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Some intresting facts about Christian in India

Compiled by Joe Fernandez
There were over nine million Christians in Kerala in 2001. They consisted of Orthodox Syrian Christians 2,511, 833; Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) 1,285,000; Syro-Malabar Catholics 3, 494, 223; Marthomite 700,000; Syro-Malankara Catholics 344, 342; Church of South India and others 1, 000, 000.

Christians mostly converted Jews and locals known together as Nazranis were the only religion in Kerala till the Buddhist, Nambudiris (Brahmins), and Arab Muslims landed much later. This is based on the historical evidences available  in Kerala from Temples, Mosques, Buddhist  caves, Copper plate Cheppeds, Crosses with Pahlavi writings available with the Christians etc. Their religious practices, names, customs and costumes are unique and are very much similar to that of the Jews and Nambudiris.
The Syrian Christians originated from Kerala and they are now scattered all over the world. The word " Syrian Christian" is derived from "Suraya Christians" who had migrated to Kerala (Malankara) in 340 AD under the leadership of a Bishop by name David (Dawood). This is recorded on the cross they had brought with them, which is preserved in Alangad church in Kerala.

They migrated from a place called Suraya (Syria) now in Iraq to escape political persecution. Before the Suraya Christians came to Malankara (Kerala) there were already Christians in Kerala converted by St. Thomas. They were known as Nazarani Christians or Issanu Vadikal.

They were mostly Christians converted from Jews and later included Nambudiris and Royal family (The Chera King Kuru Varman-1 also known as Vyakrasenan who ruled Kerala from 40 AD to 55 AD was a Christian 1 ). All the Christians up to the time of the Portuguese rule in Kerala are called Syrian /Nazrani /Malankara Christians.

They remained unmixed with other religious class of people and kept their identity by adopting the religious practices of the Essenian Jews converted to Christianity when St Thomas first landed in Muzris Port of Mali Island near Kochi. The Jew street in Kodungloor, the Palaces of the Chera kings  in Kodungallor, Malankara-Nazrani name, etc  are all evidences of the ancient tradition.

The Nambudiris were the second converted people, the first being the Jews and the Ruling family. The first priest ordained by St Thomas was from the Royal family. His name was Keppa and the leader of the first converted Christians. The Head of the Nazrani Christians was later called Archdeacons (Arch deacon) from the priestly class of Nambudiri. He enjoyed powers to rule the entire Syrian (Suriyani) Christian population.

It is a fact that when the Portuguese arrived in India, they found Christianity already in existence in Kerala. It was an Indianised form of Christianity. The Portuguese didn’t like what they saw, especially the fact that the Christians owed allegiance to the Syrian Orthodox Church which had its headquarters and a bishop in Antioch (then a part of the Ottoman empire, now in modern day Turkey) and that the mass was recited in Syriac or Aramaic.

The Portuguese, using a mix of force and persuasion, managed to convert many of the Syrian Christians to Catholicism. Those converts became Syrian Catholics and switched allegiance from the Patriarch in Antioch to the Pope in Rome, though their mass continued to be in Syriac. Till 1965 when the Second Vatican Council decided to allow mass in the vernacular, Syrian Catholics continued to have their mass in Syriac, while other converts to Catholicism used Latin...

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