Religion in Kerala

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Religion in Kerala (2011)[1]

  Hinduism (54.73%)
  Islam (26.56%)
  Christianity (18.38%)
  Other or none (0.33%)
Map showing the geographical distributions of temples, mosques and churches in Kerala

Hinduism is the most widely professed religion in Kerala, with significant Muslim and Christian communities. Kerala has a reputation of being, communally, one of the most religiously diverse states in India. According to 2011 Census of India figures, 54.73% of Kerala's population are Hindus, 26.56% are Muslims, 18.38% are Christians, and the remaining 0.33% follow other religions or have no religion.[2]

Various tribal people in Kerala have retained the religious beliefs of their ancestors. Hindus constitute the majority in all districts except Malappuram, where they are outnumbered by Muslims.[3] As of 2016, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others account for 41.88%, 42.55%, 15.35% and 0.22% of the total child births in the state, respectively.[4] Consequently, Kerala's religious landscape is set to diversify further in the future.

Hinduism[edit]

Several saints and movements existed. Adi Shankara was a Hindu philosopher who contributed to Hinduism and propagated philosophy of Advaita. He was instrumental in establishing four mathas at Sringeri, Dwarka, Puri and Jyotirmath. Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri was another Brahmin religious figure who composed Narayaniyam, a collection of verses in praise of Krishna.

Various practises of Hinduism are unique to Kerala. Different cults of Shiva and Vishnu are popular in Kerala. Malayali Hindus also worship Bhagavathi as a form of Shakti. Almost every village in Kerala has its own local guardian deity, usually a goddess. Some Hindus in Kerala also believe in power of snake gods and usually have sacred snake groves known as Sarpa Kavu near to their houses.[5]

Vavu Bali ceremony honoring the deceased in the Malayalam month of Karkadakam

Some of the most notable temples are: Guruvayur Temple, Thrissur Vadakkunnathan Temple, Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Thiruvananthapuram Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, Chottanikkara Temple, Chengannur Mahadeva Temple, Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple, Chettikulangara Devi Temple, Mannarasala Temple, Chakkulathukavu Temple, Thiruvalla Sreevallabha Temple, Kaviyoor Mahadevar Temple, Parumala Panayannarkavu Temple, Sree Poornathrayesa Temple, Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple, and Rajarajeshwara Temple. Temples in Kerala follow elaborate rituals and only priests from the Nambudiri caste can be appointed as priests in major temples. But in 2017 as per the state government's decision, the priests from backward community was appointed. These priests are assisted by a caste known as Ambalavasis.

Malayali Hindus have unique ceremonies such as Chorunu (first feeding of rice to a child) and Vidyāraṃbhaṃ.[6]

Judaism[edit]

Judaism arrived in Kerala with spice traders, possibly as early as the 7th century BC.[7] There is no consensus of opinion on the date of the arrival of the first Jews in India. The tradition of the Cochin Jews maintains that after 72 AD, after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, 10,000 Jews migrated to Kerala.[7]

The only verifiable historical evidence about the Kerala Jews goes back only to the Jewish Copper Plate Grant of Bhaskara Ravi Varman in 1000 AD.[8] This document records the royal gift of rights and privileges to the Jewish Chief of Anjuvannam Joseph Rabban. Later in the 16th century many Jews from Portugal and Spain settled in Cochin. These Jews were called white Jews as opposed to the native black Jews.

The Portuguese did not look favorably on the Jews. They destroyed the Jewish settlement in Cranganore and sacked the Jewish town in Cochin and partially destroyed the famous Cochin Synagogue in 1661. However, the Dutch were more tolerant and allowed the Jews to pursue their normal life and trade in Cochin. According to the testimony of the Dutch Jew, Mosss Pereya De Paiva, in 1686 there were 10 synagogues and nearly 500 Jewish families in Cochin. Later Britishers too were tolerant. The Jews were protected. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, most Jews decided to emigrate to Israel. Most of the emigrants to Israel between 1948 and 1955 were from the community of black Jews and brown Jews; they are known as Cochini in Israel. Since the 1960s, only a few hundred Jews (mostly white Jews) remained in Kerala with only two synagogues open for service: the Pardesi Synagogue in Matancherry built in 1567 and the synagogue in Parur.[citation needed]

Jainism[edit]

Marwari Jain Temple in Kochi

Jainism, one of the three most ancient Indian religious traditions still in existence, has very small presence (0.01 %) in Kerala, in south India. According to the 2011 India Census, Kerala only has around 4500 Jains, most of them in the city of Cochin and in Wynad district.

