Pallipuram Cross




Joseph J. Palackal

A program to honor, cherish, and preserve the unparalleled legacy of an ancient language and music tradition that are part of the history of India, and an intangible treasure in the world’s cultural heritage .

Dedicated to:
Alexander the Indian 1588-1677

Inspired by :
Church bell at Marth Mariam (Lady Mary) Church at Kuravilangad, Kerala, with two rows of inscriptions in Syriac (Aramaic) that remain to be deciphered. Photo: 5 July 2013

Part 1. Fr. Emmanuel Thelly, C. M. I., Syriac scholar and lexicographer. Little Flower Monastery, Poonjar, Kerala. 22 August 2004.

Part 27. The Syriac East Meets the Latin West in Kerala, India

Part 15. Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt, the only bishop in India who celebrates solemn Qurbana in Syriac. Photo: 3 August 2014

Part 18c. Melody of "Maaran Iso".
Part 16. Koonammakkal Thoma Kathanar, Syriac scholar and founder of the Beth Aprem Nazrani Dayra. Photo: 4 August 2014

Part 25. Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikkal in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal

Part 44. Dr. Varghese Pathikulangara in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal

Dr. Joseph J. Palackal teaches the Syriac chant "Bar Maryam" at the conference on Christian Congregational Music. Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxford, United Kingdom. 4 August 2015.

Image at the Shrine dedicated to Palackal Thoma Malpan at his birthplace. Courtesy: Shiji Photos, Ottappunna.

Cenotaph for the Malpan at the Monastery of St. Joseph, Mannanam, beside the tombs of FF. Porukara and Chavara

A manuscript showing the title of the acrostic hymn in Syriac by “Alexander the Indian." St. Joseph’s Monstery, Mannaanam. Photo courtesy: Fr. Antony Vallavanthara, C.M.I. 1942-2008 .

Letter written and signed in Syriac by St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara to Pope Pius IX 1792-1878, on 25 April 1870. The letter is kept at the archive of the Oriental Congregation, Rome ref: Scrit. Rif. Mal. 1875. Courtesy: Fr. Thomas Panthaplackal, CMI

DVD Release- kerala the Cradle of Christainity in South Asia

Part 3. Fr. Paul Kodamullil. Santhinilayam, Muvattupuzha, India. 05 August 2013

National Shrine, Washington, D. C. Chants in Syriac and Sanskrit were sung here for the first time on 7 September 2013 during the celebration of the Syro Malabar Qurbana in English.

Part 6. Dr. Jacob Vellian, scholar of Syro Malabar liturgy

Persian cross with inscriptions in Syriac at the bottom, and in Sassanian-Pahlavi at the top and sides. Waliyapalli, Kottayam, Kerala.

The Syriac- English- Malayalam Lexicon by Fr.Emmmanuel Thelly C.M.I.

Thalikasthanam Thoma Mathai Jarly with his wife Beena, at the ornate front door of their home. On the sides of the Cross at the top of the teakwood door appears the words of St.Thomas the Apostle: from right to left "Maar w'alaah" My Lord and my God in Syriac script. Photo: 12 July 2013.

Cemetery chapel of Mar Geevarghese Sahda Church - Church of the East. "O the One who raises the dead, praise to Thy holy name." In Malayalam and Syriac scripts. Panampilly Nagar,Eranakulam, Kerala. Photo: 19 March 2014.

Persian Cross - Granite cross with inscriptions in Sassanian-Pahlavi (Middle Persian). Circa 7th century AD. St. Thomas Mount (Periyamalai), Mylapore, Chennai, India.

Aramaic Project-49.Tony Augustine Allenchery in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal

Aramaic Project-58E. Vatican Radio. Dr. Joseph Palackal's 3rd Interview in full

The Aramaic (Syriac) language in which Jesus and His disciples preached the Gospel reached South India in the early Christian era. Until the 1960s, the St. Thomas Christians in Kerala, who trace the origin of their faith to St.Thomas the Apostle, celebrated liturgy in this language. Since the vernacularization of the liturgy, the language and the melodies are on the path to extinction in the Syro Malabar Church (3.25 million members). The Syro Malabar Church, which is one of the eight independent churches among the St. Thomas Christians (6 million out of about thirty million Christians in India), follow the Chaldean (East Syriac) liturgical tradition. The immediate goal of this project is to locate as many singers as possible in the Syro Malabar Church, who were born in the 1950s or earlier, and record their memories of the language, melodies, and experiences in order to preserve them for posterity. This project is time-sensitive because of the advancing age of the resource persons. The sound and the memory of the language, and the rich and varied melodic repertory, will soon die with them. Preserving these aspects of this Semitic language is important not only for the history of Christianity in India, but also for the history of Christianity itself.

The vestiges of the Syriac chant repertoire in India fall under the category of “intangible cultural heritage,” as defined in Article 2 of the UNESCO convention held in Paris (2003) that need to be safeguarded by all means.

Purpose & Action plan

The Aramaic project is a part of a larger plan of a digital library of Christian music in India under the auspices of the Christian Musicological Society. This library will be beneficial to the general public, as well as academic departments that specialize in such topics as South Asian and West Asian studies, Indology, musicology, anthropology, theology, religion, Church history, Syriac Christianity, liturgy, and linguistics. The action plan includes a documentary film in English, a digital encyclopedia of Syriac chants in India, a memory bank of life experiences of the practitioners of this music, attempts to reintroduce a few chants in the vernacular liturgy, transference of melodies from the transitional generation to the next through seminars and workshops, and comparative studies of extant melodies in India and the Middle East. We hope that all these efforts will draw attention to the Christian dimension of India, and extend the geographical domain of early Christianity and music to the Indian subcontinent. The detailed action plan is as follows:

1. A digital library of Christian music in India. There are about thirty million culturally and linguistically diverse Christians in India, who form about 2.5 % of the total population of approximately 1. 25 billion. The variety of musical traditions of these Christians is a reflection, albeit at a microcosmic level, of the cultural diversity of the country. These traditions hold key to our understanding of the cultural interactions that went into the formation of local, regional, and national histories. We hope the digital library will become a valuable resource for researchers around the world.

2. A documentary film. The world has the right to know India as a country that continues to safeguard a unique cultural heritage that originated in West Asia. With that in mind, an edited version of the recordings will be used to produce a 60-minute documentary film in English with the title Jesus and India: A Connection through Language and Music.

3. A digital encyclopedia of Syriac chants. The texts and melodies of the Syriac chants have histories of their own and, therefore, deserve proper accounting. The texts have accumulated specific sonorities, phonetic variations, and even shades of meaning from use over an extended period of time in different communities. Occasionally, anonymous authors/performers have interpolated the texts with words or vocables to suit a particular theology, or a specific poetic meter, or even certain aspects of the local history. Some of the chant texts have multiple melodies. For example, the Syriac translation of the Latin litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary used to be sung in certain religious communities in Kerala with a different melody for each day in the month of May which is dedicated to different expressions of Marian devotion. The same is applicable to the Syriac translation of the famous Pange Lingua by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) that used to be sung during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Christian Musicological Society of India is grateful to the Nasrani Foundation for providing the digital version of the Chant texts in the Syriac script and their transliteration in the Malayalam script.

4. To create a memory bank. A language is embedded in the real life experience of its users; those experiences are an integral part of the collective memory of a community. The loss of that memory is like the loss of a valuable treasure chest. The generation that lived through the transition of liturgy from Syriac to the vernacular in the 1960s continues to own an extensive memory base of sounds, melodies, and meanings of the Syriac chants; these were once significant markers of identity of the St. Thomas Christians, also known as Syriac Christians. This transitional generation is the last link to the legacy of a centuries-old tradition. If we do not capture their memories and their life stories now, they will be lost forever. The memory bank we create surely will bring big dividends for future researchers from various fields.

5. To preserve the unique sound of the Syriac language. A language is also a sonic entity. Over the centuries, the sonority of the Syriac language has assumed both a regional and a communal character in Kerala. This transformation was mediated by the vocal inflections of Tamil and Malayalam. Thus, the Syriac language constitutes a singular sonic presence among the sounds of the other languages, and adds to the sonic diversity in India. The particular sonority of a language can be compared to a particular species of a plant or a bird. In order for those sonorities to survive, they should become a part of the sound-experience of the present generation. It is our hope that the Aramaic project will help resuscitate the language by helping children and young adults to acquaint themselves with the sound of the Syriac language, as well as some of the traditional chant texts and melodies.

6. To transfer melodies from the transitional generation to the next. While many of the chant texts are available in books and manuscripts, the melodies, which were mostly transmitted orally, are fading from the memories of the transitional generation. It is imperative that we capture as many of those melodies as possible, and transfer them to the younger generation as much as possible through seminars and training sessions. It is up to that generation to own those melodies and pass them on to the next. The future is unpredictable, but that is not a valid reason for inaction.

7. A reintroduction of Syriac chants in the vernacular liturgies. It is our hope that the Aramaic project will help the younger generation to rediscover its identity as members of a Church that carries a reference to an ancient language in its official name the prefix, “Syro” in the “Syro Malabar” stands for the Syriac language. We also wish to resuscitate the language by helping the children and young adults to acquaint themselves with the sound of the Syriac language, as well as some of the traditional chant texts and melodies. Kindly refer to this section - Reintroduction of Syriac chants to know more about the progress in this area.

8. A biography of prominent personalities in Syriac chants. Life stories of individuals who served the Syriac cause in the past, and those who serve in the present in one way or another, are part of the continuing cultural narrative of the country. Among them are performers, poets, composers, teachers, scholars, researchers, and promoters. The documentation of their lives and times, and the circumstances in which they served, will be a great asset.

9. To digitalize copies of chant texts. The highly humid climate conditions in Kerala is far from congenial to the preservation of paper products. If we do not transfer the chant texts available in manuscripts and out-of-print books into a digital format now, they may be lost in the not so distant future.

10. A photo gallery. The digital gallery will include images of individuals and institutions that promote the Syriac heritage, cultural artifacts, Syriac inscriptions on the facade and altars of churches, burial places, Christian homes, palm-leaf manuscripts, etc. Indeed, a picture will speak a thousand words.

11. A comparative study of melodies in India and the Middle East. The Syro Malabar Church inherited the Syriac liturgy from the Chaldean Church in West Asia. A comparative study of the melodies in the Syro Malabar Church and the Chaldean Church will be a worthy undertaking. The liturgy of the Hours in the Syro Malabar Church continues to preserve some of the ancient melodies from the East Syriac tradition. For sure, melodies in both churches have undergone changes due to various reasons, but it is possible that the Syro Malabar Church preserves earlier versions of these melodies. It is up to future researchers to substantiate that hypothesis.

In conclusion, Aramaic is not just another endangered language; it is the language in which Jesus and his followers announced the Good News. St. Thomas Christians used to take pride in the fact that they knew the "language of Jesus." When their priests chanted the Institution narrative during the Eucharistic celebration, the celebrants and laypeople alike felt a special connection with the original event that took place at the table at the Last Supper in Jerusalem; the very same words sounded almost in the same manner within the walls of their local churches in Kerala. Familiarity with the Syriac language and melodies might instill a similar sense of pride in the younger generation.

As long as reference to the Syriac language remains part of the names the churches of the St. Thomas Christians, the Syriac heritage cannot be dispensed with. A complete disconnect from the past may not be in favor of the self-awareness of the future generations; we will be creating a generation without an umbilical cord. Therefore, retaining at least a part of the Syriac heritage is essential to the continuing history.

