Sunday, 13 April 2014


This is an old subject but controversial .Church historians of the world tried to paint this great man with their respective church allegiance. But some of them did a good balance study, but still need more evidences to say anything concrete. For the past few years I was searching for some possible logical evidences to understand this historical mystery. The traditions of Malankara Nazranies often find difficult to explain with logical evidence along with historical facts. It is surprising to note that these partisan church Historians often made forged documents to substantiate their claims. But I think a logical mind can see the truth through the modern researches and evidences.

The following analysis is based on my search for truth; it may hurt feelings of conventional churches including the one I belong, but I am least bothered. I am guided by the spirit of Malankara Nazraniath.
The Story of Mor  Ahatallah/Aitalaha is quite known to every Malankara Nazrani. So I am not going to explain it here. The different church historians have written a lot about it. Let us start with different perspective.

Mainly three arguments put forward by the respective church historians. Katholic group states he was a unite katholic from syriac Christianity. Different authors takes their stand depending on their church allegiance with unite Jacobite or unite Nestorian. It is sad to state that the evidences are rare and logic some times takes the shape of their dogmatic beliefs. Some of them produces the copies of letter said to have been written by Mar Ahathalla ,which contradicting each other.

The other group Syriac orthodox (Jacobite /orthodox) claim  his Jacobite origin. They even identify him with Patriarch Ignatius Hidayathulla who reigned during  AD1597-1639.Some of their historians states that he was not a patriarch but a bishop from Jacobite side in order to counter the said story about the ordination/appointment by Coptic patriarch when their list of bishops does not reveal any thing remotely related to Mar Ahatalla.

The third group (most ridiculous)–a section of the IOC historians claim that the bishop is from Patriarch of Babylon When Nestorians themselves are  not sure about the origin.

“Mar Ahatalla may be an expelled  Jacobite patriarch or a metran “ (The Chaldean Syrian church in India By Mar Aprem)

Again in his recent study  he states””  There is a dispute about his identity.  The members of the Church of the East claim that Ahatallah was their bishop.  On the other hand the Syrian Orthodox scholars insist that he was their bishop,  a forerunner of Mar Gregorius of Jerusalem who reached Malabar twelve years later.  The Syro Malabar writers surmise that Ahatallah was their bishop.””( THE HISTORY OF THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST SINCE THE TIME OF KING ABGAR UCHAMA IN THE FIRST CENTURY UNTIL THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY by Mar Aprem)

There are at least four versions of letters circulated by these historians with respect to their allegiances. James Hough got the letter from Carmelite Vincent Maria De Caterina de Sienna –Il viggio all indie Orientalli , fol.  1673. James Hough discuss the letter in his book ‘History of Christianity in India Vol 2.’

“””Attalla, Patriarch . I have been sent by Pope Innocent X. to the Malabar Christians of St. Thomas for their consolation. At Calamine I have been taken prisoner by those whose profession it is to be persecute. They will soon send me to Cochin, and thence to Goa. Arm some of your men to deliver me””””  .

Now read another   

A priest from Jacobite point of view to W.A.Mill in 1821 and sited by A. Mingana in his work “The early Spread of Christianity in India (page 50-53)

“”In the year 1653 ,our Father Ignatus ,Patriarch of Antioch came to Mylapore. Two deacons went from Malabar to the church of Mylapore ,in order to worship before the grave of St. Thomas,The Apostle.”””

E.R Hambye states another version(An eastern Prelate in India, Mar Aitallaha 1652-53)
“”In the name of the eternal essence of the Almighty,the Patriarch of the Holy Thomas the Apostle. The peace of God the father, and the blessing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the abiding presence of the holy spirit –hereby, I, Ignatus Patriarch of all India and China, send you a letter through some deacons, who came here from your place ..””

Another interesting version by Dr. Cyril Malancheruvil

“”In the name of the eternal essence, Almighty without beginning and end. The Patriarch Mar Thomas, Apostle. The peace in god , the father, and the mercy of our loard Jesus Christ and communion of the holy spirit. I ,Ignatius, Patriarch of all India and China. Now since I have received this faculty from Lord pope Ignatius , the Plenipotentiary through the grace of the father and the son and the holy spirit…””

You can see that the letter of Ahatallah takes the form and content depending on these authors’ allegiances. Some authors state that the letter is kept in Vatican but no body explains how it reached there. Dr. Joseph Cheeran states in his book” Indian Orthodox Church-History & culture” that he has a copy of that letter. Vengoor Ghevarghese Kassisso also said to have been read this letter. Then how come there exist so many differences in content? It is obvious that the letter is manipulated by respective sides to give credibility to their argument.

