|The founding father of the
Kumbanad family [Kumbanattu Kudumbam as it
is known in Malayalam] was Easaw Panicker, who lived
in the latter half of the 18th century. The beginning
of the family can be traced to the arrival of Yohannan
Sanyasi, the 'Patron Saint' of Kumbanad, on the scene.
He was originally a Hindu named Krishnaswamy, belonging
to the Vellala Brahmin caste, who became a
Christian. He left a comfortable State Government
job and traveled north in search of Christian Fellowship.
He reached Eraviperoor, just a couple of miles west
of Kumbanad, in AD 1758. This was 18 years before
the Declaration of Independence in America and before
the British got a firm foothold in India. The Portugese
|entrenched in Goa
and Cochin. The Syrian Christian Church
in Kerala [known as the Malankara Church]
was under Mar Thoma V, fifth in line from
Arch Deacon Thomas, who became Mar Thoma
I after the Pledge of the Leaning Cross
[Coonan Kurisu Satyam] in AD 1653.
It was through this spontaneous act that
the Malankara Church broke off the Roman
Yoke imposed on it by the Portuguese Bishop
Menezes at the Council of Diampur [Udayamperoor
Sunahdos] held in AD 1599. In outlining
the history of the Kumbanad Family, references
to the Malankara Church are inevitable,
as the histories of the two are interconnected.
|On reaching Eraviperoor,
Yohannan Sanyasi went to the house of Easaw Panicker
Sr., who was a prosperous Syrian Christian of that
area. In the absence of the Senior Easaw Panicker
and his elder children, the Sanyasi was received
by the lady of the house with the help of their youngest
son, Easaw Panicker Jr. Let us digress a little to
consider how this Panicker family happened to be at
|It is believed that St. Thomas,
the Apostle of Jesus Christ, landed in Kodungalloor
in AD 52 and established a Church there. Some Christians
from Kodungalloor migrated to Kuravilangad. Their
descendants joined military service under the King
of Idapalli. The King stationed some of these at Eraviperoor.
Easaw Panicker was a leader of this group. The honorific
'Panicker' itself suggests that he was recognised
for his military leadership. He was involved in battles
against Tippu Sultan, when the latter invaded Travancore
and Cochin. A devout Christian, Easaw Panicker was
also known for his generosity and kindheartedness.
It may be noted that Kerala of that period was fragmented
into small Kingdoms. The rulers of these kingdoms
could not maintain permanent armies. The armies were
raised, as and when necessary, by people like Easaw
Panicker, who maintained ‘kalaries’ or training
schools for martial arts.
sought the help of Easaw Panicker Sr.
to build a Dayara [Monastery] where
he could spend his time in prayer and meditation.
With the latter's assistance, a Dayara was
built at Kumbanad and the Sanyasi moved
there in 1760. This is the location where
Kumbanad Valiapally stands. In fact,
the Dayara also became a Church for
the region. Mar Thoma V, who was then the
Malankara Methran, deputed the vicar of
the Syrian Church of Kallooppara to conduct
the dedication service.
|Yohannan Sanyasi became
very fond of Easaw Panicker Jr. and got him to stay
at the Dayara. It is perhaps the training at
the Dayara that prepared this young man, who was only
12 years old when he first met the Sanyasi,
to grow up to become the founding father of the Kumbanad
|The Dayara attracted a lot
of worshippers on Sundays, mainly from the surrounding
villages. This included the Senior Easaw Panicker
and his elder sons. Easaw Panicker Jr., with the support
of the Sanyasi, cleared the area around the Dayara
Church and built a house on the North side of the
Church. This is the Valiaveetil house.
|Yohannan Sanyasi found
a suitable bride for his young companion. The girl
was called Mariamma and hailed from the Kutticat family
of Thattackad, a place only a couple of miles north
of Kumbanad. The marriage was solemnised in the Dayara
|Yohannan Sanyasi passed away
in 1790 AD, after 30 years of spiritual work centred
around the Dayara. It was through his untiring efforts
that a Christian community was built in these parts.
As the Sunday worshippers grew in number, it became
necessary to build a new Church. This was completed
|Kumbanad was a dense
forest when Yohannan Sanyasi settled there.
It is said that Kumbanad was a prosperous
village several centuries before that. It
is believed that upper caste Hindus of 41
Illoms occupied this village. The many fresh
water tanks found in and around Kumbanad
are attributed to that period. How that
community perished, perhaps in a short time,
remains a mystery. It is said that marauding
tribesmen plundered and killed the inhabitants.
In the absence of human habitation, forest
covered the region and wild animals abounded.
