Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’


The subject of Christianity is quite a complicated one. There are a few Christian denominations in current-day south India. Christians can be found in Travancore, Cochin, Kodungalur, Trichur, Calicut, Wynad, Tellicherry, Cannanore and such places. However, beyond the traditional urban areas, there are Christians to be found in the forest areas of Malabar extending from the interiors of Calicut /Malappuram to the interior mountain regions of Kasargode district.

Christians are found in Madras and in the various locations of Tamilnadu state. They are to be found in Mangalore and Udupi and even in Bangalore. I understand that Goa has a sizable Christian population. Bombay has Christian populations.

All of them can be presumed to be focused on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

But then, as mentioned before, the Christians are not single group. Some of the denominations are not in peace and love with certain other Christian groups.

Inside Travancore itself there have been varied historical incidences connected to the various minor denominations. The main traditional Christian group in Travancore, I understand, might be the Syrian Christians.

Then there is the huge number of lower caste people who have converted into Christians. Many of them are from the very low castes of Paraih, Pulaya etc.. Many Ezhavas also have converted into Christians.

Of these converted-into-Christians from Travancore, a sizable number did move to Malabar. Some of them might have come as Church officials and teachers. Some might have come to take up jobs that required various skills, including formal education.

The converted Christians do not generally display any kind of lower mental or physical abilities in the case of individuals who have risen up financially and educationally.

QUOTE: There is consequently no inherent improbability in the tradition that the Apostle Thomas was one of the earliest immigrants from the West; END OF QUOTE.

The word ‘west’ is not clearly understood here. Jesus of Nazareth was not actually from the ‘west’, if the word is meant to mean Continent Europe or Great Britain. However, I have no personal knowledge in these things.

QUOTE: A king, who has been satisfactorily identified with, king Gondophares mentioned in IndoSkythian coins, and of whose reign a stone inscription, dated 40 A.D., has recently been deciphered is said to have sent to Christ for an architect, and St. Thomas was sent in consequence. But this king reigned in North-western India, whereas St. Thomas is understood to have preached his mission in Malabar and to have been killed at St. Thomas’ Mount near Madras. END OF QUOTE.

Quite an interesting historical confusion!

QUOTE: Likewise at Male where the pepper grows; and in the town Kalliena there is also a bishop consecrated in Persia.” “Male” is clearly Malabar, and “Kalliena” is most probably a place near Udipi in South Canara. END OF QUOTE.

It is quite curious. I do not remember seeing the word ‘Male’ to mean Malabar. What about the Mali Island? It is simply a query, with no specific arguments. The above quote also can be correct.

QUOTE: a large body headed by the venerable Bishop Mar Coorilos waited, by special request, on the Right Honourable Mr. Grant Duff, Governor of Madras, at Calicut, in January 1882, and presented to him a short account of themselves, from which the following extracts are taken:- END OF QUOTE

Parts of the narration are given below:

QUOTE: the arrival of a Persian heretic of the School of Manes, or, as is supposed1 by some, a heathen wizard. Through his teaching, many went over to him and are even to this day known as ‘Manigramakkar’ They cannot be distinguished from the Nayars, and are to be found at Quilon Kayencolam and other places. South Travancore is the seat of the descendants of those who stood steadfast in their faith during this apostacy and are known as Dhariyayikal meaning ‘nonwearers’ (of heathen symbols) END OF QUOTE.

This is one group of Christians, I suppose. However, the words ‘They cannot be distinguished from the Nayars’ can be an issue. For, there is so much self-praise and eulogising of Nayars in this book, Malabar, that everything mentioned with regard to ‘Nayars’ has to be taken up for scrutiny. A few of the items can be factually correct, despite the ubiquitous eulogising words.

QUOTE: “Some years after this first split had taken place or in (350 A.D.) was the arrival of Thomas of Cana, a Syrian merchant, whose large heartedness and sympathy for the neglected community was such that on his return to his native land, his story induced many to come out with him in his second visit, among whom was a bishop by the name of Mar Joseph. It was the first time a colony of Christians came to India.

They were about four hundred in number. They landed at Cranganore then known as Mahadeverpattanam. They settled in the country with the permission of ‘Cheraman Perumal the ruler of Malabar, who, as a mark of distinction and favour, granted to the Christian community certain privileges (72 in number) which at once raised them to a position of equality with the Brahmans. One of the privileges was the supremacy over seventeen of the lower classes; a relic of which still exists in the adjudication by Syrian Christians of certain social questions belonging to them. The grant was made on copper-plates, which with some others, are in the custody of the Syrian Metran and are preserved in the Kottayam Seminary END OF QUOTE.

This may be how the English official came to understand how a Christian community which was quite ancient was in existence in Travancore and Cochin areas. They were to form the Syrian Christians in the location. Thomas of Cana and Mar Joseph are seen as the founders of this Christian colony inside Travancore. The purpose why they relocated to Travancore might not be what has been described in the above paragraph.

That they did not come with any egalitarian principles or with the concept of ‘love thy neighbour’ concept of Jesus Christ can be seen very clearly. For, they came with the full realisation that they had to survive in a land where if they are not properly secured above the various layers of castes, they would get crushed down by the feudal vernacular verbal codes. The Syrian Christians maintained this superiority even though it is seen mentioned that all of them were not in good conditions, when the London Missionary Society came to Travancore. That is mentioned in Native Life in Travancore by Rev. Samuel Mateer.