Friday, 29 April 2011

Cochini scroll and Babylonian exile

We have to travel a long from Shingly to the land Judea to witness this scene.

They were praying to God as they were afraid and they knew what happened during Assyrian captivity from their elders, they can’t even think about living under the cruel Babylonian rulers. They had heard about glory of the Jews who fled to Land of Shingly during Assyrian exile, the land with which they had trade relations since the reign of King Solomon from where they brought ivory, sandal wood, spices, apes and peacock. There were many people who took this dare decision to have a dangerous and tough sail in the sea for an unpromising prosperity but their hope led them forward.

As their forefathers done during Exodus they baked breads and packed their goods and moved further in late night, they gathered together near the port from the trade ships departed, they literally had a secret and silent self exile, they had disguised themselves and carried the Book of Law, covered with clothes and kept away from others sight of the Babylonian soldiers, the ship left from the promised land of God to their haven Gods own country to start a new legendary life and a glorious future …….


But real story is unknown to all, but a story similar to this would have taken place during their self-exile, by connecting some of the traditions some of the records. It is believed the Jews from Israel had taken refuge in India, in the Port of Muziris, known to Jews as shingly, during the siege of the Jerusalem, i.e. during Assyrian captivity (722 B.C) and Babylonian captivity (586 B.C). The proof for that is the tradition of the Malabari/ Black Jews of Cochin who belong to the Kadavumbagam congregation that, they had copies of Torah which was dated back to the Babylon Captivity.  Further details can be obtained from below article by Dr. Claudius Buchanan, who had been into the vicinity of Cochin and studied about the Jewish community of Cochin

Jewish Scriptures at Cochin

There is reason to believe that scriptural records, older than the apostolical, exist on the coast of Malabar. At Cochin there is a colony of Jews, who retain the tradition that they arrived in India soon after the Babylonian captivity. There are in that province two classes of Jews, the white and the black Jews. The Black Jews are those who are supposed to have arrived at that early period. The white Jews emigrated from Europe in later ages. What seems to countenance the tradition of the black Jews is, that they have copies of those books of the Old Testament which were written previously to the captivity, but none of those whose dates are subsequent to that event.

Some years ago the President of Yale College, in America, an eminent archaiologist, addressed a letter to Sir William Jones, on the subject of these manuscripts, proposing that an enquiry should be instituted by the Asiatic Society; but Sir William died before the letter arrived. His object was to obtain the whole of the fifth chapter of Genesis, and a collation of certain other passages in the old Testament ; and also to ascertain whether the MSS. at Cochin were written in the present Hebrew character, or in another Oriental Palaeography.

In the year 1748, Mr. Romaine, the learned editor of Calasio's Hebrew Dictionary, was meditating a voyage to India, for the sole purpose of consulting these manuscripts.

The latest information respecting them is contained in a letter lately received from a learned missionary in the south of the peninsula, who had resided for some time in the vicinity of Cochin. He states, that he “had constantly been informed that the Jews at Cochin had those books only of the Old Testament which were written before the Babylonian captivity; and that thence it is generally believed by the Christians of the Deccan, that they had come to India soon after that event. He adds, that the MSS. was on a material resembling paper, in the form of a roll; and that the character had a strong resemblance to Hebrew, if not Hebrew.”
By the inspection of these MSS. some light might be thrown on the controversy respecting (1.) the Hebrew and Samaritan letters;(2.) the antiquity of the vowel points ; (3.) the Scripture chronology; and (4.) the correctness of the European copies of the Old Testament. Dr. Kennicott complains of a practice among the Western Jews of altering many copies to a conformity with some particular manuscript. He also accuses them of wilful corruption; as in expunging the word "כל " in Deut 27:26. Bishop Louth suspects them of leaving out words in certain places, to invalidate the argument of the Christians; as for example, "למות" Isaiah 53:8 ; where the Septuagint read "eiz qanaton" But Jews in the East, remote from the learned controversy of Christians, would have no motive for such corruptions.

 It is in contemplation of the Author of this Memoir to visit Cochin, previously to his return from India, for the express purpose of investigating these ancient Jewish records ; and also of examining the books of the Nestorian Christians, who are said to possess some MSS. in the Chaldaic character, of a high antiquity.
“Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India” by  Dr.Claudius Buchanan, 1805.
Page no 117& 118

Nothing much to elaborate as this article itself give enough and more details and this  chapter mention about the antiquity of the scrolls of Cochini Black  Jews. Dr. Claudius Buchanan had collected many Jewish and Christian manuscripts from Kerala.  And it was collected in university of Cambridge. In he had collected manuscripts from other Jewish communities of Kerala and in his book  Buchanan's Christian researches in India: with the rise, suspension, and probable future of England's rule as a Christian power in India” 1858 , Page no 38 & 39 He mention that “I have penetrated once more inland (Angamalee a Syrian town, containing three churches – January, 1807) to visit the syrian churches. At the town of chenotta, I was surprised to meet with jews  and Christians in same street. The jews led me first to their synagogue , and allowed me to take away some manuscripts for money.”

