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GRANITE OBJECTS IN KERALA CHURCHES: An Investigation into their Distribution, Antiquity, and Significance.
Paper presented by Prof. George MENACHERY, LIRC, Mount St. Thomas, Kakkanad, October 19-21, 2004.


Indigenous advances in archaeology , numismatics , anthropology , epigraphy , geography and ocean studies , geology , art, architecture,culture, literature , folk arts, place name studies , etc. in recent years have shed considerable new light on the origins and situation of early Christianity in Kerala and as such serve scholars as meagrely used but excellent resource tools for Kerala historical studies in general and Thomas Christian studies in particular . Perhaps this is the place where we might once again stress the importance of the study of local history , and the necessity for following an interdisciplinary approach, and for publishing scholarly findings in Malayalam and in the popular media for the ordinary Nazraney who is only too eager and extremely enthusiastic to learn about one’s own roots, and stress also the compulsions of modern Kerala society where it is necessary and even essential to collaborate with secular scholars even in the investigation of matters relating solely to Church History, Art, or Culture .

Rock Objects in Kerala Churches:
The present paper is an attempt to survey examples of  rock-work in the art and architecture of the churches of Kerala in the light of recent studies and surveys, and to essay their significance for the study of Kerala history and culture. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India , Vol.II, April 1973, (hereafter STCEI II), and the Indian Church History Classics , Vol.I (i.e. The Nazranies), January 1998, (hereafter ICHC I) may be consulted for some one thousand illustrations, a large number of which bearing on Christian art and architecture in India . In those volumes there are scores of pictures of rock objects from churches. Rock art in churches, represented by the Nazraney Sthambam or rock obelisk cross, the rock Deepa Sthambam, or lamp-stand, rock pedestal of the copper-sheathed Dwaja Sthambam or Kodimaram /flagstaff, are all found in front of the typical early Nazraney churches. There is also the exquisitely carved baptismal font or Mammodisakkallu in the baptistery, often situated at the west end of the nave, immediately after the portico or Mukhamandapam, beyond the main door called in Malayalam Aanavathil, which last often with granite doorposts and architraves. (However of late, especially in the west-Syriac tradition of Kerala, the baptismal fonts are to be seen near the altar to the  right of the congregation, in keeping with the universal trend,where more and more Churches are allowing unbaptised persons to come near the altar.) True, these objects will only cover the front courtyard of the church and just take us beyond the threshold of the nave into the baptistery; but then we must stop with that for the present; although there are also a few statues, doorposts, Gopurams, pillars and tablets with reliefs, and architraves all in stone which deserve our attention.

Flights of Rock Steps:

Places of worship in Kerala as in many other climes were generally constructed on hilltops or the highest available spot in a locality, except of course those on the sea-coast and river banks. It is found that the reputedly earliest churches were on the sea shore, or on the shore of the lakes or Kayals and rivers. Later churches were constructed in the interior at High Places. People reached these places of worship navigating the steep slopes, afterwards replaced by granite steps. The Thrissur Vadakkunnathan temple of Pooram fame is still reached by climbing the slopes,
but most churches today have constructed granite flights of steps and side roads leading to them. The churches at Ollur, Kuravilangad, Uzhavoor, Parappur, Ramapuram, Kaduthuruthy (both churches), Kottayam (Valiya Palli), Palai (Old Cathedral), Parel, and Changanassery are reached by going up the flight of rock steps or Nadakkallus. There are many churches with Sopanams with balustrade like handrails on either side or without those handrails, all carved out of rock (e.g. at Parur and Kothamangalam. By the way the Parur Sopanam, at least one of the carved hand rails, was seen last week in a broken condition!)

There are three striking objects of significance in front of the typical Malabar churches, either inside the courtyard or just outside it: the open-air granite (rock) cross which the present writer has christened Nazareney Sthambam; the Dwaja Sthambam or flag-staff made of Kerala’s famed teak wood (e.g. at Parur), and often enclosed in copper sheaths / hoses or Paras (as at Changanassery, Pulinkunnu, or Chambakkulam), or made out of some other timber or other material; the Deepa Sthambam in granite as at Kundra, Kallooppara, Chengannur, and Niranam. Sthambams or pillars of some type or other are to be found among the Buddhists, Jains, Hindus, etc. in India. Such pillars and structures were part of the Christian heritage of Kerala much before the ascendancy of Vedic Hinduism in these parts, although James Fergusson either did not
know or did not care about these .

Rock Crosses:
The open-air rock-cross of Malabar is an obelisk, a tall stone column, with four, sometimes decorated, but without inscriptions,slightly tapering sides, with arms added. Rome has many obelisks (from Egypt and the East) which have been sometimes made into cross-bearing structures decorating the piazzas and squares (e.g. in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Others are near the Lateran , in the Piazza dell’ Esquilino , in Piazza dei Cinquecento , in the Piazza del Quirinale , near the Piazza di Spagna ( near the Propaganda Fide) , near the Piazza del Popolo , near the Piazzo di Montecitorio , and in the Piazza Minerva .

