There have been several great souls in the Syrian Christian Community who rose to partake in the freedom struggle for India’s Independence. As India enters the 75th year of Independence, Nalloor Library would like our readers to remember a few freedom fighters who represented the Syrian Christian community and share their stories in their Sunday Schools and meetings across the world. This list is no means a complete list and only four have been chosen as representatives. We salute each and every freedom fighter across this great nation who participated in the freedom struggle and those who gave their lives for India’s freedom. Jai Hind!
Shri Thevarthundiyil Titus also known as ‘Titusji’ – Dandi March
The historic Dandi Salt march by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 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’. 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.
Mr. O. C. Chacko of the Indian National Army (INA)
Mr. O. C. Chacko was part of the Indian National Army (INA) of Subash Chandhra Bose and member of the Kuriannoor Mar Thoma Church, Pathanamthitta, Kerala. We post a link to a write up that was published on his 100th (centenary) birth anniversary.
Rev. C.V.George B.A., B.L
General Secretary of the Mar Thoma Sunday School Samajam. He was the only Mar Thoma Priest who is recognized and awarded as a freedom fighter by the Government. Before his ordination, he was in jail for almost a year for his participation in the Freedom movement of India.
George Joseph, a barrister, fiery nationalist, avant-garde journalist, pioneer trade unionist, and ardent champion of important public causes, has etched an indelible place in the history of India’s war for Independence. He hailed from Kerala and was not just a pioneer in several fields, he was also a staunch supporter of Annie Besant’s Home Rule movement and Gandhiji’s Non-Cooperation movement during India’s freedom struggle.
He was born in Chenganoor (Kerala) in 1887, which at that time was part of the Travancore Kingdom. He completed his Law at the University of Edinburgh and it was during his stay in London that he became acquainted with notable freedom fighters like Madam Cama, S K Verma, S R Rana, and Veer Savarkar. He returned to India after finishing his education and though he established his legal practice initially in Chennai, he eventually shifted it to Madurai. George Joseph went on to become a famous criminal lawyer in Madurai. From the time he started practising there, he championed the cause of Madurai’s tribes, such as the Piramalai Kallars and Maravars. In 1920, following the Perungamanallur firing (also referred to as the Jallianwalla Bagh of the South), the British implemented the Criminal Tribes Act, labelling these groups as criminals. He vehemently opposed the Act by voicing his opinions in newspapers and he also represented these communities in court proceedings. The residents of these settlements gave him the name ‘Rosapoo Durai’ (a Rose amongst Leaders), as a symbol of their gratitude. ~indianculture.gov.in
Pages from History: – Beginning of Hoskote Mission in 1947 and A Big Salute to Ms. Bagshaw.
The first missionaries (The founders – Rev. A.C.Zachariah and family and Mr. M.T.Joseph and family) of the present Hoskote Misson Medical Centre reached Hoskote on 27 June 1947. The Cubbon Park Prayer fellowship of the Bangalore Mar Thoma Paresh provided them the necessary help. The missionaries were whole heartedly welcomed by the Brethren Mission Church which had an orphanage “House of Praise “ in Hoskote town. The head of the Orphanage, Miss. Bagshaw and her staff in true Christian spirit accommodated the new mission workers with them in the House of Praise for about six months till they found their own rented houses in the town.
The early years of Ashram living was really tough. There was no regular income but survival was the main concern, to convert the hard ground to grow crops, it took, years of toil, sweat and hard work. The only answer was hard physical labour to make their living. Both families joined hand in hand, they were of one heart and mind, they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.
The first kind offer from the local community was to fetch drinking water from the Panchayat President’s residence. (Shri. Chenna byre Gowder). Thanks to this friendly family in God’s providence for their kindness.
The second offer was to buy the 9 acres of land for the Christa Sakshya Sangha work. Thus the land, where the present Headquarters of the Mission is situated, was bought in 1951-52 for a price less than Rs. 5000.