Authors like James Hough discussed the contradictory points in the letter in detail with references from Katholic sources. This will force any secular historical student to question the letter itself. The original letter may be lost or made so as to produce more favorable copies. Hough got the letter from Carmelite Vincent Maria De Caterina de Sienna who accompanied the Carmalite mission sent by Rome to bring back the Malankara Nazranies under Roman Papacy.

Now  that explains well about the name of Pope Innocent X in the letter of Mar Ahatallah produced by this devoted Carmelite. But history has strange ways to reveal the truth behind any manipulations like this one. The said letter states that Mar Ahatallah handed over this letter to ST .Thomas Christians at Calamina. But other letters produced by different historians specifically mention the place Mylapore. This is an interesting thing to be noticed by any body who cares about truth. How come these writers translate “Calamina”  as “Mylapore” when the text clearly state Calamina?

It is well known that the place ST. Thomas said to have been martyred is Calamina. But there is no evidence indicating that it represents Mylapore of today. The word Mylapore comes in to picture at the time of the east Syrian bishops around early 14th century. Then how can one attribute Calamina to present Mylapore?
It will be much clearer if we study the Maritime route from Arameae. If some one wants to come to Malakara from this region he can take two routes one through the Persian Gulf or the other through Arabian Gulf. Which ever route he comes, he cannot pass through the region without noticed by watchful eyes of Portuguese naval guards stationed at Hormuz as well as Socotra. Bahrain was under Portuguese rule till 1602 when Shah Abbas I evicted them. The presence of Portuguese in this region lasted till 1680 when the region was completely captured by Dutch. That is Mor Ahatallah could not have travelled through this region without the knowledge of Portuguese.

This being the situation , we see from the story of Mar Ahatallah that he reaches the shore of India at Surat .Of course the historians find evidence in the monk who reached capuchin friars  in Surat. They go on adding that he proceeded to Mylapore to visit The Tomb of St. Thomas and captured there by Jesuits and handed over to Portuguese. How far this narration is correct based on different information we get from various sources. It is interesting to note that none of the authors agree with one another with respect to flight of Mar Ahatallah.

Did Ahatallah reach Surat to come to Malankara? Why was he disembarked at Surat when he could have reached any port in Malankara? To avoid Portuguese watchful eyes is the usual answer to this problem may stand nullified when the very same watch dogs were all over the region –Persian gulf or Arabian Gulf , Socotra ,Hormuz etc. Again the travel to  Mylapore is the most ridiculous thing attached to this badly crafted story. This may be to create an image of Mylapore as resting place of St. Thomas. Unfortunately the word used for the place where he was arrested was “Calamina’’ and do not match the name ” Mylapore” in any way.

Now the so called historians say he reached Mylapore and was staying with Jesuit establishment when he got arrested by Portuguese with the help of the Jesuits. In order to find the correctness of this story we need to check the position of Jesuit establishment at Mylapore. It is reported that the Jesuit established their church and college not later than AD 1648.  We have information about the activities of Jesuits through various letters published around the world. But lack any thing related with Mar Ahatallah except few modern Katholic (especially SMC) priest historians quoting some letters written by Rector of Jesuit college at Mylapore. The information we get from these modern authors are not quite consistent with other writers of the earlier period.

In order to check the veracity of this story it would be advisable to compare the visit of another prelate who happened to visit Malankara within 30 years of Mor Ahatallah’s visit. This prelate also said to have landed at Surat to avoid Portuguese persecution and proceeded to Thalassery and reached Kothamangalam  through the forest . Now a simple question arises here is that why  didn’t Eldo Mor Baselios  take the same route as the Mar Ahatalla despite his port of entry was the same . This question is quite natural because the visit of the prelate was just 30 years after the Mar Ahatallah ‘s visit. The most ridiculous thing is that Mor Ahatallah went directly to Mylapore which is itself was a creation of Portuguese administration. It is difficult for any one with common intelligence to believe the story propagated by these church historians. Was Mor Ahatallah such an unintelligent to understand the  reason behind the very letter of invitation which said to have been received? This explains to any one that there need a rethinking on the so called Mor Ahatallah story.

