Autobiography of Jacob Rama Varma, the Native Missionary


Abstract: Jacob or Yakoob Rama Varma’s autobiography first appeared in the form of a speech which was delivered in connection with his baptism in 1856. It is believed that the event took place in Basel Mission, Kannur and that too in the presence of Herman Gundert. Later, the autobiography was published in 1874 in a Malayalam magazine Keraloipathi with the title Life of the Rev. Jacob Rama Varma and in a book form in 1879 by the Basel Mission in Mangalore. During his life, Rama Varma faced so many trials and tribulations and at one moment, he became a non- believer. Later, he brought himself back within the fold of religion and in connection with his conversion to Christianity, adopted the name `Yakoob’ on 5 April 1832 in Fort Kochi St. Francis Church.

Keywords: Autobiography, Jacob Rama Varma, Native missionary, royal family, church mission, deity, hind scripture, native

It is argued by writers like Paul Manalil that Rama Varma’s autobiography was first written in English before presenting it in the Church, but the English version is unavailable. * Manalil further opines that the autobiography is the first autobiography written and printed in Malayalam.* Though many would refute this claim, it is an interesting issue for future researchers. Noted Malayalam critic Sukumar Azhikode also subscribed to this view. Naduvattom Gopalakrishnan in his celebrated work Atmakathasahaithyam Malayalathil (1998) observes that the first autobiography in Malayalam appeared in the year 1875. He continues: “Famous grammarian Vaikom Pachumoothathu was the author . . . . though it may be regarded as a long article with autobiographical elements, we are forced to begin autobiography in Malayalam from there . . .” (363-64). Gopalakrishnan adds that Swadesabhimani’s Ente Nadukadathal which appeared in 1912 marked a turning point in the growth of autobiographical literature. Another famous literary historian, K. M. George, in his book Jeevacharithra Sahithyam (1964), opines: “ Though there are around fifty books in Malayalam which are autobiographical in nature, but only half of them are autobiographies in the real sense of the term . . . . Ente Nadukadathal (1911) by Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai is the oldest autobiography in Malayalam . . . “ (285 – 286). But, a careful analysis brings to light the fact that the controversy is not totally out of place.

A close reading of Rama Varma’s autobiography pauses some problems regarding the language and style of his writing, which does not seem to suit the Malayalam style of 19th century Kerala. The dominant tone of the text is that of a preacher; however, the work is more of a testimonial, a piece of moral edification than an autobiography in the conventional sense of the term. Even if we treat it as a ‘spoken life’ in the written format, the text’s focus is Rama Varma’s atmakadhanam, the conversion of his soul to Christianity. Interesting is the fact that, apart from the details of his trials as a believer, there is only a very short reference to other issues like Rama Varma’s marriage and more details of his family life like the name of his wife etc. are transparent omissions. Originally, without any chapter divisions, the edition published by the Bhasha Institute divides the text into nine chapters. It is believed that the protagonist, Rama Varma (1814 – 1858) was born in 1814 on November 28 in the Tripunithura Royal family as the son of Virakerala Varma and Kunjikavu. However, he is regarded as the first native missionary of Basel Mission. Before Rama Varma passed away in the year 1858 February 11, at the age of 44 from measles, he became a priest in the presence of Herman Gundert and Chirackal King.

Instead of its literary importance, what makes Rama Varma’s life narrative important is perhaps its historical importance. But, the Malayalam language which is used in this work is problematic in the sense that it does not do justice to the language which was in prevalence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The uniqueness of this life history , (apart from its dramatic presentation in the Bessil Mission church in Kannur) is that it may be tagged as the brief story of a believer, the resurrection of a ‘fallen’ soul, and a testimony to the reading publics (however, its politics of conversion may not be over looked). How the text was used as a tool of conversion? In fact, the work reflects Rame Varma’s spiritual vision and renaissance. Autobiographies are often acts of confession and the subgenre, spiritual autobiographies acquire another dimension, that of conversion narratives. Such texts become public professions of faith but one may observe “the paradox of the self” (Payne 33) where we witness both self – assertion and a humbling , self-annihilating experience of divine grace. However, it may be argued that the text very briefly sums up his life and career and ends abruptly with the statement – ‘My life ends here!’ By deliberately trying to overlook the details of his life, Rama Varma was trying to focus only on his spiritual growth? Is the work, then a conversion document targeting the masses given the fact that the subject was an upper class Hindu? Valuable details like Rama Varma’s escape to Vypin, his education in Madras his family life etc. are serious omissions. In 1998, J. C. Dev, a Christian historian edited the volume of autobiography and published it through Classic Books, Kottayam. Rama Varma’s autobiography remained undiscovered and critically analysed for a long time. In 2005, a popular Malayalam weekly Bhashaposhini, in its January issue published it again and the work gained much currency ever since. Paul Manalil quotes the Baptism Register (1835 April Serial NO.112) and substantiates that a person named ‘Rama Varma whose name was entered in the specific register.


