Book / St. Thomas and the Syrian Christians in India

Mathew, K. S., Joseph Chacko Chennattuserry, and Antony Bungalowparambil, eds. St. Thomas and India: Recent Research. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2020.

ISBN 9781506461366 / Paperback / 200 pages / USD 34

About the book (publisher’s description; edited): In St. Thomas and India, scholars trace the historical, religious, and cultural connections that link India’s Syrian Christian community with St. Thomas the Apostle.

They use modern historiographical methods and seek to corroborate the ancient tradition that tells of St. Thomas’s missionary journey to India in the middle of the first century, in which he established seven churches in some of the major commercial centres of Malabar. From these first churches, Christianity spread throughout the region.

St. Thomas and India also examines the legacy of ancient Christianity in the Syrian community in India today, as well as exploring the various cultural and religious connections between the Syrian church in Indian and other ancient churches in the east.

Table of Contents

About the Editors / Preface

  1. Introduction (by K. S. Mathew)
  2. Historiography of the Apostolate of St. Thomas in India: A Critical Review (by Francis Thonippara)
  3. Mission of St. Thomas the Apostle in India: Archaeological, Epigraphic, and Numismatic Evidences (by James Kurikilamkatt)
  4. Significance and Role of Tradition in the Historiography on St. Thomas Christians (by Benedict Vadakkekara)
  5. St. Thomas Traditions in Ancient Christian Folk Songs (by Byju Mathew Mukalel)
  6. Thomistic Apostolate and Knanaya Community (by Mathew Kochadampallil)
  7. Acts of Thomas Versus Ramban Pattu (by Thomas Koonammakkal)
  8. The Tradition of Seven Churches (by James Puliurumpil)
  9. Patristic Evidence on the Apostolate of St. Thomas with Special Reference to St. Ephrem (by Johns Abraham Konat)
  10. Guidelines for Rebuilding Missions of Apostle Thomas and a Reassessment of Acts of Thomas (by Pierre C. Perrier)
  11. Historical, Apocryphal, and Theological Sources from the Armenian Church About Apostle Thomas and India (by Maxime K. Yevadian)


KSeG Editor’s note: As chapter summaries are unavailable, it is difficult to highlight the chapters that are substantively on Kerala. Some chapters, if not all, appear to be on Christianity in Kerala.

More info: (JSTOR); publisher website

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Book / Tantra, Ritual Performance and Politics in Nepal and Kerala

Martin, Matthew. Tantra, Ritual Performance and Politics in Nepal and Kerala: Embodying the Goddess-clan. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

ISBN 9789004438996 / Hardback / 296 pages / USD 149

About the book: In previous studies of South Asian Tantric ritual, scholars tend to focus on one region or context. For the first time, Tantra, Ritual Performance and Politics in Nepal and Kerala: Embodying the Goddess-clan offers a comparative approach to Tantric mediumship as observed in two locales: Navadurgā rituals in Bhaktapur, Nepal, and Teyyāṭṭam in North Kerala.

In this book, Matthew Martin advances a new theory of ritual, which spotlights the way dancer-mediums embody medieval goddess-clans and ancestor deities, through offerings of food and sacrifice, that synchronize their denizens with the land in spiralling web-like ritual networks. Uniquely interdisciplinary in style, this study synthesizes cultural history, ethnography, and theory to explore the continuities – historical, societal, and political – that characterize these ritual traditions across the subcontinent.

