Local traditions among the Christians include
Rambaan Paattu or Thomma Parvom
- a song about the Acts of Thomas written
around 1600 by Rambaan Thomas. Rambaan Thomas
of Malyakal Family descends from the first
Bishop whom St. Thomas is said to have
ordained. The poem is the oral tradition
handed down through generations. It is said to
have been originally written by the Rambaan
Thomas, the Bishop Bishop.
Margom Kali and Mappila Paattu are series of
songs of the Acts of Thomas and the history of
the Malabar Church. They are sung in
consonance with dance forms that are typical
of the Syrian Christians. Some of them are
dance dramas performed in the open as part of
the festivals of the church. These have no
specific origin, but grew up in the course of
Veeradian Paattu is sung by a local Hindu
group (called Veeradians) in accompaniment of
Villu - a local instrument - during Christian
festivals. This form of art also dates back to
unknown period handed down through generations
and modified in that process.
The tradition of Christians of Thomas is a much
more reliable source of information than the
Acts of Thomas. According to this tradition
thousands of locals including Brahmins,
Khathriyas and Dravidians were baptized by St.
The Songs of Thomas
tradition these songs were written by
the first Brahmin convert to Christianity
Which is handed down through generations
and written down in 1601
will sing of the way
which our holy religion was introduced in
The Apostle Thomas landed at Maliankara
with the merchant Habban.
performed miracles and in eight months
he established the Church of Jesus Christ in
Then he went to Mailepuram (Madras)
where he preached the Gospel of the Lord
for four and a half months
and then took ship for
stayed four and a half months in China
and returned to Mailepuram.
After he had been there for about a month,
the son-in-law of the Rajah the king of
Thiruvanchikulam came to him
and begged him to return to Malabar.
They took ship and came to Maliankara
where the apostle converted the Rajah and his
forty Jews and four hundred others in less than
preached to the people,
built a church with a cross,
and ordained priests.
One of the first whom he consecrated
was the Rajah’s son-in-law
and was called Kepha.
Accompanied by Kepha he went to Quilon
where he set up a cross and baptized 2400
From Quilon, he went on to Chayal, in the
Stayed there a whole year as he had done in
Baptized 2800 people and set up a cross.
the request of the rulers of Tripaleswaram,
returned to that village.
But when he saw that the people had desecrated
which he had set up,
cursed that place.
Nonetheless, he remained there for two months.
once more set up a cross
and instructed the people
that they should no longer return to heathendom
and ordained as a priest Thomas,
one of the leaders who had remained true to his
During these two months that he stayed in
strengthened all the Christians in their faith
and converted two hundred heathens.
Not far from there, further south,
built the church of
and ordained as priest
his first pupil Thomas Maliyekal
who had been born there.
Then he went to Kokkamangalam,
where he stayed for a year
and converted fifteen hundred people,
set up a cross
and taught the people how they were to worship
again visited Kottakavu Parur,
stayed almost a year there
and converted 2200 people.
From there he went to Maliankara along
the southern road,
and was pleasantly surprised
see the flourishing state of the Christian
stayed there only two weeks
and went away to the north, to Palayur,
Where in one month
baptized 1280 people
and according to his custom set up a great
Towards the end of the year (59 AD)he returned
went back once more to Malabar
and the angels protected him on his journey.
stayed two months at Maleattur
and converted 220 people,
Stayed a whole year at Niranam
and was satisfied with the faith of the people
and the exemplary life that they led;
gave communion to those
who had not yet received the sacrament.
Then he took his leave of the Christians
and told them that they would never see him
and set off for the land of the Tamils.
Thomas Rabban and Kepha the son-in-law of the
accompanied him for seven and a half miles
and then took their leave of him.
would be impossible to relate
all the wonders which our saint performed
making the sign of the cross
with the hands that had touched the wounds of
raised 29 dead men to life,
Freed 250 who were possessed by devils,
Healed 330 lepers,
Restored their sight to 250 blind people
And the use of their Limbs to 120 cripples,
And their speech to 20 deaf mutes.
healed 280 sick people
who had been given up by their physicians.
converted to the Christian faith
350 Vaisyas (merchants) and farmers,
and 4289 Sudras.
ordained two bishops and seven priests,
whom four were called Rabban
And appointed 21 deacons.