The name Kumbanad itself is said to be derived
from Kumbhi Nad - the land of Elephants.
|Three sons and three daughters were
born to Mariamma and Easaw Panickar Jr. Daughters Mariamma,
Achyamma and Aleyamma were given away in marriage. The sons
too got married. The eldest, Kocheasaw, after marriage,
continued to live in the same Valiaveetil house. The youngest
son, Yohannan (John) put up a house in the compound on the
southern side of the church and settled there with his wife.
This was the second house in Kumbanad and was known as
Theckethil. The second son Mammen married a girl from Edanad,
and settled there. His only son, also named Mammen, married
from Niranam, and made that his home. Later he was persuaded
to come back and settle down at Kumbanad.
|Kocheasaw of Valiaveetil had seven
sons, who are mentioned below in the order of seniority.
|1. Padinjarethil Easaw
2. Valiaparambil Mathen
3. Nellimala Yohannan
4. Kochuplammootil Geevarghese
5. Puthenveetil Mammen
6. Padinjattedath Chacko
7. Valiaveetil Abraham Kathanar (Kathanar means Achen or
|Theckethil Yohannan had five sons, listed
below in the order of seniority:
|1. Puthenpurackal Easaw
2. Pallikizhakethil Kochitty
3. Mamootil Yohannan
4. Kochupurackal Mammen
5. Theckethil Thomas
|These twelve descendents
of the third generation cleared the forests of Kumbanad
and cultivated the land. They lived as a joint family
and the land was divided among them only much later.
These twelve, along with Kochuparampil Mammen, became
the originators of the 13 'gothrams' [basic families]
of Kumbanad, in analogy with the 'gothrams' or tribes
|As the land under cultivation
increased, so did the prosperity of the family. Side by side,
the church building was also renewed and expanded. However,
regular service of a priest was not available. The
Metropolitan, Mathews Mar Athanasius, was persuaded to ordain
Valiaveethil Easaw Abraham, the youngest member of the family,
as a priest. He was ordained a deacon in 1856 at the age of
twelve and a full Priest in 1864 at the young age of twenty.
Abraham Kathanar or Valiaveethil Achen, as he was commonly
called, become the first vicar of the Kumbanad Mar Thoma
Church and served the parish for more than 54 years until his
death in 1911.
|The reformation in the Malankara
Church was initiated by Abraham Malpan in 1836, when
he used a liturgy in Malayalam to celebrate Holy Communion
in the Maramon Church. Kumbanad had close association
with this church and our people used to walk to Maramon
to attend Bible classes held there regularly. Thus
the Naveekaram movement [reformation] in the Malankara
Church had good support from our family. When the
Metropolitan Cheppat Mar Dyanesius ex-communicated
Abraham Malpan, our people stood by Naveekaranam.
Later when Abraham Malpan’s nephew became Metroplitan
Mathews Mar Athanasius, our family gladly accepted
|The church building was found to be
too small for the increasing number of worshippers. Thus in
1872 a new church building was completed under the supervision
of Valiaveethil Achen. The chancel alone was a permanent
structure, while nave was a temporary structure made of bamboo
poles and palm leaves. This was the third church building.
|The church (parish) here
was then independent and had not handed over its property
to the Metropolitan. There were overtures from the
C.M.S.missionaries to join their church, but Valiaveetil
Achen resisted this temptation, and remained with
the reform group and later joined the Mar Thoma Church.
Valiaveetil Achen was one of the 18 priests who assembled
at Aiyroor in 1877 and wrote to various parishes supporting
the objectives and principles of Malpan Achen’s reformation.
Mathews Mar Athanasius was succeeded by his cousin
Thomas Mar Athanasius [son of Abraham Malpan]. The
new Metropolitan, Pulicat Mar Dionesius filed a suit
against the reform group and the court ruling was
unfavourable to the latter. Thus in 1888 Thomas Mar
Athanasius and his followers lost the rights for Malankara
Church properties. Ultimately, when cases for individual
churches were settled, the reformist group retained
only seven churches, some of them on a sharing basis.
But the deft handling of the situation by Valiaveetil
Achen ensured that the Kumbanad Valiapally remained
independent of the court cases.
|The Church building was again
renovated 1892, when the bamboo structure was replaced by a
stone masonry building. This was possible only because the
twelve families jointly raised funds for this purpose. This
joint effort later became a bone of contention and some
|The Kumbanad Valiapally continued
to be the epicentre of the family. Valiaveetil Achen
encouraged his cousin’s son, Puthenpurackal Easaw Mammen, to
join the ministry of the church. Accordingly, in 1891 Titus I
Metropolitan ordained him as deacon at the Maramon Church. He
proved to be of great help to the elder Achen as his
assistant. Later, Rev. Mammen was the first vicar of the
Eraviperoor Emmanual Mar Thoma church.
|The closing decades of the 19th
century was a period of great revival in the Protestant
churches in Kerala. Many evangelists came and preached at
Kumbanad. Our forefathers remember the great revival of 1892.
|Among the revival preachers, some
propagated the Brethren Faith. They succeeded in persuading
some members of the Family to join the Brethren Church after
accepting adult baptism. Prominent among them was Rev. P.E.