About the author: Matthew Martin is an independent scholar of religion, ritual, and society in South Asia.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements / List of Figures / Abbreviations / Style, Format, and Interview Transcriptions

Introduction: Methodology and Context
 1.  Folk Śākta Performances: Sovereignty, Goddesses, and Macro-Clans
 2.  Teyyāṭṭam and Navadurgā Compared: The Research Process
 3.  Methodological Orientations
 4.  Fieldwork Locations & Informant Introductions
 5.  Contextual Background

Part 1
1. Introducing the Southern Case Study—Teyyāṭṭam, Northern Malabar, Kerala
 1.  Ancestors, Land, and Divinities (Teyyam) in Northern Kerala
 2.  Lineages, Clans, and Ritual Kinship
 3.  Blood Sacrifices, Offerings, and Swords
 4.  Cosmology, Metaphysics, and Textual History
 5.  Caste Identities, Politics, and Performance in North Malabar
2. Introducing the Northern Case Study—Navadurgā, Bhaktapur, Nepal
 1.  Hindu-Buddhist Tantra in Newar Society: The Case of Bhaktapur
 2.  Bhaktapur City: Blood Symbols, Goddess-Clan, Space, and Society
 3.  Monsoon, Power, and the Goddess-Clan: Banmala Dancer-Mediums during the Ritual Cycle
 4.  Blood Sacrifice, Mohani, and the Navadurgā Cycle
 5.  Cosmology, Tantric Texts, and Newar Hinduism in Bhaktapur
 6.  Politics and Caste Structures in Bhaktapur

Part 2
3. Dancer-Medium Communities and Ritual Kinship
 1.  Introduction
 2.  Dancer-Medium Communities: Teyyāṭṭam and Navadurgā
 3.  Teyyāṭṭam
 4.  Navadurgā
 5.  Conclusion
4. History and Assimilation in Tantric Cosmology
 1.  Introduction
 2.  Teyyāṭṭam
 3.  Navadurgā
 4.  Conclusion
5. Sacrifice, Earth Cycles, and Self-Reflexive Affect
 1.  Introduction
 2.  Teyyāṭṭam
 3.  Navadurgā
 4.  Conclusion
6. Politics, Ritual Performance, and Caste
 1.  Introduction
 2.  Marxist-Influenced Politics and Ritual Performance in Postcolonial South Asia
 3.  Teyyāṭṭam
 4.  Navadurgā
 5.  Conclusion

 1.  Teyyāṭṭam and Navadurgā Compared: Revisited
 2.  Dancer-Medium Communities and Ritual Kinship
 3.  History and Metaphysical Underlays of Folk Śākta Ritual
 4.  Blood Sacrifice and Self-Reflexive Affect
 5.  Politics and Caste Structure

Glossary of Key Terms / Bibliography / Index

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Book / Two Masterpieces of Kutiyattam: Mantrankam and Anguliyankam

Heike Oberlin and David Shulman, eds. Two Masterpieces of Kutiyattam: Mantrankam and Anguliyankam. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2019.

ISBN 9780199483594 / Hardback / 348 pages / Rs 1,795

Description (of digital edition)

Kutiyattam, India’s only living traditional Sanskrit theatre, has been continually performed in Kerala for at least a thousand years. The actors and drummers create an entire world in the empty space of the stage by using spectacular costumes and make-up and by an immensely rich interplay of words, rhythms, mime, and gestures.

This volume focuses on Mantrankam and Anguliyankam, the two great masterpieces of Kutiyattam. It provides fundamental general remarks and relates them to pan-Indian reflections on aesthetics, philology, ritual studies, and history.

Authored by scholars and active Kutiyattam performers, this is the first attempt to bring together a set of sustained, multi-faceted interpretations of these masterpieces-in-performance. With an aim to open up this ancient art form to readers interested in South Indian culture, religion, theatre and performance studies, philology, as well as literature, this volume offers a new way to access a major art form of pre-modern and modern Kerala.

The University of Tuebingen in Germany and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel were partners in a long-term project studying and documenting Kutiyattam performances, including initiating full-scale performances of major works in the classical repertoire. We have been, in particular, focusing on the study of the two major, complex and ancient works, Mantrankam and Anguliyankam, both of which we have seen and recorded in full. The articles in this volume are one of the results. They are supplemented with video-clips of lecture demonstrations provided online.

