Muziris And Our Church
- MUZIRIS AND OUR CHURCH
1. One is not sure how many people among the Christians in India will know about a place called Muziris and its importance in our lives. The very ancient port town of Muziris in Kodungallur, Kerala which was an important trading centre and seaport, was in existence 1000 years before the birth of Christ and had trade connections with Rome, Egypt, Greece, Israel, China and the Arab countries. The merchandise from Kerala included all varieties of spices that were produced in
Kerala along with Ivory, textiles, silk etc. This prosperous city disappeared in 1341 AD. According to experts the destruction happened due to a heavy flood in the river Periyar. Muziris Port was located where the river Periyar joined the Arabian sea.
2. We have a special interest in this area because St. Thomas landed in Muziris in AD52 with the good news about our Lord Jesus Christ.� When St. Thomas came, this prosperous port town had the largest number of Jews in India with two synagogues in the locality. It is possible that St. Thomas knew about the Jewish settlement and the chance for preaching to them the Gospel.
To us, Orthodox Christians who belong to Kerala, this is the starting point of our history. We belong to the generations of people, who
accepted St. Thomas as�a disciple of Christ, who taught us about the salvation through our Lord and lived in Kerala.
It is said that he preached the Gospel in Kerala and Tamilnadu and other parts of India and also travelled to Ceylon and China. The Kerala Christians are the ones who proudly proclaim his heritage and point out to the churches that are built by him or under his supervision in different parts of Kerala state.
3. The Govt. of Kerala is engaged in a project for putting back Muziris into its old glory and a great effort is going on both by Kerala Archaeological department and also the Department of Archaeology, Govt. of India to revive the Muziris heritage. Excavations are going on to locate the remains of the old city. I had
the wonderful opportunity of visiting all these areas recently and I left Kodungallur-North-Paravur area with great satisfaction. To think that, I could be on the soil where St. Thomas landed and lived was a thrilling experience. I realized with awe that I am also part of that impeccable Christian heritage which originated from our Lord. My ancestors or myself have not deviated from that tradition. It is a satisfying and proud feeling.
4. But as I left the place the first thought that came to my mind was how ungrateful a group of people we are in not creating anything to perpetuate the memory of St.Thomas. What have we done to eternalize the memory of this disciple of Christ who suffered all the difficulties,�of long sea travel, life in an unknown land with language problems and preaching a new faith in an area with strong alternative religious traditions followed for centuries. The only strength that St. Thomas had was the word of God assuring�him that He will be always with him. With all reasons, against venturing into this unknown land, St.Thomas travelled far and wide and baptised thousands of people including kings and royal families. He must have covered distances by boat and on foot, lived with unknown but sympathetic families, ate food which he had never tasted before. All this for what, was the question that we should ask?. His only
purpose was to save the souls of our forefathers and their future generations by showing them the path to the true God who had ensured their salvation through His death on the Cross. With complete faith in the word of the God, St. Thomas sacrificed so much for us. Is it not time that we as a church build a memorial for St. Thomas (who was a builder by profession) who made us what we are today. The Roman Catholics who follow the traditions as prescribed by the Vatican have built a huge complex in memory of St. Thomas in Kodungallur but not us, Orthodox Christians who actually follow the faith and traditions as taught� by St. Thomas!
5. I am placing this note before the ICON family for their prayerful consideration as to what we should do under the circumstances. I request the readers to give their opinions on this matter. Let us not leave it to the hierarchy of the church alone to think about it. Let us do what we feel can be done. After pooling different ideas we should prepare a well thought out project,befitting the stature and status of the person in whose memory we are doing it. It will have to be done only with the total approval of the BavaThirumeni, the Holy Synod and whoever is to be consulted in the matter. But the thinking, planning raising of funds and execution of the project can be
done by a selected group of members of the church both clergy and laymen who can spare time to be involved in this work. Our people living in countries all over the world can participate by giving ideas and being continuously in touch with those who are working on this. If there is a sincere attempt it is possible that we can get a lot of material relating to St. Thomas from various countries,their Churches, Seminaries, Libraries, Monastaries etc. This can help us in executing a museum as a part of the project. I mention this as an example. It should become a joint effort of all our people living in
any part of the world. Even if we get copies of pictures, icons, books, other literatures etc from different counties, it will be a wonderful addition to what little we possess.
I am sure that ideas on this subject and means of raising the resources needed will come from all over the world. And we, the Orthodox Christians of Kerala, can showcase and claim the heritage of St. Thomas without hesitation.
- Dear Eapen Sir,
A great thought and valuable information
In fact, it was when muchiri (Muziris) at the mouth of Periyar flowing into Arabian sea at Kodungalloor got silted in 1341 AD out of flooding that trade moved north to Calicut (Portugese came there in 1498 AD) and south to Kochi and Alleppey... From first millennium BC upto 1300 AD, we find trade boomed in this sector. It was the epicenter of the spice route.
Yes, something worthwhile we need to start there. A museum, or something of the
Given below is alink to another article, which came in Manorama, about startling revelations at Muziris
George Easaw, Bangalore
- Mr. Varghese Eapen's message is a real eye-opener.
Roman church has been successful to a certain extent by hijacking our tradition and constructing a hyper Church and a pond with statues showing Mar Thoma Sleeha baptizing some Brahmins in Kodungallur (a fable?).