Mammen. After his death, his only son returned to the Mar
|As the Mar Thoma Church grew in
strength, there was a demand to transfer the church property
to the metropolitan of the Church. One of the strong
supporters of the reformation and a stalwart of the Mar Thoma
Church, Ipe Thoma Kathanar of Kovoor in Tiruvella, succeeded
in persuading the family members to transfer the title of the
church building and its compound together with all other
assets to the Mar Thoma Metropolitan. This was done on July 6,
1910, when Titus II Mar Thoma was the metropolitan.
|Only four of the 13 forefathers
(third generation) signed this transfer deed. They
were Valiaveetil Abraham Kathanar, 64 years old at
that time, Padinjattedath Easaw Chacko, 67, Pallikizhakethil
Yohannan Kochitti, 68, and Kochuparambil Mammen, 68.
Their brothers had expired before 1910. Valiaveetil
Achen himself passed away on June 27, 1911. His sepulchre
with a tablet affixed on it stands in the cemetery
of the church - the only sepulchre for any male member
of the third or previous generations.
|With great foresight, our
forefathers encouraged education, which is the basis of the
current prosperity of the family. Valiaveetil Achen took the
initiative to start a primary school in the church compound.
At the suggestion of Metropolitan Mar Athanasius, the then
Dewan of Travancore allowed grants to such schools and our
school was also a beneficiary. Later, when the norms for
grants were revised under Dr. Mitchell’s Education Code, this
school became ineligible for grants. So the local people,
mainly our family members, constructed two school buildings
and handed them over to the Government. These are the two
government primary schools. The Boy’s School was completed in
1911 and the Girl’s School in 1917.
|This emphasis on education
proved to be of immense value to later generations.
Two of the younger members of the fourth generation
got a college education. They were P.M.Mammen, Puthenveetil,
who became a graduate and a sub-registrar, and N.J.Chacko
M.A. L.T. of Nellimala family, who became a government
high school teacher. There were only four others who
had some English education. All the rest could only
just read and write Malayalam. In the fifth generation,
the majority had the benefit of English education.
This opened job opportunities for them, not only in
India, but also in foreign lands. The real exodus
started with the sixth generation. Thus we have Kumbanad
family Diaspora in Australia, Malaysia, the Gulf,
European countries and America.
|Our forefathers also took pains to
impart religious instruction to their progeny. They started
Bible study classes and the Sunday School, as also women’s
prayer meetings, well before formal institutions for these
were started by the Mar Thoma Church.
|Sometime in 1922, the tall
frontage of the church building collapsed. It became
necessary to build a new church. It was in 1932 that
the construction of a permanent church building was
taken up. This took about 12 years to complete. This
was a period of great depression and money was hard
to come by. Though in great financial difficulties,
members contributed - more in kind than in cash. Bishop
Mathews Mar Athanasius took a keen interest in speeding
up construction. Voluntary manual work was put in
even by the Sunday school students, under the supervision
of the Bishop. Finally, the Church was completed and
was dedicated by Abraham Mar Thoma, Suffragon Metropolitan.
This is the fourth church building which is the centre
of worship for the family even today.
|In 1961 there was a schism in the
Mar Thoma Church over the interpretation and practices of some
sacraments. A new Church called the St. Thomas Church of India
came into being. Some members of the Kumbanad family joined
the new church. However, the vast majority stayed with the
|The strength of the Kumbanad
Family stems from a sense of belonging shared by all
the members. Up to the 6th generation most of the
members grew up in Kumbanad, and worshipped in the
same Church. This built a bond of fellowship, which
stayed with them even when they went to distant places
to make a living. A generation that has come of age
now has hardly lived in Kumbanad. This web site is
dedicated to them. It is hoped that they will keep
in touch with each other, through this medium and
others. Let us remember that we have a unique opportunity
to keep up this legacy and what a great force it could
be in this world.
Dr. C.K. Mathews
|| . Bi-centenary Publication of
Kumbanad Valiapally dated May, 1961 and
|| . An article
written in 1990 by Mr.T.J. Thomas, Theckethil, Kumbanad.
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All Rights Reserved.