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Shubhyatra >> Kerala Yatra >> Religions of Kerala

RELIGIONS OF KERALA

Major Religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism
Main Religion: Hinduism
Places of Worship: Sabarimala, Jewish Synagogue (Mattancherry)
Major Religious Festivals: Thrissur Pooram, Maramon Convention, Urs Festival

Muthappan Temple
Muthappan Temple - Kerala

Religion - It Is Only A Matter of Faith

If geography placed Kerala on the trade map of the world, religion shaped her mind and heart. This coconut fringed land has always kept deeper secrets up on her sleeves. It is only because of this that there is so much still to be discovered. Religion, is not only a term to be memorised in Kerala. But it is an attitude, a cult of faith that makes devotees travel hundreds of kilometers through treacherous terrain, just to have a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa. It is a matter of continuity, and even nature steps aside when hundreds of people wish to pray on a convention. It is a land which has always caressed religion in their heart. It is a land where the day breaks with the euphony of 'azaan' and ends with the awe-inspiring 'aartis'. So plan a holiday trip to this ancient land, multicultural and multidevotional, and let your soul fly to higher consciousness of spirituality in God's own country.

Hinduism - The Religion of The Aryans

The Hindus constitute a major part of the Malayali society. According to recent census around 57.38% of the population of Kerala are Hindus, which has indeed grown into considerable amount after the advent of the Aryans in 321-297 BC, who brought with them a vigorous culture that stamped itself upon the entire southern part of the country, still ruled by the Dravidians. The myths speak of the Nagas, or snake people, who came from the north. Because of the 'Khandava Dahan' (burning of Khandava forest) mentioned in Mahabharata. Visit the Mannarshala Temple, 32 Kms South Of Alappuzha, believed to be the largest snake temple in Kerala. One of the pioneers of Hindu renaissance was Adi Shankaracharya, the great Indian philosopher of the 8th century who gave a new interpretation to the prevailing Vedic knowledge and rejuvenated Hindu religious practice throughout the country.

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In its more complex form, the Dravidian-Aryan encounter not only led to the elaboration of a complex social pattern but evolved an altogether newer concept of temple architecture. The Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram surely echoes the pulse of religion, carved beautifully in the stones of faith. Wander around the 324 pillared corridor and you will be overwhelmed to see how this seven storeyed work of architecture impeccably blends both Kerala and the Dravidian styles of art. And much more. If you happen to be in Thiruvananthapuram in November, remember to attend the grand 'Arattu' festival held in the temple premises. A completely different religious perspective can be see on a way to Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa, Kerala's own God. Trek through the 2 ½ km uphill terrain, take a bath in Pampa river, and climb the 18 stairs to reach the temple of Ayyappa along with all those black-attired pilgrims - from varied backgrounds, from near and far - all moving in unison to a single destination chanting "Swamiye Saranam".

Church in Kerala
Sacred Heart Church, Kackottumoola - Kerala

Christianity - Cult Overseas

According to the recent census around 19.32% of the population of Kerala are Christians. Of all the religious groups, the Syrian Christians are special to Kerala. The first of the group is said to have been baptised by St. Thomas himself, when he landed in AD 52 and converted a group of high caste Nambudiris. In the later years, when the Portuguese arrived, the Roman Catholic prelates were understandably dismayed to find the Kerala Christians less than willing to accept the hegemony of Rome. An uprising led to the 'Oath of the Coonen Cross' being sworn at Mattancherry in Cochin, when thousands of agitated Kerala Christians tied a rope to a stone cross and defied the authority of Rome.

This was the breaking point which led to the forming of the Jacobite (Syrian) group and the Mar Thoma Church at Pathanamthitta. Interestingly, the church has no pews to rest upon, maybe because sitting on Mother Earth brings a closer congregation to God. Plan a trip to Maramon near Kozencherry, during your vacations in Kerala, in the month of February and you can be a part of the largest Christian convention in the world. Held on the pristine sandy beds of river Pamba, this grand ceremony throws up an air of devotion and faith in the Supreme Self for consecutive seven days. One who is remembered is the 19th century German missionary Dr Joachim Gundert, who built a church in Tellicherry and compiled the monumental Malayalam-English grammer and dictionary. However, there is always an umbrella term for all shades of Christian belief, legal practice and system regardless of whether they conduct their services in Latin, Syriac or Malayalam.

