The Carmelite Order is one of the five ancient Religious Orders in the Catholic Church, and first one to be dedicated to Mary. Mt. Carmel in Holy Land (Jerusalem), symbol for prayer, silence and solitude, has always attracted God-seeking people. There were always solitary hermits or communities of monks on Mount Carmel, living a life of prayer and contemplation, inspired by the life and spirit of Prophet Elias and his followers from early days of Christianity. They lived as hermits in the numerous caves there from time immemorial.
In the beginning of the 12 century a few men living on the slopes of Mt. Carmel organized themselves as the Brothers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel The written history of the Order up to A D 1200 remains however shrouded in the lives of Latin hermits who lived in the caves of Mt. Carmel. It is believed that St Berthold assembled various monks living scattered on Mt. Carmel into a community and St Brocard, his successor, requested a norm of life for them from St Albert, the Latin Patriarch and Papal Delegate of the Holy Land and this was granted in 1209. Eventually they migrated to Europe, especially due to the threats of marauding Moslem armies in the region.
In 1562, St. Teresa of Avila started a reform movement among the nuns and then with the help of St John of the cross, among the friars in 1568 in Spain. All the reformed with a more austere way of life were generally known as the Discalced. After a period of waiting, the Discalced Carmelites were allowed to form a separate Province under the direct jurisdiction of the Prior General of the Order in 1580. Further development resulted in the institution of a separate branch of the Order with a proper Vicar General in 1587 and an independent Order in 1593.
The international Carmelite Order comprising of three branches of Men, Cloistered Nuns and Lay Persons, spread through Europe very fast and then in South America and now in Asia & Africa. Today it is present in more than 90 countries round the globe. The congregations of religious numbering about 70 today, retaining their juridical autonomy, share in the Charism of the Order in various degrees.
During the early 17th century, the reformed (Discalced) Carmelites of Sts. Teresa and John of the Cross, came to the Middle East and India. The first Carmelites reached the shores of India in the year 1619 in Goa. The marked catholic presence in the western coast of India, from Kerala to Gujarat, is greatly due to the work of the Carmelites. The First Novitiate of OCD Friars in India, in recent memory, was opened in 1928. Today there are 7 Provinces and 3 Regional Vicariates in India with over 1100 professed members. There are along with friars 33 Cloistered Carmelite Monasteries of nuns who spend their entire life enclosed within the cloistered walls away from the noisy and selfish world of today. There they witness to us the beautiful side of Christianity. There are almost 30,000 secular Carmel members spread throughout India, who live their calling, motivated by sound principles of Carmelite spirituality and Christian holiness.