The Early History andthe Christian Origin of the Chengannur Chittoor Family
St. Thomas,one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, traveled and preachedthe Gospel in the East after the resurrection of Christ. He initially spread the Gospel at places likeMesopotamia and Persia,and established the early Catholic Throne of Selukia. He then traveled by ship and reached thewestern coastal region of Kerala, Indiain 52 A.D. He reached the portof Kodungalloor and started his gospeldiscourses. He traveled south along thecoastal region, performed many miracles and taught the locals the Christian wayof life. He baptized many people, andreached the place called Thiruvithamkod. Thiruvithamkod isnow part of Madras, and the Christiandescendants of the early converts from the time of St.Thomas still live in that place practicing theOrthodox belief.
St. Thomasthen traveled north through mid-Kerala and formed local churches in the sevenplaces, Kodungalloor (originally called ‘Maliankara’),Palayoor, Paravoor (Kotakavu), Kollam (Quilon), Niranam (Thrikapaleswaram), Nilackal (Chayal) and Kothamangalam (Kokamangalam). Heconsecrated and appointed pastors and provided bylaws for these churches. He then traveled to the place called Malayatoor and spent some time in meditating. He passed through the north and preachedgospel in Thrisiviperoor, Pattikaduand then went through the SahyanMountains and reached the places Aalathoor and Chittoor. He then walked the narrow mountain pass of Palaghatand reached the neighboring MadrasStateand was murdered and buried in the place called Mylapoor.
There are Christians stillliving now in the Melarkodu villageof Aalathoor,who are believed to be the descendants of the early converts from the time of St.Thomas. Thisplace is now called the Catholica Therivu(R. C. Street). Although the Christian descendants had livedin Chittoor until mid 18th century, none of these people currentlyreside there. Many of those earlyChristian converts from Chittoor departed from the Christian faith as a resultof Muslim invasion and forceful conversion to the Muslim faith. This conversion primarily took place duringthe period of 1766 A.D. to 1784 A.D when Hyder Aliand Tippu Sultan invaded and occupied theMalabar-Kochi area. Finally in a summitin 1784 between Tippu Sultan, Thiruvithamcore (thesouthern half of the present KeralaState)King and the British, the Sultan was forced to leave north without getting achance to conquer the southern region.
During the Muslim reign, severalardent Christian believers from Chittoor migrated to the Western region andthen toward Thiruvithamcore for fear of torture and forceful conversion. The history of this migration has beenclearly recorded in the Kerala History. One of these people who migrated from Chittoor at that time was Mr.Kunjumman Tharakan, who settled down in Chengannur, Thiruvithamcore. The Chittoor family members are thedescendants of Mr. Kunjumman Tharakan.
Kunjumman Tharakan’s migration fromChittoor to Chengannur
Kunjumman Tharakan (#1) was born in 1757 in North Keralain the place called Chittoor in a Christian family. At that time Chittoor was governed by theKing of Palaghat who was followed by the King ofKochi, and later on included in the State of Kerala. After his basic high school educationKunjumman took farming and business as his profession. He was settled in Chittoor with his wife whowas also a Christian woman from the same town. In 1785, Tippu Sultan, a belligerent ruler ofthe province of Mysore, invaded North Kerala,murdered several local residents and looted their valuables. Besides, he began to forcefully convertpeople to the Muslim faith. To escapethe torture by Tippu, several people fled the areaand migrated south to the Thiruvithamcore province. Kunjumman Tharakan and his wife, with theirstrong Christian faith, were among those who had decided to run away fromChittoor. They traveled southward andreached Chengannur, Kerala. They got thepermission from the local ruler, the Vanjippuzham Thampuran to buy a small plot of land east of the ChengannurTemple. They built a small house and settled downthere. He named the house Chittoor basedon the name of the place he came from. His residence was also called by the neighbors ‘Tharakantangu’ (theplace of Tharakan).
Kunjumman starting a small business forliving
As Kunjummanran away from his native place and could not inherit any assets from hisparents, and as all his folks migrated and got spread around in differentplaces, he was all alone and financially in great difficulty, and therefore hehad to build up everything from the scratch. To meet his daily needs, he started a small grocery business in hishouse. As he was known to be a Brahmindescendant and was a very honest and righteous gentleman, the neighbors treatedhim with utmost respect and supported his business in different ways.
