Akaparambu is the name of a small village in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, India. It is famous primarily for two reasons: it is only 1 km from Cochin International Airport; and, it is home to one of the oldest Christian churches in India – Mor Sabor and Afroth Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Cathedral.
The South of India has recently seen an upsurge in tourism. The beautiful beaches around Kovalam have gone from hippy spots to places where developers have built big resorts and pull in many high-end tourists. The area is rich in coconut palms and is hot year round. The back waters of Cochin are also popular places to explore for tourists. Unlike the north of India, the Malayam people in the area are more relaxed and less prone to rip-off tourists. They also have a distinctive style of cuisine which is also very different to the north.
For these reasons Cochin International Airport is doing very well. As a result land prices in Akaparambu have risen dramatically over the last few years. Many people envision several villages near the airport being amalgamated into a big ‘airport city’. This would obviously lead to a few people getting very rich and subsistence farmers being moved off their land.
It is believed that Christianity reached India before it did Europe. Legend has it that Saint Thomas the Apostle established the Syrian Church in India in AD 52. This is probably apocryphal but the close geographical locations between India and Palestine; as well the importance in the region of trading with India makes it very likely that India was one of the earliest foreign countries to establish Christian communities.
The Mor Sabor and Afroth Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Cathedral was established circa AD 825 when the Christian merchant Sapor Esho led a group of Syrian Christian immigrants and two priests to Akaparambu.
Today the community of Akaparambu is mostly Christian. It remains one of the most important Christian sites in India. It is visited by all the Patriarchs of Antioch who come to India. The good thing about Akaparambu is that those of the Muslim, Hindu and other religious persuasions manage to happily co-exist in the village. One is reminded of other peaceful communities such as on Koh Phangan in Thailand where non-eventful co-existence of communities is threatened by the forces of economic change that will inevitably create divisions in order to prise the land from the local people.