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Church towers over two millenniums in India

The Church Movement in India originated in the South Indian State of Kerala nearly 2000 years ago.

According to a Hindu belief, Kerala was created by Parasuram, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu, thousands of years ago.

St Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, located at Payalur (Palayoor) in Thrissur district, was established in 52 AD by St Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.

Regarded as the oldest Romo-Syrian Apostolic Church in India, it is accredited to the Apostolate of St Thomas.

St Thomas established seven Churches in India, one each at Cranganore, Kokkamangalam, Kottakavu (Parur), Quilon, Niranam and Chayal.

Structural changes

The original small Church structure of St Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic has been retained at the oldest site. But substantial improvements around it were carried out during the 17th century by Reverend Fenichi, as necessary, without sacrificing the main sanctity of the place

St. Thomas travelled from Kottakavu or Crangannur, now called Kodungallur (Mussiris) and landed at Palayur by boat through the backwaters. At that time, Palayur was a stronghold of Brahmins and Jews.

He came to visit the Jewish merchants at Palayur at Judankunnu (‘The Hill of Jews’) and to preach the Christian gospel. The place has since become a dry land but its historicity as a boat jetty called locally as ‘Bottukulam’ has been preserved as a monument to St Thomas.

Of the seven churches established by St Thomas, only three can claim continuity. They are the Syro-Malabar Catholic Archdiocese of Payalur (Thrissur), the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Parur (Ernakulam) and the Orthodox Syrian Church (Devalokam Aramana) of Niranam.

The other four churches have undergone several changes in their locations.

Temple conversion

It is stated that the Payalur Church was converted from a Hindu temple abandoned by Brahmins. Further, as a proof of Jewish settlements that existed during the visit of St Thomas, ruins of a synagogue could be seen near a Hindu Temple, close to the Church.

Temple remnants in the form of broken idols, sculptures and relics can also be seen near the precincts of the Church, in addition to two large tanks near the west and east gates of the Church.

According to records, St Thomas stayed in India for 17 years; four of which were in Sindh (now in Pakistan), six years in Malabar and seven years at Mylapuram (or Mylapore) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

The Indian Postal Service released two commemorative stamps in 1964 and 1973 in honour of the historic arrival of St Thomas in India in 52 AD.

The Apostle

The Holy See proclaimed St Thomas as ‘The Apostle of India.’ His skeleton remains were brought to India in 1953 by Cardinal Tisserant. A document called ‘Grandavariola’ kept by a local Brahmin family (who had moved out from Palayur) testifies to the date of the gospel work of St Thomas.

Source: Wikipedia. Readers are welcome to send their comments or share their knowledge to editor@indiannewslink.co.nz

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