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History of ORTHODOX

During the later Old Testament times the Malabarian coast had trade relations with West Asia. These  trade routes later enabled Christianity to reach Kerala, a state on the south western coast of India. Tradition states that the Apostle Thomas preached the Gospel to the locals (which included Jewish settlers in Kerala), baptized many, ordained some as priests and founded eight churches. These churches remain the major Christian centers in Kerala. The Christians of this ancient tradition were and are known as either Nasranis or Syrian Christians. The Indian Church was related to the Church of the East in the early centuries, and this church sent "East Syrian" bishops to India. The head of the Eastern church was the "Catholicos of the East" in  the lineage of Apostle Thomas. In AD 431, the Council of Ephesus condemned the teachings of Nestor,  who was the Patriarch of Constantinople. A section of the Church of the East rejected the decisions of  the Council of Ephesus and accepted the Nestorian teaching. In AD 544, Pope Theodosius I, the Patriarch of Alexandria, ordained Mar Jacob Baradaeus as a general bishop. In AD 559, Mar Jacob  Baradaeus visited the east and consecrated a Catholicos for the non-Chalcedonies who accepted the  Council of Ephesus and rejected the Council of Chalcedon.

The Portuguese who colonized India in AD 1498 tried to convert the St. Thomas Christians to Catholicism. By AD 1599 they succeeded in forcibly converting some to the Roman Catholic Church, but in AD 1653, a section of St. Thomas Christians revolted and resolved against accepting foreign authority famously known as “Coonan Kurishu declaration “ at Mattanchery. The party that sought to preserve the Church's freedom appealed to several Eastern Christian Centres for help in restoring its Episcopal succession. The Antioch Church responded and sent to India a Bishop, Metropolitan Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem who came to India in AD 1665. The Archdeacon who had been declared in the meantime to be Metropolitan Mar Thoma by the laying on of hands by twelve Presbyters was now confirmed by him in his Episcopal rank, and both of them worked together to organize the church on firm footing. Mar Thoma I was followed in succession by a series of Prelates with the same name till AD 1816 when the last of them namely Mar Thoma IX came to the scene, but was soon replaced by Mar Dionysius II.

Later in the 19th century, exposure to the doctrines of the Anglican Church inspired a reform movement led by Abraham Malpan. This was largely unsuccessful and ended in schism with the reformers founding the Marthoma Church. In AD 1912, the Catholicate of the East was revived in India with the co-operation of Mar Abdul Messiah, the deposed Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Dionysius VI, the Metropolitan of the Indian Church, Kottayam and the Bishops of the Church. The ceremony was held at St. Mary's Church, Niranam on 15 September 1912. The universal Syrian Orthodox Church did not accept this consecration as valid which is the historical root of the present schism in the Malankara church. Despite several schisms, the Indian Orthodox Church remains a stronghold of Oriental Orthodoxy in The Subcontinent.

Important pilgrim centers

  • The Catholicate Aramana, Devalokam
  • Pazhaya Seminary (Orthodox Theological Seminary), Chungom( Kottayam)
  • Parumala Church
  • Pampakuda Cheriapally (St.Thomas Church)
  • Vallikkattu Dayara, Vakathanam
  • St.Thomas Dayara
  • Mount Tabor Dayara
  • Mar Kuriakose Dayara, Pampady
  • Relics of Julius Mar Alvares, St. Marys Orthodox Church, Panjim, Goa


  • Parumala Thirumeni (Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios)
  • Kothamangalam Yeldo Mar Baselious (Maphryono of East) ( both declared saints by the Holy Synod, in 1947,by Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese II)
  • Mar Dionysius VI of Vattasseril

Catholicos Since the revival of Catholicate in India on 15 September 1912.

