Marth Mariam Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church, Arakuzha
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|St.Mary's Forane Church, Arakuzha|
|Affiliation||Syro-Malabar Catholic Church|
|Province||Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Kothamangalam|
|Year consecrated||999 AD|
|Direction of façade||West|
St.Mary's Forane Church is a Syro-Malabar church in Arakuzha village, 6 km from Muvattupuzha, India. The village has a large population of Syrian Catholic Christians. These Nasrani Christians of Arakuzha have more than 1500 years of recorded history. The church belongs to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Kothamangalam.  Servant of God Mar Varghese Payyappilly Palakkappilly has served as the parish priest between 1920 and 1922.
Arakuzha (Aara+ kuzha) means a vast area. Though it is said about Arakuzha church that it was erected in 1000 AD for 1000 Christians (Aayiram mappilamarkuvendi aayirathil vacha palli), it was erected in 999 AD. Syrian Christians had migrated to Arakuzha for cultivation in the 9th century. People from Ramapuram, Kadamattom, Mailakombu, Chembu, Idapalli, Thenkasi, Vizhakapattanam and Thulunadu had migrated to Aarakuzha. The road connecting Kaduthuruthi with Tamil Nadu runs through the southern side of Aarakuzha. It is said that people could travel from Arakuzha to Nediasala at night without light because there were many houses by the side of the road that people could travel at night with the light coming from the houses.
During the second spell of the reign of Chera Dynasty (AD 800-1102), Arakuzha was a part of Keezhmalanadu which was one of the many kingdoms in Kerala. When Keezhmalanadu was conquered by Vadakumkoor dynasty in about AD 1600, Arakuzha became a part of Vadakumkoor. Foreigners used to call Vadakumkoor as the land of pepper. Vadakumkoor was bounded on the north by Periyar river, on the east by Pandyanadu and on the west by the backwaters. Arakuzha came under the rule of Travancore king when Vadakumkoor was annexed by Marthandavarma in 1750.
Arakuzha which was the cellar of spices that brought plenty of foreign money gained a prominent place in the history of Travancore. King Marthandavarma erected a mundapathumvathil, danavu and chavuka on the north east side of Maradikara which was a part of Arakuzha pakuthi. As that area lay on the banks of Thodupuzha and Muvattupuzha rivers, it came to be called Muvattupuzha. Nearness to the rivers and the presence of the long fort (nedumkotta) increased the prominence of the place.
Establishment of St.Mary's Forane Church
Arakuzha had been a part of Mailakombu parish. The immigrant Christians erected a cross on a hillock situated on the western side of the paddyfield lying west of the present church and used to conduct worship. The dead were buried nearby. It was the first place of Christian worship in Arakuzha. Later a church was erected on Koodathil (Kucadathil) parampu where the present High School is situated. Later the church was abandoned due to the hostilities of Puthattel Unniathiry and the property of the church was shifted to Memadangu which was under the authority of Chettoor Kartha and worship was resumed there. In course of time the old church and the cemetery were forgotten. When Kadamattom Church was erected as a branch of (station church) of Mailakombu, in the 9th century, the area on the west of the big stream flowing on the west of Aarakuzha church and Maradi area came under Kadamattom church.
It was Rathappallimuthi who erected the St.Mary's Forane Church at Aarakzha. The difficulty to travel to Mailakombu to attend the Holy Qurbana prompted her to build a church. The church was pulled apart and rebuilt several times. The present church was erected in about 1780. The madbaha of the church was renovated in 1840. The roof was tiled in the Malayalam era 1070 (1895 AD). Darshana sangham (confraternity) was established in the parish on 14 Kanni 1859. Rathal (Retable) was erected in the madbaha in 1832. St.Mary's Forane Church was consecrated as a forane church on 10 October 1891. When churches were erected in Muvattupuzha (1822), Peringuzha (1864), Vazhakulam (1885), Arikuzha (1889), Thottakara (1902), Meenkunnam (1925), Chittoor (1953), Perumballur (1958) and Nadukkara (1958), the population and the area of Marth Mariam Church got reduced. The establishment of Government offices near Muvattupuzha in Maradi during the reign of Marthandavarma and the resistance of the locals against the attempt to build the M. C. Road through Arakuzha in 1877 out of their fear of war lessened the prominence of Arakuzha. Yet Arakuzha managed to maintain the status of a forane and pakuthi. Present cathedral church at Kothamangalam had been under Arakuzha forane church in those days.
