Tuesday, September 13, 2011

St Thomas myth or Cheran king’s conquest of Yavanas?

The falsity of the claim that St Thomas came to India and that Tamils were originally Christians has been exposed variously by Sri Ishwar Sharan . One can browse this blog for old articles on this topic. Added to them is the review by Ms Sandhya Jain on the 3rd edition of the book  by Sri Ishwar Sharan, ‘The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple’ .

On the issue of a group of Christians landing in the Malabar coast, let me bring to the notice of the readers some information from Silappadhikaram, written in the 2nd century AD. This book tells about the presence of ‘Yavanas’ in the Kingdoms of all the 3 Tamil kings. The usual refrain is to consider them as Greeks or Romans. There are some who think that they are Muslims (thulukkar). But Islam came into existence much later than Silappadhikaram period. This restricts the religious identity of the Yavanas to Christianity only.

There is a mention of a separate dormitory for Yavanas (yavanar irukkai) in Pumpukar, the Chozhan Capital while explaining the presence of traders at the time of Festival for Indra (Indra viza)
There is a mention of Yavanas as security guards around the fort of Madurai, the Pandyan Capital.

In the case of Cheran kingdom, the mention of Yavanas comes twice in Silapapdhikaram. At both places it is said that Senkuttuvan, the Cheran king conquered the land of Yavanas, the Himalayas and the Southern Kuamri lands.

The yavana land is mentioned as “van sol yavanar vaLanaadu” .
Where was this place?
Was it near the Himalayas from where he procured the stone for building the image of Kannagi?
Or was it a small location of yavanas who settled on the west coast  near his kingdom?

From the description of Yavanas guarding Madurai, it is understood that they were hired by the Tamil kings. They did not mingle with locals but were allotted separate locations as we find in the description in Pumpukar. This shows that yavanas were more or less settled in parts of Tamil nadu even as early as 2nd century AD. The victory of the Cheran king over Yavana nadu could mean his control over the Yavana - locations in Chera nadu which would have become their first landing parts in their journey to Tamilnadu.

The Tamil kings known for their ceaseless warring tendencies could have started the habit of hiring or engaging Yavanas in security posts. The yavanas could have first got introduced to Tamil kings as horse sellers. Horses had an important place in the army of Tamil kings as we find a sutra in Tholkappiyam on the valour of horses used in wars. The Tamil kings must have been on the lookout for the best breed of horses for use as Royal horses and in wars. The horse trading Yavanas in course of time could have found favor with the Tamil kings as experts in war and fighting.

Thus their presence pre dated Silappadhikaram times or even Pre Christian times. But at no time, they were absorbed into local culture by the Tamils. They were considered as Mlecchas and were allowed to follow their life in outskirts.

That is how the settlement in the Malabar coast could have come up, which however came under the jurisdiction of the Cheran King.

The praise on Cheran king in the last chapter of Silappadhikaram, again repeats his victory over ‘Yavana vala naadu’ (யவன வள நாடு).
This is followed by his victory in the Himalayas. So this could also mean his victory over Yavanas in a place west or North west of Himalayas when the Cheran king went on his expedition to the Himalayas. This victory gives rise to a possibility that the conquered yavanas were brought to his land and settled them in the coastal area. The proud Cheran king who did not lose any opportunity to show up his superiority (expressed in Silappadhikaram) could have brought the Yavanas to his kingdom as a rightful conqueror in contrast to other two Tamil kings who hired the Yavanas.

These inputs from Silapapdhikaram show the presence of people of Roman or Greek or Mediterranean origin having permanent settlements in west coast of Cheran kingdom before the 2nd century AD.
The fabrication of St Thomas myth could have been centred around these people.
But it must be noted that the presence of any such groups did not and could not influence the religion that Tamils followed.
The same Cheran king was described by Silapapdhikaram as having conducted Soma yaga in his land.
This must put at rest what religion the Tamils followed in those days.

