St. Thomas, The Apostle
St. Thomas, The Apostle (Thoma Sleeha)
St. Thomas was one of the twelve disciples of Lord Jesus Christ. Thomas in Hebrew means "The Twin". So he was also known as "Didymus" which meant 'The Twin' in Greek. The Indian Church, otherwise known as The Malankara Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Churches in Christendom and the most ancient in India was established by St. Thomas, one of the Apostles of our Lord God Jesus Christ, in 52.A.D. Christianity came to India much before it went to Rome or Western Europe. The Syrian Christians of Kerala constitute the most ancient Christian community of India. Their form of Christianity is apostolic and derived directly from Apostle St. Thomas.
The tradition of Kerala Syrian Christians is that in 52.A.D. St. Thomas the Apostle landed in the port of Muziris in the island of Maliankara, near Cranganore in the state of Kerala, in South India. From a small nucleus, the fruit of the missionary work of St. Thomas, the Church has grown in to a magnificent and impressive edifice and rightly claims a position of respect and equality in Orthodox Christendom as well as among the Commonwealth of Churches. Malankara Orthodox Syrian Christians today traces their heritage from the Apostle Thomas.
According to Thomma Parvom (The Songs of Thomas) the visit of St. Thomas in Kerala lasted only eight days in the first instant. During this period the main converts were Jews who were settled in Malabar. (There was a large Jewish community in Cochin at that time) . During his second visit over three thousand became Christians. The first convert was a Brahmin from Maliyakal who became Thomas Maliyakal the Ramban. Among them were 75 Brahmin families along with Jews, Kshatriyas, Nairs and Chettiars. One Jewish prince by name Kepha (Peter) was later ordained as bishop when St. Thomas left for the rest of Kerala and India. The seven original churches established by St. Thomas were located at Malayankara (Malayattur), Palayur (near Chavakkad), Koovakayal (near North Paravur), Kokkamangalam (South Pallipuram), Kollam, Niranam and Nilackel (Chayal). Each local parish was self-administered, guided by a group of presbyters and presided over by the elder priest or episcopa (bishop). It is also a tradition that he frequently visited Malayattoor hills for prayer. Later, he moved on to the east coast of India.
This tradition is confirmed by the testimonies of many of the Fathers of the Church. It was not difficult for the Apostle to come to India, because extensive trade relations existed between Malabar and the Mediterranean countries even before the Christian Era. There is nothing to contradict this tradition.
The tradition of Kerala Syrian Christians is that in 52.A.D. St. Thomas the Apostle landed in the port of Muziris in the island of Maliankara, near Cranganore in the state of Kerala, in South India. From a small nucleus, the fruit of the missionary work of St. Thomas, the Church has grown in to a magnificent and impressive edifice and rightly claims a position of respect and equality in Orthodox Christendom as well as among the Commonwealth of Churches.
St. Thomas came to India, preached the gospel and established churches at seven and a half places; Crangannore, Palur, Paraur, Gokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal, Kollam and Thiruvithamcode, and appointed prelates and priests. In due course, the Apostle returned to the Coromandal coast and continued his gospel work in Madras. One day he had an encounter with Brahmin pujaries outside the city. An altercation ensued, which ended in the consummation of the shrine of the 'Goddess Kali' by fire at the Apostle's behest. The enraged pujaries fell upon him; and one of them thrust his lance at the Apostle. The Malankara Orthodox Church Calendar indicates that the Apostles was speared on December 19 (72 A.D.)For three days St. Thomas languished before he succumbed on December 21 at Mylapur, Madras, India. The Church observes December 21,as the Apostle's Martyrdom Day.
Niranum Church Founded By St. Thomas
Tomb of St. Thomas at St. Thomas Mount, Madras
Foundation Stone of Niranum Church (Fourth Building)