Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Historical Validity of St. Thomas Tradition ( 5 ) A

Arguments against the Saint Thomas tradition : how far they are valid ?

Authority for the St. Thomas tradition of Malabar Nazranis, i.e. its historicity, is a matter of dispute among the historians, to a great extent, for want of sufficient, direct archaeological evidences or backing of contemporary written documents. Being a protagonist of the historical value of the Malabar tradition, about the mission of the Apostle,  through the preceding four articles, I was trying to present the existing, direct, indirect and circumstantial evidences, especially the opinion of World historians  and others. The author will never deny that some of them are from secondary sources such as  local traditions, folklore and liturgical texts  to establish my stand. Now let me present the arguments against the Tradition, of foreign and Indian / Kerala writers, and my counter arguments (exposition and refutation. ).
Opponents of Saint Thomas Tradition and their arguments:

There are a good number of historians and writers, from all over the world, are questioning the Indian apostate of St.Thomas and the validity of the arguments of its proponents. In fact, what they dispute is, (except in the case of a minority of authors.), not the existence of historical-St. Thomas, as such, but whether he visited and evangelized South India. This list includes, LaCrose, Hough, Tillemont, Trevor, Geddes.M, Whitehouse, Rae.C.M, Dr.J.M.Neale, Dr.Burnel, Campbel, WilliamLogan, C.M.Augur, T.K.Joseph,  RationalistJoseph Edamaruku, Dr. M.G.S.Narayanan, Dr. Rajan Gurukkal, and so on.
Now, let us have a close look at their arguments.
Among the European writers, La Croze and James Hough, with the backing of ‘no mean’ arguments, not only doubt and dispute the Malabar (South Indian) tradition about St.Thomas, but also prefer to treat whole story as a legend or myth. Renowned writer and Anglican Chaplain, Hough,( in his book, ‘The History of Christianity in India’ p.30. ),asserts that, ‘ considering the tedious mode of communication, with that country and the ancient’s limited knowledge of it’s inhabitants, until towards the close of the 1st c, it is not probable that any of the Apostles of our Lord, embarked on such a voyage’. Endorsing this viewpoint, La Crose, and Tillemont, say that, the name ‘India’ was applied to many places, other than Indian Peninsula hence without further evidence, we cannot attribute apostolic-origin to Malabar Church.
The eminent Orientalist, Dr. Burnel, doubted the tradition that Saint Thomas founded this Church; instead, the Church had a Gnostic (Manichaean) origin. (Indian Antiquity, III / 311.)
As per the opinion of another English Chaplain, Trevor, ‘there is better evidence, that the Light of Christianity extended from Egypt, where it was kindled by St. Mark, through Persia, towards the Northern confines of India, and that the Syrian Churches appear to have been planted in the 4th C, by THOMAS a monk, from that country, whose name has been confounded with that of the Apostle’ (Quoted by C.M. Augur, in ‘Church History of Travacore’,p.6.).In fact he was quoting to prove his own conclusion that it was none other than the Syrian Colonist, Thomas of Canai ( who, with 472 families from Baghdad , Nineveh, Jerusalem ,migrated to Malabar, in 345 A.D. ) .
Reviewing the available, written evidence on Thomas, some writers say, all the ancient Churches are keeping the belief, ‘Apostolic origin’, hence no special merit to the claim of Malabar Christians”.( Hough, History of Christianity, p.36-37).
Eminent British historian of Colonial India, C.M. Augur, in his famous book, (Church History of Travancore, p.8-12), indicates the names of three distinct Missionaries, all possessing the name Thomas, are, associated with his research. In his opinion, this fact created utter confusion, about the identity of Apostle Thomas, among people and writers of later years. Hence, different theories:
  1. Christianity was introduced by Apostle Thomas, who entered the Malayalam country, in the year 52 A D.
  2. Second Thomas, Thomas the Manichaen. ( A Persian heretic, who labored among Syrians of Karukkanikulam ( Quilon ). Manigramam, according to Dr .Burnell, is the village of Manes.
  3. There is yet a third legend, which describes the conversion of India, to the Armenian merchant ‘ Thomas of Canai ’ ( supposed to have arrived in Malabar in 345 or 745 AD.) and established a Christian group, Knananites Subsequent generations confused ‘ Thomas the Armenian’ with ‘ St.Thomas, the Apostle’. (Ibid, p.8 to 12.)
Reviewing the opinions of contemporary writers, he concludes that Christian Church was established in Southern India, before the beginning of the sixth century, from the Nestorian Patriarchate on the banks of the Tigris ,(not from Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome or Constantinople).Not by way of Red Sea, but by way of the Persian Gulf. Not in the 4th century, nor until the beginning of the 6th century. In short, not by Apostle Thomas. ( Ibid, p.17-18 ) .
Willian Logan, despite his unambiguous, positive stand, saying, ‘there is no inherent improbability, in the tradition that the Apostle Thomas was one of the earliest immigrants from the West’, he is equally emphatic in saying, ‘but of direct contemporary proof that he did come to Mouziris and found churches in that neighborhood, there is absolutely, none so far as researches have yet gone’.( Malabar Manual, p.235. )
But the categorical account of Pantaenus of Alexandria, in the 2nd century, A D , met with Christians in India ( which since proved as Malabar coast ), who claims Apostolic origin , negate the arguments against St.Thomas (Refer detailed description of this author, in other chapters ). " In AD190, the great Gnostic Pantaenus, a Professor of Theology, in the School of Alexandria, set sail from Bernice in the Red Sea, and landed after the tedious voyage of those days, in one of  the Cochin-port, where he found a colony of  Christians...."( Lux Evangelli: Pantaenus India Apostolieus, Ch 86,,p, 627 : qtd. by L.K.Ananthkrishna Ayar ' AS C, p.6)
However,C.M.Rae, an authority on the subject, holds the uncompromising view that St.Thomas, could never have visited India.( Syrian Churches in India,p25 ).
Critically evaluating the points in favour and against the ‘Kerala tradition’, historian, German concludes that nobody can prove or disprove the presence of Christians in Malabar, in the first three centuries. (The St.Thomas Christians,p11. ).

