as an old man, with a long white beard, seated among his kattanars (priests), holding a silver crozier curved at the top in the Greek style, and wearing a pontifical cope with a round mitre on his head, he represented a proud and ancient people. The provost of Fort William College had come from Lord Wellesley to make an alliance. Told that few Syriac copies of Scripture remained and that the local kattanars were ill trained and poor, Buchanan offered help. He would get Scriptures translated into Malayalam and printed, so that all would have access to Holy Writ in their mother tongue. He would also help to set up a seminary for training kattanars. Highly pleased, the metran presented Buchanan with a copy of the Syriac Scriptures said to be a thousand years old. He was less enthusiastic about a possible union between the Syrian and Anglican communions. Buchanan soon returned to Britain, where his Christian researches in Asia (1811) brought him renown. Mar Dionysius soon died, and his nephew Metran Mathan Mar Thoma VII presided in his place.
The ancient Christians of Malabar were 'Hindu' - Hindu in culture, Christian in faith, and Syrian in doctrine, polity and ritual. Tracing their origins to 52 a d, and the arrival of the Apostle Thomas at Malankara, there was no denying the canonical status of their tradition - nor of the multiple arrivals among their ranks, over centuries, of refugees from Zoroastrian and Islamic persecutions. Nor can there be any denying the ritual purity and rank of this high-caste community within the caste structure (varnashramadharma). Mostly landed merchant-warriors, they possessed distinctly 'Hindu' customs: husbands tied thalis on the necks of their brides; they ceremonially took 'marriage cloths'; in the case of the elite Malankara Nazranis, they wore a tonsure like Nayars and Brahmans and lived in tharavad houses; and they strictly avoided pollution in matters of inter-dining, inter-marriage and disposing of their dead. In their hereditary priesthood, each new cleric succeeded his mother's brother; families of some kattanars and metrans traced lineages (vamshavalis) from Brahman converts ofthe Apostle as far back as seventy or eighty generations. While patriarchs (catholicos) of Antioch and Babylon competed for sway over prelates in India, the Thomas Christians themselves seem to have been little bothered about doctrines, whether Diophysite (Nestorian) or Monophysite (Jacobite: Jakoba or Yacoba). Resorting to defensive, self-insulating strategies for survival, their gospel seems to have gone into a long hibernation, all but hermetically sealed for a thousand years.
The Portuguese, when they arrived, had been welcomed as allies against oppressive rulers and maritime predators; but later, when their Estado da India tried to impose total Catholic hegemony upon the ancient Thomas Christians, they were resented. After the Synod of Udayamperur (Diamper)
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