The Syriac heritage of the St. Thomas Christians is an essential component of the colorful cultural fabric of India. The Aramaic Project will draw attention especially to the pre-sixteenth century history, and layers of cultural interactions that went into the formation of the unifying diversity that is India. It will also raise respect for India among the cultural leaders around the world as a country that continues to preserve a world heritage of humanity. Overall, the Aramaic Project is highly ambitious to say the least, and yet is time-sensitive; it is like aiming at the stars, hoping to reach at least the treetop. A concerted effort from people of all backgrounds, and a pooling of resources from all possible corners, are essential to achieve these goals. The current political upheavals in the Middle East, which is the geographical and cultural source of the Syriac heritage, are adversely affecting the preservation of these linguistic and musical treasures of humanity. For that reason, the Aramaic Project in India is an imperative.


This website is dedicated to Fr. Chandy Kadavil (1588-1677), a great son of India and a celebrated St. Thomas Christian from Kaduthuruthy, in central Kerala. He was also known by his nickname in Syriac, “Alaksandros hendwāyā” Alexander the Indian. Fr. Kadavil was a great scholar, orator, and a prominent leader of the St. Thomas Christians. He lived at a tumultuous period in the history of the St. Thomas Christians, who reacted vehemently against the religious dominance of the Jesuit missionaries (who represented Rome) in Kerala, in 1653. Fr. Kadavil commanded respect from the local Hindu Kings, as well as the Portuguese missionaries. His scholarship was so well known that the European missionaries in Kerala wrote about him in their letters to Rome and the King of Portugal. Fr. Kadavil mastered the art of the Syriac language so well as to write acrostic poems that were known even in West Asia cfr. Istvan Perczel, “A Syriacist Disciple of the Jesuits in 17th-Century India: Alexander of the Port/Kadavil Chandy Kathanar,” Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies, vol. 14, 2004; P. J. Thomas, Malayāḷasāhityawum kṛistyānikaḷum Malayalam Literature and Christians, 3rd ed., with an appendix by Scaria Zacharia, 1989, Kottayam: D. C. Books, pp. 36, 143, 149.

Fr. Kadavil’s nickname, Alexander the Indian, is interesting. The Portuguese missionaries may have given him that name because they did not want to use the Malayalam adaptation of his first name "Chandy," (Chāṇṭi), the short form for Alexander. Locally, we know about Fr. Kadavil’s nickname from an eighteenth century manuscript that is currently in the archive at St. Joseph’s Monastery, the Motherhouse of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, at Mannanam, Kerala. This 336-page manuscript was copied (copying was completed on February 9, 1734) by Pilippose, son of Thomas, known as Kraw Yambistha (Syriac, “near” or “on dry land,” probably a translation of the Malayalam word Kariyil or Karayil); the copyist lived near the Martha Mariam (Syriac., "Lady Mary," i.e., St. Mary's Church at Kalloorkkad, presently known as Champakkulam) in the Alappuzha district of Kerala. The manuscript starts with the Hours for Sundays for the liturgical season of Śūbārā (Syr., "Advent"). cfr. Emmanuel Thelly, “Syriac manuscripts in Mannanam Library,” Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, vol. 56, 2004, pp. 257-270

Folios 146r to 157v of the manuscript contain Fr. Kadavil’s acrostic poem. The poem’s title, possibly given by the copyist, reads: Mēmra dawīd l'qaśīśā aleksandrōs hendwāyā deskannī l'mēnāyā d'al qurbān m'śīhā, nemmar b'qal sāgdīnan (“Poetic homily by Father Priest Elder Alexander the Indian, who is called ‘At the Port’ Kadavil, about the sacrifice of Christ holy Eucharist, in the tune of Sāgdīnan”). In the Syriac literature, the terms India and Indian used to be referred to respectively as hendo and hendwāya. The copyist (Pilippose) also used the Syriac equivalent, l'mēnāyā (literally, "connected to the port") for the house name of Fr. Kadavil, (literally, “near the jetty,” i.e., he lived near a jetty or port) in Malayalam. The title of the poem also includes musically important information; the poem is composed in the meter and melody of a popular chant, Sāgdīnan. There are 22 strophes, one for each letter in the Syriac alphabet. There are twelve syllables in each verse, with rhyme on the ultimate syllable. The rhyming syllable is rēś, the twentieth letter in the alphabet. The first strophe begins in the middle of the seventh line on folio 146, on ālap, the first letter of the Syriac alphabet (see the letter in red color, in Estrangela script, separated by two asterisks).

A note on the photo of folio 146 of the manuscript: Fr. Antony Vallavanthara, C. M. I. (1942-2008) gave me this photo during my visit to St. Joseph's Monastery, a few months before his untimely death. He wished that I would include it in my future publication, and draw attention from Syriac scholars to the many literary treasures that are yet to be examined at the archive of the Monastery. A zealous promoter of the Syriac traditions of the Syro Malabar Church, Fr. Vallavanthara wanted the world to know that there were Christians in India who could compose acrostic poems in Syriac with rhyme. He also told me that he was planning to translate Fr. Kadavil's poem into Malayalam. May his soul rest in peace!

Source of inspiration

The source of inspiration for the Aramaic project is the life story of the saintly Palackal Thoma Malpan (Pālackal Tōmmā Malpān, circa 1780-1841), my collateral ancestor, a teacher and scholar of the Syriac language and liturgy, founder of the first seminary of the Syriac Christians in India, founder of the first indigenous religious congregation for men in India (see video), and a father to the Syro Malabar Church. The honorary title Malpān (from the Syriac word malpānā, meaning “teacher/scholar;” in today’s academic language, “Doctor of Divinity”) refers to his additional priestly role as a teacher of the Syriac language and liturgy, and as a preceptor of aspirants to priesthood. Thoma Malpan was the founder of the first seminary among the St. Thomas Christians, at our native village, Pallippuram, in 1818. Until this time, aspirants to priesthood followed the gurukula (literally, “home of the teacher”) system in which the students lived at the home of their teacher to receive formation to become priests. A significant part of that formation was the acquisition of proficiency in the Syriac language. One of the daily activities at the “Pallippuram Seminary,” as it came be to known, was the communal celebration of the liturgy of the Hours in Syriac. In the absence of printed books, the Malpan embarked on a difficult venture of preparing written copies of the liturgy, compiling the prayers and readings from manuscripts available from other Malpans in Kerala. The Pallippuram Seminary became a move toward the renewal and self-reliance of what eventually came to be known as the Syro Malabar Church. The Malpan’s prestigious protégé, and the dearest disciple whom he loved like a son is Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871). See the image of the postage stamp issued by the Government of India, on the right side of the page. The Blessed Disciple later became the right hand of the Malpan and his close friend, Porukkara Thomma Malpan (1799-1846) in founding the first religious congregation for men in India that is currently known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.). Inspired (or tired?) by the copying activities at the Seminary, St. Chavara established the first printing press in India, with facilities for printing Syriac texts, at the premises of the mother house of the Congregation at Mannanam in 1844, three years after the demise of his guru, Palackal Malpan.

The stories about the Malpan that my father, Palackal Kurian Joseph (1915-1983), told me almost on a daily basis instilled such awe and respect in my young mind that, when I became an altar boy in the early 1960s, I was afraid to step on the Malayalam epitaph on the Malpan’s tomb at the main altar of our parish, St. Mary’s Forane Church. The epitaph was callously destroyed during the reconstruction of the Church in 1979. Later, my father’s accounts were corroborated by reading the only biography of the Malpan that the Blessed Disciple wrote and incorporated into one of the most significant historical documents of the 19th century, Nālāgamangal (“Chronicles”) in the Malayalam language. St. Chavara’s biography of the Malpan is believed to be the first in this literary genre in Malayalam, authored by an Indian with an Indian as the subject matter. Much later, I followed in the footsteps of the Blessed Disciple, and became a devotee of the saintly Malpan. St. Chavara, who was also a Malpan at the time of writing the Chronicles, introduced himself in the opening sentence with utmost humility as “Priest Chavara Kuriakose, one of the disciples, the lesser one, of our respected Malpan, who was called by the name Thomma, of Pallippuram Palackal” May the blessings of the Malpan and St. Chavara be on all the collaborators and contributors to the Aramaic project.

Special thanks & Acknowledgements

Special thanks

We would like to express our gratitude to each and everyone who helped to launch this project, especially Rev. Paul A. Wood, Pastor, and the parishioners of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration Churches in Maspeth, New York, Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, Dr. Verghese Kannarkat, M. D., and Rev. Fr. Provincial, S. H. Provincial House of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, India.


Felix Simon : Program Director
Rosy Kurian : Filed work coordinator
Jarly Mathew : Research associate
Alain Godbout : Calligraphy
Sherin Joby : Office Assistant
Raina Wong : Copy editor

Please donate

At present, the idea of a Digital Library of Christian Music in India sounds like an overambitious project, yet it is something that should be done without delay. It is possible that the Aramaic project itself may amount to about 300 hours of recordings. As the scope of the project expands, so do the expenses. Expenses include remuneration to research assistants, their travel and accommodation expenses, partial remuneration to economically disadvantaged singers (which most of them are), studio expenses, recording equipment, remuneration to videographers and film editors, etc.. This can be achieved only by the concerted efforts of many generous people. To make a donation to the project, click the donate button present on the top right hand corner of the page or click here.

Those who are familiar with the region and the musical tradition can contribute to this project by sending information on individual singers, institutions, songs, books and articles, manuscripts, researches, and any other item that can be posted on this web site, and eventually added to the Digital Library. Please email the information to

Reintroduction of Syriac chants in the Syro Malabar liturgy

Liturgical celebrations could be the ideal forum to introduce a few Syriac chants to the younger generation that was born after the vernacularization of the Syro Malabar liturgy. It was quite heart-warming to see how the 130 young singers from the Syro Malabar communities across North America sang the response to the introductory chant, Puqdaankon ("With your command") and the Trisagion, Qaddisa Alaaha ("Holy God") with great enthusiasm. This occurred during the solemn celebration of the Syro Malabar Qurbana in English at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. D. C., on 7 September 2013. This was the first time the Syro Malabar Qurbana was celebrated at the National Shrine. Cardinal George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar Church, was the celebrant, with Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Archbishop of Washington, D. C.) and Bishop Jacob Angadiath (Bishop of the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago) as co-celebrants. (See my correspondence with the Major Archbishop's Office regarding the inclusion of the Syriac chant in this liturgy). Incidentally, this was the very first time a Syriac chant was heard within the walls of this magnificent and, probably, the biggest Catholic Church in the USA. The revised edition of the Music Notation of the English version of the Syro Malabar Qurbana will include the notation of the two chants mentioned above.

Earlier, these two chants were introduced, on an experimental basis, during the Qurbana in Malayalam at St. Joseph’s Church, at Kadavanthara, in Ernakulam, Kerala, on July 28, 2013 (See Video 1 & Video 2). The occasion was the feast of St. Alphonsa. The positive response from the choir and the congregation prompted the Vicar, Fr. Thomas Perumayan, who is also a singer and composer, to include those chants (Video 3 & Video 4) during the celebration of Qurbana for the Sunday School students. The practice continues. This is probably the only Parish in Kerala where these chants are part of the liturgy for the catechism students every Sunday.

The grand celebration at the National Shrine in Washington, D. C., on 7 September 2013, had positive repercussions among the Syro Malabar communities in the USA. For example, the St. Jude Syro Malabar Parish at Northern Virginia included, for the first time, two Syriac chant (Awūn d’baśmayyā / Our Father, and Tālāk ruhā / Come O Spirit) as part of the celebration of the First Holy Communion, on 02 Aug 2014. The Celebrant, Bishop Jacob Angadiath, who grew up in the Syriac tradition in Kerala, was pleasantly surprised, and complimented the Pastor Fr. Tijo Mullakkara, Felix Simon and the parents for making Syriac chants a part of the religious experience of the new generation of the Syro Malabar Catholics. The Parish community has resolved to continue the practice in the coming years.

