Poothicote Family - From Plalayur to Mepral







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52. AD to 1663 AD.
Starts with the baptism of our ancestor of the Kalikavu Brahmin illam of Palayur village to Christianity in 52 AD and ends in 1653AD when our ancestors left the village of Kuravilegad.

1663 to 1785
Starts with our ancestors leaving Kuravilegad, their sojourn in Chaganachery, and settlement in Mepral village. Kochitty Kuruvila, the ancestor of the Poothicote family was born in 1785.

1785 AD to present
From the time of Judge Kochitty Kuruvila to the present.

For section I and II, we will have to depend on oral narratives and living traditions in the family more than written records. But surprisingly, we have more information of our family for these periods than most other smaller nations or communities have about their history during this period. Since 1785, we have accurate written records and reliable data.

52 -1663 AD.
Our ancestor of the Kalikavu Illam along with the ancestors of Kadappu, Shankuthiri, and Pakalomittom were baptized in the temple pond by Apostle St. Thomas in 52 AD in the village of Palayur in Northern Kerala. At that time Palayur was one of the 64 small Brahmin settlements in South India... There was also a Jewish settlement here. Even today one of the hills here is called Judakunnu (Jewish hill). Tradition says that St. Thomas preached to the Jewish community first before he preached to others.

One of the old archive records found in the beginning of last century and quoted by Fr. Pediackel in his book, Marthomasleehayude charithram states that Kalikavu property was in Palayur village survey no. 156, subdivision no. 27. In the Family History book of Palakunnathu family which is a branch of the Pakalomittom family records that the old survey documents showed that Pakalomittom family owned a land close to the present Palayur church. It is reasonable to assume that our ancestor from the 4 Brahmin illams lived close to each other in Palayur. At present, the Kalikavu property is divided in to several sections and some are owned by Muslim families.

After the conversion of the 4 Brahmin priests, the rest of the Brahmins of Palayur left the village cursing the land. So this area came to be known as cursed land, shapakad which later became Chavakad . The Shiva temple in Palayur was converted to a Christian Church. Even a 100 years ago, Brahmins did not drink, eat, or take ceremonial washings if they happened to be in this village. All the Brahmins from Palayur moved to the nearby village of Venmanad. There was a palm leaf record kept by a Brahmin family in Venmanad which is quoted by the famous church historian Rev. Dr Placid. Podipara that showed that in the Hindu kali era of 3158, a Christian sanyasi Thomas came to the village and converted few Brahmins by baptizing them in the temple pool and thus desecrated holy temple. So the rest of the Brahmins moved out of Palayur village.

Evidence of Brahmin ancestry of early Syrian Christians.

Other than the above story, there are several customs and traditions in our families that point to an Arian and Brahmin connection.
When a child is born, giving honey (ponnum thenum) which is scratched with gold is a tradition among Brahmins and early Kerala Christians.
To give the first a male child the name of his paternal grandfather, and the second son, the name of the maternal grandfather is custom of early Kerala Christians and Brahmins. In the same way the first daughter is given the name of paternal grandmother and 2nd daughter given the name of maternal grandmother.
Children write their first alphabets over rice grains among the Brahmins and early Kerala Christians.
Most other communities in Kerala in the early centuries practiced matrilineal system of inheritance, but Brahmins and Christians practiced patrileneal system.
The system of giving dowry to daughters when they are married was same for Brahmins and Christians.
Tying minnu around the neck of the bride by the bridegroom during the wedding ceremony is even today practiced by Kerala Christians and Brahmins.
Giving mantrakodi (special clothes or sari) to the bride by the bridegroom during the ceremony is another similarity.
Padipura (annex building) at the entrance to house was allowed only for Brahmins and Christians in the early centuries.
Placing new clothes (kodi) on the dead bodies by close relatives was a custom prevalent among Christians and Brahmins even 50 years ago. For Brahmins, the clothes along with the body were cremated. For Christians, one or two new clothes will cover the body when it is buried, but the rest will be given away to the poor.
In the past, Christians from aristocratic families practiced ayitham and untouchability towards lower casts as the Brahmins did..

