St.Thomas as per Christian tradition was the twin brother of Jesus Christ and is traditionally counted as one among the 12 apostles of Jesus. He is perhaps best known for disbelieving Jesus' resurrection when first told of it, similar to the Islamic point of view. He is also known as Judas Thomas, Doubting Thomas, or Didymus (meaning 'the twin' in Greek). He is also known as the Apostle of the 'Circumcision'. Thomas is revered as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. There is no uniformity among Christians on the date of the feast day of St. Thomas. Earlier St. Thomas feast day was celebrated in December 21, the winter solstice day which was an important festival day in pagan cultures worldwide. It was a common Christian practice to abolish pagan festivals and replace it with feasts of famous figures of Christianity, as part of the Incultration process, where the target culture is digested and destroyed. Later December 21 became the feast day of St. Peter Canisius and the feast day of St. Thomas was moved to 3 July. For the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic Churches and the Coptic Orthodox Church he is remembered each year on Saint Thomas Sunday, which falls on the Sunday after Easter. In addition, the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches celebrate his feast day on October 6 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, October 6 currently falls on October 19 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated in common with all of the other apostles on July 30 (August 13), in a feast called the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles. He is also associated with the "Arabian" (or "Arapet") Icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God), which is commemorated on September 6 (September 19).
The Acts of Thomas records that Judas Thomas landed at Andropolis after a short sea journey, a royal city somewhere to the east of Jerusalem. Andropolis has been identified as Sandaruck, one of the ancient Alexandrias, in Balochistan. The geographical term “India” has been used only twice in the whole text of the Acts of Thomas, and it is used generally meaning Asia and more specifically to mean the domains to the east of the then Roman empire, such as Persia.
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References to Thomas in Bible
Thomas speaks in the Gospel of John. In John 11:16, when Lazarus has just died, the apostles do not wish to go back to Judea, where Jesus' fellow Jews had attempted to stone him to death. Thomas says: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (NIV).
He speaks again in John 14:5. There, Jesus has just explained that he is going away to prepare a heavenly home for his followers, and that one day they will join him there. Thomas reacts by saying, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (NIV)
John 20:24-29 tells how Thomas was skeptical at first when he heard that Jesus had appeared to the other apostles, saying "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." (NIV, v.25) But when Jesus appeared later and offered to let Thomas see and touch his wounds, Thomas showed his belief by proclaiming, "My Lord and my God!" (NIV, v.28). Later Jesus sold him as a slave to a merchant named Abbanes.
Association with the East
Just as Saints Peter and Paul are said to have brought the fledgling Christianity to Greece and Rome, Saint Mark brought it to Egypt, Saint John to Syria and Asia Minor, Thomas is often said to have taken it eastwards as far as India. Saint Thomas is said to have been the first Catholicos of the East.
Historical References to St. Thomas
Many early Christian writings, which belong to centuries immediately following the first Ecumenical Council of 325, exist about St.Thomas mission. The 'India' referred in these works is a generic term to denote all the territories that lied to the east of the Roman empire of 1st century CE and usually pointed towards the Indo-Parthian kingdom, that currently is part of the territory of Pakistan.
- Origen Century : 3rd century (185-254?), quoted in Eusebius; Church represented: Alexandrian/ Greek Biographical. Christian Philosopher, b-Egypt, Origen taught with great acclaim in Alexandria and then in Caesarea. He is the first known writer to record the casting of lots by the Apostles. Origen original work has been lost; but his statement about Parthia falling to Thomas has been preserved by Eusebius. “Origen, in the third chapter of his Commentary on Genesis, says that, according to tradition, Thomas’s allotted field of labour was Parthia”.
- The Acts of Judas Thomas: 2nd/3rd century (c. 180-230)  Gist of the testimony: The Apostles cast lots as to where they should go, and to Thomas, twin brother of Jesus, fell India. Thomas was taken to king Gondophares as an architect and carpenter by Habban. The journey to India is described in detail. After a long residence in the court he ordained leaders for the Church, and left in a chariot for the kingdom of Mazdei. There, after performing many miracles, he dies a martyr. 
- Eusebius of Caesarea: 4th century (d. 340); Church Represented: Alexandrian/Greek Biographical  Quoting Origen, Eusebius says: “When the holy Apostles and disciples of our Saviour were scattered over all the world, Thomas, so the tradition has it, obtained as his portion Parthia….” 
- Clement of Alexandria: 3rd century (d.c. 235); Church represented: Alexandrian/Greek Biographical Note : Greek Theologian, b. Athens, 150. Clement of Alexandria makes a passing reference to St. Thomas’ Apostolate in Parthia. This agrees with the testimony which Eusebius records about Pantaenus visit to India.
Jesus make St.Thomas a slave to Indian merchant Abbanes
The following extract from the apochryphal work the Acts of Thomas describes how Jesus sold his slave Judas Thomas (later St.Thomas) to Abbanes, the Indain merchant, for three litrae of silver:-
There was there a certain merchant come from India whose name was Abbanes, sent from the King Gundaphorus (Gundaphorus is a historical personage who reigned over a part of India in the first century after Christ. His coins bear his name in Greek, as Hyndopheres), and having commandment from him to buy a carpenter and bring him unto him.
Now the Lord seeing him walking in the market-place at noon said unto him: Wouldest thou buy a carpenter? And he said to him: Yea. And the Lord said to him: I have a slave that is a carpenter and I desire to sell him. And so saying he showed him Thomas afar off, and agreed with him for three litrae of silver unstamped, and wrote a deed of sale, saying: I, Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, acknowledge that I have sold my slave, Judas by name, unto thee Abbanes, a merchant of Gundaphorus, king of the Indians. And when the deed was finished, the Saviour took Judas Thomas and led him away to Abbanes the merchant, and when Abbanes saw him he said unto him: Is this thy master? And the apostle said: Yea, he is my Lord. And he said: I have bought thee of him. And thy apostle held his peace.
