Knai Thoman


The Syriac (also called Syrian) Knananya Christians are a very distinct ethnic and religious group whose ancestry traces back to Abraham, the Patriarch of the Old Testament. Twenty years after the Nicaean Council, Knai Thoma, a rich international merchant from Cana, brought a colony of 400 Syriac Christians consisting of 72 families. They belonged to seven clans with instructions from the Patriarch of Antioch Mor Yusthedius, to the Malabar Coast of India. The group included men, women, children, Priests, deacons and their Bishop Mor Joseph of Eddessa or Uraha.

The legend is that Mor Joseph had a startling dream (vision) in which he saw the plight of the Christian Church in Malabar(India) established by St. Thomas, the Apostle, in the first century (AD 52). Mor Joseph and Knai Thoma landed at Kodungalloor (Crangannoore) in the year AD 345. Knai Thoma and his people were heartily welcomed by Cheraman Perumal, Emperor of Malabar. Cheraman Perumal sent his brother Ramavarma, and his minister, Vettathu Mannan, to receive Knai Thoma and his people. Cheraman Perumal bestowed on Knai Thoma and his People 72 princely privileges and thereby elevated them over 17 castes. This proclamation was made on AD 345 and it was recorded in the Copper Plates given to Knai Thoma. Knai Thoma and his people built a town in Kodungalloor with a church building and 72 houses. The natives called it “Mahadevar Pattanam” meaning “town of superiors”.This migration is known as the Knanaya migration or Syrian colonization.

The arrival of Knai Thoma and his people (Knananites) re-established the Church founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in India. They helped the disintegrating Malabar Church both spiritually and socially. Furthermore they brought the Syriac (Church of Antioch) traditions and teachings to Malabar that are practiced by millions today. The Knananites remain an ethnically distinct diocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.

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