Kerala is a land of religious harmony where Hindus, Christians, Muslims and other religions live together as a role model to the other states. The churches in Kerala really differ from other churches in India with respect to their style and architecture of their construction. The churches of Kerala are mainly classified into three main groups. They are 1) Roman Catholic Church 2) Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and 3) Protestants. Of these Malankara church is the oldest church and it has some of the oldest churches in the world. Roman catholic church also has some of the oldest churches with them. Many of these churches has turned into famous pilgrimage centers.
There are some major pilgrimage centers in Kerala which has to be
visited once you travel to Kerala. They are :
These churches are famous pilgrimage centers. They are also known for their ancient traditions and culture.
This church which is dedicated to St.Thomas the Apostle for India, is one of the most famous Church in Kerala and is situated about 20 kms from Cochin International airport. The main festival of this church is conducted on the first Sunday after Easter. The holy shrine at Malayatoor attracts devotees in very large numbers not only from Kerala but also from its neighbouring states. This famous Malayatoor church is situated at Kurisumudi, a verdant hill in the Western Ghats girdled partially by the river Periyar. The Church has a statue of St. Thomas and the imprint of the feet of the Apostle on a rock. The shrine has now been accorded an international pilgrimage station.
Manarcaud is a small town just 10 kms away from Kottayam. Manarcad
is famous for the St. Mary's Jacobite Syrian Church, which is one of
the major pilgrimage destination for the Christians in Kerala. The is
famous for the Manarcaud perunnal or Manarcaud feast which is held
annually from September 1-8. This feast is also known as "Ettunombu
Perunnal" and the pilgrims observe fast and stay in the church
from morning till night during these days. The Manarcaud church has a
holy tank and a golden cross, which are considered sacred by the
devotees. There is a huge procession on the last three days of the
fast and are held with golden crosses and accompanied by thousands of
devotees holding muthukkudas(highly embellished silken parasols).
The nearest railway station is at Kottayam, which is about 10 km away and the nearest airport is at Cochin which is 78 km away. Manarcaud is also accessible from other parts of the state by road.
Parumala Church is one of the major pilgrimage center in Kerala. The
St.Peter's and St. Paul's Orthodox Church attracts a lots of belivers
throughout the year irrespective of cast and creed. Parumala Church
contains the tomb of Mor Gregorios Geevarghese Chathuruthil (Parumala
Kochu Thirumeni), the only declared saint of Malankara. The Church is
situated on the banks of river Pampa in Mannar. Mannar is a beautiful
village in Pathanamthitta district and is 13 kms away from Thiruvalla.
The annual commemorative feast (Ormapperunnal) celebrations at the Parumala Church is held on 1st and 2nd of November. Devotees from all over the state attended the special rites and prayers offered as part of the commemorative feast of the saint.
The nearest railway station is at Thiruvalla and the nearest airport is at Cochin. Parumala is well connected to the other cities with its road networks.
The famous St.George Church in Puthupally is one of the oldest and renowned churches of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The patron saint of this parish is St.George and is situated in a beautiful and serene village called Puthuppally which is about 8 kms from Kottayam Town Puthupally church is the refuge of thousands of people all over the world who seek the intercession of St.George. It is believed that St.George church in Puthupally was established as a shrine of Changanacherry Pally which is turn was a shrine of Niranam pally.
Puthupally Church is famous for its rich traditions as well as wealth. The main MADBAHA (sanctum sanctorum) is a treat for your eyes, with its beautiful wall paintings and ornamental decorations. The main Madbaha is in the name of St.George and the other two Thronose on the left and right are in the names of St.Mary and St.Behanan respectively. The unique Golden Cross weighting around 450 sovereigns is a proud possession of the church and is kept under lock and key during most of the year. this Golden Cross is taken out only once in a year, that is during the perunnal and placed in the main Thronose for veneration by the devotees
St.George's Forane Church at Edappally which was founded in 593 AD is considered to be one of oldest church in Kerala after the seven churches which was founded by St.Thomas. Edappally Church is one of the most famous one in Kochi. There is a popular celebration at this famous church. The event celebrated annually begins on 23rd April. The 'Forty hour devotion' marks the commencement of the festival. The Church at Edappally is one of the major pilgrim centres in Kerala where even non-Christians crowd for veneration. Even during the week- days devotees flocks to the church to genuflect before the statue of St. George to express their gratitude for favours received.
