Aspects of the Idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala
Comparison is often made between the customs and traditions of the Thomas Christians and the Jews1 on the one hand, and between those of the Thomas Christians and the Brahmins (i.e. the Nampoothiri or Malayalee Brahmins)2 on the other.
This paper attempts, adhering to the spirit of the theme of this conference, viz. “Indian Society and Culture : An Encounter with Christianity” , to outline aspects of the idea of “Clean and Unclean” among the Brahmins, the Jews, and the St. Thomas Christians or Nazranies as they are often designated, and to examine the common traits in these three sets of customs and beliefs regarding the idea of “Clean and Unclean”. The overriding concern for “Cleanliness” -more importantly the desire to avoid pollution -dominates, or used to dominate, the ritual and daily life of all these three communities to the detriment of comfort, convenience, and even the unhampered pursuit of the common activities of the vast majority of people around them, and even stands frequently in the way of showing consideration, nay even common courtesy to others.
To study the prevalence of ideas of “Clean and Unclean” (Shuddham and Ashuddham) among the Brahmins the writer has mainly depended on the works and precepts of the sages3 and elders of the community and of kindred communities as well as on the few works of an anthropological nature that exist independently or as part of general historical works4; for the Jews the OT, the NT and the various commentaries were chiefly made use of; and for the Thomas Christians in addition to the few scattered remarks that deal with the matter in well-known works5, the personal experience of the writer and the knowledge gathered from parents, grandparents, and other elders, and from the observation of the conscious and unconscious behaviour of the members of the community have been made use of. There is a vast fund of material that deals with these issues scattered in a plethora of works which aught to be systematically tapped, not just in a paper like this, but at least by way of a doctoral thesis or two6, and the earlier such detailed studies are undertaken, and more scientifically, the more will be the material available to investigate, both in the form of documents and living customs, and in the form of personnel in the know who are still in our midst.
Before launching into a study of the ideas about “Clean and Unclean” among these communities it will be profitable to take a quick look at the similarities that exist in their other more well known customs, practices, and beliefs. As this assembly is made up of Christians mainly, and as we are meeting in a predominantly Hindu locality let us commence by comparing the Christian customs and Brahmin customs first, bearing in mind the special relationship Kerala Brahmins have always had with west coastal Brahmins of the Konkan Coast, rather than with Paradesi or Tamil Brahmins7. The similarities in the customs of Kerala Brahmins and Bengali Brahmins also have been noticed by certain scholars.8 The following are only a few of the points of comparison between the general customs of the so-called Syrian Christians9 or Thomas Christians and the customs of the Kerala Brahmins. As the consensus among modern scholars of Kerala history, like Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan and Dr.Veluthatt Kesavan is that the Nambuthiri Brahmins arrive in Kerala only many centuries after the existence of Christian communities there it is quite possible that many of the customs and manners of the latter were imitated or borrowed by the former.10 The similarities outlined below are only indicative, and not exhaustive.
In both communities, i.e. Kerala Christians and Kerala Brahmins, women wear only predominantly white dress. Among Brahmins of the East Coast only widows use white dress. 2 & 3 Otherwise dark reds, blues, greens etc. are used by Brahmin women outside Kerala.
For both communities, Kerala Christians and Kerala Brahmins, piercing the nose for nasal ornaments is taboo. For all Brahmin women elsewhere nasal ornaments are customary. 2 & 3
Architecture of residential houses of Upper Caste Hindus and Christians was almost identical, both residing in Nalukettu and Ettukettu houses, respectively having one inner courtyard surrounded by four (nalu) halls (cf. Span. courtyard - patio -; Ital. cortile; Rom. Atrium), and having two inner courtyards surrounded by eight (ettu) halls.11
Architecture of churches and temples was alike. Cf. Temple Architecture of Kerala, Dept. of Archaeology, Govt. of Kerala, Trivandrum, and Andrews Athappilly, “Church Architecture of Kerala”, STCEI, II, 1973, as also id. James Menachery, “Thomas Christian Architecture”. Remember how Vasco da Gama and company mistook a temple for a church and worshipped Kali or Bhagavathy thinking it was Our Lady (BVM). To avoid the similarity between the temple and the church the Portuguese introduced the “facade”in Kerala churches as an extension of the wall separating the nave or Hykala from the portico or Mukhamandapam of the church. Also see the hundreds of photographs by this writer - in the STCEI II (1973)and the Indian Church History Classics, Vol. I, The Nazranies (1998).
