New edition of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple published by Voice of India


Book Cover (2019)

Updated Fourth Edition of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple now available in print from Voice of India and Amazon › Pages 451 › Price Rs 395 › ISBN 978-81-85990-11-8.


 

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St. Thomas in India: True or False? – N.S. Rajaram


In his foreword to Ishwar Sharan’s book, the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst wrote: “In Catholic universities in Europe, the myth of the apostle Thomas going to India is no longer taught as history, but in India it is still considered useful. Even many vocal ‘secularists’ who attack the Hindus for relying on myth in the Ayodhya affair, off-hand profess their belief in the Thomas myth. The important point is that Thomas can be upheld as a martyr and the Brahmins decried as fanatics.” – Dr N.S. Rajaram


Martyrdom of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens


According to Christian leaders in India, the Apostle Thomas came to India in 52 A.D., founded the Syrian Christian Church, and was killed by the fanatical Brahmins in 72 A.D. His followers built the St. Thomas Church near the site of his martyrdom. Historians however say this apostle, even if he existed, never came to India. The Christian community in South India was founded by a Syrian (or Armenian) merchant Thomas Cananeus in 345 AD. He led four hundred refugees who fled persecution in Persia and were given asylum by the Hindu authorities.

This story was too commonplace to attract converts. So Christian leaders identified the merchant Thomas with Apostle Thomas and created the dramatic story of the Apostle’s persecution and death at the hands of the “wicked” Brahmins of South India. This became current in the 16th century when the Portuguese gained control of the west coast of India and forced the Syrian Christians to follow the Catholic faith. The Portuguese also destroyed the Kapaleeshwara Temple that originally stood on the site now occupied by the San Thome Cathedral on the beach.

The creation of this myth and the history is told in detail by the Canadian scholar Ishwar Sharan in his famous book The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. The purpose of the myth was to create a local martyr. Christianity depends heavily on the appeal of martyrs who are projected as victims like Jesus Christ. Then as now, Church leaders liked to pose as victims to generate sympathy and propaganda. But no matter how much they tried, the Hindus of India refused to supply the Portuguese with martyrs. So they were forced to create their own. So they turned the merchant Thomas into the Apostle Thomas killed by the Hindus.

In his foreword to Ishwar Sharan’s book, the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst wrote: “In Catholic universities in Europe, the myth of the apostle Thomas going to India is no longer taught as history, but in India it is still considered useful. Even many vocal ‘secularists’ who attack the Hindus for relying on myth in the Ayodhya affair, off-hand profess their belief in the Thomas myth. The important point is that Thomas can be upheld as a martyr and the Brahmins decried as fanatics.”

Targeting Brahmins to undermine Hinduism was a favorite tactic among missionaries. Elst gives the true picture: “In reality, the missionaries were very disgruntled that the damned Hindus refused to give them martyrs (whose blood is welcomed as ‘the seed of the faith’), so they had to invent one. Moreover, the church which they claim commemorates St. Thomas’ martyrdom at the hands of Hindu fanaticism, is in fact a monument of Hindu martyrdom at the hands of Christian fanaticism. It is a forcible replacement of two important Hindu temples (Jain and Shaiva) whose existence was insupportable to the Christian missionaries.”

Another motivation for the myth was to erase the unsavory record of the Catholic Church’s close association with the Portuguese pirates and even worse, the Goa Inquisition inspired by St. Xavier. But serious scholars including Christians have rejected this myth as we shall soon see.

Who was this Apostle Thomas and why was his name invoked? The main sources relating to Apostle Thomas are two Gnostic (non-Biblical) texts known as the Acts of Thomas and the Gospel of Thomas. According to them Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus. For this reason the Thomas myth is not accepted by the Vatican because of a doctrinal problem: Jesus as the Only Son of God cannot possibly have a twin brother. (Greek for Thomas is Didymus, which means twin brother.)

Christians in South India who identify themselves as St. Thomas Christians claim that their ancestors were blessed by Apostle Thomas in 52 A.D. who preached from the Bible. This has no historical basis as we shall see. In fact, there is no evidence that Thomas even existed. His “history” is full of contradictions as will become apparent.

As just observed the Portuguese missionaries who came to India in the 16th century found that they could not do without a local martyr and created the myth of St. Thomas claiming that he was martyred in India. They gave no explanation as to how they discovered it more than 1500 years later. Marco Polo is supposed to have mentioned it but there is no authentic manuscript that can be attributed to him. Then there is the question of how he discovered it more than a thousand years later.

There is even a tomb that is supposed to contain his martyred remains in Mylapore in Chennai. But the problem is there are several such memorials spread across Persia, Acre (Israel) and a few other places dating to different times, all laying claim to be the place where Apostle Thomas was martyred and buried!


Fr. Henry Heras, SJ (1981 Stamp)


After examining all the evidence, the late Father Henry Heras, former Director of the Historical Research Institute, St. Xavier’s College, Bombay, said in 1953 that he was convinced that the tomb of St. Thomas was not in Mylapore. He had earlier said, quite emphatically in The Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagara, that the Portuguese account of their discovery of some relics was “a most barefaced imposture [with] all elements of a forgery.” Heras was himself a Jesuit father but also an eminent historian.

This is not the end of the story, for while denying the myth because it challenges Jesus as the “Only Son of God” the Vatican wants to have it both ways. On September 27, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech at St. Peter’s in Rome in which he recalled an ancient tradition claiming that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia, then went on to Western India, from where Christianity also reached Southern India. Syrian Christians derive status within the caste system from the tradition that they are converted Namboothiris (Brahmins), who were allegedly evangelized by St. Thomas after he allegedly landed in Kerala in AD 52.

There are serious problems with this theory: the Namboothiris started settling in Kerala only from the fourth century onwards, which means they did not exist at the time the alleged St. Thomas allegedly came to Kerala. So we have a possibly non-existent apostle preaching in the first century from a text, the New Testament, dating to the fourth century, to a people, the Namboothiris who settled in the fourth century or later. In reality the Pope’s original statement at St. Peter’s, reflected the geography of the Acts of Thomas, i.e. Syria, Parthia (Persia / Iran) and Gandhara (Afghanistan / Northwest Pakistan)—all far removed from Kerala in the southernmost tip of India.

This is not the end to the contradictions. If Thomas landed in Kerala in 52 AD, he could not have taught from the Christian Bible (New Testament) with its four gospels which came into existence only in the fourth century. In fact Christianity did not exist at the time because there was no Christian scripture! In addition, the famous St. Thomas Cross supposedly brought by him made its appearance in Kerala only in the fourth century, about the same time as the Namboothiri Brahmins. So it is quite possible that the highly ornate St. Thomas Cross [with Hindu motifs carved in it] was borrowed from the Namboothiris, having nothing to do with St. Thomas or even Christians. The Church borrowed its cross from the Egyptians and the oldest so-called St. Thomas Cross is a pagan Persian symbol.


Francis X. Clooney


As if this were not confusing enough, Father Francis Clooney, a theologian with the Harvard Divinity School has stated that St. Thomas had preached in Brazil, no matter that Brazil as we understand today was unknown in his time. According to Clooney, one Ruiz de Montoya, writing in Peru in the mid-seventeenth century, thought that since God would not have overlooked the Americas for fifteen hundred years, and since among the twelve apostles St. Thomas was known for his mission to the “most abject people in the world, blacks and Indians,” it was only reasonable to conclude that St. Thomas had preached throughout the Americas:

“He began in Brazil—either reaching it by natural means on Roman ships, which some maintain were in communication with America from the coast of Africa, or else, as may be thought closer to the truth, being transported there by God miraculously. He passed to Paraguay and from there to the Peruvians.”

So here is the substance of the St. Thomas story. First, if he existed he was a twin brother of Jesus which is unacceptable because Jesus was the Only Son of God (born to a virgin). Next, he could not have preached Christianity in 52 AD because Christianity and the New Testament came into existence only in the fourth century, after the Council of Nicaea called by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. The first Christians came to India with the Syrian merchant Thomas in 345 AD escaping persecution in Persia. This was probably because Roman and Persian empires were great rivals. The Namboothiri Brahmins settled in Kerala only after the fourth AD, so could not have been converted by Apostle Thomas in 52 AD using the Bible from three centuries later.

