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Kerala PSC Study Notes; Kerala Renaissance: St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara

Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara, also referred to as Chavarayachan Saint, was born in Kainakary on February 10, 1805. In Kerala, he was referred to as the Father of Literacy and as Daivs Dasan and Kalathinu Munpe Nadanna Navodhana Nayakan. He is the first Catholic male saint of Indian descent to be canonised.

The first indigenous religious group in the Catholic Church of India is the Congregation of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI). On May 11, 1831, Fathers Thomas Palackal, Thomas Porukara, and Kuriakose Chavara founded it. St. Kuriakose Chavara of Mannanam served as this congregation’s first Prior General. The Congregation’s original name was  ‘Carmelites of Mary Immaculate’.

In 1958, the organization’s name was changed to “Carmelite Sisters of Mary Immaculate” (CMI).The name was changed to “Carmelite Sisters of Mary Immaculate” in 1958. (CMI). On December 8th, 1855, Chavara assumed command following the deaths of others. Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, a similar organisation for women (C.M.C.) It was established on February 13, 1866, in Koonamavu.

St. Chavara was ordained as a priest on November 29, 1829. He celebrated his first Holy Qurbana at St. Andrew’s Catholic Forane Church in Arthunkal, Alappuzha. He served as the Syrian church’s first general vicar. In 1846, Kuriakose Chavara founded a Mannanam institution for the study of Sanskrit. Chavara also took the initiative to found a school in the nearby village of Arpookara.

Fr. Chavara allowed untouchables to attend schools and taught lower castes Sanskrit. Along with the Church, he took the initiative to found educational institutions. Due to the schools’ affiliation with churches, Keralan schools are frequently referred to as pallikudams. In the schools at Mannanam and Arpookara, Kuriakose Chavara implemented midday meals for underprivileged students from lower castes. Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer was motivated by this to suggest to King that this be implemented in all publicly funded schools.

Kuriakose Chavara’s charitable activity was known as pidiyari. He urged people to use the Pidyari scheme to make small daily donations to help the less fortunate. It supported the Midday meal, Kuriakose Chavara popularised in schools. The Pidiyari collection was taken care of by Kuriakose Chavara’s “Unnimishihayude Dharma Sabha,” an organisation he founded.

St. Joseph’s Press was established at Mannanamin in 1846 by Kuriakose Chavara. In Kerala, it was the third printing press. It was the first press to have been established by a Malay without the aid of outsiders. This printing press produced Nasrani Deepika. Njanapeeyusham, the first book printed in this Press at Mananam, was published. The first Malayalam newspaper to start publication was Nasrani Deepika in 1887.

St. Chavara wrote the Atmanuthapam Maranaveettil Padunnathinulla Pana, Anasthaciayude Rakthasakshyam, Dhyana Sallapangal, and Nalagamangal. Kuriakose Chavara made the Prior Mango, a variety of mango, popular. At the age of 66, Kuriakose Elias Chavara passed away in Koonammavu on January 3, 1871. He was canonized on March 18, 2014, by Pope Francis. 

Places Associated with St. Chavara

  • St. Chavara Museum, Archives and Research Centre- Mannanam
  • St. Chavara Kuriakose Elias Museum-Koonammavu
  • Chavara National Museum- Vazhakulam
  • Chavara Museum and Art Gallery- Alappuzha

Books Associated with St. Chavara

  • Jeevitham Thanne Sandesham: Vishuda Chavarayude Jeevitham- Prof. M.K. Sanu
  • Chavarayachan Oru Rekha Chitram- K.C. Chako.

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