The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church had a part to play in the historic visit of Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi to Israel. PM Modi presented PM Netanyahu replicas of 2 sets of relics from Kerala that are regarded as key artifacts in the long Jewish history in India. One of them was was made possible with the cooperation of Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church which was publicly acknowledged by the Prime Minister on Twitter.
They comprise two different sets of copper plates that are believed to have been inscribed in 9-10th century C.E. The first set of copper plates is a cherished relic for the Cochini Jews in India. It is regarded as a charter describing the grant of hereditary royal privileges and prerogatives by the Hindu King, Cheraman Perumal (often identified as Bhaskara Ravi Varma) to the Jewish leader Joseph Rabban. According to traditional Jewish accounts, Joseph Rabban was later crowned as the Prince of Shingli, a place in or equated with Cranganore.
Cranganore is where Jews enjoyed religious and cultural autonomy for centuries, before they moved to Cochin and other places in Malabar. Local Jews once placed in each coffin a handful of earth from Shingli/Cranganore that was remembered as a holy place & a “second Jerusalem”. The replica of these plates was made possible with the cooperation of the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry, Kochi.
The second set of copper plates is believed to be the earliest documentation of the history of Jewish trade with India. These plates describe the grant of land and tax privileges by the local Hindu ruler to a church and oversight of trade in Kollam to West Asian and Indian trading associations. West Asian association included Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, as also a group of Jews who signed in Judeo-Persian and possibly also in Arabic and Pahlavi (Middle Persian). The plates bear their signatures that appear to have been cut into the plates by a local workman unfamiliar with the script. The replica of these plates was made possible with the cooperation of Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in Thiruvalla, Kerala.
In addition, Prime Minister @narendramodi also presented PM @netanyahu a Torah scroll donated by the Paradesi Jewish community in Kerala. Handwritten over a hundred years ago, the scroll had been dedicated to the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi that had been built in 1568. The Torah is enclosed on wooden staves in a wooden case adorned with silver sheets.
And a metal crown covered in gold sheets in floral ornament style, bearing motifs typical of lamps and decorations of South India.
Listen to a rare 33 year old recording to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Hoskote Mission Field.
The recording was done in June 1984 during Mrs Mariamma Joseph’s (co-founder of the mission) address to the Dubai Mar Thoma Parish. She spoke about the beginning of Hoskote Mission and the challenges faced by the pioneering missionaries.
The Hoskote Mission Medical Center was established in 1947 in Hoskote, Bangalore Rural District, Karnataka by two missionaries Mr. M. T. Joseph and Mr. A.C. Zachariah along with their wives Mariamma Joseph and Saramma Zachariah.
Read more about this incredible story (Free PDF)
To read a more detailed biography of Mr. & Mrs. M.T.Joseph (Free PDF)
To read a more detailed biography of Rev. A. C. Zachariah (Free PDF)
Arrival of Basel Missionaries in South Canara—- Brief History of Basel Mission in India
175 years and still going strong…
Basel Mission Press, which pioneered the printing revolution in coastal districts 175 years back, continues to breathe in Mangaluru, although not in its earlier glory. Established in 1841, the press is now recognised as Balmatta Institute of Printing Technology and Book Craft, located at Balmatta, Mangaluru. The institution has seen many ups and downs in a century. The printing press is currently run by KACES (Karnataka Christian Educational Society) and continues to operate.
175 glorious years for Basel Mission Press
The press is also evidence to the first Kannada newspaper ‘Mangaluru Samachara’, the first copy came out in 1843 as a fortnightly. The landmark publications in Kannada, Tulu, Malayalam and Konkani languages were also printed in the same printing press.
The printing revolution in Dakshina Kannada was pioneered by German Missionaries who landed in Mangalore on 1834,
On 23rd October 2016 (20th Sunday after Pentecost), Family Sunday is celebrated by the CSI church, CNI church and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church. The focus of the service is on the “Faith that has to be formulated in family life”.
Download this free pdf Ebook published in Malayalam in 1951 that is still relevant to today’s Christian life. This book can be used as a resource for your Family Sunday service. The link can be shared and used by church members, parishes and church organizations. It can be accessed on any smartphone, tablet or computer for free.
