Pampady is a beautiful village in the Kottayam district of Kerala, India. Majority of the people there belonged to Orthodox Syrian Christian Denomination. “Karinganamattom” Family is one such old time, famous Orthodox Syrian Christian Family, a branch of which is the “Moolakara” Family into which Our Thirumeni was born. Parents of Thirumeni:
“Avira”, Thirumeni’s paternal grandfather had two sons – Kuruvilla and Chacko. Chacko married Ilachi from the Velukottu family from Veloor. They had four sons and six daughters. Thirumeni was the fifth child among the nine of them. He was born on 1060 Meenam, 24th according to the Malayalam System or on April 5th, 1885 (Sunday) according to the English Calendar. Thirumeni’s baptismal name is “Kuriakose”. Though our Thirumeni’s parents were not very rich, it never hindered their prayerful life. Thirumeni’s father used to teach the young Kuriakose prayers by making him sit on the father’s lap. Thirumeni’s mother taught him Psalms from his childhood days. All these instilled Thirumeni to lead a prayerful life from the very young days. House Of Thirumeni:
Thirumeni’s father Chacko, built a house in the “Pezhamattathu Plot”. This was at the place called “Patham Mile” (10th Mile), North Of K. K. Road (Kottayam – Kumily Road) around 20 km away from Kottayam town. This house was later donated to the Church to built a “Kurishum Thotty” (Cross) by the family members after the Heavenly Abode of Thirumeni. Now a big cross in the name of Pampady Thirumeni stands in the place where initially the house of Thirumeni was situated. Education:
As per the usual custom that prevailed during those times, it was at the age of 5 (1890) that Thirumeni first started his official education. There was at that time, a small school at Karakuzha on the side of K K Road. Later this was moved near to the small church at Pampady. Hence from then on it came to be known as “Pallivathulkal School” (School near the Church Gate). At that time, a very famous teacher (“Aashan”) by the name of “Madathil Raman Pilla Aashan” was teaching there.
There were two classes in this school with around 100 students. Class 1 was under “Kushumbil Krishna Pillai” from “Erivaloor”. Class 2 was under Madathil Aashan. But, Madathil Aashan made it a point to look after the well being of all these 100 students of both these classes.Pallivathulkal School All that was taught in this school was the basic arithmetic and to read and write. Those who wanted to go for higher studies had to go to Kottayam, which was not possible at that time due to lack of conveyance. If a person studies for 4-5 years under Madathil Aashan, he would be proficient in all the required knowledge.
Our Thirumeni was a very good student who had a craving for knowledge. He keenly listened to all that was taught in the class. Since he was an obedient and a quite child, he was liked by all. Madathil Aashan was well versed in Tamil. Thus most of his students also learned the same. Among them was our Thirumeni. This is the reason why Thirumeni maintained a good collection of Tamil books later. Character Of Thirumeni:
1890 was a time when caste system was at its peak. Many Nair students also studied with Thirumeni. They never used to go out for lunch as they were not supposed to touch or interact with the lower caste people. Thirumeni used to take Coconut and Molasses (“Sharkara & Thenga”) for these students from home, so that they needn’t stay hungry. Thus from the younger days Thirumeni had the habit of feeding all those who were hungry. This continued even when he grew up. Thirumeni was known for his hospitality far and wide. Never a person who came to see Thirumeni, returned empty handed!! Prayerful Influence Of Grandma:
During the times when he studied under Madathil Aashan, Thirumeni stayed in the “Moolakara Family” with his Paternal Grandma “Unnichi” at his home in “Pezhamatathu”. His Grandma was a devoted servant of God who followed the prayers and lent religiously. She made it a point to tell Thirumeni devotional stories of Mother Mary and Parables of Jesus Christ. Thirumeni used to listen to all of them intensely. This created in Thirumeni a love for the prayerful life. Thirumeni and the Church:
From the very young days, Thirumeni loved taking part in the Qurbana. He used to stand right in front of the church to have a full view of the Mass and even jostled his way up. He longed to serve on the ‘madhbaha’ and take part in the Holy Mass. The parish priests at that time: Rev Father Parapurathu, Rev Father Kochukulathil and Rev Father Aykarapadavil, helped Thirumeni fulfil his wish. He was so devoted in his duties that the achens decided to ordain him as a Priest. Many church fathers, including Kadavil Mar Athanasius Thirumeni told this news to Pampady Thirumeni’s father Chacko.