The major festival begins on the 23rd of April with solemn High Mass and Litany. The parishioners join the pilgrims and adds colour and festivity to the event. Mellifluent music and ear shattering fire works keep the tempo of the festival. On May Day, the St. George statue is taken out of its usual podium and installed on a specially decked chariot for procession which has all the features of a solemn catholic religious function. Curtain comes down on the festival with the High Mass on 4th of May which will be embedded with a soul stirring sermon.
St.George's Church, Edathua is about 23 km southeast of Alappuzha town in the southern part of Kerala. Edathua church was established in 1810 and modelled on the medieval churches of Europe. This church is a massive shrine on the banks of the river Pamba. This church is famous for its annual feast which is held between April 27 to May 7 every year. During the feast, the statue of St.George is decked in gold and carried out in procession and placed on the dais at the centre of the Basilica. The feast is followed by the dazzling firework displays. Devotees from all parts of Kerala irrespective of caste and creed, visit in great numbers to seek his blessing and enjoy the festival. The church ground is swarmed with vendors and stalls selling all kinds of things from food to utensils to jewellery. There is also cultural performances every evening.
Manjinikkara Church is situated atop a hillock in the beautiful village of Manjanikkara, near Omallur, Pathanamthitta District in South Kerala. The Manjinikkara Church and monastery was established by late Mor Yulius Elias Qoro, Patriarchal delegate to Malankara. On February 13th, 1932, the late Patriarch of East Mor Ignatius Elias III entered eternal rest and his remains are interred at the Manjinikkara monastery. Members of the Jacobite Syrian Church believe that the Holy Father was a Saint. The remains of late Mor Yulius Elias Qoro and Mor Yulius Yacoub, former Patriarchal delegates to Malankara are also interred in this church.The Manjanikkara Dayro is the seat of the Patriarchal Delegate to Malankara and the metropolitan of the Simhasana churches (churches administered directly by the Patriarchate of East (Antioch)). The Manjinikkara Church ( Manjinikkara Dayara) has now become one of the foremost places of pilgrimage in Kerala and among the Syrian Christians. A large number of pilgrims visit the church regularly to receive spiritual and physical healing and blessings.
Niranam Valiapally (St. Mary's Orthodox Syrian Church, Niranam), is an ancient Church of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. This church was founded by St. Thomas in AD 54. The present building was constructed in 1912 and was renovated during the year 2000. Niranam Church ( Niranam Pally ) has a rich history of being the symbol of Christianity in Kerala since its inception in AD 54 by St Thomas. This church is famous for it 8 days lent (Ettu Nombu) held on September 1- 8th every year and is attended by thousands of believers. Niranam Church is the mother Church of every churches nearby and also holds a lot of historical importance. This Church is situated only 7 kms away from Tiruvalla.
Arthungal Church which is known as St. Andrew's Forane Church is one of the most sacred churches in Kerala. Arthungal Church attracts a lots of devotees both Christians and non-Christians every year from all parts of the State. The feast of St. Sebastian is celebrated for eleven days in a year with all its glory. The church authorities also instituted another minor feast on the 8th day after the principal feast known as Ettamperunnal. Of late this feast (Ettamperunnal) also has attained as much importance as the principal feast.
The devotees who flock to this church for worship mainly consists of those who have recovered from serious illness and the other who have escaped grave accidents. Those who have received special favors from the Saint Andrew show their gratitude by crawling on their knees from the local beach of the church. They also make offerings such as Gold and Silver replicas of human limbs, bows and arrows etc. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims who return from the Sabarimala Temple throng to this sacred place, take bath from the tank attached to the church and pay their homage to the Saint.
The nearest railway station to Arthungal Church is at Alleppey which is 22 kms away and the nearest airport is at Cochin, which is 97 Kms away.