Church and prohibition in Kerala – C. I. Issac

Prof C. I. Issac“In recent days, the Church exerted pressure over the Government of Kerala and succeeded in closing down 700 bar hotels and 35 of the 350 retail liquor outlets of the State Beverages Corporation. Now only 24 bar hotels are functioning. … The majority of bar hotels closed down were owned by the Hindu community. The Christians lost nothing! Instead, the government permitted them to open wine parlours in every nook and corner of the state. This is the greatest victory of the Church.” – Prof  C. I. Issac

Catholic Church in KeralaIt is said that the Churches in India, particularly of Kerala, are ‘a committed force’ to fulfil the dreams of the father of the nation – Gandhiji – for a spirit-free Bharat. At the time of his struggle against the British Raj, the Churches in India, notwithstanding theological differences, extended spiritual, moral and material support for the continuation of the Raj in India.

After independence, the Church adjusted to the new reality and became blind supporters of the Congress party of Jawaharlal Nehru and are still loyal to them. Our discussion concerns the Church’s dubious approach towards the policy of prohibition.  

Indian Churches are at the helm of all anti-liquor organisations in all states, though they are running more wineries than the distilleries in India! Each diocese has a winery in order to fulfill the said requirements of their priests, nuns and laities. The paradox is that they are nowadays running after the state governments to enhance the capacity of their wineries. The justification for this demand is that the Christian population has enhanced considerably.

In the last century, Kerala Christians were 22 per cent of the population; now they are 19 percent. Census reports show that the Christian population in India and particularly Kerala is in negative growth phase. The negative growth phenomenon is prevalent particularly amongst Syrian Christians, a major group of Kerala, identified by Sonia Gandhi & George Alencherrydemographers as suffering from the ‘Parsi Syndrome’. Then what is the basis of the priestly demand for more wine?

According to reports in regional newspapers, the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Ankamali of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church submitted an application to the state Excise Department seeking to enhance its wineries’ production capacity from 1600 liters to 5000 litres. (See The Hindu, Kochi & Mathrubhumi, Kottayam, 20 May 2015). Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, a leader of the Prohibition Movement in Kerala, is the applicant!

To Christians, wine is a holy drink because it was served during Jesus’ Last Supper. So it is a necessary item to fulfill the requirement of their spiritual needs. Hence nobody questions the use of wine in communion. The consumption of wine during Holy Mass by a laity is less than one drop. So what is the rationale behind the Church demand to vastly enhance production of wine?

The alcohol content in wine is 6 to 7 percent. The wine consumption promoting Churches usually blame certain Hindu temples’ practice of offering country liquor such as toddy, which contain less or equal alcohol to wine, to their deities. In recent days, the Church exerted pressure over the Government of Kerala and succeeded in closing down 700 bar hotels and 35 of the 350 retail liquor outlets of the State Beverages Corporation. Now only 24 bar hotels are functioning. This is the greatest victory of the Church.

The majority of bar hotels closed down were owned by the Hindu (Ezhava) community. The Christians lost nothing! Instead, the government permitted them to open wine parlours in every nook and corner of the state. Now Kerala is not only ‘God’s Own Country’ but also the land of ‘wine and beer’. Naturally, the Church which condemned the liquor policy of the government now kept discreet silence and extended moral support to the government’s new policy of wine and beer.

George AlencherryThe Church is clearly conflicted in this matter. Its frontal organisation to fight against the curse of liquor, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council Prohibition Movement (KCBC), proposed to conduct a two-day training camp of its prohibition workers on 18 and 19 May 2015 at the Renewal Centre, Kaloor, Ernakulam. The entire 31 dioceses from all the three rites were represented in this camp. (Mathrubhumi, Kottayam, 16 May 2015). 

Ironically, before the camp ended, the Church applied for enhancement of the capacity of one winery. The other dioceses and missionary organisations will soon follow in the footsteps of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Ankamali.

We can only acclaim, “Long lives the Church’s liquor policy”, or pray, “Forgive them, Father! They do not know what they are doing”. (Luke, Chapter 23, verses 32). – Vijayvaani, 1 June 2015 

» Prof C. I. Issac is a member of the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR)

Haneesh Pathiyeri

Rally against bar closure in Kerala (2014)

PM Modi’s visit to Sabarimala will hopefully end the woes of the shrine – Rajeev Srinivasan

Ayyappan Temple at Sabarimala

Rajeev Srinivasan“The PM’s visit to Sabarimala should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.” – Rajeev Srinivasan

Swami AyyappanThe hill abode of Sri Ayyappan in the Western Ghats has become one of the most-visited temples in India, and it is in the list of places where the most places converge in the world (Source: The Economist, 2013). Unfortunately, it is also a testament to the incompetence and uncaring attitude of the Indian state, because pilgrims suffer greatly if they wish to visit.

Therefore I am delighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit the shrine this year, according to G. Ananthakrishnan (“Sabarimala on PM radar”) in The Telegraph, as it may force the authorities to improve the critically deficient infrastructure that they could easily upgrade, but won’t. It is also a metaphor for what appears to be active official hostility to Hindu pilgrims.

Pilgrims wait to climb the 18 steps at SabarimalaI know because I just went to Sabarimala for Deepavali. I have done the pilgrimage five or six times over many years, and can testify first-hand as to how it has deteriorated over time. My very first pilgrimage was when I was 17, and at that time there were no permanent settlements on the summit of the hill, where the shrine is. People only went there during the season (November to January) and for a few days at the beginning of every Malayalam month.

The main difference is the number of pilgrims visiting, which has grown exponentially, as it is an attractive, albeit difficult, trip, and the worship of Ayyappa has grown dramatically in the southern states. Then, I walked alone up the hill through rough paths, and I encountered only a handful of people who were going down the hill. When I went to the summit, I could pray for as long as I wanted in front of the deity’s tiny abode.

A few days ago, there were thousands of pilgrims at the summit, and I encountered hundreds returning down the arduous climb. During the season the numbers swell to hundreds of thousands of black-clad visitors, as the total number over the truncated period comes to over 30 million (which is the entire population of Kerala, to give some perspective).

Unfortunately, this tsunami of pilgrims has overwhelmed the carrying capacity of the area, and it makes the strenuous climb far more difficult than it needs to be. For, from the Pamba River staging area where vehicles park, it is a vertiginous climb up a few thousand feet through dense tropical forest to the small plateau where the shrine is. It is hard on the feet (we climbed barefoot up the granite and concrete path), on the heart (every year a few people have cardiac arrest), and on your system in general (there are only a dozen or so toilets on this path).

Once you get up to the plateau, things don’t get any better. Often, in peak-season, you have to wait for up to 10-12 hours in line in concrete sheds with corrugated-iron sheeting as roofs, which gets stiflingly hot on sunny days. Accommodation availability is utterly minimal: many sleep in these very sheds. Toilets, bathrooms, a clean place to sleep, decent food to eat, medical care—all are scarce.

The amount of plastic trash around the place is startling: bottles, bags. There are feral pigs – yes, wild pigs with mean-looking fangs – rooting in the food waste and human waste, and they add their droppings to the mess of mud and paper and flowers and plastic.

And there have been several stampedes in the past, which obviously is a problem of poor organisation and crowd management. (Tirupati, with an equally large number of pilgrims, has figured out crowd control; there is no reason why this cannot be attempted in Sabarimala too.)

This is no way to run a holy place. Nor any way to treat poor pilgrims who come from far away. I once met a barefoot pilgrim who was a Sri Lankan-origin investment banker in London, but many are ordinary folks from villages in interior Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. They come, black-clad and bearded after 41 days of penance, carrying on their heads the twin coconuts filled with ghee that they will use for ablutions. These are the believers, that vast and invisible substratum of India that Dharampal once mentioned: they follow ancient practices of pilgrimage to holy spots, ignoring the cities and other distractions. This is eternal India, sanatana dharma.

