Christianity in Kerala

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Christianity is the third-most practised religion in Kerala, accounting for 18% of the population according to the Indian census.[1] Although a minority, the Christian population of Kerala is proportionally much larger than that of India as a whole. A significant portion of the Indian Christian population resides in the state.[2][3]


Niranam St.Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church-Founded by St.Thomas in AD52

The tradition of origin among Saint Thomas Christians relates to the arrival of Saint Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus at the ancient seaport Muziris on the Kerala coast in AD 52[4] which is in the present day Kodungalloor, Kerala.[5]

The families near St.Mary's Church, Niranam, Sankarapuri, Pakalomattam, Kalli, and Kaliyankal were considered particularly preeminent, and historically the most aristocratic Syriac Christian families tended to claim descent from these families.

There is no contemporary evidence showing that Thomas had been in the subcontinent, but it was possible for an Aramaic-speaking Jew from Galilee to make such a trip to Kerala in the 1st century. The Cochin Jews are known to have existed in Kerala around that time. The earliest known source connecting the apostle to India is the Acts of Thomas, likely written in the early 3rd century, perhaps in Edessa.

The text describes Thomas' adventures in bringing Christianity to India, a tradition later expanded upon in early Indian sources such as the "Thomma Parvam" ("Song of Thomas"). Generally he is described as arriving in or around Maliankara and founding Seven Churches, or Ezharapallikal: Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkavu, Palayoor and Thiruvithamcode Arappally (a "half church"). A number of 3rd- and 4th-century Roman writers also mention Thomas' trip to India, including Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nazianzus, Jerome, and Ephrem the Syrian, while Eusebius of Caesarea records that his teacher Pantaenus visited a Christian community in India in the 2nd century.There came existence Christian community who were mainly merchants. Other main places where churches were built are Angamaly(now), AD300 Ambhazhakkad (a place near chalakudy) and other parts of kerala.

The medieval historian Pius Malekandathil believes that the St Thomas Christians, integrated with Persian Christian migrant merchants in the 9th century, had become a powerful trading community by this time and were granted the privileges by the Brahmins and the Hindu rulers to promote revenue generation and to undermine Buddhist and Jain traders who rivalled the Hindus for religious and political hegemony in Kerala at the time.

Some writers believe that the original converts would have included the Jews already present in Kerala at that time.[29] Indeed, a version of the Songs of Thomas or Thomma Parvam, written in 1601, is believed to be a summary of a larger and older work, narrate the conversion of 40 Jews along with the Hindus and the local King at Kodungallur by St Thomas, - it claims numbered around the Hindus converted 3000.


English Church, Nadakkavu

The 6.141 million Christians in the 2011 census consists of 3.744 million Catholics (61.0 percent of the total Christians), 977,000 Jacobite/ Orthodox Syrians (15.9 percent), 405,000 Mar Thoma Syrians (6.6 percent), 274,000 Church of South India (CSI) adherents (4.5 percent), 214,000 Pentecost/ Church of God members (3.5 percent) and 160,000 Dalit Christians (2.6 percent). Roman Catholics in Kerala consist of Latin Catholics, Syro-Malabar Catholic Church & Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.[6] The most numerous among the Christian denominations in Kerala today are the Syro-Malabar Catholics, numbering about 2,346,000 in 2011. The Latin Catholics, who numbered about 933,000 in 2011, are the second most numerous Christian denominations. The Jacobite Syrian Christian community has a membership of 527,000 and the Orthodox Syrian community has a membership of 450,000; together they number 977,000. The Mar Thoma denomination numbers about 405,000[citation needed].

Catholic Church (Latin Church and two Eastern Catholic churches)[edit]

Nasrani cross

Oriental Orthodox churches (West Syriac Rite)[edit]

Assyrian Church of the East - (East Syriac Rite)[edit]

Other Oriental churches[edit]

United and Uniting (Anglican)[edit]

Other Protestant denominations[edit]


Pilgrimage sites[edit]


  1. ^ "Census of India". Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  2. ^ "Christianity in India". Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  3. ^ Compiled by Robert Eric Frykenberg (2005-07-01). "Timeline". Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  4. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 by Erwin Fahlbusch [de]. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing - 2008. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8028-2417-2.
  5. ^ "National: Pattanam richest Indo-Roman site on Indian Ocean rim". The Hindu. 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  6. ^
  7. ^ World Christian Encyclopedia , Second edition, 2001 Volume 1, p. 368-371
  8. ^ "Malankara Orthodox Church - Kottayam Seminary". Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  9. ^ "Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar". Retrieved 2013-12-16.

Further reading[edit]

  • George K.M.,`Christianity in India Through the Centuries`,Authentic Books, Secunderabad,2007,2009.(ISBN 978-81-7362-786-6).
  • Benedict Vadakkekara,`Origin of Christianity in India`,Media House, Delhi,2007.ISBN 81-7495-258-6.
  • Agur C.M.,`Church History of Travancore`,Madras,1903 Reprint:Asian Educational Services, New Delhi,1990. (ISBN 81-206-0594-2).
  • Visvanathan Susan,`The Christians of Kerala`,Oxford University Press, Delhi1993,1999.(ISBN 0195647998)
  • George Menachery,`The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India`,SARAS,Ed.Prof. George Menachery, Ollur,Vol.I 1982, Vol.II 1973, Vol. III 2009.
  • George Menachery,`Indian Church History Classics`,SARAS,Ed.Prof. George Menachery, Ollur,Vol.I The Nazranies 1998.

C. I. Issac, The Evolution of Christian Church in India, ISBN 978 81 7255 056 12014, Soorygatha Publishers, PB No 3517, Kochi 682 035