The members of the Ramapuram Family are the Descendants of Thommen Vellilapilly Kezekedethu. Thommen was a member of the Cholapilly family and died in his youth. His wife who was from Palai and pregnant with the second child returned to Palai to live with her family. Thommen had 2 Children, Varkey and Fr. Joseph. Since this family had come from Ramapuram. They came to be known as the Ramapuram Family.
Before going into the details of the family history as such I will give a background about the place this happened around the time it happened. As all of you know that the Conversion of Brahmins is central to any Syrian Christian family history and our family is no exception. I have started with the migration of the Dravidians from North India to South India and then went on to explain how trade existed with the middle east which led St Thomas to come to Kerala so on and so forth.
Aryans and the Dravidians:
Around 4000 BC the Dravidians who had settled in North India where driven South by the Central Asian Aryans who came south crossing the Vindya Mountains. The Dravidian who came south started Agriculture. By 1000 BC a lot of Brahmin families from the North came south and settled down. The Chera Dynasty came to Kodungaloor and made Thiruvanjikulam their capital and ruled the Dravidians.
Trade with the Middle East:
Even before 1000 BC there were a lot of Jews in the Region now called Kerala who used to trade with Syria, Palestine and other Middle Eastern Countries in commodities like Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom and Sandal Wood in return for Gold, Silver, Copper, Bronze and Perfumes. When the Roman Empire came to power they found Sea Routes to India from Syria, Palestine etc.
The Malayalam Language:
The language of the Dravidians was Tamil. Although Aryan’s who spoke Sanskrit migrated south their language was limited to religious functions and ceremonies. After some time a new language came into being which was a mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit. By AD 1300 this language Malayalam became an independent language. During the early days this language had a round script. Later it adopted an elongated script. The Malayalam of today has a mixture of both.
Birth and spread of Christianity:
Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the mid-1st century. Originating in the eastern Mediterranean, it quickly grew in size and influence over a few decades, and by the 4th century had become the dominant religion within the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, most of the remainder of Europe was Christianized, with Christians also being a sometimes large religious minority in the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia and parts of India. Following the Age of Discovery, through missionary work and colonization, Christianity spread to the Americas, Australasia, and the rest of the world. Christianity, therefore, is a major influence in the shaping of Western civilization.
St. Thomas and his ministry in India:
Thomas the Apostle, also called Doubting Thomas or Didymus (meaning “Twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He is best known for disbelieving Jesus’ resurrection when first told of it, then proclaiming “My Lord and my God” on seeing Jesus in John 20:28. He was perhaps the only Apostle who went outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel. He is also believed to have crossed the largest area, which includes the Parthian Empire and India.
St. Thomas is believed to have sailed to India in 52AD to spread the Christian faith among the Cochin Jews, the Jewish diaspora present in Kerala at the time. He landed at the ancient port of Muziris (which became extinct in 1341 AD due to a massive flood which realigned the coasts) near Kodungalloor. He then went to Palayoor (near present-day Guruvayoor), which was a Hindu priestly community at that time. He left Palayoor in AD 52 for the southern part of what is now Kerala State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or “Seven and Half Churches”. These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam (Niranam St.Marys Orthodox Church , Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithancode Arappally – the half church.
“It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India’s painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India.” – Hymns of St. Ephraem, edited by Lamy (Ephr. Hymni et Sermones, IV).
Conversion of our Forefathers:
During AD 59 in Palayoor, which was a Sea Port, there were lots of Jews who were traders. St. Thomas stayed with these traders and Evanglised people to the Christian faith. The notable Brahmin families that converted to the christian faith were Kalli, Kalikavu, Pagalomattom, and Shankarapuri. The families of Shankarapuri and Pagalomattom were given Priestly Status by St. Thomas.
Migrations of our forefathers from Palayoor to Etamanoor:
In the 2nd Century AD all the four Family migrated from Palayoor via Angamali, Kadathuruthi to Ettmanoor. The Devasom of Ettmanoor did not allow them to stay there and sent them to a place 5 Km. away which was the Forest of the Goddess Kali. In those days the Forest of goddess Kali was believed to be full of Witches and Devils and people, were scared to stay in such places. The people who came from Palayoor stayed there without any fear not knowing about these facts. To prove this there are documents. The entire house names, house numbers, survey numbers are there in the Government Records. Survey 460/5, 460/6, 519/8 belonged to these Families. During those days there was no place for worship or Burial and the families worshipped at home and used their own property to bury the dead. Where these 4 families stayed they established a Chapel. There still exists 5 Graves near the famous Forest of Kali (Kalikavu) Grotto. It is believed that these are the graves of 5 important members of these families. This cemetery was just next to the Shakutirikal Family. Right now it is in the procession of Claratu Bhavan Seminary.
