Wednesday, 15 July 2015

First Century Church St. George’s of Irapeli, Kerala



Aruvithura Church St. George of Irapeli, Kerala, . en.wikipedia.org 
Among the Indian states, Kerala has a large number of beautiful churches across the state, many of which are very old. Some of the churches date back to first and second century, that is  far earlier than the arrival of Europeans, beginning with the Portuguese who first landed on the Malabar coast of Kerala on 20 May, 1498. Because of the arrival of St. Thomas, the apostle, who  reached Muziris, Kerala  India in AD 52, Christianity here is very old. He baptized  numerous people, thus founding what  are
today known as Saint 'Thomas Christians' or 'Nasranis'.   The design of many of the old churches in Kerala is a blend of both European as well as Indian style, in particular, Kerala style with sloping roof.

Aruvithura St. George's Syro-Malabar Catholic Forane Church is located on banks of the Meenachil River at Aruvithura, Erattupetta in the state of Kerala.  St.Thomas, one of the well-known disciples of Jesus Christ, visited Irapeli (now Aruvuthura) and established the first building of the Church which very much resembled the Hindu temples. The basic building was made of granite stones available in plenty in the nearby areas. The great apostle began to preach the essence of Christian faith in many villages in the Malabar areas of Kerala  and had favorable support from the local Hindu kings.  
At Irapeli there was a small Jewish community engaged in trades and business.  At many place St. Thomas was busy converting people to Christianity, in particular small Jewish communities living in scattered places. Here there lived a well-known Jewish business family ''Thengummoottil.'' St. Thomas  converted this  prominent Jewish trader and his family  to Christianity and laid a cross on the banks of the Meenachil River, making the church of Irapeli the half church. This is the first church built in the 1st century in the Palai diocese in Kerala. Later St. Thomas founded seven and a half churches in this region including an area in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, the half church being the one at Irapeli.

Aruvithura Syro-Malabar Church St. George of Irapeli, Kerala, .Ariel flower showering.www.nasrani.net
The Thengummoottil family took the responsibility of constructing  and maintaining the churches of great antiquity till 16th century. Only in the beginning of the 16th century, a new church  was dedicated to the Virgin Mother  built by parishioners. Soon after the destruction of Nilackal Church or the Chayal Church for unknown reasons, many Christians moved over to Irapeli and along with them they brought the statue of St. George.
St. George Forane Church, Aruvithura altar, Kerala.www.nasrani.net

Ever since the arrival of the statue of St. George, so many miracles had happened  through the intercession of the saint and the devotees had unshakable faith in the divine and mystical powers of St. George who bestowed them with favors. Because the miracles kept happening after the arrival of the statue, the church, in the 16th century itself  was dedicated to him, thus St. Mary’s church of  Irapeli came  to be known as St. George’s Church of Irapeli. St. George was so much revered and venerated, the natives used to call him affectionately “Valyachan” - grand Uncle or grand Papa.

Since the building was too old, except  a part of the building, where  the statue of St.George is enshrined, other portion was demolished. It was later rebuilt in 1952. The church is a cruciform building in the Gothic style, facing to the west towards Jerusalem according to the Oriental liturgical tradition.

Tit-Bits:

 01. This historical church is one of the oldest churches in the world.

 02. Irapeli had an trade with the Tamil countries lying beyond east of Western Ghats.

03. It is located about 25 miles  east to Kottayam, an important town in the state of Kerala.

04. Initially this Church of  apostolic origin was called St. Mary's Church - Virgin Mother assumed into heaven..

05. The ancient name of the place was Irapuzhai or Irapeli. Now this place is called Aruvithura.

06. Friday is believed to be the day on which the Saint George suffered martyrdom. Hence, Friday is observed as a special day of devotion and the Friday mass is quite famous. The services are mostly in the local language - Malayalam.

07. In accordance with the age old tradition of the Syrian Church that was prevalent at Irepeli prior to the 17 th century, the feast of St.George is still celebrated on  24th April every year.
  
Ref:

"St. George Forane Church, Aruvithura". www.aruvithurapally.com. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
    

"Aruvithura Palli"-The Historical Church of Kerala... [PART-1]". You Tube: JOMS DigiMedia. Retrieved 6 January 2015

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aruvithura_St._George%27s_Syro-Malabar_Catholic_Forane_Church