Arrival of the Church builders Mar Sapor and Mar Afroth(AD 825~850)-Kanthishangal


LOCAL TRADITION
Mar Sabor isho and Mar Afroth (Mar Sabor and Mar Proth ) (ca. 849) were two Monks who build and ruled many churches in Malabar south India. In 800 AD Quilon was part of Venadu. It is believed that around 825 AD, Maruvan Sapir Eso a successful merchant from Persia crossed the seas to reach Quilon. Along with him came Mar Afroth and Mar Sapor, two bishops representing the Persian Catholicos. The then ruling monarch Iyyanadikal Thiruvadikal (849AD) welcomed the delegation and showered them with special privileges and honors and gifted Maruvan Sapir Eso with land to build a church. This is mentioned in “Tharisa Pally cheppedu”. These two pious Saintly brothers were known as Church builders and a number of Churches built by them were known as Katheeshangal or Quadisagal. The Tharisapalli plates are signed by the These Bishops in Hebrew, Pahlavi and Kufic languages indicating that the Treaty were with Jewish, Persian and Arabic Christians.
Malayalam Era is called 'Kolla Varsham' possibly as a result of the Tarish-a-palli sassnam. It also signified the independence of Malabar from the Cheraman Perumals.Malayalam calendar (also known as Malayalam Era or Kollavarsham) is a solar Sidereal calendar used in the state of Kerala in South India. The era started in the year 825 AD. The origin of Kollam Era been dated as being 825 AD being the great convention in Kollam at the behest of raja kulshekara. The Malayalam Era named after Quilon began in 825 AD. Malayalam Era is called 'Kolla Varsham' after Kollam, because of the importance of Kollam in the 9th century AD. It signified the independence of Malabar from the Cheraman Perumals. 
Christian &Jewish community of Arabia.

The highlight of Christian presence in South Arabia caused a severe clash between Jews and Christians. Various Christian sources reveal that the arrival and spread of Christianity in South Arabia, was bitterly opposed by the local Jews which would later have serious implications on both sides. The Jews of Arabian Peninsula were in contact with their co-religionists in Palestine and were seemingly effective proselytizers. The existence of Judaism in Southern Arabia also preceded the existence of Christianity by several centuries and dated back to the destruction of the Second temple in 70 CE.
Resistance to the Rise of Islam Expulsion to Mesopotamia
However, in time they resisted the preaching’s of Islam; and as a penalty, they were forcibly expelled from the town of their forefathers. They were ordered by Umar ibn al-Khattab to vacate the city and emigrate out of the Arabian Peninsula, or accept a money payment. Some migrated to Syria; but the greater part settled in the vicinity of Al-Kufa in predominantly Christian Southern Iraq, where the colony of Al-Najraniyyah long maintained the memory of their expatriation. The Jews of Arabia were also expelled with the Christians and went with them as their followers. However, the historicity of these events is not absolutely reliably established. It appears that the orders of Umar were not fully carried out .This is because there is some evidence of a continuing Christian presence in Najran for at least 200-300 years after the expulsion. Some sources also state that the Christian community of Najran still had considerable political weight in the late ninth century. According to a Yemeni Arab source, the first Zaydite Imam of Yemen, al-Hadi Ila l-Haqq Yahya ibn al-Hussain (897-911) concluded an accord with the Christians and the Jews of the oasis on 897, at the time of the foundation of the Zaydite principality.A second Yemeni source alludes to the Christians of Najran in muharram 390 (999-1000). The oasis was still one third Christian and one third Jewish, according to the testimony of the Persian traveller, Ibn al-Mujawir.The last evidence of the presence of Christianity in Northern Yemen of which Najran used to belong to, dates back to the 13th century. According to other accounts, the Christians of Sothern Arabia were deported to Mesopotamia by the Caliph Umar, on the grounds that no non-Muslims should inhabit the Arabian Peninsula.
Migration of Yemani Jew Joseph Rabban to Malabar (Isuppu Irabbân).
Maritime trade routes during the 9th century
Joseph Rabban was a Jewish merchant, possibly from Yemen, who came to the Malabar Coast (in present-day India) in the mid-8th century. According to the traditions of the Cochin Jews, Joseph was granted the rank of prince over the Jews of Cochin by the Chera ruler Bhaskara Ravivarman II.He was granted the rulership of a principality in Anjuvannam, near Cranganore (Anjuvannam or Anjuvannan refers to the community of Cochin Jews.[14]
He was granted the rulership of a pocket principality in Anjuvannam, near , Cranganore,[The name derives from the traditional Hindu system of castes where any person not belonging to one of the four principal castes used to be referred to as an anjuvannan. The word comes from the Malayalam words anju (five) and vannam or varnam (colour, race, or caste)], and rights to seventy-two "free houses". These rights were engraved on a set of bronze tablets known as the "Sâsanam" (Burnell, "Indian Antiquary," iii. 333-334), which are still in the possession of the Jewish community of India. The date of the charter can be fixed at about 750; it cannot, for paleographical reasons, have been much earlier than this, nor later than 774, since a grant made to the Malabar christians at that time was copied from it.
A link back to Rabban, "the king of Shingly" (another name for Cranganore), was a sign of both purity and prestige. Rabban's descendants maintained this distinct community until a chieftainship dispute broke out between two brothers, one of them named Joseph Azar, in the sixteenth century. Joseph Azar was a Jewish prince of the Anjuvannam in Cochin, South India. He was a descendent of Joseph Rabban. Azar lived in the 14th century CE. In 1340 Joseph Azar became embroiled in a conflict over succession with his brother. The ensuing strife led to intervention by neighboring potentates and the eradication of Jewish autonomy in South India.
Catholicose Patriarch Timothy I (780–823).
Timothy I, (Syriac: ܛܝܡܬܐܘܣ ܩܕܡܝܐ; ṭīmáṯeaos qadmáyá) patriarch of the Church of the East from 780 to 823, is widely considered to be one of the most impressive patriarchs in the long history of the East Syrian church. Respected both as an author, a church leader and a diplomat, Timothy was also an excellent administrator. During his reign he reformed the metropolitan administration of the Nestorian church, granting greater independence to the metropolitans of the mission field (the 'exterior' provinces) but excluding them from participation in patriarchal elections. These reforms laid the foundations for the later success of Nestorian missions in central Asia.
Timothy took a particularly keen interest in the missionary expansion of the Church of the East. He is known to have consecrated metropolitans for Damascus, for Armenia, for Dailam and Gilan in Azerbaijan, for Rai in Tabaristan, for Sarbaz in Segestan, for the Turks of Central Asia, and for China, and he also declared his intention of consecrating a metropolitan for Tibet. He also detached India from the metropolitan province of Fars and made it a separate metropolitan province. So naturally he would appoint a metropolitan for India.
Maravan-SapirIsho(825-?)