London has one on the banks of the Thames (Cleopatra’s Needle) as one gets down from the Houses of Parliament; Paris has one at the place d’ la Concorde; and even New York has one in the central park. Many memorials like the Washington Memorial are obelisk-shaped. The Asoka Pillar and other such Indian pillars must have been inspired by the Graeco-Parthians, under Egyptian-Persian influence. The Nazraney Sthambam is a direct descendant of the obelisk, and much closer to it than the other Indian pillars - in shape, method of construction and transportation, method of erection, function, and solar symbolism. The Roman obelisk, bearing crosses today, have been converted to Christianity, while Kerala's cross-shaped obelisks were born Christian . The obelus and the double-dagger reference marks in printing may be profitably recalled here. The Celtic rock crosses with their peculiar shape and intricate carvings are in another category.

The three-tier gabled indigenous architecture of Kerala churches , which lacked facades until the coming of the Portuguese, immensely gains in richness, symmetry, and beauty because of the open-air rock crosses, some of them more than 35 feet in height including the intricately carved pedestals, and monolithic shafts. No other community in Kerala has such a huge monumental stone structure, and no other Christianity has such a universal and huge emblem in front of the churches, except the obelisks of the Vatican and Rome which of course were not originally Christian symbols, but were later Christianized by the addition of crosses at their top . The indoor counterparts of these open air crosses have the earliest carvings in Kerala of the national flower lotus and the national bird peacock. Perhaps even the national animal tiger is first depicted in Kerala art in church sculpture. It has been said that there existed no rock carving in South India prior to the period of these indoor crosses . The motifs, message, and images on these crosses and their pedestals display a remarkable degree of Indianness and Malayalee Thanima or identity. Vedic Hindu Gods and Goddesses like Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Sapthamathas, Jeshta etc. appear in the art of the central Guruvayoor/Palayoor-Quilon part of Chera country only after the 11th-13th centuries, and even in the Salem-Erode section, and the Trivandrum-Cape Comorin section Vedic Hindu deities appear in art only as late as the 9th century A.D.

The rock open-air cross employs three sets of sockets and cylinders. The base with a socket (cavity), the monolithic square and slightly tapering shaft with cylindrical terminals to fit the sockets, the horizontal piece forming the arms with a double socket (one cavity above and one below) in the middle, and the capital with a cylindrical bottom end are the four members of the open air cross . They are so well chiselled and
proportionate that when put together the socket and cylinder arrangement enables the cross to stand all by itself. However for the bigger crosses, pedestals - in the form of sacrificial altars or Balikallus - are found, often carrying exquisite reliefs of the flora and fauna of the land in addition to scenes from the daily life of the early Keralites and biblical scenes. The cross representing the supreme Bali (sacrifice) or Mahabali appearing on the Balikkallu most appropriately represents the Calvary events and sheds plenty of light on the ideological, historical, theological, cultural and technological bent of mind of the forefathers. Compare with the base of the Obelisk of Theodosius, Constantinople, A.D.390.

The Obelisk and the Rock Cross:

The obelisk is a ray of the sun - here a ray of Christ (of Horus - Xt. the sun-God). This ray helps the lotus near - universally depicted on such crosses to blossom forth representing in a typical Indian poetic conceit the grace received by the sin - bound human soul (panka - jam) from Christ. Lotus, representing the sun is found in other early Indian art also. The Buddhist Padmapada concept also comes to mind. The half dozen
interior Pehlevi inscribed crosses, some of them undoubtedly of at least pre 7th century origin, which were mostly tombstones before they were put up on the altars , have generally the dove (Holy Spirit) depicted on top of the clover or flower tipped equal-armed Greek cross, in addition to the lotus at the bottom .

In the three piece (Thri-kanda) Pehlavi cross one might, perhaps, with considerable effort read the lotus represented Brahma (Father), Vishnu, and Shiva. The arrangement to hold wicks found on the open air crosses may be related to the preservation of fire, and the effort to make it available to the common people in the dim past, when Homakundams were rare in Kerala or beyond the reach of the common folk. It is perhaps in connection with the need to preserve fire that the oil-Nerchas and oil Araas of the churches, and the compound - wall rock lamps are to be evaluated.The oil related objects in the churches also indicate the connection of this Christianity with the trade of the land, especially oil-trade. The bell like arrangement on some crosses also is noteworthy. Veneration of the cross, angels, Adam and Eve... and of course the Indian Cross itself are some of the notable religious carvings on these structures.