Ramban song does not mention Taxila mission and
hence this must have been an earlier mission.
Since Thomas landed in a ship in Kodungallur in
52 AD we could assume the Taxila mission was
somewhere in 40 – 52 AD during the time of
Gondaphores. He might have made his first
mission trip to China during this 12 year
period, for which we have no mention
positively. The song mentions the mission
trip to China by sea which might have been a
follow up mission as he seems to have done in
South Indian areas also.
Among the first converts there were forty
members of the Jewish community including Rabbi
Paul of the Cranganore Synagogue where every
Saturday the Apostle used to go and read and
explain the Old Testament for the Jewish
congregation. Though Rabbi Paul received baptism
and became a Christian, a good number of the
Cranganore Jewish community continued to stick
fast to their ancestral religion and gave the
Christians the name "Nazaranis ", meaning
followers of the man from Nazareth i.e.; Jesus
The "Black Jews" settled in the Malabar coast
during the times of
of Israel, and after the
Kingdom of Israel
split into two.
A massive migration came soon after the
destruction of temple in 70 AD. These Jews are
called “Paradesi Jews” or “White Jews” A
chieftain by the name of
was granted a principality over the Jews of
Cochin by the
II. Rabban's descendants maintained this
distinct community, which was called
). C. Achuta Menon (A.D. 1911), says:
"In the first centuries of Christian era, a
number of Jews immigrated into Kerala and
settled in that portion of it which afterwards
became the Kingdom of Cochin and Christianity
also made its way in to the country about the
same time…steadily grown in prosperity and
importance so much so that the local Kings by
charters engraved in copper plates constituted
them self governing communities. By these
charters Joseph Rabban was made the hereditary
chief of the Jews and Irvi Cottan that of the
Christians and they were also given powers and
privileges of Naduvazhi chiefs. Most of the
privileges mentioned in the Jews deed are
identical with those enumerated in the grant to
the Christians but the latter were also given
the right of "the Curved Sword", that is the
right of carrying arms which was not granted to
During the first five centuries three powers
ruled over today’s Kerala. They were Aay Rajas
in the southern side, Ezhimala Kings in the
northern side, and the first Chera kingdom
comprising most of the present central Kerala.
The capital of Chera was Vanji or
Tiruvanchikulam and the most important port was
Muchiri (Muziris). The capital of Chola Kingdom
was Urayur and the most important port was
Kaveri. The capital of Pandian kingdom was
Madurai and the most important port was Korkai.
The area from Gokarnam to CapeComerin (the land
created by Parasu Rama and given to Brahmins)
was ruled by the Chera kings.
The Chera kingdom existing at that time was
ruled by Udayan Cheran Athen-I (page 44 of
Cochin State Manual). In Cochin State Manual
South India in the First Century AD
They were ruled by a large number of local
rulers controlling few villages.
Besides Jews, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Nairs, and
Chettiars were among the earliest converts to
Christianity. The first Brahmin convert was a
young member of a Niranom Brahmin family that
had settled down in Cranganore engaged in some
business. The young man's conversion was not
liked by his father, who decided to cast him
away from the family. The Apostle called the
young convert and asked him to live with him.
The young man, who had received the Apostle's
name in baptism agreed to live with him and came
to be known as Thomas Maliyakal, in recognition
of his Brahmin family name. Subsequently he was
raised to priest hood, and after sometime was
given the title of Ramban or Arch-priest. In
course of time a Jewish Synagogue as well as a
Hindu temple at Cranganore were transformed into
Christian churches. Accompanied by Prince Kepha,
who was consecrated as the Bishop of Cranganore
and Malabar, St. Thomas left Cranganore to
preach the Gospel elsewhere.
