Origin and Migration
St. Thomas came to Palayur, as per tradition as the second place of his visit after Kodungallur. The place was a Jain and Budhist centre. So called Dravidian Population was the predominant section in the society. Palayur had Brahmin and Jewish colonies. Pliny AD. 52 the Greek traveler mentions “Palura” and “Brahmagora” which are suspected to be Palayur and Brahmakulam on the Arabian Sea Coast, one km. inside. It was a trade city as well as a confluence point of many religions.
The incident of St. Thomas meeting the Brahmins is interesting. The Brahmins were doing the Tharpanam in the Thalikulam. Apostle asked them, whether they can hold the water in the atmosphere. They said they cannot do it against the gravitational rule. Then the apostle did the miracle, and the water remained in the sky and the trogh was seen on the surface of the water. Perceiving the upperhanded power of the Apostle, the four families accepted the faith of the apostle. It is interesting to note that the same story exist in northern Iran and Turkish mosul area,that Apostle Thomas did this miracle and converted Zorastrians to Christianity. The miracle appears to be the stock-in-trade of the apostle. Doubting Thomas who believed only after seeing things made the people believe by showing vision miracle. Physical experience was the key.
The four Brahmin families who accepted Baptism were Pakalomattam, Kalli, Kalliankel and Sankarapuri. Of this Pakalomattam and Sankarpuri were given sole right on Priest hood. The pakalomattam Brahmins were the traditional Vedic instructionist teachers. They were called oathans in ancient kerala. That may be why they were given chief priest position. The Pakalomattam house was one furlong west of Palayur Church, and the house plot even now is existing in Survey No: 64/7. The festival of Palayur Church falls on July – 15, the supposed day in which the Brahmins accepted Christian faith. The other Brahmins cursed the place and left, thus in Malayalam the place came to be called “Sapakad” or cursed land, which later became “Chavakkad” and now Chowghat. Many modern historians are of the opinion that Brahmins did not reach kerala before the 4th century. The Brahmin supremacy of Kerala became evident by the 8th century. This coincides with the decline of Budhism and Jainism in Kerala, largely due to the Advaita movement of Sankaracharya, (788-820 AD). But this does not mean that no Brahmins were there in the south before 8th century.
Where there Brahmins in Kerala in 1st century?
Kerala was known to Vedic Aryans even in Rigvedic Period 5000 years ago. In the Sanskrit Sloka defining India starting “Uttaram Yat Samudrasya”, the geographical boundaries were given in Rig Veda. In the Mahabharata war (dated at 1400 B.C. by Pagiter) Kerala Chief Participated by giving food to both sides. He is called “Perumchottudian” in the epic. The epic Mahabharata mentions the kings by the name “Pandyancha. Cheralan”. In Rig Vedic Nadi Suktam or sloka of rivers which name the rivers. “Imam me Ganga, Yamuna” etc. the river Kaveri is mentioned. Hence after knowing Kerala for three thousand years, the Brahmins never came to Kerala for three millennium is an absurd theory. The Budhism and Jainism were very strong in Kerala, but that does not mean that Sanatana dharma, with its intellectual missionary vanguard, the Brahmins were absent in Kerala. Budhism and Jainism were Kshatriya and Vaisya revolts against Brahminism, and were in essence Hindu reform movements. Hence to say that the reform movements were here, but the original Brahmins and Hinduism were not here, is quite absurd. Aryans and their Indian forefront the Brahmins were very good travelers. They started from the Bohoemian Plateau by 3000 B.C. By 2300 B.C. they traveled 2500 kms and captured the Indus Valley destroying Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Their western cousins reached Palestine as Hittiles and were fighting Egyptian Pharoah Rameses II in the Battle of Kadesh in 1545 B.C. They traveled 2000kms in 1000 years. They reached Greece as Dorians and conquered Greek Peninsula by 1250 B.C. they reached Rome and Italian Peninsula by 756 B.C. they overrun spain and Britain by 55 B.C. they took only 1000 years to overran the whole of Europe. From sind to the conquest of Gangetic basin they took less than 1000 years. Hence to argue that the Aryans will take more than 2500 years to reach Kerala, to say the least is foolishness. The Mosshika Vamsam Kavyam shows that the Haihayas reached Payyannur (North Kerala), in the 5th century B.C.Parasurama came at this time. The Parasurama legend shows the Aryanisation of western coast including Kerala. Hence the Brahmins reached Kerala in the 5th century B.C.
The confusion was created when the word Nampoothiri was used in the Palayur conversion story. Nampoothiri Brahmins are the Maratha Brahmins, who came as invaders to Kerala. Parasuramas ruled in the Narmada Valley of Maharastra. A Malwa King named Parasurama is supposed to have invaded Kerala and brought the Brahmins by force. “Illam” the word came from Marathi word “Illu” which means house. As they came by rowing in boats they were called Narambu=Row, and Nayambu –Thiris. Thus coming of Maratha Brahmins to Kerala, may have happened in the 4th and 5th centuries, and by 6th century they got the caste Name Nampoothiri. By 8th century sankaracharya a Nampoothiri is seen carrying his Sankara Dig Vijayam throughout India.
