Christianity Social Organization
The Christians of St.Thomas are called the Syrian Christians. An examination of the social organization of the Syrian Christians will help to understand the social life of Christians in India. The Syrian Christian family is a close knit one. The husband’s mother is a significant influence on the Christian bride from whom she learns the household matters as well as the Christian virtues such as charity, piety. However, there may be conflict between the two as there is an element of dominance over the bride. The husband’s father is the head of the household and there is a relationship of respect and reverence. He leads the family at prayer, gives advice, economic assistance and , blessings to the couple. This relationship is also characterized by conflict and tension.
While the Christian live in nuclear families, the ideal family is where there generations live together. Yet, the Syrian Christian sons set up separate households with the birth of the children. Syrian children share a close relationship with their grandparents. The paternal grandmother forms a significant influence on the child as they go everyday to the parish church together. Bible stories and songs are taught by her. The relation with the paternal grandfather is one of formality and reverence. Mother’s brother shares an affective relationship with the children and brings gifts, sweets, fruits on festivals and special occasions.
Among the Christians, the brothers live in the same locality with their families. Food and garden products are shared, ceremonies and special occasions are celebrated together. Patrilineage is important and a Christian is known by his house name e.g. Vazhapallil Paul, Pallivadikal Thomas. Such a name indicates property, privileges, lineage, patrilineal descent. Rules of inheritance show the dominance of the male among the Syrian Christians. The father, through his will, decides the share of property among his children. Usually sons inherited the property while the daughters are given stridhanam in marriage. Thus, patrilineal authority is the basis of Christian social organization.