Resources for Researchers

Index 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18


Marriage Customs and Songs of the Syrian Christians of Malabar by Dr. P. J. Thomas

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Dewaalya geethangal (Malayalam, Church hymns), edited by Fr. Basselios of St. Theresa, T. O. C. D.

Printed at St. Mary's Press, Elthuruth (1902). 172 pages (10 cms x 15 cms). The book contains text of Syriac hymns for various occasions, Dewalaya Geethangal Elthuruth 1902for the use of the church choir. A large number of hymns are translations of Latin chants that were composed anew in Kerala. Names of translators and composers of the melodies are unknown. The text is printed in Malayalam script, indicating that Syriac literacy was on the wane among the lay people in the Syro-Malabar Church, by the end of the 19th century.


Manuscript of Syriac chants in staff notation by Fr.Aiden Kulathinal, C. M. I.

manuscript of syriac chants in staff notation manuscript of syriac chants in staff notation
Fr. Aiden Kulathinal

Copied in 1948 from an earlier manuscript (now lost) by Fr. Aiden Kulathinal, C. M. I., at St. Theresa’s Monastery at Ampazhakkadu, Kerala. So far as we know, this manuscript contains the earliest transcriptions of model melodies from the liturgy of the Hours in the Chaldean rite of the Syro-Malabar Church, India. The 27 pages are divided into three sections: pages 1-14 contain 51 Syriac melodies from the Hours; pages 15-19 consist of notation of what looks like Western melodies (to be verified) without text underlay; and pages 20-27 contain Marian litanies in Latin with Syriac translation. The Syriac texts are written in Malayalam script. The original copy is at the library at Acharaya Palackal Jeevass Kendram, Aluva, Kerala. See more details in Palackal 2005, pp. 134-135.


Letter written by Fr. Aiden Kulathinal, C. M. I. to Joseph. J. Palackal.

The Syriac-Malayalam Hymnal, edited by Rev.Saldanha A, S. J.

The Syriac Malayalam Hymnal Printed at Codialbail Press, Mangalore, for the Cathedral Church, Calicut, in 1937. Pp. 27 + 181 + x + v. Part I: Syriac chants of the solemn high mass of the Chaldeo-Syrian rite of Kerala (text transliterated in Malayalam, music in Western staff notation). Part II: Malayalam devotional songs in Western staff notation. This is the first publication of Syriac melodies in staff notation in India. Probably, these melodies were composed in Kerala. The Preface (in English and Malayalam, pp. 9-18) by Rev. Saldanha is quite informative, among other things, on the status Christian music in Kerala in the first quarter of the twentieth century. See Foreword, Preface, and Table of Contents

Kerala Kaldaaya Suriyaani Reethile Thirukkarmma Geethangal by Fr.Mathew Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius.

Kerala Kaldaaya Suriyaani Reethile Thirukkarmma Geethangal (Liturgical hymns of the Chaldeo-Syrian rite of Kerala), edited by Fr. Mathew Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius. Syriac texts transliterated in Malayalam script; music in staff notation. Printed at Codialbail Press, Mangalore. Published by S. H. League, Aluva. 1954. See Cover page and Table of Contents.


Syriac Translation of Latin Chants

The CD, Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India contains six chants (tracks 19 to 24) from an interesting repertoire of texts that were translated from Latin into Syriac in Kerala during the Portuguese period. These texts were composed anew in Kerala, mostly for paraliturgical services. See a preliminary study of the Syriac version of the famous Latin chant Pange Lingua by St. Thomas Aquinas, in Palackal (2005: 112-117). These chants are reference points for a special period in the history of Christianity and Christian music in India .

Die Melodien des Chaldaischen... by Heinrich Husmann

Die Melodien

Die Melodien des Chaldaischen Breviers Communenach denTraditionen Vorderasiens und der Malabarküste, edited by Heinrich Husmann. Orientalia Christiana Analecta, no. 178. Rome: Pontificum Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1967. Part I: Die Melodien des Commune des Chaldaischen Breviers, ach der tradition des vorderen orientes. Gesungen von P. Ephrem Bede, Chaldaischer Chorbischof, Patriarchalvikar in Kairo. Part II: Die Melodien des commune des Chaldaischen Breviers, nach der tradition der Indischen christen der Malabarkuste. Gesungen von P. Amos C. M. I., Generelakonom des Ordens Carmelitarum Mariae Immaculatae, Prior General’s House, Ernakulam, Kerala.


