The St. Thomas Christians are an ancient ethno-religious community of Kerala, India. Whether or not St. Thomas the Apostle came to India cannot be proved nor disproved. However sources as early as the second and third century write of Thomas the Apostles mission in India. Such documentation can be seen in the works of Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nazianzus, Jerome, and Ephrem the Syrian. At the same time Eusebius of Caesarea records that St. Clement of Alexandria’s teacher Pantaenus from Alexandria visited a Christian community in India using the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew language in the 2nd century.
Besides the Roman records available, St. Thomas’ mission and journey are strongly apart of the folk tradition of the St. Thomas Christians. What’s particularly interesting is that an ancient round - dance called Margam Kali of the St. Thomas Christians sings word for word the Gnostic Acts of Thomas written in the third century. The Acts of Thomas describe the entire mission of St. Thomas in India, starting from his arrival to his martyrdom.
Later these Christians made a connection with the Church of the East from the 4th century onward. After this point they became East Syrian Christians and had a metropolitante under the Church of the East in the city of Angamaly. The prelate of Angamaly would hence forth be known as the Metropolitan and Gate of All India.
The Knanaya Christians (an ethnic group found within the St. Thomas Christians) and are said to be the descendants of Thomas of Cana, an enterprising Syrian merchant prince who led a group of 72 families to Kerala anywhere between the 4th and 9th century. The Knanaya came to Kerala and maintained a separate identity and culture from the other St. Thomas Christians. Surprisingly dna tests done on the Knanaya have proven that they indeed are the descendants of Middle Easterners. Both the folk tradition of the Knanaya and St. Thomas Christians state that Thomas of Cana played a big role in the unification and upliftment of Christianity in Kerala.
Another mission led by two Syrian clergymen Mar Sapor and Mar Proth occurred in the 9th century and again helped to promote Christianity in Kerala. Mar Sapor and Mar Proth’s mission also led to the Tharisapally Copper Plate grant which was a grant of privileges and rights given to the St. Thomas Christians by the ruling Hindu king of Kerala.
Later the Portuguese arrived in India and attempted to modify the Church of St. Thomas by way of Latinizations. This led to mass revolts among the Thomas Christians and caused the ancient ethnic community to be divided into two groups, Syrian Catholics (Latinized East Syrians) and Syrian Orthodox (West Syrians). Till this day the two groups of Syrian Catholics and Syrian Orthodox exist but are split into numerous denominations. Nonetheless even tho the St. Thomas Christians are split into numerous denominations they are still a united ethnic group known in Kerala as Nasrani or Mar Thoma Christianikal.