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CURTURAL HERITAGE OF KNANAYA SYRIAN CHRISTIANS

CURTURAL HERITAGE OF KNANAYA SYRIAN CHRISTIANS
Rev. Fr. JOSEPH KULATHRAMANNIL
Published by
Youth association St. Mary’s Knanaya Church, Sharjah

DEDICATION

Dedicated to the blessed memory of my beloved father the late Sri. Uthuppan Abraham, Kulathramannil who joined the glory of our Lord on 19-07-99.

The Malankara Syrian Knanaya Diocese

Mor CLEMS ABRAHAM
METROPOLITAN

Mor Ephraim Seminary
Chingavanam – 686 531
Kottayam, Kerala
Phone: (0481) 432544
Fax: 91-481-430109

50th Year of Metropolitan’s Episcopal Consecration
No. 79/2000
08-11-2000


Blessings to our spiritual son Rev. Fr. Rajan Kulamada, Vicar of St. Mary’s Knanaya Church Sharjah and the member of Knanaya Youth Association.

We are extremely happy to know that you are publishing a book of the “CURTURAL HERITAGE” of the Knanaya Community. It is indeed a boon to our spiritual children outside Kerala who are unable to understand Malayalam. We admonish all our spiritual children living abroad to propagate and promote this book for the better future of our coming generations.
We congratulate the author Rev. Fr. Joseph Kulathramannil and the members of Knanaya Youth Association who labored to publish this book.
May God bless you all.
CLEMIS METROPOLITAN

ASSOCIATE OF THE SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FOR THE EASTERN UNITED STATES PATRIALCAL VICARATE

April 12, 2001
Father K.O. Joseph Kulathramannil
Ranny P.O. Pathanamthitta (Dist.)
Kerala, India.
Dear Father Joseph:
May the peace and the grace of our Lord be with you.
Thank you for your letter informing me of your new book "CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THE KNANAYA SYRIAN CHRISTIANS" in English. I wish to congratulate you and commend you for publishing this interesting and informative book about the cultural heritage of the Knanaya Syrian Christians. Not only will your book be in great demand and of the great interest to the non-residents who do not speak the local language, but worldwide as well. I admire your enthusiasm for writing books on the Syrian Christians which will give the reader an insight into what the Syrian Christians are all about.
In closing, we convey to you our fatherly regards and prayerful wishes, extending to you paternal benediction.
Sincerely in Christ,
Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archbishop

PREFACE

In former centuries literacy was limited to a privileged few. So, many of the old communities have no authentic written histories. Their history was handed over to posterity through legends and folklore. Naturally folklores undergo variations in the course of time.
The history of the Christians in Kerala is no exception. There is a strong tradition in India that St. Thomas, the Apostle of Christ came to Kerala, preached the Gospel, baptized many people and established places of worship for them in coastal areas and the High Ranges. The tradition continues saying that he went over to the present Tamil Nadu and reached the Gospel, and that he was martyred at Mylapore and buried there. The Indian Christians, even today go on pilgrimage to the tomb at St. Thomas Hill, Chinna Malai, Chennai. But many Historians of the present day question the authenticity of the tradition.
There is another tradition about a "Syrian colonization". According to this tradition, after the martyrdom of St. Thomas, the Apostle, the St. Thomas Christians had no proper priests or efficient leaders for a long period. A Hindu sage, named Manikya Vachagar reconverted a good many of them. The others, who were distinguished by wooden crosses hung with threads, from their necks, were spiritually and socially in a dire plight. In the fourth century of the Christian Era, a rich Syrian merchant, who had trade links with Kerala come to know of these so-called Christians. He took it is a duty to uplift these fellow Christians. He promised to help them. With the sanction of Ceraman Perumal, the then ruler of Kerala he brought in a group of about 400 people consisting of a bishop, tow priests, a few deacons and 72 families. Cheraman Preumal gave them enough land to build houses and church in the village named Mahodar Patanam. The local Christians accepted the colonisers as their benefactors, accepted their bishop, Mar Joseph of Urha as their bishop and also accepted their worship and rites. Hence the Christians of Kerala came to be known as Syrian Christians.
No historian can question this tradition since there is a community called Knanites, claiming to be the posterity of the colonisers. They zealously keep their racial purity and special customs; and call themselves the Knanites in honour of Knai Thommen, who led them to this country.
Some present day historians try to identify this Syrian colonisation with a group of foreigners who came to this land under Saphor and Phroth. But this argument cannot stand for the following reasons.
1 - The Syrian colonisation was in the fourth century under Knai Thommen whereas the order under Saphor and Phroth, was in the 9th century.
2 - Knai Thommen anded at Kodungallore, otherwise called Cranganore or Musiris whereas Saphor and followers landed at Kollam or Quilon in the south.
3 - The former people are still keeping their identity and their settlements were around Cochin. There are no Knanaya settlements in or around Quilon. The latter settlers very soon entered into marriage with the local people and thus lost their identify.
As hinted earlier, the local Christians accepted the doctrines and rites of the Knanites and came to be known as one church, the Syrian Christian Church, but the Knanites kept their identity. In later centuries it became imperative that the Knanites, whose settlements extended south up to Kallissery near Chengannur, becom a well knit community. Attempts were made in the direction and the Knanaya Diocese was sanctioned, not on geographical basis like the other diocese, but on historical basis.