Deepa Sthambam:

The square or polygonal shape of the individual pieces in the granite or rock lamp stands at Kallooppara, Kundra, and Chengannur indicate the antiquity of such lamp stands in the churches. Unlike in the churches, in the temples, the tradition of these lamps continued and thus developed into the present-day round shape of the pieces. In art history generally the simpler forms make their appearance first, and refinements and complications indicate a later date. Even when the tradition of lampstands declined in the churches, many open-air crosses had wick holders incorporated into them, with the advantage that wind and rain do not put off the flames. Church walls still display rows of rock lamps (Kanjoor, Angamaly, Ollur). Inside the churches the tradition of bronze lamps continued vigorously, many churches still displaying rows of bronze lamps, representing a variety of shapes and types, and some lamps having even hundreds of wick holders, e.g. the Aayiram Aalila lamps at Arthat, Akapparambu, or Angamaly. The lamp, be it in bronze or rock, represents Christ who is light, as does the rock cross which is a ray of the Sun or Christ shining from the East.

Dwaja – Sthambam:

In front of the church the third interesting object is the flagstaff, sometimes covered with copper Paras. Every festival is announced with the Kodiyettu or flag-hoisting, a tradition going back to early Buddhist times at least. The flag-staff at times has a carved rock pedestal. All these three objects in the courtyard of the church have a variety of liturgical functions associated with them, into which we are not entering at present .


Granite / Stone Baptismal Fonts:

Let us now climb and go across the portico and enter the Haikala or nave beyond the Aanavathil to look at the rock baptismal font in the baptistery. As we enter the church the huge doorways flaunting Aanavathils or elephantine doors or door for elephants have Architraves and doorposts displaying good examples of south Indian rock-carving. (E.g. old Kayamkulam, Chengannur, Kanjoor). But the rock-baptismal fonts are the real pride of many an old church.

There are interesting rock baptismal fonts at Edappally, Kanjoor, Mylakkombu, Muthalakkodam, Changanassery, Kothamangalam, Kadamattom etc. The similarity of these baptismal fonts with illustrations of the fonts used for the baptism of Constantine (4thC.) and Clovis (Rheims c.496) is remarkable. All the old baptismal fonts are of granite or very hard laterite. They are all huge in size indicating that baptism by immersion could have been the order of the day. Most of the old baptismal fonts depicted in the STCEI II & the ICHC I were probably of a date prior to or very near the promulgation of the decrees of the Synod of Diamper which made permanent fonts more or less compulsory. Although most of the old baptismal fonts/ baptisteries are found near the west end or middle of the nave on the northern side - Kaduthuruthy (Big), old Edappally, old Kanjoor, Changanassery (Southern side), in many churches, mostly Jacobite/Orthodox they are found today close to the sanctum sanctorum e.g. Angamaly (Middle-church), Kallooppara. They are exquisitely carved with reliefs of the baptism of Christ, Mary feeding the Child, angels, Indian crosses, etc. There are also wonderful motifs of leaves, the basket pattern, coir pattern, etc. engraved on these stones. By the way the very Malayalam word Mammodisakkallu indicates a font made of stone. Another term is Mammodisath-thotti. The Holy Water Font is called Annavella Thotti also often in stone.


[Here permit us by way of digression to mention a word about Asoka the Great and Taxila the major source of Indian sculptural tradition, other than Mathura. Alexander the Great and his general Selucus both westerners were in Takshashila or cut stone (Taxila) in Gandhara, the land of Gandhari and Shakuni on the banks of the Indus, before the architect and builder Thomas arrived in those parts. The daughter of Selucus supposedly married Chandra Gupta Maurya. Their (?) son Bimbisara was the father of Ashoka the Great. Was Ashoka a foreigner? Until James Pincep deciphered the writings on an Ashoka Pillar in the 19th century, our knowledge even of this great Indian emperor was minimal. Compared to this our knowledge of Apostle

Thomas’ Indian sojourn must be considered quite
adequate. But that is another story.]

The national emblem of India is derived from one of the Ashoka pillars. One can see this emblem of four lions and the wheel on any Indian currency note in one’s pocket. Those lions of Ashoka roared not in hostility but in love. The roar of these four lions for love we next hear from the amazingly attractive ancient rock baptismal fonts of Malabar, at Edappally, Kanjoor, and elsewhere. These four lions support the hemispherical basin of the font, as the Ashoka lions were supporting a globe, in the very same manner in which the Egyptian obelisks were supporting the shining disk of the Sun. But in the midst of our other interests we failed to give our ears to these voices and to preserve these great Malabar lions, an endangered species, indeed, in our own midst. For at Edappally e.g. the stone baptismal font was dismantled into three pieces and strewn about the courtyard of the church, at the mercy of the innumerable pilgrims and pick-pockets frequenting the spot. At Angamaly one could still see (i. e. before the huge new church was built) the old baptismal font in many pieces near the priests' kitchen. In Punnathra the font is used to collect rain-water, a euphemism this writer has been using for a salty human out - pouring. At Kudamaloor in 1970 to photograph the font once used to baptize the Blessed Sr. Alphonsa this writer had to rescue it from the many layers of plaster on the wall. This list it is not necessary to prolong. Cry, the beloved country.  font>

Antiquity and Significance

Although to investigate the antiquity of art objects in Kerala is a complicated exercise, and a discussion of their significance is even more tricky, let us proceed with some observations here in this regard, most of which have already been made from time to time, in one form or other, by the present writer, hoping that others would travel farther along these and other roads, and would indeed find better paths…… As the time and space allotted this paper have long been overrun we will have to be content with a few pointers only.

