History Of  CSI

Central  Kerala  Diocese

The CSI Madhya Kerala

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3


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[ Rev. C.Y. Thomas is an ordained presbyter of the Church of South India. He was the General Secretary of the  Youth Movement of the Diocese of Madhya Kerala. He was also Bishop’s chaplain and chaplain of the CMS College, Kottayam. Now he is the Vicar of CSI parish, Dubai, in Gulf. ]  











Kerala, the State, clothed in nature's finery, protected by the Rocky Mountains in the East and washed by the waves of the Arabian Sea in the West, has been blessed with Christianity from the first century. Tradition has it that it was St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus who brought Christianity to Kerala. The Ancient Syrian Church of Malabar had links with Christian centers in West Asia. The winds of the Reformation which rocked Europe in the 16th century swept in India as well with the coming of the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society and the Basel Mission.

The Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.), was a society organized by some evangelicals of the Church of England on April 12th 1799 to help the propagation of the Gospel in Africa and in the East. The CMS was of course, the child of 'Evangelical Anglicanism’ and its original name was 'The Society for Missions in Africa and the East'. After a few years, the title "The Church Missionary Society" was formally adopted.  



The origin of Travancore's connection with British goes back to 1685, when the English East India Company established a factory at Anjengo  in Travancore by obtaining land from the Attingal Rani. The English established the factory mainly with a view to breaking up the Dutch monopoly in those parts. Thus a cordial relationship between the East India Company and Travancore developed. In the second half of the 18th  century. the fear of invasion from Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, compelled Travancore to depend for her safety on the English East India Company. In November 1795, a treaty of perpetual friendship and alliance was signed between the Rajah of Travancore and the East India Company. The treaty was again modified in 1805, which established British paramountcy over Travancore.

As a result of these treaties, the British Residents were henceforth to represent Great Britain at the Court of Travancore. The first two residents were Col. Colin Macaulay (1800-1810) and Col. John Munro (1810-1819), who were protestant Christians of strong convictions; interested in the affairs of Jacobite Syrians.  


The origin of the work of the C.M.S. in Travancore can be traced to the Rev. R. H. Kerr and the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, who paid visits to the Malabar Syrians in 1806, during the episcopate of Mar Dionysius1. It was Lord William Bentinck, who sent Dr. Kerr to Travancore for the purpose of investigating the state of the native church. E. M. Philip tells us that, "he (Kerr) expressed to the Metropolitan of the Syrian Church a hope that one day a union might take place between the Syrian and the Anglican Church and that he seemed pleased at the suggestion." 1

The next friendly Anglican visitor was Dr. Buchanan, who evinced a keen desire that the Syrian Church and the Church of England should be brought closer together. His speech at the C.M.S. Anniversary in 1809 and his famous book, "Christian Researches in Asia", drew the attention of the English people to the Syrian Christians of Travancore.

According to W. J. Richards, a C.M.S. Missionary in Travancore, in the beginning of 19th century the religious and social conditions of the Syrian Christians were pathetic. The people were steeped in ignorance and superstitions. The Jacobite Syrian Church was also at this time at a very low spiritual level. This is clear in the words of the Syrian Metropolitan, when he had an interview with Dr. Buchanan in which he says, "you have come to visit a declining church." 2  


The C.M.S. Mission of Help to the Jacobite Syrians of Kerala was started in the year 1816, of which the initiative came from Col. Munro, the then British Resident of Travancore. There were two main purposes behind the Mission of Help to the Syrians. First of all, through the work of the C.M.S. Missionaries among the Syrians, to effect the renovation of their Church and to raise them from their degradation. Secondly, the British Resident as well as the missionaries hoped that, "a strong and friendly Christian Community will be a support for the British power in Malabar". Rev. Thomas Norton was the first missionary who came to Travancore in this connection. He was soon followed by Benjamin Bailey (1816), Joseph Fenn (1818) and Henry Baker (Sr) (1819) who are popularly known as the "Kottayam Trio". These three concentrated their work among the Syrians, where as the pioneer missionary, Norton focused his work among the outcastes in Alleppey.