Hiuen Tsang / XuanzangYou get a glimpse of this true India when you finally reach the sanctum with your aching and weary body, your only thoughts those about Ayyappa. Strangely, when you try to get your micro-second glimpse of the presiding deity before you are shoved forward by the press of those behind you, you tend to forget all the hassles. Because it is a point of singular power, and it has been so for millennia: historian Lokesh Chandra notes that it was once a temple to both Shiva and the Avalokiteswara Padmapani (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) simultaneously, as described by the Buddhist monk Hiuen Tsang (Xuanzang) who visited some 1,400 years ago and considered it already an ancient temple. (See my old article on its history here.)

The criminal neglect of the temple is mostly due to state hostility and partly to sheer incompetence. Kerala alternatively has Communist-led and Congress-led governments, which for practical purposes means a Communist/Muslim coalition or a Christian/Muslim coalition. The Hindu vote is fragmented and divided, to the extent that the BJP is yet to have a single MP from the state, although O. Rajagopal almost unseated Shashi Tharoor in Trivandrum last May. Modi appeals to the OBC Ezhavas (the mainstay of the Communists) and to the SC Pulayas; and this may lead to some electoral realignments, and that is surely part of his calculations.

There is a monstrous entity called the ‘Devaswom Board’ that controls all Hindu temples (and note please: only Hindu temples, as Christian and Muslim places of worship are entirely free of control or even audit or tax. I read a ruling by an Income Tax appellate court that Hinduism is a way of life, not a religion, and therefore Hindu temples are not tax-exempt!)

In fact, in an allegedly secular state, there should be separation of ‘church’ and ‘state’, that is, the government should not interfere in religion. That is true for Christians and Muslims: the State leaves them alone to do whatever they want with their churches and mosques. But in the case of Hindus, the government expropriates whatever Hindu temples have. The Devaswom Board is a violation of the constitutional principles of equality before the law and freedom of religion.

This is the principal reason Hindu temples are in trouble in Kerala, as the Devaswom Board, with atheists and Communists often as board members, acts as a mechanism to commingle the revenues of temples with government revenue. In other words, the Devaswom Board, and thus the Kerala government, steal the money that pilgrims donate to Sabarimala (and other large temples like Guruvayur). No more than 5 percent of this is spent on upkeep and maintenance and infrastructure development in the big temples; the rest is swallowed by the state treasury.

Many of the smaller temples under Devaswom control are closing because there is no money spent on them at all (I read a report quoting the Travancore Manual that were some 10,000 temples in Travancore a hundred years ago; while today there are fewer than 1,500). This verges on extinction.

Temples are torn down for ‘development’. For instance, the 1,800 year-old Parthasarathy Temple in Aranmula is slated for severe downgrading for an unnecessary airport project there which is basically a land-grab. Dozens of temples were torn down to create Cochin’s airport. In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it. All this is simply abominable.

Narendra Modi greets Ganga DeviA visit by the Prime Minister should shine the spotlight on this unsavory aspect of what is quite simply apartheid against Hindus. In addition, he will see first-hand how his idea of a Swachh Bharat has a long way to go: unlike most temples in Kerala, where the abundance of water, and related habits, ensure cleanliness, poor Sabarimala is the epitome of unsanitary conditions.

The PM’s visit should create an awareness of the problems faced, and perhaps it will lead to the dissolution of the Devaswom Board, just as that other white elephant, the Planning Commission was disbanded. That would be not a day too soon. Kerala’s temples deserve the right to manage themselves without busybodies from government interfering in them.

If the PM were to visit during the season, the difficulty in ensuring security will mean disruption for pilgrims, especially if he were to make the full trek up and down the hill, which, he, as a physically fit individual, should be able to do, unlike all other PMs so far. Still, that would be a small price to pay for the possible improvements it might bring. – FirstPost, 24 October 2014

Cross crossed-out!Socio-political history of Sabarimala – Ashok Chowgule

There is a socio-political history that needs to be mentioned about Sabrimala, which would indicate the civilisational importance of the temple. From Wikipedia, we can read: “In 1950, a fire broke out which destroyed the entire temple and it had to be reconstructed. According to the official enquiry report submitted by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, K. Kesava Menon, some Christian fundamentalists committed the arson.”

This was preceded by attempts of the Christian churches to grab properties on the way to the hill, erect crosses and shrines. The objective was to block the path to the temple and so prevent worship at the site. The local RSS units (at the time this was the only mass based Hindu organisation working at the grassroot level—VHP, of which I am a senior office bearer, was formed in 1964 by the RSS) had to mount a protest against this effort, some of which had to be done in a violent way. This was successful, and yet another pilgrimage shrine was kept free for the Hindus to be able to worship in the future.

What Wikipedia does not mention is that the vandals were instigated by the Christian churches, and DIG Kesava Menon has given names of various people involved. None of them were prosecuted.

Rajeev Srinivasan, the author of the above article, does mention the vandalism when he says: “In the 1950s, a planter tried to burn down the Sabarimala shrine to grab the forest land around it.” I recognise he did not dwell on it, so that the attention to the main point, relating to the present, is not diluted.

» Rajeev Srinivasan is a popular columnist from Tiruvananthapuram. His daytime job is that of a consultant in the software industry. He blogs at Shadow Warrior here.

Pilgrims at Sabarimala

See also

Catholic Church in India: Sex, sex, and more sex – G. Pramod Kumar

Sister Mary ChandySister Mary Chandy, sixty-seven years old, walked out of the Congregation of the Daughters of Presentation of Mary in the Temple in Chevayur, Kozhikode, 14 years ago. She wrote her autobiography, Nanma Niranjavale Swasthi (Peace to the One Filled with Grace), in April 2012. Excerpts from the book are below. – Editor

Barely two years after it was slammed by An Autobiography of a Nun that catalogued the lurid details of bullying, sexual abuse and homosexuality, the Catholic Church in Kerala is again attacked by a former nun.

Sixty-eight-year-old Sister Mary, who left her Catholic congregation in Kerala 13 years ago in disgust after 40 years of nunhood, is ready with her exposé. In a biographical sketch titled Nanma Niranjavare Swasthi, she heaps more ignominy on the Church.

Sister Mary talks in vivid detail about the extreme pain she had to endure during her tenure with the congregation: physical and psychological oppression, the sexual permissiveness and abuse prevalent among some of the nuns and priests, and the harassment she faced for sticking to her values and commitment to service.

She also talks about the miserable sense of abandonment, rather than sacrifice or service, that some of the nuns feel.

For the Catholic Church in Kerala which is already under attack with a wide range of allegations ranging from oppression of its nuns, abuse, suicides and inappropriate sexual behaviour, the book will certainly be further bad publicity.

Ex-Priest K.P. ShibuTwo biographical accounts; one by Jesme Raphael who gave up the nun’s robes after 26 years of service (2009) and another by a male priest, K.P. Shibu Kalaparambil who left after 24 years in white (2010); had in the recent past, dented the reputation and order of the Catholic Church. Both of them had explosive revelations including sexual exploitation of women and men.

In her memoirs Sister Mary, born in the Palai area of eastern Kerala, describes how she wanted to be a nun at the age of 13 and ran away from home to a Catholic congregation. Although she “found her path of service at the altar of the god”, what awaited her was four decades of hardship, betrayal and absolute disappointment.

Unable to take it anymore, she abandoned her robes in 1999 but continued her service to humanity by establishing a modest orphanage at Wayanad in north Kerala. According to Jose Pazhukaran, the writer who helped Mary put together the memoir, she literally begs door-to-door to raise the resources for her orphanage. “She is now doing what she couldn’t accomplish as a nun – to serve humanity and be a mother to abandoned children,” says Pazhukaran.