But owing to financial difficulties at home, Chacko did not approve of the idea in the beginning. This denial of the offer led to several mishaps at their home, including Kuriakose nearly incapacitating his right hand in a crusher when he was feeding sugar cane into it. Thirumeni’s right hand had a slight handicap which led him to be a Left Hander. This made Chacko realize that God’s will was the supreme and it was not right to go against the Lord God’s decision. Realising his mistake, Chacko sent word of his willingness to have his son ordained. Kadavil Poulose Mar Athanasius Thirumeni
Sub-Deaconship on 5 Feb, 1899 (Age of 14)
Thirumeni was made the Sub-Deacon and given title of the “Korooyo” (sub-deacon) at the Pamapady Church on 5 Feb, 1899 at the age of fourteen by Poulose Mar Athanasios, who was in charge of the Kottayam diocese. Along with Thirumeni at that time itself, Rev Father O.C. Kuriakose of Kandathil and Alexanthrayose Kor Episcope of Kadavumbhagam was given the Sub -deaconship. Later he was elevated to the order of ‘SHAMSHONO’ (Full-Deacon) Life as a Deacon:
Immediately after he was made the Deacon, Thirumeni proceeded to the Old Seminary for his theological studies. The main Malpan (Teacher) at that time was Vattasheril Geevarghese Malpan. Scaria Malpan of Ilavanamannil, Alexanthrayose Malpan of Mattaykal and P. P Joseph Kathanar (Fr Joseph) of Chakkarakadavil were the other main teachers of Thirumeni. Every Monday morning Thirumeni would walk to Kottayam along with other Pastoral students and would return back on Friday. It was routine for Thirumeni to invite his friends home on Fridays. He enjoyed treating them with tasty food.
This hospitality of Thirumeni is well known far and wide and continued till his last days. Slowly the young Deacon became well versed in Syriac Language, Biblical Knowledge and mastered theological treaties and sacraments. He was a very good student who always respected his teachers and other scholars. His simple life style, discipline, humility and hard work made him a favourite among his teachers. Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius (Main teacher of Pamapady Thirumeni) The First Miracle:
The young deacon used to stay in Pampady when the seminary closed for vacation. He usually stayed in the Church and always took care to follow the Church Rituals. He used to regularly pray and fast. One year the villagers faced severe famine. All ponds and rivers dried up. All ran here and there in search of water. All crops were destroyed. During this time, on a Sunday after the Holy Mass, the young deacon declared that everyone should pray intensely for three days. Many of the devotees fasted and prayed for rain. But, some unbelievers took this as an opportunity to mock the young deacon.
On the third day of the prayer, while congee (kanji / rice porridge) was being served to the poor people on the Northern side of the Church at the Chethimattom Field, the sky darkened and heavy down pour started!!! People had to move to the nearby homes to have their food. The deluge was so heavy that the vessels, like the ‘Chempu’ (cauldron), in which the congee was made had to be tied to the nearby coconut trees so that they were not swept away in the torrent.Intense prayer of Thirumeni brought forth Heavy Rain Stay in Parumala Church:
The young deacon stayed in Parumala seminary as per the instructions of his Holy Malpan, Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius. He used to accompany the Malpan to various places. Some time after which Thirumeni got the deaconship, his father Chacko passed away. His father used to constantly worry about the young deacon due to lack of money. Thirumeni himself has told in many occasions that it was very difficult for him to buy even a pair of dress to be used in the Holy Mass. Thirumeni made it a routine to give clothes to the poor on the day of his father’s demise every year (29th of ‘Kanni Masam’). Parumala Seminary
Ordination as Priest and Ramban:
Vattasseril Malpan was impressed by the young deacon’s prayerful and disciplined life. He felt that the young deacon was apt to be ordained as the ‘Metropolitan’. But before that he needed to be ordained as the ‘Ramban’. Thus on 8th July, 1906 the young deacon was ordained as the Kassisso (Full-Priest) by H.G Murimattathu Poulose Mar Ivanios (the first Catholicose of Malankara). The next day the Catholicose ordained him as the Ramban. Thus Pampady Thirumeni was consecrated as the ‘Ramban’ (Rabban in Syriac) on 9th July, 1906 by the Catholicose H.G.Poulose Mar Ivanios at the Pampady Church. The next day ‘Ramban’ solemnised his first Holy Mass. H.G Murimattathu Poulose Mar Ivanios
(The first Catholicose of Malankara, who ordained Pampady Thirumeni as ‘Kassisso’ and ‘Ramban’) Ramban in Pampady Church After being ordained as the Ramban on 9th July, 1906 by the Catholicose H.G. Poulose Mar Ivanios, Ramban stayed at the Pampady Church. It was during this time that the Pampady Church was rebuilt and the second floor was built to the ‘Nadakashala’. The beautiful paintings now seen in the ‘Madbaha’ of the Church were also drawn during this time.
