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The famous Persian cross or Nasrani cross at Kadamattom
Persian cross at Kottayam Knanaya valiya pally
Persian cross at St Thomas Mount, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Saint Thomas Christian crosses are ancient crosses that belonged to the ancient community of Saint Thomas Christians of India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of St Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is thus one of the oldest Christian communities of the world. Saint Thomas Christian crosses are broadly classified as Mar Thoma Sleeva (Saint Thomas Cross),Persian Cross, and Nasrani Sthambam.
Mar Thoma Sleeva is a Syriac term which means Saint Thomas Cross. Antonio Gouvea, in the sixteenth century work "Jornada", states that the old churches of Saint Thomas Christians were full of crosses of the type discovered from S. Thome (Mylapore). He also states that veneration of the cross is an old custom in Malabar. "Jornada" is the oldest known written document which calls the cross as St. Thomas Cross. The original phrase used is "Cruz de Sam Thome", meaning Cross of St. Thomas. Gouvea writes about the veneration of the Cross at Cranganore mentioning it as "Cross of Christians".
Kottayam, Kerala. This Cross is at Kottayam Valiapally (St. Mary's Knananya Church). One cross is considered of late origin (Ca 10th century).
Kothanalloor, Kerala. This Cross is at St. Gervasis and Prothasis Church under the eparchy of Palai of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.
Agasaim, Goa. The Cross is now kept at Pilar Seminary Museum. This Cross is dated of 6th Century.
Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Anuradhapura cross is kept at Anuradhapura museum. It was found during excavations of Anuradhapura in 1912. This cross is considered as the oldest cross in Sri Lanka.
Taxila, Pakistan. It is a very small cross that found in a field near the ancient city Sirkap near Taxila. The cross is kept at the Cathedral Church of the Resurrection, Lahore. However, experts point out that the cross shares only one characteristic with other St Thomas Crosses that they are mostly equilateral, with arms of equal length. They claim that the Christian antiquity of this cross cannot be conclusively proven, as the same characteristic is also observed in pre-Christian Buddhist crosses and Swastika-variants found from the region, and even in the Greek Crosses.
An Indian Cross is depicted on the rock-piece at the front of the Parur (North) church, first published in The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol.II, 1973, Ed. George Menachery.
Arthur Coke Burnell, archeologist, in 1873, translated the inscriptions as follows:
"In punishment by the cross (was) the suffering of this one;
He who is the true christ, and God above and Guide ever pure."
Prof. F. C. Burkitt and C. P. T. Winckworth, the then reader of Assyriology in the University of Cambridge studied the inscriptions and produced a translation. This has been discussed at the International Congress of Orientalists held at Oxford in 1925.
The interpretation is as follows:
"My Lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras son of Chaharbukht the Syrian, who cut this (or, who caused this to be cut)."
On the large cross, there is this additional sentence in Estrangelo Syriac. (Galatians 6:14)
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The inscription at Kadamattom church when translated is,
"I, the beautiful bird of Nineveh has come to this land. Written by me Shapper, who was saved by the Holy Messiah from misery."
Symbolism of Mar Thoma Sleeva
Unlike crosses in other traditions, the St. Thomas Cross does not carry the effigy of the Christ. In addition to this unique quality, each of its elements carry symbolic meanings. Generally the Cross symbolizes life rather than death and suffering.
The four edges of the cross are floral in shape, symbolizing fruition and life from the tree of life.
The lotus flower beneath the cross is a symbol of Buddhism and India. A cultural adaptation of local imagery, the cross fixed on the lotus would symbolize Christianity in India in the first century. The lotus is also a Puranic holy flower, an offering to God in the Hindu tradition; anything offered on the leaves of lotus is considered to be auspicious.
The three steps below the Cross represent Golgotha, symbolically referring to the death of Jesus, also the three decks of the Ark and the ascent to Mt. Sinai.