Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church

Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church
Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church
Mar Thoma Syrian Church Crest.png
Logo of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church
Founder Saint Thomas the Apostle.
Independence Apostolic Era
Recognition Independent Hierarchical Church
Primate His Grace The Most Rev. Dr.Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan
Headquarters Tiruvalla, Kerala, India
Territory Universal
Possessions Australia, Canada, Germany, Middle East (Gulf Region), Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland.
Language Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Syriac (Western).
Adherents One million Worldwide[1]

The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church (officially the Malankara Mar Thoma Suryani Sabha) also known as the Mar Thoma Church is a Christian denomination based in the state of Kerala in southwestern India. It has an entirely different identity when compared with other Churches in India. Most Christian churches around the world are divided into Western or Eastern traditions. Eastern churches are again divided into two: the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Oriental. Mar Thoma Church is an Eastern Oriental Church. It adheres to the Syriac tradition and bases its teachings in accordance with Biblical teachings. It is one of the Saint Thomas Christian churches tracing its origins to the missionary activity of Thomas the Apostle.

The Mar Thoma Church defines itself as "Apostolic in origin, Catholic in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, Episcopal in character and is a Reformed Church.[2]

Until the beginning of 20th century Marthomites lived in a few districts of Central Travancore and Kunnamkulam in Kerala. Since that time it has spread with the 20th-century Indian diaspora to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and currently has around one million members worldwide.[1] Their mother tongue is Malayalam, the language of Kerala.



Malankara is the ancient name of the land between the Mala (=mountain) and the Kara (=land) on the south-western side of Indian Peninsula. It was between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari the southern point of India. Kerala, the present south-western state of India is only a part of Malankara. It is also thought to be a cognate of this name Maliankara, a place near Muziris, where Thomas the Apostle first landed in Kerala.

Mar Thoma or Marthoma is Aramaic, means Saint Thomas. Members of this church are often referred to as Marthomites.

Syrian Church. The original liturgical language used in Malankara Church was Aramaic and Hebrew. Later this was replaced by Syriac. In 1898 the church decided to continue its old name Malankara Marthoma Church with the addition of Syriac in it.[3]


Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church has a well defined constitution and has a democratic pattern of administration. There is an ‘Episcopal Synod’, a Grand Assembly known as ‘Marthoma Suryani Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam’ (House of Representatives), a council to aid the Metropolitan in administrative matters and a Vaideeka Selection Committee, to select candidates for the ministry of the Church.

Each diocese has its own council and an assembly. The assembly members are elected by the individual parishes, and the council members, by the Assembly.

All members of a parish are members of Edavaka Sangham (General Body) and they also have the right to elect their representatives to the Diocesan Assembly and Prathinidhi Mandalam, (Church Parliament).

The title of the head of the Church is “Marthoma” and is addressed as “Marthoma Metropolitan”. He is installed from among the duly consecrated bishops (episcopas) of the Church, the choice being ordinarily that of the senior most among them. The present “Marthoma Metropolitan” is the Most Reverend Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma who resides at Poolatheen at Church Headquarters in Tiruvalla, Kerala.

If the Metropolitan is personally satisfied that he has difficulty to continue to perform the duties appertaining to his office, he may, relinquish the powers and responsibilities as the Metropolitan. Then he becomes the Senior Mar Thoma Metropolitan and is addressed as “Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan”. The present “Marthoma Valiya Metropolitan” is the Most Reverend Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan.

To assist the Metropolitan there are episcopas, the senior most among them is called Suffragan Metropolitan. The present members of the Episcopal Synod are:

  • The Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Valiya Metropolitan.
  • The Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus Suffragan Metropolitan.
  • The Rt. Rev. Geevarghese Mar Athanasius Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geevarhese Mar Theodosius Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Thomas Mar Timotheos Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Abraham Mar Paulos Episcopa.
  • The Rt. Rev. Dr. Mathews Mar Makarios Episcopa
  • The Rt. Rev. Gregorios Mar Stephanos Episcopa
  • The Rt Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Titus Episcopa

Clergy – ministers

‘’Semmasan’’ (Deacons): The Sabha Prathinidhi Mandalam elects a Vaideeka Selection board to select candidates for the ministry of the Church.

‘’Kassessa’’ (Clergy): Persons receiving ordination as ministers shall be duly ordained deacons. They all have had their theological training at the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam, Kerala.

Vicars general: From among the clergy who have completed 25 years of service in the ordained ministry and not less than sixty years of age are selected and ordained as vicars general. In the absence of the diocesan bishop, they may be appointed as head of the diocese.

Administrative divisions

For administrative purpose, the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church is divided into 12 dioceses w.e.f. January 1, 2010, headed by a Metropolitan or by an Episcopa. They are:


Relationship of the Nasrani groups

First century BC

Muziris, near the tip of India, in the Peutinger Table.

