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Thread: Christians of Kerala - Thoughts on their origins ,history and evolution to present

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    Christians of Kerala - Thoughts on their origins ,history and evolution to present

    While i was going through the frequencies of uniparental markers of kerala syrian christians i noticed that the paternal markers are more diverse than mtdna . The maternal genepool seems to have a profound founder effect . Around 5 different mtdna haplogroups make almost 50% of total genepool( U1a1c4,M44a,R5a2b4, a particular subgroup of M2 and a particular supgroup of M3) . Also these lines with the exception of U1a1c4 doesnt seem to be much common in other nearby populations .Also to be noticed is that a subgorup of Knanaya christians have mtdna M33a2 at high percentages (12 out of 13 people i know ).This makes me think of the possiblity of the syrian christians being matriarchial in pre -european times . We presently dont have much details about the syrian christian customs before the colonial period and many of the present traditions are acquired later including the church construction , food habits , marriage customs etc .We know that the cochin jews were matriarchial and so are many groups in kerala including nairs, thiyyas of north malabar and the malabar muslims .The malabar muslims follow the matriarchial setup even today . Also i have noticed the syrian christians are seemingly closer to each other from the gedmatch matches but that does not seems to be the case of nairs . All 6 samples are not showing up on each others matches list . Despite the relative closeness
    observed we dont seems to be inbred and relatively low levels of RoH .

    Another question that interests me who we were prior to the conversion of christianity .When did the christianity start in kerala is difficult question to answer .The St thomas story of conversion of brahmins is a myth and this myth possibly have a post colonial origin (first mention of this myth is in ramban pattu , a literary work in 16th century ) , or a misinterpretation of the story of an actual thomas who came to india ,the thomas of cana who probably came in 4th or 5th century AD . Despite that there seems to be proof that two bishops Mar sabor and Mar proth who came in 9th century at Kollam and there was an existing christian community at that time .These two bishops came during the period of brahminical hinduism gaining importance .Prior to that Buddhism and Jainism were the main religions of kerala. So in most probability the early christians might have converted from the buddhist or jain people of that era . The Syrian christians even up to 18th century wore only white clothes .( I am told that even the gold linings and borders which is common among the hindu dresses was not allowed i dont know to what extent it is true ) and i believe this tradition they probably have taken from their jain ancestors . Also we cant forget about the jewish communities existed in port towns of cochin and kollam . Some of them converting to christians upon hearing the gospel is a possibility . The kerala christians do celebrate the passover feast and this is attributed by many to our jewish heritage . There are other later groups who added to our community like the panickers who followed the martial arts and claim to be originally of hindu nair origin , There is yet another group who claim to be descendants of the mudaliyar community from tamil nadu . There is a family in kollam whose family lore was that they were descendants of a
    persian merchant who settled in kerala and that family have tested their ydna and surprisingly happened to be of haplogroup O . Also i personally know two tamil brahmin families who converted to christianity in 19th century and was accepted to the syrian christian fold .
    During the early stages the conversion to christianity may have had its own advantages . There was copper plate grants given to syrian christians by the then rule which gave them an advantage is trade . Also during the rise of brahmanical hinduism and caste system the power among the hindus gradually shifted to brahmins and so the existing communities like ezhava who were formerly buddhist followers was relegated in status .So these people might have accepted christain faith to escape from brahmin supeiority .

    I Would post more thoughts on this later when i have time . Any comments or additional info are welcome .

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    The Knanaya/Thekkumbhagar/Southist history has unfortunately been so distorted with all sorts of propaganda some of which contradicts itself in order to justify endogamy and the practice of excommunicating those who choose to marry out. It is truly sad because it makes it even more difficult to uncover what actually happened.

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     Mandoos (12-23-2018)

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    Quote Originally Posted by fil View Post
    The Knanaya/Thekkumbhagar/Southist history has unfortunately been so distorted with all sorts of propaganda some of which contradicts itself in order to justify endogamy and the practice of excommunicating those who choose to marry out. It is truly sad because it makes it even more difficult to uncover what actually happened.
    I didn't even know about the knanaya community until I read an article at nsc network site some three years ago . The endogamy part seems to be true to me since the extreme founder effect in uniparental markers .
    My maternal grandfather's family is a non knanaya and have L3 ydna . His direct ancestor is said to have come from kollam port town to ranni around 200 years ago .
     

    My ancestral ydna haplogroups

    My Y-Line - R1a-Z93+L657+ Y7+
    Maternal Grandfather's Y-Line - L1a2-M357
    Paternal GM's family Y-Line - C1b-P92+ K96+
    Maternal GM's family Y-Line - J2a1-L26(M47- M67- M68- L24-)

    Ydna haplogroups of my ftdna family finder matches

    Second-Fourth Cousins
    R1a-Z93+ Y40+
    R1a-M17(not further tested)
    R2a-M124+ L295-(2)
    Q1a-L56+ Y2659+ Z5902+

    Third-Fifth Cousins
    R1a-M17(3)(Not further tested)
    J2b2-M241
    L1a1-M27+
    F-M89(possibly H3?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by BMG View Post
    I didn't even know about the knanaya community until I read an article at nsc network site some three years ago . The endogamy part seems to be true to me since the extreme founder effect in uniparental markers .
    My maternal grandfather's family is a non knanaya and have L3 ydna . His direct ancestor is said to have come from kollam port town to ranni around 200 years ago .
    The problem is that the Knanaya community claims that endogamy was practiced since arriving to Kerala (which is false). Additionally, Knanaya "historians" have claimed all sorts of places to originate from the most common being Urfa/Edessa. However there have also been claims to Babylon, Baghdad, Jerusalem, Damascus, Qana (in Yemen), and Cana (in Israel).