Also, the second, revised edition (forthcoming, 2015) of the musical notation of the English version of the Solemn Qurbana will include the two Syriac chants that were sung at the National Shrine. If the younger generation takes a liking to the sound and melody of these chants, more Syriac chants may be added to Sunday celebrations in the future. Thus, the children of expatriate Syro Malabar Catholics will have an opportunity to connect themselves to the very source of Christianity as well as to experience the first part (“Syro”) of the name of their Mother Church in a special way. Indeed, history is in the making.

Field work

After a year-long preparation, the field work started in July 2013. The experience gained from earlier researches for the Syriac CD, Qambel Maran (PAN Records, Netherlands, 2002), my doctoral dissertation, Syriac Chant Traditions in South India (Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2005), the DVD Kerala the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia (2008), and my chapter in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook Music and World Christianities (Oxford University Press) was helpful in formulating questions for the interviewees. With the help of a dedicated team of research assistants and technicians, we have about 60 hours of video recordings of interviews and performances by a number of resource persons. Geographically, the focus was mainly on the central and southern parts of Kerala. One of the most resourceful interviews was with Fr. Emmanuel Thelly, C. M. I. (b. 1925), author of several books on Syriac, including the Syriac-English-Malayalam Lexicon (1996). Fr. Thelly also respected our request to read for the camera from the poem he wrote recently in Syriac, and the famous acrostic hymn of St. Ephrem the Syrian (d. 372) on the name Īśō m’śīhā (Jesus the Anointed). Reviewing, editing, and archiving of these recordings are in progress. A few samples are posted below.

Pleasant surprises from field work 2013

In spite of over twenty years of research in the geographical area, and among the Syro Malabar Christians , I had quite a few pleasant surprises; I shall briefly mention two. First, the performance practice of “Holy, holy, holy” during the Eucharistic liturgy in Syriac on Holy Thursday used to be a unique musical and dramatic event. The reference to this event came during a preparatory conversation with Lonappan Arackal who currently serves as sacristan at St. John Nepomucene Church at Konthuruthy, Kochi, in central Kerala this is the only church in Kerala that is dedicated to this saint. Lonappan used to be the leader of music at this church when the liturgy was in Syriac. The hymn begins solemnly with melodic and rhythmic instrumental accompaniment (harmonium, violin, drum, and triangle), and continues so during the first half. In the middle of the hymn, however, instrumental accompaniment is stopped abruptly; the sacristan rings a wooden bell for a few seconds, portending the change of mood from joyful to sad; and the choir sings the rest of the hymn (“Blessed is He who came …”) in a sad, requiem manner without melodic or rhythmic accompaniment. The rest of the liturgy continues in this manner. The wooden bell replaces the church bell to mark liturgical time from this point onward, until Holy Saturday. Thus, this hymn becomes a transitional point in the observance of the Easter Tridium.

Future plans

What we encountered during the field work this year is only the tip of the iceberg. The scope of the project is larger than we envisaged. Each interview hinted at more resource persons to be contacted, and themes to be explored. Obviously, many musical treasures are hidden in the memory of the older generation of church singers that are yet to be excavated. A preliminary review of the recorded materials shows that there is a need to revisit some of the singers to clarify certain points and to record more songs, if possible. We plan to start preparations soon for the next stage of the field work in 2014. Next year, the focus will be on the singers in the northern parts of Kerala, including the hilly regions of Malabar.

Two angels holding a banner with inscription in Syriac. Wooden reredos of the main altar at St.Joseph's Church, Vaikkom, Kottayam Dt. Photo: 7 July 2013.

Syriac Writing at St. Marys Forane Church,Pallippuram

Syriac writing at St. Joseph Forane Church, Vaikom

Part 18. Female Voice/Sisters of St.Thomas

Part 17. Don Tom Francis, the smiling face of the Syriac language. Photo: 4 August 2014.

Part 10c. Rebecca accompanied by the neighbourhood birds sings the syriac hymn "Tālāk Ruhā"(Come O Spirit).

Part 9.Qaddisa Alaaha (Kandisa alaha). Trisagion in East Syriac.

The First Communion candidates singing syriac hymns at St Jude Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Northern Virginia on 02 Aug 2014.

Part 26. The Children’s Choir at Suriyanippally, Palluruthy, sing the Malayalam and Syriac versions of B’eda d’yawmaan” (hymn to the Blessed Virgin)

Part 42. Josetta Jarly teaches the Syriac chant "We hu nehade" from Raza. 15 June 2015.

Part 52. Sebastian Menachery in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal. 19 July 2014.

St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam, Kottayam Dt.,Kerala. St. Chavara (1805-1871) established the first press in India with facilities for printing Syriac texts at the campus of this Monastery, in 1844.

Maar w'alaah "My Lord and my God" (Jn 20: 28). Words of St.Thomas the Apostle of India. Calligraphy in Estrangela script by Alain Godbout, Nov 2013.

The Institution narrative in Syriac as it appears in the Malayalam missal of the Syro Malabar Church, printed in 1989 (p.88). See Melody#1 & Melody#2

Seminary at Pallippuram (1818-c. 1855) founded by the Malpan; merged to the Seminary of St. Joseph, Mannanam (1833-1894); the edifice was pulled down c. 1978, together with the Pallippuram Church; Photograph: P. J. Kuncheria, Changanacherry.

Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India The first commercial CD of chants from the liturgy of the Syro Malabar Church.

The Syro Malabar choir at the National Shrine , Washington D.C. singing Syriac and Sanskrit chants. 7 September 2013.

Part 29. Fr.Thomas Perumayan teaches the Sunday School Children the Syriac hymn 'Laaku Maara' at St.Joseph Church, Kadavanthara. 19 July 2015.

Part 7. Paul Vathappallil sings "B'eda d'yaawmaan" (On this festival day), in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Statue with inscription in Syriac at Marth Mariam Church at Kuravilangad.

Road sign to Beth Thoma (Syriac, House of Thomas floatrightthe Apostle), the first Dayra for women in the Syro Malabar Church. The name is written in Malayalam, Latin, and Syriac scripts. Photo 29 July 2013

The choir at St.Joseph Church, Kadavanthara. Picture courtesy: St Alphonsa Unit, Kadavanthara.

Fr. Abel Periyappuram, C.M.I. (1920-2001), lyricist and a transitional figure in the transference of some of the Syriac melodies to the vernacular (Malayalam) text.

Major Arch Bishop's House, Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly

CMI Sacred Heart Provincial House, Rajagiri

Interviews and performances: Most Recent

To view the complete list of interviews and performances click here. To view the complete list of songs recorded as part of the Aramaic Project, click here.
Number Description



Place and Date of Recording Link

Dr. Joseph J. Palackal sings 3 Syriac chants at Society for Ethnomusicology 2016

This was the first time the Society for Ethnomusicology included an opening ceremony at the Annual Meeting. Dr. Joseph Palackal was one of the three scholars who were invited to sing representative chants from their field of research. This was the first time the strains of the Syriac chants were heard at any SEM meeting.

14: 01
Society for Ethnomusicology at Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D. C., on Thursday, 10 November 2016 Video

Joseph J. Palackal interview on Goodness TV.

Interviewed by Sunny Vempilly. Language: Malayalam. Televised in two parts on 4 & 5 December 2016

58 : 47 Goodness TV. Video

Fr. Mathew Mattam in conversation with Joseph J. Palackal

Note: This interview with a seasoned singer of the Syriac chants is an extremely valuable addition to the Aramaic Project. Fr. Mattam sang about 32 melodies during this interview, including several examples of chanting slōthā (oration) between the sung portions of the Mass. Some of his renderings will help scholars to study individual variations of the same melody. A case in point is the melody of the Malayalam version of the chant “Pūš bašlāmā” (see topic no. 33 at 1:33:36). He sings this melody in a slow tempo to evoke the mood of pathos that goes along with the context of this chant at the end of a funeral service at home when the dead body is carried in procession to the cemetery. See also extended discussion on “O Des tamman” (topic no.17 at 39:36). It is a pity that such a resourceful person as Fr. Mattam is not sought after by the seminarians and music students in the Syro Malabar Church. We hope to do a follow up interview to eke out all the melodies that are stored in his brain, especially those melodies that were used in the paraliturgical services. Overall, this interview was a rewarding experience. Joseph J. Palackal

1:20:06 Metropolitan Church, Changanaserry on 22 July 2016 Video
61 Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology , 2016 at Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D. C. 10 March 2016. 24:55 Video

Mar George Cardinal Alencherry in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal , CMI.

Note: “My desire is that this Syriac tradition should be kept up”

This interview is a glorious moment in the history of the Aramaic Project. Major Archbishop Mar George Cardinal Alencherry, who is the head of the Syro Malabar Church, was gracious enough to grant this interview, which took place in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The Archbishop spoke candidly; his Eminence’s mind is very much in tune with the goals of the Aramaic Project. Surprisingly, the Cardinal went a step further in proposing a novel idea of bilingual singing of certain popular chants: alternating stanzas in the original Syriac and their Malayalam translations. If executed, this will dramatically alter the sonic spectrum of the Syro Malabar liturgy. It will also reconnect the worshippers to the long history of this liturgy that goes all the way back to the conversations between Jesus and the apostles at the last supper. If this experiment turns out to be successful (i. e., if the priests and people feel comfortable), the Syro Malabar priests in other linguistic communities in different parts of India can replicate this experiment in their celebrations. The first such experiment that we did during the celebration of the Qurbana in English--- with the Cardinal as the principal celebrant--- at the National Shrine and Basilica of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D. C, on September 7, 2013 was successful. The Cardinal accepted my suggestion to include two Syriac chants (Puqdānkōn and Qandišā Alāhā; recordings of both chants are included in the video). The 130-member choir of young Syro Malabar singers from different Syro Malabar Churches in America enjoyed singing the Syriac chants; these chants blended well with the rest of the hymns in English.

36:29 Major Arch Bishop’s House Ernakulam,

July 15, 2016

59a Dr. Joseph J. Palackal sings and speaks about a unique Syriac chant from the funeral services for priests in the Syro Malabar Church. This is an excerpt from his lecture on "What is Christian Musicology of India?" at Dharmaram College, Bengaluru, on 18 July 2014. 6:01

Dharmaram Vidhyakshetram


59b Dr. Joseph J. Palackal sings and speaks about the famous Syriac chant "Bar Maryam" This is an excerpt from his lecture on "What is Christian Musicology of India?" at Dharmaram College, Bengaluru, on 18 July 2014. 5:14

Dharmaram Vidhyakshetram

Bangalore on 18 July 2014.

58 Fr. William Nellikkal's interview with Dr.Joseph J. Palackal for the Malayalam section of the Vatican Radio. full interview. Broadcast in five parts.
Vatican Radio Video
58a Fr. William Nellikkal's interview of Dr.Joseph J. Palackal for the Malayalam section of the Vatican Radio. Part I of V. Broadcast on 8 & 9 January 2016. Video
58b Fr. William Nellikkal's interview of Dr.Joseph J. Palackal for the Malayalam section of the Vatican Radio. Part II of V. Broadcast on 15 & 16 January 2016. Video
58c Fr. William Nellikkal's interview of Dr.Joseph J. Palackal for the Malayalam section of the Vatican Radio. Part III of V. Broadcast on 22 & 23 January 2016. Video

Fr. William Nellikkal's interview of Dr.Joseph J. Palackal for the Malayalam section of the Vatican Radio. Part IV of V. Broadcast on 3 March 2016.