Gopalakrishnan, Naduvattam. Atmakadha Sahityam Malayalathil. Rev. ed. Thiruvananthapuram: State Institute of Languages, 1998. Print.

Payne, Rodger M. The Self and the Sacred: Conversion and Autobiography in Early American Protestantism. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1998. Print.

Ramavarman, Yakoob. Yakoob Ramavarmante Atmakadha. Ed. Paul Manalil, Thrissur: Kerala Sahitya Academy, 2008. Print.

Autobiography1 of Jacob Rama Varma, The Native Missionary 2

I was born on November 28, 1814 in Tripunithura Royal Palace3 near Kochi. My father’s name was Virakerala Maharaja4 and my mother was Kunjikava. Both of them were of course, kshatriyas.* On the naming -ceremony day, they called me Rama Varma.5 I was named so because I was born a kshatriya child on the Ramanavami day. On the same day, I was offered as a slave to the Tripunithura devan.* Among my father’s eight children, I was the second one. My father was fond of my elder brother, and I was my mother’s favourite.

My native language was Malayalam. However, we used to be experts in Sanskrit. Since my father was a great scholar and devout Vaishnavite,* efforts were taken to groom us in the same direction. In spite of being an illiterate, my mother took pains to instil in us fear of God and impart moral values; whenever we did anything wrong or spoke something ugly, we were chastised and given advice.

As per the local custom, I was initiated into the study of the alphabet at the age of five. I was such a studious and intelligent student that I could study so many kavyas * in a very early age. At the age of eleven, I started studying logic. I also toiled a lot to understand astrology and when I reached thirteen, I became an expert in that art. From an early age, I was deeply inclined to vaishnavism; the swami of Sodemadam in Uduppi occasionally visited my father (at that time I think I was 12) and I got the permission to watch mudradharanam* three times. As per his advice, I started reading puranas.* Tripunithura devan was believed to be the real Jagannathan and was worshipped with utmost reverence. Paying heed to my mother’s advice, I desisted from doing anything wrong; moreover, during childhood, I was stricken with the fear of hell. Salvation was the ultimate goal.

But soon things changed a lot since then. It happened because my father passed away in November 1828. Due to the prevalence of the marumakkataya system* in our kingdom, my father’s kin Rama Varma Maharaja’s greed led to the animosity between us. He created a lot of problems, and were forced to leave Tripunitura and had to live in Vypin6 for a pretty long time.

At that time, I had to engage in family duties with my mother and this resulted in my being materialistic towards life. In 1830, we could manage our day to day activities of life due to the timely support of Karnal Morison Major Kadhagan. We came back to Tripunitura and I restarted my priestly duties. During this period, I completed reading the Ramayana, the Bhagavata and other great works of India. I could study sahasranama* and astottarasatham* and other mantras* by heart under the impression that I would reach heaven. I abjured ornaments and sports.

My mother and others felt sad and thought that it was too much for a child but I paid no heed to it. However, a greater change took place. It happened because one embran* who lived in Rama Varma Maharaja’s kovilakam* became the melsanthi* of Tripunithura temple. After a few months, one night he entered the sanctum sanctorum and stole ornaments worth 15000 rupees. Government issued a probe and no one was found out. Though I prayed before the deity many a time to find out the culprit, there was no result.

Ever since, my belief in the deity was reduced to half. Secondly, the golden statue of the deity which my father worshipped was stolen by another embran and subsequently my faith in the deity was lost for ever. I started regarding it as a mere toy. It seemed to be lifeless and silly for me. I became so hesitant to visit temples much to the displeasure of my mother and relatives. Reading of puranas still continued.