3 And on the day following the apostle arose early, and having prayed and besought the Lord he said: I will go whither thou wilt, Lord Jesus: thy will be done. And he departed unto Abbanes the merchant, taking with him nothing at all save only his price. For the Lord had given it unto him, saying: Let thy price also be with thee, together with my grace, wheresoever thou goest.
Jesus identifies Thomas as his brother
The following extract from the Acts of Thomas make it clear that Judas Thomas (i.e. St.Thomas) whom Jesus sold as a slave to Indian merchant Abbanas, was none other than the brother of Jesus and both Jesus and Judas Thomas looked alike:-
11 And the king desired the groomsmen to depart out of the bride-chamber; and when all were gone out and the doors were shut, the bridegrroom lifted up the curtain of the bride-chamber to fetch the bride unto him. And he saw the Lord Jesus bearing the likeness of Judas Thomas and speaking with the bride; even of him that but now had blessed them and gone out from them, the apostle; and he saith unto him: Wentest thou not out in the sight of all? how then art thou found here? But the Lord said to him: I am not Judas which is also called Thomas but I am his brother. And the Lord sat down upon the bed and bade them also sit upon chairs.
This above passage is also the basis of considering Judas Thomas as the twin brother of Jesus and explains why he was called Didymus, the twin, in Greek. The name 'Thomas' also means 'twin'.
Death of St.Thomas as per the Acts of Thomas
The following extract from the work the Acts of Thomas, describe how St.Thomas was executed by a Zoroastrian king named Misdaeus in his Indo-Parthian Kingdom (a part of modern day Pakistan):-
Misdaeus saith unto him : I have not made haste to destroy thee, but have had long patience with thee: but thou hast added unto thine evil deeds, and thy sorceries are dispersed abroad and heard of throughout all the country: but this I do that thy sorceries may depart with thee, and our land be cleansed from them. Thomas saith unto him; These sorceries depart [NOT, Syr.] with me when I set forth hence, and know thou this that I [THEY, Syr.] shall never forsake them that are here.
164 When the apostle had said these things, Misdaeus considered how he should put him to death; for he was afraid because of the much people that were subject unto him, for many also of the nobles and of them that were in authority believed on him. He took him therefore and went forth out of the city; and armed soldiers also went with him. And the people supposed that the king desired to learn somewhat of him, and they stood still and gave heed. And when they had walked one mile, he delivered him unto four soldiers and an officer, and commanded them to take him into the mountain and there pierce him with spears and put an end to him, and return again to the city. And saying thus unto the soldiers, he himself also returned unto the city.
This narration is at variance with the dominant Christian myth that St. Thomas was martyred at Mylapore near Channai in South India which was then under the rule of Cholas and not under any Indo-Parthian king or Zoroastrian rulers. This narration also contradicts the portrait of St. Thomas martyrdom illustrated inside the church of St.Thomas in Mylapore Chennai, which shows a single Brahmana Hindu back stabbing St.Thomas with a lance while he was engaged in prayer.
St. Thomas Tombs
There are six tombs for St. Thomas worldwide: one in Brazil, a second in Germany, a third in Japan, a fourth in Malacca, a fifth in Tibet, and a sixth in China. These were created as part of converting the natives to Christian fold based on the principles of incultration. In all these places myths of St. Thomas's arrival is prevalant.
Bardesanes’s Acts of Thomas has St. Thomas buried in a royal tomb on a mountain in King Mazdai’s desert country (Marwar?) and the Ethiopian version of the same Acts has the tomb located in Qantaria, which some say is ancient Gandhara in Afghanistan. The Alexandrian doctors say the tomb is in Parthia that is Persia, but Antipope Hippolytus of Portus says it is in Calamina, a city much discussed and never found, and which, today, remains as elusive a place as the Elioforum of the Passio Thomae. Still others say the tomb is in Betumah, which the Syrians identify with Mylapore but the Arabs say is east of Cape Comorin and Colonel Gerini, in Researches on Ptolemy’s Geography of Eastern Asia, says is east of Singapore.
Thomas in Syria
"Judas, who is also called Thomas" (Eusebius, H.E. 13.12) has a role in the legend of king Abgar of Edessa (Urfa), for having sent Thaddaeus to preach in Edessa after the Ascension (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiae 1.13; III.1; Ephrem the Syrian also recounts this legend.) In the 4th century the martyrium erected over his burial place brought pilgrims to Edessa. In the 380s, Egeria described her visit in a letter she sent to her community of nuns at home (Itineraria Egeriae):
"we arrived at Edessa in the Name of Christ our God, and, on our arrival, we straightway repaired to the church and memorial of saint Thomas. There, according to custom, prayers were made and the other things that were customary in the holy places were done; we read also some things concerning saint Thomas himself. The church there is very great, very beautiful and of new construction, well worthy to be the house of God, and as there was much that I desired to see, it was necessary for me to make a three days' stay there."
Thomas in Brazil
Jesuit Fr. Francis X. Clooney, in his essay on missionaries, writes:-
If, as Xavier found, non-Christian peoples were not entirely bereft of God’s wisdom and inklings of revealed truth, the cause of this knowledge had to be explained, and later generations spent a good deal of time reflecting on the matter. There were numerous theories early on among the missionary scholars. For example, Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, writing in Peru in the mid-seventeenth century, thought that since God would not have overlooked the Americas for fifteen hundred years, and since among the twelve apostles St. Thomas was known for his mission to the “most abject people in the world, blacks and Indians,” it was only reasonable to conclude that St. Thomas had preached throughout the Americas: “He began in Brazil – either reaching it by natural means on Roman ships, which some maintain were in communication with America from the coast of Africa, or else, as may be thought closer to the truth, being transported there by God miraculously. He passed to Paraguay, and from there to the Peruvians.”
