Manigramakar of Malabar


Manigram and Manigramakkar seems to be the most misinterpreted names in the whole history of Malabar. Most of foreign historians and local conspiracy theory makers misinterpreted manigramakar as Manicheans because of the similarities in their names ie “Mani” which has no historical credibility. On the other hand almost all local Kerala church historians branded this community as Christians because the celebrated shasanams or edicts now in their possession directly mention these community or group. So if we need to find the true identity of this community we need to study the historical sources (first hand) as well as traditional accounts related to the origin of this community from the local Christian accounts. It’s also interesting to note that if we go further back to time (of course based on available traditions) we will find that a strange cross-religious fusion between Hinduism and Nasranism occurred around 600-700 period (may be because of the shaivait revival) which created a community that  we cannot consider as Hinduism or Christianity. They took their religious beliefs from both Christianity and Hinduism and formed some sort of Gnostic religion.

The next available sources mentioning this community is from some learned British historians like Benchamin bailey and Thomas Whitehouse. They clearly made considerable effort to visit the local churches during the early 1800-1860 period for the purpose of historical researches. Their account provides interesting details about this community, their history & position in the local society, struggle to protect their identity from the local Syrian bishops, later absorption to the local Hindu community (sub cast of Nair) with the help British authorities etc.For making this article simple I am writing this article in two Parts. The first part mainly deals with the origin of manigramam ,Gnostic Nasranis of south India & their origin, The four edicts of south India, three of which explicitly mention this mysterious community or caste , Perumals of Makothayi(Later cheras) the consignee of this copper plates etc . Part 1 contains the history of Malabar coast between 600-1200 Period.

Two Medieval Merchant Guilds of South India- Manigramam & Anjuvanam.

Manigramam is a large, influential guild of South Indian merchants. Tamil inscriptions record a tank construction by an important person and the tank is placed under the guard of the local Manigramam members.[1] Manigramam guild was a localized merchant body which first appeared along the Kerala coast in the ninth century A.D and gradually flourished in Tamilnadu in the Pallava and Chola periods and then became supra-regional in character by being active in South-east Asia. On a Sivapuri temple wall, Tiruppattur Taluk, Ramanathapuram District, an inscription records the gift of some land by a merchant of the Manigramam guild for providing an offering to the temple deity.[2][3] During the rule of the Western Chalukyas dynasty reigning over most of the western deccan, South India, between the 10th and 12th centuries merchants formed influential guilds, of which manigramam was a prominent one. [4]

It is impossible to study or differentiate the history of manigramam or manigramakar without mentioning the four legendary edicts of Malabar Coast which were issued by the Perumals of Makothaya(Mahothaya Pattanam) three of which explicitly mention this mysterious community or caste. There appears to have been a good deal of discussion as to the dates of these documents, as well as to the use of such words as Anjuwannam and Manigramam in these plates. I think it will not be out of place here to say a few words on these relics of an ancient period. 

The four edicts of the ancient world  &  Cheraman Perumals of Makkotai.

Chera Perumals of Makkotai(800-1200AD) (also described as Second/Later Cheras, formerly known as Kulasekharas) were the nominal rulers of the Chera kingdom, a loose federation of local chiefs, which existed between 9th and 12th centuries AD. The rule of Perumals was based at the city of Mahodayapuram (Makottai) near the present day Kodungalloor, Kerala. The Chera kingdom of the Perumals was the only large state existed in pre-modern Kerala. It was a loose federation of local chiefs (known as "Naduvazhis") nominally acknowledging the sovereignty of the Cheraman Perumal and supporting him in defensive wars against the other Tamil powers, but free to govern their territories as they liked. There was a Brahmin oligarchy which propped up the Perumal, a member of the old and prestigious Chera dynasty. Most of the Perumals were saintly scholars who remained submissive to the power of Brahmin councilors (called "Tali Adhikaris"). The Chera state had only a precarious existence for three centuries. Sulaiman and al-Mas'udi, the Arab travellers who visited Malabar Coast during the period, have testified to the high degree of economic prosperity achieved by the state from its foreign trade. Sulaiman makes specific mention of the brisk trade with China. Malayalam emerged as a distinct language during the Mahodayapuram era, and Hinduism became the prominent religion of the state.

