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1. Important Early Writers and Their Writings (Christian Sources)

I. Joseph Cariattil and Mathew Paremakkal

Of great value is the written testimony left by a prominent Syrian Catholic leader, Thomman Paremakkal, as part of his celebrated travelogue covering his journey to Rome and Lisbon during the years 1773 to 1786 (about 21 years after Devasahayam Pillai’s death) together with Malpan Joseph Cariattil. At the general assembly of the Syrian Christians at Alangad (or Angamali) on August 20, 1773, convened for the purpose of dealing with the above issues, it was decided to send two priests to Rome to plead the cause of the Syrian Catholics. They were Joseph Cariattil (born 1742) and Thomas Paremakkal (born 1736). Cariattil after being made bishop of Kodungalloor in the course of his journey expired in Goa in September 1786. Paremakkal, his successor as “Administrator” at Kodungalloor, wrote down a detailed account of their journey along with a brief history of the “Malabar Church”.

Paremakkal’s book rendered into English with an Introduction and Notes by Fr. Placid J. Podipara CMI, still keeps its original Malayalam title: The Varthamana Pusthakam18 In it he narrates their activities in Rome, their efforts to get into the good books of a Cardinal. He also writes that they presented the Cause of Devasahayam Pillai to the prefect of Congregation for Cause of Saints. A mention, even though only briefly in this historically important document for the Church in India is a significant evidence for the martyrdom of Devasahayam Pillai.

II. Paulinus A San Bartholomaeo

The next written testimony comes from the pen of a great Austrian scholar who was a Carmelite monk. While Cariattil and Paremakkal were in Rome and Lisbon pleading the cause of the Syrian Catholics of Kerala this Carmelite scholar was sent from Rome to Travancore to bring about a peaceful settlement between the Syrian Catholics and the Carmelites through the good offices of the political powers in Kerala. His name was Paulinus A San Bartholomaeo.

He came to India in 1776 (24 years after the death of the Servant of God) and stayed there for about 13 years, meeting on three occasions with the king of Travancore, Rama Varma, the successor to Marthanda Varma. He was the honoured and affectionate guest of this king, supplied with special meals from the palace when he stayed at Padmanabhapuram. His proficiency in “English and the Malabar language” so impressed the king that the latter “everafter called me always his guru or preceptor. He was extremely desirous to retain me at his court”19

On his return to professorship in Rome in 1789 Paulinus wrote down his impressions of Christianity in India and published it under the title India Orientalis Christiana. The original is in Latin. In it he dwells on the “beginnings of the Indian Church, succession of her bishops, missions, schisms, persecutions, kings and illustrious men”. He devotes one chapter for recording the persecutions Christians in India and neighbouring Nepal and Tibet had to suffer on account of their faith. He writes down not only what he had read in ancient documents such as those by Alphabetus Tibetanus, Marcus a Tumba and the like, not only the sufferings of the Christians he himself witnessed such as those of Velandran, Arulan and Arulappan of whom wrote later Zaleski in his Les Martyrs de l’Inde (1896), but also what he heard from immediate eye witnesses.

In this connection Paulinus says that many Hindu companions of one “Nilampulla”, struck by admiration for the way the latter suffered for his faith “often narrated to me about his life and death”. Then he briefly narrates his virtues and his death, as he heard from them.20 Coming as it does about 40 years after the death of Devasahayam, this testimony does contain a few discrepancies, for example about the year. This is the first report as Paulinus heard from the people. Later on in his book on an “account of the manners, customs, etc of the natives” under the title Viaggio alle Indie Orientali he had gathered more accurate information on the Servant of God.21 Paulinus’ references to the martyr and the persecution of the time in Travancore are purely incidental. He is not at all building up a Cause for Devasahayam Pillai, but would have been very much a supporter of the same.