In the Sanghakala works we come across Brahmins by name “Anthanar”. The second century Sanghakala poet Kapilar was a Anthanar Brahmin. The anthanar is used even by Ramapurathu warrier in his Vanchipattu. Agasthya and Tholkapiyar B.C. IInd century to A.D. IInd century the precursors of Tamil literature were Brahmins. In B.C. second century itself the King Chandragupta Maurya resigned and came along with Sanyasis and Brahmins to Sravana Belagola in South Karnataka and lived there. Another 150 kms of travel and the Brahmins could reach Kerala. The Parasurama legend shows large scale migration of Brahmins to Kerala. Chanakya, the Black Brahmin prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya in B.C.3rd century was a South Indian Brahmin from golla country. A.S.P. Ayyar tells, Golla country is Kollam. In the Panthirukulam story Vararuchi, one of the Navaratnas of Vikramaditya (AD. 320 – 360) is shown as visiting Kerala. All this shows that Brahmins were only Pandits and not the ruling class. The early chaldean and mesopotomian languages also indicate Indian religion and the word used is Brahmin.
These are the Brahmins met by St. Thomas in Palayur. The epithet Nampoothiri was a later addition in the 16th century. Hence when we read Nampoothiri it may be understood as Brahmin or Anthanar.
St. Thomas and Persian connection
Indian church from the beginning maintained intimate connection with the Persian Church. St.Thomas tradition in Persia is one of the causes for the same. Adai the disciple of St. Thomas is believed to be the founding father of the Church of Edessa and Mari the disciple of Adai is believed to be founding father of the church of Seleucia tesiphon. St. Thomas himself preached in Persia. Aramaic the spoken language of Jesus, became the liturgical language of all these places shows the common origin of four places and churches. First we had relation with furs, and by 7th century Indian Church was connected with Seleucia. The Persian patriarch (714-728) gave metropolitan Bishop to India. Patriarch Timoty (778 823) brought Indian Church under his control. Till 1558, Kerala Church had Persian Bishops visiting them for spiritual needs. Last Persian Bishop was Mar Abraham who died in 1597 and was buried in Ankamali church. But the practical administration was done by Archdeacons appointed from the Pakalomattam family. Before the advent of Portugese, it is believed that a Christian dynasty called Villarvattam ruled from 13th to 16th century with Diamper as capital. This shows the high Social Status of Christians in those two centuries. The Biblical names, the burial customs and the same social beliefs of all four Christian churches came from the common source of the Persian Church.
The major Pakalomattam Migration to Kuravillangad
It is believed that a major portion of the four Brahmin converted families migrated to Kuravilangad. Many believe that it happened in the 4th century AD some say exactly 337 AD. Some historians are of the opinion that actually it is 337 K.E ie 824+337 = 1161 AD. The stories and legends connected with the construction of Kuravilangad Forane church are the result of later mix of history with some fertile imaginations. The miraculous intervention of St. Mary in the construction of the church is evident. The never drying welll on the hill top is an evident testimony. According to tradition prevalent in Kuravilangad the church was founded in 345 A.D.
Before the church construction the four Brahmin converted Christian families stayed in Kalikavu. They retained the old names. In survey volume 179, survey No. 519/8 is the plot of Pakalomattam. The other three families have their plots nearby. The tombs found in the plots show that the families buried their people in the plots themselves. At the time of the construction of the church, some of the four families shifted their residences to the four corners of the church property. Before this construction in the newsite, there may be small church in old Kalikavu in the Pakalmattam property. The adjacent plot is called “Srambical” which indicates a “Srambi” or house of a priest was nearby. All four families jointly constructed the church and that is why the trustees were divided to all families. The permission of all family chiefs were asked to start the church festival. The pakalomattam family stayed just on the northern side of the church, between the present Devamatha college plot and the northern wall. It was called Palli Vadakkedam family. As Pakalomattam was the chief priests among the four, they stayed closest to the church. They were called Palli Veedu. Only Vadakkedathu family got this epithet. Other branches are panamkuzha, Puthenpura, Kudukkasseri, Vettikunnel etc. A large number of leaders in spiritual and social leadership came out of Panamkuzha Branch.
The Pakalomattam Kalikavu branch existed upto 17th century. The two great Archdeacon Geevarghese of Christ and Archdeacon Geevarghese of the cross were born in this root family. Geevarghese of Christ was appointed as bishop of Palayur, but due to Portugese intrigue he couldn’t be ordained. As Archdeacon’s Position of the Bishop was above that of bisop it is suspected that the may have refused the position also. Archdeacon Geevarghese of the cross who have to suffer a lot was holding charge of Arch Deacon and Bishop’s Administrator when the synod of Diamper 1599 was held. He survived till 1637 AD, and he belonged to this root family. With his elder brother’s death, the root family became supportless and the children shifted residence to Kuravilangad Alappat family.