A schoolboy definition of philosophy is “the contemplation of the unknown”. And theology thus becomes the contemplation of (the unknown) divine. What follows is merely some stray thoughts on the antiquity and significance of the rock objects in the churches of Kerala.

The Unique Place of the Cross in Kerala

The ubiquitous cross of Malabar churches is best represented by the rock crosses, mostly outside the churches. This open-air granite cross is the central point of many liturgical observations and ceremonies and processions. Festival related and liturgical processions in Malabar are of at least four kinds: certain Pradakshinams or processions starting near the altar end at the Mukhamandapam or portico of the church; many others, importantly, enter the courtyard and go round the rock cross, others go round the church, still others wind along the valley-roads and Angadies surrounding the church-hill, commencing and concluding at the foot of the rock-cross. In every procession processional crosses occupy places of honour. In funeral processions also the cross is at the forefront of the procession.

The Kerala Christian gets up in the morning making the sign of the cross, and goes to bed making the sign of the cross. Not only that. The night prayer before going to bed “Yudanmarude Raajavaaya Nazraayakkaaran Ishoye” is a translation of the INRI on the cross of Jesus. The sign of the cross is made at the four ends of the bed before retiring at night. The sign of the cross is made on doors and entrances with the ash on Ash Wednesday, now Ash Monday. The Way of the Cross is a favorite devotion of the Malayalee.

St. Thomas is the Old Man of the Cross or Kurishumuthappan. Wayside chapels are Kurisu Pallies. There are large numbers of crosses in gold and silver and other metals and in wood and cloth and paintand ivory and every other imaginable medium in every church. There are crosses adorning the triple facades of the churches or triple Monthayams. The cross and the crucifix are to be seen everywhere in the churches. The cross is the symbol of Christianity in Kerala, especially when it is recalled that there were no images other than the cross in Kerala churches before the advent of the Portuguese.

Another Significance

Tree worship, characteristic of pre-historic, primitive, and aboriginal communities must have been common at the time of the arrival of St. Thomas in India. Sangham literature has many descriptions of kings, especially the Moovarachars – the Cheran, the Cholan, and the Pandyan – planting, nourishing, and celebrating their own dynastic trees, and of cutting down and destroying the sacred trees of the enemy . The tree, like the pole and the tower represents the axis mundi and connects heaven and earth, and sometimes even hell . The sacralisation of a spot was often achieved by the planting of a tree like Arayal, or the setting up of a stone, or the building up of a tower – as the means of communication between man and the divine, between earth and heaven. This idea is perhaps well represented in the obelisk and in the open-air rock cross of Kerala. Before a place could be inhabited it must be created and the establishment of the cross creates sacred space, around which people could stay and live. Was this the meaning behind Thomas the Kurisu Muthappan, and Sapor and Proth the Kandeesangal planting crosses all over the place, initiating Chrstian places of residence and commencing Christian Congregations and Communities.

Certain other ideas which could be read into the rock objects have already been mentioned in this paper, and as such are not being gone into again.

Procedures for assessing Antiquity

How old are the rock objects in the Kerala churches? Have their antiquity been measured scientifically? What are some of the means at our disposal to measure the antiquity of these objects? These are a few questions which ought to be discussed.

As the maximum possible age of Christian artefacts cannot be more than two millennia, and will be in most cases only 1500, 1000, or even less years, certain kinds of scientific tests could not be conducted with any hope of obtaining reliable results even were the necessary facilities available here for conducting such investigations. The possible lack of the presence of organic material (such as wood, bone, charcoal) on these objects has been pointed out by certain archaeologists and associated scientists as reasons for the inability to precisely fix the dates of such objects . However it may be possible to get better results in the future if experiments could be conducted with international collaboration. However the State and Central governments and departments of archaeology must have a positive approach to these studies.

One of the methods used today is based on typology. Using this method Kerala archaeological departments and archaeologists and historians associated with the study of Kerala artefacts have come to the conclusion that the Pehlevi crosses are most probably of a period between 3rd and 7th centuries, although some of these crosses are replicas of the earlier crosses and hence might belong to the 9th or 10th centuries. While a member of the Archaeology Advisory Board of the Government of Kerala (1975 – 1982) this writer had many opportunities to discuss these matters with archaeologists from India, and also with archaeologists in Britain, Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere during wanderings abroad, and their views have helped to formulate these tentative conclusions, although final conclusions could be arrived at only after more systematic consultations.

The history of the royal Sassanid language provides another clue. The Sassanid,the dynasty that ruled Persia from 226 to 641 CE. had Pehlevi (Pahlavi in Parthian) for their official language. Since the language itself ceased to exist soon after the decline and fall of the Sassanid dynasty around mid 7th century original objects with the script could not be later than say 4th or 5th century CE. Hence the Pehlevi crosses could not be later than the 7th century at the latest.

