Aramaic Project No. 80 to 71 - Interview and Performances - Video List

No. --> 80 79 78 77 76 75 74 73 72 71
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Aramaic Project Number Description Duration Date and place of Recording Video

Solemn sung Qurbana (Syriac). Msgr. Jacob Vellian

NOTE: This audio recording of the solemn sung Qurbana in Syriac is a significant addition to the archives of the Aramaic Project. The celebrant, Rev. Msgr. Dr. Jacob Vellian (b. 1934), is both an excellent singer and an accomplished scholar of the Syro Malabar liturgy. He grew up in the Syriac tradition. Due to unusual trajectories in life, Fr. Vellian, a member of the Knanaya community, was ordained in Rome and celebrated his first Qurbana in Syriac at the St. Peter’s Basilica. Ever since, Fr. Vellian kept the Syriac music tradition close to his heart. Even after the Syro Malabar Church promulgated the Malayalam version of the Chaldeo-Syriac liturgy in 1962, Dr. Vellian and several other priests in his community continued to celebrate Qurbana in Syriac on special occasions. Even when he celebrated the liturgy in the vernacular, Dr. Vellian would introduce one or two chants in Syriac to keep the awareness of the Syriac heritage alive in the community.

This recording represents the period in the history of the Syro Malabar Church, when Qurbana started with the minor doxology with the trope of alleluia. The dialogue between the celebrant and the congregation, Puqdankon/puqdaneh damsiha, during which the celebrant asked permission from the worshippers, came after the minor doxology.

One of the remarkable features of this recording is the presence of female voices. Traditionally, Syriac choirs did not include women. From the musical point of view, we hear a different performance practice of the Resurrection hymn (Laku mara) and the Trisagion (Qandisa alaha). The celebrant sings the melody first, and the choir repeats the same melody. At the third iteration, the celebrant and the choir alternate the verses. The first two iterations are set to 4/4 rhythm, whereas the third iteration is rhythmically free. The same performance practice is followed in the singing of the Trisagion. Similar to a practice among several Syro Malabar priests, Dr. Vellian applies the melody of the famous Latin chant, “exsultet” (from the Easter Vigil celebration in the Roman Catholic liturgy) to sing the Institution narrative. The recording also includes three examples of instrumental introduction/interludes, a common practice among Syriac choirs among the Syro Malabar communities. The idea of an opening overture may have come from the familiarity with the West European Opera overtures.

Currently, Dr. Vellian is living a retired life. Fortunately, this recording took place during his active years when his voice was in excellent shape. Dr. Vellian did a great service to the Syro Malabar Church by organizing this studio recording with the help of his accompanists. This is only one among the many valuable audio and video recordings that he bequeathed to Cultural historians of Kerala. This recording, in particular, will be useful to music scholars for a comparative study of melodies and performance practices among the priests who celebrate Syriac Qurbana of the Syro Malabar Church. The melodies of the solemn Qurbana is a goldmine for music researchers. Here we have a synthesis of several musical cultures from West Asia, Western Europe, and Kerala as well as a widow to the complex music history of the region. The Christian Musicological Society is immensely grateful to Dr. Vellian for granting permission to post this and several other precious recordings that he organized.

Joseph J. Palackal
New York
24 January 2018


1. Introdution by Fr. JacobVellian in Malayalam (00:01)
2. Overture (1:50)
3. Minor doxology with alleluia (3:29)
4. Puqdankon (4:49
5. Thesbohtha (5:18)
6. Our Father with thrice holy (7:35)
7. Slotha (10:05)
8. Psalms (10:40) With trope of Alleluia
9. Slotha (12:05)
10. Laku Mara (12:50)
11. Slotha (16:17
12. Qandisa alaha (16:02)
13. Reading of epistle (19:29)
14. Alleluia (21:19)
15. Peace greeting and proclamation of the Gospel (21:55)
16. Slotha (23:10)
17. Karosutha (24:35) prayers of the faithful
18. Anthem of the mysteries (26:19) preparation of gifts
19. Commemoration hymn (27:41)
20. Creed (30:12) a different tune
21. Greeting and exchange of peace (32:40)
22. Holy, holy, holy (35:37) with musical interludes
23. Institution narrative (38:46)
24. Greeting (41:11)
25. Barek mar (41:40)
26. Rite of reconciliation (45:31)
27. Waswa lan (slotha (48:26)
28. Peace greeting (50:01)
29. Invitation to communion (51:20)
30. Maran iso, after communion (51:40)
31. Yayemar kol yawmin, concluding prayer 1 (52:50)
32. M’siha alahan, concluding prayer 2 (54:05)
33. Instrumental interlude (54:10)
34. Final blessing (55:22)
35. Instrumental coda (57:02)

79 Sagdinan Mar: A unique Syriac chant (Christological)

Sagdīnan mār Sagdīnan mār lālāhūsākh walnāšūākh d’lāpūlāga

Translation: We adore, my Lord, your inseparable divinity and humanity.

Glossary: Sagdīnan mār (sagdīn + an) = we adore; mār = my Lord; lālāhūsāk (l’ + alahusa + akh) = your divinity; walnāšūākh (w’ + al + nāšūsā + akh) = and your humanity; d’lāpūlāga (d’ + lā +pūlāga) = that which [is] without division.

Note: The hymn is from the night prayers (lelya) for Sundays in Advent and Christmas in the East Syriac tradition. This couplet appears in the Thesbohtha (“praise”) that contains several verses. Often, this couplet is treated as a separate chant. In this case, the chant appears at the end of Purathunamaskaram (Hours outside the church) at Kaduthuruthy Valiyapalli. It is led by Rev. Dr. Jacob Vellian, a member of the Knanaya community and a scholar of the Syro Malabar liturgy. This video contains one of the two known melodies of this chant. Until further evidence appears, we may presume that these melodies were composed in Kerala; the text of the hymn, the poetic meter and, possibly, the melody were known to the St. Thomas Christian clergy before 1588. The earliest reference to these is in the acrostic hymn in Syriac, written by a Keralite, Fr. Chandi Kadavil, popularly known as “Alexander the Indian” (1588- c. 1673). The title of Fr. Kadavil’s acrostic hymn on the Eucharist contains a reference to the opening words of this chant; Fr. Kadavil wrote the acrostic hymn according to meter and melody of “Sagdīnan mār.” In this video the same melody is sung three times. In other instances, the same melody is sung three times in three ascending pitch registers. We have one such example in the voice of Rev. Dr. Thomas Kalayil, CMI, which will be posted later.

The text is highly Christological, and deserves further study. It is, in effect, a paraphrasing of the exuberant acclamation of St. Thomas the Apostle of India, when Jesus made a special appearance after resurrection (Jn 20:28). The various takes on the existence of the human and divine natures in Christ caused many divisions in the Church. Given below is the content of one of many email communications

I had on this topic with Dr. Zacharias Thundy. More comments will be posted on the Encyclopedia of Syriac Chants of the Syro Malabar Church (for lack of space here) under “Sagdinan.” These comments could be the starting point for further research on this chant, for example, for a master’s thesis in theology. Zacharias P. Thundy (October 8, 2017): The hymn was composed during the theological controversies of the time regarding the relationship between the divinity and humanity of Jesus. Without going into details, let me just say that "d’la pulaga" has the meaning of "undivided" referring to the divinity and humanity of Jesus, and not to our act of adoration: "Lord, we worship your undivided humanity and divinity." It all means Jesus is both human and divine. Complex theology it is. So words like "sewiana" and "shuprutha" also have highly technical theological meaning. "Shuprutha" could mean "mia phusis" of Cyril or Council of Chalcedon. I do not know of the theological meaning of "shuprutha" in the Syrian context of the time. Maybe the word means the Chalcedonian "mia phusis" or "Miaphysitism holds that in the person of Jesus Christ, Divine nature and Human nature are united (μία, mia - "one" or "unity") in a compound nature ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion, and without alteration." Then there is the theology of the Syrian bishop, Theodore of Mopsuestia: Referring to the two natures in Christ, Theodore writes, “When we try to distinguish the natures, we say that the person of the man is complete and that that of the Godhead is complete (T-120, VIII-8).” Furthermore, he notes that indwelling does not imply a change in nature of either the Logos or the indwelt man (T-121, IX-9), and that Christ’s human will was maintained through the indwelling (T-118, VII-3). Therefore, according to Theodore, Christ is fully human, possessing both human spirit (or rational soul) and human flesh (T-59.22)." All of this theology has a long tortuous history in the ancient Syriac-speaking world, but it is all reflected darkly in the Syriac hymns. Most of us know little or nothing about it all. We are immensely grateful to Prof. Thundy for sharing his informed insights on this complex issue.

Joseph J. Palackal
New York
16 January 2018

Binu & Deepa singing syriac chants with a smile

This video may be a breath of fresh air for the viewers of theCMSIndia channel. It brings out the inspirational story of a young Malayalee couple, Binu and Deepa Mathirappuzha, who sings Syriac chants with a smile. Their journey from apathy and timidity in learning Syriac chants to enjoying and inspiring young listeners is heart-warming. Surprisingly, at this stage in their lives, Binu and Deepa enjoy singing for the Syro Malabar Qurbana more in Syriac than in Malayalam. What is more interesting is that they include Syriac chants in the “ramsa” (Syriac, “evening” prayer) at their home every day. Their two sons, too, have already warmed up to the Syriac tradition. Binu and Deepa speak about their mentors, Fr. Joseph Pathil and Fr. Saji Mattahil with great admiration (See my interview with Fr. Mattathil ( . Both priests played a significant role in instilling in the couple a respect and love for the Syriac chants. Binu and Deepa haven’t learned the Syriac language, yet they enjoy singing them with text written in Malayalam script; “it is a heavenly experience,” they said. It means that there is something special in these seemingly simple melodies that grow on you in the course of time. My prayer is that the Syro Malabar Bishop’s Conference supports this couple to dedicate one or two years for learning Syriac in an academic institution. Blessed with exceptionally complementary musical talents, this unique couple is a blessing to the Syro Malabar church as well as Kerala culture.

Joseph J. Palackal
New York
21 December 2017


1.Melody of Ennana Lahma (1:14)

2.Transition from singing for Malayalam Qurbana to Syriac Qurbana (3:00)

3.Limited use of staff notation as aid to memory (10:42)

4.The extent of comprehension of the text (11:08)

5.How do you compare the melodic experience of singing for Syriac Qurbana with singing for Malayalam Qurbana (14:01)

6.Melody of M’haimninan (16:54)

7.Comparison of the vocal inflection of younger priests and older priests (19:16)

8.Who give more resistance to the reintroduction of Syriac: lay people or clergy? (20:31)

9.On the spiritual experience of Syriac music in comparison with the music of Qurbana in Malayalam (22:27)

10.How did Binu took to vocal? (27:23)

11.A recent Marriage ceremony in Syriac in Athirampuzha (27:54)

12.Music brought them together, and led to marriage (28:44)

13.Melody of Maran iso (29:07)

14.How did you start including a Syriac chant in your evening prayer at home (30:13)

15.Melody of Qandisa alaha (34:34) Melody of Laku mara (41:44)

16.Favorite melody od Qandis, qandis, qandis (42:32)

17.Melody of Beda d’yawma (45:53)

18.Reverse interview, Deepa asks a question to Fr. Joseph Palackal (48:38)

54:05 Recorded on 17-Aug-2017 at the residence of Binu & Deepa , Mathirappuzha, Amalagiri,Kottayam, Kerala
77 Syriac Christian Wedding in India

Here is a chapter from the annals of the history of the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala, India. Caution: Although the film was made in 1985, it is not a representation of Christin marriage in Kerala, in the 20th century; rather, it recreates a traditional wedding from a bygone era, when youngsters were given in marriage as soon as they reached puberty. The celebrations included several rituals at home and at church (see under Topics, below). Songs (in Malayalam and Syriac) and dance and instrumental music were essential components of the four-day long celebrations. Some of the rituals seen in the film continue to be a part of the marriage ceremony (for example, the tying of thali, a heart shaped gold pendant with cross embossed on it) of all the St. Thomas Christians even today. A few of those rituals and songs, however, are extant only among the Knanaya Christians, an endogamous community among the St. Thomas Christians. The film is the result of a concerted efforts of a team of scholars and experts led by Rev. Dr. Jacob Vellian, Mr. Churmmar Choodal, and Rev. Dr. Jacob Kollaprampil. We are grateful to them for giving an audio visual representation of the songs, customs and practices that are specific to the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala. The film is uploaded here as part of the Aramaic Project because it sheds light on the religious practices during the Aramaic era of the Indian Christians. The film includes the singing of two Syriac chants, “Qandisa alaha” and “Bar Mariyam” and the instrumental version of another popular Syriac chant, “Sagdinan mar.” The CMSIndia is grateful to Fr. Jacob Vellian, the founder director of Hadusa, for granting permission to upload this film on its YouTube channel.


1. Image and voice of Dr. Chummar Choondal (1:48)

2. Pennu kanal (literally, seeing the bride)

3. Betrothal ceremony at the home of the bride, in the presence of a priest (3:02)

4. Paricamuttukali (Dance with swords and shields). (3:15)

5. Beautifying the groom at the groom’s house on the night before the wedding (4:06)

6. Mailanchi, beautifying the bride, the night before the wedding (5:00)

7. Ritual feeding of the bride (6:42)

8. Groom, seeking the blessings of the elders (7:50)

9. Bride, seeking the blessings of the elders (8:08)

10. Procession to the Church (9:28)

11. Panchwadyam musical instrumental accompaniment (10:28)

12. Trisagion in Syiac (12:05)

13. Wedding wows (12:38)

14. Tying of thali and chanting of alleluia (14:02)

15. Blessing over the couple, in Syriac (14:25)

16. Singing of the Syriac chant, “Bar Maryam” (14:42)

17. Procession from church to home with musical accompaniment (16:02)

18. Ritual carrying the bride

19. Women’s ululation

20. Ritual of welcoming the bride to the groom’s home

21. Groom’s mom blessing the couple

22. Feeding the couple with milk and banana

23. Giving gifts of garments 24. Melody of the Syriac chant, “Sagdinan mar,” Festival meal


Dr. Joseph J. Palackal, CMI on Pravasi Channel, USA Manohar Thomas in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal, CMI.

This hour-long interview is interesting because of the wide range of topics that it covers. Manohar Thomas is a well-known social leader among the Keralites in New York, and is well versed in the literary and cultural history of Kerala. It was the Aramaic Project that caught his attention and led to his decision to interview me. His master plan for the interview helped the flow of this candid and comfortable conversation on topics ranging from my early exposure to music at home, the Christian family background, the inspiration from Palackal Thoma Malpan (1760-1841), and to my revered Guru, Prof. N. V. Patwardhan. Manohar directed the conversation to situate the relevance of the Aramaic Project in the larger context of the cultural history of India. The question and the answer on my singing OM in my first Long Playing record of “Christian Bhajans” (1979) took an unexpected turn. I am immensely grateful to Sunil-Tristar, Manohar Thomas and the Pravasi Channel for organizing this interview and televising it on the Pravasi Channel. I already received many positive feedbacks from viewers in USA and Canada. Publication of this program on YouTube will help reach to a larger international audience. Thank you, Manohar Thomas and Sunil-Tristar.

Dr. Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
20 October 2017


  • 6:35 Autobiographical. Early exposure to music and Christian stories from mother.
  • 10:40 On the collateral ancestor, the saintly Palackal Thoma Malpan
  • 17:59 Connection to the revered Guru, Prof. N. V. Patwardhan
  • 21:26 The journey to the world of the Aramaic language and music
  • 33:15 Aramaic language is an essential component of the Indian culture.
  • 33:51 The urgent need for financial support
  • 44:58 Interlocking of Syriac and folk melodies in Kerala. Example from Arnos Pathiri's "Genova parwam"
  • 50:20 Uniqueness of Indian Christianity in connection with Indian history. "India is not a country, but a concept"
  • 1:00:24 Preserving the Aramaic language is a duty of the Indian Government with the support of UNESCO
  • 1:01:30 OM and Christianity. "If OM is Hindu, electricity is Christian!"

Recorded at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Maspeth, New York.

3 April 2017

75 Fr. Bijo Kochadampallil speaks on three-day lent of the St. Thomas Christians with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal, CMI

This conversation on Mūnnu nōmbu (Malayalam, three-day lent/fast) of the St. Thomas Christians is a useful resource for researchers on the history of Indian Christianity, Eastern Syriac liturgy, as well as Syriac music. The three-day lent consists of fasting, prayers, readings, chants, and genuflections with an all-embracing theme of repentance. The time frame of three days is in reference to the time prophet Jonah spent inside the belly of the whale, during his reluctant mission to Nineveh to announce the message of repentance (Jonah 2:1-11). The prayers and chants are taken from the Hudra (book of the Hours in Syriac). The observance of the three-day fast/lent takes place in the form of a preparation (18 days) before the great fast/lent leading up to Easter. It is not yet clear at what point in history the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala adapted this pious practice of the Syriac Christians in West Asia. We have several documents from the sixteenth century indicating how the Portuguese missionaries were surprised by the asceticism associated with this ritual of the St. Thomas Christians. Until the second half of the nineteenth century, most of the Syriac churches of the St. Thomas Christians observed the three-day lent. At present, only the Assyrian Church of the East (Thrissur) and the Knanaya communities follow the tradition. During this period, the Syriac prayers and chants were translated into Malayalam. The Malayalam versions of the hymns are set to the original melodies associated with the Syriac texts. My interest in this topic increased during a conversation with Fr. Saneesh at the Damasceno College in Rome, on 18 March 2017 (I was at the College to conduct a one-day seminar on the Syriac heritage of the Syro Malabar Church). Fr. Saneesh shared his experience of conducting the service for the Knanaya community in Rome (the video includes except from the recording of the service on 5 February 2016). I had already recorded songs of the three-day lent in the Assyrian Church of the East in Thrissur in 1996, during fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation. I intend to upload those melodies on the CMSIndia channel in the near future.

