Pakalomattam family is an ancient Suriyani (Syrian) Christian family in Kerala, India. They are popularly known as Syrian Christians in view of the Syriac (classical form of Aramaic) liturgy used in church services since the early days of Christianity in India and not for any Syrian migration. They are also known as Nazaranis (followers of Jesus the Nazarene).[1][2]


St. Thomas, the apostle visited Kerala in AD 52, as part of his missionary work in Persia, North India and Afghanistan.[3] According to a Malabar tradition that he ordained Bishops and priests from the Pakalomattom family. The Saint Thomas Christians are a group of Christians from the Malabar Coast (now Kerala), who follow Syriac Christianity.[4]

The Kerala traditions do not have a system of recording and handing over the details of historical incidents and records. Hence we have to depend on the Church history, social history, oral traditions and legends handed down the generations to distill history out of them. Certain oral traditions and legends have over the centuries corrupted with interpolations and additions to suit the times/interest of its authors. To have a critical evaluation of these facts and to deduct the truly historical elements out of them is a very difficult task but it is absolutely necessary to write the history of the times. Or else it will lead to historical controversies and it may lead to negation of historical truth. Most of the historical critics have pointed out the historical inconsistencies and anachronisms contained in these legends handed down to us by our ancestors.

In the absence of concrete historical corroborative evidence, which can be historio-graphically proved, many historians even expressed doubts on the missionary journey of St. Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, to Kerala and South India. It may be remembered that even secular histories about Emperor Asoka or even Vikramaditya do not have historiographical evidence. Indians have a tendency of treating traditions as history. They even call the legends of India as purana and Ithihasa meaning history. Hence writing history on pure historical records alone will not be possible as far as Indian history is concerned. Indians lack a sense of history as Vincent Smith commented. The Marthoma Christians started writing their history on the compulsive persuasions of Portuguese and other Europeans from the 16th century onwards. Christians of Kerala call themselves Marthoma Christians, remembering the traditions of their conversion to St. Thomas the apostle of Jesus Christ. When they reduced it to writing, their history happened to be the crystallization of their traditional history held tobe true by them and belived to be true by the contemporary society. The oral traditions gets historical veracity and authenticity by the supporting evidence from the individual truths connected with histories of families, villages, land and revenue records etc. of the place. The quintessence of this traditional history had created confusion among them and also created confusion among their sister societies.

The Summary of Mathoma Christian Tradition

St. Thomas, the apostle after the Pentesost day, did missionary work in Persia, North India & Afghanistan. He visited Jerusalem at the death of St. Mary, mother of Jesus and attended the Jerusalem Synod in AD 50.

Then he journeyed to south India and landed at the chera capital port of cranganore or musiris in Kerala. After this he traveled to south East Indian shore and did missionary activity there. In AD 72, at the port city of Mylapore, South of Chennai the old Madras city he was martyred.

The living testimony of St.thomas mission in India is the enlivening presence of the St.thomas Christians in Kerala and their living traditions. His tomb is not claimed by any other people in the world requires a special note. The mortal remains of St. Thomas, wherever it is kept like Edessa, Orthona etc certifies that it is brought from India. The fact that the tomb of St. Thomas is 1500 km away from Trichur in Chennai coast and the Solemn celebration of St. Thomas day (Dukrana) on July 3 when Kerala is having incessant rain by Syrian Christians here is a living concrete testimony of the St. Thomas connection of Kerala Christians.

St. Thomas

On the command of Jesus to spread the Gospel to the four corners of Earth, all disciples traveled to different parts of the world. St. Thomas was given East and India and he came to North west India and later South India and spread the holy gospel of Jesus. Apostle converted many people to the Christian faith and rituals. The people who thus became Christians called themselves Marthoma Christians.

The history of Christianity in India thus starts from the missionary activity of St. Thomas. The early biographical details, early life, relatives etc. of St. Thomas are not recorded in the Gospels. Only Indication in the holy Bible is that the apostle was a native of Galilee in Palestine, and was a fisherman by profession. He was called Thomas and had a second name. Didymos which is the Greek word for “Twin”.

In the Jewish tradition the name Thomas is absent. The real name must be Jude. In the Syriac tradition he is called Jude Thomas or Thoma, who is called Jude Thomas. Thomas who is called Jude (John 14:18, and 24) and the other Jude is used in Codex Sinaiticus to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, the traitor disciple, who showed Jesus to Jewish authorities for 30 silver coins. The synoptic gospels also used the name Juda. The Acts of Thoma also calls him Jude Thomas. Mar Aprem, for John 20:24, also used the name Juda thoma. The occidental tradition calls hime Thomas, but the oriental tradition calls hime Juda. The Syriac traditions holds that Thomas is one among the four brothers of Jesus, hinted in the Synoptic gospel. Modern historical research by Martin Gielen also holds this views. They were actually the children of clepha’s (brother of Joseph) daughter Mariam, thus cousin brothers of Jesus. They grew up with Jesus in Galilee and hence considered brothers of Jesus. The aprocryphal book of Thomas the contender, also pictures apostle Thomas as brother of Jesus. But it cannot be held indisputably whether St. Thomas was one among these three or four brothers.