01. The importance of the musical heritage of the Syro Malabar Christians 2:02 02. Recent attempts in transferring the Syriac tradition to the younger generation 2:51 03. Sings and speaks about the solemn form of the Lord's prayer from the Chaldean rite liturgy 11:35 04. The negative impact of the decisions of FR. Abel and K. K. Antony Master on the liturgical music of the Syro Malabar Church 15:26


Fr. William Nellikkal's interview of Dr.Joseph J. Palackal for the Malayalam section of the Vatican Radio. Part V of V. Broadcast on 10 March 2016. .

01.On the cinematic style of the liturgical music of the syro Malabar Church 3:55 02.About the responses from the participants at the Notre Dame University Conference to Dr. Palackal's presentation 8:51

57 Bilingual singing of Qambel Maran.

The idea of singing the same chant in its original Syriac text and its Malayalam translation came up during my interview with the Major Archbishop, George Cardinal Alencherry, the head of the Syro Malabar Church (see Aramaic Project 60 ). The Major Archbishop was very enthusiastic about the idea. On my part, this was the first attempt to put the idea into practice. The occasion was the celebration of the Office for the Dead, following the memorial mass for the first anniversary of my cousin, Fr. Thomas Palackal, and 176th anniversary of my collateral ancestor, the saintly Palackal Thoma Malpan. The congregation consisted mainly of the Palackal family who live in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Canada. For that reason, I felt comfortable in doing this experiment. The adults had the Malayalam translation in front of them, while I sang the Syriac text, and therefore, did not feel disconnected from the spirit of the prayer. The youngsters, however, could not follow the meaning because they did not know Malayalam. One of them told me after the service that he liked the prayerful mood created by the melody. It remains to be seen if other priests would be willing to do such experiments, and if the laity would feel comfortable. If they do, that will lead to a positive conversation about the Syriac heritage of the Syro Malabar Church.

4 : 56

St. Thomas Syro-Malabar CatholicForane Church,Bronx , New York

56 Johny P. David in conversation with Joseph J. Palackal at his Residence at Thalore, Trissur
Johny P. David, a rare blessing; plays Syriac melodies on saxophone.

Johny P. David, who plays Syriac melodies on the saxophone, is a great blessing to the well-wishers of the Aramaic Project was well as anyone who is interested in the history of the Syriac chant repertoire in Kerala, India. He adds an all new dimension to the experience of the sonority, sensibility and tenderness of the Syriac melodies. More importantly, Johny is an avant-gardist, who took the melodies from their sacred setting of liturgical texts and semantics and brought them to the secular realm of music per se for anyone to experience them irrespective of religious affinities. That being said, playing these melodies, which are ensconced in his childhood memories, is an intense religious experience for Johny. In one instance, Johny accepted my request to play around the melody of the commemoration hymn from the solemn high mass in Syriac. The idea was to venture into a compose-while-playing experiment, similar to what a jazz musician would attempt. Although Johny was not happy with the result, the segment bespeaks immense potential for musical experiments using Syriac melodies. Johny P. David is a true representative of the transitional generation that lived through the transference of the Chaldean liturgy of the Syro Malabar Church from Syriac to Malayalam, in the 1960s. His memory base includes melodies that he learned in the 1950s, during his younger years as a choir boy at Infant Jesus Church at Thalore in the Thrissur district of Kerala. Significantly, some of those melodies are known only to Johny. More significantly, some of those melodies were composed in Kerala, and are embedded in the history of the Syro Malabar Church (see my notes on Aramaic Project 56A ; 56B ; 56C ). Had Johny not kept up his memories and practice, these melodies would have been lost forever. The Syro Malabar Catholics have reasons to be proud of Johny P. David. All in all, this short interview provides Kerala music historians and musicologists with ample material for their research pursuits.

Joseph J. Palackal
3 March 2017


Johny P. David's residence at Thalore, Trissur


Johny P. David plays “Śambah leśān” on alto saxophone. Note: Johny P. David adds a new dimension to the Aramaic Project by articulating his favorite Syriac melodies with the rich and luscious sonority of his alto saxophone. In this video Johny plays “Śambah leśān” Sing My Tongue, The Syriac translation of the Latin chant "Pange Lingua" by St. Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274. Liberated from the semantic and syntactic strictures of the Syriac text, the melody takes a life of its own and soars high on the wings of the dexterous fingers of Johny. This is new; Johny is a trail blazer. Syriac melodies are inextricably intertwined with liturgical texts and are seldom performed independently for enjoyment. As in the case of South Indian classical compositions, Syriac melodies are tagged by the initial words of the chant texts. By performing it outside the liturgical context, Johny gives the melody a new identity. At the same time, Johny’s decision to do the recording inside a church is commendable. The acoustic ambiance of the church adds another layer of warmth and a velvety coloring to the already smooth sound, making it all the more pleasing to the ears.

This melody has an interesting history; The Syriac translation of the Latin text might have been in existence since the sixteenth century, before the Synod of Diamper in 1599. Johny recalls that this particular melody was composed by someone in Kerala in 1953 for the celebration of the Blessing of the Blessed Sacrament on the occasion of the visit of Cardinal Eugene Tisserant 1884-1972. This visit was not an ordinary one. The Cardinal, who then was the secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, came from Rome with a special gift for the St. Thomas Christians: a relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. The relic was enshrined at a solemn ceremony at the Mar Thoma Shrine at Kodungalloor, where the Apostle is believed to have landed and established the first Christian community in South Asia. This particular melody was sung there for the first time as part of that grand celebration.

Johny plays the melody from memory, the way he learned it from Fr. Abilius, C. M. I. 1916-2000. A notated version staff notation was with Fr. Abilius, but was lost. In spite of its uniqueness, the melody did not become popular. As it stands, Johny’s memory base is the singular source for the melody, and we may never hear this melody it in a human voice. In any case, we are immensely grateful to Johny P. David for sharing this precious piece of music and the special memories associated with it.......

Joseph J. Palackal
2:35 St. Joseph's Church , Murikkingal Kerala, on 4-March-2016 Video
56b Johny P. David plays “Śambah leśān” with instrumental accompaniment.

Note: Johny P. David presents the melody of Šambah lešān Sing my Tongue that we heard in solo performance in Part 56A, with the accompaniment of violin, guitars, and drums. Johny iterates the melody on Alto Saxophone, and Kiran C. P. and Stine Joseph reiterate it respectively on violin and keyboard. Thus, Johny allows us to experience the same melody in different tone colors. This is unconventional in many ways. Taking out of the divine context of religion and ritual efficacy, Johny brings the melody to the merely human realm of pure aesthetic enjoyment. The selection of musical instruments, too, is unconventional. Traditionally, Syro-Malabar church musicians used only violin, harmonium, triangle, and bass drum for accompaniment. Johny’s action is avant-garde. He is motivated enough to spend his time and resources to combine a tune associated with the Syriac translation of a famous Latin liturgical text with contemporary sonorities. This adds yet another layer to the multiple stories of centuries-long cultural interactions that took place in Kerala between the disparate traditions of the East and the West. By doing so, Johny presents the melody to future composers to make use of it, either by quotation, or by mutation, as Western composers did with some of the medieval chants "Dies Ire," for example.

Viewers might argue that the serene sublimity and loving tenderness in Johny’s rendering is hampered by the selection of chords and the particular sonorities of the accompanying instruments. If Johny’s version is far superior with its delicate and subdued use of ornamentation of notes and careful control of dynamics, it is because the melody blended into his blood more than half a century ago. Johny dedicates the video to his favorite priest, Fr. Abilius, C.M.I. 1916-2000, who taught him many Syriac melodies.

Johny’s selection of the performance space, Mar Thoma National Shrine at Azhikkode, is deliberate. The story of this melody is linked to this Shrine and this place see notes on Part-56A. History sleeps here; so does nostalgia. Christian Musicological Society of India is grateful to Johny P. David for bringing Syriac chants into a different kind of contemporary conversation.......

Joseph J. Palackal
Mar Thoma Pontificial Church, Kodungallur Video
56c Johny P. David plays Kollan dašne with instrumental accompaniment. Video Johny P. David continues his mission of presenting his favorite Syriac melodies on Alto saxophone. In this video he plays the melody of “Kollan dašne” that used to be sung during the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Sundays and special feast days in the Syro Malabar churches, until the early 1970s. The Syriac text is the translation of the Latin chant, Pange Lingua Sing my Tongue that St. Thomas Aquinas wrote for the feast of Corpus Christi. This particular melody is a rare one. Probably, this melody was composed by the same person who composed “Šambah lešān” that we heard in Part 56A & 56B see notes on these entries. Johny seems to be the only one who knows it. But for his efforts to document it, this melody would have been lost for ever. Johny voluntarily spent his time and resources to record it with instrumental accompaniment for the Aramaic Project, and preserve it for posterity. Once again, Johny manifests his respect for the history of the St. Thomas Christians in the selection of the performance space for this video. The performance took place on the premises of the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Church at Palayur, in Kerala. Palayur is one of the seven locations where St. Thomas the Apostle is believed to have established Christin communities. The statues in the back ground show the Apostle preaching to the local Hindu priests. Music, indeed is embedded in history. Johny P. David is an extraordinary musician, who has an excellent command over the musical instrument of his choice. With seeming effortlessness, he weaves musical phrases by lacing notes with subtle dynamics and subdued ornamentations and, thereby, evokes internal silence. Mar Thoma Pontificial Church, Kodungallur Video
55 Pre-screening comments by Dr. Joseph J. Palackal on the Aramaic Project at the Conference on the Music of South, Central, and West Asia. Harvard University, 4-6 March 2016. 7:11 Harvard University Video

Fr. Jose P Kottaram in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal.

Recorded at the chapel of St. John Berchman's Higher Secondary School, Changanacherry, Kerala. 1 August 2014. Video NOTE:Fr. Jose Kottaram, who immersed himself in the Syriac tradition of the Syro Malabar Church from his childhood days, gives us requiem versions of melodies for three chants: “Slīwā dahwā lan,” O dez damman,” and “Qadkāyen.” He says that he learned these melodies by listening to requiem Raza that used to be celebrated frequently during those days in his parish. This are examples of singing the same text in two different ways to create different effects in the liturgy. In contrast to singing the same text with two different melodies, Fr. Kottaram also gives several examples of singing the same melody to text in Syriac and its translation in Malayalam. The transference of the melody from text in one language to another seems to take place smoothly. This was an interesting phenomena in the 1960s, during the transition of liturgies from Syriac to Malayalam. The Syriac chants were translated into Malayalam while retaining the melody of the original Syriac text. This helped the continuation of the melodies even when the original chant texts faded from the memories. See a detailed study of the transference of melody from the Syriac text to its Malayalam translation in my chapter, “The Survival Story of the Syriac Chants among the St. Thomas Christians in South India” in the Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities Fr. Kottaram’s chanting of two prayers before the final blessing in solemn Qurbana shows the influence of the melody of the Latin chant Exultet. This melody, which was introduced by the Portuguese missionaries in the sixteenth century, seems to have been popular among the Syriac singers see other examples in 25K and 25L. Fortunately, Fr. Kottaram is able to recall, albeit after about fifty years of disuse, the chanting style of the Passion narrative on Good Friday. The melodic formula seems to be the same as that of the Veneration of the Cross that we heard in Aramaic Project-Part 4 ........ Joseph J. Palackal 01. About learning Syriac during Priestly formation 0:44 02. Melody of “Suwha lawa” 5:15 03. Requiem melody of “Slīwā dahwā lan.” From Raza for the dead 5:50 04. Malayalam version of the requiem tune of “Slīwā dahwā lan.” 7:38 05. Two melodies of “Odez damman’ Before reading from the epistle 8:15 06. Chant before the gospel proclamation 9:02 07. “Thaibuthe d’maran iso misiha” Salutation and dialogue between the celbrant and congregation during anaphora. Syriac and Malayalam versions 9:26 08. Melody of “Qadkayen” 14:45 09. Style of chanting the slotha before Huthamma on Sundays 15:13 10. Chanting of the blessing before communion: Syriac and Malayalam versions 19:30 11. Melody of “Ualappai’ 20:00 12. Chanting of the Institution Narrative 20:35 13. The musical scene at St. Joseph’s Seminary at Mangalappuzha 23:48 14. Style of chanting the Scripture readings 23:45 15. Melody of the introduction to the proclamation of the Gospel 25:45 16. Melody of “Rahme suqana” Rite of reconciliation 29:08 17. Chanting of the Passion Narrative on Good Friday 30:10 18. Pope Leo XIII and St. Berchman's Higher Secondary School 31:29 19. About Fr. Abel Periyappuram CMI 38:18