Moran Mar Baselius Paulose I Moran Mar Baselius Geevarghese I
 Moran Mar Baselius Geevarghese II  Moran Mar Baselius Augen I
Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews I Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II
Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thoma Didimous I  


  • Thiruvanathapuram
  • Kollam
  • Thumpamon
  • Mavelikkara
  • Chengannur
  • Niranam
  • Kottayam
  • Kottayam Central
  • Idukki
  • Kandanad East
  • Kandanad West
  • Angamali
  • Kochi
  • Thrissur
  • Kunnamkulam
  • Malabar
  • Sultan Batheri
  • Delhi
  • Madras
  • Kolkata
  • Bombay
  • America
  • Canada,UK & Europe

Nasrani and Saint Thomas Christian tradition

The Nasranis are an ethnic people and in that sense a single community. However the Nasranis have various denominations as a result of Portuguese persecution. As an ethnic community they refer to themselves as Nasranis referring to the common cultural heritage and cultural tradition. However as a religious group they refer to themselves as the Mar Thoma Khristianis or in English as Saint Thomas Christians referring to the various and diverse religious denominations between them in terms of their religious tradition, despite a common ancestory of being the descendants of the early Mar Thoma church or Saint Thomas tradition of Christianity. These first century churches, according to tradition, were, from north to south: Palayoor near Guruvayoor/Kunnankulam, Cranganore (believed to be the ancient Muziris of Pliny, and the Periplus, on the north bank of Periyar River today), Paravoor on the south side of Periyar, Gokkamangalam or Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal or Nilakkal (the only inland church) and the Lakes (Kaayals), Kollam and finally Thiruvithamcode(Kanyakumari). The visit of the Apostle Thomas to these places and to Mylapore on the East coast of India can be read in the Ramban Song of Thomas Ramban, set into modern writing c. 1500.

History of the Saint Thomas Christian tradition

Modern developments in archaeology, anthropology, numismatics, place-name studies, geography and trade route investigations have revealed evidence of the trading which forms the background to the St. Thomas tradition of India. The lure of spices attracted traders from the Middle East and Europe to the many trading ports — Calicut, Cranganore, Cochin, Alleppey and Quilon — long before the time of Christ. According to tradition, it was on a trading vessel plying between Alexandria and the Malabar coast that St. Thomas, the Apostle arrived in Cranganore in AD 52. According to the first century annals of Pliny the Elder and the author of Periplus of the Eritrean sea, Muziris in Kerala could be reached in 40 days' time from the Egyptian coast purely depending on the South West Monsoon winds.

The Sangam works Puraana nooru and Akana nooru have many lines which speak of the Roman vessels and the Roman gold that used to come to the Kerala ports of the great Chera kings in search of pepper and other spices, which had an enormous demand in the West. There St. Thomas the apostle is said to have begun preaching the gospel to the already existing Jewish settlers in the Malabar coast and other local people. According to the Acts of Thomas, the first converts made by Thomas in India were Hebrew-Jewish people (Jews in India). St. Thomas established eight Christian communities or churches in Kerala. They are in Cranganore, Paravoor (Kottakavu), Palayoor, Kokkamangalam, Malayattoor, Niranam Kollam (Quilon) and Thiruvithamcode. legend is that the Apostolate of St.Thomas arrived in Kerala in the 1st century, and contact with some Brahmins in Palayoor and converted them to Christian faith in the first Century. These Nambudiri Brahmins were India's first St.Thomas Christians. The Brahmin converts include Kalli, Kallarakal, Kalliankal, Manki, Madathalan, Plavunkal, Mattamuk, Manavasri, Pakalomattom, Sankarapuri, Thayil etc In the 4th century, a settlement of Jewish Christians was founded in Kottayam by Thomas Kynai at the behest of the Catholicos of the Assyrian Church of the East. They became known as the Knanaya. Currently, there are no independent Knanaya religious organizations but look either to the Pope of Rome or the Syrian Orthodox Church for ecclesiastic legitimacy. Nevertheless, this community has rigidly maintained its distinct ethnic identity to the present day, vehemently prohibiting intermarriage with non-Knanaya even within their own religious jurisdiction while freely permitting Knanaya marriage between Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Place in Indian culture Throughout Kerala, one can find Christian families that claim their descent from Jewish ancestors who were baptized by Apostle Thomas.

