Proselytising Ayyappa Hijacking Hindu pilgrimage
by Panikkath Krishnan Unni on 27 Jul 2019 13 Comments

Christianization of non-Christian deities and sites is a process of conversion of ‘pagan’ sites and structures from early Christian times, as well as an important part of the strategy of Christian reinterpretation during the christianisation of pagan peoples. Christianity’s sacred sites were built as part of a ruthless campaign against paganism and have absolutely no real connection with the events they purport to commemorate.

These sacred sites were established as part of a Roman imperial policy which sought to destroy the non-Christian religion and develop a focus for Christian piety in these sites. This happened to manifold temples throughout the Roman Empire. In Rome itself, numerous pagan temples were converted into churches, as confirmed by archaeological investigations. In the Roman Forum alone, the Curia Julia or Roman Senate building became the church of Sant’Adriano al Foro, the Antoninus and Faustina temple became the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, and the Temple of Romulus became the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano. St Peter’s Basilica, the church of Vatican, was built on top of a large pagan necropolis on Vatican Hill.

Any works by Christians who could not accept the theology agreed at the latest Church Council were suppressed. The only acceptable literature was that which conformed to the official Christian line of the moment. Gospels that did not fit requirements were discarded and their existence denied. Other pagan writings were creatively altered and sagaciously edited. Interpolations were made with existing legends to christianise them.

In India, a typical example is that of St Francis Xavier. It was St Francis who requested the establishment of Goa Inquisition, which burned people alive for defying the church. Based on a few records that survived, H.P. Salomon and I.S.D. Sassoon stated that between 1561-1778 AD, about 16,200 persons were brought to trial; of these, 57 were sentenced to death, and 64 burned alive.


In one of his letters St Francis said, “When all are baptized I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and idols to be broken to pieces” (Letter from Francis Xavier in Cochin to the Society of Jesus at Rome Jan 27, 1545).

The church has always kept an eye open for hijacking the famous Sabarimala shrine. The shrine was burnt down in June 1950, when the temple remained closed. On June 14, when the temple priest visited the shrine, he was shocked to see that the doors of the temple had several violent cut marks and the murti damaged. An FIR was registered with the police. After inspection of the temple, an Enquiry Report was prepared. The report stated, “The FIR in this case was on the night of 16th June 1950, when the santikaran went to the temple on 14th June, he found the sreekoil, the mandapam and Idol damaged. The existence of such cut marks goes against the theory of an accident”.

Danger to Hindu culture 


Three decades later, in 1983, reopening a hot Hindu-Christian confrontation, Rev. Mathew Anthiyakulam proclaimed that some members of his parish had unearthed a stone cross close to the Shiva temple at Nilakkal. Christians claimed that the cross was established by St Thomas in 52 AD, and demanded construction of a church at the site. A proposal for the same was sent to the State government. To add salt to the wounds of Hindus, the Government granted a few acres of forest land for construction of the Nilakkal Church.

Angered by this turn of events and the government’s attitude, hundreds of Ayyappa devotees, under the banner of Nilakkal Action Council, proceeded in protest from 18 centres symbolising the 18 hills of Ayyappa’s  sacred garden. The Council said it would give up its opposition if it was proved beyond doubt that the now non-existent church was established by St Thomas during the middle of the first century AD. The church authorities failed to produce evidence justifying their claims. An archaeological team led by Prof. John Ochanthuruth stated that the cross discovered at Nilakkal could not have had any connection with the cross of St Thomas.


In March 1995, Koothampilly Vasudevan Vishnu Nambhoodri, head priest of Sabarimala temple, was barred from conducting pujas in the temple by the Devaswom Board, due to protests by Hindus who accused him of participating in a prayer meeting in the Nilakkal church. The church claimed that there was nothing wrong on the part of the temple priest offering inter-religious prayer that promotes communal harmony. But the civil society raised an embarrassing question: The Pope may preach for inter religious unity, but will he ever join a prayer in a Hindu temple?

