Malankara Orthodox Church

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church

Catholicate Emblem
Founder Thomas the Apostle in AD 52
Independence 1912
Recognition Oriental Orthodox
Primate Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II
Headquarters Kottayam, Kerala, India
Territory Universal
Possessions India, United Arab Emirates, United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Singapore and Australia,
Language Malayalam, English, Hindi, Konkani, Kannada, Syriac
Adherents 2.5 million[1][2]

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, also known as the Indian Orthodox Church, is an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox church centred in the Indian state of Kerala. It is one of the churches of India's Saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The church is locally headed by the autonomous Catholicos and its present primate is Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan.

Historically, the Saint Thomas Christians were united in leadership and liturgy, and were part of the Church of the East centred in Persia.[3][4] From the 16th century the Portuguese Jesuits attempted to forcefully bring the community fully into the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. Resentment of these measures led the majority of the community to join the archdeacon, Thomas, in swearing never to submit to the Portuguese in the Coonan Cross Oath in 1653. The part of the church that followed Thomas is known as the Malankara Church.

Following the arrival of Bishop Gregorios Abdul Jaleel of Jerusalem, Archdeacon Thomas forged a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church and gradually adopted West Syrian liturgy and practices. Over time, however, relations soured between the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs and the local hierarchy, particularly after Patriarch Ignatius Peter IV (reigned 1872—1894) began demanding registered deeds for the transfer of properties. In CE 1912, a synod led by the Patriarch Ignatius Abdul Masih II, who had been controversially deposed by the Ottoman government,[5][6] consecrated Evanios as Catholicos of the East, under the name Baselios Paulose I. The faction that supported Baselios Paulose became what is now the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, while those who supported the Patriarch became the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church. The two groups were briefly reunited between 1958 and 1975, but attempts by church leaders and two Supreme Court decisions were unable to resolve the contention, and the two churches operate independently today.

The church is theologically and traditionally a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion of churches. The Indian Orthodox Church accepts the Miaphysite Christology of St Cyril of Alexandria and uses the Malankara Rite, a local variant of the West Syrian Rite.


First seventeen centuries

Outside Roman empire i.e. Parthian empire and its east, Christianity has spread and flourished from its inception, while in Rome and Roman empire it was a banned and persecuted sect up to conversion of Roman emperor Constantine in CE 315. Edessa (in Greek) or Urha (in Syriac) was the centre of Eastern Christianity from where St. Thomas worked tirelessly for the spread of Christian faith in Parthia, Mesopotamia, India, China and far away islands. Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul led the propagation of Christianity around Mediterranean, while East received message of Christ and Apostolic hand from St. Thomas, and was considered the spiritual father of the whole Apostolic See of East at least up to the colonial siege of West over East during 16th and 17th centuries. St. Thomas the Apostle is credited by tradition with founding the Indian Church in CE 52. This Nasrani faith had many similarities to ancient Judaism (see also Jewish Christianity), and, owing to the heritage of the Jewish Christian Nasrani people, developed contacts with the Non-Chalcedonian religious authorities of Edessa, Mesopotamia.

The East Syrian Prelate, Mar Yuhanon signed on behalf of the Churches of Persia and India at the first organized gathering of Christianity, the Synod of Nicea held in CE 325. The East Syrian Canonist Ibn Tayyib says ‘In the time of Catholicose Mar Ishaq (CE 309-410) the Metropolitanates of Fars and Meru and in the time of Mar Ishu Yab-I/ II/ III (CE 582-660) Halwan, Harat, Samarkhand, India and China were created’. Mar Ishu Yab warned in his two letters to Mar Shimyun, Metropolitan of Fars (Riwardisher) located in southern Persia that his independent stand will not hamper the ecclesiastical needs of the people of India. Ancient East Syrian (Persian) crosses found out in many places with writings in Pahlavi language engraved on it, as seen at Kadamattom Orthodox church, Kottayam Canaanite church, Mylapore church are also pronounces the close relationship of Malankara with East Syrian Church. The local Church maintained its autonomous character under its local leader, Arkidhyaquana (locally called as Malankara Moopen). Geevarghese Bar Ebraya, Maphriyano of West Syrian Church, in his Ecclesiastical History, made no mention about Malankara Church reveals the fact that Antiochean See had no knowledge or any association with Church of Malankara.

In C.E.822 a group of people from East Syria, (home of the biblical magis, who advanced in astronomy at that time) migrated to Kerala at Kollam, the southern Cheran capital under two bishops - Mar Sabrisho and Mar Aphrod - formulated a new calendar for the king of Kollam, known as Kolla Varsham (era) which began in C.E.824. Syrian Christians were also actively involved in spice trade due to their west Asian connections. As a reward for their unique services, the Syrian Christians were bestowed with many rights in copper plates by the King in the presence of his royal assembly is known as Tarissa Palli Chepped is in the possession of the Malankara Orthodox Church and the hidden first and last page with Reformists. The other important Chepped, ‘Kana Thomman Chepped’ was ferried to Portugal and misplaced there. The spread of aggressive religions and the exhaustive holocaust by Timur during 14th century caused the devastation of the 16 million strong East Syrian Church which had more than the combined strength of Latin and Greek Church at that time, to small groups of dispersed minorities.

The fall of Constantinople, a bastion of Christianity in Asia Minor, to the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1453 marked the end of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire, and severed European trade links by land with Asia. This massive blow spurred the age of discovery as Europeans were seeking alternative routes east by sea for the spice trade. One such Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, arrived in Calicut in 1498. The Portuguese came to South India and established their political power there. They aggressively carried out the work to unite the Malanakara Church in communion with Rome under the Portuguese patronage.