Puratanappatukal (Ancient Songs (of the Syrian Christians of Malabar]) by P. U. Lukas.

Compiled by P. U. Lukas (Puthenpurackal Uthup Lukas). 10th ed. Kottayam: Jyothi Book House. 2002. First published in 1910. Pp. xxxiv + 240. This book includes the complete text (pp.142 - 155) of the songs of Marggam Kali.
puratanappatukal cover Puratana ppatukal toc

Puratanappatukal toc


Kristeeya Keerthanangal (Christian Hymns): Staff Notation

Kristeeya Keerthanangal Published by Department of Sacred Music and Communications, The Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Thiruvalla (2002). Pp. ii + 757. Contains notation of over 484 melodies from the liturgy of the Mar Thoma Church. Certain significant details regarding the structure of the lyrics (pallawi-anupallawi-charanam, for example) and meter are missing in this edition. For these and other important information on the hymns, researchers may consult Malankara Mar Thoma suriyani sabha parasyaradhanakramam (Order of Public Worship of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church), published by the Mar Thoma Sabha Publication Board, Thiruvalla.
A call-to-attention to the rich repertoire of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church can be found in Palackal 2005, pp. 123-125.
  • Funeral services for priests and bishops in the Chaldean rite of the Syro-Malabar Church.

    Edta pus lek baslaamma (Syriac, "O church remain in peace") / Witawaangunnen (Malayalam, "May I bid farewell")

    a. The Malayalam version Witawaangunnen sung by Fr. Abel, C. M. I. Recorded on 20 Sep 1997 at Joseph J. Palackal's office in Maspeth, New York during Fr. Abel's visit to U. S. A.
  • b. The Syriac version sung by Fr. Probus Perumalil, C. M. I. (1922-2009) can be heard on track 18 in Qambel Maran. Fr. Perumalil’s rendition has a different vocal inflection.

    c. Click here to see the Syriac and Malayalam versions sung by Fr. George Plathottam (b. 1933). Recorded on 3 September 2011 at Old Cathedral Church, Pala, Kerala. This version is slightly different from Fr. Abel's and Fr. Perumalil's renditions. For example, the highest pitch in the melody in Fr. Plathottam's version appears in the first phrase, whereas it appears in the second phrase in the other two versions. Fr. Abel's and Fr. Perumalil's versions seem to be musically more logical.

    d. A preliminary study of this chant can be found in Joseph J. Palackal’s chapter, "The Survival Story of Syriac Chants among the St. Thomas Christians in South India," in The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities. Oxford University Press (forthcoming).

    e. Syriac text of the chant, printed at Mar Thoma Sleeha Press, Aluva (1948).

    Edtapus syriac text

    f. The Syriac text printed at St. Joseph’s Press, Mannanam (1921) shows the history of different transmission of the text of this chant (see Ktawa dtesmesta dahlap annide (Book of Services for the Dead], p. 220). Joseph J. Palackal’s study is based on the Mannanam text.

    g. Malayalam translation of the chant by Fr. George Plathottam.
    Edtapus Malayalam Trans George Plathottam h. Malayalam version of this chant by Fr. Abel Periyappuram, C. M. I.
    Edtapus Malayalam Version Abel CMI Edtapus Malayalam Version Abel CMI
11 Funeral services for priests in the Syro-Malankara church

Chants sung by Fr.Paul Nilackal Thekkethil. Recorded at Oasis Digital Studio, Ranni, Kerala on 18-19 Feb 2012. In this recording, electronic tamburu was used for sruti; in actual service organ, keyboard, or harmonium is used for accompaniment.



Title: Music Teacher (Book I)
Lyrics and music for :
Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday,Good Friday,
Benediction, Christmas midnight services,
prayers for the beginning and end of the calendar year.
Lyrics: Fr. Abel, C. M. I.
Music: Rafi Jose
Printed at: Mar Louis Memorial Press, Ernakulam, Kerala. 1969.

Gaanaadhyaapakan Gaanaadhyaapakan


This book is a valuable addition to the resources for researchers on the Christian music of Kerala, India. It tells the story of the meeting of the musical minds of two great men: Fr. Abel Periyappuram, CMI (1920-2001) and Mangalappilly M. Jose (d. 2010), popularly known as Rafi Jose. Their collaboration happened in the 1960s at Ernakulam, Kerala. That was the time of transition of the Syro Malabar liturgy from Syriac to Malayalam. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Syriac liturgical texts, Fr. Abel wrote lyrics in Malayalam for the Holy week services, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Christmas midnight service, as well as prayer services for the beginning and end of the calendar year. This was also the time when Fr. Abel pooled the best musical talents in the greater cochin area and formed the Christian Arts club, which eventually would evolve into Kalabhavan. Mangalappiily Jose was one of those gifted musicians; he had already become immensely popular by singing the Hindi film songs of Muhammad Rafi (hence the nickname “ Rafi Jose). Fr. Abel tested his talent as a composer by entrusting the new lyrics to Rafi Jose. Rafi Jose composed captivating melodies to those lyrics that became instantly popular. (These melodies continue to be sung in the Syro Malabar churches until this day). The gramophone company of India published a record that included two of Rafi’s compositions: “thālathil weḷḷameṭuthu” (for Maundy Thursday) as well as “gāgulthā malayil ninnum” (for Good Friday). These soulful melodies were heard from the public address systems of most of the churches in Kerala and became imprinted in the minds of the people of Kerala.

Meanwhile, Fr. Abel and Rafi Jose embarked on an unusual project of publishing this book (printed at Mar Louis Memorial Press at Ernakulam, in 1969) with the lyrics and music of their songs in Western staff notation. The book is a monument to their great talents, their musical collaboration, and their intention to enhance Western musical literacy among musicians in Kerala.

In the absence of an Introduction, we do not know who transcribed the melody in staff notation. To clarify this, I had a telephone conversation with Rex Isaacs (18 August 2016), who was closely associated with Christian Arts Club and, later, Kalabhavan. Rex is a violinist in the Western tradition and comes from a family of musicians. Rex told me that he assisted Rafi Jose in preparing the score of the melodies of “thālathil weḷḷameṭuthu” and “gāgulthā malayil ninnum” as well as the background music for those melodies, before they traveled to Madras (Chennai) for the audio recording at HMV studio. Rex reiterated that the transcriptions that are printed in the book are not his. He thinks that Mr. Patrick David, who knew Rafi Jose, very likely prepared the score that is printed in the book. Rex added that he could not understand the reason for the addition of a bar line after the time signature on the opening staff, and then a measure-long space and bar line at the beginning of subsequent staves. In any case, the score helps us to understand the melody as the composer envisaged it; it also helps us to understand how a great singer like K. J. Yesudas emotes with and interprets the melody, and gives it a different life.

I happened to see the book, by chance, during a visit to the music library at Nadopasana at Thodupuzha, that I started in 1986. This was in the first week of August 2016. While browsing through the collection of recordings and books, Fr. Kurian Puthenpurackal,CMI, the director of Nadopasana brought a set of books from his personal collection. Gānādhyāpakan was one of them. I was overjoyed to see the book, and immediately recognized its historical value. Fr. Puthenpurackal said that he got the book from Fr. John Kachiramattom, CMI several years before. Ironically, this book and its content never came up in my conversation with Fr. Abel, during my three years at Kalabhavan.

The book assumes another layer of importance at the present time. It offers a definitive answer to the recent disputes regarding the authorship of the melody of "gāgulthā malayil ninnum." The dispute arose after the publication of an article (“gāgulthā malayil ninnum”), on Rafi Jose by Shajan C. Mathew in the Sunday edition of Malayala Manorama Daily, on March 27, 2016. In the article, Shajan Mathew cited much evidence to support the authorship of the melody by Rafi Jose Another living composer, however, disputed Shajan’s findings and claimed authorship of the melody. The Christian Musicological Society of India gladly presents the pdf version of the book for the benefit of scholars and journalists as the final proof of the authorship. May the soul of Rafi Jose have the last laugh, and rest in peace!

Joseph J. Palackal
August 18, 2016


Hymnal in Malayalam
Compiled by the staff and students
Dharmaram College, Bangalore
Printed at K. C. M. Press, Ernakulam, 1963
Commercial Movies & Christian Worship in Kerala: A Musical Intersection

This hymnal is a witness to a period (1950s to 1970s) in the history of Christian music in Malayalam, when composers of lyrics looked up to film tunes in Hindi, Malayalam, and to a lesser extent, Tamil, and wrote Christian lyrics to the meters and melodies of popular film songs. These songs reached Kerala through the government sponsored All India Radio.. The hymnal also shows the intersection of commercial movies and Christian worship at this time in Kerala, India.

The hymnal was intended for private use at Dharmaram College, the Seminary of the religious congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculatethat the saintly Palackal Thoma Malpan (1780-1841; my collateral ancestor),PorukaraThomaMalpan (1799-1846), and Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871) founded in 1831 in Kerala. The title of the hymnal takes after the Sanskrit name of the seminary, Dharmārām, which literally means “garden of virtues.” In the 1960s, over two hundred seminarians lived and studied at one point in time at Dharmārām, The hymnal was in use until the 1970s.

There are 133 songs of which 130 are in Malayalam and the other three are Syriac chants printed in Malayalam script. Thesongs are grouped under 12 headings:

  1. Hymns in praise of Jesus: songs 1-38
  2. Hymns in praise of Blessed Virgin Mary: 39-65
  3. Christmas songs: 66-74
  4. To the Holy Spirit: 75-79
  5. To St. Joseph: 80-86
  6. St. Thomas the Apostle: 87-93
  7. St. Theresa of Avila: 94-100
  8. St. John of the Cross: 101-105
  9. St. Theresa of Lisieux: 106-110
  10. The patron saints of different residence buildings of the Seminary
  11. Songs for various occasions:
  • Syriac chants for the Benediction: 117-118
  • Litanies: 120-124 - Stations of the Cross 125
  • Hymns to the Holy Spirit: 126-128
  • Stations of the Cross 125
  • Hymns to the Holy Spirit: 126-128
  • The Lord’s Prayer: 129
  • Hail Mary: 130
  • Hymn to Mary: 131
  • Dedication to the Holy Spirit
12. Malayalam translation of the Latin chant Te Deum: 133


The tune is indicated in parenthesis below the title by the opening words of the film song to which the lyrics are written;in some cases, the name of the film in which the song appears is also mentioned. The number of stanzas and the number of verses in each stanza coincide with those of the film song. These songs were not part of the official liturgy of the Syro Malabar Church, they were sung during such paraliturgical services as the Holy Hour (adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), Benediction, prayer gatherings, litanies and novenas to saints.

The hymnal lacks an Introduction. Hence, we have no information on the thought process that went into its preparation and publication.What is conspicuous by its absence are the names of the lyricists. It is possible that a few of those hymns were written by the talented students at the seminary. Some of the hymns were popular among Catholics all over Kerala.
The preparation of the hymnal took place during the time when the Syro Malabar Church was engaged in translating the liturgy from Syriac to Malayalam. The inauguration of the Malayalam version took place on July 3, 1962, one year before the publication of this hymnal. The inclusion of the Syriac chants shows the continuity and comfort level of the worshippers with the Syriac language and chants. Two of the three Syriac chants (117 &118) are translations of the Latin chant Pange Lingua by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1244). The third one (65), šlām lēk (“shanti to you (Mary]”) is a chant in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The community used to end the night prayers with a hymn to the Blessed Virgin. This Syriac chant was sung on that occasion..

Interestingly, there is only one instance of using a melody from a Tamil film (38); Tamil is the language of the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. Yet, the Christians in Kerala were more tuned to the film songs in Hindi, the language of the distant north. One reason may be that All India Radio. stations in Kerala gave greater importance to Hindi songs than Tamil songs, and cinema theaters in Kerala screened comparatively more films in Hindi than Tamil .

This hymnal is a case in point for an uncanny musical interface of commercial movies and Christian worship in Kerala. The Catholics were quite comfortable in celebrating their faith by singing secular melodies with their visual connotations. The hymnal also portrays the poetic imagination of a particular period in the history of Christian lyricists in Kerala, and bears a testimony to the theological thinking and prayer vocabulary of the time. Finally, this hymnal documents the names of a number of popular songs and the names of films in which they appear, indicating cross cultural communication within the country.

Joseph J. Palackal
New York
1 November 2016


Aramaic Grammar Vol I & II

(Approved by the University of Kerala)

By Rev. Fr. Thomas Arayathinal, M. O. L.

Printed at St. Joseph's Press, Mannanam, Kerala, India. 1957



The Syriac Manuscripts in Mannanam Library

Paper Presented


Fr. Emmanuel Thelly C.M.I.

in the

Symposium Syriacum VIII

Eighth International Congress of Syriac Studies

held at

University of Sydney, Australia

on 26th , 27th June 2000

NOTE: Fr. Emmanuel Thelly, C. M. I. (1925-2015) was kind enough to give me this copy of the paper that he presented at the Symposium Syriacum VIII, Eigh-th International Congress for Syriac Studies, held at the University of Sydney, Australia from June 26 to 30, 2000. Fr. Thelly spent innumerable hours at the archive at St. Joseph’s Monastery at Mannanam to gather the information that is presented here. This is a golden treasure for researchers on an array of topics, ranging from language and linguistics to music and history. I hope these manuscripts are still intact at the archive. Recently, the monastery has decided to digitize the materials at the Archive and make them public. That will be a great boon to scholars around the world. I cherish the sacred memory of Fr. Thelly, who helped me immensely during research for my doctoral dissertation on Syriac chants at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and pray for his continuous blessings on the Aramaic Project and anyone who is involved in Syriac studies.


Joseph J. Palackal
New York
27 April 2017


The wedding Songs of the Cochin Jews

and of the

Knanite Christians of Kerala:

A Study in Comparison.

Prof. P. M. Jussay


Āghōshamāya Slīwāppātha

(Malayalam, solemn Stations of the Cross)


Br. Jose L. Mawunkal

Songs and prayers for the fourteen Stations of the Cross in Malayalam First edition, 1929

Printed at the Jubilee Memorial Presss Seminary-Puthenpally, Varappuzha.



This is the original edition (1929) of one of the most popular versions of the Stations of the Cross in Malayalam. The 32-page booklet (6.4” X 3.8”) contains hymns, prayers, and meditative reflections on each of the fourteen Stations, written by late Fr. Joseph Mawunkal, a member of the Arch-diocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, in Kerala. At the time of publication, the author was a seminarian, identified as Jose L. Mawunkal, at Puthenpally, Varappuzha. The work received a warm reception from the Catholic Keralites because of its high literary and poetic qualities. Until the 1970s, this was the most popular Stations of the Cross among the Syro Malabar and the Latin Catholics in Kerala. Even today, several communities continue to use this version, with slight change of words in the opening stanza. The words kṛūšum thāngi-pōya took the place of kḷēšāwaha- māya, and fit well into the melody. Fr. Mawunkal composed the lyrics to the meter and melody of two songs that were already popular among the Catholics in Kerala: Dēwēšā yēšuparā or īšoyē enpithāwē. The opening words of these songs are indicated above the first stanza,in brackets. It is possible that these two songs were modelled after popular Hindi movie songs. Writing lyrics to popular melodies from Hindi movies was prevalent until the 1960s. See many more examples in another Malayalam hymnal, Dhaṛmagīti (see no. 13 under Resources for Researchers The title of the booklet deserves attention. It is a combination of the Syriac word slīwā (Cross) and the Malayalam word pātha (way) according to the rules of the Malayalam syntax. Although Syriac literacy was already on the path of decline among the laity in the first quarter of the twentieth century, many Syriac words remained in the vernacular prayer vocabulary. More importantly, the centuries-long presence of the Syriac language in the region created the comfort level of the Syriac Christians in formulating phrases that combined Syriac and Malayalam words. This is but one example. The advertisements that appear on the back cover will be of much interest to the historians of Malayalam hymnals and prayer vocabulary in Kerala. The first advertisement is for a Malayalam book that contains prayers and songs for the popular devotion of Eucharistic adoration, one hour adoration on the first Fridays of the month as well as forty-hour adoration once a year, in parishes.The advertisement specifically mentions the Syriac and Malayalam versions of the songs for the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. These songs are given in the Malayalam script. It is interesting to know that this book included also Latin chants (Pange Lingua, Tantum Ergo) in the Malayalam script. Personally, I have a vague recollection of my aunt (father’s sister) singing Tantum Ergo from this book at the end of our family prayer. It means that the Syriac Christians were quite comfortable in singing Latin chants (at home) that the Portuguese missionaries introduced in Kerala. We do not know yet if the Latin chants were ever sung in Syro Malabar churches.The second advertisement is for a three-part hymnal that the author edited: Bhakthagānamālika (Garland of Devotional Songs). Part III consists of 73 songs,probably written by Fr. Mawunkal, and Part I was going for a second edition, according to the advertisement. The booklet is also a contemporary witness to the numeric literacy of the Keralites. The page numbers appear in Arabic numerals, whereas the number of the Stations and stanzas appear in the Malayalam numerals. During this transitional period, the Keralites were familiar with both systems of writing the numerals.The Malayalam numerals went out of vogue in the second half of the twentieth century. So, too, the price is given in the name of the local currency (chakṛam and aṇa; later this changed to rūpa and paisa). I hope future researchers will be successful in locating the books that are mentioned on the back cover; they are primary source materials for the musical aspect of the religio-cultural history of Kerala.

Dr. Joseph J. Palackal
New York
14 June 2017


Pallikalile Chitraabhasangal


George Menacherry