Both in front of many churches (e.g. Kallooppara, Niranam, Kundra, Chengannur), and the majority of temples there are rock (granite) lampstands [photos by the present writer in The Nazranies & STCEI II & Pallikkalakalum Mattum; the Trichur (Arch)diocesan Centenary Volume (articles and pictures by the present writer) and the CBCI 2004 Trichur Volume (articles and pictures by the present writer).
In front of both the churches and temples there are flagstaffs. (See 2.05)
Both communities are patriarchal, unlike the family system of the Sudras (Nairs) who follow the matriarchal system.
Both communities hold menstruation and delivery to be occasions of pollution, demanding elaborate ablutions and purificatory ceremonies.
Both communities have many customs connected with child birth ( e.g. feeding the babe with powdered gold and honey). In the eleventh month the child is ceremoniously fed with rice for the first time. Mangoose teeth and panther toes worked in gold were part of the children’s ornaments.
Ceremonies connected with marriage like ceremonial baths, Manthrakodi or Pudava (bridal cloth or veil), Thali or Minnu - the gold ornament signifying marriage tied by the groom adorning the bride’s neck until “death do them part” - are all to be found among the Brahmins and the Christians in an identical style. Similarly death and funeral ceremonies like Pula, keeping legal defilement for a certain number of days, Shradham or the several feasts in memory of the dead were common to these communities.
There are several more customs, common to these two communities of Christians and Brahmins alone, which we are not enumerating for fear of exceeding the time and space limits prescribed by the organizers.
Similarly there are a number of general customs and manners common to the Judaic and Thomas Christian traditions. Here one must note the existence of a particular community of Syrian Christians or Thomas Christians who trace their descend to Thomas Kinai or Cana or K’nai and his party. Naturally Jewish customs are more prevalent in that community of Knanaya Christians than among the vast majority of Thomas Christians. However as many Jewish and Old Testament customs are to be met with in Christianity all over the world here one might be content merely to enumerate a few customs found commonly among the Jews and the Thomas Christians in general.
The Thomas Christians abstained from work on feasts and on Sundays. This abstention may be compared to the Jewish abstention from work on the Sabbath. Maffeus says:” When the sun sets they [Thomas Christians] could work on Sundays, because Monday is then begun.” 12 Again Fr. Jerome: “In the same way, also on Sunday evening they can work”.13 Gouvea’s words are similar: “They may work after sunset (on Sundays), because it is already Monday”.14 Fr. Paolino of St. Bartholomeo writes: “The feast began at the first vespers of the feast, in such a way that in that hour they used to close all the shops and end all day’s work. They do not start them again until after the second vespers.”15
The similarity in the celebration of the Pascal feast between the Jewish customs16 and the Kerala Christian customs is noteworthy. In this there was very little difference between the Knanaya community and the other Thomas Christian communities. “Though a Pascal lamb is not used, certain elements of this meal allude to the Jewish Passover, as, for instance, the unleavened bread, the wine [“milk”], the time of the meal, the ordinary supper preceding, the standing position, the respect and reverence pervading the scene, the annual commemoration of the wonderful works of God, the bitter herbs, almsgiving, and the singing of hymns.”17
Both communities are seen to use mostly biblical names for their children. Names from the Old Testament are quite common, such as Abraham (Avara, Avarachan), Issac (Ithakku), Jacob (James, Chacko, Chakkunny,Chakkappan, Yakkob) and Joseph (Ouseph).18 According to Ludovico di Varthema, “They use four names, John, James, Matthew, and Thomas.”19 However today George is the most popular Christian name among the Nazranies.20
Leaving aside for the moment the consideration of common GENERAL customs among these three communities of Jews, Namboothiries, and St. Thomas Christians let us take up the study of a few specific customs related to the idea of “Clean and Unclean” and find out how far these customs were prevalent in the said communities and with what degree of universality, and variations, if any.
This is all the more relevant in the light of the accusation at times made against modern day Christians of Kerala by Caste i.e. “high caste” Hindus of Kerala that the Christians are not sufficiently conscious of cleanliness - in their eating habits, dressing habits, and even in the matter of keeping their body and habitat clean. It would be interesting to examine the validity of this accusation and to note who was responsible for this decline in the Cleanliness - Fad among the Christians, which is so very characteristic of the Kerala Brahmins, and what led to this decline if any.
There are a very large number of customs and practices connected with “Clean and Unclean” among the Nampoothiries, and a good number of such among the Jews. Among the Thomas Christians in times gone by, most of such customs and practices among the Nampoothiri Brahmins and those among the Jews were both in vogue together, making them perhaps the most “Clean” community in the whole world.
