Devapriyaji - True History Analaysed

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        The kingdom of Gandhappar Raja continued to be a Christian kingdom and was ruled by his Christian successors until the kingdom had been slowly disappearing and suddenly swallowed by a sand storm occurred in the seventeenth century due to a curse. 1
                                Let us here narrate the interesting history how (1) the kingdom of Gandhappar Raja preserved and spread Christianity, and (2) how this kingdom was swallowed by the red sands.

          The ancient Christian communities in the regions of south Indian East coast and West coast, claiming St. Thomas the Apostle as their spiritual father are called “The Saint Thomas Christians”.
        The very first Christian community in India founded by St. Thomas in the southern Pandian Kingdom (Maanaveera Naadu) and the church built by him there at Kanakkankudiyiruppu were very carefully protected and maintained by the successors of Gandhappar Raja for several centuries. These early Christians in course of time moved and settled all over south India, chiefly along the East Coast up to Mailapore in the north; and along the West Coast all over Kerala.2
        After the martyrdom of the Saint, his twin brother Addai Thomas came to India to continue the work of the Apostle.3 And after him, the disciples of Addai Thomas, namely Aggaeus and Maris, and other Christian missionaries came from the west Asian countries such as Armenia, Syria, Persia, Antiochea, and Edessa, and took care of the Christians of St. Thomas in Maanaveera Naadu and in Kerala.4  It is important to note that the early Christians of both Maanaveera Naadu and Kerala were known as “Malabar Christians” in the early centuries.
        About the end of the third century A.D., Patriarchs from Persia came to India to consolidate the faith of the Malabar (Indian) Christians. George M. Moraes states: “…it was that during the Patriarchate of Shahlupha and Papa, say about 295 – 300, the old prelate David resigned his diocese of Parat d’ Maysan and left for India. …” and again, “John of Persia who took part in the council of Nicaea, describes himself in signing the decrees of the council as (bishop) of the whole of Persia and of Greater India.” 5
          Apart from the fact that in 345 A.D. it was resolved by the assembly of bishops of the Catholicos in Seleucia – Ctesiphon to reinforce the Christians in India by settling among them well instructed Christians together with deacons and priests in Malabar under the leadership of a merchant named Thomas of Jerusalem.
          And there was another settlement of the Parasikas (Persians) more or less in the same period in the province north of Cape Comerin. This event clearly shows the reference to a group of Christians settled between the Chola country and Ceylon, namely to the north of Cape Comrin (Maanaveera Naadu) in the fifth Century. 6
          Further more, the navigator Cosmos Indicopleustes who had passed through India some time about 545 A.D. remarks that even in Toprobane (i.e., Ceylon), an island in Further India, where the Indian sea is, there was a church of Christians, with clergy and a body of believers.This church and community of Christians are nothing but the remnants of the early Christians of the Kingdom of Gandhappar Raja which had its extension also in Ceylon, and was preserved till the end of the sixth century A.D.

