FEW TRANSLATIONS OF THE JEWISH COPPER PLATES AND THE DOUBTFUL AUTHENTICITY OF THE PLATES:
According to Claudius Buchanan, (12 March 1766 – 9 February 1815) a Scottish theologian, an ordained minister of the Church of England, and an evangelical missionary for the Church Missionary Society who served as Vice Provost of the College of Calcutta in India, the grant to the Jews was originally made on a brass plate according to the prevalent tradition of those days. It was written in Malabaric language and the script was so old that it could not be well understood. According to a source, Buchanan purchased the plates from the Jews although it is not sure if they were of brass or copper. The Hebrew translation which was presented by the Jews to Buchanan, who held the plates with them, itself was very difficult and Jews did not agree among themselves, as to the meaning of the words. The Hebrew translation preserved by the Jews as shown to Buchanan went on like this:
“In the peace of God, the king, which hath made the earth, according to his pleasure. To this God, I AIRVI BRAHMIN, have lifted up my hand, and have granted by this deed, which many hundred thousand years shall run—– I, dwelling in Cranganor, have granted, in the thirty-sixth year of my reign, in the strength of power I have granted, in the strength of power I have given in inheritance, to Joseph Rabban.”
Then follows the details of privileges of nobility. The witnesses to this grant were King, Bivada Cubertin Mitaden, the King of Trvancore, King Airla nada Mana Vikriin, the Samorin, King Veloda Mada Archarin Shatin, the King of Argot, the Kings of Palgatchery, Colastri, Carbinath, Vara-Changur. There is no mention of date in this document and Buchanan adds that dates were not usual in old Malabaric writings. According to (them) Jews, the date of grant should be the year of the creation 4250 (of universe by God), which is in Jewish computation, 490 A.D. He further adds that the famous Malabaric King Ceram Perumal, made grants to Jews, Christians and Mohamedans, during his reign in eighth or ninth century.
One could see that the translation does not in any way meet the standards of an official daana shasanam made by any king in India of which documentation exists. In peace of God, etc are not the usual way any of the stone edicts or shasanams begin at all. We can see any stone edict that is decipherable, readable from 300 AD to 1200 AD and can see the mismatch of the beginning sentences. Moreover it was mentioned in the translation that it was a grant made by Airvi Brahmin not Bhaskara Ravi Varma II the Cheraman..
Eugen Hultzsch’s translation:
“Hail! Prosperity! (The following) gift was made by him who had assumed the title “King of Kings,” His Majesty the king, the glorious Bhāskara Ravivarman, in the time during which (he) was wielding the sceptre and ruling over many hundred-thousands of places, in the thirty-sixth year after the second year, on the day on which (he) was pleased to stay at Muyirikkôdu:-
We have given to Issuppu Irappân (the village of) An̄juvannam, together with the seventy-two proprietary rights, the tolls on female elephants and (other) riding-animals, the revenue of An̄juvannam, a lamp in day-time, a cloth spread (in front to walk on), a palanquin, a parasol, a Vaduga (i.e., Telugu) drum, a large trumpet, a gateway, an arch, a canopy (in the shape) of an arch, a garland, a hereditary estate for as long as the world and the moon shall exist. Hail!”
Here in this translation they are taking the date of gift as corresponding to the Jewish calendar so this most likely looks like their interpretation of the Original edict for making their own people understand.
M.G.S. Narayananan’s translation of the same,
“Hail Prosperity (Svasti Sri), this is the gift (prasada) that His Majesty (Tiruvadi), King of Kings (Kogonmai-kondan), Sri Parkaran Iravivanmar (Bhaskara Ravi Varma II r Cheraman), who is to wield sceptre for several thousand years, was pleased to make during the thirty sixth year opposite to the second year of his reign, on the day when he was pleased to reside at Muyirikkottu.
We have granted to Issuppu Irappan, the Ancuvannam (corporation/guild), tolls by the boat and by other vehicles Ancuvannam dues, the right to employ the day lamp, decorative cloth, palanquin, umbrella, kettle drum, trumpet, gateway, arch, arched roof, weapons and rest of the seventy two privileges. We have remitted customs, dues and weighing fee.
