Vadakeths, around the world
A little history lesson
It is not clear why our Vadaketh forefathers had to move during Portuguese rule, but move they did. At the time they were living in Kuravilangad, a town in Kottayam whose church was founded in 105AD.
Kuravilangad, therefore, is the oldest documented inhabitation of our ancestors. Locals believe this town, known as “The Vatican of India”, is the site of Mother Mary’s first appearance in the world. Storytelling, you see, has always been in our blood.
We know that between 1525 and 1625, our forefathers moved from Kuravilangad to Niranam, a port at the confluence of the Manimala and Achankovil Rivers in Tiruvalla. It is here that Saint Thomas the Apostle is believed to have landed in 54AD, two years after first reaching Kerala at Kodungallur. Some historians dispute all this, suggesting Christianity reached Kerala only several centuries later.
From there, our forefathers moved in 1700 to Nilakkal, a forest area that straddles Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Perhaps they lived near the Nilakkal St.Thomas Ecumenical Church in Angamoozhy, one of the famed “Ezharappallikal”, or The Seven and a Half Churches that St. Thomas is believed to have founded in South India. Of the eight churches, seven are in Kerala while one is near Kanyakumari in present-day Tamil Nadu — that one, perhaps unsurprisingly, is designated as “half ”.
It was there, in Nilakkal, that we can finally put some names on our ancestors. So what we now consider the The First Generation family was helmed by a T. Thommen, who had two sons, Mani and Ittycheriya, and one daughter, Annamma. (We know not his wife’s name, a common issue with older genealogies.)
Having raised a family, in 1717 T. Thommen decided to invest in a suburban house, and bought a plot of land on the banks of the Meenachil River (the same one mentioned in The God of Small Things). The family lived there for 12 years.
Unfortunately, in this idyllic, riverine paradise, the two boys developed a nasty cabin fever. For reasons we will never know, Mani and Ittycheriya murdered their sister, Annamma. Fearing arrest, they fled their home, each going his own way.
Ittycheriya changed his name to Chacko, moved to Trivandrum, got married and settled in Kuriannoor. Chacko was the head of The Second Generation family. Essentially, that name Chacko, so familiar to us all today and so respected in many countries, first emerged in our family because in 18th century Kerala, a young man suspected of sororicide wanted to hide his identity.
Chacko had four sons and two daughters. His eldest son, Ittyavirah (Third Generation) moved to Vannidum, where he had one son, Chacko, and five daughters. That Chacko (Fourth Generation) had four sons and two daughters.
In 1840 his third son, Chacko Chacko, moved with some siblings to Kurianoor, where his great-grandfather, the original Chacko, had once lived. Chacko Chacko got married, settled down, and his family was henceforth known as Kurianoor Vadakethu, because their house was north of the St. Thomas Church — Vadaketh, literally, means “north of ”.
The Fifth Generation Family, in other words, is the first with the Vadaketh name (older ancestors had the name “Plathotathil”). Chacko Chacko had one son, whom he named, unsurprisingly, Chacko Chacko. This Sixth Generation Family had three daughters and five sons. The seventh child, Vadaketh Chacko Easow — or Thonipuzha VC Easow — married Annamma Mulamootil from Kochencherry to build the Seventh Generation Family.
VC Easow, who as the youngest son of his parents, in keeping with the customs and traditions of the Syrian Christians of Kerala, inherited the family house, the tharavad at Thonipuzha, probably in about 1870. He had 10 children – five boys and five girls – who grew up in rural Kuriannoor, in the Pathanamthitta district of Travancore, a state in the southwest corner of India, which is today part of the state of Kerala. These ten children have names familiar to many of us: VE Chacko, VE Verghese, Aleyamma Easow, Anna Easow, Rev. V.E. Thomas, V.E. Mathew, Soshamma Easow, Sarah Easow, Mary Easow and VE Easow.
Each is an Eighth Generation descendant from that original family in Nilakkal in the early 1700s. They grew up in post- WWI Kerala, a time of growing anti-colonial agitation and social upheaval driven by caste reformers. Marxist ideas were gaining favour in Kerala, which culminated in 1956 with the world’s first democratically-elected Communist government.
Amid all this, these Eighth Generation descendants had a hard time finding a job. Population growth meant that God’s own country was becoming crowded. Like migrants everywhere, many left Kerala to look for work (a trend that continues today with the Malayalees in “the Gelff” and elsewhere).
It was easy, in particular, to move to Malaya, another British colony, which was enjoying strong economic growth in those pre-WWII days. There were many jobs in teaching, government, and clerical work that Indians were well suited for. The close ties among Syrian Christians made it easy to move and settle in these new lands. And that is how the Vadakeths began to populate the world.
From Kuriannoor, the descendants of VC Easow have, over the past 120 years or so, spread out to many parts of the world. At present, they number
over 230 and have extended over five generations, and are found in different parts of India, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Britain, United States, Canada and New Zealand.
These excerpts have been taken from the family book, “Progeny of Vadaketh Chacko Easow since 1854”.