nasranikal. Nasrayan (a person dwelling in Nasraya) and people followed the teaching of Jesus from Nazrayath is called Nassranikal. It is believed that St. Thomas gave the name Nassrayar to the Christians here. As people followed the order of worship in Syriac they were also known as Suriyanikar. Nasranikal had the special privilege to be called “Maha Pillai” (son of king) which was later shortened into Mapplai. Some people claim that Mappilai is from Arabic Language. In Tamil people called, the daughter’s husband as mappilai and elders with respect also they call Mappilai and that practice is still going on.

Nasranikal were not so different from Hindus at that time. They had similar rituals during, birth, death and marriage. Pillayootu, Thalikettu etc are rituals that were followed by Nassranikal. Before 1599 Udayamperoor Sunnahados, there was no  difference between the religious rites of Hindus and Christians.

Religions Amity and Places of Worship

In Kerala, old churches were seen near temples and Kovilakangal in many places like  Palayoor, Paravoor, Ettumanoor, Thiruvalla etc. Even today they exist in harmony and co-operated each other in certain celebrations.

Thus the temples provided Elephant, Alavattam etc to Christian celebrations and the church provided Theevetti, Kathina etc to temple celebrations. This practice is still continuing in certain places. Offerings in churches by Hindus and offering in temples by Christians are not rare, and certain traditions are still continuing in some Christian families. In some places, Christians have certain role in temple administration too even now.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Arabs and Jews were the main traders in pepper, ginger and cardamom from India to Europe. Main port cities like Mahadevan Pattanam (Kodungaloor), Kurathikkoni (Kollam) were their main trading spots. Nearby places like Poyimandalam, Pandimandalam, Ezhamandalam (Cylon) Sangalam (Bengal) and distant places like Misr (Egypt), Makkam (Meca), Urumees (Urumeez), Makka (Malaka), Cheena (China) were also the areas where they had trade. It was because of their expertise in trade, the kings of Kerala invites them and helped them to stay in their capitals. It enhanced the lifestyle of people considerably.

Christians occupied important positions in society at that time. They were considered as equals to Brahmins and the kings treated Christians with much respect and the ancient Kerala Christians received chemb pattayangal from them. They were written in copper sheets and are known as Cheppeadukal. Mainly they were four cheppaedukal.

  1. Tharisappally Cheppedu (1)
  2. Tharisappally Cheppedu (2)
  3. Eravikothan Cheppedu (Veera Raghava Pattayam)
  4. Knayi Thomman Cheppedu

This shows that even before the coming of the Portuguese there were Christians with great tradition in Kerala. The Tharisappally Cheppedu first and fifth sheets were kept in Mar Thoma Church Aramana at Thiruvalla and the second, third and fourth sheets and Eravikothan Cheppedu were kept in the old seminary of the Orthodox Church in Kottayam. It seems that Nasranis and their religious leaders enjoyed privileges and positions that were continued even after the princly rules in Kerala.

Ancient Christians followed many Brahmins rituals with Christian colouring. At the time of birth itself the child was given gold mixed with honey or ghee. Kids names were given from the Bible. They started learning through writing the first letter in rice. Mature boys and girls did not walk or talk together or there was no free mixing. The father is considered as the last word or final authority in the family. Husband and wife did not eat together. The wife serve food to the husband and women did not call their husbands with their names at that time.

At that time special dress code was there for special occasions. Up to 17th century men used ear studs. The chastity of Christian women were famous. Women cover their body and arms with Chatta and long dothi with special kind of frill in the back (Njurivu).The typical nasrani dress nowadays very rarely seen. Like the Brahmins, Christian bride-grooms tie Thali in the bride’s neck. The difference in thali is the cross with seven small golden bubbles (Mottukal). Brides did not remove the thali from their neck at any cost on those days. Moreover Christian grooms gave mandrakodi to the bride at the time of marriage.

The upper caste people accepted the special privilege of Syrian Christinians to touch and make objects holy, touched by the lower class people and turned to be unholy. In order to make things like coconut oil and salt, holy the Hindus invited Syrian Christians and made them live near their dwellings. This Hindu practice was mentioned in a record like this.

“If objects of Kailasa turned unholy, Paulose must touch it to make it holy “

In the early part of the description of this book it is mentioned that, in AD 825 the King of Quilon, the Kshatriya Cheraman Perumal and his welcoming of Christian Missionaries and awarding them with special privileges with Chembu Pattayangal. A Perumal belonging to that dynasty adopted Christianity in 1685 and stayed in Chathannurparambil family in Quilon. Later a son of his family Perumalparampil Mappilai came to Chathankary Village near to Panankodu Panamkuttiyil Brahmin illam. This ancestor came from Chathannur Parambil family and he called his new residence as Puthenparampil (Origin of the family name).

The Brahmin family of Chatankary Panamkodu Panamkutti illam invited Perumalparampil Mappilai to make the unholy objects holy and provided residence for him at Chathankary Mepral. In 1830 his son Mathan Perumal Mappilai shifted to north eastern part of Thalavady village and resided in Noorupara Puthenparampil.