In note 3 below are listed the 64 special rules for Kerala Brahmins, most of which dealing with the practice of “cleanliness”, Shudham. In addition to these there are ever so many other customs given sanctity and sanction and the status of law as a result of long and strict practice. In fact the very life of the Kerala Brahmin is made “Hell”21 literally by these rules, regulations, and conventions regarding “Clean and Unclean”. In addition to this there is the strict observance of Ayitham 22 which is much more than mere untouchability. All these codes of behaviour were more or less strictly adhered to by the Syrian Christians also23.
The occasions on a single day when the Nampoothiri Brahmin must necessarily wash oneself or bathe are innumerable. And this bathing has to be performed not by standing under a shower, or by pouring water over oneself with a mug, but only by immersing oneself in water - in a pond, a tank, or a river. The Brahmin must bathe before cooking. Braahmanans, desirous of purity (“Suddhi”)[“Cleanliness”] shall bathe if they touch a “Soodran”, etc. And it must be remembered that Soodran (a member of the fourth caste - the Soodras) denotes not outcastes, but caste Hindus like Nairs, Menons, and all or at least large portions of Pillais, Panickers, and even Ambalavasis or Temple-Castes like Variers, Pisharatis, Marars etc. The duty of the Sudra community was to serve the other three castes of Brahmins, Kshathrias, and Vaisyas. In Kerala these services extended to domestic help in the houses of upper castes by both the men and women of this fourth caste, and even the performance by Soodra women of the duties of a concubine in the unique sexual relationship prevalent in Kerala euphemistically called Sambandham.24
There are many other occasions when the Brahmin must ritually and otherwise bathe. It would be tedious to describe the dozens of occasions and circumstances that would necessitate bathing by the Kerala Brahmin, for example as a result of touching or seeing, or coming near people belonging to lower castes.25
Bathing, especially ritual bathing is found often prescribed for the Jews in the Old Testament.
“Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the Tent of my presence, and tell them to take a ritual bath.” (Ex. 29.4)
“ The person shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and have a bath; he will then be ritually clean...on the seventh day he shall again shave his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and all the rest of the hair on his body, he shall wash his clothes and have a bath and then he will be ritually clean.” (Lev. 14.8-9)
Thomas Christians were always as much addicted to washing their bodies as the Brahmins or the Jews or even more so. In spite of the decrees of the Synod of Diamper and the efforts of the missionaries the Thomas Christian could hardly reconcile himself to any laxity in the matter of cleanliness. All Christians in the villages continued to observe the strictest rules that obtained among the Brahmins in matters of cleanliness and caste distinctions even till very recent times, as this writer could assert from his own experiences in and about the inhabitants of the villages of Kattur, Meloor, Chalakkudy, Ollur, Mala, Kallettumkara, Edakkulam, Chengalur, &c.in present day revenue districts of Thrissur and Ernakulam.
The following Decree of the Synod of Diamper(Action VIII, Decree XIII. Cf. The book of Geddes in the ICHC, Ed. George Menachery, p.91) throws much light on how far the Christians adhered to ritual cleanliness:
“ The Synod doth very much condemn what some...imagine, viz. That if they do not wash their Bodies betimes in the Morning on a Fastday, their Fast will be of no worth; and that if they happen to touch any of a base Race, or a Naires , they must wash themselves to make their Fast to be of any Merit; and declares that all such Washings and Superstitious touches, are commanded neither by God nor the Church...”
However the old customs died first in towns and townships, as the result of English education and contact with Westerners and their ways. The habit of taking bath for various reasons and of washing legs, hands, etc. quite often was fully prevalent during this writer’s childhood and even boyhood, and was a big headache and nuisance and even a burden. There were ponds or huge wells with steps leading down in the compound of all notable families, where the river was far away. A number of Kindies or a vessel with a spout or nozzle-like side tube to pour water was always available which was used to wash one’s feet whenever climbing into the corridor or verandah of the house after walking outside. The latrines were separate structures during my childhood always a great distance from the house.
Ayitham or untouchability, a sort of total segregation of a member of the lower caste, from a Brahmin in the form of Thottukoodayma and Theendikkoodayma was one of the strongest practices that has now more or less - only more or less - disappeared from Kerala, but after a very long and bitter struggle. Seeing the extreme forms Ayitham or untouchability, “unseeability”, and unapproachability as practised in Kerala took, Swami Vivekananda was forced to call Kerala a “Lunatic Asylum”.