The myth behind the virtue of having aChristian family near a temple
At the time of Kunjumman, thereexisted the custom of untouchability in Kerala (an‘untouchable’ is a person belonging to the lowest castes such as ‘Pulayar’, ‘Parayar’ etc). Although it may sound weird now, at thattime, there existed many myths based on caste and religion. There was this one belief among the Hindusthat if an untouchable happens to touch or even come close to an offering beingtaken to the temple, that offering would become impure and unholy. One could then sanctify the offering defiledby the untouchable by having a Christian touch it. The existence of this myth is supported by anancient Kerala proverb saying “sacred belongings if becomes unholy, a touch by Poulose (St. Paul,who is symbolized here as a Christian) sanctifies them”. The reason for the local ruler to allow aChristian family to settle down so close to the temple was said to be becauseof the insistence by the local people around the temple, based on this myth ofChristian cleansing of a temple offering. Nonetheless, there are no recorded historical evidences available tosupport the truthfulness behind the existence of this story.
Kunjumman’s membership in the localSyrian Christian Church
Kunjummanjoined the local Syrian Christian church in Chengannur. However, among the church members, heconsidered himself as an ‘Inangar’ or ‘Murikar’ in order to make a distinction from the othermembers of the church. The reason oradvantage of choosing this distinction is not evident, but it is possible thathe wanted to be considered as intellectually and morally superior. Even now the ‘Inangars’ or ‘Murikars’ areconsidered independent entities of the church, just as the people belonging tothe ‘Knanaya’group who consider themselves as an independent body of theCatholic Church. Because Kunjumman wasan ‘Inangar’ with lots of demonstrated virtues suchas his admirable humility and courteousness, his intelligence and hardworkingnature, a man of only a few words, he had received ample respect as well asgreat appreciation from the church members.
Kunjumman fathered five malechildren, who were all born in Chengannur. He went to be with the Lord in 1833 at the age of 76 and was buried inthe Syrian Orthodox Church, Chengannur, Kerala.
The descendants of Kunjummanand their Church membership
The descendants of the five childrenof Kunjumman are now hundreds of families spread all around the world. It can be said with great pride that amajority of these people have excelled in many fields such as business,agriculture, science, medicine, law, education, politics, athletics, nationaldefense, industry, and in multiple other fields. At present there are probably over a 1000members belonging to the Chittoor family spanning 8 generations, and many ofthese people hold envious and commendable positions. Majority of these people are doing extremelywell financially.
Until 1940, all the members ofthis firmly followed the Syrian Orthodox belief. Then, for unknown reasons, a few joined theCatholic Church. In addition, althoughuntil 1980 most of the members attended service at the Old Syrian OrthodoxChurch, due to the convenience and proximity to their residences, severalfamilies became members of local churches, such as the Betheland the Perissery parishes.
The different family names of thedescendants
The five children of KunjummanTharakan took up their family names as Chengazhath (#11),Panavelil, (#12), Kailath (#13), Kottapuzhakal (#14),and Chitoor (#15). The descendants of these people chose additionalfamily names and tags at different downstream branches, as shown below:
Amruthurpadinjareth (#11211);Patterumadathil (#11212); Vadakeparampil (#11213); Kacheriparampil (#11214).
Chengazhath Puthenpurayil (#112111);Chempakasseril (#112122); Kalakat (#112152); Sathyanil (#112153).
Gamaliyath(#112,112,1);Patterumadathil Thundiyil (#112,121,5); GraceCottage (#112,131,1).
PanavelilMalayil (#12311); Panavelil Modiyil (#12314)
Altharamoottil(#132); Muttathu (#133).
Poovanneth(#1311); Parayaruparampil (#1312); Kalathrayil (#1321);Idiyanath (#1331); Poongottumadathil(#1333); Kadavilemadathil (#1334).
Powaleth(#13111); Kailath Punthen Banglavu (#13112); Kulangarakal (#13121);Kailath Malayil (#13132);Kailath Banglavil (#13133); Mary Villa (#13233);Mullelil (#13312).
Kailath Hill View (#131122);Kalathra Padinjarethil (#132111); KalathraPuthenpurayil (#132213).
Palavilayil(#1411); Maniparampil Puthenveettil (#1412).
Marottivilayil (#14111);Palavilayil Valuparampil (#14112); PalavilaPuthenveettil (#14113); Palavilatharayil(#14114).
Kadanthottil(#151); Vazhooreth (#152);Vadakedath (#153).
Padinjare Vadakedath (#1532);Mavilithara (#1533); Kadakethuparampil (#1534); Idatharayil (#1535).