40:51 St. Berchaman’s HS School, Changanaserry Video
54a Fr. Jose P. Kottaram. Melody of “Šuwha lawā.” Commemoration hymn. Video
54b Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings the requiem melody of “Slīwâ dahwâ lan” from Raza for the dead. this chant is sung while kissing of the Cross. Category: Ōnītâ d’kanke. Video
54c Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings the Malayalam version of the requiem tune "Slīwâ dahwâ lan" Ōnītâ d’kanke . Video
54d Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings two melodies of "Odez damman" from Raza. This is sung before reading from the Eipistle. Video
54e Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings "odem haymnīn". Before the proclamation of the Gospel in solemn Raza. Video
54f Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings "Thaibūthe d’māran īšōmišīhâ." Blessing and the Salutation and dialogue in solemn Qurbana: Syriac and Malayalam versions. Note the smooth transition of the melody from the Syriac text to the Malayalam text. Video
54g Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings two melodies of “Kad qāyēn” - the introduction to "Holy, Holy Holy" in solemn Qurbana in Syriac. Video
54h Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings "Yāēmār b’kōl yāwmīn" which is the slotha prayer before the Huthamma final blessing on Sundays in Qurbana in Syriac.. Video
54i Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings "Māwhawthâ d’thaibūthē. Blessing before communion. Syriac and Malayalam versions. Note the smooth transition of the melody from the Syriac text to the Malayalam text. Video
54j Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings "Ual appai". Video
54k Fr. Jose P. Kottaram chants the Institution narrative in Syriac. Video
54l Fr. Jose P. Kottaram. Chanting of sacred scripture in Syriac. Video
54m Fr. Jose P. Kottaram sings the Exchange of peace and the introduction to the Gospel. Video
54n Fr. Jose P. Kottaram. Melody of “Rahme šūqānâ” the reconciliation rite. This is one of the two melodies we have heard so far for this particular chant. Video
54o Fr. Jose P. Kottaram. Chanting of the Passion narrative on Good Friday. Video

George Thaila in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal.

Recorded at Thaila's residence. 18 December 2015. Video NOTE:This is a rare, yet interesting example of singing a non-liturgical Marian devotional song in Malayalam to the melody of a popular Syriac chant. George Thaila, who was born into a musical family, recalls his early childhood experience of evening family prayer at his home at Kuninji, in the Idukki District of Kerala. In the month of May, which is devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the family would conclude the evening prayer with the song" Nalla Mātāwe mariye/ Nirmala yawusēppitāwe". George’s father, Augusty Thailayil 1900-1991, who was a violinist and a church musician in the Syriac tradition, would double the melody on the violin, and one of his older brothers would do the same on the harmonium. The melody got imprinted in the mind of the young George, without knowing the source of the melody. Later, he was surprised to hear the same melody in a Syriac chant at a Knanaya wedding ceremony, sometime in 1981. The Malayalam and Syriac chants have very different syllabic structure. The opening verse of the Malayalam chant has three words and 8 syllables, whereas the opening verse of the Syriac chant has 4 syllables in two words; Malayalam; Na-lla| Mā-tā-we| ma-ri-ye 2 +3 + 3 = 8 Syriac: bar| |ma-ri-am 1+ 3 = 4 In the musical realization, the melody of the first two verses of the Syriac text is negotiated to fit the 8 syllables of the first verse in the Malayalam text. A recording of Bar Maryam, sung by Rev. Dr. Jacob Vellaian can be heard on track 25, on the CD "Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India" Pan Records, Netherlands, 2002. The interview brings out also an interesting piece of information about children’s funeral. During funeral procession from home to the church, Augusthy Thilayil used to play violin and sing the Syriac version of the song of shadrach, Meshach, and abednego from the Book of Daniel 3:53-90 It s not clear if this was a strictly local tradition, or this song was sung during similar occasions in other Syro Malabar Parishes........ Joseph J. Palackal

15:36 New Hyde Park


Mr. Sebastian Menachery in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal.

Recorded at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram DVK, Bangalore. 19 July 2014. Video This interview is valuable, especially to musicologists and Church historians. Although not a professional musician, Sebastian Menachery reminisces, with great enthusiasm, melodies and memories from the Syro Malabar liturgy in the 1950s. Gifted with an unusual musical memory, Menachery sings even texts that only the celebrant priest/bishop used to sing, and chants that were heard only once a year. Menachery attributes this to the captivating power of the melodies of those chants. Whether these melodies were composed in Kerala or in the Chaldean churches in West Asia is a topic that remains to be studied. Menachery references the existence of a rich repertoire of Syriac chants that were composed locally in Kerala. He speaks also about the practice of composing and singing more than one melody for a liturgical text see “Ual ar’a” and “M’haymnīnan”. The texts of some of these chants are Syriac translations of popular Latin chants that the Portuguese missionaries introduced or imposed on the Syro Malabar Catholics. In any event, historians of Kerala’s music can no longer ignore the contributions of Christian composers and church choirs in Kerala in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Christian Musicological Society of India is grateful to Mr. Menachery for showcasing the relevance as well as the immense potential of the Aramaic Project..... Joseph J. Palackal 01. We have failed to hand over the Syriac heritage to the next generation 2:10 02. In the Quran, Jesus is referred to as “Ruh Allah” Breath of God 5:41 03. “I have learned Syriac and I am proud of it” 6:44 04. The Syriac music scene at St. Joseph’s Monastery CMI at Koonammavu under the leadership of Fr. Justin Menachery and Lonappan Bhagavathar 6:59 05.Melody of “U al ar’a” And on earth from the Syriac translation of the Latin chant, 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo' 7:50 06: A unique melody of “Kollan Dasne” from the Syriac translation of the Latin chant, Tantum Ergo by St. Thomas Aquinas, taught by Lonappan Bhagavathar 9:12 07. Melody of “Barek Maar” 10:32 08. Melody of “Puqdan Handes” from the knocking ceremony on Palm Sunday 13:08 09. On the use of the word “Ruh” in the Hindi film lyrics. Ruh should not be translated. 14:34 10. T. S. Eliot borrowed “Shanti Shanti Shanti” from the Upanishads to conclude “The Wasteland.” 18:08 11. Melody of “M’haimneenan” opening words of the Creed 19:34 12. Another melody of “M’haimneenan” Creed 20:51 13. Melody of the Commemoration hymn. The fifth strophe/ “Swore am rawrbe” of “Suwha lawa.” 21:25 14. Melody of the Litany Quryēlaisōn Kyrie Eleison in Syriac 22:14 15. Melody of “Ślām lēk maryam” Hail Mary. We should preserve the word “Slaamma” 22:53 16. About the Pesaha meal Passover meal on Holy Thursday 24:48 17. Melody of “Ammaanaa” My people from the Good Friday service in Syriac 25:47 18. Melodies of “U al appai” and “Laaku Maaraa” from solemn Qurbana 26:27 19. Melody of “Emare d'alaaha” Lamb of God from the conclusion of the Litany 28:38 20. Melody of “Ahai qambel” Invitation to receive communion. The melody is similar to that of “Puqdan handes” 28:56 21. Melody of “Rahme Suqaanaa” from the rite of reconciliation 29:48 22. Hymn in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 30:14 23. Another melody of Quryēlaisōn and Litany 30:33 24. “Bhooloka paapangale” Malayalam song in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 31:38 25. Malayalam hymn, “Ethranalleso naadhaa” 32:32 26. About Fr. Justine Menachery’s role in the publication of the Syriac Malayalam Hymnal 33:07 27. Melody of a segment from “U al ar’a” And on earth/from 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo' 36:31 28. About Fr. Abel Periyappuram and his lyrics 38:22 29. Melody of “U la tayelan,” the concluding part of the Latin chant, Te Deum in Syriac translation. 42:34