Let us rewind the story , the prelate was at Cairo when he got the information about the Malankara Church from Coptic Patriarch. Naturally he might have proceeded from Cairo to Malakara through Arabian Gulf, which certainly brought him to Socotra and finally in the hand of Portuguese. It is noted that the Portuguese rule of Socotra was ended much earlier but their presence was there and was very much in control over the maritime trade. But it is also stated that he went his home town before starting the journey to Malankara. Some even state that he went to Moshul to get permission from Nestorian Patriarch. This is another funny thing we get from these church historians that a Monophysite bishop going to a Dyophysite Catholicate to get permission. Any way if he had started from Aleppo he could have followed another route to reach Malankara through Bazrah the southern port of Iraq or through any port in the Persian Gulf region. Though the rule of Portuguese in Bahrain was ended by AD 1540 but they are completely evicted from the region by AD 1680. There were many Portuguese colonies in the region and they were in very much control of maritime trade in the region.i.e.They could have traced Mor Ahatallah easily from this region. Historians argue that the said bishop landed in Surat on the basis of spotting a Sadhu in the Capuchin post in Surat. They spot him in Maylapore on the basis of Calamina reference in his letter supposed to have been sent to Malankara Nazranies. It is also learned from later day SMC historians that they have evidence from some letters (no other historians have ever checked the veracity of these documents) of rector of Jesuit college at Mylapore, who was claimed as his custodian ( will discuss it later).

Understanding the situation prevailed in the region of Arabian Gulf and Persian Gulf during the period of Mor Ahatallah’s visit, one can easily conclude that he could have picked up from the region. It is possible that the Surat story may be created to support the Mylapore myth. This is questionable based on the basis of route followed by Mor Yaldo Basselios who came to Malankara just after 30years of the said visit by Mor Ahatallah. Interesting thing is that the Nestorian bishops who reached Malankara were not much aware of the Maylapore myth as learned from their letter. The letter through which they were informing their Catholicos about the tomb is the best evidence. Only a vested interest can suggest that the said bishop  visited Mylapore to pay respect to ST.Thomas tomb when entire batch of Nestorian bishops(except one during the Portuguese excavations as reported by Portuguese authors) before him or Monophysite Bishops after him were not aware of the Mylapore story.

Then what could have happened actually? Most of the evidences and logical conclusion suggest that he could have picked up some where in the gulf region and brought to Kochi for further action. It is also possible that the said prelate might have met some delegates or merchants of Malankara Nazranies in the gulf region and passed the information. We are well aware that Malankara Nazranies were sending delegation to Patriarchates of Copts ,Antioch and Moshul. There is another possibility that the said delegation (Merchants) met him in Baharin which is identified as Dilmun/Calamina by some historians. Plz  understand that the name of the place where ST.Thomas said to have been buried  addressed  as Mylapore only  during or after 14th century by all authors /travelers  when our bishop clearly state the place is Calamina. This itself shows the Calamina  is not the Mylapore of Portuguese.(To be continued) 

Reference –about  St.Thomas resting place

1) Act of Thomas-says the bones of the apostle must have been removed to Edessa (Acts of Thomas, A F J Klijn)-no place name is given except India

 2) Hippolytus who died a martyr during the reign of the Roman Emperor Sirrus(225-235) has recorded that” the apostle Thomas after having preached the gospel to the Parthians ,Medes, Persians suffered martyrdom at Codamina, a town of India .(E Kenneth, St. Thomas The apostle of India)-Codamina or Calamina first time the place is specified!

3)St. Ephrem (A D 373) had surely the translation of the relics in mind when he wrote in one of his hymns ”Whence is thy origin, O! Thomas that so illustrious thou shouldst become. A merchant  has conveyed thy bones ,a (priest)pontiff has made a celebration for thee; and a king had erected a shrine (for thee)”(David Daniel-The orthodox church of India)-no place name is given except India

4)There is a Syriac book ‘Life of Hermit Yonan’ which is supposed to have been written in the late fourth century and by a certain Zadoe, priest monk and achimandrite of the monastery of St . Thomas in India.(A M Mundadan , History of Christianity in India) no place name is given except India.