Finally, the myth was created by Portuguese missionaries in the sixteenth century with the help of pirates. They destroyed also the Kapaleeshwara Temple and a Jain temple building the church known as San Thome Cathedral in 1504. It acquired its present status and recognition as a cathedral (bishop’s grand church) under British patronage in 1893. It was also the Portuguese who converted the Syrian Christians to the Catholic faith.

So, all these contradictions have to be reconciled before the myth of St Thomas can be taken seriously. – Folks Magazine, 7 November 2009

» Editor’s Note: Historians do not agree about the date for the coming of Namboothiri Brahmins to Kerala. Marxist historians make their arrival as late as the sixth century AD. However with the identification of the Namboothiri priest Mezhathol Agnihothri (b. 342 AD), the date can be moved back to the fourth century. Namboothiri historians themselves do not give a date for the arrival of their community in Kerala from North India.

» Dr N.S. Rajaram is an historian and mathematician based in Bangaluru.


Cross imposed on map of India


 

Left breeds intolerance by ravaging Ayodhya and eulogising Thomas – B.S. Harishankar


It is an absurdity to try to “prove” St. Thomas came to sub-continental India by linking him to various old Syrian and Persian crosses. Thomas—if he lived at all—was an orthodox Jew. He abhorred the Roman cross. He would not have made one or worn one. But even supposing that he had no objection to the cross, there remains the historical fact that early Christians never used a cross to identify themselves until after the third—some authorities say fourth—century. They used a fish symbol containing the letters ΙΧΘΥΣ to identify themselves and their buildings. Old crosses found in India were brought to India by Syrian and Persian Christian refugees long after the fourth century. – IS


Taxila Cross


The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Lahore proudly exhibits a small cross in a glass case. It is known as the dubious “Taxila Cross”. When the cross was discovered in 1935, Cuthbert King, the British deputy commissioner of Rawalpindi, knew of the Acts of Thomas and seized upon this find as “proof” of the existence of Christianity in northwest India as early as the 1st century CE. His claims were vindicated by the fact that newly-excavated Sirkap did indeed date back to the 1st century. This cross was later presented to the Anglican Bishop of Lahore.

The “Taxila Cross” with four distinctive equal-length arms, was adopted as the symbol of the Church of Pakistan—a denomination resulting from a 1970 union of Anglicans, Lutherans, United Methodists and Presbyterians. The May 1988 symposium jointly sponsored by the Pakistan Christian History Project, the Rawalpindi Diocesan Pastoral Center and the Christian Study Center at Rawalpindi, showed much interest in the famed Buddhist shrine as the site of St. Thomas the Apostle’s visit and [claimed it] sacred to Christianity. Father Rahmat Hakim of the Diocesan Pastoral Center proposed to raise a suitable monument to St. Thomas near the archaeological site of Sirkap.

Renowned writer and fellow, Royal Geographical Society, Salman Rashid, wrote that when a cross was reported outside the ruins of Sirkap, the second city of Taxila, at Pakistan  in 1935, poor and not-so-educated local Christians went wild with the joy of discovering how long fellow believers had lived in this land; there was also no dearth of Raj officers who also foolishly fell into this trap. No notice was paid to the fact that the cross was not found in any datable stratum of the ruins, but by a farmer tilling a field outside the ruins of Sirkap, the second city of Taxila. (Taxila Cross, The Express Tribune, Dec. 16, 2011)


Christian fish symbol


But India’s Left academicians accept the apocryphal Acts of Judas Thomas the Apostle, and propagate it in universities and major research centres. Three major Marxist historians—D.N. Jha, Romila Thapar and R.S. Sharma—have vehemently argued in their published works, the arrival of Apostle Thomas into India from Parthia (corresponding roughly to present-day northeastern Iran). The Apostle entered Indo-Parthian regions of present Afghanistan and Pakistan, as argued by these Left historians.

The Left historians have vindicated the claims by Pope Benedict XVI, addressing a vast crowd at St Peter’s Square, that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia and then penetrated as far as western India from where Christianity also reached south India. (Controversy over Pope’s remarks among Kerala Christians, Outlook, Nov. 22, 2006) It was with this objective that the Left historians launched the Spice Route–Pattanam project in Kerala. For vindicating the Vatican historiography, the Indian disciples of Marx do not require archaeological evidence, historical documents, or honesty.

D.N. Jha, in his two works, Ancient India: In historical Outline and Early India: A Concise History, contends the historicity of Apostle Thomas at the end of first century BC. Jha argues that the Apostle’s presence at the court of Indo-Parthian ruler Gondophares, who controlled north western India, is historically documented and also Christianity in India. Jha debates that, according to later sources, the Apostle achieved martyrdom at Mylapore, where he was assassinated. Romila Thapar in her work, The Penguin History of Early IndiaFrom the Origins to AD 1300, provides two missions for Apostle Thomas in India. Thapar attributes the first mission of the Apostle through northwest India, associating the Indo-Parthian ruler Gondophares. She provides the second occasion in AD 52 at Malabar in Kerala. Unlike the polemic of many Ramayanas which the Left historians often raise, Thapar has no doubt that there was only one Apostle Thomas. Both Jha and Thapar uphold the legend regarding the martyrdom of Apostle Thomas at Mylapore near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Thapar is also a supervisor of the Spice Route-Pattanam project for establishing the historicity of the Apostle in India. Noted Left historian R.S. Sharma in his work, India’s Ancient Past, gives credence to the arrival of Apostle Thomas in the Indo-Parthian region to propagate Christianity in India.

Marxist historians in India frequently quote A.K. Ramanujan’s essay Three Hundred Ramayanas to raise the issue of many Ramayanas, disparaging the original text. They dispute the historicity of Ayodhya and question its archaeology and tradition, but corroborate and confirm the legend of Apostle Thomas and Christianity in India in 52 AD. Depending on Indo-Parthian tradition and the dubious “Taxila Cross”, they articulate for the apotheosis of Apostle Thomas in India. Some of the self-styled independent and secular historians also appeared on behalf of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and Sunni Central Waqf Board as experts on the Ayodhya issue.

D.N. Jha was part of the four member team of Left historians, which included M. Athar Ali, Suraj Bhan and R.S. Sharma, who submitted a report in 1991 titled, Ramjanmabhoomi–Babri Masjid: A Historians Report to the Nation. The report concluded that no textual and archaeological evidence existed for any veneration being attached to any spot in Ayodhya. It argued that that the controversy was created by the Sangh Parivar for political gains.

The Allahabad High Court’s voluminous judgment on Ayodhya in September 2012 raised strong objections from Left historians. The court questioned the competence of various “expert” witnesses and cast doubts on their intellectual integrity, which provoked the Left.  Thereafter, 61 “intellectuals” led by Romila Thapar, from the Left-liberal establishment, attacked the judgment as “another blow to India’s secular fabric”. Eminent historian Meenakshi Jain’s recent work, Rama and Ayodhya exposes the Left agenda and duplicity.

In 2009, D.N. Jha argued that archaeological evidence becomes important in their context of physical relationship to the surroundings in a certain material culture and intellectuals should come out in the open and say that there was no Ram temple in Ayodhya (Frontline, Vol.  26, Issue 25, Dec. 05-18, 2009)

Later in an interview, Jha vehemently argued that faith should never be allowed to supersede historical evidence as it negates history (Frontline, Vol. 27, Issue 21, Oct. 09-22, 2010). On the Ayodhya issue, Jha has emphasized that if it is a case of “belief”, then it becomes an issue of theology, not archaeology. (Historical evidence ignored, say historians, The Hindu, Oct. 01, 2010) Does this observation apply to the apotheosis given to Apostle Thomas by the Left trinity, Jha-Thapar-Sharma, without a single historical evidence in their published works? Is it Marxist theology as argued by Anglican clergymen, Robert Cummings, Conrad Noel, Hewlett Johnson and Alan Ecclestone? Does it vindicate Raphael Samuel who describes the commitment of Communists to “missionary” work and narrates how Communism is a “crusading order” and a complete scheme of social salvation?