On the south western side of the Indian peninsula; between the mountains and the Erythraean Sea (now Arabian Sea); stretching from Kannoor to Kanyakumari was the land called Cherarajyam, which was ruled by local chieftains. Later this land came to be known as Malabar and (now Kerala). Muziris (now known as Pattanam near Cochin) was the important entry port. After the discovery of Hippalus, every year 100 ships arrived here from various parts of the then known world, including Red Sea ports.[4]

During the time of Moses and King Solomon, the Malabar Coast traded spices and luxury articles with Israel.[5] Excavations carried out at Pattanam from 2005 provided evidence that the maritime trade between Kerala and the Mediterranean ports existed even before 500 BC or earlier.[6] It is possible that some of those traders who arrived from the west, including Jews, remained in Kerala.[7]

While Augustus Caesar (31 BC- 14 AD) was the Emperor of Rome and Herod the Great (37–4 BC) was King of Judea, ambassadors from Malabar visited the Emperor Augustus.[8] Nasranis believe that these ambassadors were The Wise Men From the East, of the Bible.[9] People who believe they are descendants of these Wise Men gather every year in Kerala.[10] In the 1st century map Tabula Peutingeriana (see the map) a temple of Augustus is clearly visible near Muziris showing the close relation between Rome and Malabar in the 1st century BC.

Arrival of Saint Thomas

Saint Thomas Christians believe that Thomas the Apostle arrived in Kerala around AD 52. He landed at Muziris (now known as Pattanam, near Cochin on the Malabar Coast). The Jews and a few of the Wise Men, who had been to Bethlehem to worship Jesus[11] listened to his preaching and became followers of Jesus of Nazareth.[12] It is believed that after leaving Malankara, St. Thomas proceeded to the East coast of India and died a martyrs’ death at a place called Mylapore in Tamil Nadu. There is no evidence to remotely show that Mar Thoma ever came to Malabar in India, though there is good evidence to show that Mar Thoma reached Taxilla in India, where he met the Jewish girl who played the flute. The claim that 'The Wise Men' were from Malabar is ridiculous, unless supported by facts. However, it must be conceded that the Nazerenes in Malabar were and are either 'Mar Thomites' or Mar Barthomolites, ie. Nazerenes brought from mainstream Judaism by the missionary efforts of Mar Thoma and Mar Bartholomeu. Pantaneius's reference to the gift of 'Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew' by Mar Bartholomeu to the Nazereans in Malabar is a clear pointer to the fact that Mar Bartholemeu did evangilize Malabar. Possibly the 'tho' in Bartholomeu led to the assumption that Mar Thoma visited Malabar.

The first Christians

In early Christian times, 'Nazraanis' were not a separate religion, but a sect in the Jewish community. The term was used to denote followers of Jesus of Nazareth. (Acts. 24:5; 28:22). 'Khristianos' (or Christians) was initially used largely to refer non-Jewish people who followed Christ.[13] In Kerala, the sect was known as 'Nazraani Margam'. Margam in Malayalam means, ‘The Way’. (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). Thus, the word Nazraani clearly shows that many who joined them were Jews. But in Kerala this name was replaced by the word 'Christians' in the 20th century.[14].

Early Christians of Kerala

At a meeting of the Christian Scholars of Kerala on September 5, 2011 at Pakalomattom Tharavadu, Kuravlangad near Kottayam, inaugurated by the Hon. Minister K. M. Mani, and presided over by the historian Prof. George Menachery, and attended by many ecclesiastical and civil dignitaries and scholars from all over Kerala, Dr. Mini Kariappa who is doing DNA tests in Hyderabad, presented a paper on the Genetic Origin of Syrian Christians of Kerala based on her investigations. The gist of her findings was that

DNA samplings of the Syrian Christians are very similar to that of the Jews in Israel.

First 15 centuries


The Malankara Church believes that St. Thomas appointed elders at every place he preached to lead the believers. He prayed and laid his hands upon them, in the same way as the other disciples did.[15] This was the system used till the arrival of Portuguese. By 1500, Malankara Church had Parish elders and a Church leader. Before the arrival of Portuguese, Latin was unknown to Malankara people. In the ‘’Decrees of The Synod of Udayamperoor’’ presented to the St. Thomas Christians in their mother tongue Malayalam, Malankara Mooppen was the name used to refer the Church leader, except on three occasions.[16] For the first time in 1653 the Church leader was given the title Mar Thoma. The present head of the Mar Thoma Church is the twenty first Mar Thoma.

Pantaenus from Alexandria

In the 2nd century AD, Pantaenus the Philosopher visited India and found that there were many evangelists in India. They had a copy of the Gospel according to Matthew in Hebrew.[17] These evangelists were the early Christians of Malankara Church.