Ruiz de Montoya reported that St. Thomas even predicted the arrival of later missionaries, including the Jesuits themselves: “[Thomas] had prophesied in the eastern Indies that his preaching of the gospel would be revived, saying: “When the sea reaches this rock, by divine ordinance white men will come from far-off lands to preach the doctrine that I am now teaching you and to revive the memory of it.” Similarly, the saint prophesied in nearly identical words the coming of the Society’s members into the regions of Paraguay about which I speak: “You will forget what I preach to you, but when priests who are my successors come carrying crosses as I do, then you will hear once more the same doctrine that I am teaching you.”
Thomas in Iran and Balochistan
As per the Acts of Thomas the apostle St. Thomas went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people were “ Mazdei” (Zoroastrian) and have Persian names. It states that Jesus Christ sold his identical twin brother Judas Thomas (who became famous as St. Thomas) as a slave to a merchant named Abbenes. The Acts further records that Judas Thomas and his master Abbanes landed at Andropolis after a short sea journey, a royal city somewhere to the east of Jerusalem. Andropolis has been identified as Sandaruck in Balochistan, neigbhoring Iran. There Abbenes took slave Thomas to the royal wedding of the princess of the kingdom. Thomas abstained from taking any food and then a cup-bearer offered him a buffet. Upon this, Thomas cursed that cup-bearer that he will be bitten by dogs. Later through the influence of Thomas, the royal couple were persuaded to abstain from having any marital relationship. This angered the king. But then Thomas was not to be found anywhere. Abbenes, his master took him to the court of king Gundaphorus and presented him as a carpenter. The king asked Thomas to build a palace for him. Thomas agreed and took much wealth from the king but used all the money for religious conversion. This made the king angry. Then Thomas claimed that the palace for him is built in heaven and that his dead brother Gad could see that palace.
Thomas preached that a Christian must be chaste, even within the sacrament of marriage. He rescued a youth who violated the rule of chastity from devil disguised as a serpant. Some are converted, anointed with oil, and put into the care of a priest. He converted many woman who then left their husbands ending their married life. These women where then subjected to solitary confinement. Thomas was finally brought before the king, Misdaeus. The king warned Thomas not to cause any more estrangements among his people, but the apostle ignored the warning. He converted the prince of the house, Iuzanes, and his mother the queen. King arrested the apostle and asked four of his soldiers to put him to death. The soldiers took him into the mountain and there pierced him with spears and put an end to him.
The Church Fathers Clement of Alexandra, Origen and Eusebius confirm explicitly that St Thomas settled in “Parthia”, a part of the Iranian world.
Church in Fars
It is generally accepted that Thomas established a church in Fars (southern Iran, from which province Parsees also came) from which many Christian refugees came to Malabar when they were expelled from Iran in the 8th, 9th centuries. Edessa in Syria and Fars in Iran are the only two places that can be associated with Thomas with any confidence.
The term India mentioned in the Acts of Thomas
The term India was always used by ancient writers as a synonym for Asia. It never referred to the sub-continent we call India today. In ancient texts 'India' could mean Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia and the lands all the way east to Japan and China. This is why South-East Asia is still called Indochina today. And we have Indo-nesia too. When ancient writers wanted to refer to current India specifically, they usually called it 'the land of the Brahmins' or 'the land east of the Indus'.
Thomas and India
There are six tombs for St. Thomas in South India. Two are in San Thome Cathedral at Mylapore, built by replacing Kapaleeshwarar_Temple, a third on an island south-west of Cochin, a fourth in a Syrian church at Tiruvancode in Travancore, a fifth in a Shiva temple at Malayattur in Travancore, and a sixth at Kalayamuthur west of Madurai near the Palani Hills.
"What India gives us about Christianity in its midst is indeed nothing but pure fables." -Dr. A. Mingana in The Early Spread of Christianity in India.
Despite the strong tradition that Judas Thomas (St Thomas) died in a Zoroastrian country at the hands of the soldiers of king Mazdai (Misdaeus), there is a local tradition among the south Indian Christians that he came to Kerala and in Mylapore, Chennai, Tamilnadu. The original rationale for this myth was to give the first 4th century Christian immigrants in Malabar a local patron saint. The story also gave them caste status that was important in integrating them into Hindu society. There is nothing unusual in a refugee community creating this kind of mythology of identity and it is part of the process of getting established in a new land. The St. Thomas legend, which they brought with them from Syria, was easy enough to adapt to India. St. Thomas was already the Apostle of the East, of “India” — “India” being not the subcontinent that we know but a synonym for Asia and all those lands that lay east of the Roman Empire’s borders. “India” even included Egypt and Ethiopia in some geographies, and China and Japan in others.
St. Thomas was called the Apostle of the East by Indian Christians up until 1953 and St. Francis Xavier was called the Apostle of India till that same date. However, after Cardinal Tisserant brought a genuine St. Thomas relic from Ortona to Kodungallur in 1953, St. Francis Xavier was demoted and St. Thomas was designated the new Apostle of India.
The Syrian Christian refugees had been led to India by a merchant who is known to history as Thomas of Cana, i.e. Canaan (Palestine). He is also known as Thomas of Jerusalem. Over time it was natural enough for the Syrian Christian community to identify their 1st century patron saint Thomas the Apostle with their 4th century leader Thomas of Cana. As a result of this process it is now mistakenly accepted by most educated Indians that St. Thomas came to India in 52 CE and established a Christian church at ancient Muziris — Kodungallur — in Kerala.
Ancient writers used the designation "India" for all countries south and east of the Roman Empire's frontiers. India included Ethiopia, Arabia Felix, Edessa in Syria (in the Latin version of the Syriac Diatessaron), Arachosia and Gandhara (Afghanistan and Pakistan), and many countries up to the China Sea. In the Acts of Thomas, the original key text to identify St. Thomas with India (which all other India references follow), historians agree that the term India refers to Parthia (Persia) and Gandhara. The city of Andrapolis named in the Acts, where Judas Thomas and Abbanes landed in India, has been identified as Sandaruk (one of the ancient Alexandrias) in Baluchistan.
