Seven and a Half Churches: The Legacy of St Thomas in South India

Seven and a Half Churches: The Legacy of St Thomas in South India
Led by Rev. Mark Woodrow
17 September to 4 October 2018

When 16th century European priests arrived in southern India to introduce Christianity, they were told that a more famed Christian missionary had been there many years beforehand.
As they travelled in and around the regions of Travancore and Cochin, the priests found that there were indeed a long-established community of Christians, and the man who first converted them was none other than St. Thomas the Apostle (the “Doubting Thomas”), who it was said, arrived in India aboard a Roman trading vessel in 52 AD.

Now, whether St. Thomas himself actually preached under the palm trees of Travancore and Cochin more than 1900 years ago, in the end come down to an act of faith. One thing is certain though and that is that Indian Christian traditions predate any in Europe, and for the more than 2 million Christians in the region there is no doubt.

St. Thomas in India
However, just like St. Thomas, it is easier to believe when you can see and touch things for yourself, and so to trace these historic roots and traditions for yourself I am inviting you to join me in discovering these in depth first-hand.

Together, we will explore these unusual stories, the “seven and a half” churches founded by Thomas, and the Christian traditions of south India. Our journey will take us along the south west Malabar coastline, through the backwaters of Kerala to the very southern tip of the subcontinent, before traveling on to the Coromandel coast in the east, where, tradition tells us that St. Thomas met his end at the hands of an angry king on a hilltop just outside modern-day Chennai (Madras).

Along the way we will visit a modern-day legacy of St Thomas’ Christian influence, as we visit the Donhavur Fellowship, a community founded by the late Anglican missionary and spiritual writer Amy Carmichael. As well as experiencing and participating in the Christian traditions; we will also take the opportunity to visit the magnificent Hindu temples in Madurai and the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mahabalipuram – all with plenty of time to relax, shop for gifts or handmade clothes, eat well and to enjoy all that India has to offer.

This tour really does offer something for all, whether you have travelled to South India before, or a new to the region or country, this tour will enable you to meet the real people and explore those places overlooked by tourists – allowing you to become a pilgrim instead and to follow in paths once trodden by saints.

I very much look forward to travelling with you.

The Revd Mark Woodrow

Seven and a Half Churches: The Legacy of St Thomas in South India
Led by Rev. Mark Woodrowl

London – Cochin – Kodungallur – Kumarakom – Kollam – Kanyakumari – Dohnavur – Madurai – Mahabalipuram – Chennai – London

Itinerary:
DAY 1: MONDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER 2018: OVERNIGHT FLIGHT TO INDIA

Meet at Heathrow to board Emirates flight EK0002, departing Heathrow at 13:40 and arriving at Dubai after midnight at 00:40 (7 hour flight). At Dubai transfer to connecting Emirates flight EK0530, departing Dubai at 02:45 and arriving at Cochin at 08:05 (3 hours 50 minute flight – arriving on Tuesday 18th September).

DAY 2: TUESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2018: RELAX ON THE BEACH

Arrive in Cochin International Airport at 08:05 and transfer 25km to Club Mahindra Cherai Beach. Today is a day to relax after the overnight flight, enjoy the pool and have a stroll on the beach.

Overnight in Club Mahindra Cherai Beach

DAY 3: WEDNESDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2018: DAY TRIP AROUND CRANGANORE

Day visit to the Marthoma Pontifical shrine at Kodungallur (old English name Cranganore) the first church built by St. Thomas, as well as Kottakkavu Mar Thoma Syro-Malabar Pilgrim Church in North Paravur, and on to the Muziris Heritage Project.

Overnight in Club Mahindra Cherai Beach.

DAY 4: THURSDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER 2018: THE CHURCH AT PALAYOOR

Today we drive out to another of Thomas’ churches, the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Palayoor, and back to relax at the resort.

Overnight in Club Mahindra Cherai Beach.

DAY 5: FRIDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER 2018: TO THE BACKWATERS

This morning we will drive south along the coast to explore the harbor town of Fort Cochin, before driving down to check into the Punnamada Backwater Resort. On the way we will stop at another of St Thomas’ churches at Kokkamangalam near Cherthala.

Overnight in Punnamada Backwater Resort

DAY 6: SATURDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER 2018: DAY AT LEISURE

Today is a day at leisure to enjoy the Punnamada Backwater Resort.

Overnight in Punnamada Backwater Resort

DAY 7: SUNDAY 23RD SEPTEMBER 2018: TO NIRANAM, NILAKKAL AND KOLLAM

Today is our only long drive, as we must venture, first to Niranam Church, then off the beaten track into rural Kerala to visit St. Thomas’ Nilakkal Church in Angamoozhy, and on to the coastal town of Kollam. The total distance will be 200km in about 6 hours but with beautiful scenery to enjoy.

Overnight in Fragrant Nature Kollam

DAY 8: MONDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER 2018: KOLLAM

One of Thomas’ seven and a half churches is believed to have been built here in Kollam but has since been lost to the Arabian sea. Here we will meet members of the local Christian community to learn more about their traditions.

Overnight in Fragrant Nature Kollam

DAY 9: TUESDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 2018: DAY AT LEISURE IN KOLLAM

Another day at leisure to enjoy the Fragrant Nature resort.

Overnight in Fragrant Nature Kollam

DAY 10: WEDNESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER 2018: THE HALF CHURCH & THE LAND’S END OF INDIA

Today we continue our journey to India’s southernmost point at Kanyakumari, the place where three oceans meet: the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. On the way we will be stopping at the “half church” at Thiruvithamkode to find out why it is only half a church.