Objections raised by Kerala( Indian ) historians.
Remember, I have hinted, in the 1st part of my article, about the divergent views of two noted scholar historians from Kerala, about this puzzle, Dr. M G S Narayanan and Rajan Gurukkal. Their opinions, representative in character, can be summerised as under:
  1. There is no contemporary evidence, in support of the belief that Apostle Thomas visited Kerala, in the first century, A.D, and converted Namboodiri Brahmins (by performing miracles).
  2. Before the Portuguese period, (16th c), St.Thomas Mount has no such name and importance. ( This is incorrect. I have already described the fallacy of this notion, citing facts and figures . See  article No.4 para. 1 to 8 . )
  3. The visit of the Apostle at Maliankara (Kodungallur / Muziris ),and his martyrdom in Mylapore, are sheer myths. (Dr. Rajan Gurukkal is not sharing this view point. For him, the coming of Saint Thomas, is historically probable, though he has some reservations about the first converts. Unlike, MGS, he argues, the existence of isolated Brahmin settlements, even in 2nd century B.C. But, he maintains that, being a priestly class, conversion, from Namboodiri community, is difficult, if not improbable )
  4. Mr. M G S, further says, after extensive reference of all the available literature, in Syrian and Latin, languages, Fr. Benedict Vadakkekkara, (in his ideal research work, ‘Origin of Christianity in India’) admitted that there is no contemporary evidence , to show that St.Thomas visited Kerala’. According to Mr. Rajan Gurukkal, the prime weakness for St.Thomas studies is the lack of contemporary evidence and has backing of tradition only. ( That too of 5 centuries ).
5 Mr.MGS alleges that, the archaeological excavation, conducted by Fr. Hambi ( with the co-operation of Tamilnadu Government) was not in a free and fair and transparent way. Hence, it’s findings are not acceptable to historians. (I am also sharing this viewpoint to a certain extent-- the Mylapore- excavation of the Portuguese with the leadership of Fr. Hambi , can be taken at a discount only. Please read my explanation, in article No. 4 ,para 7. )
6 Referring to the seven churches, believed to have been founded by the Apostle,
M.G.S, and Gurukkal, maintains that building technology was not developed in Kerala, in the 1st c. A .D. No churches or buildings were there, even in Persia or Middle East.. The antiquity of the folklore ‘Rampanpaattu’, referring the Malabar Mission of St.Thomas, as per the nature of the language, used, not looks, ancient ; written in the 16th century or after.
7 There was no mention about St Thomas, in the historical Udayamperoor ( Synod) documents. Nasranis started giving importance to Thomas, after the coming of the Portuguese, only. ( He made this statement without properly referring the ‘Synod documents’. The term St.Thomas appears at least in Session No.III , Decree No.4, Session No. IV , Decree No.4, Session No.VIII , Decree No.5 , 10, and 17 – See, 'The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Diamper' , By Scaria Zacharia ,1994.)
8 MGS and  Gurukkal, further argues that ‘even Pope, Benedict XVI, recently asserted that Apostle Thomas, had not gone beyond Syria, Persia, Iran, Beluchisthan, etc. (India not included.)
9 It is ‘belief about the apostolic origin of Malabar Church, and not the name, Thomas that was transferred by the immigrants from Mesopotamian region, to India, Mr. Gurukkal endorse the opinion of Dr.Neale.
10 St. Thomas tradition is the result of mistaken identity of Thomas the Manichean or the Persian Migrant, Thomas of Cana. ( The  argument that the ancient Malabar/ Indian  Church had a Gnostic/ Manichaean origin, was contested long back, on the ground that 'the Syrian Christians themselves have a tradition to the contrary that the  infant Church was  persecuted by Manichaeans' ... Ninety six families( by implication, in Quilon) yielded to Mani, and eight families stood fast. Manigramakkar, lived in a village near Quilon, until recent times.In his famous Syriac letter, Mar Gabriel, the East Syrian bishop, referred this in detail, while reviewing all important incidents happened in Malabar Church of Saint Thomas, right from 52 AD.( See Visscher: Letters from Malabar: Ed.K.P.Padmanabha Menon, p.44.).
Evaluation of the arguments, counter arguments and conclusions.
The methodology I adopted here, is first of all, find out the main arguments of the Foreign and Indian writers, and present my reply to them. Also ,give specific reply to the arguments leveled against by Kerala writers, more particularly by Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan and Rajan Gurukkal.
It is a plain truth that the tradition about St.Thomas, prevailing in this part of India (Malabar Coast), right from antiquity, has no, direct, epigraphic or archeological evidence.
It is also, a truth that, despite this glaring limitation, majority of the historians, including eminent Oxford historian Vincent Smith, who had studied this matter several years, British Ethnographer Edgar Thurston, Dr. Mingana, Indian ( Kerala ) historians ,K.P.Padmanabha Menon, Sardar K.M. Panicker, A. Sreedhara Menon, and a long list of persons of eminence, ( mentioned in my article No.1.), holding a categorical view, that, on the basis of the circumstantial evidence ,this tradition, should be deemed as a historical truth. (This point I shall elucidate later.)
The second, vital objection, againt the Apostolate of Thomas, is that, even if, the (plethora of), evidences, in the form of Patristic writings, Travelogues, Martyrology, Liturgical texts, apocryphal works and legends, in various languages like Hebrew , Syriac, Greek, Latin , English, referring Apostle Thomas and India, are proved genuine and authentic, they are not acceptable for the historian , on the ground that, they are not contemporary. They belong to the succeeding centuries. This also, is a prima face valid objection, in the eyes of a historian.
But in the case of, St. Thomas, it has the backing very strong supportive evidences. As per the expert opinion of many historians, these evidences should not be thrown away, for the simple reason that they are not contemporary. Instead, renowned Kerala historians, like, K.P.Padmanabha Menon and Prof. Elamkulam Kujan Pillai who have done extensive research in Kerala history ‘inclined to respect’ the tradition, as being ‘worthy of acceptance’. (See, Trichur District Gazetteer, .II / 100) ( This is, just opposite to the recent utterances of MGS, targeting Christian historians, quoting Elamkualam’s findings !) . K.M. Panicker, also find it difficult to deny, ‘the truth’ in the St.Thomas tradition. As he says, ‘We have the recorded statements of, Pantenus, the head of the Alexandrian School., who visited India, in the 2nd century. that he found a flourishing Christian community here’. (Ibid, II /100).
The argument, that, in the first century, ancients have no proper information about the Indian subcontinent, including it’s geography, inhabitants, means of transport & communication etc., as opined by writers, like Dr. James Hough, has no takers, in the modern era. There are clear evidences from history (See, article # 1, for authority) and from archaeological findings in the recent past (at Pattanam), to prove that there were hectic trade through sea routes starting from Alexandria to India, right from 500B C or even earlier.
To refute these points, many of the other points, I have to present a bit elaborate description, from heather to history and the latest discoveries and archaeological findings from that of MUZIRIS / PATTANAM, by Kerala Council for Historical Research.
Muziris ( Kodungallur ) and Indian Ocean Exchanges:
Trade links and maritime contacts between the sea-faring peoples like Phoenicians, Jews and Arabs and the resource-rich Indian subcontinent existed in the centuries, before Christ. Some historians, believe that it can be traced back to the days of King Solomon, on the basis of evidences in comparative philology ( Kings,9.28 & 10.11 ) ( Biblical reference to a port called ‘Ophir’ ,situated some where on the west coast of India, too is cited as evidence for the maritime relations ).
As per the extensive references from the following historical and literary sources, for at least three centuries, Muziris (Kodungallur) was a prime center, for Mediterranean, North African, West Asian and Chinese Maritime contacts and one of the four important Indian ports:
Sources of information:
  1. Strabo’s Geography 1C BC Geographical encyclopedia. (Greek historian)
  2. Periplus Maris(unknown author) 40-70AD About 40 Ports, incuding Muziris.
  3. Pliny, the Elder 1st C, AD Natural History
  4. Ptolomy’s Geographia 150 AD
  5. Muziris Papyrus 2nd C AD Trade contract between a Merchant from Muziris and a Banker / agent, Alexandria.
  6. Carition (escape of 2 lovers) 2nd C AD Comedy play/mime with Indian characters & reference from Indian Trade.
  7. Cosmos Indicoplatus Has references about Syrian Christians, ( Dealing 5 Ports; Muzris not mentioned)
  8. Puti table (TabulaPeutingeriana) 4th C AD, Among the Ports , Muziris shown with a Temple of Augustus, in the vicinity.
Indian sources:
  1. Classical Tamil sources like Sangam (2nd BC-4th AD );clear description of Muziris, is seen in the Akanaanooru, in the Sangam Literature.
  2. Epic poems-----Chilappathikaram. ,,
  3. Legends on cultural transmissions like St.Thomas& Knayi Thoma traditions.(Early Christian Era..)
  4. Very limited Archaeological evidences from Western coast.—only Iron Age burials & few Roman coin hoards. No evidence for habitation.
    1. Indian Pottery from Berenike—Shred with Tamil Brahmi Script.
    2. Arikkamedu: Roman coins -1st, 2nd & 3rd c AD.
    3. Archeological evidence from Pattanam ( Muziris )