St. John the apostle, in his gospel gave much importance to St. Thomas. This means that eastern European traditions carried the west Asian traditions connected with St. Thomas in Persia. “Let us also go and die with him” and the declaration of faith “my Lord and my God” are credited to St. Thomas in the Gospel according to St. John. The innocent expression of St. Thomas that “We do not know, where are thou going unto” paved way for the declaration of Jesus “I am the way, the truth and life” in the end. St. Thomas was courageous, truthful and expressed his logical mind in the gospel. The declaration of the godhood, personality and messianic role of Jesus came from the words of St. Thomas. It is a great testimony of the greatness of the disciple (John 11:8, 14: 20-28). The Epistle of Hebrews, and Epistle of Jude are credited to St. Thomas by Gielen.

The Manichaen and Gnostic thoughts are given in the three apocryphal books, gospel According to St. Thomas, gospel according to St. Mary and one Act of Thomas. They are credited to the authorship of the apostle. They were detected in 1945 from the Nag Hammadi Texts of Egypt. These books give clear evidence of his single handed missionary journey in the west Asian and central Asian lands and in the Mesopotomian crescent including the Persian lands of oxus-Jaxartes basins, media, Bactria,Sind etc. The Indian missionary activity was given a foundation and initial seeds were sown by him, in his lonely effort. It is also handed down in tradition that he gave sermons in Ceylon and China.

The apocryphal biography of St.Mary, States that St. Thomas reached the Jerusalem tomb of St. Mary and very typical of him asked to open the tomb to see her mortal remains. The tomb was found empty and this is cited as one of the evidences of the assumption of St. Mary to heaven. But taken in totality St. Thomas is usually called and universally known as “The apostle of India”. He is the founding father of so many Christian congregations and Churches in India. The Jewish merchant guilds in the trade cities Kerala were a guiding source of St. Thomas journey, through the trade route to Kerala. The Jew towns existed in cranganore and palayur from 5th century BC. It is suspected by some historians that Jews established trade with South India even from the times of Solomon the wise from the 10th century BC. Jewish settlements started from 557 BC in the Kerala coast. The items like peacock, monkey, spices, rice, teak, sandalwood etc. were exported from Kerala to Jewish lands. The Syriac words became common to South Indian words in this process.

Peacock : Tokai in Tamil. Tuki in Syriac the word used in vulgate and septugint versions of the Bible AD 1st century Monkey : Kapi in Sanskrit and Kaphi in Syriac Sandalwood : Chandan in Tamil Chandal in Syriac Rice : Arisai in Tamil Oryz in Latin and oryza sativa in Botanical name, Greek word for rice is Ari the same word in Malayalam Mother : Amma in Tamil Emma in Syriac Father : Appa in Tamil Abba in Syriac Teak : Take in Tamil Teak in Syriac These are quoted by linguistic experts in support of the theory of Kerala trade with Jews from 10th century BC.

St. Thomas the apostle first came to Taxila in present day Pakistan first. Edessa, Nisibus, Hormuz and Jadaddala were the trade route to India. He established the native Churches there. These Churches were later destroyed during the Hunnish invasion from AD 380-500 in North west India. He went back to Jerusalem from western India by AD 50. In the second Journey, he came to South India. Hippalus, the navigator had discovered the monsoon wind sailing route and its mechanism by the first century AD. St.Thomas might have used these merchant ships to arrive at the coast of Kerala. He landed at crangenore or muziris in AD 52 and established the congregations namely cranganore, Palayur (Trichur District), Paravur or Kottakavu (Ernakulam District) Niranam, Kokkamangalam(Alleppy district) Kollam(Kollam district) Chayal or Nilakkal (Hill Slopes of Pathanamthitta District). Nilakkal was the township on the trade rout connecting Madurai to Cranganore , and the other six places were either sea ports or backwater ports in lakesides. All of them were trade centers in the beginning of Christian Era. He later went to eastern coast and was martyred at Mylapore. The Venetian traveler Marco Polo records in 1290 AD that a hunter aiming and shooting a peacock hit St.Thomas and caused his death. The other names of Mylapore are myloor, Mylan, Calemina, Coyilavaya, Calemena, Calevonec, Calavini. The Chinnamala is called in Syriac language “Galmano”. Medlycott (Page 87-86) argues that “Galmano” became “Calamina” of the Acta Thoma, the apocryphal book.

The martyrdoms of other apostles are no more credible than the martyrdom of St. Thomas. All stories and histories of St. Thomas, cannot write his biography without mentioning or narrating India. The pilgrimage to St. Thomas Tomb was an age old tradition. The soil taken from Mylapore was mixed with water and used as medicine in Kerala. Till 13th century there was a Christian community in Mylapore. During the malik Kafur’s invasion of Tamil Nadu, the Christians fled from Mylapore to Kanyakumari District. The tomb of St. Thomas was protected by Muslims when Marcopolo and Portugese saw the tomb in 13th and 16th century. Marcopolo (13th century) Monte Corvino (13th century) Oderic (14th century) Maringoli, Nicolo Comti, Barbosa are some of the European travelers visiting Mylapore. In 1522, Portuguese opened the tomb and got the mortal remains shifted to Goa. Archeologists confirm the tomb to be centuries of age. The present Mylapore church was constructed in 1547. the Periamala is known as St. Thomas mount. The bones which were carried to Edessa in 3rd century was later shifted to Orthona, and one bone was later brought back by Cardinal Tisserent to Kodungalloor in 1953 and is kept there. When Mosul church was renovated, the remains of St. Thomas was found in a box and one bone was brought and kept in Catholicate chapel in Devalokam, Kottayam in 1965. One bone of St. Thomas was brought in 1994 and is kept in Mulanthuruthy Marthoman Church.