The name which appears in the Copper plate grant is Marvan-Sapir- Iso. According to Mingana, it is the Syriac, Marvan Sabr- Isho, which means ” Our Lord Sabrisho”. Mar is the Syriac title of all Bishops and Sabrisho is a very common Syriac name meaning ” Jesus is my hope”. According to Mingana, therefore the name is not Sapor at all and what appears on the Copper plate is Sabrisho. In Persian MarvAn(مروان) is a common name simply means body gurd or Guardian. In Arabic the name Marwan means, "Old Arabic name."If we consider the Persian and Syriac origin of this name it means the bodyguard or guardian of sabar-isho(Bodyguard of Jesus-my hope?).The Indian name Sabarish originated from some" Unknown word which means, "Lord of Sabari.".
Marwan a Place?- Marivan (Persian: مريوان, Merîwan ) also Romanized as Persian pronunciation Marīvān) is a city in and capital of Marivan County, Kurdistan Province, Iran. Before the foundation of the city in 1950s, Marîwan was the name of the region Marivan lies close to the border of Iran-Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan). Because of official border market of Bashmaq which is between Kurdish region of Iraq and Iran, Marivan serves a destination for shoppers in neighbor provinces.
Mar Sapor Isho-An East Syrian Bishop from Arabia?.
Mar Isaac of Nineveh and his successor Mar Sabr Isho.