The custom of Ayitham or untouchability or segregation among the Jews is evident from these words of Peter.
He (i.e. Peter) said to them, “ You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not al-
lowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles”. (Acts 10.28)
Paul also concurs:
And so the Lord says, “You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean, and I will accept you”. (2Cor 6.17)
And Paul goes on to add:” So then, let us purify ourselves from everything that makes body or soul unclean”.
In the same chapter v.14 says: “Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners?” More scriptural verses it is not necessary to cite in this assembly.
The practice of Ayitham as it existed among the Thomas Christians, and as it continued to exist even in my youth with some intensity, can be understood from the enactments of the Synod of Diamper of 1599. Allow me to quote a little extensively:
“The Synod being informed, that in some parts when any one of the baser sort do but touch the Cisterns of Christians, that Christians do Disempolear or Purify them, by performing certain Ceremonies...(the Synod) with great rigour command those that make the said Disempoleamento or Purification,..to be thrown out of the Communion of the Church, and to be denied Casture...and to be punished with the Penalties...” (Act IX, Decree III of the 1599 Synod of Diamper)26
For Christians as to the Brahmins Nairs being Sudras was an untouchable caste, though some European writers have described the Nairs as Noblemen and so on.27 Cf. Decree II of Act IX of the said Synod fully and may I request you to go through it most car fully to understand how expediency and profit often comes first with Archbishop Menezes, and how His Grace advises tricks to combine religion with material benefit. He allows Christians to practise untouchability or Ayitham and to pretend to go by the existing customs of segregation, but not to perform the ritual bath after the pollution caused by going near or touching Nairs and lower caste persons if it will not come to the attention of the king and the elite! “Therefore the Synod doth command all that shall be found guilty of forbearing to touch such [Nairs], or having touched them, shall wash themselves, to be severely punished as Superstitious followers of the Heathen Customs, and commands the Preachers and Confessors to admonish them thereof in their Sermons and Confessions.”
In the same Decree when the Synod is advising the Christians not to shun or steer clear of others who are Christians it is also indirectly pleading the cause of the Yavanas who were often considered Mlechas by caste Hindus and were untouchables for the native Christians too.
As the paper has already gone beyond the allotted length hereafter we shall restrict ourselves to a consideration of a few more related practices prevalent among the Christians and to draw some parallels between those and the Jewish or Brahmin customs.
The Synod doth condemn the Custom, or abuse that has obtained in this Diocess of the new-married couple’s not going to Church till after the fourth day after their Marriage, when they use to Wash themselves, which is according to the Judaical Ceremonies condemned by the Law of Christ...” (Action VII, Decree XVI, Geddes, ICHC I, Ed. Menachery, p.89)
Heathen Musicians to be kept out of the church. Hence Kottupuras as at Kuravilangad and Palai(?).Geddes, Ed. Menachery, p.74.
“Faithful Christians must not only avoid the Ceremonies and Superstitions of the Heathens, but the Judaical Rites and Ceremonies also,..the Synod, tho’ it doth very much commend the Holy Custom of carrying Children to Church forty days after they are born,...; nevertheless it condemns the separating of Women for the said forty days after the birth of a Male, as if they were unclean ...and eighty days after the birth of a Female; both which are Jewish Ceremonies, that are now abrogated...” (Geddes, Ed. Menachery, ICHCI, p.96, Decree V)
“Whereas the Synod is informed, That the meaner sort of People are much better disposed to receive the Faith than the Naires, or Nobles, and being extreamly desirous to find some way whereby such well disposed People may be made Christians, so as to assemble together with the old Christians, as why should they not, since they all adore the same God,...and conferred about the most proper methods for the effecting of it...we have not been able to find any that are effectual...” (Decree XXXVI, Geddes, Ed. Menachery, ICHCI, p.95). It is suggested that this is not done in order not to displease the Heathen Kings, “who would correspond with us no longer to the loss of the Trade and Commerce we do at present maintain with them”. To overcome such problems the Synod suggests that “and the Prelate shall be advised thereof, that he may give order for the building of distinct Churches for them” (i.e. the meaner sort of People), “and in case they have not a church to themselves, they shall then hear Mass without doors in the Porch,” etc. Geddes, p.95.