Likewise he had collected many Jewish Manuscripts form Kerala, A book published by Cambridge University,  Hebrew manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, 1997 gives a detail list about the Hebrew manuscripts collected from Kerala and hope that the ancient scroll survived Babylonian captivity manuscript if exists and subjected for studies, would grab the attention of the World Jewry, and acquire significance accordance to Samaritan Torah or Septuagint. Hope that studies will be done and new breaking news will be seen….

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Anjuvanam - Original brass plate and duplicated Copper plate !!!

Anjuvannam or Anjuvannan refers to the community of Jews of Kerala, which can be possibly, a title or usage to address or denotes Jews. One school of thought says the name derives from the traditional Hindu system of castes where any person not belonging to one of the four principal castes used to be referred to as an Anjuvannan more clearly anjaam varnan. The word comes from the Malayalam words anju (five) / anjaam (fifth) and vannam or varnam (colour, race, or caste)

Similarly in Kerala Muslims were known as “Naalam Vedakaar,” (The people who owns fourth Holy book) might be counted along with the Hindus and Christians or in context to the Semitic religion. Another example is of the name for the Knanaya Christians, “Chaaram Kettikal” (mean “one who carry ash”) evolved due to a story that the patriarch of the community Knai Thoman, married a lower caste women who was a washer women. In ancient Kerala the washers use to carry ashes for cleaning clothes in   thus name was derived similarly each community had similar names which can were used to denote them. There were many regional usages for each foreign religion which would have involved from a story or historic incidents or facts. Even the title like “Mappila” is one which can be counted along with it.

Another perspective about the Anjuvannam is that, the ruler awarded the Jews the village of Anjuvannam, meaning "five castes," as the Jews were believed to be the lords of the five castes of artisans.  And later it was even used as the name of the place where they dwelled, as principality of Anjuvannam. The plates also state that Anjuvannam shall remain in the possession of the descendants of these Jews “so long as the world and moon exist”. So it is clear that it is in that context too

This Jewish plate was granted to a Jewish merchant by the Chera Ruler. Similar plates like Thazhekad Sasanam, The Quilon Plates (Tharisappalli Cheppeds), Mampally Sasanam and Iraviikothan Chepped (Copper Plate) etc. were given to Christians.

According to tradition Isuppu Iramban ( Yosef Ramban) was a Jewish merchant, possibly from Yemen, came to Cranganore. Yosef was granted the rank of prince over the Jews by the Chera ruler Eravi Wanwara (Ravi Varma, Eravi Wanwara quoted from translation recommended by Gov. Moens as the accurate translation), and rights to seventy-two "free houses". These rights were engraved on a set of Copper (Brass ??) tablets known as the "Sâsanam", which is believed to be still in the possession of the Jewish community of Cochin. The date of this charter plate can be fixed at about 10th century A.D.
The other dates given to the Jewish charter plate are by
379 A.D by Jews of Cochin.
426 A.D by Dutch Governor Adrian Moens.
490 A.D by Claudius Buchanan.
508 A.D by Bishop Middleton - Thomas Fanshaw.
750 A.D by Sir Charles Allen Lawson.
825 A.D by Thomas Whitehouse.
10th century A.D by Father Paoli Bartholomew.
So according to the dates given by the interpreters the plate would have been issued in between 379 A.D – 10th century A.D

        The date 379 A.D was given by the Senior Rabbi of Jew town, Cochin. Who in 1861A.D had been in-charge of the Jewish charter plate. This date (379 A.D) would have derived from the Kaliyuga year given in one version of the translation and that is 3481 of Kaliyuga, and Kaliyuga started from 3102 B.C of Georgian calendar. Computing in accordance to that corresponding date to 1 A.D is 3102 years, so 3481 Kaliyuga – 3102 years = 379 and that is 379 A.D of Georgian calendar.