At that time, a god-fearing sahib who was the captain of a ship7 gave my brother a gospel in Malayalam. Seeing a printed book in Malayalam language, I wondered. When I read the first chapter of St. Mathew, I found it really difficult to read the names and was under the impression that the remaining part will be the same. I threw it on the table. But when my friends came, they were shown that rare object. They laughed at it because of its strange expressions. Bogged down by it, my mind started turning towards bad works like the Kamasastra.* My heart craved for whatever it wanted in my life. I was afraid to live freely before upanayanam* because of fear of excommunication. Having completed upanayanam and samvartham* at the age of 16, I became afraid of my mother and most often felt guilty conscience. However, I led a reckless life for about two years.

In the meantime, my elder kin’s daughter passed away suddenly because of disease. I got really afraid to see the death-pangs of that child. What will happen when I die? I became anxious to think about the possibility of suffering in 400 plus hells. My mind once again leaned on the old profession of a priest. When I was standing on the entrance in utter despair, my uncle’s son who studied in Kottayam came and told me about studying English. Soon, I felt the need to study the language which I abandoned once.

The very next day, I set out to Kochi after getting the permission from my mother. I became very happy to know that a pathiri sahib* is running an ezhuthupalli* where he taught English to students. In 1832 July or August, I met Rids Dale Sahib and secured his permission to study there.

Though I became so happy about the way the foreigner prayed and interpreted the scripture, I did not understand much at that time. Despite my enquiry to others about his classes, it took about three to four months to understand the classes. One day I really enjoyed sahib’s criticism of idol worship. I became convinced that an idol was nothing.

It was believed that on the same day only our second monitor asked me: ‘Oh Prince, it would be better if you study our scriptures.’ And I replied that there was no difficulty and everybody was expected to know about it. When I asked for a copy, he requested the sahib for one and gave a gospel after writing my name on it. He asked me to read it thoroughly especially the letter to Romar. I received it with happiness and completed reading it three times and could memorize most of the portions. Then I found out that this book and the one which I left alone earlier were the same. In the meantime, I visited the church with Anandan (later Yohan) a konkani.* Now, I cannot remember the contents of the speech which I heard there.

Later, when I went to church one sunday, a foreign priest preached a sermon based on the sentence,’ he has spoken on behalf of those who committed violence.’ He clearly revealed that I was the problem – maker and Jesus Christ prayed for me; he saved the person who believed in him. At that time itself though I wanted to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, I withdrew because of fear and protest from others. I became a daily reader of gospels while secretly staying alone.

During that time, while I was travelling to Kochi, my boat was sunk because of tempest. I became afraid that I would die and immediately took the decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. The priest sahib became very happy when I told him about this. He explained to me about Christianity in detail. Baptism was fixed on next Sunday and I was informed about it. The pattar* who cooked rice for me came to know about it and informed my mother. I was lured to Tripunithura and did stay there for eight days.

In the meantime, a boil appeared on my stomach and I became afraid that I would die. But I recovered after praying that I would become a disciple of Christ. Having heard my prayer, He saved my life. Soon I set out to Kochi after bidding farewell to my mother. The very next day I got baptised8 and converted to Christianity along with a konkani Brahmin. On April 5, 1835, I broke my punool* and renounced my religion by taking food with foreigners.

The news spread every corner very quickly. Many people came to meet me. I told them to keep faith in Jesus Christ. My uncle came fuming and cursed me by saying that my face should not be seen anywhere. My elder brother came with a dagger to kill me but when he saw me he was bogged down with remorse and changed his mind. He advised me to use my brain and offered me some money before he left.

My brother continued to help me financially till I left for Madras. But according to my religious custom, an effigy of mine was made of kudaplasin* leaf and rituals like cremation and pindam* etc. were conducted. I was included among the dead.

During the time of my baptism, the Syrian named David was not there in Kochi. When he came back, he saw me and my cousin, and uttered: “You were cheated! Did you embrace the new faith because of the inability of your old faith? I have been working as the sahib’s munshi* for 12 years.” The preacher tried to convert me but in vain. Though I took his food and visited his church I would be cautious.