There are listed in the Diocesan Directories and elsewhere the accepted dates for the establishment of the various churches in Kerala. Choosing only the pre-Diamper (i.e. 16th C. and earlier) churches mentioned in the Malayalam records of the Synod and Gouvea’s Jornada , the churches founded in different centuries could be chronologically classified . Also each Malabar church acknowledges a mother church; by going from mother church to mother church until arriving at the first seven churches the chronological position of a church could be decided vis--vis other churches . This will help decide the approximate date of the church.

The copper plate grants, the rock inscriptions, the wooden beam inscriptions, the Granthavaris, the statements of missionaries and travellers, folklore, the Song of Thomas Ramban , Margam Kali Pattukal , Pallippattukal , Kurishinte Pattukal etc. also have clues to the establishment of churches, and directly or indirectly to the establishment of the Rock Crosses &c. All these aids must be intelligently utilized to decide the dates of the rock objects in churches.

The tools are there, the persons are there, only our firm will is required to compile an authentic history of our land and our Church. Let us wish ourselves Good Luck!

==============================
Dates of Churches: from those dates, Contents page of Pallikkalakalum Mattum, KHA paper repro. In PalliKK…, Shadabdhi Smaranika..

Kurishu and kurishumuthappan,
Typology…
Pehlavi Crosses….
Diamper and Baptismal fonts…
72 privileges…
In every metal, wood, clothe, ….
Kurishupalli, kurishadi, kurishu Varakkuka, Edges of bed, INRI at bed time prayer,
Axis Mundi, Centre of the world, Hierophany, Sacred space, Near sacred space, Eliade, Coomaraswamy, Eluvathingal,…
Jyothi Sahi..
Theology of the cross..
Mahabali..
Panka-Jam..
Veneration of the cross everywhere…
======================================

A recent instance is the discovery of a large selection of artefacts such as a Chera coin with elephant, ankusha, bow & arrow of the 1st. century CE, a portion of an amphora, shards of pottery, bricks used in construction, ringwells, beads, rouletted ware, b&w ware... all from the early historical layer during excavations conducted by Dr. Shajan and Dr. Selvakumar at Pattanam near Parur on the south bank of the present Periyar river, a few miles to the south of Kodungallur. Roberta Tomber of the University of Southamton, Dr. M.G.S Narayanan, Dr. P.J.Cherian and many others believe that this was the site of the ancient Muziris of the first century Greek and Roman writers. Cf. their papers presented at the seminar conducted by the Kerala Historical Research Society, Sahitya Academy, Trichur. Also see the Administration Reports of the Royal Cochin Archaeologists, Rama Pishariti and Anujan Achan for pre-independence years, reprinted in George Menachery, ed. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Trichur, 1973, left col.,p.53 to right col., p.159. Cf. “Numismatics at the Service of Historical Research,” papers presented by G. Menachery at the Madras and Karur congresses of the Numismatic Society of Tamilnadu and at the Thrissur, Kanyakumari, and Veliyanad conferences of the Numismatic Society of South India. Some of these papers may be read in the issues of the HARP, Kottayam (Ed. Dr. Jacob Thekkepparambil); The St. Thomas Christians Journal,Rajkot (Ed. Bp. Gregory Karotemprel); and the many issues of the electronic journal ‘Light of Life,’ 2003 – 2004, New York, N.Y. One such work is the ‘Anthropology of the Syrian Christians’, L. K. Anantha Krishna Ayyar, 1926, Ernakulam portions from which have been reprinted in ICHC I, pp. 485 et. sq. The excellent translations of the Tharisappalli Christian plates of 849 CE and the Jewish plates in Cultural Symbiosis, M. G. S. Narayanan, Kerala Society Papers, 1972 are essential tools for all students of Early medieval Kerala history and culture. See “Roads to India,” article by Maggie G. Menachery in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, II,Trichur, 1973, Ed. G. Menachery. This topic is elaborately treated in Chapter I of Kodungallur:.. G. Menachery and W. Chakkalakkal, 1987,(reprint 2000), Azhikode. A. C. Perumalil SJ, The Apostles in India, Fact or Fiction?, 1952, Patna elaborately deals with the first century Roman and Greek contacts with India and Kerala. K. S. Matthew and collaborators have much on early and middle second millennium ocean trade. The tectonic plate below the area from Palayoor to Parur is supposed to be the largest one in Kerala and as such earthquakes &c. were quite rare in this area, helping the development of a continuous civilization here, giving birth to the growth of Muziris and other famous international trade centres down the centuries. Cf. Menachery, notes to Chapter I of Kodungallur: above. The Malayalee ought to study the Sangham literature with some enthusiasm as it is the common heritage of all South Indians. The reluctance of certain historians and authors, especially of the secular historians and scholars of Kerala , to refer to the Sangham literature is somewhat beyond one’s comprehension. The neglect especially of the beautiful lines of the Aka-nanooru, the Pura-Nanooru and the Pathittuppathu has no justification except the prejudices of such persons. How come the avoidance of passages from the Sangham literature in the text books of Kerala? The mysterious loss of the first and tenth Pathu of the Pathittuppathu must be more vigorously investigated. Each of the place names in the Palayur area f.i., such as Chowghat (Shapakkadu), Orumanayoor, Puthumanassery, Arthat, Chemmanur carry some historical significance and as such ought to be scrutinized by the student of Kerala history. Cf. G. Menachery, Aashamsa, in Chemmannur Kudumba Charithram by Major Cherunny, Guruvayur, 1999. The many efforts to throw light on Kerala historical problems from an investigation of local history and folklore must be enthusiastically encouraged. See “Introduction,” G. Menachery, in George Emmatty, “Kuttikalkku Kerala Charithram,” 2003, H & C Publishing House, Thrissur.