Arrival of Knanaya Nazranis

During the time of King Shapur II (310–379) of Persia, a group of 400 immigrants (72 families) from Persia arrived in Malabar under the leadership of merchant Knai Thomman. They were engaged in trade and settled down in Kodungallur.Another immigration from Persia occurred around 825 under the leadership of Persian merchant Marwan Sabriso, with two Bishops, Mar Sapro and Mar Prodh. Together they were known as Knanaya (Kanahi people. They continued to remain an endogamous group within the Nasrani community. They cooperated with the Malankara Church, attended worship services together but remained a separate identity. By the 10th century, in Malabar there were two Nazrani groups, the St. Thomas Christians and Knanaya community.[18]

Bishops from Persia

Following the arrival of Christians from Persia, their bishops, priests or laymen began visiting them[citation needed]. Most of them were not able to return due to financial difficulties and traveling long distances. The Knanaya people were worshipping together with the St. Thomas Christians[citation needed]. So these visitors also attended these services. It is a matter of ongoing dispute between different churches in Kerala whether the Syrian bishops had any administrative responsibility or jurisdiction over the Nazrani Christians.

Persian crosses

Persian crosses were in churches once attended by Knanaya Nasranis. Out of five Persian crosses two are in Kottayam Knanaya Valia Palli. According to the archeologists, the earliest one was made in the 7th century. The cross became a symbol of Christianity in the west, during the time of Constantine (272–337).[19] Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar had hardly any contact with other Christians before the arrival of Knanaya people from Persia. Moreover, two of the oldest church buildings that still exist in South India do not have any marking of a Cross on their original structure. So most probably it was during the 7th century that the cross became a symbol of St. Thomas Christians.

Visits corroborating the existence of the Malankara Church

The existence of this Church in early centuries is evident in the writings of ancient travelers.

522 AD – an Egyptian Monk, Cosmas Indicopleustes in his writings, ‘’Christian Topography’’ mentions that there was this Church.[20]

883 AD. – Alfred the Great (849–899), King of Wessex, England reportedly sent gifts “in India to St. Thomas and to St. Bartholomew”, through Sighelm, bishop of Sherborne.[21]

1225 AD. – Chau Ju-Kua a Chinese traveller visited Kerala.[22][23]

1282 AD. – Kublai Khan (1215–1294) Emperor of China sent an emissary to Kollam, It was followed by an emissary from Kollam under the leadership of a St. Thomas Christian.[24][25]

1292 AD. – Marco Polo (1254–1324) on his return journey from China visited Kerala, mentions that, "The people are idolaters, though there are some Christians and Jews among them".[26]

Collection of deeds

The rulers of Kerala, in appreciation of their assistance, had given to the Malankara Nazranis, three deeds on copper plates. Five sheets of them are now in the custody of St. Thomas Christians.

  1. Iravi Corttan Deed: In the year 774 AD. Sri Vira Raghava Chakravarti, gave a deed to Iravi Corttan of Mahadevarpattanam.
  2. Tharissa palli Deed I: Perumal Sthanu Ravi Gupta (844–885) gave a deed in 849 AD, to Isodatta Virai for Tharissa Palli (church) at Curakkeni Kollam. According to historians, this is the first deed in Kerala that gives the exact date.[27]
  3. Tharissa palli Deed II: A continuation of the above deed was given sometimes after 849 AD.

Portuguese period

By 1500, Malankara Church was spread from Kannur in the North to Kollam in the South. It included the Saint Thomas Christians and the endogamous group, Knanaya Christians.

The Portuguese started settling in India with the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in 1498. For the next 200 years they took control over the sea routes and were powerful in the western parts of India.

Synod of Diamper

The Malankara Church had hardly any contact with the Christians of Europe. Many of them did not even know that there was a Pope in Rome. But the Portuguese had used their power to bring the Malankara Church under the supremacy of Rome. A powerful Archbishop Aleixo de Menezes[28] arrived in Goa in 1595. He then convened a Synod at Udayamperoor, south of Ernakulam, from 20–26 June 1599, known as the Synod of Diamper. Here the Archbishop demanded complete submission to the supreme Bishop of Rome. The representatives sent from various parishes in and around Cochin were forced to accept the decrees read out by the Archbishop. Thus those parishes of the Malankara Church were made part of the Roman Catholic Church. But the remaining churches continued their original Apostolic beliefs and practices under their own Leaders.[29]

Oath of the Bent Cross

Under the leadership of their elder Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, January 24, 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and made an oath that is known as the Great Oath of Bent Cross. The following oath was read aloud and the people touching a stone-cross repeated it loudly.

