Thomayar Kovil, or St Mary’s Orthodox church, is a hidden gem in the quaint town of Thiruvithamcode, in Kanyakumari district. It is believed to be among the oldest church structures in the world, consecrated by the apostle St Thomas himself in AD 63. Christianity is said to have arrived in India around AD 52 through St Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Christ.
The church’s beautiful wooden structure has walls made of locally quarried stone, chipped with a multi-pronged tool — a technique used even today in Kerala. The altar at this Syrian Orthodox church faces west, while worshippers face east, towards the altar, as also the direction of the rising sun. The ancient carvings at the original structure in St Mary’s church includes a cross believed to have been etched by St Thomas. The church is currently maintained by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian church.
Deepti Asthanais a Mumbai-based photojournalist