right|His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Mar Thoma Didymos I, current Catholicos of the East (2005- )]] The '''Indian Orthodox Church''' (also known as the '''Malankara Orthodox Church''', '''Orthodox Church of the East''', '''Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church''', '''Orthodox Syrian Church of the East'''), is a prominent member of the [[Oriental Orthodoxy|Oriental Orthodox]] Church family. The Church traces her origins to [[Apostle Thomas|Thomas the Apostle]], who came to India in AD 52, established the Church and suffered [[Martyr|martyrdom]].
It can only be a gift of Grace that the faith and tradition of the small community of the Early Christians in India have remained alive and vibrant through nearly two thousand years. Even amidst periodic storm, from one source or another, across these centuries of change, the community has maintained an inner calm, in the safety of the spiritual anchor, cast in the original concept of the word Orthodox, that is the "right glorification of God".
The Early Christians of India (mainly on
he Southern coast) were known as Thomas Christians and indeed by no other name until the advent of the Portuguese in the 16th century followed closely by the British.
That the Church in India was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle is attested by West Asian writings since the 2nd century (the ''Doctrine of the Apostles'' and ''Acta Thomae'' both of which were written at or near Edessa ca 200-250 AD); St. [[Ephrem the Syrian|Ephraim]], St. [[John Chrysostom]] and St. [[Gregory the Theologian|Gregorios Nazianzen]], in the 4th century; St. [[Jerome]], ca 400 AD; and historians [[Eusebius of Caesarea|Eusebius]] ca 338 and Theodore, of the 5th century.
The Orthodox Church in India is one of the 37 Apostolic Churches, dating from the time of the disciples of [[Christ]]. Nine of these were in Europe and 28 in Asia and Africa. Today, it belongs to the family of the five Oriental Orthodox Churches, which include Syria, [[Coptic|Egypt]], Ethiopia, and Armenia, and to the wider stream of the world's Orthodox churches, comprising in all over 150 million Eastern Christians. It has a strength of over 2 million members in about 1500 parishes mainly in Kerala and increasingly spread all over India and in many parts of the globe. Eastern in original and Asian in its moorings, the Indian Church is, a distinctive and respected part of the rich religious mosaic that is India.
Until the 16th century, there was only one Church in India, concentrated mainly in the south-west. The seven original churches were located at Malankara (Malayattur), Palayur (near Chavakkad), Koovakaayal (near North Paravur), Kokkamangalam (South Pallippuram), Kollam, Niranam and Nilackel (Chayal). Of the same pattern adopted by the other Apostles, each local church was administered, guided by a group of Presbyters and presided over by the elder priest or bishop.
The Indian Church was autonomous then, and is now, like all Orthodox Churches. This is clear from the fact that no name of any church in India is seen in the now available list of bishoprics of the church in Persia from the fifth to the seventh century.
The Early Church in India remained one and at peace, treasuring the same ethnic and cultural characteristics as the rest of the local community. Its members enjoyed the goodwill of the other religious communities as well as the political support of the Hindu rulers. The Thomas Christians welcomed missionaries and migrants from other churches, some of whom sought to escape persecution in their own countries. The language of worship in the early centuries must have been the local language probably a form of Tamil. In later centuries, the liturgical language mingled with East Syriac received through the churches of Seleucia and Tigris.
==Links with Persia==
The Persian connection of the Indian churches has to bee seen in the context of the internal dissensions and state persecution of Christians in Persia from the 5th century. A Synod of the Persian Church (410 AD) affirmed the faith of [[First Ecumenical Council|Nicea]] and acknowledged the Metropolitan of Selucia-Ctesiphon as the Catholicose of East. Not long after, the Christological controversies of [[Fourth Ecumenical Council|Chalcedon]], fuelled by the strains between the Persian and Byzantine empires, swayed the Persian church to declare itself "[[Nestorianism|Nestorian]]" and its head to assume the title of [[Patriarch]] of the East (Babylon). From their base in then flourishing theological school of Nisibis, Nestorian missionaries began moving to India, Central Asia, China and Ethiopia to teach their doctrines- probably associating the churches in these countries with the work of St. Thomas the Apostle, whom the Persians must have venerated as the founder of their own church.
