The Knanaya Community traces its origin back to a Jewish-Christian
immigrant community. They migrated from Southern Mesopotamia to the
Malabar ( present Kerala ) Coast of Cranganore ( Kodungalloor ) in
AD 345 under the leadership of an enterprising merchant Thomas of
Cana ( Knai Thomman ). This migration is considered as a turning
point in the history of St Thomas Christians of Malabar. The
original community consisted of about 400 persons belonging to 72
families of seven clans. A bishop by name Uraha Mar Yousef, four
priests and several deacons were among them. They formed themselves
into an endogamous community by keeping their tradition and culture
but co-existed peacefully among the St. Thomas Christians in
India.These colonists were welcomed by Cheraman Perumal, then
king, and were given permission to settle down in Kodungalloor.
Later, Cheraman Perumal bestowed them with 72 royal privileges, and
it was recorded on copper plates ( Knai Thomman Cheppedu ).
According to the Copper plates, these privileges were given to
Thomas and his colleagues and all of his descendents as long as the
sun and moon exist. These privileges are very important since all
these privileges had influenced the community’s social life as well
as the social status in the past years.
All knananites were Syrian Christians until the historic ‘Koonan
Kurisu Sathyam’ (A pledge by about 25000 Syrian Christians held on
to a rope tied to a leaning cross) when some of them accepted
Jacobite faith and joined Jacobite/Orthodox Church; others remained
with the Roman Catholic faith. However, they continued to keep
their culture, tradition and practicing endogamy through the
On August 29, 1911 a new Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam was
erected exclusively for the Knanaya Community by the apostolic
letter “In Universi Christiani” of His Holiness Pope St Pius X and
Mar Mathew Makil was transferred to Kottayam as Vicar Apostolic.
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