The myth of Bhutala Pandya or Apostle Bartholomew associated with The Ancient Coastal port town of Barkur


History is a subject always fascinates most of us, though many of us, so I am, not qualified enough to analyze the same, scientifically. One such topic, we failed to understand is the legend of Jain King Bhutala Pandya, always referred, as the nobleman who first ruled from Barkur throne, as early as 78 AD, hence the name Barkur and a claim that his descendents ruled the place later for almost 300 long years! It is equally important to note here, except a book referring to this dynasty, which looks more like imaginative and exaggerative, to narrate a story that may or may not, really taken place almost 2000 years earlier, since the book written was in 14th century. No other historical evidence, structure, is yet to be traced at Barkur, as most of the monuments, one can find in the place, the most ancient one, date back to 9th Century AD and others thereafter……


Only three absurd arguments are put forth by some of the historians to infer the reign of Pandyan’s from Barkur are:

 

1) A Sanskrit Book containing 13 chapters

 

Whether he belongs to erstwhile Pandya dynasty that ruled South India, especially today’s Tamil Nadu and part of Southern Andhra Pradesh, still a matter of debate, since there is no unanimity on the very authenticity of date line of only source i.e. Bhuthala Pandya Charitam a book in Sanskrit, written somewhere in 14th Century, by a Brahmin Sanskrit scholar. Most of the historian’s set a side the claim of Bhutala Pandya legend for want of trust worthy proofs, pertaining to this period, not only at and around Barkur but also in contemporary history records of the same age elsewhere in the country.

 

The above Book says, the King Bhuthala Pandya was a follower of Jainism. On the contrary, many historian’s argue that Jainism though first arrived in Karnataka in the 4th century BC, near present Shravanabelagola, it spread to Canara only in the 12th century AD, that too during the reign of Hoysala Kings. The Jain Basadi’s now we can find in Hosala, (the name Hosala originated from Hoysala, some says) Barkur also built during this time. King Vishnuvardhana captured the Jain territory of Hombujja and they later arrived in Barkur and ruled from here, with a small kingdom. Later on they were feudatories / samantha’s of Hoysala kings. The architectural features of Basadi’s in Barkur resemble to an extent to the Temples of Belur and Halebeed.

 

2) Other legendary, oral, hearsay and folklore stories.

 

There are many stories of this legendary King and his dynasty in local pad-dana’s, mainly in Tulu language, passed on to generations by memory and recitation. One have to make a scientific research to analyze them, whether the incidents narrated over here are imaginative or the events actually taken place or a mixture of both like purana’s of Hindu mythology, containing and teaching moral and ethical values.

 

 

3) Aliya Santana

 

Aliya Santana is a system of inheriting property from female line attributes its origin to Bhutala Pandya with an interesting story. Most of the historian’s are not ready to accept this theory for many reasons.

The legend of aliya-santana (as against makkala-santana) is traced back to Bhutala-Pandya in year 78 C.E. Deva-Pandya launched his newly built fleet of ships into sea but ran afoul with the lord of demons, Kundodara. The demon asked the king to give him one of his sons as sacrifice, the king's wife refused. Satyavati, the king’s sister offered her son, Jaya-Pandya instead. The demonic Kundodara was pleased by this act, honored the child and restored to him his father’s kingdom of Jayantika. Later, the same drama was played out again and this time the king’s wife not only refused to part with one of her sons but also publicly renounced her position as queen and her son’s rights for any property. Kundodara then instructed Deva-Pandya to disinherit his children and make his sister’s son (nephew) his legal heir. Jaya-Pandya was given the name Bhutala-Pandya and was seated on the throne, from where he ruled for 75 years. Thus was born the aliya-santana, where the nephew became the legal heir to property. From whence the practice of aliya-santana is prevalent in the region is not clear.

Matriarchal family system gave more importance to the mother’s side. The respect given to the maternal uncles were not normally given to the paternal uncles.  Another reason for this may have been, to keep the family property intact. To support this, ‘aliya santhana’ system came into practice and was followed by every one with the belief that it was an ancient practice. It is also controversial here as some experts date back this system come into practice about 800 years ago!

In other words, the place Barkur, house as many as 365 or more, small and big temples, good number of them are Moola-stana’s, (first of its kind in the region and sacred to the concerned very specific community) historians date them from 9th century onwards, no epigraph, or any other structure belonging to earlier age has been unearthed or thus far located around…..