1) Kulasekhara Varman 800 — 820 A.D

2) Rajasekhara Varrnan 820 -— 844 A.D

3) Sthanu Ravi Varman 844 - 885 A.D

4) Rama Varma 885 — 917 A.D

5) Goda Ravi Varma 917 — 944 A.D

6) Indukotha Varma  944 — 962 AD

7) Bhaskara Ravi I 962- 1019 A.D.

8) Bhaskara Ravi II 1019 — 1021 A.D.

9) Vira Kerala 1021-1028 A.D

10) Raja Simha 1028- 1043 AD.

11) Bhaskara Ravi III 1043 — 1082 A.D.

12) Ravi Rama Varrna 1082 — 1090 A.D.

13) Ramavarma Kulasekhara Chakravarti (1090 — 1102 A.D.)

The original settlements of the Nasrani community appear to have -been at Makothayerpatnam, near the port of Cranganore, and Curakkeni Kollum at Quilon. The Nasarani community of malabar even up to the 1900’s call themselves as the Kurakkeni kollam Nazrani’s and Makothayepattnam Nazrani’s. This last name may be linked with that of the Chera king styled Makothayer, as we find it stated in the Tamil Peria Purana, a celebrated work very popular in the Tamil countries, that the Chera king named Makothayer lived at Thiruvunjecolum, near Kodungalore, and ruled the Malanaud (Malayalam country) with great success, for a considerable length of time. Hence we conclude that a town near Kodungalore, must have been established in honor of this king under the name of Makothayerpatnam and probably it was there that the Nazrani community established themselves at first.  In like manner, the author is of opinion that Anjuwarnam, alluded to in the plate in possession of the Cochin Jews, is a distinction given to the Jews. Warnam is not here intended for colour as the Jews understand it, but caste. There were already four Warnams, Brahmans, Kshatrias, Vysias, and Sudras. The Jews, when they came to Keralam, were considered as a peculiar nation, and the given a new warnam. "Curakkeni Kollum." Tradition states that the Syrians came to this country in two bodies, one party landed near the modern Quilon at a place now engulphed by the sea, the other at Kodungalore or Maha Deverpatnam. The practice in documents observed till within the last years was invariably to mark to which of these two bodies a Nazranis belonged."

A depiction of Cherman Perumals
 of Makkotai(AD 800-AD 1100)
Later Chera (Cheraman Perumals of Makkotai) copper plate inscriptions play an important role in the reconstruction of the history of Malabar. Prior to their discovery, historians were forced to rely on ambiguous archaeological findings such as religious text of uncertain origin and interpretations of bits of surviving traditions, patched together with travel journals of foreign visitors. Chera copper plate inscriptions (Shasanams), usually record grants of land or lists of royal lineages carrying the royal seal. The inscriptions followed a standard formula of identifying the royal donor and his lineage, followed by lengthy honorifics of his history, heroic deeds, and his extraordinary personal traits. After this would follow the details of the grant, including the occasion, the recipient, and the penalties involved if the provisions were disregarded or violated.

Between the eighth and tenth centuries, rulers on the Malabar Coast awarded various rights and privileges on copper plates, known as Cheppeds, or Royal Grants or Shasanam (copies of which with reliable translations have been published in the Madras Literary and Asiatic Journals of Science and Literature, No. 30, pages 116 to 164). They show that the Perumals considered the first sovereign in Keralam(Cheramanalokam). The three Perumals, whose name mentioned in the copper plates are Sree Veera Raghava Perumal, Sthanu Revi Guptha Perumal, and Sree Bhaskara Revi Varmah Perumal commonly called Perumals of Makothaya(Mahothaya Pattanam ie the ancient & famous Chera Capital).

Iravikorthan Sassanam, awarded by Shri Veera KeralaPerumal (in c. AD ?) Tarissapally Chepped I, awarded by Sthanu Ravi Guptha Perumal (AD 849) Tarissapally Chepped II, awarded by Bhaskara Ravi Varma Perumal (after AD 849) Tarissapally Copper plates, awarded by Emperor Sthanu Ravi Guptha Perumal, ruler of Venad, during his fifth regal year (AD 849), is the first important inscription of Kerala, the date of which has been determined with accuracy. In which he says “The document, was executed with the sanction of the Travancore sovereign," and in making allusion to the king, uses the honorific term " Venaud Iyean Adikel Tiruadikel" The prefix "Iyean" denotes the authority of the king. (The Travancore king is still Called Venad Adigal “the adorable feet of Venadu.") The Tarissapally Chepped is engraved on copper plates in vatteluttu and signed by 25 witnesses. Names of fifteen of them are in Kufic, ten in Pahlavi, and four in Hebrew. Another Jewish Copper Plate, are Sasanam outlining the grant of rights of the Anjuvannam and 72 other properietary rights to local Jewish Chief Ousepp Irabban by Kulasekhara (Later Chera dynasty) king Bhaskara Ravi Varman (962-1019 AD).