(From 1st Century to 12th Century)
          During the reign of the Pandian King Vettriver Chezhiyan in Madurai from 144 A.D. to 174 A.D., the petit king who ruled the Southern Pandian Kingdom (Maanaveera Nadu) was a Christian king called Nanmaaran from the posterity of Gandhappa Raja.8
          During the reign of Pandian Nedunchezhian in Madurai from 174 A. D. to 2049, the light of Faith which St. Thomas kindled in the Southern Pandian Kingdom began to spread all over the Chera Kingdom and the Chozha Kingdom. The caravan of business people from Maanaveera Naadu settled Christian communities in the South up to Cape Comerin, in the West up to Thiruvithaankoau, and in the North up to Mylapore. Chiefly in Cauveripoompattinam where the river Cauvery joined the sea, there was a big community known as “St. Thomas Christians”.10
          From 235 A.D. to 340A.D. St. Thomas Christians of the East Coast were disturbed by the invasion of the Vaduga Karu Nadargal or the Kannadas called Kalapirars. The Christians were forced to leave their religion. For example in 293 A. D. the Christians of the East Coast, when forced, instead of leaving their religion they left their place Cauveripoompattinam, and travelled through the sea to Kerala and settled in Kollam together with the St. Thomas Christians there. 72 families thus migrated while disturbed by the invasion of the Kannadas. But from 340 A. D. to 520 A.D. when the Kalapirars were ruling the country, the Southern Pandian kingdom was ruled only by Pandian Kings.11
          But Alex C. Muthaia asserts that in Maanaveera Naadu, Christianity and the rule of Christian kings never ceased to exist: “Among the Christians of Maanaveera Naadu, in spite of some changes in their liturgical worship and the language of the liturgy, the Christian religion was continuously preserved”.12 At the same time Maanaveera Naadu alone was ruled by Christian Kings: “In India there was no trace of historical evidence to prove the existence of a Christian Kingdom or Christian Kings except in Maanaveera Naadu”.13
          And again interestingly enough he emphatically asserts that until 1790 A. D. when this region was covered by the red sands, Christian kings had continuously ruled Maanaveera Naadu: “From the fact that while in the petit kingdoms around the territory of Maanaveera Nadu, the Chera and Chozha kings have built ever so many Hindu temples, no one could see Hindu temples built by any private person or a king inside the territory of Maanaveera Naadu, it is evident without doubt that from the beginning till late (1790), the Christian kings of Maanaveera Nadu have ruled this kingdom”.14
                In 354 A. D. the Roman Emperor Constantius who was leaning towards the Arian heresy, sent an Arian bishop called Theophilus to look after the Indian Christians. George Moraes writes: “In 354 Malabar was visited by Theophilus …who became a monk in Constantinople, was ordained a deacon by Eusabius of Nicomedia, and was consecrated an Arian bishop about 350 A.D. He was sent out by Emperor Constantius for the express purpose of spreading the Arian doctrines in India”.15 Hence the St. Thomas Christians, without their knowledge, happened to fall into Arian heresy. And slowly the churches which St. Thomas had built and the Christian spirit among the people began to disappear. And so was the church at Kanakankudiyiruppu also.16
          By 530 A.D. the Indian Church was caught in the Nestorian net. A foreign language called Chaldee (meaning Syiac) had been imposed upon them by the Persian Church. George Moraes writes: “But it is certain that by 530 A. D. it had been absorbed by the Persian Church. Actually, in the last quarter of the fifth century, Nestorian Missioners are seen making strenuous attempts to capture the Indian Church. … and the Indian Church soon came under Nestorian influence.”17
          The above fact has been confirmed by the studies of Alex C. Muthiaia saying: “In the ancient eras among the Christians of Maanaveera Naadu the liturgical ceremonies must have been conducted in the ways directed, preached and regulated by St. Thomas the Apostle. After his death, changes must have been introduced in the ceremonies and languages of the liturgy by the Missionaries who came from Armenia, Syria and Persia. Every linguistic person must have used his own language in a mixture of Greco, Syrian and Aramaic languages. And so, in 470 A.D. the Bible was translated from Greek into Syriac and was sent to India. From the fourth century till the sixteenth century, it seems that the Chaldean ecclesiastics were ruling the Malabar Christians.”18
          In 590 A.D. according to St. Gregory of Toulouse, an illustrious pilgrim Theodor has said: “At the place where the body of St. Thomas was buried there were a big Monastery and a beautiful church. That testifies that St. Thomas was doing his Apostleship and became a Martyr there”.20 All these show that up to the sixth century St. Thomas Christians were living in the West and East costs of south India.
          During this period (7th century) “Nestorians reached not only Central Asia but also they went to China and India to help Christianity be spread and they became prominent representatives” (Dr.Murat Gökhan) Source:
          A Missionary called George the Nestorian, together with some Jews who were settled in south India, was engaged in spreading the Christian religion. He traced out the places where St. Thomas had established Christian communities and consolidated the Christian faith in his own heretical way. He renewed the church at Kanakkankudiyiruppu and it is during this time that the Churches of St. George at Edathuva in Kerala and at Nilapparai in Naanchil Naadu (Kanyakumari district), of St. Agatha at Rammadupuram, of St. Lucia at Anaikkarai, of St. Eustace (Esthakiar) at Mittarkulam, of St. Barbarammal near Somanaathaperi, of St. Quitheriammal at Manakkarai, of St. Cecily at Kurumbur and of St. Helenammal at Mukkaani were built.19
          In 920 A.D. the Pandian Kingdom was destroyed and in 1190 it was once again established by King Jadaa Varman Kulasekara Pandian. In all these political changes, the Maanaveera Naadu of the south Pandian Kingdom was 
always ruled by Christian petit kings of Pandians until 1790 A. D. as cited above.20
           In the mean while the Nestorian Church, persecuted at home and divided against it, was unable to recapture its glorious past. It neglected its distant missions, sending prelates to India at irregular intervals. During this period, Christianity completely disappeared from the East coast of India, the people lapsing into their former practices in the absence of a ministering clergy.21
          There is very little information on the Church in India in the subsequent four centuries till the arrival of the Latin monks at the close of the thirteenth century.22 And therefore due to the absence of priests and bishops to look after the Christians of Maanaveera Naadu, the St. Thomas Christians in this area happened to be destroyed and disappear for four centuries, and the church at Kanakkan kudiyiruppu also disappeared once again.23
                It is to be noted that all along these twelve centuries there developed a slow deposit of red sand blown by the west wind through the gaps of the Western Ghats, and the ground level of the Maanaveeranaadu was slowly raised up to twenty feet high from the sea level by the thirteenth century.  Therefore the spot on which St. Thomas had built the first church had already gone twenty feet below the earth in the Thirteenth century. So whenever the people and Missionaries rebuilt the church of St. Thomas, each time the level of the ground was growing up continuously, and consequently there can be remnants of several churches in different levels below.

THE SPEAD OF ST. THOMAS CHRISTIANS                                                        

(From 13th Century to 17th Century)

          It was Pope Gregory IX who first turned his attention to the East, caused by the incursion of the Mongols into Christian Europe. The Pope had, in 1241, charged the Cistercians, the Dominicans and the Franciscans to preach against the Mongols. But the Pope died that very year.
          It is the relations of the Holy See with China that are of greater moments for us from the point of view of the history of Latin Christianity in India. For, lying as it is on the route of the missionaries who made their journeys to China, India drew the attention of these missionaries to its own religious needs.
          The first Catholic missionary to go to China was a Franciscan, John Monte Corvino, appointed by Pope Nicholas IV as Papal legate in 1291. He started for his destination accompanied by Nicholas of Pistoia, a Dominican.24
          This fact has been attested by Yan kejia in the following Source:
 “John of Monte Corvino (1247-1328), a Franciscan was sent to China in 1291 by Pope Nicholas IV. As the first Roman Catholic missionary to China, John came to China in 1294
Rome named him as the archbishop of Han Ba Li (Beijing) and also sent another seven missionaries to China as his assistants. Archbishop John managed the Diocese of Beijing for over 30 years and claimed to have baptized more than 6,000 people. He died in 1328 at the age of 81.
“Upon hearing of his death five years later, Pope John XXII(1316-1334) sent Nicholas
to Beijing to be the bishop, but he unfortunately died on the journey.
“Ten years later, in 1338, Pope Pius XII sent Giovani de Marignoli to China. Because of the unstable political situation of the Yuan Empire, however, he quickly returned to Rome”.25
          John Monte Corvino chose the route to China through India. Arriving in India, the two missionaries (Monte Corvino and Nicholas Pistoia) landed at Mylapore which was a midway station to China. For some reason, their departure to China was delayed by thirteen months.  He went about the country, studying the character of the people. Monte Corvino must have visited during these thirteen months (of 1292) the Southern Pandian Kingdom where St. Thomas had built his first Church at Kanakkankudiyiruppu.  There was no trace of the church built by St. Thomas or by his followers at that time except a small shed with Palmira leaves with a cross and the statue of Our Lady of Assumption left as the monuments of St. Thomas the Apostle.
          “John of Monte Corvino was impressed by the simplicity and the friendly disposition of our people”, says George Moraes, He had also been impressed by the security and peace reigning in the country which is a necessary condition for the success of the apostolate at all times. In different places round about Mylapore, he himself had baptized a hundred persons. Encouraged by his success he decided to leave behind at this place his Dominican companion-in-arms Friar Nicholas of Pistoia to continue his work.
          “At the nick of time, however, when John of Monte Corvino was about to set sail, happy in the thought of bright prospects for the mission he had founded at Mylapore, Friar Nicholas fell ill and died. And it must have been with a heavy heart that Monte Corvino took leave of his neophytes (1292).”26
                Arriving in China, Monte Corvino worked single handed for seven years. The Holy See made him Archbishop at Peking with Patriarchal authority and sent more missionaries in order to work under him.
           But in the midst of his labours in China, he did not forget his Christians in Mylapore. In 1306 he appealed to his fellow –monks in Persia to go and minister in the mission field he had opened in India. And thus it was left to Friar-Preacher (Dominican) Jordan of Severac who followed Monte Corvino, to establish the Catholic Church in India.27