Eusebius of Caesarea (Historia Ecclesiastica, III.1) quotes Origen (died mid-3rd century) as having stated that Thomas was the apostle to the Parthians. A long public tradition in the church at Edessa honoring Thomas as the Apostle of India resulted in several surviving hymns that are attributed to Ephrem, copied in codices of the 8th and 9th centuries. References in the hymns preserve the tradition that Thomas' bones were brought from India to Edessa by a merchant, and that the relics worked miracles both in India and at Edessa. A pontiff assigned his feast day and a king and a queen erected his shrine. The Thomas traditions became embodied in Syriac liturgy, thus they were universally credited by the Christian community there. There is also a legend that Thomas had met the Biblical Magi on his way to India.
The indigenous church of Kerala State, India has a tradition that St. Thomas sailed there to spread the Christian faith. He is said to have landed at a small village, at that time a port, named Palayoor, near Guruvayoor, which was a priestly community at that time. He left Palayoor in AD 52 for southern Kerala State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or "Seven and Half Churches". These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithamkode (Travancore) - the half church. (See also Saint Thomas of Mylapur).
It has been argued that as an Apostle of the 'Circumcision' his first converts would have been Jews who were settled there, and that the possibility of him converting Hindus into Christianity is unlikely, though phenotypes and overall Dravidian culture among the community suggest otherwise. Some Saint Thomas Christians believe that orthodox Brahmins like Namboodiris were converted by Saint Thomas into Christianity based upon attempts by the St Thomas Christians to enter the caste system of India, though Brahmin conversion is disputed by historians who suggest that this was claimed later by Christian communities to obtain special caste status among the Hindu community, as St Thomas was believed to have arrived in Kerala at 52 AD, whereas Nambudiris arrived in Kerala in the 7th century. These Saint Thomas Christians also grew through integration of Jewish Christian immigrants of the 4th century AD led by Thomas of Cana and later by Mar Sapro in the 8th century AD. As Judeo-Christian communities are said not to have integrated with other faith communities, especially those of the hyper orthodox Namboodhiri Brahmins of Malabar, it has been argued that this tradition is unlikely.
Development of St. Thomas myth in South India
Southern India had maritime trade with the West since ancient times. Egyptian trade with India and Roman trade with India flourished in the first century AD. In AD 47, the Hippalus wind was discovered and this led to direct voyage from Aden to the South Western coast in 40 days. Muziris (Kodungallur) and Nelcyndis or Nelkanda (near Kollam) in South India, are mentioned as flourishing ports, in the writings of Pliny (23-79 AD). Pliny has given an accurate description of the route to India, the country of Cerebothra (the Cheras). Pliny has referred to the flourishing trade in spices, pearls, diamonds and silk between Rome and Southern India in the early centuries of the Christian era. Though the Cheras controlled Kodungallur port, Southern India belonged to the Pandyan Kingdom, that had sent embassies to the court of Augustus Caesar.
According to Indian Christian myth, St. Thomas landed in Kodungallur in AD 52, in the company of a Jewish merchant Abbanes (Hebban). There were Jewish colonies in Kodungallur since ancient times and Jews continue to reside in Kerala till today, tracing their ancient history.
Thomas of Cana mistaken as St.Thomas
As recorded in the Travancore Manual, around 345 AD, Thomas of Cana ( also known as Kona Thomas, Knaye Thoma, Thomas Cananeus or Cannaneo, Thomas the Canaanite, and Thomas of Jerusalem) merchant and missionary, visited the Malabar coast. He brought to Kodungallur a group of four hundred Christians from Bagdad, Nineveh and Jerusalem. Cheraman Perumal, the King, gave him grants of privileges.
Thomas of Cana and his companion Bishop Joseph of Edessa had sought refuge in India because of persecution of Christians by the Persian king Shapur II. The colony of Syrian Christians they established at Kodungallur (Cranganore) in Kerala is the first recorded Christian community established in South India. Thomas of Cana named the community Mahadevarapatnam after the nearby Hindu deity at Tiruvanchikulam, and for this reason some historians identify him as an eclectic Manichaean rather than a Nestorian Christian.
Thomas of Cana is the historical founder of the Christian church in India (note, there was never a "Church of India" or "Church of Muziris" (as Kodungallur was called by the Greeks and Romans) in ancient times, as there were Churches of Alexandria, Antioch, Fars, etc.). This church was linked to the Church of Seleusia-Ctesiphon on Tigris in Mesopotamia in 450 AD, which in turn was linked to the Church of Edessa in Syria, the church at the center of the St. Thomas cult. These Nestorian churches were officially known as the Church of the East and St. Thomas was called the Apostle of the East, the patron apostle of all churches east and south of the Roman Empire's frontiers. The designation Apostle of India was to come much later and is a Roman Catholic invention. It is not found recorded before the 14th century. St Thomas was also designated the Apostle of Brazil (15th century), and of Germany, Japan, Syria, Socotra, Ceylon, Ethiopia, and Parthia (Church of Persia or Fars, of which he was the acknowledged founder). Prof. Leonardo Olschki writes,"The Nestorians of India … venerated St. Thomas as the patron of Asiatic Christianity — mark, not of Indian Christianity."
The 4th century merchant Thomas of Cana was popularly known as Thomas of Jerusalem, and in that he was the founder of the Christian church in India, a number of historians have concluded that he was identified with the the 1st century apostle Thomas by India's Syrian Christians sometime after his death and became their Apostle Thomas in India.
There is a copper plate grant given to Iravi Korttan, a Christian of Kodungallur (Cranganore), by King Vira Raghava. The date is estimated to be around 744 AD. In 822 AD two Nestorian Persian Bishops Mar Sapor and Mar Peroz came to Malabar, to occupy their seats in Kollam and Kodungallur, to look after the local Syrian Christians (later known as St. Thomas Christians).