At the time of the arrival of Vasco-da-Gama at Cochin in CE 1502, Metropolitan Mar Yahb Alla assisted by Mar Denha, Mar Yacob and Mar Yuhanon sent by Babylonian Patriarch ministered from Ankamaly along with Arkidhyaquana. Cardinal Tisserent in his book ‘Eastern Christianity’ states that even after the arrival of Portuguese, Babylonian Primates, continued to sent prelates and they ministered in Malanakara viz. Mar Yacob (CE 1503-49), Mar Joseph and Mar Elias (CE 1556-69), Mar Abraham (CE 1568-97) and thereafter Mar Simeon. Most of them were detained by Portuguese under Goan Inquisition and sent to Bassein (Vasai), Lisbon or Rome for orientation in Latin language, tradition & liturgy.

Portuguese were eager to bring the Indian Church under the Pope's control. They succeeded in their efforts in CE 1599 with the Synod of Diamper. Royal order issued under the pressure of Goan bishop Menezis, the representatives of various parishes who attended the assembly were forced by Portuguese authorities to accept the Papal authority. In CE 1601, Menezes consecrated Fr. Francis Roz as bishop of Ankamaly, which marked the beginning of Roman Catholic hierarchy in Malankara. In CE 1652, Mar Ahathalla, a prelate from East Syria reached Mylapore (most emotive place in India for every East Syrian in early times) and the news of his detention and torture by Portuguese, caused the great uprising of 1653. Under the leadership of Arkidhyaquana Thomas, Nazranis gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, January 24, 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and sworn an oath known as the Great Oath of Bent Cross. The following oath was read aloud and repeated by people touching a stone cross: "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[29]". Those who were unable to touch the cross tied ropes to it, which they held as they swore the oath. Because of the enthusiasm of believers, the cross bent a little and so it is known as "Oath of the bent cross (Coonen Kurisu Sathyam)". They wanted to combat aggressive catholic hierarchy and to regain the spiritual and administrative autonomy of the Church, hence 12 elderly priests laid hand on Thomas Arkidhyaquana and elevated him as Metropolitan. It appealed to several eastern Christian churches to defend its identity from Latin intrusion. Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem came to India in 1665 in a Dutch ship. He confirmed Marthoma I as the Metropolitan and worked together with him to re-organize the Church. Until CE 1599, it depended on the Assyrian (Persian) Church for prelates to ordain its priests.[7]

The Church have lost many early traditions after the onslaught of western Christianity. Early period Nazranis sought the intercession of Apostolic father St. Thomas who was described in tradition as well as in Liturgy as a great healer of sicknesses and it was zealously solicited by a traditional annual fast of 8 days which is unfortunately discontinued now.

Divisions among Saint Thomas Christians

Due to widespread complaints against Jesuits in Malankara, Rome sent Carmelites in two groups from the Propagation of the Faith to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani,Fr. Hyacinth and Gracia. They gradually gained support especially with the help of Parambil Chandy kathanar,cousin brother of Mathoma-1 and succeeded to woo many of the councilors of Mar Thoma I, according to Jesuit reports.[8] Kerala‘s long water ways helped the Portuguese soldiers to directly intervene in coastal churches, while geographically interior churches spared due to lack of roads at that time. They asked Kochi, Vadakkumkoor, Thekkumkoor and Ambalapuzha kings to put diktats to their Syrian subjects to join Catholicism. By CE 1662,out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites claimed eighty-four churches, leaving Archdeacon Mar Thomas I with thirty-two churches. The thirty-two churches and their congregations represented the nucleus from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur, Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians), Syro Malankara Catholics have originated.[9]

The indigenous group under the leadership of the Marthoma-I welcomed Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop under Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. [10] Those who struggle to defend the Malankara Church from European rule, has no other way but to accept the patronage west Syrian hierarchy having slight difference from east Syrian traditions. Henceforth,the native Church began to be called as Jacobites (earlier called as Nestorians). Both terms are misconception of Westerners, as most of the old Kerala churches are consecrated in the name of St.Mary, which is not conform to Nestorianism and Jacobites denote the followers of Mor Yacob Burdhana who fought Roman imperial church.

Malankara Metropolitans - 1 to IX of Paklomattom family continued from the linage of Arkidhyaquanas, however earnestly led the Church since CE 1653 to another 150 years and they made many attempts to regain the Roman faction under eastern tradition. The Dutch period put an end to the direct interference of Portughese, but Latinism grafted on Syrianism survived with Roman support. In CE 1795, English appeared the scene and Principal of Fort College, Rev. Claudius Buchanan visited the Church in 1806. His meeting with Marthoma -VI and Fr. Joseph Pulikkottil (his ascendancy to the Metropolinate caused the eclipse of Pakalomattom dynasty) changed the destiny of the Church in the 19th century to a great extent. The expeditions of Tipu Sultan during 1789-92 destroyed the administrative and priest training centre existed at Ankamaly from early centuries and the Church was in search for new centre in the state of Travancore. Church was not in a position to purchase a prime plot and to construct necessary buildings. The British Resident was ready to help and in a position to influence the Travancore Rulers. Under the persuasion of English in 1813 the Queen allotted a plot of 16 acre land and Rs.27000/- to construct a Seminary at Kottayam (most of the temples at that time are made up of royal grants). The Anglican faculty joined the Seminary in 1816 used the opportunity to sow the seeds of Anglicanism among Syrian Christians and the relation breaks its way in 1836. Under Cochin settlement, Syrian Christians were allowed to retain the land and building but had to compensate the Anglicans by cash payment of the amount received for Seminary from Travancore Government and abroad and Manroe Thuruth (island) .

