Influence of Persian Christianity on Malabar(500-850).


The Malabar Coast of India had long been home to a thriving Christian community, known as the St. Thomas Christians. The community traces its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is believed that these christians developed a cordial relationship with its sister churches in midle east as early as 5th century. Indian Christian community were initially part of the metropolitan province of Fars(500-800 AD), but were detached from that province in the 7th century, and again in the 8th, and given their own metropolitan bishop by the patriarch Ishoʿyahb III (Metropolitan v-thara d- kollah hendo)).Communications between Mesopotamia and India were not always good, however, and in the eighth century the patriarch Timothy I again detached India from Fars and created a separate metropolitan province for India(Beth Hindey). 

Diocese of Fars & Arabia (East Syrian Ecclesiastical Province)- Beth Parsaye(ܒܝܬ ܦܪܣܝܐ )
Map showing relative positions of  Fars and Hormuz
The province of Fars, the historic cradle of Persian civilisation, was a metropolitan province of the Church of the East between the sixth and twelfth centuries. It was centered in what is now Fars Province, and besides a number of centres in Fars itself, the East Syrian ecclesiastical province also included a number of dioceses in Arabia and a diocese for the island of Soqotra.According to tradition, Christianity was brought to the Persian province of Fars (Syriac: Beth Parsaye, ܒܝܬ ܦܪܣܝܐ) by Persian merchants exposed to the teaching of the apostle Addai in Roman Edessa. This tradition, which rejected a significant role for the apostle Mari, widely credited with the evangelisation of the Mesopotamian provinces of the Church of the East, reflects a deep division within the Church of the East in the Sassanian period between its Syrian and Persian converts. The patriarchs of Seleucia-Ctesiphon frequently found it difficult to exert authority over the ecclesiastical province of Fars.
A number of dioceses in Fars and northern Arabia (Syriac: Beth Qatraye, ܒܝܬ ܩܛܪܝܐ) existed by the beginning of the fifth century, but they were not grouped into a metropolitan province in 410. After establishing five metropolitan provinces in Mesopotamia, Canon XXI of the synod of Isaac merely provided that 'the bishops of the more remote dioceses of Fars must accept the definition established in this council at a later date'.The signature of the bishop of Rev Ardashir (the metropolis of Fars) came between those of the five metropolitans and the suffragan bishops in the acts of the synod of Dadishoʿ in 424, suggesting that Fars had by then been recognised as a sixth metropolitan province.
The Diocese of Rev-Ardashir.
There were at least eight dioceses in Fars and the islands of the Persian Gulf in the fifth century In Fars the diocese of Rev Ardashir is first mentioned in 420.By 540 the bishop of Rev Ardashir had become a metropolitan, responsible for the dioceses of both Fars and Arabia.In 424.The bishop Mari of Rev Ardashir flourished around 450. He was the recipient of a celebrated letter from the bishop Ibas of Edessa, and is known to have written a commentary on the letters of Acacius of Amid, a commentary on the book of Daniel and a treatise against the magi of Nisibis.In the early years of the sixth century: Isaac, who died before 540; his successor Ishoʿbokht; and Acacius. Ishoʿbokht  and Acacius were both deposed by the patriarch Aba I in 540, and replaced by the metropolitan Maʿna, who was among the signatories of the patriarch’s Pragmatic in 540, and adhered by letter to the acts of the synod of Aba I in 544.[6] The metropolitan Shemʿon of Fars was the recipient of a letter written by the patriarch Ishoʿyahb III (649–59) complaining about conversions to Islam by the Christians of Beth Mazonaye (Oman) during the Arab conquest.
Maritime Trade Routes 9th Century

Hormozgan Port (Persia).
The recorded history of the main port of Hormozgan (Bandar-e Hormoz) begins with Ardashir I of Persia of the Sassanid empire.The province is said to have been particularly prosperous between 241 BC and 211 BC, but grew further in trade and commercial significance even after the arrival of the Islam.Marco Polo visited the port of Bandar Abbas in 1272 and 1293, and reported widespread trading in Persian jewelry, the ivory and silk of Indochina, and pearls from Bahrain in the bazaars in the port of Hormuz.


