St: Marys Jacobite Syrian Church Piravom PIRAVOM VALIYA PALLY which is one of the most ancient and prominent church in Kerala stands on a lovely hilltop on the eastern bank of the Muvattupuzha river at Piravom, 35 Kms east of Kochi. Adorned with all the majestic beauty of nature, this Church is believed to be as old as the Christianity. Its lamp, the light of hope, is kept burning perpetually throughout day and night, a peculiar feature! Though the Church is named after St. Mary, it is popularly known as the 'Church of the Kings' (“Rajakkalude Pally”). People from various parts of the country irrespective of caste, creed and religion reach this pilgrim centre for consolation and comfort with offerings to their ‘Kings’ who never refuse the prayers and tears of the devotees. This pilgrim centre stands as a fort of refuge, showering blessings, ecstasy, complacence and solace to millions of people far and near.
HISTORY The church has been invariably known as Piravom Valiyapally, Morth Mariyam Pally, Rajakkalude Pally, St.Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Church etc.. As legends say, it is the first Christian Church in the world, and it is the only church in the name of the Holy Kings (MAGI) which stands on the solid rock of Christian faith. It is one among the rare churches in Malankara where there has been daily Holy Mass from very olden times. There is the "Vishudha Moonninmel Qurbono" (The Holy Mass offered jointly by three priests) almost daily and there are two Holy Masses one after the other on Sundays. Pilgrims from far and near come to pray for consolation and comfort. Many parishioners come daily in the afternoon to pray and they light candles in the church and at the tombs of their forefathers in the graveyard, which is another significance of this church among the Churches in Malankara. This church remains loyal to the Patriarch of Antioch, seated on the Holy Apostolic throne of St. Peter.
Old History About 2000 years ago, "…after the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of king Herod the "Wisemen" from the east (The Magi) reached Bethlehem through Jerusalem. The "star" they saw in the east was moving to direct them till they reached the birthplace of Infant Jesus… They saw the young child on the lap of mother Mary, knelt down and worshipped him. They opened their treasures and presented gifts to him: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (St. Mathew 2:1-11) And they returned with exceeding joy and satisfaction to their home land in the east. The Wisemen (Holy kings) were scholars, rulers and devotees. The legends name them as Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. Old Melchior, middle aged Gaspar and young Belthazar visited Infant Jesus. When they reached back their homeland, they built an edifice in the Indian style and here they began to worship the Holy infant. As such Piravom Valiyapally is the first church in the world, where worshipping Jesus Christ started. During the 5th Century, this building may have been rebuilt as a Christian church as we now see. Evidences are many which goes to prove this traditional faith. The commercial connection of Kerala with the western countries and the astrological competence of Kerala are only some. The westerners were visiting Kerala for the business of spices. The major part of the gift presented by the Holy Kings was spices. The Holy Book says that the wise men came from the East. Aryabhata, Vararuchi and Sankaranarayana are examples for the fact that Kerala has been famous for astronomy since olden times. Widely famous astrological centre, the ‘Pazhoor Padippura’ very near to this church is also an evidence to reach to this conclusion. "The place-name Piravom itself is related to 'piravi' (Birth)". Many people are of such opinions. It is seen in the History of St.Thomas (Page. 15; Suriyani Sabha, Kaniyanparambil Kurian Corepiscopa) that the ‘Megusans’ (MAGI), who made offerings to Infant Jesus had been sanctified as Christians in India by St.Thomas, when he was in missionary works in Kerala. It is believed that, in the beginning, this church building was in the architectural style of Hindu Temples. But later during the flourishing of the Persian culture, the church building was renovated adopting the Persian architecture. The picture of fish, an ancient Christian emblem has a venerable place in the church. The Church was built as a strong fort; having been built in the periods of "Padayottam" (civil wars and banditry) its walls are more than four feet in thickness. The Church in the pages of history During the days of Archbishop Menezis from Portugal, the texts referring to the Malankara Church history including the Piravom church, (Refer notes on ‘Udayamperoor Synod’), had been destroyed. The Churches that Menesis intruded after the Synod (A.D.1599) includes Piravom Church (Suriyani Sabha. Page. 131). Later the people of this church participated in the "Koonan Kurisu Sathyam" (Coonen Cross Oath) in 1653. Among those who gathered at Mattancherry (Cochin) to declare allegiance to the true faith, the members of this church had active roles.
