George Mathan

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Rev. George Mathan (25 September 1819 – 4 March 1870), a.k.a. Rev. George Matthan, Rev. George Mathen, Geevarghese Kathanar or Mallapallil Achen (Malayalam: ജോർജ്ജ് മാത്തൻ, was a Syrian Christian Anglican priest (Kathanar), Malayalam grammarian and writer of the 19th century Kerala.[1][2] [3]

George Mathan, writer and grammarian.

Early life and education[edit]

Mathan was born on 25 September 1819 in the village of Kidangannoor, Kerala as the son of Chengannur Puthencavu Kizhakkethalackal Mathan Tharakan and Puthencavu Puthenveettil Annamma. His great grand-father Cherian and his grand-father Chummar had received special privileges (Tharakan title) from the Travancore king, as they were a wealthy family who supported the royalty in times of need.

From childhood, he had shown great aptitude for learning. Since Mathan’s father had died at a very early age, his uncle Rev. Kurian Kathanar took charge of his education. Inspired by Kurian Kathanar, he became a Deacon and Kathanar of the undivided Malankara Syrian Church.

Later, he received an offer from the C.M.S Anglican missionaries to pursue university education at the newly opened Madras University at Madras. He accepted the offer and after graduating from Madras University, he became an Anglican priest. He was the first ordained native priest of the Anglican church in South India.


Mathan first started his ministry in the Mallapally area of Kerala and became known as "Mallapallil Achen," meaning father of Mallapally. He was instrumental in converting the first lower-caste family (headed by a man named Habel) to Christianity in Mallapally. This day is celebrated even today in Kerala as Habel’s Day. This family’s conversion into Anglican Christianity encouraged the conversion of a large number of lower-caste people into the faith.

Rev. Mathan was also a contemporary of Hermann Gundert, a German priest, who wrote the first dictionary in Malayalam. Hermann Gundert is grandfather of Nobel Prize–winning writer Hermann Hesse, author of novels such as Siddhartha (novel). Historically, he is also a contemporary of great writers like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Rev. Mathan has been honoured by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi (the central body of Malayalam literature) by being included in the list of prominent Malayalam literary figures on their website. A short history of his literary oeuvres can be found here and his life history can be found here in the Kerala Sahitya Akademi website.

While ministering to the people, a full-time job, Mathan found time to write erudite treatises on grammar and local culture. He wrote the first book of Malayalam grammar called "Malayazhmayude Vyakaranam," which was published in 1863. This grammar book was acknowledged and recommended by the then government as the most authoritative volume on grammar of the Malayalam language. His other books, sort of longish essays, include, "Satyavadakhedam," "Vedasamyukthi," and "Balabhyasam."

Rev. Mathan was also a keen educationist. He helped collect funds to build the Cambridge Nicholson Institute (CNI) and oversaw the construction of its building and facilities. Later on, he became the principal of the CNI, which was instrumental in spreading English-medium education throughout the state of Kerala.

The Malayalam poet and littérateur Mahakavi Ulloor Parameshwaran Iyer (who is considered Kerala's (Malayalam’s) finest poets along with Kumaran Asan, and Vallathol) stated "All in all, George Mathan built a permanent framework for Malayalam literature and thus made all Malayalis (people of Kerala) indebted to him, this fact is beyond dispute."


Rev. George Mathan died on 4 March 1870. His immortal body is buried at St. Thomas CSI church Thalavady.



  1. ^ George, K. M. (1968). A survey of Malayalam literature. Asia Publishing House. p. 133. ISBN 9780210227350. 
  2. ^ Neill, Stephen (2002). A History of Christianity in India: 1707-1858. Cambridge University Press. p. 396. ISBN 9780521893329. 
  3. ^ "Rev. George Mathan, 1819-1870". Retrieved 2017-12-11. 
  4. ^ "Rev. George Mathen | GMM Hospital". GMM Hospital. Retrieved 2017-12-07. 

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