By the Father, Son and Holy Ghost that henceforth we would not adhere to the Franks, nor accept the faith of the Pope of Rome[30]

(The Missionary Register for 1822 seems to be the earliest reliable document available) Those who were not able to touch the cross tied ropes on the cross, held the rope in their hands and made the oath. Because of the weight it is believed by the followers that the cross bent a little and so it is known as ‘’Oath of the bent cross (Coonen Kurisu Sathyam) ’’

Four months after this event, according to the beliefs, 12 elders of the church ordained the elder Thomas as their prelate with the ecclesiastical title Mar Thoma I.

Beliefs and practices

Their beliefs and practices before the arrival of the Portuguese as evident in the canons of the Synod of Diamper.[31][32]

Malankara Church,

  1. denied the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
  2. maintained the spiritual presence of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.
  3. condemned the adoration of images as idolatrous.
  4. were not aware of the intercession of the saints.
  5. were not aware of prayers for the dead.
  6. had no knowledge of purgatory.
  7. had no knowledge of extreme unction.
  8. had no knowledge of auricular confession.
  9. did not follow celibacy of the clergy.

Dutch period

The Dutch was on the Malabar Coast from November 11, 1604 1795. Mar Thoma I to Mar Thoma VI were the prelates during this period.

British period

The English defeated the Dutch in 1795 and took over Cochin during the time of Mar Thoma VI. In 1806, Rev. Dr. Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican missionary visited Malankara and met Marthoma VI .[33] But, soon after this meeting, Mar Thoma VI convened a meeting of representatives of the parishes and declared that the Malankara Church should not follow the teachings of the churches of Rome or Antioch or any other foreign churches.[34] The Bible that was translated from the original Aramaic into Malayalam by two Malpans (Syriac Professors) was printed with the help of Buchanan.[35]

In 1808, a sum of 3000 Star Pagoda[36] (known as Vattipanam) was handed over to Col. Macaulay, the British Resident in Travancore by Mar Thoma VII with the condition that the interest be paid to the Metropolitan of the Syrian Church of Malabar. Col Munro the British Resident in Travancore gave the interest of the deposit to Joseph Ramban ignoring the agreement. In order to avoid the quandary in 1815, Joseph Ramban was consecrated by Mar Philexenos of the Thozhyoor Church and was given the ecclesiastical title Mar Dionysious. To make the Malankara Church accept him as their head, Col. Munroe had to get the rulers of Travancore and Cochin issue Royal proclamations ordering Christians to render obedience to Mar Dionysious.[37]

Ignoring this interference by the British, Mar Thoma VIII consecrated his successor Mar Thoma IX.[38] But soon after, Pulikkottil Mar Dionysious dethroned him. The next two prelates were also selected by Col. Munroe and Royal proclamations were issued to them also.[39]

Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius (Mar Thoma XII) did not like the interference of the Anglican Missionaries. So he convened a Synod at Mavelikkara in 1836, in which the Synod declared that, “We, the Jacobite Syrians are under the rule of the Patriarch of Antioch.”[40] But it is historically untenable to assert that the Malankara Church had always been under the Patriarch of Antioch.[41] Abraham Malpan leader of the Reformation did not attend this meeting.

After this the missionaries continued their work on their own. By 1878, CMS Church (Anglican Church) was established in Kerala with those who joined them and with those whom they converted.

Both Mar Thoma Church and the Anglican Church are reformed Churches.[42]

Cleansing of the Church – Reformation

From 1498 India was under the Colonial rule of three European powers. They all brought in their beliefs, practices and traditions into Malankara Church. Cleansing of the Church was an attempt to eliminate certain such practices and bring back those prevalent in the Church of their fathers’.[43]

The reformation was carried out after a prolonged study by a committee of 12 scholarly clergy, appointed at a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church by Punnathara Mar Dionysious (Mar Thoma XI) at Mavelikkara on December 3, 1818. No foreigner was involved in this committee or in its deliberations.

Abraham Malpan

Though Maramon Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan was conservative in his temperament he never hesitated to introduce reforms in both teaching and pratice. He also insisted on a high moral standard of conduct for laity and clergy alike. All this created a ferment in the Malankara Church and its effects are still discernible in the Church as a whole.[44]