Kodungalloor is believed to be the ancient
Muziris of Pliny, and the Periplus, on the north
bank of Periyar River today. It is also known as
Maliankara in ancient times. It is now known
as Pattanam, is near Cochin
The Mar Thoma Church, Kodungaloor, Kerala
Athen Cheran I
story starts with a a human sacrifice in the
Kali temple in Kodungallur. It was the
practive to select a male child under 5 years
old from one of prominent families by lot.
The lot that year fell on Kunjan, the nephew
of King Aten Cheran I while he was on tour to
the Pandyan empire. The family of Kunjan came
to the new divine person recently arrived from
abroad for help. Thomas and his Jewish
friends were present at the ceremony and
promised the family that they will save the
child if they will believe in Isa. Before
delivering the child for sacrifice the child
was baptized in the name of the Father, Son
and the Holy Spirit and sealed him with the
Holy Spirit. The Brahmin Priest took the
child into the inner sanctuary of Kali and the
door was shut. However the door was never
reopened announcing the fulfillment of
sacrifice. When the waiting crowd finally
forced opened the door, Kunjan was standing
there smiling and the Priest was not to be
“The whole city which was present accepted
Jesus and were baptized in a repetition of
Pentecostal day. The custom of Narabali came
to an end. Thus Kodungaloor became a Christian
city. It is since then known as the city of
the Great God, city of Mahathevar viz.,
Mahodayapuram. The king on his return himself
became a Christian under the name Andrew.
Kunjan being saved from Narabali became ‘Kepa’.”
Quilon was the next scene of the labors of the
Apostle. The majority of the people of Quilon
belonged to the Chettiar caste, the recognized
trading caste of the time. A good many of them
accepted the Gospel attracted by the preaching
of the Apostle and the miracles performed by
him. Many inhabitants of Quilon hated the new
religion and migrated from Quilon to Nanjinad to
keep themselves away from the influence of the
new religion; After erecting a cross for the
worship of the converts who numbered about one
thousand and four hundred, the Apostle left
Kollam Kadisa Pally
The Apostle and Prince Kepha proceeded from
Quilon in a northeasterly direction and arrived
at Thrikapaleswaram, near Niranom.
Thrikapaleswaram had Hindu temples at that time,
and to provide a place of public worship to the
Christian community, the Apostle planted a cross
a few furlongs away to the west of one of the
temples. The non-Christian people in the
locality did not like this and they pulled it
out and cast it into the nearby river.
This desecration took place sometime after the
Apostle had left the place for Chayal or
Nileckal. Two Christians from Thrikapaleswaram
went there and requested the Apostle to re-visit
their place and set matters right. The cross
that had been thrown out into the river moved
downwards floating on the waters for some
distance, and eventually rested on a strip of
land on the opposite bank of the river. Here at
Niranom a new site for a church was secured.
During this second visit, the Apostle stayed at
Niranom for two months and during this period
two hundred persons were baptized by him giving
new vigor and strength to the Christian
community. Local tradition is that most of the
Nambutiris having been made Christians by St.
Thomas, left the place after giving the boxes
containing the documents relating to their
landed properties to a Kymal or Nair chieftain,
who has since been known as Niranam Petti Kaymal.
Of the various miracles performed by St. Thomas
at Niranam, the most remarkable was the
restoration of life to a child of a barber put
to death by anti-Christian families, who wanted
to throw the responsibility for the crime on the
Apostle. The present building, supposedly the
fourth, was constructed in 1912 and was
reinforced during the year 2000. Among the
attractions at the church are a huge Cross made
of granite, relics of St. Thomas, remnants of
the old church, the golden cross etc
The St. Mary's (Orthodox) Church, Niranam,
The Apostle returned from Niranom to Chayal or
Nileckal. According to the Ramban song the
Apostle worked here for one year and during this
period one thousand and one hundred persons were
converted to Christianity. It was ruled by Vel
kings of the Ayr kingdom. Names like Ayroor
confirms this thinking. Vel-Nadu must have
become Venad. Most likely this kingdom had its
borders along the Southern side of Pampa River
up to Thiruvella which later became part of
Nilackal Church founded by St Thomas is situated
on the side of the pond opposite to the present
Nilackal Ambalam as per the tradition of St
Thomas Christians. This monument is near the
original Church site.