You all are idiots! We got embarrassed. Initially, I was taken aback by the words of Sahib’s munshi but soon I realised the fact that I am on the path of truth and my anxiety ended soon. I became happy. Whenever there was a problem, Anandan told me that what David said was correct. Later he joined the group of suriyanis* and perhaps died as a nonbeliever. Alas! I did not see the hand which supported me. Only now I realised it. I prayed to the Almighty. I stayed in Kochi for two years with Ridsdel Sahib. Even then, I could not study properly. He could not spare time for me because of other activities.

During this period, I did not understand the need to serve God but I was very keen to spent time for reading the scriptures, visiting the churches and sharing my thoughts with others. Sometimes, I gathered Sahib’s people with me and preached the gospel of Jesus to common people. I felt sad and embarrassed whenever I could not clear the doubts raised by the people about my new scripture. At that time I did not understand or heard of my heart’s prayer. When I was not satisfied with the ordinary prayer book and Kottayam imprint Kudumbapmrdhana* (Family Prayer)9 I met the loving person named Joseph Fen. He told me God did not look into the book but into the heart. ‘Whenever you visit church read the Book of Prayer but at the time of prayer pray well. These words made me happy and I followed his words from then onwards.

When I told the sahib about my desire to study, I was asked to bring a paper and write down a speech. I struggled a lot as if a blind man was asked to walk alone. Since I was interested in serving God, I went to Madras in May 1837 after getting the permission of the sahib. I joined Bishop Kori’s Grammar School10 and studied there for three years. There, by the grace of God we got two devout sahibs as teachers. Thanks to them, I learnt a lot about Christ and his teachings. I am extremely grateful to Thakkar Sahib and the Church mission group for the help they rendered me. May God bless them to serve more11

Even in Madras, I had to face many trials and obstacles. One such drishtandam*: One day myself and Maraman Mattan12 (now Mar Athanasyan) were returning after an evening walk and we saw two Sahibs sitting on chairs and talking in our house in the southern part of our school. When they saw us they invited us and expressed their happiness to see us. When we went upstairs, they shook our hands with happiness, took us inside and started telling us about Jesus Christ’s love. I wondered because I was hearing it for the first time. I cried once I realised that Christ’s love was that big. After exchanging so many ideas, we were sent back by nine o’ clock after prayer.

When we reached home, Antharsonn Jonsthan enquired us about the two sahibs who showered us love. The next day, we were reprimanded for this but ignoring that, we visited them very often and listened to their intellectual ideas. Though the two holy men passed away, their pieces of advice and love were still in my heart.

I thought it was wrong to say that we should not listen to someone talking about Christ and should listen to others about Him. I love those who love Jesus Christ and would live with them. Hooked up to them to learn more. I thought the congregation (sabha*) is not what which saved us. However, I did not reveal it openly.

After three years, helpful Thakkar Sahib went away and before his departure to Vilatthy, I was sent along with others to the church mission school to study. I studied there for six months. There, those who were black in complexion were ridiculed and abused; some were exposed to rain without umbrellas and if their books got drenched in the rain, they were reprimanded. Whenever they fell ill, they were cursed in front of those who were white. They were not good in studies. The servant of God who was supposed to be benevolent, found fault with others and a committee was convened to conduct the trial. Nobody had love like the Takkar sahib and I thought of leaving the place. I wrote a letter and gave it to a sahib and informed him that I would come back when Thakkar Sahib returned and went back to Kochi.

At that time, the above mentioned Mar Athanasyan had set out to Anthokhya. In order to see Jerusalem with him, I followed up to Belgam.13 There, we were strangers but we sat down near the Mission church to escape from rain. Suddenly, the preachers reached there and talked to us. Knowing that we were Christians, they provided us accommodation in a room. After getting the permission of Taylor sahib, we were taken to a house to stay by a salamon* preacher. We were advised to stay there till the rainy season got over.

Once we recovered from exhaustion, I was asked to teach the siblings of Sahib and Mattan was to teach in the English school where the black children studied. Rainy season got over. Since God did not like me to go with Mattan, he punished me with an eye disease. My journey was disrupted. After Mattan’s departure, I was admitted in sahib’s house and he cared me like his child. I also stayed there happily for a year and taught the children in dharmachathram.* From this lucky family, I learnt more about Christ and the effect of prayer.