                                            The evidence of St. Thomas mission in India

The mission of St. Thomas to India is attested by lot of foreign authorities, though original records may not be forth coming. The destruction of all antique records in the Synod of Diamper, 1599 by Portuguese may be one of the reasons. Inscriptions on stone or copper plates are far and few and the palmyra leaf writings were all perishable material in a monsoon intested Kerala climate. Hence we are forced to be content with little number of records. The chief records are the following.

1. 2ndcentury

Syriac, Doctrine of Apostles

St. Thomas wrote letters from “India”. He evangelized “India” and countries bordering on it.

2. 170


St. Thomas died a natural death

3. 210

Clementine Recognitions

St. Thomas evangelized the Parthians

4. 220

Clement of Alexandria

St. Thomas died a natural death

5. 251


St. Thomas evangelized the Parthians

6. 340


St. Thomas evangelized the Parthians

7. 378


St. Thomas was martyred in “India, His relics were part at Edessa, Part in India.

8. 389

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

St. Thomas evangelized India

9. 394

St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Thomas Evangelised Mesopotamia

10. 397


St.Thomas was martyrd

11. 400


St.Thomas was martyrd

12. 407

St. John Chrysostom

The locality of the grave of St. Thomas was known to him.

13. 410


St. Thomas evangelized Parthia. His relics were at Edessa.

14. 410


St. Thomas was martyred in India. Some of his relics were at Brescia.

15. 420


St. Thomas was in India

16. 431

St.Paulinus OF Nole

St. Thomas was allotted India

17. 443


He mentions the famous church of St. Thomas at Edessa, and perhaps implies that his relics were there.

18. 445


He mentions the famous church of St. Thomas at Edessa, and perhaps implies that his relics were there.

19. 594

St. Gregory of Tours

St. Thomas was martyred in India; his relics were transferred to Edessa, and there was then existing a famous Church in India, at the place where the body of the apostle was first buried.

Before Cosmos Indicopleustes, there is no reference about Christianity in south India. There are other records of the St. Thomas history other than the list prepared by W.R. Philips. Main among them are:-

1. Kavya in Malayalam called Thoma Parvam 2. A detailed descriptions in Remban Pattu. 3. Reference to St. Thomas in the daily prayers of Christians in the Kerala from the beginning. 4. Martydom day of Dukrana as observed on July 3 in Kerala from ancient times. 5. The 7 Churches which have been established by St. Thomas and the stories and geographical

   details and unity among them in the 7 different places.

6. Evidences by St. Mark in Syria, the 6th century. 7. Detailed references in the Roman Brevier. 8. Reference by Marco Polo, who is the ancient traveler who visited Tamil Nadu and Kerala in

   the 13th century.

9. References by Gregory of tours. 10. References by traveler Nocolo Comti. 11. References by John Marangoli 12. References in England in the records of king Alfred in the 8th century. 13. Historical attestations by Vincent smith, Shur Shamar’s recent history. 14. References by missionaries like Claudius Buchanan, Bishop Heeber and Mignana

The Byzantine traditional liturgy and the Antiochean liturgy also testifies to St. Thomas tradition. The teachings of Mar Adai testifies to the martyrdom of St. Thomas. In the folklore tradition there is a song called veeradian Pattu, refers to St. Thomas, Canae Thomas and the titles received from Cheraman Perumal. Modern authorities are countless.

Foreign Visits and References

It is opened by some like T.K.Joseph that Thirukkural of Thiruvalluvar possibly of 2nd century AD, has some Christian influences. But all the Sangha kala works are totally silent on Christianity. The visit of Alexandrian monk Pantaneus, to Kodungallur who had an intellectual debate with Brahmins is an important indication. This is testified by St. Eusebius and St. Jerome. In A.D 295, on the request of Kerala Christians, the Persian Catholicos sent a bishop called Daud to India. [Chronique da seeret Historia Nestorians Page. 236]. In the synod of Nicea Bishop John represented Persia and Greater India. The arrival of Canae Thoma reinvigorated the Kerala church. Whether he came in 337 AD, 754 AD or 874 AD is a disputed question among historians. Cosmos Indicopleutus reports that Kalliana has Christians and their bishop were ordained in Persia. The places like Taprobane (Tamraparni) Ceylon, Kalliana etc. are mentioned. The land of pepper vines are referred and this last one is certainly Malabar of Kerala. Mignana also referes to Priests ordained in Persia. The travelogue of Marcopolo (1290 Ad) and the writings of Tertullian refers to Indian Christians.

Palayur Period

St. Thomas came to Palayur, as per tradition as the second place of his visit after Kodungallur. The place was a Jain and Budhist centre. So called Dravidian Population was the predominant section in the society. Palayur had Brahmin and Jewish colonies. Pliny AD. 52 the Greek traveler mentions “Palura” and “Brahmagora” which are suspected to be Palayur and Brahmakulam on the Arabian Sea Coast, one km. inside. It was a trade city as well as a confluence point of many religions.

