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

A Short Presentation of the Manuscript Collections in Kerala

In the picture above: worshipping angel from a granite cross, one of the typical representations of original "Indo-Christian art" (an expression of Fr. Ignatius Payyappilly).
  • The hitherto most important catalogue of the Syriac manuscripts in Kerala was published by J.P.M. van der Ploeg, OP [1]. Our project began with the estimate, established in 2002, according to which we may expect to find over 1,000 heavily endangered Syriac manuscripts in Kerala [2]. Our latest fieldwork, conducted without interruption betweem January 2005 and May 2006, during which approximately 400 MSS were digitised, has also shown that we have to deal with several thousand Syriac manuscripts, mainly contained in collections hitherto unknown both in the West and in India. Before our work began, altogether 18 collections were known, out of which at least 3 no longer exist; our present list, subject to continuous update, contains 69 collections. The collections are mixed; they contain Syriac, Malayalam and pre-Malayalam material, the whole belonging together. The manuscripts are written on paper or palm leaves. Besides manuscripts proper, we also have a rich collection of archival material in Syriac: documents pertaining to the relations of the Syrian Christians of India with their mother Churches in the Middle East, such as letters sent to and fro, official documents issued by Middle Eastern hierarchs, etc. Some of these are available in the original, others in copies, often in letter books. This documentation begins in the early seventeenth century and ends in the twentieth century. The manuscripts proper often contain new texts, unknown from elsewhere. This material, once collected and processed, will permit us to write the hitherto unknown history of indigenous Christianity in southern India. Here we briefly present some of the collections the material of which we have partly or entirely digitised. The number of the collections presented will increase in the days to come. Later this website will also host the catalogues of these collections. If you have anything to add or correct, please write to us at srite@srite.de.

    [1] 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).

    [2] István Perczel, “Syriac Manuscripts in India: The Present State of the Cataloguing Process,” in The Harp: A Review of Syriac and Oriental Ecumenical Studies. Vol. XV (2002) – Festschrift Mar Aprem, 289–298.

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