Apart from teaching the sahib’s children during week days, I taught them the Bible in Tamil on Sundays. In the afternoons and early Wednesdays, I gave lectures in Tamil and in the remaining time, I’ went to Sappur14 as directed by Taylor Sahib and lectured to people in Kannada. When Taylor Sahib’s children went to Vilatti, I was asked to teach in the ‘black school; I stayed in a house and continued teaching children.

At that time, I did a great mistake. Soon, I behaved like a mad man. During the last ten years, I did not face such hardships in my life and I got anxious and prayed to Jesus Christ. Despite my prayer, I did not get any kind of peace and happiness. After some days, a few sahibs came to know about my condition and I did not reply to their answers. When they asked me to leave the place, I got annoyed and proud and left the place in anger. Though the Mission told me to stay there, I did not oblige, due to my anger.

When I returned, Both Taylor Sahib and Baynan Sahib became disappointed and they blessed me. They told me that I would be taken care of by Megling Sahib if I went to Mangalapuram and Hebik Sahib in Kannur.

So I went to Mangalore. Due to wind, my pattemari* could not anchor so near to Thalasseri. I stayed there for two days and interacted with a preacher. But due to shyness, I did not meet any sahib and returned to Kannur.

I stayed there in a rented house. I stayed for a week visiting the church, meeting the preacher and reading.

One day, while I was returning from the church Aharon, the preacher found me and enquired about me. He told Hebik Sahib15 about me and the next day the sahib called me and talked to me. He asked me to stay in his house. I did not tell him much about my experiences in Belgam. Even then, he received me warmly and I stayed with him for about six months in Kannur doing certain work. My marriage was conducted on 10 February, 1844 and I was sent to Chirackkal as a preacher.

I got chastened after reading so many religious books and listening to the preachings of so many having brilliant ideas. Despite the presence of God, I used to be anxious during 1835 – 1847 and had nightmares like so many people.

Despite being a devotee, I sat down like a weak person. But being pleased with me, the father of Christ who is the Lord, advised me to offer myself totally to Christ.

The Almighty wished to resurrect his congregation in Kannur on a Thursday in 1847. While Habek Sahib was giving a speech, preacher Daniel and Joseph suddenly burst out revealing their wrong deeds in front of the congregation. Soon, the people who gathered to listen to the speech felt a shivering sensation. I also felt uneasy and shivered with my voice turning frail.

Then, I went to the sahib’s room and cried. I came back and stood there. ‘Open your heart!,’ a voice from within seemed to say.

There was something on the faces of persons who repented. But, I stayed there till the speech got over. Later, I confessed my sins before the sahib and the congregation but I was ashamed to share the secret of the sin which I committed in Belgam. I walked like an addict.

On next Sunday, when I was sitting and listening to the lecture in the church, something struck my heart like a fireball. The very next moment, it burnt my heart with all the bones and body totally lost. Tears gushed out of my eyes like a stream. I thought it was hellfire: I felt like vomiting the poison by crying aloud but waited so that the speech would not get interrupted.

Soon after the speech, one or two sahibs talked to Hebik Sahib and I went to take food. After taking one or two handfuls of rice, I ran to the sahib and cried aloud: “I am going to get ruined; I have sinned in Belgam.” I also confessed some other sins.

Soon God opened my eyes. I saw Christ who shed this precious blood through five wounds, after getting crucified in Golgotha.16 He blessed me . . . I felt in my heart to remain courageous and peaceful.

From that onwards, my belief, love and trust in Him increased manifold. When I cross the Yordhan river,17 I believe that He is with me and I have a place in His Kingdom. I started taking pleasure in offeri prayers to the Lord.

From 1849, till now, I acted as the loving preacher of Gundart sahib and stayed with him. As per the direction of Basil Committee, I continued to learn garmanya language.*

My story is over. God has protected me for forty two years ,and forgave all my sins. Innumerable were the blessings and so big. Many of the friends and relatives of my age have passed away. It is a wonder that God keeps me alive even now!

Those who renounce everything for His sake will get hundred times more is what I have understood in the last twelve years. I strongly believe that if we wish anything, we will get it. His holy blood is my salvation and His death is my life. God taught me all these and saved me. He will forgive my ego and I humbly request Him to lead me on the path of truth and love me and save me.


