Kuriakose Mar Gregorios Metropolitan of Pampady was an un-canonized saint of Indian Orthodox Church (Malankara Orthodox Church). The saintly bishop, familiarly known as ‘Pampady Thirumeni’. Mar Gregorios shared his spiritual gifts of love and kindness to countless numbers of people around him from all religious and social sects. His Grace’s life was a true testament of his faith, humility and charity. Beyond the Church administration, he was a bishop concentrated more in celibacy, holy life and compassion to poor. He was a man revered by not only his community people but also by all without any caste or class.
Kuriakose was born in the traditional Karingamattom family in Pezhamattam near Pampady to Chacko of Moolakkara house and Ilichi of VeloorVellakkottu house. At the age of five, Kuriakose started his primary education under the discipleship of Madathil C G Raman Pillai (MadathilAshan) at M D L.P. School, Pampady. That was an age in which it prevailed racial and occupational untouchabilty. Young Kuriakose was very compassionate with low caste people and he made very thick friendship with low caste and downtrodden co-students.
Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasius, First Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese, once visited Pampady St Johns Church, the home parish of Kuriakose. Metropolitan was sitting on the verandah. He saw some boys walking along the churchyard. One of the boys suddenly came back, scooped the cowdung that lay on the churchyard and put it at the foot of a young coconut tree. His Grace noticed the boy and made enquiries about him. On his next visit to the church, Metropolitan noticed him again as one of the altar boys. On the very day, he send forchacko and told him to send the boy for priesthood.
At the age of fourteen, Kuriakose was ordained deacon in 1899 at St Johns Church Pampady by Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasius Metropolitan. Subsequently Dn. Kuriakose joined Old Seminary, Kottayam, for theological studies under the discipleship of Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan(St Dionysius), Scaria Malpan, Alexanthrayos Malpan and Joseph Malpan. He had learned Syriac language, preliminary theological lessons and sacramental procedures from this Seminary.
When Dn Kuriakose stayed at Pampady Church, summer was unusually hot that year. All wells dried up. Fields parched up. People wandered far and near for a drop of water. On Sunday after Holy Qurbana, the deacon made a declaration “All should fast for three days in order to procure rain”. The faithful started fasting then and there. The whole village prayed with tears for rain. But there were some doubting people even then and they said with contempt “Let us see how the deacon brings rain with fasting” They were not prepared to believe that the prayer of a mere deacon would fetch rain to a village. People fasted for three days and nights. But even on the third afternoon, there was no sign of a single cloud on the sky. A mass prayer with distribution of gruel was arranged in the evening to mark the end of the fasting.
The Deacon went on praying on his knees in the church. All eyes were on the sky for a sign of rain. But there was no change there. In the chethimattam field near the church, people were boiling gruel ready to be served. The Deacon himself supervised the distribution of gruel. A few men were standing here and there and making remarks about the superstition of the people. The change was sudden and unexpected. The sky darkened with rain clouds. It started as a gentle drizzle and soon, turned out to be torrential downpour. The faithful were overwhelmed with happiness. It was a rain of faith, showering over the tiny village. Chethimattom soon become a lake. The gruel distribution was shifted to the nearby houses. Large copper vessels used for boiling rice were floating on the water. People tied them with rope on the coconut trees in the field. For hours, the rain continued to descend on Pampady. At last, when it was all over, all eyes were searching for the deacon. But he was not seen anywhere. He was inside the church, praying with tears, thanking the almighty for the bounty. Though that rain, he was growing from a mere deacon to a man of God.
During his seminary years, the Deacon stayed for some time with the saintly Parumala Thirumeni. This is under the instruction of Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan.
On July 28, 1906 Dn. Kuriakose was ordained as priest and on the very next day as a Ramban (Monk) by Murimattom Paulose Mar Ivanios Metropolitan [Later HH Baselios Paulose ICatholicos]. Kuriakose Ramban started living at the Pampady Church.
Ramban Kuriakose had the rare opportunity to consecrate holy Qurbana in Syriac as per the instruction of HH Abdulla Patriarch and in his presence while the Patriarch was living in Old Seminary at Kottayam on a visit to Malankara. Also Ramban had the fortune to minister the ailing Catholicos HH Baselios Paulose I during his last days.
As the Ramban wanted to detach himself from any worldly desire and wished to submit himself to God’s will through prayer and contemplation, it was his great desire to build a small Dayara to seclude himself from the worldly personal attachments and to live a prayerful ascetic life of humility and devotion in the continuous presence of the Lord. However, finance was a great hindrance for fulfilling his dream. Understanding the desire of his disciple, his teacher Madathil Ashan offered him 12 acres of land on Pothenpuram hill at nominal price. With this offered land, with a great dedication in Lord, Ramban dug a well and constructed a small thatched cottage at this place as a Dayara. Before moving to Dayara, Ramban took three days fasting prayer. He himself consecrated Dayara with the help of Cheriyamadam Jacob Kathanar. He moved to this unprovided and unfurnished Pothenpuram Dayara and started living there.
Ramban had many visitors to this remote Dayara. It was a practice of Ramban that he will not sent anybody from the Dayara without giving sufficient food irrespective of cast or creed of the visitor. Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius Malankara Metropolitan visited the Dayara, he was the one who suggested the name of Dayara as Tabor.