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JORDAN OF SEVERAC (1320 – 1328)
          In 1318 Pope John XXII assigned India to the Dominicans. Jordan therefore decided to leave for India at the earliest opportunity. He offered to fill the place left vacant by the death of Nicholas of Pistoia at Mylapore.  He asked and received permission from his superiors to depart to India with some Franciscan Friars, going to China by the sea-route.
          Towards the end of 1320 the missionaries embarked with a view to proceed to Quilon on the Malabar Coast. But the vessel wended its course to Thana near Bombay. Having arrived at Thana in April, they could resume their voyage to Malabar and Mylapore only in October at the end of the monsoon.
          At that time Thana was in the hands of the Muslims belonging to the Delhi Sultanate. The Muslims caught hold of the companions of Jordan, persecuted and killed them. Jordan had the bodies of these Martyrs and buried them; and sometime later these relics were taken to China. The Missionary Journey to south India could be resumed only in 1324 with five more Dominican friars.
          This time they were dispersed among various mission stations in Karnataka, Mysore, Malabar and Travancore. Within four years they baptized more than ten thousand people.28
          In the year 1328 Jordan left India for Europe to place before the Soverign Pontiff John XXII, the affairs of the Indian mission. He convinced Pope of the need of establishing in India regular ecclesiastical government, with a bishop at its head. The Pope hearing the zealous apostle responsible for the establishment of the Catholic Church in India, unhesitatingly offered the office to Friar Jordan himself, and appointed him bishop of Quilon.
          The pope’s letter of appointment was to the Christians of Molephatam (Mylapore) that is of greater interest, reviving as it does the memory of the ancient Christianity of south India. Bishop Jordan enlisted a large number of Friar Preachers for his mission and, accompanied by Brother Telaimonot, returned to India.
          Bishop Jordan founded several houses of the Dominican order in this country, including the one in Mylapore with a monastery attached to the church of St. Thomas the Apostle.
          But the will of God was different in the growth of the Indian mission. The Muslims could not bear to see the conversions, and so they stoned the bishop of Quilon at Thana. After the martyrdom of Blessed Jordan, the Catholic missions languished in India.29
          In the mean time, there was a land lord who was serving as an officer to the petit king of Maanaveera Naadu, living in Thopuvilai near Jesupuram the capital of that petit kingdom. He was a pious Christian, the follower of St. Thomas and a great devotee of Our Lady. His name was Agathu Marian.
          On a Saturday in 1325 Our Lady of Assumption appeared to him and indicating the exact location where St. Thomas had first built his church in Her honour, asked him to build a church on that spot. The original church built by St. Thomas was now twenty feet below the earth covered by the red sands. Agathu Marian gathered a group of Christians spread about that place and went to the spot Our Lady indicated, and they all were wonder struck by awe at the sight of a spring of clean water in front of a shed containing the cross and statues. When they dug the foundation they could find, a few feet below the earth, the debris of a church built above the original church, most probably by George the Nestorian in the 7th century.30

          As a result, Agathu Marian, according to the size of his resources and by the contribution of the people around, finished building a small and beautiful church and enthroned the statues on the altar in the year 1326. Hearing about the apparition and the new church at Kanakkankudiyiruppu, the new generations of the St. Thomas Christians scattered here and there came and settled there, and began to worship in that church by practicing Christianity in their own way.
          The above fact has been confirmed by Thambi Nayagam who was quoted by Chevalier V. C. George (of Kottayam, Kerala) in his research book as follows: “When St. Francis Xavier came to the region of south India in 1542, there lived in the sea shore of the bay of Bengal a population of twenty thousand fisher men; and in the adjacent in land region St. Thomas Christians were living.”31
                Actually both these groups of the coastal fishermen and of the in land region were called St. Thomas Christians, and were the subjects of the same Southern Pandian kingdom. At the time of St. Francis Xavier, Kanakkankudiyiruppu was called Pandagasaalai meaning the royal store house of the kingdom known as Maanaveera Naadu.
JOHN DE MARIGNOLLI (1338 – 1350)