Everyday millions of Indians use the Indian 500 Rupee note with the image of the historic Dandi Salt march by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 that triggered the wider Civil Disobedience Movement leading to India’s freedom from the British. Among the marchers that would change India’s destiny was just one Christian and a Mar Thomite, Shri Thevarthundiyil Titus also known as ‘Titusji’. He is represented on the Indian Rs. 500 note as a “Christian Priest” (circled in blue in the image above). However he was sidelined and never received a pension from the Central Government, State Government or Freedom Fighter’s Associations. His own Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church seems to have no recollection of him or given him due recognition. Tituji’s home Parish, Maramon Mar Thoma Church or the Bhopal Parish St.Peter’s Mar Thoma Church which began in his residence have all but forgotten their illustrious son and his contribution to the nation’s freedom.
The image on the Indian 500 Rupee note is that of a sculpture made in tribute of the march in the heart of Delhi city, on the Sardar Patel Marg. The sculpture shows ten Indian people following Gandhi on his path-breaking civil disobedience protest, hence the name “Gyarah Murti” (Eleven Statues). The Christian priest was included to represent the only Christian in the march – Titusji. A devout Gandhian – he was known by the name Titus in his earlier days. “Titusji” was the name given to him by Mahatma Gandhi as a token of love and honour.
“Gandhi’s iconic retinue in the sculpture includes a woman with her head covered following close after him; a cluster of three men including a turbaned Sikh visibly of high pedigree, a Hindu scholar with a topi and an emaciated Muslim peasant; a Hindu man wearing a turban as a mark of intellectual distinction, with a religious mark etched on his forehead; an impoverished peasant looking far ahead, bearing no marks of class, caste or religion on his body; a Christian priest; another woman in a skirt and a young boy egging on a weary old man to travel farther.” ~ www.sodelhi.com
Titusji (b.18 Feb, 1905) hailed from a farming family, (Theverthundiyil, Maramon) in Kerala. He was a member of the Maramon Mar Thoma Parish. After his high school graduation, he taught in a school in Vadasserikkara (a village about 20 km away from Maramon), for a few years and then joined the Allahabad Agriculture University and cleared an Indian Dairy Diploma course with distinction.
Titusji-The Freedom Fighter
Gandhiji’s way of life, his principles and his simplicity greatly influenced Titusji that he decided to join Gandhiji’s Ashram named” Goshala “in Sabarmati. The lifestyle there was simple and austere, to say the least. All the inmates in the Ashram were allowed only two pairs of clothing and every one had to do his own chores. Early morning after prayers and two hours of charkha, each one was assigned his or her duties.He was selected by Mahatma Gandhi as a secretary for his milk project in the Sabarmati Ashram near Ahmedabad. Mr. Gulzarilal Nanda (who later became acting prime mister of India) was the secretary of another unit. Both of them were trusted friends of Gandhiji. Titus got married in 1933, to Annamma (Ikarethu House, Kozhencherry). Annamma, after her marriage, joined the Sabarmati Ashram and she donated her wedding ornaments to the Ashram. Gandhiji was very keenly interested in the activities of the dairy at the Ashram .It was in these formative years that Titusji got to know Gandhiji personally and his commitment to the freedom struggle was made stronger.
The Dandi March
.In 1930, when Mahatma Gandhi decided to break the salt law, he chose trusted Titus to be one of the selected 80 men. On March 12, 1930, Gandhi and 78 male satyagrahis set out, on foot, for the coastal village of Dandi, Gujarat, some 240 miles from their starting point in Sabarmati. Titusji was one of the satyagrahis who accompanied Gandhi in this historic event known as “Dandi March” or “The Salt Satyagraha.” Titusji was the only Christian in that group. They were beaten up and arrested by the British Police. Titusji was arrested during the march to the Dharasana Salt depot. He was initially imprisoned in the Jalalpur jail and subsequently shifted to the Nasik jail.
An interesting observation about Titusji’s participation in the Dandi march was that he was not wearing the Gandhi cap during the march. Apart from him, Gandhiji was the only other person who did not wear a cap. When some of the other marchers complained to Gandhiji about it, Gandhiji took the stand that no one should be compelled to wear one.
