South India  |  Religion of Kerala

Religion of Kerala

Religion in Kerala

Kerala hailed, as God's own country, by many, deserves this accolade because of many features geographical and sociological. A long coastline in the west and mountains on the east forming clear natural boundaries. Religion has played a crucial role in Kerala's culture. There are mainly three religions in Kerala - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. As far as the religion of Kerala is
concerned, the origins could be traced to Hinduism.Then came in the Islamic faith and Christianity with its various sects. The other Indian religions like Buddhism; Jainism had some influence among the Hindus and was found scattered with their migration to Kerala.According to the 1991 census 57.38% of the population of Kerala are Hindus, 23.33 Muslims and 19.32 Christians. The earliest settlers of Kerala were the Proto-Australoids, the Mediterranean, Dravidians, and the Aryans in 321-297 BC .


Hinduism, the world's oldest religion dates back to about 5000 BC. The sacred texts include the Vedas, Epics and Puranas, apart from other philosophical treatises. Hinduism is a way of life and is based on the principle of Sanathana Dharma. The Hindus worship the Supreme Being under three forms, Brahma- the creator, Vishnu- the preservator and Shiva - destroyer.
Earlier inhabitants (Dravidians) of Kerala followed primitive animism and spirit worship to propitiate the Gods.
With the arrival of Aryans settler from the north India, the human forms of worship and caste division were evolved. But history is silent about worship of Goddess (Baghavathy). Only in Kerala and West Bengal Goddess form the main deity. Mythology doesn't say much about Baghavathy. For many Keralites, Baghavathy is the family deity. Most of the festivals in Kerala are in depiction of Baghavathy. Even today many temples in Kerala has mother (Baghavathy) and animism (snake worship) has their main deity.


Islam is believed entered into India through Kerala. There are historical records of commercial trading between Kerala and Middle East during 7th Century AD. The Jews and Arabs of the Pre-Islamic period were among the pioneers of spice trade with Kerala. The religion of Islam was also by these traders from Middle East, who later settled in Coastal belt of Kerala. To this day Muslims are very proficient in trade and commerce. Muslims in Kerala, as anywhere else in the world, are close-knit unit clear-cut religious and political agenda.


In the absence of clear historical records, it is believed that Apostle of Jesus, St. Thomas himself, introduced Christianity in India in the year 52 A.D. The early Christians (St. Thomas Christians) were called Syrian Christians because they followed the Syriac liturgy, a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. With the arrival of Portuguese (1498) and the establishment of their political influence, the Latin rite emerged as an important factor and a large community of Latin Christians sprang up and grew, particularly in the coastal areas.
The work of St. Francis Xavier and the synod of Diamper (1599) played an important part in the Latinisation of the church. In the beginning of 19th century, when the British spread its influence in Kerala, the Church Mission Society (CMS) of London actively associated them in the workings of Syrian Church. After some years of close co-operation, the missionaries broke their connection with Syrian Bishops and church. It was on their initiative the Anglican Church came into existence. Some priests of the Syrian Church under the influence of missionaries advocated reforms, including the replacement of Syriac by Malayalam, which was disfavored by Bishops and Clergy of Syrian Church. Following this the reformers formed a new church known as Marthoma Syrian church as distinct from the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Now there are five different offshoots of Christianity in Kerala. The Nestorian Church confined mainly to Thrissur and Ernakulam.

The Roman Catholic Church, embracing the whole of Kerala and following three different languages for their rites (Syriac, Latin and Malayalam). The Jacobite Syrian Church, also known as Orthodox Syrian Church. The Anglican Church, part of Church of South India. Marthoma Syrian Church. Apart from these, there are several other Christian denominations deriving inspiration from some foreign Church or other. The contribution of Christian religion in the field of education and care of the sick is innumerable. First Malayalam dictionary and grammar by Arnos Pathiri, first printing press, study and classification of Herbs, Hortus Malabaricus, etc. highlight the eminent position of Christianity in Kerala.

The Universal education propagated in Kerala along with the churches provided the basic education for the emancipation of the population from various social and cultural evils. The school, colleges, hospitals and other numerous socio-cultural institutions run by the Christians are role models.

Other religion

The other Indian religions like Buddhism and Jainism had some impact among the Malayalee Hindus, but with the Aryan migration to the south. There was dissemination of all these religion.


Though there is evidence of practice of Jainism in Kerala before the arrival of Aryans. History is silent about it. The Famous Jainmedu temple in Palakkad is the manifestation of Jainism in Kerala. Today few families of Jain community are found around Palakkad in Kerala.


The traders from Middle East bought Judaism into Kerala during 7th Century AD. Later these traders settled in Kochi. Jew Town in Kochi, is the testimony of the Judaism in Kerala. Today it is one of few places in World where Jews are living in peace. There is a Synagogue in Jew Town. Today, Jew town is one of popular tourist location in Kerala, where one can find many interesting antiquities of Kerala.
Nowhere in India, or may be in the entire world, you can witness such tolerance and cooperation and religious amity as seen in Kerala . Only in Kerala one can find person's of different community come together and celebrate each other's festival with pomp. Onam, the traditional festival of Hindus, Christmas and Ramzan - all these festivals are celebrated by all the community in Kerala.