        426 A.D by Dutch Governor Adrian Van Moens, the year from same Kaliyuga date but he says that 3481 Kaliyuga is 426 years after the birth of Christ, this can be explained like, Kaliyuga is computed in different date in earlier days and there exists. This date was published in Busching’s Magazine, vol .xiv page 123-154. He also associates the date 426 A.D,with “Noticas dos Judeos de Cochim” which says about the arrival of a group of Jews from the Kingdom of Majorca to Coast of Malabar which happened to be in 4130 of Jewish era, and the date corresponds to 369 A.D. and history says that Balearic Island were subdued by the Vandals exactly in the year 425 A.D and the Jews would have reached here in Coast of Malabar in 426 A.D. so he co-related the arrival of Jews from Majorca and the charter plate and would have computed according to that. And finally the Kaliyuga date in the translation and the flee the Jews of Majorca came almost similar so he would have accepted this date.

        Claudius Buchanan, A Scottish theologian gave the date 490 A.D, which he had derived from a Hebrew narrative, of events relating to the arrival of Jews a portion of its English translation is quoted in Claudius Buchanan’s book “Christian Researches in Asia” (Probably this would be a copy which survived the Portuguese attack or recreated portions of Sefer Ha Yasher, which was the most important and the earliest chronicle of Jews of Cochin, passed through generations is said to have been destroyed by the Portuguese when they burned the Cochin Pardesi Synagogue in 1661. There is no evidence of its existence today, so the translated portion can even be just a portion of the tradition recorded). The date is given as 4250 year from the day of creation of  the world, i.e. 4250 of Hebrew calendar (would have written as ר״נ or ר״נ ד) and it is corresponding to 490 A.D. He had translated the text from the Hebrew translation of the plates which was in possession of Jews of Cochin and not directly translated from the Sâsanam, the Jewish charter plate, and Buchanan states that the Hebrew translation had no dates mentioned in it.

        Sir Charles Allen Lawson mentioned the date as 750 A.D and he even says that the Jews themselves believe it was granted in 500 A.D (would be from the same Hebrew Narrative which was used by Claudius Buchanan) in his book “British and Native Cochin” He gives no evidence for the date given, but as most of the Historians considered the title of “Cheraman Perumal” was the name of a Chera ruler who flourished during 8th and 9th , and he says many supposed that the donor of this Charter plate was renowned Cheraman Perumal, and if so it would have granted during zenith of his power and the date will be 750 A.D.

        Thomas Whitehouse gives the date 825 A.D as the demise date of last Cheraman Perumal, mentioned in his book “Lingering of light in dark land”, and he even states about an Arabian traveler of 9th century stated about the Jewish and Christian Emir (probably mentioned about any descendants of Joseph Ramban and Kanai Thoma/ Thomas of Cana or themselves respectively)

        Paoli also known as Father Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo or Filip Vezdin, An Austrian Carmelite missionary who was in Kerala between 1776 and 1789.He gave the date would be around 10th century A.D, The Chances of him to give almost exact date of the would be from his acquaintance with the Travancore Royal family, i.e. with Karthika thirunal Rama Varma also known as “Dharma raja”. The royal documents of the Travancore royal family or Rajah would have given the dates and the details about the date of Bhaskara Ravi Varma’s reign.

        Apart from that the Rao Bahadur K. Venkayya who was an Epigraphist to Government of India, says that the Vattezhuth script in the Jewish charter plate is written in a very late Vattezhuth, and he is not particular about the date but he says that it might belong to 11th 12th century.

But specifically we can conclude that it would have been somewhere around 10th or 11th century and would have issued by any of the three kings

Baskara Ravi Varma I - (962- 1019 AD)
Baskara Ravi Varma II - (1019- 1021 AD)
Baskara Ravi Varma III - (1043–1082 AD)

King Baskara Ravi Varma II who is widely believed to be the king who granted the rights but in the translation of the plate it is said that the it was granted in the 36th year of his reign, so according to this there is no chance for King Baskara ravi varma II to be the King who granted the rights as he had just ruled for not more than 3 years. And it is a contradiction and that need more evidence and chances goes to Baskara Ravi Varma I, who reigned for 57 years or to Baskara Ravi Varma III, who reigned for 39 years. So the date issual of this plate can be 998 A.D (if issued by Baskara Ravi Varma I, He is considered as most probable) or 1079 A.D (if issued by Baskara Ravi Varma III)

So according to this either in 998 A.D or in 1079 A.D the Yemeni Merchant Yosef Ramban, Became the Leader of the Anjuvannam or the Jews.

