St Thomas myth or Cheran king’s conquest of Yavanas?


St Thomas myth or Cheran king’s conquest of Yavanas?

The falsity of the claim that St Thomas came to India and that Tamils were originally Christians has been exposed variously by Sri Ishwar Sharan.
On the issue of a group of Christians landing in the Malabar coast, let me bring to the notice of the readers some information from Silappadhikaram, written in the 2nd century AD. This book tells about the presence of ‘Yavanas’ in the Kingdoms of all the 3 Tamil kings. The usual refrain is to consider them as Greeks or Romans. There are some who think that they are Muslims (thulukkar). But Islam came into existence much later than Silappadhikaram period. This restricts the religious identity of the Yavanas to Christianity only.

There is a mention of a separate dormitory for Yavanas (yavanar irukkai) in Pumpukar, the Chozhan Capital while explaining the presence of traders at the time of Festival for Indra (Indra viza)
There is a mention of Yavanas as security guards around the fort of Madurai, the Pandyan Capital.
In the case of Cheran kingdom, the mention of Yavanas comes twice in Silapapdhikaram. At both places it is said that Senkuttuvan, the Cheran king conquered the land of Yavanas, the Himalayas and the Southern Kuamri lands.
The yavana land is mentioned as “van sol yavanar vaLanaadu” .
Where was this place?
Was it near the Himalayas from where he procured the stone for building the image of Kannagi?
Or was it a small location of yavanas who settled on the west coast  near his kingdom?
From the description of Yavanas guarding Madurai, it is understood that they were hired by the Tamil kings. They did not mingle with locals but were allotted separate locations as we find in the description in Pumpukar. This shows that yavanas were more or less settled in parts of Tamil nadu even as early as the beginning of the Common Era. The victory of the Cheran king over Yavana nadu could mean his control over the Yavana – locations in Chera nadu which would have become their first landing parts in their journey to Tamilnadu.
The Tamil kings known for their ceaseless warring tendencies could have started the habit of hiring or engaging Yavanas in security posts. The yavanas could have first got introduced to Tamil kings as horse sellers. Horses had an important place in the army of Tamil kings as we find a sutra in Tolkappiyam on the valour of horses used in wars. The Tamil kings must have been on the lookout for the best breed of horses for use as Royal horses and in wars. The horse trading Yavanas in course of time could have found favor with the Tamil kings as experts in war and fighting.
Thus their presence pre dated Silappadhikaram times or even Pre Christian times. But at no time, they were absorbed into local culture by the Tamils. They were considered as Mlecchas and were allowed to follow their life in outskirts.
That is how the settlement in the Malabar coast could have come up, which however came under the jurisdiction of the Cheran King.
The praise on Cheran king in the last chapter of Silappadhikaram, again repeats his victory over ‘Yavana vala naadu’ (யவன வள நாடு).
This is followed by his victory in the Himalayas. So this could also mean his victory over Yavanas in a place west or North west of Himalayas when the Cheran king went on his expedition to the Himalayas. This victory gives rise to a possibility that the conquered yavanas were brought to his land and settled them in the coastal area. The proud Cheran king who did not lose any opportunity to show up his superiority (expressed in Silappadhikaram) could have brought the Yavanas to his kingdom as a rightful conqueror in contrast to other two Tamil kings who hired the Yavanas.
These inputs from Silapapdhikaram show the presence of people of Roman or Greek or Mediterranean origin having permanent settlements in west coast of Cheran kingdom before the 2nd century AD.
The fabrication of St Thomas myth could have been centered around these people.
But it must be noted that the presence of any such groups did not and could not influence the religion that Tamils followed.
The same Cheran king was described by Silapapdhikaram as having conducted Soma yaga in his land.
This must put at rest what religion the Tamils followed in those days.
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2 thoughts on “St Thomas myth or Cheran king’s conquest of Yavanas?

  1. The Yavanas of Silappadikaram time or earlier might not have been Christians, they could have been Jews or following other religions. So, Thomas could not have seen Christians when he landed!

  2. Thanks for your valuable input. But the presence of yavanas comes in the context of security guards. I don’t think Jews were adepts in security work. In one place commentator Adiyaarkku Nallar links yavanas with horse trade. So the Arab traders could have been referred to as Yavanas. They were definitely pre-Christian as the original date of Silappadhikaram I did in another article based on Gautami Putra Satakarni as a contemporary puts the date of Kannagi at or before the start of Common Era.

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