When the first athmasthithipusthakam (book in which all the details of the parishners are written) was written in Aarakuzha parish in 1891, there were 1323 Syrian Catholic families spread in different parts of the parish. There were 540 families and 3206 parishners in1930. The number of families got reduced on account of the erection of new parishes within the area of the parish and the migration of many families to other areas. Statistics reveal that there were 3200 parishners and 7 priests in this parish in 1967.
200 years before the erection of St.Marys Forane Church, there had been Edamanakurusu and a cemetery attached to it at Arakuzha. Edamanakurisu was erected around 600 AD by the members of Arakuzha Edamana illam who were Brahmin converts to Christianity. It was given a facelift as a Kurisupalli (small chapel) and consecrated in 1812 by Edathattel Valiachan. But as both Christians and Hindus began to conduct nercha there, it was destroyed in 1859. The cross was placed in the cupola which was erected by the side of Aarakuzha – Thottakkara Road.
In 1973, Chacko Marattukudi bought a jack tree which had grown on the sight of the demolished kurisupalli. When the tree fell, he found a stepping stone (karinkalpadi) there. From the locals he came to know that it was the site of the former church. Chacko approached the vicar of Aarakuzha church with the request that a church should be erected there. He offered timber worth Rs. 150 for the construction of the church. The vicar convened a meeting of the concerned faithful and asked them to erect a church there. Accordingly a church was erected there and it was consecrated on 23 December 1973.
Erected between 1800 and 1810, there is a chapel named Malekurisu on the hillock on the south of Marth Mariam Church dedicated to Mar Sebastianose. It is one of the famous pilgrim centers in Kerala. The Sunday after Easter (Thomas Sunday) is the day of feast. There is also the eighth day celebration or ettamidam the next week.
Feast of Mar Shemon Bar Sabbae
The sacred relic of Mar Shemon Bar Sabbae who was martyred in 341 AD was placed on the altar of the church at Vadakara and the feast of the saint was celebrated there.
Vadakara Christians are those Christians who had fled from Vadakara in north Kerala due to Muslim attack in the 9th century. Before fleeing, they had salvaged the relics of Mar Simon Barsaba, Mar Geevarghese Sahada and Mar Kuriakose Sahada and the icon of Mar Yohannan Mamdana and brought them to Arakuzha. The feast of the martyr was celebrated in Arakuzha on 8 kumbham (February 18) on account of its relationship with Vadakara. The festival was attended by many traders. The locals used to buy things for the year from them during the days of the celebrations
The massive drought and pachor nercha
In about 1770 AD there was no rain for 18 months. The reason for the drought was said to be consequence of an inhuman act by Unnyathiri who killed a person who sought shelter in Aarakuzha Church. This was said to have angered Arakuzha Muthi (Marth Mariam). The Astrologers also pointed out the same thing. As atonement Unnyathiri offered pachor (a sweet dish made with rice) with 18 measures (para). It rained heavily. Enough land and paddy field was donated by the Panicker to the church so that the required rice and coconut would be available for the pachor nercha every year without hindrance. This nercha or offering is still continued in Marth Mariam Church.
Daily Qurbana Timings
|Sunday||6:30 AM - Sapra, 7:00 AM - Holy Qurbana, 9:45 AM - Holy Qurbana, 4:00 PM - Holy Qurbana|
|Monday||6:15 AM - Sapra, 6:30 AM - Holy Qurbana|
|Tuesday||6:15 AM - Sapra, 6:30 AM - Holy Qurbana|
|Wednesday||6:15 AM - Sapra, 6:30 AM - Holy Qurbana|
|Thursday||6:00 AM - Holy Qurbana, 6:45 AM - Holy Qurbana|
|Friday||6:15 AM - Sapra, 6:30 AM - Holy Qurbana 10.00 AM Maleakurishu Chapel|
|Saturday||6:30 AM - Holy Qurbana, Novena 4:30 P M - Holy Qurbana, Novena|
- "Ancient Churches, Stone Crosses of Kerala- Saint Thomas Cross, Nazraney Sthambams and other Persian Crosses | NSC NETWORK". nasrani.net. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
- Payyappilly Palakkappilly Varghese Kathanar
- Former vicars - Payyappilly Varghese Kathanar (1920-22)
- "Rathappillil Family". rathappillilfamily.com. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
- "St. Mary's Forane Church Arakuzha | A Place of Pilgrimage". arakuzhachurch.org. Retrieved 2014-06-06.