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 Art and Architecture in the Christian Culture
of  First Millennium CE Kerala

Paper presented by Prof. George Menachery

[Ollur, Thrissur City, 680306; +91 487 2352468, 2354398, +91 9846033713;www.indianchristianity.com,www.nazraney.com;

kunjethy@yahoo.com, kunjethy13@gmail.com,kunhethy7@rediffmail.com,gopala1547@hotmail.com]

at the LRC Seminar on the Social Life of Kerala in the First Millennium,

Mt. St. Thomas, Kakkanad, Kochi, 2005. 

I. Paucity of Sources


Historians have always  bewailed the paucity of sources for the study of Kerala history,

pre-western Kerala history in particular, especially the history of Kerala in the first millennium, and more especially the history of Kerala in the first half of the first millennium CE. But it is a fact that scholars were reluctant or not free to take up the objective study of Kerala history before the middle of the 20th century, and even today the study of Kerala history has been confined to certain periods and aspects, the studies often dictated by special purposes or vested interests. Were all the tools at the disposal of the historical writer in modern times properly utilised the paucity of sources for Kerala history might not have been greater than in the case of most other areas in India. It is not possible to say that the latest developments and advanced methods in archaeology, anthropology, literatures, place name studies, numismatics, geology, ocean and trade-route studies, geography, epigraphy, demography, carbon testing, typography, folk-lore and local history studies, etc.  have been put to the best use by our historians, except by a few and that too sporadically and often half-heartedly.


And what sources are there for one to study the situation of Kerala in the first millennium CE? Among the scarce and meagre sources at one’s disposal must be counted coins1; edicts and inscriptions2; literature3 - especially Sangham Literature4; archaeological5 and artistic6 vestiges; writings of western including Islamic, eastern including Chinese, and Indian administrators and rulers; writings of visitors, traders, authors, missionaries, and pilgrims7.  


Among the writings capable of shedding considerable light on the art, architecture, and culture of Kerala in the first millennium must be included not only works originating in that millennium, but also many works of later origin esp. of the first half of the second millennium. This is especially so because it would appear that  art, architecture, and many other aspects of culture appear to have taken a very long time in India and Kerala to undergo changes8. True, the arrival of the European traders on these shores must have speeded up such changes, but when the Europeans first appear here they come upon life-styles that had remained more or less stable, almost static, may be even stagnant often, for many centuries, and hence whatever information on these matters could be culled from the 11th to 15th or even 16th century sources9, including some of the early writings and observations of  European and other foreign visitors, also may be taken to reflect by and large a correct image of things as they were in the first millennium. Indeed it is the scarcity of authentic contemporary sources unearthed upto now for the first few centuries of Kerala history and their proper interpretation that forces us to fall back upon certain secondary sources also for what they are worth, and surely these findings must necessarily undergo corrections as and when one comes across fresh material in various fields related to Kerala society and culture.

II. Neglect of Sangham literature by Kerala scholars


Evidently, some investigation into the general history and culture of first millennium CE Kerala w.sp.r.t. art and architecture has to be made here based on the Sangham works considering the remarkable reluctance hitherto of historians in general and Kerala historians in particular, for whatever reason, to study with sufficient seriousness and objectivity, i.e. evincing perhaps a greater degree of commitment and a lack of bias, the situation of Kerala in the first millennium, and especially Kerala of the first half a hmillennium, based, among other things, on these invaluable sources. This astonishing reluctance becomes all the more astounding when it is noticed how f.i. the common heritage of Sangham poems is hardly represented in any anthology of poems or studies either at the school or at the university level in Kerala, although Kerala once formed an important part, and at times perhaps even the most important part, of ancient Tamilakam that is depicted in Sangham works; for in all early records whenever the Moovarachars are mentioned, it is always as Chera - Chola - Pandya, invariably giving precedence to Chera Nadu and thus in a way to Kerala. However it is heartening to note that the modern State of Tamil Nadu, a major segment of ancient Tamilakam appears to be proud of this common heritage of South India, and has been keenly studying and propagating Sangham Literature and Culture. One reason for this peculiar attitude of scholars in Kerala may be sought in the surmise of historians like Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan10 that the Nampoothiri Brahmins, culturally the most influential community of later day Kerala, and the Nairs including the other so-called Shudra communities like the Ambalavaasis11  who brilliantly influence and even dominate the cultural landscape of Kerala today did not exist here in the first centuries CE, at least under the names and attributes they enjoy today. This perhaps stood in the way of writers from those communities and rulers variously influenced and obliged to those communities from undertaking serious Kerala studies relating to a Kerala before their  coming into the picture. 