Moreover, according to this copper-plate grant, he shall be exempted from payments due to the king (koyil) from settlers in the town, but he shall enjoy what they enjoy.
To Issuppu Irappan, proprietor of the Ancuvannam, his male and female issues, nephews, and son-in-law, Ancuvannam shall belong by hereditary succession as long as the sun and moon endure – Prosperity!”
“This is attested by Kovarttana Mattandan, Governor (Utaiyavar) of Venatu” “This is attested by Kotai Cirikantan, Governor of Venapalinatu” “This is attested by Manavepala Manaviyan, Governor of Eralanatu” “This is attested by Irayaran Cattan, Governor of Valluvanatu” “This is attested by Kotai Iravi, Governor of Netumpuraiyurnatu” “This is attested by Murkkan Cattan, Commander of the Eastern forces” “This writing is executed by Vanralaceri Kandan-Kunrappolan, the officer who takes down oral messages.”
The above translations seem to be closer to the usual documentations of the Kings but still have a few differences and faults.
Few other translations are also existent differing from one another, one of such differences being regarding the name Cranganore. The name variants used in these translations are Muyirikhode, Muyirikottu, Muziris and Mahodayapuram. Many researches have been done to either prove the names to be synonymous or different from each other.
Michael Sargon, an Indian Jew converted into Christianity in 1818, makes a note on the existence of brass plate in the Chinotta Synagogue of Black Jews which was taken away by the White Jews during the rule of Dutch in Cochin.
The Dutch abstract record of the “Hebrew Chronicles” found in the custody of the Jews of Cochin, translated by Leopold Emanuel Jacob Van Dort (AD 1757), a Jewish convert to Christian says in his note that “The ruler of land Sheram Perimal welcomed them, and favoured them with various privileges, which were engraven on two tables of copper, which are to this day in Cochin, and are kept by Joseph Hallogua, the present Nasi among the people, which I saw translated.” This means that Van Dort, had seen the copper plate in the possession of Paradesi Jews and it was during the reign of Dutch in Cochin. Sargon mentions that the White Jews took the copper plate away when they came to power, wherein, in Dutch records, according to Van Dort it belonged to the White Jews.
Buchanan writes in his Annual Report that the plates were originally in brass of which he made copper facsimiles. The original was engraved on both sides while the facsimiles were on two separate plates. He mentions that these plates were deposited in the Public Library at the University of Cambridge. But Thoufeek Zakriya, a researcher, mentions that in response to his inquiry to the Cambridge University, Ms. Catherine Ansorge, Head of Near Eastern Department, (manuscripts and printed Collections, Cambridge University Library) replied by a personal mail about the MsOo.1.14, Charter of Jews of Cochin, which was submitted by Dr. Claudius Buchanan stating “Oo.1.14 – the texts are all written on rectangles of copper. I do not know of any studies which have been carried out on these” thus confirming the non-existence or loss of the original brass plates even in the Cambridge University or it is that the original brass plate was never deposited by Claudius Buchanan but instead what he deposited was a copper facsimile. Buchanan also writes that the plates were taken to London. Does the brass plate still exist in London and if so in whose possession and why it has to be kept secret even from Indian historians is a ‘mystery’ yet to be solved.
Dr. Francis Day’s comments in his book “The Land of Perumal”, “*The Rev. C. Buchanan, states that the original plate was of brass, and engraved on both sides. He had facsimile made from it, on two copper plates, which he deposited in the University of Cambridge. The carving of the original, is said to have looked very old that on the present plates, certainly does not do so. If the plate at Cambridge is of brass, and engraved on both the sides, it may perhaps be concluded, that Dr. Buchanan returned the new plates to Jews, and kept the old one.”
Francis also mentions: “The white Jews possess three copper plates,* looking as if they had been taken from a ship’s side, ¼ by 1/8 of a yard in size. The outer one has no inscription.”