Moving out of Palayur
It is believed that our ancestors moved out Palayur village in the beginning of the 3rd century. The reasons for their migration out of Palayur are still a matter of speculation among the historians, but most agree that there was no organized religious persecution that caused them to leave.
One of the reasons suggested is that during 2nd century, there was a revival of Shiva worship and faith. There is a story that Manikya Chevakar, one of the Shiva devotees from Tamil came and debated many of the early Christians and reconverted them back to the Shiva faith.

According to Sangam recodsof the period, rulers and kings encouraged intellectual discussion and debates among different faiths. Probably it was in one of those discussions that Pantenius (190AD) of school of Alexandria debated local scholars and tried to establish the superiority of Christian faith. It is possible that our ancestors with their limited knowledge of Christian theology were unable to defend their faith with other learned Brahmins and so they decided to move out to a different place.

According to oral tradition, from Palayur our ancestors traveled south to Ankamali and stayed few days there. Then they continued their journey farther south and came to Eattumanoor.

While they reached Eattumanoor, as the time was getting late and dark, they approached he local temple authorities for help in finding a place to sleep. After finding out they were Brahmins, they arranged for their dinner. But once they found out that they had deserted their religion, the temple authorities arranged for them to stay in a place between Eattumanoor and Kuravilegad. This was an area set apart for the special worship of Bhadra Kali, the most vengeful deity of Hindu religion. The temple authorities thought that goddess would take vengeance on them. But to their great surprise, the temple authorities found that these visitors were doing well and they were safe and fearless.
Temple authorities allowed the new arrivals to stay in the locality. This place between Eattumanoor and Kuravilegad was the residence for our ancestors for some time. The place they lived is even now known as Kalikavu place. According to an old government survey, plot 175, sub-plot 489/5 and 469/6 belongs to the ancestors of our Kalikavu illam. Near by plots belong to Kadappu and Pakalomittom illams.
There is also old government records according the great historian Chev. V. C. George that the plot no. 154 sub-division 490/12 was named valliapalli and it could be site where people from the 4 illams used for worship. There is also a plot No. 170 north of the temple titled shrapical. Chev. V.C. George thinks that it could have been a Christian rectory as word shrapical denotes.

Moving to Kuravilegad
Towards end of the 3rd century or the beginning of the 4th century, some members of the original 4 illams moved their residence close to the present St. Mary's church in Kuravilegad. According old records, church was originally built in 337 AD. Some of our Kalikavu ancestors and some people of other 3 illams moved to houses near the church.
There is a legend that St. Mary appeared to young few children of these illams and directed them to stream in the forest as they were thirsty. Later our ancestors built a church near this stream. This stream still flows near the church and people believe that water from this stream has miraculous powers.

Church was consecrated by Bishop Mor Jacob who came with Cana Thomas in 345 AD.

According to ancient records, our ancestors of the Kalikavu family had special duties and privileges in the Kuravilegad church. It was their duty to prepare kanji and pachoru as food offerings on certain feast days. It was also the duty of the Kalikavu family descendents to light the oil lamps around the stone cross in the church courtyard.

Though originally priests were from the Pakalomittom and Shankuthiri illams, later there were priests from all the four illams. It is believed that St. Thomas originally gave the priesthoods to the 2 illams because they were in charge of the temple in Palayur at the time of his visit and he wanted to continue that arrangement for some time. But in course of time there were several illustrious priests from our Kalikavu family and its branches.

Kalikavu family had house close to Kuravilegad church and the house gate opened to the churchyard. Presently it is owned by Pattani family, one of the branches of the original Kalikavu illam. This family has made great contributions to Kerala Christian heritage. Rev. Fr. Joseph Pattani, whom this writer knew personally was great family historian and has done great service in tracing the branches of Kalikavu family. He used to visit Mepral and our Poothicote Kudumbayogam regularly.

Other families that branched out from the Kalikavu illam are now in different parts of Kerala. These include several well known Catholic, Orthodox. and Protestant families. Like our Poothicote family, Thenassery, Pediackel, Kurialassery, Porookara, Chakalamuriyil, Vakkayil, Kaniparampil, Nadvilemuriyil are few of the families that trace their origin to original Kalikavu illam. According to one estimate, about 150 families can trace their ancestry to the Kalikavu roots.

Faith of our fathers:

As there are all Christian denominations among the descendants of Kalikavu family and other illams today, we may now look in to the faith and ecclesiastical affiliation of our ancestors. Unfortunately many historians try to prove that the early Christians of Kerala belonged a particular denomination or other depending on writer's present affiliation.. Nothing could be far from the truth.