In the year 1953 Alexander Mar Theophilus Thirumeni (later the Head of the Mar Thoma Church – Rt. Rev. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan) collected the funds for the construction of two mission quarters, a chapel building and a camp shed The two families shifted their residences from rented houses in the town to their own houses in the Mission Compound.
Pages from History:
First Fruits of the Hoskote Mission – Abraham and Sara
Even though the missionaries earned the love and respect of many people in the town and surrounding villages through their life and testimony, people were very hesitant to join the new faith. The first one who joined the fellowship of the Church through baptism was a young man from Hoskote who received the Christian name Mathai. Narasimha and his wife, Rethnamma, were residents of the Gonakhanahally village. Rethnamma came into contact with the ladies’ team at Jedigenahally and became a Christian and accepted the Christian name Saramma. Later Narasimha was also baptized and received the name Abraham. Both of them were active members of the mission. Their tombs in Ghonakhanahlly village stand as a witness to their faith,
THE MAR THOMA CHURCH, KURIANNOOR
A BRIEF HISTORY
Old undated photo of the old Kuriannoor Mar Thoma Church and the present church building. (Images from Nalloor Library Archives)
St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, came to India in A.D.52 and established 7 churches in the Malabar Coast of Kerala, in South India. Niranam St. Mary’s Church was one among them. Believers in and around Niranam, Changanassery, Edathua, Chambakulam, Chengannur, Maramon, Kalloopara, Chennithala, Paliyekkara and Puthiyakavu used to worship in that Church. Members of the Niranam Parish, who were staying in Maramon area, found it extremely difficult to attend church services in Niranam regularly. In those days, country boats (Kettuvallams) were the only mode of transportation (there were no road transport facilities). This led the believers in the Maramon area to establish the Maramon Church on 28 August A.D.1440. Our forefathers worshiped in the Maramon Church until a Mar Thoma Church in Kuriannoor was established in 1879.
The year 1837 bore witness to a spiritual reformation in the Mar Thoma Church, mainly under the leadership of Palakkunnathu Abraham Malpan Achen (1796-1845). The reforms included translation of liturgy into Malayalam, emphasis on the study of the Holy Bible, family worship, and evangelization of the Gospel. Abolition of prayers for the dead and some unscriptural practices, such as statues, invocation of saints and some unhealthy veneration of sacraments were banned.
As there were no proper roads, the journey from Kuriannoor to Maramon was difficult and tedious, especially for funerals during the monsoon season. The Neelethu Pallikkoodam, a shed on bamboo poles, thatched with coconut leaves that was being used as a prayer hall cum school, was altered as the Mar Thoma Church, Kuriannoor in the year 1879 by Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (1837-1893 The Mar Thoma XIV). Rahoor Scariah Kathanar was the first Vicar of the Kuriannoor Church. Two of the Mar Thoma Metropolitans, viz. Titus I Mar Thoma (Dethose Kathanar (1843-1909) and Titus II Mar Thoma (P.J. Dethose Kathanar (1866-1944) were vicars of our parish when they were achens. Due to an increase in the membership/population, St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church was formed in 1897 and Salem Mar Thoma Church in 1902.
Rev. M.C. George, (1874-1923) Maliyekkal was the first full time priest for Kuriannoor from 1903 as former vicars were in charge of Maramon Church as well. The English School, Kuriannoor was started in 1921 thanks to the leadership of Rev. M.C. George. Rev. T.M. Mathai (1883-1970) Punnathundiyil was our vicar from 1924. During the reign of Titus II Mar Thoma, a beautiful church building was constructed under the leadership of Vicars Rev. K.I. Varkey (1877-1948), Kizhakkethalakkal, Edathua, Rev. K.M. Mathai (1899-1959), Kuttamathayyethu, Puthenkavu, and Rev. Abraham Mathew (1902-1960), Elamittethu, Moovattupuzha Valakom. Our forefathers spent about eight years and a sum of Rs. 3150/- to complete their ardent desire of a place of worship. It was dedicated on 12th April 1940.
