Maphryono of the East (1685)

Sacred tomb of Maphryono Mor Baselios Yeldho at the

Mor Thoma church, Kothamangalam


aphryono Mor Baselios Yeldho was born in a village called kooded (now known as Karakosh) near Mosul in Iraq where Morthsmooni and her 7 children suffered martyrdom. At a very young age he joined the Mor Bahnan Monastery and become a monk. In 1678 he was consecrated Maphryono (Catholicos) by the Patriarch of Antioch Moran Mor Ignatius Abdul Masih I.  In 1685 at the age of 92, the holy father started the difficult mission to India at the request of Mor Thoma II of Malankara who informed the Patriarchate about the unpleasant situation of the Church here. The saintly Maphryono was accompanied by his brother, two monks and an Episcopo (?), but only three of them is believed to have reached Malankara.  The saint expired on Saturday afternoon on 'Kanni 19' (Malayalam Calendar), 1685 and was entombed on the very next day in the sanctuary of Mor Thoma Cheriapally, Kothamangalam. Though the holy father had lived in this land for only a few days, his name has spread far and wide leaving a lasting mark in the history of Malankara Syrian Church. The mission undertaken by the saint was fulfilled to a large extent by his faithful associate, Metropolitan Mor Ivanios Hidayatullah (entombed at Mulanthuruthy Marthoman Church).

The Sacred tomb of the holy father is a great solace for many; large groups of pilgrims, irrespective of caste and creed come to the church every day seeking his intercession and more particularly on annual feast days and also on every Saturdays. A great number of miracles are happening by the intercession of the holy father. It is a common practise among the parents to name their long awaited sons as ‘Yeldho’ and ‘Basil’, who they believe will be protected by the saint like a guardian angel.  Dhukrono of St. Baselios Yeldho Bava is celebrated in the Mor Thoma Cheriapally with spiritual grandeur every year on October 2 and 3 and this feast is popularly known as 'Kanni 20 perunnal'.  Fulfilling the wishes of multitude of faithful, the Holy Church in 1987 included the name of the holy father in the 5th Tubden (Holy diptych) along with the names of Patriarch St. Ignatius Elias III and St. Gregorios of Malankara.


History of the Church in Malankara before the arrival of Mor Baselios Yeldo

The synod of Udayamperoor (Diamper) convened in 1599 by a Roman Catholic Archbishop who tried to enforce the Papal authority in Malankara was a turning point in the history of the Malankara Church. The native Jacobite Syrian Christian community were very agitated in this move by the Romans, but there was no way for them to dissent because of the mighty military power of the Portuguese invaders. However the situation reached a flash point with the brutal murder of the Patriarch Ignatius Ahathulla by the Portuguese in January 1653. The agitated Jacobite Syrian Christians numbering about 25000, assembled at Mattancherry (which was the headquarters of Portuguese military) and expressed their strong protest against the Portuguese atrocities and took the historic oath at the 'KOONEN CROSS', in which they pledged that they or their future generations will never again tolerate Roman Catholicism that the Portuguese tried to forcibly introduce and also vowed to ever remain loyal to the Holy Apostolic See of Antioch, maintaining their ancient rites and traditions.  Later urgent appeals were sent to the then Patriarch of Antioch requesting for immediate help. Learning about the sad situation then prevailing in the Malankara Church, Mor Gregorios Abdul' Jaleel Bava, who was then the Metropolitan of Jerusalem, volunteered to come to Malankara. Through his untiring efforts, the faith and traditions of the Malankara Syrian Christians were re-established; he also ordained Metropolitans for Malankara by names Mor Thoma I and Mor Thoma II who were the first known native Metropolitans. After successfully accomplishing his difficult mission, His Eminence died in 1681 (?) and was entombed at the St.Thomas Church, North Paravur.


