Christianity is India’s third-largest religion, with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India’s population. Christianity was perhaps introduced into India by Thomas the Apostle, who visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 CE to proselytize amongst Kerala’s Jewish settlements; however this is widely disputed due to lack of credible historical evidence. It has to be noted that historical evidence is always a problem of Indian history.

The Saint Thomas Christians still use the Syriac language, (a dialect of Aramaic and so related to the language of Jesus) in services. This group, which existed in Kerala relatively peacefully for more than a millennium, faced considerable persecution from Portuguese evangelists in the 16th century. This later wave of evangelism spread several denominations of Christianity more widely.

Today Christians are found all across India and in all walks of life, with major populations in parts of South India, the Konkan Coast and the North-East. The Christian Church runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals and has contributed significantly in the development of the nation. Most Christians in India are Catholic, (Latin rite). The Eastern rites include the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox church, which are prominent in Kerala. Other churches include the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Church of South India (CSI), the Church of North India (CNI), Indian Pentecostal Church and other evangelical groups.

Early Christianity in India

According to Indian Christian traditions, Saint Thomas arrived in Kodungallur, Kerala established the Seven Churches and evangelized in present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The renovated Mar Thoma Church, Kodungaloor; the first Christian church in India, which is believed to be built by St. Thomas in AD 52;

As with early Christianity in Europe, the initial converts were largely Jewish proselytes among the Cochin Jews who are believed to have arrived in India around 562BC, after the destruction of the First Temple. St. Thomas, who was also a Jew by birth, also spoke the same language, Aramaic. As in the earliest Christian groups (in the near East) the earliest practices mixed many elements of contemporary Judaism.

An early third-century Syriac work known as the Acts of Thomas connects the apostle’s Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission, but the Lord appeared to him in a night vision and said, “Fear not, Thomas. Go away to India and proclaim the Word, for my grace shall be with you.”But the Apostle still demurred, do the Lord overruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes, to his native place in northwest India, where he found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares. The apostle’s ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.

Critical historians treated this legend as an idle tale and denied the historicity of King Gundaphorus until modern archeology established him as an important figure in North India in the latter half of the first century. Many coins of his reign have turned up in Afghanistan, the Punjab, and the Indus Valley. Remains of some of his buildings , influenced by Greek architecture, indicate that he was a great builder. Interestingly enough, according to the legend, Thomas was a skilled carpenter and was bidden to build a palace for the king. However, the Apostle decided to teach the king a lesson by devoting the royal grant to acts of charity and thereby laying up treasure for the heavenly abode. Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (A.D. 154-223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it. But at least by the time of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (A.D. 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.

The Acts of Thomas identifies his second mission in India with a kingdom ruled by King Mahadwa, one of the rulers of a first-century dynasty in southern India. Aside from a small remnant of the Church of the East in Kurdistan, the only other church to maintain a distinctive identity is the Mar Thoma or “Church of Thomas” congregations along the Malabar Coast of Kerala State in southwest India. According to the most ancient tradition of this church, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast of southeast India, where, after carrying out a second mission, he suffered martyrdom near Madras. Throughout this period, the church in India was under the jurisdiction of Edessa, which was then under the Mesopotamian patriarchate at Seleucia-Ctesiphon and later at Baghdad and Mosul. Historian Vincent A. Smith wrote, “It must be admitted that a personal visit of the Apostle Thomas to South India was easily feasible in the traditional belief that he came by way of Socotra, where an ancient Christian settlement undoubtedly existed. I am now satisfied that the Christian church of South India is extremely ancient… ”.

Although there was a lively trade between the Near East and India via Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf, the most direct route to India in the first century was via Alexandria and the Red Sea, taking advantage of the Monsoon winds, which could carry ships directly to and from the Malabar coast. The discovery of large hoards of Roman coins of first-century Caesars and the remains of Roman trading posts testify to the frequency of that trade. in addition, thriving Jewish colonies were to be found at the various trading centers, thereby furnishing obvious bases for the apostolic witness.

Piecing together the various traditions, one may conclude that Thomas left northwest India when invasion threatened and traveled by vessel to the Malabar coast, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra enroute and landing at the former flourishing port of Muziris on an island near Cochin (c. A.D. 51-52). The year of his arrival is widely disputed due to lack of credible records. From there he is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar coast, though the various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. he reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about seventeen thousand converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centres. In accordance with apostolic custom Thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministry of the Malabar church.

St. Thomas attained martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai and is buried on the site of San Thome Cathedral.