“There was a lot of unbearable pain and humiliation. Some ran away, some committed suicide. I endured all the pain because of the priest’s words at my first communion as a nun – you should be ready to follow the path of Jesus Christ. These words are still throbbing in my heart and that is why I am a mother of orphans,” says Sister Mary.

Translations of two chapters of the book are given below :


Some of the nuns used to read books with filthy pictures. I used to wonder how they laid their hands on them. Once I noticed that one of the nuns mostly stayed in her room with the doors bolted.

She was very good-looking and otherwise active, but I didn’t clearly understand the “clandestine things” she was up to.

One day, I found out that she was reading a filthy magazine. A magazine that had pictures of naked men and women. I was very upset. Once you pledge yourself to be a nun, such temptations can compel you to give in. Privately, I admonished her and warned her that she should not repeat it, lest I should tell the matron of the provinciate. I also promised her that I wouldn’t tell anybody. I used to wonder who got them those magazines.

I also resented the male priests coming to the convent without any reason. I really didn’t like how some nuns spent so much time with them and flirted with them. I thought that it could lead them to wrongdoings that could bring disrepute to the congregation. I complained to the mother, but she kept evading it.

Most of the time, what you saw if you accidentally walked into a room of the nuns was shameful. I haven’t seen even a handful of them who were chaste. I just told myself that what comes from flesh has to be flesh.

There was this church hospital at one of the convents when I spent my time there. The hospital was adjacent to the church. I came to know that a doctor at the hospital and a nun had an affair. Once when a patient was brought to the hospital in a critical condition, the doctor was found missing. We, the nuns, frantically searched Medieval Monk with Nun: Mediaeval convents in Europe were high class brothels.for him; but he was nowhere to be seen.

Knowing their closeness to each other, I somehow felt that he would be closeted with the nun somewhere. Finally, my search led to a room from which I heard hushed voices. I brought them out of the room and angrily told them that such behaviour wouldn’t work.

I didn’t know what they were doing in the room, but I am sure it wasn’t something good. I told him that a doctor is worthless if he cannot attend to a patient in an emergency.

Many others also advised the nun that she could get out of the robe and marry so that the congregation’s name is not sullied. The mother, an Italian named Luccia, was informed too. I told her in Italian that those two had been carrying on for a while and they should be thrown out.

The issue simmered for some time and both the doctor and the nun went back to their old ways. Subsequently, the doctor even threatened to kill me. But, almost everyone seemed to side with them and I felt isolated. I just had to ignore what was happening.

They got married later and the nun left the congregation.

I was really disgusted with the way the convent worked and was really reluctant to continue there. It even affected my taking the communion and my confessions. I felt disgusted the way some uncommitted priests conducted the church rituals. They were plain perfunctory.

There was a practice of assigning daily duty for everyone in the convent. To avoid work that they didn’t like, such as farming, some nuns stayed in their rooms. They mostly seemed to feel that they had lost something in life.

40 years of my life as a nun went through such contradictions.

Right from my childhood, I handled the difficulties I faced without letting my family and others know. Therefore, this sense of aloofness was growing in me. In fact, I realise only now that on such situations Mother Mary was giving me the mental strength.

Pope Francis 'the Humble': This pope is not what he appears to be!RAPING FATHERS

Those who didn’t oblige the priests were always in trouble. They get pained in some way or the other. Some think that the oath of discipline that you take while accepting the nun’s robe is to be subservient to such men.

Such an incident happened to me as well. As somebody who had thought of Jesus Christ as the only savior since the age of six, this experience pained me immensely.

This incident, in which a priest tried to molest me and I hit him with a wooden stool in self-defence, became a big issue at the congregation. Although I was the one outraged, in their eyes, I was the culprit. The unwritten rule was: whatever the priests did, nobody could question them.

I was only twenty then.

The incident happened at the Chevayaoor convent. There was this practice of serving breakfast to the priests after the morning communion. Sometimes, it was sent to the church. The nuns needed to take turns to cook for them and serve them.

I used to get nervous whenever my turn came because I wasn’t good with cooking and would certainly be criticised for that. Nobody used to help me or advise me. Instead, they seemed to get some vicarious pleasure by pointing out the mistakes. I used to find it very painful.

Okay, let’s get into the incident. Once, I was assigned to cook and serve a priest who finished the communion (I don’t want to name him though). I went to the dining hall with egg curry and ‘appam’. He came in, washed Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias lives in a Church-owned building in Rome which also houses Europe's largest gay club.his hands and bolted the door before taking his seat.

He asked me to serve; but sensing some mischief, I stayed away. When he persisted, I started shivering with fear. At that moment, I deeply hated the rule that one should obey whatever the priests orders.

The priest got up, came to me and grabbed my hands.

Don’t you know all this, Sister Mary?, he asked.

When I cried, he tried to pull me close to his chest. I relieved myself and ran, but he chased me around the table. I really got wild as I used to do when I was a child on such situations. I got hold of a wooden stool in front of me and hit him hard.

It fell on his head and he started bleeding profusely. I got both sad and scared although I did it in self-defence – he was a priest. I screamed in fear and rushed out of the room and told everyone what happened. But most of them appeared indifferent and started scolding me.

“What did you do, are you out to shame the congregation?”

When they went into the room , the priest was on his chair, speechless and drenched in blood. He was taken to the Kozhikode medical college hospital where it was reported that he fell in the bathroom.

JesusI was the target of tremendous ire after that incident. When everybody walked away from me as if I was a proclaimed offender I prayed hard. But when I realised that it was the way things worked, I really got scared that I was trapped in serious danger. Since then, I was marked; a thorn in the flesh for the congregation.

Opposing wrongdoing was my character and that was the reason for all the conflicts that I faced in life as a nun. I wasn’t ready to blindly accept the priests and the church without looking at their deeds.

Sensing the situation I was in, Father Peter called for me one day. I told him every thing. I cried a lot in front of him. He consoled me and advised me to handle the Church and people with restraint.

But, the other nuns by then had branded me as a rogue. Nobody pointed out what was the ground for my disobedience. Since then, I was a nuisance for them. Sister Betty was the only consolation.

Since I was termed disobedient right from my stay at the novitiate, my nunhood had to wait for six months. The priests believe that they had the complete control of the nuns. They believe that they are the ultimate owners of the Church, its properties and the believers.

When people get sexually exploited, their belief gets affected; that is what is happening now. Some people commit suicide when they are unable to cope with this reality.

The priest who was hit by me is a good friend now and calls me often to enquire about my well-being. He also tells me that my response has reformed him. – Firstpost, 5 April 2012

» Nanma Niranjavare Swasthi, Malayalam, 106 pages, Rs. 85, Kairali Books, Kannur, Kerala 

Priests and nuns being married during the French Revolution.

Don’t like this temple? Then choose another or none at all! – Madhu Kishwar

Prof. Madhu KishwarThis article refers to an artificial controversy created by illiberal liberals in January 2013 about the ban on women making the Sabarimala pilgrimage. The object of their spite was the grandson of the Ayappan Temple high priest, Rahul Easwar, himself an activist and religious reformer who has travelled the world lecturing on Vedanta. Though the article is dated and focused on the specific issue of women entering the Ayappan Temple, Prof. Kishwar makes some very good points about the bad attitude of television presenters and modern, urbanised secular liberals in Indian society. – Editor

The imperious missionaries of liberalism have no respect for the diversity of India’s belief systems and have taken it upon themselves to reform everything they perceive as outdated and incorrect.

Do we want to create a world in which everyone thinks alike? A world in which there is no space for divergence of views or foolish people? I write this after witnessing poor Rahul Easwar, one of the young hereditary priests of Sabarimala, being flagellated on television for the nth time on January 7, 2013, for allowing the presiding deity of his temple to shun the company of female devotees.

The media’s job is first and foremost to inform and not browbeat people to “reform.” TV news programmes in particular have come to resemble inquisitions or kangaroo courts with anchors and their hand-picked panellists flagellating those with politically incorrect views, issuing diktats on everything from political views to religious practices and rituals, and even the conduct of gods and goddesses.