There are those who insist that there was little ‘culture’ and less art and architecture in Kerala of the first millennium1. To say that Kerala even of the very first centuries CE was devoid of all trappings of a prosperous civilization vis-a-vis many other areas of India would be somewhat off the mark in the light of currently available indigenous as well as external evidence. In the Sangham literature itself one comes across many descriptions adumbrating the existence of a culture quite developed for the period.13 Even were mid - first millennium BC Kerala “characterised by the life of bands,tribes and clans who subsisted on hunting/gathering, animal herding, slash and burn agriculture and highland rice”14  when we come to the first centuries BCE/CE we come across a culture and civilization having surprising parallels to those of later day Kerala. Lack of permitted time and space dictates that we directly proceed to a consideration of Kerala Culture in the first millennium CE and the art and architecture we come across in that period..

 III.Kerala Culture: First Millennium Indications


The word ‘culture’ has been defined in various ways, but the truth is that a universally acceptable definition has not yet been found. Kroeber and Kluckhohn list 250 definitions but even this list is not complete. Here may I draw the attention of this assembly of scholars to the details in the paper once presented in this hall entitled “Cultural Heritage of the Syro-Malabar Church,” reprinted in various journals and in my Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage.


A careful reading of Sangham works brings out many references to works of art and architecture existing in that age, because the people inhabiting Tamilakam including Kerala in those times appear to have attributed considerable importance to painting as well as to literature and music.The Ganikas are described as being experts in the 64 arts (Ennen - that is = 8x8 - Kalaiyor - Cila. 14.16). The canopy of the gold cot used by Chenkuttavan’s queen had attractive Chittira Vithanam or paintwork (Cila. 27.203-6). Similarly the canopy of the cot used by the wife of Pandyan Nedunchezhiyan had different pictures including a scene depicting Rohini sitting close to Chandran. There were wall paintings - murals, frescos? - in the houses depicting Devas  and insects. Mistaking the picture of the tiger for the real thing an elephant is described as running amuck.  The Chera capital is described as having temples, ponds, palaces, Pallies (churches also perhaps?), and gardens. The importance of dance is clear from the very title Cilappatikaram. The following musical instruments are mentioned in Puranaanooru : Yazh, Palliyam, Pathala, Peruvakiyam, Paadalthura (all string instruments); Kinappara, Kidarippara, Mizhavu (percussion). These remind one of the seventy-two privileges or Viduperus enjoyed by the Christians and Jews recalled in the Jewish and Syrian Copper Plates. 


Into the descriptions of the palaces and the war-related objects we are not entering here for want of time.

 IV. Antiquity of Non - Christian Devalayas in Kerala


When were the first structural places of worship - be they temples, ambalams, pallies, or even masonry kavus - constructed in Kerala? What were their models? What were their sizes, what the materials used, what their architecture? These are indeed difficult questions to answer. But it is possible to say that structural temples had been in existence at least by the eighth century CE 15. Of the twentynine pictures of temples given under architecture in the Arts and Crafts of Travancore only less than half a dozen are attributed to the first millennium and even here none is older than the 9th Century16. Of all the Vedic Hindu Vighrahas or idols appearing in Kerala very few are from the first millennium and none comes from a period before the 8th Century17. Of the dozens of sculptures shown in C.Sivaramamurti, Royal Conquests and Cultural Mirgrations in South India and the Deccan ,Calcutta, 1955 none is from before 6th Century in the whole of South India, and hardly any appears from Kerala. The available inscriptions from the temples of Kerala - or the Jaina and Budhist relics -also indicate the earliest date for structural or even rock-cut temples to be ca. 7th Century.  Apart from architecture and sculpture all other plastic art forms like painting in Kerala temples must have originated at a later date. Much more aught to be mentioned about the origins and development of non-Christian art and architecture of Kerala, but there is hardly any time for that on the present occasion.            