Archaeological and documentary evidences from Middle East.
=================================================================

“Even in the Island of Taprorane(Srilanka) in Further India. where the Indian sea is, there is a church of Persian Christians who have settled there, and a Presbyter who is appointed from Persia, and a Deacon and a complete ecclesiastical ritual. But the natives and their kings are heathens. [Top. Chr.11.14]And such also is the case in the land called Male(Malabar)…where the pepper grows and in the place called Calliana' there is moreover a bishop appointed from Persia…as well as in the island which they call the Isle of Dioscoris(Socotra) in the same Indian Sea.==============From  Christian Topography by Cosmos Indicopleustes 
An Alexandrian  Nestorian monk Cosmas Indicopleustes, who visited the Christians of India around the middle of the 6th century, mentioned three distinct areas of Christian settlement in India:   the trading port of Calliana, from which brass, sisam logs and cloth were exported; along the Malabar coast in southern India 'in the land called Male, where the pepper grows and in the island of Ceylon(Sielediva). It may be possible that by the end of the Sassanian period the Christians of India had accepted the leadership of the church of Fars, which also claimed Saint Thomas as its founder. Cosmas noted that the Christians of Calliana had a bishop appointed from Fars (Persia), while the Christians of the Malabar coast and Ceylon had priests and deacons but not bishops.The connection with Fars went back at least as far as the late 5th century(425 AD), when the   Metropolitan Mana of Rew-Ardashihr in Fars (Bushahr in Modern Iran) sends copies of his Syriac and Persian translations of Greek works for use by the Indian clergy with the help of Daniel, an Indian priest.It was This Daniel who helped  Mar Komai in translating the Greek epistles to Syriac.. The Persian Church used Christian literature translated to various local languages though the Liturgy was in Aramaic.
It was patriarch Ishoʿyahb III (649–59) who raised India to the status of a metropolitan province, probably because of the unsatisfactory oversight of the metropolitan Shemʿon of Fars. A number of letters from Ishoʿyahb to Shemʿon have survived, in one of which Ishoʿyahb complained that Shemʿon had refused to consecrate a bishop for 'Kalnah' (the 'Calliana' of Cosmas Indicopleustes), because the Indian Christians had offended him in some way.
In a letter of lshoyahb lll (647 or 650-657 A.D.) the Catholicose-patriarch of the Persian church. He reports that the metropolitan of Rev-Ardashir (in the Persian Gulf) Was responsible for the church in "India", by which he meant a region extending “from the maritime borders of the Sassinid empire to the country called QLH which is at distance of 1,200 parasangs" [1].
According to the fourteenth-century writer ʿAbdishoʿ of Nisibis, the patriarch Sliba-zkha (714–28) created metropolitan provinces for Herat, Samarqand, India and China. If ʿAbdishoʿ is right, India's status as a metropolitan province must have lapsed shortly after it was created by Ishoʿyahb III(650). An alternative, and perhaps more likely, possibility, is that Sliba-zkha consecrated a metropolitan for India, perhaps in response to an appeal from the Indian Christians, to fill the place of the bishop sent there by Ishoʿyahb half a century earlier.


(ii)Location of QLH( Kal-Ah).
Map showing possible locations of "QTH"(Kollam,Kalamay,Kal-Ah)[5]
The parasang (Persian: فرسنگ/فرسخ/پرسنگ) is a historical Iranian unit of itinerant distance comparable to the European league.In antiquity, the term was used throughout much of the Middle East, and the Old Iranian language from which it derives can no longer be determined.The present-day New Persian word is also farsakh, and should not be confused with the present-day farsang (فرسنگ), which is now a metric unit of 10 km.The earliest surviving mention of the parasang comes from the mid-5th century BCE Herodotus (Histories ii.6, v.53), who defines the measure to be equivalent to 30 stadia.(ie 4.5Km-5Km)[2]This comparison is also made by several later Greek and Roman writers (10th c. Suidas and Hesychius, 5th/4th c. BCE Xenophon Anab. ii.2.6).[2] The 6th century Agathias (ii.21) however—while referring to Herodotus and Xenophon—note that in his time the Pérsai considered the parasang to have only 21 stadia.[2] Strabo (xi) also notes that some writers considered it to be 60, others 40, and yet others 30.The 1st century Pliny (Natural History vi.26) noted that the Iranians themselves assigned different lengths to it.[2] Following the 30-stadia definition of Herodotus and Xenophon, the Greek version of the parasang would be equal to either 5.3 km (Attic measure). But in 1920, Kenneth Mason of the Royal Geographical Society adduced that the parasang used in Xenophon's Babylonian travel accounts was equal to only 2.4 miles (3.9 km).[3] More recently, "[empirical tests] reckoning ten stades to the English mile (1.609 km), and three miles to the parasang (4.827 km) have given excellent results in practice.[4]

(1)KalAh (Malay Peninsula).
The Syriac QLH may be identified with the Arabic Kal-Ah, on the Tenasserim river of the Mergui coast in the Malay Penisula.

