Christianity in Kerala
Christianity is the third-most practised religion in Kerala, accounting for 18% of the population according to the Indian census. 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Denominations
- 3 Pilgrimage sites
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
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 which is in the present day Kodungalloor, Kerala.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Catholic Church (Latin Church and two Eastern Catholic churches)
Oriental Orthodox churches (West Syriac Rite)
- Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church - in full communion with the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church - autocephalous Indian Orthodox Church
Other Oriental churches
- Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church - Reformed West Syriac Rite Church,In communion with the Anglican Communion and Malabar Independent Syrian Church .
- Malabar Independent Syrian Church - Oriental Orthodox church in good ecumenical relations with the Church of England, but not in communion with other Oriental orthodox churches.
- Church of South India (CSI) - The Church of South India (CSI) is the successor of a number of Anglican and Protestant denominations in India, including the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland after Indian Independence.
Other Protestant denominations
- Kerala Brethren
- Indian Brethren
- Assemblies of God
- Church of God (Full Gospel) in India
- The Indian Pentecostal Church of God
- Local Churches
- Ceylon Pentecostal Mission / The Pentecostal Mission
- Believers Eastern Church
- St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India
- Salvation Army
- Seventh-day Adventists
- Sharon Fellowship Church
- Yuyomaya Sabha
- Heavenly Feast
- Mar Thoma Pontifical Shrine, Azhikode, Kodungalloor, Thrissur- first of the Ezharappallikal and contains St. Thomas' right arm's bone.
- St. Mary's Church, Niranam, Pathanamthitta- one of the oldest churches in India and founded by St. Thomas.
- St. Mary's Cathedral, Kundara, Kollam- contains a Holy Girdle believed to be dropped from the sky by the Virgin Mary to St. Thomas.
- Our Lady of Dolours Basilica, Thrissur, Thrissur- commonly known as 'Puthanpally' ('new church') and the third-tallest church in Asia.
- St. Antony's Forane Church, Ollur, Thrissur- a well-known church, site of the famous 'Malakhayude Perunnal'.
- St Mary's Forane Church, Koratty, Thrissur- site of the famous Korattymuthy and burial site of Christian warrior Kavalakkadan Kochuvareeth.
- St. Joseph's Parish Shrine, Pavaratty - contains Holy Relic of Holy Cross (Thiruseshippu) and Holy Relic of St.Joseph (Thiruseshippu).
- St. Peter and St.Paul's Church, Parumala, Pathanamthitta- important to Malankara Orthodox Christians as the burial site of St. Geevarghese Mar Gregorios.
- St. Mary's Soonoro Cathedral Angamaly, first church in Angamaly and seat of power of St Thomas Christians till 16th century.
- Basilica of St. George, Angamaly, Ernakulam- largest of its kind in India and the second church in Angamaly, which was a former "Kurishu Palli" of St Mary's Jacobite church, Angamaly.
- Potta Ashram, Potta, Thrissur- a famous Catholic charismatic renewal centre in Kerala.
- St. George's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church, Erattupetta, Kottayam- first church built in the Pala Eparchy and has a cross laid down by St. Thomas.
- St. Mary's Cathedral, Manarcad, Kottayam- contains part of the Holy Girdle and was the site of the Jacobite ritual of the Holy Mooron in 1982 by the Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.
- Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, Thrissur- a famous retreat centre with a rehabilitation centre, retirement home and other centres.
- Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam- first seminary in Kerala for the old Malankara Church and currently owned by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
- St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, Kumbazha, Pathanamthitta- foundation laid by St. Geevarghese Mar Gregorios and the site of the 'Marthoma Pilgrimage Site'.
- St. Thomas Church, Malayattoor, Ernakulam- an international shrine and the site of St. Thomas' footprints and knee-prints, along with other historical sites.
- Manjinikkara Dayara, Omallur, Pathanamthitta- Syriac Orthodox monastery and contains the tombs of St. Ignatius Elias III and Mor Yulios Elias Qoro.