Rahul EaswarIntolerant

Just as our colonial rulers with their faith in the superiority of their monotheistic faith, despised Hindu religious practices, with their millions of gods and goddesses, our modern-day missionaries can’t stand the temperamental nuances of our diverse deities. They have no problem in accepting that women are barred inside friaries meant to house Catholic priests who have taken a vow of celibacy. But they can’t stomach the idea of a male deity who has likewise vowed eternal celibacy avoiding the company of women. They take it upon themselves to cure this kink because in their moral universe with its borrowed vocabulary, this amounts to misogyny and gender discrimination!

Rahul Easwar has asked each television anchor who has grilled him over the years how would they deal with all those temples which only allow female devotees, where the presiding goddess forbids men’s entry. Would they likewise force “women only” temples to open their doors to men? Not one has ever condescended to answer this simple question; nor did any of the anchors tone down their aggression or hostility towards Rahul’s intelligent defence of his faith and his ishta devata.

Following in the footsteps of our British rulers, who despite their disdain for our gods and goddesses, took away shiploads of priceless ancient idols to display as art objects in their museums and living rooms, so also our westernised elites have taken to displaying paintings, bronze and stone carved idols of diverse gods and goddesses as decoration pieces in their homes as proof of their aesthetic lifestyle. But their disdain for those who treat them as objects of worship remains as ferocious as that of our colonial rulers.

Swami Ayyappan: If you don't like his attitude to women, go to somebody else!Respect for differences

If that were not the case, they would have no difficulty in appreciating that Hindu divinities are not unknowable, distant entities. They have distinct personalities, character traits, likes, dislikes. Even in matters of food, floral offerings, puja ritual, each deity has his or her preferences. If you don’t respect their unique temperaments, you are free not to worship them and choose the deva or devi that suits your taste.

Even the most illiberal among Indians do not insist on uniformity of rituals or modes of worship. They let each faith group, each sect decide for itself how to define their relationship to their chosen deity, what foods to offer her, what modes of worship they think appropriate to express their devotion and how they interpret her likes or dislikes. This spontaneous, mutual respect for differences in ways of being, ways of worship, singing, dancing, clothing, cooking and so on, is what enabled the rich diversity of India to survive through millennia.

But our self-proclaimed modern liberals can’t deal with these lived forms of diversity. They can only relish in museumised versions such as folk dances on Republic Day or as consumer goods. For example, possessing a collection of Kanjeevaram, Ikat, Chanderi or Patola saris, Madhubani and Worli paintings, Moradabad brassware, wood carvings from Kashmir, Tanjore paintings, Rajasthani miniatures, etc. is a fashion statement. But the moral universe of those who create these diverse art objects is unacceptable. It is assumed that they all need a dose of reform to cleanse them of antiquated beliefs and values.

Ganapati LOVES modaks!For engagement

I won’t be surprised if tomorrow someone decided to reform the food habits of our gods and goddesses saying, for example, that modak and laddoo are both high cholesterol, high calorie food items. They encourage devotees to have pot bellies. Therefore, they should be banned in favour of sugar-free diet chocolates!

It is time the imperious missionaries of “liberalism” understand that our temples are not meant to be tourist centres—where entry must be free for all. Most of our traditional temples are run by specific sects for the devotees of that particular deity. If you don’t like the values of that sect, if the preferences of that particular deity are offensive to you, just avoid going to that temple. There are lakhs of others to choose from.

If I walked into the homes of our self-appointed reformers and insisted that they change their lifestyles and food habits, I’d be shown the door and asked to mind my own business. What gives these non-believers the right to dictate to Lord Sabarimala how he should live and act in his own abode or dictate terms to harmless little sects among Hindus who prefer to indulge in the whims and wishes of their chosen deities?

Rahul & Sri Sri Ravi ShankarYoung Rahul Easwar has been pleading for respectful engagement with faith leaders in order to bring about changes in allegedly outmoded customary practices and cultural values. In the Hindu faiths, nothing is written in stone. Devotees have the right to dictate their deities to change with changing times. But they can’t be ordered around by those who only have contempt for them. They cannot be bullied into surrendering their unique being and become colourless and soulless robotic creatures that yield to every new wave of political fashion we import from our intellectual mentors in distant lands. – The Hindu, 17 January 2013

» Prof. Madhu Purnima Kishwar is founder, Manushi, and professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.


How IM was formed at a terror camp in Kerala – Vicky Nanjappa

Popular Front of India

Students Islamic Movement of India now called Indian MujahideenThe National Investigation Agency on Friday arrested Students Islamic Movement of India operative Abdul Sattar after he was deported from the United Arab Emirates. Charged in a case related to the secret terror camp held in Wagamon, Kerala in 2007, he has been providing information on the resurrection of the banned outfit.

During his interrogation Sattar told the NIA that following a ban on SIMI, several like-minded radical members of the group decided to hit back at the Indian establishment. “The Indian Mujahideen is an offshoot of the SIMI and it was formed during this period when the camp was held in December 2007,” Sattar told interrogators.

Abdul Subhan QureshiThe NIA got a tip-off on Satar following the questioning of Manzar Imam, Danish Riaz and 36 others, all accused in the Wagamon terror camp case. “This SIMI camp was the what led to the formation of the Indian Mujahideen. Although this group had decided to carry out strikes independently, a section of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba cadre got in touch with them and offered assistance. They then decided to fight Lashkar’s proxy war in India,” said an NIA official.

According to Sattar, 40 members from various parts of the country were part of the camp. They decided to break up into smaller groups and launch an offensive against India. Similar camps were held in Hubli, Karnataka under the leadership of SIMI operative Safdar Nagori.

Indian MujahideenAt the Wagamon camp, a 20-member core team was formed and each operative was assigned a state. The initial plan was to target Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and then set up bases in Bihar and Jharkhand.

Kerala was considered to be an apt place to hold the terror camps. The funds flowing in from the Gulf are accumulated here and the distributed to other parts of the country.

Indian Mujahideen co-founder Abdul Subhan Qureshi participated in the 2007 camp and propagated that “this was not a war but a freedom struggle in India for the Muslims”, the NIA found during its probe.

Through Sattar, the investigators want to further probe if there are plans to carry out more attacks in the future. However, the most crucial part of the investigation would relate to Kerala and how the modules function there. –, 5 August 2013

How Christians created their persecution mythology – Candida Moss

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Prof. Candida Moss“There is an overpowering myth that Christianity was built on violent persecution by the Roman emperors. But that is very bad history—and sets a dangerous precedent for hyperbolic accusations of a ‘war on Christians’ today.” – Prof. Candida Moss

Crucifix by MichelangeloFor Christians, the crucifixion is the event that changed everything. Prior to the death of Jesus and the emergence of Christianity most ancient people interpreted oppression, persecution, and violence as a sign that their deity was either irate or impotent. The crucifixion forced Jesus’s followers to rethink this paradigm. The death of their leader was reshaped as triumph and the experience of persecution became a sign of elevated moral status, a badge of honor. The genius of the Jesus movement was its ability to disassociate earthly pain from divine punishment. As a result Christians identified themselves as innocent victims; they associated their sufferings with those of Jesus and aligned the source of those sufferings with the forces that killed Jesus. From the very beginning, victimhood was hardwired into the Christian psyche.

The enduring impact of this idea is evident in the rhetoric of modern-day Christians. In the weeks that followed the recent papal resignation, Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, who was accused of participating in the coverup of sexual abuse by priests, described himself in terms appropriate to a martyr: as a scapegoat who suffered like Jesus. Because of the nature of the crimes for which he is suspected, Mahony’s claims that he is being persecuted have been universally dismissed, but other similarly hyperbolic instances of American Christians crying “persecution” slip into the public square.