Dr. Abraham Mar Paulos who is the Diocesan Bishop of Delhi for the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, observed that St. Thomas came to India to spread the gospel  in A.D. 52. (The government’s intention is suspicious, Frontline, Jan. 9, 2015) The same year, CPI (M) politburo member M.A. Baby said it is widely believed that Apostle Thomas came to Kodungalloor (near Pattanam) and through him Christianity reached Kerala even before it reached Europe. (ASI Doubting Thomases Suspend Dubious KCHR St. Thomas Dig, The Telegraph, Oct. 1, 2015) The CPI (M) which vehemently questions the historicity of Ramayana and Ayodhya, openly marshals the case of Apostle Thomas.

The British Museum launches and coordinates many Biblical archaeology projects across the world. It has many publications on Biblical archaeology. Illustrations of Old Testament History by R.D. Barnnett, The Bible in the British Museum: Interpreting the Evidence by T.C. Mitchell, and Dual heritage: The Bible and the British Museum by Norman S. Prescott, are only some examples. Hence, the British Museum’s interest is inherent in the Pattanam-Spice Route project associated with the Apostle and sponsored by Left historians.

The British Museum has been involved from the beginning with establishing the historicity of Apostle Thomas in India. The British Museum supports KCHR sponsored Spice Route-Pattanam project via Roberta Tomber. Tomber and P.J. Cherian, former director of the Left-controlled KCHR, jointly presented in March 2011 a paper titled Ports of the Periplus and the search for Muziris, at a seminar organized by British Museum on the theme “Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World”.

The museum also sponsored a three-day workshop in August 15-19, 2013 hosted by Prof. K. Rajan of Pondicherry University, who is also the administrator of the Left controlled KCHR. Rajan has raised much controversy as a major champion of Keezhadi archaeological site in Tamil Nadu (Digging up Madurai’s Sangam past, Frontline, Feb. 19, 2016). Keezhadi is dubiously linked with Pattanam. Keezhadi raised much controversy because of its excavator, Amarnath Ramakrishna’s, association with the Federation of Tamil Sangams in North America (FeTNA). FeTNA publicly supported the cause of ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils in the Sri Lankan civil war and the Catholic Church is accused of heavily associating with the LTTE.


Read: Keezhadi and Pattanam: Global plot to break India


Administrator-historian C. Achyuta Menon, who wrote the Cochin State Manual in 1911, makes an interesting observation on the church of Apostle Thomas at the Malayattur forest region in Ernakulam district. Menon observes that this Christian pilgrimage centre was once a Hindu temple, which was handed over to the Christian community of the region because a granite cross made an appearance “spontaneously” by the side of the idol. Interestingly, this church has direct access from the dubious Pattanam archaeological site excavated by left historians.

With the launching of Spice Route-Pattanam project by Left historians, the move to declare Malayattoor Church a global pilgrim centre was swift and rapid. The Roman Catholic Church declared the St. Thomas Church at Malayattoor an international pilgrim centre (International pilgrim centre status for Malayattoor church, The Hindu, April 25, 2004). The same year, the Catholics of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan, Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II, installed the holy relics of St. Thomas at the St. Mary’s Orthodox Church at Niranom near Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala (Holy relics of St. Thomas installed, The Hindu, Dec. 22, 2004). The Malayattoor shrine was inaugurated by Pedro Lopez Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio in India (Malayattoor Kurisumudi inauguration tomorrow, The Hindu, Feb. 12, 2005).

Rev. Father P.J. Lawrence Raj, an assistant priest in Chennai, communicates with the bishops of the Catholic world seeking brand recognition for St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus and the man largely credited with bringing Christianity to India through the Malabar coast in 52 AD. He says it is believed that the apostle Thomas was murdered by a group of Hindus who did not fancy his proselytizing. (An apostle returns: Bringing St. Thomas back to Chennai, The Hindu, Oct. 27, 2018) Jha and Thapar vindicate this church myth regarding the martyrdom of Apostle Thomas at Mylapore, for which they require hardly any proof. The Left historians breed intolerance and religious chauvinism in India by incriminating Hindu society for the alleged martyrdom of Apostle Thomas.Vijayvaani, 11 May 2019


Funerary stele with the inscription ΙΧΘΥC ΖΩΝΤΩΝ ("fish of the living"), early 3rd century in Rome.

Muziris : The lost city – Srinath Perur


In the first century BCE Muziris was one of India’s most important trading ports, whose exports—especially black pepper—kept even mighty Rome in debt. But have archaeologists really found the site of Muziris, and why did it disappear in 1341?


Muziris


Around 2,000 years ago, Muziris was one of India’s most important trading ports. According to the Akananuru, a collection of Tamil poetry from the period, it was “the city where the beautiful vessels, the masterpieces of the Yavanas [Westerners], stir white foam on the Periyar, river of Kerala, arriving with gold and departing with pepper.”

Another poem speaks of Muziris (also known as Muciripattanam or Muciri) as “the city where liquor abounds”, which “bestows wealth to its visitors indiscriminately” with “gold deliveries, carried by the ocean-going ships and brought to the river bank by local boats”.

The Roman author Pliny, in his Natural History, called Muziris “the first emporium of India”. The city appears prominently on the Tabula Peutingeriana, a fifth-century map of the world as seen from Rome. But from thereon, the story of this great Indian port becomes hazy. As reports of its location grow more sporadic, it literally drops off the map.

In modern-day India, Muziris was much more of a legend than a real city—until archaeological excavations in the southern state of Kerala, starting in 2004, sparked reports of a mysterious lost port. Though the archaeologists cannot be certain, they—and, with some exceptions, historians too—now believe they have located the site of Muziris.

“This was a centre of paramount importance for Roman trade,” says Federico De Romanis, associate professor of Roman history at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. “What made it absolutely unique was the considerable amounts of black pepper exported from Muziris. We are talking about thousands of tons.”

In addition to pepper, De Romanis says, exports included both local products—ivory, pearls, spices such as malabathron—and those from other parts of India, including semi-precious stones, silks and the aromatic root nard. “These attest to commercial relationships nurtured with the Gangetic valley and east Himalayan regions.”

In the other direction, ships arrived with gold, coral, fine glassware, amphorae of wine, olive oil and the fermented fish sauce called garum. But the value of this trade was lopsided: De Romanis says Pliny the Elder estimated Rome’s annual deficit caused by imbalanced trade with India at 50m sesterces (500,000 gold coins of a little less than eight grammes), with “Muziris representing the lion’s share of it”.

Maritime trade between Muziris and Rome started in the first century BCE, when it became known that sailing through the Red Sea to the horn of Africa, then due east along the 12th latitude, led to the Kerala coast. “Muziris was entirely dependent on foreign, especially Roman, demand for pepper,” De Romanis says. So when the Roman empire’s economy began to struggle in the third century AD, he believes the trade in pepper reconfigured itself, and Muziris lost its importance.


Tabula Peutingeriana


Dr P.J. Cherian, director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research, confirms there are few references to Muziris after the fifth century AD. It had been generally assumed that Muziris referred to the port of Kodungallur, which had been put out of commission by devastating floods in 1341—but excavations there did not turn up anything older than the 13th century.

Travel 11 kilometres by road from Kodungallur, however, and you reach the village of Pattanam. For years, children there had been collecting beads that would rise to the surface during the monsoon season. After an initial dig in 2004, systematic excavations by Cherian and his colleagues began in 2007. Soon, he says, it was clear they had discovered a major archaeological site.

Over nine seasons of excavations, they have found Roman amphorae (for the first time on the Keralan coast), a wharf-like structure, a dug-out canoe that is approximately 2,000 years old—plus foundations, bricks and tiles, tools and artefacts made of iron, lead and copper, glass beads, gold ornaments and semi-precious stones clearly meant for export.

So, is Pattanam the site of fabled Muziris? There isn’t clinching evidence yet, but Cherian thinks it’s likely. He is also tired of questions about the Roman connection, asking: “When they excavate a Roman site in Europe, do they obsess similarly about whether it traded with India?” To him, an integral part of the excavation is what it reveals about the people who actually lived there.

Tathagata Neogi, of the Indian Institute of Archaeology, explains the stages of occupation in Pattanam using a large photograph of an excavated trench’s cross-section. Human habitation began there around 1000 BC, marked by characteristic Iron Age black and redware pottery, while the period between 500 and 300 BC marks a mixed phase.