These comments of Francis Day make us to rethink about the authenticity of the copper plate in possession of Paradesi Jews.
This “legendary” Jewish copper plate of grants is always shrouded with mystery and contradictions. The contradiction would have turn out after the arrival of “Big Sahib from London- Dr. Claudius Buchanan.” He visited the Jews of Malabar and had collected (in 1806 AD) many manuscripts from them and deposited (in 1809 AD) in Cambridge University.
Mr. Adler (1909 AD) writes that “the white Jews say that they have always held it; the black Jews contend that it was originally theirs. The title-deed is quaint in many ways.”
While Leopold Immanuel Jacob Van Dort, a converted Jew, fifty years prior to Buchanan’s report mentions about the existence of copper plates which he saw and translated them, Buchanan reports it was a single piece of brass plate with engravings on both sides of which he made facsimiles of copper containing three plates each of which had engravings on only one side! Which of these could be correct? Were all these about the same charter presented by the Chera King to the Jews or to Joseph Rabban in particular? Was it that the Cheras presented royal grants to Rabban at different timelines but with same privileges some time on brass plates and sometimes on copper? Or, was this kind of (same) charter often given to all communities by the King/Kings of Cheranad? Or, is it that the whole story of the grants of royal privileges a created story to prove the earlier settlements of non-native trading communities in India? Why would anyone try to claim or acknowledge their ‘earlier existence’ in any foreign land? Why is this land so significant? What makes all these, whether Jews or Christians or Arabs or Muslims to race with each other to prove their early existence in Mahodayapuram/Kodungallur?
As many opine that the script on the copper plates does not seem as old as that of the brass plates as Buchanan mentioned it to be, was the copper plates changed by the Company scholars? If so, why? Was it that the scholars of India at those times were able to decipher and that it contained any rare and very important information that the British did not want us to know and hence erased the history of these plates along with the scholars who deciphered the inscription? Or, was the script in any language that the Company Scholars were familiar with and hence they were able to decipher and kept it unavailable for the Indian Public? If so, why? If the grant was true then did a copy of the same exist in the then and current royal family archives as it was a tradition to keep a copy of any such official transactions? Is that a copy of the plate still exists in Sri Padmanābha Swamy temple vaults as they preserved all texts, documents or trading gifts dating back to Egyptian (Mishra) rulers?
If the language on the plate according to Buchanan was not decipherable, how was it possible that the kings used a language which is not close to any language of the natives or their official language and is unknown to their descendants or the later scholars?
When the tradition of transmission of knowledge from teacher to student and from parents to children was a constant existent process until the British destroyed it after the efforts of Buchanan and other officials of British East India Company in rewriting the history of India how could this important grant information vanish?
While Buchanan writes in his research work that mentioning of timelines was not prominent in Malabaric edicts, then how was he able to conclude that the grant made to the Jews was made in the year of creation that is 4425? How were the later translators able to translate the script with date mentioned as 379 A.D?
Was it that only dates were written in Roman or Persian numerals and all other information in alien language not known to any one? Even the latest Rameshwaram edict of Raja Simha, a Chera King in 1025 clearly mentions everything in Sanskrit but in Grantha Script. They mention their capital being Mahodayapuram etc. Then how was it possible that in 329 AD they wrote in a different language? One more important aspect to remember is that until the linguistic division of states was executed during 1951 none of the ancient kings identified themselves on their edicts as representing current state boundaries of India like we are Tamil Kings or Malayalam Kings or Kannada Kings. To attribute our linguistic extreme chauvinism to the ancient rulers is an absolute example of intellectual dissonance we are suffering since the advent of British 4 P education.