5) St. John Chrysostom merely says that the site of St .Thomas tomb is as much known as the site of the tombs of St. Peter, St . Paul and St. John but he does not give any definite indication as its location.(A M Mundadan-History of Christianity in India)

6)Rufus, the Church historian who lived in Edessa and wrote the Chronicles of Edessa contend that it was  in 394 A D that they were transferred to Edessa.(George Milne Rae-the Syrian Church in India ) no indication of place.

7 )The fifth century Martyrologium Hieronymianum assigns 3rd July as the commemoration day in Edessa of the translation of the body of St. Thomas ,who suffered in India.(A M Mundadan,History of Christianity in India) no indication of place.

8) Gregory ,the Bishop of Tours ,in his In Gloria Martyrum writes:Thomas ,the Apostle ,according to history of his passion ,is declared to have suffered in India. After a long time his blessed body was taken into the city which they called Edessa in Syria , and there buried. Therefore ,in that Indian place where he first rested ,there is a monastery and a church of wonderful size and carefully adorned and arrayed.(cited in The Indian church of St.Thomas ,C P Mathew &M M Thomas).Gregory of Tours (A D 594)gives an account of the monastery of St. Thomas in India based on the report he had heard from a monk called Theodore who had visited that monastery .(A M Mundadan, History of Christianity in India)no indication of place.

9)In 841,Suleiman,a muslim traveler, mentions ‘Bethuma’(House of Thomas),which can be reached  10 days from Quilon.(Mundadan-no reference is given,)no indication of place.

10) A monastery in the name of St. Thomas with strength of 200 inmates possibly existed around 363A D or before, near Black Island (South of Baith Katraye),in India ,which itself was near the city of Milon, at a distance of six days ‘journey from Maron.(Z M Paret, Malankara nazranikal Vol.I-ref Fr. Hosten’s Antiquities from San Thoma and Mylapore.)Beth katraye is however an island in Persian gulf .It, there fore , could be contented that black island in the Persian gulf .

11)Pseudo-Sophroniius(A D 7th century )seems to be the first to indicate the place name ‘calamina’ where St.Thomas was martyred and buried .Isidore of Seville(A D636)says’thomas was martyred and buried in Calamina a city of India.(A M Mundadan-no reference is given)

13)Qalimaya, an approximation of Calamina, is found in a Syriac manuscript of A D874 (Hambye”st.thomas”-cited in History of Christianity in India, A M Mundadan)

14)Anglo Saxon Chronicle says in the year 883,”Singeln and Athelstan conveyed to Rome the alms which King Alfred had vowed to send thither and also to India to St.thomas and St.Bartholomai when the tWilliam Malmesbury (A D 1143)says “beyond the sea, to Rome and to St. Thomas in India he(Alfred) send many gifts .The legate employed for this purpose was Singelinus , the bishop of Sherborne ,who with great success arrived in India and every one at this age wonders. Returning thence he brought back exotic gems and aromatic liquors which the land there produces”(George Mark Moraes-A History of Christianity in India).Again no place name!

15)Bar-Ebraya(1226-1286) has also given an account of the translation of the relics to Edessa in his work ‘OUSAR ROSSAE’.”Addai (Thaddeus) ,the chief of the 70 evangelist s, is the twin brother of St. Thomas and hence was called the Twin, St. Thomas ,130yers after his death ,appeared to Habban ,the grand son of the Habban the merchant ,one night in dream and told him that he was duty bound to take his body and bury  it beside his brother’s: it was his grandfather Habban who had brought him to India hence he was duty bound to bring him back to Urhai (Edessa)beside his brother Addai .Immediately he took the holy body of the Apostle to Edessa ,and placed it beside Addai’s grave, where he built a church”(Bar-Ebraya:Ousar Rosse,Quoted and translated in Malayalam by Fr. Abraham Konat, in Malankara Sabha Vol.29 issue 10 1974 october.) Again no place name!

16)Mar Solomon (13th century),a Nestorian bishop, writes in his Book of theBee: Thomas was from Jerusalem of the tribe of Juda. He taught the Persians , Medes and Indians; because he baptized  the daughter of the King of Indians he stabbed him with a spear and he died. Habban the merchant brought his body and laid it in Edessa, the blessed city of our Lord. Others say that he was buried  Mahluph a city in the land of Indians.(The book of bee, edited by E A W Budge.)