In the sense that all Christian believers are the body of Christ and we are all one irrespective of our race, color, or to what particular denomination we belong to, we can say that all Christians are always interrelated. In the present ecumenical environment and in the light of 2nd Vatican Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, all Christians belong to the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of a universal Church.

But we Kerala Christians because of our isolated existence, was an indigenous Church with a unique ecclesial identity until the 16th century. We did not have any affiliations or contacts with any western Christian churches including Roman Catholic Church till 16th centaury. It is through the Portuguese colonial powers that we were introduced to the western Latin Christianity. In the same way, we were not always under the direct continuous control of the Jacobite Church of Antioch before the arrival of Mor Gregoriose in 1665.

It is safe to say that our ancestors were Christian in faith, Indian in culture, and Syrian in liturgy. We should look objectively at this question.

We have seen that after the baptism of our ancestors, we had priests first from Pakalomittom and Sankuthiri illams and later from all the four illams. But for the first 300 years we did not have any ecclesiastical contact with any other churches. Our first contact was with the Edessan Christians when they arrived in our shores with Thomas of Cana and Bishop Mor Joseph of Uraha in 345 AD. At that time, Edessa was under the Patriarchal See of Antioch. Later at our request and some times on their own, several prelates from Babylon, Alexandria, and Syria visited us. We had relations with eastern Syrian Caladean Church and western Syrian Church Antioch.

The Persian Church became 2 competing factions after the Nestorian controversy of the 5th century. One division under a Muphriana who was under the Patriarch of Antioch continued in the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox faith. The other division under a Catholicose who turned Nestorian in its faith after the 5th century. We had bishops from both divisions.
There is evidence that we have used eastern Syriac of the eastern Chaldean church and the western Syriac of the Antioch in of liturgies. At least in the 15th century, we had Nestorian bishops from Persia when the Portuguese first came to Kerala .

Though we had Syrian prelates from time to time, we had a republican form of administration for our churches. Members of each parish church with their priests managed affairs of the church independently. For all the Kerala churches, there was a common leader who was the Arch Deacon (Arkadayoken) from the Pakalomittom family. He had several civil powers as the head of the Syrian Christians. He was the chief spokesman for our community before the local rulers. The foreign priests and prelates from Syria never interfered in the local administration. Their duties were confined to ordaining priests and other sacramental duties.

1663 TO 1785 AD.

Leaving Kuravilegad

The reason for our Poothicote family leaving Kuravilegad is intimately connected with church controversies of that period.

The Portuguese who came to Kerala as traders gradually became a colonial power and became very influential with Kerala rulers of the period. The Portuguese were Latin Catholics and they wanted to bring the Kerala Christians under the rule of Latin bishops. Kerala Christians with the Syrian connection and liturgy resisted this encroachment of Latin priests. But according to Padroado agreement between the Pope and the King of Portugal, Portuguese prelates had power over Christians in India. The Portuguese naval power prevented Syrian bishops visiting Kerala.

It was this time a Syrian prelate, Ahathalla arrived in Cochin. The rumor spread among the local Christians that their bishop was in Portuguese custody in the ship. An angry crowd marched to Portuguese ship demanding his release. By the time they reached the shores, the ship had moved out to the sea with the Ahathalla. Rumor spread that the Portuguese had drowned their bishop.

Under the leadership of their Arch-deacon Thomas of the Pakalomittom family, the crowd moved to take a historic oath in the Mattanchery Church, holding on a long rope tied to a stone cross. This is known as Koonan Kurish Sathyam or the oath of the bended cross which took place on Friday, January 3rd, 1653.. By this oath, Syrian Christian of Kerala denounced Portuguese and Latin prelates and affirmed that they will not be under their authority. Also at meeting in Alengad on the Feast of Pentecost on May 22, 1653, they proclaimed their leader Arch deacon Thomas of Pakalomittom family as their duly elected bishop. He was temporarily ordained by 12 priests and he assumed the title Marthoma I. It was contrary to the cannons of Church that a bishop was consecrated by priests. (Bishop Thoma I was re-ordained by visiting Mor Gregoriose of Jerusalem of Jacobite church in 1665).