(2)Kurakeni-Kollam(Quilon).

(3)Kalamay(Mylapoor).


For more information read.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Cosmas Indicopleustes &The ChristianTopography (AD 540).
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A 1,400-year-old monastery in Sir Bani Yas island(Arabia).
A 1,400-year-old monastery in the United Arab Emirates(Sir Bani Yas island) that is one of the  pre-Islamic Christian site in the region that dates back to around 600AD. It was built by a community of 30 to 40 monks and is understood to have been established by pilgrims travelling from India. The  monastery is believed to have been an important destination for pilgrims travelling along a trade route to India’. The remains, which also include a church, chapel and tower, were unearthed in 1992 during an archaeological study. They have also found rooms within the monastery decorated with plaster crosses which led into a chapel, while a main settlement room housed the monks and also had a niche for holy water and a brazier for cooking. Archaeologists also found evidence of pottery that would have been used to prepare food with artifacts include bowls, jars and glass vessels discovered across the area.The settlement that has opened is thought to have remained occupied until around 750 - even though by that stage Islam had begun to spread through the Gulf states.

The artefacts, including bowls, jars, glass vessels and ceremonial vases, reveal that the monks had ties to modern-day Iraq, India and Bahrain. Stucco decoration includes fragments of Persian crosses and vine-and-scroll patterns.[Named after Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople (mod. Istanbul) from 428 to 431, the Nestorians were a Christian sect that arrived in the Emirates in the mid-fourth century, speculated to have been brought by a monk named Jonah who established a monastery, possibly identifiable with the Nestorian establishment excavated on Sir Bani Yas island. The monastery was reportedly located on a “black island,” south of Bet Qatraye, i.e. Qatar and eastern Saudi Arabia].


Christian grave  stones in ancient cemeteries located at Tokmak near Lake Issyq, Frunze   Kyrgyzstan(800 AD-1300 AD).

   A Christian gravestone in Frunze, Kirghistan(800-1300). 


Russian archaeologists have found many Christian tombstones in several Central Asian locations. More than 630 of them, dating from 858 to 1342 have been unearthed in two ancient cemeteries located at Tokmak near Lake Issyq-Köl (modern-day Kyrgyzstan) which bear witness to the faith of a truly cosmopolitan Christian population made up of Syrians, Persians, Indians, Mongols,Siberians,Chinese and Turks.

In Kirghiztan two Christian cemeteries were discovered at Semiryechensk, mute  testimony to this once-flourishing church. Inscriptions on the tombstones were  written both in Syriac and Turkish. There lay, side by side, 'Terim the Chinese', 'Banus the Uigurian', 'Sazik the Indian', 'Kiamata of Kashgar', 'Tatt the Mongol', and 'Shah Malison of George of Tus'. People from China, India, East  and West Turkestan, Mongolia, manchuria, Siberia and Persia. The inscriptions mentioned their occupations: Zuma, priest, general and famous amir; Shliha the  celebrated commentator and teacher, who illuminated all the monasteries with light; Pesoha the renowned exegetist and preacher; the charming maiden Julia, the betrothed of the bishop Johanan; Sabrisho, the archdeacon, the blessed old  man and the perfect priest. "This is the grave of Chorepiscopus Ama. In the year 1566, (or 1255 according to our time), he departed from this world in the month of July on Sabbath. May our Lord unite his spirit with those of the pious and  upright. Amen".

Archaeological and documentary evidences from India.


=================================================================

Ancient Stone Crosses of South India.