By the 7th Century, specific references of the Indian church began to appear in Persian records. The Metropolitan of India and the Metropolitan of China are mentioned in the consecration records of Patriarchs of the East. At one stage, however, the Indian church was claimed to be in the [[jurisdiction]] of the Metropolitan of Fars but this issue was settled by Patriarch Sliba Zoha (714-728 AD) who recognized the traditional dignity of the autonomous Metropolitan of India.
There were other developments in the Persian Church of potential import to the Indian Church. A renaissance of the pre-Chalcedon faith began led by Jacob Baradeus, emphasizing the West Syrian Christological tradition of the one united nature, influencing the church in Persia as well. Availing the relatively equallable political climate following the Arab conquest of Syria and other parts of West Asia, a maphrianate of the anti-Chalcedonians was established and Mar Marutha, a native Persian, became the first Jacobite Maphriyono (Catholicose) of the East. The jurisdiction of this Catholicose at Tigris extended to 18 Episcopal Dioceses in lower Mesopotamia and further east, but significantly, not to India.
On the lift (growth) of the church in India during the first 15 centuries, the balance of historical evidence and the thrust of local tradition point to its basic autonomy sustained by the core of its own faith and culture. It received with the trust and courtesy missionaries, bishops and migrants as they came from whichever eastern Church- Tigris or Babylon, Antioch or Alexandria, but not from the more distant Constantinople or Rome. There were times in this long period when the Christians in India had been without a bishop and were led by an Archdeacon. And requests were sent, sometimes with success, to one another of the Eastern prelates to help restore the episcopate in India. Meanwhile the church in Persia and much of west declined by internal causes and the impact of Islam, affecting both the "Nestorian" Patriarchate of the East (Babylon) and the Jacobite Catholicate of the East (Tigris). As will be seen from the later history of the Indian Church, the latter, was reestablished in India (Kottayam) in 1912 while the former was transplanted to America 1940.
==The colonial era==
The post-Portuguese story of the church in India from the 16th century- is relatively well documented. In their combined zeal to colonize and proselytize, the Portuguese might not have readily grasped the way of life of the Thomas Christians who seemed to accommodate differing strands of eastern Christian thought and influence, while preserving the core of their original faith. The response of the visitors was to try and bring them under Rome-Syrian prelates, apart from the new converts in the coastal areas under Latin prelates.
At the request of the Thomas Christians, the "Jacobite" bishop, Mar Gregorios of Jerusalem came to India in 1664, confirmed the Episcopal consecration of Mar Thoma I as the head of the Orthodox Church in India. Thus began the formal relationship with the "Jacobite" Syrian Church, as it happened, in explicit support of the traditional autonomy of the Indian Church.
History repeated itself in another form when the British in India encouraged
`reformation within the Orthodox Church' Partly through Anglican domination of the theological seminary in Kottayam, besides attracting members of the church into Anglican congregations since 1836. Finally the reformist group broke away to form the Mar Thoma Church. This crisis situation was continued with the help of Patriarch Peter III of Antioch who visited India in 1875-77. The outcome was twofold; a reaffirmation of the distinctive identity of the Orthodox Church under its own Metropolitan and, at some dissonance with this renewal, an enlarged influence of the Patriarch of Antioch in the affairs of the Indian Church.
Thus the relationship which started for safeguarding the integrity and independence of the Orthodox Church, in India, against the misguided, if understandable, ambitions of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Protestant Churches, opened a long and tortuous chapter in which concord and conflict between the Indian and Syrian Orthodox Churches have continued to alternate, to this day.
The fact that the Christian Church, first appeared in India, as elsewhere, as a fellowship of self-governing communities to the same body and born into the same new life, may yet light the path to a future of peace, within and beyond the Orthodox Community.
* Web sites of the Indian Orthodox Church: [http://
www. indianorthodoxchurch.com/] , [ http: //www.orthodoxsyrianchurch.com/]* [ http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Orthodox_Church Indian Orthodox Church (Wikipedia)]* [ http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholicos_of_the_East Catholicos of the East (Wikipedia)]* [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholicoses_of_the_East List of Catholicoses of the East (Wikipedia)] * [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malankara_Jacobite_Syriac_Orthodox_Church Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church (Wikipedia )] * [http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Thomas_Christians Saint Thomas Christians (Wikipedia)]* [http://newsfromrussia.com/world/2005/10/31/66637.html New primate for Malankara Church (31 October 2005)]* [http://orthodoxherald.com/ Online Indian Orthodox Herald English Edition Biweekly ]
Category: Oriental Orthodox]]