Thomas the Apostle went east, through what is now Syria and Iran, into northern India and sailed on down to southern India, arriving in AD52. He travelled farther than even the indefatigable Paul, whose journeys encompassed much of the Mediterranean.
He was perhaps the only Apostle who went outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel.
Piecing together the various traditions, it appears that Thomas left northwest India when invasion threatened and travelled by vessel to the Malabar (Kerala) coast, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra en-route and landing in Kerala at a place now called Cranganore in around AD52.
From there he is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar (Kerala) coast, though the various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. He reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about seventeen thousand converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centres. These are known as the seven churches in Kerala attributed to Thomas. In accordance with apostolic custom, Thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministry of the Malabar church.
The tradition among Christians in India is that Thomas was speared to death near Chennai, and accordingly he is often pictured holding a spear. Paintings of martyrs often show them holding or accompanied by the instruments with which they were put to death.