The plot adjacent to the root family has the tombs of Archdeacons. This is a holy land for all of us. It is very unfortunate that enough importance is not given to this plot in history. In 1925 P.J. Thomas reminded everyone that a memorial structure may be built here. The plot was in the ownership of alappatt family. But except 14 cents of land, the rest was sold to Parakkunel thommen Ouseph. His son P.J.thomas gave 24 cents of this to the church. The land kept by Alappatt family gave that land in a gift deed to the church in 1953. in 1963 a cupola was built there. Alappat Fr: Paulose was the vicar of the church at that time. The Nalukettu ground floor was visible even at that time. The well is preserved. Twenty feet east of the well are the tombs of the Archdeacons. So many favors are received for all those who seek their intercession. The Pallivadakkedem Branch also sold their property in 1936. In 1793 an Auseph from this family migrated to Kurichithanam. His elder brother is Marthoma VII who died in 1809. Later their successors lived here. Now most of this area is the parking stand of the church.
Ankamali and Niranam period of Pakalomattam Family
Pakalomattam family came to Ankamali in 480 AD. Whether they came from Palayur to Ankamali traveling 70 kms South or they travelled from Kuravilangad to Ankamali traveling 70 kms north is not known. Ankamali church was built in 480 AD. Later in the 14th century, the Archdeacon shifted his residence from Kuravilangad to Ankamali along with some family members. When portugese came to Kerala, ankamali was the HQ of the Kerala Church. In 1608 the Ankamali diocese was abolished and Shifted to Cranganore. Then Archdeacon went back to Kuravilangad. For 200 years Ankamali remained capital of Kerala christians and Pakalomattam family. One Archdeacon’s tomb is visible in Ankamali church. 200 Pakalomattam families live in and around Ankamali, and they are available in all denominations of the church.
In 1653 the pledge of the Coonen cross happened at Mattancherry. Those who resisited the Portugese interference in Church affairs went to south and made Niranam their HQ. many Pakalomattam families stay there. It remained HQ till it was shifted to Kottayam in the 20th century.
Extinction of Kalli and Kalliankal and merger with Pakalomattam
By 17th century Kalli family became without heir. A boy from Palliveedu of Pakalomattam was adopted by Kalli family. From then Kalli Veedu came to be called Palli Veedu. All Kalli Veedu families at present are Pakalomattam branches only. Kalli willnot become “Palli” by any Linguistic twists as argued by some. As per phonetics ‘Pe’ will convert to “be” and “Ke” may become “che” or “je”. Hence Palli can become “balli” and “Kalli” can become “Challi” or “Jalli”. But Kalli cannot change to palli by any phonetic shifts. Hence the theory held by some that Kalli Veedu later came to be called palli veedu is fallacious. Only because Kalli Veedu took “dathu” or adoption from Pakalomattam Palli Veedu, it later came to be called Palli Veedu. Like wise Kalliankal also became heirless and Pakalomattam boys were adopted into their family. All families which claim descent from Kalli and Kalliankal are actually at present branches of Pakalomattam.
The Large Scale Migration and Diaspora formation of Pakalomattam
From 13th century onwards large Scale migrations happened in the Pakalmattam family. This was largely due to some reasons. By the 13th century a superstition spread in Kerala which said that if a thing became impure by Theendal and Thodeel (the custome with which an untouchable touch maje thing impure) it can be purified by a touch of Nazrani Christians. Hence all royal families and Brahmin families took a Christian family fom Pakalomattam root and accommodated them near their houses. All important towns got Christian presence in this way. In 1484 the Travancore King issued an edict giving monopoly right for trade in Travancore to Christians. Mahapillai means Merchant, which later shortened to Mappilai a term used to denote Christians in South Kerala. In the north the same name was given to muslims because the Zamorin of Calicut gave monopoly trade rights to Muslims. Many Christian trade centers developed. They wanted churches and each of them came to Pakalomattam and took a priest to their places. In 1313, Nilackal was destroyed in the civil war between Veera Pandyan and Sundara Pandyan in which Malik Kafur’s Muslim Army also took part. Christians from this city fled to the central Travancore plains. They established churches, and took priests from Pakalomattam family. In 1543 the Portugese soldiers attacked Thevalakkara temple and plundered Gold from there. The Nair soldiers bought back and got back a major portion of it. Kollam was Christian majority Town. The Venad King feared that if the native Christians join with the Portugese it is a real threat to the Kingdom. Hence he ordered that half of the Christians of Kollam to move out to the villages. All these new settlements built churches there and they took priests from the Pakalomattam family. Lot of migrations happened because of quarrels in the Kuravilangad church as recorded in individual family histories. Later migration spread them throughout Kerala. The cumulative effect of these migrations was that the strength of Pakalomattam family declined in Kuravilangad and other families took prominent places there. But Pakalomattam family spread to all major towns in Kerala and became dominant in Hundreds of places in Kerala. Now they have their family members in almost all countries of the world.