As has been shown here again and again the overriding concern for “Cleanliness” dominates, or used to dominate, the ritual and daily life of the three communities of Thomas Christians, Kerala Brahmins, and Jews from the earliest times. Many more examples could be given from the Holy Scripture (for the Jews), from works by Hindu scholars (for the Brahmins) and from tradition and practices (for the Christians). But I suppose enough is enough. There is much to be said about the similarity in the attitudes of these communities with regard to clean and unclean animals, uncleanness as a result of death, corpse, and funeral, dirts like mildew, cleaning of pots and vessels, skin diseases, bodily discharges including wet dreams and bowel movement and urination, sexual practices, and so on and so forth. But now let us look into some implications of these findings.
There is a young niece of mine, a medical doctor, working at the Jubilee Mission Medical College of Thrissur, who has been doing research on the DNA of various communities on the West Coast and Middle East, testing the blood at Hydarabad and abroad. She tells me that the Nampoothiries, the Jews, and the Thomas Christians all have the same DNA components. I merely suggest that this thought might be investigated.
It has been often suggested that the West Coast Brahmins were the result of conversion from Dravidian Stock or Semitic Stock. The deep-rooted common customs about Clean and Unclean found in these three communities surely indicate something more than meets the naked eye, especially when we remember that Brahmins are found in Kerala much later than the Christians, and they attain predominance in Kerala only around the 9th-10th Century CE, after decline of the power of the Christians. (Cf. My essay, “Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala”, in Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage and elsewhere.
The theory that the caste Hindus of Kerala separate themselves from Christians only at the time of the Syrian Christian Copper Plate Grants of Tharisappalli (849 CE) put forward by my dear departed friend M. J. Morris of Quilon deserves a little more attention.
There are a number of other matters connected with this topic that one would like to mention but there is neither space nor time for that. In any case the intention of the author of this paper has been to solicit the valuable opinions of the learned participants assembled here. It would be highly rewarding for the writer if some meaningful discussion could take place on this matter here or hereafter.
1. Vide Vellian, Jacob, “A Jewish Christian Community”, The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery, p.73 ff.; Mathew, E. P., “The Knanaya Community of Kerala”, id., ibid.; id.,”The Malankara Syrian Knanaya Christian Community”, Jacob Stephen; Koder, S., “History of the Jews of Kerala”, id., pp.183 - 185. All the above articles have been reproduced in the Thomapedia, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, Ollur, 2000. Also cf. the many related papers in St. Thomas Christians and Nambudiris, Jews, and Sangam Literature: A Historical Appraisal, Ed. Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Mt. St. Thomas, Kochi, 2003.
2. Cf.: Placid Podipara, “Hindu in Culture, Christian in Religion, Oriental in Worship”, in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery, pp. 107 - 112; “Malabar Christian Customs and Manners”, reproduced in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery, pp.126 -127 from D. Ferroli, The Jesuits in Malabar, Vol.I, Bangalore, 1939; STCEI, II, “Culture and Traditions of the Thomas Christians”, Joseph Kolengaden, pp.127 - 131; STCEI, II, “Character and Life Style of Thomas Christians” by Alexander Cherukarakkunnel, pp. 131 - 133. [The writings mentioned in notes 1 & 2 contain much bibliographical information for the topics dealt with, q.v..]
3. Listed below are, e.g. the 64 practices and customs (“Anaachaarams”) believed to have been established by Sankaraachaaryar (788 - 820 AD) specially for the Malayaala Braahmanans or the Namboothiries of Kerala. Since these are not followed anywhere else, they are called “Anaachaarams” or non-conventions. The following list has been chiefly copied from the Nampoothiri website for convenience, the # sign and the ~~~ signs have been added by the present writer, as also a few English words in parenthesis inside square brackets in order to make the meaning a little clearer perhaps. Also cf. the list appearing in the three volume Travancore State Manual edited by V. Nagam Aiya, Trivandrum, 1906, at pp. 267 - 271, Vol. III, Ch. IX, where under “Caste” Keralaacharams as distinct from East Coast customs of Brahmins are listed with annotations and discussed. Recently Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan has observed that these Anaacharams and caste observances could have been prescribed by some later Sankaraacharyar (“Introduction”, Menachery, George, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur, 2005):
# Do not use twigs (a common practice elsewhere) for brushing teeth.
# During the daily bath, do not bathe with the clothes worn till then.
# Do not use the clothes worn till bath for wiping the body after bath (as a towel).
# Do not bathe before sunrise.
# Do not cook before bathing.
# Do not use water stored (drawn from well) on the previous day for the next day’s use.
While performing daily rites, do not seek any results, be detached.
