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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 (eastern).
Adherents One Million Worldwide[1]
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Saint Thomas Christians
Malankara Church
Holy Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas
Ancient Crosses of India
Coonan Cross Oath
Synod of Diamper


St. Thomas the Apostle
Mar Sapor and Prodh
Thomas of Cana
St. Alphonsa
Blessed Kuriakose Chavara
Fr. Varghese Palakkappillil
Blessed Kunjachan
Blessed Euphrasia
Blessed Mariam Thressia
Blessed Mother Teresa
St. Francis Xavier
St. Gonsalo Garcia
Marthoma Metrans
St. Gregorios of Parumala
Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares


Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Latin Catholic Church
Indian Orthodox Church
Jacobite Syrian Church
Malabar Independent Church
Mar Thoma Church
St. Thomas Evangelical Church
Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church
Church of North India
Church of South India

The Mar Thoma Church (official name: The Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church) is a Christian denomination based in Kerala, the south-western state of India. The Mar Thoma Church defines itself as "Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, and Episcopal in character.". It is independent and indigenous. Its regular work as well as special projects are almost entirely financed by contributions from its members at home and abroad. It is currently in communion with the Anglican Communion and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church.

The Mar Thoma Church claims that the original Malankara Church was established by Thomas the Apostle at the same time as Saint Paul established the church in Corinth. The Mar Thoma Church further claims that it is the continuation of the original Malankara Church of the Saint Thomas Christians and that it still follows the ancient customs and traditions. According to the church, the arrival of the Knanaites in 345 and 825, Roman Catholics in 1500, bishops from Antioch in 1665 and 1875, English missionaries in 1806 did not have any influence on their customs and traditions.

The Church currently has around one million members. Till the beginning of twentieth century Marthomites lived in a few districts of Central Travancore and Kunnamkulam of the southern Indian state of Kerala. But it has spread with the 20th-century Indian diaspora to North America, Europe, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, this in addition to a sizeable population in the rest of India. Their mother tongue is Malayalam the language of Kerala.


Mar Thoma Church. Malankara Mar Thoma Suryani Sabha (Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church) is the official name of the Church. Succinct name in Malayalam is Marthoma Sabha and in English, Mar Thoma Church.

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

Malankara is cognate of this name Maliankara, a place near Muziris, where Thomas the Apostle first landed in Kerala. It was the headquarters of the Church from the first century.

Syrian Church. The original liturgical language used in Malankara Church was Aramaic and Hebrew. Later this was replaced by Syriac. In 1900 when the Church accepted a new name Malanakara Mar Thoma Suryani Sabha, it included the word Suryani also in it. This does not mean that the Mar Thoma Christians were Syrians (people who came from Syria) or the Church was under any Syrian Church. Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church was never ruled by any other Churches.


Mar Thoma 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.

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 Metropolian. 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.

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.

Vicar generals: 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 Vicar Generals. In the absence of the diocesan bishop, they may be appointed as head of the diocese.

Administrative divisions

For administrative purpose, the Church is divided into 9 dioceses w.e.f.January 1, 2009, headed by a Metropolitan or by an Episcopa. They are:

  • Diocese of Adoor-Malaysia-Australia-Singapore.
  • Diocese of Chengannur-Mavelikara.
  • Diocese of Niranam-Maramon.
  • Diocese of Ranny-Nilackel.* Diocese of Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam.
  • Diocese of Kottayam- Kochi.
  • Diocese of Chennai- Bangalore- Kunnamkulam- Malabar.
  • Diocese of Delhi- Mumbai.
  • Diocese of North America-Europe.


First century BC

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.[2]

During the time of Moses and King Solomon, the Malabar coast traded spices and luxury articles with Israel.[3] Excavations carried out at Pattanam in 2008 provided evidence that the maritime trade between Kerala and the Mediterranean ports existed back in 500 BC or earlier.[4] It is possible that some of those traders who arrived from the west, including Jews, remained in Kerala.[5]

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.[6] Nasranis believe that these ambassadors were The Wise Men From the East, of the Bible.[7] People who believe they are descendants of these Wise Men gather every year in Kerala.[8] In the first century map Tabula Peutingeriana (see the map) a temple of Augustus is clearly visible near Muziris shows the close relation between Rome and Malabar in the first 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[9] listened to his preaching and became followers of Jesus of Nazareth.[10] 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.

The first Christians

In early Christian community, Nazraani was not a religion, but a sect in the Jewish community. This 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.[11] 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 twentieth century.[12]

First 15 centuries


The Malankara Church was quite democratic. It is believed 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.[13] This was the system used till the arrival of Portuguese. By 1500, Malankara Church had Edavaka mooppenmar (Parish elders) and a Jathikku Karthavyian, also known as Malankara mooppen (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.[14] For the first time in 1653 Malankara mooppen 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 second 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.[15] 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 tenth century, in Malabar there were two Nazrani groups, the St. Thomas Christians and Knanaya community.[16]

Bishops from Persia

Following the arrival of Christians from Persia, their bishops, priests or laymen began visiting them. Most of them were not able to return due to financial difficulties and in traveling the long distance.The Knanaya people were worshipping together with the St. Thomas Christians. So these visiting bishops also attended these services. These visitors had neither administrative responsibilities nor had any jurisdiction over the original Nazrani Christians. They visited and taught Syriac. Probably it was at this time, Syriac became the liturgical language of the early Christians. This might be the reason for the rumour that bishops from Syria had jurisdiction over St. Thomas 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 seventh century. The cross became a symbol of Christianity in the west, during the time of Constantine (272-337).[17] Saint Thomas Christians of Malabar had hardly any contact with other Christians before the arrival of Knanaya people from Persia.Moreover, the earliest church building that still exists in South India does not have any marking of a Cross on its original structure.[18] So most probably it was during the seventh century, cross became a symbol of St.Thomas Christians.

Visits corroborating the existence of the Malabar Christian Church

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.[19]

1225 AD. – Chau Ju-Kua a Chinese traveller visited Kerala. In his writings he described the dress of a St. Thomas Christian bishop.[20][21]

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.[22][23]

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".[24]

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.[25]
  3. Tharissa palli Deed II: As Continuation of the above deed was given after 849 AD.

Arrival of the Portuguese

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. From that time the Portuguese were powerful in the western parts of India and they took control over the sea routes.

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 used their power to bring the Malankara Church under the supremacy of Rome. A powerful Archbishop Aleixo de Menezes[26] arrived in Goa in 1595. He then convened a Synod at Udayamperoor, south of Ernakulam, from 20–26 June 1599. This is known as the Synod of Diamper. Here the Archbishop demanded obedience 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 Catholic Church under Pope of Rome. But the remaining churches continued their original Apostolic beliefs and practices.[27]

The Great Oath

Under the leadership of Malankara Mooppen Thomas, Nazranis around Cochin gathered at Mattancherry church on Friday, January 24, 1653 (M.E. 828 Makaram 3) and swore an oath that is known as Oath as the "Bent Cross."

Purification Movement (Reformation)

For the reformation that happened in the Malankara Church during the nineteenth century, the Malayalam word used was “Sucheekarana Prasthanam” which means Purification Movement. In this context the word Reformation is used which has a slightly different meaning.

Abraham Malpan

Maramon Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan was a churchman loyal to the traditions of the Malankara Church. He wanted to reform the Church consistent with the apostolic and evangelical tradition. He tried to accomplish this by translating and revising the liturgy; by doing away with what he believed to be unscriptural practices; and by restoring the Church to what he considered to be its position before the Synod of Diamper. 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”.[28]

Anglican involvement

In 1806, Rev.Dr. Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican missionary visited Malankara during the reign of Marthoma VI.With his help, the Bible was translated from the original Aramaic into Malayalam and was distributed to the parishes. But, soon after his meeting, representatives of the parishes met at Aarthattu church and declared (Aarthattu Padiola) that the Malankara Church should not follow the teachings of the churches of Rome or Antioch or any other foreign churches This meeting is considered to be the beginning of 'Purification Movement' in Malankara Church.

When people began to read and study the Bible, they realized that it was necessary to follow the Biblical teachings and to reform the Church. So Mar Thoma XI, (Punnathra Mar Dionysius) convened a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church at Mavelikkara, on December 3, 1818. In that meeting a committee was appointed to recommend reforms in the Church. 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.

Mar Thoma XII, (Cheppattu Mar Dionysius) did not like the interference of the Anglican Missionaries. So he convened a Synod at Mavelikkara on January 16, 1836, in which the Synod declared that, “We, the Jacobite Syrians are under the rule of the Patriarch of Antioch.” Abraham Malpan and those who supported him did not attend this synod.

Reformation activity

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.

The principle reforms were:

  1. Gave first preference to the Open Bible.
  2. Worship services including Holy Communion were conducted in the mother tongue,Malayalam.
  3. Holy communion was not celebrated when there were none to receive.
  4. Mandated that both elements should be distributed separately, during Holy Communion.
  5. Prayers to the saints and prayers for the dead were discarded.
  6. Auricular confession was discontinued.
  7. Icons, pictures, statues, and drawings of saints were removed from homes, churches, and places of worship.
  8. Changes were made in the liturgical books accordingly.

Reformation in action

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

Every year on the first week of October, there was a church festival at Maramon, connected with a saint who died in 1685 at Kothamangalam. 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 consecrated by the Patriarch of Antioch as 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 Mar Athanasius published the liturgy without the prayer to St. Mary. He consecrated Ouseph Mar Koorilos, Metropolitan (bishop) for Malabar Independent Church. 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

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

During the course of a 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.”

During a meeting convened by the Maharaja of Travancore, before the final verdit 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 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. Later this group chose the name Malankara Mar Thoma Suryani Sabha.

Marthoma metropolitans

After The Great Oath, the parish elders (Idavaka Mooppens) of the Church met together and elected Kuravilangad Parampil Thomas Kathanar as Malankara Elder (Malankara Mooppen). Following the ancient custom, twelve Idavaka Mooppens laid their hands on him and appointed him as Malankara Mooppen. However, the Portuguese refused to accept his legitimate authority without an ordination by a bishop as was the practice in Portuguese (Catholic) churches. Under impending annexation of their Church, the Marthoma Nazranis sent letters to various other eastern Churches asking to send a bishop. Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was the first to respond and arrived in India to regularise the ordination.

Mar Thoma I. - In 1653, Malankara Mooppen Thomas, was consecrated with the title Mar Thoma by Mar Gregorios. The throne used for this consecration in 1653 is still in the possession of the Mar Thoma Church and is kept in the Poolatheen, the official residence of the Malankara Marthoma Metropolitan at Tiruvalla. It has been used in the installation of every Mar Thoma Metropolitan, to this day, so that the continuity of the throne of Mar Thoma is ensured. Mar Thoma had survived a number of assassination attempts. He died on April 25, 1670 and was interred in Ankamali Marthommen Palli. (church).

Mar Thoma II. – (1670-1686) Consecrated by Mar Thoma I and Mar Gregorios. Died on April 14, 1686 and was interred at Niranam palli, (now known as St.Marys Orthodox Church).

Mar Thoma III. – (1686-1688) Consecrated by Mar Ivanios Hirudyathulla (from Antioch), died on April 21, 1688. Laid to rest at Kadampanad, Near Adoor.

Mar Thoma IV. - (1688-1728). Consecrated by Mar Ivanios Hirudyathulla. Died on March 24, 1728 and was interred at Kandanad Palli, (now known as Martha Mariam Orthodox Church).

Mar Thoma V. - (1728-1765) – Consecrated by Mar Thoma IV. Died on May 8, 1765 and laid to rest at Niranam palli, (now known as St.Marys Orthodox Church).

Mar Thoma VI. – (1765-1808) Consecrated by Mar Thoma V. Died on April 8, 1808 and laid to rest at Puthencavu palli, (now known as St.Marys Orthodox Cathedral). Important events:

  1. On June 1770, to avoid a split in the Church, he accepted re-consecration and the title Dionysius from Antiochan bishops.
  2. Mar Thoma VI did not approve the appointment of Kattumangattu Abraham Mar Coorilos as a metropoiltan by a bishop from Antioch. This was the beginning of Malabar Independent Syrian Church.
  3. Forced to conduct a service according to Catholic rites, but escaped during a rebellion in Travancore under Velu Thampi.
  4. Rev.Dr. Claudius Bucahanan visited and made arrangement for the translation of the Bible into Malayalam. Marthoma gave him the manuscript of the Bible written in Estrangelo Syrian. This manuscript was deposited in the public library of the University of Cambridge.

Mar Thoma VII. – (1808-1809) Consecrated by Mar Thoma VI in 1796. During his time on December 1, 1808, a sum of 3000 Star Pagoda (in 2002 one Star Pagoda coin had a market value of £475) was given as a loan in perpetuity to the British resident Col. Maccaulay. This is known as Vattipanam. MarThoma died on July 4, 1809 and was interred at Kolenchery palli, (now known as StPeters & St.Pauls Orthodox Church).

Mar Thoma VIII. – (1809-1816) Consecrated on July 2, 1809 by Mar Thoma VII. During his time Kottayam Suryani Seminary was opened and modern education began in Kerala. He was able to receive the interest of the loan (Vattipanam) given to the Government. With that he was able to lay the foundation stone of the Syrian Seminary at Kottayam in 1813. Mar Thoma died on January 26, 1816 and was interred at Niranam palli, (now known as St.Marys Orthodox Church).

Mar Thoma IX. – (1816-1817). Consecrated by Marthoma VIII without the consent of the people. So he retired to Kadamattom palli and spent the rest of his days in prayer and fasting.

Mar Thoma X. – (1816-1816). Also known as Pulikottil Mar Dionysius, was consecrated by Mar Philoxenos II, of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church (Thozhiyoor Sabha). Mar Thoma died on November 25, 1816 and laid to rest at Semiary palli, (now Orthodox Thelogical Seminary,Kottayam).

Important events:

  1. At this time Mar Thoma IX was also alive. Both of them had a claim to the interest of the Vattipanam. (Fixed Deposit). Because Mar Thoma X was the one approved by the people, Rani Gouri Parvathi Bhai, ruler of Travancore issued a Royal Proclamation declaring that Pulikkotil Joseph Mar Dionysus as Malankara Metropolitan. He was the first Metropolitan who had been recognised by the Government as Malankara Metropolitan, for this purpose
  2. In 1815 Classes began in Kottayam Suryani Seminary. Mar Thoma X, appointed the teaching staff.
  3. Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) missionaries from England arrived in 1818 to teach there.

Mar Philoxenos II. – of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church. (November 25, 1816 – October 10, 1817). Due to the sudden demise of Mar Thoma X, Mar Philoxenos II took charge of the Malankara Church. Because there were no other Metropolitans in Malankara at this time Mar Philoxenos was accepted as Malankara Metropolitan and the government issued a Royal Proclamation.

Mar Thoma XI. – (1817-1825) Also known as Punnathra Geevargis Mar Dionysius. Consecrated by Malakara Metropolitan Mar Philoxenos II on October 10, 1817. The Reformation of the Malankara Church began during his time. MarThoma XI, died on May 17, 1825 and was interred at Kottayam Cheria palli, (now known as St.Marys Orthodox Church).

Mar Thoma XII. – (1825-1852). Also known as Cheppattu Philipose Mar Dionysius. Aanjilimoottil Philipose Kathanar was selected as the next Mar Thoma, by casting votes at a meeting of parish representatives at Pallikara church. He was consecrated as Mar Thoma XII, on August 27, 1825. After the demise of Mar Philoxenos II on February 4, 1829, Mar Thoma XII was approved by the governments as Malankara Metropolitan on March 20, 1829.

Important events:

  1. Problems arose with C.M.S. Missionaries. So he convened a meeting of the representatives of the parishes at Mavelikara (January 16, 1836) and without rhyme or reason, proclaimed allegiance to the Patriarch of Antioch.
  2. By a government award (Cochin Award), C.M.S. missionaries were given a few properties of the Malankara Church.
  3. An attempt to introduce Anglican theological method (19th-century theological training) by British missionaries in 1835 was rejected by the Malankara Metropolitan. So C.M.S. missionaries formed a new Church called C.M.S. Church, applied their own theology, started using a translation of Anglican liturgy and opened their own Seminary.
  4. Malankara Church came to be known as ‘’Jacobite Church’’.
  5. He did not support Reformation of the Church. Refused to ordain those were studying under Abraham Malpan. So Palakunnathu deacon Mathews, nephew of Abraham Malpan went to Anitoch and was consecrated at Mardin on February 17, 1842 as Mathews Mar Athanasius by the Patriarch of Antioch.

Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius (Mar Thoma XII) abdicated in 1852 as the Malankara Metropolitan. Died on October 9, 1855 and laid to rest at Cheppat palli. The funeral service was conducted by Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan.

Mar Thoma XIII. – (1852-1877). Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan was consecrated by Moran Mar Elias Patriarch of Antioch at Mardin on February 17, 1842. After Cheppattu Philipose Mar Dionysius abdicated due to ill health, the Governments of Kerala and Cochin issued a royal proclamation on August 30, 1852 accepting him as Malankara Metropolitan. During his time Reformation of the Church became active. Pulikottil Ouseph Kathanar from Kunnamkulam, who was against Mathews Mar Athanasius went to Antioch and was consecrated as Joseph Mar Dionysius on April 3, 1865. After his return, those who opposed Mathews Mar Athanasius invited the Patriarch of Antioch. The large majority of the people were conservative and the reform party was a very small minority. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan died on July 16, 1877 and was interred at Maramon palli. Funeral service was conducted by Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan and Ouseph Mar Koorilose of Malabar Independent Syrian Church.

Mar Thoma XIV. – (1877- 1893). Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan was consecrated by Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan on June 1, 1868.

During his time Joseph Mar Dionysius made a claim to be the Malankara Metropolitan and demanded the possession of the Seminary and the control of assets of the Church. For this purpose, Mar Dionysius and his supporters filed a case on March 4, 1879. The final verdict came after ten years. Before the verdict was made known, Maharaja of Travancorecalled the two Metropolitans and two representatives from both sides. In that meeting Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan testified that the Malankara Church was never under any foreign rule; he was unwilling to move away from the traditional teachings; and give away the authority and Church possessions to a foreign Patriarch. As a result of the case, the Church was split into two. The majority under the leadership of Mar Dionysius and six Metropolitans appointed by Antioch chose to be under Antioch. The reform party decided to continue as an independent Malankara Church.

Without a place to live except his own house, Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan returned to Maramon, Died on August 10, 1893 and was interred at Maramon palli.

Mar Thoma XV. – (1893-1910). Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Ouseph Mar Athanasius assisted by Geevarghis Mar Coorilos both of Malabar Independent Syrian Church on January 18, 1894 at Kottayam Cheria palli. During his time the reform party chose the name Malankara Mar Thoma Suryani Church. Died on October 2, 1909 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.

Mar Thoma XVI. – (1910-1944). Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan assisted by Geevarghis Mar Coorilos of Malankara Independent Syrian Church at Puthencavu palli. Died on July 6, 1944 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.&nbsp

Mar Thoma XVII. – (1944-1947). Abraham Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan on December 27, 1917 at Tiruvalla. Died on September 1, 1947 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.

Mar Thoma XVIII. – (1947-1976). Dr.Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan on December 30, 1937 at Tiruvalla. He was a great social reformer and was the one of the Presidents of World Council of Churches (1954-1961). On January 26, 1961, a few members of the clergy and their followers formed St. Thomas Evangelical Church. Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma died on September 27, 1976 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.

Mar Thoma XIX. – (1976-1999). Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan on May 23, 1953, at Tiruvalla. Was installed as Valia Metropolitan on November 23, 1999 and handed over the responsibilities of the Church to Mar Thoma XX. Died on January 11, 2000 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.

Mar Thoma XX. – (1999 – 2007). Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostem Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan on May 23, 1953, at Tiruvalla. Was installed as Valia Metropolitan on October 2, 2007, and handed over the responsibilities of the Church to Mar Thoma XXI. Mar Thoma XXI. – (2007- ). Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan was consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan on February 8, 1975 at Tiruvalla and was installed as Mar Thoma Metropolitan on October 2, 2007.

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

  1. Rt.Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan, was consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan on May 23, 1953, at Tiruvalla. Passed away on November 27, 1984 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.
  2. Rt.Rev. Dr. Zacharias Mar Theophilus Suffragan Metropolitan, was Consecrated by Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan on May 1, 1980 at Tiruvalla.


  1. Rt.Rev. Dr. Mathews Mar Athenasius Episcopa, was Consecrated by Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan on December 30, 1937. Died on September 23, 1973 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.
  2. Rt. Rev. Easow Mar Timotheos Episcopa, was Consecrated by Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan on February 8, 1975. Died on April 11, 1988 and was interred at S.C. palli, Tiruvalla.
  3. Rt.Rev. Geevarghese Mar Athanasius Episcopa, Rt.Rev. Dr. Geevarhese Mar Theodosius Episcopa and Rt.Rev. Dr. Euyakim Mar Coorilos Episcopa were consecrated by Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan, on December 9, 1989.
  4. Rt.Rev. Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa, Rt.Rev. Dr. Thomas Mar Timotheos Episcopa and Rt.Rev. Dr. Isaac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa were consecrated by Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan, on October 2, 1993.
  5. Rt.Rev. Dr. Abraham Mar Paulos Episcopa was consecrated by Dr. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostem Mar Thoma Metropolitan on May 14, 2005.


