This book is a revised and updated version of the 1995 edition of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple. It includes everything in the last edition plus a number of new and important references. Veda Prakash continues to share his research materials and Tamil translations. Sita Ram Goel, Koenraad Elst, K.P. Sunil and Ganesh Iyer, Leela Tampi, R.S. Narayanaswami, C.A. Simon, Khushwant Singh and the late Swami Tapasyananda of the Sri Ramakrishna Math in Mylapore continue to make valuable contributions. New contributors to this book are B.R. Haran, G.P. Srinivasan, V. Sundaram, Rajeev Srinivasan, and though he may not be too happy about it, S. Muthiah.
We are pleased and grateful to have all these writers on board even if some of them hold strongly opposing views to our own.
Two important events have taken place since the publication of this book in 1995. One, Pope Benedict XVI categorically stated on 27 September 2006 that St. Thomas did not come to South India, and two, in direct contravention of the Pope’s position, the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore announced on 3 July 2008 its plan to produce a mega-budget movie on the sojourn of St. Thomas in Malabar and his martyrdom in Mylapore. To add more controversy to the project than already existed, the Archbishop announced that the film would included an episode on the invented and purely fictional conversion to Christianity of the Tamil cultural icon and saint Tiruvalluvar by the foreign evangelist St. Thomas the Apostle.
So we can say that St. Thomas is here in India with us — if not in truth than in fiction and scandal.
We have traced the legend of St. Thomas in this book in some detail, from its origin in third century Mesopotamia to its religious, commercial and communal manifestation in Madras today. It is a complicated story with many details and side issues attached. The reader will have to pay close attention to what is being elaborated. What was originally an introductory essay to the study of the St. Thomas myth and the related issue of the destruction of a great Shiva temple on the Mylapore beach by the Portuguese, has taken the shape of a broad investigation into the negative Christian presence in South India today.
The 1995 edition of this book has produced a hundred imaginative and contradictory articles from Christian authors who take our research details and put them into their own fantastic context, thereby creating what they call St. Thomas in India proofs. The Internet is full of these fabricated and contrived St. Thomas histories. This is in keeping with the ancient Christian tradition of stealing ideas and forging documents. They did it in Rome in the first centuries and earned the wrath of the emperors and they are doing it in India today with apparently a free hand. We had hoped that Indian scholars would look into the Christian claims for St. Thomas in India in detail. We regret that it has not come about. Indian scholars are fearful creatures who prefer to stay with politically correct subjects and not venture into areas that may lead to controversy.
Whatever Christian believers in Malabar and their ecclesiastical counterparts in Madras may say, there is only one original source for the St. Thomas in India legend: the Acts of Thomas. It is a fantastic moral fable written by the Gnostic poet Bardesanes at Edessa about 210 CE. It was brought to India by Syrian Christian immigrants in the fourth century. The ancient mythologies produced today by the descendants of these Christian immigrants in Kerala, however dear they may be to the faithful, are church and family traditions that have no bearing on historical research. The fact that the Indian government and encyclopedias like Britannica and Wikipedia accept these family fables as Indian history does not make them any more truthful or valid as history. This has to be recognised by government officials and scholars alike if Indian history writing is to be taken seriously.
In this book we have continued to use the term Pagan to identify pre-Christian and non-Christian religions in general. We are not very happy with this term as it has been used for centuries to disparage non-Christian religions and their adherents. But there is no other term in English that encompasses all non-Christian — and by extension all non-Abrahamic — religions in one word. So we have kept it and tried to raise its status with a first letter capital P. The other terms we have kept though they have been changed or are out of date are Madras for Chennai and Cranganore for Kodungallur — Kodungallur being the supposed site of the ancient Chera port of Muchiri (Muziris) that traded with Alexandria and Rome. The reason for our adamance here is that the many scholars and references that we quote also use these names to identify the places associated with St. Thomas, as they were writing when these names were still in vogue.
We also continue to write with the editorial we. We do it simply to avoid using the too personal I. We ask those who are irritated by this literary device to excuse us.
The first two editions of this book were received by the Indian public with great interest even though the books were never reviewed in the mainstream media. This is very gratifying, and the fact that the book is going into a third edition is even more welcome to this writer. The brown sahibs in the media will continue to do their distasteful St. Thomas propaganda and black out the opposing historical view because that is what they are paid to do, but we are sure of the interest and critical intelligence of the Indian reader and are satisfied that the work we set out to do in 1989 has borne fruit.
The irony — and the brown sahibs may take note — is that had the Indian Express published our response to C.A. Simon’s mala fide Catholic propaganda piece In Memory of a Slain Saint in 1989, we would never have bothered following up the St. Thomas in India fable with an investigation. But because we were rudely obstructed, first by the Indian Express editor, then by The Hindu editor, and finally by Chennai’s own self-styled historian S. Muthiah, we decided to look deeper into this matter of Indian Thomases — and believe me there is more than one Thomas involved in this history swindle even as there is more than one tomb for him. So the moral of the story is: don’t tell lies for Jesus — or in this case for his brother Thomas — and if you must tell lies let the researcher reply to the lies so that the matter may die a quiet and non-controversial death.
The brown sahibs who make up the Indian media mafia have only themselves to blame for our continued interest in the St. Thomas in India legend and its modern political, social, and wickedly communal manifestations in Tamil Nadu today.
1. The Archaeological Survey of India have found no evidence for Muziris (Muchiri in Tamil) at Kodungallur. But the village of Pattanam seven km south of city has produced a hoard of Roman artifacts and the ASI is now digging there. Muziris was a known international trading port from the sixth century BCE to the thirteenth century CE when it suddenly disappeared due to some natural disaster like earthquake or flood. It may be the same place as the Murachipattanam found in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
2. This writer once had the misfortune of meeting The Hindu editor, N. Ram.He arrived one morning in 1992 on our ashram doorstep with a Muslim friend. He did not identify himself except to say that his name was Ram, and was eager to push forward his companion who had nothing to say. Finally, his manner radiating hostility, he asked us our opinion about the demolition of the disputed building called Babri Masjid in Ayodhya earlier in the year. We replied that we did not feel that Muslims had any vested interest or claim in Ayodhya at all. It was a Hindu pilgrimage town for many centuries and had no religious value to Muslims. The disputed building was a victory monument built by a foreign invader’s general who had wished to subdue and intimidate the Hindu inhabitants of the area. We wondered how Indian Muslims, the citizens of a free and independent India whose religious rights were protected, could place any value on such a structure? There was a dead silence for a minute after this reply, then Ram glared at us menacingly — his companion had closed his eyes and sunk down in his chair — and said loudly, “No use talking to you.” And he got up and stomped out with his Muslim companion in tow.
“Who was that?” I asked the mataji of the ashram later. “Oh, that was Ram of The Hindu,” she said, laughing. “You can be sure of a bad press from now on! You had better find another name to write under. The one Ram knows you by will be on every black list by tomorrow.” And so it came about. Jai Sri Ram!