All the three Mar Thoma Churches in Kuriannoor were under the Vicarship of a single Achen till 1963. Rev. M. V. Abraham, Ashtamudy was the first Vicar who was solely in-charge of our parish. He managed to purchase 28 cents of land for a parsonage for Rs. 7500/-. Our first parsonage was completed in 1969 under the leadership of Rev. C. M. Thomas (1907-2001), Cherukara, Ayroor and Rev. K. A. Joshua, Mallassery.
The Centenary of the Church was celebrated during the year 1979 under the leadership of Rev. P. M. Samuel, Nelladu. Twenty cents of land adjacent to the church compound was purchased in December 1977, and the Centenary Hall was built there, which was consecrated on 6th May 1979.
Construction of the present, spacious and beautiful church building, with a parish hall underneath, was commenced during the year 2001, the plan of which was approved during the tenure of Rev. James M. Koshy Veeramala as Vicar. Rev. Achenkunju Mathew, and Rev. M.V. George (1952-2012) subsequent Vicars of the parish, worked tirelessly to complete the Church building, which was consecrated on 3rd September 2005 by His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Metropolitan in the presence of Dr. Joseph Mar Irenaeus Suffragan Metropolitan.
Rev. M. V. George laid down the idea for the present parsonage in the year 2008, which was completed during the tenure of Rev. M. Mathew as Vicar. The new parsonage was consecrated by His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan on 23rd March 2010.
Rev. M.C. George (1874-1923), Maliyekkal, Rev. T.M. Mathai (1883-1970), Punnathundiyil, Rev. C.M. Thomas (1893-1956), Kochuparampil, and Rev. C.M. Abraham (1923-2008), Cheriyavadakkedathu, who were strong pillars of the Mar Thoma Church in the past belonged to our parish. Ambattu Varkey Upadeshi, Poozhikkalayil Ipe Mathen (1796-1890) Poozhikkalayil Thomma Upadeshi (1830-1912), Cherukattu Geevarghese Upadeshi, Thanathodathil Mathen Upadeshi, Kolabhagathu Geevarghese Ashan (1855-1938), Eruthikkal E.V. Philip Sar, Nalloor Joseph Sar (1910-1992) etc. were strong lay leaders of our parish in the past.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
~ Jeremiah 17:7-8 | NIV
On the eve of the 73rd Republic Day on 25th January 2022, the Government of India announced the recipients of the prestigious Padma Awards. Among the notable names was Dr. Sosamma Iype (renowned scientist & conservationist) who was awarded with the Padma Shri for her work in saving the rare breed of Vechur Cow. She is a member of Thrissur Ebenezer Mar Thoma Church and hails from Niranam.
Nalloor Library congratulates Dr. Sosamma Iype on being conferred this national honour.
Dr Sosamma Iype, 82, who is known as “Vechur’s Amma”, saved the rare breed of Vechur Cow from the brink of extinction and put up tremendous efforts to increase its population. A retired Veterinary Professor and researcher at the Mannuthy Veterinary College in Thrissur, she set up Vechur Conservation Trust to look after the unique cattle breed of Kerala. Now, there are 5,000 to 6,000 Vechur cattle in Kerala.
Sosamma, who took PhD from the National Dairy Research Institute, was the head of the Department of Genetics and Animal Breeding. Her story of how she overcame the opposition to the popularisation of breeding of Vechur cattle appeared in “Njayarazhcha” on its January 16th edition. Sosamma hails from Niranam in Kuttanad. She resides in Mannuthy. Late Abraham Varkey was her husband.~ www.onmanorama.com
Dr. Soamma Iype initiated the process of rehabilitation and conservation of the nearly extinct Vechur cow in 1988, along with other indigenous breeds of Kerala, such as Kasargod and Cheruvally cattle and Attappady goats.
Read more articles:
Vechurpasu Punarjanmam (Conservation Biology) by Sosamma Iype | വെച്ചൂർപശു പുനർജന്മം
‘Rebirth of Vechur Cows’. In the book, Dr. Sosamma Iype shares her 30 years of experience in conserving Kerala’s indigenous cattle breed Vechur cows and the hurdles she faced in her journey.