Some Historical facts After the ‘Koonan Kurisu’ (Coonen Cross Oath) incident, one Metropolitan from Antioch resided at the Piravom church. Meanwhile some people of the Kottoor Church, with prior permission of the Metropolitan, came by boat to take him to their Church. Rev.Fr. Chandy (who gave the leadership to 'koonan kurisu sathyam') also came without prior permission to take him to Kaduthuruthy Church. But the Bishop firstly went to Kottoor Church as agreed earlier. He may have been advised of avoiding a to and fro journey also. Provoked by this Fr. Chandy went to Menezis and joined the Roman Catholic order. But the Piravom church remained firm on true faith (Sabha Charithram, page. 147). Piravom church was the seventh among the 103 churches that took part in the Mulanthuruthy Synod held by H.H. Pathros III Patriarch of the Antioch in 1876. (Vicar of Piravom Valiyapally Rev. Fr. Abraham Karammel, Rev: Dn. Thomas Puthenpurackal Rev. Dn. Daveed Thaliachira and Mr. Ittiavirah Ulahannan Karammel participated and signed in the Synod.) Mr. Thommi Puthenpurackel of the Piravom church was selected to the sub-committee of the Syrian Christian Association which was then constituted (Suriyani sabha, page. 223). H. H. Pathros III the Patriarch had resided in the Piravom Church during 1876. The holy relics ('Thiruseshippu') of the St. Eldho Mor Baselios, entombed at Kothamangalam in 1685, had been installed at the Piravom church through the dedicated work of Rev. Fr. Vellirickal. H.G. Paulose Mor Koorilose who was anointed at Sehiyon Malika on the 31st of May 1908 by H. H. Abdulla Patriarch, stayed for a long time at the church seminary. The Higher Secondary School, (Mor Koorilose Memorial) is named in memory of His Grace. (M.K.M.H.S.S., Piravom) Whether true or not, there are so many legends connected with the Piravom Church. *The legend regarding the foundation of the church While returning after offering presents to the Infant Jesus at Bethlehem, the Three Kings met a "Panickar" with a boat, in the river. The Kings’ request to help them cross the river, was turned down by the Panickar. But he could not row any further. Thus knowing that they were divine people, Panickar decided to help them. But the boat was so small that only one could travel at a time. But the three could travel on it without being sunk. Wonder struck Panickar, showed them the small hill on the eastern bank of the river to rest and pray. When the kings began to leave, Panickar made them promise that they would not leave the place until his return. But Panickar committed suicide, and never returned, which made the Three Kings stay there forever. *"The beautiful hill top site, to which of his two deities ?" Rajakkal failed to come to a decision, when he decided to erect two separate buildings for them. He came to test through a lot. One YAMAM away, on the upperside of the river, he put the cross of the church and the idol of the Devi and left them to float down. The cross came down and rested on the present Kadavu of the church and the idol on the Ambala kadavu. And the three kings built the church and the Ambalam (Temple) on the respective sites as seen now. * Another legend is of "Tortoise, Bell and Fish " Once the church bell was stolen and was sunk in the whirlpool on the western side of the Church. It is believed that a sacred fish along with the bell comes up above the water at the time of the celebration of the Holy Mass of the annual festival. People believe that there is a tunnel cave from the river to the centre bottom, of the Church, where the fish and tortoise live safely. * Another legend is that some robbers had withdrawn leaving their booty, when the Three Kings raised their sword at them on all the doors of the church. * Yet another legend is about Kayamkulam Kochunni. He came to robe the Church, and when his boat reached the whirlpool it kept rounding there till daybreak so that his attempt ended up fruitlessly. The Change of Name There is no other church anywhere in the world in the name of the Holy Kings in the Syrian tradition. A Holy Father form Antioch who once camped at the church decreed that, churches could not be allowed in the name of the Holy Kings’ because the kings were non-Christians according to his conscience. Thus the name of the Church was changed to St. Mary’s. However it is still the ‘Rajakkalude Pally" (Holy Kings’ Church) in the hearts of the devotees.
The place of the Church The Church stands with a very beautiful greenery at Piravom on the bank of the Muvattupuzha River. The river deviated its route leaving a small mount aside, on which the church stands like an enthroned King. Communal Harmony The Piravom Church and the "Pisharukovil Temple" (Hindu Temple) are situated on the same hill, side by side. There is only a wall separation between them and they co-operate each other for the festivals irrespective of caste and creed.
HISTORICAL OBJECTS Antiquity throbs at this church. The blend of ancient artistic splendour and sculptural skill can be seen in the famous ‘Erthazhu’ (Altar). A very ancient thick slab of granite (1’ x 1.5’ x 7’) with a script engraved in the most ancient Tamil-Malayalam letters, can be seen in the church yard. Another one is in the church-wall having ancient Malayalam script (vattezhuthu) written after additional construction works. Many historical objects which help the research fellows are here, such as the cross lock system, 4 ft thick church wall, lock links, inter connected lock joints, interlocked ceiling, the table showing festival dates in square shaped script on the south wall, the huge cross stone and cross base on the western yard, most ancient worship material prayer scroll and hand-written books etc.