Yeldho Mor Baselios Bava  &  His Mission

Though the holy father Mor Gregorios had succeeded in reorganizing the Syrian Christians and reaffirm them in the true faith, the saint’s demise created a great vacuum for the native Syrian Christians.  The excessive pressures and influences of the Portuguese elements once again forced the Syrian Christians to slowly drift away from their ancestral precepts and ethos. MarThoma II who was the lone Metropolitan in Malankara was not able to discipline them as well.  So he sent a fervent appeal to his supreme head, the Patriarch of Antioch, for the immediate assistance of a Metropolitan and also ‘Malpans’ (teachers of theology) to educate the faithful. A delegation was later deputed to the Patriarchate at Mardin (Turkey) with the same purpose.  During the consecration of the ‘Holy Mooron’ (Holy Chrism) at the Kurkuma Dayro (Deir-al saffron) in 1684, Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Abdul Messiah I painfully discussed the matter with the Maphryono Mor Baselios Yeldho and other prelates assembled there. ('Maphryono' is another canonical title of the 'Catholicos of the East' that functions within the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch. The title was adopted by the Syrian Church in the 7th century following the defection of the reigning Catholicos to the Nestorian faith in AD 498).

Knowing about the unpleasant situation prevailing in Malankara, Maphryono Mor Baselios Yeldho, who was above 90 years of age, gladly volunteered for the service, relinquishing his administrative charge there. His self-sacrificing decision was praised by all. But the Patriarch and others who were concerned about the Maphriyono’s age and health, tried to discourage him. However they later succumbed to the determination of Mor Baselios Yeldho Bava.

On returning to the Maphriyanate at the Mor Mattai Dayro in Mosul (Iraq), the saint made preparations for the treacherous journey to India.  He installed Metropolitan Mor Dioscoros of Mosul who belonged to Kurd Island as Maphryono (Catholicos) by name Baselios Geevarghese II and started the long journey to a region, totally unknown to him. He was accompanied by his brother Jamma, the newly consecrated Episcopo Mor Ivanios Hidayatulla (son of Samma of Bakudaidand) and two Ramban's (monks) namely, Joea and Mathai of the monasteries of 'Mor Mattai' and 'Mor Behnan'. (There is another version that the Episcopo was only a Ramban/monk and he was ordained as a Metropolitan only after he reached Malankara.) The group travelled down to south from Mosul and boarded ship at Basra in Iraq, thus commencing the first phase of the mission. 

Monastery of Mor Mattai (Iraq)
{Source: Hidden Pearl}


Mor Baselios Yeldho Bava and his entourage reached Surat in Gujarat (North India) by the middle of 1685 and from there proceeded to the Malabar coast.  Some time later, they landed at Thalassery port in North Malabar. [As per the letter of MarThoma IV to the Patriarch of Antioch dated 25th Elool (Sept) 1720, those who reached Malabar, were Mor Baselios Yeldho, Mor Ivanios, and 'Ramban Mathai' (there exists no further information about this Rabban)]. In order to avoid attacks from pirates along the seacoast and to escape from the Portuguese, they traversed due east to Tamil Nadu and proceeded down to southern Kerala on foot. Obviously the saint and others with him were under the impression that the Portuguese were still wielding power on the west coast. So the journey was in disguise through thick forests.  After some weeks they reached a small village on the bank of a river at sunset.  On the way they encountered a ferocious tiger.  Bava’s escorts were scared to death but it is said that the Saint calmly took out the 'Sleebo' (Cross) and made the sign of the cross in the direction of the animal and it ran away roaring into the forests as if struck by a heavy object.  