St. Francis CSI Church, in Kochi, originally built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India

4th century missions

India had a flourishing trade with Central Asia, Mediterranean, and Middle East, both along mountain passes in the north and sea routes along the western and southern coast, well before the start of Christian era, and it is likely that Christian merchants settled in Indian cities along trading routes.

The Chronicle of Seert describes an evangelical mission to India by bishop David of Basra around the year 300; this metropolitan reportedly made many conversions, and it has been speculated that his mission took in areas of southern India. According to Travancore Manual, Thomas of Cana, a Mesopotamian merchant and missionary, introduced Christianity to India in 345 AD. He brought 400 Christians from Baghdad, Nineveh, and Jerusalem to Kodungallur. He and his companion Bishop Joseph of Edessa sought refuge under King Cheraman Perumal from persecution of Christians by the Persian king Shapur II. The colony of Syrian Christians, thus established at Kodungallur, became the first recorded Christian community in South India. A number of historians claim that Thomas of Cana was confused with the 1st century apostle Thomas by India’s Syrian Christians sometime after his death and became their Apostle Thomas in India.

Jesus in India theories

Main article: Jesus in India
Further information: Roza Bal, Nicolas Notovitch, Jesus in India (book), and Jesus in Ahmadiyya Islam

There are also two sets of distinct accounts of Jesus travelling through India. According to the first set of accounts, Jesus traveled and studied in India between the ages of twelve and thirty. According the second set of accounts, Jesus did not die on the cross, but after his apparent death and resurrection he journeyed to Kashmir to teach the gospel, and then remained there for the rest of his life. The origin of the first set of accounts is attributed to Russian author Nicolas Notovitch who published the book La vie Inconnue du Jesus Christ (The Unknown life of Jesus Christ) in 1894.

Don Bosco, Mumbai

The origin of the second set of accounts is attributed to Kashmiri author Mirza Gulam Ahmed who published the book Masih Hindustan Mein (Jesus in India) in 1899.[29] These two accounts are generally not presented in combination. While travel between Middle-East and India was common during those times, these accounts are not given serious thought and treated as speculation since there is no historical account, either in early Christian writings or Indian historical accounts, to either confirm or refute Jesus traveling to India.

Although, the exact origins of Christianity in India remain unclear, it is generally agreed that Christianity in India is almost as old as Christianity itself and spread in India even before it spread in many, predominantly Christian, nations of Europe.

Medieval Period

A set of palm leaf manuscripts from the 15th century or the 16th century, containing Christian prayers in Tamil
The Nasrani Menorah, the symbol of the Syrian Malabar Nasrani Christian community in South India.

The Syrian Malabar Nasrani community was further strengthened by various Persian immigrant settlers. The community was Christian-Jewish Knanaya colonies of third century, Manichaeanism followers and the Babylonian Christians settlers of 4th Century, the 7th Century Syrian settlement of Mar Sabor Easo and Proth, and the immigrant Persian Christians from successive centuries. The Kerala Syrian Church was in communion with the Assyrian Church of the East till the Portuguese arrival in the late 15th century. Bishops came from Syria.

The archaeological excavations at Pattanam show that the ancient port town of Muziris was in modern Kerala. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea calls it of “leading importance” describing it: Muziris, of the same kingdom, abounds in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia,it is located on a river, distant from Tyndis by river and sea five hundred stadia, and up the river from the shore twenty stadia.

The South Indian epic of Manimekalai (written between 2nd and 3rd century CE) mentions the Nasrani people by the name Essanis referring to one of the early Christian-Jewish sect called the Nasranis. The embassy of Alfred in 833 CE described the Syrian Christians as being prosperous and enjoying high status in the Malabar coast. Marco Polo also mentioned the Nasranis and their ancient Church in the Malabar coast in his writings Il Milione.

Early modern period

In the early modern periods, the French missionaries were the first Europeans to touch Indian shores. The French missionary Jordanus Catalani arrived in Surat in 1320. After his ministry in Gujarat he reached Quilon in 1323. He not only revived Christianity but also brought thousands to the Christian fold. The first Bishop of Quilon was received with great jubilation by the faithful of Quilon. He brought a message of good wishes from the Holy Father to the local rulers. As the first bishop in India , he was also entrusted with the spiritual nourishment of the Christian community in Calicut , Mangalore, Thane and Broach (north of Thane).

The Sé Cathedral of Santa Catarina is a cathedral dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria, located in Old Goa

Portuguese missionaries had reached the Malabar Coast in the late 15th century, made contact with the St Thomas Christians in Kerala and sought to introduce the Catholicism among them. Since the priests for St Thomas Christians were served by the Eastern Christian Churches, they were following Eastern Christian practices at that time. Throughout this period, foreign missionaries also made many new converts to Christianity.