The work of the missionaries among the Jacobite Syrians was mainly on the education field. Fenn took charge of the college for training the younger clergy; Bailey devoted himself chiefly to literary and translation work and the press, while Baker took charge of the parish schools up and down the land. Though the relationship between the missionaries and the Jacobite Syrians went on well without many problems in the beginning, it did not last long. The change of leadership in the Jacobite Syrian Community as well as the change of missionaries caused much problem in the relationship. During the second half of the Mission of Help, the pioneer missionaries went on furlough. While they were away new men came on the scene, Joseph Peet (1833-1865) and W. J. Wood Cock (1834-1837). The young missionaries were rather impatient about the slow progress being made and were sometimes rash in their actions. The visits of the Rev. J. Tucker, Secretary of the C.M.S. Corresponding Committee at Madras, and Bishop Wilson, the Anglican Bishop of Calcutta did not heal the wound, these two being uncompromising evangelists. This was followed by a Synod of the Syrian Christians at Mavelikkara on 16th January 1836, in which the Jacobite Syrian Community under Mar Dionysios IV, the then Malankara Metropolitan decided to break all their relationships with the Church of England. With this we see an early death of the twenty-year-old C.M.S. Mission of Help to the Syrian Church of Travancore.

Was the Mission of Help a failure? An eminent Hindu, Diwan Bahadur Nagamiah says in the Travancore State Manual that, "Although the Syrians headed by their Bishop had thus forrnally parted company with the Church Missionary Society, the teaching of the missionaries for more than twenty years had not been without result, and there was among the Syrians a party who was influenced by that teaching." 3  

Eastern Kerala
Hill Areas

Periyar Lake


CMS College
in Kottayam


The dissolution of the contract between the C.M.S. and the Syrian Metropolitan after 20 years of beneficial work was no doubt says, C.M. Agur "a great disappointment” 4With the snapping of ties, the missionaries directed their attention to the despised and the downtrodden Ezhavas, Hill Arrians, and the outcastes of Central Travancore.

Due to the impact of the work of the C.M.S. among the Syrian Christians, soon after the separation with them, several Syrian Christians who were attracted towards the reformation joined the Anglican Church. In certain cases, the whole Syrian parishes joined with the missionaries. Therefore, the missionaries began to serve them as parish priests too.5

In 1840, Bishop Spencer of Madras, who succeeded Bishop Daniel Corrie after his death in 1837, made his first episcopal visit to Malabar soon after the Archbishop of Canterbury had put the congregations of Travancore under the Episcopal oversight of the Bishop of Madras. Thus the Anglican Church was fully established in Travancore in 1840. By 1840's missionaries started systematic evangelism among the non-Christians, especially those of the lower classes. In 1848 Baker reported that he baptized thirty five individuals. He again speaks: "They have been Chogans. Two I had rescued from slavery very accidentally."6 In 1850, Rev. J. Hawksworth wrote, "The visible success of this mission during the past half-year has been almost exclusively among the 'heathen" 7  


Even before the formal break with the Syrian Christians, the CMS Missionaries at various places had started work among the non-Christians. After 1836 we find in the C.M.S. records, references to the 'Kottayam Village Mission' with Bailey in charge of it and 'the Kottayam District Mission' under Baker, with his headquarters at Pallom, five miles to the South.8 They also continued educational work and built another college at Kottayam, the C.M.S. College in 1838. The new college made its real start in 1840 when the Rev. John Chapman took charge of it.  

Rubber Plantations
In Kottayam

Periyar Lake

Baker School
in Kottayam

The missionaries were the pioneers in the field of printing. Having acquired the necessary mastery over Malayalam, Bailey translated and printed two complete editions of the Holy Scriptures and two of the Common Prayer Book. Besides these, he wrote a big English and Malayalam Dictionary and another Malayalam and English Dictionary. In 1848 the first Malayalam periodical "The Treasury of Knowledge" was published and is still coming out as the Diocesan Magazine.

