Trail of St. Thomas Mount

Whenever I cross the 'St. Thomas Mount' railway station every time I travel in the Chennai electric train, I will feel the urge to go there. The Parangi Malai known as St. Thomas Mount, attracted me in some way. There was a reason for that. 

The British decided to prepare a map of India during British rule. The work was called 'The Great Indian Arch.' Colonel William Lampton was commissioned for this magnificent task. Thomas Mount was the place where he began his work on Indian land surveying. Lampton died in Maharashtra at the age of 70, had created a map of India for more than 40 years which began in 1802. 

After him, the task was handed over to George Everest. Everest found the world's tallest mountain peak at his survey. Until then, the Andes peak in Argentina was the world's tallest peak. George Everest presented the evidence of the fact that the world's tallest peak is in the Himalayas, India.

In 1856, The peak was named Mount Everest because Everest led the survey team and discovered that peak. 

This is the actual history of Everest we can read in the textbooks. The whole world believes that George Everest only found Mount Everest. But it's not true. Well, we will discuss this matter in one of the upcoming posts of 'From India'. 

 By George Everest's team's survey, we were able to know India was the largest country and the height of the sea level from every place in India. The map of India's land system helped Britishers to fight with Indian kings and they won. 

It was not easy to survey and map the land in those days. Everything should be marked on the paper. 'Theodolite' was the only tool invented for the survey. Donkeys and Indian slaves drove this instrument which weighs more than 500 kilograms into the forests, hills, and all over India. Lampton first brought the instrument from England to Thomas Mount and mapped the city of Chennai. A bust statue of Colonel William Lambton was made in the place where the tool was placed as it's memorial. 

Colonel William Lambton

It is these historical recollections of my childhood that drove me to 'St.Thomas Mount'.  The train stopped at 'St.Thomas Mount'.  I asked the way from there. They said it was 3 kilometers away. I walked till the railway station because the weather condition was soothing at that time. 

It felt as if I came into an army camp when I was nearing Parangi Malai (St.Thomas Mount). Army officer's workplaces were on the left side of the road and the military apartments were on the right side of the road. The silent peace that prevailed for the military was ubiquitous. Somewhere in the distance, a commander was telling his team, 'Soudhan', 'Veeshram', 'Baayemoot', Dahinemoot' etc., (These are the army commands in Hindi) I crossed the Officer Training Academy, where the military soldiers were training. Finally, I came to the mountain trail of St. Thomas Mount. 

Solar rays came from within the cloud. The weather changed then. The temperature became hot. My body was soaked in sweat. Still have to climb the mountain.

The mountain was little. But due to that high temperature, it was a bit difficult for me to climb up even though the route was easy. The shades from the trees saved me. I climbed the stairs in the pathway of the mountain. A total of 134 steps. Scenes of Jesus's crucifixion were carved into statues. That is why this mountain pathway is known as the Sacred Pathway.

Virgin Mary's statue

It looks like a lot of love couples used to come to this hill. Because all along the way it's written that "This is the holy path. Not the place for lovers." When I went I didn't even see a single couple there, which seemed to give value to the sacred place. When I reached the 300 feet high mountain, I saw 'Our Lady of Expectation' Church. Only at this place, we can see the Virgin Mary's statue in the pregnant form. This Golden color statue we can see nowhere in India. 

It was the place where St. Thomas, one of Jesus's disciples, died. That is why this hill was named St. Thomas Mountain. He was the first one to bring Christianity to India. He came to Tamil Nadu through Kerala and created a total number of 7 churches in Kerala and one church in Thiruvithankodu, Tamil Nadu. He came to Chennai by ship from Chinna Muttam, near Kanyakumari. 

St. Thomas carved a cross by his hand with a rock in this mountain and worshiped it. One day while worshiping the cross, someone stabbed Thomas with a spear and he died.

Thomas's blood-stained cross is in this church. Even now the cross is said to be covered with blood and sweat. It is sanctified because this mountain had the bloodstain of St Thomas. Inside the church, we can see the image of Thomas being killed. Not only Thomas but also the paintings of the other 12 disciples of Jesus, explained how they were killed.  

'Our Lady of Expectation' church

The church was built in 1523 by the Portuguese. They worship the Virgin Mary more than Jesus. As a mother Mary waits for her baby's arrival, 'Our Lady of Expectation' church was built. 

The church had been a beacon of guidance for the Portuguese and Armenians who were traveling by sea during the 16th and 17th centuries.

The place where St. Thomas had died, where the 'Altar' of the church was constructed. Here you can see St Mary's painting which is nowhere to be seen in the world. The portrait of St. Mary carrying the baby Jesus on her hand was painted by St. Luke while they were alive. This painting, painted in 50 AD, St Thomas kept this painting with him and was worshiping it until the end. The painting has been kept in the Altar of this church.

'Altar' of the church

With nearly two thousand years of tradition, St. Thomas Mount is the perfect place for tourists, not only for Christians but for others also. From the top of the mountain, we can see the beautiful city of Chennai.

On the other side, we can see the flight's landing and take off in the Meenambakkam airport runway. This is the perfect place for a day picnic.

On behalf of the church, lunch is provided to the pilgrims who come here.  

There are 115 objects used by St. Thomas that have been kept in this church. These are the symbols of holiness. It's a must-visit place when we travel to Chennai. 


  1. Excellent work keep it up

  2. Although I have visited this place many times before, some of the facts and information were unknown to me...well researched and Nice write up...

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