-          Jayasree


Merchant Thomas to Saint Thomas  Ishwar Saran's 

The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple"

Sandhya Jain
13 Sep 2011

          As Christian evangelists intensify efforts to bring India under their sway, their brethren in the south are trying to (mis)use current excavations at Pattanam to revive the myth of Apostle Thomas arriving in the country in the first century AD and establishing a fledgling community. They are trying to link the ancient port of Muziris with Pattanam, where Thomas reputedly landed, though Muziris was more logically Kodungalloor, where the river joins the sea. Dr R. Nagaswamy, former director, Tamil Nadu Archaeological Survey, debunks this mischief and avers that none of the literature on the life of St Thomas claims that he came to India.

Yet, so strenuously has the myth been perpetuated that Swami Devananda Saraswati (pen name Ishwar Sharan), a Canadian Protestant who became a Smarta Dasanani sanyasi at Prayag in 1977, decided to get to its historical roots. The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (updated 3rd edn.), is the fruit of his labours.

Sharan was intrigued by the story of the alleged murder of the apostle by a conniving Brahmin. In September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI declared that Thomas never came to India, but Rome later fell silent after a nudge from the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. The myth includes the implausible conversion of Tiruvalluvar by the foreign evangelist, though Tamil scholars believe the sage lived around ca. 100 BCE, perhaps even 200 BCE.

The claim that Christianity came to India before it went to Europe is a ploy to make it a sort of native religion, even if it came from West Asia. The origin is a Gnostic Syrian fable, Acts of Thomas, written by poet Bardesanes at Edessa around 201 CE. The text never mentions or describes the sub-continent, but says the apostle went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people are ‘Mazdei’ [Zoroastrian] and have Persian names. The term India in Acts is a synonym for Asia.

The Acts identifies St Thomas as Judas, the look-alike twin of Jesus, who sells him into slavery. The slave travels to Andropolis where he makes newly-weds chaste, cheats a king, fights with Satan over a beautiful boy, persuades a talking donkey to confess the name of Jesus, and is finally executed by a Zoroastrian king for crimes against women. His body is buried on a royal mountain and later taken to Edessa, where a popular cult rises around his tomb.

One Thomas of Cana led a group of 400 Christians (from seven tribes and 72 families) from Babylon and Nineveh, out of Persia in the 4th century, when Christianization of the Roman Empire made the Persians view their Syriac-speaking Christian minority as a Roman fifth column. The ‘Thomas Christians’ could originally have referred to this merchant. They reputedly landed at Cranganore in Malabar in 345 CE. Sharan warns this migration cannot be treated as historical fact, but says that Cosmas the Alexandrian, theologian, geographer and merchant who traded with Ethiopia and Ceylon, visited Malabar in 520-525 CE and provided the first acceptable evidence of Christian communities there in Christian Topography. This Thomas was probably ‘converted’ (metamorphosed) to St Thomas.

Early Church Fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Eusebius are explicit that Apostle Thomas settled in ‘Parthia’, and established a church in Fars (Persia). This is supported by the 4th century priest Rufinus of Aquileia, who translated Greek theological texts into Latin, and the 5th century Byzantine church historian, Socrates of Constantinople, who wrote an Ecclesiastical History, the second edition of which survives and is a valuable source of early church history. Nothing much is known about St Thomas. He was called the Apostle of the East in West Asia and India until 1953, when the Church demoted him to Apostle of India, dislodging St Francis Xavier.

Between the 4th and 16th centuries, the Syrian Christians of Malabar reinvented the tale several times, finally bringing St Thomas to India to evangelize the heathen. In the 13th century, Marco Polo embellished the tale with a South Indian seashore tomb and in the 16th century the Portuguese transferred this seashore tomb to Mylapore! The created their own redactions of the Acts of Thomas and began destroying temples in the port city and building their St Thomas churches, pretending these were the sites of Thomas’ martyrdom and burial.