In 1843, Bishop Wilson said about the future work of the missionaries as, "You had no other course to take but to build churches for yourselves, to go on with your own schools, to multiply copies of the scripture, to erect, as you have done, your own college, and to carry on an open unfettered mission for the good of the heathen and Muharnmadans  generally, and of the individual Roman Catholics, Roman Syrians and Syrians around you who might voluntarily and peaceably avail themselves of your labours..." 9 Church building was one of the principal activities of the Kottayam Mission in the forties. At Mallappally, Kottayam, Pallom, Kollad, Olessa, Ericadu, Changanacherry, Mavelikkara, and Mundakayam, fairly beautiful churches were built. Of these, the largest as well as the most beautiful was the Holy Trinity, Kottayam, which Bishop Wilson called, "the noble Gothic Church, the glory of Travancore," 10 .  It was the work of Bailey whose laborious service in Kottayam  went on apace, undeterred by the split.

Another notable contribution of the Kottayam Missionaries was the female education. The first Mission Girls' school was started in Kottayam by Mrs. Fenn and Mrs Baker in 1825 or so. It was probably one of the very first Girls' Schools in India. After Mrs. Fenn's departure it was carried on by Mrs. Baker with the help of a daughter for sixty years. Her daughter-in-law and descendents continued the good work for a long time. The introduction of the system of grant in-aid to private educational institutions in 1874, helped the missionaries to promote education to every class of people.11 Kottayam  is the first District in India, to acquire 100 percent literacy, and this creditable achievement will always be connected with the name of Baker.


It was in 1859, that the C.N.I. started to train teachers and mission workers. It was started as a Vernacular Teachers' Training School. The teacher-cum-mission workers did a great job for the growth and development of the Anglican Church in Travancore.


The Missionary conference was established in 1835 for the efficient and harmonious management of the affairs connected with the Kottayam Mission. 12 In 1840 it was called the Travancore Clerical Association and continued to be the local Governing body of the Mission until 1st January 1928, when it was finally superseded by the Diocesan Council.


There were two congregations in Kottayam District - Pallom and Kollad. Henry Baker Junior carried on vigorously and in 1847 he completed the construction of churches at Olessa, Velluthuruthy and Ericadu. At the close of five years' work the membership of the Anglican Church in the combined districts numbered 552. By this time another district had been formed at Tiruvalla and Hawksworth was in charge of it.

Rev. M. J. Chandy was ordained in Madras in 1847 and was the second Malayalee to receive Anglican Orders, the first having been the Rev. George Mathen in 1844. In 1856, four more Indian clergy were added to the Anglican Church. The Annual report for 1856-57 states. "The Travancore Mission exhibits the best proof of real progress in the fact that native congregations which have been gathered together by the labors of missionaries have now been committed to the charge of native clergymen." By 1870 their number was fifteen.  


From 1848 onwards, there was a turning point in the work of the C.M.S. Missionaries, as they began to work among the Hill Tribes of Central Travancore. The principal tribe among whom the C.M.S. Missionaries concentrated their work was, the Hill Arrians. This Mission was the out come of the request of a delegation from among the Hill Arrians to the C.M.S. Missionary, the Rev. Henry Baker Junior, often been known as the 'Apostle of Hill Arrians.' The deputation of the Hill Arrians persistently kept on coming. Their eagerness was remarkable. Henry Baker wrote "The heads of several villages appeared at Pallom  and remonstrated on account of my delay. Five times", said they "have we been to call you. You must know, we know nothing right; will you teach us or not? We die like beasts, and are buried like dogs; ought you to neglect us?" "Cholera and fever" said another, "carried off such and such members of my family; where are they now?" They stated that they "wanted no pecuniary help", as they had plenty of rice. They wished to serve God, and not to be oppressed by any one." 13. At last Henry Baker conceded to the request and decided to visit the Hill Arrians in 1848. The eagerness of the Hill Arrians to be instructed, to some extent helped the missionary to introduce a self supporting and self propagating mission from the very beginning.