17)Marco Polo(A D 1293), who said to have been visited the burial place of St.Thomas  wrote “it is in the province which is styled the greater India ,at the gulf between Ceylon and the main land that the body of Messer St. Thomas lies at a certain town having no great population ;it is a place not very accessible.”(A M Mundadan, History of Christianity in India, Ref:Medlycott).No mention of the place. 

18)John Monte Corvino(A D 1291) “I…….departed from Tauris, a city of Persians ,in the year of Lord 1291,and proceeded to India .And I remained in the country of India ,wherein stands the church of St. Thomas the Apostle, for thirteen months, and in that region baptized in different places about one hundred persons. The companion of my journey was Friar Nicholas of Pistoia, of the order of preachers, who died their, and buried in the church aforesaid.”(Cathay and the way thither,Vol.lll;A E Medlycott ,India and Apostle Thomas) no mention about the place.

19)Bl. Oderic(1325):After discussing Malabar, which he calls Minibar:” there is a journey of ten days to another realm which is called Mobar, and this is very great, and hath in it many cities and towns .And in this realm is laid the body of the Blessed Thomas the Apostle .His church is filled with idols, and beside it are some fifteen houses of Nestorians; that is to say, Christians, but vile and pestilent heretics.”(A E Medlycott, India and Apostle Thomas).No mention about the name of the place.

20)John De Marignolli(1349):He says of the shrine:”the third province of india is called Maabar,and the Church of St.Thomas, which he built with his own hands, is there besides another which he built by the agency of workmen .Regarding a local tradition of the apostle’s presence on the is lsland of Ceylon. He report the saint ordering the trunk of a tree that had been cut down on the island’Go and tarry for us at the haven of the city of MIRAPOLIS; which, as Yule observe, is a Graecized form of the name Mylapore.”(cited in A E Medlycott, India and Apostle Thomas ,Yule -Cathey and the way Thither)  Marignolli adds that the Jews, Muslims, and even some of the Christians, regarded the Latins as the worst of idolaters , because they use statues and images in their churches.(A M Mundadan,History of Christianity in india)

21)Nicolo de Conti (1425-1430):”Proceeding onwards the said Nicolo arrived at a maritime city ,which is named Malepur(should be Malpuria),situated in the second gulf beyond the Indus(the bay of Bengal).Here the body of St. Thomas lies honorably buried in a large and beautiful church: it is worshipped by heretics ,who are called Nestorians, and inhabit this city to the number of thousand .these Nestorians are scattered over all India, as the Jew among us.(A E Medlycott, India and Apostle Thomas-Quoted from  R H Major’s India in the Fifth century, Hakluyt society, London.)

22)Amr ,son of Matthew,(1340): a Nestorian writer ,”His tomb stands on the peninsula MEILAN in India, to the right of the altar in the monastery bearing his name.” (A E Medlycott, India and Apostle Thomas)

23)Nestorian Bishops (1504):”The houses as well of saint Thomas the apostle have commenced to be occupied by some Christians who are looking after the repairs ;they are situated at a distance from our aforesaid Christians of about twenty five days, and stand in a city on the sea named MELIAPOR, in the province of Silan ,which is one of the provinces of India”(A E Medlycott, India and Apostle Thomas; quoted from Assemani ,Bibl. Oriental.)

Now see there is no identification of place where St.Thomas died or Buried by these authors/travelers  until  7th century. It was Pseudo-Sophroniius(A D 7th century) first clearly noted the place as “Calamina” (Plz note that no reference is given by Fr.Mundadan ,no exact date of the author or ). But it is also interesting to note the writings of Fr. Hosten- Antiquities from San Thoma and Mylapore noted by Z.M Paret. Read “”A monastery in the name of St. Thomas with strength of 200 inmates possibly existed around 363A D or before, near Black Island (South of Baith Katraye),in India ,which itself was near the city of Milon, at a distance of six days ‘journey from Maron”” This ‘Baith Katraye”  is however an island in Persian gulf. Is it indicating St.Thomas buried in some where in Persian Gulf?

Again read further the ‘Calamina’  continued to surface in the writings of the authors till  Bl. Oderic(1325) first locate the place. But he give us a very ,very important evidence that the place was filled with Idols. Nestorians and Idols clearly indicate that it was not Nestorians he met rather Manichaean church with Idols . Have ever come across a Nestorian church with idols?

What I want to say is that history has nothing to offer as evidences to Mylapore. It is all a vague reference of Malpuria, Mailan,Malepur ,Mirapolis etc. after AD 1325.