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Islam - The Faith of Mohammad

The palm-fringed land of Kerala is believed to have connections with Arabia from the time of Solomon. It is thought that Islam entered India through Kerala in the 7th century AD soon after the religion was envisaged by Prophet Mohammed (c 570 - 632 AD), in Arabia. But it was only in the 11th and 12th centuries, that Islamic traditions and beliefs identified Kerala as a place of refuge and congenial patronage, reaching the Indian heartland, and continued to dwell till the British strengthened their position in the 18th century. The Arabs, who had been coming to Kerala long before they became converts to Islam, also brought in the first wave of Muslim settlers two clerics, Malik-ibn-Dinar and Sharif-ibn-Malik, who landed at Kodungallur with their followers and families.

Today, the Muslims make the second largest religious community in Kerala, constituting around 23.33% of the state's population. The first mosque to be built on the subcontinent is here only in Kerala. The older mosques in Kerala follow the local vernacular with tiled sloping roofs and verandas along the side. Plan a visit during the Urs festival (September-October) and you will see how the whole ambiance of the Malik Dinar Mosque in Kasargod reverberates with the sacredness of Malik Ibn Dinar, an ardent disciple of Prophet Mohammed who is believed to have propagated Islam in Kerala.

Jews - Religion In Minority

The Jews have an equally long history in Kerala. They were the first to land in God's own country, after the burning of their temple in Jerusalem. Doubting St. Thomas, one of the original apostles of Christ, is said to have been welcomed ashore by a flute-playing Jewish girl. Much later, Marco Polo noticed their presence in Quillon, or Kollam. They are traditionally classified on the basis of racial origin as White Jews and Black Jews. Although much less in number, they still have their synagogue in Mattancherry, with its quaint white-and-blue ceremic tiles, no two alike, the Jewish candelabra and enormous silver scrols topped with golden crowns that are taken out during their festivals, even though there are no longer enough men to carry them!

Cradle of Faith

In spite of the rigidity of the caste systems, Kerala have always been exceptionally hospitable to people of different beliefs. The new settlers blended in perfectly. The result of this rich mix may be seen in the extraordinary number and variety of religious monuments in Kerala. Some of them are plain, others in every shade of pastel - pink, blue and cream - with fanciful appendages, truly making a perfect pilgrimage holiday vacation in God's own country.

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Top 5 Highlights of Religions of Kerala


Mudiyettu Ritual Before a Drawing of Bhadrakali

A Cradle of Secularity
Welcome to the land of secularity, where the cult of brotherhood is the only religion. Where people from varied caste, creed and sect stay together, visit together to the stately monuments, and celebrate their festivals together - making Kerala truly God's own country.


Straight From The Vedas
Believed to be an impeccable blend of Dravidian-Aryan culture, Hinduism in Kerala traces its origin to 321-297 BC. Visit the numerous temples dedicated to different gods of Hindu mythology and you will be amazed to see the amplitude of faith in the heart of devotees.


The Sign of Christ
Welcome to the land where the religion is believed to be as old as the Christian era itself. The first of the group is said to have been baptised by St. Thomas himself, when he landed in AD 52 and converted a group of high caste Nambudiris.Visit the numerous churches dotting the green landsape of Kerala - eventually adding to her beauty - and see how the religion has blended itself impeccably with the lives of the locales.


Belief of The Muslims And Jews
Visit during the Urs festival and you can see how Muslims celebrate their hours of merriment. It is said that Islam entered India through Kerala in the 7th century AD soon after the religion was envisaged by Prophet Mohammed (c 570 - 632 AD), in Arabia. Although much less in number, the Jews still have their synagogue in Mattancherry endorsing a long history.


Similarity In Diversity
In a varied jungle of many creeds and religious beliefs, people of Kerala not only stay together but also share their hours of festivity, thus showing an awe-inspiring respect to other religions.


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