Cardinal Roger Mahony is the ex-Archbishop of Los AngelesThe belief that Christians are continuously persecuted has a basis in Scripture. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus instructs his followers to take up their cross and follow him and predicts that his followers will be persecuted for his name. Then again, in the very same passage he predicts that some of those standing before him will not taste death before the arrival of his kingdom in glory. Why do we accept the prophecy of persecution when the statement about the disciples living until the last judgement clearly failed? The reason why Jesus’s statements about persecution have had such a pronounced impact on the formation of Christian identity is that this prophecy is believed to have been proven in the experiences of the early church. The church has suffered since the beginning, the argument goes, and we are persecuted now as we have always been.

But what if Christians were not always persecuted? What if there never was an “Age of the Martyrs”? When we look at the evidence, it becomes clear that the stereotype of cruel Roman emperors persecuting innocent Christians is a myth. From the Roman side, there is scant evidence for the persecution of Christians. It is not even clear that the Romans knew about the existence of Christians until the early second century. Even then they didn’t see Christianity as a religion. They describe it, rather, as a foolish superstition that could potentially harm local economies.  Christians undoubtedly died as a result of legislation passed during the reign of the emperor Decius (ca. AD 250), but not because he was targeting them. Intriguingly, not a word of our Roman evidence for his legislation refers to Christians.

Roman Emperor Diocletian

With the exception of the Great Persecution of Diocletian (AD 303-305), when Christians were indeed actively persecuted, it is difficult to find any examples of Roman emperors behaving as Christians typically portrayed them. Apart from this comparatively brief period, and an even briefer one during the reign of Valerian in 257-58, Roman emperors never targeted Christians for attack. At the beginning of the second century, the emperor Trajan actually stipulated that Christians were not to be sought out. Roman emperors simply don’t appear to have been that interested in Christians. For most of the first three centuries of their existence Christians flourished: they held lofty political positions, and were so comfortable under the Romans that they even constructed a prominent church across the road from the imperial palace in Nicomedia.

The overwhelming majority of Christians idealized martyrdom and suffering like Jesus, but very few of them died violently—and even fewer died as the result of the kind of persecution described in Sunday school. Romans had good reason to be concerned about Christians. Scandalous rumors of Christians participating in incestuous orgies and practicing cannibalism were widely circulated. More important, Christians sounded a lot like revolutionaries. In courtrooms they stated that they were unable to respect anyone but Christ, their new emperor. Roman officials had no problem executing political subversives—this was a world in which Jon Stewart would be executed for his institution-challenging satire. Ancient empires were accustomed to reshaping the religious identities of those they bested in war. The Romans magnanimously allowed conquered groups to maintain their own religious traditions and implement their Julian the Apostate presiding at a conference of Christians.own law at their own discretion. But this generosity ended when it became socially disruptive or politically subversive. Christians threatened the stability of the empire, and when we look at their interactions with Roman authorities, we might even find ourselves sympathizing with the Romans.

Given that the Roman evidence for persecution is so thin, the origin of our misunderstandings about the early church must, and does, lie with the early Christians themselves. There are literally thousands of stories of Christians martyrs being brutally tortured and killed, but the overwhelming majority of these were written long after the events they claim to describe. Who is responsible for these misunderstandings about history? And why did they alter the historical record? One of the reasons is the explosion of the cult of the saints, the passion for collecting and displaying holy relics, in the fifth century and beyond.  Everyone wanted a piece of the action and innumerable stories about martyrs were fabricated to support local churches and to attract pilgrims to particular towns.

St. Peter crucified upsidedown. In fact he never got to Rome and is not buried in St. Peter's Basilica.Even the earliest, most ostensibly trustworthy, martyrdom stories have been edited and reworked. The authors of these accounts borrowed from ancient mythology, changed the details of events to make the martyrs appear more like Jesus, and made the Roman antagonists increasingly venomous. Peeling back the layers of editorial work is like watching textual plastic surgery; even small changes radically alter our understanding of the subject. Legend maintains that the Apostle Peter asked to be crucified upside down out of humility, but comes from a sixth century rewriting. Fascinatingly, the earliest version of the story gives a very different and almost mysterious explanation. Other ancient authors were less artful. Lazy biographers of the saints sometimes pasted together the story of a martyr’s death from the writings of his colleagues and we can pull these apart without difficulty. We need not accuse the priest-scribes who created these accounts of any malicious deception, as these kinds of literary practices were fairly common at the time, but nor, certainly, can we conclude that they’re giving us the historical facts. Even if Christians choose to venerate individual martyrs—regardless of whether the stories are true or not—we should not leap to the conclusion that ancient Christians as a collective whole were constantly persecuted. We simply lack the necessary evidence to support such a claim. Faith in martyrs is one thing; historical claims about persecution are quite another.

Eusebius of CaesareaClaims about violent persecution may not be historically accurate, but in the hands of ancient Christian writers they did valuable work shoring up the authority of the church. The fourth-century historian Eusebius was able to use the stories of the martyrs to combat heresy and to establish the succession of bishops in the early church. When the origins of the episcopacy in France were clouded, Eusebius invented an anecdote in which Gallic martyrs wrote to the bishop of Rome recommending a particular candidate. When he wanted to demonstrate the errors of a particular heresy, he would cleverly tell a story in which a martyr denounced the schismatic group’s leader. This fascinating invention of the history of persecution set a precedent. Later generations of medieval copyists would do the same—inserting doctrinal formulae into the mouths of expiring martyrs. Eusebius began a long-lived tradition of equating dissent and disagreement with persecution. He argued that the church is fundamentally under attack and that, just as Roman officials attacked her in the past, now heretics attack her in the present. The essential idea is polarization: us against them, good against evil. Once Constantine allowed Christianity to become a state-sponsored religion in the fourth century, some Christians went on the offensive. They sought out pagan temples to destroy, with high hopes of dying and becoming martyrs. The memory of authentic persecution under Diocletian did not make Christians forgiving and generous toward the now disenfranchised pagans. The rhetoric of persecution perpetuated by early Christian writers, rather, created a polarized view of the world that only heaped violence on top of violence.

Dalit ChristiansThis idea of constant attack and Christian victim-hood is grounded in the myths of the early church, but it endures to this day. It is evident in the rhetoric of modern American media pundits, politicians, and religious leaders who proclaim that there is a war on Christianity in modern America. The problem with identifying oneself and one’s group as a persecuted minority is that it necessarily identifies others as persecutors. It is certainly the case that Christians—and members of other religious groups—around the world endure horrifying violence and oppression today. But it is rarely those voices or calls for action on their behalf that reach our ears. On the contrary, these experiences are drowned out by louder, local complaints.

Instances of oppression, violence, and persecution do not need a history of persecution or a commitment to victim-hood to support them. The mistreatment of Christians in modern India, for example, is not wrong because it is part of a history of persecution. It is just wrong. Nor is it somehow more outrageous than violence against Muslims or Hindus there.

[Sic: Christians in India are not and have never been mistreated. It is an absurd statement for the learned author to make. Christians are a very privileged minority community in India with social and political influence far exceeding their numbers. Isolated attacks on missionaries by exasperated Hindu individuals in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, provoked by the aggressive conduct of the missionaries themselves, cannot be extrapolated into a “mistreatment of Christians in modern India”. In fact from the 8th century to Francis Xavier SJthe 16th century, Christian refugees from West Asia and Persia, then Portuguese pirates and missionaries from Europe, were the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes in India including the destruction of Hindu temples in order to build St. Thomas churches, forced conversions to Christianity and conversions by stealth—inculturation—and the establishment of the most notorious and cruel Inquisition in Goa brought by Francis Xavier. – IS]

Most importantly, the myth of persecution can actually generate violence. At the beginning of the First Crusade, Pope Urban II promised Christian soldiers the rewards of martyrdom if they died in the conflict. The historical factors are complicated, and medieval European Christians did see themselves as under attack, but their actions cannot be dismissed as “self-defence.” This is a cautionary example for us. There is always the possibility that we have no sense of our own position in a conflict. Even though we cast ourselves as martyrs, we might be crusaders.