Many times, the demise of Metropolitans without anointing a successor put the Church in a fix. In these critical times, Church even taken the Apostolic hand from estranged Thozhiyoor Church. Cheppad Mar Dionysus and his two predecessors were anointed by Thozhiyoor Church. Church again fell on the feet of Antiochean See, when Reformists secretly sent deacon Mathew to West Syrian Patriarch at Mardin (later the See shifted to Homes and now in Damascus) and get him consecrated as Mar Athanasius in order to seize the Church from its top for Anglican reformation movement. It was the first time that an Indian directly went to Antioch and plead for ordination. In a hurry to subject the Malankara Nazarenes, the Patriarch even not consulted the reigning Metropolitan Cheppad Mar Dionysius. The callous act not only defeated the effort of Cheppad Mar Dionesius to contain the reformists by Mavelikkara Synod, but also put the whole Church under Reformists. Mar Athansius reached Malankara and claimed the crown seat of Malankara Metropolitan and argued that consecration from Patriarch is only valid and the consecration of Cheppad Mar Dionesius from Thozhiyoor is not valid. Make use of the dispute, Patriarch sent an Antiochean prelate Yuachim Mar Kurilose, who came and took over the position of Malankara Metropolitan and deposed Cheppad Mar Dionysius. Now the tussle started between Syrian national Mar Kurilos and Mar Athanasius. Government appointed a high power committee of its officials to settle the dispute. However, the decision of the committee known as ‘Quilon award’ (1848) advised Government to pronounce Mar Athansius as Malankara Metran as they were doubtful about the authenticity of the Patriarchal letter presented by Mar Kurilos and they observed that there was no tradition of a foreigner in the seat of Malankara Metran . In order to win back the Church from Protestants, Church was compelled to bring Mor Pathrose Patriarch from Antioch in 1875. Patriarch cancelled the ‘Stathicon’ given to Mar Athanasius and subsequently Government de-recognized him in 1876. But he and his successor continued to stay at Pazhaya Seminary. Finally, Metropolitan Mar Pulikkottil –II in 1889, evicted them from Pazhaya Seminary (Church Headquarters) and parish churches after a long civil litigation. Many of the affidavits submitted to the court as well as the deliberations of Mulunthuruthy Synod convened by Patriarch in 1876 were really harmful to the very goal of independence, but it was unavoidable in such a situation to freed the Church from the clutches of western colonialism. Thus the help sought from British Raj to influence the Travancore government for a financial grant to set up a Seminary for priest training in the year 1813, resulted the formation of CMS Church in 1846 and subjugation to Antiochean Church in 1876 and formation Marthoma Church in 1889. Politically western powers withdrew from eastern colonies but in the sphere of Church, they are still pursuing colonial ambitions. The struggle of independence initiated by Geevarghese Arkidhyaquana in 1599 from western domination still continuing after more than 400 years even many apex court verdicts uphold the independence of Malankara Church.



The church had no written constitution until 1934, but was governed by consensus, traditions and precedence. It was the vision of Mor Dionysius, Vattasseril to have a clearly defined uniform constitution to govern the church administration. He initiated action in this regard and appointed a sub-committee with O. M. Cherian as convener to submit a draft constitution. The committee members had discussed the fundamental issues with the Metropolitan in several rounds. However it was not finalized and passed (materialized) in his life time.

After his demise, the constitution was presented in the Malankara Christian Association meeting of Dec 26, 1934, held at M. D. Seminary. It was adopted and brought to force. Three times the constitution was amended to meet specific situations and needs. It only shows that the church is alive to meet the challenges that arise from time to time. The validity of the constitution was challenged by the Patriarch party in the Court, but the Supreme Court has given its final verdict declaring the validity of the Constitution. Every member of the Church is bound by the rules and regulations laid down in the Constitution.

The Constitution upholds the autonomy and autocephaly of the Malankara Orthodox Church. It is Episcopal in its (polity) and not congregational. At the same time it upholds democratic principle by safeguarding the rights and privileges of the lay people. It was framed at a time when the Patriarch of Antioch was held in high esteem and hence his limited role is included.

The constitution enshrines the fundamental features of the Church, provides direction for its internal administration and preserves its integrity and autonomy. The essential features of the Church are provided in the preamble. The first article emphasizes the bond of relationship between the Church of Syria and Malankara. The second article deals with the foundation of the Malankara Church by St. Thomas and the primacy of the Catholicos. The third article refers to the name of the church and the fourth about the faith, traditions etc., and the fifth about the canons governing the administration of the Church.

The whole constitution conceives the Malankara Church as self –sufficient in all her requirements, be it temporal, ecclesiastical or spiritual in nature and upholds that the Malankara Orthodox church is rightly autocephalous in character.

19th century

In 1795 the British captured Malabar, Kerala. In 1806 Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican priest, visited the ancient Church of St.Thomas in India. In March 1815 Malankara Church opened a Seminary at Kottayam, and in the next year Anglican missionaries arrived to join it.[11][12] However, in 1835 the missionaries began to impose Protestant doctrines on the seminarians.[13] As a result the Malankara church discontinued their association with the Anglicans.

The London Missionary Service was active in India. Bishop Norton inaugurated the first Anglican Church in Kerala at Thalavady in the house of one Itty Matthan Panickar. This church was later known as Christian Missionary Service and after Indian Independence it became the Church of South India. Lore says that Bishop Norton was tutored in Malayalam by Itty Matthan Panickar. Later the same person tutored Bishop Benjamin Bailey in Sanskrit & Malayalam, and was presented the chair on which the Bishop sat as a gift. Later in the 19th century, exposure to the doctrines of the Church of England inspired a reform movement led by Abraham Malpan. This led to the formation of the Mar Thoma Church.

