2 February 2008


Beautiful, intriguing yet clueless as to what these embossed figures, on old church walls, are. One can find tigers, peacocks, dragon, hunters, horses, moon, elephants, fishes, …er fish mutations and what not. 
Heres a few of them (make sure you turn on the titles and descriptions):

A line of thought, from a church guide, led me to agree with him. He asserts that these are Hindu influences of an age bygone. Partly true as many of these architects would have been the same who built contemporary temples. Thus we can see most Vishnu avatars on the walls: Matsya(fish), Koorma(tortoise), Varaha(boar) etc.
The dragons (the closest that I could name the figure) are not really Indian, so it should be Chinese in origin. No Indian would in anyway leave out the auspicious equivalent, the Elephant, so that's no surprise. In my opinion, these stuccoes were the 'signatures' of the architects.

Another thought-line was strongly along the lines of the story-telling ability of these figures. The emboss(ition)s that depicts a tribal lady tied up at the feet and being transported by a gang stood out as the prominent example for this line of thinking. The well-known Dr. Scaria Zacharia explains that this says something about the history of the church and that lady is supposedly a 'yakshi' (ghost/vampire).

However, some of these churches were rebuilt or built post 16th century. During this time the Hindu-istic similarities of Nasranis were quickly disappearing. So how did astrological symbols like moon and mythical characters like mermaids come onto Christian churches?
Any clue? Let me know.


gnosis said...

Perhaps the astrological signs were some remnant of Manichaeanism in our community.

W. Germann (as cited by the 1911 Ency. Brit. article on Manichaeanism) and Whitehouse in "Lingerings of light in a dark land: On researches on the the Syrian Church of Malabar" refer to communities of Manichaeans existing along cite the more "orthodox" Christians of Malabar. Perhaps the astrological signs are somehow connected with them?

At any rate, it's great that you've snapped the pics --- at the rate us Nasranis are destroying our heritage in the name of renovation, those pics are probably all that will be left of our past.

FlipFlop said...

Though the "orthodoxies" vehemently defend their purity w.r.t. the Manichaean controversies; I believe the influence was likely...at least in some communities.

Gnosism rules! :-)

gnosis said...

Yeah, that's a bit of a joke isn't it --- the extent to which the various Malabar Churches go to prove their ancient adherence to whatever rites they follow. Whereas in reality, the evidence often suggests the inverse: rather than orthodoxy, our ancestors were largely heterodox (at least from the perspectives of our current doctrinal affiliations!).

FlipFlop said...

Hmmm ... Thanks for that word 'heterodox' :)

What most historians fail to view is that all the Christians in Malabar were not of the same community (race/rite/relation). They are not even so today!