The Christians of Kerala: history, belief, and ritual among the Yakoba
This elegantly written book explores the practice of Christianity among the Yakoba in the small region of Kerala. Susan Viswanathan uses the categories of time, space, architecture, and the body as a means of identifying the ways in which Hindu, Christian, and Syrian strands have been woven together to form a rich cultural tapestry in the region. The Yakoba, on which this study is based, are divided into two distinct groups--the Orthodox Syrians and the Jacobite Syrians. Viswanathan relates their on-going quarrel over ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the ways in which this quarrel affects Syrian Christian life and experience as a whole. She argues that people's interpretations of Christianity are a very powerful mode of cultural expression and societal flexibility.
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Susan Visvanathan gives importance to imaginary facts without verifying evidences. Too much importance is given to vague oral tradition without looking for literary, numismatic, architectural and inscriptional evidences.
The claim of Syrian Christians that they are the descendants of Brahmins converted by St.thomas is completely baseless. These false and manipulated stories are being circulated to appropriate Brahmin status for Christian converts. There were no Nambudiris in 1st century AD and their arrival in 8th century begins with the introduction of Sanskrit in Kerala dispensing with Vattezhuthu which was in use till then. .
Their claim of Jewish descent is also fallacious, for the very presence of Thomas of Cana is doubted by Church historians. Like the fake Brahmin claim, Jewish claim has been propagated even by some Church establishments. Only the Believers Church has denounced such false claims in its Bulletin. The copper plate granting Thomas of cana certain privileges was also a false propaganda. Historians believe that it was to claim that Christians enjoyed superior caste privileges, a story was circulated about the granting of this plate with a long list of privileges , although there was no such plate. The dream of the Bishop is another invented story because no such dream is mentioned in the archives or tradition of Assyrian church in Edessa,Chaldea or Damascus Research scholars highly doubt the arrival of Thomas of cana. In those days, how could he bring women on ships? Who was the authority in the Eastern church to depute Bishops to Kerala? Why no Assyrian or Chaldean Bishop was seen when the portuguese came to Kerala?.Buchanan tried his best to trace the alleged copper plate given to Thomas of cana,, but failed, although other copper plates given to the Jews were found. Later some fake plates called chepped were artificially produced without any authentic source regarding their origin.
These fake claims linking the poor converts to Brahmins and Jews began in the 18th century after the Poruguese, during their 150 year-old rule, elevated this labour class to the status of army, police officers, traders, political agents, brokers, butlers and messengers. Mixed marriages between Portuguese and Hindu women( who were converted to christianity )gave them white colour and good features to remove the untouchable past. The Portuguese also made them wealthy by giving estates for cultivation and made them cultured by educationg them. This new status made them produce false family histories like Niranam granthavali, folksongs like margamkali and fables claiming Brahmin and Jewish pedigree.
Now they are giving up Nambudiri pedigree because Kerala historians, especially Elangulam Kunjan Pillai, have pointed out there were no Nambudiris when St.Thomas came to India. So they have switched over to Jewish and now Assyrian pedigree.This is the current trend amng some haughty Christians. . Thomas of cana was not a Jew and he is a fictitious figure. There was no Assyrian exodus to Kerala. When rhe Portuguese came to Kerala they could not see a single Persian or Assyrian priest. Churches were managed by local persons who had poor knowledge of Christianity and they were following distorted Nestorianism.