Principal reforms

‘’Changes carried out during reformation’’ :[45]
  1. Icons, pictures, statues, and drawings of saints were removed from homes, churches, and places of worship.
  2. All prayers for the dead and to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints were omitted.
  3. Insisted that Sunday services are to be held in a very reverent and spiritual way. During that time reading and expounding Scriptures is to be done.
  4. Conducted Worship services including Holy Communion in the mother tongue, Malayalam.
  5. Holy Communion was not celebrated when there were none to receive.
  6. Mandated that Communion under both kinds should be distributed separately.
  7. Considered the practice of praying for the dead and of doing obeisance at their graves with lighted candles as abhorrent.
  8. Intercession of saints and prayers for the dead were discarded.
  9. Auricular confession was discontinued.
  10. Believed that those who come for confession should ask for forgiveness with fasting and prayer, instead of offering oil, incense and candles.
  11. Insisted that Bishops should ordain only candidates who have been examined by them and the malpans (Syriac professors).
  12. Repudiated the custom of smearing charcoal on the forehead on Ash Wednesday.
‘’Doctrines upheld’’ :[46]
  1. The Church unequivocally hold the doctrine of the Trinity as interpreted by the creed of Nicea, Constantinople and Ephesus.
  2. The Church is neither Nestorian nor Monophysite.

Course of events

The first printed Malayalam Bible, translated from Syriac was published in 1811. Known as Ramban Bible it contained ony the four Gospels. By 1841, the whole Bible was translated, printed and released. Realizing the need for a thorough cleaning, in 1818 Mar Thoma XI convened a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church at Mavelikkara. In that meeting a committee was appointed to recommend reforms. Abraham Malpan, Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan, Eruthikkal Markose Kathanar, Adangapurathu Joseph Kathanar were members of this committee. This was the first step in carrying out Reformation in Malankara Church.

On September 5, 1856, the reformation was planned. Strategy was determined by a group of 12 senior clergy under the leadership of Abraham Malpan. They issued a letter describing what they believed were the wrong teachings and a statement listing twenty-four practices of the Church which they believed were "evil" and had crept in by its association with other Churches and religions.[47][48]

Maramon Mar Thoma Church (2005)

Abraham Malpan on Sunday, August 27, 1837 conducted the Holy Communion service in the mother tongue Malayalam at his home parish at Maramon. Clergy, who supported him also did the same thing in various other parishes on the same day.

Connected with a saint, every year on the first week of October, there was a church festival at Maramon.During that time a wooden image of that saint (they called it ‘Muthappen’) was taken around in procession and people used to venerate that saint by offering prayers and ask for intercession. In 1837, Abraham Malpan took the image and threw it into a well saying, “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). So when the festival came there was no image to be taken out for procession.

The use of the revised liturgy and the changes he brought about in practices offended Marthoma XII. So deacons trained under Abraham Malpan were refused priesthood. But Abraham Malpan was not disheartened. He continued with the reforms. He returned to Maramon. Many of his students joined him to continue their studies. All those who believed that the Church need to revitalize also joined him. Members of parishes in Kozhencherry, Kumbanad, Eraviperoor, Thumpamon, Elanthoor, Kundara, Kottarakara, Mavelikkara, Mallapally, and many other places made trips to Maramon to attend the service in Malayalam and listen to his sermons. Doors were also opened for reformation in other places by clergy who supported him.

At this stage he had three choices in front of him. Repent and go back to the old beliefs under Antioch; join the Anglican Church with western beliefs; or go forward with the reformation restoring the Church to what he thought was its pristine position. He selected the third one. Abraham Malpan died in 1845.

Mathen, a nephew of Abraham Malpan also followed his uncle’s steps. He went to Antioch and returned after two years. While there, he was consecrated by the Patriarch of Antioch with the title Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan. After Cheppattu Philipose Mar Dionysius abdicated due to ill health, to collect the interest of the Vattipanam (Fixed Deposit), Mar Athanasius was approved as Malankara Metropolitan by the governments of Kerala and Cochin on August 30, 1852..<Royal Proclamation by Uthram Thirunal Maharaja of Travancore</ref>[49] Mar Athanasius published the liturgy without the prayer to St. Mary.[50] He consecrated Ouseph Mar Koorilos, Metropolitan (bishop) for Malabar Independent Church.[51] These actions angered many clergy and Pulikkottil Ouseph Kathanar went to Antioch in 1864. He returned as Joseph Mar Dionysius in 1865.

Independence of the Church

Joseph Mar Dionysius and his supporters filed a case on March 4, 1879. (Case O.S.No. 439 of 1054) demanding the possession of the seminary and the control of assets of the Church. Thomas Mar Athanasius was then the Metropolitan.

During the course of this litigation (1879–1889), answering a question Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan said,

“ The Episcopal throne of Patriarch is the throne of St. Peter, while the throne of Malankara Church is that of St. Thomas. Malankara Church is as old as the Church in Antioch, equal in status, and both are independent.”

A meeting was convened by the Maharaja of Travancore, before the final verdict was given, Mar Athanasius testified that,

Malankara Church was never under any foreign rule and that he was unwilling to move away from the teachings or give the authority and the Church possessions to a foreign Patriarch.