“We think this is when Pattanam began making the transition from a village to a trade hub,” Neogi says. The period from 300 BC to AD 500 is densely packed with evidence for trade both within and outside India. Burnt bricks and tiles, terracotta ring wells and coins suggest a thriving settlement. Small amounts of west Asian pottery in the earlier portions of this segment provide evidence for pre-Roman maritime trade. After AD 500 the record thins out—until AD1500, when Chinese and European ceramics are found.

Is Pattanam ‘urban’?

Today, Pattanam is a village situated four kilometres from the sea. The vegetation is typical of the region: tall arcing palms, squat plantains, vines and creepers, near-fluorescent monsoon grass. There are sporadic houses, a temple, a village office and sudden channels of water.

The archaeological mound at Pattanam is around 70 hectares; atop it sits a museum displaying finds from the excavations. It is curious, Cherian notes, that a village should be named Pattanam, a word that means market-town or trading port across south India.

Some historians—such as Rajan Gurukkal, author of Rethinking Classical Indo-Roman Trade—have argued that Pattanam (which he believes is the location of Muziris) was likely nothing more elaborate than a colony of Mediterranean merchants, plus the inland traders and artisans who dealt with them. Gurukkal’s theory is based on the apparent absence of permanent structures, and the seeming disconnect of the materials and skills found at Pattanam with those of the wider region. He suggests the colony might even have been seasonal, inhabited only when ships arrived for trade.

Such a debate comes down to what is meant by a city or urban settlement. According to Cherian, “Urban is a complicated word—to me, it means ‘organised’, ‘thought out’, ‘planned’”. And he sees evidence of this in Pattanam: “It was certainly a city, but of its time.”

The excavations have revealed what appear to be toilets, drains and terracotta ring wells, and these—along with raised foundations aligned in one direction—suggest a planned settlement.

Cherian also thinks the level of technological accomplishment—the quality of mortar in a wharf structure; evidence of intricate glass and stone work—and the high density of potsherds (some 4.5 million have been recovered so far) all point to a settlement that was urban in character. The local coins suggest a monetised economy and a degree of political organisation. 

“We now recognise that ancient cities could look very different from their modern counterparts, even as they had the same functions of trade and economic integration,” says Monica Smith, professor of anthropology at UCLA, who studies newly emergent urbanism in the Indian subcontinent.

“It used to be felt, by 20th-century archaeologists such as V. Gordon Childe, that monumental architecture was required before a site could be defined as a “city”. In addition, there was often a sense that a city should have a high density of concentrated populations at their core, in which that density was focused on a particular religious or administrative purpose such as a palace or temple.”

But Smith offers an example for a more spread-out idea of a city: the large Kumbh Mela camps in India, which come up only for the duration of the congregation, are well-planned, possess infrastructure, and have an “urban atmosphere”. She adds: “We can envision that temporary or sequential occupations could have been the case in ancient cities as well.”

Smith suggests such sites can grow in extent very quickly, especially when demand for a new commodity is high (black pepper, in the case of Pattanam). “This is why research of the kind done at Pattanam is particularly important. It can help us understand the dynamic changes over time, and evaluate the extent to which investments in features such as wharves and ring wells signalled a “core” location around which surrounding suburbs grew.”

A more complete understanding of the Pattanam site—and its flavour of urbanism—will take a while yet, however. According to Cherian: “Less than one percent of the site has been excavated. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg.”

The quest for Muziris may or may not be over. But as De Romanis says: “Pattanam is the closest thing to Muziris we have got so far. Whatever it was, it should be treasured and taken care of.” – The Guardian, 10 August 2016


Map of places mentioned in the Periplus


 

Keezhadi and Pattanam: Global plot to break India – B.S. Harishankar


Eminent South Asian archaeologist Dr Dilip Chakrabarti cautions that the Pattanam dig is supported by Biblical and Jewish interest groups and urges the Indian government to take serious note of such unholy conglomerations. – Dr B.S. Harishankar


Syrian-style gold cross imposed on map of India


Recent attempts by certain lobbies to link controversial archaeological sites of Keezhadi and Pattanam has raised questions on their agendas. Keezhadi is at Sivaganga district near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, while Pattanam is at Ernakulam in Kerala. There are neither ceramics nor other cultural remains reportedly unearthed at these sites to show the alleged links for such assumptions of homogeneity.

The Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) which excavated Pattanam is not an official government organisation but a private non-governmental body, an NGO. How did the Archaeological Survey of India grant license to an NGO to excavate a site which was also vastly funded by foreign agencies? The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) identified the unbridled foreign funds received by KCHR and cancelled its license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. (The New Indian Express, Dec. 8, 2016).

The Pattanam excavation was hit by controversy and the ASI initiated a probe into alleged unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR, after complaints to the Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mahesh Sharma, about “lapses” in the excavation, which is part of the Rs 200 crore Muziris Heritage Project. Thereafter, a meeting of the central advisory panel of the ASI asked the KCHR to temporarily stop the excavation (refer ASI probe into KCHR’s ‘Pattanam excavations’).

According to ASI joint director R.S. Fonia, “Rules demand that extension beyond five years can be given only after those carrying out the excavation submit reports. In the case of the Muziris project, the digging has been going on for over seven years now, but no report was filed and hence no fresh permission can be granted” (refer Doubting Thomases suspend Saint project).


P.J. Cherian


The latest controversy on Keezhadi and Pattanam erupted after R. Sivanantham, deputy director, Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, officially facilitated a lecture on Pattanam by Dr. P.J. Cherian, titled “Reimagining Muziris-Pattinam/Muziris: The Ancient Port City of Tamilakam (300 BCE-500 CE)”, on Oct. 30, 2018. The programme was chaired by T. Udhayachandran, Commissioner, Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu.

The team of excavators at Keezhadi is currently headed by R. Sivanantham, who should have been aware that the KCHR was accused in creation of fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores. It is also alleged that the KCHR obtained the licence for the Pattanam excavation after submitting fake documents to the Archaeological Survey of India (refer Rampant irregularities detected at KCHR).

Subsequently, Pattanam excavator P.J. Cherian’s service as director of the KCHR was terminated by the Kerala state government in November 2016, overruling the then KCHR chairman’s recommendation to extend the service for another four years (refer Fate of Pattanam hangs in the balance).

Delivering his lecture at Chennai, P.J. Cherian claimed that the excavated material from Pattanam and Keezhadi are similar and hence there is a common link of brotherhood (refer Pattanam, Keezhadi excavated materials similar, says expert). However, he did not present either ceramics, metals or any other remains showing the cultural homogeneity between Pattanam and Keezhadi.

The carbon dating conducted at the two sites raises suspicion. Dating of two carbon elements from Keezhadi, weighing 25 grams each, done by Beta Analytic Inc., Florida, USA, placed them at 2,160+30 years and 2,200+30 years respectively (refer Keezhadi: hitting pay dirt and controversy).

The carbon dating at Pattanam was done earlier at the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar and later shifted to Georgia University, USA. Following controversies, it was again shifted to Beta Analytic Inc., Florida. This raises serious doubts about the objectives of the KCHR. When there is a premier radio carbon laboratory at National Physical Laboratory, Ahmedabad, which has developed a South Asian Centre of repute, why was the carbon dating for Pattanam and Keezhadi shifted to an institution in Florida.

Unlike Pattanam, Keezhadi was excavated by the ASI. What raises concerns is that the current excavator of Keezhadi invited the controversial Pattanam project director to deliver a lecture where he made dubious claims that there are many similarities between the two sites.

There were earlier allegations that the central government had withheld funds and blocked Keezhadi excavations because Hindutva groups were against Tamil heritage. Some radical Dravidian groups claimed that Keezhadi belonged to the pre-Sangam Period and was a river valley civilization. Tamil language minister Mafoi Pandiarajan asserted over 39 excavations have been done in Tamil Nadu and there is no substance to the claim that the Centre has withheld funds (refer Keezhadi dig delayed). Excavations have also been carried out at Varushanad (Theni) and Azhagankulam (Ramnad), Tamil Nadu.


K. Amarnath Ramakrishna


In an interview, former Keezhadi excavator K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, said there is a theory that Tamil Nadu had only “racial groups” and that urban civilisation was found only along the Indus-Gangetic valley. Keezhadi’s excavation has nullified that theory and it has to be accepted that an urban civilization was found along Vaigai river (refer Don’t We Need To Know India’s History?).