V. Antiquity of Christian Devalayas i.e. Churches or Pallies in Kerala 


There is at one end the tradition that seven royal churches were established by Apostle St. Thomas in Kerala at (from north to south) Palayur, Kodungallur, Parur, K(G)okkamangalam, Chayal, Niranam, and Quilon. At the other end we definitely know about the wooden church that Fr. Fenecio s.j. demolished at Palayur at the very beginning of the 17t century. More than hundred churches sent their representatives to the “Synod of Diamper” in 159918. Before this date we have the letters of the four bishops (1504) and the narrative of Joseph the Indian (ca.1500) for the existence of churches and for the renewed efforts in church building in Kerala. In the middle at the commencement of the ME we have the Tarisappalli Plates of 849 A.D. which speaks of the granting of 72 royal privileges to the Pally and Palliars and refers to a previous grant of 825 A.D. There is also the Thazekkattu Sasanam. All this would indicate that there were structural churches certainly at least by the end of the 8t century, esp. because many of the objects made available in the 849 grant were essential only for a structural church. Christians might have started assembling for prayers and an agape even in the first centuries in the palaces or mansions of the princes and  members of the aristocracy who had taken an interest in Christian teachings if they had not been already “converted” outright. Thomas himself was an architect (who it is said was brought by the representative of King Gondaphares to design and build a palace in earthquake torn Gandhara, and the early Christians who had close contacts with Egypt,Jerusalem,and Roman and Persian cities could have started building  structural churches even in the first centuries CE. The first known structural church at Duro-Europos and in the jail compound near Jerusalem (as reported last week) would have been perhaps well-known to early Kerala Christians. The investigation of mother churches also takes us to early churches: The Ollur church (1718) considers the Pazhuvil church of the 10t century as its mother church , both the people of Ollur and Pazhuvil consider the  Enammavu church (500) as their mother church, which church in its turn admits its kurisupally  at North Pudukkad to be 100 years older, which church in turn accepts Palayur as its mother church (see the article in Mathrubhoomi Weekly, March, 1978 by this writer entitled “Pallikalile Kala”). In the same way every church in Kerala traces its origin to one of the seven churches of St. Thomas. In every revenue district in Kerala between River Bharatappuzha or Nila and River Pampa there is at least one church claiming its origin to almost every century from the commencement of the Christian Era (see Menachery,  Kerala History Assn. Seminar Paper,1983). All the 32 Brahmin Gramams have in them or near them an ancient Christian church (see the list of Brahmin Gramams in the works mentioned already, specifically in Veluthat Kesavan, quoted also in Glimpses...(2005). We find the gabled Kerala style of the earliest puras and kooras continuing in Kerala church architecture until the 20th century without any break. In domestic and civil architecture the common Kerala style of construction of houses including Naalukettu and Ettukettu  houses are found among Christians also.                       

VI. Architecture of Churches


Ever since 1969 when this writer became interested in the history and culture of Christianity in India, church architecture, sculpture, woodwork, metalwork &c. have fascinated him, and prompted him to take literally thousands of related photographs and publish hundreds of them in the Thomas Encyclopaedia(Vol.I, 1982; II,1973) and other works. The Encyclopaedia has two definitive articles by Dr. James Menachery and Andrews Athappilly c.m.i. on Kerala Christian architecture in addition to innumerable illustrations and their captions. This writer’s Pallikkalakalum Mattum contains a number of articles on the topic including a long article published by the Mathrubhoomi Aazhchappathippu in early 1978 with forty illustrations. The Trichur Diocesan Centenary volume and other souvenirs and booklets contain related articles and hundreds of photographs. 


But almost all the churches and other buildings existing today must have been constructed within the last four or five hundred years, i.e. after 1498.That cannot be taken to construe that all Nazraney churches are Portuguese built or are Portuguese inspired. Even today when the episcopal authority is much more than in the pre-Diamper days it is the Palli Yogam that decides what portion of the church should stand and what must be demolished. Hence, in spite of what little western influence there was on most of the day to day affairs of the parish and church, church architecture has continued to follow the time honoured patterns of Kerala. As far as architecture is concerned the chief Portuguese contribution has been the facade, introduced by the Portuguese to dilute the “un-christian” appearance of the churches on account of their similarity with“Hindu” temple architecture. This was achieved by them by merely extending upwards the wall separating the Nave (Hykala) from the Portico (Nadasaala or Mukhamandapam). By and large most other aspects of church architecture were left intact by them. Inside the church building however many things did change. In the case of the temples also we notice that even when a temple is rennovated or even reconstructed the age old prescriptions which have come down to us through the Thanthrasamuchayam or Kuzhikkattu Pacha or such other works are generally adhered to.