This eventually gave rise to the division of the community into three bodies.

  • A group of people of the Malankara Church opted to join with the missionaries and be absorbed into the Anglican Church, and they became CSI (Church of South India) by the union of many churches.
  • One of them set out to bring about major reforms in the liturgy and practices of the Church, including independence from foreign control. After a final litigation outcome in 1889 which was not in their favour, they formed what later became known as the Mar Thoma Church .
  • A large majority of the community continued in the Malankara Orthodox Church without accepting the reforms.[14]

From 1817 to 1825 to Mar Dionysius III (Mar Thoma XI) was Malankara Metropolitan. In 1825 to 1855 Philipose Mar Dionisius 4th [Cheppad Mar Dionisius] led the Malankara Church.

20th century

In 1912, the Catholicose of the East was re-established in India. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church wanted to retain its autocephalous nature. It appealed to the deposed Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Mor Ignatius Abdul Masih II. He ordained Murimattathil Paulose Mar Ivanios as Baselios Paulose I, as [ØCatholicos of the Eastœ] on the Apostolic throne of St. Thomas. The ceremony was held at St. Mary's Church, Niranam on September 15, 1912.[15] The church in 20th century became the biggest faction to be fully eligible for Marthoma heritage. The claims are based on two grounds. First, the Supreme Head of the church is St. Thomas and the second; the church has no dependence on or is under any foreign churches outside India.

The history immigrant community of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of the East in the U.S.A. begins approximately in the mid 20th century. During this period, a number of prominent priests and laity came to the U.S.A. for higher studies and training. Mathews Mar Coorilos Metropolitan (late Moran Mar Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II) stayed at the General Theological Seminary in 1963 and returned to India in 1964. Mar Coorilos celebrated Holy Qurbana occasionally during his stay here. Fr. K.M. Simon look after the Church service after Mar Coorilos left for India. This service was ecumenical in nature, and Malayalees, irrespective of denomination participated. In 1965, the United States legislature passed a bill which cleared the way for thousands of professionally qualified individuals to make their way to America. Many Malankara Orthodox Christians came to the United States during this time. After 1970, the Malankara Orthodox Church gradually began to take root in many of the major US cities. As time passed, the growing number of clergy and laity proved that the Malankara Orthodox Church would be a permanent body in the United States. The year 1976 was a very important year for the Church, especially for America. The Holy Synod decided to establish more dioceses to better administer the flock in various parts of the world. At this time, the numerous churches in America were placed under the authority of the Metropolitan of the Bombay Diocese, Thomas Mar Makarios. Then, Mar Makarios was given authority of the new American Diocese under the authority of the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews I, on July 14, 1979. Along with this, the dedicated service of the priests in America added to the unity, prosperity and growth of the Diocese.

In 1991, the Diocese came under the direct control of a Malankara Metropolitan who was assisted by Mathews Mar Barnabas. Under the leadership of Mar Barnabas, the Diocese has grown both spiritually and physically. Most notable of all Mar Barnabus' accomplishments is the development of spiritual organizations, such as MGOCSM and Sunday School. He gave both organizations a national structure and administration. In 2002, Zacharias Mar Nicholovos, a young, talented leader and orator joined the Diocese as the assistant to Mar Barnabas. In 2009, the Malankara Church decided to divide what was known as the 'American Diocese' into two dioceses, namely - the Northeast American Diocese and the Southwest American Diocese.Today, the Northeast American Diocese has more than fifty parishes, and more than forty priests, 14 deacons and seminarians. The hard work and prayers of all Priests, and laity have led to the Diocese's strong foundation, and have provided for a secure future and outlook for the next generation of Indian Orthodox Christians in America.

Hierarchy, distribution and doctrine

The spiritual regional head of the church is the Catholicos of the East and the temporal head over church assets is the Malankara Metropolitan. Since 1934, both the titles vest in one person. The official title of the head of the Church is the "Catholicos of the East and the Malankara Metropolitan". As of 2013, Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, who was enthroned on 1 November 2010, at Parumala Church by the Holy Synod, held this post. Paulose II is the 91st Catholicos of the East in the lineage of Apostle Thomas, and the eighth Catholicos after its reinstatement in India and the 20th Malankara Metropolitan.

The church accepts only the first three Ecumenical Synods, as do all other Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The church primarily uses the liturgy of Saint James, as does its sister church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Church in India was connected to the Church of East through the Catholicos of the East, existed in Edessa, Selucia, Tigris and Mosul at various times. Today the Church conducts liturgy in West Syriac, Malayalam, Hindi, and English.

The church has theological seminaries at Kottayam and Nagpur,and dioceses and churches in most parts of India, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Africa, Persian Gulf nations, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The name Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church refers to St. Thomas Christians of India that come under the Catholicate of the East whose supreme head is the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan, with its headquarters at Devalokam, Kottayam, Kerala, India.


Since the 17th century, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church uses the Syrian Orthodox Liturgy, which belongs to the Antiochene liturgical tradition. The East Syrian (Persian), Byzantine, Armenian, Georgian, Maronite liturgies also belong to the same liturgical family. In the first half of the 5th century, the Antiochene Church adopted the anaphora of Jerusalem, known under the name of St James, the disciple. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the liturgical language of Jerusalem and Antioch was Greek. Therefore, the original form of St James liturgy was composed in Greek.

Following the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Eastern Church was divided into two, one group accepting the council and the other opposing it. Both groups continued to use the Greek version of St James. The Byzantine emperor Justin (518–527) expelled the non-Chalcedonians from Antioch and they took refuge in the Syriac speaking Mesopotamia on the Roman-Persian Border (modern Eastern Syria, Iraq and South East Turkey). Gradually, the Antiochene liturgical rites were translated into Syriac. New elements such as Syriac hymns were introduced into it.

Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem came to Malankara in 1665 and introduced Syriac Orthodox liturgical rites. The most striking characteristic of the Antiochene liturgy is the large number of anaphoras (Order of the celebration of the Eucharist). About 80 are known and about a dozen are used in India. All of them have been composed following the model of Liturgy of St James.[16]


The word "Catholicos" means "The General Head". It can be considered as equivalent to "Universal Bishop". There were only three ranks of priesthood in the early Church: Episcopos (Bishop), Priest, and Deacon. By the end of the 3rd century certain bishops of certain important cities in the Roman empire gained pre-eminence over other bishops and they came to be known as Metropolitans. The Ecumenical councils of the 4th century recognized the supreme authority of these Metropolitans. By the 5th century the bishops in major cities such as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch etc. gained control over the churches in the surrounding cities. Gradually they became the heads of each independent regional church and were called Patriarch which means common father. The same rank in the Churches outside the Roman Empire was called Catholicos. There were three ancient Catholicates in the Church before the 5th century. They were the Catholicate of the East, the Catholicate of Armenia and the Catholicate of Georgia. None of these ranks and titles are the monopoly of any church. Any Apostolic and national church has the authority to declare and call its head, Catholicos, Pope, or Patriarch.

St.Thomas established the church in India and is recognized as its first Head or Catholicos.

The reign of the Archdeacons started from the 4th century and lasted until the 16th century. The third stage started when the archdeacon was elevated to the position of a Bishop by the community with the name Marthoma I in 1653. Since then the head of the community was the Marthoma Metrans and later the position was developed to Malankara Metropolitan with more recognition.

In 1912, the Catholicate of the East was relocated to India, and Baselios Paulose I was seated on the Honorary Apostolic Throne of St.Thomas as the Catholicos of the East.

The Headquarters of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, named Devalokam, is located at Kottayam, in Kerala. It is the official headquarters of the Catholicos Of The East who reigns on the Supreme Throne of St. Thomas, the Apostle, and was established on 31 December 1951.

The new Aramana which was built in 1961 was inaugurated by the visiting Armenian Catholicos Vazgen I.

A portion of the holy relics of St. Thomas, the Apostle of India and Founder of the Church, is kept in the Catholicate Chapel. The mortal remains of Baselious Geevarghese II, Baselious Augen I, Baselious Marthoma Mathews I, and Thomas Mar Makarios Metropolitan are entombed in this Chapel.

List of Catholics of the east

To see the lineage of Catholicos: List of Catholicos of the East

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, who came to India in A.D. 52.

At least from the fourth century the Indian Church entered into a close relationship with the Persian or East Syrian Church. From the Persians, the Indians inherited East Syrian language and liturgies and gradually came to be known as Syrian Christians.

In the sixteenth century Roman Catholic missionaries came to Kerala. They tried to unite the Syrian Christians to the Roman Catholic Church and this led to a split in the community. Those who accepted Catholicism are the present Syro-Malabar Catholics. Later Western Protestant missionaries came to Kerala and worked among Syrian Christians; That also created certain splits in the community.

In the seventeenth century the Church came to a relationship with the Antiochene Church which again caused splits. As a result of this relationship the Church received West Syrian liturgies and practices.

The Church entered into a new phase of its history by the establishment of the Catholicate in 1912.

At present the Church is using the West Syrian liturgy. The faith of the Church is that which was established by the three Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (A.D. 325), Constantinople (A.D. 381) and Ephesus (A.D. 431).

The Church is in communion with the other Oriental Orthodox Churches namely, Antiochene, Alexandrian, Armenian, Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. The Church is in good ecumenical relationship with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

At present the Church has over 2 million faithful with 30 dioceses all over the world.

Saints of the Church

Current Metropolitans

Main article: List of Metropolitans of the Indian Orthodox Church
  • Baselios Marthoma Didymus I (Valiya Bava) [Retired]
  • Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II (Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan)
  • Thomas Mar Athanasius
  • Geevarghese Mar Coorilos
  • Kuriakose Mar Cleemis
  • Zachariah Mar Anthonios
  • Mathews Mar Severios
  • Yakoob Mar Irenaeus
  • Yuhanon Mar Meletius
  • Thomas Mar Athanasius
  • Zachariah Mar Nicholovos
  • Gabriel Mar Gregorios
  • Zachariah Mar Theophilos
  • Yuhanon Mar Chrysostomos
  • Yuhanon Mar Policarpos
  • Mathews Mar Theodosius
  • Joseph Mar Dionysius
  • Abraham Mar Ephiphanios
  • Mathews Mar Thimothios
  • Alexios Mar Eusebios
  • Yuhanon Mar Dioscoros
  • Youhanon Mar Dimitrios
  • Yuhanon Mar Theodoros
  • Yakob Mar Elias
  • Joshua Mar Nicodimos
  • Zacharias Mar Aprem
  • Geevarghese Mar Julius
  • Abraham Mar Seraphim