1929 Feb 16, Kuriakose Ramban was consecrated as a Bishop with title of Gregorios by HH Baselios Geevarghese II Catholicos. He was the first Bishop consecrated by the third Catholicos as he himself was consecrated as the Catholicos only one day before this. It is noteworthy that the Sceptre belonged to St Gregorios of Parumala, the first saint of Malankara and Golden Chain & Cross of HH Baselios Paulose I, First Catholicos given to Kuriakose Mar Gregorios during the consecration.As the life of Pampady Mar Gregorios was also mostly in the same footsteps of the Great saint at Parumala, this heredity of the Sceptre is to be considered as shawl inherited by Elisha from his master Elijah.
The newly consecrated Metropolitan was given the charge of Kottayam Diocese. Also he was designated as the Guidance Consultant for the general activity of the Church, being the Trustee of the Catholicate Trust initiated in 1934. Church administration was not a big concern for this Yogi. However to administer he did not have any hesitation even. All were alike to him without any partiality and he did not bother to achieve any worldly qualifications, as his wisdom was the faith in God.
Pampady Thirumeni was very particular to observe the traditional sequences and to use lyrical wordings of all worshipping services. He was very strict in lent and fasting. All those who came in contact with him, had the great experience of their burdens of worldly life fanned off by the wind of the presence of this Godly man. He considered the compassion to the poor as equal and most required as the prayer. Few examples of his concernabout the poor are as follows.
He never bothered to store anything for the next day. One day a poor harijan old lady approached in the Dayara and requested him some help for her one-day meal. However there was nothing available in the Dayara to give her, money or material, except the rice for the dinner. Thirumeni ordered his deaf servant to give the remaining rice to the old lady. The deaf being very practical and innocent and concerned about Thirumeni was defiant and informed Thirumeni that the rice available will only be sufficient for the day’s dinner and that cannot be shared with the visitor. The servant vehemently opposed Thirumeni and kept adamant to his views. Eventually he was forced to oblige to his master and the full rice was given to the poor visitor. No sooner the poor lady left the Gate of Dayara, few people entered the gate with rice, vegetables, coconuts etc. enough for more than a week, as a share of some function in the house of a rich man of the village and send same to Thirumeni. This was a great witness even to his deaf steward about the assurance of the confidence and dependency on Lord.
Once a beggar inflicted with leprosy came to Dayara for begging and stood under a tree near the gate. While seeing the beggar standing off, Thirumeni beaconed him to come into the Dayara. The leper was afraid to move forward. As he was hesitant to come near, Thirumeni went to the gate and caught hold of his hand and brought him inside the Dayara, seated him, gave food and followed him to bid him at the gate.
The epitome of Mar Gregorios’ love for mankind was seen by the church and the general public, when his grace visited Kunnamkulam, when the region was reeling under the disastrous epidemic plague. The news of epidemic also reached HH Geevarghese II Catholicos. His Holiness wanted someone from the church leadership to go to Kunnamkulam to give support to the people. But no one dared to go. Catholicos seeing that no one is willing said that if no one goes then His Holiness himself will go. When Pampady Thirumeni heard about the news and quickly informed the Catholicos about his willingness to visit Kunnamkulam. Mar Gregorios started for Kunnamkulam eventhough many of his well-wishers discouraged him from going, but he said “If I die, then let it be”. When Thirumeni reached Kunnamkulam, the situation was at its worst. The moment Thirumeni entered this domain of death and devastation. His Grace raised the cross and prayed. People of Kunnamkulam still believe that with that, a divine power flowed into their star crossed town. There were no more deaths after Thirumeni’s arrival in the town. His Grace gave them a new hope and courage. Thirumeni told them to fast for three days and they obeyed him dutifully. In Kunnamkulam he visited homes, without any distinction of caste, creed or religion, and offered prayers. All those who were affected in those homes were cured. Processions were taken out by the Metropolitan in affected areas. The Bethany Church in Kunnamkulam was converted into a healthcare for serving the ill. Mar Gregorios returned only after the situation was well in control.
Once the HH Ignatius Aprem Patriarch enquired about Pampady Mar Gregorios to the Third Catholicos HH Baselios Geevarghese II. The Catholicos, without any hesitation, opined that Mar Gregorios is the second in holiness at Malankara after St Gregorios of Parumala (First Christian Saint from India). The spiritual strength gained by prayer, fasting and charity was the sole investment of Pampady Thirumeni. During the service of Holy Unction given to Pampady Thirumeni, Augen Mar Thimothios Metropolitan (Later HH Baselios Augen I Catholicos) talked about him as a man fully lived heavenward while he lived physically in this world. He lived a life totally unaware about this world, and virtually he was travelling to heaven throughout his life time.
In the evening of his life, Thirumeni had built his own sepulchre in the chapel. His Grace spent long hours there in prayer and meditation. The saint had overcome the fear of death.
He exposed same personality to poor, wealthy, low class, high class and all type of people and all kind. He did not have any type of discrimination to anybody. This was the very approach of his personality. Thirumeni had many poor visitors both Christians, non-Christians and that too, young and old. If any habitual visitor is missed to meet him for a day, he was keen to personally enquire about him.
Due to severe fasting and night prayers, Thirumeni became sick before ageing. 1965 March he became sick and bedridden and hospitalized. On His Grace’s 81st birthday (April 5, 1965) at 2.35 am this great sage of Tabor breathed his last and entombed at Mar Kuriakose Dayara.
Thirumeni’s immaculate life will always inspire us and guide us in our quest for spiritual joy. St Gregorios’ prayers will always protect us like a fortress.
Prof Vipin K Varughese,
Baselius College, Kottayam