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This ethnographic profile provides an overview of the cultural practices, historical background, and livelihoods of the Mala Arayan community residing in the districts of Kottayam and Idukki in Kerala. The Mala Arayans were the first Scheduled Tribe community in Kerala to embrace Christianity, and their conversion dates back to 1853.

Geographic Distribution

The Mala Arayans are primarily distributed in Meenachil Taluk of Kottayam District and Thodupuzha Taluk of Idukki District. They have also formed settlements in the districts of Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram, and Wayanad.

Language and Social Organization

While the Mala Arayans used to have their own dialect, they now primarily speak Malayalam. The social organization of the community includes a council of elders, which operates the social control mechanism within the community.

Historical Significance

Under the suzerainty of the Poonjar Raja, the Mala Arayans residing in his jurisdiction were conferred the title of "Ponamban" along with a silver-headed cane. The subjects also paid a nominal tax to the Raja.

Christian Conversion and Progress

The Mala Arayan community holds the distinction of being the first Scheduled Tribe in Kerala to embrace Christianity. Since their conversion, they have made significant progress, with approximately 30% of the population following Christianity. Missionaries played a crucial role by establishing vernacular schools, contributing to their fast and steady march towards progress.



Over the years, the Mala Arayans have transitioned from their traditional occupations to become settled agriculturists. A substantial portion of their land holdings has been converted into rubber plantations, along with the cultivation of other commercial crops.

In conclusion, this ethnographic profile sheds light on the historical significance, cultural identity, and changing livelihood patterns of the Mala Arayan community in Kottayam and Idukki Districts. Their early embrace of Christianity, coupled with missionary education, has played a crucial role in their socio-economic advancement. As they continue to evolve and adapt to changing times, preserving their cultural heritage remains essential for the community's unique identity within the diverse tapestry of Kerala's Scheduled Tribes.

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