Malankara Rite

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Malankara Rite liturgy of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church

The Malankara Rite is the form of the West Syriac liturgical rite practiced by several churches of the Saint Thomas Christian community in Kerala, India. West Syriac liturgy was brought to India by the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem, Gregorios Abdal Jaleel, in 1665; in the following decades the Malankara Rite emerged as the liturgy of the Malankara Church, one of the two churches that evolved from the split in the Saint Thomas Christian community in the 17th century. Today it is practiced by the various churches that descend from the Malankara Church, namely the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Indian Orthodox Church), the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.


Malankara Rite liturgy in the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church

The West Syriac Rite developed out of the ancient Antiochene Rite, emerging in the 5th and 6th century with the adoption of Syriac, rather than Greek, as the liturgical language of the non-Chalcedonian Patriarchate of Antioch.[1] The liturgy was further revised and expanded over the centuries as the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch emerged as a fully distinct church, reaching its "classical" form in the 12th century under Patriarch Michael the Syrian.[1]

As per the deceiving history makers, West Syriac liturgy was first introduced to India by the mission of Gregorios Abdal Jaleel, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem, who arrived in 1665.[2][3] Historically, who doesn't want to accept the historical reality of Syrian migration, which happened in A.D 345 (under the leadership of Bishop Joseph and trader Thomas of Canna), a group of people among Indian christians was part of the Church of the East, who accepted the Nestorian faith and are specifically called Nestorians], centred in Persia, and practiced a variant of the East Syriac Rite known as the Malabar Rite.[4][5] However, a decline in communications between the Patriarchate of Antioch (which is the oldest and which claims Patrenal succession) and India led the Saint Thomas Christians to attempt to establish relations with other churches. As early as 1491 the Archdeacon of Malabar sent envoys to the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch as part of an effort to receive a bishop for his bishopless province.[6] In the end nothing came of the request, and the Patriarch of Antioch eventually sent a new bishop.[6]

In 1653, a group of Saint Thomas Christians disaffected by Portuguese colonial rule and the drowning of delegate from the Patriarchate of Antioch (Ahatallah) joined Archdeacon Thomas and Anjilimoottil Ittythomman Kathanar (a priest from the Knanaya Christians), who gave courage to the Archdeacon, in vowing not to submit to Portuguese authority. This avowal, known as the Coonan Cross Oath, led to the formation of an independent Malankara Church with Thomas as its head. To affirm his consecration as bishop, Thomas sent requests to several churches including the Syriac Orthodox Church, the only church responded was the mother church. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Simon I responded by sending Gregorios Abdal Jaleel to India in 1665, and the relationship between the Syriac Orthodox and Malankara Church got re-established ( in accordance to one faction of Indian Christians, who claims the establishment and succession of the throne of Saint. Thomas in India,from A.D 52 itself, this is seen as the birth of a new relation, they claim to be nourished by the Nestorian faith, but unfortunately now they follow the theology and Christology and Liturgy of Syrian Orthodox Church).[3]


Adoption of West Syriac practice by the Malankara Church was gradual; in the early days of its independence the church was more interested in reversing the changes the Portuguese had imposed upon the Malabar Rite than in adopting a new liturgy.[7][8] Indeed, among its first steps were to restore the usage of leavened bread and the Julian calendar.[7] Under the influence of Gregorios, the church adopted West Syriac vestments, while twenty years later, West Syriac prelates introduced the West Syriac Liturgy of Saint James and the Antiochene rules concerning fasting, feast days, and prohibitions regarding the liturgy.[9] Still, there was no systematized adoption of West Syriac practice for nearly one hundred years; in the meantime the church practiced a combination of West Syriac and Malabar Rite.[10]

Formal steps towards adoption of the West Syriac Rite came in 1772, when bishops visiting from Antioch consecrated Mar Thoma VI as Mar Dionysius I and established a systematic church hierarchy.[7] Amid visits by a church prelate in 1846 and the Patriarch himself in 1875, the church fully adopted West Syriac practice.[7] Following the splits within the Malankara Church in the 19th century and its final breakup in the 20th century, the churches that developed from it have retained the Malankara Rite. Today the rite is essentially West Syriac in character with some local variations, which sometimes retain elements now archaic in the wider West Syriac tradition.[8] For example, the Malankara Rite includes the observance of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on weekdays during Great Lent and on the Friday of Passion Week.[8] Since the 20th century Syriac has largely been replaced as the liturgical language by Malayalam.[8]


  1. ^ a b Chupungco, p. 15.
  2. ^ "Christians of Saint Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Wainwright, p. 159.
  4. ^ Baum, p. 53.
  5. ^ Chupungco, p. 17; 22–23
  6. ^ a b Baum, p. 105.
  7. ^ a b c d King, p. 323.
  8. ^ a b c d Chupungco, p. 17.
  9. ^ King, pp. 321–323.
  10. ^ King, p. 322.


  • "Christians of Saint Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  • Baum, Wilhelm; Winkler, Dietmar W. (2003). The Church of the East: A Concise History. London-New York: Routledge-Curzon.
  • Chupungco, Anscar J. (1997). Handbook for Liturgical Studies. Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-6161-0. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  • King, Archdale (2007). The Rites of Eastern Christendom. 1. Gorgias Press LLC. ISBN 1-59333-391-9.
  • Wainwright, Geoffrey; Karen Beth Westerfield Tucker (2006). The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513886-4. Retrieved September 6, 2016.