5. Tharissapally Copper plates

V.N.Nagom Aiya in Travancore State Manual  states , “In the same year(A.D.824)King Sthanu Ravi anxious to secure the pecuniary assistance from Christian merchants in efforts to repel the invasion of Malabar by Rahakas granted the Copper Plate” In this the king gave permission to mar Sapor to transfer to the …church and community at Quilon a piece of the land with near the city with the several families of low caste attached to it…” 17

TK Velupillai,in his State Manual  states, “ Taking the copper plate as a genuine document it is seen that at the time Quilon was a place of great commercial importance.The guilds ,the Ancuvannam, and Manigramam possessed considerable privileges.It was in such a city that the grant conveyed a fresh hold to Christians .The authority of the Church were also invested with power of settling disputes among them and taking disciplinary actions in cases of malfeasance and misfeasance .The headmen of the castes and local governmental authorities were prohibited from in interfering in such matters. These concessions attest the spirit of religious toleration and cosmopolitan sympathy which characterised the  acts of the ruling house of Travancore from the earliest times”.18

“The grant was made with the consent of two of his chieftains and the members of the Six hundred” who formed the Parliament of the land.”19

The copper plate grant made by Ayyan Atikal Thiruvadikal ,the king of venad , to the Tharissa Church was signed and delivered by him from the palace at Quilon.20

Rao Bahadur LK Ananthakrishnayyar in his book Anthropology of Syrian Christians writes,“ The second charter was granted in 824AD to Christians of St.Thomas with the sanction of the palace major  or commissioner of king Sthanu Ravi ,who is belived to be Cheramman Perumal .It is a legal instrument which confers a plot of land with several families of heathen castes on Mruvan Sabor Iso who transfers the same with due legal formality to the Tharisa church and community.” 21

“There was a political necessity for giving this remarkable position for the Christian community .At the respective dates of the Christian charter the Perumals had to fortify themselves against external enemies. There were fears of invasions .At such times the Perumals might have been in need of large sums of money either to bribe or fight the invaders  and it would not be an improper inference from these facts that the trading foreigners may have satisfied Perumals wishes, and then have secured for themselves  a higher standing in the land of their adoption”.

Mundadan A.M. History of Christianity in India states, “In South India any grant of privileges ,perquisites or land made  by rulers was usually recorded on copper plates as these were more durable and permanent record than palm leaf strips”22

M.G.S.Narayan, Cutural Symbiosis in Kerala  , “A plot of land and a few families of settlers ,Tachars(carpenters), Vellalars(apriclturists), Ilavars( toddy tappers),Vannars( washermen) and vaniyars( oil mongers) are handed over to the church this time. It is interesting to note that the same method of handing over families to foreign settlers continued in Kerala in the later periods also ….In the case of the Syrian Church of Kollam   also, it was according to the feudal principal ,proprietor of the land and master of settlers on land .The first set of plates clearly states that the governor had relinquished al rights  to collect taxes from these settlers on  church land . 23.

There follows the stipulation that when market commodities are inspected for fixing customs duty , and when other official work like estimating price etc. are undertaken ,the church people are ot be associated with all such activities. This means that the church is treated as an important institution of the headquarters sharing powers of government on par with the Arunuruvar, Ancuvanam and Manigramam. Only the first item of seventy tow privileges .ie. earth and water on elephant back at the time of marriage , finds mention in the copper plates probably because it was taken for granted that everybody knew what the privileges were. Therefore it may be assumed that the rest of the privileges were also belonging to the same category. The chuch fathers were accorded the same status of military political chiefs of the country  and evidently hey were prepared to accept such a position.24

.The final passage of the second set of plates brings out more clearly the relationship between Mar Sapir Iso , the chuch of Tarsa, Ancuvannam , manigrammam against the backdrop of the newly established city of Kollam.Noteworth are the different concessions given to the church and the association of the church in government functions in Kollam along with the two mercantile corporations.These furnish an idea as to the organisation and  activities of the church outside the field of religion. And the status the churchmen commanded .First they were exempted from one sixtieth duty on incoming articles and also engaged in trade.This is not surprising in a country where temples where engaged in banking and agricultural activities. The church is exempted from payment of slave tax for the  slaves they purchased .This goes on to show that slave trade were common in ancient Kerala.25

The Hindu temples are known to have been owning and tranfering Pulaya serfs along with land ,indicating that serfdom must have been very common.26

The Church was given the custodianship of weights and measures  and permitted to enjoy weighing fee These rights were granted earlier and renewed in the second set of copper plates.27

This shows the trust native rulers had in the church because these privileges were enjoyed exclusively by the Hindu temple corporations

Only the first item of the seventy two privileges ie. Earth and water  on elephant back at the time of marriage finds mention in the copper plates  because it is taken for granted that everybody knew what the privileges were.The Church fathers were accorded status of military – political chiefs of the country  and  evidently they were ready to accept such a position.Therefore it may be inferred that in the days of Aiyyan Atikal mar Sapir Iso and Christianity was indianised to a large extent.28Therefore the new  west asian migrant community must have gave up  their foreign practises.