Was it the combined intentional effort of the British and the Church to conclude every ancient edict as undecipherable to hide/modify the timelines from the people and historians alike without which their mission of retrofitting history into Biblical timelines would never become successful? Was this the reason Buchanan mentions that dating was not common in the inscriptions of the Chera rulers and hence no date is mentioned in the inscription while he could date that to be in the year of 329 AD of their Christian creation era? How can when the twin Christian worlds or western and eastern Christianity cannot agree on the birth and death date of Jesus Christ (Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate Jesus birth day on 25 December, whereas Greeks Russians celebrate on 8 January and Jews do not agree on either dates as the birth time of Jesus) and tried to exterminate each other even today, can find fault with the mathematical precision of Indian astronomical wisdom of ancient Indian edicts where even complex planetary motion calculations even today can be done on finger tips of commoners who never knew in their life what planetary mechanics are ?
When the plates are physically inscribed with the date 379 CE, why in1925, a historical tradition was set and changed the date as 1069 CE? Why this date of 1069 is significant? How many other important inscriptional dates were changed like this? Was this the reason Buchanan concludes that dates are nonexistent in edicts or they are not important at all to the ancient rulers?
Did the brass plate grant to Rabban ever exist? Was it that the brass plate grant was made to the Jewish learners or scholars who came with their books during exile and sought protection in Mahodayapuram long before Rabban which for some reason was later changed by the vested interests? If the brass plate ever existed does it remain in the London archives even now? Was it somewhere in London kept safely as the contents of that plate will destroy all the myths created by British historians like Elliot or McCauley – Aryan Dravidian conflict, the Name of India, History of India? Why was it so important for him to not return the original plate to the owners as promised? If Chera kings did not have the tradition of issuing copper plate edicts in the 3rd and 4th centuries or until the 18th century, and use of brass or stone edicts were prominent among the earlier kings, then how did these copper plates come into existence? It does not mean that our ancestors did not know about copper but it only means they never used it for edicts. Was it that Van Dort took the brass plates and then were given to another East India Company clerk in Ceylon and from where it reached Holland and then to Germany to the European Jews as a matter of their collection.
Since none were able to translate the brass tablet, copper facsimiles were ‘proposed to be printed’ in the year 1809 by Buchanan to transmit among the learned class and an engraver was appointed for the same.[i] One copy of the same was sent to the Pandits of the Sanskrit College at Trissur. Later he sent the same to many European centers of learning adept in Indian cultural practices and history or languages. Were the Sanskrit scholars of Trissur well versed in the old Malabaric language or they did not know any of their old Malabaric scripts? Is it that only the European scholars were more proficient in Sanskrit or Malayalam or other local languages than the local scholars of India that they alone were able to decipher the edict granted by the Indian ruler? If the content was not in Sanskrit why was it sent to the Pandits of Sanskrit College at Trissur? Is it that the content was closer to Sanskrit and was decipherable by the scholars but they intentionally avoided? If so, is it that the royal family at that time might have prevented the scholars from speaking as they realized the destruction being caused by the British? -The way the current royal family was able to prevent British from looting the treasures of Padmanābha Swamy Temple for more than 400 years from speak volumes of their diligence and intrigue in preserving Indian treasures.
How can any important and ancient edict be allowed to be ‘cut into pieces’ by a local craftsman who was unfamiliar with the script, who ‘cut’ the plates where there were signatures? How and why could similar copper plates supposed to be given to Christians, which were in the fort of Cochin, and which were unavailable for even to the then Governor Andrian Moens in 1770 to take a look at, despite using every means of his power and was termed either to be lost or that they never existed, was easily recovered by the British Resident at Travancore, Lieutenant Colonel Macaulay? Both the Christian and Jewish plates were in the possession of Macaulay.