With the Papal bull Romanus Pontifex the patronage for the propagation of the Christian faith in Asia was given to the Portuguese. The Portuguese colonial government in Goa supported the mission in India with incentives for baptized Christians. They offered rice donations for the poor, good positions in the Portuguese colonies for the middle class and military support for local rulers[33].Early Roman Catholic missionaries, particularly the Portuguese, led by the Jesuit St Francis Xavier (1506-52), expanded from their bases on the west coast making many converts. Portuguese missionaries wanted to convert the population of Goa. As a result of Portuguese incentives many converted Indians were opportunistic Rice Christians, who even practiced their old religion. This was seen as a threat to the immaculateness of the Christian belief. St. Francis Xavier, in a 1545 letter to John III of Portugal, requested an Inquisition be installed in Goa. However, the Inquisition, one of the most violent events in History of Goa targeting Hindus, Jews, and many newly converted Christians, was installed eight years after Francis Xavier’s death. Modern-day Goa has a substantial Goan Roman Catholic population; around 30% of the population is Roman Catholic. The undecayed body of Saint Francis Xavier is still on public view in a glass coffin at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa.

The St Aloysius Chapel in Mangalore

Mangalore is one more significant region on the west coast which has a huge population of Christianity. In 1321, the French Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani of Severac (in south-western France) landed in a place called Bhatkal near Mangalore and established a missionary station there. Many locals were converted to Christianity by Jordanus.  However like the other tracts in India, the Portuguese were unable to establish their presence in Mangalore due to the Vijayanagara ruler Krishnadevraya and the Bednore Queen of Mangalore Abbakka Rani of Ullal. Mangalorean Catholics were basically the descendants of Goan Catholics who fled Goa during the Portuguese-Maratha Wars and the Goa Inquisition. The St. Aloysius Chapel was later built in Mangalore. This chapel very closely resembles the world-famous Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Altar of the Knanaya Jacobite Syrian Orthodox St. Mary's Church in Kottayam, Kerala, also known as Valiapally (Big Church),with two Persian crosses of 7th century on either side of the Altar; originally built in 1550
The Malankara Orthodox St. Mary's Church in Kottayam, Kerala which was originally built in 1579

With gradual development, the North Konkan region received the Goan Catholic emigrants from Goa. On the occasion of The Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Christians of North Konkan, who were known as Portuguese Christians discarded that name and adopted the designation East Indians.

Beginning in the eighteenth century, Protestant missionaries began working throughout India, leading to the growth of different Christian communities. In 1793, William Carey, an English Baptist Minister came to India as a Missionary.

Inside view of Church in Ahmednagar

He worked in Serampore, Calcutta, and other places as a missionary. He started the Serampore College. He translated the Bible into Bengali. He worked until his death in 1834. Anthony Norris Groves, Plymouth Brethren missionary came to India in 1833. He worked in the Godavari delta area. He worked in India until his death in 1852. Mormon missionaries, including Hugh Findlay, arrived in Bombay and Pune in the early 1850s, but did not meet with success.

Ahmednagar district in Maharastra has more Protestant Christians than Catholics. They are also called as Marathi Christians. Missionaries began to evangelise the local people in 1800 CE. The Christian population of Ahmednagar is only 4%. Haregaon a small village in Shrirampur taluka of Ahmednagar district is majority Catholic. Haregaon receives thousands of devotees on the occasion of the annual Feast of the ‘Matmauli’ ‘The Blessed virgin Mary’ on 7 and 8 September.

Several American Baptist missionaries went to northeastern parts of India during this period. It was in 1876 that Dr. E. W. Clark first went to live in a Naga village, four years after his Assamese helper, Godhula, baptized the first Naga converts. Rev. and Mrs. A.F. Merrill went to India in 1928. Rev. and Mrs. M.J. Chance spent most of the years between 1950-1956 at Golaghat in evangelistic work. They worked with Naga and Garo tribes. Even today the heaviest concentrations of Christians in India continue to be in the Northeast.


The total number of Christians in India as per Census in 2001 are 24,080,016 or 2.34% of the population.

Majority of Indian Christians are Roman Catholics accounting for a total of 17.3 million members, including 500,000 members of the Syro-Malankara Church and 3,900,000 of the Syro-Malabar Church. In January 1993 the Syro-Malabar Church and in February 2005 Syro-Malankara Church were raised to the status of major archiepiscopal churches by Pope John Paul II. The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest among 22 Eastern Catholic Churches who accept the Pope as the “visible head of the whole church”. The states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in South India and Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya in North-East India account for 60% of India’s total Christian population.