Adv.TK VeluPillai, State manual writes, The kings of venad were excersising authority in such distant places like Chenagannur, Thiruvalla, Udeyamperoor and Punjar”.This  might be a reason why the migrant familes recived special privileges from the local rulers of these regions  when they migrated to these places in later times.29

The three sets of signatures represented Jewish, Arabic and Persian groups respectively and it is possible that they included Jews, Muslims , Christians respectively as indicated by their personal names. This is again proof of the harmonious and peaceful coexistence of different creeds in anceient kerala. 

   The members of Valiyaveetil family, the root family of Thulassery Manapurathu tharavadu, a  migrant Syrian Christian family  worked as commanders of Venad kings ,enjoyed the rights and social positions  and got lands free of tax as guaranteed by the Tharisapally Chepped given by Venad King .  Tharissapalli Chepped promulgated by the ruler entitled them to a fairly large extent of tax free land as well as social position  .This family enjoyed authority over civil and criminal affairs .

According to http://nasrani.net/2007/02/16/arrival-of-mar-sabrisho-and-mar-piruz/#footnote_2_191 : "There are five copper plates still in existence which contain the record of grants made to the Christians and others of Quilon. The first set of plates is dated the fifth year of Sthanu Ravi. This is dated Ca A.D. 880. The donor King gave certain perquisites and privileges to the Tarisa Church built at Quilon by Sahr’isho. The King gave some lowcast People as servants of the Church and exempted them from paying certain specified rates and taxes. He also gave them the right of entry to the market Any crime committed by these people would be tried by the Church. The Church was given also the administration of customs at Quilon, that is, the steelyard and weights and kappan ( probably the official seal).

A second set of plates were also given by King Ayyan and are of about the same date. The plates contain details of grants to the Tarisa Church, to the Jews, and to the Manigrammam.

Authentication of the Copper plates of Quilon : The Bishop Francis Roz report of 1604 gives some interesting details about an authentication done on the Copper plates of Quilon.

In 1601 October, by order of Dom Franics Ros, Bishop of Angamale, Cassanar ( Kathanar)  Etymani copied and authenticated these Copper plates.

According to this testimony, it is said in these Copper plates that the king of Quilon gave to the Church or the Apostles the right over one percent of all things counted, measured or weighted. This is collected for the expenses of the church and also for the seventy-two honors.

The occasion for copying those plates was that the vicar of Quilon of the old Church which then came under the Diocese of Cochin claimed the whole of these revenues for the old church of Quilon. This Church during the time of authentication belonged to the Bishop of Cochin. Saint Thomas Christians, claimed that this was cheating, because from the same plates it is clear that the revenues were given not to the plot or to the walls of the church but to the Christians of Saint Thomas who possessed that church. The Christians of Saint Thomas had left that Church as they had transferred to Upper Quilon where they had a cross earlier.

The reason of the transfer, as is proved with testimonies sworn on the holy gospels, was that when the Portuguese arrived at Quilon, the Christians of Saint Thomas living there recognized them as people of one and the same law as themselves. These Christians saw them making the sign of the cross and so they accepted them. Afterwards the Portuguese had some quarrels with the Moors ( Muslims) , and the King intervened. Six or Seven Portuguese took refuge in the Church of the Christians of Saint Thomas. The King wanted to put the Portuguese to death and so he send a message to the Christians that he had nothing against them, as they are his vassals and that they should leave the church. But they did not want to leave but opted to die with the Portuguese. Hence the king burned the Church down and in it perished that Portuguese and forty Christians of Saint Thomas tighter with a deacon.

It was in these circumstances that the Christians moved to Upper Quilon and built a church there which they have now. And they used to levy the revenues which the said King had granted to the two Armenian brothers for the church they built. Because of the negligence of the Christians this revenue is not fully levied now, as is stated in the said olla. Finally Bishop of Diocese of Cochin, settled the issue ordering the rights to the Church of Christians of Saint Thomas

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