It is more likely that the Jews trace their antiquity in Kerala back to 72AD or even further to the time of Romans or Egyptians when the Jewish communities-scholars saints prophets alike-continuously visited all the four learning centers set up by Śankara-Mahodayapuram, Pariha(n)sapuram, Purushottamapuram and Dwarakapuram. Shimon Rabban, the Patriarch in Yemen who tried to preserve the texts probably arrived in India. It was recorded according to Jewish history that during the rule of Shalmaneser V, many Jews were ‘exiled’. Or it was that the Jewish saints and seers chose to leave his kingdom, as they did many times from many kingdoms, when they found the king’s ruling practices were not according to the truth, and reached Mahodayapuram with their texts and sacred books as they confirmedly knew the Learning Center at Mahodayapuram was a repository of knowledge and that it was a place where they believed to get protection and could preserve their texts. It is again a strange thing to note that all these Jewish seers were carrying their books of knowledge and not merely money (a popular myth about them now propagated everywhere that Jewish are for money only) and reached the source of the knowledge Mahodayapuram. These prophetic spiritual texts for which from Portuguese to British every one searched, were proved to be of the original Judaism as opposed to the Rabbinical Judaism which was created as an extension of Sadducees, which was heavily influenced by Greek Hellenic thought under Secludian Empire. This Rabbinical Judaism was a mirror image of Greek Hellenic thought under Christianity which makes current Jerusalem as center of Universe as Christians because of Jesus Christ birth in that region. Chera kings welcomed these saints and seers as they did to many others as they know the purpose of the Mahodayapuram learning center and granted all privileges to them as citizens.
Is it that these texts that prove the antiquity of the Judaism in whatever form it was practiced way before the Abrahamic version were a threat to Church and British and so relentlessly searched for them to seize and destroy?
Shalmaneser exiled (or voluntarily left?) 460 Jews from Samaria some of whom (72 families as per sources) were later able to reach Mahodayapuram. It is more likely that they were protected and encouraged to live in Mahodayapuram by the local rulers and to assure protection and privileges as citizens, they could have been granted title deeds (with 72 privileges as per translations-a point to be noted). The time of Shalmaneser V was 8th century BC. That means the Time of Brass plates is also 8th century BC and so as the rule of Bhaskara Ravi Varma. So these brass plate (of which the supposed copper facsimiles are later made) written in Hebrew(today popularly believed that the plates contained just few signatures in old Hebrew) would predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by 6 centuries as the most ancient document written in Hebrew. Until the brass plates were discovered it was presumed that the Jewish community exiled by the Shalmaneser V was the lost tribe along with the most important works of one of the greatest Jewish Prophets/seers Gad. For more than 2000 years the Jews searched for them everywhere in the world including North and South Americas. In the last 200 years of research, after the discovery of the brass plates, worldwide Jewish scholars concluded now that these exiled Jews by Shalmaneser reached Mahodayapuram where the Chera King gave them shelter with full privileges as citizens.
Was this the reason why when Mahodayapuram was burned down by Portuguese and it was stated that the remaining local Jews fought valiantly till the last man to protect the city as they believed it to be second Jerusalem?
The Christians in the spirit of rivalry predate their arrival to 52 AD and as is evident by Vasco Da Gama rule who tried to destroy all traces of Jewish in India by imposing inquisitions in India too. The reason for this existential rivalry is the concept of coming Messiah as believed by Jews and returning of Christ as believed by Christian world, about which a detailed analysis is written in our next article on Jerusalem declaration as Capital of Jews.
So, honestly, Jews produced few plates of grants of privileges at a very early age which may be true as they were having spiritual and material connections with India prior to the birth of Christ, and Christians ‘providentially’ produced similar plates predating the Jewish plates and concluded that whatever dates mentioned in Jewish plates are not readable and more ‘scientifically’ even the content in the plates also could not be read. Similar grants were produced by Muslims, Dutch and even Portuguese. For Muslims not only privileges were granted but the entire capital city and their family deity temple minus main idol was also granted. One fact of all these grants was that all these were given in Mahodayapuram, the Capital of Cheras for thousands of years, and it was called by many anglicized Romanized and Tamilized names, and which was destroyed, razed to dust, burned down without traces in a ‘fire’ of 1524 AD. How conveniently the entire history was erased!
When there was constant enmity between the Muslims, Catholics, White Jews and the Black Jews and when they were constantly racing to prove their existence prior to the other and were busy destroying the records of the others, how these copies of the Jewish plates were able to survive?
Why only Mahodayapuram attracted all these people Pehlavis, Persians, Egyptians (Mishras) Romans (Mithras) Jewish groups of Essene mystics, scholars, scientists, persecuted Christians along with Islamists? Why only in these places alone the Chera Kings were granting all privileges to these groups allowing them to collect taxes from their own subjects?