The Christian missionaries opposed by the Muslims in Bombay, had now found a means of entering India from the south. During this dark period, India was visited by John De Marignolli, a Franciscan from Florence. He was chosen as legate to China by Pope Benedict XII. He was consecrated bishop in 1338, and departed in March 1339 and after a long and perilous journey reached China in 1342. After three years of mission in China, Bishop Marignolli decided to return to Europe. On his departure on 26 December 1345 he set out for Quilon where he arrived on 23 March 1346.  And From 1346 to 1350 before going to Europe, Bishop John De Marignolli was working in south India and Ceylon. 
          During this period of four years, Bishop Marignolli visited Mylapore and the South Pandian Kingdom several times and was building churches and erecting monuments in the places where St. Thomas Christians were found. The above said facts have been attested by the following source and by many other historians.
“John De Marignolli (Giovanni de' Marignolli) of St. Lorenzo in Florence, joined the Franciscan order and was consecrated bishop in 1338 AD. He was chosen as legate to China by Pope Benedict XII (1334–1342). He preached in China and on his way back from China, he landed at Quilon and lived there for over a year, preaching in St. George's Church, which was founded by Jordanus. “In 1338 during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XII (1334–1342) the great Khan of Peking in China sent a great delegation of ambassadors to the Pope at Avignon and they were given a royal reception by the Pope. They requested the Pope to send a legate who would be wise, capable and virtuous to care for their souls. Responding to their request the Pope chose John De Marignolli as his legate to China and he accompanied the ambassadors of Great Khan on their homeward journey. Marignolli departed with a great number of friars and precious gifts for Khan, princes and sovereigns. They departed in March 1339 and after a long and perilous journey reached their destination, Khanbalique in 1342 and were received by the Great Khan, who was the last of the Mongol dynasty in China.
“After three years of mission Marignolli decided to return to Europe. On his departure on 26 December 1345 he set out for Quilon where he arrived on 23 March 1346. The Christians of Quilon warmly welcomed him. He lived there for over a year, and preached in St. George's Church, founded by Jordanus.
“He concentrated himself in the Latin Church of St. George founded by Bishop Jordanus. He preached in this Church and adorned the Church with paintings. He could not do much of missionary activity here since he became sick with dysentery during his stay at Quilon. When he recovered he visited Cape Comorin the extremity of Indian Peninsula where he erected a marble pillar mounted by a cross in full view of Ceylon. It seems that he was an ambitious man and was desirous that the good people of Quilon should never forget him and that was the intention of the erection of the marble pillar. The column, which was to endure till the world's end soon crumbled under the corroding influence of the elements and the inscriptions, were destroyed. Later a wrong tradition developed, attributing this column to St. Thomas. Marignolli set for Sumatra and Ceylon in July 1347. In September 1348 he came back to India. He left India in 1350 AD.”32
                George Moraes gives the same account with still more details: “Marignolli must have left China some time in 1346 or 1347, and a few months later he arrived in Quilon, where he stayed for sixteen months. Quilon was the center of the Catholic missions in India and a busy port, where the whole of the pepper trade was concentrated. It was moreover, the Episcopal See, of which the first incumbent was Jordan of Severac. There was a Latin church dedicated to St. George, but at the time of Marignolli’s visit, it was apparently without a priest in charge.
          “Marignolli relates a curious story of a Hindu priest, “a man of majestic stature and snowy white beard,” who one day came to him when he happened to be in front of the church. The old man prostrated himself, kissing the ground three times, and told the friar that he had come from a far-off island. He had never eaten meat all his life, and had habitually fasted four months in a year. He was the only priest in his island. The idol which he worshipped told him one day: “Thou art not on the path of salvation. God therefore enjoineth thee to proceed to Columbum (Quilon) a distance of 2 years’ voyage by sea, and there shalt thou find the messenger of god who shall teach thee the way to salvation.” The man, therefore, had straightaway come to Quilon, and had now recognized in the face of the Friar the face of the heavenly envoy which had been revealed to him in his dreams. Sometime before, the pirates had taken away his son. The latter, whom they sold to a Genoese merchant, had since been baptized; and it now so chanced that the boy was with the Friar on the occasion, and the father and son recognized each other. The son then acted as interpreter to his father in teaching him the articles of the Faith, and after three months’ instruction he was baptized under the name of Michael. The old man then went away with his son, promising to teach the Faith he had received to his countrymen.
          “During his stay at Quilon, Marignolli paid a visit to the tomb of St. Thomas at Mylapore, eight to nine hundred kilometers from Quilon. He stayed there for four days, collecting all the legends then current at the place.
          “The Franciscan was endowed with a lively imagination. Ceylon was not very far. It was the “Paradise” where the Muslims pointed to the lake formed by the tears of Adam and Eve mourning for their son Abel. Before leaving India, Marignolli set up a pillar at Cape Comerin, the extremity of the Indian peninsula in full view of Ceylon. “More glorious than Alexander the Great,” says he, “when he set up his column (in India), for I erected a stone as my landmark and memorial in the corner of the world over against Paradise in titulum fundens oleum desuper. In sooth, it was a marble pillar with a stone cross upon it, intended to last till the world’s end. And it had the Pope’s arms and my own engraved upon it with inscriptions both in Indian and Latin Characters. I consecrated and blessed it in the presence of an infinite multitude of people, and I was carried on the shoulders of the chiefs in a litter or palanquin like Solomon’s.”33
                Alex Muthaia is of strong opinion that all the missionaries who visited south India had the happiness of visiting and working in the midst of St. Thomas Christians living in the East Coast including Maanaveera Naadu; chiefly the Venetian missionary John De Marignolli.34
                John De Marignolli therefore when he reached Kanakkankudiyiruppu after erecting the marble column at Kanyakumari (Kovalam), he saw the church built now by Agathu Marian at the spot where St. Thomas the Apostle had built the first church in India, and he wanted to extent it with most solid building materials available at that time in that region.
          His coming to South Pandian Kingdom and his activities in Kanakkankudiyiruppu are graphically explained by the author in “The History of Manalmatha Koil” as follows:
          “The Franciscan Friar John Marignolli was chosen legate of the Pope for China and was consecrated bishop in the year 1338. He preached in China and on his way back from China he landed in South India and stayed many years. During that period he visited the tomb of St. Thomas and preached Christianity among the St. Thomas Christians. Arriving Quilon, first he enriched with exquisite paintings the altar of St. George’s church at Edathuva. He visited the seven churches built by St. Thomas in Kerala. Then on his journey to Kanakkankudiyruppu, traveling through the way by which St. Thomas travelled, he renewed the church of St. Mary (Ezharaippalli) at Thiruvithaankodu; planted a stone cross at Nilappaarai Kurusu Malai (Kanjo Malai) where St. Thomas was preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and there he raised the church of St. George which had been disappeared.


        “Above all other things the special task John Marignolli under took was that at Kanakkankudiyiruppu he stayed and preached the divine truths to Agathu Marian and the ST. Thomas Christians who extended a warm and heartfelt welcome to their bishop. And in 1349 He extended the church of Our Lady of Assumption with a front façade and the wooden cross, strengthened the walls and roof with small baked bricks and a mixture of lime stones, as we now see below the ground level. 

