Malayali in India

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Subgroups: 2

Subgroup Name Population
Kolli 17,000
Paccha 900

Expanded PDF Profile

Introduction / History

Two distinct groups of people from one geographically small area both claim the name "Malayali." One group is from the Indian state of Kerala. They seem to be more modernized, with an emphasis on the fishing industry, trade, and the global diaspora. The second group, and the one that this profile focuses on, is found primarily in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with smaller populations in the states of Karnataka, Pondicherry, Delhi, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.

These two groups, while fairly close to one another in terms of geographic distance, are separated by the southern end of the Western Ghats mountain range. The climate of Southern India ranges from cool and dry to hot with heavy rainfall, depending on the season. India experiences a monsoon season for a few months of the year. It is typical to expect high winds, very heavy rains, and some flooding during this season.

While the Malayalis are a tribal people, they have only inhabited the southern tip of India for about ten 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 location. It is Malayali tradition that three brothers each settled on separate nearby hills to form the three primary and oldest Malayali villages.

According to legend, the apostle Thomas evangelized and performed miracles throughout Southern India, specifically in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in the late first century. In later years nearly all of the peoples of South India were introduced to seafaring traders from other locations such as China, South East Asia, Eastern Africa, and Europe. The Malayalis likely interacted to some extent with Vasco de Gama and other European explorers and traders. Some of these Europeans, such as the Dutch, used South India as a major source of slaves for their plantations.
Malayali Life

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% 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. Also, elders are generally 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.

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% of the population identifying themselves as Christians. They are pluralistic as far as nationalism is concerned, meaning that they value the diversity found in the country and do not see the people of India as one homogeneous group. 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. Indians in general also have a high level of respect for the separation of church and state.

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. 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 Needs?

While medical treatment is showing improvement throughout the world in general, there is still work to be done among the peoples of South India. Tuberculosis and Leprosy are still found today among India's inhabitants. 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

* Scripture Prayers for the Malayali in India.

Profile Source:   Thomas Kyle  
Expanded PDF Profile

People Name General Malayali
People Name in Country Malayali
World Population 1,401,000
Total Countries 12
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 2  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 7
Alternate Names Cochin Jew; Malai Gounden; Malai Jati; Malaikaran; Male Gounder; Moplah; मलयाली
People ID 17433
ROP3 Code 112836
Country India
Region Asia, South
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 10  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States on file 6
Largest States
Tamil Nadu
Andhra Pradesh
Specialized Website South Asia Peoples
Country India
Region Asia, South
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 10  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States 6
  Tamil Nadu 357,000
  Karnataka 5,800
  Puducherry 5,100
  Delhi 400
  Odisha 200
  Andhra Pradesh 50
Website South Asia Peoples
Primary Language Tamil (358,000 speakers)
Language Code tam   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 7
Secondary Languages
Primary Language Tamil (358,000 speakers)
Language Code tam   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 7
Secondary Languages
  Malayalam 12,000
  Kannada 2,100
  Hindi 400
  Telugu 200
  Marathi 30
  Urdu 20
People Groups Speaking Tamil

Primary Language:  Tamil

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1714-1956)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1715-1998)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1727-2016)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
World Bibles
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Father's Love Letter
Audio Recordings General Ministry Resources
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture (Talking Bibles)
Audio Recordings Oral Bible
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Finding Peace
Film / Video Following Jesus (India, JF Project)
Film / Video General Ministry Resources
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Video / Animation
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Tamil
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
Film / Video The Prophets' Story
General Bible Visuals
General God's Simple Plan
General Got Questions Ministry
Primary Religion: Hinduism
Major Religion Percent *
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical Unknown)
0.11 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
99.73 %
0.11 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.01 %
0.04 %
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2020  Southeast Asia Link - SEALINK  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source People Group Location: Omid. Other geography / data: GMI. Map Design: Joshua Project  
Profile Source Thomas Kyle  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more
* Religion Values From latest India census data.  Current values may differ.