Kshatriyas:* According to the system of chaturvarnya, it is the duty of the kshatriyas to protect the subjects. Apart from this, they should study Vedas and be good in danadharmas.

Adimaveckal:* It is the auspicious event during which the members of the Kochi Royal family are offered to personal deity (paradevata). In Tripunithura temple, adimaveckal was done in a traditional manner. Documents related to it are available in kovilakam kaeheri.

Vaishnavism:* One of the major branches of Hinduism which promotes the veneration of supreme Lord Vishnu. Vaishnavites are the followers of Lord Vishnu and His ten incarnations. In Kerala, pisharodies and Gauda Saraswatha Brahmins and embrantinries who settled in Kerala at a later phase of Brahmin settlement are Vaishnavites.

Kavyas:* poems or verse.

Mudradharanam:*Drawing of any form or mudra of the personal god. According to the Basil Mission edition of the book, Lord Vishnu’s conch was drawn on his body with red-hot iron.

Puranas:* (Non-Christian Religious Writings) any of a class of Sanskrit writings not included in the Vedas, characteristically recounting the birth and deeds of Hindu gods and the creation, destruction, or recreation of the universe. A body of 18 works written between the first and 11th centuries and incorporating legends and speculative histories of the universe and myths and customary observances.

Marumakkataya system:* It is a hereditary right through matriliny. This system was prevalent in Kerala since the eleventh century. Matrilineal system of succession became popular when marital relationships were on the rocks as a result of polyandry. But, the family was ruled by the karanavar (patriarch). As a result of social reformation marumakkathaya system in Nair families gave way to makkathaya system. One husband for one woman and claim for paternal properties became legal in makkathaya system. However, property rights through matriliny still prevail in many kshatriya families even today.

Sahasranama:* A type of Hindu scripture in which a deity is referred to by 1000 or different names. They are classified as stotras, or hymns of praise, a type of devotional scripture. Sahasra means thousand and nama means name, so `sahasranama’ is translated as ‘a thousand names.’

Astottarasatham:* A type of Hindu scripture in which a deity is referred to by 108 different names.

Mantras:* A sacred prayer or incantation. A magic form of words for a particular situation.

Embran: * A Tutu Brahmin priest.

Kovilakam:* It means palace, the official residence of a royal personage.

Melsanthi:* The chief priest of a temple.

Kamasastra:* In Indian literature, Kamasastra refers to the tradition of works on love, erotics or sensual pleasures. It has a practical side and was aimed at instructing the townsmen (nagarika) in the way to attain enjoyment and fulfilment.

Upanayanam:* The ‘sacred thread ceremony’ is commonly known for being a Hindu rite – of – passage ritual. Traditionally, the ceremony was performed to mark the point at which boys began their formal education. It is the function where the child is brought before the guru. Brahmins at the age of seven, kshatriyas at 11 and vaishyas at 12 years old perform upanayana. This function is only for the males. Upanayana ceremony lasts for four days. The holy thread is worn with upanayana.

Samvartham:* Meaning is unclear.

Pathiri Sahib:* foreign missionary.

Ezhuthupalli:* It meant school.

Konkani:* Konkani people form an ethnic group mainly found in the Konkan coast of western India who speak the Konkani language natively. The word Konkani derives from kum, meaning ‘Mother Earth’ and kana, meaning ‘piece’ or ‘part,’ thereby implying a strip of land along the western Indian coast beyond the Western Ghat mountains called as Konkan.

Pattar:* Tamil Brahmin.

Punool:* The sacred thread worn across the shoulders of Brahmin boys. punoolkalyanam is the ceremony of putting sacred thread across the shoulders of Brahmin boys.

Kudaplasin:* Meaning is unclear.

Pindarn:* rice-ball offered to the dead as part of funeral ceremonies.

Munshi:* Munshi was the Urdu name of a writer or secretary, used in British India of the native language teachers or secretaries employed by Europeans. Since in British India, Munshies were hired as clerks in the government , the word Munshi also became the name of profession. They worked as accountants and secretary as well. The family name Munshi belongs to people whose families were in the profession of Munshi and hence were respected as literate people. Munshis taught Malayalam to foreign missionaries.

Suriyani:* Suriyani Malayalam, also known as karshoni or syriac Malayalam, is a traditional system of writing Malayalam language in a variant form of pazhaya suriyani pally (loosely translated as old Syrian church) is located at Chengannur, Kerala.

