Jeevan Philip (Chief Research Consultant @COS) – 31/08/2020

People frequently connect Maaliankara with Malankara. I haven’t got any convincing evidence to show the name is from the word ‘Malankara.’ I think this is another manipulation by some ‘Priest Historian’ (like Ramban Pattu) to provide credibility to the seven and a half church story, Nampoothiri origin, etc. Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not assuming things, rather I like to explain how I draw to this conclusion.

The first reference related to Malankara is from Cosmo’s book. He refers to “In the country called Maale where the pepper grows, there is also a church.”Now let us move on to the world spice trade in the olden times. You could get many references clearly indicating ‘Maale’ and its port ‘Muziris’.

It is worth noting that ‘Muziris’ is also referred to as ‘Murachipattanam’ in Valmiki’s Ramayana as well as Vyasa’s Mahabharatha. It is mentioned as ‘Muchiri’ in Tamil Sangam’s literature, and as ‘Muzirikode’ in the Jewish Copper Plate of Bhaskara Ravi Varma (around 1000 AD).

Among foreign references, ‘Muziris’ equally finds mention in the First Century Natural History of Pliny, the Elder, the Second Century Geographia of Ptolemy, the Second Century Muziris Papyrus, and the Fourth Century Tabula Peutingeriana. “Then come Naura and Tyndis, the first markets of Damirica (Limyrike), and then Muziris and Nelcynda, which are of leading importance. Tyndis is of the Kingdom of Cerobothra. It is a village in plain sight by the sea. Muziris, of the same Kingdom, abounds in ships dispatched there with cargoes from Arabia, and by the Greeks; it is located on a river, distant from Tyndis by the river and sea five hundred stadia, and up the river from the shore twenty stadia” – The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Now let us consider some linguistics. You find many loan words in Hebrew from Tamil like Thuki, Arici, etc. “A number of South Dravidian words (almost all of them) geographic and dynasties names occur in such Greco-Roman sources as, Periplaus Maris Erythrael (circumnavigation of the Erythraen Sea) of 89 AD, and in the writing of Ptolemaeus of Naukratis of the 2nd century AD. It is probable that Western language term for Rice (Compare Italian Riso, Latin Oryza, Greek Oryza) and ginger (compare Italian Zen zero, German Ingwer, Greek Zingiberis) is cultural loans from Old Tamil, in which they are ‘arici’ and ‘inciver’, respectively” (the New Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 4, 15th Edition).”

Furthermore, in the Hebrew version “ivory, apes, ahalim and peacocks arrived at the Israeli port (1 King: 10 22). In the old Hebrew version, it is referred to as Ivory- shen, apes- kapi, ahalim- aghil, peacocks- tuki. These four are Tamil words. Presently let us consider the importance of Flora and Fauna of Maale. It is fascinating to note the struggle which took the nature lovers of Kerala and the whole world to protect the Silent valley forest region from disaster. It is known to everyone that new species of vegetation are discovered by scientists from this region which include many varieties of pepper.

 Map of the Malabar Coast(1655-1663, Dutch)

Map of the Malabar Coast(1655-1663, Dutch)

Now let us consider Geography/Geology, which clearly indicates the land formation of Kerala took place throughout the centuries, undergoing many changes. The structure of the coastal land of Kerala was lastly defined by the great flood of 1341 A D, which created many islands, ports, cultivated lands, and the current form of the Kerala coastal area. It is precise that most of the coastal land of Kerala today was formed by the recession of sea (by several miles) after the great flood of 1341 A D. The sandy soil and the oceanic fossils indicate that most of the present coastal belt of Kerala was under the sea during the formative years of the Christian era. This being the situation, only Church Historians can argue that Malankara coastal area and places were the same at the beginning Christian era. “There is substantial reason to suppose that in the early years of Christian era the sea coast ran along the eastern shore of the backwater, which extends (at present) to over 40 miles from Changanacherry to Pallippuram and it is extremely doubtful if the long strip of land which forms its western bank, and on which stand the now flourishing ports of Cochin and Alleppey, had any existence then. The coastline as known to Megasthenese, 4th century B.C., absolutely ran along the eastern shore of the backwater. He mentions, ‘Tropina’, identified By Mr. Dutt with ‘Triponitari’ or ‘Tripoonithuray’, a few miles inland from Cochin and which is on the backwater side (as lying) on the sea-coast (ref: Discursive notes on Malabar and its Place-names by K.P.Padmanabha Menon, Published in Malabar Quarterly Review).

Now let us consider the place called Kodungalloor/Maaliankara where St. Thomas said to have been landed. It is astonishing that there is no reference with respect to Kodungaloor earlier than the 14th century. All earlier references are related to Muchiri, Maale, Thundis, Naura, Nelconda, Ophir, etc.

If Maliankara was such a place of importance at the time of St.Thomas or later, there would have been some kind of reference about this place. That is why it shall be considered as a later day manipulation in order to satisfy vested interests. The old Tamil language had local variation as referred by scholars. At one time the languages spoken in the regions of Karnataka, Kongu, and Malabar were respectively known as Karunaattut-Tamil, Tulunattut-Tamil, and Malainattut-Tamil. Malainattu Tamil indicates that ‘Maale’ of Cosmus referred to in Tamil as ‘Malainadu’ means the first word ‘Malai‘refers to ‘Hill’ Nadu’ refers to land. If this is the case, the word ‘Karai’ or ‘Kara’ is etymologically derived from proto Dravidian ‘Kar’ meaning shore, bank.

This is itself sufficient to show that Malankara denotes the shore of a place called Maale ie. Malankara Sabha means Church existed on the shore of Maale/Malai.

Antique Map of southern India and Sri Lanka Leipzig, H. Gross, 1610.

Antique Map of southern India and Sri Lanka Leipzig, H. Gross, 1610.

This article was first published on


Share This