The final verdict came on July 12, 1889, after ten years, was against the Metran Kakshi (supporters of Thomas Mar Athanasious)

The Metran Kakshi decided to remain as an independent Malankara Church to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ as it was before 1500 CE., and to give primary authority to the Holy Bible. In 1898 this group chose the name Malankara Mar Thoma Suryani Sabha.

Marthoma metropolitans

Malankara Throne,The throne used for this consecration of Mar Thoma I in 1653

For the consecrations, from 1917 onwards bishops from other Churches were invited as guests. But the consecration was done only by the Metropolitan assisted by the other Metropolitans of Mar Thoma Church and of Malabar Independent Syrian Church.

Suffragan metropolitans

  • Rt. Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan, was consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan on May 23, 1953, at Tiruvalla. died on November 27, 1984 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.


For the list of present Metropolitans, see section on Administration.


The original liturgical language used by Malankara Church was Aramaic and Hebrew. The Bible that was in use also was in Hebrew.[52] Later when Syriac replaced Aramaic in eastern countries, and the arrival of Knanaya people from Persia in AD 345, Malankara Church began using Syriac. The Bible used in Malankara Church was in Estrangelo Syriac[33][53] This was the Bible that was in use till Malayalam (language of Kerala) translation was available. It is interesting to note that even though bishops from Syrian churches visited Kerala once in a while, they did not attempt to change the Bible into one of the new forms of Syriac. In June 1876, Patriarch of Antioch Ignatius Pathrose IV, visited Kerala and a majority of Malankara Church accepted him as the head of their Church. But those who did not join them continued to follow their own leaders, kept their identity, used the Eastern Syriac and became members of the Metran Kakshi (now Mar Thoma Church).

When Bava kakshi (those who came under the Patriarch of Antioch) continued to use their liturges in Syriac, Metran kakshi (now Mar Thoma Church) translated it into their mother tongue, Malayalam. Now, they use Eastern Syriac sparingly. Their liturgy is very similar to that of the Eastern and Coptic churches, but based on the reformation principles.

From 1837 this liturgy was revised from time to time with the approved of the Prathinidhi Mandalam and of the Episcopal Synod. The liturgy has been translated into various languages including English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada.

Places of worship

Those who were converted by St. Thomas in the 1st century continued worshiping in synagogues. Then they moved to their homes and by the 2nd century, they began to build their own churches (called ‘’Palli’’) in various places. It is believed that there were such small gatherings at Maliankara, Piravom, Niranam (Nelcynda) and Nilakkal. St. Thomas Christians in Kerala, still construct their churches following the design of Solomon’s temple, and Indian Vastu Shastra. So from outside it looks like a Hindu temple[54] but inside it is like a Jewish temple. Now there is a tendency to follow western architectural designs.

Neither pictures nor statues are in their churches. Until the middle of 20th century, all worshippers were seated on a mat spread on the floor. Now many churches provide chairs or benches, at least for the aged. During the Passion week services, these are removed, to facilitate worshiping according to their ancient custom. All, including priests and clergy, who take part in any service, look to the east and worship.


The most important festival is the Passion Week ending with the Resurrection day, (Easter). Every week day there will be special services and during which they prostrate a number of times.

Christmas is celebrated by all members of the Church, to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. During this time, parishes will be involved in Christmas carolling and the celebration of Christmas day services. By the end of last century, Christmas trees and other related celebrations have appeared in many parishes.


Organizations that are run by the Church:

Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association; Mar Thoma Sunday School Samjam; Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakyam; Mar Thoma Suvishesha Sevika Sangham; Mar Thoma Voluntary Evangelists’ Association; Department of Sacred Music and Communications.
Development Department; Christian Agency for Rural Development (CARD); Mar Thoma Medical Mission; Mar Thoma Sabha Mandiram Fellowship; Social Welfare Institutions; Theological Institutions; Educational Institutions; Technical Institutions; Study Centres; Church Animation Centre; and Camp Centres.

Educational institutions

Nine colleges, six higher secondary schools, one vocational higher secondary school, eight high schools, one training school, five technical institutions plus other educational institutions owned and managed by individuals and by parishes.

Other institutions

There are 38 social welfare institutions, 14 destitute homes and ten hospitals. The Mar Thoma Theological Seminary, Kottayam (established 1926), E.J. Institute of Evangelism, and 5 other institutes cater to the theological education of both the clergy and the laity. Three study centers at Managanam, Kottayam and Trivandrum for arranging regular study programs and to provide opportunities for creative dialogue between Church and society on various ethical, moral, social and religious issues. The religious education of children is looked after by the Sunday School Samajam (organized in 1905) and the work among youth is carried on by the Youth Department, (the Yuvajana Sakhyam organized in 1933). The Church has a Women's Department (the Mar Thoma Suvisesha Sevika Sanghom organized in 1919).