The original liturgical language used by Malankara Church was Aramaic and Hebrew. The Bible that was in use also was in Hebrew. 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 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 first century continued worshiping in synagogues. Then they moved to their homes and by the second 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 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 twentieth 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 mainly by the children. They have their carolling during that period. By the end of last century, Christmas tree and 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

The Maramon Convention is the largest annual Christian gathering in Asia,organized by the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association, the missionary wing of the Mar Thoma Church. It takes place at Maramon, during the month of February on the vast sand-bed of the Pampa River next to the Kozhencherry Bridge.&nbsp

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. But those who attend sit on the sand bed, (old & invalid people are given chairs) men on one side and ladies on the other. Without caste, creed, colour or age they come and listen to the messages. One after noon session is for ecumenical messages from invited leaders of other Churches.

The first convention was held in 1895 March, for a period of 10 days. The convention tent has a seating capacity in excess of 160,000 and is made of interwoven coconut leaves by the parishners of nearby churches. All around the tent there are temporary sheds and tents for various purposes related to the Convention. Stalls for the sale of religious literature, Church offices and restaurants run by charity organizations are allowed to operate in the vicinity of the tent under the strict control of the Church authorities.

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.

Mar Thoma Church was attending the meetings of World Council of Churches from its first meeting in 1948. At the WCC meeting held in Evanston, Dr. 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. Marthoma Church is also in communion with the Independent Syrian Church of Thozhiyoor although the doctrinal positions are not mutually accepted in full.


  1. National Council of Churches General Assembly (November 12, 1997). Accessed 2008-03-10.
  2. Saryu Doshi. (Ed). India and Egypt. Co-sponsored by Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and Marg Publications, Bombay, 1993. p. 45
  3. ‘’Bible’’; I Kings. 9:26-28; 10:11,22; 2 Chronicles: 8:18; 9:21.
  4. Kerala Council for Historical Research findings in 2006-08.
  5. Edna Fernadez. The last Jews of Kerala.- The two thousand year history of India’s forgotten Jewish community. Skyhorse Publishing. c.2008. p. 80
  6. Nicolaus of Damascus
  7. Matthew 2:1
  8. Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.(2006). Page 68-69.
  9. Matthew 2:1-2
  10. Bowler, Gerry. (2000). ‘’The World Encyclopedia of Christmas’’. Page 139.
  11. Acts 11:26
  12. Canons of the Synod of Diamper (Malayalam version) and Travancore government records of that period.
  13. Acts 6:1-6; 8:14-17; 13: 1-3
  14. Decrees of The Synod of Udayamperoor A.D.1500. (Malayalam document)
  15. Church History of Eusebius Book V, Chapter 10.
  16. Mathew, N.M. (History of the Marthoma Church. (Malayalam), Volume 1. Page 92-94and souvenirs published by Knanaya parishes in Kerala.
  17. Christian cross, Constantine I and Christianity, Jewish Encyclopedia
  18. More details that are copy righted cannot be entered here.
  19. ’’The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’’, Part II, AD 750-919
  20. Mathew, N.M. (2003)St.Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. Page 76.
  21. Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1. Page 98.
  22. Mathew, N.M. (2003)St.Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages. Page 76-77.
  23. Mathew, N.M. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume 1.Page 99-100.
  24. Marco Polo. The Book of Travels Translated by Ronald Latham. 1958. Page 287.
  25. Sreedhara Menon, A. A Survey of Kerala History.(Mal).Page 54.
  26. Also known as Alejo-de-Menezes, and in Kerala people called him as Allosos Metran
  27. Herberts. (1636). Some years Travels Into Asia And Afrique.Page. 304-305.
  28. Mar Thoma Sabha Directory (1999), Page 24.

External material


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. Mathew N.M. (2003). ‘’St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Through Ages’’, C.S.S. Tiruvalla. ISBN 81-4821-008-8 and CN 80303
    5. Pothen, S.G. (1963). ‘’The Syrian Christians of Kerala’’. Asia Publishing House, London.#Zac Varghese Dr. & Mathew A. Kallumpram. (2003). ‘’Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History’’. London, England. ISBN 81/900854/4/1

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.