Contributions of St. Chavara to Dalits

Nuns hold Indian flags and a picture of new Indian saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara before a canonisation ceremony led by Pope Francis, in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican

Fijo C.V.

            Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871), a renowned social reformer, was a native from the land of Kerala in India.  Being a spiritual leader, the major orientation of his life and activities was for the empowerment of people.  The social situations of Kerala during his life time were deplorable due to the existence of a caste- oriented and socially unequal society. People belonging to the higher castes enjoyed many privileges while the lower castes were neglected and oppressed. Government jobs and general education were denied to people of the lower castes. They were not allowed even to walk along public roads. Untouchability and such evil customs were predominant and accepted practices in the society.

            Chavara worked hard to raise the status of his fellow beings and provide them better chances to progress through innovative initiatives and opening opportunities for everyone to flourish and progress.  Today Kerala is holding the highest literacy rate in India and people are enjoying equal social status and the fruits of development. In 1846 the monastery at Mannanam started a new institution of Sanskrit studies where the seminarians and students from any caste or religion sat together and studied. For the poor students he arranged the provision to supply study materials, clothes and mid-day meals, which even the government schools were not providing at that time. he opened another school at the neighbouring village Arpookara. Near Arpookara Thuruthumali hill he was built a Chapel and school for the converts from the Pulaya caste.

            St. Chavara is a luminary not only in the spiritual and ecclesial levels. He was also one of the topmost social reformers India has even seen. He visualized a society when all people can live in the joy of the children of God, enjoying equality, freedom and prosperity.

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