Home » culture » Jesus on a Lotus, Whispers in Nandi’s Ears

Jesus on a Lotus, Whispers in Nandi’s Ears

Christianity came to India before it came to most of Europe. It was probably (and plausibly) brought by Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD, the name being derived from the Aramaic Toma, meaning twin. St. Ephrem the Syrian writes in the 4th century that the Apostle was put to death in India and that his remains were brought to Edessa (fairly close to Antioch – Antakya – in modern-day Turkey) by a devout merchant by the name of Khabin. British historian Vincent A. Smith (1848 – 1920) says, “It must be admitted that a personal visit of the Apostle Thomas to South India was easily feasible in the traditional belief that he came by way of Socotra, where an ancient Christian settlement undoubtedly existed. I am now satisfied that the Christian church of South India is extremely ancient.”

According to tradition, Thomas landed on the Malabar coast, where his skill as a carpenter won him the favour of the local king. He was allowed to preach the Gospel and convert believers to Christianity. Thereafter, he moved across southern India for the next 20 years before he was finally killed near the coastal city of Madras, present-day Chennai, in AD 72 apparently because a local king grew jealous of his increasing popularity. Marco Polo, writing in the 13th century, states that the apostle was accidentally killed by a bird hunter who was shooting at peacocks in Mylapore. More recent interpretation of inscriptions found on the Pehlvi cross, near present-day St. Thomas Mount, by the Portuguese in 1547, suggest that the legend of Thomas’ martyrdom was based on mis-translations of the middle Persian script. Whatever the truth of the Apostle’s death, at this point in time, the legend of his martyrdom has been firmly established to a degree that makes it a fact, and there is a basilica built on the site of the tomb at San Thome, one of only three in the world directly associated with the 12 Apostles. (The other two are St. Peter’s in Rome, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain, dedicated to James). Since India is a land of syncretism, the tomb and St. Thomas Mount have been a pilgrimage site for Christians, Hindus and Muslims since at least the 16th century. The Indian church has adapted in India and adopted some of this syncretism by introducing certain Hindu rites (such as the tying of the thali at weddings). Knowing this, one is not surprised to find that the image of Christ on the cross at the cathedral of San Thome is flanked by two peacocks and that his feet rest on a lotus.

lotus feet flanked by peacocks

lotus feet flanked by peacocks

The area around the San Thome basilica belonged to the ancient city of Mylapore, or the city of peacocks. A temple was built in the 7th century AD in Mylapore. According to legend, Shakthi, the divine embodiment of the female, worshipped Siva in the form of a peacock, giving its Tamil name (Mylai) to the city. The temple was built to commemorate this, and is dedicated to Siva.  Inside the temple is a statue of Nandi, the bull, which is Siva’s favourite mount, and also a gatekeeper to Siva and his consort Parvati. For this reason, it is believed that whispering one’s secret wishes in Nandi’s ear is as good as a direct request to Siva himself.

her word in God's ear...

her word in God’s ear…

the temple courtyard is a relaxed and friendly space

the temple courtyard is a relaxed and friendly space

and splashes of colour

and splashes of colour

Being a good tourist, and wishing to hedge my bets in the afterlife, I prayed at the lotus feet of Jesus and whispered my innermost wishes in Nandi’s ear. Choose the link to follow this blog for updates on how well this strategy works in the coming months…




  1. thenoveilst says:

    Recommended reading: The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja. This is the preliminary literature for understanding who we are, what is our ultimate purpose in life and Who God is, in truth, spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, five thousand years ago; the Supreme anthropologist. You might find some interesting insights on my blog page. Blessed be.

  2. Anna Rebecca Korula says:

    well done…you write best when it is about factual or scientific stuff may I add. All best!

    Date: Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:42:32 +0000 To: arkz9@hotmail.co.uk

  3. Hi there,
    Thank you for taking the time to stop by my little corner of the blogosphere and for the follow, your support is greatly appreciated. I hope you enjoyed your visit and look forward to seeing more from you,
    Have a great day 🙂

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