The church at Kallooppara may be taken to exemplify the dominant features of Kerala Church Architecture from around the turn of the millennium, though it does have a facade.(Plate facing page 88, STCEI, II, 1973; a doublespread colour plate is given in IC HC, Vol. I, “The Nazranies”.   “Malabar churches did not have facades before the arrival of the Portuguese. Due to Portuguese compulsion even old churches often were forced to erect facades. According to Col.Yule all churches were perverted in the 17th century and since, by a coarse imitation of a style of architecture bad enough in its genuine form.” (George Menachery, caption on plate facing p.200, STCEI, II, 1973) . The old church at Parur shown by Yule/Cordier (given at the top right hand corner of the back inner page of STCEI, II, 1973) with a single hall and a small belfry/cancel may be the prototype of the first millennium churches of Kerala. The picture of the old Karingachira church, also from Yule/Cordier with its triple roofing, outward  projecting rafters supporting the roof, and the portico might represent the transition from the first millennium to the second.   The fact that there were many churches in the east and the west by the middle of the first millennium and the fact that Kerala Christians had close contacts as traders with Egypt, Persia &c. could have inspired them to build structural churches even before other communities started in Kerala to build structural houses of worship. This tendency is noticed also in the case of rock sculptures, such as the Persian Crosses.

 VII. Granite Sculpture in Churches


As a very detailed study of t he granite objects in churches has been made by this writer in his Glimpses of Nazraney heritage, Essay Four, and most of the writer’s thoughts have been represented there in detail, it is not perhaps necessary to go into all that again, especially because that paper mutatis mutandis had been presented once in this very hall, and  secondly because already a good deal of the allotted time has expired.


Rock art in churches is mainly 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, which 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.) There are also a few statues, doorposts, Gopurams, pillars and tablets with reliefs, and architraves all in stone which deserve our attention. The inscriptions in rock of course are not considered here.


Of the crosses in churches the so-called Persian Crosses or Pahlavi Crosses are undoubtedly of the first millennium datable to the 7th century CE at the latest. There are Pahlavi Crosses at Kottayam (two nos.), Kadamattom, Alangad, Muttuchira, and one at the St. Thomas Mount. All these surely belong to the first half or early second half of the first millennium. The cross at Goa, which the writer had opportunities to examine many a time in the past three years appears to be a late copy of the St.Thomas Mt. Cross. The Portuguese lettering at the bottom of the slab only adds to this surmise. 


These crosses are perhaps the earliest rock sculptures of Kerala. The lotus and the peacock first appears in Kerala art on these rock crosses. The Christians might have learned rock sculpture from their Egyptian or Persian connections. Some of the open air outdoor rock crosses also might belong to the first millennium.


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.  


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.(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, -.


Thonda Mandalam, 6th C.; Chola Mandalam, 5th C.; Paandi Mandalam, 8 th C.; Kongu

– Chera Nadu, 8th C.


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.


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 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.  

VIII. Wood Work, Metal Work, Ivory & c.in Churches


There is much to be said about paintings as well as Wood Work, Metal Work, Ivory & c.in Churches which let us reserve to another occasion.

 XIII. Place of Christian Art and Architecture in Kerala Culture


It is for others to judge the place of Christian art, architecture in Kerala culture. But scholars, especially Christian scholars have a responsibility to study these things seri-ously so that one could have a correct idea of one’s own roots.


1. For early coins found in Kerala cf. P.L.GUPTA, 1965, Early Coins of Kerala, Dept. of Arch.,Trivandrum; SATHYAMURTHY,  Catalogue of Roman Gold Coins, Dept. of Arch., Kerala, Trivandrum, 1992. See A.Sreedhara Menon, Kerala Charithram  (Malayalam - History of Kerala), Kottayam, 1967, pp. 56-59 for a detailed discussion of the coins found in Kerala and their significance for the historian.See also George Menachery, Kodungallur: City of St. Thomas, Azhikode, 1987, or its rpt. Kodungallur: Cradle of Christianity in India, Azhikode, 2000: “Roman Coins” in Chapter I; “Numismatics at the Service of Historical Research”, Essay Two, pp.31

et.sq. in George Menachery, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur, 2005.

2. Sreedhara Menon, op.cit., pp. 59 - 67. “Cultural Symbiosis in Kerala” by M. G. S. Narayanan, Trivandrum, 1972 has detailed discussions on the Cilappatikaram, the Syrian Copper Plates, and the Jewish Plates. T. A. Gopinatha Rao’s “Travancore Archaeological Series” (TAS), Vols.I&II, are of course indispensable. Many articles in the Kerala Society Papers also will be found to be  useful. Apart from the Pahlavi inscriptions on the stone altar crosses and  inscriptions on certain tombstones the other rock and copper inscriptions also  must be studied for obtaining light on the social, historical, economic, political, religious, administrative, and cultural situation of the Christians of Kerala.   