Later they reached the place which is now known as 'Pallivasal' near Munnar. There were many huts in the foothills for the travellers. Mor Yeldho Bava had a feeling that it would be dangerous to stay in those inns since he expected heavy rains and floods that night.  So Bava advised his companions and the people remaining in the place that it would be better to sleep on the upper reaches of the surrounding hills. Some people who believed him moved higher up the hill but others dismissed the idea lightly and stayed on the inns. During the night there was a very heavy downpour and in the instantaneous flood many people and animals living on the river banks lost their lives.  In the mourning the saint offered the Qurbono (Holy Eucharist), for the dead and the mercy shown on those with him, on a temporary altar made there. From that time the place assumed the name ‘PALLIVASAL’ (place of Holy church). The site where he offered the Holy Qurbono is said to be considered sacred by the tribals of the hills around.

From there the Holy Father accompanied by the Episcopo Ivanios came to Kozhippilli village near Kothamangalam by afternoon. When they came to know that they had reached populated areas, Bava decided that it was unwise for both to travel together any further. He therefore asked the Episcopo to climb a tree and hide himself while the Saint proceeded on foot for reconnaissance. When the holy father reached the banks of Kothamangalam river at Chakkalakudy he saw a Nair (Hindu) Gentleman who was tending cattle there. Through symbols they communicated and the man told Bava that there was a Church nearby. 

The church (Yeldho Mor Baselios Chapel) built in the place (river side)

where St.Baselios Yeldho Bava met the Chakkala Nair Youth

Bava asked him to accompany him to the church. The man expressed his inability to do so since he could not abandon the cattle. The Saintly Bava took his walking stick and drew a big circle on the ground. Then he asked the man to take all the cattle into that circle.  He waited for some more time to see how the cattle behaved and he found that they were not leaving the boundary of the circle.  He realised that Mor Baselios Yeldho was a man of God.  The man's sister was at that time in labour pains.  He told the Bava about the difficult situation.  When the Saint asked for some water with a view to bless it, the man thought that he was asking for water to quench thirst and he tried to climb a coconut tree nearby. The tree began to bend ! The man took two tender coconuts from the tree and gave them to the Saint. The Saint blessed one of the tender coconuts and asked the man to rush home and make his sister drink the juice. While Bava waited at the same spot, after about one hour the man returned with the good news that his sister had given birth to a boy.  Greater surprise was in store for him, since the cattle had not moved out of the circle. The man gladly accompanied the Saint to the church.  While they got into the river to cross it, some children who were swimming in the river tried to throw pebbles at the Saint.  Somehow instead of throwing pebbles they ended up following the Saint and his companion.





Holy Father in the MarThoma Church, Kothamangalam 

As the saint reached the church premises, the church bells began to toll.  People living in the neighbourhood rushed to the church to find out what the commotion was about. And that was on 'Kanni 11th' in the Malayalam calendar (end of September), AD 1685. The Saint entered the church and sat on the steps of the 'Madbho'. There was a young deacon who was fluent in Syriac. When he realized that a Episcopo had stayed behind at Kozhipally, he and some members of the congregation set out for the place.  They took a kerchief from the Saint for identification.  When the Episcopo saw the approaching crowd he was afraid.  He thought that they had killed Bava and were now about to get at him. He therefore refused to come down from the tree. The deacon however offered him the sign of peace and spoke Syriac. He then came down from the tree and went with the people to the church.

On Kanni 13, the church used to celebrate its foundation day. On the 12th evening the Vicar sought the Saint's permission to hoist the flag. The Saint replied that the festival of the Holy Cross should be celebrated on the 14th and not on the 13th. When it was explained to the Saint that what they were celebrating was not the festival of the Holy Cross but the anniversary of the founding of the parish, the Saint permitted them to go ahead but reminded them about the importance of the festival of the Holy Cross.  