Read the amazing story about sculptor P. E. Thomas (1934-2017), the first student from Kerala at Visva-Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore. Thomas was born in Mallappally, a town in south Kerala, to Poykamannil P M Eppan and Annamma. He completed his basic education at Kottayam CMS School and College. His art work adorn many notable places.
One of them being”Nalla Idayan,” a concrete structure weighing two tonnes erected at the Marthoma House in Kozhikode, was completed by Thomas at the behest of Theodosius Marthoma Metropolitan, who was the then Kozhikode Bishop and alumni of Visva-Bharati University.
“Rhythm” and “Dance of Death”, fashioned out of plaster of Paris in 1966, were kept on (the Lawrence School, Lovedale), Ooty school premises; “The “Family” (1975) told the story of a bold family head who told his family members to emancipate themselves. The statue of Christ at Gethsemane at Kandal Cross Shrine, Ootty, the “Elephant” designed for the Postal Department at Thaipakkad tourist centre, the statues of ‘sage Patanjali and the Snake’ in front of the Madras Regiment Hospital at Wellington and the Little Horse at the needle factory at Ketti in Tamil Nadu are some of his major works.
Click to read more at OnManorama.com – https://www.onmanorama.com/entertainment/art-and-culture/2021/12/20/p-e-thomas-master-malayali-sculptor-visva-bharati-santiniketan.html
The Reverend Canon Dennis Albert John Gurney, who served the Holy Trinity Church and the Chaplaincy of Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates (Anglican Church, Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf) as the Senior Chaplain for 17 years, has died in the UK of age-related ailments. He was 90.
Rev Gurney, who led the Holy Trinity Church in Dubai from 1984 to 2001, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to the community in the Middle East. He is survived by three sons and two daughters. His wife, Naomi, died in January 2019.
Rev Gurney survived two serious car accidents, rescued refugees and set up desperately needed clinics in Yemen.
He was a close friend of the Mar Thoma Parish in Dubai. The Christian Book Shop managed by him in the Holy Trinity Church compound was a great blessings and resource centre to the Sunday School, and other organizations of the Parish. With his demise, Nalloor Library has lost a real close Christian friend who introduced us to many International Christian Organizations and their activities. He opened before us the wide spectrum of Christian Literature. We thank God Almighty for his dedicated Christian life and activities. The Funeral Service will be at St Peter’s Church, Sidford on Friday, December 17th at 11.30 a.m.
Connection with the Mar Thoma Church Dubai
Before the Mar Thoma Church Dubai was given a place of their own to build their church in Jebel Ali, they worshiped at the Holy Trinity Church. On 25th December 1975, the Mar Thoma Parish Dubai shifted its communion from the Our own School premises to the Holy Trinity Church, after that a worship service was started on Friday evening in the year 1988 for members who were not able to attend the Thursday service. The Trinity Church was also the venue for all the Sunday School classes on Friday mornings, the yearly VBS, New Year, Passion Week, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas services, Harvest Festival, Conventions in the church compound. As the church grew in leaps and bounds, giving way to a second generation of members and newcomers who were not well-versed in Malayalam, an English prayer meeting and Holy Communion was initiated early in 1997 that was held in the Trinity Church compound. This continued until the Mar Thoma Church shifted to their own church on 14th December, 2001.
Information courtesy: The Telegraph, Gulf News, Newsletter of Diocese of Cyprus, Gulf News and the Newsletter of the Holy Trinity Church Dubai.
Magazine Interview with Rev. Dennis Gurney from 2001
Departing reverend looks back on moments of turbulencehttp://www.comeandsee.com – A Christian Magazine from Nazareth
June 07, 2001
“All told it’s been an eventful 17 years,” says the Reverend Dennis Gurney speculatively, as he settles back in a large office chair amidst the chaos of nearly two decades worth of packing.
“Eventful” would not be the word springing to most people’s minds when considering the extraordinary experiences of this calm preacher’s life in the UAE. Turbulent, smattered with danger, the odd brush with the after-life and incredibly hard work, would actually seem more appropriate when “all” is told.