The example of Jesus that hangs at the centre of Christianity encouraged his followers to embrace suffering and to stand firm in times of persecution. But even if Christians are called to embrace suffering and victimization, we can do without a story of persecution that is inaccurate, unproductive, and polarizing. Nor should we build our interpretation of the present on errors about the past. – The Daily Beast, 31 March 2013

» Candida Moss is Professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame and the author of The Myth of Persecution.

St. Thomas and his Hindu assassin.

St. Thomas about to be speared by his Hindu assassin. This deeply offensive mural is found in the tomb shrine below St. Thomas Cathedral in Chennai.

St. Thomas: India’s own infamous Christian persecution myth – IS

Bardesanes wrote the Acts of  Judas Thomas, the source of the St. Thomas in India legend, as a moral fable to instil sexual discipline in his Edessene Christian congregation—the Church has always had a problem with sexual profligacy. He set the story in India as being the place of all kinds of exotic religions that he had heard about from travelling Brahmins and Buddhist monks. In his tale he has Judas Thomas—twin brother of Jesus no less—cheat a Persian king of large sums of money by promising to build him a palace. After he is caught, imprisoned, and later released, Thomas runs away and has a number of exciting adventures including a fight to the death with Satan. He meets another Persian king, who, initially showing him great kindness and generousity, loses patience with his wicked deeds and has him executed for abducting women and practising black magic.  This king, Mazdai by name—indicating a devotee of Zarathustra’s god Ahura Mazda—has Thomas buried in a royal tomb on a mountain in a desert country that is never named. Later in the 4th century, when West Asian Christian refugees brought the tale from Edessa to the Malabar Coast, Thomas is identified with India rather than Persia and even made the missionary of Nambudiri brahmins in order to give the new Christian community caste status. In Kerala the tale of Thomas grows and evolves with new additions made by new Christian migrants from Persia. It no longer reflects Bardesanes’ moral fable but rather a concocted mythology of Indian Christian identity. These Syrian Christians—as they are still called—are great travellers and merchants, and Marco Polo hears the tale from them, probably in Constantinople—as scholars now doubt that he ever went to China. The story of Thomas’s death—by accident according to Marco—and internment is included in his famous adventure book Il Milione published in Europe in the 13th century. Marco places Thomas’s tomb on the Coromandal Coast in an unnamed Tamil village rather than on a Persian mountaintop as in the Acts of Thomas. From this popular piece of travel fiction there is no going back, and the tomb of St. Thomas is identified with the great Kapaleeswara Shiva Temple in Mylapore by the Portuguese in the 16th century. They invade Mylapore, a prosperous port with a good harbour, have the Kapaleeswara Temple destroyed—it seems to have taken them fifty years to do this evil deed by encroachment and vandalism, and because they are resisted by the native Hindu population until it is overwhelmed by superior Portuguese fire-power—and build a fake St. Thomas tomb out of materials brought from Goa. Soon after the empty tomb is established a new St. Thomas Church is built over it by Dominican monks, where no church has ever stood before—then back-dated 1500 years to the 1st century!  The pious fable of  a Christian apostle’s persecution and death at the hands of a Hindu raja and his jealous brahmin priest is now established in South India and the world. The Christian community can claim—by the grace of Portuguese pirates!—to be the followers of the ‘original’ Christian religion brought by Thomas to the Tamil people. They can and do solicit recognition and money for it from the world Christian community. More important, the Hindu community that has generously hosted the Christian community in India since the 4th century, can be maligned and spiritually discredited as the vicious assassins of a Christian apostle and saint.  The fact that no scholar of Christian history, starting with the Early Church Fathers Clement and Origen, and the first official Christian historian Eusebius, to the learned historians of the last two hundred years including Pope Benedict XVI, subscribe to the details of this fable and support it as true, does not matter to the Indian Christian community in the least. They have got their dearly loved persecution tale with its blood and gore, and they are not going to let go of it even for the Pope in Rome. – The Ishwar Sharan Archive

See also

The fable of ‘Martyr’ Devasahayam Pillai: Church’s lies stand exposed – B.R. Gauthaman

Devasahayam Pillai Idol

The First Indian to become a Saint!

The Son of Soil becomes a Saint!

A great hullabaloo in the district of Kanyakumari!

As a first step towards making a Saint out of one Devasahaayam Pillai, the Pope declared him a ‘martyr’ on June 28, 2012. Frontline newspapers and magazines carried this news item as the day’s headlines and celebrated this announcement as if the whole world has been made holy.

Now what is the ulterior motive behind the beatification? Do the so-called facts rest on the solid foundations of history? Who becomes a ‘martyr’? Should we not turn the spotlight on these questions?

A martyr is none but a warrior, who enlists himself in the army of the Pope, who reigns in Europe thousands of kilometers away from Kanyakumari; and this ‘valiant martyr’ thrives in the conquest and conversion of the vanquished, in the process sacrifices his life. The 2nd-century Church Father Tertullian wrote that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” implying that the martyrs’ willing sacrifice of their lives leads to the conversion of others.

As to the question of motive behind this ‘supreme sacrifice’, and the motive behind this beatification is verily religious conversion. This has been further confirmed by Pope John Paul II and he does not stop with that. He glorifies these ‘martyrs’ as “warriors conquering in the name of the Vatican”.

“The Church of the first millennium was born out of the blood of martyrs”, he says and calls on the universal Church not to forget the legacy of martyrs. He encourages taking up “these nameless, unknown soldiers as it were of God’s great cause.

What is to be noted here is the phrase – “nameless, unknown soldiers”.

To which army do these warriors belong to?

For whose cause is this army waging war? Which nation is this marauding army conquering?

Which culture is this army destroying?

What is its motive?

The deeds of this army explain themselves. And to commit these very deeds alone the religion resting on the persona of Jesus Christ became a hand maiden for the ruthless army. Then the question arises about the role and functions, and the very purpose of this religion.

A religion is one, which elevates a person to a conscious state of his/her humanness, and from there on raises humans to a state of Divinity. There are no two opinions on this. If a religion were to adhere to the above enunciated and accepted principle, then it deserves to called religion. However if the core objective of this ‘religion’ is conquering lands and nations, the question arises, what should people belonging to this religion be called?

Furthermore, in the process of conquering nations, when these marauders attempt to convert the natives to Christianity through fraudulent means and threat, and when the natives  retaliate and kill some of these ‘warriors’, such ‘foreign legions’ who have been killed by the natives are those who are glorified by the Church establishment as ‘martyrs’.

It is to be remembered that this very same Pope John Paul II admitted shamelessly on this soil, on the auspicious day of Deepavalli, “We converted Europe in the first millennium; America in the second millennium; in the third millennium, we shall plant the Cross in the whole of Asia”.  

As remarked by Father Tertullian, the Catholic Church requires ‘harvest of souls’ and as a consequence, ‘martyrs’. To accomplish this task, the Church is seriously involved in unearthing ‘martyrs’ in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and North Sri Lanka. This fact has been admitted by the Kottar Diocese in their website.

“A suitable method for not forgetting the memory of the martyrs is to collect the essential documentation of their heroic testimony and update martyrologies”, believes Pope John Paul II.

The man who was caught in this ‘holy excavation’ is none other than ‘our own indigenous martyr’, Vedha-saatchi Devasahaayam Pillai. The history of Devasahaayam Pillai has been enumerated thus in the websites of Christian Assemblies:

 Devasahaayam Pillai was born Neelakantha Pillai in the year 1712 in the upper caste Nair family. Subsequently, he served in the Padmanabhapuram Palace belonging to the Thiruvithaangoor (Travancore) Princely State. It was during this period that he is acquainted with the Dutch general of Maarthaandavarma Raja, De Lannoy.

