Poykayil Johannan

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Poykayil Sreekumara Gurudevan
Born 17 February 1879
Eraviperoor, Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, India
Died 29 June 1939(1939-06-29)
Pen name Kumara Gurudevan
Occupation Dalit leader, poet
Nationality Indian
Genre Poetry, theology
Spouse Njanamma

Poykayil Sreekumara Gurudevan (also called as Poykayil Yohannan) (Eraviperoor, 17 February 1878 – 1939), known as Poykayil Appachan alias Poykayil Kumara Guru Devan, was a Dalit activist, poet and the founder of the socio-religious movement Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha ("God's Church of Visible Salvation").[1]

Early life[edit]

Johannan was born 17 February 1879, to parents Kandan and Lechi of the Paraiyar ("Pariah") community, at Eraviperoor, Pathanamthitta, India.[2] He was named Komaran at his birth,[citation needed] born as a slave to a Syrian Christian family of the name Sankaramangalam. 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 (Yohannan). He became literate and versed with Bible.

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.[citation needed]

Johannan died on 29 June 1939 at the age of 61.[citation needed]

Religious work[edit]

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.[3]

In 1909, Johannan left Christianity and started his own religious protest movement named Prathyaksha Raksha Daiva Sabha (PRDS). He was known as Poikayil Appachan or Kumara Gurudevan afterwards.[citation needed] 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.[4]

Work as a legislator[edit]

Johannan was also a member of the Dalit advocacy group Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham (SJPS) which had been founded in 1905 by another Dalit leader of Kerala, Ayyankali. Johannan was also twice nominated, in the years 1921 and 1931, to the Sree Moolam Praja Sabha, the legislative council of the princely state of Travancore.[5]


  • Unknown Subjects: Songs of Poykayil Appachan. Translated from Malayalam by A.S. Sekher
  • Vadyakhoshangal Nadathunnavarum and Ente Vamshathepatti were featured in the Dalit Poem Collection named Kathal — published by DC Books

Media representations[edit]

  • Mannikkale Maanikkyam - Drama by V. V. Santhakumar features Johannan


  1. ^ A. T. Philip The Mar Thoma Church and Kerala society 1991 "One of the outcome was the booklet entitled Poikayil Yohannanum Veda vaipareethyavum (Poikayil Yohannan and antitheology). Yohannan is addressed as ' Appachan' by his followers."
  2. ^ Mylapore Institute for Indigenous Studies; I.S.P.C.K. (Organization) (2000). Christianity is Indian: the emergence of an indigenous community. Published for MIIS, Mylapore by ISPCK. p. 322. ISBN 978-81-7214-561-3. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  3. ^ J. W. Gladstone (1984). Protestant Christianity and people's movements in Kerala: a study of Christian mass movements in relation to neo-Hindu socio-religious movements in Kerala, 1850-1936. Seminary Publications. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Poikayil Johannan
  5. ^ Dr. Alex Thomas; I.S.P.C.K. (Organization) (1 August 2007). A history of the first cross-cultural mission of the Mar Thoma Church, 1910-2000. ISPCK. ISBN 978-81-7214-969-7. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 

Further reading[edit]