3. Sreedhara Menon, op. cit., p. 29 ff.

4. Id., ibid. The works Puranaanooru, Akanaanooru, Pathittuppathu, Cilappatikaram, etc.must be subjected to a new reading in order to get a true idea of the lifestyles of Kerala in the first centuries CE. To begin with, the translations of these and other Sangham works  published by the Kerala Sahitya Academy, Thrissur  might be made use of. But a much more serious study and an ongoing critical analysis are surely called for. The writings of my dear departed friend  Mr. J. J. Morris and his interesting thoughts must find a place in any scheme of research on Sangham works by Kerala scholars, not as final conclusions perhaps  but at least as pointers.

Some Sangham Age works available in Malayalam translations: 

    Pathittuppathu, Trans. G.Vaidyanatha Ayyar, Kerala Sahitya Akademi, Thrissur, 1961.

    Puranaanooru, Trans. P. R.Parameswaran Pillai, KSA, 1969.

    Akanaanooru, in three vols., Trans.Nenmara P. Viswanathan Nair, KSA, I, 1981; II, 1983; III, 1984.

   For the beginner translations and studies exist in Malayalam for many other Sangham works including : Cilappatikaram, ManiMekhalai, Kalingathupparani, Periya Puranam, Paththupapattu, ... Kerala Language Institute has published a translation of Dr. T. P.Meenakshi Sundaram’s “ History of Tamil Literature”, Trivandrum, 1974. D. C. Books, Kottayam has published Pura Nanooru- Oru Padhanam by Kaviyoor Murali, 1999.

5. Special mention must be made of the recent excavations at Pattanam near Parur by Drs. Shajan and Selvakumar under the guidance of Mr.P.K. Gopi of the Kerala Heritage Study Centre at the Hill Palace Museum esp. because their work may be able to shed more light on the ancient Muziris  or Muchiri of the Sangham poets. Larger  projects of excavation must be undertaken by the State and Central archaeology departments in Kerala because very little work in this area had been done in the past - for some reason or other! 

6. For hundreds of pictures and their descriptions dealing with the artistic heritage of Kerala and Kerala Christians cf. The Arts and Crafts of Travancore, Kramrisch, Cousins, and Poduval, now available in a Cultural Dept. reprint, 1999;  Kerala Society Papers; Temple Architecture of Kerala, by K. V. Soundara Rajan, Kerala Archaeological Dept.; Kerala Public Relations Dept.’s Archaeological Monuments of Kerala (1975); ASI publication on the Monuments of Kerala (1978); The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India and the Thomapedia, Ed. George Menachery, 1973 & 2000; The Indian Church History Classics, Vol.I, “The Nazranies”, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, 1998;  the multi-volume Census Directorate of Kerala publication on the Temples of Kerala (4 vols. to-date)...   

7. There is a large number of works dealing with this area and hence it is not necessary to provide details. However cf. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol.I, Trichur,1982 , Ed.George Menachery; and Vols.I to III by Drs. Mundadan, Thekkedath, and Hambye in the multi-volume history project of  CHAI, Bangalore.

8. F.i., the strict convention of a three tier Kerala style roofing pattern for  Kerala churches, the tallest roof for the Madhbaha or Sanctum Sanctorum or Garbha Griham, the lowest roof for the portico or Mukha Mandapam or Nada Saala or Naataka Saala, and a roof of middle height for the nave or Hykala lasted from time immemorial to the fag end of the 19th century. No church built before that time has a different roofing pattern. Even when churches were rennovated or reconstructed this pattern was preserved intact. However things  changed slowly and today anything goes! Cry the beloved country!

9. Vide note 7 supra.

10. Cf. the related papers in St. Thomas Christians and Nambudiris, Jews, and Sangam Literature: A Historical Appraisal, Ed. Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Mt. St. Thomas, Kochi, 2003, esp.papers by Dr. M.G. S. Narayanan (pp. 80 - 97);  Dr. Veluthatt Keshavan (pp. 117 - 125); and Dr. Rajan Gurukkal (p. 108 et.sq.). Also see M. R. R. Varrier, Village Communities in Pre-Colonial Kerala, N. Delhi, AES, 1994 and Veluthatt  Keshavan, Brahmin Settlements in Kerala,  Calicut, 1981.