On the next day, on the feast of the Holy Cross, ('Kanni 14' as per the Malayalam calendar), Episcopo Mor Ivanios Hidayatulla was consecrated as Metropolitan after the Qurbono by the saintly Mor Baselios Yeldho Bava. (Mor Ivanios, who was consecrated by Mor Yeldho, carried on apostolic work for eight years. He passed away in 1693 and was buried at the MarThoman Church, Mulunthuruthy). Because of the tedious journey and the old age, Bava was totally exhausted by thenThree days after he became seriously ill. On Kanni 17th, he received the last sacraments of anointment with oil and extreme unction. All the while he was lying inside the church. Two days after (on Kanni 19, which is September 29) in the afternoon, the saintly father left his mortal self for his heavenly home at the age of 92.  That was a Saturday. As he was sinking, the congregation assembled inside the church and were offering prayers. The Saint told them that he was about to die and when his spirit leaves his body, there would be a sign on the Cross situated on the western side of the Church.  And the huge granite Cross miraculously lit up at the time of the Saint's demise. The Holy Father's mortal remains was entombed on the next day (Kanni 20) in the western side of the Madbho of the church. The two weeks of sojourn of the Maphryono at Kothamangalam electrified the Jacobite Syrian Christians all over Malankara and the mission undertaken by the saint was fulfilled to a large extent by his faithful associate, Metropolitan Mor Ivanios Hidayatulla.

Inside view of the Mor Thoma Church (Cheriapally), Kothamangalam
Holy Qurbono being celebrated in the MarThoma Church (Tomb of Bava is in the right side of sanctuary)


Inscription in the church, recording the life

 and death of Mor Baselious Yeldho &

his  companion, Mor Ivanious

Inscription in the church, recording the burial

 of Mor Baselios Yeldho in 1685 and the

renovation of the church in 1849


Annual Feasts of the Holy Father ('Kanni 20 Perunnal')

Dhukrono of the saint is celebrated in the Mor Thoma Church (Cheriapally) at Kothamangalam with spiritual grandeur every year on October 2 and 3 and is popularly known as "Kanni 20 Perunnal".  Groups of pilgrims, irrespective of caste and creed come to the church every day seeking his intercession.  And multitudes of devotee’s participate in the feast. Moreover, on all Saturdays, Holy Qurbono on three altars is offered in the church with special prayers beseeching the saint’s intercession.  Through the years, the MarThoma Church at Kothamangalam, where the Saint is entombed has became a symbol of communal harmony. In remembrance to the instance of guiding Mor Yeldho Bava to this church by a Nair (Hindu) Youth, his successors are still given the privilege to hold the traditional lamp of the church and lead the 'Rassa' (Church procession) to the church on the festival day of the saint.

In north Malankara it is a very common practise among the faithful to name their new born babies as ‘Yeldho’ or ‘Basil’ during baptism. The parents believe that by doing so, the saint will protect their children from all evils. Mass baptisms is very common in this parish particularly on Saturdays, the day of the heavenly abode of our Holy Father. Number of children baptized in the church where Bava’s mortal remains are interred, on a single day, had even exceeded 50.  These days the name 'Yeldho' (meaning the Birth of Christ) has became very common in the Syrian Christian community.  

A very common scene of mass baptism of babies in the

 Morthoma cheriapally of which most are given the saint's name


Relics of Mor Yeldho Bava in other churches

Sacred relics of the venerated Maphryono were installed in a few churches in Malankara, the oldest being at the St.George Jacobite Syrian Church at Karingachira. One of the two main feasts of this ancient Jacobite Syrian church at Karingachira is the remembrance of Maphryono St.Yeldho Bava of Kothamangalam; the festival is popularly known as ‘Thamukku Nercha’ (an offering of plantain mixed with a form of rice powder and jaggery) celebrated on December 3rd (Vrischikam 20).  

About the beginning of this festival in the church:  When Yeldho Mor Baselios Bava arrived at Kothamangalam, it is said that some parishioners of Karingachira took this mix of plantain, fried powdered rice and jaggery to him and that he was very happy.  Apparently, the priest from Karingachira who was at the deathbed of Mor Baselios Yeldho, later got the rights to offer Holy Qurbono in the church. It is believed that this priest brought a relic of the saint from Kothamangalam by foot to Mamala near Thiruvankulam and was received by the parishioners of Karingachira and installed the relics at Karingachira church on a December 3rd.  In 1920, a piece of bone was found covered in a silk cloth (veeralipattu) on an exquisitely engraved cot in the northern wall of the church. This is believed to be the relic of the saint and remains were again interred in the wall as directed by the Malankara Metropolitan St Athanasius Paulose (Valiya Thirumeni, Alwaye).