# Excess water after “Soucham” [washing after using the latrine], “Aachamanam” (“Kaalukazhukal”) [washing the feet], etc. shall not be used for other purposes.
# Braahmanans, desirous of purity (“Suddhi”)[“Cleanliness”] shall bathe if they touch “Soodran”, etc.
# Bathe if lower caste persons come close.
# Bathe (in a different pond), if the water in a pond is touched, if the same has been touched earlier by a lower caste person.
# Bathe upon stepping on the ground which has been swept with broom, but has not been sprinkled with water.
“Bhasmam” (ash), etc. are to be smeared first vertically once and then horizontally in three lines.
# Braahmanans while performing rituals, shall chant “Manthrams” themselves.
# Do not use previous day’s food.
# “Echil”(leftover food) of even children shall not be eaten by pious Braahmanans.
Food items (“Nivedyam”) offered to Lord Sivan are not to be consumed.
# Food served with hand shall not be eaten.
# Buffalo milk and ghee prepared from it shall not be used for religious rituals.
# Rice shall be eaten only in the form of balls (“urula”), but such balls shall not be kept in the leaf as leftover.
# If one is polluted in any form (“Asudhham”) [defiled, polluted], even betel-chewing is prohibited.
A “Brahmachaari” (boy during the period between Upanayanam and Samaavarthanam) shall observe “Nishthha” and “Vratham”.
“Gurudakshina” (appropriate offerings to the teacher) must be given after completing the study of Vedam.
# Vedam shall not be recited on the streets.
# “Shodasakarmams” shall be performed during the prescribed periods.
Girls shall not be sold.
“Vrathams” shall not be observed with the expectation of any results in mind.
# Women who touch another woman in period, shall have to bathe before eating.
Braahmanans shall not spin thread.
Braahmanans shall not do the work of washermen.
Only Braahmanans are permitted to perform Siva Pooja on “Rudraaksham” (seed of the plant Eloeocarpus ganitrus), etc.
Braahmanans shall not receive “Sraadhha Dakshina” (ritual offer on the death anniversary) from a “Soodran”.
Braahmanans shall perform “Sraadhham” of their father’s and mother’s parents.
Sraadhham shall be performed on every “Amaavaasi” (new moon) day.
Upon the father’s or mother’s death, one shall observe “Deeksha” for one year.
At the end of Deeksha on the 12th month, “Sapindi” shall be performed.
If “Pula” or Asoucham comes during the Sapindi period, wait till Pula is over.
Sraadhham day is reckoned based on the star of the month (“Nakshathram”).
Children after being given for adoption to another family, shall perform Sraadhham of their own parents.
Cremation shall be in own land.
“Samnyaasi” (Saint) shall not look at women.
“Samnyaasi” shall not perform Pindam nor Sraadhham.
No ritual is performed when a Samnyaasi dies.
A Braahmana woman shall not look at any man other than her husband, father, grandfather or their brothers on either side.
Antharjanams (Namboothiri women) shall not move out of the house without a maid.
~~~They shall wear only white dress.
~~~They shall not pierce the nose.
“Bhrashtu” (excommunication) is imposed on a Braahmanan who consumes alcohol.
“Bhrashtu” is imposed also if he sleeps with any other Braahmana woman.
“Pretham” (spirit) [ghost] shall not be consecrated in temples.
# The idols in temples (“Deva Prathishthha”) shall not be touched by “Soodrans”, etc.
# Offerings made to one god shall not again be proffered to another god.
Marriages and other “Karmams” shall not be performed without “Homam”.
Braahmanans shall not bless each other, for, they are equals.
They shall also not prostrate before each other.
Do not sacrifice cows.
Saiva, Vaishnava and other such distinctions shall not exist.
Only one “Poonool” (Yajnopaveetham, sacred thread) should be worn by Braahmanans even after marriage.
Only the eldest son in the family shall marry an Antharjanam.
# Sraadhham shall be performed only using rice.
Non-Braahmanans are not eligible to enter into Samnyaasam.
“Kshathriyans” and others shall perform Sraadhham for maternal uncles, since they follow matrilineal system.
A woman whose husband is dead, shall enter into Samnyaasam.
Braahmana women shall follow “Paathivrathyam” (chastity) strictly, but are prohibited from performing “Sathi” (immolation on husband’s funeral pyre).
