Introduction / History
The Vathiriayan community is one of the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities according to the Tamil Nadu Gazette. They live mostly in the Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Thirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu. Quite a good number have now settled in Chennai, capital of the state Tamil Nadu. In search of jobs and education, people have migrated in large numbers to Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, and Vellore. Smaller numbers are found in Hyderabad and Mumbai.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Their traditional job is weaving. Due to migration, education and globalization this occupation is almost extinct. The Vathiriyar community has well defined branches and sub-branches inside their community structure. Originally there were only seven branches which are treated as the original main branches. Over time due to differences in understanding and arguments several sub-branches formed under the main branches. Sociologically speaking, this is one of the rare communities that follow the clan system through the maternal side, though it is not a matrilineal society.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The majority of the Vathiriyan are Hindu. They responded to the gospel along with the Nadar community due to Protestant and Catholic missionary work. According to one source, half of them are either Protestant or Catholic. It is reported that as many as 20 percent of them may be evangelical Christians. One report says, "This community cannot be taken as an unreached community. Almost 100% of them know the gospel, though only 50% are Christians. Over 50 are found in full time ministry and most of them are theological graduates. This community has produced at least one bishop. One of the bishops of Evangelical Church of India (ECI) is from this community."
What Are Their Needs?
This community can be taken as an example for how missionary-based education and vocational training can aid economic upliftment. This community benefitted from the education given them by missionaries. Today a number of them are engineers, medical doctors or teachers. Their literacy rate is 70%.
Pray that the Vathiriayan people will have a spiritual hunger that will open their hearts to the King of kings. Pray for workers who are driven by the love and boldness of the Holy Spirit to go to them. Pray for a Disciple Making Movement among them to begin this decade.
Scripture Prayers for the Vathiriyan (Christian traditions) in India.