Medieval Jain inscriptions are mostly found on the borders of Kerala proper, such Wynad in north-east, Alathur in the Palghat Gap and Chitharal in Kanyakumari District. Epigraphical evidence suggests that the shrine at "Tirukkunavay", perhaps located near Cochin, was the major Jain temple in medieval Kerala (from c. 9th century CE). The so-called "Rules of the Tirukkunavay Temple" provided model and precedent for all other Jain temples of Kerala.[9] A number of images of Mahavira, Padmavati, and Parsvanatha have been recovered from Kerala.[9]

Some of the Jain temples in Kerala were taken over by the Hindus at a later stage. The temple images are worshiped as Hindu gods and considered as part of the Hindu pantheon. It is not uncommon for Hindus and Jains to worship their deities in the same temple.[9]

Christianity[edit]

Relationship of the Nasrani groups.

Christianity is followed by 18.38% of the population of Kerala.[10] According to tradition, Saint Thomas the Apostle visited Muziris in Kerala in the first century in 52 AD and proselytized natives at large, which became Thomasine Christianity.[11][12][13] However, the story of St Thomas coming to India in 52 CE has been contradicted by a recorded history. There was a Thomas who came, but he was a Syrian merchant, Thomas of Cana, and this happened around 500 or 600 CE. In-depth historical research on this topic can be found in the book [14] by a Canadian author and a former Christian monk Ishwar Sharan and research conducted and published by Madras Courier[15].

Knanaya communities arrived during this time.[16] Syriac Christians remained as an independent group, and they got their bishops from Church of the East until the advent of Portuguese and British colonialists.

The arrival of Europeans in the 15th century and discontent with Portuguese interference in religious matters fomented schism into Catholic and Orthodox communities. Further schism and rearrangements led to the formation of the other Indian Churches. Latin Rite Christians has protracted over eleven centuries and the work of evangelization was revived by the western missionaries in the 13th century.[17] Anglo-Indian Christian communities formed around this time as Europeans and local Malayalis intermarried.

Protestantism arrived a few centuries later with missionary activity during British rule.

There are various denominations/churches exist among Christians of Kerala. In that around 61% of them are Roman Catholics and they are Latin Catholic Church, Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.[18]

St. Mary's Syro Malabar Catholic Basilica - Ernakulam

Syriac Christians in Kerala are also called Nasranis and they are Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church, Saint Thomas Anglicans, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and Marthoma Syrian Church.

Other denominations are: Church of South India, Believers Church, Pentecostal Churches, etc.

Catholic communities are Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Latin Catholic & Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Orthodox Communities are Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church. All the other churches belongs to the Protestant community.

Some of the prominent churches are: St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church, Malayattoor St. George's Forane Church Manarcad Church, St. Mary's Church, Niranam, St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Parumala, St. George Orthodox Church Puthuppally Pally, St. Stanislaus Forane Church, Mala, St. George's Church, Kadamattom, Marthoman Cathedral, Mulanthuruthy, Chengannur Pazhaya Suriyani Pally, Kozhencherry St. Thomas Marthoma Church, and Nilakkal St. Thomas Ecumenical Church

Islam[edit]

