Christianity in the South Indian State of Kerala, India, has a history from the time of the missionary activities of Saint Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. In the first century it was not a religion but was a community that believed in Jesus of Nazareth, his birth, his teachings, his sufferings, his death, his resurrection and his ascension. They had their own worship places, and assembled there on each Lord’s Day with great alacrity. [Ref: Sir Thomas Herbert – Some Years Travels into Asia and Afrique p.304-305].They were lead and guided by their “Elders”. (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:21). This community was scattered around the important sea ports of Kerala. During that period, those who believed in Jesus of Nazareth were known as Malankara Nazranees or St. Thomas Christians (Mar Thoma Christians).
This situation continued till the arrival of Portuguese on May 20, 1498. In June 1599, Alejo de Menezes Arch bishop of Goa, who convened a Synod at Udayamperoor (Diamper) church, near Cochin (Kochi) in 1599. Here the bishop attempted to bring the Malankara Church under their control.
But on January 1653, members of that ancient Malankara Church along with their leader Parampil Thomas Kathanar of Pakalomattom family, Kuravilangad, gathered at Mattancherry near Kochi, and took the following oath, now known as “Coonen Cross Oath”. The wording of the Oath as given in a letter written in Syriac by the Syrian Metropolian to the Church Missionary Society is as follows:
“By the Father, Son and Holy Ghost that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome.”
(Ref: The Missionary Register October 1822. (p.431-432). “Letter of Syrian Metropolitan to the Society, (From a translation of that, out of Syriac by Prof. Lee)”. At that time, the Syrian Metropolitan was Punnathra Mar Dionysius and the head of the Church Missionary Society was Lord Gambier).
This event now known as ‘Koonan Kurisu Satthyam,’ (humpbacked Cross Oath) changed the life of St. Thomas Christians of Kerala. As a result of this event Malankara Church was divided into two.
Till that time they had only Elders to lead them. But the Portuguese called them, Arch-deacon. Those who took the Oath selected and consecrated Parampil Thomas Kathanar as the leader of the Malankara Church on May 22, 1653 and gave him the ecclesiastic title Mar Thoma. This First Mar Thoma had four advisors including one of his cousins, Parampil Chandy Kathanar, son of Pakalomattom Palliveettil Kuriathu and Aschunna. Both of them were members of the Kuravilangad parish.
[Ref: Ayroor Pakalomattom Thazhamon Family History, P. 24; and Pakalomattom Vadakentedathe Family History, Kozhencherry. P.5]
During the Dutch hegemony (1663-1795), Chandy Kathanar’s ordination as Vicar Apostolic, of Roman Catholic Church infuriated members of his family and of his home parish, Kuravilangad. Ensuing altercation, dissensions and rebellion in their parish and in the Pakalomattom family, many of the family members who supported Mar Thoma, left their ancestral homes at Kuravilangad and moved out to settle in safer areas where there were other Nazranee (St. Thomas Christian) settlements. It is said [Ref: Ayroor Pakalomattom Thazhamon Family History. 1926 ed. P. 11; and 1985 ed. P 12], that the founding fathers of Maramon Palakkunnathu, Ayroor Thazhamon, Kuriannoor Vadakethu, Eraviperoor Sankara Mangalathu and Mepral Poothikottu are all close relatives that moved away from Kuravilangad during this period. They had settled down at Ayroor, Kozhencherry, Maramon and nearby places.
Panamkuzhi family was a branch of the Pakalomattam family. In the seventeenth century Kuriath and his wife Mariam were the occupants of this ancestral home at Kuravilangad. They had eight children, seven sons and a daughter. (7+1): (1) Kuriape was a priest; (2) Thomas, was later ordained as Mar Thoma, the supreme head of the Malankara Church (1653- April 25, 1670); (d1) Aleyamma, mother of Mar Thoma II (1670-1686); (4) Geevarghese, (Mar Thoma III; 1686-1688); (5) Itty, (Mar Thoma IV; 1688-1728); (6) Oommen, who later settled at Vadakentedathe, Kozhencherry. His descendants are the members of Chackalayil and Palakkunnathu family and (7) Mathen, who later settled at Kidanganethu, Ayroor. His descendants are the members of Thazhamon family. (8) John being the youngest son continued in his ancestral home at Kuravilangad. Only this one family remained in Kuravilangad, all the others left for safer areas. [Ref: Pakalomattom Vadakentedathe Family History, Kozhencherry – 1985. P.20].
During those days it was the practice among the Christians of this land to have at least one of their sons opts for clergy. From the time of Synod of Diamper (1599) till the time of Cheppad Mar Dionysious (1825-1852), clergy of Malankara Church also had practiced celibacy.
Ayroor was the capital of the eastern sub-district of Thiruvalla taluk during the seventeenth century. Kozhencherry was a village in this sub-district. The St. Thomas Christian families living in this area employed themselves in farming, trade and in helping the local rulers as military aides.
Moreover, there were well established ancient churches in this part of Kerala, such as Niranam (1st C); Nilackal Chayal (1st C), Kollam (1st C), Chengannur Pazhaya Suryani Palli (AD 300), Kadampanad (AD 325), Kallooppara (AD 1340), Maramon (AD 1440) and Kozhencherry (AD 1599). (Year given in brackets is date of establishment, as believed). The founder fathers of Palakkunnathu family, Oommen, Mathen and their families attended Kozhenherry church, till they moved to Chackalayil, Maramon.