- Martha Mariam Orthodox Syrian Church, Thevalakkara, Kollam- one of the leading churches in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the burial site of Mar Sabor and Mar Proth.
- St. George Church, Edappally, Ernakulam- foundation laid by Pope John Paul II and the site of the 'offering of fowls' during the Feast of St. George.
- St. George Orthodox Church, Puthuppally, Kottayam- commonly called the 'Puthuppally Valiyappally' and contains a shrine declared as the 'Georgian Pilgrim Centre of the East'.
- St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Kadampanad, Pathanamthitta- contains the tomb of Mar Thoma III and declared as a 'Marthoman Pilgrim Centre'.
- St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Kolenchery, Ernakulam- contains the tomb of Mar Thoma VII and reopened recently for both Malankara Orthodox Christians and Jacobite Orthodox Christians.
- St. Thomas Church, Kothamangalam, Ernakulam- contains the tomb of St. Baselios Yeldo.
- St. Mary's Jacobite Church, Thamarachal, Ernakulam- pilgrim centre of St. Mary and famous for its 'Ettunombu'.
- St Thomas Jacobite Syrian Church, North Paravur, Ernakulam- established by St. Thomas and the burial site of Mar Gregorios Abdal Jaleel Bawa).
- St. George Orthodox Church, Chadanapally, Pathanamthitta- contained the relics of St. George for a while and site of the well-known 'Chembuduppu' annual ritual.
- St. George Orthodox Church, Cheppad, Alappuzha- contains the tomb of Mar Dionysius IV and a 600-year-old mural.
- St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi, Ernakulam- oldest European church and currently under control of the CSI.
- St. John Nepumsian's Forane Church Parappukkara, Thrissur- a rare pilgrim centre of St. John Nepumsian and contains a granite cross given by St. Francis Xavier.
- St. Jude's Shrine, Koothattukulam, Ernakulam- contains a relic of St. Jude and the world's biggest bronze oil lamp.
- St. Joseph's Church, Mannanam, Kottayam- constructed by St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and contains his tomb.
- St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Bharananganam, Kottayam - contains the tomb of St. Alphonsa.
- Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom, Vallarpadam, Ernakulam- a National Pilgrim Centre and contains a privileged altar.
- St. Mary's Forane Church, Thankey, Alappuzha- founded by Jesuits and contains a miraculous life-size statue of Jesus.
- St. George Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Edathua, Alappuzha- contains a famous and miraculous shrine of St. George
- St. Antony's Church, Kaloor, Ernakulam- contains one of the biggest and shrines of St. Antony, which is believed to be miraculous.
- St. Mary's Jacobite Syrian Church, Kattachira, Alappuzha- declared as a Global Marian Pilgrim Centre and contains an icon of St. Mary with tears of aromatic oil flowing from the eyes.
- St. Antony and St. Joseph's Latin Catholic Shrine, Kannamaly, Ernakulam- contains a miraculous shrine of St. Antony and St. Joseph.
- Chapel of the Holy Cross, Mattancherry, Ernakulam- site of an improvised cross where the Coonan Cross Oath was held.
- Marth Mariam Forane Church, Arakuzha, Ernakulam- one of the oldest churches in Kerala and where Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly served as a parish priest.
- Major Archiepiscopal Marth Mariam Archdeacon Pilgrim Church, Kuravilangad, Kottayam- site of the famous 'Kuravilangadmuthy' and contains one of the oldest church bells.This church is the Major Archiepiscopal Pilgrim Center of Syro Malabar Catholic Church
- St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church, Athirampuzha, Kottayam- a world-renowned pilgrim centre of St. Sebastian and one of the oldest churches in Kerala.
- Jerusalem Retreat Center, Thalore, Thrissur- a famous Catholic charismatic renewal centre in Kerala.
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- Compiled by Robert Eric Frykenberg (2005-07-01). "Timeline". Ctlibrary.com. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
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- "National: Pattanam richest Indo-Roman site on Indian Ocean rim". The Hindu. 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
- World Christian Encyclopedia , Second edition, 2001 Volume 1, p. 368-371
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