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 (Ezhara Pallikal)Seven and Half ancient Churches (AD 52) established by St. Thomas in Kerala

The Marthoma Pontifical Shrine – Kodungallur | St Thomas Syro – Malabar Catholic Church – Palayoor | 


The locations of the seven churches have been identified from the chapter on St. Thomas in the Ramban Pattu, which also sketches his travels during the 1st century.  What exists now of this text, is the reproduction made by the 48th priest of Maliekkal family.

It mentions the arrival of St. Thomas at Malayattoor, his baptizing of 220 persons, and then his tour to Palayoor, Malyankara, Kottakkal, Gokkamangalam and Kollam. He stayed at these places for a year, established churches, and then reached Chayal Mala. The churches were set up close to places on navigable trade routes. Subsequently, Christians stayed in groups and established markets in these places.

The Ramban Pattu also says that St.Thomas reached Kodungalloor by ship along with Haban and met the Chola King. The plot of the Ramban Pattu consists of his establishing the churches in Kollam, Niranam, Chayal, Palayoor, Kodungalloor, and Paravur and then moving to Mylapore where he was killed by Brahmins and his soul ascending to heaven escorted by angels.  The churches he established, the hillocks where he offered prayers, and his tomb, are being considered sacred places.

Christianity,  one of the major religions of the world  is  monotheistic (believing in the existence of a single God) and  its very basis is  the teachings of Jesus Christ or the Messiah who is considered to be the son of God.  Having its roots in the  Mediterranean coast of the Middle East (modern Israel and Palestine), this religion is  ubiquitous, present almost in all countries. Christianity, as a matter of fact, began as a Jewish sect in the middle of the first century and,  believes in  the doctrine of Trinity implying   the belief  one god consisting of three persons: the Father, the Son (Christ) and the Holy Spirit.  The holy book of Christianity is the Bible which consists of the Old Testament (close to the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament (scriptures).  Though there are minor differences in the interpretation of the Bible among various denominations, the true Christian faith believes in leading the life  through the path of love and tolerance. It teaches the people  to be good and compassionate.

Gospels deal with the life of Christ and the religion is centered on the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. It is believed, that "Jesus sacrificed his life as a ransom for many". Four books about the life of Jesus became New Testament and the Christian theologians rely heavily on the Gospels.

Christianity  slowly spread to Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Egypt. Over a few decades, this religion gained enormous popularity and it became dominant by the 4th century.  Missionary work and colonization, led to the spread of Christianity to Indian sub continent, America, Australasia, Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world. The Christian preachers' work, as taught by Christ's teachings, centered around the ideology of  serving others;  Christians established health centers, churches, educational establishments, orphanages and shelters for the homeless. Jesus  had 12 disciples or Apostles who were responsible for taking the Gospels across the globe to preach Christianity. St. Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ arrived in India in AD 52 and reached  the western Malabar  coast to spread Christianity among the natives

The misconception that Christianity was introduced to India after the arrival of  Europeans towards the end of 1400s still persists. It was in AD 52 the Apostle St. Thomas  brought Christianity to India and as part of his zealous missionary work he established Seven and Half Churches (in Malayalam: Ezharappallikal) that is actually Eight Churches across the western coast (coastal Malabar) of India in the land now called Kerala. St. Thomas arrived in Kodungallur and established the Eight Churches and evangelized in present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Many of these churches came up  near Jewish settlements where Jewish community had been living there for some time engaged in trades. These were  01. Ezharappallikal at Maliankara (Kodungallur), 02. Kollam, 03. Niranam,  04. Nilackal (Chayal),  05. Kokkamangalam,  06. Kottakkayal (Paravoor or Kottakkavu), 07. Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and  08 Thiruvithamkode (Kanyakumari).   Among them the one at Maliankara is considered as first church. The Church  near  Kanyakumari was a  small one, Arappally means Half Church.

St. Thomas lived in India for 17 years: 4 years in Sindh (now in Pakistan), about 6 years in Malabar Coast and 7 years at Mylapore in Tamil Nadu where he was martyred. His Mortal remains are in St.Thome Church in Mylapore, Chennai. The Indian Postal Service of the Government of India brought out two commemorative stamps, in 1964 and 1973, in honor of the historic arrival of St. Thomas in India in 52 AD.


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