In this circumstance, exclusive history of the Knanaya community became a necessity. Many eminent persons contributed their mite in writing and publishing history books of the community. The earliest books of this kind were published in 1940s one by Joseph Chazhikaden, an efficient MLA of the State for several sessions, and another by T. Abraham Vazhayil. In the 1950’s another concise history was published by P. I. Uthuppan, Puratheparambil, Ranni. In 1996 I wrote and published "The History of the Knanaya Church".
Now the history of the Knanaya Community is being written by a History professor, Rev. Fr. K.O. Joseph, Kulathramannil. He gave a copy of the work to me with a request to give corrections and suggestions for improvement. I diligently went through the work, but ha no occasion to spend even a drop of ink. I gladly recommend this book for every Knanite.
A word about the author: generally an appointment in a permanent vacancy in a college marks the end of studies of a post graduate. But the History professor Rev. Fr. K. O. Joseph is continuing his studies and researches, with special stress to church History. May I recall an incident in his life. In a meeting of the clergy of his diocese someone proposed that the long list of church fathers named with the fifth Thubden of the Holy Qurbana be deleted since we know very little about them. But Rev. Fr. Joseph could not accept it. He opined that our fore-fathers had included these names because of their valuable contributions of the church and that instead of deleting their names we should study about their contributions. But who is to do it? He took the responsibility on himself. His first published work in church History is short biographies and contributions of the Syrian Church fathers from Ignatius Noorono to Gregorise Bar Ebraya. His second work in this series is "The Luminaries of the Syrian Church", short biographies and contributions of the luminaries in the Horizon of the church in India and abroad.
The special characteristics of these two books are the knowledge the reader gets about the history of their times, an understanding of the doctrines the fathers adhered to, an insight into the life of the fathers and an inspiration to follow Christ and serve the church in their foot marks.
In his latest book "The History of the Knanaya Community" he has done one thing his predecessors have omitted - chapter on the leaders who got the insight to make Knanites a well-knit society and brought it to fruition.
I except more valuable works from his pen. I pray God to give "my beloved Raju" (Professor Rev. Fr. K. O. Joseph) healthy and active long life and a burning inspiration to adorn his mother, The Syrian Church, with several precious gems.
P. M. Mathews Corepiscopa
Pulickavil
Eraviperoor
27th March 2001


PUBLISHER'S NOTE

It is with pleasure and gratitude we present this book on the Heritage and History of the Knanaya Syrian Christians in India written by Rev. Prof. K. O. Joseph Kulathrammanil, St. Thomas College Ranni. His dissertation for the M. Phil Degree attracted my attention and it was my suggestion to prepare this volume for the benefit of our children and youth living outside Kerala. We hope that our younger generation will cordially welcome this and use this book to enrich their spiritual and religious life. A firm conviction about the heritage and history will strengthen the faith and commitment to work for the progress of the church and the community.
We are proud that the Knanaya Youth Association here was able to finance this project for the benefit of our community as a whole. We thanks our brothers and sisters for their whole hearted support.
Our sincere thanks and indebtedness to his eminence Abraham Mor Clemis Chief Metropolitan for giving us his blessings and benediction.
We do apprciate the laudable work of the Rev. Fr. K. O. Joseph. We dedicate this book for the glory of God.
St. Mary's Knanaya Church, Sharjah.
Rev. Fr. Rajan Kulamada (President)
Moncy Abraham, Thykoottahil (Secretary)


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