The evangelists working under Henry Baker in the plains volunteered to go to the hills and teach the Hill Arrians. It was they who taught and instructed them. In 1849 Baker opened a mission with a large campus in a place named 'Mundakayam', heron's pool, which caused him to be called -a first rate colonizer" by T. G. Ragland, the then C.M.S. Secretary in Madras.14.  The missionary earned a large compound for the mission from a landlord and settled many native families. The jungle had been cleared; eight houses were built for native families and a schoolroom to be used also as a place of worship. With the development of the mission, the progress was visible among the converted Hill Arrians in the socio‑cultural and religious spheres. These upward developments they had, were not gained by not paying heavy prices. They had to undergo bitter persecutions and severe oppositions from their own kith and kin, the communities that were interested in exploiting them and from the government officials.

From Mundakayam as a Mission Centre, the work began to extend northwards. In 1852, Baker went on a visit to the villages of Erumapra, Melukavu, Walakorn. and several others, and reported that, "there is a complete string of Arrian villages the whole way from this to Mundakayam, averaging not more than three miles distance from each other." 15. In 1854, two other villages had also been opened, Kannikal and Puthata. The Mission on these hills increased day by day. Baker expressed, 'I am happy to say that my hill people are improving every way..." Further, he speaks about the vast area of his mission district as "my district" when he said, "My district is now like a country, Mundakayarn being thirty-five miles east of Pallom, and the Melukavu hills, twenty-eight north of that." 16

The abolition of slavery in Travancore helped the outcastes and the hill tribes to respond to Christianity in large numbers. In 1853, His Highness, Utram. Tirunal Marthanda Varma Maha Rajah, by a Royal Proclamation, declared that all future children of government slaves are free from bondage, and in 1855, the Maha Rajah completely abolished all kinds of slavery in his dominions.17. This gave freedom to the slaves to embrace the religion of their choice.  In 1855, the Pallom district was divided. All the hills and a portion of the country along the foot, about 20 miles wide, with no defined limit north or south was called the "Mundakayam Church Mission District." Henry Baker was in charge of the new district. He again divided the district into two parts, Mundakayam and Melukavu. In the Melukavu hills there were three congregations at Erumapra, Melukavu and Kannikal. Similarly, in Mundakayam also there were three congregations, Mundakayam, Koottickal and Assapian. The members of all these congregations were steadily increasing. There were schools in each village at which all the children were required to attend.  

Henry Baker raised the status of the two mission stations, Mundakayam and Melukavu. into the position of pastorates and appointed two native ministers to look after the missionary work. Besides, for every outstation there were native readers or evangelists and native teachers to the schools.










Tribal House

Elephants in Thekkady

Athirampal Waterfall

 The missionary also often visited these stations and superintended the Hill Arrian Mission.. Under the native leadership, supervised by the missionary, the Hill Arrians on the whole, all along the villages continued to be stable and were gradually increasing in numbers. 18  

The following table clearly illustrates the numerical increase of the converts during the period from 1848 to 1878.












Baptized Members







No. of communicants not available.


In 1878, 'the arduous missionary, Henry Baker Junior, died leaving a legacy of eleven churches and twenty-seven schools, which he founded in those hills. With this, the history of the Hill Arrian Mission takes a new turn.  


The first Anglican Missionary to arrive in Travancore was the Rev. Thomas Norton who settled at Alappuzha in 1816 at the suggestion of Col. Munro. Norton was happy to be at Alappuzha, outside the Syrian sphere, so that he might concentrate his evangelistic efforts on the medley of races and religions in that commercial town. The Sunday after his arrival, he preached significantly on the parable of the grain of mustard-seed at the first Anglican service held in Travancore.