 

The legend of St. Bartholomew the Apostle:

 

It is also very interesting here to note yet another legendary story attached to Barkur, pertaining to almost same period is of Apostle Bartholomew – one of the twelve, lived with Jesus Christ. It was / is believed that that Barkur got its name as Bartho-lomeo-ooru. It’s a fact, all will accept that the  origin of name Barkur must owe a lot to these two different legends or one and the same….!?

 

‘Acts of Apostle’ a part of Holy Bible says, as per the wishes of Jesus, the disciples went in pairs to different places, to spread the Gospel to the then known world, including India.

Indus Valley and many parts of Indian sub continent was a civilized place much before the early Christian era and naturally known to the then world. There were established trade links with Roman and Arabian countries. Early disciples of Jesus, too aware of this fact and may not afford to ignore to spread the good news to these cultured and receptive destinations.

 

Is Christianity entered India through Apostles first to Barkur?

 

The belief is that the Apostle Thomas and Bartholomew sailed through Arabian Sea and shored at Hungarkatte estuary,  a natural harbour where River Swarna and Seeta embrace…. and both lived here only for short period of time together and spread the Gospel of Christ. In early Christianity there were no structures to call them as Churches, hence nothing of the kind was erected or built by these people but a ‘community’ must have been formed……….after all, the rich values, ideals, and faith in one Supreme power, already existing within the locals, the original inhabitants of the time, might not have encouraged, to name it as a new found faith or religion!

 

We heard some elders stating the name Tonse sprung from the St Thomas, who miraculously cured many peasants and fishermen……The story goes further stating – St. Thomas travel down to South to Kerala and then to Mylapore, near today’s Chennai in the Eastern Coast of India and spread the Christianity and suffers martyrdom there. There are numerous Church, the holy place he was persecuted and killed, tomb, and many other preserved relics attributed to St Thomas, both in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Let us not elaborate this, as our concentration is Apostle Bartholomew at the moment…….

 

Since St Bartholomew, was a doctor by profession, was physically weak, instead opt to stay back, in Barkur - Baikady area, to find his dwelling in Collombe Kudru (Island), near present Kallianpur. It was also said, after some time, he decided to go back by land route to Palestine, to continue his missionary work including that in Armenia, where he suffers martyrdom.

 

On his journey back, he spreads the good news of Jesus Christ, in various places on the Western Coast of India viz. Basrur, Bhatkal, parts of Goa, Konkan and Kalyan, near Mumbai, all through… up-to Kutch, in Gujarat. Many believe that, some of the places where this holy man visited eventually named after him. Moreover even now, there is a tribe here, in Kutch region, claiming to be the followers of St Bartholomew in Kutch, both in India and Pakistan…..it is worth a mention, this community, even now preserve a copy of Bible written in Hebrew language, presented or brought  by St. Bartholomew.

 

Folklore and other literature on St. Bartholomew:

 

Folklore like ‘nagdo bethallo xhethak vetallo xetkaranc udac diun ghara vethalo’….i.e. the naked Fakir Bhetal going to the fields, gives water to the farm laborers and returns home – the water obviously the water of Baptism. Obviously many of us heard this song from our grand mother, while playing in her laps, so I do.

 

Some references in Western writer’s articles are worth a reading, to substantiate that Apostle Bartholomew visited India and that too our Western Coast, naturally the oldest known port town of Barkur:

 

Patriarch Ladislaus Zaleski, Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies who devoted 30 years of his life in India, and who has to his credit 34 published and unpublished works mostly of research, has in his 'Les Origines du Christianisme Aux Indes' on page 39 marked that Kallianpur as the place where Apostle established a Church and that there was a community of Christians.

 

Coming to St. Jerome – (342-420AD) in his ‘De Viris Illustribus’ states that St.Pantheneus found that the light of faith taught by St. Bartholomew was kept alive for 90years with a Hebrew version of Gospel of St. Mathew. Pauline De.S. Bartholomew in his ‘India Orientalis Christiana’ page 14 has said that in the sixth century, Kallianpur was a Episcopal See. Further, Cosmos Indicopleustes a Greek traveler (later a Monk in Sinai) who visited South East Asia between 520 – 525 AD and wrote his Christian Topography says that in the direction of (or into) the country Male, evidently meaning Malenad, where pepper is grown and in the place called Kalliana there is also a Bishop ordained from Persia.( E.O.Windstedt. ‘The Christian Topography of Cosmos Indicopleustes’, Cambridge 1901m p.119) The fact of ‘Episcopal See in Kallianpur’ in the Sixth Century has however gained acceptance and was therefore mentioned and highlighted at the reception accorded to the Bishops at the CBCI Conference held at Mangalore in 1975.