Church in Vasai near Mumbai

Most Protestant denominations are represented in India, as a result of missionary activities throughout the country. The largest Protestant denomination in the country is the Church of South India, since 1947 a union of Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational, Methodist, and Anglican congregations with approximately 3.8 million members. A similar Church of North India had 1.25 million members. (These churches are in full communion with the Anglican Communion.) The Mar Thoma Church has 700,000 members, and derives from the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church, which numbers 1.2 million and is in communion with the Anglicans, but not a full member. In 1961, the evangelical wing of the church came out of Mar Thoma Church and formed the St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India which has 10,000 members. Syrian Orthodox Church of Malabar rites 1,200,000 members, respectively. There were about 1,267,786 Lutherans, 648,000 Methodists, and 2,392,694 Baptists in India. Pentecostalism, another denomination of Protestantism, is also a rapidly growing religion in India. It is spreading greatly in northern India and the southwest area, such as Kerala. The major Pentecostal churches in India are the Assemblies of God, The Pentecostal Mission (TPM — founded in 1923.), Indian Pentecostal Church of God (IPC) with 900,000 members. New Apostolic Church founded in 1969, with total adherents of 1,448,209. The New Life Fellowship (founded in 1968) now has approximately 480,000 adherents, and the Manna Full Gospel Churches and ministries (founded in 1968 with connections to Portugal) has 275,000. Evangelical Church of India now has over 680 churches with a 250,000 community. Another prominent group is the Brethrens. They are known in different names Plymouth Brethren, Indian Brethren, Kerala brethren. Presbyterian Church of India has 823,456 members.

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi

From the late nineteenth century, the fastest growing Christian communities have been located in the northeast, in the Seven Sister States, among the Khasis, Mizos, and the Nagas. Today Christians are most prevalent in the northeast, and in the southwestern states of Kerala and Goa. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to and are well represented in various spheres of national life. They include former and current chief ministers. Christians also have one of the highest literacy rates and sex ratio figures among the various religious communities in India.

Christianity in India
Church Name Population
Catholic- Latin Rite 11,800,000
Catholic- Syro-Malabar Church 3,947,396
Orthodox- Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church 900,000
Orthodox- Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church 1,600,000
Orthodox- Malabar Independent Syrian Church 35,000
Catholic- Syro-Malankara Church 500,000
Protestant Church of South India 3,800,000
Protestant Church of North India 1,250,000
Reformed Mar Thoma Syrian Church 600,000
Protestant Seventh-day Adventist Church 1,000,000
Protestant Methodist Church in India 648,000
Protestant Baptist 2,392,694
Protestant Lutheran 1,267,78
Protestant Indian Brethren 1,000,000
Protestant Presbyterian Church of India 823,456
Protestant St. Thomas Evangelical Church 30,000
Protestant Worldwide Faith Missions 12,000
Protestant Evangelical Church 250,000
Protestant New Apostolic Church[55] 1,448,209
Protestant India Pentecostal Church of God 600,000
Protestant New Life Fellowship[55] 480,000
Protestant Manna Full Gospel Churches[55] 275,000
Protestant Filadelphia Fellowship Church of India[55] 200,000
Unitarian Unitarian Union of Northeast India 10,000
Unitarian Unitarian Christian Church of Madras 300
States with highest percentage of Christians in 2001
State Population Christian (%) Christian (numbers)
India 1,028,610,328 2.3 24,080,016
Mizoram 889,000 90.5 804,545
Nagaland 1,990,000 90.0 1,791,398
Meghalaya 2,319,000 70.3 1,630,257
Manipur 2,294,000 34.0 779,960
Goa 1,343,998 26.0 349,439
Kerala 31,841,000 19.0 6,049,790


Hindu-Christian conflict

Historically, Hindus and Christians have lived in relative peace since the arrival of Christianity in India from the early part of the first millennium. In areas like Kerala, land to build churches had been donated by the then Hindu kings and Hindu landlords only. The arrival of European colonialists brought about large scale missionary activity in South India and North-East India. Many indigenous cultures were converted to Christianity. Sometimes they were voluntary, and other times they were coerced. The Goan Inquisition is pointed out as a blot in Christianity’s India history.

Pope John Paul II with MGR on his visit to Madras in 1984

Then Hindus who converted to Christianity typically retained their social customs, including caste practices; Dalit Christians make up 70% of India’s Christian population. Aggressive proselytizing by Christian missionaries under British rule was a cause of resentment among Hindus and Muslims in the 19th century, who felt that their cultures were being attacked. This was one of the several causes of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British Raj. The role of the Anglican padres and chaplains in that conflict is recounted in William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal Also, many Christian ideals prompted reform movements within the Hindu society in the 19th century, the most notable being the Brahmo Samaj, which was influenced by British Christian Unitarianism. Some Indian Christians have retained Hindu customs and practices, and have combined Hindu customs with Christianity to achieve a unique brand of Indian Christianity.