As a consequence of this association, he was attracted towards Christianity. In the year 1745, he was converted to Christianity by one Fr. Giovanni Battista Buttari of Vadakkankulam Church. On becoming a Christian, he adopted the name Devasahaayam Pillai and moved closely with the people belonging to the lower castes and converted them to Christianity too. Not able to tolerate these acts, the people belonging to the upper castes like the Brahmins and Nairs, instigated the king and leveled a spate of allegations upon him. Consequently, Devasahaayam Pillai was arrested on February 23, 1749. Between the three years – 1749 and 1752, Devasahaayam Pillai was put to untold tortures and finally at a place called Kaathaadi Malai, on the Nagercoil-Tirunelveli road, near, Aaralvaaimozhi he was shot dead on January the 14th by the soldiers of king Maarthaandavarma Raja.

What is the purpose of excavating this history? The website of Kottar Diocese explains it thus:

The past 259 years have shown such a continuity of presence of the Servant of God in the minds, piety, spirituality and prayer of the people of God in Tamil Nadu, south Kerala and northern Sri Lanka that he cannot be counted as one of “these nameless, unknown soldiers” in those areas. However, bereft of recognition by the Church and official acceptance by the authority in the Church, it is impossible to make such a meaningful event bear fruit in the Church and society at large.

What is the significance of the statement “to make such a meaningful event bear fruit in the Church and society at large”? The import of this statement is that Devasahaayam is a commodity, an instrument for the Church. The Church itself has made it amply clear that there is no spiritual motive behind this act, whatsoever.

If that be so, what are the areas in which this ‘commodity’ is to be utilized?

The answer to the aforesaid query is readily answered herein: “a continuity of presence of the Servant of God in the minds, piety, spirituality and prayer of the people of God in Tamil Nadu, south Kerala and northern Sri Lanka” leading to more religious conversion.

But still the big HOW remains? And more still, WHICH footprints of tradition is the church scheming to destroy through the act of beatification? The puzzle has been unraveled by the Christians themselves on December the 2nd, 2012 at Nagercoil, where the beatification of Devasahaayam Pillai took place.

Cardinal Angelo Amato agreed to designate January 14 as the day to celebrate Devasahaayam Pillai Festival to mark the canonization of Devasahaayam Pillai. The date January 14 is significant. Januray 14 is Pongal, the joyous Hindu festival of harvest, celebrated with fervor in Tamil Nadu, Northern Sri Lanka and South Kerala. The Makara Jyothi of Sabarimala also appears on that day.

The website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) announces that Devasahaayam Pillai was murdered on January 14 or January 15. . The CBCI is keeping the date of the murder of the “historic” Devasahayam Pillai conveniently open and flexible for only one reason.

The reason for this “seeming vagary” is that the Thamizh month of THAI is sometimes born on January 15. The design behind this “seemingly innocent vagary” is very apparent – to link the Christian Devasahayam Pillai Festival to the Hindu festival Pongal so that Christians may celebrate both. The ignoble motive being – to appropriate Pongal sometime in the near future as also being a Christian festival.

This is typical Church modus operandi in Enculturation.

Many Christian festivals have been so “created” in line with the festivals of the local people. In the process, the reasons behind these festivals and the cultural identities in the minds of the locals have all but been annihilated, for which history bears testimony. By keeping the date of the death of Devasahayam Pillai conveniently open, it is amply clear that the ‘Devasahaayam Pillai Festival’ too has been craftily created by the Church to destroy the ancient tradition of celebrating Pongal.

Religious conversions notwithstanding, the website of Kottar Diocese clears all vestiges of doubts, if any, about the political motives that lurk behind.

During the talk of Bl. John Paul II quoted above, delivered at Lourdes, he spoke of “a new kind of religious persecution” spreading in the world today. It is very true in India today. There is an anti-Christian atmosphere being spread by Hindu fundamentalists, fully supported by certain political outfits for their own political motives. It is as if the Indian Church has already entered into “an era of persecution.

Not just politics, Christianity dons many caps, adapting itself with the belief systems of the local people in whose midst it plans to plant the church and the cross. Inculturation, which means to fraudulently convert the natives using their own native symbols, cultural and religious practices, severing them from their native religious and cultural roots and thus conspiring to bring them under the suzerainty of the Church. This goal shall be achieved through the beatification of ‘martyr’ Devasahaayam Pillai, states the website of Kottar Diocese:

Another point that makes this martyrdom relevant today is the role the laity have to play in the mission of the Church Ad Gentes. The laity are not simply “belonging to the Church”, indeed “they are the Church”. It is then only natural that one speaks of the mission ad gentes of the Laity, because “The Church on earth is by its very nature missionary” and the missionary activity of the Church flows immediately from the very nature of the Church.

People may believe that such beatifications (that are designed for the very purpose of religious conversions) may be based upon strong historical foundations. More so, if such words like, ‘son of the soil’, ‘laity’ are suitably woven in, then the people of the regions would be overwhelmed and would never dream of investigating further to know the Truth. This is a fact that the Church knows only too well. However, on research, we stumble upon the fact that this fable of ‘son of the soil’ is contrary to the truth.

Renowned historian Sridhara Menon in an interview to The Pioneer dated 20.1.2004 asserts – “Leave alone execution, not even a single case of persecution was recorded in the history of Travancore in the name of religious conversion. It is a well-concocted story and a figment of the imagination.”

M.G.S. Narayanan, former Chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), said that he had never come across any one named either Neelakantan Pillai or Devasahayam Pillai as the army chief of Martanda Varma in Kerala’ s history.

Shri Nagam Aiyya, who recorded the history of Travancore princely state observes, “It is one evidently started by the later converts, from a habit of apotheosizing their ancestors or heroes; so common among the people. (Travancore Manual Vol II page 129-130, M. Nagam Aiya)

These fiction writers have gone to great lengths to establish that Christians were tortured under the reign of the king of Travancore. On the contrary, what does history offer evidence to?

The very Maharaja of Travancore, who is said to have persecuted Devasahaayam Pillai on account of Pillai converting to the Christian religion and for converting others to Christianity, has in fact extended tax exemption for the lands that he gifted to the Church at Varappuzha. (Travancore Manual, Vol-I page 16, T.K.Veluppillai)

Devasahaayam Pillai allegedly was drawn to Christianity by the Dutch general De Lannoy, according to this church authored fable. “The Maharaja of Travancore, Kaarthigai Thirunaal met the expense of building Udayagiri church at the request of De Lannoy and granted a salary of 100 panams to the Vicar”, records Shri. TK Velupillai, in the Travancore Manual, Vol-I, page 16.

Far from being religious bigots, these kings may in fact even be termed foolish for entrusting the administration of the Devoswom Board to Col. Munroe, a European Christian.

It is pertinent to recall here that in the times when Neelakantha Pillai converted to Christianity, there were bloody and violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Europe and in other parts of the world.

This catholic-protestant internecine war had its echo in India too. On capturing the Kochi Fort, the Holy Antonio Catholic Church where the mortal remains of Vasco da Gama were interned after his death was renamed ‘Holy Francis Protestant Church”. This Church is presently under the control of the Protestant Church of South India (CSI).

The Dutch Da Lannoy was a Protestant Christian. His Church at Udaygiri Fort was a Protestant Church. Moreover, the Dutch in India were vested with the right to authorize baptism of the newly converted. Under such circumstances, why should De Lannoy send Neelakantha Pillai to a Catholic denomination for baptism into Christianity? Besides, would it not be ‘profitable’ to be baptized by the General of the Maharaja? What benefit would accrue to the upper caste Neelakantha Pillai, were he to be baptized by the Catholic Church, which had no political power then?

