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The Malabar Independent Syrian Church, also known as the Thozhiyur Church, is a Christian church centred in Kerala, India. It is one of the churches of the Saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.

The church split from the main body of India’s Malankara Church in 1772. The church obtained its current name after a court verdict in 1862; although the church is independent under the Malankara umbrella, the church faith and traditions are strictly Oriental Orthodox, adhering to the West Syriac Rite and consistently using western Syriac and Malayalam during the Holy Qurbana (Qurbono Qadisho).

Today the church remains small, with about 35,000 members, and maintains good relations with the other Malankara churches.

I. Church of Saint Thomas Christians until the arrival of Portuguese

The Church of Saint Thomas Christians was hierarchically subordinated under the Patriarch Seleucia- Ctesiphon, which was known differently as Church of Seleucia or better Seleucia-Ctesiphon, later on called as the church of Babylon or Church of East or Chaldean Church or Assyrian Church.

The Indian Church was raised to the rank of a Metropolitan Church in 714/728 AD.

The evidences from the available ancient documents associate following East Syrian prelates with India. David of Basrah ( ca.295 AD), John of Persia and Greater India ( 325 AD), Mar Komai ( 425 AD), Ma’na of Riwarddasir ( Persia) ( 470 AD), Patriach Sabrisho I ( 6/7th century), Bishop Thomas ( 8th century), Mar Sabrisho and Mar Peroz ( 9th century), Mar Jacob ( 14th century).

Clear and precise evidence is available in the letters of two East Syrian Patriarchs, Mar Ishoyahb III ( 647/8 or 650/1) and Mar Timothy I ( 780-823 AD).

There are some fragmentary evidences which seem to suggest that there were Indian Bishops in earlier centuries. Patriarch Thimothy in 8th Century calls Archdeacon ( Arken), head of faithful of India.

“Metropolitans of All India” some time after the ninth century were definitely consecrated in Persia and send to India.

At the time of Portuguese arrival in India (1504), the hierarchy of Church of Saint Thomas Christians consists of a Metropolitan and three suffragan Bishops. Mar Yahballaha (Jaballaha) was the metropolitan and Mar Denah, Mar Jacob and Mar John were the Bishops.

The entire Saint Thomas Christians were one rite and one Church till the middle of Seventeenth Century.

II. About the Saint Thomas Christians early Liturgy

The Older hudra MSS contained three Anaphora for use in Chaldean Church. Mar Esai Hudra also contains three Anaphora.

It is generally accepted that the Anaphora of Addai and Mari, Nestorius and Theodore were in use among Saint Thomas Christians at the time of Synod of Diamper in 1599 AD.

There are many fragmentary evidences for this liturgy in early centuries in India. The earliest concrete surviving document, which assert the presence of East Syrian Liturgy is the Vatican Syriac MSS-22, written at Cranganore, Malabar in 1301 AD. This is an Epistolarium copied to use in Malabar from a text used in Cathedral of Beth Koke in Seleucia- Ctesiphon. The Prelate, Mar Joseph, who was send to Malabar by the Chaldean Patriarch in 1556 died at Rome in 1569. He has left a number of manuscripts in Rome. These are parts of the Vatican Library. The Vatican Syr. Codex 45, 46, 66 are that of the Pontifical, Missal and Rituals. These provide valuable information about the liturgy which was in use before the Syond of Diamper in Malabar.

III. About the name of the Church

The Church founded by Apostle Thomas was known in different names in different periods of the history. Some of the names seen in records are Church of Saint Thomas, Nazrani Church, Malankara Church, Syro Chaldean Church , Suriyani Church etc.

The faithful were called Saint Thomas Christians, Mar Thoma Kristianigal, Suriyani Christians, Nazrani Mappilas etc.

IV. After the arrival of Portuguese in Malabar

In 1504, Mar Yahballaha was the ” Metropoliten of All India” in Malabar. There were three suffragon bishops. In 1565, Angamaly was made a Metropolitan See. The first Synod at Angamaly was convoked in 1583 by Mar Abraham. Mar Abraham was the last Chaldean Metropolitan who ruled the undivided Church of Saint Thomas Christians. He died in 1597 AD.