For more thoughts on these aspects of Syrian Christian historical and cultural studies the curious may refer among other sources the many end-notes by this writer in Chapters I and II of George Menachery & W. Chakkalakkal, Kodungallur: City of St. Thomas, 1987 (reprinted as Kodungallur: Cradle of Christianity in India, 2000), Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, Azhikode. Certain efforts have been made to utilise the expertise of secular scholars and institutions in these fields by conducting seminars, workshops, courses of lectures &c. on related areas by the Institute for Lay Leadership Training, (Estd. 1967) Thrissur; LRC, Kakkanad; Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, etc. For more references also see “Introduction” by the present writer in ‘Angamaly Rekhakal’(Malayalam, = Angamaly Documents) by Varghese Angamaly and Jomon Thachil, Merit Books, Cochin, 2002; “Introduction” by G. Menachery, in Dalitbandhu N. K. Jose, “Adisthana Keralam,” Vaikom, 2001; introductory article “Kerala Patanathinu Oru Kaivilakku” by G. Menachery in The ‘Naalagamam of Palakkunnel Valiachan,’ Alleppy, 2001 &c. The museums set up / being set up at Mt. St. Thomas, Kakkanatt; Bishop’s House garden, Cochin; Jeevass, Alwaye; Palai; Ernakulam as well as the exhibits from the Christian Cultural Museum of Trichur (1980) now being displayed at the Palayur Museum could shed considerable light on these aspects of the question. The lists of exhibits at the Christian Cultural Pavilion, Kanakakkunnu, Trivandrum (First World Malayalam Conference), 1977; Christian Cultural Exhibition, Trichur Pooram Exhibition, 1978; Christian Cultural Exhibition, Malankara Golden Jubilee Celebrations, SEERI, Kottayam, 1980 also may be helpful here (Pallikkalakalum Mattum, G. Menachery, Eiffel books, Trichur, 1984).
Including historical and even quasi-historical studies, works, “souvenirs” &c. on families (e.g. Kudumba Charithram), churches (e. g. Palli Mahathmyam), parishes, places (e. g. Sthala Puranam), persons (autobiographies, biographies), institutional and organizational commemoration volumes.
The popularity of the many Christian historical and cultural museums and exhibitions is an indication of this.The huge crowds of lakhs and lakhs of people who enthusiastically assembled and exuberantly cheered the 1983 Cultural Rally and the 2004 CBCI Conference Historico-Cultural Programme at Thrissur were quite heartening. As these ideas have more than once been expressed from this very platform it is not perhaps necessary to go into that again. And the good news is that already substantial steps have been taken in this direction at least in a few quarters. Cf. f. i. the LIRC publications Ed. Dr. Bosco Puthur containing the proceedings of the Pre-Diamper Seminar and the Seminar on Brahmins, Jews, and the Sangham.

