Descendants of Devasy

Kandathil Sebastian’s latest novel ‘Dolmens in the blue mountain’ walks us through the lives of Syrian Christian migrants in Ezhacherry

Published: 25th July 2014 09:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th July 2014 09:29 AM   |  A+A-

Kandathil-Sebastia

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The daunting dolmens that stand tall in Ezhacherry and the cerulean Munnar mountains festooned with neela kurinjis concealed a cornucopia of stories. The stories of Kannagi and Arunakshi, who emerged as goddesses in the innocent minds of local tribes sooner than later. The tribes became steadfast believers of their Goddesses’ invincible strength. Palanichami was no different. ‘Dolmens in the blue mountain’, Kandathil Sebastian’s latest novel, however, is not the story about Palanichamy or his ardent faith, but about Devasy and his illustrious descendants.

Devasy and four others, who arrived at Ezhacherry in the beginning of twentieth century, claimed that they were Brahmins who were converted to Christianity by Saint Thomas. This was marked in the history as the dawn of Syrian Christians in Kerala. ‘Dolmens in the blue mountain’ unravels a brief history of Syrian Christians while walking us through the lives of Devasy’s great grandchildren Saju Thomas, Philipose and Dominic.

While delineating the hundred-year-old story of Syrian Christians in Kerala, the author takes special care to bring in small anecdotes that would linger in the readers’ minds forever. Like the time when Rahel, a staunch Christian, presented a holy cross to her tribal worker Palanichamy. Palanichamy who accepts the cross graciously, however refuses to worship male gods except whom his ancestors have taught him. He says that for him Kali, Arunakshi and Chaplamma are the only Goddesses other than the hills and the ancestors who sleep in the dolmens.

Varghese and Thomman, the grandchildren of Devasy, went on to become prolific farmers in Ezhacherry. However, in a whirlwind of unfortunate events Thomman’s life come to an unexpected halt. But Saju, the only son of Thomman survives the lashing tides and becomes an IAS aspirant. His cousins Philipose and Dominic also shrug out of their ancestral caves and find careers that suit them. So does their tribal companions Thevan and Kannagi. You can see flashes of Kandathil Sebastian in Saju Thomas’ characterisation. Sebastian hailing from a remote village in Kottayam belongs to an old Syrian Christian family just like his protagonists. Like Saju, Sebastian finds solace in social service and even holds a PhD in Public Health from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi.

As mentioned in the foreword, even though the events and people whom the author came across inspire the novel, extensive research has gone into contextualising the story in its proper historical and anthropological contexts of Kerala and the Western Ghats. However, the author insists that the book is purely a work of fiction.

‘Dolmens in the blue mountain’ is the story of three cousins who have a rich and colourful past intertwined with tribal histories. This book tries to explore meaning of life and death through the longstanding tradition of dolmens (single-chambered tombs constructed, dates back to Neolithic period 4000 to 3000 BC).

With oodles of information about Christian migrants of Kerala, this book would be an exciting read for those who like to delve deep into rich history of our state.

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