The Christians of the state of Kerala on the Malabar (SW) coast of India
. They number over 2 million, now divided into several communities (see SYRIAN CHURCHES
). They are known as ‘ Thomas Christians’ from their claim—taken seriously by some W. scholars too—that their ancestors were evangelized by St Thomas
. In any case, by the 6th cent. there was a Church in the region using Syriac in its liturgy and dependent for bishops on the (Nestorian
) catholikos of Baghdad
. After heavy-handed missionary work by the Portuguese, the Church was formally purged of Nestorianism, brought under Roman obedience, and thoroughly Latinized at the synod of Diamper (Udayamperur, near Cochin
) in 1599. Latin government of the Church continued as a source of tension down to the 20th cent. There was a defection of a large body eventually to the Syrian Orthodox in the 17th cent.; this schism gave rise to another in the 19th cent. with the creation of the Mar Thoma Church
. The Catholics are now styled the ‘Syro-Malabar Church’, having been granted their own metropolitanate of Ernakulam with Indian bishops in 1923.