Beautifully hand cut stone crosses are the treasure of ancient churches in India. These Crosses are found mainly in Southern Indian State of Kerala. They are also found in state of Goa and Tamil Nadu. These stone crosses are broadly classified as Persian Cross and Nasrani Sthambams(Open air rock cross).The Persian Cross are smaller in size and are found inside the Kerala churches at Kadamattom, Muttuchira, Kothanalloor, Kottayam and Alengad. Outside Kerala, they are at St. Thomas Mount, Chennai (Madras), Tamil Nadu, Pilar Seminary Museum, Goa, Anuradhapura [ 2 nos ] in Sri Lanka. The large crosses known as Nasrani Sthambams are found at the frontage of many churches in Kerala. There are also other flowery ancient Persian Crosses found in Kerala Churches. Kerala has many churches of antiquity. It is recorded that before the arrival of Portuguese there were more than 150 ancient churches in Kerala.

The Persian crosses are at the following locations,

Circa 8th-9th century CE
St. Thomas Mount, Tamil Nadu: The Cross is at Our Lady of Expectations Church under the Latin Catholic diocese of Chingelpet (Madras-Mylapore). This Cross is considered as the oldest cross in India.

Kadamattam, Kerala. This Cross is at Kadamattom Church of the Malankara Orthodox Church.

Muttuchira, Kerala. This Cross is at Holy Ghost Church under the diocese of Palai of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.Kottayam, Kerala.

Kottayam Valiapally (St.Mary's Southist Jacobite Church). One cross is considered of late origin ( Ca 10th century).

Kothanalloor, Kerala. This Cross is at Kanthishangal Church under the diocese of Palai of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Alangad, Kerala. This Cross is at St. Mary's Church under the diocese of Ernakulam- Angamaly of the Syro Malabar Church.

Agasaim, Goa. The Cross is now kept at Pilar Seminary Museum. This Cross is dated of 6th Century.

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The cross is kept at Anuradhapura museum. It was found during excavations in 1912 Anuradhapura [ 2 nos ]. This Cross is considered as the oldest Cross.

Other  Persian Crosses.

The Saint Thomas Kottakkavu Church at North Paravur under the diocese of Ernakulam-Ankamaly of the Syro Malabar Church and the St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Niranam under the Niranam diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has ancient flowery Persian Cross.





Interpretation of the Inscriptions.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________


Dr. Burnell, archeologist with the government of India, in 1873, translated the inscriptions as follows:

"In punishment by the cross (was) the suffering of this one; He who is the true christ, and God above and Guide ever pure."[6]

Dr. Burnell translation’s of inscription in small cross in Kottayam is as follows,

” Let me not glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” ( Syriac translation )

Not all scholars were convinced that Dr. Burnell found the true solution. From 1874, there have been attempts by a number of scholars to give different translations but were not accepted by many.
______________________________________________________________________________

Prof. F.C. Burkitt and C.P.T. Winckworth, the then reader of Assyriology in the University of Cambridge studied the inscriptions and produced a translation. This has been discussed at the International Congress of Orientalists held at Oxford in 1925.The interpretation is as follows:

"My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras son of Chaharbukht the Syrian, who cut this (or, who caused this to be cut)." [7]

On the large cross, there is this additional sentence in Estrangelo Syriac(Galatians 6:14)
”May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
______________________________________________________________________________

The inscription at Kadamattom church when translated is,

”I, the beautiful bird of Nineveh has come to this land. Written by me Shapper, who was saved by the Holy Messiah from misery.”

NOTES:

 [1]B. E. Colless, “Persian merchants and missionaries in medieval Malaya", Journsl of the Malayan Branch ofthe Royal  Asiatic Society XLII (l969), pp. 21ff quoted  by  Ian BlanchardMining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages: Asiatic supremacy, 425-1125.

[2] Smith, William, ed. (1870), "Parasanga", Dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities, pp. 866–867.
[3] Mason, Kenneth (1920), "Notes on the Canal System and Ancient Sites of Babylonia in the Time of Xenophon", The Geographical Journal(The Geographical Journal, Vol. 56, No. 6) 56 (6): 468–481
[4] Babylonian Talmud Chullin 91b.
[5] Picture Courtesy-Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages: Asiatic supremacy, 425-1125  By Ian Blanchard  Page 17. 

 [6] On some Pahlavī inscriptions in South India by Arthur Coke Burnell Page 11
[7] The Journal of Theological studies (1929), P-241

1 comment: