Christianity- Origins, History, and Societal Contribution in India

Christianity is the third biggest religious group in India with 2.3% of the total population following the faith. Christianity in India enjoys a majority in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Pondicherry, and Tamil Nadu. Kerala shares the largest population of Christians in India. The three denominations of Christianity- Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic are major branches of this faith working & ministering in India. Many people think that the British & Portuguese when they came to India brought Christianity with them. But it’s totally wrong. Christianity is much deeper than you think. 

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Christianity- Origins:

Christianity emerged from one single person- Jesus Christ. He chose his 12 disciples, did ministry among Jews and Gentiles, and preached the good news- the Gospel of God. He preached about the kingdom of God and to put faith in the one true God- Yahweh. Yahweh is a Hebrew word that means ‘he brings into existence whatever exists’. Christianity’s fundamental beliefs revolve around the Triune nature of God. It says that God has three different forms, one in persona but three in persons. They are God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The faith shares that Christ is the bridge between God and mankind and gave his life to wash the sins of the world. He then raise to life according to the Christian scriptures and this resurrected the faith of all his followers. Jesus then ascended to Heaven after giving instructions to share the Gospel with the whole world. Here started the journey of Christianity. Jesus’s followers scripted their stories and travelled around the world to share the message. 

Christianity- First Interaction with India and Growth:

Christianity has a long-lost history with India. We can see the growth of Christianity in India with the coming of the Dutch & Portuguese but the very first interactions go back to the first century A.D. The Bible mentions three travellers/ biblical magi/ wise men/ three Kings who followed the stars and came to the birthplace of Jesus at the time he was born. They were Gaspar, Melchior of Persia, and Balthazar of Ethiopia. Although there are no clear signs of where Gaspar was from, many historians believe he was a king from India. Historian John of Hildesheim states that Gaspar would have come there after crossing the ancient Taxila School through the Silk Route. Although this is a point of argument with no solid conclusion yet. 

St. Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ came to India in Kodungallur in Kerala in AD 52. This is the first official encounter with Christianity in India. He started preaching in the southern areas of the country and was successful in converting Brahmans & local Jews. He also converted the then Indo-Parthian King Gondophares and his family to North-West India. In AD 72, he was martyred by local people on Mount St. Thomas in Chennai. We also come across scriptures from the 3rd century AD showing proof that Bartholomew or Nathaniel, another disciple of Jesus, came to India in the 1st century AD. 

In the Mediaeval times, St. Thomas Christians were enjoying several rights and tax-free services in the country. The Christians settled on the Malabar Coast & further south areas. Marco Polo in 1292 AD mentions Christians living in India. By 1320 came the first French dominion missionary in Surat and soon started converting the locals successfully. In the 14th century, the Church of the East faced a rapid decline due to persecution led by Tamerlane. 

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Christianity- Modern India:

By the 16th century, the Portuguese with their Roman Catholic Faith became successful in Latinizing the St. Thomas Christians and started intervening with several reforms. However, there emerged a group of people who took an oath to never submit to the Portuguese Jesuits. They are known now as Jacobites. The latinization of Christians turned into a revolt in 1653 with the ‘Coonan Cross Oath’. In Modern Indian history, we came across many famous names. 

– Lutherans came to India from Germany as Protestants in 1700 AD. They translated the Bible into Tamil & Hindustani Language. 

– Johann Phillip Fabricius arrived in India in 1740 AD. He created the first Tamil to English Dictionary. 

– Basel Missionaries created the first hospitals in Kerala & Karnataka. Also, they created the first Kannada-English dictionary consisting of 70000 words. 

– Hermann Mogling published the first Kannada newspaper in 1843. 

Among the Christians, one of the most important names is William Carry. He came to India in 1793 and did phenomenal work. 

– Translated Bible into Bengali. 

– Supported the revival of Sanskrit Science. 

– Established the Agricultural society in India

– Published important commentaries on Ancient Hindu Medical & Astronomy Texts in 1806. 

– Established a college to nurture an Indian variety of European Science in 1818. 

Christians also contributed in great numbers to the independence war of India. They stood with the INC and advocated for Swaraj. The community opposed the partition & separate electoral for Christians. The ‘AICIC’ and ‘AICU’ committees said that the faithful should participate as common citizens in one common national political system. Both committees were also in contact with the members of the Indian Constituent Assembly of India and granted religious freedom to organisations & individuals. 

Christianity Holy Book:

Unlike the other religions of the world, Christianity holds its faith in only one book- the Bible. But here is the twist. The Bible is not one book. It is a collection of books written during a time span of 500 years if not more. The Bible consists of 66 books of which 39 belong to the Old Testament and 27 to the New Testament. Roman Catholics have 7 extra books in their Old Testament. Luther’s Bible has 14 extra chapters named intra-testament or Apokryphen making the total number of books 80. 

The Old Testament has the story before the birth of Jesus. It shows many before prophets who are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and many others. The New Testament starts with Jesus’ life story in the four Gospels, goes with the letters of Paul, and ends with the book Revelation. 

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At Present India has a total of 2.3% of the Christian population. Indian history has blended Christianity into its veins. From the Art to Independence movement, the Christian population has always come along with other communities and served the nation with their maximum efforts towards good. However, in between many controversies emerged in the land and caused many casualties.