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Methran Kayal has a history of more than a century

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Published: Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Methran Kayal has a history of more than a century

Kottayam: According to materials available in the archives of the Old Seminary at Chungom in Kottayam, the controversial Methran Kayal was converted into a paddy field ll5 years ago.

M Kurian Thomas, an expert in Nazrani (In­dian Christians of pre-colonial origin) history, says that the marsh land in the Vembanad Lake in Kumarakom was developed as a farmland and cultivated for the first time in 1075 Malayalam Era or AD 1899-1900.

Thomas, a renowned social historian, has written over 20 books related to Nasrani history. He is currently writing the history of the Old Seminary.

Methran Kayal, also known as Seminary Kayal, originally belonged to the 200-year-old seminary. The records at the seminary archives explain the origin and development of the Me­tran Kayal.

The last decades of the nineteenth century saw the Travancore administration promoting paddy cultivation in a big way, especially in Kut­tanad. Anyone could get government wastelands endorsed in their name for cultivation by paying a prescribed fee.

Malankara metropolitan and the primate of the Malankara Orthodox Church, Mar Joseph Dionysius V, got 417 acres of such marsh land at Kumarakom in his name and started developing it in 1899. Since it was developed by the metran or the bishop, people named it Methran Kayal.

Though the original deed was for 417 acres, seminary records shows only 178 acres and 80 cents in its custody in 1912. A land tax of Rs 750 was imposed on it after the re-survey in 1912.

"Getting government land was easy. But de­veloping it and cultivating paddy was a hercu­lean and costly affair in Kuttanad. First, high outer bun.ds had to be erected since Kuttanad lay one meter below sea level. Then, the water with­in needed to be drained out by manually operat-ed waterwheels. Then only one could start culti­vation," says Thomas.

"Neither Mar Dionysius nor the Orthodox Church was rich enough to bare the entire cost. So, the bishop sold some portions of the land and carried out the development as a collective effort. Later, the huge annual maintenance expenses and the tax forced him to sell more land," says Thomas.

"No clergy did any physical labour for the de­velopment of the kayal, as claimed by some peo­ple. The back-breaking, yet skilled job was done by the members from the Pulaya community. Mar Dionysius did cultivation in the traditional paattom method by disbursing the land to farm­ers. The seminary records give details of the ex­act amount of paddy received from each tenure," he adds.

The Church lost most of the paddy fields fol­lowing the implementation of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963. The remaining land was sold in the 1970s to construct the MD Commercial Centre at Kottayam.

Since those paddy fields were developed for the day-to-day running of the seminary, the Ma­lankara Orthodox Church decided to earmark a portion of the rent obtained from the commer­cial centre to the seminary

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