History of Kottayam Palathinkal Family
Syrian Christians - A brief historical survey
St. Thomas or Apostle Mar Thoma, Jesus Christ’s beloved disciple during his sojourn in south India and Kerala (then known as Malabar Coast) spread the gospel in this land. At that time, aristocratic Namboodiri families, namely Kalli, Kaliyamgal, Sankarapuri, Pakalomattom and other upper caste Hindus accepted Christianity. It is believed, that their clan are the present day Christians. Apostle Mar Thoma established seven churches in Kerala, one each at Kodungalloor, Kollam, Paloor (Chavakad), Parur, South Pallipuram, Niranam and Nilakel.
Till date, the historians have not found any material to prove that this legend/ tradition is baseless. Besides, historians who have done extensive research on this subject have produced sufficient evidence to prove that the above mentioned claims are based on historical facts. A vain attempt was made by the Travancore Census Commissioner, Dr. N.Kunjan Pillai, through his published census report to establish that the first Christians were not converts from upper castes like Brahmins, Nairs etc., but were people from the lower castes who were converted to Christianity. The eminent church historian, Sri K.N Daniel has categorically challenged this contention and certain relevant portions of his article are quoted below to prove the same.
Sri Daniel claims “Let us examine what Sri Nagamayya has written in the Travancore State Manual. There is no doubt about the legend that St. Thomas visited Malabar and converted some Namboodiri families”.
There is supportive evidence which can be seen even now to prove this longstanding legend. Some Syrian Christian women in Kunnamkulam area even now dress like Namboodiri women folk. Like them (Namboodiri women) they, to avoid evil eyes being cast upon them hide themselves using large Palmyra leaf umbrellas.(2nd vol. 1 22. 1 23 pages)
The same view is expressed in the book ‘Malayalabasha Charithram’ also authored by Sri P. Govinda Pillai and revised by Sr. M.C Narayana Pillai “all those who became Christians belonged to the upper castes like the Brahmins. Nairs etc (36th article). To quote Sri. Daniel again “as per the legend, in Paloor where Apostle Mar Thoma preached the gospel, one can see concrete evidence of the origin of the high-caste Christians which confirms the claims made. I have personally gone there, more than once and have visited Paloor, Vembanad, Guruvayoor and the nearby villages. I have enquired about Chavakad (Chavakad is another name for Paloor) with many Brahmins and Nairs and they have confirmed the story that I have heard from Christians of this area”
The Story is quoted below:
“While a few Brahmins were bathing in the temple pond, a Christian monk happened to pass by. Seeing the Brahmins ritualistically throwing up water after their bath, the monk asked them why the water they were throwing up was coming down. Further he told them, if their faith and love was for the true God, the water they threw up should remain there. In reply, the Brahmins told the monk if he could do that they would believe in his God. Then the Christian monk threw up water which remained suspended in the air and witnessing this, a few Brahmins got converted and those who did not believe left the place saying ‘next bath at Vembanattu’. The non-believers after cursing, left the place saying that the place is a cursed place or ‘shapakadu’. Thus this place which was called ‘shapakadu’ since then later on came to be known as Chavakad. The saying ‘next bath at Vembanattu’ denotes permanent separation and this saying has turned out to be a proverb. Chavakadu temple was later on converted into a Christian church.