The Pre-Thinking Debate – Sita Ram Goel & Khushwant Singh

The letters that follow were exchanged between the historian Sita Ram Goel and the journalist Khushwant Singh. They are self-explanatory. Sita Ram Goel wrote to Khushwant Singh on 3 December 1992:

I am writing to you with reference to your article, “The Divided House of Kerala,” in The Sunday Observer of December 1-7, 1991. Among other things, you say that “In AD 52 St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, arrived in northern Malabar and succeeded in converting some Namboodiri Brahmins and Nairs.”[1]

I draw your attention to a hot controversy which is presently raging in the South regarding the role of the St. Thomas myth. A clipping from the Organiser dated 7.11.91 is enclosed.[2] It shows what use the Christian theologians are making of the myth, and how Hindu scholars have started reacting to it.

Leading Christian historians have doubted whether a man like St. Thomas ever existed in history. Even those who accept his existence are positive that he never came to India. The whole subject has been discussed in detail in our publication, The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, a copy of which I am forwarding to you by separate post.

I hope you will spend some time to study the story. We should be able to stand on firm ground so far as facts are concerned unless we want to vindicate Bernard Shaw who said that journalists have a vested interest in ignorance.

Khushwant Singh replied to this letter by postcard on December 6th:

Thanks for your letter and the clipping which I have read. And the booklet which I will read. You pronounce as facts what suits your pre-thinking. What are the “facts” about the Ayodhya dispute all only known to historians who don’t seem to agree on any of them.

Sita Ram Goel replied to Khushwant Singh’s “pre-thinking” on December 9th:

Thanks for your postcard of the 6th.

The sentence, “You pronounce as facts what suits your pre-thinking,” is not quite clear to me. Have we cited facts which are not facts? Or are there facts which we have not taken into account? In both cases, we wait for the other side to come out with evidence. So far we have waited in vain.

I have studied the sources and can say with full responsibility that St. Thomas visiting India is as much true as Jesus spending his early years in a Tibetan monastery. People in highest places have repeated the story without caring to check the sources. But repetition does not make truth out of a lie.

About Ayodhya, I must say that our side has been completely ignored by the media. I am sending another publication, History versus Casuistry, which shows how the VHP scholars presented solid evidence, and how the AIBMAC ran away from the conference convened by the Chandra Shekhar Government. Kindly find out for yourself if the AIBMAC has published the “evidence” they presented.

1. The early history of the Namboodiri Brahmins is very obscure. Many historians do not allow that they arrived in Kerala before the fourth century CE. Where they arrived from is also not clear. What is certain is that there were no Namboodiri Brahmins in Kerala in the middle of the first century when St. Thomas allegedly arrived in Muziris (Kodungallur). So the claim that some Syrian Christian families are descendants of Namboodiris converted by St. Thomas is a fabrication to give these old Christian families caste status. It is more probable that some members of the Namboodiri Brahmin community were originally Syrian Christians who converted to Vedic Hinduism after the fourth century arrival of Syrian Christian refugees from Persia and Mesopotamia. There is also no reason to believe members of the Nair community converted to Christianity at any time in the early Christian era. Syrian Christians were given the caste status of Nairs by the Malabar rulers; it does not follow that they were originally of the Nair caste. The original West Asian Christians who found their way to India’s west coast after the fourth century were from Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Persia, and spoke the Semitic Middle Aramaic dialect of Syriac. Syriac remains the liturgical language of Syrian Christians today.

2. See “Christian Author Misrepresents Tiruvalluvar As A Disciple Of Thomas” by R.S. Narayanaswami in this book.