Plate No. I (Iravikorttan Plates) show that Veera Kerala Chuckravarthy was the first of the line, and the rule of this dynasty existed without interruption for many hundred thousands of years. Accounts regarding the origin of Manigramam and Anjuwannam varies materially from   writer to writer. It’s reasonable to think that Manigramam is a distinction given to the Middle Eastern merchants (religious group’s that may include Persian Christians, Gnostic Christians and Zorastrians?) by the Perumals, as they were then regarded as a class of respectable people. Legends say that Parasu Rama divided Keralam into sixty-four Brahman "Gramams" each having a particular name, but to the new community of Middle eastern merchants, the Perumal must have granted a “Gramam”, denominated “Manigramam” (Indirectly indicating their profession), with the title of a Principality as a distinctive name, the head of the community being invested with the dignity of citizenship in another view Mani in Tamil means a gem and is applied to all things of peculiar excellence. From the above edict we find the following description in Tamil.

"Makothayer Pattanathoo Eravicorttenaya Cheramaneloka Peroomchattikoo Manigramaipattam Kooduthome"  [" മഹോതയാർ പട്ടണത്തു  ഇരവി കൊർത്തനായ ചേരമാനലോക  പെരുംച്ചാത്തിക്കു  മാനിഗ്രാമപട്ടം കൊടുത്തൊമേ"]

The literal translation of which is "We have granted to Iravi Cortten of Makothaperpatanam, the grand merchant of Cheraman world, the high office of “Manigramamship".  "Pattam" is a word used both in Tamil and in Malayalam which  means "ordination"(note that the Syrian Christians still use the term Pattam Kodukkal  for the priestly ordination) a high office or dignity.

The translation of this plate by H. Gundert appears to be correct, but with a slight difference. Mr. Gundert's translation is: — “We have given to Eravi Cortten of Maha Deverpatnam (hence forward to be called grand merchant of the Cheraman world) the lordship of Manigramam."

The full translation of this plate by H. Gundert

Hari Sri Adoration to Ganapati

Iravikorttan Edict
The blessed rule having devolved from the earth-ruler Man lord Chacravarti  Vira Kérala (the first of the line) thro' regular succession upon Sri Vira Righava Chacravarti, now wielding the scepter for many I00,000 years (in the year) Jupiter in Capricorns, the 21st of the Minam month, Saturday, roshini nakshathram the following grant was made in the Royal palace (of the Perumal)—We have given to Iravi Corttan of Mahadevarpattnam, (henceforth to be called Grand Merchant of the Cheraman world (Kérala), the Lordship of Manigrimam. We also have given to him (the right of) the feast-cloth (?) house pillars (or pictured rooms?) all the revenue, the curved sword. (or dagger) and in (or with) the sword the sovereign merchant ship, the right of proclamation, the privilege of having forerunners, the five musical instruments, the conch, the light (or torch burning) by day, the spreading cloth, litter, Royal umbrella, Vaduca drum the gateway with seats and ornamental arches, and the sovereign merchant ship over the four classes [or streets)—— also the oil makers end the five kind of artificers we have subjected to him [or given as slaves to him)—We have given as eternal (Literally “ water”-) possession to Iravi Corttan the lord of the town, the brokerage and due customs of all that may he measured by the para, weighed by the balance, stretched by the line, of all that may be counted or carried, contained within salt, sugar, musk, and lamp oil, or whatever it be—- namely within the river-mouth of Codungalur and the tower, or between the four Talia (temples of the deputy Brahmans) and the Gramamas belonging to them-We have given it by an unreserved. tenure to Iravi Corttann Grand Merchant of the Chéramin world and to his sons and son's sons in proper succession.

No comments:

Post a Comment