Christianity in Kerala


Christianity is the third-largest practiced 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]

Saint Thomas Cross (Mar Thoma Sleeva) indigenous to the Saint Thomas Syrian Christian community
St.Thomas christians


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][7][8] The families Sankarapuri ,[9] Pakalomattam, Kalli, and Kaliyankal were considered particularly preeminent, and historically the most aristocratic Syriac Christian families tended to claim descent from these families.[10]

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


Denominations among all Christians in Kerala

  Syro-Malabar (40.2%)
  Syro-Malankara (7.6%)
  Malankara Orthodox Syrian (8.0%)
  Jacobite Syriac Orthodox (7.9%)
  Syrian Marthoma (6.6%)
  Chaldean Syrian Church (0.43%)
  CSI (4.5%)
  Pentecost (4.3%)
  Dalit Christian (2.6%)
  Latin Catholic (13.2%)
  Others (5.47%)

The 2011 Indian census found a total of 6,411,269 Christians in Kerala,[1] with their various denominations as stated: Saint Thomas Christians (Syro-Malabar Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, CSI Syrian Christians, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Chaldean Syrian Church and Malabar Independent Syrian Church) constituted 70.73% of the Christians of Kerala, followed by Latin Catholics at 13.3%, Pentecostals at 4.3%, CSI at 4.5%, Dalit Christians at 2.6% and other Protestant groups (such as Lutheran, Calvinist and other charismatic churches) at 5.9%.

The Saint Thomas Christians (Nasrani) of Kerala belongs to the churches which use the East Syriac Rite (Syro Malabar Church and Chaldean Syrian Church) and West Syriac Rite (Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church). CSI Syrian Christians follow the Anglican rite. The Saint Thomas Christians form 70.73% of the Christians of Kerala and 12.5% of the total population of Kerala.[11][12]

Martha Mariam Malankara Suriani Catholica Simhasanapalli, Pattom, Trivandrum founded in 1950,Pattom,Trivandrum.

Around 61% of Christians in the state are Catholics which includes the Eastern Syrian Catholics (Syro Malabar Church and Syro Malankara Church) and the Latin Catholics of Kerala.[13] The Oriental Orthodox Churches are Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church. The Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church and St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India is an Oriental Protestant church. The Church of South India belong to the Anglican Communion. Major Pentecostal denominations in Kerala include the India Pentecostal Church of God, Assemblies of God in India, Church of God (Full Gospel) in India, and The Pentecostal Mission. There has been a strong presence of other Protestant groups in southern Kerala such as the Church of South India and The Salvation Army that are typically based on Anglican beliefs and trace their origins to British rule. They have a significant presence in Neyyattinkara taluk and Pathanamthitta district.

Pilgrimage sitesEdit

See alsoEdit


  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". Archived from the original on 2013-10-18. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  4. ^ "The Surprisingly Early History of Christianity in India".
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 February 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 by Erwin Fahlbusch. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing – 2008. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8028-2417-2.
  7. ^ "Syrian Christians in Muslim Society", Syrian Christians in a Muslim Society: An Interpretation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 1–98, 2015-12-31, doi:10.1515/9781400872589-003, ISBN 978-1-4008-7258-9, retrieved 2020-11-04
  8. ^ Jullien, Christelle (2011-05-15). "Origin of Christianity in India. A historiographical Critique. Delhi, Media House, 2007, 392 p." Abstracta Iranica. 31. doi:10.4000/abstractairanica.39686. ISSN 0240-8910.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Syriac Christianity · Syriac: Preserving an Endangered World Culture · Gallery".
  11. ^ Anderson, Allan; Tang, Edmond (2005). Asian and Pentecostal: The Charismatic Face of Christianity in Asia. OCMS. pp. 192 to 193, 195 to 196, 203 to 204. ISBN 978-1-870345-43-9.
  12. ^ Bergunder, Michael (6 June 2008). The South Indian Pentecostal Movement in the Twentieth Century. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 15 to 16, 26 to 30, 37 to 57. ISBN 978-0-8028-2734-0.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-04-17. Retrieved 2021-05-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further readingEdit

  • 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