V. After the death of the Chaldean Metropolitan Mar Abraham

After the death of last Chaldean Metropolitan Mar Abraham of undivided Saint Thomas Christians, the Archdeacon George ( of the Cross) according to the custom and by the virtue of appointment by Mar Abraham took administration of the Church.

Alexis De Menezes, the Arch Bishop of Goa, begins his visit in Malabar in 27 December 1598 AD. The Synod of Diamper was conducted on 1599 AD. Fr. Franics Roz SJ nominated as the successor of Mar Abraham 1599 AD. He was succeeded by Bishop Brito SJ and Bishop Garcia Francis SJ.

Archdeacon George ( of the Cross) died 1637 AD and was succeded by Archdeacon Thomas (Thomas de Campo)  in 1637 AD. A regular fight ensured with the Bishop and Archdeacon. The historic Coonan Cross Oath happened on Jan 3rd 1653 AD.

Syond of Diamper

The Syond of Diamper is a diocesan synod by which Latin usages were formally adopted by the Christians of Saint Thomas. It was convened on June 20, 1599 under the leadership of Aleixo de Menezes, Archbishop of Goa. Archdeacon George ( of the Cross) was forced to comply with the wishes of Archbishop of Goa. This separated the Thomas Christians from the Chaldean Patriarch and subjected them directly to the Latin Archbishopric of Goa. The Archbishopric of Angamale was downgraded to a Bishopric under Goa in 1600 AD. Portuguese Padroado rule was thus imposed and the Bishops for Saint Thomas Christians were appointed by Portuguese Padroado.

It was held in the church of Diamper ( Udayamperoor) from June 20 to 26, 1599. The Synod issued 200 decrees distributed in nine actions ( sessions).

Changes in Liturgy after the Syond

The text on which the Synod of Diamper worked was a composite East Syriac text of Anaphora of Addai and Mari.4

The Synod suppressed the use of all other Anaphora’s except the Qurbana of Addai and Mari. The Synod declared certain passages of the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari as impious, sacrilegious and outcome of Nestorian heresy. The Synod proposed some thirty changes in the Qurbana. The changes made by the Synod are six in litanies, seven in hymns or anthems, four in formulae pertaining to the deacon, one in response of the people, one in the text of the gospel lesson, one in affecting the whole creed. In the prayer of the priest there are five changes in pre- anaforaml part of the Qurbana of Addai and Mari. There are four changes with in the anaphora and eleven in the four variables hutame ( Sealing prayers).5

The corrected rite was printed by Gouvea in 1604, Portugal. According to Placid, it was never in actual use by the Church in Malabar. With regard to Taksa and Divine Praises, the lack of sufficient books and the impossibility of making new ones prevented it from getting destroyed during the destruction at the Synod of Diamper

In 1601, Franics Roz SJ became the first Latin prelate of Saint Thomas Christians. He was well versed in Syriac and Malayalam. He made further changes in the liturgy in the order in conformity with the Latin rite. There are ancient Manuscripts which contain the ordinary of the Qurbana and rubrics for the Raza ( most solemn celebration) which mentions the Second Diocesan Synod of Angamali celebrated by the first Latin Arch Bishop Franics Roz ( 1601-1624) of Saint Thomas Christians in 1603. This manuscript is preserved at Carmelite Monastery, Mannanam.( 68 Pages- which contains text of the Qurbana, rubrics for the most solemn celebration called Raza- The title of the text is “ The Order of saying Raza in the Indian Church clarified by Mar Franics in the Synod of Angamale on the forth month of the forth year of his Administration”

In 1606, Bishop Francis Roz SJ codified ‘ Diocesan Statutes” which gives a better picture of the Malabar Church after the period pertaining to Synod of Diampoor. This MSS is at Vatican library ( Codex Borgiano Indiano No-18). The Syriac title is “ Thukasa d’maritha Thomaytha d’hendo which means Statutes of the Thomite fold in India. The Malayalam title is Malankara Mar Thoma Sleeha Edavakede Kalpanakal meaning Statutes of St. Thomas fold of Malankara Church. This is written in Malayalam of Sixteenth century with a slight mixture of Syriac and Tamil. ( A copy of this is in Manjumel Monastery but not complete)

Matheiken mentions that , the Malabar Qurbana remained altogether Oritental in general arrangements and almost entirely so in its texts and formulae. Romanisation effected to an extent more in the externals. This ‘ Diocesan Statutes” were brought to light recently by J Matheiken. This MS has 142 folios

Coonan Cross Oath

In 1652, Ahatallah arrived in Mylapore who informed the Saint Thomas Christians that he is the Patriarch of All India and China who has all the powers given by Pope. In the name of Mary, Mother of God, he invited all the Thomas Christians to rally around him. The whole Thomas Christian community was roused and insurrections took place everywhere. Fr. Manoel de Leira SJ, from Mylapore informed the Portuguese about the movements of Ahatallah. The Portuguese authorities arrested and deported him to Goa via Cochin.