Influence of Marco Polo
Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller and author of Description of the World, popularly known as Il Milione, is reputed to have visited South India in 1288 and 1292. The first date has been rejected as he was in China at the time, but the second date is accepted by many historians. He is believed to have stopped in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Quilon (Kollam) on the western Malabar coast of India, where he met Syrian Christians and recorded their legends of St. Thomas and his miraculous tomb on the eastern Coromandel coast of the country. Il Milione, the book he dictated on his return to Europe, was on its publication condemned as a collection of impious and improbable traveller's tales but it became very popular reading in medieval Europe and inspired Spanish and Portuguese sailors to seek out the fabulous, and possibly Christian, India described in it.
Marco Polo is the first author in history to identify St. Thomas with South India and a seashore tomb in an unnamed town on the Coromandel coast. All previous accounts of St. Thomas had followed the Acts of Thomas and had the apostle buried in the unnamed desert country of the Zoroastrian king Mazdai (in Persian), Misdaeus (in Greek), in a royal tomb on a mountain containing the sepulchers of ancient Persian kings (from which the relics were stolen and returned to Mesopotamia). Marco Polo also states in Il Milione that St. Thomas was a Muslim saint from Nubia and that he had been killed by accident by a native pagan hunting peacocks. Therefore, the Muslim St. Thomas ("Thuma" or "Thawwama" in Arabic, meaning "born twin" as does "Thoma" and "Thama" in Syriac and "Didymus" in Greek) was the victim of a hunting accident and not a martyr. This story by Marco Polo only adds to the tangled mass of fables concerning St. Thomas, his travels, and his doubtful end.
Marco Polo's popular story revolutionized the St. Thomas legend in Europe, and the unidentified town on the Coromandel coast, believed to contain his relics in a seashore tomb, was soon identified by the Portuguese with the ancient pilgrimage town of Mailapur (Mylapore), which had a busy international port and a great Shiva temple built on a high point on the sea beach. However, it can be positively stated that Marco Polo did not visit the Coromandel coast of India at any time in his travels to and from China, and both dates for his visits to India, 1288 and 1292, are in serious doubt. And Friar Odoric of Pordenone, who visited Mylapore in 1322, did not find any St. Thomas church or tomb in the town but describes a Hindu temple filled with idols on the sea beach.
Marco Polo's testimony for St. Thomas in South India is important to note in detail because it has been used by St. Thomas in South India protagonists, from the 16th century Portuguese in Mylapore to Bishops Medleycott and Arulappa in their fictionalized St. Thomas histories, to Christian historiographers working today on dictionaries and film scripts, as positive proof that St. Thomas lived and died in Mylapore (Madras/Chennai), in Tamil Nadu, South India. But Marco Polo's St. Thomas story in Il Milione has no historical veracity at all and has been discredited. It is only a pious tale picked up in the bazaars of Ceylon and Quilon—if, indeed, Marco Polo ever visited these places at all. This is now in doubt, even as Dante doubted it in the 13th century. A British scholar has recently argued that Marco Polo never went to China, never went further east than Constantinople, and that his book Il Milione was just an imaginative collection of tales he claimed as his personal travel record, but which he had really picked up from Muslim and Syrian Christian merchants who had come to Constantinople to trade.
The role of Portuguese
While exploring the Malabar coast of Kerala, South India after Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut in 1498, the Portuguese encountered Christians in South Western India, who traced their foundations to St. Thomas. However, the Catholic Portuguese did not accept the legitimacy of local Malabar traditions, and they began to impose Roman Catholic practices upon the Saint Thomas Christians. The Udayamperoor Synod (Synod of Diamper) in 1599, was an attempt by the Portuguese, to Latinize the local Christian rites. In 1653, the Syrian Christians split from the Latin Church controlled by the Pope of Rome. The Orthodox faction remained fully within the various Oriental Orthodox and Assyrian traditions. During the British rule in India, Protestantism flourished among the Christians.
On the isolated island of Socotra south of Yemen in the Arabian Sea, a community of Christians had been attested as early as ca. 354 by Philostorgius, the Arian Church historian, in his narrative of the mission of Bishop Theophilus to the Homeritae (Medleycott), and was confirmed by medieval Arab sources. They survived to be documented in 1542 by Saint Francis Xavier, whom they informed that their ancestors had been evangelized by Thomas (Medlycott 1905, ch. ii). Francis Xavier was careful to station four Jesuits to guide the faithful in Socotra into orthodoxy (letter, April 15, 1549). Socotra had been briefly garrisoned by Albuquerque, but after the Mahra sultans from the Horn of Africa conquered Socotra in 1511 almost all traces of the Thomas Christian community in Socotra had been utterly effaced.
Though the mortal remains of Thomas, were removed to Edessa in the 3rd century from India, and from Edessa to Italy, an attempt was made by the Portuguese in the 16th century, to trace the original tomb of Thomas. Finally they settled on Mylapore near Madras (Chennai), as the site where Thomas was martyred.
Thus, near Chennai (formerly Madras) in India stands a small hillock called St. Thomas Mount, where the Apostle is said to have been killed in 72 AD (exact year not established). Also to be found in Chennai is the Dioceses of Saint Thomas of Mylapore to which his mortal remains were supposedly transferred.
Pope Benedict XVI's controversial statements
On September 27, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave out a speech in the Vatican in which he recalled an ancient tradition claiming that Thomas first evangelised Syria and Persia, then went on to Western India from where Christianity reached South India. He did not mention south India as a place directly visited by St. Thomas. Since this statement was perceived to be a direct violation of their religious beliefs, many Saint Thomas Christians in India condemned this statement. Later the Vatican amended the published text of the same speech with minor modifications owing to the anger expressed by the Saint Thomas Christians.