For Gurney – who will resume the mundane life of a British vicar in the UK when he leaves the Gulf for good in 10 days’ time – has not only survived two serious car accidents ? one of which caused doctors to fear he would never walk again ? but has rescued refugees, wrested fire-arms from a distraught wife, set up desperately needed clinics in Yemen and even killed a camel.
All this has happened alongside catering to the UAE’s Christian community which has grown from one tiny church in 1984 to serving a Friday turnout of 20,000 from 86 congregations who worship in 32 languages.
The 75-year-old father of five still takes it all in stride. Describing his first impression of Dubai, he said: “When I came here in 1984, I had no idea what to expect because I’d never been to the Gulf – but I do remember being surprised at just how green and tidy the emirates were.
“At that time the church complex was very small, housing one chapel, a prefabricated bungalow for my wife and I and a tiny church hall. We’ve since managed to expand through a lot of hard work to provide places of worship in all the emirates.”
But the road to righteousness has been more than a little rocky – the past 13 years having had their fair share of trauma. “One of my clearest memories was in 1989 when I opened the chaplaincy door to find 28 Iranian refugees standing there.
“They’d fled the war in Iran on dhows to Dubai with nothing more than the clothes they stood up in. None of them had papers and all were frightened, hungry, sick and desperate. Over a period of three years we managed to house them, cover their medical expenses, find them jobs and visas – but it wasn’t an easy task.
“Then in 1990 I was almost killed when a car swerved off the road and hit me outside the British Embassy. I can’t remember feeling much pain even though both my legs were smashed and one was skinned completely from the knee down. The most terrifying part was flying through the air and having absolutely no control over where I’d land.
“The doctors at the Rashid Hospital did a marvellous job in patching me up but warned me I might never walk again. Amazingly I spent just three months on crutches and was soon back at work.
“In 1993 I had another accident when driving back from Fujairah at night along the Dhaid road. “A large camel stepped out of nowhere right in front of the car and although I braked as hard, we collided with tremendous force. The camel was killed instantly and it really was by the grace of God that I escaped with my life.”
An even more bizarre incident the following year was only brought back to Gurney as he began to pack his belongings just days ago. “I was clearing out my filing cabinet when I discovered a heavy object covered in cloth. When I unwrapped it, I realised it was a gun I’d managed to take away from a lady in Ras Al Khaimah who was planning to murder her husband.
“She’d suffered terrible violence from her husband who frequently beat her and smashed her head against walls. On previous visits she’d even asked me if I could get hold of a firearm for her ? but I’d always laughed and told her it would be impossible in the UAE.
“Then, on another visit, she showed me a gun she’d managed to acquire and told me of her plan to shoot her husband. “I was shocked, but managed to persuade her to hand it over. I took it back to the chaplaincy, put it away and didn’t think of the incident again.
I don’t know if it’s been loaded all these years – or even if it has a safety catch – because I won’t be pulling the trigger. I’ve decided it will be buried in the foundations of the new church being built in Jebel Ali. That way it can’t cause any harm to anyone!”
Accomplishments and benefits to the community have been many during Gurney’s term. “I am delighted with the news that two medical clinics we set up in Yemen have treated over 30,000 mothers and babies in the past year which is a real achievement,” he said, adding: “The church is also currently supporting three refugee families from Somalia who came here after fleeing the war.
We are doing our best to house, feed, clothe and legalise them because life here for the poverty-stricken is much harder than it used to be.” Is he sad to be leaving? The answer is a definite “yes”.
“I was asked by one of the Rulers recently why I was leaving when I could easily go to heaven from Dubai. “I told him that although this was possible and I could happily stay another 17 years, my wife thinks the UK is heaven which is why we’re going home.”
And who will succeed a man with such a hard act to follow? “The answer is we don’t know,” he says. “But anyone taking on this job will need flexibility, patience and a big sense of humour.”
