St. Thomas the Apostle, was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus called to spread Jesus’ teachings throughout the nations. St. Thomas is traditionally believed to have sailed to India in AD 52 to spread the Christian faith among the Jews, the Jewish diaspora present in Kerala at the time. He is recognized as the founder of the church of the Syrian Malabar Christians, known as Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. The church’s faith is based on the profession of faith of St. Thomas the apostle in the risen Lord- “My Lord and my God!”, who is the patron saint of Syro-Malabar faithful.
St. Thomas is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar coast of Kerala, where he established “Seven and a Half Churches” at Kodungallur, Palayur, Kottakav (Paravoor), Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Kollam (Quilon), Nilackal and Thiruvithamcode (the half church). He reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about seventeen thousand converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centers. Malayattoor Church is an international shrine in Kerala where St. Thomas held prayer at the place where the church is now situated. It is believed that he knelt on a rock praying for a long time and signed a cross on it. Later, a golden cross appeared on the spot. Also believed that when St. Thomas was meditating on the Malayattoor hills, Virgin Mary appeared to console and strengthen him.
The early Christian community in India was known as St Thomas Christian and they were also called ‘Nazranis’, meaning those who follow the path of Jesus of Nazareth. Their tradition goes back to the beginnings of first-century Christians. St. Thomas’ teachings were eventually integrated into the beliefs and traditions of the local communities, and into their family histories, their songs, and their dances. The Nasrani preserved the original rituals of the early Jewish Christians, such as covering their heads while in worship and the ‘Holy of Holies’ divided by a red curtain which opened during the central part of the Holy Mass (Qurbana). Early church followed Syriac liturgy and many of the tunes of Syrian Christian worship in Kerala are remnants of ancient Syriac tunes of antiquity. The architecture of the early church reflected a blend of Jewish and Kerala styles.
According to the Syrian Christian tradition, Saint Thomas was martyred at ‘St. Thomas Mount’ in Chennai on 3rd July in AD 72 and his body was interred in San Thome Cathedral, Mylapore. Syro Malabar Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Thomas The Apostle on July 3rd named ‘’St. Thomas’ Day/Dukhrana.’’