Kudumbaprardhana:* It means family prayer.

Sabha:* Denomination of the Christian church.

Drishtandam:* Example, proof, witness, an illustrating story.

Salmon:* It was derived from Hebrew shalom which means ‘peace.’ Solomon was a king of Israel, the son of David, renowned for his wisdom. Supposedly, he wrote the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. This name has never been overly common in the Christian world, and it is considered typically Jewish.

Dharmachathram:* A school.

Pattemari:* A native vessel larger than a cargo-boat.

Garmanya language:* It means colloquial language. NOTES


1. Autobiography: Though the original title Yakoob Ramavarman Enna Swdeshabodhakante Jeevacharithram indicates that the text is the `biography’ of Ramavarman, the native missionary, we may not take it in the literal sense and may view it as an ‘autobiography’ written and recited in the church.

2. The Native Missionary: The original word iswadeshabodhakan’ means native missionary.

3. Tripunithura Royal Palace: Tripunithura is a suburb of the city of Kochi in the state of Kerala, India. It is a part of Tripunithura municipality and belongs to the Ernakulam district in the state of Kerala. Tripunithura was the capital of the erstwhile Kingdom of Cochin. The descendants of the Cochin royal family still live here. The Hill Palace situated near Thripunithura was the palace of Maharaja of Cochin, the ruler of Kingdom of Cochin.

4. Virakerala Maharaja: Virakeralavarma, former Maharaja of Kochi, was the author of many attakathas (dance dramas). He was more interested in Kathakali, Koothu, Koodiyattam and other arts rather than ruling his own country. As per the Kochi State Manual, deposit in state exchequer was in a depleted state.

5. Rama Varma: Virakeralavarma had two wives, namely Lakshmi and Kunjikavu. Altogether, he had eight children born from them, it is believed that Ramavarman was the second one among them. In kshatriya families, the first male child was often named Ramavarman and the second one was called Keralavarman. Though he was the second son of Virakeralavarma, he was called Ramavarman because he was the first son of the second wife of the King.

6. Vypin: Vypin is an island in Kochi. This island has relations with the royal family from the times of the Portuguese. Fort Kochi was built by the Portuguese Viceroy Alphonso Albuquerq in 1503 to save the king of Kochi from the attack of the Samuthiri. The Raja of Kochi used to stay here.

7. The captain of a ship: Those captains of foreign ships who anchored in Kochi coast stayed there for a pretty long time. They established friendship with the natives. The captains who visited Kochi during the Portuguese period established relationship with the Kochi Royal Family. At that time, a member of the royal family sailed throughout the world and was converted to Catholicism by adopting the name Constantine Ramavarma.

8. The English word baptism means bath.

9. Book of Family Prayer was printed in the C. M. S. press Kottayam under the direction of Benjamin Bailey, a C. M. S. missionary in 1821 and published by the Church Mission Society.

10. He was the Church Mission Society missionary in Madras and it was Kory who started the Kori’s Grammar School.

11. Rev. Tucker had been a C. M. S missionary

12. Maramon Palakkunnathu Mathan was a bishop who stood for reformation within the Suriyani Church.

13. Belgam is a place in Karnataka.

14. Sappur is Bijapur in Karnataka

15. They were the missionaries in Besel Mission’s Mangalore and Kannur centres. It was Rev. Samuel Hebik from Kannur who took the initiative in enrolling Rama Varma in Besel Mission. Therefore, the latter considered the former his guru and guide.

16. Golgotha: Calvary, or Golgotha was, according to the Gospels, a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls where Jesus was crucified. In fact, the Bible translates the term to mean place of skull.

17. Yordhan is a holy river in Palestine.

18. Gundart: Rev. Dr. Hermann Gundert was a German missionary, scholar, and linguist, as well as the grandfather of German novelist and Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse. Gundert compiled a Malayalam grammar book, Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam (1859), the Malayalam – English dictionary (1872), and contributed to work on Bible translations into Malayalam. He worked primarily at Tellicherey on the Malabar coast, in Kerala, India. Gundert also contributed to the fields of history, geography and astronomy.


RAJESH V. NAIR. Is Assistant Professor of English, Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam.

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Is Assistant Professor of English, Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam.

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