The Archdeacon Thomas reached Cochin with a number of soldiers and demanded to see Patriarch Ahatallah and to examine his credentials. He said he would not demand the Patriarch’s release if the credentials were found false. The Portuguese agreed first but soon they deported Ahatallah to Goa with out showing him or his credentials to the Archdeacon and his followers. The behavior of Archbishop Gracis SJ has been haughty. A false rumor was spread that Ahatallah was drowned by the Portuguese off the coast of Cochin. The Archdeacon wrote to the Portuguese Captain that they wont obey any Jesuit and let any other four religious order come and they are ready to obey with out hesitation.7

All moved to Mattancherry near Cochin tied a long rope as tradition says to the open air cross called the Coonan Cross and holding the rope swore they would never be under the Paulists. ( ie, the Jesuits). All the Thomas Christians except a few ( 400 or 500 or 4000) adhered to those who had taken the Oath on Friday, January 3rd 1653.

VI. After the Coonan Cross Oath

A meeting was held at Edapally and then again at Alangat on May 22, 1653, twelve priests imposed their hands on Archdeacon Thomas calling him Archbishop Mar Thomas I. A new letter said to be of Ahatallah was also produced. The meeting also provided four councilors to Archdeacon. Alexander Parampil of Kuravilangadu, Alexander Kadavil of Kaduthuruthy, George Vendur of Angamale and Anjilimootil Ittithomman of Kallicherry were the four councilors. A manifesto was also produced and it was said that Jesuits did not paid attention to the mandate of Pope and that the Archbishop was ordained by the order and command of Patriarch Ahatallh who came by the order of Pope.

Rome send Carmelities in two groups under the Propagada Congregation to Malabar headed by Fr. Sebastiani and Fr. Hyacinth. Fr. Sebastiaini arrived first in 1655. He began directly deal with the Archdeacon, Mar Thomas I. Fr. Sebastianini gained the support of many, especially with the support of Alexander Parampil, Alexandar Kadavil and the Vicar of Muttam, ( the three councilors were reconciled with Gracia SJ before the arrival of Sebastaini according to some Jesuit reports) . Fr.Sebastaini went back to Rome to submit the Report leaving behind Fr.Matheo. In his absence the other group of Carmelites under the Fr.Hyacinth arrived and negotiated with the Archdeacon Thomas . But since another Archdeacon was appointed by Bishop Gracia SJ and he was not ready to give up his position, Mar Thomas I resumed his former stand.8

Sebastiani came back in 1661 as Bishop and Administrator of Cranganore. Bishop Gracia SJ had already died in 1659. The Dutch defeated the Portuguese and captured Cochin in 1662 and forced all other Europeans to leave Malabar. Bishop Sebastaini, then consecrated Alexander Parampil as the Bishop. Fr. Matheo, who was a botanist, gained the favor of Dutch government and stayed back in Malabar.

Between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Carmelites reclaimed eighty-four churches, leaving Archdeacon Thomas only thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro Malabar Church and Chaldean Syrian Church have descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations represent the nucleus whence the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox) , Thoziyur, Mar Thoma (Reformed Syrians), Syro Malankra Catholics have originated.9

In 1665, Mar Gregorius a Bishop send by the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch arrived in Malabar and was received by Mar Thomas I. In the mean time, two new terms, Pazhayakuttukar to represent Catholic Syrians and Puthankuttukar to represent Jacobites also emerged. According to Paulinus of Saint Bartholmew, these names was already existing before the arrival of Mar Gregorius, that representations were already sent to Rome and that those who had decided to abide by the decision of Rome were called Pazhaykuttukar and others as Puthankuttukar.