45:10 Dharmaram Vidyaksthetram


52a Melody of "U al ar'a" And on earth. Syriac translation of 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo'. From the solemn Qurbana in Syriac in the Syro Malabar Church before 1962. Video
52b A unique melody of "Kollan dasne." Video
52c Sebastian Menachery sings and speaks about the chant, 'Barek Maar" Bless O Lord from solemn celebration of Qurbana in Syriac in the Syro Malabar Church. Video
52d Sebastian Menachery sings and speaks about the chant "Puqdaan hendes" that is sung on Palm Sunday . The chant is accompanied by the ritual of knocking and opening the main door of the Church at the conclusion of the Procession. Video
52e Melody of "M’haymneenan" from the Creed In Syriac during solemn celebration of Qurbana. Probabaly composed in Kerala. Video
52f Another melody of "M’haymneenan" from the Creed which was probably composed in Kerala. Video
52g Aramaic Project-52G. Melody of the "Suwha l’awaa" the commemoration hymn in Syriac. Video
52h Quryēlaisōn - Syriac translation of the Latin litany "Kyrie eleison". Latin rituals were introduced in Kerala by the Portuguese missionaries after the Synod of Diamper UDAYAMPERUR In 1599. Latin chants for these rituals were translated into Syriac and were composed in Kerala. Video
52i Melody of “Ślām lēk maryam.” which is the Syriac Translation of the Latin chant, 'Salve Regina'. It is sung on Wednesdays at the monasteries of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate in Kerala. Video
52j Melody of “Ammaanaa” (My people), the lament from Good Friday services. Video
52k Melodies of “U al appay” and “Laaku Maaraa.” Sebastian Menachery Video
52l Melody of “Emare dalaaha” (Lamb of God). Sebastian Menachery Video
52m Melody of "Ahai Qambel." Sebastian Menachery Video
52n Melody of “Rahme Suqaanaa”, from the reconciliation rite in the solemn Qurbana. Video
52o Reference to a Hymn in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: "Lemba haliya Īśō māran". Video
52p Yet another melody of Quryēlaisōn Kyrie eleison and Litany. Video
52q Excerpt from the melody of “U al ar’a” And on earth. Syriac Translation of 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo'. Video
52r Melody of “Ula tayelan,” from the Syriac translation of Te Deum. Video
52s Sebastian Menachery speaks about Fr. Abel Peiyappuram, CMI. Video
51 Lonappan Arackal and team in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Full Interview NOTE: The melodies and memories that Mr. Lonappan Arackal shares with us in this video are significant because he is a member of the transitional generation that saw the transference of the Syro Malabar liturgy from Syriac to Malayalam July 3,1962. Lonappan has been a church musician for the last 53 years. He learned the melodies from his father and grandfather who, too, were choir leaders. Thus, we have here a musical link to a melodic tradition that is older than a century. Lonappan sings from memory without the aid of printed books. He showed his private collection of Syriac song books that he has been safeguarding carefully. We hope to digitalize those books and make them available for researchers as soon as funds are available. Lonappan’s vivid recollection of the dramatic musical transition from the solemn to the requiem mode in the middle of Mass on Pesaha passover/Holy/Maundy Thursday is precious. But for this segment we wouldn’t have known such a practice existed in the Syro Malabar Liturgy.Lonappan sings four different melodies of Quryēlaisōn Kyrie Eleison. Probably, all these melodies were composed in Kerala, after the Synod of Diamper 1599, when the Portuguese missionaries introduced many Roman-rite rituals in the Chaldean East Syriac liturgy of the Syro Malabar Church. Surprisingly, Lonappan sings a Syriac hymn to the Patron saint of the parish set to the meter and melody of another popular Syriac Chant, “Bar Maryam.”In this case, Bar Maryam serves as a model melody. He has also given us a second melody for the post-communion Hymn, “Māran Īśō” for solemn occasions. Overall, the contents in this video hint at several topics for further research in the history of music in Kerala…… Joseph J. Palackal 01. Melody of “Śambah leśān” from Benediction. Syriac translation of Tantum Ergo For Benediction 1:11 J. Lonappan John Arackal vocal, harmonium, Siji Joseph violin, A.J. Jose Arackal triangle, Liju Chackappan Drum 02. Melody of “kollan dasne” from Benediction. Syriac translation of Tantum Ergo 2:08 03. Chanting of the slotha prayer from Benediction. Fr. Augustus Thekkanath, CMI 4;00 04. Reenactment of Holy Holy Holy on Pesaha Passover/Maundy/Holy Thursday before 1962. 5:48 05. Melody of “m’samsana Daweed” for elevation during qurbana on Pesaha Thursday 10:17 06. Melody of “Rahme Suqaanaa” from the rite of reconciliation during Qurbana on Pesaha Thursday. 11:08 07. Melody of “Rahme Suqaanaa” in the solemn manner 11:47 08. Melody of “maran Iso” after communion 12:40 09. Reference to the Malayalam version of Maran Iso 13:08 10. Melody of “Maran Iso” for Solemn Qurbana. Rhythm: 1 2 + 1 2 3 4 = 6 beats 13:19 11. “Hā qēs slīwā” veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. The text is sung in three ascending pitch registers, while progressively uncovering the Cross. Fr. Augustus Thekkanath, CMI assisted by Lonappan Arackal. 15:35 12. Melody of Huthamma final blessing from Requiem mass. Fr. Augustus Thekkanath CMI 19:21 13. Melody 1 of Quryēlaisōn Kyrie Eleison Syriac translation of the Latin litany 21:54 14. Melody 2 of Quryēlaisōn Kyrie Eleison. Rhythm: 1 2 + 12 35 = 6 beats 25:01 15. Melody 3 of Quryēlaisōn Kyrie Eleison. Rhythm: 1 2 3 + 1 2 3 4 = 7 beats 25:48 16. Melody 4 of Quryēlaisōn Kyrie Eleison. 27:05 17. Melody of “Slīwā dahwā lan” sung when the festival procession reaches the open-air Cross 32:22 18. Hymn in honor of St. John Nepomucene to the melody of ’’Bar Maryam.’ 33:50 36:33 St. Joseph Nepoumucene Church, Konthurthy,

51a "Śambah leśān" Syriac translation of Tantum Ergo by Thomas Aquinas. Used to besung as the opening chant for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Syro Malabar Church, until 1962. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Video
51b Melody of "Kollan Dasne" From Syriac Translation Of the Benediction hymn Tantum Ergo. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Video
51c Reenactment of Holy Holy Holy On Pesaha Thursday before 1962. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Video NOTE: This is a unique segment which highlights the role of music in creating an extra ordinary experience of liturgical time during the Holy Week. Music serves as a medium for a dramatic transitioning from the solemn to the somber sense of time. It happens during the Eucharistic prayer. Halfway through the Holy, Holy, Holy, the music stops and the server rings the clapper, portending a change of time and mood. Rest of the song is sung a capella in a requiem mode. The ensuing mood continues until the Easter celebration. Luckily, Lonappan Arackal and his team has opened to us a window into the past history of the Syro Malabar liturgy, and we are grateful....... Joseph J. Palackal Video
51d Melody of M'Samsana Daweed For Elevation During Qurbana On Pesaha Thursday. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Video
51e Melody of "Rahme Suqaanaa" Rite of Reconciliation on Pesaha Thursday . Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Lonappan Arackal sings the same text of the Reconciliation rite in the Syriac Qurbana in the requiem and solemn manner. Video
51f Melody of "Maran Iso" After Communion. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Video
51g Melody of "Maran Iso" For solemn occasions. Recorded at St. John Nepomucene Church, Konthuruthy, Ernakulam. 16 July 2013. Video

Fr Paul Kodamullil Diocese of Kothamangalam, Kerala in conversation with Dr. Joseph J. Palackal.

Recorded at Sathinilayam, Retired Priests Home, Muvattupuzha, Kerala 5 August 2013 Video Note:Fr. Paul Kodamullil is a celebrated singer, who is gifted with a powerful and resonant voice. His vocal style is reminiscent of the pre-amplification era, when singers had to reach out to large audiences without the aid of a microphone or acoustic amphitheaters. During his active years, Fr. Kodamullil used to be sought after to be the celebrant at solemn sung mass during parish festivals. This interview is a great gift to the Aramaic Project because Fr. Kodamullil is a living link to a unique period of time the 1950s and place St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary at Mangalapuzha, Aluva in the history of the Syriac chants in India. During this period, we see an unusual convergence of great and diverse musical talents and heightened musical activity at St. Joseph’s Seminary; Fr. Mathew Vadakel, an excellent singer and composer of Syriac chants, served as a professor. In this video, Fr. Kodamullil sings the solemn melody of the Resurrection Hymn in Syriac, “Lāku mārā,” To You O Lord that Fr. Vadakel composed. Fr. Aurelius, OCD, a Carmelite from Spain and an expert in Western art music, was the music director and organist. The Seminary owned a huge pipe organ, probably the only one of its kind in India. Fr. Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius collaborated in publishing the musical notation staff notation of the solemn high mass in Syriac in 1954: kērala kaldāya suriyāni rīthile thirukkarma gīthangal Liturgical songs of the Chaldeo-Syrian Rite of Kerala. The text layout is in the Malayalam script. The first part of the book contains a lesson plan in Malayalam to learn staff notation and western art music in general. The book was published by S. H. League, the publishing wing of the Seminary. Fr. Kodamullil was lucky to have had such great mentors. As choir master of the Seminary for seven years, he also had opportunities to interact closely with Fr. Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius in making decisions on the musical choices for the liturgical celebrations and the performances of the official Syriac Choir at the Seminary. A group photo taken in 1958 that is in the cherished possession of Fr. Kodamullil is the source for the images of Fr. Vadakel and Fr. Aurelius shown on this video. One can only imagine the sonic heaven created by the solemn Syriac melodies in the voices of such gifted singers to the accompaniment of the majestic sound of the pipe organ. That could not have happened anywhere else in the world....... Joseph J. Palackal 01. Melody of the solemn form of the Lord’s Prayer 1:28 02. The Resurrection hymn, Lāku Mārā, composed by Fr. Mathew Vadakel in the 1950s 3:28 03. Melody of M’haimnīnān creed from solemn High mass 4:50 04. Second melody of the Creed 5:33 05. Melody of Puqdānkōn 5:58 06. Melody of Rahme Śūqānā rite of reconciliation 6:36 07. on the music scene at the St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary at Aluva in the 1950s 7:38. 08. About the huge pipe organ at the Seminary 8:54. 09. About Fr. Aurelius, OCD 9:55 10. Life history. 11:03 11. What do you think of the future of the Syriac language? 15:51 12. Compliments Dr. Joseph j. Palackal for his efforts to preserve the Syriac language and music 17:41.

19:20 SanthiNiyalam

Muvattupuzha ,India

3a Melody of Awūn d’waśmayyā. The Lord's prayer. Fr. Paul Kodamullil. Video
3b Melody of the Resurrection hymn, Lāku Mārā. Fr. Paul Kodamullil. Video
3c Melody of M’haimnīnān, creed. Fr. Paul Kodamullil. Video
3d Second melody of the Creed. Fr. Paul Kodamullil. Video
3e Melody of Puqdānkōn. Fr. Paul Kodamullil. Video
To view the complete list of interviews and performances click here. To view the complete list of songs recorded as part of the Aramaic Project, click here.


Academic Resources
  • Palackal, Joseph J. "The Survival Story of Syriac Chants among the St. Thomas Christians in South India" in The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities, edited by Jonathan Dueck and Suzel A. Reily. Oxford University Press. PDF Forthcoming. Abstract.

  • Istvan Perczel. 2014. “Garshuni Malayalam: A Witness to an Early Stage of Indian Christian Literature.” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 263-323. See a musical reference on p.302: “… a metrical poem by a certain Priest Mathew Matthu Kattanar about the travel and death of Joseph Kariattil.” The title of the poem includes a reference to the melody, “to be sung up on the tune of the chant ‘Little Boat.’”

  • Istvan Perczel. 2014. “A Syriacist Disciple of the Jesuits in 17th-Century India: Alexander of the Port/Kadavil Chandy Kathanar.” Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies, vol. 14.

  • Palackal, Joseph J. 2008. Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia: The Cultural Interface of Religion and Music DVD.

  • Palackal, Joseph J . 2005. Syriac Chant Traditions in South India. A study of the contemporary practice of model melodies of the Chaldean rite in the Syro Malabar Church, and the oktoechos "eight voices" of the Antiochene rite in the Orthodox churches. Ph.D. dissertation. The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Director: Stephen Blum. ProQuest ID 888835631. Abstract. Proposal.

  • Emmanuel Thelly. 2004. “Syriac Manuscripts in Mannanam Library.” Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, vol. 56, pp. 257-270

  • Palackal, Joseph J. 2005. Kerala, Kochi, Trivandrum. Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, vol. 5: Asia and Oceania, edited by John Shepherd, et al. London and New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, pp. 91-92, 104-105, 117-118.

  • Palackal, Joseph J. 2004. Oktoechos of the Syrian Orthodox Churches in South India. Ethnomusicology, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 229-250. Abstract.

  • Palackal, Joseph J 2004. "Interface Between History and Music in the Christian Context of South India." A survey of the musical history of the Syro Malabar Church in Kerala, India, shows the mutuality of musical and historical inquiries in which musicological discourse assumes a significant role as a tool in historiography. in Christianity and Native Cultures: Perspectives From Different Regions of the World. Cyriac Pullapilly, et al., eds. Notre Dame, Indiana: Cross Cultural Publications, pp. 150-161. Booklet: 2002.

  • Palackal, Joseph J 2002. Reprint 2009. Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India. CD with 29 chants, 16-page booklet in English, map, 7 photographs, and bibliography. Chants in Syriac Aramaic from the Chaldean liturgy of the Syro Malabar Church of the St. Thomas Christians. Includes chants from the liturgy of the Hours, Raza, funeral services, Syriac translation of Latin chants by St.Thomas Aquinas, and chants for special occasions such as wedding and celebration of the feast of the Blessed Virgin and saints. Performers include Fr. Abel Periyappuram, C.M.I. 1920-2001, Fr. Probus Perumalil, C.M.I., et al. Recorded in Kerala, South India, in 1999 and 2000. PAN 2085. Library catalogs & Reviews

  • Vallavanthara, Antony. 2001. The Liturgical Contributions of Blessed Chavara. Article

  • Palackal, Joseph J. 2001. India: Christian Music. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd edn., vol. 12, edited by Stanley Sadie, John Tyrell. London: MaC.M.I.llan Publishers, pp. 233-34, 237.

