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Christianity in India: Early History

Updated on March 16, 2016

A brief history of Christianity in India. Christianity entered in India 52AD and was well established by 2nd Century AD. Interesting fact is that Christianity was established in India long before Europe.

You will be surprised to know that Christianity entered India in 52 A.D., and it was well established in 3rd Century A.D. So it were not the Europeans of 15th century to bring Christianity to India, as it was introduced to India long before the Europeans entered this country. So the fact is that Christianity was established in India even before Christianization of Europe.

Some scholars think that Jesus himself visited India and stayed there for years.

St. Thomas Comes to India

According to Christians of South India, St. Thomas Apostle, also known as Didymus or Doubting Thomas brought Christianity to India. St. Thomas was one of the 12 great apostles of Jesus. It is believed that he traveled to India in 52 A.D. to spread the message of Jesus amongst the Jews of Kerala, South India. He went to India through Arabian see.

St. Thomas established Seven and Half Churches in Kerala. The Saint died in 72 AD after 20 years of his arrival to India. The reason and place of his death are disputed.

The descendents of the Jews converted to Christianity at that time are known as Nasarani people, Syrian Christians and also as St. Thomas Christians.

In 180-190 A.D., the Church in Alexandria sent the most famous scholar Pantaenus to India to preach Christianity. This is known as 2nd Christian Mission to India.

At the beginning of 4th Century, Bishop David of Basra went to southern parts of India and converted many people to Christianity. In the middle of 4th century, many Christians, mainly merchants from Western Asia went to India and settled down there.

Ancient Sea Route to India.
Ancient Sea Route to India. | Source

Early Christians in India

Around the year 300 AD, Bishop David of Basra launched a mission in South India and converted many people to Christianity. In middle of 4th Century, a Mesopotamian merchant and Missionary Thomas of Cana came to India.

All these early Christians in India, although they were Christians by religious values, had adopted local Indian traditions like dress code, food habits, language and other customs. The way shown by apostle Thomas was known as 'Way of Thomas', which was a mixture of Dravidic, Jain, Buddhist and Persian ways of life.

Did Jesus Visit India?

It is said that Jesus himself had traveled to India. There are two theories about Jesus' travel to India. First theory says that Jesus visited India when he was 12 years old, and studied there for years. According to second theory, Jesus did not die on the cross, but went to Kashmir, in Northern part of India. Although traveling to India was a common thing in those days, both the theories are considered as hoax. There are no historical references to Jesus' travel to India and both the theories are recent 'inventions'. However, there are many people in India and world over, who believe that Jesus visited India.

Although Indian religions Jainism and Buddhism do not believe in creator and Supreme God, there are many similarities between these two religions and Christianity, like Compassion, Love, Humanity etc. As these two religions are prior to Christianity, there is a possibility of Jesus being familiar to the philosophies of Jainism and Buddhism. So the question is: Did Jesus really visited India and studied these two religions?

A deep research is needed in the early history of Christianity in India.

History of Christianity in India

Seven Churches established by St. Thomas in Kerala India

St. Thomas: Apostle of India

Indian Orthodox Christianity - Going Beyond Borders for Over 2000 Years

© 2013 Mahaveer Sanglikar


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  • manatita44 profile image

    manatita44 4 years ago from london

    Great input. Follow your star. Nice article and thought-provoking for some, I'm sure.

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    interesting. All the while i thought India is a hindu or buddhist country. Awesome article worth to read.

  • MG Singh profile image

    MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

    Christianity has a long association with India. Perhaps Jesus also died in Kashmir. But the fact remains despite 200 years of British rule and flood of missionaries the Indian people did not accept Christianity. The result is there are less than 3% of them in India.

  • tobusiness profile image

    Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

    Fascinating! Thought-provoking and very interesting information.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Christianity in India: Early History is an interesting and informative hub

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Very interesting history....thank you for the information which I found fascinating.

  • Disappearinghead profile image

    Disappearinghead 4 years ago from Wales, UK