List of Bishops AD 52-2013

  • Marthoma I
  • Marthoma II
  • Marthoma III
  • Marthoma IV
  • Marthoma V
  • Marthoma VI
  • Kattumangattu Abraham Mar Koorilose I (1771-1802)
  • Kattumangattu Geevarghese Mar Koorilose II (1802-1807)
  • Marthoma VII
  • Joseph Mar Ivanios, Kaniavalli
  • Skaria Mar Philexenos I (1807-1811), Cheeran
  • Marthoma VIII
  • Geevarghese Mar Philexenos II (1811-1829), Kidangan
  • Joseph Mar Dionosius I I, Pulikottil I
  • Marthoma I X
  • Geevarghese Mar Dionosius I, Punnathra
  • Philipose Mar Dionosius IV, Cheppattu
  • Geevarghese Mar Koorilose III (1829-1856), Kuthoor
  • Mathews Mar Athanasius, Palakunnathu
  • Joseph Mar Koorilose IV (1856-1888), Alathoor
  • Joseph Mar Dionasius V, Pulikottil I I
  • Thomas Mar Athanasius, Palakunnath
  • Geevarghese Mar Euliose, Konattu,
  • Paulose Mar Athanasius, Kadavil
  • Geevarghese Mar Coorilose, Ambattu
  • Geevarghese Mar Gregoriose, Chathuruthil
  • Semaoon Mar Dionosius, Karottuveettil
  • Paulose Mar Ivaniose, Murimattathu
  • Alvaris Mar Euliose
  • Rene Vilati Mar Thimothiose
  • Geevarghese Mar Dionosius, Vattasseril
  • Paulose Mar Coorilose, Kochuparampil
  • Paulose Mar Athanasius, Kuttikkattil
  • Geevargese Mar Sevoriose, Idavazhikkal
  • Geevarghese Mar Gregoriose, Kallassseril
  • Yuyakkim Mar Ivaniose
  • Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos, Kizhakkethalakal
  • Geevarghese Mar Ivaniose, Panikkar
  • Mikhayel Mar dionasius
  • Thomas Mar Dioscoros
  • Augen Mar Thimothiose
  • Kuriakose Mar Gregoriose
  • Yakob Mar Theophilose
  • Geevargese Mar Philoxinose
  • Joseph Mar Severiose
  • Alexiose Mar Thevodosius
  • Thoma Mar Dionasius
  • Geevarghese Mar Gregoriose
  • Paulose Mar Severiose
  • Abraham Mar Clemis
  • Paulose Mar Philoxinose
  • Pathrose Mar Osthathiose
  • Mathews Mar Ivaniose
  • Mathews Mar Athanasius
  • Daniel Mar Philoxinose
  • Mathews Mar Coorilose
  • Philipose Mar Theophilose
  • Yuhanon Mar Severiose
  • Thomas Mar Thimothiose
  • Geevarghese Mar Osthathiose
  • Paulose Mar Gregoriose
  • Sthepanose Mar Theodosius
  • Thomas Mar Makkariose
  • Joseph Mar Pakkomiose
  • Yakob Mar Policarpose
  • Sakharia Mar Dionasius
  • Mathews Mar Barnabas
  • Geevarghese Mar Dioscoros
  • Yuhanon Mar Athanasios
  • Abraham Mar Severios
  • Mathews Mar Epiphanios
  • Philiipose Mar Eusebius
  • Thomas Mar Athanasius
  • Geevarghese Mar Ivaniose
  • Paulose Mar Milihiose
  • Thomas Mar Athanasius
  • Yuhanon Mar Milithiios
  • Kuriakose Mar Clemis
  • Job Mar Philoxinos
  • Sakharia Mar Anthonios
  • Mathews Mar Severios
  • Geevargese Mar Coorilose
  • Sakhariaha Mar Nicholovas
  • Paulose Mar Pakkkomiose
  • Yakob Mar Irenios
  • Dr Gabriel Mar Gregoriose
  • Augen Mar dionasius
  • Dr Sakharias Mar Theophilose
  • Dr Yuhanon Mar Chrisostamose
  • Yuhanon Mar Policarpose
  • Mathews Mar Theodosius
  • Dr Joseph Mar dionosius
  • Abraham Mar Epiphanios
  • Dr Mathews Mar Thimotiose
  • Alexios Mar Eusebius
  • Dr Yuhanon Mar Dioscoros
  • Dr Yuhanon Mar Dimithriose
  • Dr Yuhanon Mar Theodoros
  • Yakob Mar Elias
  • Joshuva Mar Nicodimos
  • Dr Sakharias Mar Aprem
  • Dr Geevarghese Mar Euliose
  • Dr Abraham Mar Seraphim

Theological seminaries

Ecumenical relations

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church takes an active role in various ecumenical activities at national and international levels. It was a founding member of the World Council of Churches.[17]

Various theologians were involved in negotiations between the Oriental Orthodox and the Byzantine churches. The Indian Orthodox Church participated in the Ecumenical Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches held in Addis Ababa, in 1965.

Other organizations to which the church belongs are

  • Faith and Order Commission
  • Christian Conference of Asia.
  • Global Christian Forum