Path breaking discoveries from Pattanam ( Muziris ) Excavations.

It is, in this back ground, that, Kerala Council for Historical Research (K C H R) undertook a challenging, ‘multi-disciplinary’ archaeological research, in 2007, at Pattanam, a small village at North Parur, comprisingf ancient Kodungallur (Muziris ) port.
The artifacts and materials unearthed from the area have shown the maritime activity there to be as old as 500 B C. ‘The artifacts recovered from the excavation site suggest that Pattanam, with a hinterland port and multicultural settlement, may have had links with the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the South China Sea rime, since the Early Historic Period of South India’, according to P.J.Cherian, Director of K C H R .
The five samples including charcoal samples from the Iron Age Layer, parts of wooden canoe, and bollards (stakes used to secure canoes ), recovered from the site. Samples subjected to Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), radiocarbon dating. Their mean calendar dates fall around 500 B C. The wood ( of the Canoe ), was identified as Anjily ( Artocarpus hirsutus ) and Teak ( Tectona grandis.). The 14 C date range of the canoe is 1300 BC to 100 BC. Other finds include pottery,metals,objects of personal adornment, botanical samples, and a broken rim with Tamil Brahmi script( 1stcentury BC) , one expert described as ‘exiting discovery’, providing sufficient archeological evidence to the enquirers.( Iravatham Mahadevan,a specialist in Tamil epigraphy, confirmed the inscription, of 1st century BC. )