The Koravelangattu Church:
It is believed that the above said 4 families and the Kadapoor family, which came from Palayoor, joined together and established the Koravelangattu Church. The Kalli and the Pagalomattom Families stayed on the Northern side of the church and the Shankarapuri, Kalikavu and the Kadapoor families stayed on the Southern side of the Church. So it came to be that Shankarapuri Family got the house name Thekkedethu meaning Southern Side, and Pagalomattom Family got the house name Vadakaedethu meaning Northern Side. There were a lot of priests in these families for many generations.
Shankarapuri Family in different places:
From Shankarapuri family at different times many descendant migrated to different places. The descendant to Shankarapuri Family are in places like Kudamaloor, Eduthwa, Changanoor, Puthankavu, Athirampuzha, Thiruvalla, and Omallor. The descendants of this family are numerous and live in and outside Kerala.
In AD 900 a few of the members of Shankarapuri settled down in Arivuthura. During that time Arivuthura was a trading town trading with many places in the Tamil Kingdom. Through Vembanattu backwaters and the Meenachil River, Kettuvallam (a kind of boat) could reach Arivuthura. So there was the facility to take goods to these places too. In Arivuthura the descendants of Shankarapuri Family were known as Alakkal Family. By AD 1100 a branch of the Alakkal Family acquired lands in Nillakal and traded with People from Tamil Kingdoms. One of them was very famous and received the title Captain (Caputiniar). Because of trouble with Tamil Militants, Wild Animals and Fatal Diseases they shifted their domain back to Arivuthura and also to Palai and Kanjirapally. It is believed that the Statue of Mother Mary was taken to Kanjirapally and the Statue of St. George was brought to Arivuthura from Nillakal around AD 1450.
From Arivuthura a branch of the Alakkal Family settled in Vellichira near Palai. Edattu Vattaparambil was this branch’s Family Name. At that time one of the Vadakunkoor royal family members settled in Ramapuram (The place) keeping Vellilapilly the center of his government. They were known as Edathi Thamburakanmar’s (Royal Family Members of Edathi). The members of the royal family used to go to Etamanoor Temple through Vellichira and they used to rest in Edattu Vattaparambil House.
Understanding their dedication, trustworthiness and ability the king invited one member of the family to Vellilapilly. This family was given a plot of land near the palace in a place called Thyiil Thoondathil with the privilege of not paying land revenue. Though there prevailed the custom of untouchability, it was believed that when a Christian touches one becomes pure. This happened around AD 1300. This family was the Edathi Thamburakanmar’s (Royal Family Members of Edathi) favorite and had influence among them.
As a emissary one of the a person with his family from Thyiil Thoondathil was made to stay near the Palace in a place called Cholapilly this branch came to be known as the Cholapilly Family. This was in AD 1340. As long as the Vadakunkoor Dynasty stayed in power Cholapilly family elder had the power and title of a Minister. The local rulers in places like Manjoor, Pallam, Vikyom took people from Cholapilly family to look after their affairs giving them lands with the privilege of not paying land revenue. The branch at Pallam was called Poovathumootil and the branch at Manjoor was called Thevarparambil. There were also other branches around Ramapuram (The place) namely Vichattu, Anapara, Eerimattom etc.
The Establishing the Church at Ramapuram:
During those days for the Christians who stayed in Ramapuram, their parish was at Koravalangad. One Easter day one of the elderly lady got ready to attend mass and reached Koozhamala Ettukallil plains. She heard the bell of resurrection at Koravalangad Church. She knelt down there and started praying and returned taking a vow that she would attend mass only after establishing a church at Ramapuram (The Place). She then went to meet Fr. Joseph (Ausepachhen) in Palai Church and informed him about the needs. Due to the influence of the Ministerial Post permission was taken and a Church dedicated to Mother Mary was completed at Ramapuram. Vellichira Kimal gave the land for the Church free. This was at around AD 1450. The Church at Ramapuram has been renovated several times since then. In AD 1559 St. Augustine’s Statue was brought and the renovated Church was dedicated to him. In AD 1864 when the new church was built in memory of the old Church it was dedicated to Mother Mary.
Famous Minister of Cholapilly:
As mentioned earlier Cholapilly family members were Ministers of the Edathi Thamburan’s (Royal Family) by around 1650 the person who was in power was called Ausep or Joseph. There is evidence to show that he had influence in the decision of the Government. Once one of the blacksmith’s of the kingdom was sentenced to death and the wife of the Blacksmith approached Ausep or Joseph Minister. The Minister coming to know of the truth immediately made the royal court comes to know of the real facts. By that time the Blacksmith had already been taken to the Gallows. The king asked Ausep or Joseph,if he could,try and stop the execution in time. The execution was averted just in the nick of time. And not to be troubled by his enemies the Blacksmith was relocated to a place called Ambara, which was beyond the boundaries of the Kingdom.