The St Andrew’s Church of Arthungal in Alappuzha district, Kerala, was elevated to the status of a Basilica in 2010. This church was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The church attempts to christianise the Hindu tradition of Ayyappa by using dubious methods like Inculturation and creating legends associating Sri Ayyappa with Christian Apostles that are not documented in Hindu Puranic legends. These Christian legends claim that a vicar, Fr Jacomo Fenicio, popularly known by locals as Veluthachan (fair skinned father), was a close friend of Ayyappa and enabled Ayyappa to get admission in the famous Cheerappan chirayinkeezhi kalari.

Another legend claims that in 1649 AD, when a statue of St Sebastian from Rome was brought here, many revelations and miracles were experienced by the devotees who visited the church. Thus, a fake legend was created, claiming that pilgrims going to Sabarimala, should visit this church on their return journey, remove the sacred beads and take the blessings of St Sebastian for ensuring a safe journey back to their homes. Various fake stories are also bandied about that St Sebastian is the younger brother of Ayyappa and more merciful than Ayyappa, the strict tapasvi (ascetic).

More atrocious and blasphemous is the audacious claim that Lord Ayyappa received spiritual wisdom from Apostle St Andrew and St Sebastian. No evidence is furnished by the church to establish the presence of these Apostles in India, let alone meeting Ayyappa in Kerala. In the absence of proof of visit, the church needs to explain how they imparted spiritual wisdom to Ayyappa Swami.

According to Hindu puranic legends, Sri Ayyappa Swamy is the manifestation of two Hindu deities, Shiva and Vishnu. As an avatar of two very powerful gods, He does not require spiritual advice from the disciples of Christ. To consider Ayyappa Swamy as a disciple of Christ’s disciples is to humiliate Hindu gods and to project the biblical saying, “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14.6). Such an illogical, narrow, exclusivist view is bound to breed fanaticism and will pave the way for communal strife. The way to Truth is to speak truth, not by peddling falsehood.

Any attempt to dig out facts are thwarted by break India forces, Hindus harassed, hounded and threatened with imprisonment, with the connivance of the political party in power. For instance, recently, an FIR was registered in Kerala against Sri T.G. Mohandas, a prominent BJP leader, for his controversial tweet that the Arthungal Church was once a Shiva temple, and Hindus have a legitimate right to reclaim it.

Panchalimedu is part of the sacred territory of Swami Ayyappa comprising of 18 hills. Thousands of Ayyappa devotees camp here during the pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple. Yet miscreants have planted several crosses along the route and with the connivance of the CPM government are attempting to claim it as a Christian pilgrimage centre. When Hindus protested the illegal planting of crosses and erected a trishul to exercise their legitimate rights, the government took rapid action against Hindus and removed the trishul. The illegal planting of crosses goes unpunished.

The revenue records of the old princely state of Travancore confirm that the temple of Malayatoor in Ernakulam district was earlier a Shiva temple. It was also known as Kurinchimudi temple. After Christians occupied the site, the name of the hill was changed to Kurusumudi (mount of cross). This is corroborated by Administrator, Sri C. Achyutha Menon, who authored the Cochin State Manual in 1911.

The church uses a number of strategies to appropriate and christianise Hindu gods and Hindu cultural traditions, by inventing artificial similarities between the two cultures to destroy the originality and identity of Hindu culture. Eliminating the name of Vishnu and creating “Yeshu Sahasranamam” statues of Jesus Christ in yogic padmasana posture, erecting flag staff (dwaja sthamb/kodi maram) in churches as in Hindu temples, priests wearing saffron robes doing “arti”, are some of the strategies adopted to attract  gullible Hindus and gradually christianise them.

Hindu Dharma is capable of providing all spiritual nutrition through a large variety of traditions. Hindu culture has existed for millennia and continues to this day. Taking into consideration its beauty and antiquity, it is important to preserve it for posterity in its pristine form, free from religious adulteration. It is the paramount duty of every Hindu to be alert and guard against cultural adulteration/s. Hindus must defend their ancient culture and rebuff attempts to cannibalise or christianise it.

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