Unearthed from PATTANAM :
  1. Amphorae---Wine container ( Big storage jar, made of stony type of clay)
  2. Indian Pottery ( Non Roman 2nd grade.)
Other items
    • Eurocentric perspective – Indo-Roman perspective.
    • Nationalist historiography – Later studies & New perspectives.
    • Need for searching for West Asian evidence in Indian sites (Gogte VD,1991)
    • Pattanam site-Location is a hamlet in Vadakkekara revenue village-Area 45 hectare—Life started here 1000 BC—Iron age.---Early Medieval—Late Medieval.
According to Bishop Francis Roz, there is a place called PATTANAM, inhabited by Syrian Christians.
1) T.G.P.(Turquoise Glazed Pottery, indicating Mesopotamian links ( Parthian/Sassanian),2 Nos. )(Pattanam Excavation 2007 ) confirmed by Durban University, UK
2) Shreds of West Asian Torpedo Jars
3) Amphora Shreds (South Italy ) ( Excavation 2008):largest assemblage of Roman pottery in India, showing Roman role in Indian Ocean trade.
Other items ( Multicultural ).:
Roulette Ware –1 ;Indian Pottery—Large quantity; Semi-precious Stone/Glass Beads numbering 10,000 unearthed in 2008; Beryl Beads(2009) Pachaswarnam, local name; Cameo Blanks( Raw material from Kerala coast); Fragments of Roman Glass Terracotta lamp ( Roman ? );Ferrous Artifacts ;Early Chera copper coin (40Nos)— a clue for monetization; Gold ornament (Claiming Italian origin); Gold string; Gold bar,Bender; A huge Indian Pottery; Pottery with Post firing ( Ex.2007 ) Brahnmi script with a Cross(10mm) ;Chinese Ceramics(Broken) — showing East connection.; Maritime (VANCHI )boat -6meter length; Wharf with Canoe ( Jesus vessel-nick name);Botanical remains (including Frankincense) (Kunthirikkam) Items, such as BRW shreds, an exquisite ornament, 1.89 gm golden felling axe, show, metallurgy begun here, in the Iron Age phase itself.
These exiting discoveries, provided abundant material evidence, to what was described by the Western authors and Tamil Sangam poets about the flourishing trade between Muziris port in the Malabar coast and Rome ( via the Red Sea ports ),centuries before the beginning of Christian era.
The huge quantity of artifacts unearthed and the radio-carbon analysis, they are subjected to, put the antiquity of Pattanam, to first millennium B C. It provided valuable collateral archeological proof to Malabar mission of St. Thomas.
Pattanam ( Muziris ) Findings : Vindication to St. Thomas Tradition
The ancient Syrian Christian community, inhabited, mostly in the Malabar coast (Kerala State ) of Indian Subcontinent, inherited a concrete, constant and consistent tradition , for over 2000 years . As per this tradition, they became Christians, by the evangelization work of no less a person than, St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, in the year AD, 52, at Kodungallur ( Muziris ) port. Apart from oral tradition, there are some ancient folklores, ‘ cultural remnants with Christian Symbolisms and some structures in the specific spots, where seven communities ( churches, Pallikal, in local language ) believed to have been established by the Apostle, and his traditional tomb at Mylapore, no direct, contemporary evidence from Kerala, available, to substantiate this belief. Though there are clear literary references can be seen, in various ancient languages, they are not contemporary as per the norms of the secular historians.
It is in this back ground that Kerala Council for Historical Research, a State Government body of secular historians, in collaboration with Archaeological Survey of India ( A S I ), conducted an Archeological Excavation using all modern techniques at Kadungallur ( Muziris / Pattanam ) , the Port of St.Thomas. The excavation results, proved beyond doubts that there were hectic trade between this port and Mediterranean ( and other ) countries , right from 500 B C.--- providing authority to St. Thomas tradition.
How this vindicates the tradition of St.Thomas Christians?
According to eminent historian and J N U Professor, Dr.Pius Malekandathil, two important happenings, in the recent past, in the field of history, viz. the Discovery of Vienna Papyrus ( 1985 ) and Archaeological excavation at PATTANAM / MUZIRIS, revolutionized the historical research and disproved the antic-arguments against the St.Thomas Tradition, branding it as a myth. Also, a blow to the prejudicial and dogmatic approach of some historians of eminence, from Kerala. In his own words:
Recent researches ( by implication, Pattanam excavation ), have high lighted the historical probability of the arrival of St.Thomas, in India, particularly against the background of intensified maritime trade happening between coastal Western India and Red Sea ports on the one hand and coastal Western India as well as the ports of Persian Gulf on the other. The physical presence of about 6 million St.Thomas Christians, claiming their origin to one or another place of the 7 initial Christian settlements, set up by St.Thomas , as per their tradition, often serves as ethno-historical evidence, adding significantly to the historical claim of their oral tradition. From 3rd century onwards, the written sources from West Asia and the Mediterranean world started mentioning about the Christians of India and the Apostle, who had preached among Indians….
At a time when 120 vessels were playing between coastal Western India and ports of Roman Egypt every year, there is no reason whatsoever, to doubt about the veracity of their accounts. ( From his Seminar paper ‘ A commonwealth of Christians in Indian Ocean’. )
Referring to the next, discovery ‘Vienna Papyrus’, ( an voluminous trade agreement entered between a seller in Muziris and the buyer in Alexandria, for regular supply of merchandise ), Dr. Pius says, this together with Muziris findings, provided historical status to the coming of Pantaenus to India, as reported by Eusebius and Jerome. Also, without any ambiguity we can conclude that the part of the world, he visited , is our India., the scholarly conclusion reached by eminent historian William Logan, 100 years back.( See the detailed discussion of the topic, in Article No. 3 ) These archaeological and epigraphic evidences give sanctity and historical status to the descriptions of Eusebius and Jerome not only about the visit of Pantanus but also to the Apostolate of St.Thomas and the first converts of the Apostle.
Reply to other arguments :
The argument ( of Dr. Burnel ),that the Church of St. Thomas, had a Gnostic
( Manichaean ) origin, was contested , long back, on the ground that the ‘ Syrian Christians, themselves have a tradition to the contrary , that the infant Church was persecuted by Manichaeans’…..Ninety six families ( by implication , in Quilon ), yielded ( to Mani ), and 8 families stood fast.Manigramakkar, lived in a village , near Quilon until recent times. ( Quoted in Travancore State Manual, p.138 ).
A clear reference in the matter can seen in the Syriac letter, of an East Syrian bishop,Mar Gabriel, ( Quoted by Vissicher ) about ‘the antiquity of Syrian Christians’ ( part of this letter I have already quoted in Article No. 3 ) like this : ‘ In the course of a few years, all priests in Hindostan and Malabar, died; and many years afterwards, a Tovenaar called Mamukawasser, an enemy of Christian faith , arrived at Mylapore, performing many miracles to hinder its progress. And many of the principal Christians giving heed to him, forsook Christianity and followed this false teacher, Mamukawasser. In those days, certain persons came from Hindowy or Hindostan, who were not disposed to abandon the people of Malabar and who allied themselves with the believers , that is Christians , who had remained constant, in number about 160 families , or tribes’..
Another argument , St. Thomas tradition is originated from the mistaken identity of 4th century, from the Armenian ( Babylonian ) migrant , Thomas of Canai, also is against clear historical facts. The Knanaites ( Southists ), the endogamous group of Christians, regard themselves as descendents of Knayi- Thomman ( 795- 824 A D ), have never confused him with the Apostle Thomas of 1st c. According to them, their leader, on reaching at Cranganore,'found sixty four families of Christians who had remained steadfast in the faith from the days of the Apostle'.( See T S M ,p II /138 ). Hence,this argument is only a fanciful hypothesis of some foreign writers, with no historical support.
Referring to this theory, (of Trevor and C.M.Augur ), first colonial bishop of Nazranis, Francis Ros says,
… It is clear, how ill informed that author…attribute the origin of all the Christians of St. Thomas in Malavar, to the said Thomas of Cananeo…..most ancient tradition and certain conjectures of Christians of St. Thomas in Malavar, dating before the said Cananeo, the Olla of Xeram Perumal gives clear witness to it…….Therefore, it is clear and certain that there were Christians of St.Thomas in Malavar , and this the other Christians who descend from Thomas Cananeo also admit. ( Quoted by G. Nedungatt, in ‘ Quest for the historical Thomas’ p.138. ). Besides, the Kananites , the Jewish-Christian community in Kerala,,preserves a clear tradition as descendants of  Christians, belonging to 7 stocks and 70 ( 72 ) families , ( including a few priests, deacons ,and a bishop ) led by Merchant migrant Thomas of Kana, from Middle East landed at Kodungalloor in  345 A D . 
The next argument, the origin Malabar Christianity from,the Nestorian Missionaries, too is illogical.It is a historical truth that, as a result of the persecution by king Sapor ( 309 – 379 A D ), a good number East Syrian ( Nestorian ) Christians from Persia, fled to India.
The first mention of Christian presence, ie., of the immigrant Persian ( Nestorian, is the favorite nick- name coined by Western writers to call this oldest, apostolic Church, on account of some misconceptions ), is by Cosmos Indicopleustes , a World traveler, who himself, a Nestorian Christian ( 6th c A D ) : he mentioned and located Malabar Church, in 572 A D, in Male ( India ), where pepper grows and he adds the Christians of Taprobane ( Ceylon )whom he specifies as Persians, ( the latter he leaves unspecified , so they must have been natives of the country ) , had a bishop residing in Calina ( Kalyan ), ordained and sent from Persia. ( Christian Topography,p. 503.). By the time , when this group of Christians reached in India ( Malabar ), the original ( early ) converts of St.Thomas, were there. According to Syriac scholar A. Mingana, ‘ The persecution of Sapor gave a stimulus to the emigration of more Christians, from Southern Persia to India,…it is possible that a Christian community, of a comparatively important size existed before that time in India, and that it was more the existence of this community that attracted co-religionists from Persian in the time of the persecution than the bare sword of Sapor…….’ ( A. Mingana , ‘ Early spread of Christianity in India’ p.436.) He reiterated the fact that right from it’s inception, Indian Christianity has hierarchical dependency with Persian / Babylonian Churches / Seleucia-Ctesiphone , thereby the See of St.Peter. In a purely liturgical point of view, the version of Mr Augur can be accepted ( except the first part, about the origin) . The Chaldean ( East Syrian Missal of Mar Addai & mari etc. ) was ‘ established in South India before beginning of 6th c., from the Nestorian Patriarcate, on the banks of Tigris’ , is correct. So far as first introduction of the faith in India, it is not correct." It must be noted forthwith that the Nestorians ( Chaldeans ), themselves have not yet at any time laid claim to the introduction of Christianity into South India " ( D'Souza, In the Footsteps of St.Thomas, p.27 ).
In his famous Syriac letter, Mar Gabriel , the East Syrian bishop, reviewing all important incidents happened in Malabar Church of St.Thomas, right from 52 A D. ( Quoted by Dutch writer Vissicher , in his book , ‘ Letters from Malabar’, translated by K.P.Padmanabha Menon, p.44 ). The relevant part of the narration is as under:
Many years afterwards, a Tovenaar, called Mamukawasser, an enemy to Christianity, arrived……performing miracles to hinder it’s progress . And many of the principal Christians giving heed to him …….followed this false teacher……….This caused second apostasy ; so that out of the 160 families,96 adopted the heathen superstitions , 64 only adhering to the true faith. ( This is the state of affairs, when Nestorian missionaries came here.)Referring to the coming of Merchant migrant Thomas of Kanai,too he has given a similar description. ( See previous paragraph of this article.).
From these evidences, we can rightly conclude that the origin of Malabar Christianity is not from  Thomas, the Manichaen, Thomas of Canai or Nestorian missionaries, but from Apostle Thomas, in the first century itself.