    There is no mention of the Knanaya community even existing until the 16th century when it was documented by the Portuguese yet, the Knanaya community claims to have arrived in the 4th century.

    The name Knanaya itself originates from the 19th century. Before that the community was referred Thekkumbhagar/Thekkumbhagam.

    All of my grandparents are from Kottayam with the exception of my maternal grandmother who is from Parur.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas48 View Post
    Wow so the Knayim were converted during the Portuguese Era and they were members of the Thekkumbhagam Synoguage. The Cochin Jews attest that the Knayim were of Yemeni descent and that they were known as Thekkumbhagam or Southists. They supposedly went East out of the coastal areas of Kerala and into the interior during the 1500’s when they were converted. Subsequently this is during the same time Knanaya start coming up on the historical scene and the Knanaya are also called Thekkembhagar or Southists. Wow! The Knanaya I am talking to’s family actually has a family heirloom that is a Yemeni Torah scroll! The Knanaya wedding crown also looks just like a Yemeni Bride wedding crown!
    Could Thomas of cana be Thomas of knayim who left kodungalloor . The Yemenite Jews were the Jewish group which had closest contact with Cochin Jews

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    I think the Knayim could very possibly be the Knanaya. They were both called Thekkumbhagar and the Cochin Jews have no idea what happened to the Knayim after they leave, yet the Knanaya pop up as Southist Thekkumbhagar Christians during this time? There’s is also physical evidence, the brides crown is the exact same and of course the Torah scroll which just happens to be in Yemeni and just happens to be apart of a Knanaya family. Could you post the results of Cochini Jews here? That would truly be helpful, I’ve heard Knanaya results are extremely similar to them.
    Last edited by Thomas48; 05-21-2018 at 02:27 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas48 View Post
    I think the Knayim could very possibly be the Knanaya. They were both called Thekkumbhagar and the Cochin Jews have no idea what happened to the Knayim after they leave, yet the Knanaya pop up as Southist Thekkumbhagar Christians during this time? There’s is also physical evidence, the brides crown is the exact same and of course the Torah scroll which just happens to be in Yemeni and just happens to be apart of a Knanaya family. Could you post the results of Cochini Jews here? That would truly be helpful, I’ve heard Knanaya results are extremely similar to them.
    Not trying to be a contrarian but I think we need to slow down with the speculation and show a bit more skepticism.
    I highly doubt the possibility of a large scale conversion of Jews to Christianity in the colonial period. If such an event took place the Portuguese would have surely recorded it. We see no references to any such event anywhere. In fact this is the first I’ve ever heard of a sub group of Cochin jews called knayim.
    The shape of a wedding crown shouldn’t be seen as “physical evidence” and nor should hearsay about a Yemenite Torah.
    The fact is that many people in our community have grown infatuated with trying to prove Jewish ancestry. I read once about a Knanaya Jacobite man who grew so convinced of his Jewish roots that he converted to Judaism and immigrated to Israel where his grandchildren still live. Your friend may be another such case. I just find it a bit outlandish and absurd that an average Malayali Knanaya family would be in procession of a Torah that, if what they claim is true, would be at least 500 years old.

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    Additionally I’d like to add that this theory of conversion from Jews completely ignored the Syriac tradition of the Knanaya community. Our folk songs are littered with Syriac words, we have our own para-liturgical Syriac hymms like “Bar-Mariam” which speak of Jesus and Mary.
    Our mother church, kaduthuruthy valiyapally was built by Mar Abraham a Chaldean bishop. How does this make any sense chronologically if we were converted by the Portuguese ?

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    Which of the middle East clusters is most common among knanaya in ftdna . West middle East ,East middle East and Asia minor . The Yemen is covered under East middle East part

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustyshakelford View Post
    Not trying to be a contrarian but I think we need to slow down with the speculation and show a bit more skepticism.
    I highly doubt the possibility of a large scale conversion of Jews to Christianity in the colonial period. If such an event took place the Portuguese would have surely recorded it. We see no references to any such event anywhere. In fact this is the first I’ve ever heard of a sub group of Cochin jews called knayim.
    The shape of a wedding crown shouldn’t be seen as “physical evidence” and nor should hearsay about a Yemenite Torah.
    The fact is that many people in our community have grown infatuated with trying to prove Jewish ancestry. I read once about a Knanaya Jacobite man who grew so convinced of his Jewish roots that he converted to Judaism and immigrated to Israel where his grandchildren still live. Your friend may be another such case. I just find it a bit outlandish and absurd that an average Malayali Knanaya family would be in procession of a Torah that, if what they claim is true, would be at least 500 years old.

    I agree, it is good to be skeptical about such things but there are significant parallels. And the Yemeni torah scrolls are no joke, here is a picture he shared with me. These scrolls are their family heirloom and he shared with me that he received them at age 13 from his grandfather. Also it is not the shape of the Yemeni Crown, its actually the exact same thing. In other pictures of Yemeni brides you'll find them wearing that exact same design, down to the moons and pendants.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Thomas48; 05-21-2018 at 04:55 AM.

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