And as a memorial of his missionary activities in Kanakkankudiyiruppu, he enthroned on the right side of Our Lady’s statue the Statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of his Religious Order. Even today we can see this statue on the altar. It is to be noted that this statue is not, as many people think, the statue of St. Antony.
          “Hence all praise and thanks are due to His Excellency Mngr. John De Marignolli for having constructed the church of Manalmatha, as we see now, miraculously excavated from under the red sands two hundred years ago.
          “From the time of John De Marignolli, Kanakkankudiyiruppu and the church of Our Lady of Assumption became a great shrine, attracting all the missionaries who came to India, including St. Francis Xavier”.35   
          After Marignolli, Kanakkankudiyiruppu became a regular mission center for the Franciscan missionaries. The beauty of the place, the simplicity of the people and the piety shown to Our Lady’s church by the missionaries and the Christians increased the population of the village every day. The grand panorama of green trees and perennial clean water lake by the side of the Church attracted different kinds of birds to come and settle there in all the seasons throughout the year. Merchants, tourists devotees of Our Lady made it a point to visit Kankkankudiyiruppu as a place of transaction, site seeing and of pilgrimage respectively.
The Portuguese Missionaries
          In 1498 Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India and reached Calicut on May 20. This opened the way for the Portuguese missionaries. In the beginning there missionary activities developed in the localities where the Portuguese traders built their factories and forts.
Friar Henry of Coimbra
          In 1500 a group of missionaries had accompanied the chief Trader Cabral on this expedition, consisting of eight Franciscans under the leadership of Friar Henry of Coimbra, and nine other priests. Immediately they employed themselves in the study of the native language. Friar Henry moved among the people, and in a short time converted a number of Hindus to the Faith. The group of missionaries was divided for the five principalities of the Malabar Coast – Cananore, Calicut, Cochin, Quilon and Travancore.
          Travancore included Venaadu and Maanaveera Naadu. Most probably Friar Henry was in charge of Travancore, and therefore he began to visit Thiruvithaankodu, Kumari Muttom and Kankkankudiyiruppu. Kanakkankudiyiruppu might have been the mission station for him, from where he would have visited Kaayal, Kombuthurai, Manappadu, Periathaalai, Koodothaalai, Overi, and Kumari Muttam in the sea shore where already St. Thomas Christians were settled. And also he had to attend from Kanakkankudiyiruppu the Communites of St. Thomas Christians in Sokkankudiyiruppu, Thopu Vilai, Rammadupuram, Vadakkankulam, Nilappaarai, Marungur, Kottar, Kaarankaadu, and Thirvthaankodu, as Jonh Marignlli did.
          It was at that time that the Zamorin of Calicut in his enthusiasm sent one of his pages, a boy of fifteen, to Portugal to see for himself what the country was like. The Portuguese king was pleased with the lad, who learnt to read and write Portuguese, and asking for baptism, was Baptized Joao Da Cruz.
          In Venaadu Mucuas were the fishermen, boatmen and sailors. The head of the Mucuas was called Arel, who was settled with all his family and kindred in Cochin. He was converted to Christianity by Friar Henry. The Arel had influential relatives in other kingdoms (Venaadu and Southern Pandian Kingdom) holding similar positions and they were resolved to follow his example. Hence the Franciscan missionaries under Friar Henry were now able to speed up their conversions along the coastal side of Arabian Sea in the West, and the Coromandal coast in the East.36
          That is how when Duarte Barbosa visited Kanyakumari he could see a church built at Muttom by the Portuguese, before the coming of St. Francis Xavier. Alex Muthaia writes:
          “Duarte Barbosa who came to India in the year 1516 stated that at Kumari Muttom there was a church built by the Armenians, in which the Armenians and then the Portuguese were conducting the liturgical ceremonies. Many crosses were seen there. And therefore When St. Francis Xavier came there in 1542, he was very glad to see a church there. Moreover this fact has been attested by the Mootha Nainar stone inscriptions that Christians were living in Kumari Muttom in 1496; and that Uthaya Maarthaandan the king of Venaadu had rebuked and stopped the Hindu leaders persecuting the Christians there and collecting levy from them. In addition the king had by an edict (Travancore Archiological Series Vol. VI Pages, 179, 180) granted a subsidy of oil for lamp to the church of Thoma.”37
Jacob Mar Abuna (1505 to 1550)
          An Armenian monk called Jacob Mar Abuna had been consecrated bishop for the Christians of St. Thomas by Patriarch Elias of Nisibis in 1503. When Mar Abuna came to India, he became a good friend of the Franciscan missionaries, converted himself to the Latin Rite and was working hand in hand with the Franciscan missionaries for 45 years in India. St. Francis Xavier speaks about Mar Abuna as being helped here solely by the priests of St. Francis, and that he has endured much in his work with the Christians of St. Thomas. Mar Abuna, after Prior Henry’s period, at least ten years out of his 45 years sojourn among the St. Thomas Christians, must have remained in Kanakkankudiyiruppu to look after the new converts in Venaadu and in the South Pandian kingdom.
                Teotonio R. De Souza in his book “Indian Christians of St. Thomas and the Portuguese Padroado” writes: “Francis Xavier wrote a letter from Cochin to King John III of Portugal on 26th January 1549, in which he declared: *A bishop of Armenia (Mesopotamia) by the name of Jacob Abuna has been serving God and Your Highness in these regions for forty-five years.  He is a very old, virtuous, and saintly man, and, at the same time, one who has been neglected by Your Highness and by almost all of those who are in India.  God is granting him his reward, since he desires to assist him by himself, without employing us as a means to console his servants.  He is being helped here solely by the priests of St. Francis… He has endured much in his work with the Christians of St. Thomas”. Source:
          In the foot note of the above latter of St. Francis Xavier we find the following details: “In 1503 Jacob Mar Abuna, a monk from the monastery of St. Eugene near Nisibia was consecrated bishop for the Christians of St. Thomas by the patriarch Elias.  He was sent to India with three other bishops, but outlived his companions and was a good friend of the Portuguese and their missionaries, in particular the Franciscans.  Due to the isolation of Mosul and the Chaldean Patriarch by the Turkish occupation, Mar Abuna was increasingly forced to depend on the Latin Missionaries, and thus came slowly to adopt the Latin rite, including its confessional rite.  Jacob Mar Abuna died around 1550.38
                About the year 1535 Jacob Mar Abuna was converting the Hindus around Maanaveera Naadu. For instance: “from the family of Aathitthar in Kaayamozhi, Sokkan left his three brothers Aathitthan, Veerappan and Theetthappan due to discord, came and settled in the region north of Kanakkankudiyiruppu. He came to Kanakkankudiyiruppu, was baptized (most probably by Mar Abuna) as Sokkan Arulappan, and married Mariagiruthal (Margarita). His new settlement was thus called Sokkankudiyiruppu. This Sokkankudiyiruppu was at that time belonged to the parish of Kanakkankudiyiruppu. This fact was seen in a stone inscription kept on the wall of the old church in Sokkankudiyiruppu”.39
          The fact that the church of Sokkankudiyiruppu has been dedicated to St. Jacob the Apostle, can be one of the proofs to confirm the stay of Jacob Mar Abuna as the Parish priest of Sokkankudiyiruppu belonging to Kanakkankudiyiruppu around that period.



