From John Sankara Warrier to Sankara Warrier – One of the earliest Gharwapasi from Kerala

published on January 18, 2015

Swami Vivekanada, the First to Raise Voice against Conversion Tactics of Christian Missionaries

The first person ever to ring an alarm about conversion of Hindus to Christianity being indulged in by missionaries was Swami Vivekananda. The book ‘Swami Vivekananda and Kerala’ published by Kerala Bhasha/ Language Institute lays thread bare glaring facts related to the serious malady of religious conversion that has been rampant in Kerala from time immemorial and Swamiji’s response to the same.

When Swamiji referred to Kerala as a lunatic asylum, it was not just caste discrimination that he pointed to, but the spate of Christian missionaries who had swooped upon the area to make hay out of the mire that prevailed in the state. They saw it as the perfect opportunity to indulge in an unabated spree of conversion activities. This was condemned in depth by Swamiji.

In a letter written to Pandit Sankarlal on 20 September 892, this is what Swamiji pointed out- “Come and see what the padrees( christian missionaries) are doing in dhakshin (south). They are converting by lakhs the lower classes of Travancore-the most priest ridden country -in India. Nearly one- fourth of the population has become Christians.” (Complete works of Swami Vivekananda vol-v, p.5).

The statement made by Swamiji, “Malabaris are all lunatics, their homes so many lunatic asylums” in Triplicane Literary Society, Chennai as part of his famous speech ‘Future of Bharat’ was in reality, a condemnation of the caste system and rampant religious conversions taking place here. (Vivekananda Sahitya Sarvaswam Part 3, Page 186).

Swamiji’s Malabar is an obvious reference to Kerala. His statement comes as part of his experiences during the course of his journey along Kochi and Travancore. Those who were familiar with the historical background of Kerala of those times never expressed censure or reservation or disapproval at the criticism voiced by Swamiji. In fact the first protest and first reconversion against planned and organized religious conversion in Kerala was initiated under the leadership of SreeRamakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda.

Volume 4 Issue 7 of Prabuddha Keralam, released in 1919 gives a detailed version- “When Swami Nirmalananda arrived at Kollam, he stayed at the residence of eminent scholar Headmaster K Paramu Pillai. He was one of those few degree holders of those days. One of the victims of Christian conversion those days was Sankara Warrier, who was there after known as John Sankara Warrier. He was initiated back to the Hindu fold at the Kollam office of Prabuddha Keralam. The religious rites and rituals during the reconversion ceremony was rendered by Venkete Subramania Iyer, P Krishnan Nambiathiri etc. And on the occasion, a sensational speech on the topic ‘Welcoming Back’ was rendered by Editor of Prabuddha Keralam N Shankaran Pandala. ”

About this, a mention was made by Agamananda Swami thus-“The person who taught us about our duty of bringing back to our fold, those who had strayed away to other religious belts was Swami Vivekanda. Srimad Nirmalananda Swamikal, his follower did the first reconversion in the history of Kerala, by bringing back to Hindu fold, JohnShankara Warrier. The ceremony was done in front of a mammoth crowd, where, following purification, he was taken to the temple.”

 (Thiruvalla Sree Ramakrishna Ashram Silver Jubilee Edition.)

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