Monasteries of the Church

Monasteries of the Church
Name Founded Notes
St. Thomas Dayara, Vettikkal, Mulanthuruthy 1125 Establishment of one of the crosses of Mulanthuruthy Church marked the beginning of today's Dayara
Vallikkattu Dayara, Vakathanam 1868 Established by Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II. Tomb of Baselios Geevarghese I, Augen Mar Dionysius
Mar Kuriakose Dayara, Pampady 1909 Established by HG Kuriakose Mar Gregorios
Bethany Ashram, Perunad, Ranny 1919 Established by Geevarghese Mar Ivanios. Tomb of Paulose Mar Pachomios is also here[18]
Mount Tabore Ashram, Pathanapuram 1929 Established by Thoma Mar Dionysius
CS Ashram, Thadagam, Coimbatore[19] 1936 Established by Herbert Pakenham Walsh and Mrs. Clare Pakenham Walsh
Mar Kuriakose Ashram, Mylapra 1937 Established by Ramban P I Mathews
Mar Basil Dayara, Pathanamthitta 1938 Established by Puthencavu Geevarghese Mar Philexinos
St. George Dayara, Othara, Thiruvalla 1944 Established on the land donated by Thottapurath T. K. Alexander
St.Pauls Ashram, Puthuppady, Kozhikode 1958 Established by Geevarghese Mar Osthathios
Bethlehem Ashram, Chengamanad, Kottarakkara 1960 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos (Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II)
St. Gregorios Mount Ashram, Kottarakkara 1964 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos. Branch of Bethlehem Ashram, Kottarakkara
St. George Mount Ashram, Chayalode, Pathanamthitta 1968 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos
Holy Trinity Ashram, Ranny 1970 Established by Geevarghese Mar Dioscoros
Mar Baselios Ashram, Njaliakuzhy, Kottayam 1971 Established by Mathews Mar Athanasios
St.Thomas Dayara, Bhilai 1973 Established by Stephanos Mar Thevodosios
Calvary Ashram, Pattazhi 1976 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos . Branch of Bethlehem Ashram, Kottarakkara
Bethel Ashram, Kuttikonam, Kottarakkara 1976 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos. Branch of Bethlehem Ashram, Kottarakkara
St.Thomas Ashram, Sooranad 1978 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos
Mount Carmel Ashram, Kallada 1978 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos
Mount Horeb Ashram, Sasthamcotta 1978 Established by Mathews Mar Coorilos
MGD Ashram & Balabhavan, Karunagiri, Karukachal[20] 1979 Established by Geevarghese Mar Ostasthios
St.Thomas Ashram, Attappadi, Palakkad 1994 Established by Thomas Mar Timotheos (Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I)
St. Thomas Karunya Ashram, Thiruvanathapuram 1998 Established by HG Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios

Pilgrim sites

Founded by St. Thomas

Founded by St. Thomas
Name Known As Notes Links
St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Arthat, Kunnamkulam Palayur Pally ? Believed to have been established by St. Thomas in AD 52[21] [5]
St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Niranam Niranam Valiya Pally Believed to have been established by St. Thomas in AD 54[22] [6]
St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Thiruvithamcode Arappally Believed to have been established by St. Thomas in AD 63[23] [7]

Tomb churches

Tomb Churches
Name Known As Notes Links
St.Peter's & St.Paul's Orthodox Church, Parumala Parumala Pally Tomb of : Gheevarghese Mar Gregorios [8]
Orthodox Pazhaya Seminary Chapel, Kottayam Pazhaya Seminary Tomb of : Geevarghese Mar Dionysius of Vattasseril [9]
St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Niranam Niranam Valiya Pally Tomb of : Mar Thoma II, Mar Thoma V [10]
Mar Kuriakkose Dayara, Pampady Pampady Dayara Tomb of : Kuriakkose Mar Gregorios, Mathews Mar Evanios Paret [11]
Martha Mariam Orthodox Church, Thevalakkara Mar Abo Pilgrim Centre Tomb of : Mar Abo of Nineveh [12]
St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Kallada Kallada Valiya Pally Tomb of : Anthrayos (Kallada Muthappan) [13]
St. Marys Orthodox Church, Panaji, Goa Relics of : Alvares Mar Julius [14]
St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, Puthencavu Tomb of : Mar Thoma VI, Mar Thoma VIII, H.G. Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos [15]
St.Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Kadampanad Kadampanad Valiya Pally Tomb of : Mar Thoma III [16]
St. George Orthodox Church, Cheppad Cheppad Valiya Pally Tomb of : Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius (Mar Thoma XII) [17]
St. Peter's & St. Paul's Syrian Orthodox Church, Kolenchery Kolenchery Pally Tomb of : Mar Thoma VII [18]
St. George Syrian Orthodox Church, Kadamattom Kadamattom Pally Tomb of : Mar Thoma IX [19]
St.Thomas Aramana Chapel, at St.Thomas ashram, Kailash Nagar, Bhilai Tomb of : H.G Dr. Stephanos Mar Theodosius [20]
Holy Trinity Ashram, Ranny Tomb of : Geevarghese Mar Dioscoros Geevarghese Mar Dioscoros
Kunnakumkulam St. Mary’s Simhasana Church Tomb of : Paulos Mor Severios [21]
Angamaly St. Mary’s Church Tomb of : Geevarghese Mor Kurillos Ambattu, Mar Thoma I [22]
Aluva Thrikkunnathu St. Mary’s Church Tomb of : Paulose Mor Athanasius Kadavil, Geevarghese Mor Gregorios Vayaliparambil, Paulose Mor Athanasius [23]
St.Mary's Jacobite Syrian Church, Panampady Panampady Church Tomb of : Paulose Mor Koorilose Kochuparambil, Michael Mor Divansious [24]
Mor Aphrem church at the St. John's Dayro, Chingavanam Tomb of : Abraham Mar Clemis [25]
Kottayam St. Mary’s Knanaya Valiya Pally Kottayam Valiya Pall Tomb of : Geevarghese Mor Severios [26]
St.Mary’s Cathedral of Kandanad Kandanad Marth Mariam Church Tomb of : Mar Thoma IV [27]
St. Thomas Church, Pambakuda. Pambakuda Cheria Pally Tomb of : Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I
Mount Horeb Chapel,Sasthamkotta . Tomb of : Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II
Valikattu Dayara, Vakathanam Tomb of : Baselios Geevargheese I, Augen Mar Dionysius [28]
St.George Orthodox Church Karmelkunnu, Mulakulam [29] Tomb of : Joseph Mar Pachomios [30]
Carmel Dayara, Kandanad, Ernakulam Tomb of : Petros Mar Osthathis [31]
St. Peter's and St. Paul's Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Valayanchirangara, Perumbavoor Tomb of : Mathews Mar Barnabas Mathews Mar Barnabas
Mount Tabore Diara, Pathanapuram Tomb of : Thoma Mar Dionysius, Zachariah Mar Dionysius, Job Mar Philexinos [32]
Basil Aramana Pathanamthitta [33] Tomb of : H.G.Daniel Mar Philoxenos, H.G. Philipos Mar Eusebius [34]
St George Orthodox Valiyapally, Anchal [35] Tomb of : Mor Yaunan Kasheesho, Anchal Achan [36]