Maramon Convention

Maramon Convention

Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association, the missionary wing of the Mar Thoma Church is in charge of organizing the Maramon Convention, the largest annual Christian gathering in Asia. It takes place at Maramon, near Kozhenherry during the month of February on the vast sand-bed of the Pampa River next to the Kozhencherry Bridge.The first convention was held in 1895 March, for a period of 10 days.

113 th Maramon Convention – 2008

The Maramon Convention is pre-eminently an assembly of Christians who once a year come here for listening to the gospel as read and expounded by leaders of Christian thought from all over India as well as abroad. Attendees sit on the sand bed, (old & invalid people are given chairs) with separate seating arrangements for men and women. Generally, one session is for ecumenical messages by invited leaders of other Churches.

Ecumenical relations

The church actively participates in the programs of the World Council of Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia, the National Council of Churches and the Kerala Christian Council.[55]

Mar Thoma Church was attending meetings of World Council of Churches from its first meeting in 1948. At the WCC meeting held in Evanston, Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan was elected as one of its presidents. Since then the Church representatives attended all the General meetings.

The Mar Thoma Church is in full communion relationship with the Anglican Communion. It is also in communion with the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (also known as Independent Syrian Church of Thozhiyoor) although the doctrinal positions are not mutually accepted in full.

See also


  1. ^ a b National Council of Churches General Assembly (November 12, 1997). Accessed 2008-03-10.
  2. ^ Reformation in the Malankara Church- Living the Gospel. Pub. Mar Thoma Sabha Council. February 2011. Page 7.
  3. ^ Canons of Synod of Diamper in its Malayalam version, uses the name “Church of the ancient Marthoma Nazrani.” The canons were read out in Malayalam, the language of the people.
  4. ^ Saryu Doshi. (Ed). India and Egypt. Co-sponsored by Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and Marg Publications, Bombay, 1993. p. 45
  5. ^ ‘’Bible’’; I Kings. 9:26–28; 10:11,22; 2 Chronicles: 8:18; 9:21.
  6. ^ Kerala Council for Historical Research findings in 2005–10.
  7. ^ Edna Fernadez. The last Jews of Kerala.- The two thousand year history of India’s forgotten Jewish community. Skyhorse Publishing. c.2008. p. 80
  8. ^ Nicolaus of Damascus
  9. ^ Matthew 2:1
  10. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006). Page 68-69.
  11. ^ Matthew 2:1–2
  12. ^ Bowler, Gerry. (2000). ‘’The World Encyclopedia of Christmas’’. Page 139.
  13. ^ Acts 11:26
  14. ^ Canons of the Synod of Diamper (Malayalam version) and Travancore government records of that period.
  15. ^ Acts 6:1–6; 8:14–17; 13: 1–3
  16. ^ Decrees of The Synod of Udayamperoor A.D.1500. (Malayalam document)
  17. ^ Church History of Eusebius Book V, Chapter 10.
  18. ^ Mathew, N.M. (History of the Marthoma Church. (Malayalam), Volume 1. Page 92-94and souvenirs published by Knanaya parishes in Kerala.
  19. ^ Christian cross, Constantine I and Christianity, Jewish Encyclopedia
  20. ^ McCrindle, J.W. The Christian Topography of Cosmos, pp 91–128, Book 3.
  21. ^ ’’The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’’, Part II, AD 750–919
  22. ^ Mathew, N.M. (2003)St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. Page 76.
  23. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1. Page 98.
  24. ^ Mathew, N.M. (2003)St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. Page 76-77.
  25. ^ Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.Page 99-100.
  26. ^ Marco Polo. The Book of Travels Translated by Ronald Latham. 1958. Page 287.
  27. ^ Sreedhara Menon, A. A Survey of Kerala History.(Mal).Page 54.
  28. ^ Also known as Alejo-de-Menezes, Kerala people called him Allosos Metran
  29. ^ Herberts. (1636). Some years Travels Into Asia And Afrique.Page. 304-305.
  30. ^ The Missionary Register for M DCCC XXII. October 1822, Letter from Punnathara Mar Dionysious (Mar Thoma XI) to the Head of the Church Missionary Society. From a translation of it, out of Syriac, by Professor Lee. Page 431- 432.
  31. ^ Daniel, K.N. ‘’Canons of Synod of Diamper’’(Malayalam)
  32. ^ Geddes, Michael, ‘’The History of the Church of Malabar.’’ (from 1501). London 1964
  33. ^ a b Buchanan Rev. Claudius, Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India. Page 76.
  34. ^ Aarthattu padiola
  35. ^ ‘’Niranam Grantavari, Record of History written during 1770–1830’’. Chapter 25.
  36. ^ A south Indian gold coin in use from 1740 to 1808.
  37. ^ The CMS ‘’Missionary Register’’, January 1816, Page 37-38.
  38. ^ ‘’Niranam Grantavari, Record of History written during 1770–1830’’. Chapter 29.
  39. ^ The CMS ‘’Missionary Register’’, January 1818, pp 103–108.
  40. ^ Mavelikara Padiola
  41. ^ Cheriyan, Dr. C.V. ‘’Orthodox Christianity in India.’’ page 279.
  42. ^ Malankara Sabha Tharaka Chingam (August) 1899.
  43. ^ K.K. Kuruvilla. ‘’The Mar Thoma Church and Its Doctrines.’’ 1950. p. 21
  44. ^ Mar Thoma Sabha Directory (1999), Page 24.
  45. ^ Memorandum issued by Abraham Malpan along with eleven other clergymen on September 6, 1836.
  46. ^ Royal Court of Final Appeal, Case No:III of 1061, Vol III pp. 26, 27.
  47. ^ Zac Varghese & Mathew A.Kallumpram. (2003). Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. Page28-33.
  48. ^ Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999). Page 82-89.
  49. ^ Agur, C.M. Church History of Travancore.1903.
  50. ^ Mathew, N.M. (2007). Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, Volume II. 2007. Page 63.
  51. ^ Varughese, Rev. K.C., Malabar Swathantra Suryani Sabhyude Charitram.1972.
  52. ^ Church History of Eusebius (AD 260–341) Book V, Chapter 10.)
  53. ^ A copy of this Bible given to Dr. Buchanan for translation was later presented to him and is kept in Cambridge University Library.
  54. ^ see also Hindu temple architecture
  55. ^