The Pope's original statement given out at St. Peter's, before it was amended on the Vatican website, reflected the geography of the Acts of Thomas, i.e. Syria, Parthia (Persia/Iran) and Gandhara (Western India/Pakistan). There is no historical evidence to support the tradition that St. Thomas came to South India, and on Nov. 13, 1952 Vatican officials sent a message to Kerala Christians stating that the landing of St. Thomas at Cranganore on Nov. 21, 52 A.D. was "unverified". When author Ishwar Sharan sought confirmation of this official statement in 1996, the Vatican's reply was disingenuous and noncommittal, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints saying that he needed more information and that the life of St. Thomas was the object of historical research and not within his Congregation's competence.
Earlier, in 1729 the Bishop of Madras-Mylapore doubted whether the tomb in San Thome Cathedral was that of St. Thomas and wrote to the Sacred Congregation of Rites in Rome for clarification. Rome's reply was not published. Again, in 1871 the Roman Catholic authorities at Madras were "strong in disparagement of the special sanctity of the localities [viz. San Thome, Little Mount, and Big Mount identified by the Portuguese after 1517] and the whole story connecting St. Thomas with Mailapur." However, in 1886 Pope Leo XIII stated in an apostolic letter that St. Thomas "travelled to Ethiopia, Persia, Hyrcania and finally to the Peninsula beyond the Indus", and in 1923 Pope Pius XI quoted Pope Leo's letter and identified St. Thomas with "India". These papal statements also reflect the geography of the Acts of Thomas, as does Pope Benedict's statement, and make no reference to South India. In fact, the India they refer to is now Pakistan.
Local Christian tradition about St Thomas in India
The traditional belief of Keralite Christians goes like this:- St. Thomas sailed to India in 52 AD to spread the Christian faith among the Jews, the Jewish diaspora present in Kerala at the time. He landed at the ancient port of Muziris (which was destroyed in 1341 AD due to a massive flood which realigned the coasts) near Kodungalloor. He then went to Palayoor (near present-day Guruvayoor), which was a Hindu priestly community at that time. He left Palayoor in 52 AD for the southern part of what is now Kerala State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or "Seven and Half Churches". These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam (Niranam Church), Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithamcode Arappally – the half church.
In reality these churches were created by demolishing Hindu temples. Historical analysis reveal that these temple destruction was done by early Christian settlers. This destruction of temples and building of Thomas churches was done by Iranian Christian missionaries in the 8th and 9th centuries. This is the second major migration of Christian refugees into India from Iran. This temple destruction and subsequent creation of churches were later attributed to St Thomas.
Christians first came to Kerala along with Thomas of Cana, a Christian merchant who was given assylum in Kerala after he fled persecution in Iran. This happened in 4th century CE. There is also a legend that Thomas had met the Biblical Magi on his way to 'India'.
Christian scholarship on St Thomas in India
The writings and views below shows how much prejudiced the Christian writings were against native Indians and their great civilization:-
It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India's painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India.
Destruction of Kapaleshwara Temple
In South India, the myth of St. Thomas provided the background for a few instances of temple destruction at places falsely associated with his life and alleged martyrdom, especially the St. Thomas Church replacing the Mylapore Kapaleeswara Shiva Temple in Madras. Historical analysis reveals that the destruction of this temple was done by Portuguese rulers and the Christian missionaries who worked with them.
The evidence for the demolition of the original Kapaleeswara Temple is found in variety of sources including government records and archaeological reports. There is the presence of temple rubble in the San Thome Cathedral walls and in the grounds of Bishop’s House (which has been removed since my book’s publication). The news of the demolition of the original temple was not news to anybody of a past generation and was discussed in the Madras newspapers during British times. The origins of the present Kapaleeswara Temple are recorded and directly reflect and confirm the destruction of the original temple. Every great Pagan temple in Europe and the Mediterranean basin was destroyed and replaced with a church after Christianity gained political ascendancy in the Roman Empire.
In Central India, Orissa, the North-East, even Arunachal Pradesh and Nepal where missionaries cannot officially operate, village temples are demolished and sacred images broken by new converts. The video films of these “good works” are then shown on TV in Europe where missionaries go to collect funds for their evangelizing effort. It is even happening in Tamil Nadu today.
Temple breaking in India seems to have originated in the 7th, 8th or 9th century with Nestorian Christian immigrants from Persia. They built churches on the broken temple foundations and then attributed the temple breaking to St. Thomas himself by claiming he built the churches in the 1st century. Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit priests destroyed temples in Goa, Malabar, and Tamil Nadu in the 16th century. St. Francis Xavier left a fascinating written record of his temple breaking work on the Coromandel Coast. The Portuguese entombed the Vel Ilangkanni Amman Temple near Nagapattinam and turned it into the famous Velankanni church called Our Lady of Health Basilica. The Jesuits destroyed the Vedapuri Iswaran Temple in Pondicherry and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception now sits on the site. The list is very long. Christians were destroying temples long before the Muslims got into the act.
There are several traditions and myths about the death of St. Thomas.
According to one such tradition, St. Thomas was killed in India in 72 AD, attaining martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount near Mylapore (part of Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu) and was buried on the site of Chennai's San Thome Basilica in the Dioceses of Saint Thomas of Mylapore. The Acts of Thomas and oral traditions (only recorded in writing centuries later) provide weak and unreliable evidence but the tradition is that Thomas, having aroused the hostility of the local priests by making converts, fled to St. Thomas's Mount four miles (6 km) southwest of Mylapore. He was supposedly followed by his persecutors, who transfixed him with a lance as he prayed kneeling on a stone. His body was then brought to Mylapore and buried inside the church he had built there. The present San Thome Basilica is on this spot but is clearly of a much later date.
As per another tradition prevalant in south India, St. Thomas was killed by a hunter who shot arrows to kill a peacock which accidently hit the apostle.
Most authentic traditions based on the Act of Thomas locates St. Thomas death at the hands of the soldiers of a Zoroastrian king named Mazdai who ruled somewhere in Iran or Baluchistan. Baluchistan was considered as part of India at the time of the writing of the Act of Thomas by the author Bardesanes (born at Edessa in Syria, now Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey in 154 CE).