Note : For remaining part of the article, refer Historical Validity of St.Thomas Tradition - 5 b.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Historical Validity of St. Thomas Tradition.( 4 ): Other historical references connecting Thomas & India

Pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle:

There are concrete evidences from history, to show that right from the early centuries of Christian Era, pilgrims flocked to the traditional site at Mylapore (in South India ), where Apostle Thomas lay buried. Not only from Malabar ( Kerala ), but also from numerous foreign countries. The candid references from Asseman ( Joseph Aloysius, Professor and an authority on Syro-Chaldaic and Arabic languages, in his book ‘A commentary on Chaldean Patriarchs’ ), about the pilgrimages of the Nazranis of Malabar, to the Mylapore tomb. In the pre-Portuguese period, Malabar Christians used to visit the Mylapore tomb. He confirms that, it took 25 days to reach Mylapore, by land route, as reported by four Chaldean bishops, in 1504, who after their arrival in Malabar, wrote to their Patriarch, Elias. Eminent Church historian, from Kerala, Mathias Mundadan, in his book, elucidates the centuries long pilgrimage by Nazranis, to pay homage at the holy sepulcher of Thomasleeha (A.M.Mundadan, ‘ Traditions S T C’, p.12 ).

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it is given that Alfred the Great, king of England, sent an embassy with offerings to St. Peter at his tomb in Rome and to St.Thomas, at his tomb in India ( 884, AD.). Yet another testimony on the subject, is that of St.Gregory of Tours ( 538—594). In his work, Gloria Martyrum (31,32, Thomapedia,p.204.),the saint gives extensive information about the martyrdom and burial of the Apostle in India (and transfer of his holy mortal remains to Edessa, in Syria), on the strength of the first hand information, obtained in writing from certain Theodore of Syria, who visited the Mylapore tomb. Western travellers,including Marco Polo (1293 ),Franciscan Friar, Monte Carvino , John Maringnoli (1349), Nicolo De Conti (1430 ),visited the Mylapore tomb, much early to the coming of the Portuguese. Early church father, John Chrysostom, ( 347—407 ), asserts the significance of Mylapore tomb of Thomas, by comparing it with those of Peter and Paul The great Arab traveler,Berbossa who visited India,in 1515 AD, also confirms that the tomb, at Chinnamala, in Mylapore, is of the Apostle ( Mundadan, Ibid,p.18 ). Marco Polo mentions being shown the spot of martyrdom of the Saint at the Mount, in the 13th century. Even up to the present day persons annually perform pilgrimages to this place to kiss the spot where he was slain, deposit their offering and report their prayers at the Apostle's grave . ( These clear references, will expose the prejudicial statement of eminent historian, Dr.M. G.S.Narayanan, that ‘Mylapore tomb’ has no importance before Portuguese Colonial period  ).
Marco Polo mentions being shown this spot ( Mailapore, the city of peacocks ),at the Mount,in the 13th century. Even up to the present day, persons annually performs pilgrimages to this place, kiss this spot, where he was slain, deposit their offerings and report their prayers at the Apostles’ grave. ( Francis Day, The Land of Perumals,p.212-13 ) In the narratives of Joseph, the Indian, one of the two Nazrani priests, who traveled to Portugal, etc. in the ship of Cabral ( in 1501 ), too there are references that,St.Thomas Christians of Malabar, used to conduct pilgrimages to Mylapore,where the body of the saint lay buried . ( 'The travels of Joseph, the Indian', translated by Antony Vallavanthara, p.214 - 15  and 259 ) .   
After critically examining all the contemporary literature on the subject, Adolf Medlecott , in his book ( India and Apostle Thomas,p.134 ), confirms that he is thoroughly convinced that the claim of Mylapore to be the place of martyrdom and of the burial of the apostle was not based on undeniable fact, the Christians of Malabar would never have acknowledged their neighbours’ claim to hold the tomb of the apostle, neither would they ever be induced to frequent it by way of pilgrimage. Had this been a case of a fictitious claim put forth to secure public notoriety and importance, they would as probably have, any way, set up one for themselves, and would have certainly ignored the claim of the former. In another place, he says,' Nicolo De Conti, an Italian merchant ( 1423--1430 ), speaks about the tomb of St. Thomas , at Malpuria which was venerated by Nestorians, who were " scattered all over India, as the Jews among us " ( A. Medlecott, Ibid p.95 ) 
The tomb of Mylapore is unique in the world in the sense that it is the only tomb believed to have been the burial-place of Apostle Thomas. Hosten ( in his book ' Antiquities from San Thome', p.4-5 ), quotes Mar Solomon(Archbishop of Perath-Meshan, 1222 AD.), as saying that the city in India, where Apostle Thomas is buried is Mahluph. No other place in India, but Mylapore answers to the last part of the statement.
The following words will show the in separable connection between Mylapore tomb and Nazrani religious practices:
“Their ‘holy water’,the preparation of which was left the Sacristan, consisted of common water, in which a few particles of earth, brought from the grave of St Thomas, at Mailapuram, were dissolved”( Accounts of Portuguese writer, Paoli, quoted by Francis Day in ‘ The Land of Perumals’ p.219).

Excavation at Mylapore:

The excavations, conducted by the Portuguese, in 1523, 1524 and in 1970 ( by Fr. Hamby etc.,with the support Archaeological Department of Tamilnadu government ) were not very fruitful, except provided some valuable insights to the historicity and authenticity of the tomb.(There is a wrong notion among some secular historians that the Tomb of St.Thomas,at Mylapore was located and identified by the Colonial Portuguese, who came here, in the 16th century. The fact is different. They got information about the tomb, from Nazranis of Kerala, and World travelers and other sources, as cited by the author, in the preceding paragraph of this article. In the initial period , Portuguese religious leaders were reluctant to conduct any excavation. For them, the ancient East Syriac Christian group, popularly known as MarThomaNazranis ( St.Thomas Christians), was not under the direct control of Roman See, hence schismatic. Besides, I
it was part of their strategy to win over these Christians by hook or crooke, they under took this unilateral excavation. Hence, it is a truth that some secular historians (and even Nazrani writers), view the Portuguese excavation and its findings ( e.g. the 'Bleeding Cross' of Mylapore ), with an element of suspicion. For them, Portuguese are 'master manipulators' in matters connected with religion. ). However, the following findings, were accepted by secular historians and government officials:
“For several centuries there was the Sepulcher of Thomas, well built, indeed; the brick in its eastern wall belong to the 1st century,AD” ( Hambye.S.J,St.Thomas and India.).
These bricks have been well preserved in the eastern wall of the tomb and when Mr. A.H.Longhurst, the Superindent of the Archaeological Department, Southern Circle, visited the tomb in 1921, said, that 'it must be very ancient, for the bricks used were of the same type as those used for the Buddhist Stupas, only that those in the Telugu country and in the North of India'… ( See Thomapedia, p.5.). Twenty years later, excavations were made to the south of Mylapore. The measurements and nature of the bricks found in the eastern wall of apostle’s tomb ( 15” x 8” x 2.9” ), and the oldest bricks unearthed by the excavation of 1945,at Arikkamedu near Pondicherry ( 150 km south of Mylapore ), the Roman trading station of 1st century, AD, looks one and the same. ( Ibid p.5. ) Remember, according to tradition, Martyrdom,of the Apostle took place in AD,72.
Further, the tomb excavated by the Portuguese at Mylapore, is no ordinary tomb (3 ½ mts deep) like the tomb of the kings buried in the vicinity. ( See references in the Nazrani's folklore, Rambanpaattu 5,7,3, and 2 ). ( The Indian tradition affirms that apostle Thomas died near the ancient town of Mylapore,his mortal remains were buried in the town, the spot in the chapel known after his name, that the Portuguese excavated in 1523, A D. According to tradition and clear description by Early Syriac Church Fathers like St.Ephraem,4th c. , St Paulinus of Nola,431. A.D., and St. Gregory of Tours, 594 A D , the mortal remains of St. Thomas, brought by an unnamed merchant, from India, subsequently buried in the shrine at Edessa, in Mesopotamia. ( See, Carmina Nisibina, 42, qutd. by Meddlecott.) Edessa was pillaged by Zangi of Mousul in 1144 A.D. and the shrine was destroyed by the Turks, who took away the casket in which the relics of the Apostle were kept. Ortona, in Italy claims to have got them from Mediterranean island of Chios in 1258 A.D.  and venerated there. (There is a general criticism about the genuineness of Ortona relics, calling it a 'pious fraud').
Remember, the excavation,conducted by the Portuguese , in 1524 A D , at Mylapore- tomb,could not discover the body of a person. (In 1953, part of the Ortona relic of St.Thomas, was brought to Kerala and installed at Church at Azhikode near Kodungalloor).
Critically examining the authenticity of the tomb, in the light of existing tradition and the
 excavation at Mylapore, eminent writer George Nedungatt, says : ' Tradition, western  as well as Indian, is positive and constant that the tomb of the Apostle Thomas is in India. Mylapore tomb is the only tomb of the Apostle ever known to history, a tomb without rival, like that of Peter in Rome. The archaeological evidence that this tomb was built with first century Roman bricks may not by itself be a clinching argument ; but within the whole setting of the Mylapore tradition it poses a question to those who demand contemporary documentary evidence about the mission of the Apostle Thomas in India". ( Quest for the Historical Thomas Apostle of India, by George Nedungatt, p.317)
Further excavations and research with the help of modern techniques and tools, ( e.g carbon-14 test) will throw more light to the validity of these conclusions, especially the ‘the age of the tomb'.

Antiquity of the term NAZRANI

Nazrani is the commonly used name, for St.Thomas Christians of Malabar ( Kerala ).Opinions varied about the origin of this term.Some people say, it means Nazarene. For some others, the name was given to the converts of  the Apostle , by the Jews, in seven Malabar  churches  ( settlements ), where Thomasleeha erected crosses first. According to yet another group of historians, it is a Syriac word, meaning  NAZARENE, given to converts of Apostle Thomas, even before the name CHRISTIAN, applied to the followers of Jesus , baptized at Antioch ( See Acts 11 /19 - 26 ).
According Bishop Francis Rose, they are popularly called Nasrani, that is for they are called by the Moors and Turks. ( Report of the Serra,George Nedungat, p.321.)
This seems to be a correct conclusion. In places like Ponnani, Malappuam etc,the name Nazrani, is used as a nick name to identify Christians.( The writer has personal experience in the matter.).
As per the Malabar tradition,Nazrani, Nazrani-Mappila,Marthomachristhyani, Margakkar etc.are synonyms to this ancient Christian community.
The facts cited above will pin point antiquity of the origin of the word prior to the time when the followers of Jesus begun to be called Christians, at Antioch.

Maarthoma Maargam ( Way of Thomas):

When ever there were interactions with the Portuguese Colonial priests, Nasranis dare to state that they were lead by Maarthoma Maargam ( Way of Thomas ). This shows that Nasranis,were always conscious about this Law ( Way ) of Thomas, inherited from their Apostle. “ It was the style of Christian life, strictly Indian or Malabarian. It was the sum total of their liturgical,ecclesiastical, social, cultural and political life,” (V.Pathikulangara,the ‘uniat’ Church of Thomas, p.351.) When ever they confront with the Portuguese, they declare that, The Law of Peter is different from Maarthoma Maargam. ( Documenta Indica,xiv /744 ).There were instances that the Nasranis resented with the Portuguese interference like that happened in Kodungallur, when perused them to eat fish and liquor in Lent, in violation of Maarthoma Maargam. ( See , Brown, ‘Christians of St.Thomas’, p.286).

Persian Crosses

Ancient Persian Crosses  or St.Thomas Crosses ( ? ), with Pahlavi ( Middle Persian ) inscriptions, unearthed from Mylapore- area , Anuradhapuram ( Ceylon )  and Goa, and found in several Kerala churches, like Kottayam,  Kadamattom,Muttuchira, Alengad, and Kothanalloor, attest the Persian – mercantile connection ,at the same time not at all connected with the Apostle.There is evidence that this cross ,as a meaningful Christian symbol, was popularized by East Syrian prelates like Mar Abraham and the alleged Manichaean connection to it, is the ‘invention’ of some perverted pundits. 

Some more significant references about the Indian mission of St.Thomas:

John, Bishop of Persia and Great India:

One of the earliest literary references, which can be deemed as history, about the Apostolic origin of Indian Church, is the documents of the Council of Nicea, held in 325.AD. There are records in the Vatican archives that,one of the Bishops, signed the decrees of the Council,as John, Bishop of Persia and Great India. We know nothing more, except what his signature tells us. But by all probabilities, he was the representative of Malabar Church of our India.

Letter of East Syrian Bishop, Mar Gabriel :

An interesting, at the same time authoritative, review of the hitherto history about the origin and spread of Christianity in Malabar, is that of East Syrian bishop Mar Gabriel  ( 1705 ), in the form of a ( lengthy ) letter in Syriac to Vissicher,the Dutch Protestant missionary, in the Dutch Colonial period. This would have been after making use of all local sources of information. May I take the liberty to reproduce some lines from that write-up:
"Fifty-two years after the birth of the Messiah, the holy Apostle Thomas, arrived at Mailapore on the coast of Coromandel, preaching the Gospel and founding churches there. Passing from thence to Malabar, the holy man landed on the island of Maliankarre,( situated between Cranganore and Paroe ), preached and taught, and built churches in that island,and likewise Cottacay,Repolym, Gokkomangalam, Pernetta, and Tirocusngotta; and having finished his work, in these parts, and ordained two priests, returned to the land of the Pandis,to teach the people there. But whilst he was thus occupied, the Apostle was pierced by the Heathens with spears and thus ended his life. In the course of a few years, all the priests in Hindostan and Malabar, died; and many years afterwards , a Tovenaar called Mamukawasser, an enemy to the Christian faith, arrived at Maliapore, performing many miracles to hinder its progress. And many of the principal Christians giving heed to him, forsook Christianity and followed this false teacher, Mamukawasser. ..........."( Notes on Vissichers, letters from Malabar ,K.P.Padmanabha Menon,p.44 )