In English:

  1. Constitution of Mar Thoma Syrian Church. (2008)
  2. Juhanon Marthoma Metropolitan, The Most Rev. Dr. (1952). ‘’Christianity in India and a Brief History of the Marthoma Syrian Church’’. Pub: K.M. Cherian.
  3. K. V. Mathew (1985) The Faith and Practice of The Mar Thoma Church.
  4. George Menachery (1973) The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India Vol. II.
  5. Mathew N.M. (2003). ‘’St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages’’, C.S.S. Tiruvalla. ISBN 81-4821-008-8 and CN 80303
  6. Pothen, S.G. (1963). ‘’The Syrian Christians of Kerala’’. Asia Publishing House, London.
  7. Zac Varghese Dr. & Mathew A. Kallumpram. (2003). ‘’Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History’’. London, England. ISBN 81/900854/4/1
  8. Koshy Mathew Karinjapally.(2005). Roots and Wings Bangalore, India. ISBN 81-85447-21-7
  9. Cheriyan, Dr. C.V. ‘’Orthodox Christianity in India’’ Kottayam2003.

In Malayalam:

  1. Chacko, T.C. (1936) Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charithra Samgraham. (Concise History of Marthoma Church), Pub: E.J. Institute, Kompady, Tiruvalla.
  2. Daniel, K.N. (1924) Malankara Sabha Charitravum Upadesangalum, (History and Doctrines of Malankara Church). M.C.Chacko, R.V.Press, Tiruvalla.
  3. Daniel, K.N. (1952). Udayamperoor Sunnahadosinte Canonukal. (Canons of Synod of Diamper) Pub: C.S.S., Tiruvalla.
  4. Eapen, Prof. Dr. K.V. (2001). Malankara Marthoma Suryani Sabha Charitram. (History of Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church). Pub: Kallettu, Muttambalam, Kottayam.
  5. George Alexander, Rev.(Ed). “Maramon Convention Sathapdhi Valum-’95.”
  6. George Kassessa, Rev. M.C. (1919). Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan. (Biography in Malaylam), CLS, Tiruvalla.
  7. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan. (1857). Mar Thoma Sleehayude Idavakayakunna Malankara Suryani Sabhaudai Canon. (Canon of the Malankara Syrian Church of Saint Thomas). Printed at Kottayam Syrian Seminary.
  8. Mathew, N.M. (2007). Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006), Volume II (2007). Volume III (2008) Pub. E.J.Institute, Thiruvalla
  9. Varughese, Rev. K.C., (1972). Malabar Swathantra Suryani Sabhyude Charitram (History of the Malankar Independednt Suryani Church)
  10. Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999) Pub. The Publication Board of The Mar Thoma church, Tiruvalla, Kerala, India.
  11. P. V. Mathew. ‘’Nazrani Christians of Kerala’’ (Malayalam) Vol.2 Kochi, 1993.
  12. Joseph Cheeran, Rev. Dr. Adv. P.C. Mathew (Pulikottil) and K.V. Mammen (Kottackal). ‘’Indian Orthodox Church History and Culture’’. (Malayalam) Kottackal Publishers, Kottayam. 2002.

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