Ramban used to announce in the Church about the planned work and the devotees used to gather together to do these work, which got over very quickly due to the united effort. Ramban was very particular that all the workers should be fed well. The people used to present Ramban with many eatables and harvests when they visited him. And all these were given away to the devotees who used to come to see Ramban. It should be noted that the more he gave, the more he used to get back. Ramban’s first teacher, Madathil Aashan still continued teaching in the Pallivathulkal school, adjacent to the church. It was Ramban’s another main hobby to present the students there with eatables. Thus Ramban was loved by one and all.Pampady Church Ramban in Parumala Seminary
At this time, as per the instruction of Ramban’s Malpan H G Vattasseril Thirumeni, Ramban shifted to the Parumala seminary. There he served as the assistant of Kallasheril Punnose Ramban. The stay at Parumala Seminary, where Parumala Thirumeni’s body was laid to rest was indeed a spiritual renovation for the Ramban. His desire to follow the sanctified foot steps of Parumala Thirumeni raised the Ramban to great heights.
He was also appointed to teach Syriac to the church scholars at Parumala Seminary. Vattasseril Thirumeni used to make Ramban write replies for his letters from foreign lands like ‘Sheema’. Ramban’s Syriac letters were very beautiful and hence his hand writing very impressive. One day, His Grace Abdulla Patriarch, who was staying at the seminary asked Ramban to celebrate the Holy Qurbana. Though initially Ramban was a bit hesitant to Celebrate the Holy Mass in Syriac in front of the Patriarch, it finally resulted in everyone praising Ramban. Pampady Thirumeni as a Ramban
Disciples Of Ramban
During his stay in Parumala Seminary, Ramban got two disciples: Vattamala Abraham Deacon and Mannukaduppil Kuriakose Deacon. Ramban with the First Catholicose:
When the First Catholicose, H.G Murimattathu Poulose Mar Ivanios was not well and was resting at Parumala Seminary, Ramban used to look after him with due care and love. The Catholicose used to term Ramban lovingly as “My Ramban” (“Ente Rambachan”). The Bava Thirumeni used to love Ramban so much.
Bava played a major role in forcing the Ramban to become the Catholicose, when Vakathanam Kaaruchira Pilaksinos Metropolitan disagreed to continue as the Catholicose.Second Catholicose (Vakathanam Bava / Vailcattu Bava) Pothenpuram Hill Pothenpuram is a beautiful hill which interlocks the places Pampady and Meenadom. Pampady lies in the Eastern region of the hill and the rest is Meenadom. It was told that a deep hum was heard if someone stamps the Hill, and hence the origin of the name “Pothenpuram”. It is also believed that the name originated because there were many Bisons during that time and hence the name “Pothenpuram”.
(A literal translation may well be ‘Bison – Back’). Pigs, porcupines and bisons used to roam freely along this tract. Mar Kuriakose Dayara and the Church is situated on the raised plateau, amidst this hill.Pampady Dayara, amidst Pothenpuram Hill Placed centrally between Meenadom and Pampady, it invites co-operative effort from both Meenadom and Pampady region for its all round development. The mile long hill is skirted by fertile paddy fields yielding a rich harvest of ‘mundakan’ and ‘viruppu’ varieties of paddy. Till well into the 20th century human inhabitation was limited to the fringes of these paddy fields, it is said.
The land was ideal for coconut and areca nut farms. Treated and processed areca nut found ready market in bordering Tamil Nadu areas. Traders from Tamil Nadu used to come and stay in Pothenpuram to deal in ‘Korappakku’ giving the name ‘adakkakalom’ to one of the plain stretches on the hill. The Pothenpuram Hill was initially in the hands of an ancient aristocratic Nair family (Karthavu Family), who resided at a place called Kothala in Pampady. Later this family grew financially weak and hence the various regions of the Hill was sold to different people. Thus the place where the Dayara lies came in the hands of Madathil Aashan, the revered teacher of Pampady Thirumeni.Madathil Aashan Reason for the establishment of Dayara:
In the mean time, Pampady Church was closed due to the fight between the two factions. This disturbed Ramban’s prayerful and pious life. It came to the extent that Ramban had to move away from the Church. It was indeed painful for Ramban to leave behind Pampady Church where he was staying the past ten years and which was his home church. One day, on the way to the Pallithazham school, Madathil Aashan visited Ramban. Seeing the grief-stricken face of Ramban, Aashan understood the situation. Ramban explained about the fight and the result of the same in a sorrowful tone.