Inscription in the wall of the Karingachira church

mentioning the mortal remains of the saint


Remembering Mor Baselios Yeldho in the 5th 'TUBDEN'

Majanikkara, Kothamangalam and Parumala are conspicuous in India as the greatest pilgrim centers of the Syrian Christians where millions gather for commemorating the 'Dhukrono' of the three Saintly High-Priests; Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III (Majanikkara, 1932), His Beatitude Mor Yeldho Baselios Maphrian (Catholicos) and His Grace Mor Gregorios Geevarghese Metropolitan (Parumala, 1902).  Innumerable miracles are reported from the holy tombs of these saintly holy fathers. The Syrian Orthodox Church does not have an elaborate procedure for canonizing saints. By and large the practice is that by popular belief and approval some departed soul gets the status of saint and the later the Holy Synod and the Patriarch authorizes dedication of churches and altars to the saint.

In late 1920's, a petition was sent to the Apostolic Throne of Antioch by the Metropolitans in India including the then Malankara Metropolitan Mor Athanasius Paulose (Valiya Thirumeni, Alwaye) and the Patriarchal delegate praying that apostolic permission may be granted for dedicating altars in the name of Mor Baselios Yeldho. The then Patriarch, Moran Mor Ignatius Elias III, convened a meeting of the Holy Episcopal Synod (the local Synod in West Asia) to seek their advice. Mor Severious Aphrem who later became the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East succeeding Mor Elias III was appointed as a Commission of Enquiry. Mor Aphrem made investigations in Kooded and St. Mathews, as well as in Malankara and submitted his report to the Holy Synod. The Synod recommended to the Patriarch that Mor Baselios Yeldho may be deemed a saint and dedication of altars in his name be authorized. Around that time Mor Ignatius Elias III was planning his apostolic visit to India. The Patriarch therefore felt that it would be in the fitness of things if the declaration was made at Kothamangalam.  On arrival at Karachi (then in India and now in Pakistan), and later during the stay in New Delhi Mor Elias III told Mor Julius Elias, Corepiscopa Skaria Nedumthalil and Malphono Ittyerah Maracheril (later Malankara Malpan) about his intention to make the announcement. Mor Elias III also reminded that Mor Baselios Yeldho belonged to the area from where Morth Shmooni came and that there was a record in the Patriarchate about the Saint's journey to India in the seventeenth century.  During his short stay at Kothamangalam, Patriarch Mor Elias III reiterated his intention and promised to return to Kothamangalam to make the declaration. Unfortunately Mor Elias III never returned to Kothamangalam as he passed away at Majanikkara. Some years later in September 1947, Malankara Metropolitan Mor Athanasius Paulose, made the formal declaration. Mor Gregorius Geevarghese (Vayaliparambil), then his assistant was also present. During the esteemed occasion Mor Athanasius Thirumeni asked the people of Malankara to venerate Mor Baselios Yeldho as they venerated St. Thomas, the apostle to India.

Centuries Old Holy Cross in front of the Mar Thoma Cheriapally, Kothamangalam.


About four decades later, on 22nd August 1987, the Holy Episcopal Synod of Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church convened by the then Catholicos of the East His Beatitude Mor Baselios Paulose II, requested the Supreme Spiritual head of the Syrian Church,  the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East,  to include the  names of  'MAPHRYONO MOR BASELIOS YELDHO', Patriarch Mor Ignatius Elias III and Mor Gregorios Geevarghese of Malankara, in the 5th 'TUBDEN'  along with the names of other holy fathers remembered by the Church.    

