Mar Thoma Shliha


Payyappilly Palakkappilly is an ancient Mar Thoma Nasrani family in Kerala originally hailing from Kottakkavu near North Paravur in the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom and presently based at Perumanoor and spread mainly in central districts of Kerala.
The root name Payyappilly (also spelled Payapilly) is derived from the Syriac or Aramaic term ܦܲܐܝܵܐ (Payya) and the Malayalam term പിള്ളി (Pilly). The Syriac term Payya means beautiful, gorgeous or radiant. Pilly is a variant of another Malayalam term പള്ളി (Pally), which is used to denote the place of worship of Semitic religions, namely Christian, Jewish and Muslim.  The name Payyappilly is associated with Kottakkavu ancestry and the name Palakkappilly had its origin at Perumanoor later in the sixteenth century.
It is difficult to trace the 2000 year old history of Payyappilly Palakkappilly Nasrani family as it was not customary in Kerala to record historical incidents. Hence we rely on Church history, traditions and legends to filter family history out of them.
palm leaves

Ancient palm leaf manuscripts

Several documents also exist mostly in the form of palm leaves providing valuable information regarding the history of the family. Payyappilly Palakkappilly family members had the tradition of using the term Nasrani along with their names. The ancient Syrian Christians of Kerala who were baptized in the first century were called Nasranis. They are the descendants of the Jewish diaspora in Kerala who were evangelized by Mar Thoma Shliha (St. Thomas the Apostle) in Malabar Coast (modern day Kerala) in the earliest days of Christianity. It has been suggested that the term Nasrani derives from the name Nazarene used by ancient Jewish Christians.It is believed that Kerala had trade links with the Jews even from the times of King Solomon the Wise. Subsequently, Jewish settlements also started to take place in Kerala from fifth century B. C. Mar Thoma Shliha, himself a Jew who spoke Syriac, landed at the Chera capital port of Muziris (modern day Kodungalloor and North Paravur) in A. D. 52 and traveled from one end of Malabar Coast to the other and preached the gospel among the Jews and the local people. He thus established seven Christian communities at Kodungalloor, Palayur, Kottakkavu (North Paravur), Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal (Nilackal) and Kollam. He was martyred at Mylapore in the year 72.
The living testimony of Mar Thoma mission in India is the enlivening presence of the Mar Thoma Nasranis or Saint Thomas Christians in Kerala and their living traditions. They are popularly known as Syrian Christians in view of the Syriac language (classical form of Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus Christ) used in church services. Thus the root of ancient Christianity in Kerala is directly Aramaic or Syriac. They are culturally Indians, but their liturgy remains Syriac. In the social stratification of medieval Malabar, Nasranis succeeded in relating their social status with that of upper-caste Hindus on account of their numerical strength and influence and observance of many Brahmin customs. Today, Nasrani Christians form the largest upper-caste community in Kerala in terms of population. The particular family name of Palakkappilly belonged to the caste of Brahmins and hence it is to be assumed that the ancestors of the family included Brahmins along with the possible Jewish descent. The term Illathuparambil (pertaining to brahminical possessions) found entered in several historical documents of the family confirms this supposition. After the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653, which eventually led to the first spilt among the Nasranis into Pazhayakoor (Old Party) and Puthenkoor (New Party) factions, majority of the Payyappilly Palakkappilly family stood with the Pazhayakoor faction whereas the rest aligned with the Puthenkoor faction. Today, the Pazhayakoor faction of the family is a part of the East Syriac Syro-Malabar Church and the Puthenkoor faction is a part of the West Syriac Jacobite Church.
Eminent Personalities

Given below are the notable priests from the Palakkappilly branch of Payyappilly Palakkappilly family
Payyappilly Palakkappilly Geevarghese Kathanar

Geevarghese Kathanar was an eminent Syrian priest in the Catholic Church. He was born to Payyappilly Palakkappilly Lonan and Mariam at Perumanoor. During his period, the Syro-Malabar hierarchy for Syrian Catholics was not set up. He was active in missionary works in the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom. He was a Malpan and guiding force to the two famous priests of his succeeding generation from the family, namely Varghese Kathanar and Mathai Kathanar. He died in 1903 and was buried in Thiruvananthapuram.
Payyappilly Palakkappilly Varghese Kathanar
Mar Varghese Kathanar, the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Destitute (S. D.), is a Servant of God in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Read more
Payyappilly Palakkappilly Mathai Kathanar  
Co – founder of the Vincentian Congregation (V. C.)
Mathai Kathanar was a prominent priest of the Syro-Malabar Church. From 1920 – 31, he served as the Secretary of Kandathil Mar Augustinose, Metropolitan and Head of the Syro-Malabar Church.

Mathai Kathanar

He was born on 18th September 1883 to Payyappilly Palakkappilly Cheria at Perumanoor. He received the Holy Order of Kashisha through the imposition of hands by Pazheparambil Mar Aloysius, Vicar Apostolic of Ernakulam vicariate, and celebrated first Holy Qurbana on 21st December 1909. He served as the rector of St. Mary’s School Boarding, Aluva from 1910 to 1918. Then he served as the vicar (1918 – 20) of St. Theresa of Avila Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Vallam before being appointed as the Secretary of Metropolitan Mar Augustinose. He served as the manager of Mar Louis Memorial Press and Sathya Deepam magazine and as the editor of Ernakulam Missam magazine. He was also the Director of Priest’s Eucharistic League and Apostleship of Prayer. While serving as the Secretary of the Archbishop, he wrote letters to the Superior General of Congregation of the Mission about reviving the Vincentian Congregation. He wanted to be a part of the congregation since 1927. He encouraged the co-founders of V. C. saying “You may start. I will follow”. He resigned the post of Secretary and joined the congregation on 19th July 1931. He became the Superior of the Vincentian Congregation, Thottakom and vicar of Mar Gregorios Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Thottakom in Kottayam. It was his dogged determination and efforts that lead to the founding of second house for V. C. at Angamaly. Subsequently, he also became the first Superior of Angamaly Ashram. He breathed his last on 7th November 1939 and was buried, near to the tombs of other co-founders of V. C., in a specially prepared tomb in front of the madbaha of the Thottakom Church in Kottayam.