Narratives of Joseph, the Indian:

A Nasrani priest from Malabar, who had traveled in the ship of Cabral ( 1501 ), to Mesopotamia, Europe, visited the Holy Patriarch of the East, ordained  as a priest by him, also visited the Holy Patriarch of the Western Church, ( the Pope of Rome ) etc... A book about this travel , contains valuable references about the antiquity of Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar, including their pilgrimages to Mailapore, where the body of the saint lay buried.( The Travels of Joseph, the Indian, Translated by Antony Vallavanthara,p.214-215 and 259 ). 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Historical Validity of St.Thomas Tradition (3)

Patristic testimonies on Saint Thomas:

Early Church fathers like, Ephraem ( 300-373 ) , Origen ( 186-255) ), Eusebius ( 260-340), Jerome (345-419), Paulinus ( 353-431), Ambros (333-397 ) etc., several ecclesiastical calendars, Martirology  and other works, explicitly connects St.Thomas, with India.
Almost all of them concur in saying that after the dispersion of the Apostles, St. Thomas preached among the Parthians and Oriental Churches in Syria, and Mesopotamia. They have always attributed to St.Thomas the preaching of the Gospel in India, and even far away China.
Witness of St.Ephraem, the Syrian.
One of earliest and most authentic accounts regarding the mission and martyrdom of Saint Thomas in India, is that of the great Poet-Theologian, and Doctor of the Church, St.Ephraem,(300-373). He sings the praise of Apostle Thomas, through his several hymns, especially of his Nisibene Hymn,which he lauds India, as his field of evangelization, place of death and burial. He also refers, subsequent transfer of his mortal remains to Edessa. The Nisibene Hymn, 42, clearly high lights, the following points:
1.Thomas,the Apostle, suffered martyrdom in India (Strophe 1.)
2. His body was buried in India (Ibid).
3 His bones were thence removed by a merchant to the City of Edessa.(II –III)
4.Miracles in Mylapore and Edessa.(I-III)
In a hymn, about the relics of Thomas at Edessa,he depicts as Satan exclaiming:
The Apostle whom I killed in India,comes to meet me in Edessa.( Carmina Nisibena---Quoted by Medlycot p.31St.Gregory,Nazianzen.).
, in a homily, connects the name of the Apostle by saying, “Judaea was the country of Peter,what had Saul to do with the Gentiles, Luke with Achaia, Andrew with Epirus , Thomas, with India, Mark with Italy”.
Another Church father, St.Ambrose, in his writings,mentions nations given to the Apostles by specifying, "kingdoms that had been shut off by rugged mountains lay open to them, as India to Thomas, as Persia to Matthew.”
The 9th century Martyrology of Usuard ( Idibus Juli ) distinguishes, the India of Bartholomeo , from the India of Thomas,which latter, it says, “is on the confines of the world”, where, “ Thomas pierced through.”
In the Martyrology of St.Jerome,(4th c )and in the liturgical text Menologion of the Greek Church,there are clear references about the Apostolate of St.Thomas in India and martyrdom in Mylapore.Saint Jerome gives extensive and authentic accounts about the Apostle, by saying,
(1) “he was with Thomas in India with Peter in Rome,and with Paul in Illyricum”.
(2) “….Apostle Thomas preached the Lord’s gospel to the Parthians, the Medes, the Persians……..died at Calamina in India and was buried there" ( C.M.Agur—Church History of Travancore,p.5 ).
St.Ambrose (333-397), Bishop of Milan, asserts ‘when Lord Jesus said to Apostles ‘go and teach all nations ‘even the kingdoms that had been shut off by barbaric mountains lay upon to them ‘as India to Thomas as Persia to Matthew’. (Ambrose,Enarratio, p.45.—quoted by Mackenzie, in T S M, Vol.2 /p.136). Describing the journey of a Thebean, he says, he reached ‘Muzirim totius Indiae citra Gangem emporium’ (Muziris, the emporium of all India on the side of Ganges) ( Ibid, p.45--, quoted by George Nedungatt in ‘Quest for the Historical Thomas..p.76.) Historians are almost unanimous that Muziris is none other than Kodungalloor / Pattanam near Paravoor in Kerala.of Pantaenus to India (189- 190.A.D)
The earliest historical event, which provides authentic information about the early century Nazrani Christians, and their Apostolic origin, is the visit of Pantaenus.
It has been asserted by Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea and the first Church historian, (264-340, A.D. ) that,Pantaenus , of Catechetical School at Alexandria, visited India. He met Christians there, who understood to have acquired Christianity from the Apostolic period itself. He happened to see a Hebrew (Aramaic) copy of the Gospel of Matthew, with them. From his interaction with them, he concluded that it was from Bartholomew, one of the Apostles, they became Christians. He brought home Gospel of Matthew, obtained from them.
Almost a similar reference can be seen in the descriptions of another Church Father St.Jerome,(345-490). According to him,Pantaenus , a Stoic, scholar-philosopher, was sent to India by Demetrius, Bishop of Alexandria, to preach Christ to the Brahmans and the philosophers….Clement goes on to describe some more details : the philosophers and gymnosophists with whom Pantaenus came into contact and mentions Bramanas and " Sarmane, whom are also called Hylobii ; and neither in habit of shave roofs over their heads, and know not marriage and begetting children"( Quoted in Madras State Gazetteers,1915,-- Syrian Christians I / 201 ).
Though, historians in general, admit the visit of Pantaenus as a historical reality, a section of them , doubts about the specific detail. According to them, the word India, however, of those days, has a wide meaning, a large portion of the globe, consisting, two Indias, India Major and the Indian subcontinent. Hence, which part of the India, Pantaenus visited, is not certain. Refuting this argument, eminent old generation English historian, William Logan, ( in his book, Malabar Manual, p.17 ), opines, ‘it is extremely likely that it was on the Malabar Coast’. It is certain that intercourse between Alexandria and the Malabar Coast must have been both direct and frequent , and the fact that Pantaenus went to India, Major, and to Mouziris becomes highly probable. Further, Jerome mentioned the purpose of his visit as ‘to preach Christ to Bramanas’ ( Brahmins ), who are seen in India only.
Recent historical findings:
Apart from these, we can have two recent, important, historical findings, capable of reinforcing the historicity of the visit of Pantaenus, as well as apostle Thomas.
They are:
1) the discovery of Vienna Papyrus, in 1980, ( the second century mega trade agreement, by the supplier at Muziris ( Kerala / India ) to a party in Alexandria, on account of regular shipment of merchandise to the latter.) and