The primary objective of the Thomas-in-India or Jesus-in-India stories is to vilify Brahmins and malign the Hindu religion and community. The second is to present Christianity as an indigenous religion – not a piece of western imperialism. A deeper aim is to insinuate it as the ‘original’ religion of the Tamil people. Finally, it is to help Syrian Christians maintain their caste identity, their claim to be Jews or Brahmins, descendants of Namboodiris converted by St Thomas in the 1st century.

Ishwar Sharan cites a wealth of historical, textual and epigraphic material to prove how various authors and travellers like Marco Polo, mistakenly or deliberately, falsified evidence regarding St Thomas. He traces the Polo mischief to a book the legendary explorer dictated to fellow prisoner and writer, Rustichello, when he was captured by Genoa. The book became a hit in Europe, and the myth of a St Thomas tomb on a seashore was firmly planted.

German scholars, whose work remains to be translated into English, have consistently maintained that most 16th and 17th century churches in India contain temple rubble and are built on temple sites, just as in Europe they took over pagan sites. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, a landslip on San Thome beach revealed carved stone pillars and broken stones of mandapam found only in Hindu temples.

The Portuguese in the 16th century had one of their earliest settlements at San Thome, and razed many Hindu temples to the ground. Vijayanagar ruler, Rama Raya, waged war on them in Mylapore and Goa simultaneously, to save the Hindu temples. After his victory, he exacted a tribute from them for their vandalism. But when Vijayanagar fell before the Muslim armies at the Battle of Talikota (1565), the Portuguese resumed their iconoclasm.

The book has a treasure trove of information that an article cannot do justice to; a must read for lovers of Hindu temples and history.

[The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, 3rd ed., Voice of India, Delhi, 2010; Pages: 407; Price: Rs 450/-]


ramabadran said...

Re: Hindu terror

From: Gautam Sen <

I am sending you a piece of information that has apparently not
entered deliberations on the subject of alleged Hindu terrorism. My
inference, confirmed in conversation with a senior Italian diplomat,
whom I taught 20 years ago prompts me to convey the following.

1. The accusation of Hindu terrorism has not been fabricated cynically as
some have hastily concluded.

2. It originates with US church organisations, supported by their European
counterparts. I understand the UNHCR has been consulted.

3. These accusations are not primarily referring to allegations against
Colonel Purohit, his associates, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Abhinav

4. What they regard as terrorism, defined broadly, is attempts to curb
Christian evangelism and return converts to their previous Hindus faith by
Sangh affiliates, especially the *Bajrang Dal* and to a lesser extent, the
VHP. It is not only about planting bombs, which is either rare or non
existent. It is my conviction that the accusations of involvement in
terrorism against Sangh leaders are going to used to curb the BD.

5. This is what the church means by terrorism and that is what the evidently
Catholic adherent, Rahul Gandhi had in mind when he spoke in private to the
US ambassador. This is also the issue addressed by US diplomats, as revealed
in Wikileaks recently.

6. There is less disquiet about alleged Hindu retaliatory actions against
Muslim targets.

7. They are opposed to them as well, in principle, because they regard
Muslims as their allies in India, without which Hindus may be harder to keep
at bay. And something Christians will have difficult achieving alone. This
is why killings of Hindus by Islamic terrorists are not being viewed with
complete dismay by the US and its political church fronts in India.

8. The Communal Violence Bill is being supported strongly in private by the
US embassy because it will be used to attack the activities of Sangh
affiliates when they oppose religious conversion by church organisations.
The critique of alleged caste oppression and legal measures to ban it abroad
(in the UK and the EU) are part of the orchestrated manoeuvres afoot.

9. The use of its provisions to harass Hindus for making any hostile comment
against Muslims (or indeed against Christians), their beliefs, history, etc.
is not a priority because such comment is quite infrequent and rarely
carried by the Indian media.