We have to conclude therefore that those who fabricated the fiction called “Devasahaayam Pillai”, had neither any knowledge of the socio-political climate of the Travancore princely state, nor did they have any idea of the then prevalent situation in Europe.

During the times of Maarthaanda Varma Maharaja, the army of Travancore had Izhavas, Christians and Muslims, records Shri. T.K. Velupillai in his Travancore Manual, Vol-IV, page 122, quoting Colonel Wilks.

Indian Historians would naturally be biased in favour of the Hindus; hence it is unacceptable to us, say the Christians but insist that the fiction that the Church peddles as history is the ultimate truth.

Let us take on their argument head on. Pope Clement XIV in his letter dated 2nd July 1774, to the Maharaja of Travancore expresses “his kindness towards the members of his Church resident in Travancore”. (Travancore Manual Vol-I, page 387, M. Nagam Aiya).

Is Pope Clement XIV lying? Or is Pope John Paul II lying? Or Is the Kottaar Diocese lying? Or is the incumbent pope, Pope Benedict lying? If the king gave grants of land to the church, if there were Christians in the king’s army, if the king entrusted the administration of the Devasvom to a foreigner, who was also a Christian, these self-contradictory ‘facts’ by subsequent popes cannot all be true. So who really is lying?

For the sake of the General De Lannoy who allegedly drew Devasahaayam Pillai to Christianity, De Lannoy, the Maharaja of Travancore Maarthaanda Varma waged war against the General of Anjango. Do you know the reason? De Lannoy fell in love with the daughter of the General of Anjango! (Travancore Manual, Vol II, page 130, M. Nagam Aiya)

If the fable, fiction and fraud scripted by the Church today to beatify ‘Martyr’ Devasahaayam Pillai is to be believed, then Maharaja, Maarthaanda Varma, who gladly waged war for a lovelorn Da Lannoy, ordered the torture and shooting this man whom Da Lannoy converted to his faith.

In this Christian fable, the minister Raamaiyyan Dalavai is said to have disapproved of the close association of De Lannoy with Devasahaayam Pillai and this is also purportedly one of the reasons for the anger of Raamaaiyyan Dalavai against Devasahaayam Pillai. This closeness aggravated Dalavai’s vengeance or so goes the fraudulent narrative of the spin doctors fabricating the story of this ‘martyr’ who was tortured to death by the Maharaja of Travancore.

It is recorded  by T.K.Velu Pillai in his Travancore manual Vol IV, page 77, that  capital punishment is awarded to crimes (1) inciting or committing acts of insurrection, and pre-meditating or attempting the death of the Raja, (2) Murder, (3) Gang robbery

Based on these observations, we have to view the history of Travancore as recorded by Shri Nagam Aiya.

“Probably as a palace official, Nilakanda Pillai was detected tampering with political secrets, on the strength of which action must have been taken against him, years after he was converted to Christianity. Baptism could not have had anything to do with it….” (Travancore Manual, Vol-II, page 130, M. Nagam Aiya)

This fraudulent rendition of history does not stop with the religious conversion of Devasahaayam Pillai; it flavors the narrative with a contemporary caste-conflict human interest element. “Since, he mixed with the people of lower castes, the people of higher castes began hating him, hence he was killed”. The Church has shamelessly inserted the caste factor into this fiction. Needless to say there is not even an iota of historical evidence of inter-caste conflict.

What is the past record of the “secular and holy” Catholic Church? If we are to understand the ‘yeoman service’ rendered by the Catholic Church to eradicate untouchability, then we may have to turn to the order of Pope Gregory XV, titled Bulla Romanae Sedis Antistitis, dated January 31, 1623,  which accedes to the requests of the missionaries to accommodate themselves to certain caste practices and usages of the new converts.

This papal bull was issued 120 years before Neelakantha Pillai converted to Christianity. Until now, this proclamation has not been withdrawn or modified. As a result, untouchability against dalit Christians and segregation continues to rage with full force in Indian Churches till date.

Even in Vadakkan Kulam, where Devasahaayam Pillai is purported to have been converted to Christianity, did not the Vellala Christians and other caste Christians refuse to go to the same Church and when they did, did they not sit separately? How did Christianity which proclaims loudly that is against untouchability and caste itself, claim to have eradicated casteism, and permit this to happen in the times of Devasahaayam Pillai and in the very Church of Devasahaayam Pillai? How can it explain the practice of untouchability and segregation in its churches even today?

A fictitious incident is given the colour of Truth, painted with the brush of social reform and to this gigantic fraud, the Vatican has extended its seal of approval and legitimacy.

Is it valour, is it piety to destroy the tradition of a country and the culture of its native populace by honoring these so-called  warriors or “martyrs” as the Church calls them, who in reality harvested the souls of Hindus and betrayed the trust of the people who welcomed them and allowed them to build their churches in their midst and generously allowed them to practice an alien religion?

There is no meaning in posing these queries to the Pope, his bishops, cardinals and his foot-soldiers. In the process of establishing the rule of the Pope, if a warrior of the Christian army dies, he becomes a martyr. The same warrior, if he butchers the people of the conquered lands, he becomes a “Saint”. This is the history of Christianity and this is how Christianity expanded across continents and this is how Christianity became global.

A House of Inquisition should be established to torture those who refuse to convert to Christianity in India, wrote St. Francis Xavier. For this purpose, he wrote a letter to King John III in 1545 (Source: Joseph Wicki, Documenta Indica, Vol. IV, Rome, 1956) and by establishing the House of Inquisition at Goa, Francis Xavier was instrumental in the genocide of the Hindus of Goa. Today, this Francis Xavier is a Saint! In his name, there is a Church at Kottaar in Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu! Besides, there are many such churches in other parts of Tamil Nadu and North Sri Lanka!

Today, this same Kottar Diocese has beatified Devasahaayam. Not surprising because Kanyakumari has a very large Christian population and the man who killed for Jesus Christ and in the name of the Pope has converted significant numbers of Hindus in the coastal areas of Southern Tamil Nadu too. For converting the few remaining Hindus, the fiction of this Christian ‘warrior-cum-martyr’ who was tortured and killed by the Maharaja of Travancore has now been scripted by the Church.

The self-serving ungrateful Church, with this fraudulent rendition of history has made a murderer of a noble and generous Hindu king and Hindu society has been portrayed as a regressive society. The Hindus have been painted as a barbaric race. Indeed, a fraud has been committed.

What is the net result? The son of the soil is a martyr and a saint – through such enticing proclamations, the Christian laity is instigated to do more to convert Hindus and to plant the cross in every village .

Weaving such fiction and selling fables as facts is nothing new to the Church and they are past masters in this craft. The fable of St. Thomas, who supposedly landed on the shores of Mylapore Beach, in Chennai is one such fable. This fictitious “Thomas” (doubt not) was created, was ‘made’ to stay at Chennai and was ‘made’ to be murdered by a Brahmin priest and in an attempt to package the fiction as fact, the Church continues to maintain that the skeletal remains of the ‘fictitious’ Thomas is interned in the Santhome Basilica. Worshipping relics is a calculated Abrahamic tactic.

Just like the St. Thomas fairy tale is the Devasahaayam fairy tale. To put it bluntly, the Church does not have a shred of evidence even for the historicity of Jesus Christ. It does not matter to Hindus at all but to Christians who dismiss the Hindu religion as myth and pass off their religion as history, it should matter that they cannot prove the historicity of Jesus Christ.

And that is precisely the reason why, the present Pope observed that, Jesus Christ may have been actually born 200 to 500 years before the officially accepted date and year of his birth. If that be so, then the fundamentals of Christianity are on shaky ‘historical’ foundation.

Secular intellectuals and politicians should tell us if this beatification of the Soldiers of Christ who want to conquer our land and reduce to rubble the land of the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas is moral, ethical and in the real interest of communal harmony.

A fraud is a fraud is a fraud.


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