Malayali of Sri Lanka
People Name: Malayali
Country: Sri Lanka
Language: Malayalam
Population: 700
Unreached: No
People Cluster: South Asia Tribal - Other
Primary Religion: Hinduism
% Adherents: 11.02 %
% Evangelical: Unknown
Progress Status: 2.0
Profile provided by:

Joshua Project
PO Box 62614
Colorado Springs, CO 80962
United States


Introduction / History
There is a language in southern India called Malayali, but that is not what we are covering in this profile. Instead of a language in Kerala, we are dealing with a tribal people in Tamil Nadu, just to the east of Kerala, where people speak Malayali.

While the Malayalis are a tribal people, they have only inhabited the southern tip of India for about 10 generations. The ancestors of the Malayali slowly immigrated from the Middle East and through South Asia, combining with other peoples along the way, to eventually end up in their current locations, most of which includes southern India, but also Sri Lanka. It is Malayali tradition that three brothers each settled on separate nearby hills to form the three primary and oldest Malayali villages.

Where are they located?
Most Malayali people are in India's state of Tamil Nadu, but some now live in Sri Lanka, an island to Tamil Nadu's southeast.

What are their lives like?
While globalization is continuing to affect the Malayali people just like it is affecting all people groups on the planet, the Malayalis are still primarily a tribal people. Most of them live in a rural setting with an economic emphasis on farming, herding, and gathering non-timber forest products from the forests around them. Some of the most common crops include rice, millet, and a variety of spices. Many Malayali people live in mud huts or small houses with thatched roofs. Most Malayalis speak Tamil, the primary language of Tamil Nadu and the oldest of the four Dravidian languages that descended from Sanskrit. In 1961, only 2.3 percent of the Malayali population could read and write, and that number remains low today.

Traditional ways of doing things are very important to the Malayalis. For the process of engagement and marriage, for example, they have elaborate rituals involving almost all of the family, multiple ceremonial visitations, traditional scripts to be recited, and a bridal price to be paid. Many of these ceremonial interactions involve very high context communication, and this type of high context communication is likely to be found in daily life as well.

A social hierarchy rules parts of Malayali life. There is a Govendan, who is the leader of the highest tier, the Mooppan, who is the intermediary between the Govendan, and the common people, and then the common people on the lowest tier. Elders are highly respected. Family is very important to the Malayalis, and they are not afraid of going out of their ways or being inconvenienced for the sake of family.

The average Malayali does not make very much money, but they are content with what they have. More recently, scientists have been working with the Malayali to study the non-timber forest products that they use for traditional medicine. They are adaptable and are able to meet the challenges that an ever-changing world brings.

While traditionally women and men have different roles in society, apart from their rituals and ceremonies Malayalis are beginning to value equality between men and women more and more.

What are their beliefs?
While the Malayalis' history has caused many different religions and belief systems to cross their paths, today they are nearly all Hindu. The Malayalis are unreached, with only .08 percent of the population identifying themselves as Christians. Concerning religion, they do not believe that Hinduism is necessarily the only right religion. They are generally open minded and accepting of the beliefs of others.

The Malayalis have several traditional bad omens, such as crossing the path of a widow during a marriage ceremony, passing by black cats, and hearing the bark of a barking deer.

What are their needs?
While medical treatment is showing improvement throughout the world in general, there is still work to be done among the peoples of Sri Lanka. Pray that proper medical treatments would be more readily available to the Malayalis.

Since the Malayalis are so accepting of other religions, there is a need for a change in their worldview in order for the gospel to be accepted as the one true way. Pray that the Lord would send more workers to the Malayalis and that they would be effective in explaining the gospel in a way that can be fully understood. Pray that a national church would be planted that the Lord can use to sweep through the Malayali population.

Prayer Points
* Pray for spiritual openness among this Hindu tribe.
* Pray that believers from other parts of South Asia will become determined to take Jesus Christ to the Malayali tribe of Srl Lanka.
* Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in such a way that there is a strong disciple making movement among Malayali people in Sri Lanka.

Malayali of Sri Lanka