Strangely, Amarnath Ramakrishna still clings to colonial fantasies of race and racism in the study of ancient India. Colonial Europe divided humans into races and viewed Africans through this distorting prism. Many countries have removed the word ‘race’ from national laws concerning discrimination because the phrase is considered problematic and unethical. Amarnath should understand that the paleoanthropology of South Asia has shifted from a classificatory model of race identification to an evolutionary paleo-demographic paradigm, as demonstrated by veteran physical anthropologists such as Kenneth A.R. Kennedy. He should not legitimise ideas of certain political ideologues and linguistic fringe groups with no base in archaeology and interdisciplinary social sciences.

Amarnath still adheres to propaganda by early Left historians that the introduction of iron and the beginning of agriculture in the deep south by Brahmins in 300 AD led to the rise of feudalism, a theory discredited by recent archaeological discoveries. The earliest Neolithic dates in south so far range between 2900 and 2400 BC from sites such as Utnur, Pallavoy, Kodekal, Budihal and Watgal. The Chalcolithic phase in the south goes to 2400 BC from sites such as Singanapalli and Ramapuram, and Megalithic to 1000 BC at Hallur, Kumranahalli and Mangadu. The growth of an early township at Keezhadi has to be viewed in this overall context and not as an isolated advent of an exclusive river valley civilization. After all, South India includes Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala, and not Tamil Nadu alone.

Controversies started after Amarnath Ramakrishna, in charge of Keezhadi excavations, was transferred to Guwahati circle of ASI. The tenure of a superintending archaeologist in a particular circle is only for two years, and the transfer was made as per transfer policy, on Sept. 6, 2016 (refer Transfer of Keezhadi excavation site archaeologist final, says ASI).

However, Amarnath Ramakrishna’s transfer was resented by the CPI(M). K. Balakrishnan, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the party, alleged that the Modi government was making an attempt to hide the findings from the excavations that pointed to an old civilization linked to Tamil society (refer CPI(M) flays Centre’s direction on Keezhadi excavations). The CPI(M) had officially launched the Pattanam excavations in Kerala, which were conducted by Left historians under the banner of KCHR (refer Marxists dig for Apostle Thomas.

Few understand why the CPI(M) protested against the transfer of Amarnath Ramakrishna. When the Archaeological Survey of India began a probe into alleged unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR at Pattanam, Amarnath Ramakrishna, the then superintendent archaeologist of the ASI, Bengaluru centre, started investigations into the Pattanam excavations (ASI probe into KCHR’s ‘Pattanam excavations’, Business Standard, Jan. 5, 2016). His findings are not known, but later Amarnath Ramakrishna took up the Keezhadi excavation. Possibly, he prepared a report liked by the CPI(M) and Left historians. As Amarnath Ramakrishna examined the Pattanam excavation report and was in-charge of Keezhadi, the Left lobbies have been able to notice striking similarities in antiquarian remains from the two sites.

The Left historians have always been patrons of Dravidian racial chauvinism. Irfan Habib has propagated the Aryan suppression of Dravidians (refer The Rewriting of History). British linguists Francis Ellis and Alexander Campbell framed the theory that south Indian languages belong to a different family. Brian Houghton Hodgson promoted the term “Tamulian” as a racial construct, describing the so-called aborigines of India as primitive and uncivilized compared to the invading Aryans. Bishop Robert Caldwell launched the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu, carried forward by Bishop G.U. Pope.

In April 2018, the Federation of Tamil Sangams in North America (FeTNA) invited Amarnath Ramakrishna to deliver a lecture on the Keezhadi excavations. The ASI denied him permission to participate as guest of honor at this event, possibly because FeTNA publicly supported the cause of ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils in the Sri Lankan civil war. Time and again, the Sri Lanka Guardian has warned that the Catholic Church is heavily involved with the LTTE from the 1970s (refer Catholic Church, an ally of Tamil Tiger terrorists in Sri Lanka, Guardian, April 4, 2009). The FeTNA has been a major campaigner and fund-raiser for the Tamil Chair at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. George L. Hart, known for his Dravidian politics, was hired for the chair. FeTNA also honoured Jagat Gasper, Catholic propagandist for Christianizing Tamil culture.


Dilip K. Chakrabarti


In December 2014, eminent South Asian archaeologist Dilip Chakrabarti delivered a lecture at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi, on “Foreign Archaeological Collaborations and India’s Security Concerns”. He highlighted the dangerous attempts to relate prehistoric Indian cultures to various Indian languages, which are later given fictional linguistic affinities and open the way for regional chauvinistic premises. Highlighting the case of Pattanam, Chakrabarti said the pursuit of the past is not an innocuous academic activity and before foreign academic groups are allowed uncontrolled and unverified entry to this in India, we must be aware of the dimensions which impinge on our long-term national security. In Nation First, Chakrabarti cautions that Pattanam is supported by ‘Biblical and Jewish’ interest groups, and urges the Indian government to take serious note of such unholy conglomerations.

The Archaeological Survey of India and Tamil Nadu government should investigate how the state Department of Archaeology officially invited the controversial Pattanam excavator, whose license was cancelled by the MHA and excavation license was repealed by central advisory panel of the ASI in 2016. The platform was used to link Keezhadi and Pattanam sites, which have strong undercurrents of secessionism. – Vijayvaani, 12 November 2018


St Thomas Cross and Sickle EmblemSee also


 

Archaeology: Sectarian and divisive politics in Tamil Nadu – G. Sreedathan


There are serious allegations that the linking of Tamil Nadu sites with Pattanam is designed to provide a Dravidian Christian identity for Southern India and help the Church raise political claims. The Left historians have always been the aggressive promoters of the Aryan-Dravidian binary. They propagated the theory of British linguists Francis Ellis and Alexander Campbell that South Indian languages fell into a different category far removed from the Aryan languages. – G. Sreedathan


Thomas Cross & Sickle


Archaeology as a tool for evangelization and balkanization of India

In an interview to Malayalam weekly Madhyamam on October 15, 2018, Prof. Vasanth Shinde, veteran archaeologist and Vice Chancellor of Deccan College, Pune, premier institution of archaeological research in India, has dismissed excavations carried out at Pattanam in Kerala by Kerala Council of Historical Research (KCHR) as “dubious”. He completely rejected the claims made by the excavators—some of them lacked professional or academic expertise to carry out such an excavation. He was not alone. Eminent historians and archeologists such as Prof Dilip Chakrabarti, A. Sundara, M.G.S. Narayanan, R. Nagaswamy and T. Satyamurti have also severely criticized the excavation sponsored and launched by the Left political parties and supported by dubious foreign Christian organisations.

Experts pointed out that the methodology used was dubious and reports false. Its links with questionable Church organizations in India and abroad and funding thereof had raised many eyebrows in the academic circles. Istvan Perczel from Hungary, one of the patrons of Pattanam, lauded it as the site where, Apostle Thomas landed in India and established Indian Christianity. The United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia based in New York supported Pattanam excavator P.J. Cherian in his historical studies. The Liturgical Research Centre of the Syro-Malabar Church organized national seminars in 2005 at Kochi, and in 2011 at Kalyan in Mumbai, for corroborating Pattanam and Christianity.  Federico de Romanis, Biblical scholar from University of Rome was invited in 2009 by KCHR to conduct classes in Latin and Greece. Dr N.M. Mathew, member of KCHR, is also historian of the Malankara Marthoma Church.

The Ministry of Home Affairs identified the unbridled foreign funds received by KCHR and cancelled its license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. The KCHR was accused of creating fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities running into crores. It is also alleged that the KCHR obtained the licence for the Pattanam excavation after submitting fake documents to the Archaeological Survey of India (see “Rampant irregularities detected at KCHR”).


K. Rajan


Prof K. Rajan of Pondicherry University enters the scene

Of late, one of the foremost propagandists of Pattanam is Prof K. Rajan of Pondicherry University who is currently member of the KCHR administration. Prof Rajan and Cherian jointly promote Pattanam. They link Pattanam with Kodumanal, Thandikudi, Porunthal Keezhadi and other archaeological sites in Tamil Nadu.  When Rajan ignores serious allegations on duplicity on Pattanam and its Biblical agenda by eminent scholarship, it also raises serious doubts on sites in Tamil Nadu which he excavated and constantly associates Pattanam. R. Sivanantham, deputy director, Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology, officially arranged  a lecture on Pattanam by Cherian on October 30, 2018. The programme was chaired by T. Udhayachandran, Commissioner, Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu. The programme has been severely criticized by archaeologists.

