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Christian Migration TO KOTTAYAM

St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ came to Kerala in AD 52 and established 8 churches known as 7and 1/2 churches and converted locals into Christians before becoming a martyr at Mylapore near present Chennai. Kings of Kerala states were deeply impressed by the hard working Mar Thoma Christians, due to their financial background, good trading practices, great martial skills. The arrival of vast trading Christian community from Persia under the leadership of Thomas of Cana in the 4th century helped to boost this image.

There were few Christians in Thekkumkoor state till the early part of the 14th century based at Kadathuruthy. For various reasons some Christian families lead by Pulikal family from Poonjar migrated to Kottayam and settled nearby Eruthical temple belonging to Thekkumkoor Raja. Large scale migration of Christians from Kuruvilangad, Kaduthuruthi and Poonjar occurred in the 16th century and they settled nearby Thazhathangady, Pazhayachanda, and Valiaangady. As the population grew, need for church aroused because the migrants still had to visit their mother churches to satisfy their spiritual needs. Arrival of (Fr.) Cherian Mathen Kathanar from Kadathuruthy helped it. Thekkumkoor Godavarma Raja was glad to provide the land free of cost, when the Christians approached him, very soon the construction of Valiyapally started and completed in 1550.

There were two types of Christians (thekkumbhaghar meaning southern (knanaya Christians) and Vadakkum bhaghar meaning northern) worshipping at Valiyapally. Soon difference of opinion merged out, that united worship became impossible. So Vadakkumbhaghar lead by (Fr.) Ouseph Kathanar met Thekkumkoor Raja explained him the plight. The generous Thekkumkoor Raja donated them 82 cents of land near to Valiyapally, thus leading to construction of a new church named after Mother Mary. During those times only one Church was allowed to be built in a Kara(territory) ,so the boundary of Veloor territory was extended till where the church stands.The church was completed in AD 1579, also known as Kottayam Cheriapally. The Kumbagopuram(Cuppola) of St. Peter right above the Madbaha (Santum Santorium) was completed in AD 1590.

The above poem is narrated during church festival commemorating the foundation of the church. The meaning is as follows:

According to Malayalam calendar (Kollavarsham) 754, 6th month, Makaram, 13th Thursday(i.e. 1579 AD) a church was constructed at Kottakkakam (old name of Kottayam) within Veloor territory named after of virgin Mary with the permission granted by foreigner, Bishop Mar Rouhem from Syria and then king of Thekkumkoor, Raja Godavarma.

During those days roof was thatched with Coconut palm leaves, because only palaces were allowed to be thatched with roof tiles.. Only in the 19th century roof tiles were allowed to be thatched on the roof of churches. During those days there were about 5000 families as members of parish of this church among 82 wards and its boundary ranging from Kuruchy, Pallom, Neelamperoor, Manganam, Thiruvanchoor, Malloossery, Kallungthara, and Aymanam up to Kumarakom.