2) the findings of the archeological excavations at Muziris Heritage Zone ( Pattanam), by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) in collaboration with ASI. This papyrus document, in Vienna-museum  and large quantity of things unearthed from Muziris ( Pattanam) Excavation Sites, ( such as, large quantity of precious stones, Roman Glass, terracotta lamp, ferrous artifacts,Early Chera Copper coins, Italian gold ornaments, Pottery with Brahmi script with a Cross(10mm), Chinese ceramics,Boat (Vanchi),6mtr.,Warf with canoe (Jesus vessel, nick name), Turquois Glazed Pottery, indicating Mesopotamian links ( Parthian/ Sassanian), Mediterraean amphora shreds, Botanical remains like Frankincense (Kunthirikkam), etc.(quoted from a publication of KCHR ), proved, beyond doubt that Muziris was a great emporium, trade center and Port, having a legacy of three centuries. Astonishingly, these findings are contemporary, in all respects, and matching with descriptions of Eusebius and Jerome.
St. Thomas or St.Bartholomew ?
Then comes the question who was the Apostle, who evangelized the predecessors of the Christians, met by Pantaenus in India? St.Thomas or Batholomew?
Contrary to accounts of all authorities and Church fathers, both Eusebius and Jerome, confirm that it was Apostle Bartholomew . So long as there is no local traditions associating the event with Bartholomew or evidence from any other authorities or sources, about the coming of Bartholomew in India and evangelized Indians, this is nothing but sheer confusion of identities due to the pronunciation of the Malayalam equivalent of St. Thomas, MARTHOMA and the word, BARTHOLOMEW. Remember, there is a time gap of 100 years each between, the preaching of Gospel by the Apostle , the visit of Pantaenus ,and the reporting of this.Further, the information collected are from an unknown language-speaking people, that too after a long gap of time.Hence, there is no room for doubt that it is Apostle Thomas. Eminent secular historian, K. P. Padmanabha Menon, (History of Kerala, II / 464 ),
Church historians, E. M. Philipose, ( The Indian Church of Marthommasleeha, p.47 ), and Z. M.Paret , ( Marthomanazranikal, I / 47. ), too are fully in agreement with the view that it is result of confusion of pronunciation. 
World travelers on St.Thomas Christians :
In their travelogues, renowned World Travelers, Cosmos Indicopleustes (335 A.D.), and Marco Polo ( 1293), and Nicolo De Conti ( 1430 ), give valuable references about the flourishing Church of Malabar, said to have been established by Apostle Thomas.
The first indisputable reference to Christians in Malabar is that of Cosmos Indicopleustes, (surname, means ,the Indian Voyager ) , a clergy man of Alexandrian Church. He was specially deputed with the study of the spread of Christianity ,all over the world. He published his findings, through his voluminous work, Topographia Chrisiana ( Christian Topography ). In this book ,he describes Male ( Malabar ), as the most reputed pepper growing area, indicating ‘Male ou pousse le poivre’. Describing the vast multitude Christians in the area, he confirms that in a place called ‘Kalliana’, there is a Bishop, ordained in Persia and one likewise, on the island of Diascoria too. (Ref. Mingana.A.,Early spread of Chritianity,p.29-30 ). As per general opinion, Male is Malabar;Kalliana is, Kalyan near Mumbai. And Diascoria means, Socotra.
Maco polo, the Venetian traveler, who visited the tomb of St. Thomas in 1293, states “The body of Messer St.Thomas,the apostle, lies in the province of Maabar ( Malabar), at a little town having no great population….Both Christians and Saracens, however, greatly frequent it in pilgrimage, for the Saracens also hold the saint in great reverence” ( Henry Yule, the book of Marco Polo II / 18 )
St.Thomas and India:Evidences from Syriac liturgy.
Lex orandi, Lex credendi is a dictum in Theology,.means,Law of prayer is the Law of Faith. When a particular liturgical verse/hymn is chosen for using/reading in a particular day/occasion,(eg.Martyrdom/Death anniversary/Feast etc. ), it will be having a rational basis (e.g.history). It was the practice prevailed in the early days of Christianity, that a particular day/date, in the calendar, is set apart, in memory of the Apostles or approved Saints. “All who depart out of this world, as Martyrs, should be commemorated on the day when they were put to death”, says Canon 18 of ancient Syriac document, 'Didascalia' (Quoted by F.C. Burkitt—Kerala Society Papers, Series VI / 287 )This was the general principle, upon which, ecclesiastical calendars and were prepared and used by various Churches in the early Christianity. (Of course there are exceptions).
Readings, from the 'Liturgy of the Hours', selected for the death anniversary/birth day of Saints ( e.g. St.Thomas )must have considerations, on these lines. Thus, if we scan several ecclesiastical calendars,martyrologies and liturgical texts of Mesopotamian, Coptic, Greek, and Latin Churches, we can see some direct or indirect references about the Mission and Martyrdom of St.Thomas in India.
Dukhrana ( St.Thomas Day ),July 3rd.
Commemoration ( Dukharana), on the 3rd of Thamus, ie. 3rd July, is almost universal  in all the Syriac Churches, East Syriac( Chaldean ) as well as West Syriac ( Jacobite), at least from 4th Century,A.D. This is, said to be, in accordance with Hieronymian Martyrology and tradition.Further,July 3rd as Martyrdom day for Latin Church too, as clearly attested by Nissenus and St.Ephrem. ( Ibid, p.297. )
The under noted references from the ancient Syriac Liturgy will elucidate this point:
1) In the East Syriac (Chaldian ) Liturgy (General):
In the “Liturgy of the Hours”, Lelya (The Night Prayer) celebrates St.Thomas in India., saying”, Thomas died on a seashore in India, pierced by a lance” and in Sapra ( Morning Prayer), ‘Apostle Thomas, you built your tent on the seashore; pray to God Almighty to fill us with joy together with you in heaven’.
2) In the East Syriac ( Syro-Malabar) Liturgy :
In the “Liturgy of the Hours for priests’”,in use from early centuries, there are clear references , about the Martyrdom of St.Thomas (Dukhrana), in India:
i) In the Lelya prayer of 1st, 5th ,6th day and of St.Thomas’Day ( Dukhrana) and  in
ii) Ramsa prayer.
In the East Syriac Liturgy of Persian Churches, Dukhorana prayer is limited to one day,where as that of Malabar Church, it is for a week.
3) Jacobite/ Orthodox Syrian Liturgy (Malankara):
For Churches of Kerala, using West Syriac Liturgy and Missal of St.James, too, St.Thomas Day (Dukhrono), is a” holy day of Obligation. In various hours of “Divine Praises” from  
time immemorial, recital of verses with clear reference to the Apostle and India.
4) Antiochean (Syrian) Liturgy:
In the prayers of Sapra (Morning ) and of Dukorono (St.Thomas Day) there are references about Thomas and India.
5)Western( Latin) Liturgy:
In the Western Liturgical calendar, Sacramentanes, Missal and Roman Martyrology of St.Jerome, extensive references about the mission of Thomas in India.
6) Byzantine (Greek )Liturgy:
In the Menologion (Martyrology ), of the Greek Church,codified in the 10th Century and Liturgy Text, (Synaxarion ),of the Church of Constantinople, October 6th is the day of Martyrdom of St.Thomas.
7) Ethiopian Liturgy:
In the ancient daily prayer book of Ethiopian Church, October 6th is the feast for remembering St.Thomas.
These direct references from the ancient liturgical texts provide authentic corroborative evidence to historians and researchers.