The incident of St. Thomas meeting the Brahmins is interesting. The Brahmins were doing the Tharpanam in the Thalikulam. Apostle asked them, whether they can hold the water in the atmosphere. They said they cannot do it against the gravitational rule. Then the apostle did the miracle, and the water remained in the sky and the trogh was seen on the surface of the water. Perceiving the upperhanded power of the Apostle, the four families accepted the faith of the apostle. It is interesting to note that the same story exist in northern Iran and Turkish mosul area,that Apostle Thomas did this miracle and converted Zorastrians to Christianity. The miracle appears to be the stock-in-trade of the apostle. Doubting Thomas who believed only after seeing things made the people believe by showing vision miracle. Physical experience was the key.

The four Brahmin families who accepted Baptism were Pakalomattam, Kalli, Kalliankel and Sankarapuri. Of this Pakalomattam and Sankarpuri were given sole right on Priest hood. The pakalomattam Brahmins were the traditional Vedic instructionist teachers. They were called oathans in ancient kerala. That may be why they were given chief priest position. The Pakalomattam house was one furlong west of Palayur Church, and the house plot even now is existing in Survey No: 64/7. The festival of Palayur Church falls on July – 15, the supposed day in which the Brahmins accepted Christian faith. The other Brahmins cursed the place and left, thus in Malayalam the place came to be called “Sapakad” or cursed land, which later became “Chavakkad” and now Chowghat. Many modern historians are of the opinion that Brahmins did not reach kerala before the 4th century. The Brahmin supremacy of Kerala became evident by the 8th century. This coincides with the decline of Budhism and Jainism in Kerala, largely due to the Advaita movement of Sankaracharya, (788-820 AD). But this does not mean that no Brahmins were there in the south before 8th century.

Were there Brahmins in Kerala in 1st century?

Kerala was known to Vedic Aryans even in Rigvedic Period 5000 years ago. In the Sanskrit Sloka defining India starting “Uttaram Yat Samudrasya”, the geographical boundaries were given in Rig Veda. In the Mahabharata war (dated at 1400 BC by Pagiter) Kerala Chief Participated by giving food to both sides. He is called “Perumchottudian” in the epic. The epic Mahabharata mentions the kings by the name “Pandyancha. Cheralan”. In Rig Vedic Nadi Suktam or sloka of rivers which name the rivers. “Imam me Ganga, Yamuna” etc. the river Kaveri is mentioned. Hence after knowing Kerala for 3,000 years, the Brahmins never came to Kerala for three millennium is an absurd theory. The Budhism and Jainism were very strong in Kerala, but that does not mean that Sanatana dharma, with its intellectual missionary vanguard, the Brahmins were absent in Kerala. Budhism and Jainism were Kshatriya and Vaisya revolts against Brahminism, and were in essence Hindu reform movements. Hence to say that the reform movements were here, but the original Brahmins and Hinduism were not here, is quite absurd. Aryans and their Indian forefront the Brahmins were very good travelers. They started from the Bohoemian Plateau by 3000 BC. By 2300 BC they traveled 2500 km and captured the Indus Valley destroying Harappa and Mohenjodaro. Their western cousins reached Palestine as Hittiles and were fighting Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses II in the Battle of Kadesh in 1545 BC. They traveled 2,000 km in 1,000 years. They reached Greece as Dorians and conquered Greek Peninsula by 1250 BC. They reached Rome and Italian Peninsula by 756 BC. They overran Spain and Britain by 55 BC. They took only 1,000 years to overrun the whole of Europe. From sind to the conquest of Gangetic basin they took less than 1000 years. Hence to argue that the Aryans will take more than 2500 years to reach Kerala, to say the least is foolishness. The Mosshika Vamsam Kavyam shows that the Haihayas reached Payyannur (North Kerala), in the 5th century BC. Parasurama came at this time. The Parasurama legend shows the Aryanisation of western coast including Kerala. Hence the Brahmins reached Kerala in the 5th century BC.

The confusion was created when the word Nampoothiri was used in the Palayur conversion story. Nampoothiri Brahmins are the Maratha Brahmins, who came as invaders to Kerala. Parasuramas ruled in the Narmada Valley of Maharastra. A Malwa King named Parasurama is supposed to have invaded Kerala and brought the Brahmins by force. “Illam” the word came from Marathi word “Illu” which means house. As they came by rowing in boats they were called Narambu=Row, and Nayambu –Thiris. Thus coming of Maratha Brahmins to Kerala, may have happened in the 4th and 5th centuries, and by 6th century they got the caste Name Nampoothiri. By 8th century sankaracharya a Nampoothiri is seen carrying his Sankara Dig Vijayam throughout India.

In the Sanghakala works we come across Brahmins by name “Anthanar”. The second-century Sanghakala poet Kapilar was a Anthanar Brahmin. The anthanar is used even by Ramapurathu warrier in his Vanchipattu. Agasthya and Tholkapiyar 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD the precursors of Tamil literature were Brahmins. In 2nd century BC itself the King Chandragupta Maurya resigned and came along with Sanyasis and Brahmins to Sravana Belagola in South Karnataka and lived there. Another 150 km of travel and the Brahmins could reach Kerala. The Parasurama legend shows large scale migration of Brahmins to Kerala. Chanakya, the Black Brahmin prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya in 3rd century BC was a South Indian Brahmin from golla country. A.S.P. Ayyar tells, Golla country is Kollam. In the Panthirukulam story Vararuchi, one of the Navaratnas of Vikramaditya (AD. 320 – 360) is shown as visiting Kerala. All this shows that Brahmins were only Pandits and not the ruling class. The early chaldean and mesopotomian languages also indicate Indian religion and the word used is Brahmin.

