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Malankara Rite

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Title: Malankara Rite  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, West Syrian Rite, Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, St Antony's Forane Church , Kurumpanadam
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Malankara Rite

The Malankara Rite or Syro-Malankara Rite is the form of the West Syrian liturgical rite practiced by several churches of the Saint Thomas Christian tradition in southern India. West Syrian liturgy was brought to India by the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem, Gregorios Abdul 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, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.


The West Syrian 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]

West Syrian liturgy was first introduced to India by the mission of Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem, who arrived in 1665.[2][3] Historically, the Indian church was part of the Church of the East, centred in Persia, and practiced a variant of the East Syrian Rite known as the Malabar Rite.[4][5] However, a decline in communications between the Patriarchate 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 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 the Church of the East eventually sent a new bishop.[6]

In 1653, a group of Saint Thomas Christians disaffected by Portuguese colonial rule joined Archdeacon Thomas 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 proposing a union. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Simon I responded by sending Gregorios Abdul Jaleel to India in 1665, and the relationship between the Syriac Orthodox and Malankara Churches was born.[3]


Adoption of West Syrian 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 Syrian vestments, while twenty years later, West Syrian prelates introduced the West Syrian 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 Syrian practice for nearly one hundred years; in the meantime the church practiced a combination of West Syrian and Malabar Rite.[10]

Formal steps towards adoption of the West Syrian 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 Syrian 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 Syrian in character with some local variations, which sometimes retain elements now archaic in the wider West Syrian 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]



  • "Christians of Saint Thomas". Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
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