 

Today, Milagres Church at Kallianpur, oldest in the region, having recorded history of about 350 years, is the Cathedral of the newly instituted Diocese of Udupi, 2012 and should it be a divine providence to glorify the forgotten legacy, to a certain extent.

 

Is there any possibility to infer both Bhutala Pandya and Bartholomew, no different identities but the same person?

 

  1. Both the names sound somewhat same, phonetically.
  2. Both legends date back to the same period i.e. 40 – 78 AD. – (Deva Pandya arrives at Barkur as a merchant, his sister’s son Jaya Deva Pandya become king with the title as Bhutala Pandya)
  3. Both are not natives of Barkur – rather strangers to the place.
  4. Both revered as holy men and reached Barkur the ancient port by Sea route – using large boats or pandi and the place Barkur has a mention as a natural harbor of the Western Coast, around that time (and an important port thereafter, till the fall of Vijaya Nagara Kings)
  5. Both have no written records, to substantiate their presence in the region.
  6. Some refer Bhutala Pandya  just a merchant, and he was a stranger to Barkur – is that means Bartholomew arrived in a pandi in a large boat, mostly with some traders of the west or Arabia……..
  7. There is no mention of King or Prince named Bhutala in the contemporary history pages of Pandyan’s of South India, a famous dynasty ruled from Tamil Nadu region.
  8. One more assumption is since there was no priestly class that is Brahmin’s inhabitation in the Coastal Karnataka, till 9th Century, there were none to keep records as the doors of knowledge, mainly writing, reading skills confined or reserved for these upper strata of Hindu Society.
  9. In the 14th Century, there must be some folklore or hearsay stories making round with people, must have prompted a Brahmin scholar to script the imaginary  story of Bhutala Pandya and his dynasty – in that book titled Bhutala Pandya Charitam.
  10. Yet another observation worth a mention is – many names of decedents of Bhutala Pandya appearing in the above book resemble with many of the Alupa Kings who ruled the region later period i.e. 7th century AD till 14th Century AD, either Barkur as their capital or Udyavar and later from Mangalore.
  11. One important greatness and characteristic of Santana Hindu Dharma is, it accepts all good things in any other faith (e.g. Gautama Buddha as one of the avataras or incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and absorb the same, hence Bhutala Pandya legend may be an effort in this line to perpetuate the memory of a saint or a nobleman.
  12. Yet another hearsay description is – the staff, a wooden stick and Apostle’s shawl type linen over garment was preserved with reverence in one of the households for centuries and later handed over to a Garodi or a temple.
  13. Geographically, the ancient Western Coast was a very narrow strip, earlier not suitable for human habitation, as the dense forests of Western Ghats, reaching the very sea shore and torrential rains causing heavy floods might have washed away or might have eliminated people en-masse and destroyed the signs of early settlements found on fertile river belts and delta.

 

Coming to early Christian records; it was also a fact that most of the historical relics got destroyed during infamous captivity of Christians of Canara in the hands of Tippu Sultan. It is said he demolished as many as 25 churches and took some 50,000 (the figure is in the range of 27000 - 90000 as per different versions) as prisoners to Srirangapatana, near Mandya - Mysore. After Tippu’s death in 1799, only few survivors returned to Canara….to find their land, property etc in the possession of others!

 

Though today’s majority of Christians in the Coastal Districts are immigrants from Goa, in the 16th and 17th Centuries, by and large bearing Portuguese and Spanish Surnames, there are many related legendary stories and folklore fingering at the influence and the presence of age old ‘Christian values’ in the region.  One more argument in favor of St Bartholomew is the ‘dwaitha philosophy’ propagated by Acharya Madhwa in Udupi, is always said that was influenced by Christian Philosophy.

In other words, Tatva-vada of Sri Madhvacharya (Udupi the birth place of Dvaita philosophy) Madhva philosophy, has greatly influenced by Christian philosophy, as proposed by some experts, it is certain that the influence or the knowledge of Christianity, though not as a distinct religion, was there, in this region, deep rooted in the way of life among the natives, long before the appearance of the Portuguese in particular or Europeans in general in the 16th century, in Barkur and around.

 

What monuments and epigraphs say?