On being released from the prison, Titusji went back to the Sabarmati Ashram. In 1932 Gandhiji asked him to take charge of the ‘Goshala’ (Dairy farm) at the Ashram again. It was while he was here in 1933 that his marriage took place to Annamma, a caring, warm person who supported Titusji in all his difficult times.
Titusji’s eldest daughter Aleyamma was born when he was at Sabarmati Ashram. In 1933, Gandhiji suddenly decided to disband the Ashram .Gandhiji’s instructions to Titusji was that he take the entire cattle out of the Ashram and protect the cattle. Following Gandhiji’s orders, Titusji shifted all the cattle and staff members out of the ashram and took shelter in a Panjrapole (animal shelter). Titusji slept in the stables beside the cattle through out the monsoon He worked hard to keep up the various activities of the Goshala. It was a tough life but since hardships were a way of life, Titusji did not have any problem obeying such orders.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Visit to Kerala – 1934
During one of his visits to Travancore (Kerala) Titusji burnt British-made clothes (foreign clothes) in Kottayam and gave a fiery speech to thousands of Malayalees to join the freedom movement.
Mahatma Gandhi visited Titusji’s house in Maramon (Theverthundiyil) in 1934 on his way to the famous Hindu temple in Aranmula near Chengannur. He assured Titusji’s father that his son is safe and sound. This was considered one of the greatest events in Central Travancore. In and around Maramon, thousands witnessed his visit.
Involvement in Dairy
Gandhiji by this time was totally busy travelling the length and breadth of the country in mobilizing the masses for the cause of independence. In-spite of his hectic schedules he still took interest in the activities of the ‘Goshala’ (Dairy farm) and was in touch with Titusji. Gandhiji in one of his letters to Titusji in 1933 wrote “I wanted to come and see the ‘Goshala’ (Dairy farm), but it was impossible for me to spare the time during the few hours that I was in Ahmedabad….I knew however that you were working very hard to make the ‘Goshala’ (Dairy farm) a success and to keep it in a clean condition….. I want you to write to me from time to time telling me all about the progress of the ‘Goshala’ (Dairy farm).”
Then in the middle of 1935, Gandhiji decided to handover the entire ashram property including ‘Goshala’ (Dairy farm) to the Harijan Sevak Sangh and then the Sabarmati Ashram thereafter ceased to be the hub of activities as far as the freedom movement was concerned. Titusji then worked in various Dairy farms as Manager in different parts of India. Due to the frequent change of places, his elder children Aleyamma, Titus and Easow stayed with relatives in Travancore .Then during the time of independence he was in Delhi as Manager with Keventers Diary.
In the early 50’s, Titusji moved to Jabalpur and then to Bhopal. His family now included the addition of four more sons Joseph, George, John and Thomas. He had one daughter and six sons. He then took a job as a Manager in Bairagarh Dairy, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
A couple of years later the Bairagarh Dairy closed down and the family had to go through a lot of hardships. Titusji had to sell off the family car and even his property in Maramon, Kerala. But he refused to ask for any special privileges as a freedom fighter. He then got a break by getting a Government job in Obaidullaganj as instructor in an Institute training Village Level Workers. It was a job of his liking. He stayed alone in Obaidullaganj and would return to Bhopal on Saturdays for the weekend and go back on Mondays. In those days a song sung by Mohammed Rafi ‘Suno suno ye Bapuji ki Amar Kahani ’was a favourite of his and used to be played in the Institute regularly.
The family kept shifting their residences in Bhopal from one rented house to another. After many ups and downs, Titusji managed to get a loan of Rs.16,000 and bought a piece of land in the Noor-Mahal area of Bhopal. The entire family worked hard to build the house which was promptly named ‘Lake View Cottage’ since it afforded a clear view of the Bhopal Lake. At that time, there were no other houses in the neighbourhood. The family shifted to this house in 1956.
In 1962, Titusji got a job in Bhilai Steel Plant establishing the dairy unit in the Bhilai Steel Plant Township. He arranged for the collection of milk from nearby villages and introduced for the first time pasteurization and bottling of milk with pilfer-proof aluminium foil using imported machines. This was then distributed to all the sectors of the township.