Archaeological Survey of India conducted an inquiry into dubious methodologies adopted by the KCHR at Pattanam which was taken up by  Amarnath Ramakrishna, the then superintendent archaeologist of the ASI, Bengaluru centre. His investigation has been suppressed, but later Amarnath Ramakrishna also took up the Keezhadi excavation. The CPI(M) which  launched Pattanam has openly supported Amarnath Ramakrishna who supervised Keezhadi which shows  how  the notorious nexus between Church and Left historians. It is alleged that Amarnath submitted a favourable report for Pattanam excavations.

The carbon dating conducted at Pattanam, Keezhadi and Palani by Cherian, K. Rajan and Amarnath Ramakrishna has been done by Beta Analytic Inc., Florida, USA which has raised eyebrows. These sites have been presently interlinked by these excavators. Archeologists say that the interlinking of Keezhadi and Pattanam sites has “strong undercurrents of secessionism”.

Marxists and their missionary position

There are serious allegations that the linking of these Tamil Nadu sites with Pattanam is designed to provide a Dravidian Christian identity for Southern India and help the Church raise political claims. The Left historians have always been the aggressive promoters of the Aryan-Dravidian binary. They propagated the theory of British linguists Francis Ellis and Alexander Campbell that South Indian languages fell into a different category far removed from the Aryan languages.

“Brian Houghton Hodgson promoted the term “Tamulian” as a racial construct, describing the so-called aborigines of India as primitive and uncivilized compared to the invading Aryans. Bishop Robert Caldwell launched the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu, carried forward by Bishop GU Pope,” says Dr B.S. Harishankar in his article “Keezadi and Pattanam: Global plot to break India”

A few years ago, a prominent western evangelical portal carried an article which said how archeology can be an effective tool in evangelization. When the British set up the Archaeological Survey of India, they too had similar motives. Author and archaeologist Michel Danino, in an article, Digging into the Human Mindwrites the motives of Alexander Cunningham, the first director-general of ASI, “were not wholly disinterested”. Cunningham hoped to “show that Brahminism … was of comparatively modern origin, and had been constantly receiving additions and alterations; facts which prove that the establishment of the Christian religion in India must ultimately succeed” (Muziris: Attimariyude Reethisasthram). – Indus Scrolls, 2018 


P. J. Cherian & Robert Eisenman


P.J. Cherian's CV : No equipped for archaeological studies! AG's report on Cherian's foreign tour conducted without government approval.AG's report on misappropriated funds


 

Archaeology: Politics of the past in Tamil Nadu and Kerala – B.S. Harishankar


The leading patrons  of Pattanam  which was claimed as the  ancient trading port of  Muziris, were Euro-American scholars. Istvan Perczel from Hungary, one of the patrons of Pattanam, and also a  scholar in Early Christianity and Byzantine history, solicited that it provides much potential for research as the site where Apostle Thomas landed in India and established Indian Christianity – Dr B.S. Harishankar


KCHR


Martin Sabrow, Professor of History at the University of Potsdam, Germany,  warned  in 2009  that,  if the cooperation between politicians and historians is too close, it might be harmful since  the relationship between history and politics can develop into a fatal friendship offering the reward of public attention and moral esteem whilst destroying the radical independence of historical research and its disposition to rethink history.

Sabrow’s  views have relevance currently, when there is  an orchestrated campaign to establish a  hoax  identity of  the past to raise divisive political and religious   claims  in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The ongoing manoeuvres to associate the disputed  Pattanam site in Kerala with  Kodumanal, Keezhadi, Porunthal and  other unearthed spots in Tamilnadu, has already  sparked  controversies. But few are aware of  the fact that,  the very integrity of Kerala Council for Historical Research ( KCHR)  which unearthed Pattanam, was seriously  questioned by the Kerala state government and historians  much before the current  excavations.

Following serious complaints  on KCHR about “procedural and financial irregularities” and its “approach to the writing of history”,  the  former Congress government led by chief minister A.K. Antony decided to dissolve it on  September 22, 2001. Vindicating the government decision, Prof M.G.S. Narayanan, former chairman of the ICHR, charged that the formation of the KCHR was “a Marxist party conspiracy to hijack history for its destructive, sectarian purpose of party propaganda” and welcomed the government’s move to dissolve it. (Frontline, Oct. 13 – 26, 2001).

Left lobbies protested against the Congress government decision to  dismiss the KCHR. On 25th September 2001, the Safdar  Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) a Left cultural forum, called  upon the Kerala Government  to immediately reinstate the KCHR. It was signed by left historians such as  R.S. Sharma Irfan Habib,  K.M. Shrimali, D.N. Jha,  and  Sumit Sarkar.

Upholding the state government’s decision, the Kerala high court dismissed a writ petition challenging the dissolution of KCHR. Justice G. Sivarajan held that the petition filed by P. J. Cherian, director of KCHR and its three members was without merits. (The Times of India , Dec. 20, 2001).

But following immense pressure jointly launched by church and left lobbies, the Congress high command directed Chief Minister A.K. Antony who was  ultimately forced to reinstate the KCHR.

The leading patrons  of Pattanam  which was claimed as the  ancient trading port of  Muziris, were Euro-American scholars. Istvan Perczel from Hungary, one of the patrons of Pattanam, and also a  scholar in Early Christianity and Byzantine history, solicited that it provides much potential for research as the site where Apostle Thomas landed in India and established Indian Christianity (Muziris Heritage Project: Pattanam excavations, KCHR,  2008) . He also  delivered a lecture at KCHR,  on history of Kerala christianity, along with  Bishop Gabriel Mar Gregorios, and theologian Ninan Koshy (The Hindu, Feb.12, 2008).

The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology and the Pontifical Academy of Archaeology both at Vatican, functions for the purpose of promoting and directing excavations in the catacombs of Rome and on other sites of Christian antiquarian interest, and for safeguarding the objects found during such excavations. Consequently,  the Liturgical Research Centre of the Syro-Malabar Church invited the KCHR, for its national seminars in 2005 at Kochi, and in 2011 at Kalyan in Mumbai,  to present papers corroborating Pattanam, and Christianity. The United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia based in New York supported Pattanam  excavator P.J. Cherian in his historical studies (The New Indian Express, Feb.17, 2011). Eleven students from University of Georgia visited Pattanam to learn the historical, theological and sociological aspects of the ancient trading port of Muziris and Christianity in the state. (The Hindu, Dec. 25, 2011). It was a global campaign that an ancient biblical site has been finally unearthed in India.


Pattanam dig and St Thomas


Orthodox churches also  took a genuine interest in Pattanam. Keynote Address by Fr. Dr. K.M. George at the public meeting of Malankara  Orthodox Church at the  reception for Bishop Catholicos Marthoma Paulose II,  on March 13, 2011, in  Tyagaraja Stadium, New Delhi, lauded Pattanam for  finally establishing the two millennium old history of apostle Thomas in India.

Following escalating  controversies on KCHR and  Pattanam, archaeologists from major Indian institutes and universities kept away from the project. But despite serious charges of fake documentation, financial irregularities and transforming myth into history,  it was Dr. K. Rajan of Pondicherry University who is one of the foremost patrons of Pattanam. He  associates  Pattanam with   various sites  in  Tamil Nadu,  thus not only collaborating to establish a biblical myth as history, but also  constructing a larger communal space for the church to raise political claims in South India. Rajan observed that the cultural transformation from the Iron Age to the Early Historic Period discernible at Pattanam was unique to Peninsular India (The Hindu, May,  12,  2009).

The Pattanam team acknowledges Rajan’s guidance in May, 2012,  for assistance  to the Kongu Region, including Kodumanal, Kangayam, Arachallur and Arasampalayam. Seminars  on Indian Ocean trade of Pattanam conducted by KCHR and British Museum  in August 2013, was hosted by Department of History, University of Pondicherry and chaired by Rajan. British Museum which collaborates with Pattanam is associated with biblical scholars such as Michael Jursa and Irvin Finkel. Pattanam Museum in Ernakulam was  inaugurated by Finkel. Oxford which also collaborates with Pattanam,  has a long history in biblical archaeology with scholars such as  Dame Kathleen Kenyon, Roger Moorey, Andrew Sherratt, and Levantine Archaeology Laboratory as well as Ashmolean Museum.