Due to the over-importance given to ecumenism with heterodox Churches and court cases, we ignored the importance of history and Roman church took advantage of the situation.
It is a fact Orthodox Church in India was established about 1400 years before the Roman Catholic Church and that too by Apostle St Thomas. We should boldly say this fact even if we are going to loose our membership in Kerala Council of Churches or the ecumenical movement in Kerala.
As part of the Catholicate centenary celebration, it has been declared that a history department will be formed in our Church. I don't know about the fate of the so-called department.
Regarding construction of an Orthodox Centre in Kodungallur with Chapel, library and museum we should start online brainstorming of all possible Church members who can provide their suggestions for a plan of action.
Above all whatever construction we attempt to do, it should be according to Orthodox architecture and not according to Gothic or Roman.
George C. Thomas, Kuwait
- Dear George,
I am not sure how much true is your statement that the Orthodox Church in India was established 1400 years before the establishment of the Roman Church. The Church which Apostle Thomas established in Kerala was neither Orthodox nor Catholic; even to this day, many of the references about us is that we are or were 'St.Thomas Christians' or rather the 'Nazranis', who had an independent administrative system. Nazranis were the followers of the 'Nazarene' or Christ Jesus and they were untouched by such things like Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant.
Part of us became Orthodox and accepted the leadership of the Syrian Patriarch following a split in the Church, during the Synod at Mulanthuruthy around 1876 AD. Hope the so called History Department of the Church which is to be formed, will carry out authentic research on these things as well as our early faith.
Common sense makes us think that there was nothing like 'Orthodox' in the first century, and hence Apostle Thomas was not an 'Orthodox' though he is the founder of our Church. He was not the first Catholicos either; though we may like to think so these days. His position is probably much above that, as the the disciple of the Lord and also as the person who touched the wounds of the resurrected Lord.
Abey Jacob, Bangalore.
Mr. Varghese Eapen's message (Muzris and our Church) is a real eye-opener.
Roman church has been successful to a certain extent by hijacking our tradition and constructing a hyper Church and a pond with statues showing Mar Thoma Sleeha baptizing some Brahmins ----
Due to the over-importance given to ecumenism with heterodox Churches and courtcases, we ignored the importance of history and Roman church took advantage of the situation.
It is a fact Othodox Church in India was established about 1400 years before the Roman Catholic Church and that too by Apostle St Thomas.
- Cosmas bears witness in about the year 520 to the existence of a
bishop at Kallyana who had been consecrated in Persia. It is possible
that bishops came to India from the Persian regions even before 520
A.D. Tradition has it that the colony led by Thomas of Cana had a
bishop, Joseph, in it. Therefore, the theory that the Indian Church
was founded originally by Nestorian missionaries cannot be admitted.
Yet, historians of the Indian Church have to face the question as to
who may have sent bishops to India sub sequent to the Church of
Persia's adoption of Nestorianism in 486 A.D.
The small community of believers in Northern Mesopotamia who
refused to join the majority after 486 were willing to unite with Syrian
Antioch. However, till 628-29, for a period of 142 years, they were
not properly organized. Therefore, if bishops came to India during
that period, it must have been from the Nestorian Church only. After
629 then where did bishops come from?
source: A Translation of the Malayalam Book "SABHA VALARUNNU"
George C. Thomas
- Dear All,
It was good to read the comments by George and Geevar. As George rightly mentioned the Church was founded by Apostle Thomas and not by Nestoreans. There are many versions of church history; probably one of the most authentic, I guess, is that written by Fr. Dr. VC Samuel. 'Sabha Valarunnu' if I remember correctly, is short book written by Fr. Samuel for "Divyabodhanam" classes. However, we need more scientific and truthful research into our past(our past is something we are all proud to boast of !!). I wonder, why precious little has been done by us in this area even in this 21st century. It is disappointing to know that, our seminaries and research scholars spend time on the trivial aspects of the history of Syrian church while doing practically nothing about our own history.
As per the history by Fr. Dr. Samuel, ever since the Persian church became Nestorean, the Malabar Church also was liturgically led by Persian bishops who were Nestoreans. That means, irrespective of whether we like it or not; we(Nazranis) remained for the most part of our history as practitioners of Nestorean liturgy and not Orthodox liturgy. In the society where Nazranis lived, the political government was controlled by "Kshatriyas" while the riligious rites and liturgy were performed by "Brahmins". Hence, I guess, it is possible that, such a model was followed within the Church also. Responsibility of leadership of the church was with the "Arkadhyakon" or the "JathikkuKarthvyan", while the religious rites were performed by the team under the Persian Nestorean bishops. If we think of it in modern terms, it was a kind of "outsourcing" given to the Persian Church !! In the Orthodox faction of the Nazranis, "Jathikkukarthavyan" evolved into the "Malankara Metropolitan" while, we took over the the "outsourced" responsibilities of religious rites; and developed it into the leadership of the Catholicose. The significant point to note here is that we, the entire unified church; remained independent throughout our history, till the sixteenth century. And from then onwards, we split up into multiple factions with and without independence, as Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and Pentecostals.
Many in the ICON may disagree with these points. I would like to know of all those opinion. It is high time that we think of a reunification of the entire Nazranis.
Abey Jacob, Bangalore.