Piramadam, Gethsemane Dayro
In the picture above: Colophon of Piramadam MS Syr 27, containing the text of the Syrian Orthodox Liturgy (Qurbono) copied in 1689 by the hand of Mor Yovannis Hidaytullah, Antiochian Patriarchal Delegate in India.
On the collection
The text reads: "The writing of the order of the liturgy (Qurbo) and of the Anaphora of Mor Jacob the Messenger, brother of our Lord, was finished by the hand of the wretched and feeble bishop Yovannis in the year 2000 of the Greeks (=AD 1689), in the church of Karamattam (today: Kadamattam). Therefore I am asking every priest who will recite from this [book] to remember his fathers and the brethren and the departed, so that they may find mercy through their [that is, the priests’] prayers; I was copying it for priest Jacob of Muldurthy (today: Mulanthuruthy). Lord, remember him and his fathers in thy mercy. Amen."
On the collection
Gethsemane Dayro (i.e. monastery) is situated in Piramadam, near Pampakuda, Ernakulam District. It belongs to the Syrian Orthodox Church, that is, to the Jacobites. It was founded sometime at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its original residents were Fr. Thuruthumayalil and Fr. Valel, after whom came Fr. Kuriakose Ramban Vanchittattil, and finally the group was joined by the Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulos II, who died in 1993. The 35 Syriac manuscripts kept in the room where the Catholicos, who died in the odour of sanctity, previously lived, are only the remnants of a larger collection, the foundations of which were laid by the original residents of the monastery and which was considerably enriched by the personal books of Baselios Paulos II, himself being a great Malpan, that is, Syriac scholar. He is reported to have spoken a chaste and correct Classical Syriac. Unfortunately, reportedly many of the books belonging to the collection were lost during the last years. The existence of the collection was known in India but remained unknown to Western scholarship. Its content remained unknown until our recent work, carried out upon the kind permission of the bishop supervising the monastery, Mor Kuriakos Julios, and the abbot, Ramban Benjamin Moolarickal, in August 2005. The collection contains important manuscripts, such as an East Syriac manuscript of an anonymous Gospel commentary that has proven to be identical with a Nestorian Gospel commentary condemned to be burnt by Decree XIV of Session III of the Synod of Diamper, held in 1599. Most probably, the manuscript was copied in the eighteenth century, thus testifying to a survival of the condemned texts among the indigenous Christians. The collection also contains the personal liturgical book of the great Syrian Orthodox hierarch, Mar Thoma VI, that is, Mor Dionysius I the Great, from the end of the eighteenth century, showing an interesting blend of Jacobite, Chaldean and Catholic services; the collection also houses two testimonies to the activity of one of the early Antiochian Jacobite missionaries in India, Mor Yovannis Hidaytullah, who came to India in 1685. One such document is a liturgical manuscript (Qurbono) written by his hand for a local priest (see the picture above), and another is a copy - written in East Syriac script - of his translation into Syriac of a "Revelations of Gregory the Theologian," originally preserved in Arabic, made by him in the year 1681, that is, four years before his arrival in India. This translation is not known from elsewhere. There is also a manuscript that seems to document the eighteenth-century Jacobite missionary work in India: it contains three polemical treatises: one "Against the Franks," one "In Favour of the Formula 'Who Has Been Crucified for Us' in the Trisagion," and one "Against the Nestorians," apparently mainly targeting the Chalcedonians. In the same manuscript there are also two sermons in Malayalam written in Syriac characters (Garshuni), one on Saint Thomas the Apostle and one on the Fast of the Ninevites.