Oommen (Sr), the sixth son of Kuriath and Mariam of Panamkuzhi family in Kuravilangad, was the one that supported Marthoma I, and helped him to escape from the Portuguese and their supporters. He followed Marthoma and finally settled down at Kozhencherry. Oommen (Sr) with his two sons, Oommen (Jr) and Kuruvilla built a house at a plot of land called Kannukottil. (This place is just on the west of the present (2015) Government High School, Kozhencherry. Local people called them Vadakentedathe (meaning Northerners), because this family came from the north. Chackalayil and Palakkunnathu families are descendants of Oommen (Sr), Vadakentedathe. [Ref: Ayroor Pakalomattom Thazhamon Family History. 1982. P. 12. Pakalomattom Vadakentedathe Family History, Kozhencherry – 1985].
Mathen Mappila (Sr), the seventh child of Kuriath and Mariam of Panamkuzhi family in Kuravilangad, reached Ayroor in 1663 on his way to Kozhencherry where his elder brother Oommen was residing. His wife Kaandamma and their only son Mathen Mappila (Jr) accompanied him. They walked about 60 km through jungle tracks, frequented by wild animals and through a few villages before reaching Ayroor, about 4 km east of Kozhencherry. Here they met Ayyakavil Ittyara Tharakan, another Saint Thomas Christian and stayed with him before moving to Kidanganethu House. The ruler of the land Kovilan, supported them and so they decided to settle down in Ayroor. [Ref: Ayroor Ayyakkavil Kudumba Chartiram 1996. P. 25-26.]
1. Mathen Mappila (Jr), Kidanginethu, Ayroor, was the only son of Mathen Mappila (Sr) and Kandamma. They had three children (2 + 1) – (1) Mathen, Thazhamon, (2) Ittyavira, Kidanganethu and (d1) the daughter Kandamma was married off to Manaloor, Keezhukara.
11. Mathen, Thazhamon, eldest son of Mathen Mappila (Jr) was an agriculturist. His wife was from Ponganaal, Kozhencherry. They had nine children. (7 + 2) = (1). Mathen (Cherukara); (2). Kurien (Vazhakala); (3). Ittyavira (Manattu); (4). Thommen (Thazhonthundyil); (5) Koshy (Vayalu-thottathil); (6). Easow Kathanar; (7) Chandy (Thazhamon); (d1) married off to Chummaru-tharakan-tangu, Puthenkavu (d2) married off to Kulathoor family, Manimala.
111. Mathen, Cherukara, second son Koruth was ordained as deacon by Punnathara Mar Dionysious (1817 – 1825) and as Kathanar (priest) by Cheppad Mar Dionysious (1825-1852). It was around this time the Church gave permission to priests to get married. Cherukara Koruth (Geevarghese) Kathanar (b.1793 – d.1864) married Aleyamma, sister of Maramon Palakkunnathu Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (b.1818 - d.1877). The great grandson of Geevarghese Kathanar was Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan (b.1892 - d.1976). [Ref: Ayroor Pakalomattom Thazhamon Family History. 1982].
1. Oommen (Sr) the sixth son of Kuriath and Mariam of Panamkuzhi family , Kuravilangad who settled at Vadakentedathe, Kozhencherry had two sons (1) Oommen (Jr) and (2) Kuruvila.
11. Oommen (Jr), Vadakentedathe, Kozhencherry married Mariamma d/o Mathai, Thazhathedatu, Kozhencherry. They had seven children. (7+0). (1) Oommen, Kottackattethu, (2) Mathai, Edathil, (3) Kuriath, Kozhencherry, (4) Itty, Mullasseril, Pandanad, (5) Geeverghese, Porattoor, (6) Cherian, Pampakottu, and (7) Kuruvilla, Chacakalayil.
117. Kuruvilla, youngest son of Oommmen (Jr.) was living with his father at Thevervelil on the levee of river Pampa at Kozhencherry. They found that place was quite inconvenient. So in 1697, they moved to Chackalayil property, Maramon on the other side of River Pumpa. From then on that family is known as Chackkalayil Family. Kuruvilla had three sons: (3+0) (1) Kuruvilla, moved to Padinjaremannil, (2) Mathen moved to Palakkunnathu and (3) Mathew, the youngest continued to live with the parents at Chakkalayil.
117,1. Kuruvilla, Padinjaremannil: the eldest son who settled down at Padinjaremannil had four children. (4+0). (1) Idiculla, Kondoor, (2) Chandy, Namberakamannil, (3) Varghese, Meycheril and (4) Kuruvilla, Padinjaremannil.
Descendants of Kuruvilla: Theverthundyil, Mannil, Mudileythu, Anjilivelil, Maanthanthu, Kondoor, Mukraneth, Nambrakamannil, Meycheryil, Naalpathinazhyil, Azhakath Branches.
117,2. Mathen, Palakkunnathu, second son of Kuruvilla (Sr) had seven children, (6+1): (1) Kurien Pillai, Themmoottil; (2) Easow, Neduvelil; (3) Kurien, Perikilalil; (4) Mathen, Mangalam, Punnamadom; (5) Thomas, hermit priest; (6) Mathew, Palakkunnathu and (7) Mariamma, wife of Thommy, youngest son of Itthakkum Powethikunnel, Mallapally. (ref: Powethikunnel, Family History, p. 16)
A short description of the life and times of their descendants are given in this Family History.
117,3. Mathew, Chackkalyil, youngest son of Kuruvilla who settled down at Chackkalyil had three Children: (1+2) (1). Mathew, Chackkalyil, (2). Aleyamma w/o Varkey, Thevervelil, Kozhencherry; (3) Mariamma w/o Mathai, Chiramathu, Koipram. The only son Mathew also had only one son Mathew who had two daughters, Aleyamma & Mariamma.
Descendants of Mathew lived at Chackkalyil, Edamannil, Koithodam, Mazhinjelil and Karimplavelil.