Oldest of the existing monuments unearthed thus far date back to 11th century AD. Jain Basadi’s at Hosala, about 1000 years old structures were built by Hoysala Kings and Queen Chikkai Thayi, who reigned from Barkur the whole of Tulu Nadu.

The palace known as periyara mane, at ‘Shimhasana Gudde’ was probably built not by Bhutala Pandya but by Alupa Kings who ruled from Barkur, as their capital, for generations.

 The Second and more spacious and well planned Fort at Barkur, near NJC was constructed by Vijaya Nagara King - Harihara I - 1336- 1350, not by Tippu Sultan. During Vijaya Nagara rule, in South India, Barkur was at its peak with fame, with a resident governor, as it was their commercial capital and gateway to the West.

Conclusion:

In our opinion, there is a possibility of referring Deva the merchant who arrived Barkur by a large boat or pandi in 40 - 55 AD would have been Apostle Bartholomew, probably known to locals as God sent holy man. Before he left the place might have ordained or appointed a devout local Jaya to continue his work in 78AD…..Pandi / Pandya may be just addition to their names since they come by sea route. As the message of salvation was spread not as a religion, it was injected into the day today life of people just as a way of life…..

The holiness of the soil of Barkur still intact with great Temples, in honor of various Gods & Goddesses, one of the ancient Mosques and a Church dedicated to St. Peter, since 1861…..! The other two Churches which were at Barkur, earlier – one was destroyed  by Tippu’s soldiers on 24th February, 1784 and the other went into decay around 1839 during the conflict of the Pedro ado, Verapoli and the Propaganda Mission jurisdiction, the patroness of this Church was Our Lady of Rosary. Interestingly there are references in Vijaya Nagara Kings history specifying that they allowed and granted land to have prayer houses, as early as 14th century, to facilitate visiting merchants from Rome, Greece, Afghanistan, Arabia and Egypt in Barkur and around.

We have mentioned in the very beginning, these few words are just a reflection on what might have happened in the Coastal Karnataka some 2000 years ago…..Learned men of the area and historians and history students have a challenge to make a un biased, thorough study, to come to a logical conclusion……truth lies somewhere…..We have picked up information from various sources and indebted to all of them…..Please send in your feedback to us furtadoarchibald@hotmail.com which will be of great help….moreover anyone need to have elaborate information on whatever we have mentioned above will be provided on request……….

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References & Sources

 

Book Title: Hinduism - What Really Happened in India
Author: Prof. M.M.Ninan
Book Description:
This book is a revolutionary study which shows how the modern Hinduism is totally different from the Vedic Religion. The sharp discontinuity takes place with the advent of St.Thomas the Apostle’s ministry all over India. Brahman, Trinity, Bhakthi, Avatar, and Om are basic Christian contributions.

 

Book Title: Tulu Nadu – The land and its People

Author: Neria Harish Hebbar

Source: shivallibrahmins.com

 

Notes:

  1. Bhuthala Pandya Charitam – Author unknown.
  2. Aliya Santhana
  3. Pandyan Dynasty of Tamil Nadu
  4. The Chera’s Kerala
  5. Acts of Apostles
  6. Milagres Church, Kallianpur – Milagrian- Tri-centenary Souvenir.
  7. Madhwacharya

Madhvacharya’s tatva-vada or Vaishnava-siddhanta took shape in Udupi in the 13th century. Madhva was a child prodigy, who had mastered Sanskrit by age five and the Vedas by the age of ten. He lived for eighty years and said to have joined his guru, Badarayana in the Himalayas in the year 1317. He was a well-built personality, a tall and strong-limbed man, interested in varied subjects including music, sculpture, debating and weight lifting. He has written 40 books, mostly commentaries on Vedanta, and established a unique approach to Vedantic philosophy. He claimed to be the third incarnation of Vayu, the sublime angel of God. His tatva-vada is referred to as Dvaita philosophy (dual). He founded the Sri Krishna temple in Udupi and the eight monasteries for the ascetics around the temple. Udupi became the center of devotional Hinduism and even today is considered as the hub of Vaishnavism and Vedanta. Madhvacharya was undoubtedly the most famous and influential personality of Tulu Nadu.

  1. Periples of Erthraian Sea
  2. Dwaita Philosophy
  3. Agreement of Rani Chennammaji of Bidanore.
  4. Captivity of Canara Christians & Barkur Document.
  5. The history of ancient Dakshina Kannada – M Ganapathy Rao Igal


 

 

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