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Coversion of the Paravas
          By now the fishermen baptized by St. Thomas in the East Coast had forgotten Christian religion and had gone back to Hinduism. The story of how the Parava people once again embraced Christianity is briefly given below by referring the accounts given by George Moraes and V. Lawrence.40
          In 1532 the fishermen in the East coast were all Hindus, engaged in pearl fishing. In a struggle between a Muslim and a Parava in Tuticorin, the Muslim in a vehement fury tore out the ear-lobe of the Parava man. Since this attack was a great affront to the whole community of the Parava cast, there sparked off a civil war between the Paravas and the Muslims. And the Paravas would have been beaten in the struggle, without the intervention of Joao Da Cruz who was high in favour with the Portuguese.
          Joao Da Cruz who was the Page boy of the Zamorin in Quilon, who had sent him to Portugal in 1512 and was baptized a Christian, could see no way of saving the Paravas other than conversion to Christianity, by which they would be entitled to the protection of the Portuguese. This is called the Potuguese Patronage (Padroado).
          Accordingly the Vicar general of Quilon Miguel Vaz visited the Paravas accompanied by four priests, and administered baptism to about twenty thousand people. In a few years the number rose to eighty thousand, settled both on Malabar and Coromandal Coast. The Paravas now had the protection of the Portuguese army and could follow their pearl fishing profession undisturbed.     
St. Francis Xavier (1542 to 1552)
          The second Apostle of India, St. Francis Xavier also, like St. Thomas the first Apostle of India, had his mission field in Venaadu and the south Pandian Kingdom.
          “St. Francis Xavier who came to the province of south India, not only in the East coast and the West coast, but also he went and worked in the interior places where St. Thomas Christians were living.
          “During the period between 1542 and 1552 St. Francis Xavier came and stayed in the province of Thiruvithaankodu and was engaged in mission works. He has guided the ancient Christians of St. Thomas in these areas in Christian life.
          “As a proof of the above fact in these villages like Sankanaankulam and Pattaraikatti Vilai, churches are built in the name of St. Francis Xavier. And likewise in Rammadupuram also a second church has been built in the name of St. Xavier.”41
          “Fr. Venancius writes in the Golden Jubilee Manual of Tuticorin Diocese that there is a traditional message, saying that St. Francis Xavier who evangelized the southern parts of South India around 1542, came to Rmmadupuram: “There is a tradition that St. Xavier on his way to Kovalam (from Naaraiyoor) stayed in Sankanaankulam and Rammadupuram, (now) the substations of Anaikkarai Parish”.42
          In the sixteenth century Kanakkankudiyiruppu was called also by the name Naaraiyoor, because of the innumerable varieties of pelicans coming from different countries and settled in the trees around the lake at Kanakkankudiyiruppu. Pelican is called Naarai in Tamil. When St. Francis Xavier came, he knew the place as Naaraiyoor (in abbreviation Nare or Nar). Kanakkankudiyiruppu was also called Pandagasaalai (Pandacal), because the royal store house of the king was there. He used to call these names as Nare and Pandacal. On May 1, 1544 the saint writes a letter from Nar to Francisco Mansilhas. 43 Joseph Costello S.J. in his foot Note P. 82 mistakenly says that Nare means “Nare Kinher”. There was no Narai Kinaru south of Kulasekarapattanam as he remarks; Naarai Kinaru is in the north, some fifty km. away from Kulasekarapattanam. Moreover, Fr. F.W. Faber, D.D. in his book “The life of St. Francis Xavier” clearly states this place as “a hamlet situated between Tale (must be Koodu Thazhai) and Manapar”. All This prove that St. Francis Xavier had made use of Kanakkankudiyiruppu (Naaraiyoor) one of his residences, staying where he used to write letters.
The Miracle at Naaraiyoor (Kanakkankudiyiruppu)
          Fr. Albert J. Hebert, S. M. narrates: “There was a pair of youths who accompanied Francis as catechists. During the night one of them was bitten in the foot by a ‘cobra da capello’. In the morning the youth was found dead. Francis took some saliva from his own mouth, touched the foot of the poisoned catechist, made the Sign of the Cross over him, took him by the hand and bade him arise in the Name of Jesus Christ. The youth responded immediately and was able to continue the missionary journey at once. It was as simple as if he had just gotten up from sleep, instead of having been restored to life itself. This is probably the miracle of the “venomous” serpent given without details by Butler.” Source: “Resurrection Miracles from the Biography of St. Francis Xavier” 
          But the account given by Fr. F.W. Faber, D.D. seems to be more probable and correct: “He (St. Xavier) was travelling with two young Indians, named Anthony Miranda and Augustine Pina, who served as his acolytes and catechists. Night over took them at a place called Pandacal (Pandagasaalai), a hamlet situated between Tale (must be Koodu Thazhai)and Manapar; the two youths retired into a hut to rest, and the saint into another, that he might pray at his ease. …. A venomous serpent had its nest in the very hut where our two unsuspecting children went to sleep, and bit Anthony in the foot, without even awakening him. It was late in the morning before Augustine awoke, who immediately called his companion. After shaking him and receiving no answer, he soon ascertained the cause; for, on raising the mat where they had both been reposing, the serpent sprang forth.
          “With a cry of horror, the child ran off to the saint, and, with sighs and tears, related what had happened. Without the slightest agitation or appearance of surprise, Xavier smiled, and calmly answered, “let us go and look at him. Per chance he may not be dead.” On reaching the cabin, he knelt down by the side of the dead body, fixed his eyes on heaven, and, after a short prayer, touched the swollen and livid foot with spittle, blessed him with the sign of the cross, and, taking him by the hand, said: “Anthony, in the name of Jesus Christ, arise!” He said no more, nor was more needed to make the child arise; he immediately stood up, not only alive, but as healthy and strong as ever he was; whereupon they all three resumed their journey.”44
          The saint would have travelled From Manapad to Kovalam. On route we have Peria Thaalai, Naaraiyoor (Kanakkankudiyiruppu), Rammadupuram, Sankanaankulam, Radhapuram Vadakkankulam, Pazhavoor, Kanyakumari and Kovalam. Fr. Venancius testifies this travel route of our saint as cited above (foot note 41). Hence there is no doubt in concluding that the location of this miracle is no other than Naaraiyoor (Kanakkankudiyiruppu).
Monuments of St. Francis Xavier
          Our saint wanted to renew the altar and the statue of Our Lady in the church of Kanakkankudiyiruppu according to the artistic style of Portuguese architecture. For this he had brought the masons he knew in Kottar.  The high altar and the statue were modified exactly as we now see in the church built by St. Xavier inside the Cathedral of Kottar Diocese. Now what we see in Manal Matha Koil is a modified style of the high altar. Besides the Statue of Our lady of Manal Matha, he placed the statue of his founder St. Ignatius.Thus we see now on the altar of Manal Matha Koil under the earth, the statues of O. L. of Manal Matha, St. Ignatius and St. Francis of Assisi.
          The historical note published in “The Beginning of Faith in Tuticorin Diocese” furnishes the following details about the Catholic Mission activities after St. Francis Xavier. Source:
          “Xavier himself visited kanakankudiyiruppu (Manal Matha Koil), Sankanankulam near Anaikarai, Rammathupuram and pazhaiyakayal. Conversion took place in these places and later other Jesuit missionaries served them. St. Francis Xavier left the Fishery Coast in 1545 for Malacca. In March 1546 he ordered Fr. Antony Criminalli to go to the Fishery Coast.
Fr. Antony Criminalli
          “Fr. Antony Criminalli was the first missionary who learned to read and write Tamil. One year later he was joined by Fr. Anrrique Anrriquez and others. In January - February 1548, Francis was back again on the Fishery Coast for a visit. He appointed Fr. Criminalli as superior of the mission. When Fr. Criminalli was killed towards the middle of 1549 in a military entanglement between the Badaga troops and the Portuguese at Vedalai, the missionaries elected Fr. Anrrique Anrriquez as their superior. Francis confirmed their choice by letter.
Fr. Henrique Henriques (also known as Anrique Anriquez) (1520–1600) 
           Henrique Henriques was Portuguese Jesuit priest and missionary who spent most of his life and missionary activities in South India. After initial years in Goa he moved to Tamil Nadu where he mastered Tamil and wrote several books including a dictionary. He is considered to be the first European Tamil scholar.    “The Jesuit headquarters was set up in Punnaikayal. Henriquez as he describes in his letter to St. Ignatius Loyola, learned Tamil and even brought out a sort of Grammar which he called as “Arte”. He, with the help of native converts and “trained catechists” translated the important prayers into Tamil. Source:

