Tuesday, May 3, 2011

History of Christianity in India

Christianity has quite a good presence in India. Ever since its early years, Christianity has had its roots in India. If we are to rely on a tradition, India come in contact with Christianity very early. In fact tradition credits the Disciple Thomas himself with evangelizing India. The legend has it that Gondophares, one of the Pahalva rulers, was converted by St. Thomas himself. According to Roman Catholics, tomb of St. Thomas was buried in the cathedral at Mailapur or Mylapore in the southern part of Chennai.

If we have to put aside the legend, the first definite historical evidence to the Christian activity can be found in the Topografia Christiana (Christian Topography) of Cosmas Indicopleustes, an adventurous Alexendrian monk of the 6th century AD. Cosmas Indicopleustes, literally meaning who sailed to India, left a voluminous account of his travels. Indicopleustes saw churched in Kerala and according to him these churches were in the hands of Persian priests. This amounts to the explanation that Christians in India had embraced the Nestorian heresy, then widespread in Persia. When Christianity was stamped out in Persia, the Christians in India benign to be guided by the patriarch of Syria and continues to be so even today.

At the end of the 15th century Italian traveler Marco Polo referred to the tomb of St. Thomas and dwelt on its popularity as a sacred place.

According to The Anglo Saxon Chronicle in 884 AD, King Alfred sent an envoy to India to with rich present for the tomb of St Thomas. The envoy named Sithelm returned home with rich gifts given to him by the Chola king Aditya I.

There are several Christian communities in India, who on a whole constitute approx2.34% of the Indian population with Roman Catholics forming the majority of Indian Christians. Today Christians mostly live in the northeast states of India as well as in the southwestern states of Kerala and Goa.

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