The Joseph Family Website
Historical & Current Information relating to Syrian Christians in India
The Nazrani Christians or Syrian Christians of Kerala have a unique unbroken tradition in Kerala . They are also called Malankara Christians because the first converted Christians by St Thomas had settled down in Mali Island near Musiris Port where St Thomas first landed in 52 AD. This Port is also called Muchiri because the Periyar branches out into three (In Malayalam these three branches were called Muchiri or three broken lips) before it joins the Arabian Sea. This was one of the oldest and busiest Port on the West Coast of India known to the world by more than twenty different names. In the biggest ever flood known in the history of Kerala, this Port was washed off in 1341AD and a new Island known as Puthu-Vipeen was formed near Kochin in the Vembanad Lake. Excavation in the lake area might throw light on the lost traditions of Kerala and its people

The Nazrani Christians from St Thomas time had a self-administrative set up with lot of privileges conferred on them by the Rulers. These Powers were almost equal to the King / Naduvazhis. The Archdeacon was the administrator of the church and the Church properties. He used to even train soldiers under the leadership of Panikers (Christians) just the same way the Nairs were trained by the Panikers (Hindus) under the King. At times, he used to help the King to fight the enemy. This setup got a set back when the Portuguese landed in Kerala in 1498 AD and interfered with the administration of the Churches .In fact they forcibly ruled the church about 100 years till it was split between Put encore (Jacobites) and Pazhayakur (Syrian Roman Catholics), who continued to remain under the Roman Pope for fear of reprisal by the Portuguese. After this split the old tradition of continuing the Archdeacon from Pakalomattom family as the custodian of the church properties was restored. The traditional Rule of the Archdeacon of Pakalomattam family continued from 72 AD to 1653 AD. In place of Archdeacon, Bishops, Martomma 1, 2, 3---9 were appointed from the same family, when that thread was also broken after  the  election of Marthomma ix in 1816AD. Presently the Catholicose is elected as the Malankara Metropolitan, to be the custodian of the properties of the Malankara Church. 

There was a second division of the Syrian church ie Puthencore, when the British started ruling Kerala from 1600AD. The Marthomma and the CSI churches came to existence as Protestant Groups during the British Rule. Another major split took place when the Methran Kashi under Catholicose (Orthodox) and Bava Kashi ( Jacobite) under Patriarch of Antioch were formed in 1912AD. This was the third major division. A fourth division took place when Malankara Reeth was formed by Mar Ivanios in 1930 AD .One would observe that there is no difference in faith among the Syrian Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Bava Kashi and Malankara Reeth.It is unfortunate that the Nazrani Christians of Malnkara that continued as a single body  till 1500AD were splintered into different groups after the foreign Rule started in Kerala from 1498 AD.


The Catholicose is the head of the Orthodox Church

The geographical areas under him within Kerala and outside are divided in to Dioceses. A Bishop is in charge of a Diocese. Under each Bishop there will be several Parishes .The Parishes are called Edavakas. A Priest is in charge of a parish. There were annual Edavaka meetings in which the trustees and secretaries of the parishes were elected. The elected members from each parish used to attend Synods, which is the General Body of the church. Major decisions affecting the Church as a whole were taken by the Synods.

Besides spiritual power, the Catholicose also has administrative Powers as Malankara Metropolitan, he being an elected representative of the Church Synod as a Trustee in the position of Archdeacon of Pakalomattam Family. Before the Catholicate was formed in 1912 AD, this administrative Power was vested with Archdiacon (Arch- deacon) from Pakalomattam family, the reason being that the Priests and Bishops in Malankara were traditionally from this family .The ecclesiastical Rule by Pakalomattam family came to an end when Mar Thoma IX died in 1817AD. Till that time the Archdeacons were trustees of Malankara Church .

KERALA Churches at a Glance

There are around 9 million Christians in Kerala  as on 2001. Here are the approximate figures of Christians belonging to different denominations



The above information was provided by P.E.Easo; we appreciate its use.






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