Christianity is an important religion in Kerala. 19% of the population of the state belongs to this religion. St. Thomas, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ landed in Kerala in 52AD and preached Christianity to the Jews living here. Then he converted 12 Brahmin families to Christianity and founded seven churches in the state. During the British rule, a number of Christian missionaries arrived in Kerala and contributed much towards the social development of the state. As a result, there are a number of important churches in Kerala today.
One important fact about Christianity in Kerala is that three eminent persons were given the sainthood from this state. The first of these was Saint Alphonsa who was a Catholic Franciscan nun and the first Indian to be canonized. She was declared a saint in 2008. She worked as a teacher at the clarist convent in Bharananganam. Several miracles of healing were attributed to her. In 2014, the pope declared Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia Eluventhinkal from Kerala as saints. Chavara was a leader of the Syro Malabar catholic community and stressed on the importance of education for children of Christians as well as other communites. Sister Euphrasia was a member of the congregation of Mother of Carmel founded by Chavara. She was a spiritual person who helped many through prayer and wise counsel. She was beatified in 2006 after the attribution of a miracle to her.
The churches of Kerala are important religious destinations for the Christians for all parts of India.
These churches are mostly visited by devout Christian families who want to pay their respects. However, the churches of Kerala are often marvelous examples of art and architecture of the state. Hence, people interested in learning about the culture and history of Kerala also visit these churches.
Kerala enjoys a tropical climate where the distinction between the seasons is blurred. Summers a hot and humid and lasts from March to May. The monsoon season extends from June to September and brings heavy rainfall to the state. The winter season is mild and pleasant and lasts from November till February. Winter is the best season to visit Kerala.
Indians do not require any special documents to visit Kerala while foreigners must carry valid passport with Indian visa.
Places to Visit
There are a number of important churches in Kerala which you can visit. Many of them are related to St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ who arrived here to preach Christianity. The Parumala church is named after Saint Gregorious Geevarghese and is a parish church of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian cathedral. It is laid out in the shape of a circle with a diameter of 39 meters. This church is considered holy and attracts devotees from afar.
The Malyatoor church lies 52 kms from Kochi on the Malyatoor hills. It is believed to have been built by St. Thomas himself. It commands a beautiful view of the western ghats and the Periyar River and has a life size statue of the saint. His footprint is preserved on a rock. This church has international repute.
The Velankanni church is famous all across the globe for its healing powers. You can light a candle in the shape of your heart, lung or other organ where you need relief and your illness is healed. The basilica is committed to the lady of health and it is known as the Lourdes of the east.
The Santa Cruz basilica is one of the oldest churches in Kerala. It is located in Cochin. It was built in 1505 and was raised to the status of a cathedral in 1558.
The Vallarpadam church was built by the Portuguese in 1524 and is dedicated to Mother Mary who is known as Vallarpadathamma in Kerala. This church is located in Cochin and was declared by the government as one of the most popular pilgrim spots in the state.
The St. Francis church, originally called San Antonio, is the first European style church to be built in India. The tomb of Vasco Da Gama lies inside this church. It has historical importance though is less significant both architecturally and spiritually.
St. Mary’s chapel in Bharanangaman gained huge recognition after Sister Alphonsa was declared to be a saint. It has now become an important pilgrim spot that attracts devoted Christians. They come here to worship at the tomb of the saint.
Apart from these, there are a number of churches in Kerala. Some of the most important ones are St George’s Forane Church, Edappally in Ernakulam, Jacobite Syrian Church, Paravoor in Ernakulam, Marthoma Mariam Big Church in Trissur, Palayur Church, Palayur in Guruvayur, St Thomas Church, Mylacombu in Thodupuzha, Kadamattom Church and St Dominic Church in Aluva and many more.
When you are visiting the various churches in Kerala, paying your respects and soaking up the unique history and culture of the state, you can also enjoy some other activities. The state is famous for ayurveda. You can visit the different clinics to get ayurvedic treatments for any physical condition or you can simply opt for an ayurvedic massage which will help to get rid if your stress in a natural way.
Cruising in the backwaters is a special activity in Kerala. You can also decide to spend a night on a houseboat. The backwaters provide a serene view of the placid lakes and streams lined by coconut plantations.
You can also watch the show of Kathakali dance which is the classical dance of Kerala. You can even take a few beginner courses in the Margi kathakali courses. You can also visit Ens Kalari near Ernakulum where you can see the practitioners of the martial arts Kalarippayat practice their art.
Another interesting activity in Kerala is to try out the famous Malabar cuisine of the state.
If you are visiting the churches of Kerala, there are a number of interesting places nearby that you can visit. The town of Kanyakumari in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu is one popular excursion. It is famous for the Kanyakumari temple. The stunning view of the three water bodies of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean from the beach of Kanyakumari also attract the visitors.
The famous hill station of Ooty in Tamil Nadu lies only 160 kms from Kerala. The lush green hills are famous for the breathtaking scenery and attract a number of tourists every year.
Even within Kerala, there are innumerable tourist spots which you can visit when you are touring the famous churches. They include the hill resort of Munnar, the Erivakulum national park, Periyar Tiger reserve in Thekkady, Alapuzzha backwaters, the beach of Kovalam and Thrissur.
Food and Accommodation
Though a variety of cuisines are found in Kerala, the state has its own typical Malabar cuisine. It is a spicy way of cooking food with a dominance of coconut, rice and seafood in the menu. You should be sure to taste this food. South Indian foods are commonly obtained. Some of the well known restaurants that serve good quality foods are Rice boat (Cochin), Oyster (Kovalam), Villa Maya (Thiruvananthapuram), Bar-be-q (Thekkady), Paragon (Kozhikode), Delicia (Malappuram) and Favorite (Kottayam) etc.
There are several hotels. Most of the churches provide cheap accommodation for devotees. Apart from that, there are hotels of every budget scattered over the state. You can find five star hotels, budget hotels and hostels. There are also several options of home stay.
Safety and Security
The level of safety and security is quite high in Kerala. In fact this state is a bright spot in the history of communal harmony in the country. It is a tourist friendly state where you can be sure of the helping attitude of the locals. However, it is vital to show proper respect, especially in the pilgrim places of the different religions.