The beautiful church was completed in July 1819. And in the meantime he had gained sufficient mastery over Malayalam "to lay myself out in the delightful work of making known a Saviour's love". The "laying out" was so effective that when he died in 1840 the Church was well established, the membership numbering 560 drawn from all classes.

Norton started several schools in Alappuzha. About 15 years after his arrival, there were eleven schools with 301 boys and 57 girls. Two of them were boarding schools, one for boys and the other for girls under the supervision of Mrs. Norton. The mustard seed had sprouted. Four days after Norton's death the Rev. John Hawksworth arrived from England, with Mrs. Hawksworth, and took charge of the mission. They remained there until 1845, when they were transferred to Mavelikara and the Rev. Henry Baker (Sr.) replaced them in Alappuzha. In 1842, the then Bishop of Madras, during his visit, confirmed 122 persons and described Alapuzha as inhabited by ‘almost every kindred and tongue and people and nation'.19  


The first missionary to be stationed at Cochin was the Rev. Thomas Dawson. But he had to return home early in 1818 on account of ill‑health. In 1820 the Kottayam. Missionaries were paying regular visits to Cochin every fortnight. Services were held in the fine old Church of St.Francis 20  which Dawson has repaired.  

The work of evangelization gathered prodigious momentum with the arrival of the Rev. Samuel Risdale in 1824. He threw himself heart and soul into the work among a very mixed population comprising Indian, Portuguese, Dutch and English elements. He obtained a grant of land from the government and gathered a little Christian village around him. A boys' school and a girls' school were soon started. Risdale had a number of converts, the most notable of whom were John and Constantine. John was a Brahmin, and Constantine was Rama Varma, the son of Vira Kerala Rajah. In 1836 he had opened six outstations namely, Kunnamkulam, Pazhani, Kandanadu, Truppunithara, Kuttatodu and Chalakkudi. During the year, Risdale returned home leaving the Rev. Henry Harley in charge. The latter began to erect a Church at Trichur in 1840 and the next year set up the headquarters of the Cochin Mission there. Harley did most distinguished work in Cochin State for more than 20 years.  






Chinese Fish nets at Cochin


Mavelikara became a C.M.S. station when the Rev. Joseph Peet took up his abode there with his family. Peet did not perhaps have the erudition of Fenn, the prudence of Bailey or the patience of Baker. He was a man of action, a born fighter always ready with the sword of the spirit to jump into the fray and take on every one.


Within a few months of his arrival at Mavelikara, he had built a church designed to hold 400 people, and at the end of five years there were four congregations - Mavelikara, Poovathoor, Kodukulanji and Mallappally, with a membership of about 500. He started seven schools which had 200 students on their rolls. Whenever he preached his hearers numbered two to three thousand. "I have hardly ever seen such earnest and attentive hearers," said Bishop Wilson who visited Mavelikara in 1845. 22

Peet went home on furlough and Hawksworth took his place in 1845. Persecution raised its ugly head again as soon as Peet vanished from the scene. His return was hailed with joy by the rich and the poor alike. The great missionary labored on in Mavelikara right into the sixties. The Rev. Joseph Peet rested from his labors at Mavelikara on August 11, 1865. When he died at the end of thirty years' unremitting toil, he was in charge of eleven substantial churches with members totaling more than 2500.






Mallappally has a place of honor in the history of the Mission. Mallappally was the first non-convert (Anglo-Syrian) congregation. Rev. George Mathen was the first Malayalam clergyman of Anglican Church. He ministered to the Mallappally people. The Missionary who did most to foster the movement in its infancy was the Rev. John Hawksworth. He wrote to the committee in the early part of 1851 as, "For some months past there has been a very hopeful movement among the poor slaves in the neighborhood of Mallappally. In this country these poor creatures are regarded by the higher classes, and even by common coolies, as utterly unclean and polluting.23  


A school room was erected at a place called Kaippatta. Mr. Mathen was the schoolmaster. The slaves heard and received the word of God with great joy. Among the slaves, one of the first to be baptized was named Abel, which had taken place in 1854. There were thirty desiring baptism, but only eight were admitted. This Kaippatta incident caused a great excitement in Mallappally. The barber and the washer man refused to work for the Rev. George Mathen and the members of his congregation, who were deemed defiled by the admission of outcastes into their church.

