Chavara Kuriakose Elias: Leaders of Kerala Renaissance

Chavara Kuriakose Elias

Chavara Kuriakose Elias (1805-1871)

Saint Chavara Kuriakos Elias was a great social reformer, educator, publisher, and visionary. He was also one of the prominent leaders of the Kerala Renaissance Movement. He gave much importance to education especially to that of women in the lower castes.

Because of his efforts in the field of education, he later came to know as the Father of literacy in Kerala.

Basic Facts

  • Birth – February 10, 1805, Kainakary, Alappuzha.
  • Family
    • Parents – Iko (Kuriakose) Chavara & Mariam Thoppil.
  • NicknamesFather of literacy in Kerala, Daivadasan, ചാവറയച്ചൻ.
  • Founder
    • First Catholic Sanskrit School, Mannanam (1846).
    • CMI Church (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate) in 1831.
  • Introduced Pidiyari System.
  • Established First Printing Press in Kerala without foreign supportMannanam (Kottayam).
  • First Canonized Catholic male saint of Indian origin.
  • Status of Venerable – 1984 (by Pope John Paul II).
  • Beatified on (വാഴ്ത്തപ്പെട്ട) – February 8, 1986 (by Pope John Paul II).
  • Canonized in (വിശുദ്ധനായി) – November 23, 2014 (by Pope Francis, St Peters Square).
  • Commemorative feast – January 3.
  • DeathJanuary 3, 1871.
    • TombMannanam.
  • Books
    • Atmanutapam (ആത്മാനുതാപം),
    • Nalagamagal(നാളാഗമങ്ങൾ; Autobiography),
    • Marana Parvam (മരണപർവ്വം),
    • Dhyanasallapangal (ധ്യാനസല്ലാപങ്ങൾ),
    • Oru Nalla Appante Chavarukal (ഒരു നല്ല അപ്പന്റെ ചാവരുൾ),
    • Anathasyayudae Rakthasakshyam (അനസ്താസ്യയുടെ രക്തസാക്ഷ്യം; വഞ്ചിപ്പാട്ട്  – നതോന്നത വൃത്തം),
    • Syro Malabar Sabhayude Calendar (സീറോ മലബാർ സഭയുടെ കലണ്ടർ).

Priesthood

He joined the seminary in the year 1818 in Pallipuram under the rectorship of Father Thoma Palackal.

He was ordained on November 29, 1829, at Arthunkal and presided over the Holy Qurbana (Eucharist) for the first time at Chennamkary Parish Church in Alappuzha.

He along with the co-founders Palakkal Thomas Mappila (പാലക്കൽ തോമസ് മാപ്പിള) & Porukara Thomas Kathanar (പൊറുകര തോമസ് കത്തനാർ) founded the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate (CMI) on May 11, 1831, for men and in collaboration with Father Leopold Beccaro, founded the Sisters of Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), in 1866 for women.

CMI & CMC were the first native religious congregation for men and women in India.
  • First monastery of CMI congregation in India – CMI (Mannanam, 1831).

He became the first Vicar General for the Syro- Malabar Catholic Church in 1861.

Efforts in the field of Education

  • Father of literacy in Kerala.
  • Founder of the first Catholic Sanskrit School in Kerala.
  • First to introduce the system called “A school along with every church(1864) which was successful in making free education available for everyone. Thus schools in Kerala are also called ‘pallikudam’(‘Palli’ means church).
  • Founded schools for all weaker sections of the system regardless of caste.
  • Also responsible for introducing lunch in schools, a practice later adopted by the Rulers of Travancore.

Pidiyari System

Chavara Kuriakose Elias was the first to introduce the Pidiyari system in Kerala. He is also known as the father of the Pidiyari system. It was a way to provide noonday meals in schools as well as providing food for the starving population in the local region.

Every time when the woman in the Christian households of Kerala prepares a meal (rice) for her family, a handful of rice was forced to be stored in another bowl.

At the end of the week the pot full of rice, as a contribution from the family was brought to the Church and distributed among the poor and needy.

Mannanam Printing Press (1846)

  • Name – St. Joseph Press.
  • Third Printing Press in India.
  • First Printing Press in Kerala without foreign support in 1846.
  • The first book published from Mannanam printing press established by Chavara Kuriakose Elias – Jnanapeeyusham (ജ്ഞാന പീയൂഷം).
  • Deepika, the oldest daily newspaper in Kerala was printed for the first time in this press (1887).
The Vazhathata revolution refers to the long and arduous path made by the Chavarachan for the progress of the Malayalam printing movement from its inception until the installation of the first printing press in Kerala without foreign aid in 1846.

Chavarachan died of natural causes at the age of 65, on January 3, 1871, and buried at the St Philomina’s Church Koonammavu (കൂനമ്മാവ്), Kochi. Later his remains were transferred to Mannanam monastery. 

The government of India honored Saint Chavara Kuriakose Elias with the issue of a postage stamp on December 20, 1987.

Museums

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

Works on Saint Chavara Kuriakose Elias

  • Akashadeepangal Sakshi – John Antony.
  • A Pearl Truly Indian (A Brief Biography on Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara) – F.R.Thomas Panthaplackal.
  • Chavara Achan: Oru Rekha Cithram – K.C. Chacko.
  • Blessed Chavara: The Star of the East (Biography) – Fr. Z.M. Moozhur.
  • Jeevitham Thanne Sandesham: Vishudha Chavarayuda Jeevitham (Biography) – M.K. Sanu.
    • ജീവിതം തന്നെ സന്ദേശം.

📝SideNotes:

  • Father of Printing – Johannes Gutenberg.
  • First To Establish Printing Press in India – Father Gasper Caleza.
  • The former name of Deepika Newspaper – Nasrani Deepika (നസ്രാണി ദീപിക).
  • Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara was denied admission to which Latin Catholic Seminary? Varapuzha Latin Catholic Seminary.
  • 1846 -ൽ ചാവറ അച്ചന്റെ നേതൃത്വത്തിൽ മലയാള അച്ചടി രംഗത്തുണ്ടായ മുന്നേറ്റം എന്ത് പേരിലാണ് അറിയപ്പെടുന്നത് ? വാഴത്തട വിപ്ലവം (Previous Year PSC Question: 10th level Prelims, 2021)

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