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Mar Thoma Church

Sir, - This refers to Mr. Harry D'Silva's letter (The Hindu, Nov. 27) criticising my article ``Church of India'' (Nov. 14). His main criticism is that the article contains ``half truths, distortions, and quotes referred out of context.'' I am afraid his criticism and matters stated in support thereof are based on superficial knowledge of the origin and growth of Christianity in India.

He has stated that the Mar Thoma Church came into existence around 1840 as an offshoot of Syrian Orthodox Church relying on the book Introduction to Indian Church History - C. B. Firth. It is this statement of Mr. D'Silva which is a distorted version of the history of Christianity in Kerala and not my statement that the Mar Thoma Church came into existence after the arrival of St. Thomas on the Malabar Coast forming part of Kerala in 52 A.D. I may refer in this context to the book Christianity is Indian - The Emergence of Indigenous Community Edited by Mr. Roger E. Hedlund. In that book after referring to various historical works on the apostolic origin of Christian Community like C. F. Bernard's Mar Thoma Christians, Medlycott's India and Apostle Thomas, Mundadan's History of Christianity and Traditions of St. Thomas Christians, and Podipara's The Thomas Christians, and Tisserant-Himbye, Eastern Christianity, etc., has recorded that ``the tradition so clearly cherished by the Malabar Christians says that the Apostle Thomas landed at Malnkara near Cranganore, founded seven Churches or Christian communities in different stations in Malabar, and converted among others several families of Nambudri Brahmins, notably the Kalli, Kallinkara, Shankarapuri and Pakalamottam families, on the last two of which the Apostle conferred the peculiar privilege of supplying members for the priesthood.

In the book A History of Christianity in Asia by S. H. Moffett, it is recorded that the origins of St. (Mar) Thomas Christian are oral and traditional derived from songs and folklore of a living Christian community which were handed down from generation to generation and these ``strike closer to the truth of ethnic and religious origins than manuscripts and mutilated inscriptions'' (page 33). It is only with the arrival of Thomas of Cana in 345 A.D. that the East Syrian Church came into contact with the Mar Thoma Christians of Malabar. But ``Persians and Syrians have been unanimous in recognising the apostolic, independent origins of Indian Christianity. Moreover, however dependent the Indian Church structure later became on Syrian Persia, the Fourth century report of Theodosious the Indian is evidence that at least two hundred years before Cosmas it had already begun the indispensable process of accommodating Indian practice to Christian ways.'' (p 269).

In view of these authoritative expressions given by various Church historians, it is idle to state as Mr. Harry D'Silva has done that Mar Thoma Church is a reformist offshoot of Syrian Orthodox Church which came into existence around 1840 A.D.

P. B. Menon,

Gurgaon (Haryana)

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