After retiring from Bhilai Steel Plant, Titusji worked with a Christian NGO in Siliguri, West Bengal. Later he shifted to Sodpur in 24 Parganas, West Bengal. Thereafter he served the World Council of Churches (Bengal Refugee Services) in Calcutta.
At this point of time he had to face personal loss. On 2nd of December 1964, his second son, 24 year old Joy suddenly had a heart attack in his office and died. The funeral was attended by thousands. But cruel fate had more in store for him. On 12th April 1965, barely two months after the sixtieth birthday of Titusji, his beloved wife Annamma passed away. She died of post operative complications after having undergone an operation for appendicitis.
Inspite of all the setbacks Titusji remained active in his work. He was selected by the Birla group for setting up a dairy in the township of Hindustan Motors in Uttarpara, near Calcutta. He did this successfully and then re-settled in Bhopal in 1972 for a quiet life with his children and grand children.
Titusji- A man of faith
Titusji had immense faith in God. This helped him to overcome the trials and tribulations in his life. His honest and simple way of life made it easier for him to lead the life of a true Christian. He believed in the dignity of the individual, irrespective of his or her origin or status. He strived to help the fellow human beings in which ever way he could. Titusji being one of the few Malayali gazetted officers in Bhopal in the early 50’s, helped many Keralites who used to come to him to get their certificates attested and also in case of other difficulties .His was one home to which people could turn to without hesitation and ask for any help. Annamma, his wife had this habit of visiting the nearby Government Hospital and offering food or any possible help to anyone needy. Having experienced tough days themselves, they knew the importance of helping out the unfortunate,the lesser privileged.
In Bhopal Titusji initiated the forming of a Christian Congregation. A few Marthomites who were in Bhopal in the fifties started the Sunday worship in October 1954 at the residence of Titusji. That was the beginning of the Bhopal parish and was a congregation of all Christian denominations except the Roman Catholics. As the number of members grew, the space became inadequate and the Sunday service was shifted to other spacious halls and later to local church buildings. He was an active and a well-known member of the St.Peter’s Mar Thoma Church, Bhopal. Titusji was the driving force behind the establishment of Christa Prema Kulam Mission Field at Sehatganj, which is on the Bhopal-Sagar National Highway, about 25 kms from Bhopal City. The land for the Ashram was given by him at a nominal cost.This mission field is currently doing commendable work in uplifting the condition of the rural people living in the area.
In 1970, he published the book “The Bharat of my Dreams” in which he revealed his hope for the nation,and for its teeming millions. He firmly believed that all are equal and hence there should not be any disparity.
He had one daughter and six sons. He passed away on 8 August, 1980, at the Kasturba Hospital in Bhopal and was buried in the Christian Cemetery there. He never got any medals or pension for his participation in the freedom struggle. We salute his humbleness, patriotism, and dedication to the nation.
It is a matter of great pride to the Mar Thoma Syrian Church that it had men of such vision like Titusji, who worked untiringly for the freedom of the country. We praise and thank God for such leaders like Mr. and Mrs. Titus of Bhopal on his death anniversary on 8th August and the country’s Independence Day on 15th August.
How can you not share this story with others. We hope that it will inspire more youth from our Church to be involved in nation building with selflessness and pure thoughts.
Eternal Memory – ‘Dandi Salt Satyagraha Memorial’ a Project of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
In a unique tribute to commemorate the historic Dandi Salt march by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930, India’s Ministry of Culture has set up a National Dandi Salt Satyagraha Memorial. IIT Bombay was given the responsibility to design, coordinate and implement the memorial project. The main memorial includes a statue of Gandhi inside a pyramid of light, followed by the life-size sculptures of the 80 marchers who participated in the Salt March. www.dandimemorial.org
See more photos of the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial on their official Flickr Page
A short film by Prashant Sharma, capturing the spirit and energy of Dandi Marchers Sculptures’ Workshop 1 Team Members who came from all walks of life and from all over the world to make the ambitious Dandi Memorial Project a reality. The Dandi Memorial Sculptures’ Workshop is a project of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, coordinated and implemented by IIT Bombay in association with an International Design Team.