These are the Brahmins met by St. Thomas in Palayur. The epithet Nampoothiri was a later addition in the 16th century. Hence when we read Nampoothiri it may be understood as Brahmin or Anthanar. St. Thomas and Persian connection

Indian church from the beginning maintained intimate connection with the Persian Church. St.Thomas tradition in Persia is one of the causes for the same. Adai the disciple of St. Thomas is believed to be the founding father of the Church of Edessa and Mari the disciple of Adai is believed to be founding father of the church of Seleucia tesiphon. St. Thomas himself preached in Persia. Aramaic the spoken language of Jesus, became the liturgical language of all these places shows the common origin of four places and churches. First we had relation with furs, and by 7th century Indian Church was connected with Seleucia. The Persian patriarch (714-728) gave metropolitan Bishop to India. Patriarch Timoty (778 823) brought Indian Church under his control. Till 1558, Kerala Church had Persian Bishops visiting them for spiritual needs. Last Persian Bishop was Mar Abraham who died in 1597 and was buried in Ankamali church. But the practical administration was done by Archdeacons appointed from the Pakalomattam family. Before the advent of Portugese, it is believed that a Christian dynasty called Villarvattam ruled from 13th to 16th century with Diamper as capital. This shows the high Social Status of Christians in those two centuries. The Biblical names, the burial customs and the same social beliefs of all four Christian churches came from the common source of the Persian Church.

The major Pakalomattam Migration to Kuravillangad

It is believed that a major portion of the four Brahmin converted families migrated to Kuravilangad. Many believe that it happened in the 4th century AD some say exactly 337 AD. Some historians are of the opinion that actually it is 337 K.E ie 824+337 = 1161 AD. The stories and legends connected with the construction of Kuravilangad Forane church are the result of later mix of history with some fertile imaginations. The miraculous intervention of St. Mary in the construction of the church is evident. The never drying welll on the hill top is an evident testimony. According to tradition prevalent in Kuravilangad the church was founded in 345 AD.

Before the church construction the four Brahmin converted Christian families stayed in Kalikavu. They retained the old names. In survey volume 179, survey No. 519/8 is the plot of Pakalomattam. The other three families have their plots nearby. The tombs found in the plots show that the families buried their people in the plots themselves. At the time of the construction of the church, some of the four families shifted their residences to the four corners of the church property. Before this construction in the newsite, there may be small church in old Kalikavu in the Pakalmattam property. The adjacent plot is called “Srambical” which indicates a “Srambi” or house of a priest was nearby. All four families jointly constructed the church and that is why the trustees were divided to all families. The permission of all family chiefs were asked to start the church festival. The pakalomattam family stayed just on the northern side of the church, between the present Devamatha college plot and the northern wall. It was called Palli Vadakkedam family. As Pakalomattam was the chief priests among the four, they stayed closest to the church. They were called Palli Veedu. Only Vadakkedathu family got this epithet. Other branches are panamkuzha, Puthenpura, Kudukkasseri, Vettikunnel etc. A large number of leaders in spiritual and social leadership came out of Panamkuzha Branch.

The Pakalomattam Kalikavu branch existed up to 17th century. The two great Archdeacon Geevarghese of Christ and Archdeacon Geevarghese of the cross were born in this root family. Geevarghese of Christ was appointed as bishop of Palayur, but due to Portugese intrigue he couldn’t be ordained. As Archdeacon’s Position of the Bishop was above that of bisop it is suspected that the may have refused the position also. Archdeacon Geevarghese of the cross who have to suffer a lot was holding charge of Arch Deacon and Bishop’s Administrator when the synod of Diamper 1599 was held. He survived till 1637 AD, and he belonged to this root family. With his elder brother’s death, the root family became supportless and the children shifted residence to Kuravilangad Alappat family.

The plot adjacent to the root family has the tombs of Archdeacons. This is a holy land for all of us. It is very unfortunate that enough importance is not given to this plot in history. In 1925 P.J. Thomas reminded everyone that a memorial structure may be built here. The plot was in the ownership of alappatt family. But except 14 cents of land, the rest was sold to Parakkunel thommen Ouseph. His son P.J.thomas gave 24 cents of this to the church. The land kept by Alappatt family gave that land in a gift deed to the church in 1953. in 1963 a cupola was built there. Alappat Fr: Paulose was the vicar of the church at that time. The Nalukettu ground floor was visible even at that time. The well is preserved. Twenty feet east of the well are the tombs of the Archdeacons. So many favors are received for all those who seek their intercession. The Pallivadakkedem Branch also sold their property in 1936. In 1793 an Auseph from this family migrated to Kurichithanam. His elder brother is Marthoma VII who died in 1809. Later their successors lived here. Now most of this area is the parking stand of the church.

Ankamali and Niranam period of Pakalomattam Family

Pakalomattam family came to Ankamali in 480 AD. Whether they came from Palayur to Ankamali traveling 70 km South or they travelled from Kuravilangad to Ankamali traveling 70 km north is not known. Ankamali church was built in 480 AD. Later in the 14th century, the Archdeacon shifted his residence from Kuravilangad to Ankamali along with some family members. When Portuguese came to Kerala, ankamali was the HQ of the Kerala Church. In 1608 the Ankamali diocese was abolished and Shifted to Cranganore. Then Archdeacon went back to Kuravilangad. For 200 years Ankamali remained capital of Kerala Christians and Pakalomattam family. One Archdeacon’s tomb is visible in Ankamali church. 200 Pakalomattam families live in and around Ankamali, and they are available in all denominations of the church.