Muslims in Kerala share a common language (Malayalam) with the rest of the non-Muslim population and have a culture commonly regarded as the Malayali culture.[19] Islam is the second largest practised religion in Kerala (26.56%) next to Hinduism.[20] The calculated Muslim population (Indian Census, 2011) in Kerala state is 8,873,472.[21][22] Most of the Muslims in Kerala follow the Shāfiʿī School (Sunni Islam).[23] Very much unlike other parts of South Asia, the caste system does not exist among the Muslims of Kerala. However, the different religious sects of Islam in Kerala are not in constant harmony. A number of different communities, some of them having distant ethnic roots, exist as status groups in Kerala.[24]

Islam arrived in Kerala, a part of the larger Indian Ocean rim, via spice and silk traders from the Middle East. The Muslims were a major financial power to be reckoned with in the old kingdoms of Kerala and had great political influence in the Hindu royal courts.[25][26] Travellers have recorded the considerably huge presence of Muslim merchants and settlements of sojourning traders in most of the ports of Kerala.[27] Immigration, intermarriage and missionary activity/conversion — secured by the common interest in the spice trade — helped in this development.[28][29] Muslim merchant magnates owning ships, spread their shipping and trading business interests across the Indian Ocean.[30][31]

The arrival of the Portuguese traders in the late 15th century checked the then well-established and wealthy Muslim community's progress.[32] By the mid-18th century the majority of the Muslims of Kerala were landless labourers, poor fishermen and petty traders, and the community was in "a psychological retreat".[33] The subsequent partisan rule of English East India Company authorities brought the land-less Muslim peasants of Malabar District into a condition of destitution, and this led to a series of uprisings (against the Hindu landlords and British administration). The series of violence eventually exploded as the infamous Mappila Uprising (1921–22).[34][35]

A large number of Muslims of Kerala found extensive employment in the Persian Gulf countries in the following years (c. 1970s). This widespread participation in the "Gulf Rush" produced huge economic and social benefits for the community. Great influx funds from the earnings of the employed followed. Issues such as widespread poverty, unemployment and educational backwardness began to change.[36] The Muslims in Kerala are now considered as section of Indian Muslims marked by recovery, change and positive involvement in the modern world. Malayali Muslim women are now not reluctant to join professional vocations and assuming leadership roles.[37] As per the latest government data, female literacy rate in Malappuram District, center of Mappila distribution, stood at 91.55% (2011 Census).[38]

Ever since in the Indian Independence from the British in 1947, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in former Malabar District have supported the Muslim League. In south Kerala, the community generally supported Indian National Congress and in the north Kerala a small proportion vote Communist Left. Politically, the Muslims in Kerala have exhibited more unanimity than any other major communities in modern Kerala.[39]

Buddhism[edit]

Buddhism probably flourished for 200 years (650-850) in Kerala. The Paliyam Copper Plate of the Ay King, Varaguna (885-925 AD)[40] shows that the Buddhists benefited from royal patronage in the 10th century.

Parsi (Zoroastrianism)[edit]

There were a number of Parsi families settled in Kerala, particularly around Kozhikode and Thalassery area. They practiced Zoroastrianism and even built the 160-year-old dadgah (fire temple) at Kozhikode which is still in existence. They were mostly wealthy families who immigrated during the 18th century from Gujarat and Bombay. The community included famous families such as the Hirjis or Marshalls.[41] Some famous Malayali Parsis included the reputed Dr. Kobad Mogaseb, who was the first medical doctor from Kozhikode who graduated from London, as well as Kaikose Ruderasha who funded the Basel Evangelical Mission Parsi High School, Thalassery.[42]

Tribal and other religious faiths[edit]

Various groups classified as tribes in Kerala still dominate various remote and hilly areas of Kerala.[43] They have retained various rituals and practices of their ancestors despite influences of mainstream religions.