*With inputs and photos from Ms. Renu Thomas, granddaughter of Titusji and Mr. & Mrs. John Titus (son and daughter in law of Titusji).
12 July, 1889: Seminary Case Judgment. In 1879 a case was filed in the district court of Alleppey by Bishop Joseph Mar Dionysius against the then Metropolitan of the Church Most Rev. Thomas Mar Athanasius.
Mar Dionysius prayed to the court to declare him as the rightful Metropolitan of the Malankara Church and also requested the court to evict Mar Athanasius and his followers from the Old Seminary building in Kottayam. The final verdict of this case came on 12 July 1889 from the Royal Court of Travancore. Two Judges decreed that Joseph Mar Dionysius was the rightful Metropolitan of the Malankara Church as he expressed allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch. One Christian judge gave the verdict in favour of Thomas Mar Athanasius because of his conviction that the Malankara Church has been an independent Church from the beginning. The Majority view prevailed and Thomas Mar Athanasius had to leave the Old Seminary and the properties of the Church, because he upheld the autonomy of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church. This led to the formal division of the church into two sections: the Mar Thoma Church and Jacobite Church.
The followers of Mar Athanasius got the Kottarakkara church without a duel, they got the Maramon and Kozhencherry churches through court decision, and was given the right to conduct services on alternate Sundays in five other churches. They put up small sheds in other places to hold worship services.
To learn more about Mar Thoma Syrian Church History – watch this Special Documentary with rare footage on the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church – (English/Malayalam) produced in 1986. It offers a peek into the history, rich culture and heritage of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
21 May, 1921: V. Nagel, author of “Samayamaam radhaththil” passes away. Born in Germany on 3 November, 1867, he came to India in 1893, as a missionary. Along with his wife Harriet, he worked in Kunnamkulam, North Paravur, Trichur and Kumbanadu.
He has written more than 100 hymns in Malayalam that is still sung by all denominations and churches in Kerala.
Hymns written by him in the Kristheeya Keerththanangal (Hymn Book of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church) are – Nos. 57, 144(135), 153(143), 155(145), 203(392), 214(199), 223(208), 238(216), 239(217), 242(220), 244(222), 287, 294(280), 298(284), 300, 301, 325(319), 374(257), 380(260), 382(262), 390(269), 402(294) ,405(353) and 411(354).
The song has been translated into 17 languages though it was originally written in Malayalam and even incorporated in a film.The song depicts the journey of ones life…but it is mistakenly interpreted as many as just a funeral song…but actually its just a song about ones journey from birth …to home ie heaven.
Read below about the great hym writer Volbrecht Nagel from an account by his son Karl Heinrich Nagel.
The Story of Volbrecht Nagel
By his son, Karl Heinrich Nagel
This account of Volbrecht Nagel was found in an exercise book belonging to Karl Heinrich Nagel and was probably written in the early 1980s when Karl was in his 70s, was ill and his memory was failing. It has been written up by Karl’s daughter, Pauline Munns. February 2007
Volbrecht Nagel was born to Heinrich Peter Nagel and Elisabeth May Nagel on the 3rd November 1867 in the village of Stammheim, Hessen, Germany. He was baptised on November 17th in the Lutheran church and Volbrecht Nagel II was his godfather. He appears to have lost his parents at a young age and to have been taken over by a Mr and Mrs Bindewald, who educated him. He was brought up according to the Lutheran Church. He appears to have been ordained as a Pastor at the early age of 20 and to have been sent as a Lutheran missionary to Cannanore, Malaba (now Kerala State). He served the Lutheran Church until about 1892 when he left them owing to doctrinal differences. He had no money at the time and began to walk barefoot, trusting the Lord to lead him to the place where he could start a work for Him.
Harriet Sabina Mitchell Nagel
Eventually he came to a place called Kunnamkulum, in Cochin State, where he met a small group of Christians, who called themselves Brethren, and worshipped God in a simple manner without a pastor. He believed that this was where the Lord would have him work for the time being. It was while he was here, building up the church, that he met and married Harriet Mitchell, on 1st April 1896, who gave him his first two sons, Samuel Frederick (1.1.1898) and Theodore Ernst (10.3.1899).