Isaac of Nineveh (died c. 650~750) also remembered as Isaac the Syrian, Abba Isaac and Isaac Syrus was a Seventh century bishop and theologian best remembered for his written work.When Isaac of Nineveh, the author of this quotation, sought to explain the means by which to attain God’s love in A.D. 7C, Islam was in its nascence. But, Isaac of Nineveh was not a Muslim; rather he was a Christian and, indeed, had once been a bishop of the East Syrian Church. Nor was Isaac of Nineveh a lone voice, for Persia in A.D. 7C -- 8C saw a flowering of Syrian mysticism, whose influences were still being felt in A.D. 13 C.Isaac of Nineveh may, indeed, be termed the Persian Mystic. Whilst he was born in Qatar, his life appears to have been spent in the realms of Persia. Yet the only, definite chronological fact about Isaac of Nineveh is his consecration as the Bishop of Nineveh (modern Mosul) by Catholicus George I between A.D. 660-680. After only five month’s incumbency, Isaac of Nineveh relinquished his seat to retire to the Mountains of Khuzistan in ‘S.W. Iran in order to lead an anchoritic life. For forty years he devoted himself to writing at the monastery of Rabban Shabbour, where he was buried.
The following short biography is taken from the work Ketaba de Nakfuta:
"On the holy Maar Isaac, bishop of Ninive, who resigned his Episcopal office and wrote books on the behavior of solitaries. He was ordained a bishop of Ninive by Mar George the Katholikos, in the monastery of Bet 'Abe. After he had held the pastoral staff at Ninive for five months, as the successor of bishop Moses, he resigned his Episcopal office, for a reason which God knows, and went away to live in the mountains. And after the chair had been vacant for this time, the blessed Sabr Isho' was ordained as his successor, who also left his Episcopal office and became an anchorite in the days of Hanan Isho' the Katholikos, and departed this world in the monastery of Mar Shehin in Persia. When Isaac left the chair of Ninive, he ascended the mountain of Matut which surrounds Bet Huzaje and lived in solitude among the anchorites who were there. Afterwards he went to the monastery of Rabban Shabur and became exceedingly well acquainted with the divine writings; at last he lost his eyesight through his reading and asceticism. He penetrated deeply into the divine mysteries and wrote books on the divine behaviour of solitaries. He said three things which were not accepted by the community. Daniel, the bishop of Bet Garmaia, was scandalized at him on account of these things which he said. In high age he departed this temporary life; his corpse was interred in the monastery of Shabur. He was born in Bet Katraye; I think that envy was aroused against him by people of the country even as it was against Joseph Hazayya and John of Apamea and John de Daliyateh .
Isaac and his brother entered a monastery in Bet-Qatraje in Kurdistan while they were still young. He later became Bishop of Nineveh, a city on the banks of the Tigris, but resigned after just a few months to retreat to Mount Matout. His successor, Sabr Isho, was to follow his example, resigning his seat in favor of solicitude in the mountains.
Again this sabr isho has nothing to do with our “sapr isho” because the former possibly lived in the 8th century and the later came to Malabar in the early 9th century. But “”Sabr Isho' was ordained as his successor, who also left his Episcopal office and became an anchorite in the days of Hanan Isho”” there were two catholicose with the name hannan Isho Hnanishoʿ I (686–698) and Hnanishoʿ II (773–780).most probably the author was referring about the first Hnanishoʿ I (686–698).from the above analysis what we can conclude is that there were Christian bishops with the name sapr isho in Arabia & It’s a tradition among the bishops of Nineveh to resign from the Episcopal office and went away to live in the mountains.
Mar Abo, an obscure Persian prelate who is also supposedly the mentor of the legendary Kadamattathu Kathanar. There is a lot of confusion on whether this character is the same as the Sabor Isho part of the duo that landed later in Kerala. This possible Chaldean reached Kerala possibly between 5-10century. Was he an exorcist? An herbalist? Nestorian? Nobody knows but he is supposedly entombed at the Thevalakara Orthodox Church near Quilon.
Mar Afroth – An East Syrian Bishop from Persia?
Kufic Script

Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Its name is derived from the city of Kufa, Iraq[Kufa (Arabic,الكوفة al-Kūfah) is a city in Iraq, about 170 kilometres (110 mi) south of Baghdad, and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northeast of Najaf.] although it was known in Mesopotamia at least 100 years before the foundation of Kufa. At the time of the emergence of Islam, this type of script was already in use in various parts of the Arabian Peninsula. It was in this script that the first copies of the Qur'an were written.Kufic is a form of script consisting of straight lines and angles, often with elongated verticals and horizontals. It originally did not have consonant pointing distinguishing, for example, b, t, and th. It is still employed in Islamic countries though it has undergone a number of alterations over the years and also displays regional differences. The difference between the Kufic script used in the Arabian Peninsula and that employed in North African states is very marked.Kufic was prevalent in manuscripts from the 8th-10th centuries.

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