In 1653 the pledge of the Coonen cross happened at Mattancherry. Those who resisited the Portugese interference in Church affairs went to south and made Niranam their HQ. many Pakalomattam families stay there. It remained HQ till it was shifted to Kottayam in the 20th century.

Extinction of Kalli and Kalliankal and merger with Pakalomattam

By 17th century Kalli family became without heir. A boy from Palliveedu of Pakalomattam was adopted by Kalli family. From then Kalli Veedu came to be called Palli Veedu. All Kalli Veedu families at present are Pakalomattam branches only. Kalli willnot become “Palli” by any Linguistic twists as argued by some. As per phonetics ‘Pe’ will convert to “be” and “Ke” may become “che” or “je”. Hence Palli can become “balli” and “Kalli” can become “Challi” or “Jalli”. But Kalli cannot change to palli by any phonetic shifts. Hence the theory held by some that Kalli Veedu later came to be called palli veedu is fallacious. Only because Kalli Veedu took “dathu” or adoption from Pakalomattam Palli Veedu, it later came to be called Palli Veedu. Like wise Kalliankal also became heirless and Pakalomattam boys were adopted into their family. All families which claim descent from Kalli and Kalliankal are actually at present branches of Pakalomattam.

The Large Scale Migration and Diaspora formation of Pakalomattam

From 13th century onwards large Scale migrations happened in the Pakalmattam family. This was largely due to some reasons. By the 13th century a superstition spread in Kerala which said that if a thing became impure by Theendal and Thodeel (the custome with which an untouchable touch maje thing impure) it can be purified by a touch of Nazrani Christians. Hence all royal families and Brahmin families took a Christian family fom Pakalomattam root and accommodated them near their houses. All important towns got Christian presence in this way. In 1484 the Travancore King issued an edict giving monopoly right for trade in Travancore to Christians. Mahapillai means Merchant, which later shortened to Mappilai a term used to denote Christians in South Kerala. In the north the same name was given to Muslims because the Zamorin of Calicut gave monopoly trade rights to Muslims. Many Christian trade centers developed. They wanted churches and each of them came to Pakalomattam and took a priest to their places. In 1313, Nilackal was destroyed in the civil war between Veera Pandyan and Sundara Pandyan in which Malik Kafur’s Muslim Army also took part. Christians from this city fled to the central Travancore plains. They established churches, and took priests from Pakalomattam family. In 1543 the Portugese soldiers attacked Thevalakkara temple and plundered Gold from there. The Nair soldiers bought back and got back a major portion of it. Kollam was Christian majority Town. The Venad King feared that if the native Christians join with the Portugese it is a real threat to the Kingdom. Hence he ordered that half of the Christians of Kollam to move out to the villages. All these new settlements built churches there and they took priests from the Pakalomattam family. Lot of migrations happened because of quarrels in the Kuravilangad church as recorded in individual family histories. Later migration spread them throughout Kerala. The cumulative effect of these migrations was that the strength of Pakalomattam family declined in Kuravilangad and other families took prominent places there. But Pakalomattam family spread to all major towns in Kerala and became dominant in Hundreds of places in Kerala. Now they have their family members in almost all countries of the world.

Archdeacons of India

The head of the Indian church was held by a priest holding the post of Archdeacon, which in Kerala was called “Arckadiyakon” which means head of one set of people. All the Archdeacons of India, came from only one family, ie. The Pakalomattamfamily. This is one of the rare act of blessing of god, on one family. All historian have agreed that pakalomattam family held the monopoly of this headship of the Church. It was the assigning of the post to the Pakalomattam family by St. Thomas that helped the family to retain the post. The entire Church held the post as one of spiritual holiness and social primacy. It remained as a historical link with the apostolic mission of St. Thomas to India.

The nepotic succession of Bishophood and priesthood remained with the tradition of succession of the Persian church. It copied the levite priesthood, which worked in the succession principle in the old Testament for 1300 years. This nepotic or patriarchal succession happened for Archdeacons and Marthoma Metropolitans of Pakalomattam family for 18 centuries. The Nestorians even now practices the patrilined succession. Portugese colonists stopped this among the Catholics and ‘Pulikkottil Mar Dionysias’ stopped this in the orthodox side in 1816, with the help of travancore Army and dewan Munroe.

The word nephew(Anantharavan=heir) used in the text shall not be misunderstood as sister’s son, it means only successor. The Brahmin converted Christians followed Patrilineal succession and not the matrilineal succession of Nairs. So also they shunned first cousin marriage which indirectly points to Brahminic origin of Christians. Hence word usually means brother’s son.

From Canae Thoma’s time to the 16th century the Persian Patriarch appointed Bishops used to exercise spiritual control of Kerala church on the request of Kerala Christians. These bishops used to ordain priests, gave sacraments, bless churches, bless “Syth”and performed other functions. They were held as honoured guests. The metropolitans used to be known as sitting in the throne of St. Thomas and exercising suzerainty over Indian Church.