Table of Contents

Foreword (by K. K. Gopalakrishnan) / Introduction

Opening Up

1. Anguliyankam and Mantrankam
Sudha Gopalakrishnan

2. Some Remarks on the Ascaryacudamani
Lyne Bansat-Boudon


3. Mantrankam, an Ancient Integration Project?
Heike Oberlin (née Moser)

4. What Is Mantrankam?
David Shulman

5. Pracchana Barhaspatyam
Orly Hadani Nave

6. Reflection and Arul
Hemdat Salay

7. Vasantaka
Indu G.

8. Mantrankam
Elena Mucciarelli

9. The Mantrankam Paribhasa from a Historical Linguistics Perspective
Ophira Gamliel

10. Tying the Universe
Elena Mucciarelli and Heike Oberlin


11. Anguliyankam, Ramayana-Veda of the Cakyars
Virginie Johan

12. Anguliyankam
P.K.M. Bhadra and Rajneesh B.

13. The World of Hanuman
Einat Bar-On Cohen

14. Distinct Conventions in the Staging of Anguliyankam Kuttu
Ammannur Kuttan Chakyar and Aparna Nangiar

Tying Up

15. My Experience of Performing Anguliyankam and Mantrankam
Margi Madhu Chakyar

16. Knowing and Being
Manu V. Devadevan

17. An Actor in Red and White
Sivan Goren Arzony

Index / Editors and Contributors

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Book / Religion and fishing community of Kerala

Mathew, P. T. Between the Sea and the Sky: Lived Religion on the Sea Shore. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2020.

ISBN 9781506451992 / Paperback / 200 pages / USD 34

About the book: Between the Sea and the Sky is an inquiry into the religious world of a traditional fishing community on the southwest coast of India. It explores the vital role religious and spiritual beliefs play in sustaining people in such a precarious, even deadly occupation.

Despite periodic natural calamities and the extreme challenges that accompany their everyday lives, a remarkable spirit of resilience is evident in this coastal community. Using the concept of ‘lived religion,’ Mathew explores the theological, religious, and spiritual contours of this remarkable community, and draws from them broader insights into the nature of belief.

About the author: P. T. Mathew holds a PhD in Christian Studies from the University of Madras and did post-doctoral research at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, California. He has taught systematic theology in the faculty of theology at Vidyajyoti College in Delhi. He is the author of We Dare the Waters: The World and the Worldview of Mukkuvar (2001), and Human Persons in the World: Explorations in Christian Anthropology (2017).

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Images / A Note on Orthography / Preface

1. Lived Religion in Times of Crisis
2. Marine Fisheries and the Traditional Fisherfolk
3. The Religious Roots of the Fisher People
4. Neithal Cosmology: Worldviews in Conflict?
5. Learning from the Rituals of Coastal Life
6. The Molding of Neithal Catholicism
7. Neithal Catholicism as Lived Religion
8. The Structure of Lived Catholicism
Conclusion / Glossary / Selected Bibliography / Index / Back Matter

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Book / Mobility Among Informal Women Workers in Kerala’s Fishing Sector

Nikhila Menon. Mobility as Capability: Women in the Indian Informal Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
eISBN 9781108870924 / eBook / 196 pages.

About the Book (edited): This book highlights accounts of women workers to capture the domains of gendered mobility, which challenges the exalted status conferred on women in the Kerala model of development. It contests and deconstructs the development discourse which considers women’s work mobility as an indicator of autonomy and agency using Capability Approach.
The concept of ‘transformational mobility’ and its measurement introduced in the book advances the understanding of mobility, autonomy and agency, and intersectionality in the context of gender and work. Through an in-depth exploration of lived experiences of informal women workers, the author illustrates how patriarchal structures are shaped and reinforced by work places, markets and the state. The central question is—can we steer development policies to facilitate collective capabilities for women where informal work arrangements are becoming the norm?

Table of Contents:

1. Transformational Mobility as Capability
2. Reflections on Transformational Mobility, Autonomy, and Women’s Work
3. Women in ‘Kerala Model’: Myths and Realities
4. Situating Informal Work by Women in Fisheries in Kerala
5. ‘Measuring Mobility of Women: Unravelling the ‘Explicit’ and the ‘Implicit’
6. Pathways to Transformational Mobility of Women Workers: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis
7. ‘Subordinating Self’: ‘Manoeuvring Patriarchy’ among Women Workers
8. Self-Categorization, Group Identity, and Agency among Women Fish Vendors
9. Transformational Mobility: From Individual to Collective Agency of Informal Women Workers

About the Autho
r: Nikhila Menon is an independent economist based in Japan.

