Malayattoor: Post XX - Travels Amongst the Saint Thomas Christians of India


Holy Oil Lamp in front of the Church

Malayattoor is one of the more important pilgrimage destinations of Saint Thomas Christians. Legend has it that Saint Thomas whilst walking through the area met hostile locals and was forced to flee to the mountain nearby to pray. Deep in prayer he touched a rock which caused blood to pour forth (whose blood I cannot figure out – the rock’s?) and he left his footprints behind in the stone.

There is a similar legend that whilst praying and making the sign of the cross a miraculous golden cross appeared on the mountain. Thus pilgrims today use a mantra whilst climbing that runs:

“O Patriarch of the Golden Cross! Climb we shall, this golden hill!”

Malayattoor Church

The old shrine acted as the parish church before the brand new church was built last year. Although the claim is that it dates to the year 900 the architecture and design is clearly Portuguese.

Inside the Church

Altar at a Festival

South Transept

Saint Thomas

Old Door

The Nasrani menorah that stands outside the door is not of the usual design. I also noticed that many Saint Thomas Christians use the coconut oil in the lamp the same way water from holy water stoops is used – to cross oneself.

Making the Sign of the Cross

There is a free standing cross, again dated to the time of the Portuguese (you can tell by the design of the cherubs – and yes I mean cherubs and not cherubim, which is the whole point), although is is claimed to be ancient.

Outside Cross

The church sits on the banks of one of India’s holy rivers, the Periyar, and has ghats leading down to it. I wondered if Baptisms were performed there but I could find no one to ask.

The River Perivar

Steps from the River to the Church

The Holy River

From the River Bank

The mountain itself is a couple of kilometres away. On the first Sunday after Easter thousands of  Saint Thomas Christians climb the hill, often bearing crosses, to seek the blessing of Saint Thomas.

Malayatoor Pilgrims I

Malayatoor Pilgrims II

A small chapel of the Saint’s holy footprints sits at the top.

Chapel at the Top of the Hill