Despite persistent persecutions, slave schools were opened in several places and the movement spread, gathering momentum with each new step. It is recorded that nine years after the first baptisms the Bishop of Madras visited the Mass Movement area and confirmed over a thousand outcaste Christians. 24



The council system of Travancore was developed by Henry Baker at the instigation of Henry Venn, the C.M.S. Secretary (1841 - 1872) in England. Henry Venn was widely known for his views on the growth of an independent Native Church. For this object he published his notable three self-formula; self-support, self-extension and self-administration, through which he proposed a scheme of appointing a local school-master in charge of a congregation, after its establishment. 25 Then the formation of a pastorate, consisting of several congregations under an ordained native paid from the Native Church Fund. The pastorate was placed under a district conference or council, which would be setup. In 1869, "The Travancore Native Church Council was formed" 26 and Henry Baker was selected as its first Chairman and the Rev. R. H. Maddox, Secretary and Treasurer. In 1872 a second Church Council was organized, and the two councils, one for North Travancore, meeting at Kottayam and the other for South Travancore meeting, at Mavelikara were linked by a Provincial Council .27 But, the Mundakayarn Mission District was not incorporated into this council system. This new system of church organization helped the mission to grow from 'Mission to the Church'.



History of  Madhya (Central) Kerala Diocese....  Contd......



Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3





Chapter 1


1. E.M. Philip, 'The Indian  Churches of St. Thomas', 1907 p. 269

2. W. J. Richards, "The Reforming Syrians of Travancore and Cochin," CMI, March 1895, P. 183

3. 150 years of Service, CMS p.7

4. C.M. Agur, Church History of Travancore, Madras, p.99

5. Ten Brink. "The CMS Mission of Help." p.239

6. 'Kottayam Village District" Proceedings of the CMS 1848-'49, p.CXXXV11

7. lbid; p.CXXXVIII

8. W.S. Hint, “The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin,” Vol-II, p.2

9. 150 years of Service, The Third Jubilee of the Church Missionary Society, p.8

10. W.S. Hint, "Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin" Vol. 11, p.42  

11. A. Sreedhara Menon, A Survey of Kerala History', p.332

12. W.S. Hint, 'The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin' Vol-11, p.7

13. Henry Baker, "The Hill Arrians of Travancore" p.12

14. T.G. Ra‑land to Rev. J. Tucker, Letter, MS, dated Quilon, January 14, 185 1, CMSA.

15. Letter of Henry Baker dt. 9th Dec. 1852, Proceedings of the.CMS, 1852-1853, p. 130  

16. Kottayarn and Pallom Districts", Proceeding of the CMS 1853-1854, pp 119, 120.

17 P. Shangoonny Menon, 'History of Travancore from the Earliest Times', p.477

18 "Kottayam, Pallom and Mundakayam Districts", Proceedings of the CMS, 1873-1874, p. 142

19 W.S.Hunt, 'The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin,' Vol. 1, p. 149  

20. St. Francis; The church under Franciscan order was built by the Portuguese and finally taken over by the British and converted into a Protestant Church

21. W.S. Hunt, "The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin" Vol. 1, P.162

22. 150 years of service, CMS, P. 12

23. W.S. Hunt, "The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin" Vol. 1, P.200

24. 150 years of service, CMS, P. 15

25. Eugene Stock, 'History of the Church Missionary Society, Vol1, pp. 367-381

26. W.J. Richard; Twenty years' CMS work in Travancore and Cochin 1858-1878, p. 10

27. M F Gibbs The Anglican Church in India 1600-1970, p. 255