During all this time one of the right hand men of the Arch Deacon was his cousin Chandy from Pakalomittom Parampil family, who was the parish priest of the Kuravilegad church. They both were from the original Pakalomittom illam.

Fr. Chandy had second thoughts about the ordination of his cousin. By this time Rome send 4 Carmelite priests under the leadership of Fr. Joseph Sebestiani to pacify the Syrian Christians of Kerala . These priests were living in a rectory near the St. Mary's Church of Kuravilegad. People of the parish and the members of the original 4 families were divided in to 2 factions, one supporting the Arch Deacon and the other supporting his cousin Fr. Chandy. There were several arguments and fights in the church and outside the church. On one occasion a letter from the Arch Deacon for the parish written in palm leaves were publicly burned by a foreign Carmelite priest. On another occasion, the Arch deacon's brother was prevented from entering the church. Once one group tried to prevent a baptismal ceremony in the church by a foreign priest.

On one occasion, when Fr. Chandy was returning as after visiting the Latin bishop Garcia, some people on the Arch Deacon's side tried to abduct him, but he escaped.

At least in one of these occasions, situation completely went out of hand and some things untoward happened. We have to remember that the Syrian Christian men of the period were always well armed and skilled in the use of weapons.

In nalagamam an ancient manuscript written by Fr. Palakunnel Martha Mariam writes that the founder of the Palakunneth Thazhmon branch, Iyyob left Kuravilegad with his family in January, 1663 following misadventure with a weapon. He was with the Arch Deacon party in the conflict. Palakunnathu family later returned to the Syro- Malabar Catholic Church under Rome.

Originally all Christians who left Kuravilegad were with Marthoma I. But later Rome appointed Fr. Chandy as the Syrian Christian bishop with the title Alexander De Campo. He was ordained on February 1, 1663. May had also doubts about the validity of the ordination of Marthoma I by 12 priests. (It was only after 12 years that the visiting Mor Gregoriose of the Jacobite Church canonized this ordination). This made many to return to the Catholic fold. Further some of the bishops of church in Persia joined the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th centaury. So now the Catholic Church could bring Syrian priests and prelates whom the Kerala Christians could readily recognize and approve. This strengthened the formation of Syro- Malabar Catholic church with its liturgy in eastern Chaldean Syriac. Unfortunately after the death of Pakalomittom Chandy Metran, Syro- Malabar Catholic was with out local Syrian Christian bishop till the end of the 19th century.

Our ancestor, Oommen of Kalikavu branch also may have left Kuravilegad at the same time. It coincides with the story in many other families that left Kuravilegad during the same period.

OUR ANCESTOR OOMMEN IN CHAGANACHERRY

We have seen that Oommen, the ancestor of the Poothicote and other sub-branches left Kuravilegad in 1663. He was strongly on the side of the Arch Deacon (Marthoma I). But the king of Vadakkunkur under whose jurisdiction was Kuravilegad sided Fr. Chandy. The king sent arrest warrants for those who opposed him. In this situation, some members of the 4 illams, who supported Marthoma I left Kuravilegad.

Our ancestor, Oommen, with a brother and sister traveled south and sought the protection of the ruler of Chaganachery. Chaganachery was in Thekkumkur kingdom and by the time the Dutch had become a power and trading partner if the Thekkumkur kingdom . The king of Thekkumkur had agreed to the Dutch that he would not allow Portuguese or Carmelite priests in their kingdom.

Our ancestor Oommen's brother was a priest in the Chaganachery church which in those days was a branch church (kurishupalli) of Niranam Church. Our ancestors lived for 4 generations in Chaganachery. They were very close to the rulers and they lived in a house near the present municipal court. During this period we became related to several families in the area including the Kallarackel family of Chaganachery. More research is needed about the life of our ancestors in Chaganachery.

Kuruvila and Mathen are children or grandchildren of Oommen who came from Kuravilagad.

Mathen moved to Thiruvella and became the ancestor of Chalakuzhy family. He died in a smallpox epidemic.

OUR ANCESTOR KURUVILA MOVES TO MEPRAL

Kuruvila moved to Mepral and bought a property named Poothicote near Kuzhivelipram. It is from this property that we got the family name poothicote.

Mepral in those days were under the local chieftain, Azhiytdathu Prabhu. It was at the invitation of this ruler that Kuruvila moved to Mepral.

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