The Southern State of Kerala in India

The Malayali people, a distinct ethnic community in India's southern state of Kerala, are well-known for living there. Malayalam is the name of the language and customs of the Malayali people. Three facets of the Malayali people's society have evolved in relation to their various religious categories. The Syrian Christians counterculture, the Muslim subculture, and the Hindu subculture are all included. Kerala is a prosperous state because the three religions coexist and engage peacefully with one another. The phrase "Malayalam" refers to a region between mountains and the sea, illustrating Kerala's geographic position. Kerala is a maritime region bounded on one side by the Arabian Sea and on the other by the Western Gulf Mountains. Kerala state is one of the most crowded places in the world. However, the region is not only productive but also religiously balanced. Kerala is one of the most exciting locations in the world. Despite being located in rural India, the literacy levels in Kerala state are at ninety percent and health care is reliable. The state is considered the most literate state in India (Miller 6). Life expectancy and child mortality in Kerala match those of France which is among the most impressive in the world. How can a place designed and set in poverty seemly appear vibrant in all aspects that count? This paper analyzes how the Malayali people have been able to maintain a distinct culture throughout the centuries and in the face of modernization and globalization. The paper discusses the marriage, family and home life of the Malayali people from the perspective of the three subgroups in the region. The paper analyzes how the culture of the Malayali people has enabled them to thrive despite their limitations.

The Muslim subgroup in Kerala is commonly referred to us the Mappila Muslims and is a group of practicing Muslims who attend mosque services and believe in the teachings of the Quran. They relate to both personal Muslim laws and the Malayan laws. The Mappila Muslims believe in the institution of marriage. Most of the marriages get arranged by seniors since they argue that it is a typical alliance of families. The elders arrange the marriages based on factors such as the social position of the household and dowry requirement. Unarranged marriages are considered “love marriages” and are typically rare since they are frowned upon by the members of the society. Although the Quran allows a Muslim male to marry into another religion, marriages to Christians and Jews are discouraged. However, it is allowed with the inclination the female will eventually start to practice the male’s religion.

In the early centuries, the men were allowed to marry at the age of 18 years while the females were given at between 14 to 16 years depending on their puberty (Miller 148). The early marriage was a safe zone since it avoided bad behaviors. However, in recent years, the marriage age of the female continue to increase due to social transition forces such as modern education. Marriage for girls can be postponed to mid-twenties after they have acquired their professional studies. According to the Mappilas, the bride’s family pays dowry while the bridegroom is required to present a gift to the Bride’s families (Miller 150). The burden of dowry payment by the bride’s family is considered a cultural curse. There are many efforts for its avoidance. The Muslims laws allow polygamy. A male is allowed to have up to four wives provided he can treat them equally according to the specifications of the Quran. However, most people of the Mappila origin prefer monogamy. Only a handful of Mappilas practice polygamy and the numbers are decreasing. Divorce is allowed so long as a valid reason is provided (Miller 151).

The Mappila Muslims believe children are a gift from God and embrace the birth of a child. Fathers preferred male children to female, but the female did not show a preference (Miller 146). The Muslims believe in many children which was a common practice in Mappila Muslims until recently. The issue of family planning is an important aspect in modern India of controlling population growth. While many Mappila families have embraced family planning due to the economic advantages, it presents some religious leaders are adamantly against it. However many believe that family planning is not a violation of their laws. (Miller 147) Male children get circumcised at any time between 7 days and seven years old before the beginning of Madras classes. Circumcision is encouraged in the Muslim personal laws and because of the health benefits the practice presents.

The Syrian Christian is another impressive group that dwells in Kerala India. The arrival of Christianity in India dates back to 52 AD according to their beliefs (Rao 139). The Apostle Thomas arrived in Kerala around this period owning contacts with the colonies of the Jewish traders present at the coast of the Arabian Sea. Syrian Christians are strictly monogamous with community endogamy. Strict monogamy is followed according to the rules and regulations of the St. Thomas Christians (Pothan 63). Kerala has a small percentage of Catholic Christians. The Portuguese's occupation of Kerala in the 16th century led to the settling of this group. The Portuguese sought to convert the people of Malayali to Christianity mainly Catholic practices (Rao 151). While the Portuguese managed to change a good number, the downfall of Portuguese saw many individuals converting back to their religion. However, a good number continued to practice Catholic and are still practicing to the present age. The Catholic laws are against polygamy. Therefore, most Christians in Kerala practice monogamy despite their denomination.

Arranged marriages are still practiced amongst Syrian Christians just like in their Muslim counterparts. However, prospective couples get consulted about the wedding proposal to ensure agreement on both parties before the marriage. Currently, a number of marriages take place by self-choice, and the families are required to go through the formalities of arranging them. Through interactions in arranging the marriages, the two families get to know each other. Cross-cousin marriages are not allowed amongst the Syrian Christians like it is the case amongst the Mappila Muslims. Syrian Christians believe in the institution of marriage as a divine gift from God. Cases of divorce are rare due to the Christian tradition and belief of the permanency of marriages. However, there are some scenarios where women aim at asserting their individuality and separating their husbands. It is common when the women are well educated and want to pursue professional careers, but the secondary role of homemakers restricts their endeavors.

