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]


Mar Thoma Sleeha Pilgrim Church, Kodungalloor where the relics of the right hand of the apostle is kept and venerated. This new church is built where it is believed that the first of the seven churches was built by St. Thomas in AD 52.

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][5][6]

The families near St.Mary's Church, Niranam, Sankaramangalam,[7] Pakalomattam, Kalli, and Kaliyankal were considered particularly preeminent, and historically the most aristocratic Syriac Christian families tended to claim descent from these families. Some Saint Thomas Christian families like Ainatu family claim their roots to Tamil Brahmins or Iyers who were converted by Thomas the Apostle in Mylpore.[8][9]

It is also possible for Aramaic-speaking Jews from Galilee to make 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 and half churches, or Ezharapallikal: Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkavu, Palayoor , Thiruvithamcode Arappalli and Aruvithura church (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 into existence a Christian community who were mainly merchants.

Kuravilangad Church

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 rivaled the Hindus for religious and political hegemony in Kerala at the time.


English Church, Nadakkavu
Nasrani cross

The 2011 Indian census found a total of 6,411,269 Christians in Kerala.[1]

Catholics form three sub groups totalling overall 3,743,851 (61% of all Christians) breakdown as follows Syro Malabar (2,345,911) Syro Malankara (465,207) Latin Catholic (932,733)

Major Churches of the most ancient Eastern Orthodox Rite form 1,381,209 (23% of all Christians) (also reformed Oriental church like Malankara Marthoma) numbers are as follows Malankara Jacobite (482,762) Malankara Orthodox (493,358) Malankara Marthoma (405,089)

  • Protestant and others Born Again Churches like Penthacostal/Brotheren numbers are as follows

CSI (Church of South India) (274,255) St. Thomas Evangelical Church ~(2900) Penthacost & Brotheren (213,806) Other miscellaneous (301,864) Dalit (159,982)

Oriental Orthodox Churches (West Syriac Rite)[edit]

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

Catholic churches[edit]

Reformed Oriental Churches[edit]

United and Uniting (Anglican)[edit]

Other Protestant denominations[edit]

Pilgrimage sites[edit]

St Mary's Orthodox Church, Kallooppara, Pathanamthitta(Kallooppara Valyapally).


  1. ^ a b "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. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 by Erwin Fahlbusch. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing – 2008. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8028-2417-2.
  7. ^ Bayly, Susan. (1989). Saints, goddesses, and kings : Muslims and Christians in South Indian Society, 1700-1900. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37201-1. OCLC 70781802.
  8. ^ Hindu-Christian dialogue : perspectives and encounters. Coward, Harold G. (1st Indian ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. 1993. ISBN 81-208-1158-5. OCLC 34230629.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. ^ Farmer, David Hugh. (2011). The Oxford dictionary of saints (5th ed., rev ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-172776-4. OCLC 726871260.
  10. ^ "Malankara Orthodox Church - Kottayam Seminary". Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  11. ^ Fenwick, John R. K. "Malabar Independent Syrian Church The Thozhiyur Church".
  12. ^ World Christian Encyclopedia , Second edition, 2001 Volume 1, p. 368-371
  13. ^ "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 1 2014, Soorygatha Publishers, PB No 3517, Kochi 682 035