  • Palackal, Joseph J. 2000. Kerala Christian Musical Traditions. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, pp. 944-947.

  • Palackal, Joseph J 2000. Kerala Jewish Music. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 5: South Asia: the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Alison Arnold. New York and London: Garland Publishing, pp. 948-949.

  • Palackal, Joseph J . 1999. Problems and Issues in the Study of the Syriac Chant Traditions in South India. The St. Thomas Christians in India continue to preserve the Chaldean and Antiochene liturgies and chants in Syriac Aramaic that originated in the Middle East. The richness and the diversity in these chant traditions demand more scholarly attention than what they received in the past. A history of Indian music may be incomplete without the history of Syriac chants. Christian Orient, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 176-81.

  • Palackal, Joseph J 1999. Sangeethawum sabhaacharitrawum gaweshana weekshanathil Music and Church History: Research Perspectives Musical memories handed down from generation to generation through oral transmission among Christians in Kerala preserve the stories of cultural and religious interactions between South India, the Middle East, and Europe. Sathyadeepam, vol. 73 August 18, 1999, pp. 5, 11. Language: Malayalam.

  • Palackal, Joseph J . 1995. Puthen paana: A Musical Study. An analysis of the intercultural processes that influenced the singing styles of Puthen paana, an eighteenth-century Malayalam poem by John Earnest Hanxleden, in the historical context of Christianization and religious colonization in South India. Master's thesis. Hunter College-CUNY. Director: Barbara L. Hampton. ProQuest ID: 740455261. Abstract.

  • P. J. Thomas Parakkunnel Ouseph Joseph Thomas. 1935 1989. Malayāḷa sāhityawum kṛistyānikaḷum Malayalam Literature and the Christians. 3rd ed., with an appendix pp. 311-540 by Scaria Zacharia. Kottayam: D. C. Books. First published in 1935 under the title Kēraḷattile kṛistīya sāhityam. Athirampuzha: St. Mary's Press.

  • J. P. M. van der Ploeg. 1983. The Christians of St. Thomas in South India and Their Syriac Manuscripts. Rome & Bangalore: Center for Indian and Inter-Religious Studies & Dharmaram Publications.

  • Palackal, Joseph J . 1980. Aaraadhanakramatthil sangeethatthinulla sthaanam The Role of Music in Liturgy The ancient Syriac Aramaic chant tradition is one of the identity markers of the Syro Malabar Church in Kerala, India. Preservation of these chants should go hand in hand with adaptation of Indian classical and semi-classical styles of music in liturgy. St. Mary's Forane Church Souvenir, Pallippuram, India, pp. 71-77. Language: Malayalam.


  • 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, for 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. Title page.

  • The Syriac-Malayalam Hymnal, compiled by Rev. A.Saldanha S.J., 1937.
    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. Foreword, Preface, and Table of Contents

  • 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. Cover page and Table of Contents.

  • 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. Cover page.


  • Manuscript of Syriac chants in staff notation by Fr.Aiden Kulathinal, C. M. I.
    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. See page 1 and page 2

    Speeches / Press reports

  • Date Title Author Source Link
    30 July 2016 "Abha, Why Have You Forsaken Me" Viju B The Times of India, Page No.2 PDF
    7 Sept 2015

    Queen's Public Television Presents - Culturel Express

    Loui inteviews Dr. Joseph Palackal about the Aramaic Language that was once spoken by Jesus Christ and his apostles.

    Loui Gasparro

    Queen's Public Television


    Video link

    1 August 2015. Celebrant and speaker at the Festival of Eastern Churches, Ukranian Greek Catholic Cathedral, Central London. Appachan Kannanchira

    (Pravasi Varthakal)

    29 July 2015 Celebrant and speaker at the Syro Malabar Day at the Sacred Heart Church, Liverpool, Warrington, England. - Appachan Kannanchira Varthakal

    23 April 2014 "St. Stan's pastor to screen film on Aramaic language" Andrew Shilling Queens Ledger
    PDF-Print Edition
    PDF-Internet Edition
    1 May 2014 Reverend dedicates work to Language Preservation Sarah Iannnone Queens Examinar Link
    17 April 2014 "Maspeth Priest Resurrecting Ancient Language" Eric Jankiewicz The Courier Sun
    PDF-Print Edition
    PDF-Internet Edition


    Date Title Author Source Link
    07 Aug 2016 "Akam Niranj Aramaya" Hari Prasad Sunday Edition, Deepika, Page No.3 PDF
    25-Sept-2015 Queens Public TV interview
    15-Aug-2015 3rd-Interview on the Vatican Radio

    Web Resources

      1. Nasrani Foundation
      2. Suriyani Qurbana by Fr.Sebastian Sankoorikal

      Youtube Entries:
      1. Qurbana by Narivelil Mathayi Kathanar
      2. Suriyani Qurbana by Fr.Sebastian Sankoorikal
      3. 'Puqdanakon' - Syriac hymn sung by Fr. Thomas Perumayan, Vicar - St. Joseph's Church, Kadavanthra.
      4. 'Qaddisa Alaha' - Syriac hymn sung by Fr. Thomas Perumayan, Vicar - St. Joseph's Church, Kadavanthra.

      Commercial Media releases
      1. Qambel Maran: Syriac Chants from South India CD
      2. Kerala, the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia: The Cultural Interface of Religion and Music DVD

      Personalities & Institutions

      Number Personalities
      1 Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara
      2 Fr.Abel Periyapuram, C.M.I.
      3 Fr. Aiden Kulathinal, C.M.I.
      4 Alexander the Indian “Alexandros hendwāyā,” Fr. Chandy Kadavil
      5 Fr. Alexander Kattakkayam, C.M.I.
      6 Fr. Alexander Koolippura, C.M.I.
      7 Fr. Augustus Thekkanath, C.M.I.
      8 Fr. Aurelian, OCD Mangalappuzha Seminary
      9 Fr. Charles Pyngot, C.M.I.
      10 Fr. Emmanuel Thelly, C.M.I.
      11 Fr. Gabriel Aranjaniyil, C.M.I.
      12 Fr. George Plathottam Diocese of Palai
      13 Dr. Heinrich Husmann Germany
      14 Fr. Henry Suso Padiyara, C.M.I. 1918-2008
      15 Fr. Jacob Vellian
      16 Justin Menachery Koonammavu
      17 Lonappan Arackal Thevara
      18 Fr. Ludovic Kunianthodath, C.M.I.
      19 Fr. Mathew Vadakel Mangalappuzha Seminary
      20 Paily Vathappillil Pallippuram, Cherthala
      21 Fr. Palackal Thoma Malpan
      22 Fr.Paul Bedjan 1838-1920
      23 Fr. Paul Kodamullil Diocese of Kothamangalam
      24 Fr. Placid Podiara, C.M.I.
      25 Fr. Probus Perumalil, C.M.I.
      26 Fr. Saldanha, SJ Syriac Malayalam Hymnal
      27 Fr. Sebastian Sankoorikal Diocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly
      28 Dr. Thomas Koonammackal
      29 Wilson Muriyadan Thrissur Collector of manuscripts.


      1. Beth Aprem Nazrani Dayra
      2. St. Joseph’s Monastery, Mannanam (Library and archive)
      3. St. Joseph’s Press, Mannanam: The first printing press in India with facilities for printing Syriac texts. Established by Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara.
      4. Mar Thoma Sleeha Press, Aluva
      5. Mar Narsai Press, Thrissur
      6. SEERI, Kottayam

      User reviews & comments
      From: Paul Varkey Parayil
      Date: Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 9:50 PM
      Subject: Re: donation inquiry
      To: Joseph Palackal

      Dear Fr. Joseph,

      Thank you for your quick response and the Paypal details -- I will email back later again when we finalize plans and set it up.

      I discovered the Syrian Christian roots and heritage of my own church (the Marthoma Church) after my college days. I was attracted by the beauty of our heritage and how the liturgies (both East Syriac and West Syriac) adorn and proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus so clearly. It was also fascinating to learn that the Kerala Nasrani (Syrian) churches span all denominational families (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Assyrian).

      I am very interested in doing my small part to contribute to preserving this heritage, esp. with the Kerala churches being somewhat of a bastion for it, given the intense persecution experienced by our brethren in Syria, Iraq and Iran. One of my core passions is to see faithful translations of the liturgies into English --- in a way that does not lose the original melodies of the chants. I know that the Marthoma church has come a long way in this project, but there is much work yet to be done.

      I learnt about your work first through the Youtube video of your beautiful, almost angelic, rendition of "Qaddisa Alaha" at the National Shrine in Washington DC.

      It is curious that the Syro Malabar hierarchy has yet to officially support your work or recognize its importance. I pray that the doors will open in that direction as well.

      Have you ever sought to collaborate with SEERI? It would seem like an ideal place to house your project.

      Thank you for your scholarship, passion and work in the Lord.

      With regards,

      On Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 5:50 PM, Joseph Palackal wrote:
      Dear Paul varkey,
      WOW! This is an amazing email. Thank you for understanding the value of my Project and your offer to give the much needed help. I am honored. I failed to convince the leaders of the Syro Malabar Church and the CMI Congregation of which I am a member. So you can imagine my feelings when I saw your email. thank you for your intellectual partnership too to change the conversation about India.
      The easiest way to send money is through Paypal. I have an account . Then I shall forward that to my team in Kerala.
      Thank you again
      Fr. Joseph Palackal, CMI
      "Connecting the dots between two complementary concepts: India and Christianity."

      On Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 4:14 PM, Paul Varkey Parayil wrote:
      Dear CMSIndia (attn: Dr. Joseph Palackal):

      I became recently acquainted with your precious work in scholarship and in the preservation of the cultural and religious heritage of Syrian Christians.

      I am a Marthomite residing and working in the US with my family. We would like to consider supporting your work and would like the details of how to make a monthly donation.

      Sincere thanks,
      Paul Varkey
      From: Tobin Thomas
      Date: November 9, 2015 at 1:36:37 AM EST
      To: Joseph Palackal
      Subject: Thank You

      Dear Palackal Acha,

      I am a Knanaya Catholic living in Houston, Texas. I just wanted to say thank you very much for your Aramaic project and all that you do to preserve and protect our Syro Malabar musical heritage. I am a History Education major (I will be a teacher in one years time) and I absolutely love both history and the humanities. With this in mind, I fell in love with the musical heritage of the Syro Malabar Church and our Syriac Roots. At first I was only researching the history of our Church and the Knanaya Community but later the Syriac roots of the Church and our liturgical music truly astounded me. I have watched many of your videos on Youtube and they have really given me so much knowledge that I did not have before.

      Perhaps one of my favorite hymns is the Knanaya Wedding Chant Bar Mariam and I was wondering if you could send me a Syriac to English side by side translation. Also I was wondering if you could share some knowledge with me on the old Knanaya Purathana songs, I have always wondered the deep meaning and origins of these old wedding songs that we sing. Once again Palackal Acha, you are truly a gift to the Syro Malabar Church and I really hope you continue your mission.

      Best Wishes
      Tobin Thomas
      From: Martin Thomas Antony (in response to the video : Aramaic Project-52)
      Date: Sun, Nov 1, 2015 at 3:53 AM
      To: Fr Joseph Palackal

      Dear Father,

      I have watched the latest upload of Mr Sebastian Menacherry. It was wonderful. Thank you for identifying and introducing such a wonderful person to the community. I feel so envious about him. His knowledge and interest in our heritage is so commendable. He even remembers such chants used only once in an year in our Church.The talents and knowlegde of such resource persons should be used well to recapture our lost heritage. Let the Lord shower him all the Graces.