Mario Seiglie a missionary and columnist  wrote that archaeology makes a believer, and abundance of archaeological evidence in support of the Bible can strengthen faith, and in some cases it has greatly contributed in giving birth to belief, where none existed before. This observation has much relevance in Pattanam and its linked sites in Tamil Nadu, in the Apostle Thomas context..

K. Rajan and P.J. Cherian jointly propagates presentations linking the Tamil Nadu—Kerala region—in the backdrop of excavations at Kodumanal, Thandikudi, Porunthal and Pattanam  (Pattanam Fifth Season: Field Report, 2011, KCHR). Currently, Rajan is member of the KCHR administration. There are serious allegations that field reports on sites such as Kodumanal, Thandikudi and Porunthal are prepared for promoting Pattanam which has much political and religious connotations.

In this context, we are reminded of what the Bavarian Minister for Education and Cultural affairs, Hans Schemm, declared  in 1933, to lecturers at the University of Munich  that,  it is no longer their task to find out if something is true, but if it accords with the beliefs of the National Socialist government. In the present context it is the beliefs of the Left government in Kerala and church denominations in India that matters.

It is not that Prof. Rajan is ignorant of serious financial corruption and academic forgery accused on Pattanam. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) identified the unbridled foreign funds received by KCHR and cancelled its license along with Kerala Muslim Educational Association and Kerala United Theological Seminary under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010. (The New Indian Express, Dec. 8, 2016).

Earlier the Accountant General detected the irregularities, in the KCHR audit report of 2010-11 (The New Indian Express, July 22, 2012). Later in 2016, the KCHR was accused in creation of fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores. It is also alleged that the KCHR obtained the licence for the Pattanam excavation after submitting fake documents to the Archaeological Survey of India.

Following serious charges on Pattanam excavations, and unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR, a  probe was conducted on the basis of complaints to the Union Minister of State for Culture, Mahesh Sharma.  Based on the complaints, a meeting of the central advisory panel of the ASI asked the KCHR to temporarily stop the excavation (Business Standard, Jan. 5, 2016).s

Even, late Iravatham Mahadevan, who earlier applauded Pattanam as potentially important (The Hindu, Mar. 14, 2011), later declined to make any comments or observation on the site following widespread controversies.

The Pattanam site has been questioned not by activists, but by eminent south asian archaeologists and historians such as Profs. Dilip Chakrabarti, A. Sundara, Vasant Shinde, M.G.S. Narayanan, R. Nagaswamy and T. Satyamurti. When Rajan ignores serious allegations on Pattanam  by  eminent  scholarship,  it also raises serious doubts on sites in Tamil Nadu with which he constantly associates Pattanam. Already the Keezhadi site  has generated enough controversies.

The recent controversy on Pattanam erupted after R. Sivanantham, deputy director, Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology, officially facilitated a lecture on Pattanam by P.J. Cherian on Oct. 30, 2018. The programme was chaired by T. Udhayachandran, Commissioner, Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu.

 Archaeological Survey of India’s probe into alleged unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR at Pattanam, was taken up by Amarnath Ramakrishna, the then superintendent archaeologist of the ASI, Bengaluru centre (Business Standard, Jan. 5, 2016). His findings are kept in the dark, but later Amarnath Ramakrishna also took up the Keezhadi excavation. The CPI(M) which launched Pattanam has openly supported Amarnath Ramakrishna who supervised Keezhadi (The Hindu, Oct. 6, 2018), which  shows  how  the Left  functions in manufacturing cultural data for church lobbies.

 ASI director general Rakesh Tewari said Amarnath Ramakrishna should publish a report on the Keezhadi excavation. Then only the  ASI shall give him the license for the third year because he has got more than 4,000 artefacts (More excavation only after report,  Frontline , Jan.2, 2017).

 Dating of all  these interlinked sites  including  Pattanam, have been done at the same institution at USA. The carbon dating conducted on Keezhadi, has been  done by Beta Analytic Inc., Florida, USA, (The Hindu, Sept. 30, 2017). The carbon dating at Pattanam was also conducted at Beta Analytic Inc., despite the fact that India has  premier dating laboratories. Accelerator mass spectrometry dating of the paddy from Palani site  excavated by  Prof. Rajan was also  done by Beta Analysis Inc. which assigned the paddy to 490 BCE (“Palani excavation triggers fresh debate”, The Hindu, Aug. 29, 2011). It has also much relevance since, research by Cornell University archaeologists, Sturt Manning and colleagues shows that commonly accepted radiocarbon dating standards can miss the mark, thus calling historical timelines into question.

The 21st annual Tamil convention of Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA) was also held in Florida. The theme of the three day convention was “Preserve the Tamil race by protecting the language”. Florida is a major stronghold of FeTNA and the carbon dating of  both Keezhadi and Pattanam in Florida raises serious suspicion.

FeTNA in April, 2018, invited Amarnath Ramakrishna to deliver a lecture on the Keezhadi excavations. The ASI denied him permission to participate as guest of honor at this event, possibly because FeTNA publicly supported the cause of ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils in the Sri Lankan civil war. Time and again, the Sri Lanka Guardian has warned that the Catholic Church is heavily involved with the LTTE from the 1970s (“Catholic Church, an ally of Tamil Tiger terrorists in Sri Lanka”, Guardian, April 4, 2009). The FeTNA has been a major campaigner and fund-raiser for the Tamil Chair at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. George L. Hart, known for his Dravidian politics, was hired for the chair. FeTNA also honoured Jagath Gasper, Catholic propagandist for Christianizing Tamil culture.

Thillai Kumaran, the  former  president of FeTNA, represented it in the vicious 2006 California textbook campaign launched by FOIL, FOSA and many members of the CAG against Hindu groups who were advocating for an equitable treatment of Hinduism vis-a-vis other leading global religions in sixth grade textbooks. FeTNA’s testimony at the California Curriculum Commission made the dubious claim that the early Tamil texts clearly distinguish between Tamils and Aryans. The  co-founders of FOIL are two  Indian Leftists, Biju Mathew and Vijay Prashad.

Harvard scholar Michael Witzel has admitted that he and his associates were in contact with FeTNA in the California textbook campaign. Thillai Kumaran, representing FeTNA, in their letter dated  Feb. 19, 2006, wrote  to Glee Johnson of California State Board of Education, thanking Witzel for the efforts in proposing edits in pursuance of the Colorado evangelical church agenda. Witzel’s supporters in the California textbook battle include two evangelical groups: Dalit Freedom Network and Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA. DFN president Joseph D’Souza also patronizes the All India Christian Council.

The Left–church syndicate at Pattanam and its current association with Tamil Nadu archaeological sites has to be understood in a global context. The fervor shown for propaganda and for dating them in one institution in America has also  generated questions regarding politics of the past in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. – Bharatkalyan, 9 December 2018

» B. S. Harishankar is an author and senior archaeological researcher.


Syrian-style gold cross


Read more at:


 

VIDEO: Interviews with Shaiva Siddhanta Acharyas – J. Vishwanathan

This video exposes the nefarious activities of Christian missionaries in Tamil Nadu, in their vain attempt to appropriate the Tirukkural as a Christian-inspired document.

Syrian Orthodox bishop doubts St Thomas visited South India – Times News Network

St. Thomas did not visit Kerala and did not convert upper caste Hindus to Christianity. – Metropolitan Geevarghese Mor Coorilos of the Jacobite Syrian Church


Geevarghese Mor Coorilos


The following remarkable news item appeared in The Times of India, Kochi edition, on 13 April 2018:

Udukki: After the land scam, another controversy has erupted in the Syro-Malabar Church. This time around, the ruckus is over the historical validity of the claim that St. Thomas the apostle had visited Kerala.

Three days ago, Bishop Geevarghese Mor Coorilos of the Niranam diocese of the Jacobite Syrian Church said St. Thomas hadn’t visited the state and did not convert upper caste Hindus to Christianity.