The Metropolitans used to exercise their control over the Church through the Archdeacons. In practical and day to-day functioning of the Church Arch-deacons exercised superintendence. The practical necessity of a native chief was felt by the Persian Bishop as they were ignorant of the language, social and political situation etc. of the place. It came as a hereditary right to Pakalomattam. Down the centuries and over the generations Pakalomattam family produced hundreds of priesta and tens of Bishops. When the oriental missionaries established a new administrative system, they accepted the primacy of the Pakalomattam family. Archdeacon of Kerala Church was not an equal to the Arch-deacons of Europe. He was called prince of believers, Lord of the Christians, and Archdeacon of the whole of India.

The Archdeacons were the right arm of the Metropolitan Bishop, and in their absence or vacancy held spiritual control of the Church also. In addition to the rights of Archdeacon in the Persian Church, the Archdeacons of Kerala exercised special powers. Selection of seminarians, appointing and transferring of priests, exercising temporal powers over the church properties, collecting the levies from the faithful etc. fell within his domain of his powers.

The kings and Princes used to consider him as the chief of Christians. The kings of Cochin used to give royal insignias to the newly elected Archdeacons. Armed Bodyguards used to escort the Archdeacons on their Journeys. On behalf of the Christians he used to parely with the rulers and negotiated with local chieftains. The Persian Patriarch Thimothy (780-826) called him the head of the faithful in India.

Unfortunately the names and succession list of Archdeacons prior to the Portugese period is lost to us. After the arrival of the Portugese the records are maintained. In 1502 Mar Yohannan Metropolitan appointed the famous Geevarghese Archdeacon from pakalomattam family. In 1509 an archdeacon called Itty Kurian of Pakalomattam family is cited. He mediated between the two conciliation is available in the Pothanikara family of Kothamangalam. He belonged to the root family of Pakalomattam. Two other Archdeacons called Chandy and Geevarghese of Pakalomattam are referred to but biographical details are not known. Only thing known is that they belonged to Pakalomattam.

Archdeacon Geevarghese of Christ (died 1585 AD)

One of the most famous Archdeacons of history is this Geevarghese. He was a Biblical expert and a master of syriac language and literature. He was considered a holy person but extremely efficient in administration. He was appointed Bishop of Palayur, but due to the machinations of the Portugese he could not be ordained. He was contemporary to Bishop Abraham of Persia who lived in Ankamali. He is credited with the new construction of Ankamali church. He is buried in the Jacobite church in Ankamali. His brother Yohannan was Archdeacon (1585 – 93). Another brother Jacob? Became Archdeacon in 1596. Some say one was nephew.

Archdeacon Geevarghese of the cross

He was the son of the elder brother of Archdeacon of the Christ. By the last year of Bishop Abraham, he became the Archdeacon. After the death of Persian Bishop Abraham in 1597, he led the Indian church. He led the church amidst Portuguese intervention. The synod of Diamper 1599 was held during his time. In 1601 Francis Roz became Bishop. In Beginning there was cordiality. But the deliberate degradation of Ankamali and the inertia of Bishop Roz frustrated him. When the Archdeacon protested, Roz ex-communicated him. In 1615 Bishop and archdeacon reconciled each other, but again fell out later. The next Bishop Britto also did not recongnise the Archdeacon’s status. He died in 1637 AD. He suffered much to preserve the status of the Archdeacons. He led the church in a period of severe stress and held it together. When in 20th century an election was done to select 20 great men of Kerala’s history, he was one of the twenty who was selected. After his time and his brother’s time the root family of Pakalomattam became heirless. The only son shifted residence to Alappatt house. Archdeacon Geevarghese is believed to have been buried in the forefront of Pakalomattam Tharavadu.

Archdeacon Thomas

He came from Vadakkedathu family and succeeded Archdeacon geevarghese of the cross. Bishop Garcia who succeeded Britto did not recognize the powers of the Archdeacon. The right widened and St. Thomas Christians started looking towards Persia for a Bishop to regive their powers. At this occasion Bishop Cyril mar Ahatullah Ibin Isa came to Mylapur and Kochi. Orthodox call him Ahatullah Partriarch. Catholics call him as Bishop of Aleppo in Palestine. He was not permitted to land in Mattancherry. Orthodox people think that he was drowned by the Portugese in Kochi Backwaters. Catholics say that Portugese carried him to Lisbon and he died in Europe. The kidnap of the Bishop enraged the Kerala Christians. They came to Mattancherry coonen cross on January 3-1653 and made the famous Pledge of the coonen cross. Expecting that he will be ordained Bishop, he was declared Bishop Marthoma I on June 1 1653. all reconciliations failed between Bishop and Archdeacon.

In 1661 Sebestiani became Bishop. Dutch conquered Kochi in 1663. Sebastiani fled Kerala. But before he left, he ordained a relative of Marthoma I belongs to Pakalomattam family named Chandy as Alexander De Campo, as Bishop. Marthoma I was excommunicated by the Bishop. In 1665 Mar Gregorios Abdul Galeel from Antioch came and ordained Marthoma I as Bishop. Till that time he carried an Administration with the public acceptance of the faithful. The Kerala church history took a new turn. On April 24, 1670, Marthoma I died. He was one of the ferocious fighters of Kerala church. If the Portugese dealt the Archdeacons with little more of tact and compassion and the Roman Catholic Church accepted the Syrian traditions, the unfortunate division of the Christian Church would have been avoided. The Portugese military might could not humble the Archdeacon Thomas/Marthoma I

Archdeacon Kunju Mathai

Archbishop Garcia disregarded Archdeacon Thomas and appointed Geevarghese Archdeacon’s brother’s son Kunju Mathai as Archdeacon. He could not function due to the popularity of Thomas Archdeacon. He stayed in Kochi for two years and then came to Kaduthuruthy and later joined with Marthoma Bishop. Archdeacon Mathai

Bishop Alexander De Campo, appointed his nephew as Archdeacon in 1678. Bishop Alexander De Campo wanted Arch deacon Mathai to succeed him. But Bishop Sebastiani obstructed this. Bishop Raphael who succeeded Alexander De Campo died in 1695. During the six years vacancy, archdeacon Mathai ruled the Church as Archdeacon Administrator. After his death the post of Archdeacon ended permanently.