Following are a brief sketch of events among the Catholic Syrians (Syro Malabar Church) and the Malankara Syriac Orthodox ( Jacobite ) with details leading to the formation of different groups which exist today.

VII. Succeeding centuries among the Catholics- Syro Malabar Church

VIII. About the Syro Malabar Church in India

  • Division in Syro Malabar Church
  • About the Syro Malabar Church name
  • About the Syro Malabar Church Liturgy

IX. About Chaldean Syrian Church

  • About the Chaldean Syrian Church Liturgy
  • About the Chaldean Syrian Church name

X. Succeeding centuries among the Malankara Syriac Orthodox

XI. About the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church in India

  • Divisions in Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church
  • About the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church name
  • About the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Liturgy

XII. About the Thozhiyur Church (Anjoorians)

The Thozhiyur Church known today as Malabar Independent Syrian Church originated at the year 1772, when Mar Cyril was expelled from Travancore and Cochin by Mar Dionysius I.

About the Thozhiyur Church name

Earlier Anjoor or Thozhiyur Church was used. Presently Malabar Independent Syrian Church is used officially.

About the Thozhiyur Church Liturgy

The Thozhyur Church uses the West Syriac liturgy.

XIII. About the Syrian Anglican Church

XIV. About Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church

  • About the Malankara Mar Thoma Church name
  • About Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church Liturgy

XV. Split among the Malankara Syriac Orthodox

The Saint Thomas Christians trace their origins to Thomas the Apostle, who according to tradition proselytized in India in the 1st century. By the 7th century they were part of the Church of the East, centred in Persia. The entire community remained united until the 17th century, when disputes with the Portuguese padroado in India led to the Coonan Cross Oath of 1653 and the division of the Saint Thomas Christians into Latin Catholic and Malankara Church The independent branch, known as the Malankara Church, forged a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.

However, relations between the Syriac Orthodox hierarchy and the native clergy were sometimes strained. In 1772 Bishop Mar Gregorios, a representative of the Syriac Orthodox hierarchy from the Middle East, had grown dissatisfied with how the Metropolitan Mar Dionysius I had treated him. Against Dionysius’ wishes, Gregorios consecrated as bishop a leading dissenter, the monk Kattumangatt Kurien, in a secret but canonically legitimate ceremony. The new bishop took the name Mar Cyril (Koorilos), and he was designated Gregorios’ sole heir.

Cyril claimed authority over the parishes of Cochin, and initially received the support of the Raja of Cochin. However, Dionysus saw him as a threat to his power, and in 1774 he appealed to the Raja and to the British authorities in India to suppress the rival bishop. Cyril left for Thozhiyur, outside their jurisdiction, and established what would become an independent church. This was the first of several churches to split off from the Malankara Church.

Cyril’s church was always small, but maintained stability by attracting devoted priests and emphasizing regularity in the ecclesiastical order. In 1794 Cyril consecrated his brother Geevarghese as bishop; Geevarghese succeeded Cyril as Mar Cyril II in 1802, and the succession has proceeded unbroken since.[5] As a result of an 1862 court case, the Madras High Court confirmed the Thozhiyur church was independent Malankara church, and it has subsequently been known as the Malabar Independent Syrian Church.


In the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, as in a number of Churches, a bishop receives a new name on consecration.

In the Syrian Churches this is preceded by the title “Mar” meaning “Lord”. (The West Syrian form is “Mor” but the East Syrian pronunciation prevails in Kerala even among Churches which, like the MISC, are West Syrian in episcopal succession and rite)

As the number of episcopal names in use is quite small, the individual’s baptismal name is usually prefixed.

Thus (to take the hypothetical example mentioned above), were K M George to be consecrated a bishop with the episcopal name Philoxenos, he would be called Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos (his baptismal name having been rendering into its Syriac form, or an Indian version of it).

In Syriac, the formula is “Philoxenos who is Geevarghese” (pylksns dhw gwrgs)

Sometimes, however, an individual may be more commonly known by the name of his family or of the place from which he is originated. So, for example, Malankara Metropolitan Mar Dionysios IV is usually known as Cheppar Mar Dionysios, rather than Philipose Mar Dionysios.

Of the 14 bishops who have ruled over the MISC as Metropolitan,

  • 9 have borne the name episcopal Koorilose
  • 3 Philoxenos
  • 1 Athanasios
  • 1 Basilos