St. Thomas Christians were classified into the caste system according to their professions, in accordance with the Hindu tradition, with special privileges for trade granted by the benevolent Hindu kings. People in Hindu kingdoms, regardless of religion, were expected to strictly abide by stringent rules pertaining to caste and religion. This is why St. Thomas Christians had such a strong sense of caste and tradition, being the oldest order of Christianity in India. The archdeacon was the head of the Church, and Palliyogams (Parish Councils) were in charge of temporal affairs. They had a liturgy-centered life with days of fasting and abstinence. Their devotion to the Mar Thoma Cross was absolute. Their churches were modeled after Jewish synagogues. In short, the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala had blended well the ecclesiastical world of the East Syriac Church with the socio-cultural environment of their homeland. Thus, the East Syriac Church was South Indian in culture, Christian in religion, and Judeo-Syro-Oriental in worship.

Contact with Western Christianity

In 1498, when the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed on the Malabar coast, there were an estimated two million Christians across the land, and they had 1,500 churches under the jurisdiction of a single Metropolitan who lived in Angamali. The arrival of Vasco da Gama, however, heralded a new struggle for the East Syrian Church, because the Portuguese, who later established trading posts in Goa, Daman and Diu north of Kerala, moved against the East Syrian Church in the Goa Inquisition leading to tragic, ecclesiastical incidents. According to Joas de Castro, the Portuguese Viceroy in Goa in 1548, the sword of the Portuguese was wielded "mainly against the centuries-old Syrian-Christians of Kerala" because they opposed to Roman control of their church. This was because only in Kerala did the laity stand steadfast against Western colonization, and maybe the Portuguese, who were under the Roman Church, considered everything outside Roman Catholicism as heretical, including the Syrian Christians they found in India. The move against the Syrian Church was followed by the Roman Church establishing a Roman Catholic diocese in Goa in 1534. In 1557 Pope Paul IV declared Goa an archdiocese with its supremacy extending from the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa to China, and all Christians, including the East Syrian Church, brought under its jurisdiction.

The East Syrian Archdiocese of Angamali then became a dependent of Goa and it lost many properties to Roman Catholicism. This conversion to Roman Catholic rite led to divisions in the Church, as there was considerable resistance against Roman domination of its rituals and properties. The Christian communities then split into many groups — East Syriac Catholics, West Syriac Catholics, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in Oriental Orthodox Communion), Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church (in Oriental Orthodox Communion), Mar Thoma Church (reformed break away from Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church under influence of Anglican Church ), Chaldean Syrian Church of the East (those who accepted the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East), and the Latin-Rite Roman Catholic Church. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jacobite and other St. Thomas Christian bishops assisted at consecrations of Old-Catholic bishops who went on to form the movement of Independent Catholic Churches (one of these groupings that considers itself a co-heir of this Tradition is the Christian Essences’).

Marthoma Metrans

After the The Great Swearing in Ceremony, the parish elders (Idavaka Mooppens) of the Church met together and elected Kuravilangad Parampil Thomas Kathanar as Malankara Elder (Malankara Mooppen). Following the ancient custom.[25] twelve Idavaka Mooppens laid their hands on him and appointed him as Malankara Mooppen. The Catholics considered this illegitimate, because this was not their practice. So the Marthoma Nazranis were forced to send letters to various other eastern Churches asking to send a bishop. In 1854, Mar Gregorios Abdul-Jaleel, Patriarch of Jerusalem arrived. Thus began the relation between the Malankara Church and the Anthiochian Jacobites.

It should be specially noticed that the 9 Marthoma Methrans were members of the Pakalomattam family.