More info: <>

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Book / The Portuguese and the Socio-Cultural Changes in Kerala

John, James. The Portuguese and the Socio-Cultural Changes in Kerala: 1498-1663. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2020.

ISBN 9781003052265 / eBook / 302 pages / GBP 22.50
About the book (edited): The momentous interaction between Portugal and Kerala commenced with the historic voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1498. The voyage, with the express purpose of searching for ‘Christians and Spices,’ left a long-lasting imprint on the life of the people of Kerala.
Though the Portuguese did not have political dominion in Kerala, the political influence they gained in Kerala precipitated a lot of socio-cultural changes. The intensity and degree of these changes were commensurate with the tenor of the Portuguese networking with the diverse socio-cultural traits in Kerala.
Those sections of the Kerala society that gained a higher extent of interconnectedness with the Portuguese manifested a higher degree of socio-cultural transition. One of the most significant means for socio-cultural change that the Portuguese employed in Kerala was ecclesiastical legislation. This cultural interface between Portugal and Kerala resulted in multiple fissions and fusions in the society of Kerala.
This book delves deep into the multifarious interaction between the two communities and the consequent socio-cultural changes that Kerala witnessed during 1498-1663, the period when Portuguese influence was at its acme.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Portuguese Society and Culture
3. Kerala Society at the Arrival of the Portuguese
4. Interaction between the Portuguese and Kerala Society: (1500-1567)
5. Interaction between the Portuguese and Kerala Society: (1567-1663)
6. ConclusionAbout the author (edited): James John is the principal of St. Thomas College, Pala, Kottayam. He has a PhD in History from Pondicherry University, Puducherry.

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Book / A Linguistic Survey of the Malayalam Language in Its Own Terms

Gamliel, Ophira. A Linguistic Survey of the Malayalam Language in Its Own Terms. Wiesbaden (Germany): Harrassowitz Verlag, 2020.

ISBN 9783447112673 / Paperback / xvi + 324 pages / EUR 39.80

About the book: The book is written for researchers interested in the study of Kerala’s language, literature, history, and culture.

It outlines the grammar of Malayalam in consideration of up-to-date theoretical linguistics alongside grammatical categories developed by Malayalam grammarians in the 19th century and based on Old Tamil and Sanskrit grammars.

The book approaches Malayalam from a holistic perspective in referring to regional language variations, while describing the standardised linguistic register. The sample sentences demonstrating grammatical categories and rules are mostly drawn from actual speech samples.

Reading practices draw upon Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s Pattuma’s Goat and Sooranad Ravi’s prose adaptation of The Story of Niliyamma’s Apotheosis, aiming to expose the learners to various aspects of Kerala culture.

Additionally, the book includes three chapters on Old Malayalam morphology, demonstrated by verses from classical compositions such as the Uṇṇunīlisandeśam and the Kṛṣṇagātha, as well as regional literary traditions—a Teyyam song, Arabic- and Jewish-Malayalam verses, and Syriac Malayalam prose—for exposing the learners to the literary traditions in Malayalam dialects and religiolects.

Ten indices follow with charts of kinship terms, verbal and nominal forms, a glossary, and bibliographical references. The book is thus an invitation for an in-depth engagement with the study of Kerala’s lush linguistic landscape and diverse literary culture past and present.

For more info (incuding table of contents): <>
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Book / Local Finance and Decentralisation in Kerala

Prakash, B. A. Local Finance, Fiscal Decentralisation and Decentralised Planning: A Kerala Experience. New Delhi: SAGE, 2020.