End of Archdeacons

As native Bishops came after the ordination of Marthoma I, the Archdeacon post became superfluous. Archdeacon was a minor post in the European tradition. Hence with Latinisation the Post of Archdeacon was overshadowed. In the Antiochian tradition Cor Episcopa, Rmban etc. were important. The Bishop Marthoma I and successors held the Pakalomattam leadership of the church till 1817. All Marthoma Metropolitans were from the Pakalomattam family. The Palliyogam and democratic church administration, the speciality of Kerala church came out of this tradition of Archdeacons.

Marthoma Bishops – 1653 to 1816 AD

All Marthoma Bishops belonged to the Pakalomattam family.

Marthoma I

Archdeacon Thomas became Marthoma I. He belonged to the Vadakkedam branch of Pakalomattam. Pulinos call him “Parambil Thommi”, which cannot be true. The general expression of uncle of Bishop Alexander De Cempo, must have confused the Europeans. After a tumultuous life, he expired on 1670 April-22. He was buried in Ankamali St. Mary’s Church.

Marthoma – II

He was the son of the brother of Marthoma I. He died at Niranam, in 1686 April-13. he was buried in St. Mary’s church Niranam.

Marthoma – III

He was the brother of Marthoma – II. After being Bishop for 2 years he died on April 19-1688 at Kadampanad church and was buried in St. Thomas church Kadampanad.

Marthoma – IV

He belonged to Pakalomattam Arackal Branch. He was vicar of Kuravilangad church and became Marthoma on Compulsion. He was Bishop for 40 years. He died on March 24, 1728. He was buried in Kandanad St. Mary’s Church.

Marthoma – V

He belonged to Andoor branch of Pakalomattam. His father served as administration Chief of Vadakkumkur Kings. He was ordained in 1728. He ruled for 37 years and died on May 8 – 1765. He is Buried at Niranam St. Mary’s Church.

Marthoma – VI

He ruled from 1755 to 1808 April – 8. He was the only son of Mathew Tharakan elder brother of Marthoma V. His real name was Ipe. He re-titled himself as Valia Mar Dionysius. His remains are in Puthenkavu St. Mary’s Church.

Marthoma – VII

He belonged to Palli Vadakkedathu family Kurichithanathu Kannokunnel. He was the son of Ouseph, brother of Marthoma VI. He was ordained as Marthoma VII at Kandanadu. On July 4, 1809 he died at Kolencherry and was buried at Kolenchery church.

Marthoma –VIII

He was son of Kuriala, the paternal uncle of Marthoma VII. He ruled from Kandanadu for 5 years. He died on January 23. 1816 and was buried at Puthenkavu St. Mary’s church.

Marthoma – IX

He could not function effectively. He was the Ipe Priest who was the brother of Kuriala Kadamattathu Thekkilakattil uncle of Marthoma VIII. Pulikkottil Ittoop Remban with the help of resident dewan Munroe of Travancore, ordained himself as Mar Dionysius – II and captured power. He died in 1817 and was buried in Kadamattam church. After abdication he took Sanyas and lived at Kadamattam till death. With him the Mrthoma Bishops from Pakalomattam ended. In 1812 Marthoma VIII wrote a letter to Madras governments in which he says that for 1308 years continuously Pakalomattam family headed the Church. Now there are Bishops in many branches of the Pakalomattam family.

Bishop Alexander De Campo

He was ordained Bishop on January 31 1663. He was ordained in Kaduthuruthy church. He belonged to the Parambil branch of Pakalomattam at Muttuchira. The parambil building of Parambrem Kara existed there till two centuries back. Parambil Kuriakose married into Kudukkasserry and the son born to the couple later became the Bishop. His mother’s house belonged to Palliveedu, and another branch was Panamkuzha. Hence he was called by those family names also. De Campo is the Latin translation of Parambil the Malayalam family name. He was Vicar of Kuravilangad Parish and later had Kuravilangad as his head quarter. His vicar general and Archdeacon belong to Parambil Branch of Pakalomattam. Out of 117 churches in Kerala 71 fully and 18 partially sided with Bishop Alexander De campo. This is a major success. Catholics became majority party in the Church split, because of this success of the Bhishop. He died on December – 23, 1687. He was buried in the Kuravilangad church.

Courtesy :


  1. David Daniel (1986). The Orthodox Church of India: History. History of Christianity in India. (University of Michigan). 
  2. Edgar Thurston. Castes and Tribes of Southern India. Google Product Search. 
  3. Bayly, Susan Saints, Goddesses and Kings in South Indian Society Cambridge University Press 22 April 2004 ISBN 978-0521891035 [1]
  4. Jagdish Saran Sharma (1981). Encyclopaedia Indica. India: S. Chand (Original from the University of Michigan). 

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