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Religious History

In the ancient days, the people followed an independent religious philosophy related with Dravidian practices. Around 3rd Century B.C., Jainism and Buddhism came into the district. It was the Jainism that set foot in the region. For more than 700 years, Buddhism flourished in the southern region of Kerala. Influence of Buddhism was more in Kollam and Alappuzha districts than any other regions of Kerala. The Kavus (sacred groves) existed throughout these districts were once the Buddhist shrines. These sacred groves were not mere worship places but also educational institutions and martial training centres known as Kalari. Now almost all these sacred groves have been converted into temples. Revival of Hinduism by Brahmin scholars in 800-1000 AD gradually wiped out Buddhism from Kerala. Some argue that Buddha continued to be worshipped as Sastha or Ayyappa in Kerala and the recital of Swami Sharanam has been derived from Budham Sharanam. Efforts of Sri Sankaracharya and Bhakthi movement donated much for the promotion of Hinduism. However, a stratified society formed in Kerala causing divisions based on caste and social evils like untouchability. People belonging to lower castes were not allowed to enter temples. Chattambi Swamikal and Sree Narayana Guru, two renowned saints played significant roles for uplifting the down-trodden and against the evil practices in the society. Sree Narayana Guru even consecrated idols of deities by himself at a time when lower castes were denied permission to enter into temples. Agitations like Vaikom Sathyagraha, Guruvayur Sathyagraha for temple entry and revolutionary movements that took place in the early 20th century paved path to Temple Entry Proclamation of 1936 by the Maharajah of erstwhile Travancore. Thereby the temples of erstwhile Travancore were opened to all Hindu believers irrespective of caste. 

Some of the temples in the district maintain certain peculiarities. The Prabrhma Temple at Oachira without sanctum sanctorum and deity; rituals like Anaval Piditham (catching of the tail of elephant) at the Umayanallur Subramanya temple; Chamaya Vilakku festival at Kottankulangara Temple where hundreds of men disguised as women holding decorated lamps and offer prayers to the deity,  Thrikkalyanam (holy marriage) of Lord Sastha at the Achankovil Sastha Temple, wedding of Banyan tree and Neem that held once in 12 years at the Maha Ganapathy Temple at Kottarakkara are some of them.

Christianity came to Kerala in 52 A.D. One of the seven and half churches that Apostle Thomas established in Kerala is at the ancient Kollam port known as Tarsish (Thevalakara). In fact, the Tarsish-a-palli plates from King Kulshekara of Kollam laid the foundation of Christianity as a religion in Kerala. Islam religion spread in the district after 7th Century A.D.  The Jonakappuram Valiya Palli (Major Mosque) is the second among the mosques that established by missionaries to spread the ideals of Islam in Kerala. Muslims constitute a major portion of the population in the district. Communal harmony and religious tolerance are the remarkable characteristics of the people of the district.

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