is India’s third most followed religion according to the census of 2011, with approximately 28 million followers, constituting 2.3 percent of India’s population. It is traditionally believed that Christianity was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle, who supposedly landed in Kerala in 52 AD. There is a general scholarly consensus that Christianity was established in India by the 6th century AD, including some communities who used Syriac liturgies. It is possible that the religion’s existence extends as far back as the purported time of St. Thomas’s arrival.[n 1]
Christianity in India is made up of people from different denominations. The state of Kerala is home to the Saint Thomas Christian community, an ancient body of Christians, who are divided into several different churches and traditions. They are East Syriac Saint Thomas Christian churches: the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Chaldean Syrian Church. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and the Malabar Independent Syrian Church are West Syriac Saint Thomas Christian Churches. Since the 19th century, Protestant churches have also been present; major denominations include The Pentecostal Mission (formerly Ceylon Pentecostal Mission), the Baptists, Church of South India (CSI), Evangelical Church of India (ECI), St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India, Believers Eastern Church, the Church of North India (CNI), the Presbyterian Church of India, Pentecostal Church, Apostolics, Lutherans, Traditional Anglicans and other evangelical groups. The Christian Church runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals which have contributed significantly to the development of the nation.
Christians are found all across India and in all walks of life, with major populations in parts of South India and the south shore, the Konkan Coast, and Northeast India. Indian Christians have contributed significantly to and are well represented in various spheres of national life. They include former and current chief ministers, governors and chief election commissioners. Indian Christians have the highest ratio of women to men among the various religious communities in India. Christians are the second most educated religious group in India after Jains.
Roman Catholicism was introduced to India by the Portuguese, Italian and Irish Jesuits in the 16th century to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Indians. Most Christian schools, hospitals, primary care centres originated through the Roman Catholic missions brought by the trade of these countries. Evangelical Protestantism was later spread to India by the efforts of British, American, German, Scottish missionaries. These Protestant missions were also responsible for introducing English education in India for the first time and were also accountable in the first early translations of the Holy Bible in various Indian languages (including Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, Urdu and others).
Even though Christians are a significant minority, they form a major religious group in three states of India – Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland with plural majority in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and other states with significant Christian population include Coastal Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Kanara. Christianity is widespread across India and is present in all states with major populations in South India.
Infant Jesus Church, Mysore, India.