The St. Thomas (Catholic) Church Kokkamangalam,
Kokkamangalam, far to the north of Quilon,
Niranom and Nileckal, was the next centre of the
missionary activities of St. Thomas. The Ramban
song says that the Apostle spent one year at
Kokka-mangalam and baptized one thousand and six
hundred persons to Christianity. After planting
a cross and opening a church there the Apostle
left the place. During the absence of the
Apostle unknown hands removed the cross from its
site and threw it into the nearby backwater
lagoon. The cross moved with the water current
and reached Pallipuram. The believers at
Pallipuram installed the cross solemnly at a
suitable place and a church was opened there.
Kottakuvu near Parur was the next centre where
the Apostle preached the Gospel and founded a
church. According to the Ramban song the Apostle
succeeded in receiving into the Christian fold
one thousand seven hundred and seventy persons
at this center.
The St Thomas (Catholic) Church, Kottakkavu,
North Paravur, Kerala.
From Kottakavu the Apostle proceeded to Palayur,
one of the strongest Brahmin centers in Kerala.
The St. Thomas (Catholic) Church Palayoor,
Palayoor is near Guruvayoor/Kunnankulam
Palayur was the stronghold of the Namboodiri
Brahmins. Ruins of an ancient Jewish Synagogue
are still visible the Church.
“When Thomas came
to the great Brahmin centre of Palayur, a
leading Brahmin Gramam (Village) among the 64,
he came across some Brahmins doing the Pithru
Yajna or Pooja to the manes or ghosts of
deceased ancestors. They were throwing water
into the air (Tharpan) while reciting manthras.
The Apostle learned from them the meaning of
this ritual and remarked: ‘If your performance
is acceptable to the gods they could keep the
water suspended in the air without allowing it
to fall again and again’. “The Brahmins said
that this was unthinkable as it was opposed to
the laws of nature. Then Thomas asserted that
the One true God he worshipped could do it, and
he proceeded to perform a miracle on condition
that the Brahmins accept his faith if he is
successful. The Apostle, invoking the Holy
Trinity, made the sign of the Cross and threw a
handful of water up into the sky. After reaching
a particular height the water stood still in the
air, the particles glittering like diamonds.
Looking down the Brahmins could see the cavity
made by the removal of the water still there in
the pond. Most of the witnesses were baptised on
the spot. However those Brahmins who did not
accept the faith called the place ‘Shapa Kadu’
Cursed Place and left the place immediately
promising to take the next bath only at
Vembanattu, unpolluted by the new faith. Even
today, true to the oath taken by their
ancestors, the Brahmins do not eat or drink in
the vicinity of Palayur or Chowghat (Shapa Kadu).”
Syrian Christians traditionally believed that
the four Brahmin families Kalli, Kaliyankal,
Sankarapuri & Pakalomattam were converted at
Persian Cross at Palayur.
Palayur replica of St.Thomas cave in St.Thomas
Sankarapuri Family Tradition
Sankarapuri was among the families who received
The families of Shankarapuri,
Pakalomattom, Kalli, Kalikavu, and
given Priestly Status by
Migrations of Our forefathers from Palayoor to
the 2nd Century AD all the four Family migrated
from Palayoor via Angamali, Kadathuruthi to
Ettmanoor. The Devasom of Ettmanoor did not
allow them to stay there and sent them to a
place 5 Km. away which was the Forest of the
Goddess Kali. In those days the Forest of
goddess Kali was believed to be full of Witches
and Devils and people, were scared to stay in
such places. The people who came from Palayoor
stayed there without any fear not knowing about
these facts. To prove this there are documents.
The entire house names, house numbers, survey
numbers are there in the Government Records.