Published from Trichur,Ed. G. Menachery.
Published from Ollur, Ed. G. Menachery.
The Diocesan Centenary Celebrations Volume of Trichur “Shadabdhi Smaranika” (1987-91) has some two hundred related pictures. The Kanjirappilly Diocese has published an interesting volume of text and pictures. The Kottayam Diocese has a number of publications in the field to its credit. The Ollur Forane Church St. Anthony Octingenary Celebrations Souvenir (1996) has dozens of pictures. Of late many other dioceses and parishes have published useful works with quality visuals. Naturally, concerning recent works, one could speak of only those works which have come to one’s attention.
“Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala,“ paper by G. Menachery, World Syriac Conference, SEERI, 2002, published in the HARP and afterwards in the St. Thomas Christians Journal and recently in the Light of Life.
James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern
Architecture, London, 1876, passim.
135 ft., brought from Heliopolis in 37 A.D. Sixtus V ordered its placement before the basilica, employing it is said 900 men, 150 horses, and 47 cranes for the operation.
Oldest obelisk in Rome ( from Thebes, 15th C. BCE) brought by Constantius II,357.
Set up here by Sixtus V in 1587. 48 ft.
Incorporated into the monument for the 500 Italian soldiers fallen at Dogali.
Shifted to this spot by Pius VI in 1786 only. 47.5 ft.
The hieroglyphics were incised after bringing to Rome.
78.5 ft. Augustus brought it to Rome from Heliopolis and was dedicated to the sun. Most obelisks have various sun connections.
72.5ft. high. Brought to Rome by Augustus to celebrate his victory over Cleopatra.
The hieroglyphic on this small obelisk relates to the last
of the independent Pharaohs, ally of Zedekiah the last king of Judah in the Bible.
G. Menachery,1975 & 1978 in the course of
interviews at Rome broadcast by Radio Vatican.
Cf. Article “Kerala Church Architecture” by Andrews Athapilly in the STCEI II, 1973; and “Thomas Christian Architecture” by E. J. James Menachery in the same.
With their typical three tiered gabled roofing, which is the harmonious blending of the Kazhukkol, Vala, Sheelanthi, Thulam, Monthayam,and Pattika, reflecting the great skill of the Kerala Moothasari or carpenter.
Vide notes 17 to 26 supra.
The Pallava rock carvings of Mahabalipuram are either posterior to or contemporary with the Pehlevi crosses. In any case in Kerala no rock carvings have been noticed before these Pehlevi crosses.
K. V. Soundara Rajan, Art of South India: Tamil
Nadu and Kerala, Delhi, 1978.
Aja – Eka Paada: - Thonda Mandalam, 8th C.; Chola
Mandalam, 11th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 13 th C.; Kongu –
Chera Nadu, -.
Ananthashaayi:- Thonda Mandalam, 6th C.; Chola
Mandalam, 5th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 8 th C.; Kongu –
Chera Nadu, 8th C.
Ardhanaari:- Thonda Mandalam, 7th C.; Chola Mandalam,
9th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 13 th C.; Kongu – Chera Nadu,
9th- 10th C.
DakshinaaMoorthy:- 7; 9; 9; c.8.
Ganesha:- 8; 8; 7; c.8.
Harihara:- 8; -; 8; 11.
Jvarahareshwara:- 10; -; 9; 13.
Jeshta:- 8; 9; 8; 11.
Lingotbhava:- 8; 8; 8; after 11.
Sapthamatha:- 8; 9; 8; 14.
Thrimoorthi:- 8; -; 8; 8.
This socket and cylinder arrangement of the rock crosses can be easily studied if one examines the recently discovered pieces of the rock cross at the Changanassery Cathedral Cemetery or the pieces in the Eastern church compound at Angamaly. In spite of requesting the church and convent at least a dozen times from 1971 to 2004 the pieces of the rock cross at Angamaly are still in a discarded condition there, approachable only in the hot summer when the grass withers away or when the snakes take a holiday.
In 1980 while establishing the Christian Cultural
Museum, Lourdes Cathedral, Trichur the present writer
came across all four pieces of a granite open
air cross underground in the sandy compound surrounding the
Enammavu Church (c. 500 CE). This was taken to the Cathedral on the eve of the inauguration of the Museum. Other office bearers of the Museum Committee, including its
chairman who was the V.G. of Trichur then, waited with many bags of cement and two masons and helpers to put up the
cross in front of the Museum. But when the four pieces
were unloaded from the truck and put in place
utilizing the sockets and cylinders carved out on the
pieces the cross stood by itself sans aid of mortar or mason! Such experiences enabled the writer, when he was shown three pieces of the fallen cross collected at the Changanassery Cathedral Cemetery a few years ago by the Cathedral Vicar, to request him to look for a fourth piece, which was eventually discovered as a result of the old vicar’s search. The discovery by this writer of pieces of a cross submerged in mud at Kalpparambu (1978?) led to its re-erection, once again providing the writer a chance to study the techniques employed in carving such crosses.
These are the aspects which should have been discussed in detail in connection with the significance of the rock objects had we not already hugely exceeded the allotted time and space. The discovery of the St. Thomas Mount ‘bleeding cross’ while digging the premises is well known. The Alangad cross (see picture and description in ICHC I, Ollur, Jan. 1998, p. 576 reproduced from the Light from the East, Chicago Bi-Monthly, 1953 with the caption: ‘Persian Cross on tomb of Mar Jacob, Alangatt, India’.) remained for very long in the cemetery. The size and inscriptions on the other such crosses also show that they were tombstones before they were removed to the altar / wall. The ‘Tree of Life’ theory and the ‘Great Rivers’ theory can hardly hold water archaeologically and sculpturally in the case of the vast majority of rock crosses where the lotus or the Pookkallu of the Kerala sculptor is only too well depicted, and finds comparison with the lotus on the Balikkallus of temples. But in theological and theoretical interpretations such ideas can perhaps help. Cf. unpublished doctoral thesis “Thomas Christian Architecture,” by Dr. E. J. James, Calcutta University, 1980. Also his article on the same topic in the STCEI,II, 1973 and the unpublished doctoral thesis on Nazraney culture submitted by Ms. Joicy James Menachery, Mysore University, 2004. In Pathittuppathu, Second Pathu, Pattu One, the tree of protection of the enemy Poonkkadambu is cut off at the king’s command. In his introduction to Pathittuppathu G. Vaidyanatha Iyer speaks of this custom, p.xvi (Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1961).Similarly in his introduction to Puranaanooru P. R. Parameswaran Pillai also speaks in detail of this custom, p.xxxii (Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1969). The tree of protection or the tree of victory was generally Venga, Punna, Veppu, etc. Also cf. James Fergusson, Tree Worship.