Overnight in Sparsa Resort, Kanyakumari.

DAY 11: THURSDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER: TO THE DOHNAVUR FELLOWSHIP

This morning we will drive 55km from Kanyakumari to the Dohnavur Fellowship, the centre started by Irish missionary Amy Carmichael.

Overnight in simple guest accommodation in the Dohnavur Fellowship

DAY 12: FRIDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER 2018: AT THE DOHNAVUR FELLOWSHIP

We will spend today at the centre to learn about the work being done there as well as the life of Amy Carmichael.

Overnight in simple guest accommodation in the Dohnavur Fellowship

DAY 13: SATURDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2018: TRAIN TO MADURAI

After a day at Dohnavur we drive to Nanguneri (15km) to catch the evening train to Madurai: “Anantapuri Express”, train number 16724, departing Nanguneri at 19:00 and arriving at Madurai Junction at 23:00 (4h 0m in First Class). In the hectic city of Madurai we transfer to check into the calm oasis of the Heritage Madurai hotel.

Overnight in Heritage Madurai.

DAY 14: SUNDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER 2018: TEMPLES OF MADURAI

The Shri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is arguably the finest and most fascinating temple complex in India – the site houses several shrines surrounded by 14 large colourful gateway towers. Just a mile down the road, we also stop to visit the impressive 17th century king’s palace of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal. The afternoon will be at your leisure and a great opportunity for shopping.

Overnight in Heritage Madurai

DAY 15: MONDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2018: FLY TO CHENNAI, DRIVE TO MAHABALIPURAM

Transfer from hotel to Madurai airport to board Air India flight AI-672, departing Madurai at 13:15 and arriving at Chennai at 14:20 (1 hour 5 minute flight). On arrival transfer 50km from Chennai airport to Mahabalipuram and check into Chariot Beach Resort.

Overnight in Chariot Beach Resort, Mahabalipuram

DAY 16: TUESDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2018: SHORE TEMPLE AT MAHABALIPURAM

Relax today and enjoy a tour of the famous ancient shore temple at Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Overnight in Chariot Beach Resort, Mahabalipuram

DAY 17: WEDNESDAY 3RD OCTOBER 2018: THE LAST DAYS OF THOMAS

In the morning we will drive into Chennai, home to San Thome Basilica, a cathedral supposedly built over the tomb of St. Thomas. We will also visit St. Mary’s Anglican Church – the oldest British building in India – and on to climb St. Thomas Mount, the hill on top of which it is said that St Thomas was martyred by the spear, drawing our pilgrimage to a close.

Overnight in Leela Palace, Chennai.

DAY 18: THURSDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2018: RETURN INTERNATIONAL DEPARTURE

Early morning transfer to Chennai International Airport to board Emirates flight EK0545 departing Chennai at 09:45 and arriving at Dubai at 12:40 (4 hour 25 minutes flight). At Dubai transfer to connecting Emirates flight EK0003, departing Dubai at 14:30 and arriving at Heathrow at 18:20 (7 hour 50 minute flight).

The cost per person sharing a twin or double room:
£2,825
Single room supplement:
£635
The cost includes:
  • Return International flight from London to Cochin and Chennai to London with Emirates (via Dubai) in Economy Class
  • 1 internal flight: Madurai to Chennai
  • 14 nights’ accommodation in hotels, and 2 nights in simple guest accommodation in the Dohnavur Fellowship. Hotels have en-suite facilities (Check-in is 1400 hrs and checkout 12 noon. Early check-in late checkouts are subject to availability).
  • Daily breakfast and dinner at all hotels
  • All arrival/departure transfers, long drives and sightseeing by a chauffeur driven private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Train tickets and reservations as per itinerary (Nanguneri to Madurai) in AC First Class
  • Services of a local English-speaking representative for all arrival and departure transfers to assist you at the airports.
  • Services of English speaking guide during sightseeing as specified in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees to all monuments during sightseeing as specified in your itinerary
  • Mineral water while traveling
  • Full ATOL bonding
The cost does not include:
  • India visa fee. You can now apply for visa on arrival in India- please click here for more information. https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
  • Lunches not mentioned above
  • Any expenses of a personal nature like laundry, telephone calls, beverages, gratuities etc.
  • Camera fees at monuments and other places of interest.
  • Travel Insurance: It is essential to have adequate travel insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
Please ensure:
  • It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover
  • It provides cover for your whole trip
  • It covers you for all activities
  • It covers all your pre-existing medical conditions
  • Keep your Policy Number and Insurer’s 24-hour Emergency Number handy with you

If you wish to book this tour, please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.

CONTACT US

To enquire or make a booking on this tour, please call: 020 8901 7630 Monday – Friday 9.30am – 5.30pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm

TESTIMONIALS:
“I cannot recommend this company enough. Safe to say India has got under our skin and into our hearts, and when we visit again we will definitely be booking with this company - if you are thinking of going I urge you to do the same.”- Gillian and Ashley Iredale
``The whole experience was great, the most relaxing day of the holiday was the cruise up the backwaters when the whole group experienced it together``- Margaret Fortune
``A whole variety of experiences- worship, culture, scenery, friendliness of the people & their hospitality``- Daphne Brindle
``Being in India and witnessing the faith that the people of India have, Hindus, Muslim or Christians, seeing with my own eyes the devotion the people have`` - Steve Breward
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