Survey 460/5, 460/6, 519/8 belonged to these
Families. During those days there was no place
for worship or Burial and the families
worshipped at home and used their own property
to bury the dead. Where these 4 families stayed
they established a Chapel. There still exists 5
Graves near the famous Forest of Kali (Kalikavu)
Grotto. It is believed that these are the graves
of 5 important members of these families. This
cemetery was just next to the Shakutirikal
Family. Right now it is in the procession of
Claratu Bhavan Seminary.
is believed that the above said 4 families and
the Kadapoor family, which came from Palayoor,
joined together and established the
The Kalli and the Pakalomattom Families stayed
on the Northern side of the church and the
Shankarapuri, Kalikavu and the Kadapoor families
stayed on the Southern side of the Church. So it
came to be that Sankarapuri Family got the house
name Thekkedethu meaning
Southern Side, and Pakalomattom
Family got the house name Vadakaedethu meaning
there one family moved to Chengannur. From
Chengannur one family moved to Kozhenchery in
Plamoottil. From this came the Chennattu family
out of which came Madathilparampil Family.
Thiruvithamcode Half Church
Thiruvithamcode Arappally: St. Mary's Orthodox
Church, was founded by St.Thomas in AD63
Apostle founded another church at Malayattur
which is accorded the status of half church.
Another traditioon claims this half church as
the one founded in Thiruvithamcode. When the
christians in east coast sufferred persecution
St.Thomas took 64 families with him across the
ghats over Aruvamozhi Pass into Venad. These
were mostly converts from Chettiars of Nagercoil.
The King of Thiruvithamcode offerred them
refuge. The traiditon says that when the King
offerred them sacred ash (Vibhuthi) they refused
and so these Christians came to be known as
Vibhuthi Dharia Chettkal. ("A
History of Christianity in Kerala" by Dr.
Except Nilackal all the Churches are on the
coastal line. In some records Nilackal Church is
termed Arapally not meaning half church byt as
Head Church. There is a place called Plapally
also known as Thalapally (meaning Head Church)
very close to Nilackal today.
The Church of the Thomas Christians was one of
the four great "Thomite Churches" of the East.
The three others were the Edessan, the Chaldean
(of Mesopotamia or Iraq) with Seleucia-Ctesiphon
as its center, and the Persian (of Persia proper
or Iran). These four Churches were "Thomite" in
the sense that they looked to St. Thomas as to
their direct or indirect Apostle.
Christianity did not originate in Antioch, but
in Nisibis and Edessa.It was Apostle Thomas who
sent Addai to Edessa who started the church
there. Mar Addai ordained Mar Aggai to succeed
him. This is the origin of the Catholicate of
The Church in Antioch was founded by Apostles
Peter and Paul, as well as other Apostles.
of the Church in China by the Apostle St. Thomas
between 65 and 68 AD according to the
archealogical evidences. It is more likely that
it took place between 40 and 52 AD. If this
dating AD 65-68 AD is true, this took place soon
after the first tour of Kerala ministry. ”Such a
discovery rehabilitates the tradition of the
Chaldean Church (Iraq) and of the Church of the
Syro-Malabar rite in Southern India called the
“Christians of St. Thomas”, who have always
considered the apostolate of the Apostle and the
Christian establishment in China in the first
century of our era as facts. In the Chaldean
breviary, for example, one can read: ”By
St. Thomas, the Kingdom of Heaven took wings and
flew all the way to the China. ”” Kerala
tradition indeed speaks of two tours if mission
in Kerala with a break in between and after.
According to the tradition of the Church in
India, the Apostle finished his mission there in
64 AD., and left from Meliapouram (near Madras)
for China at the beginning of… 65 AD. The Indian
and Chinese sources agree. There is thus a
strong possibility that the two figures of Kong
Wang represent the Apostle himself with, at his
side, his acolyte-interpreter.
China and Japan claim that St. Thomas personally
brought Christianity to China and
in 64 and 70 C.E., respectively. This view is
promulgated by the Keikyo Institute.
The upper portion of the Nestorian Stone (Hsian
monument), discovered by Jesuit missionaries in
1625 AD in the province of Shensi in China. The
title of the stone reads,
monument commemorating the propagation of
the Ta-Chin luminous religion (Christianity)
in the middle kingdom".
From China he returned to India and continued
his ministry with his head quarters in Mylapore.