The following questions may be useful for future researchers.

How similar or different are the melodies of the Malayalam version from the original Syriac version?

How similar or different are the melodies available in the recorded versions from the Knanaya community and the Assyrian Church of the East ? How similar or different are the melodies from those of the Hours and Qurbana?

Do the Chaldean Christians in West Asia continue the tradition? If yes, how similar are the texts and music from those of the St. Thomas Christians in India?

What are the reasons for the gradual disappearance of this tradition from the Syro Malabar community in the second half of the nineteenth century?

Answers to these and other questions might enhance our understanding of the Christian musical history in India. Meanwhile, we are grateful to Fr. Bijo Kochadampallil for sharing the fruits of his studies so far on this topic. Meanwhile,


Joseph J. Palackal
New York
2 October 2017

22:20 St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome.

74 Dr. George Kaniyarakath CMI (Scripture Scholar) in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal, CMI


Reference to this unique song came about in the form of a spontaneous outburst from Dr. George Kaniarakath, CMI, when we met after many years at the CMI house at Via Martino in Rome, on 20 March 2017. The song has a long history that dates back to the pre-Portuguese era of the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala. Significantly, the song is assigned to the choir, while the celebrant invokes the Holy Spirit during Epiclesis. The Portuguese missionaries did not agree to the theological content of the text, as well as its placement within the liturgy during Epiclesis. Dr. Kaniarakath explains the reason behind the controversy, contrasting approaches, Western and Eastern, to the theology of the Eucharistic liturgy. In any case, the song was removed from the post-Udayamperur (1599) edition of the missal. Dr. Kaniarakath was kind enough to share as much information he has on the song. He could recall only the opening verse; that too, he was not sure of the exact words. The melody, however, is the same as that of “Slīwā dahwā lan” that we sing even today (see Aramaic Project 42 ). Because of its historical and theological significance, I hope a future seminarian or researcher will take interest to further explore the story of this song.

Joseph J. Palackal, CMI
New York
20 September 2017

15:46 St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome.

73 Trilingual (English, Syriac, Malayalam) mass at the Syro Malabar Cathedral Church in Chicago on St. Thomas Day 2017. Celebrant: Rev. Dr. Joseph J. Palackal, CMI. The entire congregation warms up to the melody of Qandisa Alaha. 7:10

Mar Thoma Sleeha Cathedral, Chicago

St. Thomas Day
72 Q & A session with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal C.M.I., on Christian Musicology during the Seminar at St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome , on 18 March 2017. 1:13:29

St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome.

18 March 2017.
71 Rev. Fr. Saji Mattathil in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal at St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome 48:08 St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome. 19 Mach 2017
71a Fr. Varghese (Saji) Mattathil sings "Walalam Almeen." A unique chant from Raza


Chant from Raza. during the prostration. This is a rare chant only occasionally heard during the celebration of the solemn form of the Syro Malabar Qurbana. The melody, as is presented by Fr. Saji Mattathil, has an Arabic flavor. The melody and the vocal inflection stand out among the diverse Christian music repertories in Kerala, and is a topic for further research.

8:32 St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome. 19 Mach 2017
71b Fr. Saji (Varghese Mattathil) sings the Syriac alphabet

This is a unique segment from the interview with Fr. Varghese (Saji) Mattathil at Damasceno College in Rome. A few years ago, Fr. Saji composed the Syriac alphabet into song. The melody is very simple and catchy. Interestingly, Fr. Saji use this song not only to teach the Syriac alphabet, but also theology. Such attempts are indeed praiseworthy. We post it here for the benefit of both teachers and students of the Syriac language.

4:26 St. John Damasceno College, Via Boccea, Rome. 19 Mach 2017