Yosef's descendants continued to exercise dominion over the Jews of the Malabar Coast until a conflict broke out between one of his descendants, Yosef Azar and his brother in the 1340s. The ensuing strife led to intervention by neighboring forces and this was backed by the exile of the younger brother to Cochin, the legend says Joseph Azar escaped to Cochin by swimming across the backwater, with his wife on his shoulders. He was followed soon after by his elder brother and his followers. Finally the neighbouring rulers intervended and dispossesed the Jews and their principality of Ajuvannam. And they like other Jewish communities they came to Cochin probably to Kochangadi (which literally means “small market” and even interpreted as “Markets of Kocha” where “Kocha” was another names like Anjuvannam for Jews predominantly used in Cochin) where they would have built a Synagogue in 1344 A.D. They would have been mixed up with the Cochin Jewish population in a later stage. Principality of the Anjuvannam is not yet geographically identified exactly. But some were near to old Cranganore port and even there are chances of the Jewish settlement of Mala to be the geographically identified with Anjuvannam, but this is not proved and more research on this is required.

Incidentally, the above referred copper plates may not be originals. The original plate was said to be made of brass and was engraved on both sides mentioned in “Christian Researches in Asia” by Claudius Buchanan (Cambridge, 1811).Claudius Buchanan made out facsimiles on two copper plates which is presently available. He is stated to have deposited the original Brass plates (if the plate at Cambridge university is Brass and engraved on both sides we can fix that he took the originals with him) with the University of Cambridge along with a Hebrew translation of it, leaving one copy of duplicated copper facsimile with the Jewish community which was made with the help of an engraver from Cochin. Along with this he had took many manuscripts from Cochin black Jews, mentioned in
“The Land of Perumal or Cochin, its past and Present”, by Francis Day 1863) And “Christian Researches in Asia” by Claudius Buchanan (Cambridge, 1811).
And he took the manuscript with him which give “an account of their (Jews) arrival in that country after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus” from white Jews. Mentioned in
The Christian journal, and literary register, Volume 10, 1826, page 100 and Sermons and charges. With memoirs of his life,by H.K. Bonney, 1824 Page 50

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Ancient Jewish settlements in Kerala

According to traditions the oldest Jewish settlements in Kerala are 
1.     Cranganore 
2.     Paalur or Paalyur
3.     Polut or Pullut
4.     Madai or Madayi


Ancient name of Cranganore,(also known as or Mahodayapuram, Muziriz, Muchiri, Musirippattanam, Muyiricodu, Vangi, Vanchi, Vanchinadu, Tiruvanchinadu, Jangli, Gingaleh, Cyngilin, Shinkali, Chinkli, Jinkali, Shenkala , Cynkali, Columguria, Kotilingapuram, Kudalingapuram, Makodai, Kodunkaliyur, Thiruvallur, Ravivisvapuram and Balakreetapuram these were different names of Cranganore which is the angelized form of Kodunkaliyur , now this place is known as Kodungallur )  is also mentioned in the epics Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Akananuru, and Chilappathikaram.

 The Greeks, the Romans (known locally as the Yavanas) and the Jews, Arabs etc all have come to this place at different times in its history for trade and according to legend, the history of Kerala’s Jews goes back as far as the time of King Solomon (1011-931 B.C) when trade in exotic items from India such as peacocks, ivory, sandalwood and spices flourished.

Many believe that Jews arrived on the Malabar Coast after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Interestingly, the Christian tradition recounts that when St Thomas arrived on the Malabar Coast in the first century, he attended a wedding in Cranganore (a port town near Cochin). He sang a wedding song in Hebrew, which no one understood, except a local Jewish flute girl. This story seems to prove the existence of Jews on the Malabar coast as early as the first century.

The Jewish community in and around Cranganore enjoyed amicable relationships with local rulers. It grew and prospered over the centuries, building several synagogues. In 1524, because of conflicts with the Portuguese and Arab Moors, they were forced to flee from Cranganore to Cochin and to other jewish settlements In cochin they found protection under the Hindu Raja, who granted them land adjacent to his own palace for a town that became known as "Jew Town”.

Palur or Paalyur

Palur ( Palayoor or Palayur) is a part of Thrissur district and is located on the west coast of Kerala, in India. By road it is 28 km from Thrissur on the Thrissur - Chavakad route via Pavaratty. It is very near to Guruvayoor, which is only 2 km away.

Palayoor is famous for its Christian church, St. Thomas Church (Palayur) which is believed to have been established by St. Thomas the Apostle in AD 52. Palayoor also had an ancient Jewish settlement known as the Jews' Hill. There are evidence for the existance a synagogue in Palayur and a torah finial from this synagogue is still with The Hebrew of Jerusalem, donated by the Cochin Jewish immigrants. And ruins of a synagogue is found near the Church and a Hindu temple. This settlement is also mentioned in “Notisias dos Judeos de Cochim” by the traveler  Moses Pereyra de Paiva.