Demographics[edit]

Kerala's Religious Population Source : Census India 2011 Religion Population % Dist. with highest Population Dist. with lowest Population
Hindus 18,282,492 54.73 Thiruvananthapuram Wayanad
Muslims 8,873,472 26.56 Malappuram Pathanamthitta
Christians 6,141,269 18.38 Ernakulam Malappuram
Kerala's Religious Population Source : Census India 2001 Religion Population % Population below 6 yrs of age[3] % Dist. with highest Population Dist. with lowest Population Population growth since 1991[44] Children born per women (TFR)[45]
Hindus 17,883,449 56.2 1,932,504 50.78 Thiruvananthapuram Waynad -1.55% 1.64
Muslims 7,863,342 24.3 1,178,880 30.99 Malappuram Pathanamthitta +1.75% 2.46
Christians 6,057,427 19 677,878 17.82 Ernakulam Malappuram -0.32% 1.88

2001 and 2011 census (Population)

Districts Population(2001) Population(2011) Percent Hindus Percent Muslims Percent Christians
Thiruvananthapuram 3,234,707 3,301,427 66.94% 13.72% 19.10%
Kollam 2,584,118 2,635,375 64.42% 19.29% 15.99%
Pathanamthitta 1,231,577 1,197,412 56.93% 4.59% 38.12%
Alappuzha 2,105,349 2,127,789 68.64% 10.55% 20.45%
Kottayam 1,952,901 1,974,551 49.81% 6.41% 43.48%
Idukki 1,128,605 1,108,974 48.86% 7.41% 43.42%
Ernakulam 3,098,378 3,282,388 45.99% 15.67% 38.03%
Thrissur 2,975,440 3,121,200 58.42% 17.07% 24.27%
Palakkad 2,617,072 2,809,934 66.76% 28.93% 4.07%
Malappuram 3,629,640 4,112,920 27.60% 70.24% 1.98%
Kozhikode 2,878,498 3,086,293 56.21% 39.24% 4.26%
Waynad 786,627 817,420 49.48% 28.65% 21.34%
Kannur 2,412,365 2,523,003 59.83% 29.43% 10.41%
Kasargod 1,203,342 1,307,375 55.83% 37.24% 6.68%

[46]

Kerala's Percentage Distribution of Live Birth by Religion of the Family[47]
Religion 2017[48] % 2016[49] % 2015[50] % 2014[51] % 2013[52] % 2012[53] % 2011[54] % 2010[55] % 2009[56] % 2008[57] % 2007[58] %
Hindu 210,071 41.71% 207,831 41.88% 221,220 42.87% 231,031 43.23% 236,420 44.08% 214,591 38.99% 248,610 44.37% 246,297 45.03% 247,707 45.51% 241,305 45.04% 250,094 45.88%
Muslim 216,525 43.00% 211,182 42.55% 213,865 41.45% 218,437 40.87% 214,257 39.96% 175,892 31.96% 214,099 38.21% 209,276 38.26% 204,711 37.61% 194,583 36.32% 183,796 33.71%
Christian 75,335 14.96% 76,205 15.35% 79,565 15.42% 83,616 15.65% 84,660 15.78% 102,546 18.63% 94,664 16.90% 88,936 16.26% 90,451 16.62% 94,175 17.58% 98,220 18.02%
Others 1,497 0.30% 852 0.18% 933 0.18% 1,178 0.22% 869 0.16% 57,215 10.39% 2,671 0.48% 651 0.12% 704 0.13% 5,151 0.96% 6,108 1.12%
Not Stated 160 0.03% 222 0.04% 430 0.08% 196 0.03% 146 0.02% 167 0.03% 224 0.04% 1,806 0.33% 775 0.14% 524 0.10% 6,936 1.27%
Total 503,597 100% 496,292 100% 516,013 100% 534,458 100% 536,352 100% 550,411 100% 560,268 100% 546,964 100% 544,348 100% 535,738 100% 545,154 100%

Tensions[edit]

In the 21st century various extreme religious groups have become influential in Kerala including PFI.[59][60][61]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Population by religious communities – Census of India". Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Increase in Muslim population in the State". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 23 September 2004.
  4. ^ "Vital Statistics 2016" (PDF). Ecostat, Kerala Government. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 December 2002. Retrieved 19 July 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  12. ^ Medlycott, A E. 1905 "India and the Apostle Thomas"; Gorgias Press LLC; ISBN
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