H.H Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I (born Murimattathil Bava in Kolenchery, India on 17 January 1836, died May 3, 1914) is the first Catholicos of the East in India. The First Catholicos of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church was in power only for one-and-a-half years (September 15, 1912 till his death on May 3, 1914). He was 76 years old when he became the Catholicos and died when he was 77 years old.

But his assignment as Catholicos of the East is considered as a very important period in the history of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church which continues the apostolic work of St. Thomas (Marthoma Sleeha) in the Christian domain. H.H Moran Mar Baselios Paulose I was 84th in the lineage of St. Thomas.

Early life

His Holiness Mar Baselios І was born on 17 January 1836 in Murimattathil family of Kolenchery of Kunnathunadu Taluk, Ernakulam District. Kolenchery is known for its priestly ancestors. His Highness was called Paulosekutty, son of Sri Kurien and Srimathi Mariam, Murimattathil.

The ancestors of Murimattathil family belong to Pakaloth family, from Bharananganam. This family was christened by St. Thomas. One family came by Vallom (canoe), and settled near the banks of Muvattupuzha river at Ramamangalam. The Murimattathil Kudumbam(family) has more than 600 families living near Ramamangalam. One branch settled at Kolenchery.

Thus Murimattathil Bava was born in a Murimattathil family of Kolenchery.

He used to spend his time in church activities after school hours. His intelligence, determination and humility were exemplary and impressed his parents and elders. He learnt Syriac at a very early age and read many religious books from the collection of his uncle, Youseph Kathanar.

When his elder brother, Kunjikkuru Chemmachen (student priest) died, his parents and uncle Youseph Kathanar expressed their desire that Paulosekutty becomes Chemmachen to take the place of Kunjikkuru and follow in his priestly steps. So His Holiness Philipose Mar Divannasios of Cheppad, the Metropolitan of Malankara gave him Chemmachenpattam (student priestship) when he was just 7.

Paulosekutty Chemassen completed his Syriac education from Konattu Yohannan, Malpan of Pampakkuda. In 1852, at the age of 16, he was ordained priest by the Malankara Metropolitan, His Holiness Philipose Mar Divannasios of Cheppad. Paulose Achan took the responsibility of Kolenchery Church Diocese. Paulose Achan had the opportunity to continue his Syriac education under His Holiness Yuyakkim Mar Kurilose, Metropolitan from Syria and excelled in his studies.

In 1875, His Holiness Pathrose Pathrikese Bava visited Malankara; Paulose Achan came to see him at Mulanthuraty. When His Holiness heard Paulose Achan’s fluency and vocabulary in Syriac and became acquainted with his personality, he insisted Paulose Achan be ordained as Methran(Bishop).

On 17 May 1877, Paulose Achan was ordained as Mar Evanios Methrapolitan (Bishop) at Kunnamkulam Church by His Grace, Pathrose Pathrikese Bava. He was assigned the responsibility of the Kandanad Diocese.

The Church maintained good relationship with the church of Antioch, as it did not want to be associated with the Roman Church.

The Patriarch of Antioch believed that the church and the wealth of Suriani Christianis belonged to them since they were using Suriani/Syriac in prayers. It used to be common for the Patriach to visit Malankara and its churches and receive gifts. Later they thought of it as a right and that they had control over all the Syriac using churches.

First Catholicos of the East in India

The Vaideeka Synod (Synod of the clergy) presided by His Holiness Ignatius Abdul Masih II and Malankara Association Managing Committee unanimously decided that His Holiness Mar Evanios Methrapolitan be enthroned as Catholicos of the East. Ignatius Abdul Masih II was the deposed Patriarch of Antioch[clarification needed] and some claim the relocation of the Catholicate to India, was without authority from the Universal Syriac Orthodox Synod, thus causing century long disputes in the Malankara Church.

Initially, Baselios Paulose I refused to take up the position due to his ill health and old age. When pressured further from all sides, he consulted the Diocese, friends and relatives and later accepted the position for the cause of the Malankara faithful.

September 15, 1912, was a historical day in Orthodox Church history when His Highness Moran Mar Evanios Methrapolitan was ordained and enthroned as Moran Mar Paulose Baselios I Catholicos of the East at Saint Mary’s Niranam Church by His Holiness Ignatius Abdul Masih II, in the presence of Mar Geevarghese Divannasios, head of Malankara Methrapolitans amidst a huge crowd of priests and Orthodox believers.

When His Holiness was crowned in Simhasanam of Marthoma Sleeha, His Holiness Ignatius Abdul Masih II declared the Malankara Orthodox Church as an independent church with its own constitution and powers, which included the right to ordain Methrapolitans Mooran Kudasha and other holy services including management and administration. This way, a long cherished dream of the Malankara people was fulfilled.

Bava as Catholicos of the East spent most of his time at Theological Vaidika seminary, Kottayam.

His last days

Bava fell ill and knew that his days were counted. He expressed his desire to go and settle in one of the churches in Kandanad Badrasanam but Paulose Kathanar, Palapillil of Pambakuda, Vaideeka Trustee invited him to his church and honoured him with necessary facilities. Bava predicted the day of his demise and a large crowd of people visited him and waited in prayer. On May 3, 1914 His Holiness died in peace. His holy remains rest in St. Thomas Church, Pambakuda.

His work

His Holiness had great foresight and vision. He designed the order and style of the prayers and Holy Qurbana (Eucharist) that is still followed in the church. He established Malankara Suriani Suvishesha Sangham as well as Sunday schools in the church.

As Metropolitan he had built 17 churches in the Kandanad Badrasanam. He also started many schools. He trained many priests at St. Peters and St. Pauls Church of Kolenchery. He bought land at Muvattupuzha to build an Aramana (Palace) which became the church headquarters and also built a small church there.

History of the Christian Community in India

The Christian Community of Kerala (India) traces back its origin to the advent of St. Thomas, the Apostle to India, who reached the Cragnanore Port in AD 52. It is believed that the Apostle started his gospel mission in India, from a small town called Maliyankara on the sea coast of Paravur Taluk in Kerala, at a short distance from Cranganore Port. This was the beginning of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (also known as the Indian Orthodox Church, Orthodox Church of the East, Orthodox Syrian Church of the East) It is a prominent member of the Oriental Orthodox Church family in Christianity. In 1912, the Catholicate of the East was revived in India with the co-operation of Mar Ignatios Abdel Messiah, senior canonical Patriarch of Antioch and the Bishops of the Church.

Saint Thomas, the disciple of Jesus Christ founded Christianity in India. In Kerala state(formed by uniting the former Cochin, Travancore and Malabar states), the Malayalam speaking state, St. Thomas baptised 7 churches. His missionary work in the midst of the caste system in the Hindu religion drove a large number of people here to accept Christianity.

Over the years, Christianity in India has been influenced by foreigners and their invasions. History says there were small countries of Christians in Malayalam speaking areas around Malabar, Cochin and Travancore.

The Church was dominated by Syriac knowing Achans (priests) and the followers were later known as Syriani Christiani since they were using Syriac and Malayalam in Holy Qurbana (Eucharist) and other prayers.

Preceded by
Catholicos of the East relocated to India
Catholicos of the East
Succeeded by
H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Geevarghese I


  1. Murimattathil Bava Malankara’s First Catholica : Joseph Mar Pakkomios 1991
  2. Murimattathil Bava: A brief life history :Prof.M.G.George, Murimattathil, Offset Press Kolenchery 2003.

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