Polut or Pullut

Pullut is a small and beautiful village located in Kodungallur municipality. It is an island surrounded by Kodungallur back waters.4 bridges at the 4 corners connecting the outside world with Pullut. Near to Kodungallur bared a Jewish community but there exists no physical evidence for that.

Madai or Madayi

Madayi is a small place in Cannanore (Kannur district), Kerala, South India. It is located near Payangadi. Madayi today hosts a vibrant community of Hindus and Muslims alike but there is a fact that is given below.

“The hillock of Madayipara, which carries several signs of historic relevance, is also a place important from a religious point of view. Here, a pond in the shape of a hand held mirror, connected to ancient Jewish settlers is another historic attraction.”***

This is a relevant detail of the existence of the settlement, and proves the reliability of the tradition too. Apart from that this community has a speciality, that is that this community was established much far from other three ancient jewish communities communites. And this can be counted as the “Jews of Cannanore.”  which is mentioned by many indigenous historians and medieval travelers.
 "Malik bin Habib who constructed and established Madayi mosque in Ezhimala (also known as Mount Deli) found Jews in the place. Even they used to have place of workship Heli Mala" ***

Duarte Barbosa (1480-1521 A.D) mentioned his book “Livro de Duarte Barbosa” about the Jews of canannore who dwelled in Marvel (Madayi/ Pazhayangadi) “Close to its foot to the south is a place called Marvel, an old town prosperous and well furnished with food, peopled by Moors, Heathen and Jews, who speak the country language and have long dwelt there.”

There were other neighboring settlement for Madayi namely Muttam.

Introduction to Antiquity of Kerala Jewry

The Kerala Jewry is considered to be worlds one of the most ancient Jewish  community out side Israel, and they do hold distinctive tradition, culture and cuisine. The date of arrival of Jews is traditionally accepted as 70 A.D after the destruction of second temples. Though different theories of origin states different dates. This date is believed to the period which saw a large number (tradition says 7000 Jews) of inflow of Jews to the port of Cranganore, Known as Shingly to them and Muziris to the Greek and Romans. But antiquity do takes us further  to 587 B.C, period of the destruction of first temple this can be believed because according to the biblical quotes, from “The book of Kings” and “Book of Chronicles”. King Solomon (1011-931 B.C) had trade relationship with a place named Ophir. The scholars believe that this would be probably a place in southern India. The navy of the King fetched gold, silver, ivory, apes, peacocks, sandal woods and precious stones. The place Ophir is believed to be a southern state of India because of the above mentioned materials are famous for its geographical index from ancient times.The Dravidian word for the south Indian apes and the peacocks, between the Hebrew equivalents. That is clearly understood by the word appeared in Hebrew Bible for the word peacock tuki תוכי ),  derived from the old Tamil word takai. This put light on the fact that, Indian Iron Age period the southern area was inhabited by the Dravidians, and they hosted the first Jews to Indian. The Dravidian used a dialect of Tamil that days from which the word was derived later this Chera Kings, who hosted the Jews in 587 B.C, 70 A.D and later gave the special privileges on tax collection and land in 379 A.D (date suggestion by Claudius Buchanan ) or on a later period.

Tradition says there were four Jewish settlements Cranganore present Kodungallur (also known as Shingly, Muziriz, Muchiripattanam, Muyiricode, Tiruvanchikulam etc ), Paalur, Polut and Madai ( would probably established after 70 A.D ). And in a later stage clusters of the Jewish settlement aroused due to the persecution, and exiles by the powerful Moors and Portuguese. The communities were established in Muttam, Ernakulam, Anjuvanam, Cochin, Tir-tur, Chennamangalam (Chennot), Mala etc. Many travelers do mention about the existence of Jews in Calicut, Quilon, Cannanore etc. And Jews exists now in Cochin, Ernakulam, Manjali, Aluva, Parur etc and rest of the community member immigrated to Israel, i.e. Negev of the southern Israel, Moshav of Nevatim, Moshav of Yuval, Katamon in Jerusalem, Beersheva, Dimona, Yerusham.

The community exists with the binding force of unity acquired from the maintenance of good relation and belief. The festivals, communal gathering in Beith Knesseth i.e. Synagogue and Yeshiva i.e. schools always helped them to be in touch with the community members. That on the other hand kept a strong evidence for the existence of the community. There are almost 7 still standing synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. Some were faded in the pages of history but some still in the memories of the community.