These are the primary customs prescribed by Bhaargavan. But Bhaargava Smruthi contains a large number of less important practices (“Aachaarams”). ”
4.Vide, e.g., the lengthy and detailed study by K. P. Padbanabha Menon, History of Kerala, Vol. I, Ernakulam, 1924, Ed. T. K. K. Menon, Notes on Letter 1, (5) “Descent of Namburi Brahmins”, pp.20 -22; (8) “Advent of Brahmins”, pp.76 -83. Also cf. entries in the two editions of the Travancore State Manual, one edited by Nagam Aiya in three Volumes (Trivandrum, 1906), and the other by T. K. Velu Pillai in four Volumes (Trivandrum, 1940).
5. Such as the works mentioned in note 3 supra.
6. The writer is not forgetting the few theses that already exist on related topics.
7. Reference may be made to the doctoral thesis of Dr. Veluthatt Kesavan and his recent paper for a seminar at Mt. St. Thomas, Kakkanad, “The Nambudiri Community: A History” , reproduced in St. Thomas Christians and Nambudiris, Jews, and Sangam Literature: A Historical Appraisal, Ed. Bosco Puthur, LRC Publications, Kochi, 2003. Another paper, by Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan , on the Nambudiri migrations also is printed in the same volume. Both papers refer to the special relationship that existed and exists between the Konkan Brahmins and the Kerala Brahmins, i.e. the Nambuthiries.
8.Vide, e.g., the lengthy and detailed study by Dr. L. A. Ravi Varma, “Castes of Malabar” in the Kerala Society Papers, [General Editor: T. K. Joseph] Series 9, 1932, alias Vol. II, 1997 reprint, Thiruvananthapuram, Gazateers Dept., Govt. of Kerala, pp.171 - 204.
9. Syrian Christians of Malabar or Kerala are Christians who use East Syriac as the language of their liturgy (the Syro Malabarians), or later on commencing with the arrival of Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem (1665?) West Syriac also (the Orhodox, the Jacobites, and now the Syro-Malankarites). The term does not carry any biological connotation except perhaps for the Knanaya Christians.
10. For a detailed discussion cf. Essay One : “Christianity Older than Hinduism in Kerala”, in George Menachery, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur, 2005. This essay may be read with slight variations in the Satna Diocesan Jubilee Seminar Papers, 1999; in the World Syriac Conference 2001 papers, reproduced by SEERI in the HARP, Kottayam; in the Journal of St. Thomas Christians, Rajkot, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2004, pp.33 - 42; in the Light of Life, New York, N. Y.; and now in the Souvenir of the Seminar Conference on the History of Early Christianity in India, Concordia University, New York, 13th - 16th Aug., 2005.
11. “Thomas Christian Architecture”, Menachery James (Dr. E. J.) in STCEI, II, Ed. G. Menachery, 1973, see section Domestic Architecture pp. 148 - 149; Menachery, George, Pallikkalakalum Mattum, Trichur, 1984; Menachery, George, Pallikalile Kala, Mathrubhoomi Weekly, March 28, [with forty illustrations], Kozhikode, 1978; for plans of Thomas Christian Naalukettu (Ollur) and Ettukettu (Kattur) see Thanima, September, 2005, Alwaye.
12. Joseph Pascal Neelankavil, “Feasts of the Thomas Christians,” article in STCEI II, Ed. George Menachery, Trichur, 1973, p.113, rt. col.; alias The Thomapedia, Ollur, 2000, 113 >g.
13. Id., ibid.
14. Id., ibid.
15. Id., ibid.
16. “The feast of the Passover is celebrated by Jews in memory of their deliverance from Egypt in the time of Pharaoh Rameses II. It is a feast lasting a week in the spring, and during that time the only bread Jews can eat is Matzah, or unleavened bread. Matzah was the bread baked by the Hebrews in the Sinai desert during the Exodus. Wheat flour is mixed with water but without the addition of yeast. When the mixture is baked the loaf is flat, or unleavened.
The Passover celebration begins with a meal which is called the Seder. This is an important meal, and Jews bring out the best silver, china and glass. Care is also taken with the choice of wine.
During the meal the family reads from a special book, the Haggadah, or Passover book. This is a kind of play in which members of the family take parts, and the story is the story of the original Passover.” The Wonderful Story of the Jews, Plantagenet Somerset Fry, Purnell, London, 1970, p.15.
17. Jacob Vellian, “A ‘Jewish Christian’ Community”, article in STCEI II, Ed. George Menachery, Trichur, 1973, p.74, rt. col.; alias The Thomapedia, Ollur, 2000, 74<e.
