During the later Old Testament times the
Malabar Coast had trade relations with West Asia. These trade routes later
enabled Christianity to reach Kerala, a state on the south western coast of
India. Tradition states that the Apostle Thomas preached the Gospel to the
locals (which included Jewish settlers in Kerala), baptized many, and
founded seven churches. The churches are Niranam, Palayoor, Nilackal,
Kottakavu, Kothamangalam, Kollam and Maliyankara. These churches remain the
major Christian centers in Kerala. The Christians of this ancient tradition
were and are known as either Nasranis or Syrian Christians.
The Christian Community of Kerala (India) traces back its origin to the
advent of St. Thomas, the Apostle to India, who reached the Cragnanore Port
in AD 52 and its subsequent spiritual stabilization and growth.
St.ThomasIt is believed that the Apostle started his gospel mission in
India, from a small town called "Maliyankara" on the sea coast of 'Paravur'
Taluk in Kerala, at a short distance away from Cranganore Port. From such
small beginnings, the Christian Community of Kerala grew to its present
stature against heavy odds aided, among other providential factors, by the
continued tolerance and hospitality of many a neighborhood, the goodwill of
the local rulers, chieftains and others.
The Portuguese who colonized India in AD 1498 tried to convert the St.
Thomas Christians to western Catholicism. By AD 1599 Goan Arch Bishop
Menezes succeeded in forcibly converting some to the Catholic Church. But in
AD 1653, a section of St. Thomas Christians revolted and resolved against
accepting Catholic (Latin) authority known in church history as 'Koonan
Kurishu Oath or Coonen Cross Oath'. The people that sought to preserve the
Church's Syrian ties again appealed to the Syrian Orthodox Church for help
in restoring its Episcopal succession. The Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
responded and Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of
Jerusalem, came to India in AD 1665. The Archdeacon who had been declared in
the meantime to be Metropolitan Mar Thoma by the laying on of hands by
twelve Presbyters was now confirmed by him in his Episcopal rank, and both
of them worked together to organize the church on firm footing. Mar Thoma I
was followed in succession by a series of Prelates with the same name till
AD 1816 when the last of them namely Mar Thoma IX came to the scene, but was
soon replaced by Mar Dionysius II.
The London Missionary Service was active in India. Bishop Norton inaugurated
the first Anglican Church in Kerala at Thalavady in the house of one Itty
Matthan Panickar who was till then a Syrian Orthodox Christian. This church
was later known as Christian Missionary Service and after Indian
Independence it became the Church of South India. Lore says that Bishop
Norton was tutored in Malayalam by Itty Matthan Panickar. Later the same
person tutored Bishop Benjamin Bailey in Sanskrit & Malayalam, and was
presented the chair on which the Bishop sat as a gift. Later in the 19th
century, exposure to the doctrines of the Church of England inspired a
reform movement led by Abraham Malpan. This led to the formation of the Mar
In 1912, the Catholicate of the East was revived in India. The Malankara
Orthodox Church had always wanted to retain its autocephalous nature and so,
appealed to Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II of the Syriac Orthodox Church,
who ordained Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios as Moran Mar Baseliose
Paulose, Catholicos of the East. The ceremony was held at St. Mary's Church,
Niranam on 15 September 1912 with much jubiliation and joy.
Despite several schisms, the Indian Orthodox Church remains a stronghold of
Oriental Orthodoxy in the The Subcontinent.
Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely,
Antiochene, Alexandrian, Armenian and Ethiopean Orthodox Churches. The
Church is in good ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman
Catholic and Protestant Churches.
present the Church is having a population over 2 millions with 24 dioceses
all over the world.