Another Minister of Edathi Thamburan’s (Royal Family) was a Namboodiri (Brahmin). Seeing the influence Ausep or Joseph Minister had with the Royal Family he was waiting for an opportunity to destroy the good rapport Joseph Minister had with the Royal Family. One day both of them went hunting. The Brahmin had hidden a Cow in the forest and when they reached where he had hidden the Cow he told him that there was a buck standing there. Without knowing that it was a cow Joseph shot. This was a period when cow slaughter was banned and Joseph was worried. The Brahmin then told Joseph not to be worried because only both of them were there. But the Brahmin himself in a hurry made this fact known to the Royal Family. Joseph was put in prison for eight days and sentenced to death. Joseph’s wife used to bring food parcel during these eight days. The guards thought that if poison is given in the food Joseph would die and therefore they would not be able to carry out the sentence. Therefore the wife had to eat a portion of the food parcel before it was given to Joseph. Through his wife Joseph informed the Blacksmith in Ambara whom he had saved earlier. The Blacksmith made a special knife and sent it to Joseph in his food parcel. Joseph took it and kept it safe. When everyone was sleeping in the night using this knife he escaped to Cholapilly took his sword and shield and along with a son of his escaped to Ponjaar. There in the protection of the Local Ruler he lived in a place called Nadakkal. Later when he died he was buried in the Church at Privuthannam. Then the Church at Privuthannam was a Satellite Church of the Church at Ramapuram.
The Son of Joseph Minister called Kurian, also became a minister to the Edathi Thamburan’s (Royal Family). The Thekankoor Kings army came to Vellialpilly and attacked the Palace of Edathi. After setting fire to the palace they went to Cholapilly. Kurians diplomacy saved them from the catastrophe. Hospitality was extended to the army by giving fruits and tender coconuts. And from here the army went to Ramapuram where one of the Cholapilly family member was the Parish Priest. By the grace of St. Augustine and because of the hospitality given to the army the Church was spared from destruction.
Cholapilly of Fame and Glamour:
By AD 1751 Marthanda Varma with other vassal states attacked and annexed Vadakunkoor. And by this the Region of Vellialpilly that was under the Edathi Thamburan’s (Royal Family), also came under Travancore. The Ministerial status of Cholapilly family ended thus. However the Cholapilly Family had a special place among the common people and they retained the power to lead, control, decide and even punish. And this gave rise to the name CHOLLUM CHILUMBUM ULLA CHOLAPILLY (Cholapilly of fame and Glamour). When the rule of the Vadakunkoor kingdom came to an end, the head of the Cholapilly Family had 5 male Children among them,
- Ausep or Joseph Kondatu Velliyil
- Palakkal, Vettukallomkuzhi, Kollikunnel, Muloor, Manivelil, Thondathil and Velliyil Families are the descendants of Ausep or Joseph Kondatu Velliyil
- Agusti Marangattil Kottirikal
- Among Agusti’s Children Olahannan Attupurathu, Thommen Kachiramattathil, Ausep (Joseph) Kalarapukkal, Chacko Chennattu, Mathai Mundakkel, Andreyos Kottirikal Tharavadu (Family House) their brother was Rev. Fr. Kottirikal.
- Thomma Vellilapilly Kezekedethu.
- Died in his youth in an accident. His pregnant wife and Son Varkey returned to his wife’s house in Palai. Since they came from Ramapuram Town they were called the Ramapuram Family. The son who was born after reaching Palai became a priest. His elder brother Varkey’s Children are the Ramapuram Family.
- Chacko Cholapilly Tharavadu (Family House).
- Chacko Married a girl from Palai Thottungal called Anna and they had 14 Children.
- Among his 3 daughters
- The first Daughter was married in Kumarakom, Kannanthora
- The Second Daughter was married in Arumanoor, Monipalli
- The Third Daughter was married in Arakuza, Orathel.
- Among the Sons
- Ausep married a girl from the Kanakom family
- Agusti married a girl from the Kezekedethu family
- Kurian married a girl from the Mulayanikkal family
- Chacko married a girl from the Vennayipillyil family
- Ulahannan married a girl from the Puravakattu family
- Mani married a girl from the Pallath family
- Mathai married a girl from the Madavana family
- Udup stayed at the Cholipilly Tharavadu (Family House)
- Kuncheria married a girl from the Thiruvarpil Mupratharayil family
- Thommen married a girl from Kottayam of the Parakkal family
- Cholipally Ettiyavara Kattanar or Rev. Fr. Ettiyavara Cholipally
- Famous Mathai Kathannar (Ref. Fr. Mathew)