      Thank you once again Father, you are doing a historical task.

      Dr. Martin Thomas Antony,
      (MBBS, FRCS, Dip in Lap. Surgery, Dip. in Health Management.)
      From: Sherring Thekekkara
      Date: Tue, Oct 20, 2015 at 12:42 AM
      Subject: Appreciation and thanks from a member of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
      To: Joseph J Palackal

      Dear Dr Palackal,

      I chanced upon the Aramaic project a few weeks ago and since then would have listened to most of the renderings . God Bless you for taking this noble mission on and preserving these musical gems and heavenly language for our next generation. My church and yours carry the same apostolic and unbroken faith rooted in tradition, we are but the same people separated more by twists of history rather than doctrines and dogmas. Hope your efforts will inspire some of our elders to revive the West Syriac rites too in a systematic way on the web.

      Just a small gift for you to listen when you have time

      Best regards
      Sherring Thekekkara

      PS: It will be a pleasure to host you if you pass by Dubai, please let me know
      Johny David (in response to the video : Aramaic Project-50A)
      Date: 10/16/2015
      Excellent It is so touching. The sanctity of Aramaic and the beautiful translation into Malayalam both achived its intended purpose. Sinclere appreciation to Rev Dr George
      From: Varghese Pathikulangara (in response to the video : Aramaic Project - Part 44)
      Date: October 10, 2015 at 1:49:20 AM EDT
      To: Joseph Palackal
      Subject: Prayerful greetings!

      Priya Joseph Acha,
      Prayerful greetings! Hope you are doing well! Only recently I happened to come across our interview uploaded in youtube. Thank you so much for this noble work! May the Lord be always with you in all such noble effort to promote our culture and tradition. My health condition not much better. Wishing you all the best, with special prayers, thanks and regards, pathikulangarayachan. A Chavara style prayerful reflection on ISHO is attached for convenient consideration!

      Varghese Pathikulangara CMI
      Dharmaram College
      Bangalore - 560 029, INDIA.
      Martin Thomas Antony (in response to the video : Aramaic Project - Part 26)
      Aug 2015
      It is wonderful to watch these young children singing syriac chants.Very glad to know that their master, Mr Baby Anamthuruthil is handing over what he experienced in his childhood to the young generation. I hope these children also keep this tradition alive and active. These children are really the hope of our community. I think the Lord is working through Mr Baby and these children to make changes in the way of our worship by using the sacred language of or Lord. The Holy Spirit is now really working and influencing the church through these ordinary children (Lucky children) and their master. God bless them.
      From: Amel Antony
      Date: Monday, July 13, 2015
      Subject: Dr. Amel Antony , Kochi
      To: Joseph Palackal

      Dear Rev Palackal Ouseph Kathanar,

      Greetings from Kochi!

      Hearty congrats for taking up this Aramaic project !!. It was an eye opener and thanks to your efforts it rekindled my interest in Suriyani. I stand in awe at the stupendous achievements of Rev, Emmanuel Thelly , Rev Thomas Arayathanal & Guru Yohend. Listening to Rev. Koonamackal on Youtube, the next thing to do was to meet him . Dropping in at his Dayara and interacting with him on our history and suriyani heritage was indeed remarkable.

      Its a matter of joy and pride that Rev Kallarangatt can offer Qurbana in Suriyani. As I would see it , yo've preserved our heritage for posterity and I'm sure that future generations would refer to you as a zealous missionary who breathed vigour & vitality into the ailing body of Eastern Suriyani.

      Has the CD of Suriyani Qurbana been released? Would like to purchase one .

      Love, regards & prayers,
      Dr. Amel Antony

      From: Joju Jacob
      Date: Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 5:16 AM
      Subject: On Syriac and B'eda d'yawmaan
      To: Joseph Palackal

      Dear Fr. Palachal,

      I have seen the video "Aramaic Project-Part 26. Children's Choir at Suriyanippally, Palluruthy, sings "B'eda d'yawmaan".

      "B'eda d'yawmaan" had been singing in Thuruthy St. Mary's church belongs to Changanacherry as some of the elders are aware of it. I am not sure who all are alive now.
      You can read the story here: But unfortuately I couldn't hear that in my childhood as by that time they had switched to Malayalam song in the same tune...but not a translation of the orginal. It is being sung still there during the feasts.

      O Mathave...Svarga Rajgni..nin prakasham sooryanekkal.
      Fr. Immanuel Thelly has translated this to Malayalam and you can read this here:
      In Major feast, they used to take the statue of Michael outside the chappel at that time they used to sung some Syriac songs. According to my knowledge that was some parts of Rosary in Syriac.
      Any way thanks for all the work that you are doing to support Syriac and document the Syriac heritage in the form of videos.

      In the love of Isho M'shiha,
      Joju George Jacob
      From: Isaac Chackalaparampil
      Date: 2015-06-19 19:50 GMT-04:00
      To: Joseph Palackal

      പ്രിയ പാലക്കലച്ചാ,
      ഞാൻ അങ്ങയുടെ ഇ-മെയില് കണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അതിൽ ഉൾപ്പെടുത്തി വിട്ടിരുന്ന വിഡെയോയും കണ്ടു. ആ ശങ്കൂരിക്കൽ അച്ചൻ സുറിയാനിപ്പാട്ട് പാടിയത് ശേലായിരിക്കുന്നു. പക്ഷെ, ചുമ്മാ അവിടേം ഇവിടേം ഓർത്ത് പാടിയതാണ് കണ്ടത്. അദ്ദേഹമൊക്കെ ചത്തുപോകുന്നതിനു മുൻപ്, അങ്ങേർക്ക് വശമുള്ള പാട്ടുകൾ അതിന്റെ ടെക്സ്റ്റു വെച്ച് ഓരോന്നും മുഴുവനായിട്ട് പാടിച്ചു പിടിച്ചെടുക്കാൻ പറ്റിയാൽ നല്ലതെന്ന് പറയുകയായിരുന്നു. ആ പെണ്‍കൊച്ചിനെക്കൊണ്ടു കമ്പേൽ മാറൻ പാടിപ്പിച്ചതും കൊള്ളാം!

      എന്റെ സുറിയാനി വിജ്ഞാനം അത്രക്കില്ലാ! എന്റെ നോവിസ്യാത്തും ജൂനിയാരേറ്റും കഴിഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ, സഭയിൽ സുറിയാനിയും നിന്നു! നാട്ടിൽ നിന്നൊക്കെ ഇറങ്ങിപ്പോന്നതുകൊണ്ട്, സുറിയാനിപ്പുസ്തകങ്ങളും കണ്ടിട്ട് കുറെയായി. എന്റെ കയ്യിൽ മേന്പോടിക്കു ഒരു ചെറിയ പുസ്തകമുള്ളതു "ക്സാവ ദ് തെശ്മെശ്താ ദഹലാപ് അന്നീദെ" എന്ന അച്ചന്മാരുടെ ശവമടക്കു ക്രമമാണ്. അതൊക്കെ ശരിയായിട്ടു പാടാൻ എനിക്കെങ്ങും അറിയാനും മേലാ!! ഇപ്പോൾ സുറിയാനി വായിച്ചാൽ അത്രയ്ക്ക് മനസ്സിലാകുകയുമില്ലാ! ആളുകളെ പറഞ്ഞു വിരട്ടാൻ മാത്രം സുറിയാനിയേ ഇപ്പോൾ കൈവശമുള്ളൂ! 'ആകാശങ്ങലിളിരിക്കുന്ന'തും 'നന്മനിറഞ്ഞ മറിയ'വും അറിയാം! ആളുകളുടെ കണ്ണ് തള്ളിക്കാൻ ഇപ്പോൾ അത് മതി!!

      ഞാൻ ഏതായാലും ഇക്കൊല്ലത്തെ സീയെമ്മൈ കണ്വെന്ഷന് പേരും കൊടുത്തിട്ടില്ലാ, വരാനോക്കുകേം ഇല്ലാ. എന്റെ ഈ എഴുപത്തൊമ്പതാം വയസ്സ് തീരാറാകുന്നതുകൊണ്ടു, ഈ മാസം 25 നു, പാസ്റ്റരുദ്ധ്യോഗം വിട്ടൊഴിഞ്ഞു, കുറച്ചുനാൾ പുതിയതായി വരുന്ന പാസ്റ്ററിനു (Palamattam) അസ്തേന്തിവേലഎടുത്തു, നാട്ടിൽ വല്ലിടത്തും ചെന്ന് ചുരുണ്ടുകൂടി കിടന്നു, സമയമെത്തുമ്പോൾ വടിയായി, സ്വർഗം വരിക്കുക എന്ന ഒറ്റ പ്രോജെക്ടും കൂടിയേ ബാക്കിയുള്ളൂ! ആകയാൽ നാട്ടിലോമറ്റോ വെച്ച് കാണാമെന്നു ശരണപ്പെടുന്നു.

      സ്നേഹത്തോടെ, ഐസക്കച്ചൻ
      Yawsep Mathai (in response to the video : Aramaic Project - Part 19)
      July 2015
      syro malabar sabhayukkuu nashtapettu kondirikkunnaa suriyani bhashyayum aradhanakramavum veendum orrkan oru avsaram tharunna dhanuu Malpan Joseph Achan arambhichaa aramic project... achaa, ee project nannayii munnotuu pokan ee eliyavan ennum prarthikkunnunduu... Malpan George Koyilparambil oru nallaa suriyani pandidhanuuu... adhum ernakulam angmaly roopadhayil suriyani ariyavunnnaa achan marundu ennuu parayumbol adhu syro malabar sabhaykku pradeeesha nalkunnnadhannuu... syro malabar ennaa peeril SYRO ennaal syriac anennuu polum ariyatha sabhamakkallee ee projectinnuu unarthan sadhikkatee..
      eeshoo mishihayikku sthudi ayirikkattee
      Johny Mathew (in response to the video : Aramaic Project - Part 18)
      March 2015
      Father, I really appreciate your hard work to get back our Syriac heritage in the community and all the best to you father
      Ajaymjay (in response to the video : Aramaic Project - Part 15)
      Jan 2015
      It would be great if some Aramaic chants and prayers were incorporated into the Syro-Malabar missal. It takes you back to your roots. Listening to songs like 'Qaddisha' evokes in me, a fragment of memory that must have passed on to me through my genes which makes it quite familiar even though I have no knowledge of the language.
      From: Saju Chackalackal, President, DVK
      Date: Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 4:17 PM
      Subject: from Saju, DVK
      To: Joseph Palackal

      Dear Father,
      I write these few lines to thank you for your gracious presence and excellent lectures that you offered at DVK for the Denha Endowment Lectures. I could be present only for the first lecture after the inauguration (as I had to go for another meeting of the moral theologians). This lecture which I participated was excellent and insightful. I thank you for the same, especially for the painstaking research that has gone into this work. I am sure that the second one was equally well received. I hope that Fr. Francis Thonippara wlll take the measures to see that your lectures are published. I had to leave for Pune as I was part of the group that went for the Lavasa blessing; so, I could not be present for the afternoon. As usual, everyone was mesmerized by your singing and chanting; and your Excellent English pronunciation and the play with apt idioms also were well received by our audience. To be very frank, I felt proud of having such a great confrere and I thank the Lord and our beloved Congregation for the wonderful gift that you are. Thanking you once again, and wishing you all the best and God's abundant blessings, Saju

      PART II: The Church of the East

      PART III: The Orthodox Churches

      PART IV: The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar


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