Friday, 5 October 2012

Poikayil Yohannan (Kumara Guru),

Johannan was born 17 February 1879, to parents Kandan and Lechi of the Paraiyar ("Pariah") community, at Eraviperoor, Pathanamthitta, India. He was named Komaran at his birth, born as a slave to a Syrian Christian family of the name Sankaramangalam. Though at birth he was named Komaran, he was later renamed Kumaran. Being a slave to a Christian family, Kumaran had to follow Christianity and have a Christian name, and was called Johannan. He became literate and versed with Bible.

In that period, Dalit communities practiced untouchability among themselves. Recognising the commonalities among the Paraiyar, Pulayar (Cheramar) and Kuravar communities, Johannan sought to create a sense of unity among them. Johannan left the Sankaramangalam family, intent on organising the Christian Dalit communities.

Religious work

With this thought he joined the Marthoma church, a reformist sect among the Syrian Christians, but realized the church treated Dalits as an inferior class, and left the church. He then joined a new sect called the Brethren Mission where he faced similar instances of caste based discrimination. Johannan concluded that Indian Christian communities continued to discriminate based on caste, and felt this defied the basic tenets of Christianity.
In 1909, Johannan left Christianity and started his own Dalit liberation movement named Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha (PRDS). He was known as Poikayil Appachan or Kumara Gurudevan afterwards. Johannan advocated spiritual liberation, and sought to empower and consolidate the Dalits, promoting a creed in which the "slave castes" would be free of discrimination.
The new order, PRDS was open to both Christian and Non Christian Dalits and Poikayil Johannan was successful in convincing the majority of his brethren to abandon Christianity and embrace PRDS. He reasoned that the Bible accounted for only Jewish history and hence Indian caste system could not be broken with it.
He bought 125 acres of land in different parts of Travancore for the use of PRDS. The new organisation was headquartered at Eraviperoor. Poikayil Yohannaan set up schools and industrial training centers in different places in addition to constructing buildings for religious ceremonies and public fucntions.



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