Introduction to The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple
Saint Thomas depicted in a Latin manuscript
San Thome Cathedral Basilica, Mylapore, Madras
he third reason
for the legend to exist is to help the community-consciousSyrian Christians maintain their caste identity. They claim to be Jews orBrahmins, the latter descendants of Namboodiris converted by St. Thomas inthe first century C.E. — though there were in fact no Christians in Indiabefore the fourth century and when they did arrive and settle in Kerala, theywould obtain a social position similar to that of Nairs.
he first St. Thomas story
was invented to give these Syrian immigrantsIndian ancestry and the patronage of a local martyr-saint—Christianity is thereligion of martyrs
—and it was resurrected and embellished in the sixteenthcentury by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who needed a pious story of persecution to cover up their own persecution of the Hindus. This is anotherreason for the Church to promote the story in Madras, for during that periodshe and her imperial Portuguese “secular arm” destroyed many temples inMylapore and its environs.
he Archaeological Survey of India
has never investigated the origins of early Christian churches in India in the same way that it has studied oldmosques and other Muslim monuments, but this work has been done byGerman scholars and awaits translation and publication in English. It showsthat most sixteenth and seventeenth century churches in India contain templerubble and are built on temple sites. The destruction of one of these temples,the ancient first Kapaleeswara Temple on the Mylapore beach, is reviewedhere because of its inexorable link with the legend of St. Thomas.
famous English historian Arnold Toynbee observed that the mission anddeath of St. Thomas in India was probably legendary but that his reputedburial place in Mylapore was a centre of pilgrimage for Indian Christians. Weobserve that this reputed burial place of St. Thomas must now become acentre of pilgrimage for archaeologists, historians and philosophers who donot have a theological axe to grind like the pilgrims of old and the priests of today, but who would know the plain truth about old Mylapore and record itfor our children.
1. See Nicolas Notovitch's famous forgery, of 1894, still treated by somewriters as a true record, called
The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ,
andLevi's psychic and sententious “transcription from the AkashicRecords”, of 1908, called
The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.
2. A. Faber-Kaiser, in
Jesus Died in Kashmir
, claims that Moses isburied on Mt. Niltoop near Bandipur, Kashmir, Jesus in the Rozabal inSrinagar, Mary in Murree, Pakistan, and that Thomas was cremated inMylapore.3. Gore Vidal, in Julian, describes the vicious attacks made on EmperorJulian “the Apostate” by Christian bishops because he refused to givethem martyrs. He had rejected Christianity as a false religion andreturned to classical Paganism, but he continued to treat Christianswith tolerance. He debated with them and made them pay reparationsfor the temples they had destroyed in the Roman Empire. He wasassassinated by a trusted Christian officer while on campaign againstthe Persians. The story that his last words were “Thou hast conquered,Nazarene!” is a later Christian invention. Julian is still revered by those Europeans who realise that Christianity destroyed a superiorGreek and Roman civilization and took Europe into the Dark Ages.
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