Almost all the stone inscriptions, the temples and observatories that held them were ‘totally and completely’ destroyed according to British or their 4P Indian historians in an internecine Godly Warfare between Kṣīra -Shura-Surya-Kera-Cera-Chera Kings and their ‘supposed’ rivals Cholas Pallavas, and Pandyas who fought for their favorite gods Shiva, Vishnu etc and destroyed “rival gods’ “temples including astronomical observatories”. This we have to believe to be ‘true’ as it was mentioned in Sangam Literature. Many scholars have categorically stated that the believing of Sangam Literature as history or historical fact is based on a ‘gaja bahu nyaya” or Elephant shoulder Analogy. Elephants have no shoulders as they have no hands. They have trunk. So to believe elephants have shoulders we have to believe first elephant’s trunk is a hand and all elephants have multiple trunks which Indians cannot see. Or we have to assume that elephants have invisible hands and shoulders which none except British and British trained historians can see. In a sense this rule in nyaya means that whatever is stated under consideration or discussion is a perfect example of a lie or insane fabrication or lunatic fantasy. Yet this does not prevent British and current Indian historians to proclaim to the bewildered Indians that Sangam Literature is authentic history after all it is ‘the history told by Indian Historians’ like Elliot’s account of Sindh invasion.
And on (many) occasions when they cannot destroy temples of their rival kings/gods by themselves these warring kings took the help of converted populations in to Islam or Christianity and finished the job. And the proof of this was again the 2nd Century Sangam Literature or poetic works of later court chroniclers. What was mentioned as a reference of personal choice of spiritual strength of individual kings by court appointed poets was made in to missionary crusader zeal and thus in the name of those Kṣīra -Shura-Surya-Kera-Cera-Chera Kings/Chola/Pandya kings most of these inscriptions were probably/definitely destroyed by British/Portuguese themselves when they looted and desecrated all temple treasures under scientific study of ‘Cartography’. After all the proofs of Sangam Literature for their newly 4P trained Indian historians was needed and to provide the same was the responsibility of the ‘H M Elliot and Associates’, thus relieving the British plunderers/rulers from any wrong doing. It is the same thing they did efficiently all across Sindh and Kaśmir to prove that Arabs destroyed India and created “History of misleading History of India”. This subject of History of Misleading histories of India was carefully studied by Germans and French thoroughly yet should find some way to penetrate into the current Indian curriculum.
All know that truth will liberate us from bondage but someone does not want India to be free and this time surely they are not barbaric Arab invaders or British looters.
There are many questions that arise from the two sets of gifts and the Israeli actions surrounding the same. By accepting these gifts and giving the gifts were the Israelis expecting against any hopes some questions from the Indians? It was an ever witty way in the line of famous Jewish jokes the Israelis acted to hint at history or the lack of it. The following is one such joke circulated among the Jewish diaspora. Once there was a conversation between a Jewish Priest and a Catholic Father. The Jewish Priest asked the Catholic Father “What you become after being a father? The Catholic Father said- “I become a Bishop”. The Jewish Priest continued- “Then what?” “May be Cardinal”, the Catholic replied. After that the Jewish Priest, persisted – “Then?” “If everything goes well then maybe I become a Pope”, replied the exhausted Catholic Priest. “After that?” innocently asked the Jewish Priest. The irritated Catholic Father exasperatingly questioned, “What else is there to become after Pope and what else can I become? Do you want me to become Jesus Christ?” The thoughtful and witty Jewish priest looked at him and said “One of our boys 2000 years ago made it to Jesus Christ” and walked away.
The above conversation looks like a simple joke. But it speaks volumes about the history of religions and religious struggles and also hints at a probable solution to many geo-political problems which are in fact religious internecine warfare packaged under different bombastic sounding complex names to understand which we need specialized experts and media shouting matches.
[i] As per the Annual Register or a View of the History, Politics and Literature for the year 1807, pg. 895