18. Id., ibid.
19. Ludovico di Varthema, quoted by G. T. Mackenzie, Christianity in Travancore, reproduced in ICHC, I, The Nazranies, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, Ollur, 1998, p.130 cited in Hakluit Society’s Publication, 1863.
20. The Christian name most common today among Thomas Christians is George, i.e. its variations like Gevarghese, Varghese, Varu, Vareed, Varunny...Coincidently George happens to be the name of the patron saint of England. Paradoxically the Christian name most popular in England is Thomas, as this writer discovered in 1975 while examining the English census reports in the British Museum (British) Library as in Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Thomas Carlyle, Thomas Cromwell...Thomas being the benefactor of King Alfred the Great of England, the only king designated as great in that country. It will be interesting to study how two names popular in the east became names in the greatest demand in England. That by way of digression.
21. Kaanippaiyoor Shankaran Nampoothirippadu, Ente Smaranakal (My Recollections), Malayalam, Panchangam Book Stall, Kunnamkulam, 1963: Chapter 15, “Vattum Echilum” (Dirtiness of Boiled Rice and the Dirtiness of Left-Overs ); Chapter 18, “Shuddhashuddham” ( Clean-Unclean).
22. Id., Chapter 21, “Aiyitham” (Untouchability, Unseeability, &c.).
23. See for example articles by Ferroli, Podipara, Kolengaden, Cherukarakkunnel &c. in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, Trichur, 1973, Ed. George Menachery referred to in note 2 supra.
24. Sambandham became an indispensable part of the Kerala way of life as a result of the custom among the Namputhiri community permitting only the eldest son to marry from one’s own community. While this custom preserved all Brahmin property in the same family - and all land in Kerala either belonged to the Brahmin (Brahmaswam) or to the temple (Devaswam) -from generation to generation, the younger members of the family could not marry Antharjanams or Brahmin women and had to be accommodated otherwise to satisfy their natural urges. The importance of a Nair woman often depended upon the number and quality of her nightly visitors. Often this Sambandham, emotionally though perhaps not legally, attained the status or attributes of a regular marriage.
25. For dozens of customs and rules regarding “Clean and Unclean” among the Nampoothiries no better authority could be cited than Kanippayyoor Shankaran Nampoothirippadu whose books like Ente Smaranakal ( autobiographical work with much information on castes, laws and practices of pollution and ablutions), Naayanmaarude Poorvacharithram (Early History of Nairs) I and II, Elamkulathinte NambooriShshakaram (A critique of Prof. Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai’s criticism of Brahmin customs) are recommended (all published by Panchangam Book Stall, Kunnamkulam). To understand the real social and religious place and position of each community like Nampoothiries, Nairs, Pisharotis, Variers, Marars, Menons, Ezhavas, Thiyyas, Pulayas, Paraiahs, &c. the autobiography (Jeevithappatha) of the late Communist leader Cherukadu will be very useful. It is very difficult to understand the status of a community vis-a-vis other communities without the help of these or similar frank autobiographies because most communities from Ambalavaasis to Nairs to Ezhavas to Ezhuthachans to Pulayas to Mulayas to Paraiahs generally try to keep these caste distinctions and customs hidden from others, especially in these modern times.
26. Michael Geddes, A Short History of the Church of Malabar together with the Synod of Diamper, London, 1694, p.96 in the SARAS edition in The Indian Church History Classics, Vol.I, The Nazranies, Ed. Prof. George Menachery, Ollur, 1998. This first book on the Malabar Christians in the English language may also be read in Vol.II of Hough.
27. Cf. Works by Kanippayyoor Sankaran Nampoothirippadu and Cherukaadu, vide note 25 supra. The Nairs appear in Kerala history only after the 11th century CE, and from the time of their appearance they are Sudras serving the other three castes, and as the Christians were equal to or only just next to the Brahmins the Nairs were their Dasas or a sort of glorified servant class. But as time went on, with the attainment of Marthanda Varma to sovereignty in Travancore, and with the custom of the kings of Cochin accepting Nair women as their “wives” (“concubines” in Dutch records), and with the increase in the clout of the Zamorins, and the decline of the Nampoothiries, the Nair classes began to assume the cultural legacy of the Nampoothiries. And as the Christians became more and more westernized they lost their say in matters of Kerala culture and aristocracy. More than the harm brought about by the so-called Latinising efforts of the Portuguese it was this de-culturation of the Nazranies that led to the decline of Christians in all spheres of Kerala life.