The idea of axis mundi as understood by various peoples is elaborated by Mircea Eliade in his Encyclopaedia of Religions and elsewhere in his Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (trans. from the French , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959 &c.) and in his Sacred and the Profane : The Nature of Religion, (trans. from the French , Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1959 &c.)and his many other books and articles such as Pattern in Comparative
Religion (trans. Rosemary Sheed, Sheed and Ward, London and New York). Mircea Eliade’s thoughts were unknown to me, and
his works could not be found in the libraries of even some major seminaries. However after being introduced to the wealth of his thoughts by Fr. Elavathingal I have become an addict of his works. I find Jyothi Sahi and others greatly influenced by these thoughts ( e.g. Holy Ground, Jyothi Sahi, Pace, 1998). Another writer who should be the constant companion of the student of Indian and Indian Christian art is Ananda Coomaraswamy (e.g. Art and Swadeshi, Ganesh and Co., Madras). There are a number of old editions of books by Coomaraswamy in the Public Library, Trichur and elsewhere in many of the major seminaries.
Finally the attention of the listener is drawn to Anthony Kalliath, “Paths of Contextualising Indian Spirituality”
in Christian Contribution to Nation Building: A Third Millennium Enquiry, Ed. S. Ponnumuthen, CBCI-KCBC, Alwaye, 2004, esp. pp. 193-194 and related notes.
Vide note 40 above.
See note 40 above. Space does not permit us to go into the details of these observations. May be another time.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 40 years—i.e., half the amount of the radioisotope present at any given time will undergo spontaneous disintegration during the succeeding 5,730 years. Basically this means that half of the original amount of C14 in organic matter will have disintegrated 5730 years after the organism’s death; half of the remaining C14 will have disintegrated after another 5730 years and so forth. After about 50,000 years, the amount of C14 remaining will be so small that the fossil can't be dated reliably. Under optimum conditions it has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from 500 to 50,000 years old.
In f.i. Scaria Zacharia, Udayamperur Soonnahadosinte Kanonakal, Edamattam, 1998; Samuel Chandanappally,
Christian Culture (Mal.), Kottayam, 1979.
Gouvea, Jornada, Coimbra, 1606; in English Geddes, London, 1694 (fully reproduced in ICHC I, 1978). Recently LIRC has published a new translation of the Jornada by Pius Malekandathil.
Cf. the paper on “Sculptures of Kerala”, G. Menachery,
Kerala History Association, Ernakulam, 1983 where churches founded in each century from the Ernakulam area are listed: Akapparambu (16th Century), Kudavechoor (15th C.), Koratty (14), Chendamangalam (13), Chowara (12), Kanjoor (11), Vadayar (10), South Paravur (9), Moozhikkalam (7), Udayanperur (6th C.), Angamaly (5th Century), and Ambazhakkad in the 4th Century.

Another approach is seen in G. Menachery, Kodungallur… 1987 (p. 41 ff. of 2000 reprint): Take one particular instance: The church at Ollur near Trichur used to be one of the wealthiest in the whole of Kerala. This church was founded only in 1718, one of the first important churches established after 1599. Before 1718 the people of Ollur used to go to Pazhuvil church for Mass, which Church was founded in 960. Before that, tradition Goes they used to go to Enammavu church founded in 500. The nearby Vadakkan Pudukkad church was founded in 400, separating from the Palayur church of 52 AD. What is important is that the people of all these places unanimously subscribed to the truth of the Chronology, although time has brought about great changes in the status of each place, and yet the traditions concerning the origin of each church is recognised by all the churches unanimously… “Thus these traditions have no less value than documents written on paper or stone.” The Shadabdi Smaranika of Trichur Diocese has a similar approach in one of the articles by G. Menachery, 1987, where the 19th section closes with the remark: That the followers of various faiths and castes of a land unanimously accept certain historical realities increase the credibility of such tradition based beliefs.

A 1926 English translation of the Song, by T.K. Joseph, has been published in 1931 by Fr. Hosten s.j., reproduced in the Nazranies, p.520 ff. Fr. Bernard T. O. C. D. gives the Malayalam version, Pala, 1916.
Excellent English translations of many of the songs are given by Anantha Krishna Ayyar in his famous Anthropology of the Syrian Christians, Ernakulam, 1926. This portion is reproduced in the ICHC I, pp. 485–508. For the Malayalam see P. U. Lucas, Kottayam, 1910, reprinted in Purathanappattukal by Jacob Vellian and Cummar Choondal, Kottayam, 1980.
Ibid.
 

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