Due to the pressure of Christian missionaries, a stamp was issued in the honor of St. Thomas by Indian Postal Department to strengthen the myth of St. Thomas in India and to foster Christianization of India.
St. Thomas Christians
Thomasine Christianity is found in the southern Indian state of Kerala. These churches of Malabar trace their roots back to St. Thomas the Apostle who according to local tradition arrived along the Malabar Coast in the year A.D. 52. In the Syriac tradition, St. Thomas is referred to as Mar Thoma Sleeha which translate roughly as Lord/Saint Thomas the Apostle.
St Thomas Christians had a unique identity till the arrival of Portuguese in India, who converted St. Thomas Christians to the Catholic Church. As a result of this foreign intervention into the culture there are several present day St. Thomas churches, primarily in the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Traditions.
The largest church in terms of membership is the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, a major archepiscopal church in communion with the Bishop of Rome with a membership approaching four million adherents. The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church is the newest sui iuris church in the Catholic communion with five hundred thousand (500,000) members.
The Oriental Orthodox church with its rich history is trampled under continued litigation between two parties owing their allegiance to separate primates. The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (also known as the Indian Orthodox Church) views itself as an autocephlous Orthodox Church with His Holiness, the Catholicos of the East as their head while, the Malankara Syriac Orthodox Church has a local head in the person of His Beatitude, the Catholicos of India. However, the Catholicos of India is still subject to the authority of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.
Another important church in Malankara is the Mar Thoma Church (full name is the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church). The church claims membership of 900,000. The Mar Thoma Church is unique in a sense since it is an Eastern Church with reformed doctrines.
The use of the name "St. Thomas Christians" is first recorded by Bishop Giovanni dei Marignolli in Quilon in 1349. He had inducted a number of Syrian Christians into the Roman Catholic Church and used the appellation "St. Thomas Christians" to distinguish them from lower caste converts.
Prior to the advent of Roman Catholic Christianity in India in the 14th century, Syrian and Persian Christians in Malabar were called Nestorians or Nazaranis or Nazarenes. The first name indicated the Christian doctrine they followed after the church founded by Thomas of Cana in Malabar was linked to the Nestorian Church of Seleucia in 450 AD, and the second name linked them back to the first Jewish Nazarene Christians who fled to Edessa, Syria, prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 66 AD. Jewish Nazarenes belonged to an ancient sect of which Samson and Jesus were the most famous members—Nazarene does not refer to the town of Nazareth in Israel, which did not exist till the 3rd century AD.
Eminent historian cautions India's Christians
Bishop Stephen Neill, eminent historian who spent years in India researching the St. Thomas legend, was deeply pained by the spurious St. Thomas histories circulated among India's Christians by various Christian scholars. He writes, "A number of scholars, among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medleycott, J.N. Farquhar and the Jesuit J. Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what may be called Thomas romances, such as reflect the vividness of their imaginations rather than the prudence of rigid historical critics." And to the Christian faithful he observes, "Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than the apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.
Thomas in other accounts
To the Portuguese and Spanish conquerors and clerics, the Americas were simply "The Indies" for most of the sixteenth century.The improbable suggestion that St. Thomas preached in America  is based upon a misunderstanding of the text of the Acts of Apostles 
Various Eastern Churches claim that St. Thomas personally brought Christianity to China and Japan in AD 64 and 70 respectively.
Writings Attributed to Thomas
"Let none read the gospel according to Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the twelve apostles, but of one of Mani's three wicked disciples." —Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathechesis V (4th century)
In the first two centuries of the Christian era, a number of writings were circulated, which claimed the authority of Thomas, some of them said, perhaps too loosely, to be espousing a Gnostic doctrine, as Cyril was suggesting. It is unclear now why Thomas was seen as an authority for doctrine, although this belief is documented in Gnostic groups as early as the Pistis Sophia (ca AD 250 - 300) which states that the "three witnesses" committing to writing "all of his words" are Thomas, along with Philip and Matthew. In that Gnostic work, Mary Magdalene (one of the disciples) says:
"Now at this time, my Lord, hear, so that I speak openly, for thou hast said to us 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear:' Concerning the word which thou didst say to Philip: 'Thou and Thomas and Matthew are the three to whom it has been given… to write every word of the Kingdom of the Light, and to bear witness to them'; hear now that I give the interpretation of these words. It is this which thy light-power once prophesied through Moses: 'Through two and three witnesses everything will be established. The three witnesses are Philip and Thomas and Matthew" ( —Pistis Sophia 1:43)
An early, non-Gnostic tradition may lie behind this statement, which also emphasizes the primacy of the Gospel of Matthew in its Aramaic form, over the other canonical three.
Besides the Acts of Thomas there was a widely circulated Infancy Gospel of Thomas probably written in the later 2nd century, and probably also in Syria, which relates the miraculous events and prodigies of Jesus' boyhood. This is the document which tells for the first time the familiar legend of the twelve sparrows which Jesus, at the age of five, fashioned from clay on the Sabbath day, which took wing and flew away. The earliest manuscript of this work is a sixth century one in Syriac. This gospel was first referred to by Irenaeus; Ron Cameron notes: "In his citation, Irenaeus first quotes a non-canonical story that circulated about the childhood of Jesus and then goes directly on to quote a passage from the infancy narrative of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:49). Since the Infancy Gospel of Thomas records both of these stories, in relative close proximity to one another, it is possible that the apocryphal writing cited by Irenaeus is, in fact, what is now known as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Because of the complexities of the manuscript tradition, however, there is no certainty as to when the stories of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas began to be written down."
The best known in modern times of these documents is the "sayings" document that is being called the Gospel of Thomas, a noncanonical work which some scholars believe may actually predate the writing of the Biblical gospels themselves. The opening line claims it is the work of "Didymos Judas Thomas" - who has been identified with Thomas. This work was discovered in a Coptic translation in 1945 at the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi, near the site of the monastery of Chenoboskion. Once the Coptic text was published, scholars recognized that an earlier Greek translation had been published from fragments of papyrus found at Oxyrhynchus in the 1890s. the book of thomas
1. (' NSC Network (2007)' St. Thomas, India mission- Early reference and testimonies
2. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., 3.1; Patrologia Graeca, Migne Edn., 20.215; Patrologia Latina, Migne, 21.478.