11. For  more information on the peculiar caste differences and distinctions of Kerala see the blunt but often unpalatable  statements of  Kanippayyur  Sankaran  Nampoothirippad in his various works  including his autobiographical Ente Smaranakal (My Recollections), Malayalam, Panchangam Book Stall, Kunnamkulam, 1963. To understand the social and religious place and position of each community  like Nampoothiries, Nairs, Pisharotis, Variers, Marars, Menons,  &c. the autobiography  Jeevithappatha (Malayalam) of  the late Communist leader Cherukadu could also be used. Other references are available in the present  writer’s paper presented at CHAI Triennial Conference, Old Goa, October 2005, Aspects of the Idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala, now available at www.indianchristianity.com > Books and at www.lightoflife.com (November issue, New York, N.Y.). The many articles by the present writer in the Souvenir of the Conference on the “History of Early Christianity in India”, Concordia University, New York August 2005 also may be referred to (some available in this writer’s Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, SARAS, Ollur, 2005, and some at www.indianchristianity.com > Books and at www.lightoflife.com.)     

12. This view is indicated in Rajan Gurukkal, op. cit.  

13. Hundreds of corroborative references are available in the works mentioned in note 4 above.

14. Vide Rajan Gurukkal, op. cit., p. 108.

15. Rajan Gurukkal,op.cit. pp. 112 -113. Also see the discussions in K. P. Ganesh, Keralathinte Innalekal.

16. Arts and Crafts of Travancore, “Architecture in Travancore”, R.V.Poduval, p.35 ff: “The temples are the most ancient monuments in Travancore.The oldest of them is the cave temple at Kaviyur, belonging to the latter half of the eighth century A.C., if not earlier.”

17. The date of appearance of the idols of most deities in South India, and Kerala are given by K. V. Soundara Rajan, Art of South India:Tamil Nadu andKerala, Delhi, 1978. (Reproduced in

George Menachery, “Christianity Older Than Hinduism in Kerala”, Essay One, Glimpses...; also in Pallikkalakalum Mattum, Trichur, 1984.)

18. For a  list of these churches cf. Bernard TOCD, or Yates, or “Sculptures of Kerala” a paper presented by this writer at the KeralaHistory Association Seminar, Ernakulam, 1983 reproduced in Pallikkalakalum Mattum.

e appear to have taken a very long time in India and Kerala to undergo changes until the appearance of the European traders on these shores, and even much longer in some cases, and hence whatever information on these matters could be culled from the 11th to 15th or even 16th century sources, including some of the early writings and observations of  European and other foreign visitors, also may be taken to reflect by and large a correct image of things as they were in the first millennium.  As has already been mentioned it is the scarcity of authentic sources for the first few centuries of Kerala history that forces us to fall back upon certain secondary sources for what they are worth. 

1.1Ties with Egypt, Rome, Persia, and coastal Dwaraka,Taxila must have given good ideas on architecture and art.

1.2.Only Christians and Jews travel - chiefly only they had contact with art, architectural models elsewhere.

1.3.Compare Other things influenced by Egypt, Rome,&c.

1.4.Aayiramkaal Mandapam - foolish? East coast -West coast divide.

1.5 Many example in OT NT times. Moses, solomon,Cerub, Tabernacle, gold work, Cypress from Lebanon, Cmp. with Kerala Churches.

2.1.Reverse projection of population.

2.2.Famous old places - Palayur, Kodungallur, Parur...Esp. “UR” places

2.3. Earthquake, tectonic plates, Palayur plate,Tsunami.

2.4.Earthquakes and Thomas and Gondaphares.

2.5 Most protected places - in Kerala.Cmp. with M’aabar, E.Coast. 

3.1. Faith in resurrection necessitated churches. so early structures?

3.2. Compare situation and dates of Catacombs, their date, purpose, and art.

3.3.Tombstones and burial places necessitated a common place of worship.

4.1.Names changed - Kuriakose to St.Thomas at Palayur

4.2.Original name of Pazhuvil church? Palayur church? Akapparambu? Even Xevur? Kuruvayur?

4.3.Every church has a IIIr history leading to early centuries first to a 1599 church then to say a 10th 12th century church then to some 5th 6th c. church, then to an early century church or to one

5.1 BPs.’ letter

5.2. Joseph the Indian

5.3.Synod 1599 churches

5.4.Synod description of churches 

6.1.72 privileges

6.2.Items that have become essential items of Kerala Thanima

6.3.Musical Instruments

6.4.Symbols of aristocracy

7.1.Mastery over various artisan castes or classes

7.2.Cana Thoma’s authority and acceptability with artisan classes

7.3.What is pre-portuguese must have existed more or less in the same state in 1st Mill.

7.4.Sangham texts on art architecture


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