About the Project Manuscript Archives and Collections The Saint Thomas Christians in India About Kerala

Thrissur, Chaldean Syrian Collection

In the picture above: Two pages from MS Thrissur Syr 7, containing a letter by Chandy Kadavil Kattanar, also called Alexander the Indian, who in 1653 followed the revolting Archdeacon, but later returned to the Roman obedience. He was an eminent Syriacist who wrote liturgical poetry in Syriac. The letter is dateable to the first decades of the seventeenth century and is addressed to the Jesuit Antonio Toscano, head of the congregation of St Thomas at Edapally.
  • On the collection
  • Notes
  • On the collection

    The collection is located in Thrissur, in the Metropolitan’s Palace of the Chaldean Syrian Church, being the Indian Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East. This Indian Church claims a continuous - although clandestine - existence ever since the Synod of Diamper in 1599 abolished the Chaldean jurisdiction over the Indian Church. The clandestine Chaldeans kept their traditions alive within the folds of the two Latin jurisdictions established on the Malabar Coast, until they received their first independent bishop in 1861, in the person of Mar Rocos, sent by the then Chaldean Patriarch of Babilon, Mar Joseph Audo VI. As repeated requests to the Vatican to allow the Chaldean jurisdiction on the Malabar Coast proved to be unsuccessful, this branch of the indigenous Indian Christian Church gradually passed to the Assyrian Church of the East. This partly happened under Mar Antony Thondanatt (1862-1900). The first Assyrian Metropolitan of the Chaldean Syrian Church of India, sent from the Middle East, was Mar Abimalek Timotheos (1908-1945), followed by Mar Thoma Dharmo (1952-1968). During the times of Mar Timotheos the Thrissur community split, the majority joining the recently established Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the minority remaining with the Church of the East. Presently the Church is directed by Mar Aprem Metropolitan (1968-).

    The collection reflects all the stages of this history, beginning with a liturgical book of the daily prayers (Kashkol) written in 1585 and commemorating Mar Abraham, the last Chaldean Metropolitan of the Church before the forced Latinisation, and ending with the diaries of Mar Thoma Dharmo. It contains 125 Syriac MSS, ca. 1,000 archival documents, mainly in Syriac, partly in English and Malayalam, 7 Malayalam and 5 English manuscripts. It is one of the most important manuscript collections in Kerala, relatively well known to scholars. [1] Among others, it contains manuscripts dated to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Earlier checklist by Metropolitan Mar Aprem: 83 MSS; István Perczel's earlier estimate in “Syriac Manuscripts in India…”: 114 MSS. A new discovery is the archival material found in two cupboards, official documents, letters, etc., ca. 3,000 documents altogether. These provide detailed documentation of the history of this branch of the Malabar Church starting in the mid-eighteenth century and ending in the 1960s. The collection also contains a number of rare prints and thousands of palm leaves with diverse content.

    Notes

    [1] For earlier literature on the collection, see the following: E.R. Hambye, S.J., “Some Syriac Libraries of Kerala (Malabar), India: Notes and Comments,” in A Tribute to Arthur Vööbus, ed. R.H. Fischer (Chicago: The Lutheran School of Theology, 1977), 35–46, here 39–41; J.P.M. van der Ploeg, OP, The Christians of St. Thomas in South India and their Syriac Manuscripts, (Rome – Bangalore: Center for Indian and Inter-Religious Studies – Dharmaram Publications, 1983), 134–150; Mar Aprem, “Syriac Manuscripts in Trichur,” IIIo Symposium Syriacum 1980: Les contacts du monde syriaque avec les autres cultures (Goslar 7–11 Septembre 1980), édité par René Lavenant, S.J., Orientalia Christiana Analecta 221. Pontificium Institutum Orientalium, Roma 1983, 355–374 (Mar Aprem I); Mar Aprem, “Syriac Manuscripts in Trichur,” in The Church I Love. A Tribute to Rev. Placid J. Podipara C.M.I., ed. J. Madey and G. Kaniarakath (Kottayam-Paderborn, 1984), 355–374 (Mar Aprem II); Hubert Kaufhold, “Syrische Handschriften juristischen Inhalts in südindischen Bibliotheken,” Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse. Sitzungberichte, 535. Band (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1989), 10–11, 37–48; Mar Aprem, “Syriac Manuscripts in Trichur,” in Advances in Arts and Ideas, vol. 1 (Thrissur: Saint Thomas College, 2005), 22–36 (Mar Aprem III).

    About the Project Manuscript Archives and Collections The Saint Thomas Christians in India About Kerala