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The St. Thomas Christian Community of South India: Evolution and Expansion of an Early Christian Community from Inception to Contemporary Times

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Geography of Time, Place, Movement and Networks, Volume 3
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Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis of southern India represent a surviving group of ethnoreligious communities who trace their origins to the first century CE mission of Thomas the Apostle. The growth and evolution of the community from a nascent group to a solid socio-economic force at present is of much interest to scholars of history and religion. The community has survived for over two millennia in a predominantly Indic macro-cultural space through acculturation and cultural syncretism without compromising their Christian lineage. Although their encounters with Western Christianity beginning in the sixteenth century have resulted in multiple schisms and fragmentations within the community, the Thomas Christians successfully expanded their specific denominations outside their original homeland to Western countries in the twentieth century. Despite the rich cultural and religious merit of their history, very few Western scholars are aware of the history of the community and have engaged in an academic study of the community. This chapter introduces the community of Thomas Christians of southern India to wider religious scholarly communities by unveiling their history, heritage, and contemporary status. It addresses some of the reasons that have historically impeded the academic study of the community and some of the less-trodden research paths.

“Thomas Christians continued to represent the earliest and strongest expressions of indigenous Christianity to be found anywhere in the continent. Both in ideological and in institutional forms, these Christians gradually became separated by historical circumstances into more and more distinct communities, all of which continued to thrive. Each of these separate Thomas Christian communities continues to lay claim to being inheritors of the apostolic tradition of St. Thomas as the historic basis, both for their origins and for their doctrinal and ecclesiastical authority.”

Frykenberg (2008, p. 115).

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Thanks to Prof. Stanley Brunn for encouraging me to write about the Thomas Christians.

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Correspondence to Sinu Rose .

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Rose, S. (2024). The St. Thomas Christian Community of South India: Evolution and Expansion of an Early Christian Community from Inception to Contemporary Times. In: Brunn, S.D. (eds) Geography of Time, Place, Movement and Networks, Volume 3. Springer, Cham.

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