The residence is patriarch amongst the Syrian Christians. Soon after marriage, the wife is expected to start living in the husband’s house. When the couple wishes and is capable of moving to their personal home, they do so. However, in cases with a home having only one Son the couple continues to reside with the husband’s parents. The husband, wife, and children constitute a family amongst the Syrian Christians, but cases of living with the extended family especially the parents of the man are not rare. Nuclear families are increasingly replacing the two to three generation extended family residence. According to the Christian teaching, the husband has the responsibility of providing for his family. Hence, as a rule, males take the responsibility of working outside while the women primary role is to take care of the family home and rear children. However, professional women have an active duty outside the household while they pursue their careers and juggle between work and taking care of the family home. Property in traditionally divided amongst the sons, in most cases the youngest son is given the family house and resides with his parents (Pothan 57). Children are seen as a gift from God. Therefore, they receive exceptional care right from birth.

Many Syrian Christians have embraced formal health care systems and ensure their children receive the clinical attention necessary. The family planning systems have been adopted due to the economic advantages it presents. However, some Catholics are strongly against the practice and insist on the use of natural birth control mechanisms. Both parents have the responsibility to discipline their children and ensure they grow into holistic individuals. Today, modern education makes physical punishment an abomination in schools. Girl children are more protected than their male counterparts. Parents are keen to encourage learning in their children especially professional training.

The Hindus are the dominant subgroup in Kerala and majorly practice the culture of all other Hindus in India. Hindus believe the family is the most important institution as such care is a priority in marriages (Bayly 183). Family unity, integrity, and loyalty are emphasized in the Indian teachings. Like other Indians, Hindus in Kerala are collectivist society and believe in interdependence and concern for others. For the Hindus, extended families and kinship ties are among the most important aspects of an individual. Families adhere to a patrilineal rule of descent. While the joint family culture is the preferred many Hindus in Kerala are not committed to it and modified extended family has since replaced the joint family. The desire for a male child is shared amongst the Hindu men since it is considered a man’s highest duty. However, with the modernization, the Kerala Hindus are appreciative of both genders. Male children are raised to be independent, assertive and self-reliant while the females are raised to be accommodating and nurturing. While women are entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of children and the elderly, professional women are allowed to pursue their careers and supplement their husband’s income. Childrearing practices amongst the Hindus are meant to maximize the personality development of a child (Miller 64). Many Hindu parents in Kerala encourage the pursuing of education to maximize their capabilities.

Arranged marriages are still dominant in the marriages amongst the Hindus. Since the Hindus have strong beliefs in the institution of family, marriages are arranged to form alliances. Practices such as premarital sex get frowned upon, and the parents avoid sexual discussions. During the wedding ceremony the parents of the boy and the girl exchange horoscopes to ascertain the match (Bayly 191).A majority of the Hindus in Kerala are monogamous. Like the Mappila Muslims, cross-cousin marriages are allowed.

The more than 35 million occupants of Kerala consist of around 25 percent Muslims, 20 percent Christians and the dominant population is of the Hindu (Pothan 5). The Malayalis people depend on agriculture and fishing as the two most important source of local income (Karimpumannil-Mathai 23). However, this does not absorb the high number of university graduates who are eventually forced to look for employment in others areas in India or on the other coast of the Arabian Sea. Kerala as a state has the lowest number of socio-economic inequality issues between the male and the female. Both genders are encouraged to pursue education by their parents. The high literacy and lower levels of socio-economic inequality in Kerala are evidence of co-existence. Although the individuals in Kerala practice different religions, the common language of Malayalam brings the people together. They not only interact with each other at school but also share celebrations irrespective of religion. While each subgroup emphasizes on their religious practices, the differences do not define the Malayali people. It can happen that some Hindus convert to Christianity. It is also possible to have a Muslim marrying either a Christian or a Hindu (Karimpumannil-Mathai 46). The emphasis of formal education has considerably reduced the burden of the caste system and mitigated the hierarchical setting in the Indian society.

Kerala can be considered as an example of inter-religious coexistence. The pursuing of professional education especially in health care such as physicians and nurses has improved health care services in the state. Kerala has a very high life expectancy rates, among the best in the world. The emphasis of education in all the religions contributes to it. Women have received formal education and are knowledgeable on the importance of clinical care for their children. It has tremendously reduced the infant mortality rates. While reliance on agriculture and fishing as the main economic activities has made Kerala stagnate behind regarding economic development, it is evident that the state has taken the right step by emphasizing education. The three subgroups are more of a Malayali people than they are to their distinct religion. According to Roland Miller, the author of Mappila Muslims of Kerala, the Muslims in this region have remained peculiar due to the linguistic and cultural separation from other Islam societies. It has embedded them into the Malayalam culture making it possible to co-exist. The presence of a relatively large Christian community dating back to earlier centuries has promoted the spread of schools and universities in Kerala (Karimpumannil-Mathai 53). It is evident that education is the backbone of the Malayali people. It is only through knowledge has the region remained a box of co-existence despite the different religions.

Works Citied

Bayly, Susan. "Hindu Kingship and the Origin of community: religion, state and society in kerala." Modern Asia Studies (1984): 177-213.

Karimpumannil-Mathai, George. The Malayalis: The People their history and Culture. Cosmo, 2002.

Miller, Roland E. Mallipa Muslim Culture: How a Historic Nuslim Community in India has blended Tradition and Modernity . Suny Press, 2015.

Pothan , George Sidney. The Syrian Christians of Kerala. Asian Publishing house, 1963.

Rao, S N. "Encounter of Hindus with the Ancient Thomas Christians in Kerala." Journal of Dharma: Dharmaram Journal of Religions and Philosophies (1994): 138-159.

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