When he saw that the believers were well established and capable of carrying on by themselves, he moved with his wife and two sons, to a place called PARUR, also in Cochin State, and began a work for the Lord there. Here his third son, Gotlob Volbrecht was born on 8.8.1900 and his first daughter Olive Margaret on 31.12.1901. About this time my mother decided that she should take a nurse’s training so that she may be more qualified to work as a missionary’s wife, so she went to Madras and qualified in a short midwifery course, and returned to the family at Parur.
Considering that the believers were well established in the faith, my father moved, with his family, to British Cochin. Here his fourth son, Karl Heinrich was born on 17.11 1905. Two [other]children were also born, Wilfried Adolf and Elsa Hope but they died as infants and were buried in Hosur Road cemetery, Bangalore.
The Volbrecht Nagel Family
With Harriet’s sister, Josephine Mitchell
Seeing that the work was well established at British Cochin, my father decided to move, with his family to Trichur in Cochin State. The time had now come for the education of his children, and as there were no English schools in Trichur, he made arrangements for the four older children to go to Bangalore for their education. I was sent to school in Bangalore in January 1914. During these years my father developed the work at Trichur. Besides the assembly work, he opened a girls’ orphanage, which still flourishes.
As my brother Samuel and Theodore’s futures had now to be considered, my father took them to London, presumably about March 1914, to apprentice them there as engineers. That was the last his three younger children saw of him. On his way to London he called at Stammheim with my brothers for a few days. After seeing that they were settled in London, he went to the Bible School at Berlin, intending to visit his relatives once more before returning to India. Unfortunately for him, World War 1 broke out, and, being a German, he was not allowed to return to India. The problem now arose of joining the German army, which was compulsory, a thing he said he would never do, being a Christian. He prayed about the matter and asked the Lord to open the way for him to cross over into Switzerland, which was neutral. He made the attempt one night, and the Lord undertook by making the frontier guards very sleepy, so that they carelessly examined his passport and allowed him through.
When the war ceased in November 1918 my father sought permission to return to India but was refused. He therefore went back to the Bible School. (The Bible School had moved [from Berlin] to Wiedenest. He obtained a position on the staff until about February 1921 when he had a stroke of apoplexy. They cabled to my mother in India and she left immediately. Ironically the English government gave him permission to return to India just then but it was too late. My mother nursed him until he passed away on May 21st, 1921. He was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Bible School. My brothers Samuel and Theodore went from England to attend his funeral. Mr and Mrs Bindewald,who brought him up also attended because, they said, he was the means of their salvation.
A Mr. Kocher, a missionary from India, also attended as he was in charge of a girls’ orphanage at Irinjalakuda, very close to Trichur, during my father’s time there. After the funeral my mother visited his relatives at Stammheim and stayed with them for a short while before returning to India.
Ted, Harriet, and Sam @ Volbrecht’s funeral
Reproduced with kind permission from https://revisitingthepast.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/the-story-of-volbrecht-nagel/
Mathews Mar Athanasius (1818–1877) was the Metropolitan of the Malankara Syrian Church from 1852 until his death in 1877. As a reformer, he spent most of his time as the Metropolitan attempting to heal differences between the various factions within the church.
Major General William Cullen
Major General William Cullen (17 May 1785 – 1 October 1862) was a British Army Officer with the Madras Artillery Regiment, and from 1840 to 1860, he served as the British Resident in the Kingdom of Travancore and Cochin. During his stay in India, he took a scholarly interest in the region and contributed to journals on geology, plants and the culture of the region. He was instrumental in establishing the Napier Museum in Trivandrum.
Cullen interacted mainly with the Maharajas of Travancore Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma and Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma and took considerable interest in scholarly and cultural pursuits. He also took a keen interest in the Christians of Kerala.
Metropolitan Mar Athanasius officially recognized by the government
Mar Athanasius was approved by an order by the governments of Travancore and Cochin as Malankara Metropolitan on 30 August 1852.
As head of the church he worked hard for the education of the clergy and for raising the moral standards of the people and the reformation process. From the beginning there was opposition against him from those who feared that he would be in favour of the reformation.
