Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christianity in ancient India and natives


India had a thriving trade with Central Asia, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern countries, both along mountain passes in the north east and sea routes along the Indian western and southern coasts, well before the beginning of Christian era.It is likely that Christian merchants settled in Indian cities along trading routes.
 
Champakulam Kallukkadu.Kerala.IndiaSt.Mary'schurch. www. nasrani.net
old malabar christians in ancient India. rammhubpages.
         New  Mar Thoma church,kerala,India, where St.Thomas built the church in AD52. Kodungaloor. wikipedia.org

Christianity, scholars believe, was first brought to India in 52 CE by Thomas, the Apostle who visited Muziris near Cochin, Kerala mainly for the purpose of spreading the gospel among the Kerala Jewish communities.
The Apostle Thomas built seven churches in Kodungallur and evangelized in present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The first converts were Cochin Jews who arrived there in 562 BC soon after the destruction of The First Temple.
The 'world's first oldest church' was built by him in 57 AD called Thiruvithamcode Arapally or ''Thomaiyar kovil'' as named by the then Chera king Udayam Cherai. It is in Thiruvitamcode, Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. This historical church of great antiquity is now an international St. Thomas pilgrim center. Legend has it St. Thomas attained martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai and was buried on the site of San Thom cathedral, Chennai.
Later escaping from the persecution of Christians in by the Iranian King Shapur II, Thomas Cana, merchant & missionary of Mesopotamia and Bishop Joseph of Edessa, and 400 Christians with permission from king Cherman Perumal settled in Kodungallur in 345. They established the colony of Syrian Christians in Kerala. The colony of Syrian Christians established at Kodungallur may be the first Christian community in South India for which there is a continuous written record The generous grants given to St. Thomas were recorded in copper plates dated 774 AD written in Tamil, Grantha & Hebrew.

Christianity, according to tradition (and now supported by recent research), arrived in India in the first century through the apostle Thomas. So, Christians had been living in India for centuries long before the arrival of Europeans. St. Thomas converted many South Indians who continued to practice Christianity until present. It was further consolidated by the arrival of Syriac Jewish-Christians, now known as Knanaya people in the second century C.E. This ancient ethnic Christian community of Kerala is known as Nasrani or Syrian Christian. The Nasrani people and especially the Knanaya people within the Nasranis have strong Jewish historical ties. Their form of Christianity is one of the most ancient. Syriac Christianity which is also known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and referred to in India as Saint Thomas Christians. It should be noted that the term
"Saint Thomas Christians" is a loose term that many non-Nasranis Christians in Kerala are often referred to. The vast majority of Christians in Kerala are not the original Nasrani / Knanaya but indigenous local converts.
Roman Catholicism reached India during the period of European colonization, which began in 1498 when the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on the Malabar coast. Christian missionary activity increased in the early 1500 and 1600s. Today Christianity is the third largest religion of India making up 2 - 2.5% of the population. Christians are most prevalent in the northeast in states such as Nagaland, Mizoram, south India, major metro areas, and in western states such as Goa.
Several centuries ago in spite of secular and democratic attitude of native Indians, the preachers of other religions, instead being appreciative of their secular mind, started indulging in forced conversion of natives in 1500s and later period particularly in Goa. Numerous past instances were on record during the Raj and prior to the arrival of the British. These are blots on the history of India especially the famous Goa Inquisition of 1560 introduced at the instigation of Fr. Francis Xavier. In 1500s and 1600s the Portuguese missionaries and rulers not only forced the Indians to convert to Christianity under threats of death and violence but also native Christians who had still followed the Hindu customs.. This resulted in earning the hatred of the natives on the west coast and a large Christian population moved over to other places. During the Raj some of the evangelists did the same thing in a subtle manner and the Indians despised the forced conversion under threats or  enticements.
The Hindu Raja of Quilon had given Fr. Francis Xavier a munificently large grant of land and other resources to build Churches in his territory after taking this grant, he without scruples began conversion of Hindus into Christianity under
force.
The Saint Thomas Christians still use the Syriac language (a dialect of Aramaic, which is also the language that Jesus spoke in their liturgy. This group, which existed in Kerala relatively peacefully for more than a millennium, faced considerable persecution from Portuguese evangelists in the 16th century.