Skip to main content

Medieval Wednesdays: A multireligious interfaith dialogue from 18th-century South India: erudition and conviviality

Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Zoom Link…

Password: 0513


An outstanding discovery of our SRITE project, aiming at the digital preservation of the Church and family manuscript archives of the South Indian Syrian Christians, is an interfaith dialogue found in Saint Joseph's Monastery of Mannanam of the first indigenous Catholic order, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. The Dialogue was written in the local language, Malayalam, in a specific script used by the Indian Syrian Christians, called Garshuni Malayalam: a mixed right-to-left script consisting of 22 Syriac + 8 Old Dravidian letters + a changing number of Sanskrit characters. The author of the Dialogue must have been a European Catholic missionary from the late 17th-early 18th century, a linguistic genius knowing Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Malayalam and Syriac. Its protagonists are the Rabbi of the Synagogue of North Paravur, a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu. 

After a brief introduction to the pre-colonial and colonial history of the Indian Syrian Christian community, the lecture will give some glimpses into the text of the Dialogue, which Emy Merin Joy and István Perczel are deciphering in a joint effort. It will show that the imaginary (or real?) religious debate noted in the Dialogue evokes an atmosphere of conviviality in the coastal trading city of Paravur, where the four communities represented in the text had coexisted and cooperated for many centuries.