Friday, 25 March 2016


Today historical researches are mainly based on inscriptions, manuscripts, archaeological excavations etc. Of course they are the primary/direct sources . Subjects like linguistic studies, Anthropological studies , Genetics etc.  are used as secondary data or parallel evidences . But there are many non conventional   fields which can help us in knowing our past. 

Food habits or traditional dishes of different communities are one among them. It helps us to understand the hidden story. Often scholars give very little interest in it. It may be because of overlapping or difficulty in arriving any conclusion. But in my opinion it makes one of the best parallel evidences.

“PESAHA” traditions and dishes  of Malankara Nazranies make one of the best examples  in this regard. As you know well, Malankara Nazranies are the direct custodians of a Judeo-Dravidian tradition. They settled on the shores of Malankara (Kerala,South India) at least from the third century onwards. Many traditions indicate that their origin is from a Judeo-Dravidian mixing.  May be the Jews settled on the shores of Malankara supplied the base of this community. Evidences like traditions, beliefs, practices etc. lead us to this conclusion.   St. Thomas stories often propagated by  Malankara Nazranies  find very little concrete evidences to support with but the circumstantial and parallel evidences might have some truth in it even though the stories of Malankara Nazranies  mostly  being illogical . What ever may be the truth DNA analysis indicate the connection with West Asia.

Malankara Nazranies have peculiar traditions on Pesaha (Maundy Thursday) day. There is no other Christian sect in the world keeps such traditions on Maundy Thursday. Why is that? 

In my childhood, it was celebrated in a traditional way. I was born and brought up in a mixed locality. The population of Malankara Nazranies were much lesser as compared with other Christians like Roman Katholics . But we had a peculiar way in celebrating the Pesaha.  We start with our Pesaha celebration in the morning at 4’o clock attending a prolonged service at our Palli (Church). By 6 a.m. in the morning we return to our homes. After the brake fast family members start cleaning the entire house to make ready for Pesaha celebration.  Then women folks of the family get down to prepare special dishes for our Pesaha celebration. These dishes are called KALTHAPPAM ,PESAHAPPAM and PAAL. Kalthappam is an exclusive Pesaha dish only belongs to Malankara Nazranies.  No other Christians who claim syriac background has this particular dish. Though the ingredients are some what similar but the preparations are entirely different.    This has often generated interest in me.

Kalthappam mainly made up of unleavened batter made out of Urad dal , coconut, rice flour, garlic , shallots  etc. It is a kind of pancake , roti or bread prepared in the middle east or West Asia. More interesting is the way in which it is prepared.   It is prepared by heating under and above portions of this Roties. This is an exclusive preparation when we consider the usual cooking methods of Kerala.

The utensils used for Kalthappam preparations called “Varakalam” a large flat mud pot with wide opening. Two Varakalams are required to give heat from both sides of the Kalthappam.  First place the Kalthappam  inside the larger Varakalam and give heat using firewood .Then place the other Varakalam over the first one and put burning logs into it so that it gives heat to front portion of the Kalthappam. It is cooked by the heat environment generated by this particular arrangement. This arrangement can be called a typical “Tandoor”. This part of India never had practiced such cooking methods for other local dishes. Obviously question arises that how did this practice come to exist among Malankara Nazranies? Is it come from their ‘Yahoodi” connections?

Malankara Nazranies also make usual Pesahappam with almost same ingredients except the excessive use of shallots and some other items (in Kalthappam)using steamed cooking  methods like Iddly. PAAL is an associate dish, which may resembles the wine or the curry made during “Yahoodi’’ Pesaha ceremony. It is made of thick jaggery juice ,coconut milk, rice flour, cumin seeds, cardamom etc.

Finally the family get down to break the Kalthappam  (around 4 o’clock in the evening )which decorated with plantain leaf in a cross shape. Starting with a prayer and song exclusive to this Pesaha occasion head of the family or the eldest male member of the family break the Kalthappam and give it to each family member  starting from the eldest to youngest in a revered manner. Family members dip it in to the common PAAL and consume it with prayers. Then they get their glass of Paal and more appams as required. The other Pesahappam also  cut ( it can be cut by a knife because it is flexible due to steamed cooking) follow the same procedure.

It is also noted that the Steamed Pesahappam is called INRI appam by Roman Katholics(SMC & Latin church in Kerala) . Malankara Nazranies never call it by this name or this celebration has any connection with Palli Namaskara Karmams. It is an exclusive family tradition. Currently Roman Katholics and Latin Katholics have started  Pesaha celebrations and they are promoting it as a part of Palli (Church) ritual. But the astonishing thing is that Kalthappaam and its peculiar methods of cooking is exclusive to Malankara Nazranies .

This KALTHAPPAM tradition is exclusive to Malankara Nazranies of North . i.e. Malankara nazranies of south (south of Kottayam) hardly has this practice. I always wondered why did this difference exist? Is it indicating the different groups existed among Malankara nazranies? If that so there must have existed some other peculiar celebrations or traditions in this part. But my search finds no evidence of such exclusivity, Why ?

There were two groups of Malankara Nazranies  from the beginning  1) Chattukulangara( Palur- Arthattu) Nazranies and 2) Kurakkeni Kollam ( Thevalakkara-Kayamkulam) Nazranies. There exist some differences in practices and traditions among them. Is it indicating some kind of different origins? I think most unlikely because these groups were inter connected from the very early period. More over many of the southern families trace back their Northern origin (due to Tippu’s attack and other socio-economic reasons). I think this difference may be because of the geographical distance and over influence of western missionaries.

Any way KALTHAPPAM and PESAHA celebrations shows the antiquity and traditional connection of Malankara nazranies with Yahoodies.