Churches with historical importance

  • Kottoor Church, Kolenchery
  • Mulanthuruthy Marthoman Cathedral
  • Kottayam Cheriapally[24]
  • St.Mary's Orthodox Cathedral, Thumpamon.(Thumpamon Valiya Pally)
  • Pampakuda Cheriapally (St.Thomas Church)
  • Kallooppara St. Marys Orthodox Church[25]
  • Vakathanam Vallikkattu Dayra
  • Paliyekkara Palli, Thiruvalla
  • Kadeesa Syrian Church, Kollam
  • Kadamattom Church
  • Puthupally Palli[26]
  • Coonan Cross Oath Memorial Holy Cross, St. George Orthodox Church, Mattancherry
  • Marthamariyam Orthodox Church & Mar Abo Pilgrim Centre, Thevelakara[27]
  • Pazhanji Palli
  • [[St.Mary's Cathedral, Kandanad](Kandanad Martha Mariam Pally)][28]
  • St. George Orthodox Church, Chandanapally[29]
  • St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral, Kadampanadu (Marthoman pilgrim center, Kadampanadu, Adoor)
  • St.Mary's Orthodox Church, West Kallada.(Kallada Valiya Pally)
  • St.Thomas Orthodox Church, kundara.(Kundara Valiya Pally)
  • St.Mary's Orthodox Cathedral. Puthiyakavu, Mavelikara
  • St.George's orthodox valyapally, Cheppad(Cheppad Valya Pally)
  • St. John's Orthodox Church, Kadammanitta. (Kadammanittapally)[30]
  • St.Peter's & St.Paul's Orthodox church, Kolenchery (Kolenchery Valiya pally)
  • St.George Orthodox church, chengaroor (chengaroor pally)


List of Diocese in Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
Angamaly Diocese Chengannur Orthodox Diocese Idukki Diocese
Kandanad East Diocese Kandanad West Orthodox Diocese Kollam Diocese
Kunnamkulam Diocese Kottayam Diocese Malabar Diocese
Mavelikara Diocese Niranam Orthodox Diocese Sulthan Bathery Diocese
Thumpamon Diocese Thrissur Diocese Thiruvananthapuram Diocese
Ahmedabad Diocese Bangalore Diocese Delhi Diocese
Kolkata Diocese Madras Diocese Mumbai Diocese
Nilakal Diocese Malankara Orthodox Diocese of Northeast America Malankara Orthodox Diocese of South-West America
UK, Europe and Africa Orthodox Diocese Kochi Diocese Kottayam Central Diocese
Kottarakkara Punaloor Orthodox Diocese Adoor Kadampanad Diocese Brahmavar Diocese

Malankara Association

Malankara Association is the elected body consisting of members from parishes to manage and control the religious and social concerns of the church. The Association is believed to have established in 1873 by Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II by convening a meeting of the parish representatives in Parumala. In 1876 Mulanthuruthy Synod, an elected body in the name of Malankara Association took in charge.[31] Church constitution details the powers and responsibilities of the Association.

The Malankara metropolitan is the president and the Diocesan Metropolitans shall be vice-presidents of the association. The Association elects the Malankara metropolitan, Catholicos, Metropolitans, priest trustee, lay trustee, Association Secretary and Managing Committee Members. Each parish is represented in the Association by a priest and lay people elected by the parish general body based on the number of parish members.

See also

Kerala portal
Christianity in India portal



  • Frykenberg, Eric (2008). ISBN 0-19-826377-5.
  • Tamcke, Martin (2009). . Verlag Otto Lembeck. 3874765806.
  • Rev.Dr. Joseph Cheeran, et al.(2002) Tradition and History of Indian Orthodox Church, p. 300-423
  • Menachery, George (1973). .
  • Menachery, George (1998). .
  • Vadakkekara, Benedict (2007). . Media House Delhi.
  • Van der Ploeg, J. P. M. (1983). The Christians of St. Thomas in South India and their Syriac Manuscripts. Dharmaram Publications.
  • Wilmshurst, D. J., The Ecclesiastical Organisation of the Church of the East, 1318–1913 (Louvain, 2000)

External links

  • Official website of the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church
  • Official website of the H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II – Catholicose of the East
  • Official Malankara Orthodox Church News (Catholicate News – Formerly Gregorian News)
  • Official Malankara Orthodox Church Radio (Gregorian Radio)
  • Official Malankara Orthodox Church TV (Gregorian TV)
  • Malankara Orthodox Videos Portal (Gregorian Videos)
  • Malankara Orthodox Audios Portal (Gregorian Audios)
  • Gregorian Voice
  • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Online Community
  • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church E-radio
  • Indian Orthodox Herald – Breaking Church News And Doctrinal Information
  • Dr. Thomas Makarios' website
  • Augen Dionysius' website
  • ICON (Indian Christian Orthodox Network)
  • Indian Orthodox Diaspora Secretariat website
  • The Saint of Parumala
es:Iglesia Ortodoxa Malankara

hu:Indiai Ortodox Egyház ml:ഇന്ത്യൻ ഓർത്തഡോക്സ് സഭ nl:Syro-Malankara-orthodoxe Kerk pl:Ortodoksyjny Kościół Malankaru ru:Маланкарская Православная Церковь

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