My own observation is that its imperative to bear in mind the church and its
leftists allies in India regard the *entire historic past of India,
including its epics and religious faith*, as the product of
*Brahmminical *caste (racist and class as well) oppression. This must,
in the end, in their view, all be erased to make a new beginning. Of
course it is not a classless
society that will emerge since that has failed everywhere, but one which
will be Christian, docile and sensitive to the interests of the 400 families
who own half of all US wealth. They of course assume, in severe distress and
facing no option, Hindus will choose Christianity and the tutelage of the
West in preference to the other alternative of Islam.


Gautam Sen

This is for your reference-TKR

jayasree said...

Thanks Mr Ramabadran.

I read this is a yahoo group mail. It is time Hindus unite as a constituency and defeat the Congress and its allies in the election. Dr Subramanian Swamy is 100 % right in his DNA article. Mr Stephan Knapp also has rung the warning bell in a recent mail to the Yahoo group.

Hinduism and Hindu culture must be preserved as Heritage of mankind. The christians have their land, the muslims have their land. But India alone exists as the land of Hinduism. It must be left to nourish Hinduism.

Moreover Hinduism is a Universal Concept. Anyone going on spiritual path will have to land up in India - in the Himalayas, in the Ganga and in the holy temples of Hindus. By encroaching upon and maiming the culture of Hinduism, irreparable damage is being done to mankind which has Hinduism as a natural course for Spiritual emancipation.

The evangelists may claim initial success in their conversion activities. But the Indian converts will never have peaceful life. From the 3rd generation onwards, there is going to be a continuing stream of diseases, destruction and even termination of families.

For thousands of years until the present times, every bit of land in India had been protected by numerous gods. Most of these Gods were persons who once lived and started becoming guardian deities of the land where they lived. There are references to them in Tamil Sangam texts and how they would hit a person who violates rules of the land. These Gods have been made powerful through generations of worship. The positive energy of these Gods have protected the families that worshiped them all these years. Now when they cease to be Hindus, these Gods' energy level stop receiving positive reinforcement from the converts. When that happens, the defense system of the converts - physically and internally - would stop receiving the positive energy of the Hindu deities.

Of late I am receiving for counseling people who were born to converted Christians. Those born to parents after the conversion has taken place, develop complications in health and in life for which the only remedy is to go back to Hinduism.

Let people know that Conversion could have worked in other countries. But in India it can not become beneficial for the native Hindus.

I warn the Hindus to be aware of this. Don't jeopardize the lives of your future progeny by your stupid act of leaving your mother religion, Hinduism.

Unknown said...

dear j,

few questions:
quote:"Yavanas guarding Madurai, it is understood that they were hired by the Tamil kings"

did yavana known for their martial art ability? why tamil king hire the yavana to guard madurai instead of local tamil people?
if yavana mean mediteranian/greek/romans people, are they known as martial art expert? any story about tamil martial art in the veda or purana or ....?

quote:"The yavanas could have first got introduced to Tamil kings as horse sellers."

did greek/roman/mediteranian area known as horse source? i don't think so. so where the horse come from? arab horse? central asia horse? local horse? how many ribs the horse in india (read:tamil) where the yavana exist and sell their horse?

not relating but interesting, india had a very long history and science mention in veda/others. what about cartography? any passage/story/explanation on map of ancient india? i mean a real india map, from india source, from veda/purana/BC time? if they really know their neighbour area (at least the names of region end with tan, ie. afganistan, kazakstan, kurdistan etc), they should have a map right?

thank you.

jayasree said...

Dear Mus,

So many questions in one comment! You have to search my blog for answers to them. Immediately for now, I can direct you to this article where all the records of Yavana in Tamil litt is given.


In addition Raja tarangini of Kashmir is another source to know who were Yavanas.

Read these links:



In Tamil sources there is mention of Yavanas as horse sellers (deduced as Arabs) and fierce fighters. For all of those Mlechchas same name as Yavana was given.