  • Marthoma I. - In 1653, Thomas of Pakalomattam Thravadu was consecrated with the title Marthoma I by Mar Gregorios. Marthoma I survived a number of assassination attempts. He died on April 25, 1670 and was interred in Ankamali Marthommen Palli. (church).
  • Marthoma II. – (1670-1686) Consecrated by Marthoma I and Mar Gregorios. Died on April 14, 1686 and was interred at Niranam Palli. It was during his time that Mar Baselious & Mar Ivanios from Syria visited Malankara.
  • Marthoma III. – (1686-1688) Consecrated by Mar Ivanios Hirudyathulla (from Antioch), died on April 21, 1688. Laid to rest at Kadampanad, Near Adoor.
  • Marthoma IV. - (1988-1728). Consecrated by Mar Ivanios Hirudyathulla. Died on March 24, 1728 and was interred at Kandanad Palli. He ruled the Church for four decades. Mar Ivanios died in 1693, and his succesor, Nestorian Bishop Gabriel had strained relations with Mar Thoma IV.
  • Marthoma V. - (1728-1765) – Consecrated by Marthoma IV. Died on May 8, 1765 and laid to rest at Niranam Palli. In 1752 when Mar Baselios and Mar Gregorios came to Malankara, they insisted that he should receive their Kaiveppu (laying of hands) but he refused to comply. Not only that, he concecrated the VIth Mar Thoma without any assistance from foreign Bishops thus severing all allegiance to foreign bishops.
  • Marthoma VI. – (1765-1808)Marthoma VI Consecrated by Marthoma V. Died on April 8, 1808 and laid to rest at Puthenkavu palli. On June 1770, to avoid a split in the Church, he accepted re-consecration and the title Dionysius from Antiochan bishops.
    Mar Thoma VI did not approve the appointment of Kattumangattu Abraham Mar Coorilos as a metropoiltan by a bishop from Antioch. This was the beginning of Malabar Independent Syrian Church.Forced to conduct a service according to Catholic rites, but escaped during a rebellion in Travancore under Velu Thampi.[26]Rev.Dr. Claudius Bucahanan visited and made arrangement for the translation of the Bible into Malayalam. Marthoma gave him the manuscript of the Bible written in the oldest Syrian. This manuscript was deposited in the public library of the University of Cambridge.[27]
  • Marthoma VII. – (1808-1809) Consecrated by Marthoma VI in 1796. During his time on December 1, 1808, a sum of 3000 Star Pagoda (in 2002 one Star Pagoda coin had a market value of £475) was given as loan in perpetuity to the British resident Col. Maccaulay. This is known as Vattipanam. Marthoma died on July 4,1809 and was interred at Kolencherry palli.
  • Marthoma VIII. – (1809-1816) Consecrated on July 2, 1809 by Marthoma VII. During his time Kottayam Suryani Seminary was opened and modern education began in Kerala. Marthoma died on January 26 1816 and was interred at Niranam palli.
  • Marthoma IX. – (1816-1817). Consecrated by Marthoma VIII without the consent of the people. So he retired to Kadamattom palli and spent the rest of his days in prayer and fasting.
  • Marthoma X. (Malankara Metropolitan) – (1816-1816). Also known as Pulikottil Joseph Mar Dionysius, was consecrated by Mar Philoxenos II, of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Thozhiyoor Sabha). Marthoma died on November 25, 1816 and laid to rest at Seminary palli.

Important events

Following his sudden death, Anjoor Mar Piloxenos took over as Malankara Metropolitan. Later Mar Philoxenos consecrated his Vicar General Punnathra Kurian Kathanar as Bishop, and returned to Thozhiyoor Church.

First Metropolitan to be recognised by Travancore and Cochin as Malankara Metropolitan, by a Royal Proclamation to receive interest of Vattipanam (Fixed Deposit).

Opened the Kottayam Suryani Seminary.

Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) missionaries arrived to teach there.With him the reign of Marthoma Metrans came to an end and the power was transferred to Malankara Metropolitan.