          “As was the case with Francis Xavier, Henriquez too laid special stress on the Christian training of the young. He taught the prayers to the girls in the mornings and to the boys in the evenings. It seems that till his arrival on the coast the girls were not attending the catechism classes. The boys used to go twice a day. But now that system was changed. The girls were asked to go in the mornings and the boys in the evenings. In every Christian village on the coast there was now a teacher of catechism and a person to gather the children every day.
          “In 1550 a hospital and Catechetical Training Center were built for the first time in Punnaikayal. He converted a famous Hindu Sanyasin and baptized him as Peter Louis (Malayappan Gnanapragasam). He would shortly become the professor of the Tamil college at Punnaikayal in 1557. After his conversion, Peter Louis began to convert many people in and around that area. By 1551, there are references to the existence of 30 churches made of clay and wood, and covered with palm leaves. In 1553, the churches were destroyed by the king of Travancore and eventually the rebuilding took place.
          “In 1561 Fr. Henriquez with other Jesuits, baptized people of Azhagappapuram or Marichukkatti. The next year Holy Cross Church at Manapad was consecrated. By 1567, the first Tamil College was instituted in Punnaikayal. The convert Peter Louis began to teach in the college. In 1568 Fr. Henriquez wrote a letter to St. Ignatius of Loyola from Punnaikayal. He mentions about 7 priests, 2 deacons and one Tamil Brother in his team.
Goa Mission and French Mission:
          “In 1557 when Cochin became a diocese, the pearl fishery coast came under its authority. Whenever Bishops other than the Jesuits took charge of the diocese, they used to send their own priests to the Pearl Fishery Coast.
          “In 1603 the Madurai Nayak and Kayatar king imposed an unbearable tax on the people of the pearl fishery coast. The people could not pay the tax and hence they rebelled. The army destroyed the dwellings as well as the headquarters in Tuticorin. Seeking a safe haven, the people and the priests took shelter in Raja Theevu (Muyal theevu). The Bishop of Cochin misunderstood the whole event and sent the Portuguese to violently force the 10,000 people out of the island. Broken hearted the Jesuits gave the parishes to the Bishop and left Tuticorin. The Bishop sent the Cyrian priests to Tuticorin, Vembar, Vaipar, and Palaiyakayal. The rest of the parishes were left without any spiritual help”.45
In Tuticorin:
          “In fact, even before St. Xavier came to India, in Tuticorin, there had been St. Peter’s Church built in 1538. This is the very first church of the whole of the pearl fishery coast. In 1558 the first Latin rite seminary was built in Tuticorin where seminarians were trained in morals, pastoral activities, Portuguese and music. In 1593 the first Catechumen Center was instituted in Tuticorin, managed by a Jesuit priest. Training was given to the catechumens for one full year.
          “In 1600 there were churches in Palayam (Tirunelveli), kaliavoor, Srivaikundam and Thirukalur. St. Matthew’s church in Thirukalur with 500 members was made into a parish in 1644. The substations were Alvarthirunagari, Saravamangalam, Marichukkatti, Srivaigundam, Manakarai (Seevalaperi), Vayapuram (Kaliavoor), Palayam (Palayamkottai), Kayatharu, Pattamadai, Veeravanallur, Sattuppatur (Kartharpillayur), Mannarkoil, Ayanarpatti (Aranapatti), Singanallur, Alari, Chrisvanallur (Krishnapuram), Meenkulam, Maravanakurichi (Maravakurichi), Kalakadu, Athur, Kurumbur, and Perur.
          “In 1601 Holy Cross church was built in Vember followed by Bartholomew’s church in Manakadu near Srivaikundam in 1602. In 1603 kings of the areas destroyed most of these churches including the church of Our Lady of Mercy in Tuticorin. There is indication about a Jesuit professor from Goa, who worked in about 20 villages in and around Thirukalur in 1621. He converted a lot of people to the faith”.                                                                                                             Source:
                   The above mentioned Jesuit Lay professor (Catechist) must have been the follower of the Hindu Sanyasin, baptized as Peter Louis (Malayappan Gnanapragasam) by Fr. Henriques. There were many other male and female Lay Catechists produced in the Catechetical Training Center built by Fr. Henriques. These Catechists and their followers like Gnana Muthu, Santhayee, Arulayee, Vedha Manickam Thesigar, Thomman Muthu, Arulayee Punyavathy, and Sathia Naathan etc., mentioned by Alex Muthaiah were doing marvelous missionary activities in the absence of priests, and kept the faith of St. Thomas Christians without being extinguished both in Venaadu and in South Pandian Kingdom.46 The name of the Professor from Goa who converted a lot of people to the faith, must be the famous “Mathavadian Punyavaalan” (Slave of Our Lady) buried on the high ways between Panagudi and Kaavalkinaru Velakku. All these male and female mission catechists were called Punayavaalans (virtuous men) or Punyavathees (virtuous women) respectively. The famous Arulaayee Punyavathee has been buried in Thakkalai. Even today many miracles are witnessed in these two grave churches.

1. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page 168
2. ibid. Page 139, 144
3. George M. Moraes ibid. Page 46
4. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page. 145
5. Cfr. George Mark Moraes ibid Page 61, 62, 63, 64
6. George Mark Moraes ibid. Page 61                                                                                                       7. Cfr. ibid. Page 73
8. A. Chidambaranaar “The history of Tamil Sangams” Page101 &
    “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” by the author Page18
9. A. Chidambaranaar ibid. Page 101
10. “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” ibid. Page 19
11. A. Chidambaranaar ibid. Page 131
12. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page. Page 146
13. Cfr. Ibid. Page 147
14. Cfr. Ibid. Page 148
15. George Moraes ibid. Page 70
16. “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” ibid. Page 20
17. George Moraes ibid. Cfr. Pages 72, 73, 74
18. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page. Page 145
19. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page. Page 143
      Cfr. “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” ibid. Page 20
20. Cfr. Ibid. Page 20
21. Cfr. George Moraes ibid. Cfr. Page 76
22. Cfr. Ibid. Page 77
23. Cfr. “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” ibid. Page 21
24. George Moraes “A History of Christianity in India” Pages 81 to 85.
25. “Catholic Church in China” (Chapter 1)
26. George Moraes ibid. Page, 88
27. Cfr. George Moraes ibid. Page, 89
28. Cfr. George Moraes ibid. Pages, 89 to 98
29. Cfr. George Moraes ibid. Pages. 99 to 102          
30. Cfr. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page, Page 146
       Fr. John Bosco “Manam Tharum Manal Maatha” Page, 4
      “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” by the author, page, 21
31. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page, 156         
32.”Roman Catholic Diocese of Quilon”         
33. George Moraes ibid. Pages, 104 and 105
33. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page, 146
34. Cfr. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page, Page 146
35, “Athisaya Manalmaatha Varalaaru” by the author, pages, 22, 23                                  
36. George Moraes ibid. Pages, 125 to 136
37. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page, 401
38. M.J. COSTELLOE, S.J. “The letters and instructions of Francis Xavier” (Anand 1993) \Pages,     
237, 238, 239, n. 77. 
Even though Schurhammer claims that the Jacob Abuna was not an Armenian, R. Gulbenkian maintains that the opposite is true and demonstrates close links between the Armenians and the Syro-Malabar Church. Cf.  *Jacome Abuna, An Armenian Bishop in Malabar (1503-1550) * (Estudos Historicos, I: Rlacoes entre Portugal, Armenia e Medio Oriente, Lisboa 1995, 103 -131).  Here it is asserted that the later bishops in Malabar were not Armenians, even though they were called thus.
39. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Page, 165
40. George Moraes ibid. Pages, 144, 145
      Dr. V. Lawrence, History of the Catholic Church in K.K. District Pages 53 to 60.
41. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Pages, 375, 325, 421
42. Golden Jubilee Manual of Tuticorin Diocese Page, 210
43. M.J. COSTELLOE, S.J. “The letters and instructions of Francis Xavier” Page, 81, No. 27
44. Fr. John Bosco “Manam Tharum Manal Maatha” Page, 3
44. Fr. F.W. Faber, D.D. in “The life of St. Francis Xavier” Page, 67
45. “The Beginning of Faith in Tuticorin Diocese” Compiled by Rev. Fr. Arul Rajan
46. Alex Cruz Muthaiah ibid. Pages, 169, 202, 222, 223, 322, 327, 328, 409.

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