The Patriarch  Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas graciously agreed to the request of the Malankara Church and included their names in the Fifth 'TUBDEN' (diptych) of the Holy Mass. Through the Patriarchal Bull No. E 265/87 dated October 20, 1987, His Holiness commanded the Church that the holy names of the aforesaid saintly High priests, should be remembered in the Fifth 'TUBDEN' in all churches in India and everywhere in the Universal Church, where Malankara Christians offer Holy Eucharist.  His Beatitude the Catholicos of the East, forwarded the patriarchal bull through his circular No. 67/87 dated 10th November 1987, to all the Syrian Orthodox churches and thanked the Holy Father for this historical proclamation. 

On 20th December 1987, during the Holy Mass celebrated at the ancient St.Thomas church, Mulunthuruthy, Catholicos Mor Baselios Paulose II read the historical Proclamation of H.H. Patriarch, in the presence of all the Metropolitans of the Malankara Church and thousands of faithful assembled there.   (Click Here for the concerned Encyclical of the Patriarch)


Part II  -  History of the church




The St.Thomas Church at Kothamangalam, popularly known as Mor Thoma Cheriapally, where the Saint Baselios Yeldho is buried is one of the most prominent parishes in India. 

According to the popular belief, the first church at Kothamangalam, MarthMariam Valiyapally, was established in the 4th century AD by a few Syriac Christian families who migrated from Paravur and Angamali. Among the later Christian inhabitants of the place included a few Syrian Knanaites who eventually intermingled with the local Christian community. By the 14th century Kothamangalam, a Syrian Christian centre, became a a major hub for trade with the neighbouring state of Tamilnadu. The Marth Mariam Valiyapally was the only Syriac Christian church there at that time.  By the middle of the 15th century some disputes surfaced in the Valiyapally which led to the separation of 18 families from there. It was these families who eventually built the historical Mor Thoma Cheriapally nearby.  Initially a Cross was established there in 1455 at the land allotted by the local administrator.  Later a small church was erected at the place which was rebuilt in 1504.

The church which has a membership of more than 1600 families is under the Angamali diocese, the largest diocese in the Malankara Syrian Church. It is governed in temporal matters by its own constitution but its spiritual matters are guided by the Metropolitan of Angamali Diocese who owes allegiance to Apostolic See of Antioch through the Catholicos of Malankara under the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. The parish runs a High School and a major hospital, both named after the Saint Baselios Yeldho Bava and is also the main support behind the Mar Athanasius College Association which runs the engineering college at Kothamangalam besides one of the largest Arts and Science colleges in the State and a famous residential High School, all named after the late Malankara Metropolitan St. Athanasius Paulose of blessed memory, who passed away in 1953.

Special Offerings by the believers


Institutions managed by Mor Thoma Cheriapally


Nearby St.Mary's Jacobite Syrian church, Kothamangalam 



{The Mission hospital at Kothamangalam was started by Catholicos Mor Baselios Thomas I in 1978, four years after His Beatitude's

 ordination as Metropolitan of the Angamali diocese.  The hospital was consecrated by late lamented Catholicos

Aboon Mor Baselios Paulose II of blessed memory, on Sep 20th 1978}




1) Biography of Mor Baselios Yeldo by Dr. A M George, St.Thomas Jacobite Syrian parish, Nerul, Navi Mumbai.   Source: ‘MILLENIUM  VISION’, a publication of Outside Kerala diocese of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church.  Email: ;URL:

2) "The Saint from Kooded"  by Dr.Babu Paul IAS

3)  "The Syrian Orthodox Church in India" (Church History) by Very Rev.(Dr) Curien Corepiscopa Kaniamparambil

4) "The Hidden Pearl" by Sebastian P Brock (The Syrian Orthodox Church & its Ancient Aramaic heritage)

5) Websites of Mar Athanasius College of Arts, Kothamangalam and Mar Athanasius College of Engineering, Kothamangalam