Taken from https://www.comeandsee.com/view.php?sid=108
Nalloor Library content was featured in the Mar Thoma Church’s official magazine – Sabha Tharaka October 2021 edition (p 20-21).
It features two important individuals and their stories. You can read about it in detail using the links below:
Rev. Advocate C.V.George B.A.,B.L
Rt. Rev. Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan
On 1st September 2020 – we remember Indian freedom fighter Mr. O. C. Chacko on his 100th (centenary) birth anniversary. Mr. O. C. Chacko was part of the Indian National Army (INA) of Subash Chandhra Bose and member of the Kuriannoor Mar Thoma Church, Pathanamthitta, Kerala. He was born on 1st September 1920 and passed away on 14th April 2014. He is buried at Neelethu Mar Thoma Church, Kuriannoor.
He was 95 years old and resided at Odikandathil-Vadakkemannil, Kuriannoor.
“The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”
We carry below an English translation of an article Published in Malayala Manorama newspaper on
14th August 2013, a day before Independence Day.
Even after half a century of independence, Mr. O.C. Chacko observes, it has not lost its sheen. Before the day when the tricolor of India rose up bringing down the British flag on August 15, 1947, the eyes that dreamt such a morning still sparkle. The ears that heard the trumpet call of freedom fighters and their war cry are still kept open to hear it again. Only that the feet that had walked in steady gait braving the enslaving British yoke have become slightly unsteady. But he still jumps up from his wheel chair with the same enthusiasm on hearing the names of Netaji and INA – that is O.C.Chacko of Odikandathil Vadakkemannil, Kuriannoor.
He is one of the few surviving soldiers of INA. Every Independence Day is the birth of a new era for Mr. O.C. Chacko. Coincidentally, his birthday falls on a day following the Independence Day. He enters his 94th birthday on 1st September, 2013. In the ecstasy of witnessing one more Independence Day for Mr. Chacko, even in this freedom celebrations the young generation is eagerly awaiting to hear and record his memories. Son of Mr. Chacko of Odikandathil Vadakkemannil, born in September 1920, Mr. Chacko boarded a ship to Singapore in 1941 in search of a job. After a few years he became a soldier of the Indian National Army organized by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. He continued to serve as a soldier in the INA till 1945.
He had his first job in Singapore in the war department of the British Government. Thereafter he worked in several organizations in various capacities. Even then, an independent India was his dream. Later, he recorded all the important events in his life. There in his records is the history of organizing the Indian Independence League under the auspices of civilian leaders and Military captain Mohan Singh soon after the surrender of the British Army in Singapore.
Coming from Germany in 1943 in a submarine, Netaji took charge of the independence struggle in Singapore. Soon after, he constituted Azad Hind Government there. He opened camps for training people to be sent to the Burmese war front. He sent a few volunteers including the local people to the Burma border. It was at this time Mr. O.C. Chacko was recruited to the INA. He cherishes the memory of the occasion when he met Netaji and spoke to him. Out of the 60,000 Indians there, majority had joined the INA. Mr. Chacko remembers about Netaji’s presence in Singapore when Britain surrendered to Japan on August 15, 1945. Chacko believes that he (Netaji) was killed in a plane crash on his way to Japan via Taiwan.
His fighting days were much before his marriage when he was a bachelor. After marriage, he led a peaceful life in SIngapore with his wife and children. Retiring from his job in 1970 he came back to settle down in Kerala. He is still keeps as treasures the INA uniforms and the badges bearing Netaji’s picture and other symbols. He had other connections related to the INA as well. In Kozhencherry and Thottapuzhassery there were a few retired INA soldiers. All of them except Mr. Chacko are no more.
Mr. Chacko is a hero to the new generation of the locality as an enthusiastic old veteran who had participated and witnessed the freedom struggle. He is a regular invitee to the independence Day/Republic Day celebrations held by schools and local organizations. He participates in such functions wholeheartedly and shares the memories of old times. ‘Even when I decline such invitations’, he says, ‘the youngsters would not let go’. They want to hear the history of the struggle. Behind the gentle demeanour, the man of 94 still exudes an aura of heroism.