In more contemporary periods, Hindu-Christian amity is sometimes challenged by partisan politics and extremism from both communities. Christian missionary activity among lower-caste Hindus has created groups of Crypto-Christians, particularly among Dalits. As a response to allegedly aggressive missionary activity four Indian states (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu (later repealed) mainly) have passed laws restricting or prohibiting religious conversion.

The Government of the state of Tripura has claimed that it has evidence that the Baptist Church of Tripura has been supporting the terrorist group National Liberation Front of Tripura. The NLFT is a separatist group that has been accused of forcing tribals to become Christians and has banned Hindu festivals.

Muslim-Christian conflict

The Jamalabad fort route. Mangalorean Catholics had traveled through this route on their way to Seringapatam

In spite of the fact that there have been relatively fewer conflicts between Muslims and Christians in India in comparison to those between Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Sikhs, the relationship between Muslims and Christians have also been occasionally turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Christians were systematically persecuted in a few Muslim ruled kingdoms in India.

Perhaps the most infamous acts of anti-Christian persecution by Muslims was committed by Tippu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore against the Mangalorean Catholic community from Mangalore and the erstwhile South Canara district on the southwestern coast of India. Tippu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. The captivity of Mangalorean Catholics at Seringapatam, which began on 24 February 1784 and ended on 4 May 1799, remains the most disconsolate memory in their history.

The Bakur Manuscript reports him as having said: “All Musalmans should unite together, and considering the annihilation of infidels as a sacred duty, labor to the utmost of their power, to accomplish that subject.” Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tippu gained control of Canara. He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates, and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route. However, there were no priests among the captives. Together with Fr Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned.

Tippu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches, all beautifully carved with statues depicting various saints. Among them included the Church of Nossa Senhora de Rosario Milagres at Mangalore, Fr Miranda’s Seminary at Monte Mariano, Church of Jesu Marie Jose at Omzoor, Chapel at Bolar, Church of Merces at Ullal, Imaculata Conceiciao at Mulki, San Jose at Perar, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios at Kirem, Sao Lawrence at Karkal, Rosario at Barkur, Immaculata Conceciao at Baidnur. All were razed to the ground, with the exception of the The Church of Holy Cross at Hospet,owing to the friendly offices of the Chauta Raja of Moodbidri.

According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 of them, nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured, only 7,000 escaped. Francis Buchanan gives the numbers as 70,000 captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000  of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there. The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears. According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tippu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.

The Archbishop of Goa wrote in 1800, “It is notoriously known in all Asia and all other parts of the globe of the oppression and sufferings experienced by the Christians in the Dominion of the King of Kanara, during the usurpation of that country by Tipu Sultan from an implacable hatred he had against them who professed Christianity.”

The British officer James Scurry, who was detained a prisoner for 10 years by Tipu Sultan along with the Mangalorean Catholics

Tippu Sultan’s invasion of the Malabar had an adverse impact on the Syrian Malabar Nasrani community of the Malabar coast. Many churches in the Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the center of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tippu’s soldiers. A lot of centuries old religious manuscripts were lost forever. The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists to this date. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tippu’s army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Syrian Malabar Nasrani were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, arecanut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Syrian Malabar farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tippu’s army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Macqulay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.

His persecution of Christians also extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant amount of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls. After the 10 year long captivity ended, James Scurry, one of those prisoners, recounted that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair and use a knife and fork. His English was broken and stilted, having lost all his vernacular idiom. His skin had darkened to the swarthy complexion of negroes, and moreover, he had developed an aversion to wearing European clothes.[75] During the surrender of the Mangalore fort which was delievered in an armistice by the British and their subsequent withdrawal, all the Mestizos and remaining non-British foreigners were killed, together with 5,600 Mangalorean Catholics. Those condemned by Tipu Sultan for treachery were hanged instantly, the gibbets being weighed down by the number of bodies they carried. The Netravati River was so putrid with the stench of dying bodies, that the local residents were forced to leave their riverside homes.

In modern times, Muslims in India who convert to Christianity are often subjected to harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims. In Kashmir, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, a Christian convert and missionary named Bashir Tantray was killed , allegedly by militant Islamists in 2006.

A Christian priest, K.K. Alavi, who is a convert from Islam, recently raised the ire of his former Muslim community and has received many death threats. An Islamic extremist group named “The National Development Front” actively campaigned against him.


The text is slightly rewritten from Wikipedia, April 16th 2010.

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