The opposition became gradually strong and succeeded in enlisting the support of the Patriarch on its side. The opponents of Mathews Mar Athanasius had sent complaints about him to the Patriarch, who without a judicial enquiry appointed Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius to supercede Mathews Mar Athanasius as Metropolitan. As a result of this struggle for power the church tended to be divided into two sections, one favouring reform and the other opposing it.
The gifting of the horse to the Metropolitan by the Resident
It is said that the Resident William Cullen greatly admired the Metropolitan and gifted him a rare Panch Kalyani horse (Kathiawari breed). The female copper brown horse was bought at an auction held in Bombay and brought to Kerala.
The Kathiawari breed horse was known throughout India as the purest and oldest of all horse breeds. Its origins are in the Middle East and the land of Saurashtra region in Gujarat, India, where the Kathi’s tribesmen and Rajput clan’s rulers used it as a warhorse. Princes were the breeders of the Kathiyawari horse. It was well known from the earliest times and prized for it’s beauty and high status as a war horse, and like most desert breeds could and can survive heat, poor feed and low water intake.(www.horseshowcentral.com) It is still used by the army and mounted police.
In this breed, horses with four white stockings and a white face is known as ‘Panch Kalyani’ which means ‘Five Good Markings’ from God. It was popularly known among the princely states as the ‘Horse of the Lord Krishna’. The ears are also know to point into each other.
Metropolitan Mathews was known to call the horse with the pet name”Shomi”. He loved the horse and the favourite dish given to the horse by the Metropolitan was “Vatta Aopam” (Rice pudding), a delicacy in Kerala.
Shomi had won first place in the horse race held in Bombay at the Royal Western India Turf Club before being bought by Major General Cullen to Kerala.It was known for it’s lightning speed and people exclaimed it could jump like a whirl wind.
In those early days, there were no proper tarred roads nor vehicles. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan used to travel and visit churches on horseback. Owning a horse was a sign of power and usually only ridden by royalty. People used to travel across Travancore via boat or bullock carts .
An Age of Enemies
It was dangerous times and the Metropolitan had many enemies. He used to travel with a team of bodyguards. A man called Muthukkaramban was the chief of his security. He was very tall, dark in colour and was said to have been an expert in all sorts of martial arts..
Puthuppally St.George Church and the death of the Horse
This incident happened in 1853. The Metropolitan was visiting the Puthuppally St.George Church. Few members of the Parish was against him because of his inclination towards the Reformation movement started by Abraham Malpan. One fine morning , during his visit to the Putthuppaly church, he found his horse dead in the horse shed. It is believed that the horse was poisoned by the enemies of the bishop.
“Shomi” his Pancha Kalyani horse was the favourite horse of the Metropolitan and he could not bear its loss.
He did not curse his enemies nor take revenge, or used the weapon of vengeance on anyone.They never apologized for their actions either. With the death of Pancha Kalyani, his favorite horse, his external ministry of reaching out people was affected. But no one could suppress his zeal and vigorous spirit for the work of the reformation.
In 1856, inspired by the Anglican missionaries who cooperated with him in the Old Syrian Seminary at Kottayam, the Metropolitan printed and distributed prayer books in Malayalam, leaving out prayer to Mother Mary.
Holy Communion services were conducted in Malayalam the language of the people of Malabar. He preached at worship services from his days in Antioch and continued this new practice after coming to Kerala. He encouraged his clergy to read the Bible and interpret it to the common people of parishes. He also allowed Tamil missionaries to preach at various churches.
He was against honouring icons and statues, so he removed the statue of Mother Mary from Manarcaud Church (near Kottayam), and from Puthupally church, near Kottayam.
Mar Athanasius Metropolitan established a printing press at Kottayam for the use of the Church. There, the liturgy was printed and published, omitting the prayers to Mother Mary and other saints. This infuriated a few priests, who opposed the Metropolitan and published another book with all these prayers included.
Thomas Mar Athanasius, son of Abraham Malpan was consecrated by Mathews Mar Athanasius as his successor in 1869. Mathews Mar Athanasius is generally considered one of the ablest Metropolitans of the Syrian Church. At this difficult time the support of leaders from the clergy and the laity who had been inspired by the spirit of the reform movement was a source of great strength to the position taken up by their bishops.