There is no map of India as you think in today's idea. First reason, no body crossed the sea until 2000 yrs ago - because of the stigma connected to it in Vedic life.( We would say that this prompted Rama to build the Setu than to cross the sea by boats.) There is literary evidence in Tamil to prove this. Those who went on trade took land route, not sea route. It had always been the headache of people outside India to seek the route to India and look for or make maps. Whatever is available in India is in the form of verbal description of lands. I have analsyed 2 such descriptions from Ramayana for the lands to the south and North of India upto respective poles. They are in my Tamil articles.

On martial skills, there were quite a few tribes that include Keralakas (who were rehabilitated by Parasurama and settled in Kerala. Their skill is "kalaripayattu" - web articles are there on this, Andhras, Kambhojas to name a few whose further assimilation in India can be traced. They originally belonged to Indian pantheon only but were discarded when they slipped form Vedic life.

If you are keen on knowing other tribes or former races of the world, look for Danavas and Daityas in Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana. The present day Europeans and Americans were Danavas and Chinese were Daityas. The earlier Danava -Daitya settlement was in Sundaland!

jayasree said...

Dear Mus,
I don't know your intentions and background, but it is strikingly close to what I am discussing currently in a group. That makes me say that one must know Indian / Vedic way of life before venturing into these questions.

In the past Indians did not / could not move out of India as that handicapped them in doing their daily water and sun oblations. They could do these oblations anywhere in India. Any movement (expedition / pilgrimage) was in clockwise direction - say the one who wants to become a Chakravarthi would go on military expedition in clockwise direction - east - south - west and north - and west means Parswa - left handed region. Therefore Parsgwa / Persia was not tread by them. You can find references to this in Tamil litt also, in Rajaraja inscriptions and in the Cholan sea expeditions which was the first of its kind in 10th century. Leaving the country or going by seas means not being able to do the minimum water oblations. Only non-Vedic people went out.

The stigma against left handed culture ( check Vamachara) was so strong that the entry of people of the Vamachara and those from left side / west of Indus river were not accepted in Tamil lands. It is a long history of tension that was witnessed from Kulotthunga's period and continued till British rule. British records are there. This tension continued in present times and had come to be known as caste clashes in Kongu - coimbatore - Kanya kumari region.

The root cause of all this is non acceptance of people from outside Vedic fold and from regions of Vamachara. The Arabs or other Mlecchas came only as traders.

Your musings on horse- I suggest you look for genetic studies on Indian horses to get a better picture.

Unknown said...

dear j,
thank you for response and links. very interesting. and sorry for late response.

there's legend/unconfirmed history about ancestor of malays, a king named suran (cheran?). can you shed light on king cheran timeline? when his kingdom founded?

thank you,

jayasree said...

There is no Cheran genealogy available as with Pandyan (sinnamanur copper plate inscriptions) or Cholan (Thiruvalangadu copper plate inscriptions). The sangam poetry compilation on Cherans called "PathiRRup patthu" is available only in parts, but it gives clues on 2 cheran lineages - Uthiyan and Irumpiorai.

There was an Uthiyan king ruling Chera nadu that extended from Bay of Bnegal to Arabian sea during Mahabharata times. There is a poem on this king in Pura nanuru - another Sangam text. A comparative reading of Pandyan and Cholan genealogy of that times show that Cholans were keeping low and Pandyans further down in the south - in the now submerged regions of Indian ocean.

From certain inscriptions of Rajara Chola and those found in Cheran regions and the legend of Parasurama finding a place in Tamil Epic Manimegalai - all these goes to show Parasurama's hand in starting the Cheran lineage. The Uthiyan is perhaps indicative of Udeechi direction(a reference to this word is there in Sangam poem on a Cheran king)from where the Cherans came. The 12 year cycle of a king who was chosen after an all round performance during Kumbh mela is also recorded in inscriptions. Like this there are some clues which tell us that they were descendants of Yadus or North Indian kings and later kings of Marthand in Kashmir.

They have no connection to Suran. Suran is a Tamil word for a valiant person. Any valiant person or soldier can be a suran.