People of diverse faiths and beliefs live in complete harmony in Kerala.
In the troubled times we live in, Kerala stands as the beacon of harmony. Nowhere else does the old and new, traditional systems and modern technology, live together with so much interaction and peace. Arguably one of the most secular states of India, Kerala lives in complete accord with its many religions, faith and beliefs.
Throughout history, the Malabar Coast has been the closest to most Western seafarers visiting the East. Kozhikode (Calicut) being a big port that traders visited in search of spices and precious stones was, even before the times of Vasco da Gama, known to the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Arabs and the Chinese seeking spices, sandalwood and ivory. The exposure to traders was responsible for bringing several kinds of religion to the region. Besides Hinduism, which was the predominant religion of Kerala, Christianity, Islam and Judaism flourished.
Though Hindus constitute the majority of population, Muslims, Jewish and Christian communities have deep roots in Kerala’s past.
The Hindu community worships all the major gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon though Vishnu and Siva are the main gods. Serpent worship is also prevalent.
The most famous temples are Guruvayoor, Thrissur and the Sabarimalai temples. They are also pilgrimage centres for Hindus.
The Muslims of Mallapuram are known as Mappilas. A great majority of them are Sunnis following the Shafi school of thoughts. The Jama-at Mosque at Mallapuram is important for the Muslims in the state. The annual Nercha festival of this mosque is celebrated for four days in April. West of Manjeri, lies Kondotti, another famous pilgrimage centre for Muslims. The Valia Nercha festival at the 500-year-old Pazhayangadi Mosque is celebrated for three days in February-March.
Mallapuram has been a centre for Vedic learning and teaching, while Ponnani enjoyed a similar status for education in the philosophy of Islam. Celebrated Mappilla poets and the oppana dance of Mappilla women originated here.
The small coastal fishing town of Tanur was one of the earliest settlements of the Portuguese. It is believed that St. Francis Xavier visited the place in 1546 and converted the local chieftain to Christianity. About 3 km south of Tanur is the Keraladesapuram Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Kerala, which has a history of accepting other religions, absorbed the Community of traders from the Middle East. Apart from the local Hindus, other groups that existed in Kerala were Jewish settlers, Syrian Christians and Arab traders. It is believed that St. Thomas Jesus’ apostles, landed in Kerala and helped create the first Christian community in India.