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Contributions Of Christian Missionaries To Kerala Society

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

  • Christianity reached Kerala even before it reached Europe. Ever since, the religion was part and parcel of Kerala society. The Church adopted many customs and practices of the native Hindu community.

  • When the Portuguese came in the 15th century, they were interested in large scale conversion. The missionaries did not pay attention to the caste system in Kerala. They converted people from different castes into Christianity. They were more or less treated alike. Moreover, to treat people as upper or lower was against basic Christian values.

  • The Kerala Christians were brought under the Roman Catholic Church by the Synod of Diamper of 1599 (ഉദയംപേരൂർ സൂനഹദോസ്). The Roman Church was known for its efficient administrative set up. Thus, the Church in Kerala came under a good administrative mechanism.

  • However, this in turn led to the growth of factionalism within the Church in Kerala. But, on the other hand, it promoted freedom of thought and expression within the Church.

Contributions of Missionaries

  • The Missionaries were interested not only in conversion. As a course of their work, they wanted to establish educational institutions as well as hospitals and other social service centres. For this, they received the patronage of local rulers. Homoeopathic medical system was brought to Kerala by the missionaries.

  • Benjamin Bailey and Henry Baker belonged to the Christian Missionary Society (C.M.S) which was active in Kottayam between 1813 and 1930. They set up a Grammar School at Kottayam and School for girls at Alapuzha during this period.

  • With the help of the CMS missionaries, the Syrian Christians set up a College and a Seminary at Kottayam for training their priests. Kottayam turned into a literary hub since then.

  • British missionary, Rev. J. Dawson set up an English School at Mattancherry in 1818 with financial aid from the Cochin Government.

  • In the Malabar area, the Basel German Evangelical Mission started a primary school in Kallayi at Kozhikode in 1848 and an English school in Thalassery in 1856. Dr. Hermann Gundert is well known for the compilation of Malayalam grammar book, Malayalabhaasha Vyakaranam (മലയാള ഭാഷാ വ്യാകരണം).

  • He also prepared the first Malayalam-English dictionary (1872). Dr. Gundert translated the Old Testament of Bible from Hebrew and the New Testament from Greek into Malayalam. He published around 13 books in Malayalam. He is the one who brought puncuation marks like full stop, coma, semi colon, colon and the question mark into the Malayalam language. He traced Malayalam language to Ramacharitam, the poem pre-dating the Sanskrit alphabet. The works of missionaries in the field of education paved the foundation for the radical Changes in the Kerala society.

  • A Prussian missionary by name W.T.Ringletaube(റിംഗിൾ ടോബി) established schools in Nagercoil and nearby areas in the period between 1806 and 1816.

  • Rev. Mead of the London Mission Society (LMS) is known for his work in the field of education in Thiruvithamkur during the period 1817–1873. He started vocational schools in southern Thiruvithamkur. His wife also started schools for girls.



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