Syro-Malabar Church official spokesperson and senior priest belonging to Enakulam-Angamali diocese Fr. Paul Thelekatt too agreed with the Niranam bishop: “There is no valid evidence to prove the visit of St. Thomas to Kerala. It is believed that he visited Kerala in the first century and converted Brahmins to Christianity. But the migration of Brahmins to Kerala began only in the 7th century,[1] indicating that such claims were false. The fact is that a group of people followed Christianity for several centuries in Kerala.”

Syrian Christians in Kerala believe that St. Thomas had visited Kerala and converted the upper caste Namboodiris to Christianity. They believe St. Thomas had also built eight churches (also known as 7.5 churches) in various parts of Kerala. The Syrian Christians are also known as St. Thomas Christians. “Even the Pope has made it clear that St. Thomas had not visited Kerala. But a certain section among Kerala Christians have been nursing a certain caste bias claiming to be descendants of upper caste Hindus who were converted to Christianity,” said Fr. Thelakkat. In fact, Syrian Christians in Changanacherry, Pala and Kanjirappally claim that they belong to upper caste Hindu families converted by St. Thomas. Most of the families in these areas reportedly claim they hail from “Athi Puratana Katholika Kudumbam”.

However, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) doesn’t seemed to be amused over the controversy.

“There is no need to discuss the issue now. Those who raised the issue should solve it,” said KCBC official spokesperson Fr. Varghese Vallikkatt. – The Times of India, 3 April 2018


1. There is a record of Namboodiri Brahmins in Kerala in the middle of the fourth century CE, when the practice of the Vedic Shrauta traditions were revived. The sixth or seventh century dates for their appearance is a politically-coloured Marxist conjecture. But it is true that there is no record of Namboodiris in Kerala in the first three and a half centuries CE (as there is none for Christians).


Paul Thelekatt


 

Marxists and Christians search for St. Thomas at Pattanam – Sandhya Jain


Kerala’s attempt to create spurious evidence of the arrival of Apostle Thomas in India merits wider dissemination. It must be seen as part of a concerted attempt to entrench the Cross in India. – Sandhya Jain


Pattanam: Constructs, Contexts and Interventions by B.S. Harishankar


Rescuing the antiquity of Indian civilisation from the biblical mythology of Max Mueller, rubbishing the well-orchestrated history-as-dogma of the Aryan invasion and proving the existence of river Saraswati, excavating and resurrecting the still unknown past, and restoring the once handsome architectural marvels that have fallen victim to time or iconoclasts, Indian archaeologists have their task cut out for them. Their work is critical in correcting the lacunas, misinterpretations and falsifications of history in various parts of the country, especially at the hands of scholars with a pronounced bias against our native traditions.

Unless repudiated, invented history enters the popular mind as “fact”. The Aryan fable still persists because Marxists have been able to prevent all historical and scientific findings, disproving the movement of people into India at the time of the alleged “invasion”, from entering school textbooks where the foundations of knowledge are laid. This is why noted archaeologist B.S. Harishankar’s debunking of the Kerala Council for Historical Research’s (KCHR) attempts to create spurious evidence of the arrival of Apostle Thomas in India, unequivocally denied by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2006, merits wider dissemination.

The excavations to identify Pattanam, in Ernakulum district, with ancient Muziris of the Cheras, began soon after the Syro-Malabar Church scrambled to rescue the legend that claimed India as the first mission of the church, long before it went to Europe. As a result, in November 2006, the Vatican Secretariat accepted the story as history, to project Christianity as an indigenous faith of great longevity. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) embraced the project with alacrity; the brochure, Muziris Heritage Project: Pattanam Excavations 2008, lists Prof. Romila Thapar as one of the patrons.


B.S. Harishankar


In Pattanam: Constructs, Contexts and Interventions (2017), Harishankar denounces the presence of European and American scholars in the dig, while excluding the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Indian universities. Eminent historians Prof. Dilip K. Chakbrabarti and Prof. M.G.S. Narayanan, and archaeologists Prof. R. Nagaswamy, Prof. A. Sundara, and Prof. T.  Sathyamurthy, denounced the attempts to link Pattanam with Muziris, when Kodungallur where the river meets the sea, is far more logical. Neither archaeological evidences nor historical records support Apostle Thomas arrived in India; he possibly visited Fars (Persia) and the Afghanistan region.

Harishankar has referenced the Pattanam excavations with all researched and published material available. The KCHR, headed by Prof. K.N. Panikkar of JNU, is alleged to have manipulated archaeological evidence and manufactured new evidence to “prove” that Pattanam had historical ties with Jerusalem and other regions in West Asia from 1000 BC. He discusses the evidence that debunks the theory that there was ever a port city at Pattanam along the west coast, which the KCHR historians claim was an international trade route dating back to 800 BC.

Interestingly, the claim that Apostle Thomas established the first settlement at Pattanam was independently debunked by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, and the National Institute of Oceanography, Kochi. The BARC scientists, who successfully traced the course of the Saraswati through radio isotope studies, examined Kerala’s mud banks during the monsoons and concluded that marine and palaeo-hydrological studies rule out the possibilities of a port city, wharf or township at Pattanam. In fact, the area excavated by the KCHR does not qualify for excavations as the cultural stratigraphy has been badly damaged by monsoons, floods, erosion, and construction activities. Moreover, as Harishankar maintains, the ASI is the only body competent to authorise excavations.

Pattanam is not an archaeological mound, as claimed by KCHR. Western India, Harishankar argues, has several archaeological sites with ramparts or mud embankments to prevent floods. No such evidence has been found at Pattanam. On the contrary, the site at Pattanam in lower Periyar has coastal alluvium with sand and clay, and lacks laterite formation or thick soil. Hence, it was not chosen as an Iron Age settlement.

Moreover, urbanism in early historic India involves certain precursors such as immense size, internal planning, public architecture, settlement hierarchies, enclosing walls, script, craft specialisation, long-distance trade, subsistence strategies and population growth. None of these exist at Pattanam, yet KCHR’s chosen scholars claimed as an urban site and port city. When the absence of these parameters were pointed out, the KCHR historians toned down their claims and alleged that the structural remains unearthed were carried away by locals, which is simply ridiculous.

Curiously, KCHR forwarded the plant remains found at Pattanam to the Spices Board, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, though it has no competence to examine them. And despite premier institutions available in India, the carbon dating was done abroad. But what is more pertinent, KCHR’s modern historians with no experience in field archaeology should not have excavated Pattanam with foreign funds and a crew of Biblical scholars.

KCHR appointed Dr. P.J. Cherian, with no academic background in archaeology, as director of the Pattanam excavations. Cherian’s PhD dissertation is on “The Communist Movement in Travancore: From the Origins to the Uprisings in 1946” (University of Calicut, 1993). However, The University of Rome Tor Vergata granted a three-year research fellowship to P.J. Cherian, Director, KCHR, and Pattanam excavations.

To assist Cherian, some distinguished Biblical historians and Latin scholars were attached to the project. They include Istvan Perczel (Hungarian scholar of Byzantine history and early Christianity); Roberta Tomber (specialist in Roman and Indian Ocean pottery); Frederico de Romanis (expert on Roman and Portuguese pepper trade); and Irving R. Finkel (British philologist and Assyriologist, expert in the script, languages and cultures of the Middle East). None is equipped to handle excavations; it’s a Max Mueller style of biblical mumbo jumbo.

In an exhibition at the National Museum in 2014, KCHR claimed Pattanam is the third Indian site to unearth terra sigillata pottery after Arikamedu and Alagankulam in Tamil Nadu, though it has been found at Uraiyur, Kanchipuram, Vasavasamudram, Kodumanal, Karur and Sulur in Tamil Nadu and several sites in Gujarat and western India. It claimed that rouletted pottery from Pattanam was reported for the first time on the west coast, when it was found in 124 sites across the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

Cherian is the executive president of the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage. His claim that his excavation unearthed evidence of a 2,000-year-old port city at a place where Saint Thomas allegedly landed rests more on faith than on history or archaeology. It must be seen as part of a concerted attempt to entrench the Cross in Asia, particularly India. – The Pioneer, 3 April 2018.

» Sandhya Jain is a political analyst and columnist with The Pioneer, New Delhi.


Dr. Nagaswamy comments on the St. Thomas myth from 11:30 mins