ISBN 9789353883065 / Hardback / 252 pages / INR 1,195

About the book: The book examines Kerala’s experience of fiscal decentralisation, finances and decentralised planning of rural and urban local governments, and draws lessons for achieving sound fiscal decentralisation. It presents the 5th State Finance Commission’s approach and methodology on the devolution of State taxes to local governments.

This book presents a number of lessons on the transfer of financial powers, mobilisation of own sources of revenue and inter-governmental transfer of funds, and argues that the outcome of fiscal decentralisation in Kerala is poor or unsatisfactory due to partial and distorted implementation.

It shows that transferring a large number of expenditure functions at an early stage of fiscal decentralisation without the assignment of adequate administrative and financial powers has resulted in poor execution of all the functions. The study points out the need to move from partial to full fiscal decentralisation.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Fiscal Decentralization: Theoretical Issues
  3. Fiscal Decentralization and Mobilization of Own Source of Revenue
  4. Finances of Gram Panchayats
  5. Finances of Block and District Panchayats
  6. Finances of Municipalities
  7. State Finance Commissions in Kerala: A Review
  8. Fifth State Finance Commission in Kerala: Devolution Recommendations and Status of Implementation
  9. Decentralized Planning: Plan Performance of Gram Panchayats
  10. Decentralized Planning: Plan Performance of Municipal Corporations
  11. Summary and Lessons from Kerala’s Fiscal Decentralization
Bibliography / Index
About the author (edited): B. A. Prakash is a former Professor and Head, Department of Economics, University of Kerala. He was chairman of Kerala Public Expenditure Review Committee for three years and chairman of the 5th State Finance Commission (2015–2016). Professor Prakash has published two edited volumes on Indian economy and four edited volumes on Kerala’s economic development.
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Book / Biography of V.P. Menon

2 Mar 2020
Narayani Basu. V.P. Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India.
Simon & Schuster India, 2020. 432 pages.  ISBN13: 9789386797681.
Overview (edited): V.P. Menon was unarguably the architect of the modern Indian state. Yet startlingly little is known about this bureaucrat, patriot and visionary. In this definitive biography, Menon’s great-granddaughter, Narayani Basu, rectifies this travesty. She takes us through the highs and lows of his career, from his determination to give women the right to vote; to his strategy, at once ruthless and subtle, to get the princely states to accede to India; to his decision to join forces with the Swatantra Party; to his final relegation to relative obscurity.
The book candidly explores the man behind the public figure— his unconventional personal life and his private conflicts, which made him channel his energy into public service. Drawing from documents—scattered, unread and unresearched until now—and with unprecedented access to Menon’s papers and his taped off-the-record and explosively frank interviews—this remarkable biography of VP Menon not only covers the life and times of a man unjustly consigned to the footnotes of history but also changes our perception of how India, as we know it, came into being.
About the author (edited) : Narayani Basu is a historian and foreign policy analyst. She writes extensively on foreign policy for several acclaimed international journals while remaining actively involved with her parent discipline—modern Indian history.

Book / Biography of V.K. Krishna Menon

24 Dec 2019
Ramesh, Jairam. A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon. New Delhi: Penguin India, 2019.
ISBN 9780670092321 / Hardback / 744 Pages / INR 999
About the Book: This is a compelling biography of one of India’s most controversial and consequential public figures. V.K. Krishna Menon continues to command our attention not just because he was Jawaharlal Nehru’s confidant and soulmate but also for many of his own political and literary accomplishments.
A relentless crusader for Indian independence in the UK in the 1930s and 1940s, he was a global star at the United Nations in the 1950s before he was forced to resign as defence minister in the wake of the India-China war of 1962.
Meticulously researched and based entirely on new archival material, this book reveals Krishna Menon in all his capabilities and contradictions. It is also a rich history of the tumultuous times in which he lived and which he did so much to shape.
About the Author: Jairam Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha MP, was Union minister between 2006 and 2014, holding several key portfolios including environment and forests. He is the author of several well-known books including Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature and Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi.
Shared to the eGroup by V. Sriram, Chief Librarian, K. N. Raj Library, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.
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