Mar Kuriakose Elias Chavara is a Syrian Catholic saint and social reformer from the Indian state of Kerala. He is the first canonised male saint of Indian origin and belongs to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church of the Saint Thomas Christian community founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in the first century. He was the co-founder and first Prior General of the first congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, now known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.), and of a similar one for women, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C.).
Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on 10 February 1805 at Kainakary, Kerala in a Nasrani Christian family as the son of Iko (Kuriakose) Chavara and Mariam Thoppil. Nasranis are Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians) who are the ancient Christians of Kerala baptised by St. Thomas the Apostle in the first century. The name Kuriakose is derived from the Syriac Aramaic name ܩܘܪܝܩܘܣ (Quriaqos).He was baptised on 17 February 1805 at St. Joseph's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Chennamkary.The Chavara family has derived from the ancient nasrani family Meenapally in Kainakary.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara joined with two other priests, Palackal Thoma Malpan and Porukara Thoma Kathanar to lead a monastic life. The name of the community they founded was Servants of Mary Immaculate. The foundation for the first monastery at Mannanam was laid on 11 May 1831 by Porukara Thomas Kathanar. Palackal Malpan and Porukara Kathanar died in 1841 and 1846 respectively. On 8 December 1855, Kuriakose Kathanar and ten other priests took vows in the Carmelite tradition. He was nominated as the Prior General of Mannanam monastery. The congregation became affiliated as a Third Order institute of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. From that point on they used the postnominal initials of T.O.C.D.
In co-operation with Palackal Thoma Malpan and Thoma Porukara, Kuriakose Elias Chavara founded an Indian religious congregation for men, now known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. He believed that intellectual development and the education of women was the first step towards overall social welfare. Hence he founded, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, the first religious congregation for women in 1866.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara died on 3 January 1871, aged 66, at Koonammavu. He was buried in St.Philomena's Forane Church, Koonammavu His mortal remains were later transferred to St. Joseph's Monastery Church in Mannanam. His memorial is celebrated on 3 January as per the Syro-Malabar liturgical calendar.