Aashan comforted the Ramban by suggesting that the Ramban make an ashram and a Church and to move over there. Ramban wanted to know how it could be done, as there was no money. Aashan assured that he would give the land and that the rest would all take place without any worry. Ramban conceded to his beloved master’s advice. Ramban invited Cheriya Madathil Velyachan (Valiya Yacob Kathanar) also to see the place. Hence along with the Achan and Aashan, Ramban went and saw Pothenpuram. They liked it immensely and the registration took place on 15 Chingam, 1087. Construction of the Well:
The construction of a well was started on 8th Idavom, 1089. Ramban used to come from Pampady to inspect the work. On 25th of that month, Ramban built a tent. On 31st, water was seen in the well. On 1st Midhunam, Ramban started staying in the tent there. After the construction of the well was over, Ramban thought about constructing the Dayara. But due to lack of money, it did not proceed. Instead Ramban decided to rent a house. But due to unavailability of a suitable house, even that idea was abandoned. Slowly Ramban, with the help of a few others started collecting money for the construction of Dayara from the people of Meenadom and Pampady. Construction
of the Church:
Ramban decided to build a temporary church there at the earliest. Thus the church was built at the place of the current ‘Nadakashala’ of the Church. Ramban celebrated the Holy Mass for the first time here on 15th Makaram, 1090 along with the celebration of Mother Mary’s Festival of Seeds (vithu vila perunnal). Many people attended this function. Karinganamattathil Chacko used to stay with Ramban during this time, as a token of his love and respect for the Ramban.Church at Pampady Dayara Ramban: A Guardian for all
Ramban soon became a guardian for those in and around the place. He used to take Syriac classes for the children and devoted his time in prayers. Everyday devotees used to bring fruits and other crops to the Dayara. All these were given away to those who came to visit Ramban. Ramban made it a point to show hospitality to who ever came to visit him and gave them food till their stomachs were full!! The same was the case with social service and alms giving.Ramban: Kuriakose Mar Gregorios Thabore Dayara:
Soon after the church construction was over, on 13th Medom 1090, Vattasseril Mar Dionysius Thirumeni visited the Dayara. He liked the place very much and stayed there for three days and later proceeded to the Pazhaya Seminary. He christened the Dayara as “Thabore Dayara”. Ramban: A strict teacher
Ramban was a very strict teacher. He used to beat even the best students if they showed lack in studies or indiscipline. Afterwards Ramban used to feel sad about the incident. He used to apply oil and hot water bags to the hurt areas. He also used to buy eatables and present to his disciples later. Church Re-Construction:
The stone laying function of today’s Dayara Church took place on 28th May, 1920. This was conducted by Yuyakim Mar Ivanios Metropolitan of Kandanad diocese. When the central pillar of the church was constructed, many witnessed a shining star in the sky. This took place in the after noon. The Church was consecrated on 20th January, 1923 by Geevarghese
Mar Dionysius Thirumeni and Vakathanathu Mar Pilaksinos Thirumeni. Only very few know who and what Thomas the deaf and dumb, but remarkably loyal servant of Rambachan was or his daily chores in the service of his beloved master.
Thomas came on Mithunam 18, 1090, as Rambachan’s cook. He belonged to the Ooppootil family of Veloor Karickamattom. His father was a regular help for the late Palampadom Vakil. Thomas has spoken at length, of course, in sign language to P.C Yohannan Ramban. ‘Pottan’ as Thomas was called by some, was very intelligent and had a grasp of most things happening around him. He would take his part whenever he could contribute meaningfully. The way he pictured in sign language personages like Mahatma Gandhi, the Viceroy, Patriarch Bava, Wattacheril Thirumeni, Kurichi Valiya Bava Thirumeni and Julius Metropolitan has been quite memorable.
He seemed to pose as though the whole of Pothenpuram was his own. Every tall coconut palm you see on the hill slopes was indeed planted by him, watered by him from the pond of Charothuparambil and Kizhakkemuri. Because they were fruits of his labour he would not part with any of the produce that Pothenpuram yielded. He would express himself without any reserve to anyone. In fact people around had some respect for his temper. He wouldn’t even spare Pampady Thirumeni! Thirumeni’s devoted “Pottan”