3. Farquhar, p. 30. 20th Century Discussions : Perumalil, pp. 50,51.E. R. Hambye, “Saint Thomas and India”, The Clergy Monthly 16 (1952). Comes, S. J., “Did St. Thomas Really come to India?”, in Menachery (Ed).) STCEI, II. Farquhar, pp. 30,31,
4. Dr. Wright (Ed.), Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, London, 1871 (Syriac Text in Vol.1, English translation in Vol. II); Rev. Paul Bedjan, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, Vol. III, Leipsic-Paris, 1892.A. E. Medlycott, India and the Apostle Thomas, London 1905, Appendix, pp. 221 -225.
5. Acts of Thomas
6. Patrologia Graeca (Migne), 19-24., 20.215.
7. J.C.Panjikaran, Christianity in Malabar w.s.r.t. The St. Thomas Christians of the Syro-Malabar Rite, Orientalia Christiana, VI, 2 (23), Roma I, April 1926, p.99 esp. for reference to Pantaenus’ Indian visit.
8. (Cureton, pp. 32, 33, 34). 20th Century Discussions : Medlycott, pp 33-37 alias Menachery, STCEI, II, 20-21, Farquhar, p. 26 ff.
9. Cardinal Mai, Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio, Rome, 1838. W. Cureton, Ancient Syriac Documents, London, 1864: Latin Translation by A. Assemani; Vindobonae, 1856; Didascalia in Coptic, Ethiopic, and Arabic. Also see Medlycott, p. 33 ff.
10. Bickell, S. Ephraemi Syri, Caramina Nisibena, Lipsiae, 1866; Monsignor Lamy, S. Ephraemi Syri Hymni et Sermones, (Quarto 4 vols.); Breviary acc. to the Rite of the Church of Antioch of the Syrians, Mosul, 1886-96. Also See Medlycott, pp. 21-32. Alias Menachery (Ed.) STCEI, II, p. 18 ff.
11. 20th Century Discussions : Medlycott, pp.21-32 alias Menachery (Ed.), STCEI, II, p. 18 ff.
12. Homil. XXXII,xi, Contra Arianos et de seipso. Migne, P.G. 36-228.
13. 20th Century Discussions : Medlycott, pp, 42,43; Perumalil pp. 43,44.
14. Migne, P-L 140 1143. (Also see 17. 1131, 17.1133, for his Indian knowledge.)
15.^ 20th Century Discussions : Medlycott, pp. 43, 44. Perumalil, pp. 44.45,Perumalil and Menachery (STCEI I, II), Migne Edns.; Wm. A. Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers:etc. History of Christianity-Source Materials by M. K. George, CLS, Madras, 1982 and the Handbook of Source Materials by Wm. G. Young.D. Ferroli, The jesuits in Malabar, Vol. I. Bangalore, 1939, esp. notes and documents p. 71 ff.; W.S. Hunt, The Anglican Church in Travancore and Cochin, Kottayam, 1920, esp. p. 27, p.33 pp. 46-50; G.T. Mackenzie, i.c.s., “History of Christianity in Travancore”, in The Travancore State Manual, Vol-II, Edited by Nagam Aiya, Trivandrum 1906 pp. 135-233; Menachery, STCEI, I, II.
16. a b A. Mingana, The Early Spread of Christianity in India, Manchester, 1926
17. a b c Leonardo Olschki, Marco Polo's Asia, Los Angeles, 1960.
18. C.B. Firth, An Introduction to Indian Church History, Madras, 1961.
19. Manuscript volume dated 1604 AD kept in British Museum
20. K.S. Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 vols., London, 1940-49
21. Henry Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, Delhi, 1988
22. a b Eugene Tisserant, Eastern Christianity in India, Calcutta, 1957
23. a b T.K. Joseph, Six St. Thomases of South India, Chengannur, 1955
24. Leonardo Olschki, Marco Polo's Asia, Los Angeles, 1960
25. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London, 1957
26. Koenraad Elst, Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam, New Delhi, 1992,
27. T.R. Vedantham, "St. Thomas Legend" in the South Madras News, Madras, 1987
28. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, New Delhi, 1995
29. Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford, 1955.
30. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, New Delhi, 1995.
31. Fosco Maraini, Marco Polo article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition, 1984. See also Marco Polo's route map in the 1987 print edition.
32. Henry Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither, London, 1913.
33. Radio Netherlands program on Marco Polo, Hilversum, 200(?). Program name and date to be verified.
34. Times of India
35. a b Catholic News
36. Pope pops St thomas Bubble
37. T.K. Joseph, Six St. Thomases of South India, Chengannur, 1955
38. Ishwar Sharan's correspondence with the Vatican
39. Henry Yule, Marco Polo, Vol. II, London, 1903
40. Leo XIII, Humanae Salutis Auctor, Rome, 1886
41. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, New Delhi, 1995
42. Michael Baigent, et al, The Messianic Legacy, London, 1987
43. Stephen Neill, History of Christianity in India: The Beginnings to 1707 A.D., Cambridge, 1985
44. (American Eccles. Rev., 1899, pp.1-18)
45. (i, 8; cf. Berchet "Fonte italiane per la storia della scoperta del Nuovo Mondo", II, 236, and I, 44).
46. Christian Tomb Stones in China Dated 84 AD
47. "The Tao of Thomas", by Joseph Lumpkin
- http://ishwarsharan.wordpress.com/ - THE MYTH OF SAINT THOMAS AND THE MYLAPORE SHIVA TEMPLE
- http://www.gnosis.org/library/actthom.htm - Act of Thomas
- http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl_thomas.htm - The Gospel of Thomas Collection